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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) was the king of Macedon, the leader of the Corinthian League, and the conqueror of Persia. He succeeded in forging the largest Western empire of the ancient world.

With his Macedonian forces Alexander subdued and united the Greeks and reestablished the Corinthian League after almost a century of warfare between the Greek city-states following the Peloponnesian War. Thus Alexander set the stage for his conquest of the Persian Empire, motivated both by personal ambition and by the Greeks' centuries-old hatred for their perennial Asian foes since the Persian Wars. His campaigns were not only wars of liberation of Greek colonies in Asia Minor but also revenge for Persian depredations in Greece in years past. Within 11 years Alexander's empire stretched from the Balkans to the Himalayas, and it included most of the eastern Mediterranean countries, Mesopotamia, and Persia. He died in Babylon contemplating the conquest of Carthage and perhaps Rome. His legacy was a fragmented empire, but he had inspired a new Hellenistic age of cosmopolitan culture.

Alexander was born in 356 B.C. to King Philip II of Macedon and Queen Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus, King of the Molossians. Alexander's sister was born the following year, and the two children grew up at the royal court in Pella. Since his paternal grandmother, Eurydice, was an Illyrian, Alexander was barely Macedonian in blood but clearly so in temperament. Of average height, he had deep-set dark eyes which shone out beneath a heavy brow, and a mass of dark, curly hair. As a youth, Alexander rarely saw his father, who was embroiled in long military campaigns and numerous love affairs. Olympias, a fierce and overly possessive mother, consequently dominated her son's early years and filled him with a deep resentment of his father and a strong dislike for women and wine, in which his father heavily indulged.

Education by Tutors

One of Alexander's first teachers was Leonidas, a relative of Olympias, who struggled to curtail the uncontrollable and defiant boy. Philip had hired Leonidas to train the youth in arithmetic, horsemanship, and archery. Alexander's favorite tutor was the Acarnian Lysimachus, who devised a game whereby Alexander impersonated the hero Achilles. This delighted Olympias, for her family claimed the hero as an ancestor. In Alexander's youthful mind, Achilles became the epitome of the aristocratic warrior, and Alexander modeled himself after this hero of Homer's Iliad.

In 343 Philip summoned the philosopher and scientist Aristotle from Lesbos to tutor Alexander. For 3 years in the rural Macedonian village of Mieza, Aristotle instructed Alexander and a small group of friends in philosophy, government, politics, poetry and drama, and the sciences. Aristotle prepared a shortened edition of the Iliad, which Alexander always kept with him. Aristotle believed in despotic control of the Persians, but Alexander agreed with the ideas expressed in Isocrates's Philip that Macedon should free the barbarians from despotism and offer them Greek protection and care.

Beginnings of the Soldier

The education at Mieza ended in 340. While Philip campaigned against Byzantium, he left the 16-year-old prince as regent in Pella. Philip's general Antipater cautiously but strongly advised Alexander, but other generals looked on Alexander as a pawn, more easily managed than Philip. Within a year Alexander undertook his first expedition against the Thracian tribes, and in 338 he led the Companion Cavalry and helped his father smash the Athenian and Theban forces at Chaeronea.

The brief relationship and military cooperation with his father ended soon after Philip had united all the Greek states except Sparta into the Corinthian League, over which Philip then governed as military leader. When Philip married Cleopatra, the daughter of his general Attalus, and expelled Olympias, Alexander with his mother and his closest friends fled Macedon and lived in Epirus with Olympias's family until Demaratus of Corinth brought about a reconciliation between father and son.

Alexander as King

In the summer of 336 at the ancient Macedonian capital of Aegai, Alexander's sister married her uncle Alexander, the Molossian king. In the festival procession Philip was assassinated by a young Macedonian noble, Pausanias. The reason for the act was never discovered.

Alexander sought the acclamation of the Macedonian army for his bid for kingship, and the generals, Antipater, and Alexander's own troops which had fought at Chaeronea proclaimed him king. Alexander then systematically killed all possible royal claimants to the throne, and Olympias murdered the daughter of Philip and Cleopatra and forced Cleopatra to commit suicide.

Although elected feudal king of Macedon, Alexander did not thus automatically gain command of the Corinthian League. The southern Greek states rejoiced at Philip's assassination, and Athens, under the staunch democrat Demosthenes, sought to lead the League. Throughout Greece independence movements arose. Immediately Alexander led his armies southward, and Thessaly quickly recognized him as leader. Alexander summoned members of the League to Thermopylae and received their recognition of his command. At Corinth in the autumn of 336 Alexander renewed the treaties with the member states. Sparta refused to join. The League entrusted Alexander with unlimited military powers to campaign against Persia.

A Panhellenic Leader

A spirit of Panhellenism ruled the first stages of Alexander's career. A united Greece free of petty wars would bring to the barbarian worlds the Hellenic culture. As the descendant of Achilles, Alexander would correct the ills Persia had created for Greece and remove Persian intervention in Greek affairs. Although he became a Panhellenic leader, he nevertheless remained a Macedonian king bent upon conquering new territories.

Alexander did not prepare for war with Persia immediately. In the spring of 335 he conquered the Thracian Triballians south of the Danube. He secured Macedon and its northern borders without the help of the general Parmenion, who was already in Asia Minor, and Antipater, who governed as Alexander's regent in Macedon.

Destruction of Thebes

In Asia, Darius III, King of Persia, had become aware of Parmenion's presence in Asia and of Alexander's future plans. Darius attempted to bribe the Greek states to revolt, but only Sparta accepted the gold. However, when a rumor spread that Alexander was dead, Demosthenes prodded the Athenian assembly to unilaterally consider the Corinthian League defunct and Athens independent. Thebes at once rejoiced and slew its Macedonian garrison. Alexander, very much alive, raced southward and besieged Thebes. In the name of the League, Alexander waged war against the rebellious members but still attempted to negotiate peace. When Thebes rejected Alexander's demands, he leveled the city, killed the soldiers, and sold the women and children into slavery, sparing only the temples and the house of the poet Pindar. Alexander destroyed the city to warn others of the price of rebellion. Athens revoked its declaration of withdrawal from the League, honored Alexander, and offered to surrender Demosthenes.

Asiatic Campaign

In October 335 Alexander returned to Macedon and prepared his Asiatic expedition. In numbers of troops, in ships, and in wealth, Alexander's resources were markedly inferior to those of Darius. Parmenion was recalled to Pella to be Alexander's chief aide. The army was not Panhellenic but essentially Macedonian, led by a Macedonian king, and the expedition quickly became the royal Macedonian's personal campaign for aggrandizement and empire.

