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Alexander the Great

Civilization:Greek: Macedonia
Era: Macedonian
356–323 BCField of Renown:monarch: King
 He ran towards the horse and seized the bridle.

Alexander the Great is considered one of the most successful military commanders of all time. He was the son of Philip II, a King of Macedonia who had spent twenty years bringing Thrace, Thessaly, and eventually all of Greece under Macedonian control. When Alexander came to the throne at age 20, he therefore had the most powerful army in the region at his disposal, as well as several of his father's best generals. Even considering these advantages however, the progress of his military success was astounding. Macedonia was still a poor and backward country when Alexander crossed the Hellespont in 334 B.C. with the notion of conquering all of Persia. He had only 40,000 troops and little money to begin with, but within three years he was master of a fabulously wealthy empire, whose domains spanned thousands of miles and included tens of millions of people.

Alexander was the eldest son of Philip II and his first wife, Olympia. During Alexander's entire youth, his father was engaged in a series of wars of conquests, first of the neighboring regions of Thrace, and later of Northern Greece. During this time Alexander learned the arts of war and when only 18, led a cavalry wing at the decisive Battle of Chaeronea. With this victory, Macedonia became the over-lord of all of Northern Greece. Only two years later, Philip was murdered and as a result, there were several rebellions within the Macedonian realm. Alexander acted immediately upon coming to the throne to put down the rebellions, first in Thrace, and later in Thebes with great severity. As a result of its rebellion, Thebes was razed to the ground, and there were no further revolts within Alexander's domain.

As soon as his rule was everywhere firmly established, Alexander began actively planning an invasion of Persia. With an army of just over 40,000 Macedonian and Greek troops, Alexander met the Persians in three major battles over a three year period. In each case the Macedonians were greatly outnumbered but prevailed everywhere due to superior tactics and generalship. Following each victory, Alexander spent a year consolidating his power and besieging a few fortified towns. His first victory, at Granicus, gained him all of Asia Minor. His second major battle, at Issus, opened up all of Syria, Mesopotamia, and ultimately Egypt. His final victory at Gaugamela crushed the last vestige of Persian power and opened up all of Central Asia. He continued his campaign in the eastern regions of the Persian Empire for several years after his victory at Gaugamela, but fought only local skirmishes rather than full-scale battles.

During the early years of Alexander's reign in Persia he tried to blend the Persian and Greek cultures to some extent, but his acceptance of some Persian customs caused resentment among some of his Greek generals. He preferred conquest to administration however, so in 326 embarked on another campaign which took him to the outer realm of the empire. He fought King Porus for control of northern India at the Battle of Hydaspes River, but his army refused to proceed when he tried to lead them into the Ganges Valley. They were exhausted after years of campaigning and wanted to return home. Disappointed, Alexander returned to Babylon. The final years of his life were considerably less creditable than his early years. He became paranoid and abrasive, and was responsible for the murder or assassination of several of his longtime friends and advisors. His death after an acute illness in 323 was certainly due to excessive drink and dissipation.

Since Alexander died without a clear plan of succession, his death resulted in a long series of wars between his generals for control of his kingdom. By the time of his death however, the process of "Hellenization", involving the introduction of Greek culture and learning into all the domains of the eastern Mediterranean was well along. Within 20 years of his death his empire had evolved into three long term empires, but all retained a Greco-Macedonian character in their administration.

Key events during the life of Alexander the Great

Year Event
356 BC Birth of Alexander the Great.
338 BC Philip II defeats Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea; Alexander led Macedonian cavalry.
336 BC Death of Philip II, Alexander assumes throne; puts done a rebellion in Thrace.
335 BC Rebellion in Thebes is put down severely. Thebes is razed.
334 BC Macedonian army crosses the Hellespont; defeats Memnon of Rhodes at the Battle of Granicus.
334 BC Alexander consolidates his power in all of Asia Minor.
333 BC Defeats Darius in the great Battle of Issus. All of Syria falls into Macedonian hands.
333 BC Egypt surrenders to Alexander without any resistance.
333 BC Destroys Perisan capital of Persepolis.
332 BC Builds a giant bridge in order to besiege the island city of Tyre. City falls and is severerly treated.
331 BC Great Persian army is defeated at the Battle of Gaugamela. All of Persia falls into Macedonian hands.
331 BC Death of Darius at the hands of a traitor.
330 BC Campaigns in Media, Bactria and Afghanistan
328 BC Returns to Capital at Babylon
327 BC Marries Roxana, a Bactrian Princess.
326 BC Defeats Porus in a great battle at the Indus River.
325 BC Macedonian army refuses to continue on. Alexander returns to Babylon.
323 BC Death of Alexander the Great

