Alexander the Great: Alexander III of Macedon

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Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, Alexander III of Macedon, King of Macedonia, was born in July 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia. He was one of the greatest military geniuses in history. His father, Philip II of Macedon, was a brilliant ruler and strategist. His mother was Olympias, princess of Epirus, daughter of King Neoptolemus. Arixstandros Telmisy, a renowned dream interpreter, determined that Olympias was pregnant, and that the child would have the character of a lion. Even as a young boy Alexander was fearless and strong. At the age of twelve, he tamed the beautiful and spirited Bucephalus, a horse that no one else could ride. Philip was so proud of Alexander's horsemanship that he said, “O my son, seek out a kingdom worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.” Alexander knew the Iliad by heart. He loved Homer, and always slept with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow. Leonidas was Alexander’s first teacher. He was a relative of Olympias. Leonidas instilled in Alexander the Spartan way of life which made Alexander into a militaristic machine. Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus, who taught Alexander to play the lyre, and to appreciate the arts. From age 13 to 16, together with the other boys belonging to the Macedonian aristocracy, Aristotle, at the Mieza temple, taught Alexander. Alexander's actions were inspired by Hercules, Achilles, and Cyrus the Great. His actions were guided by the spirit of Homer, who appeared in his dreams. The Iliad was his manual of war. Like Achilles, he was a superhuman hero and warrior. He exposed himself often to extreme danger during battle. Alexander could support pain, hunger, thirst, heat, desperation and great suffering with immense patience, like Hercules. Alexander admired the personality of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, whose example and politics he imitated during the creation of his universal empire. Like Cyrus, Alexander respected the tradition and religion of people he dominated. The Iliad taught him that he could have only two epic and noble passions: furious anger and disinterested generous friendship. Alexander is described as having an athletic frame, but not taller than any other common man in his day, and a white and reddish complexion. His eyes looked watery and his hair resembled that of a lion. He carried his head oblique. The greatest artists of the time made portraits of him. Lysippus made sculptures, Apelles made paintings and Pyrgoteles made gems. Among the surviving monuments, we have no completely certified portraits, except the Tivoli herm and the coins struck by his successors. During Philip's expedition against Byzantium in 340 BC, Alexander, then sixteen years old, was left in charge of Macedonia. He took the throne like he was already king. He subdued the rebellious Maedi, a Thracian tribe. He took their capital city and drove out its inhabitants. He created a colony of several nations in their region. He called the new city Alexandropolis. At the battle of Chaeronea, Philip defeated the allied Greek states of the Sacred Band of Thebes in September 338 BC. At that time, Alexander was only 18 and having been placed in command of the left wing of Philip's cavalry, he demonstrated personal courage when he broke the band. It is said he was the first man to charge against the Thebans. Although Philip\'s army was greatly outnumbered by the Athenian and Theban troops, the Macedonian phalanxes triumphed over them. Athens and Thebes also came under Philip\'s rule. Sparta remained the only Greek state not under Macedonian control. The courage demonstrated by Alexander made Philip very proud. The subjects started to call him their king before he even took the throne. In 337 BC, Philip declared war on Persia with the support of Greece. In the spring of 336 BC, Philip sent Attalus and Parmenion with the army of 10,000 men into Asia Minor to begin the liberation of Greek coastal cities. On his way to the theater at Ege, the...
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