Historical Sources Regarding the Contents
of Alexander the Great's Speech at Opis


Former Gov. Minister


“In response to those who question the historical validity of  Alexander’s Oath at Opis, I submit the following document, which proves the essence of its contents”


“Now that the wars are coming to an end, I wish you to prosper in peace. May all mortals from now on live like one people in concord and for mutual advancement. Consider the world as your country, with laws common to all and where the best will govern irrespective of tribe. I do not distinguish among men, as the narrow-minded do, both among Greeks and Barbarians. I am not interested in the descendance of the citizens or their racial origins. I classify them using one criterion: their virtue. For me every virtuous foreigner is a Greek and every evil Greek worse than a Barbarian. If differences ever develop between you never have recourse to arms, but solve them peacefully. If necessary, I should be your arbitrator. You must not consider God like an autocratic despot, but as a common Father of all; so your behavior may resemble the life siblings have in a family. On my part I should consider all equals, white or blacks, and wish you all to be not only subjects of the Commonwealth, but participants and partners. As much as this depends on me, I should try to bring about what I promised. The oath we made over tonight’s libations hold onto as a Contract of Love”.


Alexander’s ideas as expressed in the oath given at Opis can be traced in the four following passages.

[1] in ARRIAN VII, the scene at Opis and Alexander’s prayer – the greatest part is from Ptolemy, who had Alexander’s diary in his possession and two items are from a λόγος.

[2] in a fragment of ERATOSTHENES – part is quoted in STRABO 1,4,9 (66) and part in PLUTARCH, de Alexandri Fortuna.

[3] in a passage in PLUTARCH. ib. 330E, possibly from ERATOSTHENES.

[4] in PLUTARCH Alex. XXVII, source unknown.

PLUTARCH (Alex. XXVII) begins by telling the story of Alexander’s visit to Ammon and the priest hailing him as son of the God.

He continues that Alexander had been pleased with some things said by Psammon, a philosopher in Egypt, and especially by his saying that God was King of all men (ότι πάντες οι άνθρωποι βασιλεύονται υπό Θεού).

He, considering these matters, reached a more philosophic conclusion and said that God was the common father of all mankind, but that he made the best ones peculiarly his own (αυτός περί τούτων φιλοσοφώτερον δόξάζειν και λέγειν, ως πάντων μεν όντα κοινόν ανθρώπων πατέρα τον Θεόν, ιδίους δε ποιούμενον εαυτού τους αρίστους).

A variation somehow of Homer’s phrase that Zeus was the father of Gods and men (πατήρ ανδρών τε Θεών τε); bearing in mind that Alexander knew his Homer.

With regard to the unity of mankind, whilst STRABO does not indicate who advised Alexander to treat Greeks as friends and Barbarians as enemies, PLUTARCH states it was Aristotle who, as we know, in the Politics had criticized some who had said that good men were really free and bad men were really slaves whom he equated with barbarians – barbarians meaning in ancient Greece those who did not speak Greek.

ERATOSTHENES mentions that Alexander disagreed with Aristotle and he banned the distinction of Greek and barbarian asserting that the real distinction between men was not race, but virtue. It is known that Aristotle had advised Alexander to behave to Greeks as a leader and to barbarians as a master, had Alexander done this, his leadership would have come to nothing, but wars and banishments and internal conflicts Alexander knew better and said that the real distinction between men was one of race, but whether they were good or bad in every race. For he believed that he had a mission from God to harmonize men generally and to be the reconciler of the world by bringing men from everywhere into a unity and mixing their lives and customs, their marriages and social lives, as in a loving-cup (αλλά κοινός ήκειν θεόθεν αρμοστής και διαλλακτής των όλων νομίζων,... εις ταυτό συνενεγκών τα πανταχόθεν, ώσπερ εν κρατήρι φιλοτασίω μίξας τους βίους και τα ήθη και τους γάμους και τας δίαιτας).

The loving-cup being actually the great crater on Alexander’s table at Opis where he gave a vast banquet of 9000 people, according to a λόγος in ARRIAN, to emphasize that the long war was now over and that the world with which he was concerned was at peace. The banquet concluded with all the guests making a libation together, which led up to and was followed by his prayer. ARRIAN’s account of the scene and the prayer is taken from PTOLEMY, Alexander’s closest school friend and general who followed him faithfully in his campaign and to whom his diary he entrusted.

ERATOSTHENES’ references go back to some eyewitnesses who were very young at the time. The great number of guests, all of whom were seated, necessitated many tables; Alexander’s own was the largest and most prominent and on it stood the crater Ptolemy mentions, which contained the wine for the libation. There is a description of this enormous crater, which had originally belonged to the Great king and was found at Susa. It was used by Alexander (εν τω μεγάλω δείπνω, ότε την θυσίαν εποιησάμεθα των Σωτηρίων) i.e. the conclusion of peace.

PTOLEMY says that at Alexander’s own table were seated Macedonians, Persians, some Greek seers, some Magi (Medes) and representatives of the other peoples. All those at his table drew for themselves wine from the crater on his table; those at the other tables did the same from their craters, thus the whole assembly making one libation at the same time led, as PTOLEMY says, by the Greek seers and the Magi. The occasion culminating in Alexander’s prayer found in ARRIAN from Ptolemy, who heard it, and in reference to it in PLUTARCH’s de Alexandri Fortuna, I330E (πάσιν ανθρώποις ομόνοιαν και ειρήνην και κοινωνίαν προς αλλήλους παρασκευάσαι διανοηθέντα).

In addition to that, ERATOSTHENES’ passage quotes: Alexander’s intention (διανοηθέντα) was to bring about for all men Homonoia (concord) and peace and partnership with one another (την κοινωνίαν προς αλλήλους). That the Homonoia for which Alexander prayed was meant to include more than Macedonians and Persians and all the people under his rule seems certain enough for ERATOSTHENES calls the people mixed in the loving-cup (τα πανταχόθεν) people from everywhere; and again (πάσιν ανθρώποις) all men. The same meaning one gets from ARRIAN-PTOLEMY.

Homonoia had been a growing preoccupation among the Greeks for some time. XENOPHON’s statement that Homonoia was the greatest virtue inside a City was only one aspect of it. Similar meaning came to have ISOCRATES’ use of the word who went further and urged Philip of Macedonia, a descendant of Heracles, to unite the Greeks against the barbarians. A role that his son, Alexander, was destined to play and improve by universalizing the meaning of the word.

Alexander was the first man known to us to regard all men as brothers before One God and that they should live together in Homonoia, that is in unity of mind and heart, and as equal partners. This was his vision and his dream. An Homonoia, a concord, which for centuries mankind has been longing for.