Speech of Alexander the Great essay

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Proposals for action "must first convince the audience that a problem exists and make the audience want action. Often, these arguments consider ethical situations: if the situation is wrong, then the solution must make it right" ("Writing Tip #21). Alexander identifies his men as the cause of being able to claim so many cities; "through your courage and endurance you have gained possession of Ionia, the Hellespont, both Phrygias, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phoenicia, and Egypt; the Greek part of Libya is now yours, together with much of Arabia, lowland Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Susia; Persia and Media with all the territories either formerly controlled by them or not are in your hands; you have made yourselves masters of the lands beyond the Caspian Gates" (Arrian). He evaluates the probability of success in future endeavors, and also the possible consequences of failing to continue; "But if you turn back now, there will remain unconquered many warlike peoples between the Hyphasis and the Eastern Ocean, and many more to the northward and the Hyrcanian Sea, with the Scythians, too, not far away; so that if we withdraw now there is a danger that the territory which we do not yet securely hold may be stirred to revolt by some nation or other we have not yet forced into submission. Should that happen, all that we have done and suffered will have proved fruitless or we shall be faced with the task of doing it over again from the beginning" (Arrian). Finally, he proposes future action moving more into Asia, and tries to prove that moving into Asia is the only appropriate solution; "The conquered territory belongs to you; from your ranks the governors of it are chosen; already the greater part of its treasure passes into your hands, and when all Asia is overrun, then indeed I will go further than the mere satisfaction of our ambitions: the utmost hopes of riches or power which each one of you cherishes will be far surpassed, and whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me. I will make those who stay the envy of those who return" (Arrian).

To bolster his argument, Alexander uses personal experience and facts. He does not rely upon statistics or tell stories from their past. Instead, he focuses on what they have accomplished up to this point. He discusses the possibility of things that might occur in the future. Moreover, he makes grandiose promises about what the possibility of success means, but those promises are supported by the riches that each man would likely encounter if they were to proceed into Asia. It is really the combination of glory and riches that Alexander relies upon the most to influence his audience. While he explicitly makes it clear that the people in his audience are free to choose whether to stay or to go home, he has structured the argument in a way that makes it appear that there is only one real option. The men with him are soldiers, many of them are probably mercenaries, and it may be unrealistic to assume that they had any real options if they returned home. Furthermore, given Alexander's violent response to later attempts to turn back to Greece, it certainly seems plausible that, even with his assurances, the men would fear the consequences if they refused to continue into Asia.


Ethos refers to "an appeal based on the character of the speaker. An ethos-driven document relies on the reputation of the author" ("The Art of Rhetoric"). In this speech, Alexander does not really have to establish his extrinsic ethos. Up to this point, he has led these men on a very successful mission of conquering the then-known world. However, Alexander begins his speech by reminding his men of what they have accomplished, and the fact that he has led them in his accomplishments. Moreover, he reminds them that he has not been some type of hands-off leader, but that he has suffered the same degree of hardship and threat that he has asked them to face in the past and that he is asking them to face in the future. His most important reminder of how he has led them comes near the end of his speech:

I could not have blamed you for being the first to lose heart if I, your commander, had not shared in your exhausting marches and your perilous campaigns; it would have been natural enough if you had done all the work merely for others to reap the reward. But it is not so. You and I, gentlemen, have shared the labour and shared the danger, and the rewards are for us all. The conquered territory belongs to you; from your ranks the governors of it are chosen; already the greater part of its treasure passes into your hands, and when all Asia is overrun, then indeed I will go further than the mere satisfaction of our ambitions: the utmost hopes of riches or power which each one of you cherishes will be far surpassed, and whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me (Arrian).

With this speech, Alexander is reminding them that he is not only a successful military leader, but that he has historically been very fair in his treatment of the men. They reap the benefit from the lands they conquer and are not asked to fight simply to benefit Alexander. His whole argument seems structured at reminding the men of the potential for their own personal gain if they continue forward into Asia.


Pathos refers to "an appeal to emotion" ("Logos, Ethos, and Pathos"). It focuses on how the author uses his speech to elicit feelings in his audience. In many ways, though Alexander uses a logical reasoning structure and establishes his credibility as a leader, his speech is based upon pathos. He appeals to his men as great warriors and then establishes the potential consequences of them continuing to follow him, as well as the potential consequences if they choose to stop following him and not proceed into Asia. He begins with a direct appeal to their pride, by highlighting what they have accomplished to that point. He contrasts that with how little they would have accomplished if they had never left Greece, and then defines manliness in terms of those accomplishments. He uses fear to suggest the possible consequences, not only for them but for the people who have been left behind, if they fail to move forward and continue to conquer Asia. Finally, he appeals to both greed and pride by promising untold wealth and possibility if they continue with him, but making sure that every man understands that he has a choice about whether to proceed or return home. The obvious dichotomy in his speech is that, though he does not explicitly state so, only cowards would return home.

Counter-Arguments and Qualifiers

One of the notable aspects in the speech is that Alexander fails to address any counter-arguments. He does not acknowledge the potential benefits of returning home. While he does acknowledge that the men have endured hardship, he does not acknowledge that such hardship could be sufficient motivation to make them want to return to Greece. He does not acknowledge the risk that they will find an army that they are unable to defeat. He does not mention the emotional reasons that men might want to return home. On the contrary, his argument is notable for its complete lack of acknowledging counter-arguments. This may be because he is not attempting to convince all of his men to stay with him, but simply to convince enough of him to stay that he can continue to successfully move into Asia.


History reveals that Alexander's argument was persuasive to his men, though he would encounter additional problems with men wanting to return home during the course of his mission. He was able to be persuasive because of his emotional appeal to the men, which focused on their pride. Moreover, while failing to address counter-arguments may seem like a weakness, in this context it worked as a strength because it revealed that Alexander was dismissing the notion that returning home could compare, in any way, with continuing. Given that he was speaking to an army of fighting men, the argument was very persuasive for his audience.

Works Cited

Arrian. "Speech of Alexander the Great' from the Campaigns of Alexander. Ancient History

Sourcebook. N.p., August 2000. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

"The Art of Rhetoric: Learning how to use the Three Main Rhetorical Styles." Rensselaer

Polytechnic Institute. N.p. Unk. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

Dlugan, Andrew. (2010). "Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking." Six Minutes.

N.p. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

Gill, N.S. (2012). "Alexander the Great Study…[continue]

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