Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

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jan
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Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by jan »

I have finally read Waldemar Heckel's argument called The Conspiracy Against Philotas. That article alone convinced me of what I have always believed about historians and the topic of their study. Interpretation of the sources's material depends entirely upon the historians personal bias about his subject. It is very difficult to free one's self from one's own personal partiality. Furthermore, I reread the comments made on this discussion three years ago and was surprised to see that being proved once again. I did see that Heckel makes reference to Robin Lane Fox which fascinated me no end...My burning question to anyone who knows the answer is that I read that the conspiracy was discovered in Drangiana but the actual trial of Philotas took place in Prophthasia. Drangiana lies Northeast of Persepolis, while Prophthasia is in Western Afghanistan, in what is now known as Farrah. Maybe Dodge made a mistake about Drangiana but the heading says that it was in Drangiana where the plot was discovered. Alexander discovered it in Prophthasia...What is wrong here? Does that mean that the plot against Alexander was known by Philotas in Drangiana, but that later Alexander learned of it in Prophthasia? Or is this a misprint by Dodge's publishers? In other words, exactly how long did it take before this plot against Alexander was known by Philotas and then discovered by Alexander? Anyone? Thanks in advance.
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by jan »

I see that this post has a lot of views but no responses. Needless to say, I am beginning to believe that perhaps Parmenio and Philotas were in a conspiracy against Alexander. Had Alexander listened to Parmenio's advice instead of the medics, he would have died. The letter clearly instructed him not to take his medicine, but he decided to take it while watching his physician and survived. I would have at that point begun to wonder whether Parmenio was friend or foe. Parmenio had much to gain had Alexander died. He had his own following and his long standing with the army, and he might have prevented Alexander from going to the oracle at Siwa. But no doubt the gods intervened...Alexander survived.
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by agesilaos »

Prophthasia WAS in Drangiania, at least according to the Alexander historians; later the Parthians assigned it to Areia Eastern geography had quite fluid borders and we are poorly informed about them. What is certain is that the whole drama played out in the one city Phrada/Propthasia. No source suggests that Philotas was part of the conspiracy, rather he failed to report an alleged plot. Unfortunately, our better sources did not treat the episode in depth; something of a sign that the whole truth did not reflect well on Alexander: all the detail is thus drawn from the 'tragi-history' of Kleitarchos who is unlikely to be suddenly struck with a fit of accuracy. Heckel, as I recall suspects the grandees rather than Alexander himself of moving against Philotas.

Parmenion had nothing to gain that he could not have taken when Philip had been murdered, nor had the campaign been wrapped up; Issos was yet to be fought and one should note that suspicion fell on Philotas only after the battle and that only for a typical Greek braggadocio. It would certainly be a novel form of assassination to have the victim damage his own health and then attempt to deny him medical assisstance, from several miles away. Philip's treatment DID, very nearly, kill his patient and we are in no position to judge the efficacy of his strong purgative (it would be useless in the case of the posited malarial attack or cardiac arrest). Nor does Parmenion move against his erstwhile victim again, he is steadfastly loyal and may have had a much greater influence on Alexander's strategy than is ever acknowledged, Philip recognised his talents and he was a good judge.
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by Nicator »

Hello Jan,

This was one of the topics that I have targeted for a massive rewrite. As I understand, The Philotas Affair, garnered something like 1/3 of Curtius' necrology. With that in mind, I thought that maybe it was worth another look. Importantly...

Philotas and father Parmenion, were possibly, making noise about ending the campaign shortly after Issus (reportedly while in Egypt). After a careful study of Issus itself, it is revealed that Parmenion was suffering massively against the cavalry overload brought by Nabarzanes and had for all intents and purposes, been routed on the left. Philotas is not mentioned, but likely held his usual place as the head of the Companion Cavalry under Alexander on the right. Of course, it was Alexander's charge that held key to the victory here with Philotas, likely playing an important, if not, deciding role...as he knew his father's life depended on his bravery and efficiency in that area. For after breaking the Persian left, the immortals in center, were the next target...with Darius at the core of their formation and all behind the 40,000 Greek mercenaries (who were, evidently, handling the best the phalanx could deliver and getting the better of them). An argument can be made that Philotas saved his family and that Alexander placed him in that position, to ensure his own victories, because he knew the sons of Parmenion would fight to the death to save him. This fits in with the order of battle, as the left was typically a holding force, the center, a pinning force, the right, the offensive force. We see a very similar routine at Guagamela (with the added bit about Parmenion sending a messenger to retrieve Alexander to come back and save him). Same result. Of course, Parmenion, and very likely Philotas as well, were involved in the planning of both battles. The night meeting before Issus with the officer and command staff and Alexander's 'late nighter' battle plan...which was conferred to the command staff the following morning (though, some definite source confusion here). But the basic execution and implementation of each battle could only have been one in which the Macedonian command staff were already well acquainted. Alexander's subtle maneuvers on approach (double misdirection) at Guagamela appear to have been his own 'feel' for the battle. And his rolling box double phalanx, appear to be the main tactical additions before battle.

