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Alexander the Great

Introduction

Alexander the Great is a well known name in history. He is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all times. He was a king and a conqueror and his tales of battles are legendary. His cleverness turned him into an inspiration for later leaders to follow, such as Caesar or Napoleon. He captured and claimed the entire Persian Empire under his rule, the tale of which made him a legendary and inspirational war hero. This paper looks at his life, his biography, the battles he fought and what he achieved, all in an attempt to learn what an extraordinary leader and conqueror he was and how he eventually captured the Persian Empire and what the consequences were. We start with this early life with his family.

Early Life

Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC in Macedonia, in the ancient city of Pella. His father was Philip II, who was the king of Macedonia, and his mother was Olympias, the princess of Epirus, which was a neighboring place. Alexander was greatly inspired from his father who had remarkably transformed Macedonia into a state full of military strength, which had obtained a victorious name throughout the Balkans. Philip hired Aristotle to tutor Alexander when he turned 13. Aristotle taught him rhetoric and literature. He infused the interest of science, medicine, and philosophy into Alexander, all of which later helped him in his future (History of Macedonia).

When Alexander turned sixteen in 340 BC, his father Philip left him to rule the country on his own, when he himself gathered an army and went to invade Thrace. He knew how capable Alexander was when he delegated this authority and Alexander proved his worth by protecting Macedonia against invasion from the Thracian Tribe of Maedi. He captured their mainland and renamed it to Alexandropolis. Seeing his bravery and strong command over battle strategies, Philip gave him a commanding post as a senior general when they were to invade Greece. They defeated Greece in a battle called “Battle of Chaeronea”. Alexander’s claim to fame came when he defeated the Theban Secret Band, which was an elite force of Greece. It is recorded in history that the battle was won because of the immense bravery depicted by Alexander and that too at such a young age (Essortment).  

Assassination of Alexander’s Father, Philip II

Some years later, Philip married a Macedonian noble girl named Cleopatra which tore the family ties apart. The day of their wedding, Cleopatra’s uncle called Alexander a legitimate hier which provoked him to take stand at this offence. Philip opposed of Alexander’s rebuttal, which disappointed him and he along with his mother fled to Epirus, where he remained in isolation and insecurity. But things changed soon, when Philip was assassinated by a Macedonian noble, Pausanias, the reason for which is still unknown. It is said that both Alexander and Olympias had planned it somehow because Pausanias was killed by a friend of Alexander before he could be caught and put to trait to reveal the truth. Nonetheless, Philip’s dream to conquer the Persian Empire now was passed on to Alexander, who became the king of Macedonia (History of Macedonia).

Control over the Rebellions

When the conquered and captured states heard of the king’s death, they rose up in rebellion. Alexander, upon taking the throne, promptly took action and ordered their execution. First, he restored his rule in northern Greece, and then by 336 BC he made his authority to be acknowledged by the southern Greece. As, for the Thracian who too were rebelling, he went into a line of battles and eventually drove them away. In the meantime, Greeks gathered forces to set them free of Macedonian rule in Thebes. Upon hearing his, Alexander took no time to rest and marched straight up to Thebes. Seeing his promptness put fear into the hearts of Athenians and Peloponnesians, who changed their minds about rebelling against him, whereas, the Thebans stood confident and firm on their demands. Alexander’s army storming into the city killed every rebel in sight including women and children. Alexander destroyed the entire city to put forward an example for the rest of the Greece to think twice before rebelling against the Macedonian rule (Essortment).    

The Battle of Granicus

When Alexander ensured that the states under his rule were peacefully lying under his control, he made strategies to invade Asia. This was 334 BC when Alexander was just twenty two years old. He appointed General Antipater to govern Macedonia and Greece and marched with an army of twenty thousand Macedonians, seventy six hundred Greeks and seven thousand Thracians and Illyrians to Hellespont on a new mission. As soon as his ship landed, he took out his spear and declared that Asia would soon be brought under the control of Alexander through the Macedonian Spear (History of Macedonia).

Their first battle was against King Darius III at the river of Granicus where Persians and Greek rebels stood waiting. The Macedonians defeated the Persians and held victory, losing only a hundred men in the battle (Essortment). 

