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How are Iranians and Greeks portrayed in the Alexander movie
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 1:55 pm    Post subject: How are Iranians and Greeks portrayed in the Alexander movie Reply with quote

By Kaveh Farrokh:

Hollywood has just released one of the latest of its epic blockbusters: Alexander the Great. Directed by distinguished director Oliver Stone, the movie endeavours to recreate the events of the Hellenic conquests and the downfall of the first Persian Achaemenid Empire. It is important to note however, that simply because a movie is high budget, casts high profile Hollywood actors and is directed by top ranking directors, does not make it flawless.

Beyond the entertainment value of Oliver Stone's latest project, a number of serious errors do exist in the movie, many which may appear trivial. These "trivial" errors will nevertheless be of consequence to both Iranians and Greeks.

Ironically, it has been my Greek friends and colleagues who bought the flaws of Oliver Stone's "Alexander" picture to my attention. There are a total of five overall errors that will be listed and discussed below:

(1) The Battle of Gaugamela:

Oliver Stone has relied on Professor Robin Lane Fox, one of the world's foremost experts in the area of Alexander and Hellenic Studies. His book is a standard reference text in the area of Alexandrian Studies:

R.L. Fox. Alexander the Great. London: Penguin, 1986 and 1994.
ISBN: 0140088784

Despite excellent reviews of his book by critics and scholars, Dr. Fox does not understand the military of ancient Persia. A typographical shot of the battle of Gaugamela, shows the Greeks advancing in ordered and disciplined ranks. In contrast, the armies of Darius III are shown as little better than an amorphous mob. This is a false image of the Achaemenid army. The Achaemenids used drums and musical instruments to direct the marching tactics of their troops in battle. Second, the Achaemeneans used the decimal system, which was in fact, unknown to the Greeks of the period. Persian units were formed in legions of 10, 100 or 1000 or 10,000. A typical term was "Hezar-Patesh" (roughly equivalent to "leader of a thousand men").

In addition, the Persians had developed a sophisticated system of heraldry and their troops wore standard uniforms. The Greeks were certainly excellent fighters and were thoroughly organized, but this does not mean that the Persians were not. At the time, the Greeks were militarily superior with respect to armaments, tactics and military training.

This military imbalance changed with the coming of the Parthian and Sassanian cavalry. The Iranian Savaran (elite Cavalry) successfully halted and defeated many of the later Greek-Hoplite inspired Roman armies. Many Romans attempted to imitate Alexander and failed against Persia. These include Marcus Lucinius Crassus at Carrhae, Marc Antony at Tabriz (where he failed twice), Gordian III at Mesiche, Phillip the Arab near modern Syria, Valerian at Barbablissos, and Julian the Apostate in Mesopotamia. I personally doubt that Hollywood will recreate these spectacular Roman defeats as these will challenge contemporary western notions of the Alexandrian legacy. In addition, many Iranians today are unaware of the proud legacy of the Parthian and Sassanian Savaran.

Professor Fox's elementary grasp of Iranian militaria should not inspire much confidence with respect to accurate portrayals of Iranians in general. You may wish to read the following books by Professors Sekunda and Head who are experts on the uniforms, dress and equipment of the ancient Greeks and Achaemenid Persians.

N. Sekunda. The Persian Army: 560-330 BC. England. Osprey Men at Arms Elite Series, 1992.
ISBN: 1855322501

D. Head. The Achaemenid Persian Army. England: Montvert Publications, 1992.
ISBN: 1874101000

There are many errors with the uniforms portrayed as "Persian". As you will see in these books, the colors and materials of Achaemenid Persians were invariably bright with a mix of shades of purple, Saffron, red dyes, shades of blue and green, mixed with darker browns (almost Burgundy) and black. These fashions and regalia were resuscitated during the Sassanian dynasty (226-651 AD). Only the Persian archers (and a few guards) are shown with some accuracy; the same cannot be said with respect to the other "Persians" of the movie set.

More puzzling is the "Arabesque" way in which ancient Persians are portrayed in this battle. I was shocked to see Arabian camel riders used to portray one of the vanguards of Darius III's attack on Alexander at the battle scene. Arabs were simply auxiliary units in the Achaemenean army at the time, and were not a major factor. Camel troops were never a major battle order in the armies of Persia. I also noticed that an infantry troop of the Achaemenid advance guard was speaking in Arabic. Persian is not related to Arabic; it is an Indo-European language akin to the languages of Europe and India.

This may be the usual Hollywood habit however of portraying Iranians as Arabs, a topic we will re-visit later in this commentary.

