The story of Alexander the Great has inspired conquerors and would-be conquerors throughout history. Alexander’s sweep through the Middle East and Central Asia left behind evidence of his mark on history—namely, in the several cities that he founded, and that sprung up to govern the kingdoms he left behind.
One man looking for evidence of Alexander was Charles Masson: a deserter from the East India Company who reinvented himself as an archaeologist and scholar in Afghanistan. Academic, traveler, writer and unwilling spy, Masson’s story is told in Professor Edmund Richardson’s book Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City.
We’re joined in this interview by David Chaffetz, who’s a regular contributor to the Asian Review of Books, and the author of Three Asian Divas: Women, Art and Culture In Shiraz, Delhi and Yangzhou.
In this interview, the three of us talk about Charles Masson and his experiences in Afghanistan. We talk about what drove this man to embark on his archaeological calling, and how his story meshes with the story of the East India Company and Afghanistan. And we end on what Massey’s story and observations teach us about how to understand Afghanistan today.
Edmund Richardson is Professor of Classics at Durham University. He has published Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity, and was named one of the BBC’s New Generation Thinkers in 2016.