Alexander: The Making of a God (2024) s01e01 Episode Script

The Boy King

[dramatic music playing]
[wind blowing]
[wind intensifies]
A war is coming.
A battle so fierce,
so apocalyptic,
it will split the world in two.
[man] Charge!
- [horses neigh]
- [men shout]
[woman] Ripped apart
by the ferocious rivalry
between two men.
Alexander the Great
and Darius, king of kings.
Two bitter enemies
worlds apart,
but both sides of the same coin.
A young Macedonian prince
- [crowd cheering]
- [woman] fighting for country and glory
and a Persian king determined to defend
the greatest empire on Earth.
Locked in a war of wills
that will reshape the world
- [men shouting]
- [woman] in fire
- [men shout]
- [horses neigh]
[woman] and in blood.
But who will be victorious?
Who will prevail?
[dramatic music intensifies]
[soldiers shouting]
[man cries in pain]
[cries in pain]
[grunts in effort]
[music wanes]
Only the gods can decide.
[music ends, echoes]
Alexander just grips the imagination.
He is someone who is
this shining moment of history.
Alexander was
the greatest military mind of all time,
and yet at the same time,
he was a poet, philosopher.
He was a scientist, he was an inventor,
and he was a builder of empire.
So it's no wonder that after 2,000 years,
we are still obsessed with him.
- [muezzin call echoes]
- [cars honking]
[Salima] Alexander founded Alexandria,
and this became
one of the greatest cities in the world.
And now Dr. Pepi Papakosta
is actually uncovering
the remains of Alexander's great city.
[woman] Oh my God.
[chuckles] This is an architectural bar.
This is very important.
It's a new surprise.
Every day, we have a surprise.
It's a very good gift for us.
[Calliope] By excavating in
this great city,
I feel myself closer to my hero
because in Alexandria,
Alexander is alive.
He's everywhere.
[Salima] Dr. Pepi has dedicated
almost two decades of her life
in search of ancient Alexandria.
And so she has been digging down
through the different layers
in an effort to find this.
[Calliope] We started
the excavation here long ago
by a small trench,
and now we have uncovered
thousands of square meters.
All by hand.
[woman] I am an archaeologist,
and I'm working with Miss Papakosta.
And I'm very proud to be
one of the members of the team.
[Riham] I am working here
in the excavation since 2007.
You can say it's my life.
[Calliope] Every day of work
gives us more objects,
more evidence about Alexander.
We have a lot of impressive findings,
a lot of important discoveries.
But the most beautiful and interesting
of all we have unearthed here
is a unique marble statue of Alexander.
[man speaks Greek, laughs]
[exclaims in Greek]
[Calliope] It was like a miracle.
[people exclaiming in excitement]
[Lloyd] People are still
looking for any traces
they can find of the real man himself.
[man speaking Greek]
[Lloyd] They're looking for his statues,
his inscriptions,
his coins.
[Calliope] You found it.
It's important to remember
that the Alexander the Great
at the end of the story,
the icon, is far from being
the Alexander we have at the beginning.
[Lloyd] We first encounter him
about 336 BC.
A year before that,
he has gone into voluntary exile
into a place called Illyria.
- [swords clash]
- [men grunt]
[Lloyd] He's a 20-year-old prince
who has fled his father's kingdom.
- [swords clash]
- [men grunt]
- [swords clank]
- [man grunts]
This is play. Yeah, Alex?
[Lloyd] And I think
what he's trying to do in this place
is to find out
what's his role in this world.
- [Alexander grunts]
- [swords clink]
[both grunting]
- [Alexander grunts]
- Histe!
[Alexander grunts]
[both grunt]
- [Alexander grunts]
- Get back!
- [Alexander grunts]
- [man moans]
[coughs, spits]
- [Alexander charges]
- [man grunts]
- [man] Histe, Alex!
- [Alexander pants]
I said stop!
[both breathing heavily]
I'm sorry.
[both breathing heavily]
I'm sorry.
It's okay.