(2) Confusing Persia with Babylon

It is very interesting that Professor Fox does not refer to the Achaemenid capitals in Susa, Maracanda (Samarqand), Media or Persopolis. The destruction of Persopolis by Alexander is a major event - instead the movie shows Alexander entering the city of Babylon, implying that this was the administrative capital of Persia. Babylon was simply another satrapy of the empire; not its capital. Babylon had already been incorporated into the Persian Empire in 539 BC by Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC). Why is Persopolis and its destruction not mentioned? There was also the destruction of the three major Zoroastrian texts by Alexander - also not referred to in the movie.

A possible reason for this may be found in Professor Fox's.interview with the distinguished journal "Archeology Today" (Riding with Alexander) (enter link below into your internet browser):


Note the statement below, and how indicative it is of Professor Fox's lack of understanding of Classical Achaemenid Persia:

"We all understood that the separate "parts" of Oliver's drama must be "color-coded" and … which could not totally depart from audiences' expectations of Greek or Babylonian imagery"

Note the statement "Greek or Babylonian imagery". This statement implies that Persia had no real arts worth mentioning, and that Persia is simply an extension of Babylon or at best interchangeable.

As noted previously, Babylon was not a major power at the time of Alexander. Persian arts and architecture were an eclectic synthesis of indigenous (e.g Median, Elamite), Lydian, and Mesopotamian styles, including Babylonian. The city-palace of Persopolis is very distinct and cannot be crudely termed as Babylonian. It is, to put it mildly, shocking, that the treatment of Persian studies is addressed at such a shallow level by Professor Fox.

An important point must be made, especially with respect to the reason why Alexander was so violent in his conquest of Persia. The Greeks were simply taking revenge for the earlier invasion of their country by Darius the Great and his son Xerxes. The Greeks paid a heavy price for their battles at Marathon (490 BC), Thermopylae (17th September, 490 BC), Athens (27th September, 490 BC), Salamis (29th September, 490 BC), and Plataea (479 BC). It is significant that when Xerxes burned Athens, he ordered the sacred statues of the Greek gods to be removed and brought to Persia. The Greeks revered their gods and this Persian act was a national insult to them. Most contemporary Iranians are not aware of these facts. This certainly is not an excuse for what happened at Alexander's time, but it does help put these events in perspective.

Although many Iranians demonize Alexander, the man did come to develop a great deal of respect for Persia. The more Alexander stayed in Persia, the more "Persian" he became, in manners and in dress. Alexander paid his respects at the tomb of Cyrus the Great and indeed saw himself as the heir of Cyrus. The Greeks so admired Cyrus the Great, that they saw his manner of government as a model. You may wish to read the Greek "Cyropedia". If Aristotle made racist statements about the Persians (and this is shown in the movie), it must also be made clear that many Greeks also praised the Persians (see Xenophon or Plutarch in his discussion of the Parthian general Surena). A very positive aspect of the Alexander movie is that Alexander praises the "east" for its architecture and civilization. It is possible that Alexander was poisoned by some of his officers for becoming too "Persian".

(3) The Blondism of Alexander

A very serious concern of the Alexander movie is the promotion of the idea of the "Nordicism" of ancient Greece. Put simply, this is the thesis that ancient Greeks were not only predominantly blonde, but "Nordic", in the manner of present-day Scandinavians and Northern Germans.
Nordicists have long argued, since the late 1700s, that the people of ancient and modern Greece are unrelated. Nordicism argues that the "ancient" Greeks were the "true" Greeks in contrast to the non-Nordic people of Greece today. This view is exemplified by the Austrian Hellenicist, Professor Fallmerayer, in the 1830s, who noted that "not a drop of pure Greek blood runs in the veins of modern Greeks…" To this day, Fallmerayer is recalled with bitterness and derision in Greece. It is worth noting that Fallmerayer never set foot in Greece in his entire lifetime. For further discussion on these issues you may wish to read:

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's "Guide to Peoples of Europe", especially pages 207-216.
Published in London by Times Books in 1994.
ISBN: 0-7320-0624-5

Fallmerayer's analysis of Greece is not entirely correct. While true that the Ottoman Turks ruled Greece for 400 years and that previous Byzantine rulers (e.g. Emperor Nikopherous) had to import colonists from present day south Italy to help repopulate parts of Greece ravaged by wars, many of these "Italian" colonists were themselves ancient Greek, settled in regions such as Calabria and Southern France since the times of Darius the Great and earlier. In any event, there has always been a strong and predominant Greek element in areas such as the Peloponnesos.

As for the lack of mainstream Nordiscism in modern Greece, this has to do with the history of ancient Greece itself. Mainland Greece was already settled with indigenous Mediterranean peoples, such as the ancient Minoans, before the arrival of the Classical Greeks. Ancient Greece, like today, was a mixture of Mediterranean and "blonde" peoples.

