Alexander the Great

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In the world histories, there were many great and outstanding kings who accomplished remarkable results. If I were asked to name one of the greatest kings, I would answer that it is Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great or Alexander III of Macedon was a Macedonian king. Alexander received excellent education since Aristotle was his mentor until the age of sixteen. It is worth noting that Alexander managed to create one of the most powerful, influential, and largest empires, which occupied vast territories on different continents. He won many battles and is believed to be the most successful and prominent leader of the Ancient Greek world.

Epithet ‘the Great’ was given to Alexander for his achievements and successes as a military leader (Roisman & Worthington 192). Alexander did not lose a single battle during all his campaigns. He managed to do this due to skillful use of phalanxes, cavalry techniques, and endless loyalty of his army.

In this project I will try to trace life story of Alexander the Great from the day of his birth and up till his death. I will discuss what he managed to achieve as a military commander and an outstanding country leader as well as try to prove that Alexander deserves to be called the Great King.          

Early Years

Alexander was born in 356 BC in the city of Pella. At that time Pella was the capital of the Macedonian Kingdom. His parents were Philip II, the king of Macedon, and Olympias, the daughter of the king of Epirus, Neoptolemus I. It is worth noting that Philip had several wives, but Olympias was considered to be the principal one for some years as she gave birth to Alexander, the next heir of Macedon (Alexander of Macedon Biography; O’Brien 11).

Various events happened the day Alexander was born. On that very day Philip started to prepare his army to a siege on Potidea, which was situated on the Chalcidice peninsula, and his favorite horses managed to win at the Olympic Games. It was also documented that one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, was burnt that day (Renault 28).

Growing up, Alexander saw his father very rarely. This is because the king was constantly involved in long military campaigns. Olympias was a very fierce and possessive mother. She controlled Alexander’s every step when he was young. She filled Alexander with a feeling of deep resentment towards his father.

Nonetheless, Alexander’s education was of great importance to both Philip and Olympias. Alexander was brought up in accordance with the conservative traditions of noble youths of Macedon. He was good at reading, playing music instruments, fighting, and hunting.  When Alexander was thirteen years old Philip started looking for a mentor for his son. This post was offered to several outstanding scholars of those times, but they refused to take on this role to educate Alexander further. Aristotle was chosen by Philip after long considerations. Aristotle taught not only Alexander, but also other children from noble families, who became Alexander’s friends and generals of his army in the future. Aristotle introduced Alexander to Homer and his mysterious works. Iliad became Alexander’s passion till the end of his life (Alexander of Macedon Biography).

Beginning of the Soldier

Alexander ended his education at the age of sixteen. While Philip was away leading the war, he left Alexander to rule as the king. At the age of seventeen Alexander led his first attack against a rival tribe. He managed to cope with the following attacks very successfully and even sent forces in order to help his father. Alexander’s military cooperation as well as relationship with his father ended soon after Philip took control of the Corinthian League. The League of Corinth was a military alliance that consisted of all Greek states excluding Sparta. After the league was formed, consequent plans of Philip were focused on Persian Empire (Alexander of Macedon Biography).

Alexander as the King

When Philip came back to his capital city, he decided to marry Cleopatra Eurydice. She was a niece of one of Philip’s generals. This marriage was perceived as a big threat for Alexander, the future heir of the Macedonian Kingdom. According to the existing laws, Cleopatra’s son would be a real heir of Macedon because his parents were both Macedonians. Alexander was half-Macedonian. As a result, Alexander together with his mother ran from Pella. After several months had passed, all misunderstandings between Alexander and Philip were settled, and Alexander returned home.

In 336 BC, Philip was assassinated by a young Macedonian noble Pausanias. Alexander sought the approval and recognition of Macedonian army for his bid for kingship after death of his father. Commanders agreed and proclaimed Alexander the new king. In this way Alexander became Alexander III, the ruler and king of Macedon. In order to secure his position, Alexander executed everyone who could claim the kingship.

