Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1480 - 1538) and the Battle of Alexander at Issus

The Battle of Alexander at Issus (1529) by Albrecht Altdorfer

German born Albrecht Altdorfer lived most (if not all) of his life in Regenberg (Germany), where he served as civic engineer. His election to the town council in 1519 and to the inner council inn 1526 testifies to his high standing in the town. But he is remembered today as one of the most talented painters in the history of German art.

One of Altdorfer's best known works is his epic portrayal of Alexander the Great's victory against the Persian king Darius III at the great battle in Cilicia, near the town of Issus,  on 5 November 333 BC. He depicts the battle from an elevated viewpoint, the battlefield in the foreground with the vast opposing armies, and in the background the eastern Mediterranean with the island of Cyprus in the centre, Egypt and the Nile to the right, and the Gulf of Persia to the left. Alexander is seen on Bucephalus, the wild stallion that only he had been able to master, and which faithfully carried him throughout his Asia campaign, before dying of old age. 

As for the battle, Darius had made a disastrous choice of battlefield, unable to use his cavalry in the narrow plain, and the superior manoeuvrability of Alexander's force proved decisive. 

Alexander continued his conquest to the banks of the Hyphasis in India. There, after covering more than 12,500 miles, several of his generals expressed their weariness of the years of campaigning, and their desire to return to their wives and children in Greece. The next day, and with a heavy heart, Alexander reluctantly yielded to their wishes, and is said to have wept that there were no more worlds for him conquer.

1 comment:

  1. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.