This leads to a very crucial question: why have no Greek actors been selected to portray classical Greeks such as Alexander, Hephaestion, Ptolemy I, Olympias, King Phillip II, Cassander or Antiginous? For a review of the cast, click on the following links (enter links below into your internet browser):


http://www.lilianagimenez.com/artisti-ospiti/raz.jpg - israel actor, Raz Degan who portrays Darius III.

If one were to use Classical Greek works of art (vases and statues specifically) as a standard for prototypical Greek physical appearance, one can then easily find a plethora of modern Greek actors and actresses today who can portray ancient Greeks. It is interesting as to why Oliver Stone did not select Hollywood actors of Greek descent or from mainland Greece.

Oliver Stone goes further however. Colin Farrell, a dark haired Irish actor, who plays Alexander, is portrayed literally, as a bleached blonde. The notion of Alexander being Flaxen-haired or blonde is itself a matter of considerable doubt if not strong dispute. As noted by my friend George Tsonis, a Greek-Canadian and a scholar of Greek, Roman and Persian history, the Greek word for Alexander's complexion is "Xanthenein" (fair). This description simply marks Alexander's complexion as being fairer than the other Greeks of his time. Yes, he was relatively fair, but not necessarily flaxen-blonde in the Nordicist sense. From the Tufts University Lexicon "Xanthenein" is roughly translated as fair or a yellowish-brown color. A related term, "Xanthizo", can also be to "make yellow" or "brown". No wonder there is confusion!

Plutarch, whom most western scholars rely on for their references, does not actually describe Alexander's hair color, only his complexion. This is a quote from Aelian on the hair; below is the Anglisized Greek from Cyrillic and the English translation below that:

"Alexandron de ton Filippou apragmonos oraion legousi genesthai' tin men gar komin anasesyrthai afto, xanthin de einai'"

"Alexander the son of Philip is reported to have possessed a natural beauty: his hair was wavy and fair"

Varia Historae, 12.14

To see the debates raging about Alexander's true appearance see the following discussion panel (enter link below into your internet browser):


A very non-Nordic portrayal of Alexander is evident in the Pompei Mosaic. It is agreed by a majority of scholars that the painting is a faithful rendition of an original Hellenistic painting of the 3rd century BC. As you will witness in the painting below, this Hellenic-Roman version of Alexander is very different from the contemporary Hollywood fantasy interpretation (see photo below):

As you see in the photo, this is a very different Alexander than what many western scholars and Hollywood would have us believe.

This painting appears to refutes the notion of Alexander being blonde. Nevertheless, a number of western scholars remain determined to push forward an image of Alexander that may be false. There are scholars who are actually convinced that the Pompei mosaic is proof of Alexander's Nordic blondeness! Even in allowing for poor reproductions, the mosaic clearly shows a 'brown' haired person with a Mediterranean or modern Iranian profile. Many Greek and Iranian people today have auburn-brown hair, which can appear to be somewhat "blonde" in sunlight.

The point from the Greek perspective however, is not simply whether Alexander was blonde or not. After all, the Dorian Greeks were blonde as a rule, just as the original Persians and Mede settlers of ancient Iran were as well. The issue is that of using the notion of blondeness to project a specifically non-Greek Nordic west European image. Irrespective of whether Alexander was blonde or not, he represented the culture of ancient Greece, which is not necessarily the same as that of modern Western Europe.

Ancient Greece and Rome, as we will note again further below, were Mediterranean empires, very different from the inhabitants of interior and northern Europe. The peoples of western and eastern Europe were very different from the Classical Greeks in culture, language and temperament. To obtain an introduction to the history of the northern Europeans, you may wish to read:

D. Rankin. Celts and the Classical World. London: Routledge, 1996.
ISBN: 0-415-15090-6

A. Ferrill. The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation. Thames & Hudson, 1986.
ISBN: 0500274959

The "Europeans" adopted a great deal of their civilization and identity from the Greeks and the Romans. Even the name "Europe" is derived from the ancient Greek term "Oropia". It may not be an exaggeration to state the following: with their adoption of Greco-Roman culture, west European scholars in particular, have essentially affected a "Nordic makeover" of the ancient Greeks and Romans. As Western culture has adopted the mantle of ancient Greece, it has also adopted Alexander as its own son; to the point that Alexander and ancient Greece are viewed as identical with ancient Western Europe and Scandinavia.