Though Alexander was the king of Macedon, he did not gain control of the League of Corinth. Many colonies rejoiced that Philip was dead and hoped to get rid of Macedonian influence and power. It resulted in numerous movements for independence. Alexander reacted very quickly and led his army to Greece in order to cope with these movements. As a result, Alexander was recognized by Greek people as a new leader. Sparta, however, refused to do this. Recognition by the League of Corinth gave Alexander necessary power to attack Persian Empire. Persia was one of the largest and powerful empires which was situated in the eastern part of Greece.

Persian Empire and its Conquest

In the year 335 BC Alexander commenced his preparations for Persian expedition. It is worth pointing out that Alexander’s military resources were inferior in comparison to those of Darius III, the king of Persian Empire.

In spring of 334 BC Alexander’s troops met with Darius’ army for the first time. Alexander got his first victory and continued leading his army to the west. Sardis, Persian capital, was conquered rather easily. New conquered territories became the part of one big empire. By the end of the year 334 BC Alexander managed to reach Asia Minor, which is the territory of Turkey now.

Alexander cut the Gordian Knot in the city of Gordium. According to beliefs of that time, a person who was able to cut the knot would become the ruler of the whole world.

The Battle of Issus

In 333 BC Alexander led his troops to the east. Two powerful kings Alexander and Darius met in the battle near the city of Issus. Alexander used creative military tactics during this battle and defeated Darius, who fled leaving his family and army.

Alexander and his troops took various treasures and captured Darius’ family, which was treated respectfully while in captivity. Meanwhile, Alexander proclaimed himself King of Asia. Darius hoped to sign a truce with Alexander offering different options, but Alexander rejected all of them. He wanted to conquer the whole Asian continent.

Campaign in Egypt

After having conquered Levant, Alexander led his troops to Egypt. There was no resistance from the population of Egypt. Alexander was treated as a savior, who delivered Egypt from the domination of Persian Empire. It should be noted that Alexander always respected gods, religions, and traditions of the conquered nations. In Egypt he made scarifies to the Egyptian gods. As a result, priests recognized him as a pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. Alexander was worshiped as god. Alexander did not only accept some features of other cultures, he also introduced Greek culture to other nations. The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander. It became a center of Greek culture in Egypt.  

More Fighting in Persia

In September 331 BC Alexander defeated Darius and his Persian army in the Battle of Gaugamela. It was the second time when Persian army failed, and Darius fled away again.

Alexander did not chase Darius. He preferred to stay in Babylonia. This country was very rich in lands, gorgeous cities, luxurious palaces, and uncountable treasures. Alexander was proclaimed King of Babylon, King of Asia, and King of Four Quarters of the World since 331.

In 330 BC Alexander led his army to the last capital of Darius, Ecbatana. In summer 330 BC Darius was assassinated, and Alexander ordered to bury his enemy with all honors. After Darius’ death, Alexander was proclaimed Darius’ successor and became the king of Persian Empire. According to the laws of Persia, Alexander was given the title King of Kings. Alexander adopted some Persian ceremonies and style of clothes. All these practices, however, caused various misunderstanding within his army. In order to avoid further quarrels and troubles, Alexander decided to end experiments with Persian traditions (Alexander of Macedon Biography).

Iran and India

After having defeated Darius, Alexander directed his army to Iran. He managed to conquer the region and established numerous colonies for Macedonians.

In spring 327 BC Alexander seized Arimazes, where prince Oxyartes was taken as a prisoner. In order to hold his Eastern Empire together, Alexander decided to marry Oxyartes’ daughter Rhoxana.

In summer of the same year Alexander commenced his march to India. While entering northern territories of India, Alexander received a victory over Indian ruler Porus. It should be stressed that when Alexander faced his enemies who used unknown military techniques, he always tried to adapt his troops to the new style of leading battles. This was also the case with King Porus’ elephant corps. Alexander was astounded by Porus’ courage and permitted him to remain the king of his territories. By the year 325 BC Macedonian army went further to the north. Numerous losses and troubles accompanied Alexander’s troops during Indian march (Alexander of Macedon Biography).

