Released at probably the highest point of Maiden's popularity, Somewhere In Time
has a quite different feel than the previous albums. It represents a change of direction for the band,
which was beginning to explore different sounds and styles. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable
difference is the addition of guitar and bass synths. The synth sound is not overpowering, compared to
Judas Priest's 'Turbo' for instance, and in most cases it is more of a background filler.
Many fans have mixed feelings about the addition of the synths. The effect doesn't seem to hurt
the songs, but it doesn't seem to make them better than they would have been without it.
Faith No More comes to mind as a band that based its entire sound on the unique combination
of synthesizer and metal guitar, with brilliant results. But Maiden had already carved a different niche,
so why fix something that isn't broken? Still, one has to respect an artist's right to experiment
I've read people on the net who consider this to be Maiden's best album, but to me it isn't quite as good
as the previous three. Still, this is a very good album, containing some classic material.
Caught Somewhere In Time (Harris)
The first thing one notices about 'Caught Somewhere In Time' is the guitar synth, which is heavily
applied in the song's intro. However, once the song gets going the synth pretty much disappears.
Some argue that this song was somehow inspired by the 1979 film
Time After Time in which
H.G. Wells, the famous Science-Fiction author, invents a time machine – incidentally,
Wells actually wrote a novel called
The Time Machine, published in 1895, which inspired le cinema industry since the
mid-20th Century. The story relates how Wells pursues one of his friends, who turns out to be
Jack the Ripper, into the late 1970s where Jack has found refuge in a world of violence
that he considers his "natural habitat".
The song is about someone who is apparently being urged to sell their soul, although what is being
offered in exchange remains unclear. This is one of the few songs where Dickinson's singing is not
quite so palatable, mainly in the chorus where it seems like he is trying to sing too loudly.
The result is something that is almost shouting and borderline out of tune. Otherwise,
it is a decent song.
Wasted Years (Smith)
'Wasted Years' was the first single from the album, and is one of Maiden's most accessible and
mainstream-sounding songs. It is probably about as close as they can get to the mainstream
and still retain their unique Maiden sound. There is a long and very melodic chorus by Maiden
standards, and an excellent instrumental and guitar solos.
It seems to be some sort of an admonition to appreciate the present and not take things for granted.
It could also be a reflection on the
Slavery Tour, that really burned out the musicians of Iron Maiden to the point that a split of the
band was feared at the time. It's obvious, though, that all that time was certainly not wasted, and
that those were indeed Maiden's "Golden Years".
Sea Of Madness (Smith)
'Sea Of Madness' is another psychological sort of song, which might be about someone who
is slowly slipping into madness, although the lyrics are fairly ambiguous. Its start is a little rocky,
but the great chorus and guitar solos rescue it and make it another excellent song.
It seems that the "Sea of Madness" is some sort of metaphor of the current state of Mankind,
although it can be argued that things have always been like this since the dawn of humanity and that they
will quite unfortunately remain this way for many centuries to come. Fires are burning, people cry, and the
character describing all this simply turns his back and leaves. Confronted to so much violence and misery,
it is sometimes hard to do anything at all and the best is sometimes quite simply to walk away from it all...
This song has always reminded me of
Hieronymus Bosch's painting called
The Ship Of Fools, which is also an allegory of Mankind's often appalling condition. This seems
to indicate that, already in the late 15th Century, when the painting was made, artists were
representing our civilisation as a ship with a crew of fools set adrift on a sea of madness.
Heaven Can Wait (Harris)
'Heaven Can Wait' is a song about a near-death experience. It is a fairly long song, and
its highlight is the sing-along section just before the guitar solos, which is practically
custom-made for live concerts. This sing-along also has the unusual feature of vocal support by
some guys they found in a place called Tehe's Bar. This explains the reference to Tehe's Bar
on the album cover.
Near-Death Experiences, or NDE for short, are these strange reports by people who have been
declared clinically dead, but who managed somehow to come back to life. Although it is difficult
to assert that these impressions are purely physiological and only due to the neurons of a dying
brain firing wildly as a defensive response to the stress caused by the situation, NDEs do not
in any way constitute an evidence for an afterlife. Not all subjects reported dead and subsequently
revived have experienced an NDE, and each NDE seems to be unique. The "vision"
of a tunnel of light, as mentioned in the song, appears to be common, however, and Bosch's
illustration of The Last Judgement indicates that this phenomenon has been reported
already some five centuries ago.
