Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Alexander the Great and the Situation ... the Great? Crash Course World History #8

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Hi there my names 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 Im 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 skoodilypooping

with someone named Ray Jay, and MikeThe SituationI 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, Id argue its 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.

[theme music]

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 mans Great is generally another mans Terrible.

And alsothe Greathas some misogynistic implications, like, its almost always men

who are called "the Great". 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 skoodilypoop

with a horse. Saddled? Get it? Anybody? Saddled with the rumor?

Anyway, they couldve soiled Catherine the Greats 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 Macedons 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, thats

ridiculous. For one thing, half of people are women; for another, and this is important,

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.

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? Maybe I should stop? OK. Is because of Napoleon.

Napoleon, like many other generals through the Millennia, was obsessed with Alexander

the Great, but more on that in a moment.

That said, Alexander wasnt very good at what we might now call empire-building. Alexanders

empire was definitely visually impressive, but it wasnt actually much of an empire.

Like, Alexander specialized in the tearing down of things, but he wasnt so great at

the building up of institutions to replace the things hed torn down. And thats

why, pretty soon after his death, his Empire broke into three empires, called the Hellenistic

Kingdoms. Each was ruled by one of Alexanders generals, and they became important dynasties.

The Antigones in Greece and Macedonia, the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Persia,

all of which lasted longer than Alexanders empire itself.

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. Lets 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 its 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 didnt make those things

happen, but they probably wouldnt have happened without him.

But heres a question: If youre watching Jersey Shore and get so involved in The Situations

romantic conquest that you leave the bath water running, thereby flooding your apartment,

and you have to call a plumber, and the plumber comes over and you fall in love with him and

get married and live happily ever after, does that make The Situation 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 thats 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 Gods sakes.

Then theres Alexanders 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 Dariuss 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 hes supposed to fight, and stories of his hot

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

of many of Alexanders 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 thats 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, its time to strip down for the Open Letter.

So elegant. But first lets see whats in the Secret Compartment today. Oh. Its

Kim Kardashians perfume. Thanks Stan. Ill wear this. Ill check it out, Ill give

it a try. Cah. Wow. That is... mmm... its 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 textbooks everywhere. Like, there will be a whole chapter exploring the exploits

of great men and then at the end there will be one sentence thats likealso women

were doing stuff at the time and it was important, but we dont 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 Kardashians

Gold. Seriously, dont 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 its not just Assassins 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 Alexanders 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?

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 arent

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 couldnt make history in a vacuum, and neither can anyone else. Thanks for watching.

Ill 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 weeks phrase of the week was "Thinly Sliced Trees". If you want to take a guess

at this weeks phrase or suggest new ones you can do so in comments. If you have questions about

todays 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.

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