It wasn't me you were fighting.
It was your father, wasn't it?
[grunts in effort]
Hey, wasn't it?
I thought this was play?
So can we just play?
[Salima] Alexander grew up
with two close companions.
And one of these, Hephaestion,
really was not just a cherished companion,
but perhaps his greatest love.
[dramatic music playing]
[birds chirping]
[Lloyd] Same-sex relationships were quite
the norm throughout the Greek world.
The Greeks did not have
a word for homosexuality
or to be gay.
It just wasn't in
their vocabulary whatsoever.
There was just being sexual.
Alex, are you sure
about going home after all this time?
I have to face my father at some point.
Besides, you'll be by my side, right?
Till the bitter end.
If we're seeing the king,
I suggest doing it with clothes on, no?
Come on.
[woman] Ptolemy was
a very close confidant of Alexander
and, at this time,
Alexander has a cadre of companions
that have been in the royal court,
and those two friends seem
to have been Hephaestion and Ptolemy,
both of whom stay with him
and maintain that relationship
over the course of his campaigns.
[dramatic music playing]
Alexander's year in exile ends in 336 BCE
when he receives
a royal summons from his dad
to return to the Macedonian capital
at Aegae to attend a royal wedding.
[Lloyd] The wedding is between
Philip's daughter, Alexander's sister,
and one of the neighboring warlords.
This was a typical policy of Philip's,
to marry off individuals
to powerful men on his borders.
[Lloyd] Basically, so that he could
strengthen the alliance
that he was trying to build up
for a war with Persia.
[music intensifies]
[music fades]
So formal, agapi mou.
I mean mamá.
Illyria has not been kind
to your complexion,
but still as handsome as ever.
Welcome home, my love.
[Alexander] Hardly a triumphant return.
It is simply a precaution
until we restore our status at court.
I think my father clarified my status
last time we spoke.
All will be made right soon enough.
You shall see.
Besides, doesn't everyone love a wedding?
Now, quickly. Come with me.
[Lloyd] Alexander's mother, Olympias,
she's one of the great
movers and shakers of history.
She was born a foreign princess.
She was one
of the seven wives of Philip II,
but she held supreme status over
all the other women of the court
because early on in the marriage,
she'd given birth to the presumed heir
to the throne, Alexander himself.
And suddenly, years later,
she finds herself almost unwanted
when Philip, going through
a kind of classic midlife-crisis thing,
finds for himself a young bride,
marries her,
this Macedonian princess,
and there's every possibility, of course,
that this girl will give him
heirs to the throne, boys.
And Olympias will be made redundant,
Alexander will be pushed out.
[crowd murmuring]
[Lloyd] So there's a great tension
in the air already,
and it all comes to a head,
as it always does,
at the wedding reception.
I didn't realize this wedding would have
such fascinating entertainment.
Who do you mean?
The spurned queen and her poor exiled son.
Why did you bother sending for me?
[Olympias] Although, I didn't.
He did.
[man] The king.
My father?
Mamá, what's really going on here?
[Salima] Alexander had fled
the Macedonian court a year ago
because his father Philip
had tried to kill him.
There was a huge banquet
going on in Macedon,
and, of course, as the evening progressed,
everyone was getting more and more drunk.
And in the drunkenness,
General Attalus basically insulted
Alexander by saying,
"You're a bastard. You're not
the rightful heir to the throne,"
and Alexander was furious.
And Philip, his father, instead of saying
anything in Alexander's defense said,
"Ooh, you've insulted my best friend,"
and basically tried to kill Alexander.
Alexander left the court,
not so much, probably,
that he was in fear of his life,
but more because his father
had not defended him.
[crowd murmuring]
Ah, Alexander. You haven't been avoiding
your father, have you?
Your king.
Well, that depends.
Are you going to embrace me or kill me?
A year in the wilderness
and you're still smarting.
You humiliated me.
- [Philip] Attalus was only drunk.
- But you sided with him.
[Philip] It was horseplay, that's all.
blood is thicker than water.
