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April 09, 2008


In the Middle and Near East if a child is being naughty a parent will threaten the delinquent with the prospect of being taken away by Eskander the Great Demon. In the Islamic folklore, no doubt borrowed from the Persian peoples pre-Islam, Eskander is a demon who comes to slay those who misbehave and drags their souls off the Hell. Dig a bit deeper and you discover that their version of Alexander the Great is somewhat different to our own.

In our history Alexander defeated the Persian King Darius (NOT the Great!) and then swept through Babylon, Assyria and Persia into the lands north of the Himalayas and Afghanistan before descending into the Indus valley. His return march through the deserts of Southern Iran is the stuff of legend, nothing short of a miraculous survival by his army. The only city he completely destroyed was Persepolis, the capital, yet, in the Arabic version of this history, he laid waste to the entire land and slaughtered the inhabitants. No mention is ever made of the fact that, once a city or governor surrendered to him they were, unlike the usual tradition under their own Kings, restored to their estates and honours after swearing fealty. Only those who rebelled after being restored got the chop - and then, admittedly, Alexander was completely without mercy. It seems that his generosity in victory is forgotten while his intolerance of treachery is not.

Strange how history always takes a different perspective once the politicians get hold of it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at April 9, 2008 08:50 PM

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