Alexander III of Macedonian (356-323 BC) was a famous king in the ancient Greece, who reigned between 336-323 B.C. He was born in Pella in Macedonia to Philip II, king of Macedonia, and his fourth wife Oympias of Epirus.
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King Philip conquered the Greece and was set out to expand his territories. Unfortunately, he was assassinated and his young son, Alexander, took over the empire. Alexander was a great military leader, led his empire to many conquests, and was determined to accomplish his father’s vision despite the challenges that were ahead.
One of his achievements was the conquest of the civilized empires and expanding his kingdom. Alexander died young, but his contribution makes his legacy immortal (Rosellini and Serino 2003). Alexander conquered many of his neighbors like the Persian and also India. His accomplishments appear like a myth considering the difficulty of building such a strong empire.
Alexander was a great leader; this is demonstrated by the way he encouraged his soldiers to continue moving forward. He employed good strategies and logistics in commanding the army and ruling his empire. Whenever he conquered a city, he took the surviving army and added them to his troop, creating a mighty army. This can be illustrated by works of one of the eminent philosophers of the ancient era, Aristotle.
Alexander’s father was a brilliant king who ruled Macedonia from 359- 336 BC. He took up the kingdom at a time they had just suffered a defeat to Illyrians. Philip led his forces into battle against the Athenian and Theban armies and gained victory, as well as attained Greek State.
His objective was to unify the Macedonians and expand the kingdom. Alexander was educated by Aristotle of Stagira, who was one of the earliest philosophers. He received variety of teaching like doctrines of politics, literature, and learnt to play the lyre. In addition, Alexander was a fearless young man. At the age of twelve, he was able to ride one of the untamed horses named ‘Bucephala’.
At the age of about eighteen Alexander went to the south where his father had a campaign. There Philip fought one of the fiercest battles and gave his son one of the wings of the army (Abbott 2004, 162). The character of Alexander in his early life was, however, that of a naughty, proud, and uncontrollable child. Nevertheless he enjoyed complete parental love, this changed as King Philip later divorced Alexander’s mother (Abbott 2004, 162).
Alexander’s career began at twenty, following King Philip assassination, whereby the young Alexander had to assume his father’s position immediately (Briant and Kuhrt 2010). Alexander reigned for a period of twelve years, and died under mysterious circumstances at the age of thirty-two years.
Despite the length of his reign as a king, Alexander accomplished “very brilliant series of exploits, which were so bold and so romantic” (Abbott 2004, 153).
His career began with an enormous task of facing his enemies who had assassinated his father and other challenges since he was quite inexperienced and young. The first responsibility Alexander had was to stabilize his empire. Thus, he attached and killed some of his father’s assassins, causing the collaborators to flee while others chose to stay back and serve the king.
Alexander invaded the Persian in 334 BC, and with his army of approximate 42,000 soldiers formed mainly by Macedonian mercenaries, crossed the Hellespont. After his victory at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander overthrew Darius Codomamnnus and accepted the Persian capital and its treasury of Sardia. He further went to the Ionian coast.
In the second reign, he made Babylon his capital and began oriental court. This decision caused tension among the governors of Macedonia and the Greek. They did not approve such choice. Alexander, however, did not change his capital. In the background of this pressure Alexander took up his campaign to Persia, conquering the people of the country and then taking their wealth and the surviving soldiers to his empire.
The wealth he captured from the Persians was very significant and was used to sustain the army that had been formed by Phillip. It goes without saying that Alexander understood the outstanding financial obligations to the Greek soldiers as well (Worthington 2003, 77). The success of Alexander’s army in Persian territory had motivated him to explore other places. He had learnt the weakness of his enemies and was set to exploit this useful knowledge.
The Greek cities had been taken captive by the Persians and first Alexander was determined to liberate them. This success was facilitated by the fact that his army had superior weapons like armed Cretan and Macedonian archer, shields, long spears and chariots. Alexander also took many other people with him. These people’s professions included scientists, architects, explorers, engineers and court officials. They worked with the army, for instance, they were building bridges.
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The Battle of Granicus
To tackle the invader, the Persians had an army in Asia Minor, which was larger than Alexander’s. Besides this, the only line of communication was a narrow line in Hellespont where he had conquered earlier, making this as a sound strategy of the Persian generals. When the two parties met at the banks of river Granicus, the generals of the Persian were convinced that their forces were superior to Alexander’s; however, in the turn of events, the Macedonians had won (Briant and Kuhrt 2010, 8).
During the winter of 334-333 BC, Alexander invaded the Asia Minor. He succeeded to conquer the western region and made the tribes of Lycia and Pisidia his subjects. Later, he advanced along the coastal region of Perga. One of experienced Greek commanders of Persian team died unexpectedly. This news spread and Alexander took advantage attacking the rest of the region (Briant and Kuhrt 2010, 9).
