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Anyone who read this review when it was still anonymous - what did you make of it at the time (as far as you remember) and why? Curious if we can identify what sunk it in the book review contest!

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I remember actually contrasting this review with the Njal's Saga one when both were anonymous! They seemed similar as reviews of medieval works of fiction based around the embellished biographies of real figures, and were both written in an engaging tone. But the Njal's Saga review did a much better job convincing me that the work was a classic still relevant to the modern age, while the Alexander Romance review just felt like it reviewed a work which had less to say (I initially wrote a "less interesting" work, but I can absolutely believe that the Alexander Romance would be a more fun one-day read than Njal's Saga). Pushing forward both of them seemed sort of superfluous; there were too many other categories of reviewed books which were interesting.

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I didn't read it when it was anonymous so maybe this is hindsight talking, but I think I can see why it didn't make it through. I think it's hard for a negative review to be very successful in the format, and it doesn't sound like the Alexander Romance merits a positive one.

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Yeah, a lot depends on what you want out of a review. My number one criteria is if I bought the book. (And "The Mind of a Bee" is a good read.)

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That criteria is complicated by both of Scott's reviewed books being in the public domain.

(Man's Search for Meaning is still the only one that convinced me to buy a book, in any year's contest.)

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That's why I voted for Educated Mind. Technically, I haven't bought that one yet, and went straight to Teaching as Storytelling, to get more practical advice on how to teach my child, but same basic idea. The review successfully persuaded me to possibly change my teaching method, so that's significant.

Man's search for meaning was also incredible, and my third vote behind Njal's Saga.

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That's interesting. Some of my favourite reviews are the ones that convince me I don't need to read the book.

I'm never going to bother to read Njal's Saga, but after reading the review I feel like I have a much better grasp of what's in it and I don't feel bad about not reading it.

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founding

For what it's worth, while I didn't vote in last year's contest because I didn't make it through all the reviews, I think the negative review of The Righteous Mind would have been my top choice.

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Yes, I thought the exact same thing. I just reread that review and it is fabulous. The rant in the middle explaining how categories work was great, and the criticism of the book was also very good.

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It's well written, of course, and about an inherently interesting topic, but in the end doesn't really go anywhere. I don't think I learned something that provides any insight into anything else.

Contrast this with the winning piece that provided a fascinating and useful framework for thinking about education and why things are the way that they are, and did it in an engaging memorable way. I felt like I understood something new, which is slate star codex^W^W^Wastral codex ten at its best.

Having said that, I feel like there may be a bias towards longer pieces as well. The winning and third place pieces are loooong, though the second place review was about the same length as this one. IIRC last year's winner was also super long.

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I have a vague recollection of reading the start. I'm not sure if I skimmed to the end or gave up early.

Like a lot of the less stellar reviews, this one comes across as a summary of the text rather than an engagement with it in a new way. There's the bit about comic book characters at the end, but it's way at the end and it doesn't really say anything new about the parallels between ancient and modern myths. The rest of the review is just a bunch of wacky anecdotes from the book.

Compare to the Njal's Saga review, which immediately hits you over the head in the first paragraph with the parallel between Njal's Saga and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

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Reading it right now, I'd say there's just not enough in it to grab onto. "It's a silly story, these are examples of it being silly." It also repeats itself a couple of times, with the Jerusalem High Priest and such. And it labels Batman as a Marvel property, the highest blasphemy. It also reads like Genesis; very dry and to-the-point.

Maybe if it led with the Batman comparison it would be better. Like, a full look at what people wrote about Alexander the Great, and comparing it to what they write now. Njal's Saga had the strangeness of the arbitration angle, this one's just silly.

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I gave it a 10/10 and correctly guessed it was by Scott. Unfortunately, that led me to assume that Njal's Saga was *not* by Scott, and then I proceeded to make unfortunate guesses on the prediction markets.

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I gave it a 7/10, which is around the median of my grades. I found it entertaining, but I didn't learn anything new or useful. There were other reviews which actually changed my mind, or where I learned about some part of the world that I didn't know about.

That there were all kind of super-wild stories in ancient or middle ages ("here be dragons") is not something new. Having them fleshed out for Alexander doesn't make me go "Wow, I should really reconsider how I thought about the world".

In this aspect, Njall's Saga was actually better. I had no idea that formal, bureaucratic, nit-picky law ever played a role before modern times. I thought that it had always been a mix of law of the strongest and common sense, or at best that the law gives some very simple meta-rules like specifying who should act as a judge or moderator. Even if the system in Njall's Saga only existed in Iceland, I updated on how humans can live together.

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What sunk it … randomness due to small sample size in the preliminaries? We know the top five places (in the final, in terms of votes), and for them I can‘t see all that much correlation to their preliminary average ratings.

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I didn't read it when it was anonymous, but:

It's a fun presentation of a cool thing the reviewer came across. I like that. As with the review that turned out to be negative on the book, this seems like it should be a viable type of book review. But the archetype is something like "an entertaining review of an interesting book, at least one of which provides fresh new insights into the world". And it seems like a lot of people want insights as part of the package, and I feel that pull too. If I'd been reviewing it as a finalist, I probably would have suggested that it was short enough that the reviewer could expand it by doing things like tracing the history of the text, or elaborating on the comic book comparison, or talking a bit about the "Matter of Rome" and its significance, or something like that. As with the review of "The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich", it could benefit from some supplementary reading to provide more context.

I like the review for pretty much the same reason I like Herodotus best of the ancient writers that I've read: he found cool things and showed them to us. It wouldn't have made my top 3 or even 5, but I personally liked it better than some of the ones that did make it to the finals.

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Now I'm curious: does the Iron Maiden song "Alexander the Great" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvWE30PJ1oE) count as a modern entry in the Alexander Romance? Arguably, the main reason to not count it would be that it's too historically accurate. Not a single dinosaur to be mentioned!

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We get the country music romance with Bocephus.

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Then there's the Portuguese entry, which is a return-to-its-roots retelling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXsxoNXLUA4

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Egyptians claimed Alexander was the son of Ammon-Ra and so gave him the epithet "Two-Horned", one of Ammon-Ra's titles, which translated the same as the common misinterpretation (because of a lack of diacritics) of Moses being Two-Horned, so in the Quran, in a moment of apparent confusion, one of the stories related about Moses (18:60-82) is a recitation of a syriac Alexander legend

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The picture just after the "Fountain of Youth" segment is all black, that seems like an error?

Also, among the listing of the nations that Alexander saved us from, I can't help but notice the "Anouphagoi". The, uh, butt-eaters...?

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No, silly, that's a picture of the "land of total darkness."

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Oh, d'oh. I missed that.