In the early spring of 334 the army crossed the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles) to Abydos, and Alexander visited ancient Troy. There he sacrificed and prayed, dedicated his armor to Athena, and took an antique sacred shield for his campaign. Not far away at the Granicus River, Alexander met Darius's army in May, employed for the first time his oblique battle formation, and defeated the Persians. To commemorate the victory, Alexander sent 300 sets of Persian armor to the Parthenon in Athens with the dedicatory inscription: "Alexander the son of Philip, and the Greeks, all but the Spartans [dedicated these] from the barbarians who inhabit Asia." Alexander thus maintained the official propaganda that he was not only a king but the Panhellenic leader.

Western Asia Minor and Darius's capital at Sardis fell easily, followed by Miletus and Halicarnassus. The territories Alexander conquered retained their satrapal administrations, continued to pay the same taxes as before, and formed the foundations of his Asian empire.

By autumn Alexander had crossed the southern coast of Asia Minor, and Parmenion had entered Phrygia. Both armies spent the winter at the Phrygian capital of Gordium. Divine portents and miracles were ascribed to Alexander by the local peoples, Greeks, and barbarians. When Alexander cut the famous Gordian Knot to fulfill a prophecy, he himself started to believe the myths circulated about him.

When news reached Alexander of Greek naval victories in the Aegean, he sped eastward to the passes of the Taurus and Syria. By the late summer of 333 Alexander was in Cilicia, south of Darius and his armies. At Issus the two kings met in battle. Alexander was outnumbered, but utilizing the oblique formations he rushed the Persian center line and Darius turned his chariot and fled. The Persian line crumbled. In November, Alexander attacked the Persian royal camp, gained hoards of booty, and captured the royal family. He treated Darius's wife, mother, and three children with respect. Darius's army was beaten, and the King became a fugitive. Alexander publicly announced his personal claim to the throne of Persia and proclaimed himself king of Asia.

But before he could pursue his enemy into Persia, he needed to control the seas and the coastal territories of Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt to secure his chain of supply. Aradus, Byblos, and Sidon welcomed Alexander but Tyre resisted. In January 332 Alexander began his long and arduous siege of Tyre. He built moles to the island city, employed siege machines, fought off the Tyrian navy and army, and 8 months later seized the fortress.

Darius now sought to come to terms with Alexander and offered a large ransom for his family, a marriage alliance, a treaty of friendship, and the part of his empire west of the Euphrates. Alexander ignored Darius's offer, planning to conquer all.

Campaign in Egypt

From Tyre, Alexander marched south through Jerusalem to Gaza, besieged that city, and pushed on into Egypt. Egypt fell to Alexander without resistance, and the Egyptians hailed him as their deliverer from Persian hegemony. In every country Alexander had respected the local customs, religions, and peoples. In Jerusalem he had retained the priestly rule of the Temple, and in Egypt he sacrificed to the local gods. At Memphis the Egyptian priesthood recognized him as pharaoh, offered him the royal sacrifices, and invested him as king on the throne of Ptah. They hailed Alexander as a god. When Alexander visited the oracle of the Phoenician god Ammon at Siwa, the priest greeted him as the son of Ammon. From this time he seems to have accepted the idea of his own divinity. All across his Asian empire, oracles confirmed Alexander's divinity, and the people paid him divine honors.

Alexander promoted Greek culture in Egypt. In 331 he founded the city of Alexandria, which became the center of Hellenistic culture and commerce. Devoted to science, Alexander dispatched an expedition up the Nile to investigate the sources of the river and the true explanation for its inundations.

Arbela, Babylonia, and Persia

In September 331 Alexander defeated the Persians at Arbela (modern Erbil); the event is also called the Battle of Gaugamela. The Persian army collapsed, and Alexander pursued Darius into the Kurdish mountains.

Abandoning the chase, Alexander systematically explored Babylonia, the rich farmlands, palaces, and treasuries which Darius had abandoned. In Babylon, Alexander celebrated the New Year's Festival in honor of the god Marduk, whereby the god extended his divine pleasure and confirmed the lawful monarchy. Alexander became "King of Babylon, King of Asia, King of the Four Quarters of the World."

The royal palace of Susa and its treasuries fell to Alexander in the summer of 331, and he set out for Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire. To prevent a royal uprising and to exact punishment for the Persian destruction of Athens in 480, Alexander burned Persepolis, a rash but symbolic act. In the spring of 330 he marched to Darius's last capital, Ecbatana (modern Hamadan). There Alexander left Parmenion in charge of the vast confiscated treasuries and all communications and set off in pursuit of Darius.

Darius had fled beyond the Caspian Gates with his eastern satraps. When Alexander caught up with them in July 330, the satraps had assassinated Darius. Alexander ordered a royal funeral with honors for his foe. As Darius's successor and avenger, Alexander captured the assassins and punished them according to Persian law. Now Persian king, Alexander began to wear Persian royal clothing and adopted the Persian court ceremonials. As elsewhere, Alexander employed local officials in his administration. He did, however, maintain his position of leader of the Corinthian League toward the Greek ambassadors.

Iran and India

At the Caspian Sea, Alexander became occupied with geography, the location of the Eastern Ocean, and its relation to the Caspian Sea. Consequently, he pushed eastward and for 3 years campaigned in eastern Iran. He secured the region, founded cities, and established colonies of Macedonians. In the spring of 327 he seized the almost impregnable high rock fortress of Ariamazes and captured the Bactrian prince Oxyartes. Alexander married Oxyartes's daughter Rhoxana to bind his Eastern empire more closely to him in a political alliance.

The Macedonians began to resent Alexander's Oriental customs and dress and his demand that they prostrate themselves before him. Parmenion's son Philotas conspired against Alexander, who executed the traitor according to Macedonian law and also ordered the death of Parmenion on false charges.

In the summer of 327 Alexander marched to the Punjab and the Indus Valley. The following year his first son died in India. In northern India, Alexander defeated the armies of King Porus. Impressed with his bravery and nobility, Alexander reestablished Porus as king and gained his loyalty. Continuing his progress eastward, Alexander reached the Ganges, where his armies refused to go farther, and after 2 days of struggle Alexander turned back. The army returned westward along the Indus, but when Alexander was seriously wounded while fighting the fierce Malli warriors, his army was overwhelmed with grief. They cheered his recovery, and all animosities were forgiven.