Invasion to India
Prior to his invasion to India, Alexander made radical changes in the army that had conquered Persia. Some of the strategies he used were as follows: release of some soldiers, admitting new ones, and grouping solders into several troops. He led the strongest troop while his commanders took charge of the rest (Briant and Kuhrt 2010, 60). These were to help him acclimate to the different climate and topology. This time round, Alexander was able to defeat the rulers and capture their empires.
Ever since his death, there are still unresolved issues surrounding his demise. Indeed, it seems hard to accept that a young man could die of natural causes that sprung up out of nowhere. Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, at the age of thirty two after twelve years of rule in his vast Empire.
There have been many theories to account for his death but none has proven to be true, with some histories speculating that he was poisoned while others reckoning that he succumbed to malaria (Bosworth and Baynham 2002, 247). At the time of his death, his kingdom stretched from Macedonia through Greece and the Persian Empire to the fringes of India.
In addition, he had plans to expand his holdings. A year after his death, series of civil wars headed by his former generals led to the split in his empire into three kingdoms; Macedonia, Syria and Egypt. These kingdoms became great rivals and went into wars in spite of their common heritage, culture, and background (Abbott 2004, 189). Therefore, the vision of Alexander of establishing a strong Empire with one government was never achieved.
One of the largest contributions of Alexander is development of the Hellenist civilization, a blend of the eastern and the western cultures. Many cultures captured mingled and developed a new idea of psychology; the Hellenist and roman civilization eventually formed the bases of the current western civilization (Bosworth and Baynham 2002, 124). The Greek language was learnt in the kingdom and various Greek profound works were written at that period.
The King also built Alexandria and Pegamum Libraries, which were centre for literature criticism and compilation of anthologies and catalogues (Rosellini and Serino 2003). Alexander also contributed much in the building and control of Empires. Primarily, he used law courts, assemblies, and governors to establish his reign, a practice that has later been used in the governance in other states.
In addition, the present Greeks benefit from the work of this great king due to tourism, making it one of the biggest sectors, where visitors tour numerous places to see the monuments and other artifacts related to the events. Alexander also influenced science and agriculture.
In the field of war, they developed advanced weapons, which contributed to their military prowess. They also drew charts of the territories; these latter developed map making. Moreover, there were new discoveries. New breeds of animals and plants were introduced, while in agriculture new methods were employed, for example, irrigation channels were introduced (Abbott 2004, 243).
Alexander also created a uniform economic world, trading among the people starting world’s economy. He opened trade areas for the merchants in various regions, thus, this trade areas formed a trade route, which is known as “Silk Routes.” The trade also benefited from the release of the Persian bullion. Some of the commodities trades were silk, spices gold, foodstuff and others.
One of the monuments of Alexander the Great is located in the city founded by Alexander in 331 BC (Rosellini and Serino 2003). This was located in Egypt where visitors went to learn the culture and tradition of the Egyptians. The most famous is ‘cleopatra’s Needles,’ and a column called ‘Pompey’s Pillar’.
Moreover, Pompey was erected in memory of Pompey who was killed in the Egyptian coast after being defeated by Ceaser. One of them had fallen; they had been transported during the Augustan age from Heliopolis. These artifacts were donated to Great Britain in1878, with one located along the Thames and the other to Unites States which was set up in Central Park (New York) in 1881 (Rosellini and Serino 2003).
The shield from the battle of Granicus, it had these inscription in bronze “Alexander, son of Philip and the Greeks, from the barbarians of Asia” (Kastrom 2008, 17). Alexander had a golden sarcophagus but was melted down to make coinage by the Ptolonius XI and was replaced with another one made of alabaster. The tomb of Alexander is situated in Alexandria where many visitors, mainly the Roman rulers and other tourists flocked regularly to witness the legacy of one of the most successful leaders in history.
However, after some time, the tomb, which is located at the cemetery near Latin Quarter of Alexandria, was later closed to the public because of safety precautions. Another monument was on Mount Athons, which is a statue of a giant man with one hand holding a city and the other a bowl of waters from all the rivers in the mountain (Rosellini and Serino 2003). Primarily, Alexander had this monument placed in Alexandria city instead of Athons.
Alexander the great may have had a humble beginning in life, but his work and leadership left a legacy that will live for a long time to come. Although he died at relatively young age, he unconditionally contributed immensely to the transformation of the society by utilizing his brilliance and brevity to fight the enemies, following the assassination of his father. Indeed, his contribution spanned across, social, economic, and political spheres, not forgetting his impact in the emergence of western civilization.
Abbott, Jacob. Histories of Cyrus the Great and Alexander the Great. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Bosworth, A. B. and Baynham, E. J. Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Briant, P. and Kuhrt, A. Alexander the Great and His Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.
Kastrom, Panagiotes. The Monuments of Athen –A Historical and Archaeological Description. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2008.
Worthington, I. Alexander the Great: a Reader. New York, NY: Routledge, 2003.
Rosellini, I. and Serino, F. Monuments of Egyptians and Nubians. New York, NY: American University in Cairo Press, 2003.