Alexander's Ragtime Band

There's an aspect to Plutarch's Life of Alexander that suggests a group of young men roistering through the world, as young men in their twenties like to do. This is charming in its way, also shocking, as the casual brutalities unfold. The consciousness of divinity does not belong alone to those fathered by a god, but to anyone experiencing the immortality of youth. The tone changes after he turns back from India, after he does not cross the Ganges but makes the melancholy return to his ungovernable empire. It can be sensed already in his questioning of the Gymnosophists, who each, under pain of death, return elegant paradoxes to his queries: Who are more numerous, the living or the dead? The living, because the dead are not at all ... The Ten Gymnosophists (Indian philosophers) accompany the Emperor on his seven month voyage down the rivers to the sea, after which Alexander returns to Mesopotamia by land while his admiral, Nearchus, goes by sea along the desolate coasts of Sind. After Admiral and Emperor are reunited:

Here his admiral, Nearchus, came to him, and delighted him so with the narrative of his voyage, that he resolved himself to sail out of the mouth of the Euphrates with a great fleet, with which he designed to go round by Arabia and Africa, and so by Hercules's Pillars into the Mediterranean; in order for which he directed all sorts of vessels to be built at Thapsacus, and made great provisions everywhere of seamen and pilots. But the tidings of the difficulties he had gone through on his Indian expedition, the danger of his person among the Mallians, the reported loss of a considerable part of his forces, and a general doubt as to his own safety, had begun to give occasion for revolt among many of the conquered nations, and for acts of great injustice, avarice, and insolence on the part of the satraps and commanders in the provinces, so that there seemed to be an universal fluctuation and disposition to change ...

Which suggests, among other things, that in the 4th century BCE (or at least in the 2nd century CE) people already knew what da Gama would 'prove' a millennia and half later. But that melancholy ... not so much that there were no worlds left to find as that no one, howsoever 'great', can go on forever. What to do? This was his not unparalleled solution:

... he could not refrain from leaving behind him various deceptive memorials of his expedition, to impose on aftertimes, and to exaggerate his glory with posterity, such as arms larger than were really worn, and mangers for horses and bridles above the usual size, which he set up, and distributed in several places ...

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