The topic of the afterlife and that some people may get there a bit too early has also been exploited
by Hollywood and, to date, two films have been released with the title Heaven Can Wait.
The 1943 Ernst Lubitsch comedy tells us the story of a man who has to justify himself in order to
gain access to Hell, whereas the 1978 version, directed by Warren Beatty who is also playing
the main character, relates the tale of a young American footballer who meets an untimely death
and finds himself reincarnated into the body of a millionaire who wants to buy Los Angeles Rams
in order to once again quarterback them into the Superbowl. Life after death seems to be
a popular topic indeed!
The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (Harris)
This song is based on the
short story by Alan Sillitoe, which was also made into a 1962
of the same name, about a young runner who defies his juvenile detention centre warden by throwing
a race that he is expected to win. It is another song with a good chorus and instrumental, and it also
appears to have the longest title of any Maiden song.
The story relates the inner thoughts of a young offender who's in borstal, but who is allowed
to train for a long-distance race. The local authorities hope to gain some prestige from the
race, but the young man is aware that he is being manipulated and, while he is running,
we can follow his reflections. Why should he follow rules that are forced onto him and
win a race for those who put him in prison? This is a brilliant story about hypocrisy.
Stranger In A Strange Land (Smith)
Although the song title and picture for the single are reminiscent of Robert Heinlein's
of the same name, it is actually unrelated. 'Stranger In A Strange Land' is about a man trapped in the
arctic and whose frozen body was eventually discovered years later. It is apparently based on a real
expedition, and Adrian Smith was inspired to write the song after talking to one of the survivors
(who ended up becoming an Iron Maiden fan). This is a great single and is one of the best songs
from the Somewhere In Time album. It is a little more laid-back, and it has the great guitar
solos that we have come to expect.
Deja-Vu (Murray, Harris)
As the title suggests, this song describes the feeling of déjà-vu,
which is the strange feeling one sometimes gets that they have experienced the exact
same situation already. An explanation of what causes such a feeling may have is given
The lyrics are somewhat shallower than the usual, but its catchy tune makes up for it.
Alexander The Great (Harris)
Another of Maiden's historical epics, 'Alexander The Great' is the best song on the album.
It details the history of the military genius
Alexander of Macedon (356–323 BC), who conquered the Persian empire and
may be the only general in history to have never lost a single battle.
My vote: 5 stars. I love this song more every time I hear it, though I'll admit
I didn't have that opinion when it first came out. I didn't have the patience to give this song
much of a chance when I was 15; it wasn't until the mid-90s that I 'rediscovered' it
and realized how great it was.
The foreshadowing of the main guitar lick at the end of the intro is a nice touch.
Using the same melodic motif in different parts of the song unifies the song; it's a technique
composers have been using since at least the time of Bach (probably even longer than that).
The verse riff ends on a V chord (B in the key of E minor)
to allow a V-i cadence at the end of the riff; Bruce's vocal melody in the verse uses
the same technique. This gives the song a bit of a classical feel, which strikes me
as appropriate for the subject matter. (Classical music relies on V-I cadences
to mark the separation of sections within a piece).
Once you get past the second chorus, the modus operandi of this song becomes
'let's surprise the listener'. Imagine it's 1986 and you're hearing this song for the first time.
You've listened to all of Maiden's previous albums, and you think you know their style.
You think you know when to expect a solo and what it'll sound like. You think you know
what's coming next. Steve Harris knows you're thinking this, so he's about to give you
some shock treatment.
The first solo section (after the 2nd chorus) is in 7/8. Shortening
the typical measure length by half a beat propels the section along; you hear the next measure
begin before your subconscious mind expects it. The brief interlude after this section uses
another classical composing technique, melodic augmentation. A melody is played three times,
but becomes longer with every repetition. The shifting time signatures here confound
all listener's expectations: by the end of this part, someone hearing this song for the first time
should have no idea what to expect next. The 2-beat bass licks which pop up every now
and then in the next solo section serve the same purpose: just when you think you've got
this tune figured out, Maiden throws a monkey wrench in the works.
I love how they intensify the 3rd verse by using more words and shorter vocal notes.
Returning to the style of the 1st/2nd verses would have been the expected path. Instead,
they don't give us anything 'old' until the final chorus. When that chorus comes around, the payoff
of finally hearing a familiar melody is greater than if you'd known ahead of time to expect it there.
