Alexander’s new battlefield

If Alexander the Great were alive today he would grind you gypsy dogs into the dust, dig your dead from their graves and silence forever your filthy language that insults his name …”

Even in the free-for-all that is cyberspace, chatrooms discussing Oliver Stone’s new film about Alexander the Great (scheduled to open in South Africa on December 17) are a case apart. Rivers of blood have been spilt — figuratively at least — in a propaganda battle between Greek and Macedonian nationalists over who has the right to claim the all-conquering hero as their own.

Alexander was Macedonian, but which Macedonia? A tiny new Balkan republic? Or a province that was officially known as ‘Northern Greece” until the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia declared itself independent and bagged the name?

In the early 1990s, Greece nearly invaded the newborn Republic of Macedonia for ‘stealing” Alexander’s symbol, the Star of Vergina, for its flag. Greece blockaded the tiny republic of barely two million people in an attempt to strangle it at birth.

Initial Greek outrage at Stone’s movie focused on Alexander’s sexuality, though this is as well-documented historically as any fact about Alexander. He had a lifelong partnernship with his boyhood friend and lover Hephaestion, and a fondness for at least one eunuch; he seems to have been very uninterested in his queen, Roxane, barely managing to sire an heir

Greek MPs protested about Alexander being portrayed thus, and Evangelos Venizelos, the formidable former Greek culture minister (and a Macedonian), attempted to get Stone onside early on. He offered Stone Greek locations and the use of the army for battle scenes, but the director diplomatically chose locations far away, in Morocco and Thailand. —

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Fiachra Gibbons
Editor of culture, food and fashion at AFP.

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