But not wine in your case?
What's going on?
Does Alexander need me?
You know, Hephaestion,
you mother him more than I do.
Attalus may be one of my finest generals,
but you are my son, and that matters.
Our man seems tense.
He's fine, Ptol.
He just needs to remember who he is.
Or drink until he forgets.
- Always works for me.
- [scoffs]
[Philip] If I am to take on the old enemy,
I want you with me.
I'd be honored to fight alongside you
like we used to.
When do we leave for Persia?
Let's talk of war later.
[pats Alexander on his back]
Another important part
of this wedding is the reconciliation
between Philip and Alexander.
Uh, the rest of the Greek world
would've been aware of the fact
that there had been a break
between these two men,
and so Philip could use this wedding
as an opportunity to show
that his relationship with his son
and the potential heir of Macedon
was firm and solid
and there was nothing
that the rest of the Greek states
could take advantage of.
[dramatic majestic music starting]
[Philip] Silence.
- [crowd quiets]
- [music fades]
Thank you, but my role today
is merely ornamental,
to bless this happy union.
[Philip] And may you both
find the happiness I have
with my beautiful wife, Eurydice.
- [man] Hear!
- [crowd cheering]
[crowd applauding]
[Philip] But it is also a time
to reinforce the ties that bind us all.
- Are we a happy family once more?
- [Philip] Like our couple here
I'm to join him in a war
against the Persian Empire.
- [Philip] bound together in
- To be by his side.
- [Philip]tolerance, and above all
- Well, that is a surprise.
[Philip] loyalty.
Let us honor the bride and groom
and pray for a son!
- [cries in agony]
- No!
[crowd screams]
[crowd clamoring]
Lock those doors. Nobody leaves!
Philip was murdered by Pausanias,
who was a member
of his very trusted bodyguard,
but we don't know who paid Pausanias
to take on this gruesome task.
[Ptolemy] Nobody leaves!
- [man] Let us through!
- That's an order!
It's a wonderful
Agatha Christie mystery, really,
because you've got all these contenders
for it. Olympias, Alexander,
dozens of other Macedonian generals
who could have stepped in at any time.
Now is the moment.
Heph, retrieve my father's sword
and crown now.
[Lloyd] But I see Olympias's hand,
the shadow of it at least,
behind Philip's assassination.
[dramatic music playing]
I said, silence!
[music fades]
We are under attack.
Our king
my father, lies dead.
And the hand of Persia is to blame.
But I promise you in blood and fear,
they will pay for this evil.
- [man 1] Yeah!
- [crowd] Yeah!
And our new king will free us.
[crowd] Yeah!
[Hephaestion] Free us
from Persian tyranny.
All hail Alexander, King of Macedon!
[Hephaestion and crowd] Alexander!
Alexander! Alexander!
[crowd continues to cheer]
One thing Alexander does in
the immediate aftermath of Philip's death
is lay the blame, or at least involvement
in it, at the door of the Persians.
It's really important to frame
what an ambitious choice this was.
The Persian Empire was massive.
It was the largest empire
the world had yet known.
And Macedonia was
this really small, little kingdom
in the northern part
of what is now modern Greece.
And now, all of a sudden,
they're planning to take on
a well-ordered, well-structured,
incredibly powerful, well-financed empire.
[Jennifer] It was something like
two million square miles,
and it housed
between 50 to 150 million people,
which, at that time,
was almost 50% of the world's population.
The Persian Empire was enormous,
and in order to govern it, it was broken
into basically provinces called satrapies,
each one headed by a satrap.
The Persians had all
of their funds flooding into Babylon,
which is where they ran their empire from.
And so Babylon was really, basically,
the large bank for the Persian Empire.
[Lloyd] Babylon was
the hub of civilization.
It was the center
of world culture at the time.
It was a theological center,
a center of learning,
of astronomy, um, of the arts.
It was, without doubt,
the jewel in the Persian crown.
And it was here in a vast palace
that Darius III
and his queen, Stateira, held court.
It's stunning, my love.
