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Alexander the Great was not quite a Greek – Bertrand Russell

Alexander the Great of Macedonia

“Alexander wasn’t even a bit Greek”. We read this statement in ‘The History Of Western Philosophy‘ by Bertrand Russell. Lord Russell received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950.

At first let’s see who Russell was:

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (born May 18, 1872 near Trellech, Monmouthshire, Wales; died February 2, 1970 in Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd, Wales) was a British philosopher, mathematician, religious critic and logician. He has taught at Trinity College, Cambridge University, the London School of Economics, Harvard University and Peking University and was a member of the Cambridge Apostles. In 1950 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Russell is considered one of the fathers of analytical philosophy. He wrote a variety of works on philosophical, mathematical and social topics. Together with Alfred North Whitehead he published the Principia Mathematica, one of the most important works of the 20th century on the fundamentals of mathematics. Russell was an atheist and a rationalist. As a world-famous activist for peace and disarmament, he was a leading figure in pacifism, even if he was not a strict pacifist himself. He was open to socialist ideas.

The History Of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

Since its first publication in 1945, Lord Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy” has been widely recognized as an outstanding one-volume work on the subject – unparalleled in its completeness, clarity, erudition, grace and wit.

In seventy-six chapters, he traces philosophy from the rise of Greek civilization to the emergence of logical analysis in the 20th century.

Among the philosophers considered are: Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Atomisten, Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, cynics, skeptics, Epicureans, Stoics, Plotinus, Ambrosius, Hieronymus, Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great Scots, Aquin, Duns Scotus, Wilhelm von Occam, Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx, Bergson, James, Dewey, and finally the philosophers with whom Lord Russell himself is most closely associated – Cantor, Frege and Whitehead, co-author with Russell of the monumental Principia Mathematica.

Alexander the Great was not quite a Greek

Bertrand Russell

We quote from page 242 of his work described above. There Russell describes how the Macedonian king Alexander the Great viewed himself as an “apostle of Hellenism” despite the fact that his army consisted largely of Macedonians. The Greeks who marched with him to Persia did so rather involuntarily, as Russell thinks.


Although his army was composed mainly of Macedonians, and although most European Greek submitted to him unwillingly, he considered himself, at first, as the apostle of Hellenism.

Russell then sums up Alexander’s attempts to “fuse the Greek and the barbarians” – even though Alexander the Great was not even a bit Greek…

Literature: The History Of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

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