Publication details

Channelling His Inner Semiramis: Alexander and His Quest to Overcome the Assyrian Queen



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Alexander the Great pursued eternal glory and desired to outdo all the great generals in history. One of them was the famed queen of Assyria, Semiramis, whose achievements sometimes echo the expedition of Alexander. The episodes from their lives were occasionally put in comparison and both gained legendary status among the ancient rulers. Alexander eventually surpassed Semiramis, but why was she so important for Alexander, and where did the story of the Assyrian queen originate? The life and the deeds of Semiramis were for the first time described by Ctesias of Cnidus in his Persica. The problem is that he died several decades before the rule of Alexander. Therefore, he did not record the striking similarities between her life and the episodes from Alexander’s conquest. Ctesias’ original account of the life of Semiramis was adapted by the later authors. They altered several elements of the story of Ctesias and picked certain episodes from his Persica to enhance an image of a powerful eastern queen who was a predecessor of Alexander. In this presentation, we will focus on the similarities in the episodes from the lives of two conquerors and how Alexander fared compared to the Assyrian queen. The no-less important question will be the transmission of the story of Semiramis, as we will take a closer look at the problem of the sources and who was responsible for the creation of the legend of Semiramis and her military achievements as we know them today, whether it was Ctesias, Diodorus, or someone else.
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