Alexander The Great biography

02/22/13

(356-323 B.C.) ...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.

HIS BOYHOOD

Alexander was 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."

HIS YOUTH

When Alexander 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.

Alexander was 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.

CONQUEST OF PERSIA

The ambitious 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 siege.

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 as Tyre.

Alexander next 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.

THE BATTLE OF ARBELA

Alexander 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 in history.

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.

Alexander 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 baron.

In Sogdiana, 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.

VICTORY IN INDIA

Alexander 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.

Alexander then 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.

HIS DEATH

Alexander had 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 monarchies.

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This site was last updated 02/02/13