We hear of Parmenion telling Alexander to "take the deal" during the siege of Tyre. The venerable old general seems a bit out of his league here, in that he believed that taking Darius' offer would end hostilities. Here, Alexander was proved correct. He couldn't stop and settle...here or anywhere, while the matter of Persian sovereignty was still undecided. But it is clear, if the source may be believed, that Parmenion wanted to go home. Additionally, though not as powerful, was that Alexander's exasperated command staff urged him to forego the (now lengthy) siege of Tyre and move on. So, there may have been some faint bleeding undercurrent in the top command to wrap things up or at least not press their luck further.

Fate would dictate Hector's Nile disaster and Alexander was evidently, deeply saddened by the incident. Particularly, as Hector and many friends, all jumped onto a transport to try to catch up with Alexander's lead flagship when it, in apparent overload, sank. Disaster would strike again for the house of Parmenion when his second son Nicanor, fell ill, and died. Parmenion, himself, was already ceded in power, and placed in rear with the baggage train and cash. So, the first son, and apparently most arrogant and perhaps most capable, Philotas was left on his own with the king and his rising command staff. We saw repeatedly throughout the early campaigns that Parmenion was given equal power of whole army groups to suppress resistance, take surrenders, give battle, etc...all while Alexander took separate groups for maximizing gains.

That Alexander trusted Parmenion with the cash indicates he trusted him at a high level and that he didn't have designs on removing him. And here is the crux of the argument, in my mind, which implicates his command staff (minus Philotas). The rising stars of Alexander's command staff 'may' have instigated the Philotas Affair as they came to realize the sudden and vulnerable position of the house of Parmenion. Though, Alexander himself, certainly didn't lack in intelligence and cunning, it seems to have been a group decision. But Alexander was the king. And the ultimate decision and responsibility of it fell upon him. There is no exonerating him for this. No amount of hero worship that can change it.

Certainly, Alexander had the incubus of Parmenion lain upon him at his accession. And he'd likely taken it in stride and come to accept its inevitability as the cost of kingship. But for continued advance, after the sack of Persis, that incubus was likely becoming an overwhelming burden. But that letter produced at the farcical trial 'could' be the real deal. Particularly, as the army was heading unprecedentedly, much deeper into the far reaches of Asia...with no end in sight. And no Macedone king would be king for long when conspiracy was in the air. So, we'd have to ask ourselves...would we have acted in the same way? If it was Philotas and Parmenion or you who lives to see another day...would you be able to do the unthinkable or would you suffer the dagger in your sleep? If Philotas let it go this time, and Alexander let his slip go, what would stop Philotas from taking a more active involvement the next time? Him or me? What do you do...?
Later Nicator

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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by jan »

Thank you, Nicator, I really appreciate your response to this. My premise is that Alexander, Parmenio, and Parmenio's children are as close as family can be. I honestly believe that most likely Alexander did not truly believe that Philotas or Parmenio are guilty of this alleged crime against him except through omission. However, because of the growing arrogance of Philotas who had been advised to behave better from his own father regarding his excesses at acquiring wealth in Persepolis his own soldiers and brother-in-law turned against him; and possibly, both Craterus and Hephaestion were itching to gain power themselves. And as
Alexander himself warned them all against being taken in by the wealth that they had accumulated, making them burn their baggage at one point, it is most likely probable that both Parmenio and Philotas wanted to settle into stations of power instead of traveling around the country like a band of gypsy soldiers.

However, that is all conjecture. I am interested in learning more about the situation in Egypt where it first become apparent that Philotas could be a part of a plot to assassinate Alexander. Because from that point on, it is said that material was gathered to learn whether he was guilty or not...apparently, Alexander had dismissed it but nonetheless kept in mind when finally the case against Philotas occurred when he did not report the next attempt to assassinate Alexander.

