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Alexander The Great, Greatest Ruler And Conqueror Of All Time


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Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was the son of an excellent general and organizer, named Philip II King of Macedon. His mother was Olympias, princess of Epirus. She was brilliant and hot-tempered. Alexander inherited the best qualities of both his parents. But he was even more ambitious than his father. He wept bitterly when he heard of Philip's conquests and said, " My father will get ahead of me in everything, and will leave nothing great for me to do. " Alexander's mother taught him that Achilles was his ancestor, and that his father was descended from Hercules. Alexander learned by heart the Iliad, a story about the deeds of Achilles. He carried a copy of the Iliad with him, and Achilles became Alexander's hero.

Even as a boy Alexander was fearless and strong. He tamed the beautiful and spirited Bucephalus, a horse that no one else dared to touch or ride. Later, this famous steed carried him as far as India, where it died. Alexander then built the city of Bucephalus on the Hyphasis River in memory of his beloved horse. Philip was so proud of Alexander's power over the horse that he said, “O my son, seek out a kingdom worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee. "

Philip and Olympias saw the potential for greatness in the boy and arranged for his education. His first teacher was the harsh Leonidas, a relative of Olympias, perhaps her uncle. Leonidas was a strict disciplinarian who instilled in Alexander his ascetic nature. This nature became famous during his Persian and Indian expeditions, where he would live simply, very much like his troops.

Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus, who curried the favor of the king by calling him Peleus, Alexander Achilles, and himself Phoinix, the name of Achilles’ tutor. Lysimachus taught Alexander to play the lyre, and taught him an appreciation for the fin e arts of music, poetry, and drama.

Philip and Olympias wanted nothing less than the best for their son, so when he was 13, his parents hired Aristotle from Athens to be his personal tutor. The two of them spent time at Mieza, a temple about 20 miles from the palace at Pella. Under Aristotle, Alexander learned philosophy, ethics, politics, and healing. Aristotle inspired the talented youth with a great love for literature. He took part in sports and daily exercise to develop a strong body. Aristotle also inspired in Alexander a keen interest in other countries and races of people, and in animals and plants. Alexander's education was not all from books. He talked with ambassadors from many foreign countries, and with other noted persons at his father's court. When he was only 18, he commanded part of Philip's cavalry at the battle of Chaeronea. Alexander also acted as his father's ambassador to Athens.

In 336 B. C. Phillip II was assassinated, and at the age of twenty Alex ascended to the Macedonian throne. As soon as he received that position he found that there were many people plotting against him. So he disposed of the conspirators quickly by execution. Then he descended on Thessaly and restored Macedonian rule. Before the end of the year 336 Alex reestablished his position in Greece. He was also elected to the congress of states at Corinth.

In 335 as general of the Greeks he carried out a successful campaign against the Persians, penetrating to the Danube River. On the way back Alex crushed the Illyrians in a single week. On his way back Alex learned that the people in the city of Thebes revolted and called upon the people of Athens to join them. Alexander soon appeared before Thebes with his army and Alex took over the city, destroyed everything except for the temples of the gods and the house of Pindar, a Greek lyric poet. The surviving inhabitants who numbered around eight thousand were sold into slavery. With this siege over Thebes all of the other Greek states went in to submission to Alex. In the spring of 334 Alex began his war against the Persians by crossing the Hellespont with an army of thirty-five thousand Macedonian and Greek troops. This army included chief officers, and Antigonus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. At Granicus, a river near the ancient city of Troy, Alex attacked and army of Persians and Greek Hoplites (mercenaries) exacting about forty thousand. Alex’s forces defeated them and Alex only lost 110 men. All of the states in Asia Minor submitted to Alex after that defeat. Also while passing through Phrygia Alex cut the Gordian knot with his sword. The Gordian knot is a knot that was tied by Gordius ancient king of Phrygia. The prophecy of the knot said that the Knot was to be undone by the person who was to rule Asia.

Going southward Alex and his troops came upon the main Persian army led by King Darius III, at Issus in northeastern Syria. Intelligence on both sides was imprecise, and the two armies had in fact been advancing randomly. Alex was already encamped by Myriandrus (near modern Iskenderun, Turkey) when he found out that Darius was along his line of communications at Issus. Alex came head to head with King Darius during the Battle of Issus on the northeast Mediterranean coast. Although Alexander was advancing south he was surprised to find Darius approaching from his north! Turning, Alexander found Darius drawn up along the Piraeus River. In the battle that followed, Alexander won a decisive victory in 333 BC, and Darius fled, leaving his family in Alexander's hands. Alex treated Darius’ family like any other royalty of the day.

