hi can you please explain why thais had to have been involved in the burning of the persepolis palace? im just wondering because im so for kickass women from antiquity :D thanks (:
IN short, we know that thaïs was involved because the sources report it, but the nature of her involvement is what’s interesting: while the sources say that burning persepolis was her idea, it’s actually more likely that alexander asked her to help him carry out the nefarious let’s-burn-persepolis plan. and – obviously – she said yes.
what is reported (notably in plutarch and arrian, among others): persepolis, 330. CRAZY FUCKING party at the palace. berlusconi would balk at it. wolf of wall street pales in comparison. I’M TALKING drugs, drinking, courtesans, ptolemy’s fucking duct taped to the ceiling, hephaestion making it rain on a pole dancer. craterus? BREAKDANCING. then thaïs, an athenian, probably drunk and high, says HEY, you know what would be a great idea? to BURN THIS PLACE TO THE GROUND in revenge for what happened to my homeland in the persian wars. macedonians had extremely hot blood and, not knowing the difference between a good time and a let’s call the cops my friend has alcohol poisoning time, were like HELL YEAH! HELL YEAH! and alexander threw a torch, and then thaïs threw a torch, and then everyone was throwing torches, and then surprise all of this was very bad for their public image. when everyone sobered up they said they were extremely sorry and all the historians, chief among them ptolemy, promptly tried to gloss it over. and that’s why the official record says, persepolis? drunken night of debauchery, very sorry, we’ll pay for a new carpet.
but in the words of mac mcdonald, history is a LIAR sometimes .
what really happened: is… complicated. we don’t know the whole story, and unless ptolemy i soter, chilling downstairs in hell rn, decides to squeal to the next guy who dante’s himself down there, we never will. but there were some big policy issues at the time, three big policy issues, which i mentioned in that last ask. combine that with the fact that alexander rarely (like, RARELY) did anything as big as razing a city without planning it – especially a city that was so ancient and had so much clout – there’s no way that the burning of persepolis went down the way alexander wanted us to think. there’s no way that it was the result of thaïs’ drunken suggestion at an out of control party. knowing alexander, persepolis was meticulously planned.
so what PROBABLY happened? alexander and his inner circle sat down and tried to hash out a solution to their problems, of which there were three: persian governors who were still loyal to the achaemenid king who might revolt, locals who viewed the past achaemenid regime as ruthless colonizers who might revolt, and the greeks back home, complaining that alexander was going soft on persia as a whole. who might revolt. a simple, fast solution to all three?
1) burn persepolis, cultural center of persia & previous location of achaemenid rule, to intimidate naughty governors
2) burn persepolis, location of achaemenid rule, to pacify locals who had hated the achaemenids
3) burn persepolis, where the army that nearly took greece came from in the persian wars, to pacify the greeks back home.
so then someone was like, you know who in court is super trusted and conveniently athenian, so her wanting “revenge” would be believable?
and somebody else was probably like, oh shit, ptolemy’s girlfriend!
so 1) why the party? and 2) why the lie? 1) it’s not gonna look like very convincing revenge to the greeks or the locals if there’s no anger in it, if it doesn’t seem spontaneous and passionate, is it? 2) why does anybody lie about something after the fact? uh, yeah, because it ended up being TERRIBLE PRESS. like, BAD press. it worked as intended – terrified the satraps, pacified the locals, got the greeks to stfu, sure – but it was also recognized universally as being so wildly disrespectful that alexander had to be like, yeah SORRY, that was, uh, not MY idea. we were drunk. xoxo gossip girl