Greece

Alexander the Great


(356-323BC)

AlexanderGreat Alexander was one of the most famous conquerors in World History, Alexander was an ingenious military leader but also a subject of controversy. On the one hand he was a brilliant tactician and leader, but he could also be ruthless and cruel, and is by some believed to have been an alcoholic.

The son of Philip II of Macedonia and queen Olympias, Alexander was born the same night the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was set on fire. As a young man he was taught Greek philosophy, art and science, his best-known tutor being Aristotle, and he was considered a very arduous and intelligent young man.

He was blond and handsome, with one gray eye and one black, extremely athletic but with a shrill voice and a slightly tilted head. From an early age Alexander was very ambitious, and he was anxious to battle and worried that his father would win all the victories before him. He would sleep with a copy of Homers' Iliad under his pillow, and often identified himself with the hero Achilles whom he considered an ancestor.

When his father was assassinated, Alexander succeeded him to the throne at the age of twenty. Some of the ancient writers believed he himself had something to do with the crime, and if not him, at least his mother Olympias. The father and son did not have the best of relationships, on many occasion they even argued in public, and Alexander's ambitions to become a world leader and conqueror were well known.

Whatever the case, Alexander secured his sovereignty of Greece after some resistance, and started a war against Persia in 334BC, following his fathers plans. He crossed the Hellespont with 35.000 Greek and Macedonian soldiers, and near the ancient city of Troy he defeated an army of 40.000 Persians and Greek mercenaries, losing only 110 men.

At the Battle of Issus in 333 BC, Alexander defeated the Persian king Darius II huge army. Darius himself fled, which demoralized his troops and caused general chaos, making it relatively easy for Alexander to defeat the Persians.

Alexander was then to conquer Tyre and Gaza, marching into Egypt where he was celebrated as a liberator. There, he founded the city Alexandria, and let the Egyptians honor him as a sun-god. In 331 he conquered the Carthaginians, returned to Egypt and then continued to Babylon.

King DariusAt the Battle of Gaugamela he defeated Darius's new army, and the Persian king again fled, only to be murdered a short while after by two of his generals. Alexander revenged his enemy by torturing and executing his assassins, and took well care of Darius' family. Babylon surrendered, and Alexander headed for Persepolis, the capital of Persia, which he looted of its riches and then burnt.

At Bactria Alexander married the beautiful Persian princess Roxane with great celebrations. Some of his companions conspired to kill him, since they thought Alexanders had become far too full of himself, but the venture failed and the perpetrators were executed when Alexander found out about it.

All of Persia now belonged to his kingdom, but this was not enough for him. He decided to turn east, towards the wondrous country India. The army traveled through the Afghani mountains and when they reached the other side they were greeted by the king Taxila whose kingdom was across the Indus river. At Hydasped the king Porus waited with a huge army to stop Alexander, but the Macedonians soon defeated them.

Alexander the GreatAlexander let Porus continue ruling under him, and close to the battlefield he founded the city Bucephala in honour of his horse that had died there. Alexander also had a ship wharf built by the river. After reaching the river Hyphasis the army refused to go any further. The men suffered from food- and water shortages and nothing Alexander said or did would change their minds.

After sulking for three days, he ordered them to return. His ship wharf had build a small fleet of ships, and he went onboard one of them, ordering his army to walk along the riverbanks on each side. Along the way the army conquered many cities, something that nearly cost Alexander his life at one point, since he was badly wounded by an arrow.
The statue of Alexander in ThessalonikiAt the end of the river Indus, Alexander left his fleet with the admiral Niarchus, and started marching across the desert. When he was back in Susa, he married Darius daughter Statira, and eighty of his officers and ten thousand of his soldiers also married Persian women.
While planning to invade Arabia, Alexander fell ill with fever, and soon died of the disease. At the end he could barely speak, and his officers paraded by his deathbed. When asked who would succeed him Alexander replied " the worthiest", and died without naming a heir.
Alexander has been much debated. Was he a megalomaniac, or did he really want to spread Greek civilization. Perhaps both. What is true, though, that his conquests and the speed at which he made them, are without comparison in any time.

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