Alexander was very concerned about the rule of his big empire. He needed a lot of soldiers to realize all his plans. He decided to create a new ruling class of nobles in order to strengthen his new empire. Alexander ordered his Macedonian companions to marry Persian noble women. He married Darius’ daughter Stateria while still having Rhoxana as a wife. He also took many Persian soldiers to his Macedonian army, which was one of the reasons of Alexander’s dissatisfaction. When Alexander dismissed his wounded and aged Macedonian soldiers, the latter organized a strike against Alexander and Persian troops. Alexander managed to cope with the strike and accepted excuses from his comrades (Briant 123).

Alexander’s Death

In spring 323 BC Alexander went to Babylon. He planned to conquer Africa as well as Arabia and explore the shores of the Caspian Sea.

On the 2 June 323 BC Alexander got ill and died in eleven days. It should be stressed that Alexander’s death and its causes have been discussed by scholars for many centuries. According to various symptoms described in historical sources, Alexander could have died of a disease, for instance, West Nile virus encephalitis, malaria, or typhoid. He also could have been poisoned (Marr & Calisher 1599). The body of the great king was supposed to be buried in Macedonia, but it did not happen.

Though Alexander was only 32 years old, he managed to create the most powerful empire of the ancient world, which collapsed apart just after his death. There were continuous struggles between successors of Alexander. As a result, Alexander’s empire was divided into four parts: Macedonian Kingdom, the Kingdom of Pergamon, the Kingdom of Egypt, and Seleucid Empire. These kingdoms were also known as the Hellenistic kingdoms.

Hellenistic Period

Alexander’s empire occupied a huge territory, which was approximately 5,200,000 km2 . Big part of these territories remained under Greek rule for about 300 years. These 300 years are referred to by historians as Hellenistic period or the period of Hellenization (Green 12).

The term was first suggested by Johann Gustav Droysen, a German historian, in order to denote the spread of Greek population, culture, and language in Persian Empire after it had been conquered by Alexander the Great (Green 12). Greek impact could be observed in cities that were founded by Alexander, for instance, Alexandria, Seleucia, Antioch, and others. It is worth stating that Alexander was a founder of more than 70 cities.

Alexander aimed at adopting elements of Greek culture into the culture of Persia. This led to the mixture of two cultures. Alexander tried to make the population of the empire more homogeneous because his army and empire were multinational. It resulted in emergence of a common dialect, which started to be spoken in every part of the empire. All affairs of the empire, from governmental rules to arts, were based on classical ideas of Greece. Some of Alexander’s hopes and objectives were not realized since his successors rejected many of them. Nevertheless, the influence of Hellenization was remarkable.  

Conclusion

Without any doubts, Alexander the Great is one of the most glorious and outstanding figures in the world history. He had the iron will and ability to make people follow him. Alexander knew very well when it was necessary to change, withdraw, adapt, or modify something or somebody.

On one hand, he was cruel and merciless. For instance, in order to prevent an uprising in the city of Persepolis, Alexander ordered to burn it. On the other hand, Alexander was just and reasonable. He knew perfectly well what he wanted to gain. Alexander was considered the military genius of all times. Many generals and leaders followed his tactics and techniques while preparing for battles, sieges, or leading wars. Alexander’s ambitions helped him to create a huge empire with unique traditions. Expeditions led by Alexander made a significant influence on further development of economy, science, geography, and history.

Alexander introduced new common coinage that was used from Gibraltar to Punjab in order to trade without any problems. He founded many cities in different part of the empire and built numerous palaces and temples. The most remarkable influence of Alexander the Great is considered the spread of Hellenic culture and Greek language. Establishment of Roman and Byzantine Empires as well as the introduction and spread of Christianity took place only due to deeds of Alexander the Great. His successes and achievements played a crucial role in the world history.   

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