A monologue from the dialogues of Lucian
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted with the author’s permission. All inquiries should be directed to the author at: [email protected]
HANNIBAL: I think we can all agree that the highest praise is due to those who have fought their way to greatness from obscurity—who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps—clothed themselves in power, and proven themselves worthy of that authority. I entered Spain with only a handful of men, fought bravely, proved myself a leader, and eventually—as a result of my exploits—was honored with the supreme command. I conquered the Celtiberians, subdued Western Gaul, crossed the Alps, overran the valley of the Po, sacked town after town, made myself master of the plains, approached the bulwarks of the capital, and in one day slew such a host that their finger-rings were measured by bushels, and the rivers were bridged by their bodies. Unlike Alexander here, I never pretended to be a god, never related visions of my mother—I made no secret of the fact that I was mere flesh and blood. My rivals were the most capable generals in the world, commanding the best soldiers in the world. I never warred with Medes or Assyrians, who fly before they are pursued and yield the victory to anyone with the courage to take it. Alexander, on the other hand, in increasing and extending the dominion he inherited from his father, was merely following the path set out for him by Fortune. This “fabled conqueror” no sooner crushed his puny adversaries in the victories of Issus and Arbela, than he forsook the traditions of his country and lived the life of a Persian, accepting the worship of his subjects, handing his friends over to the executioner, or even assassinating them at his own table! I always respected the freedom of my country—never attempted to subjugate her for my own personal glory. I answered when she called. And when the enemy with their huge armament invaded Libya, I laid aside the privileges of my office and submitted to my sentence without a murmur. Yet Alexander would call me a barbarian because I’m unskilled in Greek culture—because I couldn’t recite Homer. I admit, I never enjoyed the advantages of Aristotle’s instruction like he did. I had to make due with such qualities as were mine by nature. And it is on these grounds that I claim pre-eminence. I do not deny that my rival has all the luster that attaches to the wearing of a diadem, and I’ve been told that, for Macedonians, such things have charms. But I refuse to believe this constitutes a higher claim than the courage and genius of one who owed nothing to Fortune, and everything to his own resolution.