The moral of the story: never take Maiden for granted, they will always surprise you
with something new if you give them a chance.
The song contains one unfortunate historical inaccuracy, suggesting that Alexander's army
wouldn't follow him to India. In fact, they did enter India and went as far as the Indus river
in what is now modern-day Pakistan.
describes Alexander's final battle in India, where he faced and defeated an army which included
mounted elephants. Some will argue that such inaccuracies are irrelevant, or forgivable due to
"artistic license". I disagree. If the entire purpose of a song is to inform of historical
events, then these events should at least be as accurate as possible. Otherwise, it's an inspired
song in the same vein as
Tame A Land' and
Of The Ancient Mariner'.
This site contains 1,000 resources about Alexander the Great–from history
to the Hollywood movie–sorted, described and rated. I've spent five years searching
the web for this stuff, so you don't have to.
Start with Web Biographies or Alexander in Brief for biographies long and short. Army and Battles
covers Alexander the military commander. Alexander's Character explores Alexander the individual,
including sub-sections on Alexander's sexuality, his religious feelings (chiefly, did he think himself
a god?), and so forth. His death and (lost) tomb get their own sections. The rich but troublesome
Greek and Latin sources get three sections: about the sources, texts on the web and
IT being my purpose to write the lives of Alexander the king, and of Cæsar, by whom Pompey
was destroyed, the multitude of their great actions affords so large a field that I were to blame if
I should not by way of apology forewarn my reader that I have chosen rather to epitomize the most
celebrated parts of their story, than to insist at large on every particular circumstance of it. It must be
borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives. And the most glorious exploits
do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes
a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and
inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles
whatsoever. Therefore as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and features of the face,
in which the character is seen, than in the other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to give
my more particular attention to the marks and indications of the souls of men, and while I endeavour
by these to portray their lives, may be free to leave more weighty matters and great battles to be
treated of by others.
My son, ask for thyself another Kingdom, for that which I leave is too small for
– King Philip of Macedonia – 339 B.C.
King Philip II of Macedon (reigned from 359–336 BC) would, if not for his son,
be a household name today. The king took the backward state of Macedon and made it into
a world power.
Macedon, a glance at a map will show, lies north of Greece. The kingdom had been greatly Hellenized
by the influence of its southern neighbours, but was viewed as barbaric and uncouth by the cultured
Athenians, poor by the Thebans, and weak by the Spartans. Philip II was able not only to turn Macedon
around, he also was able to defeat every Greek city-state (with the exception of Sparta).
For those of you who aren't that familiar with the Classical period, this would have been
equivalent to Canada invading and beating the United States in our time. A remarkable feat,
to say the least.
Philip organized his military along lines later copied by the Romans, medieval kings,
and even into modern times. The basic infantry unit was the Macedonian phalanx. A modification
on the Spartan unit, the Macedonian one was armed with two-handed pikes and massed in squares
sixteen rows deep and wide. Members of the phalanx were trained to wheel in step in any direction
or to double their front by filing off into rows of eight. His cavalry, known as the Companions, were
the elite troops. Drawn mostly from nobility (horses were expensive, after all!), the Companions
became the king's personal guard, as well as the core of the entire army.
"Near to the east in a part of ancient Greece in an ancient land called Macedonia
Was born a son to Philip of Macedon the legend his name was Alexander"
For all Philip's greatness, he could not hope to match his son in ability or ambition
as a commander. Alexander was raised among the horsemen of the Companion cavalry.
His friends, sons of Companions themselves, and he trained all their lives in martial exploits.
This is not to say Alexander was nothing but a soldier. His education was undertaken
by none other than Aristotle, pupil of Plato.
"At the age of nineteen he became the Macedon King"
Philip II died under dubious circumstances. He had recently had an argument
with his heir, Alexander. His second (and favourite) wife encouraged him to disown Alexander,
and proclaim her own son by him as the heir to the throne. When Philip refused to do this,
the second wife is said to have gone mad. She charged into a party Philip was having
and killed him. Some historians have speculated that Alexander himself was behind this plot,
but we'll never know.
"And he swore to free all of Asia Minor"
In what was, perhaps, the wisest political move in history, Alexander and his comparatively
small Macedon-Greek army invaded the mighty Persian Empire.
The Persians had tried to invade and conquer the tiny Greek city-states three times, and failed.
