Essay: Alexander the Great

Alexander III was born on July 20th, 356 BC to King Philip II and Olympia’s. He was born in Pella, Macedonia. In 343 BC Aristotle was hired to educate Alexander at the age of 13. In 338 he commanded for the first time the Calvary during the battle of Chaeronea. Alexander ascends the throne of Macedonia in 336 BC after the murder of his father, King Philip II. 336-323 BC is when he started his empire, conquering kingdom after kingdom.
Why was Alexander the Great?Alexander III was known as Alexander the Great to his people from 336-323 BC. Why to this day do we still look at Alexander the Great as one of the greatest rulers of the world? Even though Alexander ruled for only 13 years as king of Macedonian what made him gain the title as Alexander the Great? Should he be known for it because of his military skills, his popularity with his people or his leadership skills? Why did Alexander deserve to be called ‘the Great’? He was not the first of his time to be called it. There were two others before him that were called the Great, the Persian King Cyrus the Great and the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the Great. To this day his leadership skills are still considered by military experts as being the most outstanding commanders of all time. Alexander was able to motivate and inspire his troops to fight any battle for him by leading his troops, talked to every single troop and received the same wounds that they did. One thing that can only be marveled at is the over whelming factor, his charisma. He was the only individual that was able to hold together an empire together.
After his death the empire fell apart into competing kingdoms.
Alexander III is known to have helped shaped the world the way we know it today. Persians, Egyptians, Babylonians were eastern cultures that dominated the world until Alexander came into rule. He changed the focus on civilization from the eastern to the western societies, Greece and Rome. Alexander took the gold reserves of the Persian Kings and minted it into currency, using his resources to build new cities while continuing his conquest of other kingdoms. This enabled the Greek civilization to spread through out the known world and improving trade relations and activities. Alexander established an economic system that remained active until the industrial revolution in the 18th century. The limits for the inhabited earth at the time was established by him and remained so until the 15th century, before the voyages of the Portuguese and Spanish.
Darius III, King of Persian, was one of Alexander’s opponents during his rule of Macedonia. Persian was a vas empire that stretched from Egypt, the Mediterranean Sea, India and central Asia. Darius was Alexander’s greatest foe and he faced Darius army, which was said to be incredibly large, over one million Persians in 331 BC. In 334 BC Alexander’s armies wiped out a Persian defense force at the river Granicus (Turkey). In 333 Darius tasted defeat by Alexander in the town of Issus, (southern part of Turkey). It was in 331 BC, against the million man army, that Darius faced his final defeat at Gaugamela (Iraq).
The battle in 334 BC took place when Alexander crossed Hellaspont with and army of 35,000 Macedonian’s. When they reached the Granicus River they ran into 40,000 Perians and Greek mercenaries. His army defeated 40,000 and according to history his army only suffered the loss of 110 men. At this time all of the minor states of Asia submitted to him. Alexander continued with his army southward and ran into King Darius III main army. The Battle of Issus was in 333 BC and Darius army was said to be 500,000, which is believed to be over exaggerated. During the battle Darius was cut off from his base so he fled northward at the same time abandoning his mother, wife and children. Alexander treated them as royalty was supposed to be treated, even better then Darius treated them. This was a great victory for him. He continued on to Tyre, a strongly guarded sea port, that laid in siege for seven months before he stormed it and defeated it in 332 BC. Gaza was the next to fall under Alexander as he moved on to Egypt where he was met by the people as a deliverer. He then founded the city of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile River which became the literary, scientific and commercial center of the Greek world. Alexander secured the entire eastern Mediterranean coastline with all of these successes.
