When I was young I used to love watching the spectacular films of the 1950s, and one that really made an impression on me was Alexander the Great starring Richard Burton. I don’t know how historically accurate the film was, but it certainly portrayed the hero as deserving the title ‘Great’.
I recently came across an excerpt from a biographer of Alexander’s time, which highlights his one major flaw.
Alexander was by nature fervently passionate and impulsive. He was strong in his loves and loyalties; and although hatred was foreign to his magnanimous nature, he was often swept away by storms of anger. Yet by a magnificent display of willpower he held the reins upon his passions.
But in this long chapter of self-control there is one sad and tragic exception.
At a banquet given for Dionysius a song was sung comparing Alexander with Castor and Pollux, to his advantage. Then someone disparaged the old Macedonian officers who fought with Alexander’s father, Phillip. This aroused one of Alexander’s generals, Clitus, who commanded the famous Hetairoi.
Clitus reminded Alexander how he had saved his life in one of the recent battles, and said Alexander had bought his fame with the blood of Macedonian officers.
He told Alexander to associate with his lickspittle Persians, who bowed the knee to him and told him only what he wanted to hear.
Alexander, stung by this remark of Clitus, reached for his sword, which a discreet officer had hidden away. Then in his anger he ordered the trumpeter to sound the call, and when he delayed, Alexander hit him with his fist. Before he could inflict pain upon Clitus, the friends of that half-intoxicated officer hurried him out of the banqueting hall. But he soon entered another door and quoted lines from a Greek poet to the disparagement of Alexander’s conquests.
Quick as a flash, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a guard and hurled it at his childhood friend. His life companion and rescuer lay gasping out his life.
The passion of remorse followed quickly upon the fury of his anger. Alexander drew out the spear, and but for his officers he would have fallen upon it himself.
He, who had conquered the world, could not conquer himself. He had stormed and conquered almost every city of the world, yet he was unable to subdue that more important city — the city and citadel of his own spirit.
The Bible sums it up best: ‘‘Better is a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.’’
- George Deeble, Euroa Christian Fellowship