This 17th-century tapestry, woven by an unknown artist, re-creates a painting produced by Charles Le Brun (c. 1619-1690) that depicted the historical event of Alexander the Great (r. 336-323 BCE) meeting with the captured family of the Persian ruler, Darius III. To set the scene, the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE had just occurred, in which Alexander soundly defeated Darius III and his assembled forces. As the Persian ruler was chased off the battlefield, he had to leave behind his camp, as well as anything and anyone that had been in it at the time of the battle. Unfortunately for the defeated Persian king, he had left many of his loved ones in that camp, including his mother, wife and children, and they were subsequently captured by Alexander the Great. Arrian (c. 90-173+), a Roman biographer of Alexander, wrote, “Darius’ headquarters were stormed and captured; his mother was taken, together with his wife (who was also his sister) and his infant son; in addition to these, two of his daughters fell into Alexander’s hands with a few noble Persian ladies who were in attendance upon them” (Anabasis Alexandri, Book 2, chapter 12). When Alexander the Great became aware that he had captured Darius’ family, the first thing that he did was to send one of his companions to reassure the captives that Darius was still alive. On another day, he visited the captured Persian royals in person and made sure that they were kept safe. This meeting between Alexander the Great and the captive Persian royals is what inspired Charles Le Brun’s painting, which, in turn, was the model for the tapestry featured above. Darius’ family remained with Alexander the Great until around 331 BCE, when he left them behind in the city of Susa.
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).