I honestly do not believe that either Philotas or Parmenio either one wanted to have Alexander removed as King since he had treated them both so well...They were next in command, and why would they want to assume the role that Alexander held? But that is the intent of the trial, to prove that that was their intent, and the army found them guilty...Alexander did manipulate and control some of the proceedings but mostly it was his inner circle who determined the truth about both Philotas and Parmenio. The army then had the choice to either convict or acquit...they convicted with a vengeance.

However, in the long journey before this event occurred, Philotas had been a very important general as was his father, but he was long associated with Alexander from childhood and only something so serious as an attempt on Alexander's life would have ever brought about his ruin. Why on earth was he so careless and negligent not to inform Alexander of this plan to assassinate him? His arrogance on the that alone is what convicted him. He showed total irresponsibility in not reporting it...as a result, he brought about both his and his father's demise. It is a very tragic and sad story in my opinion.

But when you see who benefits from this you begin to understand a bit that Alexander's closet friends then become the seconds in command now...but not as had been with both Parmenio and Philotas...but much more guarded even as much as supposedly he trusted Hephaestion and Craterus...each was not given the same authority as had been their predecessors...so it is all very interesting at the state of mind of the King now...he must know how to protect himself, and with Olympia helping to encourage him to protect himself, he seems to do just that. (I am using Dodge as my source for most of this information fyi.)

I am still convinced though that Alexander probably realized that Philotas was innocent but the charges are such that he cannot go against his own army's conclusions...In other words, I think that Alexander, Philotas and Prmenio are thick as thieves and close as family can be...more than even with his so called friends Hephaeston and Craterus...

That is what makes this tragedy so sad in so many ways...These three men literally controlled the first half of the journey which is so successful...it seems to go downhill after he marries Roxanne and appoints both Hephaestion and Craterus to their important positions...His only real huge success after that is with King Pothos who he actually rewards for his bravery and courage despite having had many small skirmishes that were quite difficult...so it is all very interesting to me to contemplate now...I am thinking it all through, and I do appreciate your help. :D
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by jan »

And also after rereading your post again, and thinking about the last question that you raise, is that Alexander did hear the so called confession that Philotas made after a torture that made him say anything...the problem with his giving in to torture goes against the heroic stature of Hermias of Atarneus who was lauded for his loyalty to Philip when crucified and tortured by the Persians...this is one area in which I cannot quite understand Philotas because Aristotle had drilled that story of Hermias into those young boys when in his charge. For that reason alone Alexander may have believed the confession so much that he was forced to find him guilty despite himself and his wishes to believe in him...At any rate, it was the decision of the army that convicted him. Alexander really and truly would have looked a fool to say well, all right, he is guilty but I will forgive him...at that stage of the game, he had to go with Coenus, Craterus, and Hephaestion who had already made their case in private...and now in front of the entire army with Philotas able to represent himself which he failed to do adequately...No, it is not idealism or heroic worship that makes me believe that Alexander could have overridden his army's decision, but simple common sense.
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by jan »

Thank you, Ageliaos, I understand your point of view but it is interesting that Philotas used this same argument at this trial or at least with Alexander when he made the comment that no matter what Parmenio had suggested that Alexander would not listen to it which of course did not help his case to remind Alexander of this...but he did say that to Alexander as I recall...wisdom would have served him better had he not reminded Alexander of it when Alexander survived, and also when Alexander's tactics proved so successful. It is almost like admitting that Parmenio had erred while Alexander proved to be right in his opposition. Some I have read call it that Parmenio always acted as a foil....I am sure that Philip and Parmenio had a relationship that was different from that of Alexander and Parmenio, and often Parmenio could be seen as probably consistent with Philip which may have made Alexander more determined than ever to best his own father who he had seen fail so repeatedly...Philip suffered many losses in Alexander's sight so that Parmenio who may have had great ideas was in no position to assert them when Alexander thought better of them...Parmenio made himself loyal to Alexander immediately at which point Alexander rewarded him and his family well. I consider Alexander, Parmeno, and Philotas to be like family so that this tragedy is made even worse when Alexander feels betrayed by Philotas...but then he had to listen to Craterus and Hephaestion, Coenus and others argue their case to him about Philotas's guilt or innocence before sending him to trial before the entire army. Twice, Philip himself cursed Alexander so that in my opinion Philip is the cause of his own downfall...so that I do not doubt that Alexander remembered those moments whether forgiving them or not...so that Philip's opinion of the greatness of Parmenio is not nearly so important as is Alexander's opinion of him when it counts most...
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by jan »

