Alexander the Great (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος (Alexandros) - 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), King of the ancient Greek, city-state and kingdom of Macedon, was one of the most powerful and successful military commanders in history who had a great impact in the shaping of the modern world.
His empire spread across three continents and covered about two million square miles.
His legacy to the world lives on through the Hellenistic Age (4th to 1st century BC) that made Greek culture and language, the international language - the language of the Bible and its use to spread early Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.
He was born in Pella (Greek: Πέλλα) the son of Phillip II, king of Macedon and of Olympia, a princess (daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of the Greek city-state of Epirus) on the sixth day of the ancient Greek month of Hekatombaion ((Greek: Ἑκατόμβαιον).
Alexander's father, Philip II, was an Olympic champion, winning three times at the 356, 352, and 348 BC Olympic Games in the horse and four-horse chariot races.
Alexander had four sisters, Cynane, Cleopatra, Thessalonica and Europa; his two brothers were, Philip III and Caranus.
Alexander married princess Roxana, the daughter of the Bactrian chief, Oxyartes of Persia, in 327 BC.
His second wife was Stateira II, the daughter of Darius III, in 324 BC.
He also married Parysatis, Statiera's cousin during the same wedding ceremony when Alexander married Statiera.
Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II to the throne in 336 BC at the age of 20, and spent most of his ruling years conducting military campaigns throughout Western Asia and Egypt to create one of the largest empires that stretched from Greece to northwestern India.
Alexander the Great became known as “the Great” due to his unparalleled success as a military commander who never lost a battle, despite being outnumbered.
His successes came from his tactical use of terrain and combination of cavalry and phalanx formation strategy of heavily armed infantry standing shoulder to shoulder, several ranks deep and armed with the sarissa (spear up to 20 feet long).
Alexander's devotion for his military including his courage and determination, generated affection and fierce loyalty from his troops.
Alexander the Great was an icon of Hellenism because his ambition was to Hellenize the world.
Hellenism is derived from the Greek word for Greece itself Hellas (Greek: Ἑλλάς).
To "Hellenize" means to make a non-Greek, a Greek.
Hellenism relates to Greek history, culture and language after Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great's vision of a Hellenized world was largely realized in cities as far apart as Pergamon in Asia Minor, Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt.
Hellenism spread throughout the Mediterranean with the Greek style of buildings such as temples, amphitheaters and ideas.
It spread through conquest, trade, commerce and political ties.
The Bible was written in Hebrew - its Greek translation through the Septuagint, made it accessible through the Hellenistic period.
Greek was the language of the New Testament, for the Christian liturgy and theology of the first three centuries of the Early Christian Church.
Judaism after the conquests of Alexander the Great, was Hellenistic Judaism.
Alexander was raised by Lanike, sister of Alexander's future general Cleitus the Black (Greek: Κλεῖτος ὁ μέλας - 375 BC – 328 BC).
Later, he was tutored by Leonidas of Epirus (Greek: Λεωνίδας ο Ηπειρώτης), a relative of his mother who taught him to read, mathematics, horsemanship, archery, fighting skills and to play the lyre.
Lysimachus of Acarnania (Greek: Λυσίμαχος) was the second tutor of Alexander.
In 342 BC, Aristotle tutored Alexander until the age of sixteen, creating an enlightened monarch who would be a leader to Greeks and a despot to barbarians.
His father, Philip provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as a classroom for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion and Cassander who would become his friends and future generals in his army, known as the "Companions".
Aristotle taught Alexander and his "Companions" about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art.
Alexander also developed a passion for the works of Homer (in particular the Iliad) and was able to quote Euripides from memory.
When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip a wild black horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents.
The horse refused to be mounted but Alexander asked to be given the opportunity to tame the horse.
Philip was overjoyed at this display of courage, declared: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you" and bought the horse for him.
Alexander named his horse, Bucephalas, meaning "ox-head."
Bucephalas carried Alexander through all his military campaigns as far as India.