Each time, however, it was a very close fight, with the Greeks barely surviving (Athens itself was burned
to the ground at least once!). As you can imagine, this did little to endear Persia to the Greeks.
When the quasi-Greek Macedonians came marching in, the only way they could keep a hold over
their new Greek subjects was by promising to attack and destroy the old enemy, Persia.
This was not going to be an easy task. The Persian Empire was vast. It consisted of (in modern names):
Turkey, Northern Libya, Egypt, the Middle East, Iran (Persia proper), Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
and the East Bank of the Indus River. Compare that with Greece. Not very good odds, huh?
"By the Aegean Sea in 334 BC he utterly beat the armies of Persia"
The Battle of Granicus (west of modern Istanbul), was an utter defeat for Persia.
The small Macedonian army massacred nearly every enemy soldier, taking very few losses
of their own. This was a double blow for Persia, because not only was their army in shambles,
but Greeks were flocking to join Alexander’s army in the thousands. Alexander decided to press
his advantage and see how much of the Persian Pie he could get.
"Alexander the Great, his name struck fear into hearts of men
Alexander the Great, became a legend/god amongst mortal men"
Like any successful commander, his soldiers believed in him. Many thought he was
of divine ancestry – Greece’s Gods had finally come through and given them a leader
to eliminate the Persian threat once and for all. Indeed, some believed Alexander to be more powerful
than even the Olympians. After all, they had barely been able to stand up to Persian might, whereas
Alexander was able to destroy it. There are stories of hundreds of Persian troops fleeing before
ever engaging Alexander’s army, entire cities simply opening their gates to him in hopes of receiving
preferential treatment. Some even viewed him as a liberator from generations of
"King Darius the third defeated fled Persia the Scythians fell by the river Jaxartes"
The details of Darius’s defeat are sketchy. What we do know is that at one point Darius
was willing to cede the western half of his empire. Alexander, knowing Darius was helpless
(Darius’s family was captured earlier in battle), declined this offer.
"Then Egypt fell to the Macedon King as well and he founded the city called Alexandria"
The great city of Alexandria, the Guardian of the Nile, was built from the ground
under Alexander’s watch. He wanted a new capital in Egypt from which he could administrate
his growing kingdom. The city became a centre of culture and learning, even long after Alexander
was gone. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was a wonder of the world. The Romans, when they finally
invaded, were awed by the city’s splendour. The city still bears his name, 2,300 years later.
"By the Tigris river he met King Darius again and crushed him again in the battle of Arbela"
The battle to which this refers is undoubtedly what historians call the Battle of Gaugamela.
The Persians were completely routed. Darius fled to the hills, but was captured and slain by a local tribal chief
who hoped to gain Alexander’s favour. Alexander, however, was not amused. As the new King of Persia,
Alexander had the chief executed for the assassination of his predecessor. This demonstrates Alexander’s
respect for his foe, and also his respect for Persian laws and customs.
"Entering Babylon and Susa treasures he found took Persepolis the capital of Persia"
Alexander’s march eastward brought him to such great cities, where there was ample opportunity
for plunder. Only rarely, however, did his troops disobey his standing orders and ransack these villages
– and they were subjected to harsh discipline.
"A Phrygian King had bound a chariot yoke and Alexander cut the 'Gordian knot'
And legend said that who untied the knot he would become the master of Asia"
The story goes that King Gordius had tied the ropes of an ox-cart so complexly that no man
could undo the knot. The king stated that his heir would be he who could undo the knot. For generations,
no man could. When it was presented to Alexander, he, not being a man for such foolishness, simply drew
his sword and sliced the know into pieces. Thus he symbolically proved it was his destiny to rule
the known world.
"Hellenism he spread far and wide, the Macedonian learned mind
Their culture was a western way of life, he paved the way for Christianity"
Indeed, the once uncouth Macedonians found themselves in charge of a vast cosmopolitan empire.
To attempt to bring a sense of unity to his domains, Alexander ordered his highest ranking officers
to take Persian noblewomen as their wives, creating a new Greco-Macedonian-Persian ruling caste.
This bridging between the West and the East set the stage for the rise and spread of Christianity.
"Marching on, marching on
The battle weary marching side by side Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India tired of the combat, pain and the glory"
After years of heavy fighting in Bactria (modern Afghanistan), Alexander’s army was tired,
homesick, and fed-up with fighting. His officers warned him that the men would revolt if they were forced
to cross the Indus River. With this in mind, Alexander wheeled around and marched his men westward
to Babylon (in modern Iraq).
