INTRODUCING PTOLEMY I

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Ptolemy was born in 367, allegedly the illegitimate son of Philip II and a woman named Arsinoe who later married a nobleman named Lagos. In later years he took the name Ptolemy Soter (Savior or Preserver) and also Lagos. He was one of Alexander’s companions, serving as one of those who guarded the king’s person. He was four years older than Alexander. Like Alexander he studied under Aristotle at Mieza.

He took part in Alexander’s Persian campaigns from the very beginning, in 334 and was one of Alexander’s most trusted generals. During this time he was accompanied by his mistress, Thais, who he had first met when she was only 15, a temple maiden (hetaera) from Corinth. She later bore him two sons, Lagos and Leontiscus and a daughter named Irene (‘Peace’) but he never married legally so their offspring were considered illegitimate. He was given a Persian princess for a bride at the great marriage fete in Susan (324 BC) but like many of those other ‘token’ wives, she ssems to have vanished from his life.  It was at Persepolis that Ptolemy’s mistress, Thais, was blamed for urging the men to set the Persian’s palace on fire which burned all their holy books.

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Ptolemy rose to prominence in the army and held important commands during most of the campaigns. At one battle at the Indus he was wounded by a poison arrow but survived because Alexander knew the antidote.

When Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC General Perdikkas took control of the army and Ptolemy was opposed to this. He also objected to Alexander’s mentally deficient half-brother Arridaios being named joint king along with Alexander’s newborn son, Alexander IV (Iskander) by his Soghdian wife, Roxana.

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Ptolemy left Babylon to return to Egypt and became satrap there. He was well liked by the Egyptians and supported by the Diadochi (Alexander’s Successors). When Alexander’s body was being taken back to Macedon, he hijacked the funeral carriage and took it back to Egypt (Memphis) because he said Alexander wanted to buried there. Perdikkas pursued him but ended up being assassinated by his men after a tactical disaster at the Nile River in which many of the soldiers were killed by crocodiles or drowned.

Ptolemy wanted to build the city that Alexander had dreamed of at the Nile delta, so he oversaw the building of Alexandria and later moved Alexander’s body there. He formed a strong alliance with the Macedonian regent, Antipater, and later married one of his daughters, Eurydike (Dika) in order to legitimize his connection with the royalty.

He is remembered not only as a king and general but as a distinguished historian and founder of the Library of Alexandria and the cult of Serapis, an Egyptian god who was recreated in such a way that it was acceptable to both Greeks and Macedonians. During his rule as Pharaoh, Ptolemy kept a journal to record the exploits of Alexander and the Successors. He abdicated at the age of 82 after a 38 year reign that founded a dynasty which would continue to rule until 321 BC. He was succeeded by his son, age 24, who ruled as Ptolemy II Philadelphus until 246 BC. Ptolemy died in 283 BC. His line ended with Kleopatra XIV, the so-called “Queen of the Nile” of Antony and Cleopatra fame.

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INTRODUCING GENERAL PERDIKKAS

1-alexander   Perdikkas was the son of an Orestian nobleman from the mountainous lake district between Macedonia and Illyria (today’s Albania). His exact age isn’t known but he is believed to have been about the same age as Alexander. He served as a cadet and young officer under Philip II and was one of Alexander’s chosen Companions.dekor-okno

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His first known military action was in 334 BC with Alexander when they attacked a group of rebels in Illyria. At that time he was a phalanx commander. When a rumor circulated that Alexander had died during the Illyrian campaign it stirred up a rebellion in Thebes and they killed the Macedonian garrison officers stationed there. Alexander went south. After a short siege, Perdikkas’ men stormed the city, breaking the official line of command. The assault had not been planned and it was reported that his men had been drunk.  In this attack Perdikkas was severely wounded. Ptolemy wrote later that the attack was due to the lack of discipline in Perdikkas’ phalanx, however it was well-known that Perdikkas and Ptolemy were at odds with each other. In retaliation for the rebellion, Thebes was razed to the ground, the male population killed, and women taken into slavery all except the family of Pindar the poet, a favorite of Alexander, was saved by Alexander.