After a siege of seven months in 332, Alex took control of the heavily fortified seaport, Tyre. Next Alex seized Gaza, and then went into Egypt. In Egypt he was greeted as a deliverer. By the previous victories Alex secured his hold of the eastern Mediterranean coast. At the mouth of the Nile River, Alex founded Alexandria in the later part of 332. Later Alexandria became the commercial, literary, and scientific center of the Greek world. Soon after Alexandria was founded Cyrene submitted to Alex extending his dominion to the Carthaginian territory. In the spring of 331 Alex went to the temple and oracle of Amon-Ra (the Egyptian god of sun), Alex wanted to be accepted as ruler of Egypt. It is said that the trip was successful and it helped his belief in his own divine origin.

Going north again Alex re-gathered his forces and headed for Babylon. The new army consisted of forty thousand infantry and seven thousand Calvary. After crossing the Tigris and Euphrates, Alex came across Darius III again. This is where the battle of Guagamela took place. There were an unknown number of soldiers in Darius’ army, and once again Alex completely obliterated them on October 1, 331. Also again Darius fled and was later killed by two of his own guards. Because of the Guagamela battle Babylon surrendered to Alex. Later Alex took over the city of Susa and all of its plentiful treasure. In mid-winter Alex went to Persepolis and he plundered the Persian treasuries and all of their rich booty. Then in a drunken rage he burned down Persepolis, thus completing the destruction of the Persian Empire. Alex’s domain expanded now to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, Including Afghanistan, Balochistan and north into Bactria, Sogdiana, and modern Russia Turkestan. This area is pretty much known as central Asia. It only took Alex three years to master this area from 330 BC - 327 BC.

To complete his quest to conquer the remnants of the Persian Empire, Alex had to cross the Indus River in 326 BC, and invade the Punjab all the way to the river Hyphasis (modern Beas). When this happened the Macedonians rebelled and refused to go any farther. So then he made up a group of soldiers and passed down the Indus, reaching its mouth in September 325 BC. The group then sailed to the Persian Gulf. With his army, he returned home across the desert to Media. Severe losses were the result of shortages of food and water and other hardships among his troops. Alex spent about a year organizing his dominions and completing a survey of the Persian Gulf in preparation for further conquests.

Alexander had vast plans, including his governmental reorganization and an expedition to Arabia. But he was taken seriously ill with malaria at Babylon. The simple remedies of the day did not help him. He died on June 13, 323 B. C. His body was placed in a gold coffin and taken to Memphis, in Egypt. Later it was carried to Alexandria, and placed in a beautiful tomb.

Alexander left no choice for a successor. His only son, Alexander IV, was born after Alexander's death. He left his empire, in his own words, ‘to the strongest’ which meant his leading generals, who became governors of various areas and fought among themselves for control of the Empire. But no single leader emerged, and by 311 B. C. the empire split into independent states or monarchies.

Alex was one of the greatest generals of all time, noted for his brilliance as a tactician and troop leader and for the rapidity with which he could traverse great expanses of territory. He was usually brave and generous, but could be cruel and ruthless when politics demanded. As a statesman and ruler he had grand plans; according to many modern historians he cherished a scheme for uniting the East and the West in a world empire, a new, enlightened ‘world brotherhood of all men. ’ He trained thousands of Persian youths in Macedonian tactics and enrolled them in his army. He himself adopted Persian manners and married Eastern wives, namely, Roxana (died about 311 BC), the elder daughter of Darius; and he encouraged and bribed his officers to take Persian wives. Shortly before he died, Alexander ordered the Greek cities to worship him as a god. Although he probably gave the order for political reasons, he was, in his own view and that of his contemporaries, of divine birth. The order was largely dismissed by his death shortly after he issued it.

To bind his conquests together, Alexander founded a number of cities, most of them named Alexandria, along his line of march; these cities were well located, well paved, and provided with good water supplies. Greek veterans from his army settled in them; young men, traders, merchants, and scholars were attracted to them; Greek culture was introduced; and the Greek language became widely known. Thus, Alexander vastly extended the influence of Greek civilization and prepared the way for the kingdoms of the Hellenistic period and the conquests of the Roman Empire.

Dale R Smith

Career spent in teaching and training, both as a civilian and military trainer. Mr Smith has been a teacher in public schools, college and university and both the US Army and US Navy. A graphic artist and photographer with many prize winning designs


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