Creative Writing: Speech of Alexander the Great

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Speech of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great was the son of King Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, the daughter of King Neopolemus I of Epirus. Alexander is considered by many to be the greatest military leader in all of history. His father, Philip II, had unified most of the city-sates in Greece, and Alexander continued this unification by using his military might to encompass: Thrace, Thebes, Syria, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Egypt, and northern India (Gill). He founded approximately 70 cities during his short period of empire creation (Gill). He was intent on spreading the Greek culture throughout the area, but he was also made an effort to be inclusive; he adapted to local customs and married local women. Sometimes his troops responded negatively to Alexander's willingness to adopt local customs. They also questioned the every-expanding nature of Alexander's mission. In 330, when Alexander's men learned they would not be returning home after the sacking of Persepolis, his men threatened to mutiny (Gill). In 324, Alexander was faced with another mutiny, and actually executed the leaders of the mutiny (Gill).

In 326 B.C., by the Hydaspes River in India, Alexander was faced with troops who were reluctant to follow him. He called his men together for a meeting and asked them to come to a decision together about whether to proceed or turn back. The speech was almost certainly given outdoors, as there were presumably no indoor structures sufficiently large enough to hold his army. One imagines Alexander pacing in front of the river, his men spread out in front of him, commanders towards the front and infantry towards the back of the groups. Moreover, this is a speech given to soldiers. Because of that aspect, one would anticipate a fair amount of posturing. Not only would Alexander be striving to appear macho and competent in front of the men he was addressing, but those men would also presumably be feeling pressure to be manly in front of their compatriots. This feeling would almost certainly be exacerbated if he addressed the entire army at once, rather than addressing smaller, more discrete groups where the men were more likely to feel camaraderie with known associates.

Alexander gave this speech as a way to convince his men to move forward into India instead of going home and abandoning their efforts. He pointed out that their efforts to that point had been successful. He also asked them to consider whether or not he had been a good leader. Then, he asked them to consider why they did not want to move forward into India. His main claims in his speech focused on their history of success, the low likelihood of any active resistance in the lands they were entering, Greek's imminent global dominance, and the danger of leaving warlike people unconquered. The intended audience for his speech was the group of men that were following him. Alexander's goal was to get his men to continue to follow him rather than returning to Greece.

The argument that Alexander chose to use was very persuasive to his intended audience. One of the greatest strengths of the argument was that Alexander highlighted the past accomplishments of the men as a means of quelling any concerns that they would fail in their future endeavors. He also uses a very grandiose and broad vision to help inspire the men, talking about taking over all of Asia and then using that example in contrast to simply staying home and protecting the home front. However, the argument also had its weaknesses. In some locations Alexander speaks about them being welcomed by the people in distant lands, but he also discusses forcing nations into submission, making one question which part of the argument is true. Taken as a whole, the argument was a persuasive one, which is revealed, not only by the text of the argument, but by the historical fact that it did inspire his men to continue into Asia.

Audience

This speech was captured by Arrian and found in the Campaigns of Alexander the Great. It was placed by J.S. Arkenberg, a professor from Cal State Fullerton, on the Ancient History Sourcebook sponsored by Fordham University. It can be found at the following web address: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/arrian-alexander1.asp. The modern audience is very different from the author's intended audience. The speech was directed at the men under Alexander the Great's command as he attempted to lead them into Asia. The audience is apparent from the subject matter of the speech. Alexander begins the speech by saying why he has gathered his men to speak with them, and it is in this opening clause that one becomes aware, not only of his intended audience, but also of the reason that he has decided to give the speech. The author chose that particular audience because it seems that there was some indication that his men might not be willing to follow him if he proceeded into Asia; therefore, he had to address their concerns if he wanted their continuing support. From the text of the speech, there is no indication that he had a secondary intended audience. However, it seems that he had to have been aware that his speeches were being chronicled; the speech was recorded by Arrian and it seems unlikely that Arrian could have recorded the speech without Alexander's knowledge. Moreover, the etimology of the word marathon establishes that the Greeks had an established practice of using a series of runners as messengers to convey information from the war front to the home; therefore, one would imagine that the people left at home in Greece were a secondary audience for the speech. When one examines how the speech justifies the continued absence of his men from Greece, the fact that the speech would have probably made it back to Greece before the end of their campaign makes it appear that he could have intended the speech as positive propaganda for the people at home. Moreover, there may have been some likelihood that the people he was approaching would get details about the speech, as spies are common in warfare. Highlighting their prior successes would make his men seem more formidable, as would his determination to conquer Asia. From the text of the speech, there is no indication that anyone was specifically excluded from the audience of the speech. Instead, like a modern politician, Alexander's speech seems carefully crafted to have had an impact on any potential audience.

Logos

The logos of a speech refers to the logical arguments contained in the speech (Dlugan). In many ways, logos comes down to the physical structure of the speech and examines such details as whether the statements in the speech are supported by fact. Alexander begins this speech by telling his audience why he has gathered them together to speak to them. He begins by discussing the accomplishments that he and his men have made, up to this date. Next, using those accomplishments, he asks them to consider why they would be hesitant to move forward. He moves onto to defining what it means to be a man, and his definition of manliness coincides with the type of person who would want to press forward in the military campaign. Next, he goes on to discuss the consequences of failing to conquer those lands that he plans to conquer next. Finally, he concludes by reminding his men that he is not asking them to do anything that he, as a leader, has not always been willing to do with them. While he will allow men to go home, if they choose to do so, he promises to make those who stay with them the envy of the men who return home.

There are two real shifts in the arguments and reasoning used in the speech. It begins with an appeal to their prior success, which is based on them being an almost undefeatable army. However, Alexander then uses fear as a tactic, suggesting the possibility of dangerous consequences if they fail to move forward, which seems to contradict the idea of an undefeatable army. Then, he moves to an empathetic position, stating that he understands their hardships because he has endured those same hardships with them. With this empathy, he transitions once more into an attitude that they are undefeatable.

The overall structure of the argument seems sound. He opens with an acknowledgement that many of his men disagree with him, which is critical given that he was trying to persuade them to move back towards his position. He focuses on their strengths as an army, but also highlights how his leadership helped them create that strength. Finally, he concludes by making it clear that he would not prohibit men from returning home, but only after establishing that he believed that only cowards would do so.

There are three different types of arguments, and Alexander employs each of these in his speech. "Arguments about causes rely on assumptions or shared beliefs about what… [END OF PREVIEW]

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