When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.
This fantastic line was spoken by the late, great Alan Rickman in Die Hard, and I know I was not the first person to ask who he was quoting. At the time, the consensus seemed to be that it wasn’t a real quote, and even now it’s something of a curiosity. It has taken on a variety of forms over the centuries, but is found originally in ‘On Contentment of the Mind’ in Plutarch’s Moralia (see, e.g., Alexander Quotes):
Alexander cried when he heard Anaxarchus talk about the infinite number of worlds in the universe. One of Alexander’s friends asked him what was the matter, and he replied: “There are so many worlds, and I have not yet conquered even one.”
It’s interesting that the sense has changed from ‘I have scarcely begun’ to ‘I have finished’.
The quote was brought to mind today on reading this delightful article in The Woman’s Signal from 9th April, 1896 (p. 231):
Great is the bicycle. It has been pressed into the service of Mars, and the olive-crowned goddess of Peace. It has troubled school boards and ecclesiastical councils; it bids fair to banish horses and drive stable-keepers out of employment; and, most wonderful of all, there is a prospect that it will even popularise bloomers. This, however, is the merest bagatelle compared to its latest triumph – the banishment of the corset. Even in Paris it is said that this fashionable article of torture is doomed, and all in consequence of the universal bicycling mania. A woman bicyclist with a tight corset, red faced and short of breath, presents a very ridiculous and unpleasant sight, even if she does not topple off her wheel in a dead faint. So the decree has gone forth. If the bicycle was an animate, sentient thing, and not a “machine,” it might well weep like Alexander for more worlds to conquer.—The Woman’s Voice (Australia)
Across the page is a brilliant poem attributed to Mary Auld that makes fun of university academics’ fear of women and their refusal to give women degrees:
It must not be! Oh! shade of Paul!
That God-like man so low should fall
To share his academic state
With woman as an equal mate!
An equal mate—the very thought
With rampant heresy is fraught!
We, as “Creation’s Lords” maintain
She stands upon a lower plane;
“Her gifts,” as Milton says, “seem good,
But under government”: she should
“In silence learn.” Our subject, she—
Equal should not aspire to be!
and so on…
In Supergirl Episode 1.19, Indigo trots out the ‘no more worlds to conquer’ quote, when really the original would work better:
When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were so many more worlds to conquer.