January 12, 2021

#08-035: Alexander Meets the King of China

severalmen in a boat, one man lowered in a device below the sea
Illustration from a Russian manuscript
of The Romance of Alexander

Note: Did you know that Alexander the Great once met with the King of China? Well, not really. Read on to learn how history becomes legend.

Get Ready: Is success the result of luck?

The Romance of Alexander was first written down in Greek sometime before 338 CE (long after Alexander's demise), and embroidered through the ages as late as the 16th century in numerous languages, purporting to be a "true" account of Alexander's exploits. In fact, it was just a framework on which was hung a number of traditional tales, some of them based on more genuine works.

Written in the first person, the account of Alexander's meeting with the "King of China" tells how he traveled through mountains, swamps, and deserts to "Sin," another name for China. Alexander did not reveal his true identity to the king, but announced himself as "Pithaos, Ambassador of Alexander." He did not "make obeisance" to the King, but informed him of Alexander's lordship "over all the kings of the world," giving examples of Alexander's conquests of Persia, India, and so on.

Unimpressed by this arrogance, the King of China invited Pithaos to dine with him that day, and wait for the King's reply to his message the next. In the morning, approaching the King, Pithaos did reverence him. Perplexed, the King asked why. "Yesterday," Pithaos replied, "I embodied the person of King Alexander, who should bow to no man. Today I resume being merely his representative." The King had some clothes made for Alexander (being assured that he and Pithaos were the same size!), then gave his reply, addressed to Alexander:

"I have heard your message, and of your fortune, bravery, and glory. However, I do not think that your victories are caused by your good fortune, but rather by the bad fortune of your enemies. Do not trust in luck. And do not attack us, because we have never surrendered. We do not fear you, but will appease you in case our own fortune deserts us. If your own luck turns against you, your name and power will perish. Fortune never settles in one place; instead, men make plans and seize countries, but, in the end, everything is taken from us by death. All we have left is a plot of land the size of this cloak."

With those wise words, he handed Pithaos the cloak he had had made, and jewels, and silks, saying, "Take these to Alexander."

And Alexander, accepting the gifts, returned to his troops and continued his journey--a little the wiser.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Romance

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. appease
  2. demise
  3. embodied
  4. embroidered
  5. exploits
  6. obeisance
  7. perish
  8. perplexed
  9. purporting to be
  10. romance

  1. death
  2. pass away; come to an end
  3. posing as; pretending to be
  4. respectful gesture, like a bow
  5. represented; personified
  6. adventures; achievements
  7. pacify; soothe
  8. added to; elaborated on
  9. confused
  10. story, like a novel

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 12, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. a; 3. e; 4. h; 5. f; 6. d; 7. b; 8. i; 9. c; 10. j