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  • Hi there my name’s John Green; this is Crash Course: World History and today were gonna

  • talk about Alexander the Great, but to do that were going to begin by talking about

  • ideals of masculinity and heroism and Kim Kardashian and the Situation.

  • Mr Green, Mr Green, Mr. Green! Which Situation?

  • Oh, me from the past, I forgot you wanted to go to Columbia. Me from the present regrets

  • to inform you that you do not get in.

  • But since you live in the past, you have no way of knowing who I’m talking about, and

  • it occurs to me that this video may be watched in some glorious future when Kim Kardashian

  • and the Situation have mercifully disappeared from public life, and the supermarket tabloids,

  • instead of talking about celebrities talk about Foucault and the Higgs-Boson particle,

  • so Kim Kardashian is a professional famous person who rose to notoriety by scoodilypoopin

  • with someone named Ray Jay, and MikeThe Situation” I forgot his last name is a professional

  • stupid person with big muscles.

  • Theyre both known by millions, lives in luxury, and people literally pay to own their

  • odors.

  • Why do these people crave fame? Why do any of us? Well, I’d argue it’s not about

  • money. If it were our tabloids would be devoted to the lives and times of bankers.

  • I think we all want to leave a legacy. We want to be remembered. We want to be Great.

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  • For a long time, history was all about the Study of Great Men, and it was common to call

  • people asthe Great,” but these days historians are less likely to do that, because

  • they recognize that one man’s Great is generally another man’s Terrible.

  • And alsothe Greathas some misogynistic implications, like, it’s almost always associated

  • with men. You never hear about Cleopatra the Great or Elizabeth the Great. There was, of

  • course, Catherine the Great of Russia, but for her masculine Greatness she was saddled

  • with the completely untrue rumor that she died trying to scoodilypoop with a horse.

  • Saddled? Get it? Anybody? Saddled with the rumor?

  • Anyway, they couldve soiled Catherine the Great’s name just by telling the truth:

  • which is that like so many other Great men and women, she died on the toilet. Get it?

  • soiled? Toilet? Yes? Yes!

  • So, quick biography of Alexander of Macedon, born in 356 BCE, died in 323 BCE at the ripe

  • old age of 32.

  • Alexander was the son of King Philip the 2nd, and when just 13 years old he tamed a horse

  • no one else could ride named Bucephalus, which impressed his father so much he said:

  • Oh thy son, look thee at a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is

  • too little for thee.”

  • By that time he was already an accomplished general, but over the next decade he expanded

  • his empire with unprecedented speed and he is famous for having never lost a battle.

  • Today were going to look at Alexander of Macedon’s story by examining three possible

  • definitions of greatness.

  • First, maybe Alexander was great because of his accomplishments.

  • This is an extension of the idea that history is the record of the deeds of great men. Now,

  • of course, that’s ridiculous. For one thing, half of people are women for another, there

  • are lots of historic events that no one can take responsibility for, like for instance

  • the Black Plague.

  • But still, Alexander was accomplished. I mean, he

  • conquered a lot of territory. Like, a lot.

  • No, not a lot, A LOT. Yes.

  • His father, Philip, had conquered all of Greece, but Alexander did what the Spartans and Athenians

  • had failed to do: He destroyed the Persian Empire. He conquered all the land the Persians

  • had held including Egypt, and then marched toward India, stopping at the Indus River

  • only because his army was like, “Hey, Alexander, you know what would be awesome? Not marching.”

  • Also, Alexander was a really good general, although historians disagree over whether

  • his tactics were truly brilliant or if his army just happened to have better technology,

  • specifically these extra long spears called sarissas.

  • Much of his reputation as a general, and his reputation in general, anybody? Puns? I should

  • stop? OK. Is because of Napoleon.

  • Napoleon like many other generals throughout history, was obsessed with Alexander the Great,

  • but more on that in a moment.

  • That said, Alexander wasn’t very good at what we might now call empire-building.

  • Alexander’s empire was definitely visually impressive, but it wasn’t actually much

  • of an empire. Like, Alexander specialized in the tearing down of things, but he wasn’t

  • so great at the building up of institutions to replace the things he’d torn down.

  • And that’s why, pretty soon after his death, the Greek Empire broke into three empires,

  • called the Hellenistic Kingdoms.

  • Each was ruled by one of Alexander’s generals, and they became important dynasties. The Antigones

  • in Greece and Macedonia, the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Selucids in Persia, all of which

  • lasted longer than Alexander’s empire.

  • A Second Greatness: Maybe Alexander was great because he had an enormous impact on the world

  • after his death. Like King Tut, Alexander the great was amazingly good at being a dead

  • person. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • So, After Alexander of Macedon died, everyone from the Romans to Napoleon to Oliver Stone

  • loved him, and he was an important military model for many generals throughout history.

  • But his main post-death legacy may be that he introduced the Persian idea of Absolute

  • Monarchy to the Greco-Roman world, which would become a pretty big deal.

  • Alexander also built a number of cities on his route that became big deals after his

  • death, and it’s easy to spot them because he named most of them after himself and one

  • after his horse.

  • The Alexandria in Egypt became a major center of learning in the classical world, and was

  • home to the most amazing library ever, which Julius Caesar probablyaccidentally

  • burned down while trying to conquer a bunch of land to emulate his hero, Alexander the

  • Great.

  • Plus, the dead Alexander had a huge impact on culture. He gave the region its common

  • language, Greek, which facilitated conversations and commerce.

  • Greek was so widespread that archaeologists have found coins in what is now Afghanistan

  • with pictures of their kings and the wordkingwritten beneath the picturesin

  • Greek. This is also why, incidentally, the New Testament was eventually written in Greek.

