Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας
Alexander the Invincible,
later renamed by the Romans,
Alexander III the Great of Macedon (356-323 B.C.)
PROJECT by John J. Popovic
Alexander accomplished greater deeds than any other ruler before or after him.
This project is dedicated to the most charismatic and heroic king of all times.
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.
The legend of Alexander of Macedon begins even before his birth. Alexander's parents, King Philip II of Macedon and Myrtali - the Princess of Epirus, later known as Olympias - were in their dreams warned about his birth. Philip and Olympias were initiated in the mysterious cults of Kabira of Samothrace, and they had believed in the messages in dreams, so that they have invited the most renowned prophet of that time Arixstandros Telmisy, to interpret their dreams. Olympias had dreamt of a loud burst of thunder and lightening that had hit her womb, while in Philip's dream, he was sealing her womb with the seal of the lion. Arixstandros determined that Olympias was pregnant, and that the child would have the character of lion. The oracle of Delphi advised Philip to worship Zeus-Ammon, more than any other god. That brought the advent of Alexander's birth. Ammon (also Amon, Hammon, Zeus, Jupiter) represents the principle of invincibility, and ancient Egyptians had called Ammon "The Invisible", so any other attribution is superfluous. The animal dedicated to the cult of Ammon was ram-aries, one of the "astral fire signs", with the active male principle and the symbol of Pure Will strength, that stands behind everything , which initiates each significant event and crushes all obstacles (like aries or thunder). The thought and vision, now become action. Only through action does it take form, power and is transformed into reality. The purely spiritual can not be stopped and is invincible. Alexander's historical mission was to prepare the impulse of a new astrologic era, to terminate the old one and to transform ancient-obsolete forms of culture and world dominion. (This transition period from Aries to Pisces astrologic era in history is known as the Hellenistic period, and it has lasted for more than two centuries. One astrologic era has a duration of 2000 years.)
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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.
The care of his education, as it might be presumed, was committed to a great
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.
the 5th century BC. the Hellens have achieved the cultural stability necessary
to develop a common tradition of religion, literature, Olympic sport, art, craft,
philosophy, folklore and mythic history. That great cultural achievements lay
already far enough behind to have become invested with a classical splendour
and the importance of Hellenic culture had been made solid in a way which might
maintain respect and passion for ideal values, deep-rooted by tradition, present
and aprecited even in the modern Western world. And this sum of tradition was
brought upon Alexander in his thrteenth year through the person of the man who
beyond all others had gathered it up into an organic system of knowledge. In
343 Aristotles came to Pella at Philip's bidding to direct the education of his
son. Alexander from age 13 to 16, together with the other boys belonging to
the Macedonian aristocracy, was taught by Aristotles 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. He was also early
schooled in war. Aristoteles who conquered the world with thought, was the teacher
of Alexander who conquered the world with the sword.
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Character of Alexander
Alexander's actions were inspired: by one god, one demigod, one hero and one sovereign. Dionysios - a divinity. Hercules - a demigod. Achilles - a hero. Cyrus the Great - The Persian emperor. His actions were guided by the sprit of Homer, who appeared in Alexander's dreams, while the Illiad was his manual of war. Like Achilles he was a superhuman hero and warrior, he exposed himself often to the extreme danger during battle. Alexander could support pain, hunger, thirst, heat, desperation and great suffering with immense patience, like Hercules. As a boy, his mother introduced him to the cult mysteries of the Dionysios. Through Dionysios, Alexander took extreme mobility and love for adventure. During the course of his conquest, Alexander repeated the same journey as Dionysios, only in reverse. Alexander admired the personality of the 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 dominated peoples. The Illiad thought him that he could have only two epic and noble passions: furious anger and disinterested generous friendship. To live with such a multitude of images and multiplicity of souls inside one personality was difficult and dangerous, as such a coexistence was not often harmonious and pacific. Alexander's epic actions were often guided by the ghost of Homer, like Hamlet's were by the ghost of his dead father.
Some notion of the personal appearance of Alexander may be got from the literature
and the surviving monuments.
He is described as of an athletic frame, though not taller than the common, and a white and ruddy complexion. The expression of his eyes had something liquid and melting and the hair which stood up over his forehead gave the suggestion of a lion. He had a way of carrying his head somewhat aslant. (See especially Plut. Alex. 4; de Alex. fort.ii. 2.) The greatest masters of the time executed portraits of him, Lysippus in sculpture, Apelles in painting and Pyrgoteles in graven gems. Among surviving monuments, we have no completely certified portraits except the Tivoli herm (now in the Louvre) and the coins struck by his successors. The herm is a dry work and the head upon the coins shows various degrees of idealization. There are, however, a considerable number of works which can make out a better or worse claim either to be portraits of Alexander or to reproduce his type, and a large field of discussion is therefore open as to their values and classification
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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Aristotle and Alexander
Bucephalus - various traditions
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
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).