"Alexander the Great, he died of fever in Babylon"
Alexander fell ill with symptoms we would now associate with malaria. He refused the bed-rest
recommended him by his doctors. Combined with his battle-scarred body, his condition declined and
he died on (by our calendar) June 10, 323 BC.
As he died, his friends gathered around him to hear his final words. Alexander had no children,
so it was unsure to whom he would leave his empire. When asked, all he replied was "To the
Thus, the three strongest Generals divided Alexander’s empire amongst themselves. Antigonus
and his successors ruled Macedon and Greece until the coming of the Romans. The Seleucid
dynasty ruled Asia Minor, as far East as modern Pakistan. Eventually the Western portion of this kingdom
were absorbed by the Roman Empire. Perhaps the most famous dynasty of Alexander’s successors,
however, ruled Egypt. Ptolemy was allowed to seize Egypt with almost no opposition
(it was believed to be a hot, dry, barren wasteland). The Ptolemaic Dynasty came to style itself
like Pharaohs of Egypt’s past. While they ruled Egypt for centuries, the language of the court
was always Greek. No Ptolemaic King bothered to learn Egyptian until the very last of the line
– the infamous Cleopatra (of Cæsar and Marc Antony fame).
The lyrics and music of this song combine to make, perhaps, the best of Iron Maiden’s
historically-based works. I put this song on, close my eyes, and can almost imagine myself
as one of the Companions, marching with Alexander.
Macedonians were Greeks, not "quasi-Greeks" and not
what Canadians are to Americans... Ancient Greece was really a bunch of cities-countries,
like Athens, Thebes, Sparta, Macedonia, to ALL OF WHICH Herodote refers to as Greeks.
Also, Macedonians spoke ancient Greek.
Macedonia is still a part of Greece, there is such a city here. Political agendas
and bitterness are the reasons that have led to the dispute over whether Macedonia is Greek
or not, from ancient times to this day. Nonetheless, the image of Macedonia as that was portrayed
in most classical literary sources of the period, as well as in most testimonies of the period
(Demosthenes, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Isocrates) is Greek. Skopja, through a century
of teaching "their version" of history in their schools (they went as far as to claim
that Alexander used to speak Slavic!! )(how naive of Greece not to have cared about the matter
before 1990), claimed to be successors of the Macedonians, which is absurd because
the Slav people went there 7 centuries after Alexander. True, Macedonia once reached
until where the Former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia is today, but it later shrinked back
to its center, Greece's Macedonia. For the same reasons that Skopja calls itself Macedonia,
Pakistan should be called Macedonia too, since it was once part of it.
Thus it is incorrect and insulting to Macedonians (the real Macedonians, not slavs)
and all Greeks to call them anything else but Greeks. Bear in mind That FYROM was forced
to change it's flag from Vergina's star to something that resembles it, because they had no right
to use a symbol of Macedonia.
And for those wondering why then is Skopja written Macedonia on the map,
let me put it this way: U.S.A. could sure use another friendly country ( = one
that bends over, not that Greece many times hasn't), and helped Skopja get recognised
"They clearly overlooked the unquestionable fact that the inhabitants
of ancient Macedonia were Greeks and spoke the Greek language. Numerous excavations
in all of the ancient Macedonia area have consistently unearthed relics clearly with Greek writings,
and depictions of rulers clearly designated with Greek names. In ancient Greek culture,
Macedonians celebrated the same festivals with the rest of the Greeks. They took part
in the Olympic games which at the time was only participated in by the Hellenes.
The regions that comprised the area of Macedonia all had Greek names. Furthermore,
the architecture of the palaces, temples, theaters and ancient markets are all characteristic samples
of ancient Greek architecture of the time. These Hellenic structures clearly included Greek writings
on them which without a shadow of a doubt prove that they were developed by the Greeks
and belonged to the Greeks. The ancient Macedonians believed in the same 12 Gods
of Olympus as the rest of the Hellenes. In addition, the Macedonians fought together with the rest
of the Hellenes against barbarians. To the Greeks at the time, a barbarian was defined
as any group of people who did not share the same developed culture. Any group of people
outside of civilized Greece was defended against by all of Greece, which included Macedonia.
Last but certainly not least, Macedonia was a member of the Delphic Amfictiony, an institution
which was open only to Greeks..."