By July 325 the army and its fleet had reached the Indus Delta. The fleet continued north in the Persian Gulf, while the army began to march along the barren and inhospitable coast. Hardship and death brought havoc to the army, which joined up with the fleet weeks later. In January 324 Alexander reached Persepolis, which he had left 5 years earlier, and in February he was in Susa. But disorder had spread throughout the empire during Alexander's campaigns in the East.

Festival at Susa

Greatly concerned with the rule of his empire and the need for soldiers, officers, and administrators, Alexander attempted to bind the Persian nobility to the Macedonians to forge a ruling class. At Susa he ordered 80 of his Macedonian companions to marry Persian princesses. Alexander, although married to Rhoxana, married Stateira, a daughter of Darius, to legitimize his sovereignty.

When Alexander incorporated 30,000 Persians into the army, his soldiers grumbled. At Opis that summer, when he decided to dismiss his aged and wounded Macedonian soldiers, the angry soldiers condemned his Persian troops and his Persian manners. Alexander arrested 13 of their leaders and executed them. He then addressed the army and movingly reminded them of their glories and honors. After 3 days the Macedonians repented, and in a thanksgiving feast the Persians joined the Macedonians as forces of Alexander—but not as brothers.

Alexander's Death

In the spring of 323 Alexander moved to Babylon and made plans to explore the Caspian Sea and Arabia and then to conquer northern Africa. On June 2 he fell ill with malaria, and 11 days later, at the age of 32, he was dead. A few months later his wife Rhoxana bore him a son, who was assassinated in 309.

Alexander's empire was little more than a vast territory improperly ruled by the king and his bureaucrats. Nations and peoples did not blend harmoniously together but were governed by Macedonians for their King. The empire collapsed at his death, and nations and generals vied for power. The Greek culture that Alexander introduced in the East had barely developed. But in time, and under the "successor" kingdoms, the Oriental and Greek cultures blended and flourished as a by-product of the empire.

Further Reading

The most thorough study of Alexander, and perhaps the most accurate interpretation, is Ulrich Wilcken, Alexander the Great (1931; trans. 1932). Andrew R. Burn, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Empire (1947; 2d ed. 1962), is a delightful brief sketch and a fine interpretation of Alexander. W. W. Tarn, Alexander the Great (2 vols., 1948-1950), misrepresents Alexander's goals. Charles A. Robinson, Jr., has compiled a good general study of Alexander, The History of Alexander the Great (2 vols., 1953-1963). See also Kurt Emmrich, Alexander the Great: Power as Destiny (1965; trans. 1968). John W. Snyder discusses Alexander's military campaigns in Alexander the Great (1966). Margarete Bieber, Alexander the Great in Greek and Roman Art (1964), considers his portraits. A well-illustrated biography is Peter Bamm, Alexander the Great (1968). See also F. A. Wright, Alexander the Great (1934); Lewis V. Cummings, Alexander the Great (1940); and J. F.C. Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great (1958). □

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Born: September 20, 356 b.c.e.
Pella, Macedonia
Died: June 13, 323 b.c.e.
Babylon

Macedonian king

Alexander the Great was one of the best-known rulers in ancient history. By the time of his death at thirty-two, he ruled the largest Western empire of the ancient world.

Education by tutors

Alexander was born in 356 b.c.e. to King Philip II of Macedon (382336 b.c.e.) and Queen Olympias (375316 b.c.e.). Growing up, Alexander rarely saw his father, who was usually involved in long military campaigns. Olympias, a fierce and possessive mother, dominated her son's youth and filled him with a deep resentment of his father. Nonetheless, their son's education was important to both parents.

One of Alexander's first teachers was Leonidas, a relative of Olympias, who struggled to control the defiant boy. Philip hired Leonidas to train the youth in math, archery, and horsemanship (the training and care of horses). Alexander's favorite tutor was Lysimachus. This tutor devised a game in which Alexander impersonated the hero Achilles. Achilles was a heroic Greek warrior from a famous ancient poem called the Iliad. Achilles became the model of the noble warrior for Alexander, and he modeled himself after this hero. This game delighted Olympias because her family claimed the hero as an ancestor.

In 343 Philip asked Aristotle (384322 b.c.e.), the famous Greek philosopher and scientist, to tutor Alexander. For three years in the rural Macedonian village of Mieza, Aristotle taught Alexander philosophy, government, politics, poetry, drama, and the sciences. Aristotle wrote a shortened edition of the Iliad, which Alexander always kept with him.

Beginnings of the soldier

Alexander's education at Mieza ended in 340 b.c.e.. While Philip was away fighting a war, he left the sixteen-year-old prince as acting king. Within a year Alexander led his first military attack against a rival tribe. In 338 he led the cavalry (troops who fight battles on horseback) and helped his father smash the forces of Athens and Thebes, two Greek city-states.

Alexander's relationship and military cooperation with his father ended soon after Philip took control of the Corinthian League. The Corinthian League was a military alliance made up of all the Greek states except for Sparta. Philip then married another woman, which forced Alexander and Olympias to flee Macedon. Eventually Philip and Alexander were reunited.

Alexander as king

In the summer of 336 b.c.e. at the ancient Macedonian capital of Aegai, Alexander's sister married her uncle Alexander. During this event Philip was assassinated by a young Macedonian noble, Pausanias. After his father's death Alexander sought the approval of the Macedonian army for his bid for kingship. The generals agreed and proclaimed him king, making Alexander the ruler of Macedon. In order to secure his throne, Alexander then killed everyone who could have a possible claim to the kingship.

Although he was the king of Macedon, Alexander did not automatically gain control of the Corinthian League. Some Greek states rejoiced at Philip's murder, and Athens wanted to rule the League. Throughout Greece independence movements arose. Immediately Alexander led his armies to Greece to stop these movements. The Greek states quickly recognized him as their leader, while Sparta still refused to join. The League gave Alexander unlimited military powers to attack Persia, a large kingdom to the east of Greece.

Asian campaign

In October 335 b.c.e. Alexander returned to Macedon and prepared for his Persian expedition. In numbers of troops, ships, and wealth, Alexander's resources were inferior to those of Darius III (380330 b.c.e.), the king of Persia. In the early spring of 334 Alexander's army met Darius's army for the first time. Alexander's army defeated the Persians and continued to move west. Darius's capital at Sardis fell easily, followed by the cities of Miletus and Halicarnassus. The territories Alexander conquered formed the foundations of his Asian empire.

By autumn 334 Alexander had crossed the southern coast of Asia Minor (now Turkey). In Asia Minor, Alexander cut the famous Gordian Knot. According to tradition, whoever undid the intricate Gordian Knot would become ruler of Asia. Many people began to believe that Alexander had godlike powers and was destined to rule Asia.