When Alexander, now in his early 20’s, launched his long-planned campaign against Persia the following year (May 334 BC) Perdikkas was again in command of the heavy phalanx infantry. That summer there was an attack on a Persian naval base which suffered a big defeat, Ptolemy cited that Perdikkas’s soldiers were drunk, though this may have been an attempt by Ptolemy to again discredit Perdikkas.

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At the time of the Battle of Issus later that year, Perdikkas was in command of the army when Alexander was occupied with the siege of Tyre. Again, a year later, he was in command of a phalanx battalion at Guagemela.

During Alexander’s pursuit of the Persian king Darius III, Perdikkas disappears from records as the phalanx wasn’t involved. But later, when the army reached the Hindu Kush, Perdikkas took part in one of the sieges.

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When Alexander invaded the Punjab in 327/326 BC, Perdikkas, along with Alexander’s closest Companion, Hephaestion, captured an important city. During the Indian campaign, Perdikkas was a cavalry commander. Eventually, when Alexander was seriously wounded at the siege of Mallia, Perdikkas was said to have been the only one who dared help rescue him.

After the army returned to Susa, Alexander married the Persian princess, Stateira, and insisted his soldiers marry Persian wives. Perdikkas had married the daughter of the satrap of Media, a Persian woman named Atrophates.  Not long afterwards, Hephaestion unexpectedly died and Perdikkas was appointed commander of the Companion Cavalry and made Chiliarch (vizier), the highest ranking officer in the army.

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Shortly after this when Alexander lay dying in Babylon (323 BC) after being ill for several days, he gave his royal signet ring to Perdikkas sayng that he was giving his empire kratistoi “to the strongest”. It could have also meant “to Krateros” who was Alexander’s supreme commander who had been sent back to Macedon in an important mission.  When Alexander died, Perdikkas proposed that they way until Alexander’s pregnant first wife, Roxana, give birth. If it were a son, he’d be chosen as the new king. This proposal meant that Perdikkas would have command of the boy until he grew up.

At the time of Alexander’s death, both Roxana and Stateira were pregnant. It is alleged that Perdikkas aided Roxana in having the princess and her sister murdered to make sure no Persian royalty would be in line for the throne.

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Roxana gave birth to her son Alexander IV (who she named Iskander) a month later. The commander of the phalanx, Meleager, argued that Alexander’s half-brother, Philip Arridaios, should be first in line of succession in spite of the fact that Arridaios was mentally unfit. Meleager attemped a coup and a rebellion ensued. The instigators including Meleager were killed and Perdikkas was named guardian and regent of the two joint kings.

Now Perdikkas was in charge of Alexander’s army and in control of Babylonia, but he sought to command the two centres of the empire _ Macedonia and Babylon. So he set out on conquests of Asia Minor. During this time he became engaged to Nikaia, the daughter of Macedon’s regent, Antipater. But Perdikkas broke off the engagement when he was offered the opportunity to marry Alexander’s sister Kleopatra. This would make him a member of the Macedonian royal house and as Arridaios was a misfit and the other child, Alexander IV still too young,  Perdikkas would stand to claim the regency and the crown.

Perdikkas unfortunately didn’t live to see his aspirations realized. When Ptolemy hijacked Alexander’s funeral carriage and had it diverted to Egypt, Perdikkas decided to invade Egypt. By the time his army reached the Nile, his soldiers, were ready to revolt, resenting his harsh discipline and the fool-hardy commands that had left many of them dead in the Nile.  Perdikkas was assassinated by several of his commanders. His once dazzling career was finished

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ALEXANDRIA: THE CITY OF ALEXANDER’S DREAM

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Alexander the GreatI had always dreamed of visiting Alexandria, the fabled city on the Nile delta established by Alexander the Great back in 332 BC. While I was researching my novel SHADOW OF THE LION, I delved into the history of this remarkable city. When I was invited to Egypt last March on a travel writer’s press trip, I told the organizers about my novel and the research I had done about the founding of the ancient city. Because of this I was given a special two-day tour of Alexandria was a highlight of all my travel experiences.