The thing is that, despite the fact Macedonia belonged at that time to the greek world,
Macedonians were still seen (at that time) as the barbarians from the North by Athens, Sparta
and other political cities.
I also want to add a word about Philip because I really like this personnality.
Iron Duke, you described the military points which were the strengh of Philip's army.
The thing is Macedonia was nothing but a weak kingdom before his time. His skills as king:
politics, diplomacy, knowledge of the world around and strategy made him a very high profile stateman.
Alexander wouldn't have done what he did but for his father and the fact this latter had "pacified"
the Greek peninsula under his power.
Like Hibou said, the ancient Macedonians were not considered Greeks
by the other Greek city-states. They were viewed as more-Greek than any other outsiders,
but still not completely the same. Linguistically and genetically they were probably
just as Greek as the Athenians, but their cultures were quite dissimilar.
The only parallel I can readily think of to this is how the Japanese viewed Koreans
in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They weren't good enough to be Japanese,
but they were a far sight better than the Chinese (in their opinions).
I was still carefully growing attached to Maiden sometime in 2000, having only
The Number Of The Beast and Brave New World at that time, when I noticed
one song in their discography named 'Alexander The Great'. I was a total nut on that subject
at that time, and couldn't wait to hear it. I was totally blown away by the music, but I didn't quite
like the lyrics. I had expected something more subtle, maybe from the eyes of someone
who experienced it, much in the same way as 'Invaders' or 'The Trooper' (which I didn't know at that time).
Lyric-wise, it's the worst of Maiden's historical epics, while music-wise, it was their best until
'Paschendale', with its magnificent guitarwork and the great vocals. It proved to me that
what I was hoping for was true: There was more where 'The Nomad' came from.
Apart from the fact that the lyrics are at best in the league of a better children's encyclopedia article
– which is more than most people would expect from a Metal song anyway –
it bears some historical inaccuracies as well as some common omissions that would stain
the hero image and throw a different, disturbing light on the much-fabled "greatest conqueror
of all times".
To be picky, the second line is already questionable. "In a part of ancient Greece,
in an ancient land called Macedonia". It depends on your subjective point of view whether
Macedonia was ancient Greek or not. Historically, the Macedonians regarded their country as Greek,
whereas the Greeks didn't. There had been profound Hellenization since the days of Alexander I
(495–450 BC) and had become an integral part of the Greek world ever since,
after they became independent from Persian rule. They adopted the Greek language,
lifestyle and religion, and every once in a while attempted to become a cultural centre of Greece.
Note that geographically, ancient Macedonia is not the same as today's Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia. This has lead to some disputes between Greeks and Macedonians. Note that also,
modern-day Macedonians are Slavs, who arrived in Europe in a second great wave of migrations
in the European Dark Ages.
The song then runs through a very quick but historically correct description of Alexander's early career.
Maybe the line "and swore to free all of Asia Minor" needs to be elaborated a bit.
Asia Minor, roughly speaking modern-day Turkey, had many Greek cities lined on its coast which
were first conquered by the Persians in the 540s BC. Before that, they had been more or less
part of the powerful Lydian empire based around Sardis. They had been more of tributary dependancies
at that time, but the Persians sought to bring them under more direct control. Fourty years later,
many of them revolted in what became known as the Ionian Revolt, which started the classic
Greek-Persian Wars culminating in the battles of Marathon (490 BC), Thermopylæ (480 BC),
Salamis (480 BC) and Platæae (479 BC), but dragging on until 449 BC,
when finally a peace treaty was signed between Athens and Persia. The Greek cities in Asia Minor
came free of Persian rule until the Pelopponesian and Corinthian Wars. In 386, the Greeks
and Persians signed a treaty which not only gave the Persian back the Greeks cities in Asia,
but also de facto control over most of the Ægean world, i.e., Greece.
This resulted in some very strong nationalist anti-Persian movements in Greece, the biggest one
led by the demagogue Isocrates, who found pupils like Iason of Pherai and Philip of Macedon
who vowed to unite Greece and lead a big war against Persia. Iason failed due to an untimely death,
and Philip managed to unite Greece and begin preparations for a Persian campaign (in fact,
some troops were already dispatched in the Persian empire), but was murdered shortly
before he could begin.