Restoring the temple would not only be
a fitting tribute to your reign,
but the perfect centerpiece for Babylon.
Indeed, the world.
Wouldn't you agree, Governor?
It will be my city's jewel
for all its people, my queen.
Generations to come.
And, if it pleases you,
my king, the building can commence
as soon as funding is in place.
We have the money, Mazaeus.
It arrived from Egypt yesterday.
The Egyptian satrap
is paying you an honor.
Then why can't he pay his taxes
like normal people in gold bars?
[Salima] The most important satrapy
was, in fact, Egypt.
Egypt did not only
produce agricultural wealth,
but it was also a source of gold.
And this gold was then taken
by the Persians to Babylon,
and there, it was used to fund
the might of the Persian Empire.
The scarab is their hallowed symbol
of transformation.
- It's an insect that eats dung.
- And you should respect it anyway.
And the satrap too.
If you want to keep the gold flowing,
it's time you granted him an audience.
[Darius] Stateira, please.
The gold flows for one reason.
- Persia's total dominance.
- [scoffs]
[object smashes]
[Lloyd] Darius came to power
just at the moment
Philip was assassinated.
Oh. I'm sure it's nothing.
What is broken can be remade, yes?
[Lloyd] It's almost as though fate
is waiting to bring
Darius and Alexander together
because, really,
they both mount the throne
within weeks, months of each other.
At that point, the world holds its breath
to think about, "Okay. What's the outcome
gonna be of these two new, young powers?"
Any change in royal regime
involves violence,
and this is because
the new ruler has to eliminate
any real or perceived threats
to their right to be on that throne.
In the case of Alexander,
his mom may have gotten involved as well.
[dramatic music playing]
Philip has a daughter, a young daughter,
with Eurydice, named Europa,
and even after Philip's death, they seem
to have been a great threat to Olympias.
And we're told by one of our sources
that Olympias drags the young baby
over a bronze vessel filled with fire,
and after having seen this horrible event
occur to her daughter,
Eurydice kills herself.
Whether her death was self-inflicted
or came from an external source,
that we don't know.
But it did remove
a very real issue for Alexander.
[Olympias] Well, she wasn't bestowed
with the gift of the mind,
but she certainly was
a sight for feasting eyes.
What have you done?
Secured that crown in your hand.
She held far too much power at court
and threatened your succession
when you have always been
the rightful heir.
Oh, we're being formal again, are we?
She ended her life
with her very own hand, agapi mou.
I did nothing.
This only makes my reign
look illegitimate.
- [Olympias] Nonsense.
- They looked at me like I was a sham.
Then prove to them you are not.
Alex, we need
We need to go.
No more killing, you understand?
This does not help.
[Lloyd] Alexander inherits the throne
at the age of about 20 via a bloodbath.
And what's interesting is, if we cast
our eye over to the east in Persia,
we see that Darius III
or Darius or Darayavayush,
it's all the same name,
he has also inherited a throne
via murder and mayhem too.
He comes at a time when two
of his predecessors have been poisoned.
It's not a good look.
It's not a good look for the dynasty.
It's not a good look for stability.
- [men shouting]
- [horses neigh]
[man] On me! On me!
[horse neighs]
[horse snorts, neighs]
- [man grunts]
- [horse neighs]
- [man 1] Hit me!
- [man 2] Hyah! Go! Now!
[man 3] Come on!
[man 2] On me! On me!
[man 1] Keep up!
[shouting continues]
[man] Darius wasn't
from the royal noble line.
He was able to really achieve legitimacy
by marrying a noble Persian woman,
and that is Stateira,
who has the pedigree of royalty.
General Memnon.
Through this marriage, it enabled him
to be considered as
the legitimate king of the Persian Empire.
[Memnon] My king.
Surely you're not going
to play wearing that.
- [Stateira] My husband's right.
- Stateira.
That outfit will not help your game.
Nor is taunting your fellow players.
I have news from Macedon.
You remember King Philip?
[Darius] Oh, yes. Of course.
