All right, this certain canard has had all that is feathers traction off numerous times. I insurance claim no originality. Civilization explain the over and also over on blogs. Every twenty seconds, someone asks around it, and the explainers go to work.

You are watching: For there were no more worlds

The “quote” goes like this:

“Alexander” is, that course, Alexander the Great, king the Macedon in the 4th century BC. A legend in his own time, et cetera, he died in his early thirties, et cetera, having won many battles. The quote is poetic. It touch a template dear to everyone’s heart: the Tears that the Monster. However! native time to time, some bright human is forced by the legislations of physics to ask: “In what ancient text does the passage appear?” Answer: it shows up nowhere.

Remember dice Hard? ns don’t. I saw it right about the time it come out, and all ns remember is Bruce Willis, barefoot, running through damaged glass. That, for me, to be a an allegory for watching the movie. Fans of the film, however, will certainly recall the dapper German villain, Hans Gruber, smacking his stunner lips and also gloating in ~ some personal victory. He puts his on handle together and also says in facetiously catastrophic tones (clearly quoting something from High society and referring v cozy irony to himself): “And Alexander wept, seeing together he had actually no an ext worlds come conquer.” climate he smiles with evil-genius self-satisfaction and says: “Benefits of a classical education.”

Yeah. Except that quote would never ever come up in the paper definition of a timeless education, unless the instructor taken place to be taking a jolly detour, sleep in the air, to assault a piece of legendary crap the no college student of his must ever before traffic in. And even I, appropriate now, have actually been required to attach weights to my very own nose to prevent its springing upward. (I can’t avoid its sniffing though. There it goes again: sniff.)

A couple of facts. The monkeys who wrote Die tough did not develop that quote. (And allow me tell ya something: the world who create the script for activity movies are literally forbidden to design anything. Their mandate is come regift whatever is well-known to have functioned in the past. Much more on this one more day.) The quote, i was saying, is an extremely old. It come up in particular classic English poems indigenous the ten century. For example, this is Edmund Waller addressing Oliver Cromwell in 1655:

When for much more worlds the Macedonian cried,He wist not Thetis in her lap did hideAnother yet, a world reserved because that youTo do more great than the he did subdue …

There that is. And also a rapid Google find turned up an even earlier item, printed in middle ages Canada (1628, i mean).

But—and here’s whereby it gets good—but, nobody appears to have located any type of citation that the quote earlier than 1628. Mine homely contribution to this fuss is mine hypothesis as to why instances of the quote room unlikely to rotate up before 1579.

The quote is a hash of three passages in Plutarch, first century CE. 2 of the passages to be made available to English speaker (most especially Shakespeare) in 1579, in the translate in by cutting board North. The various other passage has a more complex history. Let’s actually start with the tricky one.

It is reported that King Alexander the Great, hearing Anaxarchus the theorist discoursing and also maintaining this position: the there were civilizations innumerable: fell a-weeping: and also when his friends and familiars around him inquiry what the ailed. Have actually I not (quoth he) an excellent cause to weep, that being as there space an infinite number of worlds, i am not yet the mr of one?

That’s not from Plutarch’s Life that Alexander. It’s indigenous Plutarch’s essays, usually dubbed the Moralia. The essay in particular is dubbed “On Tranquillity the Mind.” The translation over is that of Philemon Holland, 1603. This was no the first translation of that essay right into English, however it might as well have been. The others every sank prefer stones; nobody ever heard of ’em. Look at this fairly nicer variation by everybody’s favorite courtier, Sir cutting board Wyatt:

Alexander, whan that herde Anaxarchus argue that there to be infynite worldes, it is said that that wept. And also whan his frendes asked hym what thing had actually happened the to it is in wept for: “Is it nat to it is in wept for,” quod he, “syns they say there be infynite worldes, and we are nat yet lorde the one?”

The over was done in 1527 at the inquiry (sort of; she actually asked for a various book) that Catherine of Aragon. If you know who that is.


At any type of rate, the i is decision clear in both cases: Alexander is not weeping in sorrow that there are no an ext throats to cut. This is no a snapshot of a man at the end of a career of human being conquest; he’s at the beginning. “Look at every these throats—and i haven’t even reduced one!”

For as soon as they brought him <= Alexander, still a boy> newes that his father had taken some renowned city, or had won some an excellent battell, he was nothing happy to listen it, yet would say come his playfellowes: Sirs, my dad will have actually all, ns shall have nothing left me to dominate with you, the shall be ought worth. Because that he delighting no in pleasure nor riches, however only in valliantnes and honor, thought, the the higher conquests and realmes his father need to leave him, the lesse he should need to do because that himselfe. And also therfore, seing that his fathers dominions and also Empire raised dayly an ext and more, perceiving all occasion taken from that to do any good attempt: he preferred no wealth nor pleasure yet warres and also battells, and also aspired come a signory, whereby he might win honor.

