Alexander conquered Egypt in 332 BCE and had himself proclaimed pharaoh. Caught up in a power struggle with his own generals, he found it useful to spread the rumour that he, like earlier pharaohs, really was a god. Few Macedonians took this very seriously, so Alexander raised the stakes. When his army reached what is now Pakistan, he rounded up ten local sages and ordered them—on pain of death—to answer his deepest questions. When he got to sage number seven, Alexander asked, “How can a man become a god?” The philosopher answered simply: “By doing something a man cannot do.” It is easy to imagine Alexander scratching his head and wondering: Do I know anyone who’s done something lately that no man could do? The answer, he may have told himself, was obvious: Yes. Me. I just overthrew the Persian Empire. No mere mortal could do that. I am a god and I should stop feeling bad about killing my friends when they contradict me.

– Ian Morris, Why the West Rules – for Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal about the Future (2011)

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