Alexander the Great


Born on July 20th, 356 BC, Alexander the Great was the son and heir of Philip II, King of Macedonia, a state in the north eastern region of Greece. He would go on to build his reputation by conquering the Persian Empire which would make him one of, if not, the greatest military genius of all time. Alexander never lost a battle during eleven years of fighting against mostly numerically superior forces. Through his efforts to unite East and West, he changed the world by introducing advanced Greek political, military, and economic practices throughout the regions he conquered. 

Alexander would spend his childhood watching his father transforming Macedonia into a great military power, winning victory after victory on the battlefields throughout the Balkans. At the age of 13, King Philip hired the Greek philosopher Aristotle to be Alexander's personal tutor. During the next three years, Aristotle gave Alexander a training in rhetoric and literature and stimulated his interest in science, medicine, and philosophy, all of which became of importance in Alexander's later life. In 340 BC, when Philip was occupied with invading Thrace with his Macedonian army, he left his 16 year old son in charge to rule Macedonia in his absence as regent, which shows that even at such a young age, Alexander was recognized as quite capable. Two years later in 338 BC, Philip gave Alexander a commanding post among the senior generals as the Macedonian army invaded Greece. At the Battle of Chaeronea the Greeks were defeated and Alexander displayed his bravery by destroying the elite Greek force, the Theban Secret Band. Some ancient historians recorded that the Macedonians credited the victory to Alexander's efforts.
 

Once Alexander ascended on the Macedonian throne, Alexander quickly disposed of all of his domestic enemies by ordering their execution. But soon he had to act outside Macedonia. Philip's death caused series of rebellions among the conquered nations and the Illyrians, Thracians, and Greeks saw a chance for independence. Alexander acted swiftly. He forced his way into Greece despite the roads leading to the country being blocked by the Thessalians. As soon as he restored Macedonian rule in northern Greece, he marched in southern Greece. Hastily he surprised the Greeks and by the end of summer 336 BC they had no other choice but to acknowledge his authority. 

In 340 BC, when Philip was occupied with invading Thrace with his Macedonian army, he left his 16  year old son in charge to rule Macedonia in his absence as regent, which shows that even at such a young age Alexander was recognized as quite capable. Two years later in 338 BC, Philip gave Alexander a commanding post among the senior generals as the Macedonian army invaded Greece. At the Battle of Chaeronea the Greeks were defeated and Alexander displayed his bravery by destroying the elite Greek force, the Theban Secret Band. Some ancient historians recorded that the Macedonians credited the victory to Alexander's valor. 

In autumn of 333 BC, the Macedonian army's encountered the Persian forces under the command of King Darius III himself at a mountain pass at Issus in northwestern Syria. 30,000 Greeks again formed a sizable addition to the Darius' army as elite fighters and were positioned directly against the Macedonian phalanx. Describing the atmosphere before a battle, the Roman historian Curtius explained how Alexander raised the morale of his troops by fearlessly riding to the front line and his soldiers responded accordingly. He encouraged his soldiers and reminded them of their permanent values. They were the world's liberator's and one day they would pass the frontiers set by Hercules and Father Liber. Darius's army greatly outnumbered Alexander's men, but the Battle of Issus ended in a big victory for Alexander. Ten's of thousands of Persians, Greeks, and other Asiatic soldiers were killed and King Darius was compelled to flee in panic, abandoning his mother, wife, and children behind. Alexander treated them with the respect out of consideration for their royalty. Alexander himself would marry a Persian.

During the seven-month siege of Tyre, Alexander received a letter from Darius offering a truce with a gift of several western provinces of the Persian Empire, but he refused to make peace unless he could have the whole empire. Alexander continued his pursuit of Darius for hundreds of miles from Persepolis. When he finally caught up to him, he found the Persian king dead in his coach. He was assassinated by Bessus, the satrap of Bactria which now proclaimed himself "King of Kings", assuming the title of the Persian kings. Alexander gave Darius a royal funeral and set out for Bactria after his murderer. 

To win the support of the Persian aristocracy Alexander appointed many Persians as provincial governors in his new empire.  He adopted the Persian dress for ceremonies, gave orders for Persians to be enlisted in the army, and encouraged the Macedonians to marry Persian women. But the Macedonians were unhappy with Alexander's Orientalization for they were proud of their Macedonian customs, culture, and language.  His increasingly Oriental behavior eventually led to conflict with the Macedonian nobles and some Greeks in the train. In 330 BC series of allegations were brought up against some of Alexander's officers concerning a plot to murder him. Amongst many others, Alexander tortured and executed the accused leader of the conspiracy, Philotas, the commander of the cavalry.

The Macedonians spent two hard years in Bactria fighting a guerilla war against the followers of Bessus and the Sogdian ruler Spitamenes. Finally, Bessus was caught and executed for the murder of his king Darius III, and Spitamenes was killed by his own wife which was tired of running away. Bactria and Sogdiana, the most eastern provinces of the Persian Empire came under Macedonian control.  It is here that Alexander fell in love with and married the beautiful Sogdian princess Roxane.

While invading Punjab, India in 326 BC, Alexander's horse Bucephalus was wounded and died. Alexander had ridden Bucephalus into every one of his battles in Europe and Asia, so when it died he was grief-stricken. He founded a city which he named Buckephalia, in honor of his beloved horse. A sign that the marvelous conqueror had a soft side as well. 

There was constant tension and subsequent mutiny between Alexander's men and some animosity towards Alexander because of his actions. Alexander was enraged and appointed the main ringleaders to his bodyguards to be punished and then gave his famous speech where he reminded the Macedonians that without him and his father Philip, they would have still been leaving in fear of the nations surrounding Macedonia, instead of ruling the world.  After this the Macedonians were reconciled with their king and 10,000 of them set out for Europe, leaving their children of Asian women with Alexander. In the same time 30,000 Persian youth already trained in Macedonian manner were recruited in the army.  Alexander prayed for unity between Macedonians and Persians and by breeding a new army of mixed blood he hoped to create a core of a new royal army which would be attached only to him. But Alexander will not live to see his plans come to fruition.

Before his Arabian campaign, he became ill, despite his claims of divinity, he died in 323 B.C. at the age of thirty-three. Alexander died in Babylon, from an illness suspected to be malaria. Perhaps its due to the reason that Alexander was under the notion that he was immortal, he had not prepared or named a replacement. It is believed that when Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia was on his deathbed, his marshals asked him to whom he bequeathed his kingdom, and he replied saying "Kratisto which means "To the strongest" or Krat'eroi which means "to the stronger". Alexander's son was born after his death and hence Alexander's half brother Philip Arridaeus inherited the empire, which was later inherited by Alexander's son but neither could maintain the empire that Alexander conquered and built. The leadership and power that Alexander demanded and sustained throughout his short military life was something of mere God-like proportions.

Alexander the Great left an indelible mark on the world. Through his organizational skill, strategic and tactical innovations, and personal valor he changed the world. His success was due in large part in being able to establish relationships between the East and West and spreading Greek civilization throughout vast regions while founding more than twenty cities that became regional trade and cultural centers. His accomplishments exceed that of any military leader in recorded history. He would become the inspiration for later conquerors such as Hannibal the Carthaginian, The Romans Pompey and Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte. 

 

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