The Nordicising of favourite historical figures does not end with Alexander. Jesus Christ, is frequently portrayed as a slightly built, tall blonde Nordic man. Jesus or Jeshua, was a Jew from West Asia who spoke Aramaic. It is now acknowledged by a number of researchers that much of what we accept as the "appearance" of Jesus is not altogether accurate. Jesus would most likely have resembled a modern Fertile Crescent Arab or Jew from places such as Jerusalem, Amman, Hebron, Damascus or Basra. Scientists have recently reconstructed the image of Christ as he would have most likely appeared in his lifetime in ancient Palestine and Judea (see photo below):

The reconstruction that you witnessed in the attachment is very different from the icons we are used to seeing in the churches and Christian arts of Northwestern Europe. How many images have you seen in North American or Western European churches that show the Aramaic Christ? It would seen that, like Alexander, the "real image" of Jesus has shifted in accordance with politics, ideology, dogma and popular culture over the centuries. Interestingly, many cultures across the world today interpret Jesus' physical appearance in accordance with their own anthropomorphic image (enter link below into your internet browser):


It appears that Hollywood has successfully associated a certain physical appearance with modernity, progress, success and rationalism. By implication, that which is not of that "certain look" is in danger of being associated with all that is the antithesis of that. With this logic, historical reality is bent to fit a manufactured reality: a fantasy.

(4) Greek or Macedonian?

This movie contains a number of concerns to Greeks in particular, such as Macedonia being "different" from the rest of Greece, a very contested issue in the Balkans these days. Although not generally reported, the government of Greece, which had originally supported the Alexander picture, withdrew its funding and support for Oliver Stone's project (enter link below into your internet browser):


There was to have been co-operation between Stone and the Greek government, but this was apparently changed when the details of the script became known (see also (4) below).

To be honest, I was left confused as to whether the Macedonians were Greek or not. This may be an attempt to placate those who view Macedonia as "different" from Greece, not unlike those who try to argue that Kurds and Azerbaijanis are not Iranians. The Greeks, like the Iranians today, are now confronted with having to defend their historical heritage against those who have territorial claims against their nation. The Oliver Stone picture, in my opinion, does not clearly define Macedonians as Greeks.

In addition to these concerns, many Greeks are offended by the bisexual portrayal of Alexander. It is also rumoured that many Greek associations may have plans to sue Oliver Stone.

Again, ancient Greek terminology and its translations by western scholars may have played a role in the "bisexual" interpretation of Alexander. We have already seen how the term "Xanthenein" has been stretched to paint a "Scandinavian" Alexander.

(5) The Portrayal of Roxanna and the Perpetuation of the "Hollywood Persian"

My wife Parnian and I, as Iranians, found the portrayal of Roxanna insulting. This portrayal has been defined by the aforementioned Professor Fox, whose has already been noted for his shallow understanding of Persian arts and architecture. Professor Fox's portrayal of Roxanna also indicates that he has very little knowledge of Iran's anthropological history.

The portrayal of ancient Iranians is outright comical, if not insulting. The inaccurate Hollywood portrayal of Iranians is exemplified by the selection of Rosario Dawson ( http://www.lostfocus.de/archives/rosario_dawson.jpg ), a very talented, beautiful and intelligent black actress, to star as Roxanna, an ancient Iranian queen from Soghdia-Bactria. Roxanna was not black, anymore than Alexander was Scandinavian. Having Rosario Dawson portrayed as Roxanna makes as much sense as having Lucy Liu, an Asian-American, portraying Queen Victoria of Great Britain.

The term Roxanna is derived from Old Iranian "Rokh-shwan" or "face (Ruksh) - fair skinned-shiny (shwan)". Roxanna was related to a North Iranian tribe known later as the Sarmatians, the remnants who survive in the Caucasus and Russia as the Ossetians (ancient Alans or Ard-Alans)

Roman sources such as Pliny repeatedly describe ancient North Iranian peoples such as the Alans and Seres as "…flaxen (blonde) haired blue eyed nomads…" (see Wilcox, p.19). Rosario Dawson does not fit the description of an ancient Iranian woman, especially from Northern Iranian stock. The Ossetians of today, descendants of ancient Northern Iranians, predominantly resemble northern Iranians and Europeans and speak an archaic Iranian language (like the Avesta of the Zoroastrians). Blondism is very common among these descendants of ancient North Iranians in cities such as Beslan and Vladikafkaz. It can be argued that Roxanna was a brunette, however, she was of Northern Iranian stock, which would still make her very different from actress Rosario Dawson.

There are plenty of talented actresses of Iranian descent in North America alone that would well fit the historical Roxanna. Oliver Stone could have just as easily selected an Iranian actress, however he relied on the historical "expertise" of Professor Fox. The question that can be addressed to Professor Fox is this: what makes Rosario Dawson so representative of Iranian women and Roxanna in particular? Is the Professor aware of the anthropology and history of ancient Iran as it was at 333 BC?

More puzzling is the design of Roxanna's costume in the movie. Note the photo showing the marriage of Alexander to Roxanna. Roxanna appears to wear a Burka-like veil constructed of strips of metallic mesh in which the face is partly hidden. See the photo (enter link below into your internet browser):


The headgear is partly correct if we base the costume on the Saka Paradraya Iranian speaking tribes of the present-day Ukraine (8-4th centuries BC). The decorations on the headgear are simply wrong and Iranian queens did not wear face masks of any type. For a discussion of the Saka Paradrya, known in the west as Scythians, consult:

E.V. Cernenko. The Scythians 700-300 BC. London: OspreyPublishing, 1989.
ISBN: 0850454786
See colour plate G.