Then in 333 Alexander moved his forces east and the two kings met in battle at the city of Issus. Alexander was outnumbered but used creative military formations to beat Darius's forces. Darius fled. Alexander then attacked the Persian royal camp where he gained lots of riches and captured the royal family. He treated Darius's wife, mother, and three children with respect. With Darius's army defeated, Alexander proclaimed himself king of Asia.

As a result of the defeat, Darius wanted to sign a truce with Alexander. He offered a large ransom for his family, a marriage alliance, a treaty of friendship, and part of his empire. Alexander ignored Darius's offer because he wanted to conquer all of Asia.

Campaign in Egypt

Alexander then pushed on into Egypt. Egypt fell to Alexander without resistance, and the Egyptians hailed him as their deliverer from Persian domination. In every country, Alexander respected the local customs, religions, and citizens. In Egypt he sacrificed to the local gods and the Egyptian priesthood recognized him as pharaoh, or ruler of ancient Egypt. They hailed Alexander as a god. Alexander then worked to bring Greek culture to Egypt. In 331 b.c.e. he founded the city of Alexandria, which became a center of Greek culture and commerce.

More fighting in Persia

In September 331 b.c.e. Alexander defeated the Persians at the Battle of Gaugamela. The Persian army collapsed, and again Darius fled. Instead of chasing after him, Alexander explored Babylonia, which was the region that Darius had abandoned. The land had rich farmlands, palaces, and treasures. Alexander became "King of Babylon, King of Asia, King of the Four Quarters of the World."

Alexander next set out for Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire. To prevent an uprising, Alexander burned Persepolis. In the spring of 330 he marched to Darius's last capital, Ecbatana (modern Hamadan). There Alexander set off in pursuit of Darius.

By the time Alexander caught up with Darius in July 330, Darius's assistants had assassinated him. Alexander ordered a royal funeral with honors for his enemy. As Darius's successor, Alexander captured the assassins and punished them according to Persian law. Alexander was now the king of Persia, and he began to wear Persian royal clothing. As elsewhere, Alexander respected the local customs.

Iran and India

After defeating Darius, Alexander pushed eastward toward Iran. He conquered the region, built cities, and established colonies of Macedonians. In the spring of 327 b.c.e. he seized the fortress of Ariamazes and captured the prince Oxyartes. Alexander married Oxyartes's daughter Rhoxana to hold together his Eastern empire more closely in a political alliance.

In the summer of 327 Alexander marched toward India. In northern India, he defeated the armies of King Porus. Impressed with his bravery and nobility, Alexander allowed Porus to remain king and gained his loyalty.

By July 325 the army continued north to the harsh and barren land in the Persian Gulf. The hardship and death that occurred after arriving brought disorganization to the army. It was also at this time that disorder began to spread throughout the empire. Alexander was greatly concerned with the rule of his empire and the need for soldiers, officers, and administrators.

In order to strengthen the empire, Alexander then made an attempt to bind the Persian nobility to the Macedonians to create a ruling class. To accomplish this goal, he ordered eighty of his Macedonian companions to marry Persian princesses. Alexander, although married to Rhoxana, married Stateira, a daughter of Darius, to solidify his rule.

When Alexander incorporated thirty thousand Persians into the army, his soldiers grumbled. Later that summer, when he dismissed his aged and wounded Macedonian soldiers, the soldiers spoke out against Alexander's Persian troops and his Persian manners. Alexander arrested thirteen of their leaders and executed them. He then addressed the army and reminded his soldiers of their glories and honors. After three days the Macedonians apologized for their criticism. In a thanksgiving feast the Persians joined the Macedonians as forces of Alexander.

Alexander's death

In the spring of 323 b.c.e. Alexander moved to Babylon and made plans to explore the Caspian Sea and Arabia and then to conquer northern Africa. On June 2 he fell ill, and he died eleven days later.

Alexander's empire had been a vast territory ruled by the king and his assistants. The empire fell apart at his death. The Greek culture that Alexander introduced in the East had barely developed. In time, however, the Persian and Greek cultures blended and prospered as a result of his rule.

For More Information

Briant, Pierre. Alexander the Great. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

Green, Peter. Alexander of Macedon, 356323 b.c. Rev. ed. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1974.

O'Brien, John Maxwell. Alexander the Great. New York: Routledge, 1992.

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great or Alexander III, 356–323 BC, king of Macedon, conqueror of much of Asia.

Youth and Kingship

The son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, he had Aristotle as his tutor and was given a classical education. Alexander had no part in the murder of his father, although he may have resented him because he neglected Olympias for another wife. He succeeded to the throne in 336 BC and immediately showed his talent for leadership by quieting the restive cities of Greece, then putting down uprisings in Thrace and Illyria. Thebes revolted on a false rumor that Alexander was dead. The young king rushed south and sacked the city, sparing only the temples and Pindar's house.

Conquests

Greece and the Balkan Peninsula secured, Alexander then crossed (334) the Hellespont (now the Dardanelles) and, as head of an allied Greek army, undertook the war on Persia that his father had been planning. The march he had begun was to be one of the greatest in history. At the Granicus River (near the Hellespont) he met and defeated a Persian force and moved on to take Miletus and Halicarnassus. For the first time Persia faced a united Greece, and Alexander saw himself as the spreader of Panhellenic ideals. Having taken most of Asia Minor, he entered (333) N Syria and there in the battle of Issus met and routed the hosts of Darius III of Persia, who fled before him.

Alexander, triumphant, now envisioned conquest of the whole of the Persian Empire. It took him nearly a year to reduce Tyre and Gaza, and in 332, in full command of Syria, he entered Egypt. There he met no resistance. When he went to the oasis of Amon he was acknowledged as the son of Amon-Ra, and this may have contributed to a conviction of his own divinity. In the winter he founded Alexandria, perhaps the greatest monument to his name, and in the spring of 331 he returned to Syria, then went to Mesopotamia where he met Darius again in the battle of Guagamela. The battle was hard, but Alexander was victorious. He marched S to Babylon, then went to Susa and on to Persepolis, where he burned the palaces of the Persians and looted the city.

