Robin Lane Fox: Interview About his Role as Advisor to the New Oliver Stone Movie, Alexander

An interview with Robin Lane Fox in Archaeology Magazine (Sept. 14, 2004):

At the University of Oxford's New College, Robin Lane Fox teaches Greek and Latin literature, Greek and Roman history, and early Islamic history. He is perhaps best known for his books The Search for Alexander and Alexander the Great: A Biography. ARCHAEOLOGY's Executive Editor Mark Rose asked him about his most recent project: advisor to the Oliver Stone production Alexander.

How did you become involved in this film?

I first became involved with the film back in March 2002 when co-producer Thomas Schühly rang me during one of my tutorials in my rooms in Oxford University and insisted I should go up to London and meet Oliver Stone. Oliver, in filming mode, does not observe public holidays and so we met in Covent Garden, London, on Good Friday. Seven hours later, we parted, Oliver having put no end of questions about the outlines of the script, then forming in his mind, and me having specified my non-negotiable reward for this advice: a place on horseback in the front ten of every major cavalry charge by Alexander's cavalrymen to be filmed by Oliver on location. I have ridden for years, including in horse-races, but even Oliver was surprised. To his credit, he agreed, and we lived up to the deal, as filmgoers can now see.

We know a lot about Alexander--thanks to Plutarch, Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, and other ancient sources--but there are enduring mysteries about him. Why did he set out to conquer Persia, but then just keep going?

Alexander inherited the idea of an invasion of the Persian Empire from his father Philip whose advance-force was already out in Asia in 336 B.C. Philip's campaign had the slogan of "freeing the Greeks" in Asia and "punishing the Persians" for their past sacrileges during their own invasion (a century and a half earlier) of Greece. No doubt, Philip wanted glory and plunder. Alexander took over the ambition, but for him, "Asia" meant even more than the existing Persian Empire as far as north-west India. He himself meant to conquer all of it, out to the Outer Ocean, the eastern edge of the world. He had no idea of Burma or China or the "Far East." Perhaps his tutor Aristotle's ignorant lessons in geography had made the world seem mistakenly small to him. But Alexander also wished to excel as the supreme hero, probably in rivalry with his great father's glory: I doubt if Philip's aims ever went so far in Asia as his ambitious son's. To outshine Philip and all previous conquerors, Alexander wanted so much more. And he was supremely good at it: did the taste for victory in battle become self-feeding?

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