To Persians, Alexander was “the Accursed” – and not “the Great”
Western historians, teachers and novelists have glorified Alexander of Macedon as “the Great.” Why? Because this is one of the first and finest examples of history written by the victors for the victors and to justify similar conquests by would-be victors.
The literature, histories, legends and academic teachings of the lands he invaded, however, tell a very different story – a story that is barely known about and rarely heard West of the Dardanelles.
The first to glorify Alexander was Ptolemy, one of his friends, companions, generals – and successors. Ptolemy sought to legitimize his control over Egypt by writing a history that portrayed Alexander as something of a demi-god. Roman historians, working for an empire, sought to justify their own conquests by praising a previous conqueror. This process continued all the way into the waning days of the British Empire – and continue to this day in our own.
But history has at least two sides. To the Persians whose lands he invaded, pillaged, plundered, and burned, he is referred to as “Iskandar the Accursed.” He is seen as a destroyer of worlds, a mass-murderer, and an insatiable lost soul without a conscience. Alexander is also seen as a thief and an arsonist, and a barbarian in the truest sense of the word – and on a par with Genghis Khan.
In ancient Persian stories – which are still told today – he is the equivalent of the “boogeyman,” and parents warned their children to be good lest Alexander come in the night and steal them away.
In India, too, Alexander is not considered so great – but for a different reason. Indian historians claim that Porus was not defeated at the Indus, as Alexander’s western cheerleaders claim, but that the Indian king blunted Alexander’s invasion, and emerged as the strategic victor. After all, as Indian historians have argued for 2,300 years, it was Alexander who turned back and went home, while within two years Porus took back everything Alexander had taken in India.
For further reading on this point, I recommend this BBC features article as a starting point:
Alexander the not so Great: History through Persian eyes
Alexander the Great is portrayed as a legendary conqueror and military leader in Greek-influenced Western history books but his legacy looks very different from a Persian perspective.