Now that’s from Plutarch’s Life that Alexander. No tears, yet definitely the man Gruber had in mind, the Godzilla he’d heard around in German day camp. This is a prince who desires to conquer for the services of conquering; that doesn’t treatment whether Macedon comes out on peak or not, other than insofar together it’s compatible through his personal glory. (You could at least imagine this guy crying, if there to be no more worlds come conquer.)

Our last passage is indigenous Plutarch’s Life that Julius Cæsar.

An other time also when he remained in Spayne, reading the background of Alexanders actes, as soon as he had actually red it, he was sorrowfull a great while after, and also then burst the end in weeping. His frends see that, marveled what should be the cause of his sorow. The aunswered them, Doe ye no thinke sayd he, that i have good cause to it is in heavie, as soon as king Alexander gift no older 보다 my selfe is now, had in old time wonne so many nations and also contries: and that i hitherunto have done naught worthy of mine selfe?

Tears! Indeed, the pretty lot the same thing as Exhibit 1.

Exhibits 2 and also 3 room translations by cutting board North, 1579. This is my copy the the 1895 reprint:


Like all Elizabethan translations, it seems pretty clotted and also inelegant to me, yet y’know, Shakespeare is Shakespeare, and what was an excellent enough for him, et cetera. Indeed, the does quote north verbatim in places, just like he did through Florio’s Montaigne.

But you see what’s continue here. I’m setting out on the table every the ingredients because that Gruber’s quote. In no instance does Alexander weep since he’s accidentally put himself out of organization by making himself king of the world. And it provides sense the he would not weep around such, since in point of truth he did no take over the world. He access time a wall surface in India, see. His males are tired, the flow is deep, he can’t swim. Throughout the river: some substantial Indian army, refreshed and ready. Alexander’s guys beg him to call it a day. “Call that a day, speak to it a campaign, contact it an empire. Anyhow let’s walk home.” and for once, Mr. Won’t-Listen-to-Anybody states okay. It’s every in the Life the Alexander. Read it sometime. Seventy pages of modern-day English, it’s no gonna death ya.

But back to Gruber. What’s surely occurred is part specially eloquent seventeenth-century british smarty-pants read the North and also Holland translations, misremembered ’em, and created the mot that’s been repeated ever before since.

How carry out I know the person didn’t misremember the initial Greek? i don’t. Yet think around it. No one could read Greek, not even North (he to be translating indigenous Amyot’s French). Besides! is that not impressive that the more quickly instances the the Gruber version happen to chop up a few years after those crucial translations right into English?

Here’s what would clear up the matter against me: instances of the Gruber variation from languages other than English, developing before 1579. If anyone analysis this can display me such, i promise come write an additional piece on this very same topic, offering you complete credit.


Nam Alexandri pectus insatiabile laudis, qui Anaxarcho comiti suo ex auctoritate Democriti praeceptoris innumerabiles mundos esse referenti “heu me” inquit “miserum, quod ne uno quidem adhuc sum potitus!” angusta homini possessio fuit, quae deorum omnium domicilio sufficit.

Alexander’s heart had an insatiable longing for glory. Once his girlfriend Anaxarchus said him, following the authority of his teacher Democritus, the there were innumerable worlds, Alexander said, “Alas, bad me, because so far I have actually not even gained possession that one!” To possess the people was too inglorious because that this man, despite the world is an excellent enough to serve as the house of all the gods.

—from Book 8, thing 14 “The Desire for Glory,” foreign Stories: ar 2.

That passage was written fifteen years before Plutarch to be born; indeed, it could have been wherein he acquired it (?). And also since it’s in Latin—and worse, in a frickin’ handbook of memorable sayings—anybody can have check out it and misremembered it in ~ any allude in european history.

Okay, yet then why do all these Gruber versions unexpectedly pop increase in early on seventeenth-century English, hmmm? ns tellin’ ya: some Englishman started this. Part English Gruber. We’ll call him “John Miner.” choose Gruber, ours Miner was pretending to have actually a classical education. Like Gruber, Miner had actually eloquence. Yet unlike Gruber, Miner actually created miscellaneous worthy the a publication of memorable sayings. That coined among the very couple of classical sign that human being still recognize on sight.

Unless even Miner didn’t create it, however some Frenchman. Anyhow, I offer up. My men are done. The flow is deep. Contact it one empire. Let’s go home.

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Anthony Madrid resides in Victoria, Texas. His 2nd book is Try Never. That is a correspondent for the Daily.

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