AGESILAOS, sorry I misspelled your name in previous post.
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by marcus »

jan wrote:I am still convinced though that Alexander probably realized that Philotas was innocent but the charges are such that he cannot go against his own army's conclusions...In other words, I think that Alexander, Philotas and Prmenio are thick as thieves and close as family can be...more than even with his so called friends Hephaeston and Craterus...
Hi Jan,

There is something else to be considered, here. I can't remember whether Heckel discusses it, because I haven't read his article for some time. However, here goes:

Yes, it is possible that Alexander knew that Philotas was innocent of involvement in the plot. However, it is also worth considering the issue of trust that Philotas' failure to report the plot raised. This was a man who was extremely important in the army, but who did not report a plot that was - obviously - striking at the heart of the king's security and life. Philotas' defence was that he didn't think the plot was serious - just a spat between lovers; but, the argument from Alexander would have been that any such rumour of a plot should be reported, in case it *was* more serious. The whole episode raised a real and very dangerous issue of how far Alexander could trust his officers; and, whether Philotas deserved to die as a result, I would suggest that one cannot overstate the importance of that, especially considering how stretched the army's communications must have been.

This isn't a very good analogy, but the best I can come up with right now. As a teacher, I am required to have an active attitude towards the safeguarding of the children in my 'care'. That means that I am required to report even the *slightest* suspicion that something might not be right with a student - for example, a dirty shirt collar, which might indicate neglect at home. There is absolutely no reason why a dirty shirt has to indicate neglect or abuse; but it *might*. And, of course, if something were to come out later and it transpired that I had not reported such a seemingly small thing, all sorts of legal problems could ensue. There have been, unfortunately, quite a number of high-profile cases in the UK in the past few years, where schools and social services have been questioned about why they did not raise suspicions of abuse and neglect earlier.

So, to relate this back to the Philotas Affair: perhaps the plot was a nonsense; but Philotas, as a very high-ranking officer, had a duty to report *anything* that might have affected the security of the king's person. It is understandable - if not particularly defensible - that Philotas' lack of action could be construed as treason under the circumstances, because by his inaction he potential endangered the king's life.

Now, having said all this, it is very clear from the sources that Krateros, Hephaistion, et al, conspired to use this as a way to bring Philotas down, because of their dislike for him. As others have said, Alexander can in no way be exonerated for allowing things to spiral to the point of Philotas' execution. However, I would suggest that it is possible to argue that he really didn't have much choice, and had to take things to their ultimate conclusion, if he were to retain the integrity of the king's security.

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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by agesilaos »

The affair is a murky one; were Philotas' assessment incorrect, that Dymnos and Kebalinos were just squabbling, it is surprising that the trial does not pursue the conspirator's involved in this original plot but focusses solely on the vilification of Philotas and his coterie. It certainly has the ring of a Stalinist purge right down to the show trial, but we have to remember that all that lovely and interesting detail relies upon the testimony of a first century AD Roman rhetorician with his own take on 'treason trials' and that he is drawing on a dramatic history with its own emotional rather than historical agenda.
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by marcus »

agesilaos wrote:The affair is a murky one; were Philotas' assessment incorrect, that Dymnos and Kebalinos were just squabbling, it is surprising that the trial does not pursue the conspirator's involved in this original plot but focusses solely on the vilification of Philotas and his coterie. It certainly has the ring of a Stalinist purge right down to the show trial, but we have to remember that all that lovely and interesting detail relies upon the testimony of a first century AD Roman rhetorician with his own take on 'treason trials' and that he is drawing on a dramatic history with its own emotional rather than historical agenda.
Of course you are correct. Perhaps it ought to be an unspoken agreement amongst us all that anything that's said concerning the Philotas affair holds a blanket caveat regarding source reliability ... :D
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

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jan wrote:And also after rereading your post again, and thinking about the last question that you raise, is that Alexander did hear the so called confession that Philotas made after a torture that made him say anything...the problem with his giving in to torture goes against the heroic stature of Hermias of Atarneus who was lauded for his loyalty to Philip when crucified and tortured by the Persians...this is one area in which I cannot quite understand Philotas because Aristotle had drilled that story of Hermias into those young boys when in his charge. For that reason alone Alexander may have believed the confession so much that he was forced to find him guilty despite himself and his wishes to believe in him...At any rate, it was the decision of the army that convicted him. Alexander really and truly would have looked a fool to say well, all right, he is guilty but I will forgive him...at that stage of the game, he had to go with Coenus, Craterus, and Hephaestion who had already made their case in private...and now in front of the entire army with Philotas able to represent himself which he failed to do adequately...No, it is not idealism or heroic worship that makes me believe that Alexander could have overridden his army's decision, but simple common sense.
Does anybody know whether or not Philotas, or any of Parmenion's sons, were taught at Mieza by Aristotle?

