Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was the son of an excellent general and organizer, named Philip II King of Macedon. 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 Philip's conquests and said, " My father will get ahead of me in everything, and will leave nothing great for me to do." Alexander's 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 Alexander's hero.
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 Bucephalus on the Hyphasis River in memory of his beloved horse. Philip was so proud of Alexander's power over the horse that he said, "O my son, seek out a kingdom worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee."
Philip and Olympias saw the potential for greatness in the boy and arranged for his education. His first teacher was the harsh Leonidas, a relative of Olympias, perhaps her uncle. Leonidas was a strict disciplinarian who instilled in Alexander his ascetic nature. This nature became famous during his Persian and Indian expeditions, where he would live simply, very much like his troops.
Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus, who curried the favor of the king by calling him Peleus, Alexander Achilles, and himself Phoinix, the name of Achilles' tutor. Lysimachus taught Alexander to play the lyre, and taught him an appreciation for the fin e arts of music, poetry, and drama.
Philip and Olympias wanted nothing less than the best for their son, so when he was 13, his parents hired Aristotle from Athens to be his personal tutor. The two of them spent time at Mieza, a temple about 20 miles from the palace at Pella. Under Aristotle, Alexander learned philosophy, ethics, politics, and healing. 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. Alexander's education was not all from books. He talked with ambassadors from many foreign countries, and with other noted persons at his father's court. When he was only 18, he commanded part of Philip's cavalry at the battle of Chaeronea. Alexander also acted as his father's ambassador to Athens.
In 336 B.C. Phillip II was assassinated, and at the age of twenty Alex ascended to the Macedonian throne. As soon as he received that position he found that there were many people plotting against him. So he disposed of the conspirators quickly by execution. Then he descended on Thessaly and restored Macedonian rule. Before the end of the year 336 Alex reestablished his position in Greece. He was also elected to the congress of states at Corinth.
In 335 as general of the Greeks he carried out a successful campaign against the Persians, penetrating to the Danube River. On the way back Alex crushed the Illyrians in a single week. On his way back Alex learned that 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 and Alex took over the city, destroyed everything except for the temples of the gods and the house of Pindar, a Greek lyric poet. The surviving inhabitants who numbered...