He was now the visible ruler of the Persian Empire, pursuing the fugitive Darius to Ecbatana, which submitted in 330, and on to Bactria. There the satrap Bessus, a cousin of Darius, had the Persian king murdered and declared himself king. Alexander went on through Bactria and captured and executed Bessus. He was now in the regions beyond the Oxus River (the present-day Amu Darya), and his men were beginning to show dissatisfaction. In 330 a conspiracy against Alexander was said to implicate the son of one of his generals, Parmenion; Alexander not only executed the son but also put the innocent Parmenion to death. This act and other instances of his harshness further alienated the soldiers, who disliked Alexander's assuming Persian dress and the manner of a despot.

Nevertheless Alexander conquered all of Bactria and Sogdiana after hard fighting and then went on from what is today Afghanistan into N India. Some of the princes there received him favorably, but at the Hydaspes (the present-day Jhelum River) he met and defeated an army under Porus. He overran the Punjab, but there his men would go no farther. He had built a fleet, and after going down the Indus to its delta, he sent Nearchus with the fleet to take it across the unknown route to the head of the Persian Gulf, a daring undertaking. He himself led his men through the desert regions of modern Baluchistan, S Afghanistan, and S Iran. The march, accomplished with great suffering, finally ended at Susa in 324.

Discord and Death

At Susa Alexander found that many of the officials he had chosen to govern the conquered lands had indulged in corruption and misrule. Meanwhile certain antagonisms had developed against Alexander; in Greece, for instance, many decried his execution of Aristotle's nephew, the historian Callisthenes, and his other acts of seemingly senseless murder; and the Greek cities resented his request that they treat him as a god. Alexander's Macedonian officers balked at his attempt to force them to intermarry with the Persians (he had himself married Roxana, a Bactrian princess, as one of his several wives), and they resisted his Eastern ways and his vision of an empire governed by tolerance. He was also distrusted for his extremely heavy consumption of alcohol. There was a mutiny, but it was put down. In 323, Alexander was planning a voyage by sea around Arabia when he caught a fever and died at age 32. After his death his generals fell to quarreling about dividing the rule (see Diadochi). His only son was Alexander Aegus, born to Roxana after Alexander's death and destined for a short and pitiful life.

Legacy

Whether or not Alexander had plans for a world empire cannot be determined. He had accomplished greater conquests than any before him, but he did not have time to mold the government of the lands he had taken. Incontestably, he was one of the greatest generals of all time and one of the most powerful personalities of antiquity. He influenced the spread of Hellenism throughout the Middle East and into Asia, establishing city-states modeled on Greek institutions that flourished long after his death. There are many legends about him, e.g., his feats on his horse Bucephalus and his cutting of the Gordian knot. The famous Greek sculptor Lysippus did several studies of Alexander.

Bibliography

Arrian and Plutarch wrote biographies of him in ancient times, and the literature of the Middle Ages romanticized his life. See also modern biographies by C. B. Welles (1970), R. L. Fox (1974), N. G. L. Hammond (1981), A. B. Bosworth (1989), and P. Freeman (2011); studies by D. W. Engels (1978), A. B. Bosworth and E. J. Baynham, ed. (2002), and P. Briant (rev. ed. tr. 2010); E. Badian, Collected Papers on Alexander the Great (2012).

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (356–323 bc) King of Macedonia (336–323 bc), considered the greatest conqueror of classical times. Son of Philip II of Macedonia and tutored by Aristotle, Alexander rapidly consolidated Macedonian power in Greece. In 334 bc, he began his destruction of the vast Achaemenid Persian Empire, conquering w Asia Minor and storming Tyre in 332 bc. He subdued Egypt and occupied Babylon, marching n in 330 bc to Media, and then conquering central Asia in 328 bc. In 327 bc, Alexander invaded India but the threat of mutiny prevented him from advancing beyond the Punjab. He died in Babylon, planning new conquests in Arabia. Although his empire did not outlive him, for he left no heir, he was chiefly responsible for the spread of Greek civilization in the Mediterranean and w Asia.

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Alexander

Alexander1 (356–323 bc), king of Macedon 336–323, son of Philip II; known as Alexander the Great. He conquered Persia, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Bactria, and the Punjab; in Egypt he founded the city of Alexandria. According to Plutarch, Alexander wept when he was told that there were an infinite number of worlds, saying, ‘Is it not worthy of tears that, when the number of worlds is infinite, we have not yet become lords of a single one?’

After his death from a fever at Babylon his empire quickly fell apart, but he became a model for subsequent imperialist conquerors and the subject of fantastic legends.

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Alexander III (king of Macedon)

Alexander III, king of Macedon: see Alexander the Great.

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great ★★½ 1955

A lavish epic about the legendary Greek conqueror of the fourth century B.C., which provides Burton a rare chance at an adventure role. Here we find Alexander is the product of a dysfunctional royal family who hopes to create an idealized world modeled after Greek culture to make up for the love he lacks from daddy. This he does by conquering everything before dying at the age of 33. The great cast helps to overcome the sluggish pacing of the spectacle, while numerous battle scenes featuring loads of spears and arrows are staged effectively. 135m/C VHS, DVD . Richard Burton, Fredric March, Claire Bloom, Harry Andrews, Peter Cushing, Danielle Darrieux, Helmut Dantine; D: Robert Rossen; C: Robert Krasker.

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

356-323 b.c.e.

King of macedon

Sources

Man and Legend . As the supremacy of the Greek polis gave way to that of Macedon, the center of political power shifted from the agora (marketplace) to the royal court of a single man. The accomplishment of Alexander the Great was to transform his father’s dominance over Greece into an empire over the entire oikoumene, or “inhabited world.” The breathtaking speed with which he used his own courage and tactical brilliance to conquer the Persian Empire have made his life almost a legend. Later philosophers and essayists like to ascribe to him a visionary ideal of a world united in language and culture. Of these things no one will ever know with great certainty.

A Promising Youth . Alexander III was born in 356 b.c.e., the son of Philip II and Olympias, who was the daughter of King Neoptolemus of Epirus. As a teenager he was tutored by the great Greek philosopher Aristotle. At the age of sixteen he showed enough martial prowess and intellect to be placed in charge of Macedon while his father attacked Byzantium. During Philip’s absence he successfully quelled the Maedi, a Thracian people. At the Battle of Chaeronea in 338, he commanded the right wing of the Macedonian army and defeated the Sacred Band of Thebes.