  • Although Alexander was mostly just conquering territory for the glory and heroism and greatness

  • of it all, in his wake emerged a more closely connected world that could trade and communicate

  • with more people more efficiently than ever before.

  • Alexander didn’t make those things happen, but they probably wouldn’t have happened

  • without him. But here’s a question:

  • If youre watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians and get so involved in Kim’s marital travails

  • that you leave the bathwater running, thereby flooding your house and necessitating a call

  • to a plumber, and then you fall in love with the plumber and get married and live happily

  • ever after, does that make Kim Kardashian responsible for your marriage?

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble. Okay, a third definition of greatness: Maybe Alexander is great because

  • of his legend:

  • Since no accounts of his life were written while he lived, embellishment was easy, and

  • maybe that’s where true greatness lies.

  • I mean the guy died at 32, before he ever had a chance to get old and lose battles,

  • He was tutored by Aristotle, for God’s sakes. Then there’s Alexander’s single-minded

  • Ahab-esque pursuit of the Persian king Darius, who he chased across modern-day Iraq and Iran

  • for no real reason except he desperately wanted to kill him, and when Bessus, one of Darius’s

  • generals, assassinated him before Alexander had the chance, Alexander chased Bessus around

  • until he could at least kill him.

  • These almost-comical pursuits of glory and heroism are accompanied in classical histories

  • by stories of Alexander walking through the desert, and then suddenly raining, and these

  • ravens coming to lead him to the army he’s supposed to fight, and stories of his hot

  • Persian wife Roxanna, who supposedly while still a teenager engineered the assassinations

  • of many of Alexander’s fellow wives.

  • And even at his death, people tried to make Alexander live up to this heroic ideal. Like,

  • Plutarch tells us that he died of a fever, but that’s no way for a masculine, empire

  • building awesome person to die! So rumors persist that he died either of alcohol poisoning

  • or else of assassination-y poisoning.

  • I mean, no great man can die of a fever.

  • Speaking of Great Men, it’s time to strip down for the Open Letter.

  • So elegant.

  • But first let’s see what’s in the Secret Compartment today. Oh. It’s Kim Kardashian’s

  • perfume. Thanks Stan. I’ll wear this. I’ll check it out, I’ll give it a try.

  • [sprays self with super nasty crap]

  • C’ah. Wow. That is... mmm...it’s like all the worst parts of baby powder and all

  • the worst parts of cat pee.

  • An Open Letter to the Ladies:

  • Hello, Ladies,

  • Youve really been unfairly neglected in Crash Course World History and also in World

  • History text books everywhere. Like, there will be a whole chapter exploring the exploits

  • of great men and then at the end there will be one sentence that’s likealso women

  • were doing stuff at the time and it was important, but we don’t really know what it was, so

  • back to Alexander the Great...”

  • HIStory has been very good at marginalizing and demeaning women and were going to fight

  • against that as we move forward in the story of human civilization.

  • Ladies, I have to go now because my eyes are stinging from the biological weapon known

  • as Kim Kardashian’s Gold. Seriously, don’t wear it.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • So in Alexander the Great we have a story about a man who united the world while riding

  • a magical horse only he could tame across deserts where it magically rained for him

  • so that he could chase down his mortal enemy and then leave in his wake a more enlightened

  • world and a gorgeous, murderous wife.

  • But of course it’s not just Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty that celebrate the

  • idea that ennobled violence can lead to a better world.

  • And that takes us to my opinion of how Alexander really came to be Great. Millennia after his

  • death in 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt, not because he particularly needed to invade Egypt

  • but because he wanted to do what Alexander had done.

  • And long before Napoleon, the Romans really worshipped Alexander particularly the Roman

  • General Pompey, AKA Pompeius Magnus, AKA Pompey the Great.

  • Pompey was so obsessed with Alexander that he literally tried to emulate Alexander’s

  • boyishly disheveled hair style.

  • In short, Alexander was Great because others decided he was Great. Because they chose to

  • admire and emulate him.

  • Yes, Alexander was a great general. Yes, he conquered a lot of land. The Situation is

  • also really good at picking up girls...of a certain type.

  • And Kim Kardashian is good at- Stan, what is Kim Kardashian good at? Oh. Ah. I guess

  • just a body type then. Something...

  • We made Alexander Great, just as today we make people great when we admire them and

  • try to emulate them.

  • History has traditionally been in the business of finding and celebrating great men, and

  • only occasionally great women, but this obsession with Greatness is troubling to me.

  • It wrongly implies, first, history is made primarily by men and secondly, that history

  • is made primarily by celebrated people, which of course makes us all want to be celebrities.

  • Thankfully weve left behind the idea that the best way to become an icon is to butcher

  • people and conquer a lot of land, but the ideals that weve embraced instead aren’t

  • necessarily worth celebrating either.

  • All of which is to say we decide what to worship and what to care about and what to pay attention

  • to. We decide whether to care about The Situation. Alexander couldn’t make history in a vacuum,

  • and neither can anyone else. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.

  • Crash Course is produced and Directed by Stan Muller, the show is written by my high school

  • history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself. Our script supervisor is Danica Johnson and our

  • graphics team is Thought Bubble.

  • Last week’s phrase of the week was "Thinly Sliced Trees". If you want to take a guess

  • at this week’s phrase or suggest new ones you can do so in comments. If you have questions

  • about today’s video you can also ask those in comments and our team of historians will

  • attempt to answer them.

  • Thanks for watching Crash Course and as they say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.

Hi there my name’s John Green; this is Crash Course: World History and today were gonna

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Alexander the Great and the Situation ... the Great? Crash Course World History #8

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    Chi-feng Liu posted on 2013/05/02
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