Is he still asking for my painful death?
No, not anymore.
He was assassinated by his own bodyguard.
- [Stateira scoffs]
- Those barbarians.
His son, Alexander,
all of 20 years old, succeeds him.
And now a boy king?
Well, they never learn either.
Although General.
Do they already have troops on our soil?
Two divisions
out near Magnesia in the west.
And who is commanding them?
[Memnon] Generals Parmenion and Attalus.
Although we hear news that the new king
had Attalus's niece murdered.
Oh dear. Can't imagine
that will improve his morale.
[Darius] No. Not at all.
We will take advantage.
General, assemble your mercenaries
and attack immediately.
- Sir.
- [Darius] We can purge them.
Once and for all.
Of course, it's important to realize
that Darius himself
doesn't take part in this campaign,
and that's because I think
he just sees it as a skirmish
on the western front of the empire.
It's not really anything
to take notice of.
He dispatches his very trusted
right-hand man, General Memnon,
and Darius thinks it'll all end there.
So Memnon marches his army through
Mesopotamia, right the way across Anatolia
to the far west
of the empire in Asia Minor,
and there they clash
with the Macedonian forces,
led by two of Alexander's generals,
Parmenion and Attalus.
And Alexander's nowhere to be seen.
That's because he's actually
still back in Macedon,
trying to quell the aftermath
of the assassination of Philip.
You saw the letter
from Attalus and Parmenion.
It was slaughter.
Only because you were busy here
restoring order to our lands.
Yes, but now
the remaining troops are in full retreat,
and the generals are awaiting my orders.
You said it yourself, mamá.
I need to prove myself.
And just perhaps, your destiny is bigger
than you could ever imagine.
But, yes, it is time to prove your worth.
This is a sacred place.
I was never allowed in here before,
so why now?
[Olympias] Because it's time
for the truth
about your real father.
[Lloyd] It was standard practice
across the whole of the ancient world
to use intoxicants,
hallucinogenics in religious practice.
[chants in Greek]
Because it was a way
in which you could lose yourself
and enter a state of being in which
you could receive dreams and omens,
which was a very important part
of the communication system
with the spirits of the dead,
your ancestors.
But also, if you were lucky,
with the gods themselves.
What is it?
- [man whispers]
- [eerie music playing]
- [thunder rolling]
- [wind blowing]
Look. Can you see it now?
[Alexander] That's Mount Olympus,
home to the gods.
It is time you know
your true identity, Alexander.
You are the son of Zeus.
[thunder cracking]
Do you believe me now?
Do you see? Whatever you endeavor,
however grand, you shall never fail.
So, go.
Lead your men where Philip never could.
Conquer Persia and beyond.
It is your destiny.
[thunder rolling]
[ethereal music playing]
- [men shouting battle cries]
- [horses running]
[music fades]
[Lloyd] I think throughout his life,
Olympias had drip-fed Alexander
the notion that he was the son of Zeus,
the most supreme of all the Greek gods.
And, you know, in Alexander's mind,
that's perfectly feasible.
As far as he was concerned,
like all Greeks and Macedonians,
the gods walked amongst men
and potentially, a man could become a god.
That stands in real stark contrast
to what's happening in Persia.
Darius III had no conception
of himself as a god.
No Persian king ever thought
of himself as a living deity.
They served the gods,
and the gods were not guaranteed
to support the king in everything he did.
- [Stateira] Hmm?
- Do the stars seem dimmer tonight?
What might that mean?
Usually, a change is coming.
[Stateira sighs]
[Lloyd] The Persians were
what we might call superstitious.
Night after night, Babylonian astrologers
would be scanning the skies
for omens from the heavens.
These were taken very, very seriously,
together with all sorts of other omnia.
The movement of birds, ants, and insects,
all of these kinds of things played on
the Persian mind for interpretation.
It was almost as though the gods
used the whole of creation
to send messages to their mortal subjects.
Are you worried about the model,
the piece that broke?
[Darius] Could that be a sign?