Consolidating Power . Although Alexander the Great is rightly famous for his campaign in Asia, the beginning of his reign was devoted to asserting his right to succeed Philip, eliminating real and potential rivals, and demonstrating once again Macedon’s dominance over Greece. As the only fit son of Philip, and one who had demonstrated his skills both on and off the battlefield, Alexander was really the only choice. However, his father had been assassinated, and Alexander took steps to eliminate any potential threats to himself, which was a common device in Macedonian succession. After marching south late in 336 b.c.e. to reassert his hegemony over the Corinthian League, Alexander returned in 335 to crush a revolt by the city of Thebes. He is said to have destroyed every house but that of the famous poet Pindar as a lesson to the rest of the Greeks. Alexander was clearly planning to carry out his father’s ambition to attack the Persian Empire, and he did not want to worry about any further uprisings in the Greek world.

The Granicus River . When Alexander set out to cross the Hellespont into Asia Minor in the early spring of 334, it is estimated that he had about 50,000 troops, 43,000 foot soldiers, and more than 6,000 cavalry. He also had about a thirty-day supply of food, which was carried by his fleet. He depended on being resupplied from the lands that he would conquer. The Persian army took up a defensive position on the far side of the Granicus River, where steep riverbanks made it dangerous for the advancing Macedonians. However, Alexander’s cavalry met this challenge and drove the Persians back from the riverbank, allowing the foot soldiers to cross the river safely. Alexander took a direct part in the cavalry fighting. He was injured and had to be rescued by his men. Nine out of ten Persians fell in the battle; the remaining two thousand were taken prisoner; and the Persian commander committed suicide. After the battle, Alexander made a point of visiting the ancient site of Troy. He wished to associate himself as much as possible with the legendary hero Achilles, who had been the greatest of the warriors fighting against Troy.

Supplies . Since he was running short of funds, Alexander sent his fleet back to Macedon. From now on his strategy was based largely on taking away the ports that the Persian navy needed, and from which it recruited its ships and men. He established himself at Ephesus, about halfway down the coast in Asia Minor, and began to lay siege to Halicarnassus to the south. The siege was successful, except for a few Persians who held out in the citadel for several months, and here Alexander adopted a method that he would use throughout his conquered territory. He reinstated a woman named Ada, whose rule had recently been usurped, and had himself adopted as her son. As with the Greeks, Alexander was able in this way to employ the form of local government that was familiar to the local people. (The Persians had also used this method on occasion.)

The Gordian Knot . During the winter of 334-333 b.c.e., Alexander dispersed his army, sending the recently married men back to Macedon, another part to Sardis, and taking most of the men south along the coast to Lycia, where it was warmer. In this way, no area was overburdened by the presence of his army. The next spring he assembled his army at Gordium, the ancient capital of Phrygia, which had reached its greatest fame under the famous King Midas in the eighth century b.c.e. In Gordium there was a famous knot of rope with an ancient prophecy: whoever could untie the rope would rule Asia. Tradition has it Alexander “cut the Gordian knot” with his sword, thus giving the source of the expression for solving unsolvable problems.

Issus . From Gordium, Alexander marched south again to the Mediterranean coast in Cilicia. Here he was delayed for several months, and he almost died from a fever. This delay gave the Persian king Darius III time to collect his forces. Like Alexander, Darius had become king in 336, and he was still consolidating his rule. Many in Darius’s army were Greek mercenaries. The two armies maneuvered and delayed, each wanting to fight on a field that would give it greater advantage. Since the Persians had a much larger army, they wanted to fight on an open plain. Alexander wanted to fight in a narrow pass. As it turned out, the Persian army circled behind Alexander, and the two armies met at a relatively narrow point on the coast at Issus in late 333 b.c.e. It was a great victory for Alexander. Although they are probably exaggerated, the ancient reports say the Persians lost one hundred thousand men and the Macedonians only five hundred. Alexander’s forces even managed to capture Darius’s wife and mother, along with his royal camp.

Tyre and Gaza . Darius offered peace, but when Alexander demanded that Darius surrender and recognize Alexander as lord of Asia, the war had to go on. Darius had to retreat in an attempt to reorganize his armies, but Alexander did not pursue him. Instead, he continued his strategy of moving along the Mediterranean coast. Byblos and Sidon quickly surrendered, but the city of Tyre, which was situated on an island just off the coast, withheld a siege for seven months. Alexander had his men build a land bridge out to the island. When ships from Rhodes, Lycia, Byblos, Sidon, and especially from Cyprus, joined his siege, the city was finally captured. Much of the rest of 332 b.c.e. was then devoted to a siege of Gaza, further south along the coast, where Alexander was again wounded.

Alexandria . Egypt was the home of the oldest civilization in the world, and it had long resented Persian domination. Alexander was welcomed there as Pharaoh, and after a visit to an oracle of Ammon (Zeus) at an oasis in the Libyan desert, he was recognized as a son of the god, and thus a god himself, at least in the eyes of the Egyptians. The Greeks and Macedonians in his army were not happy about Alexander’s claiming to be a god, since that conflicted with their traditions, but Alexander seems to have accepted this status in the same way that he adopted the rule and customs of other peoples he had captured. In 332 on an island in the Nile River delta, Alexander also founded the first, and most successful, of many cities that he named for himself. Here he was able to settle many of his retired or disabled veterans. After Alexander’s death, Alexandria became the capital of the Ptolemaic Empire, which lasted until the death of Cleopatra in 31 b.c.e.

Peace Overtures . Darius again offered peace terms: Alexander could have all the land he had conquered and a marriage alliance with the Persian king’s family; however, Alexander rejected these terms too. He not only wanted revenge for the Persian attacks on Greece, but also wanted to take over the entire Persian Empire. Since the direct path to Persia would have led through an impenetrable desert in modern-day Jordan and Iraq, Alexander retraced his steps up the Mediterranean coast and crossed over modern-day Syria to the upper Tigris River.

Gaugamela . This time, when the armies met in late 331 b.c.e., Darius chose the battlefield. It was at Gaugamela, near the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh. The area was wide and level, and Darius even had the land smoothed out to allow for the use of special scythed chariots. They were ineffective, however, since Alexander’s light foot soldiers were able to attack their horses with javelins, and the hoplite phalanxes could allow them to pass by harmlessly, kept at a distance by their long sarissas. Alexander’s cavalry was able to drive a hole through the middle of the enemy lines and force the Persian king to flee. The Macedonians won another great victory. With the Persian king in flight, the great cities of the Persian Empire, with all their huge wealth, Babylon, Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, and Ecbatana, were now Alexander’s for the taking. Nevertheless, Alexander took some time seizing these capitals. He had to be careful to keep track of the enormous wealth that now came into his possession. At Persepolis in 330 he finally let his troops help themselves: they looted the city, killed the men, and enslaved the women. As a final act Alexander burned the royal palace, which had been built during the reign of Darius I in the late sixth century b.c.e. This act was certainly a mark of retribution against the Persians.

