Alexander the Great and the Creation of an Empire, Part II: The New Empire
When Alexander assumed the despotic state of the Eastern monarchs he had overthrown, he aroused growing resentment among his loyal Macedonian followers. E. Badian carries the story on, to his early death in the year 323 B.C
We have seen how the myth of the Hellenic crusade was kept alive when it had long been overtaken by the facts. Owing to the nature of our sources and our knowledge of the Greek background, we can follow its history in detail down to its final extinction. This helps us to make out similar myths, meant for different audiences in which our sources are less interested, and to admire the skill with which Alexander used them all at the same time, each to full advantage, until it became both untenable and unnecessary. For his Macedonians, the Hellenic crusade was irrelevant.
They regarded the Greeks rather as, in Henry V, the English regard the French. But for a long time the King had no need to pay them any special attention—he was their own King, who had led them to victory; and although, as we shall see, the nobles soon noticed a change and resented it, years passed before the common soldier questioned Alexander’s aims. The case of the Asiatic natives was more difficult, since they had little real interest in a change of masters.
Here, as we have already noticed, Alexander from the start adopted the attitude of a liberator, especially from Persian religious intolerance. The very first native people encountered—the Lydians— was declared “free” and allowed “to use its own laws.” In practice, that meant little change: a Macedonian satrap and garrison were installed at Sardis, their capital, and Alexander collected the tribute they had paid to Persia. But the words were carefully chosen—as is clear from the fact that great scholars have fallen into the trap and supposed that the Lydians now had to unearth their old laws, which the Persians had banned two centuries earlier!