Alexander needed two years to secure his power as hegemon (de facto ruler) of Greece,
entirely destroying the city of Thebes in the course, and could launch the Persian campaign in
334 BC. He "utterly beat the armies of Persia" at the battle of Granicus.
This defeat was of minimal importance to the vast Persian empire, which stretched from the Ægean
to the Indus, because only a small force hastily set up by the local satraps (governors) was beaten;
the "real" Persian army had not yet seen action.
"King Darius the third defeated fled Persia the Scythians fell by the river Jaxartes
Then Egypt fell to the Macedon King as well and he founded the city called Alexandria"
These lines are a bit sad, because they are so glowingly inaccurate that they ruin
a bit of the song for me.
Darius did not care for Alexander after the battle of Granicus. He did not take the threat seriously,
and half-heartedly assembled an "imperial body", an army consisting of units from all over
the Persian empire, and faced Alexander himself, on bad terrain, at the battle of Issus in 333 BC.
The Persians were barely defeated, only because Darius, commander of the army, fled the battlefield
after seeing that Alexander himself was after him in person. He did not "flee" Persia,
but he went back to Persia to assemble an even greater army to face Alexander two years later
on favourable terrain – more about that later.
Why the Scythians are in here beats me. The people living by the river Jaxartes (modern-day Amu-Darya
in Uzbekistan) were related to the Scythians, who lived in modern-day Ukraine, but were commonly known
as the Sacans. To make it even worse, Alexander faced them in 329/28 BC, a whole three years
after he took Egypt (332 BC). Alexandria in Egypt (one of more than seventy cities founded by him,
and most of them named Alexandria) was founded under supervision of Alexander himself,
a rather surprising move given the fact that there were more important things to consider at that time.
During Alexander's lifetime, the city had little significance, but became the capital of Egypt
shortly after Alexander's death, and, eventually, the biggest centre of Greek culture in the world.
Note that there is no mention of the bloody and atrocious sieges of Tyrus and Gaza here.
"By the Tigris river he met King Darius again and crushed him again in the battle of Arbela
Entering Babylon and Susa treasures he found took Persepolis the capital of Persia"
It is surprising that the battle is called "battle of Arbela" here, because
it is commonly known as the Battle of Gaugamela. The battle was the turning point of Alexander's
campaign. The Persians had chosen a battlefield in the north-Mesopotamian plains,
where they had full space for their dreaded cavalry. Once again, Darius had assembled
an "imperial body", this one being even bigger than the one at Issus.
He even had a contingent of war elephants! The Persians were once again close
to winning this battle, with the cavalry already looting the Macedonian camp,
when Darius fled again, after Alexander went after him, again.
As in Egypt, Alexander was hailed as a liberator in Babylon. Ironically, the Persians
had been hailed as liberators too, when they conquered the city in 529 BC
under Cyrus the Great, who also ended the Babylonian captivity for the Jews.
"Treasures he found" is a bit of an understatement for Susa.
There are detailed descriptions of the treasures in the royal palaces of Susa,
the value of which was probably inestimable, both in monetary and artistic fields.
According to Greek writers, the Macedonians even found the myth that the Persian king
slept with a million gold pieces under his pillow to be true!
In Babylon, Alexander did not find so much in terms of treasure, because the city had not been
a capital of the Persian empire (there were four) since the days of Xerxes I (480–465 BC).
Nevertheless, it was the biggest city in the world at that time with a population of over
one million people.
Alexander did find treasures in Persepolis, though. The treasure house of Persepolis,
one big palace in the midst of many magnificent palaces, was filled beyond its capacity,
even though it had been expanded twice! There were so many treasures in Persepolis
that the Macedonians could not steal them all, and some were unearthed in excavations
during the 1930s.
Claiming that Persepolis was the capital of Persia is not entirely correct. It was one of four,
strictly speaking. The other three were Susa in southwestern Iran, close to the modern-day
Iraqi border, Ecbatana (modern-day Hamadan) and Pasargadæ, north of Persepolis.
Pasargadæ had no significance other than being the religious and ceremonial capital
of Persia, where the kings were crowned. The royal tombs were between Persepolis and
Pasargadæ, in Naqsh-e Rostam. The last two predecessors of Darius of importance,
Artaxerxes II (404–359 BC) and Artaxerxes III (359–338 BC)
were buried in Persepolis, and the unifinished tomb of Darius III has been found there too.
The song does not mention the needless and tragic destruction of Xerxes' palace in Persepolis.
