“Philoi mou, history has come full circle today and we stomp upon proud Xerxes’ heirs.” Alexander docked his eighteen feet long sarissa into a holder and swung around to face his peers with a fiery look in his eyes.
“Let Dionysus prevail tonight ! What say you Ptolemy, Thais, brethren… how about a Kottabos like never before?”
“ Your wish is my command, Basileus Alexandrous.” It was the Athenian ,Thais.
Fiercely beautiful and intelligent, she was his companion hetaira in his Asian campaigns. She was better read and more charismatic than even most generals . She commanded a place of honor in their symposia. A place that was denied their wives. She had everything that wives didn’t. Everything except legitimacy. She knew that at the end of the military campaigns, the men would return to their women at home. She didn’t need liquor for inebriation. The headiness of her situation kept her in a state of perpetual insobriety.
The Persian empire had fallen conclusively that day, to Alexander’s superior army. Darius the Third had abandoned his capital . When Alexander advanced to claim Persepolis, the old palaces in the erstwhile seats of Persian power, Susa and Babylon, awaited his plunder and pillage. But he wouldn’t give his army the cue to sack them.
“ We shall not malign the priceless treasures here brothers, for now it is onward to the Apadana Palace!”
The long march to Persepolis was worth the blood and sweat of his loyal men. The grandeur and sophistication of the royal palaces there were the stuff of legend. His admiration for the treasures of Persian art and culture knew no bounds since his boyhood days of studying about them with his teachers.
Well, Persepolis and Apadana, the great Palace of Xerxes were finally his. There was singing, dancing and games to entertain the drunken victors.
“ Tell me my loyal brethren, does this revelry not fittingly avenge Xerxes’ rape of our Athens ? Does this glorious palace pregnant with literature, artifacts and architecture not seem to lie await in naked submission?” He felt a strange mix of reverence and hatred both.
Thais couldn’t help but spur him on with a suicidal urge, as if, through that notoriety, to mark her place in history. “ Yes it does, your Majesty. Remember how Xerxes not only raped, but also burnt Athena to the ground? He tried to obliterate us. Our civilization suffered at his hands. Doesn’t our city and our Goddess deserve to be avenged likewise?”
Parmenion, a trusted general reasoned, “Sire, this palace is itself your trophy. You could enthrone yourself to the world’s envy. Destroying it would yield no good.”
The advice went unheeded for Alexander had already thrown in a blazing torch exhorting revenge. Thais threw in hers next . The generals followed suit , and soon hungry flames lapped up the palace and the polis in a blazing inferno .
The morrow brought embers and ash but anguish and regret fed the flames in Alexander’s mind for a long time.
Philoi mou: ‘My friends’ in Macedonian
Xerxes I : A Persian conqueror who had plundered and burnt Athens to the ground 150 years (480 BC) before Alexander took over Persia.
Sarissa: a Greek spear of around eighteen feet length
Dionysus: Greek god of wine
Kottabos: A game of skill played at ancient Greek symposia
Ptolemy: Greek general
Thais: courtesan hailing from Athens who is said to have persuaded Alexander to burn down Xerxes’ palace at Persepolis and destroy the city to avenge the plundering of Athens.
Apadana palace: Emperor Xerxes’palace in Persepolis
*Disclaimer: This is a fictionalized account of the factual burning of Persepolis by Alexander the Great. This act is said to have been regretted by him to the end of his short life.
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