Alexander the Great (Greek: Αλέξανδρος ο Μέγας or Μέγας Aλέξανδρος, Megas Alexandros ; 356 – 323 BC, also known as Alexander III , was an ancient Greek king (basileus) of Macedon (336 – 323 BC). He was one of the most successful military commanders in history, and was undefeated in battle. By the time of his death, he had conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks
Following the unification of the multiple city-states of ancient Greece under the rule of his father, Philip II of Macedon (a labour Alexander had to repeat because the southern Greeks rebelled after Philip's death),
Alexander conquered the Achamenid Persian Empire , including Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gasa, Egypt, Bactria, and Mesopotamia , and extended the boundaries of his own empire as far as Punjab, India.
Prior to his death, Alexander had already made plans for military and mercantile expansions into to the Arabian peninsula , after which he was to turn his armies to the west and ( Carthage, Rome, and the Iberian peninsula ). His original vision had been to the east, though, to the ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea , as described by his boyhood tutor Aristotle. Alexander integrated many foreigners into his army, leading some scholars to credit him with a "policy of fusion." He also encouraged marriages between his soldiers and foreigners; he himself went on to marry two foreign princesses. Alexander died after twelve years of constant military campaigning, possibly as a result of malaria, poisoning, typhoid fever, viral encephalitis or the consequences of alcoholism. His legacy and conquests lived on long after him, and ushered in centuries of Greek settlement and cultural influence over distant areas. This period is known as the Hellenistic Age , and featured a combination of Greek, Middle Eastern and Indian culture. Alexander himself was featured prominently in the history and myth of both Greek and non-Greek cultures. His exploits inspired a literary tradition in which he appeared as a legendary hero in the tradition of Achilles.
Born in Pella , capital of Macedon , Alexander was the son of King Philip II of macedon and of his fourth wife Olympias , an Epirote princess. Plutarch relates that both Philip and Olympias dreamt of their son's future birth. In Philip's dream, he sealed her womb with the seal of the lion. Alarmed by this, he consulted the seer Aristander of Telmessos, who determined that his wife was pregnant and that the child would have the character of a lion. Another odd coincidence is that the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was set afire on the night of his birth. Plutarch's explanation is that the Gods were too busy watching over Alexander to care for the temple. Philip II of Macedon Olympias
The temple of Artemis in Ephesus
According to five historians of antiquity (Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, Justin, and Plutarch), after his visit to the Oracle of Ammon at Siwa , rumors spread that the Oracle had revealed Alexander's father to be Zeus, rather than Philip. In support of this, Plutarch ( Alexander 3.1,3) claims that Philip avoided Olympias' bed because of her affinity for sleeping in the company of snakes. Alexander the Great claimed to be Ammon’s son. Ammon Zeus
Aristotle was Alexander's most famous and important tutor. The famous philosopher trained Alexander in rhetoric and literature , and stimulated his interest in science, medicine, and philosophy . His gift to Alexander, a copy of the Iliad , was purportedly among the young king's most prized possessions--and was kept under his pillow, along with a dagger.. Alexander and Aristotle
Aristotle’ s school
When Alexander was ten years old, a Thessalian brought a horse of such quality to sell to Philip that it was labeled a prodigy. As it turned out, though, the horse was so wild that no man could mount him. Young Alexander, recognizing that the horse's own shadow was the source of its fear, went to the steed and turned him towards the sun. Upon doing so, the horse calmed down, and the young king easily mounted and rode him. His father and other people who saw this were very impressed; Philip kissed him with tears of joy and said "My son, seek thee out a kingdom equal to thyself; Macedon has not room for thee." This horse was named Bucephalus , meaning "ox-headed"--though there is the possibility that the name refers to the brand that denoted the horse's origin. Bucephalus would be Alexander's companion throughout his journeys, and was truly loved: when the horse died (due to old age, according to Plutarch, for he was already 30; other sources claim that Bucephalus died of wounds sustained in a battle in India), Alexander named a city after him called Bocephia or Bucephala.
Ascent of Macedon In 338 BC Alexander fought under his father at the decisive battle of Chaeronea against the city-states of Athens and Thebes. A few months later, the Leaque of Corinth was formed, and Phillip was acclaimed Hegemon of the Hellenes. In 336 BC Philip was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to her uncle King Alexander of Epirus.
Period of conquests Fall of the Achaemenid Persian Empire Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont with approximately 42,000 soldiers from Macedon, various Greek city-states, and mercenaries and tribute soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. After an initial victory against Persian forces at the battle of Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis and proceeded down the Ionian coast. From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities and denying them to his enemy. At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the hither to unsolvable Gordian Knot , a feat said to await the future "king of Asia." According to the most vivid story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone, and he hacked it apart with his sword. Another version claims that he did not use the sword, but simply realized that the simplest way to undo the knot was to simply remove a central peg from the chariot--around which the knot was tied.
