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There is a story about Alexander the Great visiting Jerusalem. This story is not supported by other sources, as far as I know, and so is probably not literally true (it may well reflect some interaction short of a visit). I also recall reading (in an old Cambridge volume, I think) about a Greek city (possibly on the shores of the Black Sea) which had a legend about Alexander visiting it and reforming its laws - once again, the visit being practically impossible given what we know about Alexander's itinerary and schedule.

Are there other examples? I am asking about legends recorded in antiquity, not the numerous highly imaginative medieval stories about Alexander.

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Can you clarify your question? What are you really hoping to determine? –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 22 '13 at 19:46
@PieterGeerkens I think I have com e upon a curious parallel and am wondering if it's a pattern or not. –  Felix Goldberg Dec 22 '13 at 20:46
OK. That comment doesn't give me much to work with though does it? I think you will have to be less coy in order to let us focus appropriately. –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 22 '13 at 20:48
@PieterGeerkens Actually, there is no hidden agenda or ulterior motive. I've always thought that the way Josephus embellished the Jewish-Alexandrian dynamic was just part of the ancient tradition of Jewish apology (such as the pseudo-Aristaeus letter). But when I came across the other story, I began to wonder whether Josephus was not also following a Greek literary tradition of ascribing laws to Alexander. Not being a professional historian or classical phylologist, I am just speculating here, obviously. –  Felix Goldberg Dec 22 '13 at 21:15
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1 Answer

Jerusalem being the capital of a province of his empire, that he passed by at least twice going to and returning from Egypt, it seems most unlikely that Alexander didn't visit Jerusalem. He apparently went out of his way to visit the Siwa Oasis (where his god-hood was confirmed) after founding Alexandria.

Chapter Eight of Volume XI of Josephus describes the entry of Alexander into Jerusalem in somewhat fantastic terms, but there doesn't seem an obvious reason why this would be manufactured.

.... And when the Book of Daniel was showed him [Alexander] wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. ....

Felix Goldberg below raises good points about the veracity of Josephus' story above.


  1. Compared to visiting the Siwa Oasis - 10-14 days travel due south into the Libyan desert, don't get lost in that featureless waste or you die - a quick jaunt from Gaza to Jerusalem is nothing.
  2. Alexander was vain - he seems to go anywhere, and do anything, to have his divine destiny to overthrow the Persians reaffirmed. As evidence, note point (1) above.

Certainly the story by Josephus is fanciful, and undoubtedly exaggerated in its details; but I still see no reason to doubt it's core, given Alexander's demonstrated vanity for this sort of attention. Just a whisper in his ear that the Jews had a holy book in a great temple foretelling a Greek defeating the Persians, and I think he would have postponed even a battle to visit in person.

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I'm not sure what to do about this answer. While it is good to confute a wrong assumption the OP had, it still lacks any info about the actual question, i.e. if there are instances of cities pretending to be visited by Alexander. This would be very good as a partial answer, along the lines of "those cities claim to have been visited by Alexander, but they weren't; however he did actually visited Jerusalem, instead" –  Lohoris Dec 22 '13 at 18:54
@Lohoris: I hear you; however list questions are explicitly off-topic for the site, so the only portion of the question that seems to actually be on-topic, at this moment, is in regards to whether Alexander visited Jerusalem. –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 22 '13 at 18:59
Sure, but we shouldn't take that rule blindly. The purpose of disallowing list questions is for answers who risk becoming a huge unmanageble (hence unhelpful) list, while here likely it would be a "list" of just a few cities. If I asked you which nations were allied with UK during WWI would you consider it a list question? (disregarding the fact that it's trivial anyway) –  Lohoris Dec 22 '13 at 19:46
@Lohoris: It would be a list question, and might be less trivial than you think. It changed over the course of the war, so one must first determine which date is of interest. I certainly could not manufacture this list off the top of my head: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participants_in_World_War_II –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 22 '13 at 19:49
@Lohoris What is the wrong assumption in my question? –  Felix Goldberg Dec 22 '13 at 20:45
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