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It took me about a minute, after trying to view the image in another browser to make sure there wasn't a caching problem.

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Yeah, the picture of ram-headed Nectanebo is okay, but the better version is the dragon sleeping with Olympias so as to conceive Alexander, while Philip looks in on them in bed:

https://inpress.lib.uiowa.edu/feminae/DetailsPage.aspx?Feminae_ID=43156

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Thanks for sharing this amazing piece, it should have been used for the cover of "Sadly, Porn" as example of ancient cuckoldry imagery. That dragon knows exactly what it's doing.

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> Look down on the earth, Alexander!” I looked down, somewhat afraid, and behold, I saw a great snake curled up, and in the middle of the snake a tiny circle like a threshing-floor. Then my companion said to me, “Point your spear at that threshing floor, for that is the world. The snake is the sea that surrounds the world.”

Hmm, sounds like Alexander was wrong earlier!

> I accepted the whip, so as to flay the barbarians with my own hands . . . the ball, as a sign that I shall be ruler of the world, [which is] spherical like a ball.

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Slight digression: am I the only one who thinks a whip is probably not a great toy for a child, regardless of historical era?

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Why? It's a toy used to make the whip crack.

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Whips were used for spinning tops, to make them spin:

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/whip-and-tops

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top#/media/File:Die_Kinderspiele_-_Verschiedene_Kreisel.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top

"A typical fist-sized model, traditionally made of wood with a blunt iron tip, is meant to be set in motion by briskly pulling a string or rope tightly coiled around the body. The rope is best wound starting near the tip and progressing up along the widening body, so that the tension of the string will remain roughly constant while the top's angular speed increases.

...Alternatively, tops of this class may be started by hand but then accelerated and kept in motion by striking them repeatedly with a small whip."

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Great. I'm sure no child was ever tempted to strike anything other than a top with it.

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Probably doesn't cause any more damage than a stick and children were constantly hitting one another with those in ancestral time.

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Who gets to be the lucky kid who finds out whether you're right or not?

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I'm starting to wonder if your childhood wasn't very sensory-enriched.

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It's an excellent choice if you want your kid to fucking slay slay slay til he conquers the world.

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

Very true, I'd not considered that. Maybe if you just want your kid to get good at keeping his slaves in order, too.

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Major character development, redemption of a ball earther

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

The naked philosophers were also wrong - they said: "The sea is itself surrounded by the earth."

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It's a two-dimensional model; clearly the reality is that the world is spherical like a tiny three-dimensional ball, surrounded on all sides by a huge snake sphere.

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I wonder why other conquerors, like Genghis Khan, didn’t get embellished as superheroes? Also curious if any prominent figures from our era will get embellished as superheroes. I’d be entertained by a comic book about Boris Johnson fighting dinosaurs.

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For most of the people writing our history, Alexander was one of "us" conquering "foreigners," whereas Genghis Khan was the opposite. I think in Mongolia Genghis Khan gets a little more of the superhero treatment.

As for other figures, I think Caesar gets a bit of it, although not as much as Alexander. I think Alexander might have been in a pretty good spot where he's enough in the historical record to be well known, but not so much that it's hard to fit in these kinds of embellishments?

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I think Julius is partly remembered because his adopted son rose to become the first Roman Emperor by avenging Julius' assassination, in the process magnifying the assassination into a tragedy of betrayal that 1500 years later would be ranked alongside Judas betraying Christ.

(He also conquered all of France (except for one small village) while simultaneously writing a series of propagandizing war journals that are generally regarded as the easiest Latin to read. And then he fixed the calendar, more or less. And would probably have become the first emperor, although we might call it something else, if it weren't for that pesky "assassination" thing. So I think we'd still know him anyway.)

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

"a tragedy of betrayal that 1500 years later would be ranked alongside Judas betraying Christ."

Do you mean, in the Divine Comedy?

Although that was written a little earlier than 1500 years later.

"(except for one small village)"

lol !

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Yeah, I was referring to the Divine Comedy. I was feeling lazy so I didn't look it up, and just rounded to what I thought was the nearest 500. :-)

I would have guessed 1300, and as it turns out that would have been the closest century mark, but I wasnt sure. And there's the question of when to date from - the assassination to the completion would be something like 1370 years...

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

I didn't mean it as a criticism, rounding to the closest 500 is fine in this case!

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Also, by the way, the Alexander romance existing in different versions across the world is another example of what I was telling you a few month ago. The existence of Beowulf does not mean that English culture must be particularly close to Nordic culture, because stories in the Middle Ages circulated between cultures all the time.

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> Alexander was one of "us" conquering "foreigners," whereas Genghis Khan was the opposite.

That seems accurate. Also, he wasn't quite as genocidal as some other conquerors but tried to get his troops to integrate more with the locals.

I hope it's not Elon Musk who becomes the superhero of our time. If he makes it to Mars he probably will be though.

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Perhaps it will say something like "Elon Musk won the Internet in a wrestling match with a bird-faced man."

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"Elon Musk had 147 children, conquered Mars, and had the best comebacks on social media."

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"He declared himself God-Emperor and created children to guide humanity into the future, but one of them turned on him and betrayed him to his death."

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That's... already a bit true? Not to trigger culture war comments (please no), but I couldn't resist the fact that one of her birth names is Alexander.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-61880709

And that experience is, potentially, something that drove Musk to become more obsessed with and then buy Twitter, which... has not been great for him personally or professionally, or for the other (more important) things he's trying to accomplish?

Also he literally called himself Technoking of Tesla.

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Is that really true though? These stories were widely spread in the Middle East also.

Parts of these stories found their way into the Qur'an and hadith (Alexander travelling to the ends of the earth, Alexander and Gog and Magog), which is probably their greatest contemporary significance.

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Most of the Middle East was ruled by Alexandrian successor states for hundreds of years, so it still makes sense to me that cultures there would still consider him more the ingroup than the outgroup

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Sep 19, 2023·edited Sep 19, 2023

There is Legend of Koizumi, a manga and anime about former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Here he is battling zombie cyborg Mao Zedong:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX8O6xECO9Y

I hear that Koizumi also teams up with Pope Benedict to defeat Hitler, who instead of dying has escaped to the Moon with his Nazis (perhaps this is what inspired the movie Iron Sky).

Hitler activates his super Aryan powers, turning blond:

https://i.imgur.com/6Tvg60T.jpg

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You forgot to mention the best part, that all this combat is done via riichi mahjong.

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Napoleon has been somewhat more embellished.

Then there's Washington, Washington. Six foot eight, weighs a fucking ton. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbRom1Rz8OA Had a pocketful of horses, fucked the shit out of bears, threw a knife into heaven, and could kill with a stare.