Alexandria is an important setting in SHADOW OF THE LION, both Volumes. Ptolemy, Alexander’s illegitimate half-brother returned to Egypt after Alexander’s death to oversee the building according to Alexander’s wishes.

It is said that Alexander had a dream in which he recalled the lines from Homer’s Iliad of ‘an island, Pharos, by the surging sea.’  Alexander had come to Egypt to drive out the Persians and to him, this dream was an omen. He wanted to build a new city by the sea, and chose this location near a small village called Rhakotis. He ordered his architect and city planner Dinocrates to design and build it but Alexander died before its completion. After Alexander`s death, Ptolemy hijacked the funeral carriage when it was being transported from Babylon to Macedon and brought the body to Egypt where, it is said, Alexander had wanted to be buried. It was interred first in Memphis, then when the temple for Alexander`s friend Hephaestion was completed, Ptolemy had Alexander`s body laid there where it remained at least until the arrival of the Romans, because it was visited by Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Ptolemy Soter became the first of the Ptolemaic dynasties of Egypt that lasted up until the era of Cleopatra.

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The ancient Greek city had three regions, The Brucheum, Royal or Greek quarter which formed the most magnificent part of the city. The Jewish quarter formed the northeast and Rhakotis, occupied mainly by Egyptians. The city consisted of the island of Pharos which was joined to the mainland by a mole nearly a mile long. There stood the famous Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, 138 meters high, a project begun by the first Ptolemy and completed by his son.

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I was curious to learn how much of Alexander still exists in Alexandria, the city named for him.  As the van approached the outskirts the first thing I saw was a monument of Alexander riding his horse.  I noticed posters and references to him throughout the city.

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Unlike Cairo which is densely packed between the Nile River and the vast expanse of Sahara desert, Alexandria sprawls out along the seacoast, a sparkling bright city surrounded by the verdant Nile Delta, the ancient’s ‘Land of Goshen’.  It is the second largest city in Egypt. The city is divided into six neighbourhoods, each with a large population. Alexandria is an important industrial area and Egypt’s largest seaport with two harbors, one facing east, the other west. There is evidence of the ancient harbour on the edge of the island of Pharos, but little else remains except what the underwater archaeologists have discovered under the sea.

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Some of these finds can be seen in the Alexandria Museum and on display outside of the new Alexandria Library. Recently archaeologists have found fragments of Cleopatra’s palace. And it is believed that Alexander’s tomb is likely also submerged under the sea although there are occasional ‘finds’, mainly rumors or perhaps symbolic tombs.

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At our first stop we were greeted by a young tour guide, Sarah, who showed us around an extensive excavation known as Kom al-Dikka, which has revealed many Roman era ruins including a theatre. We didn`t have time to visit the catacombs which are located near Alexander`s best-known monument, `Pompey`s Pillar. The catacombs, known as Kom al-Soqqafa, are a multì-level labyrinth reached by a spiral staircase where there are dozens of chambers with sculpted pillars and statues, burial niches and sarcophagi.

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Our next stop on the tour was the Qaitbay Citadel, built on the site of the ancient lighthouse. The lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century and was replaced by an Arab fortress using some of the original bricks. It was one of the most important defensive strongholds on the Mediterranean coast.

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The Alexandria Museum contains a number of exhibits dating back to the Ptolemaic dynasty as well as Roman. What I found most interesting were some of the relics that have been brought up by the maritime archaeologists in the harbor which reveals details of the city both before Alexander’s time and during the Ptolemaic dynasty. In the front of the new library stahds a tall weather-worn statue of one of the Ptolemys brought up from the seabed.

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The next day was the highlight of my visit when I was taken to the New Alexandria Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which opened Oct. 16, 2002.  It`s an immense cylindrical shaped modern structure separated from the University of Alexandria by a wide concourse where I posed under a bust of my hero, Alexander.  The library is spectacular in its design with constant light filtering through the specially curved domes.  It houses over 8 million books.

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The first Library of Alexandria was created by Ptolemy I Soter in the 3rd century BC. Most of the books were papyrus scrolls on great value. It was dedicated to the Muses and functioned as a major center of scholarship.

