Perfection in Sleep: Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great



My hypothesis is formulated from modern sleep research: an equation of sleep, the thesis being that if an individual with a well ordered life, complete with absolute fulfillment of all physiological sleep requirements, will perform and excel in the mastery of skill, wisdom, decision making, adeptness, memory, achievement, along with physical prowess, strength, stamina, health—perfection in body, and such achieve perfect harmony with one’s destiny—making one’s mark on history.

Supposing this equation of sleep would reconcile awakened time’s needs altogether spiritually, mentally, and physically speaking, and that this reconciliation would account for an individual’s “hard-wired” DNA requirements, molecular circadian harmony, and full “tranches” of the observed sleep stages: I & II:  slow wave sleep (SWS) III, IV; and rapid-eye-movement (REM).It’s assumed that the equation would account for proportionate values to awakened physical and mental demands, celery growth and metabolism, and bodily immune system. Accordingly, such an equation might perfectly correlate to an individual’s health and achievement.

Of particular interest is the sleep habits of one of histories most dynamic individuals:  Alexander The Great, son of Philip of Macedon. The Roman historian Pultarch records an interesting biography of Alexander— almost 400 years after his death. Josephus, the Jewish historian, contributes a fascinating story about concentric dreams of Alexander The Great and the Jewish high priest. These excerpts from ancient pens feature extraordinary  dimensions of dreams, sleep, and interpretations that our contemporary society cannot appreciate or regard without skepticism.

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Regarding his father, Philip in Samothrace of Macedon and his mother Olympias, Plutarch writes: “The night before the consummation of their marriage, she dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body, which kindled a great fire, whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about , and then were extinguished. And Philip, some time after he was married, dreamt that he had sealed up his wife’s body with a seal, whose impression, as he fancied, was the figure of a lion. Some of the diners interpreted this as a warning to Philip to look narrowly to his wife: but Aristander of Telemessus, considering how unusual it was to seal up anything that was empty, assured him the meaning of the dream was that the queen was with child of a boy, who would one day prove as stout and courageous as a lion. Once, moreover, a serpent was found lying by Olympias as she slept, which more than anything else it was said, abated Philip’s passion for her, and whether he feared her as an enchantress, or thought she had some commerce with some god, and so looked on himself as excluded, he was ever less fond of her conversation.”

Alexander was born on the sixth of Hecatombaeon, the month the Macedonians call Lous,the same day the Temple of Diana in Ephesus was burnt. Tutored by Aristotle with a “violent passion for learning” Alexander was a “naturally great lover of learning and reading; and Onesicrutus informs us that he had constantly laid Homer’s Illiad, according to the copy corrected by Aristotle, called the casket copy, with his dagger under his pillow, declaring that he esteemed it a portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge.”

“He was wont to say that sleep and the act of generation chiefly made him sensible that he was mortal;as much to say, that weariness and pleasure proceed both from the same frailty and imbecility of human nature.”

“He never cared to dine till it was pretty late and beginning to be dark, and was wonderfully circumspect at meals that every one who sat with him should be served alike with no proper attention; and his love of talking…made him delight to sit long at his wine. After such an entertainment, he was wont to bathe, and then perhaps he was to sleep till noon, and sometimes all day long.”

Plutarch records an astounding story regarding the founding of Alexandria: “For when he was master of Egypt, designing to settle a colony of Grecians there, he resolved to build a large a populous city, and give it his own name. In order to which, after he had measured and staked out the ground with the advice of his best architects, he chanced one night in his sleep t see a wonderful vision: a grey-headed old man, of venerable aspect, appeared to stand before him, and pronounce these verses—

An island lies, where loud the billows roar,

Pharos they call it, on the Egyptian shore.

Alexander upon this immediately rose up and went to Pharos, which, at that time, was an island lying a little above the Canobic mouth of the Nile…and laid out the lines”

“Before the great battle with Darius at Gaugamela in the month Boedrominion, at the beginning of the feast of Mysteries, there was an eclipse of the moon, the eleventh night after which, the two armies being now in view of one another, Darius kept his men in arms, and by torchlight took a general review of them. But Alexander, while his soldiers slept, spent the night before his tent with his diviner, Aristander, performing mysterious ceremony and sacrificing to the god Fear.”

Alexander’s commanders came to him with suggestions to attack the enemy armies during the night—but Alexander refused saying ,“I will not steal the victory.”

“After they were gone from him with this answer, he laid himself down in his tent and slept the rest of the night more soundly than was usual with him, to the astonishment of the commanders, who came to him early in the morning, and were fain themselves to give the order that the soldiers should breakfast. But at last, time not giving them leave to wait longer, Parmenio went to his bedside, and called him twice or thrice by his name, till he waked him, and asked him how it was possible, when he was to fight the most important battle of all, he could sleep so soundly as if he were already victorious.” 

“And are we not so, indeed,” replied Alexander, smiling, “since we are at last relieved from the trouble of wandering in pursuit of Darius through a wide and wasted country, hoping in vain that he would fight us.”

“Those who labour sleep more sweetly and soundly than those that are labored for.”