Once you have consulted Professor's Cernenko's book, it will be evident how flawed the costume design is, not to mention the colors. None of the reconstructions by Professor Gorelik, which Cernenko has consulted, show any type of face masks for ancient Iranian women. Ancient Iranian women, who were found in military, religious and political leadership roles, simply did not wear such attire during courtship, marriage or everyday duties.

It is not clear why Professor Fox has chosen a Burka-like face mask for Roxanna at Alexander's wedding. Variants of this face mask are present in Afghanistan today, mainly the result of former Taliban rule and very conservative Pashtoon tribal society, which very strongly identifies itself with the culture of ancient Arabia.

Even more interesting is the "Arabian Nights" portrayal of an Achaemenid harem. Harems certainly existed in Persia and the later Roman and Byzantine courts, however the specifically "Arabian" appearance accdored to the Achaemenids is simply consistent with the Hollywood tradition of portraying Iranians as Arabs.

Interestingly, the movie portrays the "Persians" with Arabian styles of music and dance. This portrayal is not based on factual information; it is a Hollywood portrayal. From the scant evidence that exists, we do know that one of the Persian styles of dance strongly resembled the dances of the Kurds of today; a style also seen in western Turkey, Greece and the Balkans today. As for music, we have no notes or scales from that period, and "Arab music" as we know it today simply did not exist at that time; it is a much later creation. Arabian music can trace its beginnings to the Bedouin tribes of Arabia - it later borrowing heavily of Sassanian and Greek scales (after the 7th century AD).

These errors are enough to question the historical accuracy of the Alexander picture. It seems that when it comes to Iranians and their identity, history is easily "re-written" for the benefit of popular entertainment. As Professor Fox has duly noted in an interview with Archeology Today (http://www.***/online/interviews/fox.html), the movie "could not totally depart from audiences' expectations". The "audience" undoubtedly has "expectations" as to what Iranians "should" look like.

Given Professor Fox's rudimentary knowledge of Persia's anthropology, you may wish to refer to:

J.P. Mallory. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archeology and Myth. London: Thames & Hudson, 1989.
ISBN: 0-500-27616-1
Read pages: 9-23, 48-56, 78, 266-272.

An excellent article by Dr. Oric Basirov is posted as well:

For color reconstructions of ancient Iranians see:

P. Wilcox. Rome's Enemies (3): Parthians and Sassanid Persians. London: OspreyPublishing, 1986.
ISBN: 0850456886

T. Newark. The Barbarians. London: Concord Publications Company, 1998.
ISBN: 9623616341
See Page 7 (the Saka - ancestors of today's Lurs and Seistanis) and 30 (ancestors of the Ard-Alan).

Iran today is very much a genetic tapestry that includes blondism in Northern and Western Iran (e.g. Parsabad, or Talysh), as well as among Iranian peoples such as Lurs, Azeris, Mazandaranis, Kurds and Boyer-Ahmadis. Iran is also home to Arabians in Khuzistan and the Persian Gulf coast, Asiatic Turcomens in the Northeast, as well as the Baluchis near Pakistan, who have a strong Dravidian admixture. You may wish to read the very thorough and precise compendium of Iranian peoples today by:

F. Hole (Editor). The Archaeology of Western Iran: Settlement and Society from Prehistory to the Islamic Conquest (Smithsonian Series in Archaeological Inquiry). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.
ISBN: 0874745268

W. B. Fisher (Editor). The Cambridge History of Iran: Volume 1, The Land of Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
ISBN: 0521069351

These books (especially the Cambridge History of Iran series) will provide a more informed and less misleading analysis of Iran's anthropological history than that offered by Professor Fox.

As seen in this commentary, Hollywood portrayals of Iranians are in stark contrast to reality. Until the Arabian arrivals in the 7th century AD, the majority of Iranians would have looked no different from the Greeks or Romans. Greek and Roman references to classical Iranians do not refer to them as different in the "physical" sense; differences lay mainly in manner of government, philosophy and to a lesser extent, mythology. The Azadan nobility of the Parthian and Sassanian Savaran (elite cavalry), more than 500 years later than Alexander, are described by Peter Wilcox as "…very similar to the Celts…strikingly similar to Northwest Europeans…" (p.6). There are still many short stories in Southern Italy today which accurately portray the temperament and appearance of the Persians as they would have appeared in antiquity.


