Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alexander’s Hair-raising Fight with the Oracle at Delphi


"Dude, everyone needs a
vacation. Come back later."

The Oracle at Delphi closed up shop and made no prophecies between November and February.

Why? Who knows. Maybe the hallucinogenic vapors emanating from the crack of the center of the world weren’t as strong when the weather cooled.

This was tough news for Alexander, who had marched 40,000 warriors from Macedon to visit the oracle before invading Persia. It was November and he’d just missed the last performance. But he needed the priestess's blessing. His men would not follow him into battle unless they knew the gods were on their side.

“Come back in February,” temple guards told Alexander when he requested a consultation anyway.  He asked nicely. He pleaded. He begged. But temple guards only had two words for him: Go home.

"Whaddaya mean you won't see me?
And I got my hair done and everything!"
Alexander flipped. He burst into the temple, grabbed the priestess by the hair and dragged her toward the sacred altar, demanding a prophecy.

“You!” she cried in outrage, “are invincible!”

She probably meant, “You are an insufferable little brat!” But he heard, “You will not be stopped in battle!”

He released her. Grinning, Alexander marched back to his men and announced that the priestess said no one would ever defeat him. His men cheered and happily set off a-conquerin’.

Even in the ancient world, some folks just never took “no” for an answer.

7 comments:

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Wow! :) e

Karen Strong said...

He was...persistent. Looks like even the Oracle needs to take a break. I wonder why though?

And Alexander's hair does look quite fabulous in the bust picture. Seems like he used a conditioner for volume or something.

H Niyazi said...

Nice post Vicky - Alex stories are always fun, he is so pompous!

My favourite Alexander related story was how Octavian accidentally broke Alexander's nose when examining his remains.

Perhaps this story is more of an allegory than factual, a nice juxtaposition by later historians between two young leaders who seemed to have the entire world under their sway, though whose effectiveness as long term leaders were markedly different.

Thanks for all the great posts in 2010 - looking forward to more in 2011 :)

H

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks for your comments, Hasan. The story of Octavian accidentally breaking off Alexander's nose is also one of my faves.

Karen, Alexander's hair was really something. I think the artists tried to hint that he was like a lion (or else he just had really puffy hair).

Amalia T. said...

For shame, Alexander! I suppose he was awfully young, so maybe that's some excuse for that abominable kind of behavior but wow.

I'm convinced that life as an oracle or a priestess was NOT all it was cracked up to be.

calanus said...

This story actually concerns the oracle of Ammon at Siwa in the Egyptian desert -- for the record. Al never went to Delphi.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Calanus, thanks for commenting! I love the story of Alexander at Siwa and how he misunderstood the priest of Amun there too. Seems he had a penchant for garbling priestly words in his favor (of course). Plutarch does, say, however, that before he ventured to Persia, he visited the oracle at Delphi (14.6 Life of Alex). Here's the link if you want to check it out: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Alexander*/3.html