Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great mosaic
Alexander in the Alexander mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii
AlexanderTheGreat Bust
Bust of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (356 BC—323 BC) is also known as Alexander III of Macedonia. He was King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire. He is considered one of the greatest military geniuses of all time. Alexander was born in 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was the son of Philip II, King of Macedonia, and Olympias, the princess of neighboring Epirus. Alexander spent his childhood watching his father transform Macedonia into a great military power, and watching him win victory after victory on the battlefields throughout the Balkans.

When he was 13, 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 important in Alexander’s later life.

Wars

In 340 BC, Philip assembled a large Macedonian army and invaded Thrace. He left 16 year old Alexander with the power to rule Macedonia in his absence as regent. But as the Macedonian army advanced deep into Thrace, the Thracian tribe of Maedi bordering north-eastern Macedonia rebelled and posed a danger to the country. Alexander assembled an army, led it against the rebels, and with swift action defeated the Maedi, captured their stronghold, and renamed it Alexandropolis.

Alexander became king of Macedonia in 336 BC when his father was assassinated. A meeting of Greek cities made him General (supreme commander). He used this authority to launch his father's military expansion plans. In 334 BC, he invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor. He began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, most notably the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the entire Persian Empire. At that point, Alexander's empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.

He invaded India in 326 BC, and defeated King Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab. Afterwards they became allies.

Alexander-Empire 323bc
Alexander's empire was the largest state of its time, covering approximately 5.2 million square km.

On June 10, 323 BC, before he had returned, he died of a sudden fever, in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Alexander was only 32 years old. Legend has it that Alexander was preserved in a clay vessel full of honey. At his death, he was planning a series of campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia. In the years following his death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart. Several states were then ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander's surviving generals and heirs. They fought and conquered each other. The largest surviving piece was the Seleucid Empire.

Alexander's character

Alexander is remembered as a folk-hero in Europe and much of western and central Asia, where he is usually called Iskander. In Iran, on the other hand, he is remembered as the destroyer of their first great empire and as the leveller of Persepolis. Ancient sources are generally written with an agenda of either glorifying or slandering the man, making it difficult to evaluate his actual character.

Modern opinion on Alexander has run the gamut from the idea that he believed he was on a divinely-inspired mission to unite the human race, to the view that he was the ancient world's equivalent of a Napoleon or a Hitler, a megalomaniac bent on world domination. Such views tend to be anachronistic, however, and the sources allow a variety of interpretations. Much about Alexander's personality and aims remains enigmatic.

Alexander had a legendary horse named Bucephalus (ox-headed), supposedly descended from the Mares of Diomedes.

According to one story, the philosopher Anaxarchus checked the vainglory of Alexander, when he aspired to the honours of divinity, by pointing to his wounded finger, saying, "See the blood of a mortal, not of a god." In another version Alexander himself pointed out the difference in response to a sycophantic soldier.

Historical perspective

Alexander's conquests and the administrative needs of his Greek-speaking successors promoted the spread of the Greek language and Greek culture across the eastern Mediterranean and into Mesopotamia.

Other names used for Alexander the Great in different parts of the world

Because of the diversity of the conquered lands Alexander the Great was known by different names, if not in his time then in the stories passed down in generations since then.

  • Europe -- Alexander the Great
  • Central Asia -- Iskander
  • Arab world and parts of India -- Sikandar
  • Parts of India -- Alakshendra

Images


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