Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon (Alexander the Great, Alexander III of Macedon) (356-323 B.C.), King of Macedonia, was born in late July 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia, he was one of the greatest military genius in history. He conquered much of what was then the civilized world, driven by his divine ambition of the world conquest and the creation of a universal world monarchy.
Arrian describes Alexander: the strong, handsome commander with one eye dark
as the night and one blue as the sky, always leading his army on his faithful
Bucephalus. Alexander inherited from his father King Philip the best military
formation of the time, the Macedonian Phalanx, armed with sarisses - the fearful
five and half meter long lances. He was the first great conqueror who reached
Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Asia up to western India. He is famous for having
created the ethnic fusion of the Macedonians and the Persians. From victory
to victory, from triumph to triumph, Alexander created an empire which brought
him eternal glory. He brought Greek ideas, culture and life style to the countries
which he conquered, and assured expansion and domination of Hellenistic Culture
which, together with Roman Civilization and Christianity, constitutes the foundation
of what is now called Western Civilization.
was born at Pella in Macedonia
in late July of 356 BC, on the same day on which the famous Temple of Artemis
at Ephesus was destroyed by fire. His father, Philip II of Macedon, was a brilliant
ruler and strategist. His mother was Olympias, princess of Epirus, daughter
of King Neoptolemus. Olympias was initiated into the cults of Dionysus
and Orpheus. She was often jealous, vindictive and very protective of Alexander.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the largest temples ever built by the Greeks, circa 550 B.C.
According to tradition, Olympias' ancestor was the mythical hero of the Iliad - Achilles, while his father, Philip II of Macedon, was said to descend from the Zeus' son - Hercules.
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Even as a young boy Alexander was fearless and strong. At the age of twelve, he tamed the beautiful and spirited Bucephalus ("ox-head" in Greek), a horse that no one else could ride. Philip was so proud of Alexander's horsemanship that he said:
My father will get ahead of me in everything, and will leave nothing great for me to do.
knew the Iliad by heart. He loved Homer, and always slept with a copy of the
Iliad under his pillow.
His first teacher was Leonidas, a relative of Olympias. Leonidas instilled in Alexander his ascetic nature for which he became famous during his future campaigns; he lived simply, in a Spartan way, eating and sleeping together with his troops. Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus, who taught Prince Alexander to play the lyre, and to appreciate the arts.
Plutarch writes: The care of his education, as it might be presumed, was committed to a great many attendants, preceptors, and teachers, over the whole of whom Leonidas, a near kinsman of Olympias, a man of an austere temper, presided, who did not indeed himself decline the name of what in reality is a noble and honorable office, but in general his dignity, and his near relationship, obtained him from other people the title of Alexander's foster father and governor. But he who took upon him the actual place and style of his pedagogue was Lysimachus the Acarnanian, who, though he had nothing to recommend him, but his lucky fancy of calling himself Phoenix, Alexander Achilles and Philip Peleus, was therefore well enough esteemed, and ranked in the next degree after Leonidas.
from age 13 to 16, together with the other boys belonging to the Macedonian
aristocracy, was taught by Aristotle at the Mieza temple- about 30 kilometers
from the royal palace at Pella; it was the great Greek philosopher himself who
introduced them to the world of arts and sciences.
Philip's autocracy was not appreciated by the Athenians, and Demosthenes considered him semi-barbarian. Obviously the hegemony of Macedonia presented a threat for the autonomous politics of Athens.
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PERSEUSPROJECT, wives and sons: Paus. 9.7.2
PERSEUSPROJECT, passionate nature: Paus. 6.18.2
PERSEUSPROJECT, good fortune: Paus.4.35.4,Paus.7.10.3
PERSEUSPROJECT, Aristotle's influence with him: Paus. 6.4.8
PERSEUSPROJECT, house at Megalopolis: Paus. 8.32.1
PERSEUSPROJECT, makes Chaeron tyrant of Pellene: Paus. 7.27.7
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 in breaking the Band. It is said he was the first man to dare 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 now also came under Philip's rule. Sparta remained the only Greek state not under Macedonian control. This early demonstration of courage made Philip so proud of Alexander that he was even pleased to hear his subjects call him their general and Alexander their king!