Alexander's army crossed the Cilician Gates, met and defeated the main Persian army under the command of Darius III at the battle of Issus in 333 Bc. Proceeding down the Mediterranean coast, he took Tyre and Gaza after famous sieges. Darius Persian soldier, from Susa (Louvre, Paris)
The Cilician gate
The battle of Issus in 333 BC
During 332-331 Bc, Alexander was welcomed as a liberator in Persian-occupied Egypt and was pronounced the son of Zeus by Egyptian priests of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and subsequent currency depicted him, adorned with ram horns as a symbol of his divinity. He founded Alexandria in Egypt , which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty after his death.
Alexander as pharaoh on a relief in Luxor in the temple of Amenhotep III
Leaving Egypt, Alexander marched eastward into Assyria (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius once more at the battle of Gaaugamela . Once again, Darius was forced to leave the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela . While Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana , Alexander marched to Babylon.
From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa , one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its legendary treasury. Sending the bulk of his army to the Persian capital of Persepolis s via the Royal Road, Alexander stormed and captured the Persian Gates , then sprinted for Persepolis before its treasury could be looted. Alexander then set off in pursuit of Darius anew. The Persian king was no longer in control of his destiny, having been taken prisoner by Bessus , his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men murder the Great King and then declared himself Darius' successor as Artaxerxes V before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. With the death of Darius, Alexander declared the war of vengeance over, and released his Greek and other allies from service in the League campaign (although he allowed those that wished to re-enlist as mercenaries in his army).
The Dasht-e-kavir desert where Darius was killed
The Tomb of Artaxerxes III. Darius' final resting place?
His three-year campaign, first against Bessus and then against Spitamenes, the satrap of Soqdiana , took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia. In the process of doing so, he captured and refounded Herat and maracanda. Moreover, he founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern kandahar in Afghanistan , and Alexandria Eschate ("The Furthest") in modern Tajikistan. In the end, both of his opponents were defeated after having been betrayed by their men--Bessus in 329 BC, and Spitamenes the year after.
Hostility During this time, Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis , a symbolic kissing of the hand that Persians paid to their social superiors, but a practice that the Greeks disapproved. The Greeks regarded the gesture as the province of deities and believed that Alexander meant to deify himself by requiring it. This cost him much in the sympathies of many of his countrymen. Here, too, a plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to bring the plot to his attention. proskynesis
After India Alexander in an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, he held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. His attempts to merge Persian culture with his Greek soldiers also included training a regiment of Persian boys in the ways of Macedonians. Most historians believe that Alexander adopted the Persian royal title of Shahanshah (meaning: " The King of Kings "). It is claimed that Alexander wanted to overrun or integrate the Arabian peninsula, but this theory is widely disputed. It was assumed that Alexander would turn westwards and attack Carthage and Italy, had he conquered Arabia. After traveling to Ecbatana to retrieve the bulk of the Persian treasure, his closest friend Hephaestion died of an illness, or possibly of poisoning. Alexander mourned by Hephaestion's side for six months.
Invasion of India After his marriage to Roxana to cement his relations with his new Central Asian satrapies, in 326 BC Alexander was finally free to turn his attention to the India . After reducing Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and is believed to have won an epic battle against a local ruler Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab , in the battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC. After the battle, Alexander was greatly impressed by Porus for his bravery in battle, and therefore made an alliance with him and appointed him as satrap of his own kingdom, even adding some land he did not own before. Alexander then named one of the two new cities that he founded, Bucephala , in honor of the horse who had brought him to India, who had died during the battle og hydaspes.
The battlefield near the Hydaspes
Coin struck by Alexander, to commemorate his Indian victory
Alexander continued on to conquer all the headwaters of the Indus River. East of Porus' kingdom, fearing the prospects of facing another powerful Indian army and exhausted by years of campaigning, his army mutinied at the Hyphasis River refusing to march further east . This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests: Alexander was convinced that it was better to return. He sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with his general Craterus , and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral nearchus , while he led the rest of his forces back to Persia by the southern route through the Gedrosian Desert (now part of southern Iran now part of Pakistan). The Gedrosian desert
Death On the afternoon of June 10-11, 323 BC , Alexander died in Babylon . He was just one month short of attaining 33 years of age. Various theories have been proposed for the cause of his death which include poisoning by the sons of Antipater or others, sickness that followed a drinking party, or a relapse of the malaria he had contracted in 336 BC. Successor On his death bed, his marshals asked him to whom he bequeathed his kingdom. Since Alexander had no obvious and legitimate heir (his son Alexander IV would be born after his death, and his other son was by a concubine, not a wife), it was a question of vital importance. There is some debate to what Alexander replied. Some believe that Alexander said, " Kratisto " (that is, "To the strong est !").