Despite the powerful historical revisionism of a number of mainly northwest European historians such as Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) or the aforementioned Fallmerayer, the Greco-Roman world and Persia have profoundly influenced each other in areas such as architecture, the arts and crafts, the sciences and medicine, mythology, military and engineering technologies. While true that one can find a number of anti-Persian references in Greco-Roman sources, these were in the context of wars that broke out between these powers. A perfect example of this is how the movie explicitly shows Aristotle deriding the Persians as inferior to the Greeks. Modern Greeks place this in context and see Aristotle as expressing the political climate of his day. Iranians are very well liked and respected in Greece and are seen as the heirs of a great civilization. Alexander himself came to greatly appreciate the Iranians and their culture. It is a shame that the movie did not show Alexander as paying homage to the tomb of Cyrus the Great.

As noted previously, Greco-Roman historians who were prepared to acknowledge and highly praise the Persians (e.g. Xenophon, Plutarch, etc.). Today's popular culture, education systems and movie entertainment industries in particular, seem to be providing a very selective and distorted view of Persia with respect to antiquity. Many are simply not aware (or wish not be aware) of Persia's importance and status in antiquity let alone her major contributions to world civilization.

Ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians had much more in common with each other than with the relatively unsophisticated Celtic and Germanic peoples who were roaming the Northern European forests. For an incisive discussion of these little discussed topics consult:

N. Spatari. Calabria, L'enigma Delle Arti Asittite: Nella Calabria Ultramediterranea. Italy: MUSABA, 2003.
ISBN: 8887935300
As far as I know, this book has still not be translated from Italian to English. Still an excellent read, especially with the illustrations.

P. Kriwaczek. In Search of Zarathustra: The First prophet and the Ideas that Changed the World. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002.
ISBN: 0297646222

I look forward to the day when we will see blockbuster movies of Shapur I (241-272) who defeated three Roman emperors in his lifetime and destroyed a third of Rome's armies. Even more dramatic would be to see movies made of the life and times of figures such as Zarathustra, Aryaman, Shahrbaraz, Mani, Mazdak, Babak, Abu Ali Sina or Omar Khayyam

From: http://www.Payvand.com
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Catherine X

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 2:04 pm    Post subject: Interesting Reply with quote

Hello Ariobarzin

That is an interesting post. I suppose that all films have historical errors and things in them. I suppose documentaries are better to watch if you want the correct view of something.

I shall have a read of your post when I have more time. Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the heap of info!
The only gripe I have is that you seem to be criticising a movie that doesn't exist - Robin Lane Fox's Alexander. Effectively, even though he was an advisor, I think Oliver Stone also had other sources and had the last word in decisions, so maybe it's a bit hard to put all the blame on poor Mr. Fox. Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Goldsnail wrote:
Thanks for the heap of info!
The only gripe I have is that you seem to be criticising a movie that doesn't exist - Robin Lane Fox's Alexander. Effectively, even though he was an advisor, I think Oliver Stone also had other sources and had the last word in decisions, so maybe it's a bit hard to put all the blame on poor Mr. Fox. Wink

Good point. You are probably right. But that makes things looking even worst...
Anyway, I have just copy/pasted an article I found informative, although I don't agree with all the details it contains.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2005 9:36 pm    Post subject: Great posting Reply with quote

Ariobarzin, I read your posting on the accompanying site and will re-read it due to the mammoth data you present. I dont think there has ever been a Hollywood movie about a historical figure that has told either the whole story or presented the alternative view of that historical figure's antagonist.
Was Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan or even Spartacus given a fair shake of the dice in telling it to everybody's satisfaction? 'Alexander' follows that movie tradition of it being a historical snapshot and by no means even remotely historically exhaustive. I dont think the Persian view was given attention from the Persian perspective to any significant degree. The viewer sees the Persians through Greek eyes in general and Alexander's in particular.
Your point about the movie not showing him paying homage to Cyrus the Great's tombs is especially significant but the movie also did not show him at Siwah which was a pivotal moment in the evolution of his historical identity. I rate 'Alexander' a great movie for one,paramount reason:it will hopefully stimulate people to discover the history of someone who was and is a true,historical original who blazed a path which will live forever in the memory of humanity.
What it will also do is introduce the leadership team he headed up Hephaestion, Perdiccas and others without whom his historical achievements would have been impossible.Alexander,like Darius, was a product of World History which he studied,assimilated and espoused in a extraordinary way.
For me, to do him and his times justice, it is right and proper to follow his example and absorb the optimum data possible.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thankyou for your very informative post!