At the Council of Corinth, Philip imposed his political system on the Greek states (with exception of Sparta); Philip gave freedom and autonomy to all the political parties in each polis, establishing an administrative system that would be stable and loyal to him.
In 337 divorced Olympias. After a quarrel at a wedding feast, Alexander and his mother left Macedonia. Few months afterward, they were reconciled and Alexander returned; but Philips' life was in danger...
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King is dead, Long live the King.
Spring-Autumn 336 BC
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. He established his authority far more firmly than anyone thought possible; he was only 20 and for this reason not universally respected. Since Alexander himself was the main beneficiary of his father's murder, he was suspected of complicity, especially as he was only half Macedonian. He addressed himself to the embassies which were present and in affable fashion bade the Greek polises to maintain towards him the same loyalty which they had accorded to his father. Philip's last wife, Cleopatra, had borne a daughter a few days before his assassination, while Attalus, her uncle and guardian, had been sent on ahead to Asia to share the command of the forces with Parmenion. Attalus acquired great popularity in the army. Alexander at once executed all those who were alleged to be behind Philip's murder along with all possible rivals and the whole faction opposed to him. The known victims of this purge were Alexander's own rivals: his older cousin Philip's nephew Amyntas, son of King Perdiccas III; the principal family of Alexander of Lyncestis, although he himself was spared; and Philip's wife Cleopatra and her infant daughter, killed by Olympias. A possible rival for the throne remained Attalus himself; the uncle of Cleopatra (Philip's last wife) was disaffected because of her murder and that of her daughter, but he had no claim to the throne of Macedonia; indeed, he was loyal to Philip and hostile to his assassin. Alexander determined to eliminate Attalus discreetly. Alexander had good reason to fear that he might challenge his rule, making common cause with those of the Greeks who opposed him, and selected among his friends a certain Hecataeus from Cardia and sent him off to Asia with a number of soldiers, under orders to bring back Attalus- accused of high treason- alive if he could, but if not, to assassinate him.
Alexander then marched south, pacified Thessaly, and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth was confirmed as strategos autocrator (the supreme commander) of all Greeks for the expected invasion of the Persian Empire, previously planned and initiated by Philip. On his return to Macedonia by way of Delphi, the Pythian priestess acclaimed him as invincible.
He started with blitz campaigns against the Triballiand Ilyrians, which took him across the Danube. He marched into Thrace in Spring 335 and, after forcing through the Shipka Pass and crushing the Triballi, crossed the Danube to subjugate the Getae and Celtic tribes; turning west, he then shattered a coalition of Illyrians who had invaded Macedonia.
The other Greek states were frightened by this cruelty, and Alexander could thus afford himself to treat Athens diplomatically, while Macedonian garrisons were left in Corinth, Chalcis and Cadmea.
PERSEUSPROJECT,makes war on Darius: Paus. 6.17.5
The Battle of Granicus
On the way he stopped at Troy and afterwards he visited Ilium, at the Granicus River, near the Sea of Marmara (May/June 334), where he confronted his first Persian army which was led by three satraps.
The prospect of conquering the Persian empire had become more realistic than in 346: Artaxerxes III had died in 338, and the new king was the much weaker Darius II (he succeeded to the Persian throne in 336, after the brief reign of Arses, who, as the trilingual inscription found at Xanthus in 1973 shows, was given the name Artaxerxes IV at birth).
When the city of Miletus refused to open its gates, encouraged by the proximity of the Persian fleet, Alexander took it by assault; without a maritime battle: he disbanded his expensive navy and decided to defeat the Persian fleet on land by occupying the coastal cities. In Caria, Halicarnassus resisted and was destroyed; but Ada, the widow and sister of the satrap Idrieus, adopted Alexander as her son and Alexander appointed her as a satrap of Caria. However, until 332 some parts of Caria held out. On his way toward Babylon, Alexander won several important battles.