This was supposed to be a revenge to the destruction of the Acropolis of Athens under Xerxes
in 480 and 479 BC (which in turn was a revenge for the destruction of Persian
shrines in Sardis by the Greeks in 498 BC). This destruction has had no archaeological
impact, because the fires only ate away those parts of the palace made of wood and cloth,
which would have disappeared anyway.
There is some evidence of the burning though. The palace seems to have been cleared up
before that, with the throne and everything of value being removed carefully. Maybe this is
the origin of the Iranian myth that Alexander had destroyed the Persian throne.
"A Phrygian King had bound a chariot yoke and Alexander cut the 'Gordian knot'
And legend said that who untied the knot he would become the master of Asia"
This part has no chronological significance. The Gordian Knot was cut in 334 BC in,
well, Gordium, close to modern-day Ankara.
Whether Alexander really cut it or not is subject to dispute. Most historians agree that the cutting
in this sense never took place; some say that it crumbled of old age and he could simply untie it then;
others believe the entire incident is just a myth.
The Phrygians were a people of Asia Minor who had established a relatively powerful empire
with the capital of Gordium after the mysterious fall of the Hittite empire in the late
13th century BC. The Phrygians could never make a real breakthrough
in the Middle Eastern world and were eventually succeeded by the Lydians.
"Hellenism he spread far and wide the Macedonian learned mind
Their culture was a western way of life he paved the way for Christianity"
Historically, Hellenism is regarded as the era of Greek history which succeeded
the Classical age and began with Alexander's death in 323 BC. This is just a landmark date,
and human reason allows us to regard Hellenism as an epoch that gradually evolved before
and after Alexander's death. Likewise, some Classical ideals survived long into the Hellenistic era.
Some trademarks of Hellenism as opposed to the Classical age are:
– Absolutely realistic and mass-produced plastics and carvings
– Pædophilia was condemned. Gradually.
– The woman became a symbol of human beauty, while in the Classical age,
it had been the man
– Bigger states in Greece
– More contact to the non-Greek world, mostly Rome and Carthage, but also the Middle East
Note that the Greek culture could set foundations in the Middle East and Central Asia
but gradually died out. There was a strong Hellenistic empire in Bactria (mostly modern-day Afghanistan)
for a long time, and the Gandhara culture in India (mostly modern-day Pakistan) had deep Hellenistic
influences, combining them with Buddhism. In Iran and Mesopotamia, Hellenism was long present,
but it never had a real chance of becoming the predominant culture. Therefore, Alexander did not
"pave the way for Christianity". The Greek culture was no more receptive
to Christianity than any other Mediterranean culture. It was only the first to get Christians
because of the geographic location, being the easiest accessible to the Christians in Roman times.
There were Christian communities in Mesopotamia and Iran, but they were of minor importance
and could not destroy the deeply-rooted Zoroastrian faith there. Even Islam needed more
than a thousand years for that, and Zoroastrianism still exists in parts of Iran.
"The battle weary marching side by side Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India tired of the combat, pain and the glory"
This refers to the mutiny of Alexander's troops at the river Hyphasis in modern-day India,
close to Pakistan. In ancient times, India began at the Indus river in modern-day Pakistan,
so at the understanding of these times, the Macedonians were already deep in India.
But Alexander wanted to go further, as he had heard tales about the Ganges and rich empires
beyond the desert of Tharr in Rajasthan. The homesick and tired troops, who were mostly Iranians now,
did not want to go any further, and after sulking for three days (no joke!), Alexander gave in.
His entire madness now showed, as he lead them into bloody battles and sieges in the Indus Valley,
and made them march through the Gedrosian desert in Beluchistan, where more than a third of his army
died. He could have avoided this by taking a route more north, as he had instructed his general Krateros
to do, but he was so obsessed with crossing the desert because he had been told that no other army
ever had done so, and because his army refused to march further into India that he lost all reason.
After weeks of torture, a band of half-starved, thirsty and broken men, who had lost their families
and all they had plundered in this dreadful march, arrived in the city of Pura in southern Iran.
This is a part of Alexander's history that many like to leave out.
There is much more to Alexander, and the above article barely scratched the surface.
If you speak German, you are welcome to visit my homepage on this subject that I have made
for a school project at:
In conclusion, this is a great song despite the somewhat questionable lyrics,
and I, like most other Maiden fans, would love to hear it live.