I hope you didn't think I was accusing you of hero worship? Though, it is certainly something that has drawn and kept many of us to the genre, the overall premise behind many historians that have 'forgiven' Alexander for this incident frequently derives its impetus from the dilemma. But it is perhaps unnecessary, as the key lies in the nature of the political web in which our characters are embedded. For sure, Alexander could have overridden his army AND command staff. But the precedent set by this action (or inaction) would have necessarily endangered him to an unknown degree. As it would have undermined the top brass while they attempted to protect him. And had this occurred, future threats may have gone unchallenged and unprotected. And it was always a dangerous game to go against the Macedonian soldiers. Though, certainly, that would not have been necessary (immediately) had Alexander stood up to his command staff and covered Philotas. But I'd argue that he could not have covered him because a plot was already in the air and that plot had already gone silently through Philotas in the eyes of the command staff. Thus, from this perspective, Alexander's hand was forced. As his command staff would have looked to Philotas for NOT informing of the threat even if Alexander tried to leave him out of it. Anyway you look at it, there was simply no excusing Philotas or going around his inaction. And there was no simple solution to the overall dilemma which Alexander now faced. As his choices were overwhelmingly bleak. Noting your likely dead on assessment of their interrelationship as being very close (and repeatedly burned in by the heat of battle). And this in the face of Macedonian politics and intrigue which was always to be taken seriously and kept under wraps. As the life or death of the king was likely decided often by far less of a threat.

Noting that Dodge cites Arrian as his primary source, Curtius provides the real edge to this incident that drives Heckel's Conspiracy against Philotas. And if Curtius can be believed (and that's a major if?) Philotas DID represent himself more than adequately but Alexander up and left just as he started his self defense...thus leaving him talking to the army (a powerless but dangerous rabble easily steered by the king's rhetoric) and command staff (that may have already set the entire thing in motion anyway). Once it reached that point, the whole thing became farcical.

The other usually unsaid truth here is that Parmenion and Philotas were likely the tip of the iceberg in regards to the common soldier and army et al longing for home. How much of this execution was driven as a warning to the men we'll never know. Certainly, 'would be' future conspirators would take note. But this didn't stop them, as new conspirators were quick to find their courage for another chance.
Later Nicator

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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by agesilaos »

And, it must be noted, Alexander was even quickerto use the real threat of the Pages' Conspiracy to rid himself of an innocent personal enemy, viz Kallisthenes; Seleukos struck a coin with Alexande in a panther skin patterned helmet...maybe that should have been a leopard! :P
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by marcus »

Nicator wrote:Does anybody know whether or not Philotas, or any of Parmenion's sons, were taught at Mieza by Aristotle?
As far as I recall, without running upstairs to my library, we have no certain identification of any of the students with Alexander at Mieza. We can make a few assumptions, based on comments about friends and other coevals; but I also recall that Philotas was likely a few years older than Alexander. In which case, it is less likely that he was at Mieza, probably having progressed to military duties already.

But I should stress that this is based on memory, rather than rigorous checking ... :D
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Re: Conspiracy against Philotas By Waldemar Heckel

Post by Nicator »

marcus wrote:
Nicator wrote:Does anybody know whether or not Philotas, or any of Parmenion's sons, were taught at Mieza by Aristotle?
As far as I recall, without running upstairs to my library, we have no certain identification of any of the students with Alexander at Mieza. We can make a few assumptions, based on comments about friends and other coevals; but I also recall that Philotas was likely a few years older than Alexander. In which case, it is less likely that he was at Mieza, probably having progressed to military duties already.

But I should stress that this is based on memory, rather than rigorous checking ... :D
That was the same general feeling I had on the matter. A few years older and already working with his father and Philip. The interesting aspect of this conjecture is that Philotas would have had already some expertise and perhaps specialism in militaristic matters but without a formal education. Thus, groomed for military life solely and completely while Alexander was given more of a king's education. Though in the matter of Alexander's fate, Philotas is supposedly in agreement with Parmenion in Egypt (and why wouldn't he be given that this was his father). Thus, the inference may be drawn that Philotas was also on board with Parmenion's concerns about the expanded scope and continued drive for Persian hegemony as well. And this would display some shared shortsightedness on his part as well as to what they were really up against from the minute they set foot into the Persian lair. Perhaps it is a clear display of their different educational background at work here. Perhaps not.
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