Alexander the Great


Alexander the Great was king of the Macedonians and one of the greatest generals in history. As a student of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, Alexander was embedded with lasting interests in philosophy, politics and warfare. As king, he settled problems by immediate action, making quick decisions and taking great risks. His armies overcame these risks by sheer force and by the ingenious tactics instilled in them by Alexander. He and his armies conquered the Persian Empire, which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to India and formed much of what was then considered the civilized world. Through his conquests, Alexander helped spread Greek ideas, customs and laws throughout Asia and Egypt and adopted a uniform currency system to promote trade and commerce. He thus spread the rich Hellenistic culture enjoyed by the Greeks throughout the world. Alexander had a dream of the brotherhood of mankind where every person shared a common language, currency and loyalty, but he was unable to see his dream through due to an illness that claimed his life at the young age of 33.
Alexander was born in 356 B.C. He was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was the son of Philip II, king of Macedonia, and of Olympias, a princess of Epirus. At the age of 13, Aristotle was hired to be Alexander?s private tutor. Aristotle inspired interests of politics, other races of people and countries, plants and animals, and a great love for literature in Alexander ("Overview of Alexander the Great." 1). He was an outstanding athlete and excelled in every sport of his time (Durant 538). In 338 B.C., at the age of 18, Alexander led the cavalry of his father?s army in the Battle of Chaeronea, which brought Greece under Macedonian control. At the age of 20, Alexander?s father was murdered by one of his bodyguards, and Alexander succeeded the throne as king of Macedonia.
After Alexander?s father died, some Greek cities under Macedonian rule revolted. In 335 B.C. Alexander attacked the city of Thebes, storming its walls and destroying every building, except the temples and the house of the poet Pindar. His army sold the 30,000 inhabitants of Thebes into slavery or killed them. Alexander?s actions against Thebes discouraged rebellion by the other Greek cities.("Alexander the Great." 1).
With solid footing at home, Alexander prepared to invade Asia in 334 B.C. After crossing the Hellespont with an army of 35,000 men, he met his first Persian battle on the banks of the Granicus River. His cavalry charged across the Granicus and overwhelmed the Persians. From there, Alexander went on to conquer all of Asia Minor with little resistance ("Alexander the Great." 2). After recovering from a serious illness in 333 B.C., Alexander marched to Syria, where the king of Persia, Darius III, had fortified a riverbank near Issus with 600,000 men (Durant 544). Again Alexander attacked with his cavalry and defeated the Persians. Darius III managed to escape but left behind his family and a large amount of money.
Alexander then turned to Tyre, a small island about a half a mile offshore, where a large group of Phoenicians were assembled to defend Persia. Unable to conquer by sea, Alexander?s men built a causeway to the island and attacked on land. Tyre resisted for seven months, so long that when captured, Alexander had his army slay 8,000 men and sell the other 30,000 into slavery ("Alexander the Great." 2). Jerusalem surrendered and was spared, but Gaza fought for three months until every man in the city was dead (Durant 544).
Alexander and his men now set forth to conquer Egypt. Upon arriving, he was welcomed as a "...divinely sent liberator from Persian rule" and was crowned pharaoh (Durant 544). While in Egypt, he founded Alexandria, which would become a world center of commerce and learning, and he visited the temple and oracle of Zues-Ammon. In 331 B.C. Alexander marched back to Asia to attack Persia. He was greeted by Darius III and a large army at Guagamela. Alexander was dismayed by the size of Darius? army, but it was no match for the fortification of Alexander?s phalanxes and swiftness of his cavalry. Darius was forced to retreat and his own men would eventually kill him (Durant 545). Alexander moved to the city of Babylon which quickly surrendered, and he easily captured the Persian cities of Susa and Persepolis.