Decisions . At this point in his campaigns, Alexander had to choose between returning to Macedon or taking the place of the Persian king and continuing his operations to the east. An Old Guard among his Macedonians wanted to return home. They saw contact with Persian culture as a corrupting influence and objected to Alexander’s behaving like a Persian king. In 330 this discontent led Alexander to order a series of executions within his army.

Eastern Operations . The Persian king was taken prisoner and subsequently executed by one of his eastern governors, Bessus. Alexander now pursued this pretender to the Persian throne. When he caught him in 329, he had him brutally executed. In the eastern part of what had been the Persian Empire (modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan), stubborn resistance by local peoples kept Alexander campaigning there for the next three years. Many of his soldiers were not happy about having to fight so far from home, and Alexander’s method of settling discharged veterans in conquered cities to counter local resistance caused even more resentment.

The Hydaspes River . Alexander fought his last great pitched battle in 326 b.c.e. on the Hydaspes River against an Indian king, Poros. Here his forces even met elephants, but the result was the same: Alexander’s forces won a great victory. King Poros had taken an active part in the fighting, but when he surrendered, Alexander welcomed him as a new ally. The two fought together against Poros’s other enemies. Finally this situation was too much for Alexander’s men. They had been away from Macedon for eight years. The clothing they had brought from home was worn out, and their equipment was rusting in the monsoon rains. Alexander agreed to turn back.

Homeward Bound . The return trip was not easy, however. As his troops traveled south along the Hydaspes River, they faced a hostile population, and Alexander was wounded by an arrow that pierced his lung. After recovering, he chose a difficult route back, through the Gedrosian Desert on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Many of his soldiers died crossing this region. Back in Persia Alexander found that those he had left in charge were mistreating the local populations, desecrating temples and tombs, and conspiring in treasonous activities. He reasserted control and executed many of the worst offenders.

Persian Influence . His own idea was to achieve a blending of cultures. He saw himself not only as king of Macedon and leader (hêgemôn) of Greece, but also as a successor to the kings of Persia. At Pasargadae he therefore took care to restore the plundered tomb of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire. At Susa he held a mass wedding between his own leading men and women of the Persian aristocracy, which was possible because Macedonians allowed polygamy. He himself married two Persian women, daughters of Darius and his predecessor, so that his children might have Persian royal pedigrees. Altogether there were some ten thousand mixed marriages that Alexander had performed, according to Persian customs. He also enlisted thirty thousand Persian youths into his army, dressing them in Macedonian uniforms and giving them Macedonian weapons.

Death . The last two years of Alexander’s life were spent in Mesopotamia. There were further rebellions among his Macedonian followers because they resented being pushed aside by Persians, whom they had conquered. Alexander was able to deal with these problems through threats and bluffs. Slowly the accommodation of the two cultures to each other began to take hold. Alexander had many ambitious plans against Arabia, the western Mediterranean, and the Caspian Sea region, but in 323 b.c.e. he fell ill once more with a fever and died.

Influence . The legacy of Alexander has been enormous. The period after 323 b.c.e. is known as the Hellenistic Period because it was a time in which the language, culture, and institutions of Greece, Hellas, were spread throughout the Middle East. The time for the polis, however, the independent city-state that was the central political institution of the Greek world, was passed. Alexander’s top generals carved up the territory he had conquered and continued to govern until the Romans and Parthians eventually pushed their successors aside centuries later.

Sources

A.B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Donald W. Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978).

Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 b.c.e.: A Historical Biography (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1974).

John Maxwell O’Brien, Alexander the Great: The Invisible Enemy (London & New York: Routledge, 1992).

Plutarch, The Age of Alexander (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1973).

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

356 b.c.-323 b.c.

Macedonian Conqueror

Though the Romans would rule more land, no one man has ever subdued as much territory in as short a period as Alexander the Great, or Alexander III of Macedon, who conquered most of the known world before his death at age 32. Yet Alexander did more than win battles: trained in the classic traditions of Greece, he brought an enlightened form of leadership to the regions he conquered. His empire might have been a truly magnificent one if he had lived; as it was, he ensured that the influence of Greece reached far beyond its borders, leaving an indelible mark.

Macedon was a rough, warlike country to the north of Greece, and though the Macedonians considered themselves part of the Greek tradition, the Greeks tended to look down on them as rude and unschooled. But Greece's own day of glory had passed, and Alexander's father, Philip II (382-336 b.c.; r. 359-336 b.c.), subdued all of southwestern Europe between 354 and 339 b.c. At the age of 17, Alexander himself led the Macedonian force that conquered Thebes.

Philip, who revolutionized infantry tactics, might well be remembered as the greatest of Macedonian rulers, had he not been eclipsed by his son. Also remarkable was Alexander's mother, Olympias, who brought up her boy on stories of gods and heroes. Under her influence, he became enamored with the figure of Achilles from Homer's Iliad, and came to see his later exploits as fulfillment of the heroic legacy passed down by his mother. A third and significant influence was Aristotle (384-322 b.c.), who tutored Alexander in his teen years. It is an intriguing fact that one of the ancient world's wisest men taught its greatest military leader, and no doubt Alexander gained a wide exposure to the world under Aristotle's instruction.

He was not, however, a thinker but a doer. A natural athlete, Alexander proved his combination of mental and physical agility when at the age of 12 he tamed a wild horse no one else could ride. Alexander named the horse Bucephalus, and the two would be companions almost for life: later, when Bucephalus died during Alexander's campaign in India, he would name a city for his beloved horse.

Soon after Philip took control of Greece, he was assassinated, and in claiming the throne, Alexander had to gain the support of the Macedonian nobility. He did so with a minimum of bloodshed, establishing a policy he would pursue as ruler of all Greece: leaving as much good will as he could behind him, he was thus able to push forward.

Alexander next turned to consolidation of his power in Greece, which he did by a lightning-quick movement in which he captured Thebes and killed some 6,000 of its defenders. After that, he faced no serious opposition from the city-states, and embarked on a mission that had been Philip's dream: conquest of the vast Persian Empire to the east. The latter had once threatened Greece, only to be defeated in the Persian Wars (499-449 b.c.); now Greece, led by Macedon, would take control of the Persians' declining empire.

The main body of Alexander's army, some 40,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, moved into Asia Minor while their commander crossed the Hellespont with a smaller contingent so that he could go on a personal pilgrimage to the site of Troy. Eventually, Alexander and his army passed through the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordian. In that city was a chariot tied with a rope so intricately knotted that no one could untie it. According to legend, the fabled King Midas or Mita (fl. 725 b.c.) had tied the Gordian Knot, and whoever could untie it would go on to rule the world. Alexander simply cut the knot.