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

Lenin got somewhat similar treatment to Washington in the USSR though I can't remember any superpowers. And then there is Vasily Chapayev who went from a movie hero to a folk hero of a myriad jokes and ended up actually having superpowers in Chapayev and Void (AKA Buddha's Little Finger) by Pelevin.

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George Washington: first in war, first in peace, first to have his birthday juggled to make a long weekend. Even leaving aside how he ate opponents' brains and invented cocaine, there are more conventional legendary tales about him, e.g. the Cherry Tree story.

Also, Vlad the Impaler. I remember a chat I had a while back with someone who grew up in Romania, and by his telling the Romanian impression of Vlad is very closely parallel to the American impression of Washington.

My initial reaction to this was that it probably says something about Romanian national character that their George Washington equivalent historical cultural hero is literally Count Dracula. And then I remembered that the Algonquin nickname for George Washington translates as "Devourer of Villages". And that one of his more celebrated historical accomplishments was sneaking back across the Delaware and killing a bunch of Hessian soldiers (*) in their sleep on Christmas. Which goes to show just how much impressions of major historical figures can depend on perspective and what the stories you hear of them choose to emphasize. And may say something about our national character as well.

(*) The Hessian force at the Battle of Trenton was commanded by Colonel Johann Rall, who was probably a distant relative of mine.

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What a great comment! Succinct, educational, entertaining. The personal aside reminds me William Dalrymple, whose stories feature distantly related Dalrymples who kept excellent records.

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> first to have his birthday juggled to make a long weekend

First, but not the worst. For a while Virginia had "Lee-Jackson-King Day".

They say a good compromise leaves everyone unhappy, but this proved that the reverse is not true.

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All of the American founding fathers tend to be embellished (and reinterpreted to fit various political/religious tendencies) in American popular mythology. I remember seeing Bill Clinton (I think?) say something like "The only time when there was as much collective intelligence in this room was when Thomas Jefferson was in it alone" (as a reaction to some collection of American politicians or other public figures in the White House) and thinking how no Finnish politician could probably get away with saying something like that about any Finnish historical figure, even the most esteemed ones.

Heck, Hamilton (the musical) is a prime example of this constant process of reinterpretation of the sanctified civic religion figures for new generations.

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Genghis Khan specifically did and for much the same reasons. It's just that most of us aren't as familiar with Central Asian literary traditions as Greek ones.

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Yeah, I guess I don't know the first thing about Central Asian literary traditions.

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Genghis Khan did get embellished. For example read about his ancestry in Secret History of the Mongols.

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Ask QAnon about Trump. :P

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I have no idea, but I'd say go to Kazakhstan, or some place nearby. I bet there are stories.

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We already have Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

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Ah! You cited this before I did. 'scuse the duplication!

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I posted mine without finishing the comments, pure luck it wasn't duplication itself.

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Yeah, good point. There was also "Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies" that I forgot about

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"curious if any prominent figures from our era will get embellished as superheroes"

Does https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln:_Vampire_Hunter count?

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See "The Nine Worthies":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_Worthies

"The Nine Worthies are nine historical, scriptural, and legendary men of distinction who personify the ideals of chivalry established in the Middle Ages, whose lives were deemed a valuable study for aspirants to chivalric status. All were commonly referred to as 'Princes', regardless of their historical titles. In French they are called Les Neuf Preux or "Nine Valiants", giving a more specific idea of the moral virtues they exemplified: those of soldierly courage and generalship. In Italy they are known as i Nove Prodi.

The Nine Worthies include three pagans (Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar), three Jews (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus) and three Christians (King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon)."

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You mean a comic book about Boris Johnson giving battle to Great Supine Protoplasmic Invertebrate Jellies, surely?

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I remember when I was learning about Simon Bolivar the author mentioned that Bolivar conquered an area larger than what Alexander the Great conquered, and many more people of course. Bolivar seems to be like in South America (I Guess), but in general I never hear people refer to him as a great person or superhero or so.

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The real question is; wheres the tv show?, the lower cost the special effects the better

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

Not Alexander as such, but there's an Indian historical fantasy show called Porus which is about that king Alexander defeated (or not, if you believe the version in the show).

It has the same puzzle to solve as mentioned in the review: Porus has to have enemies, and by beating (or at least matching) Alexander, this shows how magnificent he is. So Alexander has to be great. But since he's the rival, he *also* has to be terrible.

The show pretty much just copies outright the Colin Farrell movie of Alexander and then invents the story of Porus. Darius is in it too, and I love this character because he is this tiny evil emperor who is all smiles then schemes and plots in the background but is constantly being foiled by Porus. Also, he has the *best* royal cloaks sweeping out with mile-long train trailing behind him. He is so evil and tiny, I love him to bits!

It *loosely* follows history (e.g. it has Darius assassinated by the people he flees for refuge to, in hopes of ensuring Alexander won't conquer them to get at Darius), the effects are suitably cheap'n'cheesy (Darius gets the best ginger wig in the show, Hephaestion gets the second-best one), and it's great fun if you ignore what it's doing to history.

This is the episode where the Macedonian army first encounters war elephants, and Alexander solves the problem:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4hHPsjcUAo

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Those are some very white white people.

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

The show you're looking for failed to materialize 60 years ago -- it would have starred William Shatner as Alexander, and got no further than what co-star Adam West called "the worst fucking pilot ever". The pilot was shelved and wasn't even released for several years, by which time Shatner was already Captain Kirk and West was Batman and the rest was history -- but you can still find the pilot on YouTube to this day.

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Sep 19, 2023·edited Sep 19, 2023

You joke about a theme song but there's an Iron Maiden song called Alexander the Great. It fucking rocks!

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I would be shocked if Sabaton didn't release at least one song about Alexander.

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So that's what's in the "Matter of Rome", nifty!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matter_of_Rome

I think my favorite comparison is fanfiction, which is especially evident in the ensemble "Matter of Britain", where a bunch of OC knights get added and it takes a while to settle out who the fandom thinks is "the best". (The solution? "Best" can mean different things!)

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He sounds like the ancient Chuck Norris to me. “Behind Alexander’s beard isn’t a chin, just another fist.”

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Does this make you rethink things at all with regards to geeks vs nerds? Or at least resolve your thought experiment one way or the other?

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Jess Nevins writes, in "the Evolution of the Costumed Avenger" that a few things set apart these guys (like Samson or Hercules or Gilgamesh) from superheros proper: a superhero does good because he is good, and he wears an identifiable costume.

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I wonder if there's a story where Batman and Superman swapped costumes?