Many of the most famous thinkers of the ancient world studied here. It was in Alexandria where Euclid devised geometry and Herophilus discovered that the brain, was the seat of thought, not the heart. A wealth of works from the classical world were housed in the old library, including those of Aristotle and Plato, original manuscripts of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, Egyptian treatises on astronomy and medicine; Buddhist texts, original Hebrew scriptures and many of the works of the lyric poet Sappho.

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In 48 BC when Julius Caesar laid siege to the city, a fire was set and the library was partially destroyed. Later there were other attacks until finally the library was in ruins and thousands of ancient works were destroyed.  The new library features a museum dedicated to science and history. There is also a large planetarium at the entrance. There are all the modern amenities such as Internet Archives, several specialized libraries, academic research centres and various permanent exhibits. It is also the home of several institutions including The Arabic Society for Ethics in Science and Technology, the HCM Medical Research, the Anna Lindh Foundation for Dialogue Between Cultures and many others.

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There is an international spirit in the Bibliotheca just as there was back in Ptolemy’s time. Italians and Egyptians work together preserving rare manuscripts; Greeks help with antiquities; French are in charge of the science museum and Americans are the computer experts.

The famous burning of the ancient Library of Alexandria became the symbol of the irretrievable loss of knowledge, but the new Bibliotheca Alexandria has revived that legacy and the staff works together to maintain this great Temple of Learning.

I wondered what Ptolemy would think now, if he saw this amazing work of art which has replaced the library he first created, and how proud Alexander would be of his beautiful city.

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CITIES OF ALEXANDER: MEMPHIS, EYGPT, The Pharaoh’s Royal City

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MEMPHIS

Memphis was once the royal city of Egypt. According to legend it was founded by Pharaoh Menes around 3000 BC and was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, remaining an important city throughout history. During the 6th dynasty it was a centre for the worship of Ptah, the god of creation and artworks. There is an alabaster Sphinx guarding the Temple of Ptah that is a memorial of the city’s former power and prestige.

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RECLINING STATUE OF RAMSES

At first the city was known as Men-nefer, meaning “enduring and beautiful”. It later became Menfe, in Coptic. The name “Memphis” is the Greek adaption of this name, originally the name of the pyramid of Pepi I located west of the city. The ruins of this formerly grand city only offer fragmented evidence of its past which have preserved, along with the pyramids of Giza, as a World Heritage Site, since 1979. It is open to the public,  an open-air museum, with just a few statues and a sphinx along with pillars, funerary stelae set in a garden-like atmosphere.

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I was particularly interested in visiting this ancient city, because it was where Alexander the Great came after he had successfully driven the Persian out of Egypt. Part of the mystique of Alexander is his connection to Nectanebo II, a shaman pharaoh of Memphis who had fled to Macedon to plead with Alexander’s father Philip II to help drive the Persian out of his country. Rumours abounded for most of Alexander’s life that he was Nectanabo’s son because during the Pharaoh’s stay in Macedon, Alexander’s mother, Olympias, then a young bride of Philip, may have had an affair with the pharaoh. She was reputedly told by him that she would be visited by the golden snake of Ammon and give birth to a miraculous son. After Philip was assassinated and Alexander became king, he led his army south down the coast of Asia Minor, across Gaza and successfully vanquished the Persians, driving them out of Egypt. He was honored by the Egyptians and crowned pharaoh in the Temple of Ptah at Memphis, ushering in the Hellenistic period. . From then on he wore the Horns of Ammon on his helmet. After his famous visit to the oasis shrine of Siwah where he would consult the oracle about his birthright, he learned information that he wouldn’t even indulge to his best friend but said he’d wait til he got back home to discuss it with his mother.

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ALEXANDER WEARING THE HORNS OF AMMON

Alexander wanted to establish a city in Egypt. Memphis was too far inland, south of the delta, so he chose the site by the sea that is now Alexandria. When Alexander died in 323 BC, his illegitimate half-brother Ptolemy came to Egypt to establish the city of Alexandria. For a time he kept Alexander’s body at Memphis but it was later moved to the new city. Memphis retained a significant status especially religious through this period.This began the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt.

