No More Worlds to Conquer

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.

About Frank

A Sci-Fi & Fantasy author and lyrical poet with a mild obsession for vampires, succubi, goddesses and Supergirl.
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11 Responses to No More Worlds to Conquer

  1. Frank says:

    Included in History Today on Tuesday 19th January, 2016.

  2. LOL! Your recent posts have been highly amusing! Personally I’ve always been perplexed as to why people think women aspire to be equal to men. We know we are!

    • Frank says:

      I’m glad my recent obsession has some entertainment value… 🙂
      I’m hunting for something in particular, and the search has taken me in so many unexpected directions. I have learned so much this month.

  3. I enjoyed the research into the quote (which I love by the way). This series has been interesting. Women don’t wear corsets anymore, but I think we still have a long way to go. One only has to watch music videos to see how women are still objectified in our culture. And women still buy into it. I sound like an old fuddy-duddy 🙂 🙂

    • Frank says:

      Reading the history of corsets is intriguing because there’s a sense that a lot of it is accidental. For decades the medical professionals were saying that tight-laced corsets were bad, and there was never a huge social pressure to do tight-lacing. A well made corset worn properly isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and certainly they can be things of beauty.

      But as with high heels, where there have always been women who, for whatever reason, want heels higher and higher, even though walking becomes nigh impossible and all sorts of permanent damage is done to the spine and feet, so there were women who tight-laced because they liked it, or because they were pursuing some ideal of beauty.

      Corsets were only a part of the bigger problem, in that if you take away all the freedoms of women, so that they don’t move or get any real exercise, and don’t generally have much in life to look forward to, then of course they’ll wilt and become the frail, delicate creatures you keep insisting they are. The bicycle was a fantastic invention. It brought freedom from the suffocation of the house and freedom from suffocating clothing and even freedom from stale city air – and it was a great form of exercise.

      • It’s amazing how one little thing leads to another. Not that the bicycle was a “little” invention, but it created change in such a broad way. Thanks for interesting post. 🙂

    • Frank says:

      But on objectification of women in the media… Much as I love to see beautiful women, it bothers me no end to see them embrace their own objectification.

  4. Fascinating post Frank! I enjoyed reading it and discovering a few new things. Love the quote and all the effort you put in to finding its source. 😀 xx

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