The Conspiracies involved in the Philotas Affair

Essay by vadasUniversity, Bachelor's June 2004

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'Then the persons who had reported the affair came forward, with various irrefutable proofs of his own guilt and that of his fellow-conspirators, of which the most damning was that he had admitted knowledge of a plot against Alexander but had said nothing about it.'

-Arrian 3.26.2 (pg 191)

Explain why Arrian comes to this conclusion about Philotas' 'conspiracy', and assess the relative value of the source tradition for the episode.

Arrian's narrative leaves no question of Philotas' guilt. Introducing the topic with the key words 'It was here, too, that Alexander learned of Philotas' plot against his life'1 Arrian states quite bluntly, without any deliberation, that Philotas was guilty and therefore dealt with quite reasonably. In comparison our other sources seem to describe a very different affair. The trial, so creatively portrayed by Curtius2, the events surrounding Philotas' torture elaborately described by Curtius3 and Plutarch4, even the basic conspiracy Philotas is accused of organizing is conspicuously absent in Arrian's account.

Unfortunately our sources, much like many of their modern counter-parts, seem to have too many ulterior motives to deal with this incident circumspectly.

Arrian begins by stating, 'Ptolemy's account of what now occurred is this: Philotas was brought before the Macedonians to stand his trial; Alexander made his accusations in no uncertain terms, and Philotas answered the charge...'5 Arrian does not mention any sense of controversy surrounding this affair but instead quite simply and callously conveys the details of Philotas' guilt followed by his execution. He also makes only slight mention of Parmenion's assassination explaining quite efficiently that his death was necessary as he was a danger to Alexander because he was a man of 'immense prestige'6. In comparison with the other sources Arrian provides only a brief, possibly 'official', version of events.7 Although not necessarily...