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Alexander the Great: Alexander III of Macedon

By xxqspzxx Mar 05, 2013 2605 Words
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 ancient capital of Macedonia, Philip was assassinated by his officer, Pausanias, during the celebration of his daughter's wedding to Olympias' brother, Alexander of Epirus, in July 336. Alexander was immediately presented to the army as the new King of Macedon. Philip's last wife, Cleopatra, had an uncle and guardian, Attalus, who had been sent to Asia to share command of the forces with Parmenion. Attalus became very popular within the army. Alexander at once executed all those who were alleged to be behind Philip's murder along with all possible rivals and everyone who was opposed to him. Attalus still remained a rival to the throne, even though he was loyal to Philip. Alexander was determined to get rid of Attalus discreetly. He chose Hecataeus from Cardia to capture or kill Attalus. He was sent off to Asia with a number of soldiers under orders to bring back Attalus because he was accused of high treason. If they couldn’t bring him back alive they were to assassinate him. Alexander then marched south and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth, was confirmed as the supreme commander of the Hellenes against the barbarians. The Greek states were growing restless of the Macedonian domination. In the meantime a rumor of Alexander's death in Illyria had caused a revolt by the Thebans. By a forced march, Alexander took the Thebans completely by surprise, and in a few days the city, which a generation before had won the headship of Greece, was taken. In only 14 days Alexander marched 236.12 miles from Pelion, in Illyria, to Thebes. When the Thebans refused to surrender, Alexander had no mercy on them. The city was wiped out of existence. In the spring of 334, Alexander crossed the Dardanelles, (Hellespont), with an army of 30,000 men into Asia. The place of concentration was Arisbe on the Hellespont, leaving Antipater, the general and friend of his father, as his deputy in Europe with over 13,000 troops. Alexander himself commanded about 35,000. Alexander's second in command was Parmenio, who had secured a foothold in Asia Minor during Philip's lifetime. Many of his family and supporters were fixed in responsible positions. Explorers, engineers, architects, scientists, court officials and historians accompanied the army. To meet the invader, the Persians had an army in Asia Minor waiting that was larger than Alexander's. Strategic considerations were cancelled by the Persian barons' code of chivalry, and Alexander found them waiting for him on the banks of the Granicus River. The Persian plan to tempt Alexander across the river and kill him in the melee almost succeeded, but the Persian line broke, and Alexander\'s victory was complete. This victory opened western Asia Minor to the Macedonians, and most cities opened their gates. Alexander could now accomplish the first part of the task belonging to him as supreme commander of the Hellenes, which was the liberation of the Greek city-states of Asia Minor. Alexander conquered the western part of Asia Minor in winter 334-333. He came head to head with King Darius during the Battle of Issus on the northeast Mediterranean coast. Although Alexander was advancing south, he was surprised to find Darius approaching from his north. He fought Darius’s army near the town of Issus. Both sides were surprised to see each other. Darius fled north. He didn’t follow after Darius even though their camp fell into Alexander’s hands. Alexander was outnumbered ten to one. Even so, he held back a reserve force, for the first time in the military history. In 332 BC, Alexander marched south from Issus into Syria and Phoenicia. In reply to a letter from Darius offering peace, Alexander replied with resolve, demanding unconditional surrender to himself as Lord of Asia. After taking Byblos and Sidon, he met serious resistance at Tyre, where he was refused entry into the island city. The Tyrians walled themselves inside their island fortress. Alexander could not leave them to attack his rear and he could not attack by sea so he decided to build a land bridge, which still exists. He succeeded finally only after seven months, not on land but in a very brutal naval battle.During the siege of Tyre, Darius opened negotiations to his surrender. He even offered a division of his empire. He wanted to pay ransom of 10,000 talents for his family and give up all his land west of the Euphrates. Alexander refused the bargain. Alexander's general, Parmenio advised him to accept. "I would accept, were I Alexander." "I too, were I Parmenio!" was Alexander's famous response. In November 332 he reached Egypt, and the Egyptians welcomed him as their liberator. He founded the city of Alexandria near the western arm of the Nile. From Alexandria, he marched along the coast to Paraetonium and from there inland, to visit the renowned oracle of Amon at Siwah. The oracle proclaimed Alexander the son of Amon (Zeus). It changed his life forever.Alexander, with his fastest troops, chased Darius for 12 days and nights and passed over 497 miles. Meanwhile Darius’s troops were reduced to 6000 men on foot and 3000 men on horses. Finally, Alexander’s cousin, Bessus, captured Darius and killed him in prison. Bessus preferred Darius dead than imprisoned. If Darius had surrendered, Alexander would have left him alive. Alexander organized an imperial funeral with all honors for the last Persian emperor. In the spring of 328, Alexander crossed westward. He sent his general, Ptolemy, in pursuit of Bessus. In July, Bessus was captured, flogged, and sent to Bactria, where he was later mutilated in the Persian manner, losing his nose and ears. Several months later, he was publicly executed at Ecbatana. At the site of modern Khojent on the Jaxartes, he founded a city, Alexandria Eschate; “the last Alexandria.” It