331 BC was a busy time for Alexander. He made a pilgrimage to the great temple and oracle of Amon-Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun. As he had become the new ruler of Egypt he wanted the god to recognize him as his son. He then turned northward and organized his army at Tyre and headed for Babylon. He crossed the Euphrates and Tigris rivers with 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry. This is when he ran into King Darius III with his million man army, according to the exaggerated accounts of antiquity. Alexander’s army of 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry defeated the one million man army known as the Battle of Gaugamela. Darius fled again for the last time, he was later killed by his own satraps. After the defeat of Gaugamela the city of Babylon soon surrendered and the city of Susa with all its riches was soon conquered after that. He then continued on to the city of Persoplis taking the royal treasures and other rich fortunes. Alexander then became very drunk and completed the total destruction of the Persian Empire by burning the city. In only a short time Alexander had expanded his domain which extended from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the northern regions of Bactria and Sogdiana (Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Central Asia).
Alexander invaded the Punjab in 326 BC. He crossed the Indus river and went as far as Hyphasis river before Macedonians began to rebel and would go no further. He then decided to build a fleet so he could sail down the Indus into the Persian Gulf. Alexander took his army across the desert, trying to reach Media, but it was a costly mistake because of the shortages of food and water he sustained heavy losses and the moral of the men was diminishing. It took him a year to organize his dominions and a survey of the Persian Gulf, he was preparing for more conquest. In the year 323 BC Alexander the Great contracted a fever, it was said that he had too many wounds and could not recover from them; he died in June of that year.
A little about the Great
Alexander the Great was one of the greatest generals because of his ability as a technician and troop leader. He was viewed as a brave and generous man by many, but he also had his evil side when he had to be, especially when it came to politics. There is one downside to Alexander, he was possibly an alcoholic which in a drunken fury he killed his best friend Clitus. He had a plan; an idea that would change the future of the world, Alexander wanted to unit the East and the West making it a world empire, a ‘world brotherhood of all man’. He was not afraid to take in people from other cultures, even ones that he had conquered. He trained young Persians in the Greek tactics of fighting and warfare and enrolled them into his army. He even married Persian wives; one was Barsine the eldest daughter of Darius and Roxana the daughter of Oxyartes of Sogdiana. Alexander was so confident in him being of divine being that before his death he ordered everyone to worship him as a god. It was shortly nullified after his death. These are many things that he had done that could qualify him to carry the great status, but there is more.
Alexander the Great wasn’t only known for his heroics in battle, he was known for his intellect. He was never satisfied with his surroundings, he always wanted more. He had a passion for knowledge and was willing to go out and find it. Alexander was never one sit still; with passion and energy his impulse was always to win and to expand his own horizon to the fullest. Out of all the kings, rulers or emperors, Alexander III of Macedonia deserves to be called ‘The Great’ because he was the closest to conquering the known world and gave history a new direction. His conquest of the Middle East and Asia helped spread Hellenism immediately through these regions. Greek civilization influence still spread through the Mediterranean world and West Asia after Alexander’s death. Only did the war of Diadochi start to break up his empire. Some of the Macedonian dynasties did not falter that were established by Alexander III, Egypt, Syria and Persia. These dynasties molded the world at that time into larger and unified ways of trading and learning. Evident is that even after his death Alexander’s Empire did not completely fall apart. The thing that made most of his Empire fall was the fact that he did not leave an heir to the throne, even though Roxana was pregnant with child, a son who was born after the death of his father and the separation of the generals who divided the rule. His son was Alexander the IV Aegus, but he did not live a long life to even see himself as ruler. It is not known for sure what Alexander had planned, if they were to create a world empire or not. His conquests were greater then any ruler before him, unfortunately he did not have time to fine tune the government in the lands that he had taken over. Cities-States were established with Greek institutions that remained long after his death.
Conclusion Alexander the Great ruled for a short but very productive 13 years. His feats were never matched before or after him and to this day he is still looked at as one of the greatest rulers of our time. His military tactics, scholar ability, charisma and determination earned him the right to be known as Alexander the Great. In his 13 years of ruling his empire he established more then many leaders after him could not do for centuries. All rulers have good and bad about them but Alexander’s good outweighed the bad. He will always be looked at as ‘Great’.


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‘Alexander the Great.’ The Columbia Encyclopaedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001’04.

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