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Tons of them. It was a recurring Silver Age bit, frequently to let "Superman" laugh at kryptonite or "Batman" survive gunfire.

Bruce Wayne's disguise skills were also a go-to to make it possible for Clark Kent and Superman to appear together. (Though lots of people helped with that, including JFK.)

The 90s animated series episode "Knight Time", where Superman disguises himself as Batman (with Robin coaching) to investigate Bruce's disappearance is a particular hoot.

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"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

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My favorite story about the Alexander Romances comes from when Lysimachus, a diadochi, was told a story of Alexander meeting and wooing Thalestris, beautiful queen of the Amazons. Lysimachus famously replied, "And where was I then?" (Ie, I don't remember this and I was there.) It was a joke though and the teller was rewarded. Because Lysimachus, like all of the diadochi, got their legitimacy from Alexander and so spent generations burnishing the legend as a matter of state policy.

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I remember that story from Plutarch's biography of Alexander. It's interesting because it indicates that legends about Alexander had already begun to circulate within a few decades after his death. Apparently, it doesn't take long for legends to get started.

Plutarch also has a story about King Philip finding Olympias in bed with a giant snake nine months before Alexander was born, the implied message being that the snake was a god in disguise and the true father of Alexander. (There's nothing about the snake turning into an eagle. I don't know where that came from!) There's also a story in there about Alexander questioning the Indian philosophers, but the wording is a bit different.

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Sep 19, 2023·edited Sep 19, 2023

I do dislike the Marvel universe because there's no real oxygen in the big cast and plot for person to person relationships, but I think it's really quite good stuff in its way. I agree that The Alexander Romance isn't a great book but I don't know how far I would extend that to the general genre

I've tried to read War and Peace twice. The first time I stopped because there's an extended rumination on the horribly pointless respect given to an aunt of no importance by the visitors to the house of the active main character. The disgust for this illogical frivolity is so intense that I just stopped. The book had just started, was I going to experience something like this ten times while reading it?

The second time I stopped for the same reason, I had forgotten it was War and Peace that I had stopped reading for that reason. The Marvel universe is essentially about morality and virtue and I'm very unqualified to genuinely contrast that to Tolstoy since I didn't read the book but I'm not comfortable with calling Tolstoy high and Marvel low. Maybe someone familiar with both could make some kind of comparison and I will mention my hypothetical desire to be able to compensate you in some kind of internet credibility currency by way of emphasizing that I would genuinely appreciate if someone would

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If you want to give Tolstoy another chance you might pick up Anna Karenina. I think it’s a much better novel.

If you do give War and Peace another go you can skip the chapters that discuss free will and not miss anything in the storyline.

There are about half a bazillion named characters so maybe just focus on the arc of Pierre and the Rostov family at first. It requires close reading but the story will grow on you.

Marvel comic - not the movies - used to be fine for adolescents and maybe THC intoxicated young adults at one time, long long ago. Say up until the late sixties. I have no idea if they are even good for that now.

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Alexander the Great is definitely a prime candidate to become a superhero. Even the real man sounds like a fictional character.

>Then Alexander built a giant gate in between the mountains, and he planted brambles for 3000 miles in every direction, and watered them so the brambles made a giant mass of thorns that covered the mountains for 3000 miles, so that the unclean nations could never get through.

Reminds me of those Trump-era plans for a border wall with fences, lighthouses, and a moat made of radioactive waste.

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Giant hedges to control population movement did exist historically. The British made one in India to prevent salt tax evasion.

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It's interesting that the art style depicts Alexander as wearing medieval plate armor, rather than Greek bronze armor. Hardly the first character to get modernized as technology changes!

>>"What should one do to gain favor in people's eyes?" They told him, "stay away from high positions, Kings and officers. Because when people see that you're consorting with the high class, they will become jealous and despise you." Alexander responded, "my idea is better than yours. By being around the kings and nobility, you can help people with their needs and they will like you."

All the bits with Alexander discussing the morality of his kingship kind of remind me of his appearance in Fate/Zero (a show that's *all about* romanticizing legendary heroes). In that show, his driving ideal is "a king should do great and impressive things, to inspire his people to be as great as he is." He doesn't really care whether conquering things is good or evil, he just thinks that it would be awesome.

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It bothers me that people who kill and steal are sometimes put on a pedestal if they did enough a lot of it and far enough back in time.

I don't know much about the history of Alexander though. Maybe they really deserved it / were rich enough not to have been harmed much / etc.

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Yes, I get that they changed the world. I don't dispute that at all. But that still doesn't make them intrinsically interesting to me, and it gives me an awful blank, despairing feeling about human history to know that these guys are the motor. Sort of like learning that out solar system is the toilet for colossal aliens, who take a shit here once every billion years or so, and we're on one of their turds.

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Agreed, I don't admire Alexander the Great as a person, but if you want to study history from 300BC-1BC, you have to talk a lot about Alexander the Great. If it wasn't for his leadership skills and talent at war, the world during that period would have been extremely different. He is important, whether you admire him.

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

People who are famous for winning wars and building empires bore the hell out of me. Consequently I have no problem at all not admiring them . But it seems to me that those who are spontaneously moved to fascination and admiration should at least

remind themselves that these famous people are greedy murderers.

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From a consequentialist point of view, most of this conquering turns out to be net positive. Civilisations tend to prevail over pre-civilisation peoples, and more advanced civilisations tend to prevail over less advanced civilisations, so the net effect is the spreading of more advanced civilisations across the world.

This often comes at a cost of great suffering in the short term, but the more time that passes the greater the benefit, while the cost gets forgotten.

In one sense it's terrible that the Romans violently conquered Europe, but from my point of view it's good that they did; it means I live in a globe-spanning advanced civilisation rather than being a subsistence farmer on some cold Northern European rock.

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That’s not really true though, as a rule. The Romans weren’t more advanced than all the people they conquered. Even the Gauls had a more advanced society than we give them credit for. We just don’t remember much about it.

And in particular it’s not true about eg. the Mongols or Islamic Arab conquerors.

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Without getting into debating any particular counterexample, as I said it's an average thing. Sometimes a more advanced civilisation will get defeated by a less advanced one (e.g. through sheer weight of numbers) but the overall trend is towards higher civilisations.

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It is not a general rule in history that wars of conquest involve more advanced societies overcoming less advanced ones.

In fact some people have thought the trend is more or less the opposite, eg the 14th thinker Ibn Khaldun:

“Perhaps the most frequently cited observation drawn from Ibn Khaldūn's work is the notion that when a society becomes a great civilization, its high point is followed by a period of decay. This means that the next cohesive group that conquers the diminished civilization is, by comparison, a group of barbarians. Once the barbarians solidify their control over the conquered society, however, they become attracted to its more refined aspects, such as literacy and arts, and either assimilate into or appropriate such cultural practices. Then, eventually, the former barbarians will be conquered by a new set of barbarians, who will repeat the process.”