Oh, I would say definitely.
Of what?
An architect with slippery hands.
if you still have concerns, then
use that Macedonian general
to your advantage.
Attalus, yes?
He must hate that boy king.
We could make him an offer.
- [Stateira] Mmm
- Yes
[Stateira laughs]
[man grunting in effort]
[Carolyn] Attalus is in
a particularly awkward position.
He's stationed at the brink
of the Persian Empire,
ready to lead the Macedonian troops
and sort of carry out Philip's plans.
But who does he support now?
Does he support Alexander?
Is he receiving overtures
from the Persian Empire
who might see Attalus
as a weak link they can exploit?
He has to make a choice,
and the choice is gonna have
far-reaching consequences
for his own survival.
[Parmenion] We're looking at
over 4,000 souls lost.
Plus 1,000 wounded.
[man coughing in background]
Something to share, Attalus?
Nothing of note.
[Ali] So Darius reaches out to Attalus
as someone who he can basically bribe.
This is a tried-and-trusted method
of dealing with these recalcitrant Greeks.
How do you deal with them? Bribe them.
You know, keep them happy
by sowing division. Divide and conquer.
Standard operating practice for empires,
and the Persians were
extremely good at it.
It seems that our young royal majesty
is delayed.
Parmenion, can we be honest?
Do you really think he can lead our army?
It doesn't matter what I think,
old friend.
He's the king.
Indeed, he is.
Loyalty is what Philip
would have expected, no?
Yes, of course.
[Lloyd] Attalus is
at an interesting point in life.
He had risen, of course,
under Philip II as his right-hand man,
trusted and loyal to him.
Um, he'd married off his niece to Philip,
and, of course,
both of those had died in this bloodbath.
So now, Attalus is faced with Alexander,
and there's no love lost
between them at all.
Alexander had gone into exile
because of Attalus's machinations,
and here they stand, kind of having
a face-off. What's going to happen next?
Well, the truth is Attalus has control
of the Macedonian army,
and success is going
to be dependent on him.
- Yes, good boy, Bucephalus.
- [horse nickers]
[Lloyd] So, Alexander is in
a pretty precarious position.
We have a long journey ahead of us,
old friend.
- [horse 2 neighs]
- [man] Get ready to mount.
So, you have word from the front.
A message from Attalus?
[Alexander] I did.
He sent me a letter
he'd received from King Darius.
It contained a bribe.
The throne of Macedon
in exchange for his obedience.
[Hephaestion] And he sent it to you?
Along with a letter rejecting it,
confirming his loyalty to me and Macedon.
That shows you're winning the men over.
Right? If Attalus stays loyal,
so does his army.
That's the problem.
He has that power over me
and a reason to use it.
- [horse neighs]
- Hey, hey
[softly] Hey, good boy.
[Lloyd] What we see here
is the emergence of Alexander,
a consummate politician.
And also the origins,
I think,
of Alexander the tyrant,
who is ruthless against any opposition.
Fine. What are you going to do?
What have you done?
[dramatic music playing]
[coin turning]
And so the first lines on a new map
are sketched in blood.
[man] No!
[woman] But not yet the blood of enemies.
I have been true to our king! I swear it!
To the gods that watch us!
- High treason.
- [Attalus] No!
Collusion with the enemy.
Only one punishment
befits this Persian puppet.
[Attalus] No! No!
By order of Alexander
[breathes heavily]
[Attalus whimpers]
[Attalus groans]
[woman] And so the first steps are taken
towards an epic duel.
[dramatic music playing]
[commander] Cavalry, forward!
[commander] Battalions! On me!
Two men
worlds apart in their qualities
and temperament.
Two bitter enemies.
[music wanes]
[woman] A world away from each other
- [man shouting orders]
- [soldiers chanting]
but not for long.
[murmuring inaudibly]
[Darius] News of Attalus defecting?
Will Macedon be ours?
Attalus is dead.
And the boy king?
He's coming.
[dramatic music intensifies]
[dramatic music playing]
[music fades]
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