took Alexander until the autumn of 328 to crush the most rigid opponent he encountered in his campaigns. At Maracanda in the autumn of 328 BC, during the dyonisiastic feasts, Alexander murdered Cleitus, one of his most trusted commanders. That event widened the detachment between Alexander and many Macedonians. On his march towards India through Afganistan, he attacked Oxyartes. One of his splendid moves was the capture of the Sogdian Rock. At the top of the rock was Oxyartes, who felt protected because of the vertical cliffs on each side. He provoked Alexander to send up men “with wings” to take the fortress. Alexander sent up 300 experienced climbers during the night with the assurance of spectacular wealth if they succeed. The next morning, Oxyartes was shocked to see these men “with wings” waving down at him. He surrendered with no resistance. Alexander and Oxyartes became good friends. Alexander married Oxyartes’ sister, Roxanne. In spring 326, crossing the Cofen river, Alexander entered Taxila. King Taxilas equipped Alexander with elephants and troops in return for aid against his rival Porus. In June 326 BC, Alexander fought the fourth and last of his pitched battles in Asia against Porus, one of the most powerful Indian kings. Porus held the opposite bank with a potent army, including 200 elephants. Alexander\'s army crossed the heavily defended river in dramatic manner during a night of torrential rain. The Indians were defeated in a brutal battle, although they fought with elephants. Porus fell deeply wounded into his hands. Alexander captured Porus and, like the other kings he had defeated, allowed him to continue reign of his country. Alexander even conquested an autonomous province and granted it to Porus as a gift. He founded two cities there, Alexandria Nicaea (to celebrate his victory) and Bucephala (named after his horse Bucephalus, who died there), and Porus became his friend and ally. When he continued his progress eastwards across the Acesines, Porus was an active ally. Alexander and his army reached the mouth of the Indus in July 325 B.C. Alexander left the conquered portion of India east of the Indus to be governed under Porus, Omphis, and Abisares; the country west of the Indus under Macedonian governors, and set out to explore the great river to its mouth. It was at the Malli village that a memorable incident occurred, that characterized the personality of Alexander. Alexander was wounded several times in this attack, most seriously when an arrow pierced his breastplate and his ribcage. He jumped off the wall with only three companions into the hostile environment, and before the army behind him could achieve an entrance, lay wounded almost to death. The Macedonian officers rescued him in a narrow escape from the village. He recovered and beat down the resistance of the tribes. <br /> In spring 324 he was back in Susa, capital of Elam. At Susa, Alexander held a banquet to celebrate the conquest of the Persian Empire. In promotion of his policy of fusing Macedonians and Persians into one master race, he and 80 of his officers took Persian wives; he married Darius\' daughter, Barsine (also called Stateira), and Hephaestion married her sister Drypetis, and 10,000 of Macedonian soldiers which married with native wives were given generous gifts. In summer 324, Alexander attempted to solve another problem. A decree brought by Nicanor to Europe and proclaimed at Olympia (September 324) required the Greek cities of the Greek League to receive back all exiles and their families. In autumn 324 Hephaestion died in Ecbatana, and Alexander indulged in extravagant mourning for his best friend; he was given a royal funeral in Babylon with a pyre costing 10,000 talents. Suddenly, in Babylon, while busy with plans to improve the irrigation of the Euphrates and to settle the Arabic coast of the Persian Gulf; Alexander was taken sick after a splendid entertainment in honor of Nearchus’ departure for Arabia (it was also commemoration of the death of Heracles). There he drank much unmixed wine, and finally, filling a huge beaker, downed it at a gulp. The pain increased and no one was able to do anything helpful and Alexander continued in acute suffering. His Friends asked, "To whom do you leave the kingdom?", he replied "To the best (the strongest)." These were his last words. On the sundown of 10th of June, after the ten day fever, in the Palace of Nabukodonossor, Alexander died. Historians disagree about the date of Alexander's death. According to contemporary Babylonian Astronomic Diary, which is most credible and accurate source, Alexander died on 29th Aiaru (June 10th). Alexander III of Macedon died at the age of 33 and had reigned for 12 years and eight months. Alexander had the iron will and capacity to lead his men; he knew when to withdraw and to modify and adapt his policy. Alexander had imaginative fantasy of genius, which was driven with the strong romantic figures like Achilles, Heracles, and Dionysus. The only clear characteristics that emerge are his outstanding military genius and his successful politics. His achievements mark a decisive moment in World history. The Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity as a world religion, and the thousand years of Byzantium were all in part the consequences of Alexander's conquests.

•M.M. Austin (ed.) The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest. A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation (NY: Cambridge 1981) •E. BADIAN, Studies in Greek and Roman History (1964)

•“Alexander the Great”, Home Page, [http://wso.williams.edu/~junterek/](1996 by Jed Untereker, James Kossuth, Bill Kelsey) •Alexander the Great On The Web, [http://www.isidore-of-seville.com/Alexanderama.html] (2000-2003 Tim Spalding.) •“Alexander the Great.” From History to Eternity. [http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/8740/Alexander.htm] (24 May 1997)

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