Study Suggests Alexander Not So Great

That's significant because it shows that these people were Greeks, or really wanted to be at least partly like Greeks, long before they had heard of Alexander. So "Hellenization" didn't come in with Alexander. It was there to greet him when he first arrived.

But does that mean Alexander was overrated by historians? Not necessarily. His military might was something extraordinary.

The young Alexander, who had been tutored by Aristotle, ascended to the throne of the Macedonian region when his father, Phillip II, was assassinated in the summer of 336 B.C. Surrounded by enemies, he moved quickly to gain control of the rest of Greece, although he was not yet 20 years old.

Historians consider him a brilliant military tactician with an exceptional ability to rally his troops in the face of what might have seemed overwhelming challenges. With 35,000 troops he overcame armies many times that size, although many experts believe the strength of the opposition has been greatly overestimated by historians. But whatever the odds, in three years time he blazed a trail from what is now Turkey to Egypt, dismantling the Persian Empire.

He fell ill in Babylon in 323, and died there at the age of 33.


There is no doubt that Greek culture became deeply entrenched in the major cities under his rule, many of which he named Alexandria, but the story in the hinterlands, where "most people lived" is still unclear, Stewart says.

It was well established at Dor long before Alexander's rule, but the archaeological record is so incomplete that it's impossible at this point to say whether Dor was the exception or the rule. It seems likely that the same cultural transition happened throughout much of the area, but no one knows for sure.

What is clear is that on the heels of Alexander's triumphs, some of the people of Dor grew disenchanted with all things Greek. Some artifacts show that "sometimes the locals were trying to reach back to their roots," rejecting both the style and substance of Greek pottery.

They probably grew tired of Alexander and his generals.

"After all, the Macedonians were pretty harsh overlords," Stewart says.

Yet Greek culture refused to go away. The researchers have pieced together one extraordinary piece of a mosaic floor. At the center of the mosaic is a mask worn by a young Greek man in comic theater, complete with an intricate headband of various colored glass and pottery. It is believed to have been created in Dor around 100 B.C., most likely by an itinerant artisan from Greece.

"Everything about it is Greek," Stewart says.

The centerpiece is the young man in the mask.

"We call him the Young Dandy of Dor," Stewart adds.

And he, too, is very Greek.

He came along after Alexander, but he was preceded for centuries by less spectacular Greek artifacts, revealing that the spread of culture was not entirely dependent on military conquest. It's much more complex than that.

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

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