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Alexander the Great


The Life of Alexander the Great
Alexander was born in July 356 BC in Pella in Macedonia, the area around the present day Thessaloniki (Solun) in northern Greece. Although at the time Macedonians considered themselves Greek, the Greeks themselves did not, and considered the Macedonians to be half-barbarian. Alexander's father, King Philip, had developed a efficient army based on revolutionary military improvements. King Philip conquered Greece in 338 BC.

Alexander's Great Victories
In 334 BC, less than two years after Alexander ascended the throne of Macedonia, he took his army to invade Persia. The Persian kingdom was a huge empire - stretching from the Mediterranean into India and had dominated the known world for over two centuries. But at the battle at the river Granicus Alexander decisively defeated a Persian army loyal to King Darius.

The following year, after Alexander had conquered much of what is now modern Turkey, King Darius went out to face Alexander on the battlefield. At Issus the Persian army, suffered a massive defeat. Alexander captured Darius' royal family which he treated with utmost respect.

Son of the Gods
Before invading central Persia, Alexander visited Egypt, where he was honoured as Pharaoh. The acclaimed oracle of Siwa supposedly acknowledged Alexander as son of Zeus-Ammon, the principal god to both Greeks and Egyptians.

Due to the delay it was 331 BC before Alexander and Darius met again at the battle of Gaugamela, where the hard fought victory of Alexander irrevocably changed the course of history. The capital of Persia fell into Alexander's hands and King Darius was murdered by his own army.

Coin with Bust of Alexander

To the Ends of the Earth
Now, with Persia conquered, Alexander and the army decided to march further eastwards. The next few years saw them occupying the northern fringes of the known world, battling rebellions and nomadic warriors in order to establish the new frontiers of their conquests. It was also a time of conspiracy and intrigue, in which some of Alexander's generals were accused of treason and were killed. The justification for these acts has always been questionable.

Continuing his conquests Alexander invaded India in the spring of 326 BC, winning a memorable though difficult victory over King Porus and his elephant corps. But the onset of the Indian monsoon and the deteriorating conditions of the expedition had ruined the morale of his armies. After consulting with his generals, Alexander agreed to return home. By this time Alexander's campaign had changed of character. The peoples of India were forced into submission by more violent methods than those used during the earlier conquests.


A King without an Heir
Alexander reached the mouth of the river Indus and part of the army returned to the new capital of Babylon. Many of the others, including the camp followers, perished in disastrous desert marches. Those who safely returned with Alexander had covered more than 32,000 km over a ten year period.

Back in the heart of his empire Alexander ordered a mass wedding between Macedonians and Persian women to reconcile the two peoples. The sudden death of his lifelong comrade and lover Hephaestion was a deep shock to him. Six months later, in Babylon, Alexander fell ill after a drinking party and died after ten days of high fever. It was June 323 BC. Though his first wife Roxane was pregnant with his first son, King Alexander left no heir.

Alexander deserved the title 'the Great' because he had changed military history forever. Prior to Alexander world civilisation was dominated by the cultures of Persia, Egypt and Babylon. This was the dawn of the military and cultural emminence of the western societies of the Romans and the Greeks. Many military experts still consider Alexander the most outstanding tactician and commander ever. The concept of 'god-king' which Alexander had embraced made its lasting mark on the evolution of Europe and even on Christianity.

Alexander, Corniola engraving, 1st century AD

The massacre of innocent peoples that happened during Alexander's campaigns is seen as repulsive through modern eyes. After the frustrating and brutal seven-month siege of Tyre - in modern Lebanon - he crucified 2,000 inhabitants. In India even the sick and elderly were mercilessly butchered. This sort of treatment of the vanquished was considered normal for the times.

On the other hand Alexander was a man with a vision who believed in the peaceful co-existance of different races within his empire. He had a chivalrous attitude towards the brave and the righteous, even if they were his enemy. Arguably, there is no one in history who could inspire and motivate his army like Alexander did. In Ancient times and in the European Middle Ages the figure of Alexander evolved into a legendary hero.

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