(Wikipedia)

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This is a common belief, but it doesn't really hold up to historical scrutiny: https://acoup.blog/2020/01/17/collections-the-fremen-mirage-part-i-war-at-the-dawn-of-civilization/

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

I didn’t say it was my belief (although it is a thing that sometimes happens). In any case, I doubt that anyone thinks that the “poorer, harder people will inevitably overrun and subjugate the richer, more prosperous communities around them.” The idea (as I understand it) is not that people in advanced societies are generally weaker, but that society can undergo a difficult to understand process called “decadence“ which paradoxically makes them weaker than a less organized society.

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I don't think the author of that really understands the views he's critiquing. Ibn Khaldun-style asabiyyah decline is meant to take place over a period of generations, so it's quite compatible with advanced countries beating less advanced ones most of the time (due to the other advantages they have re: organisation, wealth, etc.).

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Archaeology indicates that standards of living (measured in terms of the sophistication of material culture) increased during the Roman Empire and decreased after it, suggesting that Roman rule was indeed a net positive. Even if it had brought no material benefits, not having to worry about a marauding raiding party burning your house, murdering your children, and raping your wife, would still be a pretty huge improvement on its own.

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I'd note a few things about Alexander.

1. The Persians conquered parts of Greece two centures earlier, and tried to conquer the rest (300 Spartans and all that), so there is a strong element of revenge and/or overthrowing the oppressive overlord.

2. Democracy is good, right? Democracy is why we don't have very many wars anymore (in the developed world). Democracy was invented in Greece (more or less, at least as we understand it, I'm sure that's probably a western-centric statement is some way, etc etc). Without Alexander's conquests, Greek culture wouldn't have spread (much). So the very much non-democrat Alexander was still, in historical terms, a force for democracy.

3. My impression (which may be partly propaganda, not sure) is that Alexander was in general far more merciful and fair than the typical ancient conquerer. Tried to ingratiate himself with the conquered (marrying the Persian princess to have legimitacy, honouring local religious beliefs, I've even read that he bought food for his army from the local people instead of pillaging).

At least in Alexander's case there are a few natural reasons people might be inclined to view him as a hero.

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Alexander (and his father, Philip) represented the death knell for Greek democracy above the local level, and the Greek world becoming dominated by monarchies descended from his generals.

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I had a college professor who literally compared Philip of Macedon to Hitler, mostly for demagoguery and the destruction of democracy and self-rule.

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>"Democracy is good, right?"

All things in moderation; there are many, many things that shouldn't be put to a vote, and many people whose votes - even on things that should - are of negative value.

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I'd argue that our conception of democracy mostly comes from the Romans, who probably would have done what they did regardless of Alexander, and they had a bit of a thing for Greek culture. On the other hand, a lot of Greek science seems to have been preserved by being taken to Egypt and the Middle East, and uncovered by the early Islamic Caliphates. So from that perspective, without Alexander we might still have had a republic, but maybe not the Renaissance and scientific Enlightenment.

But that's not an area which I know much about.

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I am a historical ingrate, so I have no idea how sound this idea is, but I sometimes get the impression that there are some cultures that get "stuck" with non-optimal procedures to the point that a conquest can be a net positive through innovation.

A lot of this might be the victors writing history, but you often read people arguing that Alexander, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, etc. ended up leaving their conquered subjects with some cultural improvements. (A more literal form of "creative destruction?")

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But his mom resembled Angelina Jolie though, right?

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

Yes, but even more skinny, slutty and avid.

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Alexander the Great was also the dragon that killed Beowulf.

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"Finally, Alexander reached the end of the world, “where the sky meets the earth”, which was inhabited by griffins (other sources say big white birds that ate carrion"

Where the sky meets the earth is the roof of the world, Tibet, well.known as an abode of the Garuda.

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Great stuff, Scott.

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Interesting. This accumulated legendarium spread across cultures sounds very similar to what happened later with King Arthur and with Charlemagne. Though we tend to notice the insane variety/inconsistency of Arthur less because it got a "definitive" version in the form of Le Morte dArthur.

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At least, we have a definitive version in English, thanks to Malory and Caxton. I don't know if the French put as much emphasis on it, though...

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Fair point! I don't know anything about the post-Malory development of Arthurian lore in France.

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No, wait - I don't know! I suspect, but I'm asking if anyone does know!

Sorry that wasn't clear. :-(

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Dunno - the whole character of Lancelot and his arc is French.

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Right. I suppose I was unclear again. A lot of the source material comes from France, directly or indirectly. Malory selected, translated, compiled, edited, and condensed a lot of "Frensshe" books while in prison, and got the manuscript to one of the first English printers, Caxton. So one reason for the Morte's popularity and influence in England was simply that it was one of the few books in English that was being mass-produced. But this of course doesn't necessarily mean that the Morte had the same cultural impact in France. (Even taking into account that France has its own "Matter".)

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"[...] (also, the text offhandedly mentions, then never brings up again, that Alexander was only four feet tall, and everyone was surprised by this).

During the dinner, Alexander kept pocketing the gold and silver dishes in his cloak. [...] Luckily, Alexander outran everyone in Persepolis, slipped through the gates, and made it back to his own camp. Also, his camp was across a river that froze and melted in an alternating cycle once every few days, and he ran across it just at the moment it melted, so the Persians were stuck on the other side and couldn’t pursue him."

This is all consistent with the hypothesis that Alexander the Great was in fact a Hobbit.

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This made me laugh, thank you!

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Somehow the fictionalized story of Alexander capturing the Persian capital is less exciting than the historical* story of the Persians capturing the Babylonian capital.

While the Persian army could defeat the Babylonian army in the open field, they did not pose a significant threat to the city itself because of its formidable walls. The Babylonians, taking comfort in their walls, celebrated a festival while the Persian army was outside of the gates.

The Persian army dug trenches and diverted the great Euphrates River away from the city. They were then able to enter the city on the dried riverbed. The Babylonians were taken by surprise and the Persians seized the city with almost no resistance.

* According to Herodotus and one other source. Daniel 5 also describes the festival, but not the river.

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I don't know that much ancient history, but I've read that the Babylonians welcomed Cryus and he entered through their wide-open gates, the people throwing flowers at his feet and so on. All because their king forsook the chief god Marduk and Cyrus promised to venerate him.

Do you happen to know where that account comes from, and how its plausibility compares to the above version?

