Alexander the Great


The assured pose of the celebrated conqueror of nations demonstrates his inflexible determination and the strength of his convictions. His walking movement is half-halted, but not so much as to render the figure completely static and motionless. A wide straddle and the maximally-stretched diagonal – from a leg set forward and sideways to an arm raised in a victorious gesture, echoed by the slanted folds of the clothes and the determined face – leave no doubt as to the dynamic innermost essence of the man. However, his assertiveness does not have the slightest shade of an absolute ideal greatness; on the contrary, the image reflects the doubts which Alexander’s personality provoked even among his contemporaries. As is known, some explained his accomplishments by pure luck, others by his divine origin or other merits of his ancestors and entourage, or saw in his feats a sublimation of aspirations of an anxious, lonely and restless soul. Alexander the Great is depicted in a plain, casually girdled chiton, in sandals protected with greaves (knemides), without any rich armour or attributes of power, save one – a helmet shaped like a lion’s head with a teeth-baring grin. The distinctive treatment of the image is crowned with an unusual gesture of Alexander’s raised hand with fingers forming a Latin V – the now-common victory sign. It is doubtful that the Greeks in the Hellenistic period used symbols (if there were any) of a strange, even hostile culture. Most likely, such apposition of the historical periods and cultures ought to be viewed as a deliberate and perhaps ironic interplay of concepts originating from a desire to create an image with an air of timelessness but without absoluteness, an image classic but also everyday.

 

Brief annotations to the image

ALEXANDER III OF MACEDON (356-323 BC), a ruler of Macedon, was a son of Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympia, who was tutored by Aristotle. He has been called “the Great” since the time of antiquity, although even then his personality and activities stirred controversy. He conquered the Achaemenid Empire, invaded Asia Minor, brought under his control the lands up to the Indus River and thus established the largest international monarchy of the ancient world. After Alexander’s death his empire was carved up into principalities by his generals – the so-called Diadochi.