I would like to point out that Alexander the film had only three hours and a relatively small budget with which to work from. The film took poetic licence with a number of elements of Alexander's that it portreyed (his coming across Darius's mother, wife and daughters after the battle of Issus when Darius's baggage train was captured and not in Babylon, the introduction of Bagoas as one of the official harem when he was a gift from Narbazanes in order to buy his life - he was one of the conspirators against Darius - the only one to not be killed, interestingly enough. And a lot more.) The film is a piece of fiction, not a documentary. And it is seen through the eyes of Ptolomy recalling Alexander &c, not from Alexander himself. Ptolomy would not have known much about Persian Culture from a Persian perspective, so how could it have been portreyed? The Persians were not a disorganised rabble as your post suggested the film portreyed - clear distinctons could be seen, but equally clear order. It was more the style of warfare that was being protreyed to my mind - Darius remaining at the centre and controlling things from there, Alexander leading from the front in order to motivate his men into following.

I find the debate about whether Macedon was Greek or not rather weird really. In ancient times, each city state was very different with different cultures &c. They shared what we would refer to as 'greek' culture in much the same way that English culture is shared by those countries who made up or make up the Brittish Empire - with local variations. Can we use modern terms to describe how ancient peoples viewed themselves and each other? Same thing goes for the bisexuality - its in all the sources, how can people deny that it happened? It doesn't lessen anything, and was very sensitively and beautifully handled by the film.

Your post has certainly provided much food for thought - I look forward to having the time to read some of the books you suggested.

As for Alexander being blonde or not, no-one really knows for sure what Alexander looked like and no-one ever will. We can only ever make assumptions and decisions based on what little we do have.

I agree that RLF's interpretation of Alexander is not the be all and end all, but it is a very interesting point of view. As Catherine X said above, it was Oliver Stone and not RLF who ultimately made the decisions regarding the film.

Despite its inaccuracies and blurrings, I loved Alexander and thought that it captured something of the essence of the man behind the myth. It whetted the appetite and made you want more, which can only be a good thing! A movie told from the Persian point of view would have been equally as marvellous.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ariobarzin, I saw this article on it's orginal website before you post it here, and I'm 100% agree with it. the movie doesn't have any accuracy.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 9:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Great posting Reply with quote


All historical movies have innacuracies. That is OK to me, as no one can really know what really happened and how people realy felt thousand years ago.
The problem with OS Alexander movie is that it contains very heavy innacuracies and a biased view of Alexander time, against available historical sources and scholars view points and thesis.
For example, Alexander father's role in uniting the Greeks against the Persian Empire and preparing the Persian empire invasion is totally underestimated. Would we be talking about Alexander "the Great" without his Father? I realy doubt it. Another big twist to the history is that Alexander is presented as the Great conqueror of the world, whilst his ONLY real enemy was the Persian Empire and NOTHING else! If you compare the Alexander Empire at his highest extension to the Persian empire just before Alexander, you will find that 95% is the same territory (the difference being Macedonia and mainland Greece). So what makes Alexander "Great" is defeating the Persians not coquering the world... Another big twist was to show Babylon as the center of the Persian Empire and not Persian mainland (Today IRAN). Also, the fact that Alexander highly estimated the Persian culture and wanted to build a universal culture uniting the Persian and the Greek worlds is nearly completly bypassed... The Persians are portrayed as barbarians. The final declarations of Ptolemea is characteristic and and my opinion shows the views of Oliver Stone himself. I wonder why Oliver Stone did these twists to the real history. The burning of Persepolis was a major event during Alexander campaign, but you can't see it in this movie. The major motivation of Alexander invading Persia was not his thurst of adventure but his will of taking vengence over the Persians who invaded Greece few years before and burned Acropolis...
Sorry but I can't avoid making the parralel between Oliver Stone's film and the American invasion of Iraq (Babilonia is located in today Iraq). I don't have to ask Oliver Stone for whom did he vote in the last American Presidential elections! I know the answer...
Another point which angers Iranians is the despective way in which the Persians are portrayed in the movie. I will never forget the fly (for sure a computer designed insect) flying around the Persian Generals during the very short time you see the Persians during the Granicus battle... The Persian army is portrayed as disorganized and Barbaric, whilst it was one of the best armies of his time and had conquered at least half of the known world. Persians had the best Cavalry, but in the movie you rather see a charge of Camels!! Camel fighters were certainly not a main Persian unit (some vassal Arab tribes certainly contributed to the Persian army but just as a minor auxiliary units). Another thing which is avoided in the movie, is the presence of a big Greek Division (commanded by General Memnon) inside the Persian Army: These were mercenaries but also Greeks who were against Alexander leadership... That would have made the movie a bit more interesting, rather than the boring hollywood style goods against the bads story we get.
As I have already written in other posts, if even we ignore the heavy historical innacuracies and bias against the Persians, the movie has many other weaknesses: it has a very poor scenario, poor acting (except Angelina Joly and of course Anthony Hopkins), poor action (except perhaps the imaginary battle against the Indian King), etc...

I beleive that Oliver Stone's Alexander is a poor and boring movie.

