“Alexander” is a movie directed by Oliver Stone and released in 2004. It focuses on Alexander the Great and explores his path towards glory. Critics praise the film for outstanding acting and detailed battle scenes, but the issue is that many viewers have doubted its historical accuracy. The primary source that supports the analysis of the movie is a translation of the work titled “The Anabasis of Alexander” by Arian. It focuses on the description of king’s conquests and helps to get a better understanding of his personal life. Most historians regard this collection of books by the historian as the most reliable source of information about the Macedonian king. The author discusses events from the historical perspective but shows bias on some occasions. The central objective of this paper is to assess some of the presented historical facts and determine their accuracy with a use of scholarly sources.
The death of Alexander is a fascinating fact because there are several versions, and scholars still have not reached consensus on this subject matter. The director suggests that Ptolemy made a decision to poison the king to avoid battles. Additionally, he ensured that the records state that illness was the cause of death. However, it is possible to argue with this particular description of events. Arrian acknowledges the fact that rumors about the poisoning were spreading at rapid rates after the king has died in 323 BC, but disregards such claims. Also, he mentions that some people believed that “poison was sent for him by Antipater, from the effects of which he died”. This quote highlights another inconsistency that has impacted the movie. The problem is that many individuals could have poisoned the king, and the number of theories is immense. The Roman historian believes that a disease caused by Alexander’s weakness is the only possible explanation of his unexpected death and bases this argument on works of other authors of that time. Also, he notes that ideas about poisoning have started to gain popularity many years after his death. Worthington argues that Alexander has suffered from severe fever by the end of May, and states that it was a primary cause of his demise. The author also draws attention to the idea that generals have poisoned Alexander, but thinks that this theory is unreasonable because officers were unlikely to unite with a goal to betray the king at that point because they had different interests. Additionally, he highlights civil wars that have started after Alexander has died. People close to him should have understood that a collapse would follow because there was no son to inherit the position of a king. Another contradiction is that he was ill close to two weeks, and the use of this type of poison was unlikely at that time. Nevertheless, he admits that it is impossible to determine the reason the king has died but states that it has benefited many generals that took advantage of the situation. It is understandable that the director had to choose one of the versions because it is a crucial part of the story. However, this interpretation is still not historically accurate because there are no pieces of evidence that would prove that there was a conspiracy to poison the king.
The discussion of Alexander’s sexuality in the movie is extremely controversial. One of the aspects worth noting is that there is no evidence he was bisexual, but it is possible to speculate. Some scenes suggest that he had a very close relationship with Bagoas. The analysis of the primary source shows that he was the king’s favorite eunuch, but it is impossible to make conclusions based on such statements. On the other hand, Worthington suggests that there is no reason to doubt the fact that they were extremely close to each other, and thinks that historians did not mention this fact because it was not surprising. One of the primary arguments is that such relationships were common at that time, but the director made a decision to make it an essential part of the story. For instance, Bagoas appears during one of the final scenes. Alexander was dying, and they discussed the role of each other in their lives. However, there are no mentions of such events in the primary source. Arrian states that “when his soldiers passed by him he was unable to speak”. In other words, the director has disregarded historical accuracy in this case. It is unreasonable to argue with the fact that such scenes make the movie much more emotionally intensive, but its value as a documentary suffers as a result of such alterations. Another example worth noting is his friendship with Hephaestion. The director suggests that they were lovers and were passionate about it each other, but the problem is that there is no evidence to support such claims. According to Arrian, they were incredibly close to each other and compared themselves to Achilles and Patroclus. Additionally, he describes a scene where they honored their horses. Nevertheless, a Roman historian does not provide comments regarding Alexander’s sexuality. On the other hand, Worthington believes that Hephaestion was his lover because of the emotional attachment. The author suggests that the fact that the king has mourned for many days after the death of his companion indicates that their relationships were not simple.