Asia Minor and the Gordian Knot

Macedonion army faced the most resistance on its way to conquering by the Greeks who posed troubles at each stage, when they advanced through the cities of Halicarnassus, Miletus, and Mylasa. But despite all the hurdles, Alexander continued northward to arrive at the central Asia Minor and into the city of Gordium. Gordium was known for its Gordian Knot legend which proclaimed that whomsoever unraveled it would be the ruler of the state. Alexander was the first one to untie it, by simply slashing it with his sword at one go (Essortment).  

Alexander’s Battle with King Darius III’s Army

In 333 BC, Alexander was faced with a tough challenge when he was to battle directly against the army of king Darius III at the mountain pass at Issus in Northwestern Syria. The Macedonian army was greatly outnumbered by the thirty thousand Greeks who were a part of the King Darius’ force. The battle ended in a huge massacre where tens of thousands of Persians, Greeks, and Asian soldiers died. But nonetheless, the king Darius retreated in fright and Alexander won the battle and he showed great respect for King Darius’ family which he left behind (History of Macedonia).

Tyre’s and Gaza’s Sieges

Following the victory at Issues, the gates for Tyre and Gaza were now open for Alexander who commanded his lead general to march right up there to the two places. Tyre and Gaza entered into a siege and refused to let any army enter without their permission. Tyre proclaimed sanctity of the temple of their god Melcart. After a very difficult siege of seven months, Alexander, separated the island from its coast by constructing a mole with the removal of rocks and wood surrounding the city and finally attacked it and captured it killing seven thousand people. On the other hand, Darius was still marching south towards Egypt and requested for a truce in exchange of the western provinces of the Persian Empire, but this was not ideal for Alexander who wanted to capture the entire empire. The resistance shown by Gaza, was too got hold of in the same way as Tyre. By the fall of Gaza and Tyre, the eastern Mediterranean Coast rested in Alexander’s hand (Interesting Stories).

The Conquer of Egypt

In 331 BC, Alexander went to Egypt where he was welcomed as they hated being under the Persian rule for centuries. Alexander ordered the building of a Macedonian outpost for trading and military purposes. This place later became the centre of economics and culture in the centries to follow after Alexander’s death. Alexander became their new ruler. He went to the temple of the Egyptian god of Amon Ra, to be acknowledged as his son, like all the other Pharoahs of Egypt. He was told he is the son of Zeus, born to conquer the world (History of Macedonia).

The Battle of Gaugamela

He was still left to battle the King Darius. At Tyre he was sent with reinforcements from Europe and with them he captured the lands around rivers Tigris and Euphrates. He now came across Darius’ army in Gaugamela in Iraq with a million men. Although Alexander once had a good shot at attacking the army at night and easily conquer but he wanted a fair and square battle with Darius so that he can never again dare to stand against him (Fox 150). The day of 1st October in 331 BC, the armies met. His army constituted Bactrians, Indians, Medians, Sogdians and Greeks. The Persian forces attacked the two Macedonian wings, one under General Parmenio and one under Alexander, where Parmenio backed down during the battle, Alexander fought steadfastly and brought Darius in the same positon he was in Issues, henceforth, winning the battle. Darius fled yet again, and Alexander captured Babylon, Susa and Persepolis. He was now the king of Asia. The Macedonians burned down the Perseplosis’ royal palace which marked the end of the Persian Empire (Interesting Stories).

Control Over Greek Rebels and the Death of Darius

The Greeks again rose in rebellion under the head of Sparta. Alexander had left Antipater in charge who at this time was in Thrace, allowing the Greeks to suppress the Macedonian forces. But Antipater defeated them including the SPartian king losing around thirty five hundred men. When Alexander heard of this, he grew worried and sent money to support Antipater. When Antipater defeated the Greeks, he fired all Greek soldiers from his army as he no longer needed these hostage soldiers(Roger 113). But Alexander was not done here, he still had to destroy Darius. He caught him in Persepolis, lying dead in his coach. He was killed by Bessus. Alexander arranged for him a royal funeral and marched on to a mission to track down Bessus (History of Macedonia).

