And Alexander Wept...

An Old Legend

According to the ancient writer Plutarch, “When Alexander heard from Anaxarchus of the infinite number of worlds, he wept, and when his friends asked him what was the matter, he replied, ‘Is it not a matter for tears that, when the number of worlds is infinite, I have not conquered one?’” (Life of Alexander). This quotation describes an interesting attitude in a man who had conquered much of the known world at a young age. His weeping betrayed a glimpse of reality that not even Alexander likely truly appreciated.

What Was Lacking

Dismissing the absurd notion of “infinite worlds” (along with much of the Greek understanding of the world) the idea that Alexander had yet to truly accomplish his goal of conquering all is very true. From the standpoint of his generals and subjects, he would be seen as ruling all. But there were many things even a great conqueror such as Alexander the Great could not overcome:


For what law and order existed in the raising of his empire (as allowed by God’s hand), Alexander could not conquer the moral condition of the hearts of men. It was not long after his death that his empire fragmented into four pieces, driven by the greed, avarice, and ambition of men.


It is unlikely that Alexander knew much of this problem, although it is common to man. More so than mere moral failing, the penalty of sin is a price no man can overcome, be it through force of will, great fortunes, or massive armies.


It is poetic that the bringer of death for so many could not himself avoid its eventual grip. The consequence of death undid much of what Alexander accomplished in life, and while his name is marked upon history, none of his glory or spoils could be taken with him to the grave.

It is fitting that Alexander the Great would weep, albeit for the wrong reasons. The truth is that even “great” men only are a vapor before the power of God. It was God who was able to conquer all those things that a powerful general ever could. His Word conquers the hearts of men to live morally. His Son is an offering for sin that pays its impossible penalty. His resurrection removes the very sting of death. What great things can man ever accomplish before the greatness of our God?

More Reading
Newer// Better Off Dead
comments powered by Disqus