Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Alexander The Great and The Ravens

The Alexander Mosaic detail, dating from circa 100 BC from the House of the Faun in Pompeii

I am a real History nerd. I love ancient stories and mythology. I started thinking about this print when I overheard a NPR program on Alexander  The Great and the story was about his many near death experiences. One story had to do with two Ravens (or crows).
Birds in Greek mythology sometimes have the ability to speak. These talking birds, often sources of wisdom, may be deities in bird form or simply messengers of the deities. Either way, their advice is generally sound, and humans ignore it at their peril. Birds warn of dangers ahead, reveal secrets, and guide heroes and travelers on their way.
Zeus Ammon
 Alexander sought confirmation of his divine origins. In Egypt, Alexander decided to make the dangerous trip across the desert to visit the Oracle at the Temple of Zeus Ammon. Zeus was considered the ruler of the Olympian gods in ancient Greece Amun, called "Ammon" in Greece, was the parallel "king of the gods" in the religion of ancient Egypt.  Alexander and his men soon became lost in the desert. Disaster was averted when two black ravens miraculously appeared, Alexander urge his fellow Greeks to follow them as they must have been sent by the gods to guide them. Callisthenes, Alexander's historian, records that the ravens limited their flight to assist the party, even cawing loudly if they went off course.  As they flew rain clouds gathers and soon drenched them.

Anxious to visit the Oracle as soon as possible, Alexander then went immediately to the temple of Amun, the high rock outcrop of Aghurmi profoundly impressing him. Plutarch, famous Greek historian, says that according to his sources, Alexander was met by the Siwan high priest who greeted him with the words "O, paidion", "Oh, my son", but mispronounced the Greek as "O, pai dios" meaning "Oh, son of god", much to Alexander's joy and surprise.

 The small number of his men waited in the temple courtyard, and after the high priest announced to all present that the God was content, they could proceed with their questions. One of the Macedonians asked the Oracle whether they might give their king divine honors, to which the reply came "This would please Ammon". Then in his capacity as pharaoh and high priest of all the gods, Alexander was led into to the heavily-scented darkness of the inner sanctuary to put his questions personally to the god himself.
Portrait head of Alexander the Great depicted as the sun god


Black crows await the god-king.
The craving of power draws close.
The two birds shelter the Lost God in parched lands.
They quench his thirst and soothe his obsession.

"Awaiting Alexander", Intaglio Etching 2014, 5 inch x 7 inch has been selected as a finalist in the Animal/Wildlife category of The Artist's Magazine 28th Annual Art Competition. The original plate was lost. I remade the plate, this is a new edition.



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