Allison, thank you for your nice post. I appreciated it.

Great-King, nabayad begozarim ta mirasemoonam azamoon begeeran.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmmm... interesting. Confused
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:21 am    Post subject: Re: Great posting Reply with quote

Ariobarzin wrote:
The major motivation of Alexander invading Persia was not his thurst of adventure but his will of taking vengence over the Persians who invaded Greece few years before and burned Acropolis...
Sorry but I can't avoid making the parralel between Oliver Stone's film and the American invasion of Iraq (Babilonia is located in today Iraq). I don't have to ask Oliver Stone for whom did he vote in the last American Presidential elections! I know the answer...

No one can say what Alexanders major motivation was. Many can speculate what it might have been but we cannot know for certain. Actually, there was a post I'm looking for that asks 'what one question would you ask Alexander if you had the chance'. I have been thinking about that and one of my possibilities was 'what was your motivation?'

Anyway, as far as Stone possibly voting for Pres. Bush (which I'm not so sure of) then good for him - so did I (yes, I know that is a big surprise to all of you who have known me for a little while now - LOL).

Also, I must tell you that I didn't get the opinion in the film that the Persians were portrayed as barbarians. Actually, in the film, when Alexander is angry with some of his Companions he yells at then stating that he is angry that they have no respect for a culture far older than their own (or something along those lines - there's another one for your list Alexandros19). To me, it seems that by this statement, Alexander is showing great respect for the Persians. Now, this may seem an odd statement but it seems that Alexander may have wished to rule the Persians because he did respect (and possibly envy) them. He also shows respect for Darius after his death which surprised me at first, but as I thought about it, it seemed quite appropriate.

Maybe if I were Persian I too would feel more sensitive about the subject and would have picked up more on the negativity that you speak of but hopefully, it is a good thing for you to know that since I am not, I did not come away from the film seeing the Persian empire in a negative light. Actually, it educated me as to many things the Persians had done - which I knew little of beforehand.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whateva Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 4:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Great posting Reply with quote


I didn't want to disrespect those who voted for Bush. Actualy I respect them as much as any other person. Sorry if I hurt you by the above statment. I just wanted to make a wild guess about Mr Stones (or his scenarists or producers) political inclinations based on the way the movie is built.

You are right about Alexander motivations being not as clear as one may think. He was certainly a very ambitious man too. One thing is sure: Greeks and especially Alexander Father wanted to take revenge over the Persians, according to historical accounts. That is why in one point in the movie some of the Alexander's Generals asked him to go back home, as they had already defeated the Persians in some of the early battles.

I agree that at one point Alexander said something about the Persian culture being "older" and deserving respect. But this is clearly an odd statement as you said. Why the fact that a culture is "older" deserves respect and admiration? It is an odd statement by Mr Stone scenarists...
I am not sure, but Greek culture is indeed very old too...
Thanks for your reply and good points rised.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 8:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Great posting Reply with quote

Ariobarzin wrote:

I didn't want to disrespect those who voted for Bush. Actualy I respect them as much as any other person. Sorry if I hurt you by the above statment. I just wanted to make a wild guess about Mr Stones (or his scenarists or producers) political inclinations based on the way the movie is built.

Ariobarzin, no hurt feelings here. I guess my statement did sound defensive but it wasn't meant to be. I was thinking about Stone voting for Bush and thought it unlikely (since most of Hollywood is very left wing) but if he did, then good. But now that I think more, Stone doesn't seem to fit into the usual Hollywood mold so maybe I'm wrong - Hollywood seems pretty anti-Stone right now anyways. Good point though, when you look at the film I can see where you would get the opinion he voted Republican.
Thanks so much for the apology even though it really wasn't needed.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 8:12 am    Post subject: Re: Great posting Reply with quote

Ariobarzin wrote:

,... Another big twist was to show Babylon as the center of the Persian Empire and not Persian mainland (Today IRAN). Also, the fact that Alexander highly estimated the Persian culture and wanted to build a universal culture uniting the Persian and the Greek worlds is nearly completly bypassed... The Persians are portrayed as barbarians. ..

That certainly is correct. Crying or Very sad I've seen many pictures of Persepolis and drawings which shows how the whole structure looked like and I would have to say that in the movie set they use persian elements of Architecture to make Babylon look like ancient Persia(such as Columns, capitals, statues, and etc..." Evil or Very Mad these stuff certanly existed in ancient persia but not babylon!

In these pictures you can see they used persian art and sculpture and termed it as Babylonian art!
I didn't want to make the forum out of shape that's why i didn't sent this pic but you can take a look yourself:
they rip from Persia's architecture and put it for babylon! Mad

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the writer of the article mentioned: "It seems that when it comes to Iranians and their identity, history is easily "re-written" for the benefit of popular entertainment." Laughing
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