Common knowledge is commonly mistaken as being the same among everyone. The depths of history and the tendencies of human morality and consciousness are conceived on differing wavelengths within every person. Alexander the Great, former king of Macedonia is one such person which may be considered to be common knowledge to many but completely foreign to some. I asked three people I talk to about their knowledge of Alexander the Great and to what it extent their knowledge lies.
I first asked my friend Tommy, age 17, about this subject while we were eating at my local pizzeria and it went about as I expected. When I asked him who Alexander the Great was, he answered that yes he knew. Furthermore, he added that he knew that he was the king of Macedonia which answered my second question. However, when I asked him about where he learned of this ancient king, he was quite vague as he couldn’t remember the specifics which is quite understandable since a seemingly random historical fact wouldn’t be engraved on a person’s memory. He responded that he wasn’t quite sure and thought that he learned of it in class a couple of years ago. The answer made enough sense so I accepted it and moved on.
Secondly, I asked my sister Christina, age 28 about Alexander the Great while we were at home preparing dinner. She said that she kind of knew who Alexander the Great was. However, when I asked for specifics, she said that she only thought that he was a king or emperor of some kind. I then asked her where she learned of Alexander the Great and she said that she probably learned it in school at some point a long time ago. This again makes sense since Christina has no real interest in ancient history and it has no moral bearing of any sort on her current life.
Lastly, I asked another friend by the name of John, age 18 at his house during a project preparation about Alexander the Great. He said that the name seemed familiar but he couldn’t pinpoint when he heard of it. This answered my second question as well since John couldn’t remember any facts about him. As for where he learned about him, John said it was probably in Junior High or High School. This again, makes sense since history is not his focus of study.
The image below is what came to mind whenever I asked the three of them about Alexander the Great. To them, he was a nobody who at the very least seemed to have some degree of strength when he lived.
This image is reminiscent of art class with Professor Simon in its tone. Some of the works we’ve seen in that class radiate feelings of somberness or heroism and this illustration fits the latter. The chafing sand, heavy equipment and the foreboding sense of bloodshed make this image remind me of some of the broken down sculptures I’ve seen in art class so far.
All of these answers were just about what I expected since Alexander the Great is not a central figure in any of their lives and there’s no concrete reason for any of them to have any intricate or even general knowledge of a long fallen king. None of them knew the intricacies of Alexander the Great’s life or what kind of person he was. Tommy at the very least knew for sure that he was the king of Macedonia at some point but that was all he could recall. This is completely relatable to my experience in learning about Alexander the Great since his name was completely foreign to me prior to this class. For instance, I didn’t even know that he was considered strong in any sense of the word but the quote of “Alexander became learned in every matter and trained himself so well.” in Alexander Romance  made me quite aware of his outward character and the lengths he went to in order to preserve his own honor as well of that of his city. This serves as a profound reminder of who Alexander was since someone as ignorant as me could’ve just viewed him as some unremarkable, pathetic fallen king as anyone who fails to leave hopeful marks on us are. However, with all that said, the importance of Alexander of the Great can only extend so far and the brief interviews that I had sealed that deal. Yes, his life was significant once but his lack of presence in everyday life and moral thought only leaves him as remarkable to those studying his era of time. The sands of his time have long since fallen for him and dwelling on them can only breed feelings of baggage and irrelevance if looked at through a non-historical lens.
Bailey Seemangal, Team 5 Hephaestus