Alexandria Digital Research Library

Alexander the Explorer

Kegerreis, Christopher Michael
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. History
Degree Supervisor:
John W.I. Lee
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Ancient history, Near Eastern studies, and Classical studies
Alexander of Macedon
Achaemenid Persia
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

This study considers whether or not Alexander III of Macedon, also known as Alexander the Great, was an explorer. Modern scholarly evaluations have often denied Alexander this role even in the face of substantial ancient evidence suggesting that exploration played a significant role in Alexander's persona and decision-making during the Asian campaign of 334-323 BCE. Through a series of interrelated case studies, this dissertation seeks to overturn these earlier contrarian views.

The foundation of my argument is built upon a long misunderstood term in Alexander studies, pothos. While scholars have often correctly translated the Greek as a kind of "exploratory longing," they have not recognized the literary tradition from which it emerged. This study demonstrates that the ideal of pothos belonged to much older traditions found in elite educational tracts, notably surrounding the characters of Herakles and Cyrus I of Persia. I argue that this tradition not only gave shape to Alexander's ruling and military ideology, but also drove him beyond the borders of the known world.

In addition to identifying the origins of pothos, this study reanalyzes every major incident of exploration during Alexander's campaign formerly contested in scholarship. In every example, from Alexander's supposed Nile Expedition in Africa to his desire to march further east into India at the Hyphasis River, I utilize sources previously overlooked by scholarship to argue in favor of Alexander's exploratory action. Most often, the overlooked sources are Hellenistic or early Roman naturalists and geographers, most notably Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and Theophrastus. A close analysis of Herodotus has further helped to explain the grossly inaccurate depictions of central Asia stemming from Alexander's campaign intellectuals, a direct refutation of Eratosthenes' claim, borrowed heavily upon in modern scholarship, that Alexander's flatterers intentionally altered central Asian geography to please the king. This study also employs Achaemenid Persian sources in an effort to fill in some of the lacunae concerning Alexander's exploratory actions, leading to the conclusion that Alexander utilized Achaemenid imperial ideology and administration in his own exploratory efforts. Lastly, this study advances the thesis for a close connection between Alexander's campaign and intellectuals at the Lyceum, and demonstrates a more impactful role of campaign data on the literary productions of the school than previously thought.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (514 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Christopher Kegerreis
Access: This item is restricted to on-campus access only. Please check our FAQs or contact UCSB Library staff if you need additional assistance.