Book Links
Alexander the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Young Macedonian in the Army of Alexander the Great  by  Alfred J. Church


Story LinksBook Links
Conqueror  in  Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks  by  Gould
Alexander's Brilliant Beginning  in  Story of the Greeks  by  Guerber
Alexander the Great  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  Haaren
Alexander the Great  in  Greek Gods - Heroes - and Men  by  Harding
Invasion of Alexander the Great  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Home
Alexander the Great  in  Soldiers and Sailors  by  Horne
Alexander  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Kaufman
Alexander the Great  in  Stories from Greek History  by  Lemon
Tyre Is Stormed by Alexander  in  Story of Greece  by  Macgregor
Alexander the Great Invades India  in  Our Empire Story  by  Marshall
Alexander the Great and Darius  in  Historical Tales: 10—Greek  by  Morris
Fight on the River  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Church
Alexander the Great  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  Synge
Alexander the Great  in  Story of the Greek People  by  Tappan
Alexander and Bucephalus  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  Baldwin
Lesson in Justice  in  Fifty Famous People  by  Baldwin
Gordian Knot  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  Baldwin
Why Alexander Wept  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  Baldwin
Birth of Alexander  in  Story of the Greeks  by  Guerber
Alexander and Bucephalus  in  Story of Greece  by  Macgregor
Alexander the Great  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Shaw
Alexander the Great Explores India  in  Book of Discovery  by  Synge
Alexander the Great  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Tappan
Alexander  in  Plutarch's Lives  by  Weston

Image Links
Alexander and Bucephalus  in Alexander the Great The Bathing in the River Cydnus  in Alexander the Great It is this that I cut all Gordian knots'  in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold
Who but Dulkarnein reddened with anger?  in Child's Book of Warriors Alexander the Great in Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks Alexander and Bucephalus in Story of the Greeks
Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot in Story of the Greeks Death of Alexander in Story of the Greeks Alexander tames Bucephalus  in Famous Men of Greece
The family of Darius at Alexander's feet, Crane  in Famous Men of Greece Porus before Alexander, Chappel  in Famous Men of Greece The death of Alexander, Piloty  in Famous Men of Greece
Aristotle teaching Alexander, Laplante  in Famous Men of Greece Alexander the Great  in Greek Gods - Heroes - and Men Thais Suggests the Burning of Persepolis  in Greatest Nations: Greece
Wedding of Alexander and Statira  in Greatest Nations: Greece The Death of Alexander  in Greatest Nations: Greece Alexander the Great in Soldiers and Sailors
Alexander discovering the body of Darius  in Soldiers and Sailors Alexander taming Bucephalus in Our Young Folks' Plutarch Alexander and Diogenes in Stories from Greek History
Alexander scales the walls with three men in Stories from Greek History He ran toward the horse and seized the bridle.  in Story of Greece With an effort he looked at them as they passed.  in Story of Greece
The Death of Alexander the Great  in Historical Tales: 10—Greek Alexander Training Bucephalus  in Stories of the Ancient Greeks Alexander (From a bust in Tivoli, Italy) in Story of the Greek People
Alexander (From a bust found in Tivoli, Italy, in 1779.)  in Old World Hero Stories Alexander and Diogenes in Plutarch's Lives Quarrel between Alexander and Clitus in Plutarch's Lives

Contemporary Short Biography
Philip of Macedonia Used statesmanship as well as military force to bring Greece under sway of Macedonia.
Aristotle Renowned scientist and philosopher. Cataloged all types of knowledge. Tutor to Alexander the Great.
Demosthenes One of Greece's greatest orators. Spoke against Philip and the Macedonians.
Porus Proud King of India, defeated by Alexander, but then restored as Satrap of the region.
Memnon of Rhodes
Parmenio Chief general of both Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Eventually killed by Alexander.
Antipater One of Philip's most trusted generals. Left in charge of Macedonia during Alexander's conquests.
Olympias Wife of Philip of Macedon. Alexander's mother. Quarreled with Antipater over charge of Macedonia.
Darius III Last king of Persia, overthrown by Alexander the Great.