Trial Against Philotas and Execution of Parmenio

When Alexander began his rule of the Persian Empire, he needed support of the Persian aristocracy. For this he hired Persians in official posts in the army and the government. He encouraged the Macedonians to adopt parts of their culture. But this was shown resistence on part of the Macedonian army who were proud of their own culture. This resistence turned into a strong conflict among the Macodonian nobles. Several allegations rose against a plot being made to murder Alexander. Alexander took action and put Philotas on trial as he was considered the root of the murder scheme. Philotas was the son of the Macedonian army’s famous general Parmenio. After his execution, Alexander ordered the execution of Parmenio (Interesting Stories).

Cleitus’ Murder and the Execution of Callisthenes

Cleitus, who was a Macedonian noble, claimed Alexander as the murderer of Parmenio and Philotas and made fun of his claim to being the son of Ammon. This brought rage into Alexander who killed him with a spear. Later, this incident tore his heart because Cleitus was his friend and he nearly committed suicide. This made the other associates fear his fierce temper (Interesting Stories).

Alexander next ordered the Europeans to follow the Asian culture of prostrating themselves before their king. This was again shown resistance again and this time, Callisthenes, the nephew of Arisotle was charged with conspiracy behind the resistance and executed.

For two years, the Macedonian army remained involved in fighting against Bessus and Spitamenes, the Sogdian ruler. Alexander succeeded in capturing Bessus who had murdered Darius III. Spitamenes was killed as well but by his own spouse. Bactria and Sogdiana then came under the Persian Empire which was now in Macedonian rule (Roger 120). The Sogdian princess Roxane became the love attraction of Alexander whom he then married (History of Macedonia).

Invasion in India

In 327 BC, it was time for Alexander to march into the Indian province of Punjab. Here, he saw one of the greatest battles of his life at the river Hydaspes against the King Porus. Porus was India’s greatest ruler. The Indians were thrown in the battle after a violent battle with elephants. Alexander captured king Porus but allowed him to rule his own territory. Alexander’s life long friend Bucephalus, a horse gifted by his father, died in the battle with King Porus. This brought him great grief (Interesting Stories).

Alexander ordered his army to continue on proceeding on the river Hydaspes, but the army feared facing even more tough competitors at the other end accompanying horses and elephants. The general suggested Alexander to halt. Alexander then decided that the Macedonian army would march towards the south Hydaspes and reach the southern edge of the world to land in Persia.  For this they built a thousand ships to sail the river and attacked various Indian villages that came in their way (Roger 130). There was but one village that posed a challenge, the one that belonged to Malli, a rebellious leader. He wounded Alexander with an arrow that hurt his ribcage. He was rescued by his army. But the village was still taken over once Alexander recovered. It was 325 BC and now Alexander with his army had to head towards Persia. Returning from there ended up in a disaster as most of Alexander’s soldiers died of heat and exhaustion at Susa (History of Macedonia).

Alexander’s Death

In 325 BC they obtained yet another victory at Susa and most of his associates got married there with Persian ladies. Alexander encouraged the unions with various gifts and feasts.

Alexander ordered ten thousand of the men with him to be discharged and sent home where Craterus was to replace Antipater and Antipater was to head to Asia. The army showed resistance to this order, for which they were punished severely by Alexander (Fox 200). He reminded them that if it was not for him then the Macedonians would still be living under his father’s rule where there was immense fear of being attacked from the surrounding nations. The army followed his orders and returned (Interesting Stories).

Alexander encouraged marriages so as to create a generation of mixed blood that would live in harmony. He also hired many Persians into the army. But Alexander’s short life did not allow him to see this happening. Beginning his Arabian scheme, he got hold of a strong fever which gradually destroyed his entire health leaving him unable to even speak. On June 7 323 BC, at the age of thirty three, he died. The great Macedonian King left the world without any heir or successor to take over the throne (Interesting Stories).

After Alexander

This was the life of Alexander filled with violence and battles and glorious victories. He lived to see his one dream to conquer the entire Persian empire which he did with marvelous status. But his life was very short and he did not live longer to proclaim the rest of the world. So what happened after his death? The Macedonians who had earlier shown resistance to the unity of Macedonians with Persians fled, and dissolved their marriages. Since Alexander did not leave an heir, the Macedonians fought amongst themselves and there came an age of a civil war for power. The Greeks found a good reason to rebel and break hold of Macedonia. But Antipater made sure that Greece remained under Macedonian rule, which it did for the next one and half century to come (Fox 230).