Ptolemy established the cult of Serapis in Egypt at Saqqara.The lineage of the high priests of Ptah retained strong ties with the royal family in Alexandria. Marriages occurred between certain high priests and Ptolemaic princesses which strengthened the commitment between the two families.

Memphis thrived until the arrival of the Romans when it lost it’s importance in favour of Alexandria.

 

 

ALEXANDER IN EGYPT

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LUXOR

As I step into the narrow room, dimly lit by a shaft of light, my Egyptologist guide, Hanan Eldeeb, beckons me forward.

“Here, on this wall in hieroglyphics, is the story of Alexander the Great’s visit to Luxor.” She points out the ancient drawings on the wall. “Here he is dressed as a pharaoh making sacrifices to the gods Ammon Re and Ammon Min. And here is his cartouche.”

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Cartouche showing Alexander’s name

I can hardly believe what I am looking at. After all my years of research and writing, I am finally in Egypt visiting some of the sites where Alexander once had been.

From the moment of his birth in 356 BC Alexander was connected in a mystical way to Egypt.   At that time, Egypt was occupied by the Persians who had dealt a deadly blow to the Egyptian people in their religious life by inaugurating Persian rules and plundering their temples. The last pharaoh, Nectenabo II, had been expelled and had made his way to Macedonia where he appealed to King Philip to send aid to his besieged country.

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Greek Graffiti

At the time, Philip was newlywed to his fifth wife, a beautiful young Epirote princess, Olympias. She was a devoted Bacchant, a worshipper of Dionysos who kept a pet snake and indulged in cult practices. It was said that when Nectenabo went to Pella, he convinced Olympias that she would be visited by the ‘golden snake of Ammon’ and give birth to a remarkable son. Rumours abounded later that in fact he had persuaded Olympias to make love to him, impressing her with his skill of astrology, and disguising himself in the robes of Ammon so as to seem like Alexander’s divine father. The story goes that the night Alexander was born, the great temple of the goddess Artemis at Ephesus burned down. This was taken as an omen denoting the child’s divinity.  Olympias brought Alexander up believing he was god-blessed and divine and this caused a rift between the boy and his father. Philip even stated once that Alexander was not his son.  All his life Alexander clung to this mystic belief that he was the son of Zeus Ammon and dismissed Philip as merely his ‘earthly’ father.

Philip was assassinated in 336 BC just before he was to set off on a campaign to oust the Persians from Asia Minor. The young king, Alexander, took up his father’s quest a year later, at the age of 20.  After crossing the Hellespont and routing the Persians from the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, he marched south and besieged the city of Tyre.  Because the Persians occupied Egypt, he then marched south and met with resistance at the Philistine city of Gaza, the last great coastal town before the Egyptian frontier. Using heavy siege engines brought from Tyre, they took the city after a two month battle. Alexander was wounded in the shoulder during this time. The people of Gaza were killed or enslaved and the city was made into a Macedonian fortress.

From Gaza Alexander marched along the coast to the frontier of Egypt where his fleet waited. It was necessary to occupy Egypt before launching into his campaign to penetrate the interior of Asia because of hostile elements who were established there. Egypt fell without fighting. The Persian satrap, Mazaces surrendered at the citadel of Memphis and the Egyptian people welcomed Alexander with joy. Since their last pharaoh, Nectanabo, had been expelled, they had lived under the yoke of the Persians and they looked to Alexander as a redeemer from this oppression. Alexander had complete tolerance for their gods and for the Egyptian people. Greeks had always identified foreign divinities with their own gods. In Egypt in particular, the principal gods of the Greeks were equal: Ammon with Zeus, Osiris with Dionysus, Isis with Demeter, Horus with Apollo, so it was natural for Alexander to show his reverence to the Egyptian gods.  His special obligation was to recognize the Egyptian priesthood and he offered royal sacrifices to their gods. At Memphis he was placed on the throne in the temple of Ptah and invested as pharaoh.