After a successful military engagement against a Greek mercenary named Memnon, Alexander moved down into Cilicia, the area where Asia Minor meets Asia. The Persian emperor Darius III (d. 330 b.c.) came to meet him with a force of 140,000, and at one point—because Alexander's armies were moving so fast—cut him off from his supply lines. Darius chose to wait it out, letting Alexander's forces come to him, and Alexander, taking this as a sign of weakness, charged on the Persians. Alexander nearly got himself killed, but the Battle of Issus was a decisive victory for the Greeks. Darius fled, leaving Alexander in control of the entire western portion of the Persians' empire.

Instead of raping and pillaging, as any number of other commanders would have allowed their troops to do, Alexander ordered his armies to make a disciplined movement through conquered territories. In 332 and 331 b.c., Alexander's forces secured their hold over southwestern Asia, and by the latter year he was in Egypt, where he founded the city of Alexandria, destined to become a center of Greek learning for centuries to come. In October 331 b.c., he met a Persian force of some 250,000 troops—five times the size of his own army—at the Assyrian city of Gaugamela. It was an overwhelming victory for the Greeks, and though Darius escaped once again, he would later be assassinated by one of his own people.

Alexander now controlled the vast lands of the Persian Empire, but with the agreement of his men, he kept moving eastward. Over the next six years, from 330 to 324 b.c., his armies subdued what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, and ventured into India. Alexander secured his position in Afghanistan by marrying the Bactrian princess Roxana (d. c. 310 b.c.), but as he became aware that some of his troops were growing weary, he sent the oldest of them home.

He wanted to keep going east as far as he could, simply to see what was there, and if possible, add it to his empire. But in July of 326 b.c., just after they crossed the Beas River in India, his troops refused to go on. There might have been a rebellion if Alexander had tried to force the issue, but he did not. He sent one group, led by Nearchus (d. 312? b.c.), back by sea to explore the coastline as they went, and another by a northerly route. He took a third group through southern Iran, on a journey through the desert in which the entire army very nearly lost its way.

In the spring of 323 b.c., they reached Babylon, and Alexander began plotting the conquest of Arabia. But he was unraveling both physically and emotionally, and he had taken to heavy drinking. He caught a fever, and was soon unable to move or speak. During the last days of his life, Alexander—the man of action—was forced to lie on his bed while all his commanders filed by in solemn tribute to the great man who had led them where no conqueror had ever gone. On June 13, 323 b.c., he died.

Alexander was no ordinary conqueror: his empire seemed to promise a newer, brighter age when the nations of the world could join together as equals. Though some of his commanders did not agree with him on this issue, Alexander made little distinction between racial and ethnic groups: instead, he promoted men on the basis of their ability. From the beginning, his armies had recruited local troops, but with the full conquest of Persia, they stepped up this policy. It was his goal to leave Persia in the control of Persians trained in the Greek language and Greek culture, and he left behind some 70 new towns named Alexandria. Thus began the spread of Hellenistic culture throughout western Asia.

But Alexander's empire did not hold. The generals who succeeded him lacked his vision, and they spent the remainder of their careers fighting over the spoils of his conquests. Seleucus (c. 356-281 b.c.) gained control over Persia, Mesopotamia, and Syria, where an empire under his name would rule for many years, and Ptolemy (c. 365-c. 283 b.c.) established a dynasty of even longer standing in Egypt. His descendants ruled until 30 b.c., when the last of his line, Cleopatra (69-30 b.c.)—also the last Egyptian pharaoh—was defeated by a new and even bigger empire, Rome.

JUDSON KNIGHT

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Alexander the Great

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

ALEXANDER THE GREAT (356–323 b.c.), king of Macedon, conqueror of vast empire that included Greece, Persia, Egypt, and (briefly) parts of India Alexander the Great, son of King Philip II of Macedon and a student of Aristotle, was the ancient world's greatest general. In the spring of 326 b.c. he led his Macedonian army across the Indus at Attock, conquering Punjab with only 30,000 foot soldiers and cavalry. Alexander's ambition was to conquer all of India, but he was blocked by his own soldiers, who refused to advance beyond the Beas River. Alexander's brief interlude in India proved a potent catalyst for change, probably inspiring the founder of India's first imperial dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya, and opening trade and cultural highways of intercourse between Hellenistic and Indic civilizations.

Raja Ambhi of Taxila, the first Indian prince to confront Alexander, wisely opened the gates of his capital to Alexander's army. Hellenistic coins and fragments of Gandharan art and a small Greek temple, visually reflecting the impact of Alexander's invasion, are preserved in modern Pakistan's Taxila Museum. We know from Strabo's account (XV,C.715) that just outside the gates of Taxila, Onesicritus, one of Alexander's officers, found fifteen Hindu yogis sitting stark naked on blazing rocks in the sun. He tried, through three interpreters, to learn the "secret" of their endurance, but failed. The one yogi whom Alexander took away with him died of food poisoning, as would Alexander himself, before returning home.

The most important impact of Alexander's brief conquest of Punjab, however, appears to have been the inspiration it provided to Chandragupta Maurya, a "young stripling" Alexander met after he had conquered the Punjabi kingdoms of Porus (Puru) and his neighbors. Chandragupta returned to his Eastern Gangetic Kingdom, Magadha, soon after meeting with Alexander, inspired by Alexander's dream of universal conquest, to overthrow its raja; less than two years later Chandragupta established North India's first great empire, which lasted 140 years, as long as the British Raj would.

In addition to his martial prowess and bold vision of global conquest, Alexander was a builder of cities and bridges, his engineering corps arming him with the capability of crossing the mighty Indus. His brilliant Greek scientists brought a number of Western ideas, in medicine as well as philosophy and astronomy, to North India, some of which were adopted by precocious Indian scientists, whose own unique discoveries in those fields antedated most of those known to the Greeks. Multicultural interaction between the Hellenistic West and India would remain an important legacy of Alexander, who was so impressed by Raja Puru's elephant corps that he brought several of those earliest "tanks" back with his own army.

Stanley Wolpert

See alsoGuptan Empire ; Punjab

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fildes, Alan, and Joann Fletcher. Alexander the Great: Son of the Gods. London: Duncan Baird, 2001.

Hammond, N. G. L. Alexander the Great. 3rd ed. London: Bristol Classical Library, 1980.

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