"Alexander son of Philip, and the Greeks except the Lacedaemonians--"
We can very well imagine
that they were utterly indifferent in Sparta
to this inscription. "Except the Lacedaemonians",
but naturally. The Spartans were not
to be led and ordered about
as precious servants. Besides
a panhellenic campaign without
a Spartan king as a leader
would not have appeared very important.
O, of course "except the Lacedaemonians."
This too is a stand. Understandable.
Thus, except the Lacedaemonians at Granicus;
and then at Issus; and in the final
battle, where the formidable army was swept away
that the Persians had massed at Arbela:
which had set out from Arbela for victory, and was swept away.
And out of the remarkable panhellenic campaign,
as no other had ever been glorified,
the incomparable: we emerged;
a great new Greek world.
We; the Alexandrians, the Antiocheans,
the Seleucians, and the numerous
rest of the Greeks of Egypt and Syria,
and of Media, and Persia, and the many others.
With our extensive territories,
with the varied action of thoughtful adaptations.
And the Common Greek Language
we carried to the heart of Bactria, to the Indians.
As if we were to talk of Lacedaemonians now!
Constantine P. Cavafy (1931)
[ Greek original ]
200 B.C.: The poem is set at the time of the
full development of the hellenistic era and the start of its decline, shortly
before the rise of Rome.
Shortly after his victory at Granicus (334 B.C.),
Alexander the Great sent the spoils to Athens, with this inscription:
"Alexander son of Philip, and the Greeks except the Lacedaemonians, from
the barbarians that inhabit Asia." The poem is from the viewpoint of
a Greek in 200 B.C. who is reading that inscription. Issus (333 B.C.)
and Arbela (331 B.C.) were two other great victories of Alexander.
The Common Greek Language, based on the Attica
dialect, became the common language throughout the
Eastern Roman Empire for at least 600 years.
Bactria: What today is northern Afghanistan;
it retained the Greek influence until 130 B.C.
Back to [ Cavafy ]
(C) George Barbanis