As the Egyptologist explained to me, these hieroglyphics carved on the wall at Luxor testify to the royal titles given to him: “Horus, the strong prince” and “the protector of Egypt.”  As King of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt Alexander was called “beloved of Ammon” and finally “son of Ra”.  To the Egyptians, Alexander became their special king.  As part of his religious obligations, Alexander ordered the rebuilding of both the sanctuary in the Temple of Thothmes III at Karnak and the Temple of Amenhotep III at Luxor. From that time on, Alexander chose to adorn his helmet with the horns of Ammon.

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Memphis

Since the 7th century, Greeks had been enlisted as mercenaries in the service of the Egyptian rulers and some had settled in the country. There was a Greek polis, Naucrates, in the Nile Delta, a Greco-Egyptian trade centre. Even in Memphis there was a Greek community, Politeuma. While the Naucratites were legally barred from marrying native wives in order to keep their race pure, in Memphis mixed marriages existed. When Alexander entered their city, it marked a new era of Greek influence in Egypt.

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There’s not much left of Memphis today but it was interesting to wander the avenue and imagine how it might have been back in the days of Egypt’s ancient glory when Alexander came to visit.

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Statue of Alexander at Alexandria

Alexander never intended to change the Egyptian cultures, but introduced the culture of the Greeks in order to make a future home in Egypt.  His greatest contribution was the founding of Alexandria. At the beginning of 331 BC Alexander started out from Memphis down the Nile and stopped on the strip of ground between Lake Mareotis and the island of Pharos where he laid out a city that to this day bears his name. Alexander meant it to be a trade centre and no better place could be found on the whole of the Mediterranean coast.

What a thrill it was for me to be allowed the privilege of a visit to this magnificent city! I spent two days there, shown around the sites by a knowledgeable young tourist guide, Sarah.  Alexander is very much remembered in his city. As we drove in, I spotted a beautiful statue of him riding his famous horse, Bucephalus. And throughout the city there are posters and monuments in Alexander’s honour. It is easy to see, with its long vista of coastline, how Alexander was impressed with the site and made it an important port city.

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My first visit was to the Roman theatre ruins.  From there Sarah took me to see the site of where the famous lighthouse used to stand. Since the 1400 it has been an Arab fortress, but some of the original lighthouse bricks were said to have been used in its construction.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

Lighthouse of Alexandria

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Arab fortress built on site of ancient lighthouse

On my second day there we visited the Museum and viewed many of the artifacts taken from the sea, relics of the original city and palaces.  Then we visited the magnificent new library of Alexandria.  In the courtyard there was a bust of Alexander, and just outside the entrance gate a mega statue of Ptolemy rescued from the ocean floor. It was Ptolemy, Alexander’s illegitimate half-brother and companion, who supervised the building of this great city after Alexander’s death in Babylon in 323 BC. He became the first Ptolemaic pharaoh of Egypt and his lineage carried on until the reign of Cleopatra.

Ancient Library of Alexandria

Ancient Library of Alexandria

Bust of Alexander, Library of Alexandria

Bust of Alexander, Library of Alexandria

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While still on the coast Alexander had decided to consult the oracle in the oasis of Ammon at Siwa. This mysterious excursion was one of the most remarkable in his life. He made the pilgrimage because the oracle of Ammon was regarded as infallible in the Greek world. According to his court scribe Callisthenes, Alexander went to Ammon because he had an ambition to rival Perseus and Herakles who had also consulted the god. But it is also suggested he went there to consult the oracle about his birthright.

He marched along the coast then went south west on an old caravan road. A sand storm obliterated the road and for some time the party was lost in the desert until two ravens began to caw and fly overhead. Alexander was sure the god had sent them to lead the way. Ptolemy also reported that snakes had slithered ahead of them as guides. Finally they reached the oasis, lush with groves of date palms, olives and abundant springs and lakes of water.

Callisthenes described the visit which included ritual offerings and ceremonies. As pharaoh, Alexander was allowed to enter the temple where he was greeted as ‘son of Ammon”.

When asked by his friends what the oracle told him, he replied only that he would speak of it to his mother when he returned home. He kept the oracle to himself and treated it as a secret, but he wrote Olympias afterwards and told her that he had received secret details which he would impart to her when he returned to Macedon. This never happened. He took the secret with him to his grave.