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Contest reviews are catalogued on another website, https://codexcc.neocities.org/. The forsaking of the cult of Marduk and Cyrus's conquest of Babylon are mentioned in a review which you can find there. I think it was a review of Marc van de Mieroop's A History of the Ancient Near East.

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Thanks

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The lyrics from Prince's Little Red Corvette: Love 'em and leave 'em fast I guess I must be dumb 'Cause you had a pocket full of horses Trojan and some of them used But it was Saturday night I guess that makes it all right And you say, "what have I got to lose?" And honey, I say Little red Corvette Baby, you're much too fast, oh Little red Corvette You need a love that's gonna last

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The excellent OSR blogger is making an tabletop RPG setting based on the Alexander Romance. Might be interesting to someone reading this: https://coinsandscrolls.blogspot.com/2018/06/osr-iron-gates-quotes-from-greek.html

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

Scott, did you read War and Peace and appreciate it or did you prescribe it the untouchable place in the temple of genius based on general outside view?

It's always weird and amusing for me to see how people nonchalantly mention that W&P is obviously a masterpiece. Russians do it because it's part of Our Great Culture (c). Foreigner's do it... mostly because they got bluffed by the Russians, I suppose? Because criticizing the Great Thing requires to actually read it, and reading W&P is a huge effort, borderlining torture, so it's much easier to just agree that it's a great?

I had to read it in High School. And it's not good. Maybe it was at the time of writing, but not anymore. Definitely not timeless. Essentially, a boring soap opera, drowning in meaningless exposition, with crude moralisation and elements of authorial wish fulfilment. Any modern editor would cut it at least twice in size and would be right to do so. You can skip pages and pages of text and miss nothing. There are some decent moments but you have to actively search for them.

I don't think that any aspect of the book, other than its status, would look superior in comparison to say, the Song of Ice and Fire. Would someone who read both correct me?

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Soap opera, yes! My first impression after reading “War and Peace” at school is that this book is reminiscent of the Brazilian and Mexican romance series that were shown on television in Russia in the 90s.

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Readability is a virtue of the "entertainment" branch of the culture, much less so for the "undying classics" one. It would be a good point against Jules Verne. And even Jules Verne deserves some slack when he's compared to modern entertainment fiction because this is just how novels were written back then.

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It would've been a valid point if readability was the only concern that I raised. But I specifically claimed that every aspect of W&P is inferior compared to aSOIF.

Unless you count unreadability itself as a virtue for "undying classic", what are the actual virtues of W&P that make it a masterpiece?

Agree about Jules Verne, I was surprised how bad In Search of the Castaways turned out to be. But at least we do not have such strong societal consensus about its obvious place in the temple of genius as with W&P.

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War and Peace is flawed, I agree. Anna Karenina is much, much better

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I've tried and failed to read both, and both were quite bad, so not sure if I'm agreeing or disagreeing with you

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Captain Britain is not the British version of Captain America, in case you thought so! The British version of Captain America is the Union Jack, and is a magical character with his own interesting powers and history.

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*and Captain Britain is a magical character

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My favorite ancient ruler is probably the 2nd Century AD Roman Emperor Hadrian because he wasn't as hyper-aggressive as most of these other guys like Alexander. His view was that Rome had almost all the good territory in the western world, so he concentrated on defense rather than more conquest. His boss Trajan had conquered to the Persian Gulf, but that was too far to be defensible from the Parthians, so Hadrian pulled back. Instead of trying to conquer worthless Scotland, for example, he built a wall to keep their wild men from pestering productive England. At home, he built the best Roman building, the Pantheon.

But Hadrian was too adult to capture the imagination of his age and subsequent ages.

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He also inspired two nordic sagas! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexanders_saga, and was included in the -slightly modified- plagiarized version of Maccabees called "Gyðinga saga" (lit. saga of the Godings) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gy%C3%B0inga_saga.

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**jaw drops**

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The Book of Maccabees has war elephants, Alexander encountered war elephants, it all lines up! 😀

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*furiously taking notes* "Gods and wizards are allowed to bang wives with impunity." Very useful knowledge.

The snake part reminds me of Jörmungandr from Norse mythology, the World Serpent.

Given that the Bible was more popular, why didn't we see the superhero-ification of Jesus as well? These stories make Jesus seem downright tame by comparison.

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023

"Given that the Bible was more popular, why didn't we see the superhero-ification of Jesus as well?"

We did, see the Infancy Gospels. And of course, every so often, somebody comes up with alleged new lost gospel (generally a retread of some Gnostic writing). The last one was the Jesus' Wife silliness back in 2012 (which left the professor of divinity, Karen King, with egg on her face as she had to eventually retract it - due to being conned by a forgery - after rushing to publicise it) so we're due another 'find' soon:

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/08/ariel-sabar-what-happened-to-the-gospel-of-jesus-wife/615160/

Owing to the mean ol' Church being no fun allowed, they held councils to decide the canon of Scripture and so all the superhero ones were scrapped. The period in Jesus' life between the last mention of Him as a child (the finding in the Temple) and the start of His public ministry means that a lot of people tried filling in the gaps, as it were.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_canon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon

Very roughly, about the 4th century the 'official' list was drawn up. Of course, there were differences about what books were accepted/rejected in the different churches, and that led to the development of the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical books (particularly after the Reformation, where the Scriptures that were used to defend Catholic doctrines were found to be not that inerrant, after all, by the Reformers):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_apocrypha

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deuterocanonical_books

"The deuterocanonical books (from the Greek meaning "belonging to the second canon") are books and passages considered by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and/or the Assyrian Church of the East to be canonical books of the Old Testament, but which Protestant denominations regard as apocrypha. "

Hence the Infancy Gospels to 'fill in the gaps' and provide the wham-bam whizzy superhero background of the child Jesus:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infancy_gospels

"Infancy gospels (Greek: protoevangelion) are a genre of religious texts that arose in the 2nd century. They are part of New Testament apocrypha, and provide accounts of the birth and early life of Jesus. The texts are of various and uncertain origin, and are generally non-canonical in major modern branches of Christianity. They include the Gospel of James, which introduces the concept of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the unrelated Gospel of Thomas), both of which cover many miraculous incidents from the life of Mary and the childhood of Jesus that are not included in the canonical gospels. Although the Life of John the Baptist focuses on John the Baptist rather than Jesus or his immediate family, it is also included in the genre as its events would be contemporary with Jesus's early life."

And of course all the "Jesus went with Joseph of Arimathea to Britain/He went to India and studied Buddhism/He went to Japan" stuff.

