...was king of Macedonia and one of the greatest generals in history. He
conquered much of what was then the civilized world. Alexander brought Greek
ideas and the Greek way of doing things to all the countries he conquered.
This great general and king made possible the broadly developed culture of
the Hellenistic Age.
born in Pella, Macedonia, the son of Philip of Macedon, who was an excellent
general and organizer. His mother was Olympias, princess of Epirus. She was
brilliant and hot-tempered. Alexander inherited the best qualities of both
his parents. But he was even more ambitious than his father. He wept
bitterly when he heard of Philipís conquests and said, " My father will get
ahead of me in everything, and will leave nothing great for me to do."
Alexanderís mother taught him that Achilles was his ancestor, and that his
father was descended from Hercules. Alexander learned by heart the Iliad, a
story about the deeds of Achilles. He carried a copy of the Iliad with him,
and Achilles became Alexanderís model Even as a boy Alexander was fearless
and strong. He tamed the beautiful and spirited Bucephalus, a horse that no
one else dared to touch or ride. Later, this famous steed carried him as far
as India, where it died. Alexander then built the city of Bucephala on the
Hydaspes River in memory of his beloved horse. Philip was so proud of
Alexanderís power over the horse that he said, "O my son, seek out a kingdom
worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee."
was 13 years old, he became the pupil of Aristotle. He was always eager to
learn. Aristotle inspired the talented youth with a great love for
literature. He took part in sports and daily exercise to develop a strong
body. Aristotle also inspired in Alexander a keen interest in other
countries and races of people, and in animals and plants. Alexanderís
education was not all from books. He talked with ambassadors from many
foreign countries, and with other noted persons at his fatherís court. When
he was only 18, he commanded part of Philipís cavalry at the battle of
Chaeronea. Alexander also acted as his fatherís ambassador to Athens.
20 when he became king of Macedonia. The Greek other states had grown
restless under Macedonian rule. While Alexander was away making war on some
barbarian tribes in the north, someone spread a story that he was dead. The
people in the city of Thebes revolted and called upon the people of Athens
to join them. Alexander soon appeared before Thebes with his army. His
soldiers stormed the city. Every building in Thebes was destroyed, except
the temples and the house of the poet Pindar. About 30,000 inhabitants were
sold into slavery. Alexanderís action broke the spirit of rebellion in the
other Greek states.
young king then turned his thoughts to conquering Persia. This had been part
of his fatherís plan before him. He crossed the Hellespont with an army of
35,000 soldiers in the spring of 334 B.C. He had very little money, and
gambled on a quick victory. The Persians met him on the banks of the
Granicus River. Alexander stormed across the river with his cavalry. This
victory opened all Asia Minor to him. Only Halicarnassus withstood a long
In 333 B.C.,
Alexander became seriously ill. But he recovered and marched along the coast
into Syria. The king of Persia, Darius III, raised a large army. He
fortified a riverbank near Issus behind Alexander. Alexander turned north
and routed the Greek and Persian heavy infantry with his phalanx. He
captured the kingís camp, including Dairusí wife and mother. His gallantry
toward them was his finest act. Alexander then marched south into Phoenicia
and captured Tyre after a seven-month siege. The city was on an island, but
Alexander built a causeway out to it, so that it is now a peninsula. About
8,000 Tyrians were slain and 30,000 sold into slavery. Alexanderís victory
over Tyre is sometimes considered his greatest military achievement. The
whole region then submitted to him except Gaza, where a brave Persian
governor resisted for three months. Gaza eventually suffered the same fate
went to Egypt. The Egyptians welcomed him as a deliverer, because they hated
their harsh Persian rulers. Alexander founded a city on a strip of land
between Lake Mareotis and the Mediterranean Sea. This city, Alexandria,
became a world center of commerce and learning. While it was being built,
Alexander made the long, dangerous march to the temple and oracle of Zeus-Ammon,
in the Libyan desert. Alexander was told that he was the son of the god and
would conquer the world.
turned again to the Persian front in 331 B.C. Darius had collected an
enormous army, including the famous heavy cavalry of the Iranian steppe, and
many chariots with scythelike knives protruding from the wheels. The
Persians smoothed and cleared a vast level plain near Arbela, east of the
Tigris River. The Persian cavalry outflanked Alexanderís left and captured
his camp. But, with a charge which he led himself, Alexander routed Darius,
and the Persian Army retired to the east. The battle of Arbela is also known
as the Battle of Gaugamela. It is considered on of the most decisive battles
The city of
Babylon surrendered, and Alexander easily captured the Persian cities of
Susa and Persepolis. These cities yielded him vast treasures of gold and
silver. All the inhabitants of Persepolis were either killed or sold into
slavery. Alexander burned Persepolis in revenge for the Persian burning of
Athens in 480 B.C.
crossed the Zagros Mountains into Media in 330 B.C. Darius had fled there,
and was soon afterward killed by his own nobles. His death left Alexander
king of Asia. He marched on, against only local opposition from tribespeople,
and occupied the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Continuing to the east,
he set up Iranian nobles as new local governors, but they revolted after he
left. Alexander swung south into Arachosia (southeast Persia) and then north
into Afghanistan, founding cities to serve as garrisons and centers of
administration. He entered Bactria and Sogdiana, behind the Hindu Kush
mountain range, and marched as far as the Jaxartes River. It took two years
to pacify the region. Alexander married Roxane, the daughter of a Sogdian
Alexander lost his temper and killed a close friend, Clitus, in a drunken
quarrel. This cost him the sympathy of his Macedonian troops. There were
plots against his life, and he executed several prominent people.
reinforced his troops with Iranians and reached the rich plains of India in
326 B.C. He defeated an Indian prince, Porus, in this region (now part of
Pakistan) and planned to march to the Ganges River. But his army mutinied.
Alexander then sailed down the Indus River to its mouth, and led his army
west across the terrible desert of Gedrosia, in present-day Pakistan and
Iran. His fleet under Nearchus sailed along the coast to the Persian Gulf.
Both the army and the fleet returned together to Susa.
became busy with the organization and administration of his empire. At the
height of his power, his realm stretched from the Ionian Sea to northern
India. He planned to make Asia and Europe one country and combine the best
of the East with the West. He chose Babylon as his capital city.
To achieve his
goal, Alexander encouraged intermarriages, setting an example by marrying a
Persian princess himself. He placed soldiers from all the provinces in his
army. He introduced a uniform currency system throughout the empire and
promoted trade and commerce. He encouraged the spread of Greek ideas,
customs, and laws into Asia. When he heard that some of his provincial
officials ruled unjustly, he replaced them. To receive recognition as the
supreme ruler, he required the provinces to worship him as a god.
vast plans, including his governmental reorganization and an expedition to
Arabia. But he was taken seriously ill with malaria at Babylon. The simple
remedies of the day did not help him. He died on June 13, 323 B.C. His body
was placed in a gold coffin and taken to Memphis, in Egypt. Later it was
carried to Alexandria, and placed in a beautiful tomb.
Alexander left no choice for a
successor. His only son, Alexander IV, was born after Alexanderís death. As
a result, Alexanderís leading generals became governors of various areas and
fought among themselves for control of the Empire. But no single leader
emerged, and by 311 B.C. the empire split into independent states or