By Steve Otto
I've been on an ancient history kick lately. I've taken an interest in writing about various historical figures. So the other day I was interested in a National Geographic article called "The Most Influential Figures of Ancient History."
Just as a Maoist has different ideas about who is a great leader today and who is not, we also have differences of opinion on ancient leaders, philosophers and such. It is not that I disagree with everything our established historians believe. Most of these influential people are influential. Most have had a real influence on our modern day societies. And I appreciate at least some of what these people have left to us. Usually I don't agree with everything. But almost all the ancient philosophers and leaders have some redeeming values.
With as many leaders as National Geographic has decided to write about, I can't finish this essay in one long article. So I will begin with one of my least favorite ancient leaders: Alexander The Great. Right off, here is a tip: 'Anyone who gets a label, such as "The Great," is probably someone I'm not going to like all that well.' The National Geographic article starts off with:
"The vast Eurasian empire that Alexander
the Great (356–323 B.C.) forged was not long-lasting, but his heroic deeds were
legendary. Alexander was the son of , a
realm north of
While Philip was at war, Alexander studied math, archery, and other subjects with tutors, including the renowned philosopher Aristotle. According to Greek author Plutarch, Alexander kept a copy of Homer’s Iliad, annotated by Aristotle, “with his dagger under his pillow, declaring that he esteemed it a perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge.”
So far it is pretty much just a history lesson. Over the years I have heard this guy taught by many different teachers and many of them seem to delight in telling his tales. "But his heroic deeds were legendary," the article tells us, in part. Many historians do look upon this guy as "heroic" and "legendary." One thing that can not be questioned is that Alexander was an emperor. He tried to form a major empire and for a while he succeeded. But was he really a "great" man? Or was he an adventurous tyrant? Was he just trying to build up an empire for his own vanity?
Another important person who is mentioned here in this passage, as well as in other parts of this issue, is Aristotle, the great philosopher. He is revered by our Western philosophers, academics and historians of today. But as far as I am concerned Alexander wanted him around to make himself feel smarter. He wanted to be seen as an intellectual and Aristotle sold himself out for some money and fame.
For the most part, the
"Another incident took place on
the same occasion, which will further delineate Mr. Hamilton's political
principles. The room being hung around with a collection of the portraits of
remarkable men, among them were those of (Francis) Bacon,
So there are more than two examples of ancient imperialists
in the issue of National Geographic. And that is not surprising that this publication would
list such people. To list, write and explain about such people is just good
journalism and/or historical writing. But to honor them as great men is another
We will continue in the next issue, with more important ancient figures.
To be continued=>
 "Alexander The Great, The Most Influential Figures of Ancient History," National Geographic, on display until April 30, 2021, ISSN 2160-7141, pp. 87 - 90.
 "Julius Caesar, The Most Influential Figures of Ancient History," National Geographic, on display until April 30, 2021, ISSN 2160-7141, pp. 96 - 98.
Thomas Jefferson, To Dr. Benjamin Rush,