Then there is the minor, unattested but more "Golden Legend" style material, based on references in the Gospels, like the Holy Kinship - a popular subject for mediaeval art:

https://college.holycross.edu/projects/kempe/devotion/holy_kin/holykin.html

"The Holy Kinship refers to the extended family of Jesus descended from His grandmother St. Anne. According to popular legend, five of the twelve apostles were actually related to Christ. The Virgin Mary had two half-sisters, Mary Cleopas and Mary Salome, who bore St. James the Less, St. Simon, St. Jude, St. James the Greater, and St. John the Evangelist. Therefore these apostles were Jesus's cousins. The holy women often referred to in the Gospels were identified as his aunts. Their familial relationship was celebrated as the Holy Kinship and emphasized the political/familial ties that were essential to late medieval life."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Kinship

https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.123018.html

Those kinds of stories are like fanfiction of established characters (e.g. in Sherlock Holmes pastiche writing, both fanfic and professionally published, taking references to cases that Watson mentions but never writes up like the Giant Rat of Sumatra and writing your own version).

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Are there crossovers, like in "Seven-Per-Cent Solution", where Holmes meets Freud and Rassendyll?

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I had a lot of fun reading this. Never read it during the competition. It feels a little incomplete or unsatisfying, but good nevertheless. Scott stronk.

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Knowing your love for nominative determinism, I must ask: is your middle name part of the reason you reviewed this?

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It would have made a good wedding present. :-)

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I hadn’t heard of Karl Knausgaard so I Googled around a bit and found Jeffrey Eugenides’ review of “My Struggle Book 4”. I think Scott mentioned the guy as a successor to Tolstoy and Proust as a kind of a joke.

Eugenides’ piece is a nice tight informative review written by a guy who has an enviable track record of his own when it comes to literary talent.

It comes in at 1,450 words. Just right for this sort of thing in my experience. The winner of this year’s book review clocks in at 24,000 words. I wish there was a misplaced comma there but no, it is in fact almost 2/3 the entire length of “Heart of Darkness”.

Oy vey!

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FWIW I think a similar sentiment was expressed by Tyler Cowen (who had Knausgaard as a guest on his podcast), and Wikipedia gives a number of sources comparing Knausgaard to Proust or calling him "one of the 21st century's greatest literary sensations", "the greatest Norwegian writer since playwright Henrik Ibsen" and so on. It's all deeply subjective, I guess, but certainly Scott doesn't have to be joking to express this view.

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author

I have never read Proust or Knausgaard, I just know lots of people compare them. Or maybe just Tyler Cowen but he writes so much that I have mistakenly filed it under "lots of people".

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Our comments passed each other on the wire.

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One more comment on Knausgaard: I have not read much Proust, but sufficient to see that the comparison can make some sense. He has the gift to write detailed about the minutiae in daily life in a way that makes it interesting. For example, his ten pages at the end of book one of deciding which detergent to use, then going to fetch it, mixing it with water, applying it to a choice of cloth, to clear the stains from his father's chair, the one where he used to soil himself in the last years of his life. Or in book 2 writing a detailed description about a trip back and forth to the local supermarket with his small children. It does not sound like something it is possible to write about in a way that makes it interesting, but it is.

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Eugenides thinks Knausgaard is a great - but weird - writer too. Perhaps he is the real deal and Scott wasn’t going for a laugh.

I’ll give him a try at some point. I’m a fan of the wonderfully weird too.

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Knausgaard is a fine writer. His giant "novel" My struggle (six fat tomes) - I would not compare it to any other novel. Proust? Well, if one must compare ... Knausgaard is more interesting than Proust, imho - he writes in our time. - Fun are the silly reviews about his new novel The morning star: 'Oh, so different from what he wrote before." Well, they never read his "A time for everything". The one book of him I finished. Made me fear days of rain. In a row. Noah, ya know. Weirdly wonderful.

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The ten first and ten last pages of My Struggle, 1st book are particularly good. Allegedly he spent as much time on them as on the rest of the book. I thought book 1, 2 and 6 were great, but had to zap through parts of book 3, 4 and 5.

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You know I think I’d like to have a copy with the title in German just to see the looks I get reading at the coffee shop.

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The German publisher found the overarching title for the six books, "Min Kamp", a bit heavy (you may say they chickened out), so not much shock value I am afraid:

https://www.buecher.de/shop/norwegen/kaempfen-min-kamp-bd-6/knausgard-karl-ove/products_products/detail/prod_id/52392402/

Related: Volume 6 contains a long, well thought-out essay on Hitler, with a focus on Hitlers childhood. Knausgaard and Hitler both had violent fathers, and his relationship to his father as a child and as a grown man is what drives the narrative in book 1 - ending with a ten-page cleaning-the-house-after-my-fathers-death. It also colors his reflections on his relationship to his wife and children in book 2, and "is there" as an undercurrent in the remaining volumes.

Knausgaard writes well, and his ambition was to be brutally honest, also about himself. In my mind he succeeds, in particular in book 1 and 2.

Many people write well, and many people are brutally honest, but the combination is rare.

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I thought 1, 2 and 5 were the best. His musings on Hitler in 6 I didn’t think were that interesting.

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"Captain Britain"? Hah, move over, have you never met "Captain Berlin":

https://leagueofcomicgeeks.com/comics/series/142551/captain-berlin

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Does he split into a capitalist half and a communist half?

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Good question. I have only read no 1, and there he comes across as a standard anti-fascist. So at least not a neonazi...

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...but apparently he fights "Genosse Berlin" in No 6, so I guess he is a believer in capitalism at heart.

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"In case you’re wondering, in addition to Gog and Magog, this saved us from the nations of “Anougeis, Aigeis, Exenach, Diphar, Photinaioi, Pharizaioi, Zarmatianoi, Chachonioio, Agrimardio, Anouphagoi, Tharbaioi, Alans, Physolonikaioi, Saltarioi, and the rest.” I recognize two of these: the Sarmatians and the Alans - as real steppe tribes. The others are probably imaginary steppe tribes meant to represent how big and scary the steppe was in the Mediterranean imagination."

Sarmatians isn't actually in that list of nations, was it supposed to be?

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Zarmatianoi

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Ah thanks

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Now I'm imagining a far future civilization mashing together a bunch of Batman comics into a single book hoping for a coherent story about the life of Bruce Wayne.

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Ok this is my new favorite review in the contest.

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I was reading about Hanuman the other evening (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanuman?wprov=sfti1), since I was doing hanuman asana in yoga that evening, and had eaten at a Thai restaurant named “Hanuman”, and realized that Hanuman is to Rama as Robin is to Batman - the entertaining and acrobatic “celibate bachelor” sidekick.

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Didn’t Michael Chabon cover some of this ground in The Amazing Adventures of Kavilier and Clay?

