Siwah Oasis (western Egypt) Coin of Ptolemy I, showing Alexander wearing elephant-scalp headdress and theram’s horns of Zeus-Ammon
The visit to Siwah – document analysis The oasis is south-west of Alexandria, in the Libyan desert.
Reasons for the visit a. his “passionate desire to visit the temple of Ammon” (Arrian) = pothos b. the infallible reputation of the oracle c. rivalry of Heracles and Perseus – out-performing legendary heroes who had visited the oracle d. “to learn more clearly about his affairs” (Arrian) i.e. clarification of his family background As well: e. propaganda advantage of leading his army as son of Zeus Ammon – Macedonian morale, Persian demoralisation
Divine favour en route • As the men rode through featureless desert, heavy rain fell to provide them with water. • When they became lost two talking snakes (according to Ptolemy) or two crows (according to Aristobulus) guided them to the oracle.
Alexander’s questions, according to Plutarch Q. Have any of my father’s murderers escaped me? A. No mortal is your father. Q. Have Philip’s murderers been punished? A. Yes … “completely avenged.” Q. Would Ammon grant him “rule over all lands.” A. Yes.
Circumstances and signficance • The consultation was private. • Alexander was openly addressed by the priest as “son of the god” – he was, however, at an Egyptian oracle where (as pharaoh) such an address would be expected. • Alexander was deeply affected: “to the end of his reign, in word and action, Alexander commemorated his divine paternity.” (Bosworth)
Deification – SM27 • Philip had constructed a temple-like Philippeum at Delphi and had a statue of himself carried alongside the Olympians at his daughter Cleopatra’s wedding. Was he claiming more than human status? • Heracles, the son of Zeus himself and therefore a hero, was received among the Olympians because of his labours of benefaction. Did Alexander not outstrip his legendary ancestors?
3. At Siwah he had been addressed by the high priest as son of the god, destined to exercise world dominion. 4. Did not the Persians honour of their own free will by proskynesis – an act of veneration appropriate in the presence of gods?