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The Battle of Issus
Intelligence on both sides was imprecise, and the two armies had infact been advancing randomly. Alexander was already encamped by Myriandrus (nearmodern Iskenderun, Turkey) when he find out that Darius was astride hisline of communications at Issus, north of Alexander's position (Autumn 333). Alexander came head to head with King Darius during the Battle of Issus on the north-east Mediterranean coast. Although Alexander was advancing south he was surprised to find Darius approaching from his North! Turning, Alexander found Darius drawn up along the Pinarus River.In the battle that followed, Alexander won a decisive victory, and Darius fled, leaving his family in Alexander's hands.
Alexander was outnumbered many times (perhaps even 10:1). Even so, he held back a reserve force, for the first time in the military history.
After the battle when he entered in the Darius's tent in all its luxury, golden
bath, silk carpets, and so on (while Alexander was known for living in spartan
conditions in comparison) he is reported to have commented:
"So this is what it means to be a King."
Another famous incident sheds light upon Alexander's and Hephaestion's friendship. Alexander had captured Darius's throne tent with treasure of 3000 talents of gold ( US$ 1.2 billion, 1 TALENT = 27 kg Au), with a complete imperial escort; including Darius's mother, Sisygambis; his wife, Stateira; his harem and other princesses.
"Don't worry mother, he is Alexander too."
Alexander treated all the women with great respect "due to their station". An interesting fact is that later when Sisygambis had an opportunity to return to Persians, she had refused.
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of Syria, Phoenicia and Egypt
With the intention to isolate the Persian fleet from its maritime bases and so to destroy it as an effective fighting force, from Issus Alexander marched south into Syria and Phoenicia. The Phoenician cities Marathus and Aradus came over to Alexander with no resistance. In reply to a letter from Darius offering peace, Alexander replied with detemination, 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 them- selves 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; the Tyrians fired red hot sand at Alexander's fleet. The storming of Tyre in July 332 was Alexander's greatest military achievement; it was followed by a great massacre and the sale of the women and children into slavery.
In the meantime (winter 333-332) the Persians had counterattacked by land in Asia Minor, but they were defeated by Antigonus, the satrap of Greater Phrygia. In the meantime, at sea, the Persians succeeded in recapturing various Ionian cities and islands.
During the siege of Tyre, Darius sent a letter with his offer: he wanted to pay ransom of 10,000 talents for his family and cede all his lands west of the Euphrates.Onthat occasion Alexander's general Parmenio advised him to accept.
in Syria, Alexander advanced south without opposition until he reached Gaza on its high mound; there bitter resistance halted him for two months, and he sustained a serious shoulder
wound during a sortie.
PERSEUS PROJECT, at Tyre,Diodorus,HistoricalLibrary17.41.1
In November 332 he reached Egypt, and the Egyptians welcomed him as their liberator. The Persian satrap Mazaces surrendered with no resistance. At Memphis Alexander was sacrificed to Apis, (Hapi) , and was crowned with the traditional double crown of the pharaohs of Egypt; the egyptian priests were placated and their religion encouraged.
Alexander reorganized Egypt employing Egyptian governors, while keeping the
army under a separate Macedonian command. He founded the city of Alexandria
near the western arm of the Nile between the sea and Lake Mareotis, protected
by the island of Pharos, having it planned by the famous Rhodian architect Deinocrates.
From Alexandria he marched along the coast to Paraetonium and from there inland
to visit the celebrated oracle of Amon at Siwah. About 570 B.C., the Pharaoh
Amasis rebuilt a temple in Siwa dedicated to the Amon (also Amun, Ammon,
Tradition claims that in Egypt Dionysus founded the oracle of Ammon. One day he was wandering in the waterless desert with his followers when they saw a solitary ram. As they followed the animal it disappeared, but a spring of water was found where it had been. There the god placed the oracle, and set the ram in in heaven as the constellation of Aries. ...When the gods fled to Egypt from the monstrous Typhon, Dionysus changed himself into goat...
The temple oracle was one of the most famous in antiquity and was famed for being able to answer difficult question. According tradition he was descended from the heroes Heracles and Perseus. Both of these heroes had visited the oracle in their lifetime, and Alexander thought it appropriate that he should visit it as well. When he reached the oracle in its oasis, the priest gave him the traditional salutation of a pharaoh, as son of Ammon; Alexander consulted the oracle and: Oracle proclaimed Alexander the son of Deus - Amon (Zeus). It changed his life for ever.
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