Numerous scenes in the movie highlight Alexander’s leadership skills and heroism, while showing that he believed in peace and unity. One of the issues worth noting is that many believe that the motion picture was affected by exaggeration, and creators have altered the character to make the movie much more dramatic. However, such statements are mostly false, and the director wanted to describe the king as accurately as possible. It is clear that he could lead his army to victory due to his ability to develop battle strategies and tactics. The movie portrays Alexander as an arrogant individual that believed that he is superior to others, and this belief has helped him to win many battles. Additionally, the film shows that he had a terrible temperament and could be irrational if there was a threat to his pride. Doherty supports this perspective and states that these two qualities are also his biggest weaknesses. Excessive drinking has facilitated his bad behavior, and the director of the movie also highlights this aspect. It had an enormous impact on the king and his father, and the motion picture draws attention to the destructive power of this habit. His beliefs have caused him to harm people close to him on numerous instances. For example, he has killed his friend as a result of a drunken rage in 328 BC. Cleitus has helped to save Alexander’s life, but the king could not accept any criticism and believed that an officer deserved death. One may argue that the director has exaggerated the king’s perspective on unity. However, this portrayal is historically accurate according to some of the sources. For instance, Arrian suggests that he did not view Persians as enemies after his victory. On the other hand, many historians have tried to refute the idea that the king believed in unity by drawing attention to his desire to spread his beliefs. Therefore, the historical accuracy of this point is unclear, but it increases the depth of the character and shows that he has suffered from an internal conflict. However, the director devotes too much attention to this aspect and alters some of the events to support this perspective. He overlooks some of the events that highlight Alexander’s ruthlessness. For example, the film does not show Alexander’s journey through the Gedrosian desert, and this decision was intentional. The issue is that this period is a critical part of his life and shows additional dimensions of the character. He has lost an enormous number of people because of his desire for exploration and disregarded their safety. A description of such events would make Alexander appear reckless, and it goes against the main idea of the film. Overall, the director has managed to reach an outstanding level of accuracy when describing the character and his unique qualities but had to exaggerate positive aspects and avoid negative events because it would affect the film’s narrative.
Another fascinating fact worthy of a discussion is the behavior of Darius during the battle of Gaugamela. One of the most significant problems that have made the whole scene so biased is that the director and his consultants have focused only on one side of the story, and disregarded the sources that describe the situation from another perspective. For instance, Arrian suggests that the Persian king was a coward and states that “without any delay, he began to flee in his chariot”. However, the Roman author wanted to show Alexander’s superiority and did not represent facts accurately. Worthington also makes the same mistake and does not describe the perspective of Persians. However, he notes that troops did not expect the power of Macedonians and could have prepared for the battle. The biggest problem was that they relied on the number of soldiers and underestimated the enemy. The director has used Arrian’s interpretation to describe the encounter. Moreover, he combined some of the events because of such limitations as the lengths of the film. Bury argues that Darius made this decision because some groups did not show up and defeat was inevitable. There is also a possibility that such actions were intentional and his soldiers have betrayed him. All the analyzed sources suggest that Alexander’s army was at a disadvantage, but they have shown enormous bravery. It is evident that the creators of the movie did not explore all possible explanations for Persian king’s actions and focused on the leadership of Alexander as a primary reason for defeat. Nevertheless, they did not portray Darius as a coward throughout the movie and have described his strengths to show that he was a skilled opponent.
In conclusion, it is clear that professionals that worked on this movie wanted to achieve the highest possible level of historical accuracy, but had to alter some of the facts to make it more dramatic and entertaining. Creative freedom is vital to artists, and some of the changes have benefited the movie in the long-term. Moreover, it was a necessary measure that has helped to improve the flow of the story. The biggest issue is that some of Alexander’s decisions were not consistent with his beliefs and the director wanted to avoid contradictions. Overall, minor alterations are acceptable in this type of movies because companies produce them for a particular audience and most individuals do not view historical accuracy as the most important factor when it comes to motion pictures.