Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reputations - Alexander the Great

I went back to College yesterday for the first time in over 20 years. I am attending an extramural course in Trinity - this one is called "Reputations II: The World's Greatest". I did feel a little bit nervous walking up to the Jonathan Swift Theatre - Who would be there? Would I recognise anyone? How many would there be in the class? What would the lecturer be like? Would the course be any good?

Alexander "The Great"?
Image link to 1902encyclopedia.com
Extramural courses in Trinity are an excellent idea to give people the chance to hear experts in certain fields lecture about their areas of expertise. For the first class, Dr Shane Wallace, delivered a lecture on Alexander "The Great"? Dr Wallace is a new lecturer in Trinity and is very young - good luck to him in his academic career which has just started. He reminds me of me in my late 20s (but without a job).

The first part of the lecture was a bit tedious - it was basically a chronology of Alexander's life, battles, and conquests. Much of this would be known to anyone with a good general knowledge. But where Dr Wallace, and his lecture, came into its own was in the second part where he explored the epithet of "The Great" which was added to Alexander's name many years after his death. The main thrust of his argument was that "kingship" and "divinity" were the main contributors to the addition of "The Great" to his name. In an excellently researched background, Dr Wallace explored the many myths, legends, and recorded stories about Alexander - compares them to contemporary accounts, and truly asks the question - was Alexander "Great". I believe, on the basis of what Dr Wallace told us, that yes - he was "Great".

I enjoyed my first lecture as a "student" in 20 years. There is no registration, ID cards, or access to the Library with this course. There are eight more "Reputations" to explore - next week it is Henry the Navigator which I am looking forward to.


  1. As a child I was in awe of Alexander, by the time I was a teenager I had read enough to write a biography on him and his father. At that point I had a love hate relationship with Alexander. Great general, Great conqueror, Terrible Human being. Well that is what I decided when I was a young student. Only later when I had matured and learnt to read between the chapters of the history books did I realise what I had missed.

    History is written by the victor. Alexander's war crimes were no different than Julius Ceasar, Napoleon, Ghengis Khan or Hitler. All Empires are built on the suffering of others, so while I love reading about the history and tactics of battles etc, I cannot help but be saddened also.

    Would Alexander have taken and Seleucus have held Asia Minor if they were liberators and not conquerors? Looking at how Saddam Hussein maintained power in Iraq compared to the Coalition and new government we can see how difficult such a conquest was.

    Loving your blogs on the Reputations lectures, any chance they are made available as webinars by Trinity College?

  2. Reputations is so far a great series of lectures. But they are extra-mural courses which are not broadcast or recorded. Just old-fashioned lectures!