 

THE JOURNEY FROM BABYLON

SHADOW OF THE LION: Book 1 “Blood On the Moon” begins in Babylon on the day of Alexander the Great’s death.  I researched as much as I could about that ancient city because, being a ‘visual’ writer, I like to get the details as correct as possible. The British Museum in London had some of the old walls and other artifacts on display and from my research I was able to visualize what it may have looked like. 

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Babylon

A month after Alexander’s death, his Soghdian wife, Roxana, gave birth to a son, Alexander’s only legal heir.  In the novel, he is called by his Persian name “Iskander” although the Macedonians refer to him as “little Alexander”. The infant is named joint-king with Alexander’s mentally deficient half-brother, Arridaios. A year later the journey of the royals begins, from Babylon across the country on the Persian Royal Road, back to Macedonia. It takes them to the Mediterranean coast, up to the city of Ephesus and eventually back down the coast to Egypt where Ptolemy, Alexander’s illegitimate half-brother has established the city of Alexandria.

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Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Returning up the coast they proceed north to the ancient city of Troy (Ilium).  I’ve been lucky to travel up part of that coast to Ephesus and Troy, so it gave me a good visual image of the landscape, though at the time of the story, the sea came right up to the cities making them both important ports. Today they are about 5 kms from the sea.

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Troy (Ilium)

Eventually, the travelers crossed the Hellespont, stopping to make offerings at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothraki. This is a beautiful little island, not often on the tourist trail, but I’ve been lucky enough to visit there twice. Then, on to Thrace (the Macedonian garrison at Doriskos) which is near the location of today’s Alexandropoulis.

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The Lion of Amphipolis

On my travels across the country to the archaeological sites I made careful notes of all the sensory details and the flora and fauna so that I could include them in the narrative of the story. On my first visit to Amphipolis, a remarkable thing happened that I took to be an ‘omen’. As I walked up the road headed toward the hill where the old fort was, past the famous stone lion (a grave tribute to one of Alexander’s generals), a sudden bolt of forked lightening came down right over the hill. I didn’t go any farther that day but on another trip I went right up to the archaeological site where they were digging for finds dating to Alexander’s time. As I explored the site, mentally calculating where there might be a route down from the old fortress, a snake slithered across in the dust of the road in front of me. Another omen!

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Amphiplolis (remains of gates)

From Amphipolis, the royal entourage would have taken more than a week or two to reach Macedonia because of the lumbering elephants that were escorting them and the carts and baggage they had accumulated.  And when they finally arrived at Pella, it would be quite a sight and relief for the weary travelers. The journey had taken them well over a year. But at last they were there, in Alexander’s royal city!

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Pella

I’ve made three trips to Pella but each time I wasn’t able to visit the actual palace site.  In the little museum there is a model of what it looked like so it gave me a good idea of the structure. The palace was built on a hillside overlooking the city.  It was the administrative centre as well as a grand royal residence. The monumental palatial complex covered an area of 60,000 meters and was decorated with fabulous mosaics and paintings by the famous painter Zeuxis. The city itself had the biggest agora of the ancient world. The ruins of the main avenue which connected with the city’s port, are still visible today.

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Mosaic of Alexander and  Hephaestion Lion Hunting (Pella)

There are other locations in the novel that I visited as well, including Dodona in Epirus where Alexander’s mother lived in exile, the old palace at Aigai and the theatre where Alexander’s father was assassinated, Vergina where the royal tombs are located, and Dion, the Macedonians sacred city near Mount Olympus. At Pydna, a military fortress on the coast, I met the archaeologist who had discovered the trench that had been built around the fort and was searching for Olympias’ burial site. This location, as well as Amphipolis, is important in the second book of SHADOW OF THE LION , subtitled “The Fields of Hades”. It covers much of the area of Thessaly and Attika, including Athens and the Peloponnese, where I have spent a great deal of time during my research trips to Greece.

Just as the journey from Babylon was an arduous and long journey for the characters of the novel, so it was for me too. I tried to be as accurate as I could with locations and descriptions to place the readers right in the scene so they could imagine what the world of my characters in SHADOW OF THE LION might have been like.