Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece: Alexander the Great - The Conqueror of Persia and the East

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In just 13 years, Alexander became the ruler of a vast empire spanning Greece, Egypt and much of the Middle East

Alexander of Macedonia became a king at 20. By the time of his death at the age of 33, he was the master of a vast empire that included Greece, the Persian Empire, Egypt and part of India. He died leaving no heir and his empire split between his generals Seleucus and Ptolemy.

Aristotle’s Pupil

Born in August 356BC at Pella, Alexander was the son of the Macedonian King Philip II and his wife Olympias. His parent’s troubled relationship left Alexander’s position uncertain, especially as his father had other sons but he received an impressive education under the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Alexander’s military career began under his father’s command and in 338BC he led the cavalry during the battle of Chaeronea, ensuring Macedonian supremacy over Greece.

In 336BC, Philip died and Alexander took the throne, killing two cousins and a half brother who were his rivals. His native land secured, he now had to reconcile the rest of the Greek world to his rule.

Philip of Macedonia’s Heir and Greece

The Greek states, which Alexander’s father had formed into the league of Corinth, were not ready to accept his heir. The cities of Athens and Thebes led them in a revolt against the new King of Macedonia. Alexander marched against the two cities but treated them leniently on defeat.

However, in 335BC, when he was securing Macedonia’s western border against the Illyrians, Thrace rose up again. This time, Alexander destroyed the city and enslaved the inhabitants. Only the temples and the house of the poet Pindar remained.

Greece remained unsettled until 331Bc when Sparta rebelled. The Spartans were defeated but Greece was finally under Alexander’s control. He left the Greek states in the hands of his lieutenant Antipater whilst he left Greece to begin his conquest of the east.

The Conquest of the Persian Empire

The Persians had long been the enemies of the Greek states. Alexander initially began his Persian campaign to free Greek cities under Persian control. With an army of 43,000 foot soldiers and 550 cavalry, he began his conquest in 334BC. His campaign was successful but Alexander was not satisfied.

In 335BC, he reassembled his army at Gordium in Phrygia, cutting the legendary knot and so foretelling his future success as a conqueror. He then continued to advance into Persia. He captured the family of the Persian King Darius but the king himself proved elusive, escaping after each defeat.

In 331, a desperate Darius offered Alexander Asia minor but the Macedonian refused. He wanted the whole empire. In 331BC, Alexander had taken cities of Babylon, Susa, Persepolis and Ecbatana. Persia was his.

Egypt and India

By conquering Persian, Alexander liberated Egypt. It was around this time that Alexander began to foster a divine image. He had long claimed descent from the Greek hero Herakles or Hercules. Now, he claimed to be the son of Zeus himself. In 331BC, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Ammon at Siwa, the Egyptian equivalent of Zeus. He then began to style himself Zeus Ammon.

In the same year, Alexander established a new Egyptian capitol which he named Alexandria. He spent no time in the city whilst he was alive although it was to be the final resting place for his remains.

Alexander pushed onwards with his conquests, adding the area around the Caspian Sea and the Hindu Kush to his empire. He then conquered Bactria and executed its satrap for his murder of Darius, Alexander’s old enemy. Alexander then conquered Sogdiana and married Roxane, the daughter of its king.

His invasion of India in 327BC was not so successful. Whilst his army crossed the Khyber Pass with little difficulty, their conquest ended at the River Hyphasis as resistance from the inhabitants increased. Then his army, weary of years of war, mutinied. In 325BC Alexander was forced to return to Persia.

The Death of Alexander

On his return to Persia, Alexander took Barsine, the daughter of Darius as his second wife. He began to plan his next campaign in Babylon. Apparently, it is rumored that he intended to extend his empire to include the Persian Gulf and possibly even Carthage and southern Italy. But the campaign never happened. Alexander succumbed to a fever and died on 13th June 323BC. His wife Roxane was pregnant but his first son had died in India, leaving him with no immediate heir. This posthumous son, also named Alexander was killed whilst still a child during the struggle for power among Alexander’s generals.

Alexander’s empire fragmented. Greece and Macedonia once again became separate states, with his eastern conquests splitting into the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt.

The Achievements of Alexander

Alexander’s the great owes his fame not only to the size of his empire but the short period of time it took him to conquer and consolidate his power over it. It is an achievement never equaled by any one individual.

Updated 10-26-2015 at 01:18 AM by manolis