Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions

Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions

Frank Holt

Print publication date: 2012

ISBN: 9780520238817

Publisher: University of California Press


To all those who witnessed his extraordinary conquests, from Albania to India, Alexander the Great appeared invincible. How Alexander himself promoted this appearance—how he abetted the belief that he enjoyed divine favor and commanded even the forces of nature against his enemies—is the subject of this book. Solid evidence for the “supernaturalized” Alexander lies in a rare series of medallions that depict the triumphant young king at war against the elephants, archers, and chariots of Rajah Porus of India at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Recovered from Afghanistan and Iraq in sensational and sometimes perilous circumstances, these ancient artifacts have long animated the modern historical debate about Alexander. The book considers the history of their discovery and interpretation, the knowable facts of their manufacture and meaning, and, ultimately, the king's own psyche and his frightening theology of war. The result is an analysis of Alexander history and myth, a vivid account of numismatics, and a fascinating look into the age-old mechanics of megalomania.