Volume 6, Issue 1, 2009
The Myth of Alexander the Great. A Model for Understanding "the Other"
Under Alexander the Great the Greeks conquered Asia. This extraordinary undertaking was made possible, beside the military achievement, by the Greek thought and philosophy. The belief in the superiority of the Greek over the barbarian and freedom of the first and slavery of the second rendered the conquest and domination of Asia into a noble "mission of civilization". What is more, Western historians of philosophy and culture have used this Greek self-understanding to legitimate the view of Western cultural superiority based on universalism.
But the expedition and conquest was also an amazing opportunity of meeting and knowing directly "the Other". What Alexander discovered was that the world was much larger than it was thought in Athens and the barbarians were not so unreasonable as Aristotle believed. All these things, that raged the king's contemporaries, are very well kept by his legend. The deep sense of his adventures is revealed by the legend. Alexander, passionate for adventure, discovery, curious to know "the Other" is the hero that fights the absolute "other": the foreigner, the barbarian, the monster. But with all his actions he demonstrates that "the Other" can be recognized, understood and even loved.
And maybe his extraordinary discovery should guide us as a model in the turbulent times we live in which cultural differences become more and more important.