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.
family dissension, such as frequently displease the polygamous courts of the
East. Philip repudiated Olympias for another wife, Cleopatra, and after a quarrel
at a wedding feast, Alexander went with his mother to her home in Epirus.
Few months afterward, father
and son were reconciled and Alexander returned; but their hearts were estranged.
The Philip's new wife was with child; her kinsmen were in the ascendant; the
succession of Alexander was imperilled. Some negotiations which Pixodarus, the
satrap of Caria, opened with the court of Macedon with a view to effecting
a marriage alliance between his house and Philip's, brought Alexander into fresh broils.
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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. Alexander was not the only pretender to the vacant throne: but, recognized by the army, he soon swept all rivals from his path. 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 the Hellenes against
the barbarians, in the place of his father Philip
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.
Philip's elimination had made all the hill-peoples of
the north and west raise their heads and set the Greek states free from the
Macedon hegemony. He started with blitz campaigns against the Triballi and Ilyrians,
which took him across the Danube. He marched into Thrace in Spring 335, struck
across the Balkans, by the Shipka Pass and traversed the land of the Triballians
(Rumelia), crossed the Danube to subjugate the Getae and Celtic tribes; turning
west, he then shattered a coalition of Illyrians who had invaded Macedonia..
To strike the imagination of the world he took his army over the Danube and
burnt a settlement of the Getae upon the other side.
The other Greek states were frightened by this cruelty. While his garrisons were left in Corinth, Chalcis and Cadmea, Alexander could thus afford himself to treat Athens diplomatically with eager courtesy, although Athens was hostile at heart to the Macedonian hegemony, The Panhellenic alliance (from which Sparta still stood aloof) against the barbarians was renewed.
PERSEUSPROJECT,makes war on Darius: Paus. 6.17.5
Apelles - the painter and friend
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Angelika Kauffmann, Alexander überlässt Apelles seine Geliebte Kampaspe, 1783
Alexander Ceding Campaspe to Apelles, Jérôme-Martin Langlois, 1819
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.
To meet the invader the Persians had in Asia Minor an
army to some extent larger than Alexander's, which was gathered under the satraps
of the western provinces at Zeleia. Beside that, what was more serious, Persians
had control of the Aegean, so Alexander could communicate with his base only
by the narrow line of the Hellespont, and ran the risk, if he went far from
it. To draw Alexander after them, while avoiding a conflict, was sound strategy
for the Persian generals, which was urged upon them by their war-colleague the
Rhodian Memnon. But pragmatic and strategic considerations were cancelled by the Persian
code of chivalry, and Alexander found them waiting for him on the banks of the
river Granicus. Memnon, the general of the Greek mercenaries in the Persian army, suggested that the Persians avoid facing Alexander in open fields and to move the combat to the Balkans. Nevertheless, his suggestion was denied by Persian satraps who felt their forces were superior to Alexander's. but was finally won by the Macedonians.
Granicus, May 334 BC
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.
Memnon and Persian satraps took refuge in different fortresses and cities. Consequently Memnon has abandoned Miletus for an attack on Lesbos and Chios, and he has unexpectedly died in unexplained conditions. Finally, Alexander captured Ionia and was welcomed in Sardis, and he has managed to conquer Cappadocia and Phrygia as well. The Persian navy curiously renounced from capturing mainland Greece and cutting Alexander's contact with home.
Miletus -- foundation and history
Miletus -PERSEUS PROJECT
Ancient Coins of Miletus
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The Battle of Issus, Autumn 333
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, and near the town of Issus fought his second pitched battle, sending Darius and the relic of his army in feral flight back to the east. It was an incident which did not modify Alexander's plan. He did not press the pursuit far, although the great king's camp with his harem fell into his 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."
The chivalrous courtesy, which he showed to the captive princesses "due to their station", was a favourite theme for later rhetoricians. An interesting fact is that later when Sisygambis had an opportunity to return to Persians, she had refused.
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Conquest 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.
The siege of Tyre
After taking Byblos and Sidon, he met serious resistance at Tyre, where he was refused entry into the island city. It was one of those obstinate sieges which often mark the history of the Semitic races. 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 When it fell, Alexander had the old Tyrian people scattered to the winds, 30,000 sold as slaves.
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 opened negotiations in which he ultimately went so far as to offer a partition of the empire, sending 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. Darius Alexander refused the bargain and definitely claimed the whole. On that occasion Alexander's general Parmenio advised him to accept.
Leaving Parmenio 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. The occupation
of the rest of Syria and Palestine proceeded smoothly, and after the fall of
Gaza Alexander's way lay open into Egypt.
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.
The winter (332-331) which Alexander spent in Egypt saw two memorable actions on his part:
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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