The grief that comic book publishers got about the adult Superhero with the adolescent sidekick? Upright citizens reading something creepy into the relationship?

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Based on the real work of a psychiatrist about the deleterious effects of comic books, "The Seduction of the Innocent":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seduction_of_the_Innocent

Mostly it was excited about how comics were encouraging boys to admire criminals and to want to emulate them, in much the same vein as subsequent panics over violent video games, 'video nasties', etc. (as well as, seemingly, worrying about girls and body image due to the depiction of voluptuous women in comics):

"Seduction of the Innocent cited overt or covert depictions of violence, sex, drug use, and other adult fare within "crime comics" – a term Wertham used to describe not only the popular gangster/murder-oriented titles of the time, but superhero and horror comics as well. The book asserted that reading this material encouraged similar behavior in children."

The 'creepy relationship' part was the suggestion that Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin were in a homosexual relationship:

"Writer A. David Lewis claims that Wertham's anxiety over the perceived homosexual subtext of Batman and Robin was aimed at the depiction of family within this context, rather than focused on the moral character of homosexuality itself.[5] Will Brooker also writes in Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon that Wertham's notorious reading of Batman and Robin as a homosexual couple was not of his own invention, but was suggested to him by homosexual males whom he interviewed.

...Statements from Wertham's subjects were sometimes altered, combined, or excerpted so as to be misleading. Relevant personal experience was sometimes left unmentioned. For instance, in arguing that the Batman comics condoned homosexuality because of the relationship between Batman and his sidekick Robin, there is evidence Wertham combined two subjects' statements into one, and did not mention the two subjects had been in a homosexual relationship for years prior. He failed to inform readers that a subject had been recently sodomized. Despite subjects specifically noting a preference for or the superior relevance of other comics, he gave greater weight to their reading Batman."

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That book title was one of the most disappointing ones of my childhood.

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I think I missed a reference in my earlier comment here. "Something, something bachelor" in scare quotes used to be and probably still is used as a snarky term for a gay man. I'm pretty sure you meant something else.

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Wikipedia seemed to suggest that much traditional Hindu culture plays it straight with Hanuman literally as a celibate bachelor, but I was definitely queering it with the Robin comparison.

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Hanuman, like Sage Narad, is a Brahmacharya:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmacharya

"Brahmacharya is a concept within Indian religions that literally means "conduct consistent with Brahman" or "on the path of Brahman". In Yoga, Hinduism it generally refers to a lifestyle characterized by sexual continence or complete abstinence.

Brahmacharya is somewhat different from the English term "celibacy," which merely means non-indulgence in sexual activity. Brahmacharya is when a person completely controls his body and mind citta through ascetic means.

In one context, brahmacharya is the first of four ashrama (age-based stages) of a human life, with grihastha (householder), vanaprastha (forest dweller), and sannyasa (renunciation) being the other three asramas. The brahmacharya (bachelor student) stage of life – from childhood up to twenty-five years of age – was focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. In this context, it connotes chastity during the student stage of life for the purposes of learning from a guru (teacher), and during later stages of life for the purposes of attaining spiritual liberation (Sanskrit: moksha)."

It has been developed to mean Hanuman is indeed a celibate bachelor, devoted entirely to Lord Rama, and it is a plot point in part of the story: when Hanuman goes to one of the underworld realms to rescue Rama and Lakshman who have been kidnapped by demons to be sacrificed, he meets the door guard who is his alleged son. Hanuman is highly offended by this claim as he is Brahmacharya and so has never done anything that would result in offspring, but the puzzle is resolved:

"Hanuman, upon understanding the way to Patala from Vibhishana made haste to rescue his lords. On his journey, he met Makardhwaja who claimed of being Hanuman's son, being born from his sweat which was consumed by a Makara (crocodile)."

He wasn't always considered celibate, as the character developed over the centuries, but this is the modern view of him and I love my monkey god (gods, in fact, because I'm also fond of Sun Wukong).

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Thanks for the greater detail!

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I've been pretty much a fan of Hanuman since at the age of about 11, I read a (very much shortened) version of the Ramayana in one of Penguin's anthology of myths and legends for kids, because he was so courteous to Sita and so brave and devoted. A little later on I got introduced to Sun Wukong by way of the edited version of Arthur Waley's translation of "Journey to the West" and well, that was it for me and monkey gods!

So I've watched a few serials (thank you, Youtube) about him and yeah. Between movie versions/TV versions of "Journey to the West" (which seems to come out in a new format every year) and serials, I'm keeping up with my simian boys.

Link to a series from 2015-2017 (the child actor who plays young Hanuman is really good in this):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvqAlJqBQZg&list=PLl1vi-E_GkHgxGQVkWDRWxpXLoFc4P2Ya

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Loving the webcomic retelling of the Romance so far

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I made my own contribution to this genre, I suppose, with SCP-1909 (https://scp-wiki.wikidot.com/scp-1909), which had Alexander the Great being a reflection of the true, cosmic Alexander and comports surprisingly well with his adventures here.

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> Then he went back to the crowd and said that the people who killed Darius should come forth so he could reward them - “I swear I will raise them up and make them conspicuous among men.” Darius’ killers came forth, and Alexander crucified them, explaining that he didn’t break his oath because he sure did make them high up and conspicuous.

A missed opportunity to see how Alexander handles the whole crowd declaring, "I killed Darius." What would Solomon do?

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"When Alexander [said his last goodbye to his horse Bucephalus], the whole army howled, making a tremendous noise. The treacherous slave who had prepared the poison and who had plotted against their lives thought that Alexander was dead, and came running to see. When Bucephalus saw him, he cast off his morose and dejected look, and, just as if he were a rational, even a clever man - I suppose it was done through Providence above - he avenged his master. He ran into the midst of the crowd, seized the slave in his teeth, and dragged him to Alexander; he shook him violently and gave a loud whinny to show that he was going to have his revenge. Then he took a great leap into the air, dragging the treacherous and deceitful slave with him, and smashed him against the ground. The slave was torn apart; bits of him flew all over everyone like snow falling off a roof in the wind. The horse got up, neighed a little, and then fell down before Alexander and breathed his last. Alexander smiled at him. Then the air was filled with mist, and a great star was seen descending from the sky, accompanied by an eagle; and the statue in Babylon, which was called the statue of Zeus, trembled. When the star ascended again to the sky, accompanied by the eagle, and had disappeared, Alexander fell into his eternal sleep."

I agree that as written text, this is not very great, but don't think the written transcript makes it justice. Imagine someone is telling this aloud, with the right pauses, and lots of gestures and making all the sound effects, animating what is going on. It's immediately much better. Now it's a really funny over the top action scen.

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