This painting, by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Pittoni (c. 1687-1767), was inspired by accounts of Alexander the Great’s entrance into Babylon. The Macedonian conqueror visited the famous city twice. The first occasion was in 331 BCE, while Alexander was campaigning against Darius III of Persia (who would be murdered by his own followers the next year). Alexander the Great and his warriors were warmly welcomed into the city of Babylon, as the Babylonians disliked Persian rule and were happy to have Alexander overthrow the Achaemenid Empire to which Darius III belonged. Ancient biographers of Alexander, such as Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE) and Arrian (c. 90-173 CE), recorded similar stories about Alexander’s entrance into Babylon—that Alexander’s army was met with cheers, celebration, and general wining and dining with the best food and drink that the city had to offer. Diodorus Siculus described the scene, writing that Alexander “arrived with his whole army at Babylon. Here the people received him gladly, and furnishing them billets feasted the Macedonians lavishly. Alexander refreshed his army from its previous labours and remained more than thirty days in the city because food was plentiful and the population friendly” (Library of History, 17.64). Years later, Alexander the Great would come back to Babylon during his return trip from campaigning in the borderlands of India. It was during this second visit to Babylon, in 323 BCE, that Alexander the Great mysteriously became ill and died.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.
- The Library of History, by Diodorus Siculus, edited by Giles Laurén (Sophron Editor, 2014).