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Global History and Geography I-Mrs. Ammirato and Mrs. Awutey
Alexander’s Deification at the Temple of Zeus-Ammon
In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great confirmed his belief that he was the son of a god, when he consulted the oracle at the temple of Zeus- Ammon deep in the Libyan Desert of North Africa. The following description of Alexander’s journey to the temple was written by Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in the first century B.C. As you read the excerpt, note the incidents on the journey that the writer attributes to divine intervention.
Alexander himself with all his army marched on to Egypt and secured the adhesion [agreement to join] of all its cities without striking a blow.
Having settled the affairs of Egypt, Alexander went off to the Temple of [Zeus-] Ammon, where he wished to consult the oracle of the god. When he had advanced half way along the coast, he was met by envoys from the people of Cyrene, who brought him a crown and magnificent gifts, among which were three hundred chargers [horses] and five handsome four-horse chariots. He received the envoys cordially and made a treaty of friendship and alliance with them; then he continued with his travelling companions on to the temple. When he came to the desert and waterless part, he took on water and began to cross a country covered with an
infinite [endless] expanse of sand. In four days their water had given out and they suffered from fearful thirst. All fell into despair, when suddenly a great storm of rain burst from the heavens, ending their shortage of water in a way which had not been foreseen, and which, therefore, seemed to those so unexpectedly rescued to have been due to the action of divine Providence. They refilled their containers . . . and again with a four days’ supply in hand marched for four days and came out of the desert. At one point, when their road could not be traced because of the sand dunes, the guide pointed out to the king that crows cawing on their right were calling their attention to the route which led to the temple. Alexander took this for an omen, and thinking that the god was pleased by his visit pushed on with speed. . . . After a journey of one day, he approached the sanctuary. . . .
1. How long did it take for Alexander the Great and his companions to cross the desert?
2. What two incidents in the desert did Alexander and his companions interpret as good omens?
When Alexander was conducted by the priests into the temple and had regarded the god for a while, the one who held the position of prophet, an elderly man, came to him and said, “Rejoice, son; take this form of address as from god also.” He replied, “I accept, father, for the future I shall be called thy son. But tell me if thou givest me the rule of the whole earth.” The priest now entered the sacred enclosure and as the bearers now lifted the god and were moved according to certain prescribed sounds of the voice, the prophet cried that of a certainty the god had granted him his request, and Alexander spoke again: “The last, O spirit, of my questions now answer; have I punished all those who were the murderers of my father or have some escaped me?” The prophet shouted: “Silence! There is no mortal who can plot against the one [Zeus-Ammon] who begot [fathered] him. All the murderers of Philip, however, have been punished.
The proof of his divine birth will reside in the greatness of his deeds; as formerly he has been undefeated, so now he will be unconquerable for all time.” Alexander was delighted with these
responses. He honoured the god with rich gifts and returned to Egypt.
3. According to the prophet, what was the proof of Alexander the Great’s divine birth?
From “History, Book XVII” from Diodorus of Sicily, translated by C. Bradford Welles. Copyright © 1963 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.