When his horse died at the age of thirty, Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala (Alexandria Bucephalus, a city in Punjab founded by Alexander the Great was named in honor of his horse).
Alexander the Great
Philip II of Macedon (Greek: Φίλιππος (Philippos) 382 BC – 21 October 336 BC) had unified the Greek city-states under the League of Corinth for a planned invasion of the Achaemenid, Persian Empire.
In 336 BC, at age 20, Alexander became king of Macedon when his father Phillip II was assassinated at the hands of Pausanias, a member of his bodyguard.
Alexander began his reign by subduing all rivals in Macedon and the other Greek city-states.
At the council of the League of Corinth, he was chosen to launch the pan-Hellenic project envisaged by his father, with leadership over all Greeks in their conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire beginning in 334 BC.
Along with his military, Alexander took surveyors, engineers, architects, scientists, court officials, and historians to accompany him on his campaigns.
Alexander conquered the mighty Persian Empire, including the legendary city of Babylon.
When Darius III died in July 330 BC, Alexander declared himself King of Asia.
Key Military Campaigns
Battle of the Granicus
Battle of Granicus, (May 334 BC) was the first victorious engagement of Alexander the Great's invasion of the Persian Empire on enemy soil.
He wanted revenge for the invasion of Greece by Darius I and Xerxes during the Greco/Persian Wars from 499 BC – 449 BC (the Greeks of the Classical Age (500-336 BC) prevailed).
Alexander the Great was victorious having only suffered about 400 casualties while the Persians lost around 4000.
The Battle of Issus
The Battle of Issus occurred in southern Anatolia, Asia Minor on 5 November 333 BC between the Hellenic League led by Alexander the Great and the Achaemenid Empire, led by Darius III.
It was the second battle of Alexander's conquest of Asia, and the first encounter between Darius III and Alexander the Great.
The Hellenic League defeated the Persian satraps of Asia Minor with Darius III fleeing the battlefield.
Siege of Tyre (332 BC)
Tyre was a stronghold for the Persian fleet and could not be left unchallenged to threaten Alexander's rear.
Alexander warned his generals of the vital importance of securing all Phoenician cities before advancing on Egypt.
He also realized that naval superiority was the key to taking Tyre and set off for Sidon to fetch his own ships including vessels from Byblus, Aradus, Rhodes, Lycia, Cilicia and Macedon.
The Kings of Cyprus sent another 120 ships to Sidon which gave Alexander 220 ships.
The Siege of Tyre finally ended after seven months of slaughter and is considered his greatest military achievement.
Alexander made his sacrifice to Heracles and held a triumphal procession through the streets of the city.
With Tyre subjugated, Alexander could turn his attention to Gaza and Egypt.
Battle of Gaugamela (331 BC)
The Battle of Gaugamela (Greek: Γαυγάμηλα) took place in 331 BC between the forces of Alexander the Great and the Persian Army under King Darius III.
It was the final battle between the two kings and the final blow to the Achaemenid Empire and Darius III resulting in its complete conquest by Alexander the Great.
Despite the overwhelming odds victory was achieved by the League of Corinth, led by Alexander the Great against a numerically superior army on ground chosen by the Persians through the clever use of their light infantry forces.
Invasion of Egypt
In 332 BC, Alexander the Great invaded Egypt and was welcomed as a liberators by the Egyptians who were desperate to throw off the oppressive control of the Persians.
This period was marked by the founding of Alexandria and Alexander's visit to the oracle of the god, Amon at Siwah Oasis, in the Western Desert.
Battle of the Hydaspes
The Battle of the Hydaspes was fought between Alexander the Great and King Porus in May of 326 BC in Punjab, as part of Alexander's Indian campaign.
Alexander's decision to cross the monsoon-swollen Hydaspes to reach the Indian army's flank is regarded as one of his "masterpieces" in combat.
It gave Alexander the Great a decisive victory, capture the Indian king, Porus (Greek: Πῶρος 326–321 BC) and to absorb large areas of Punjab into his empire.
Porus was reinstated as the region's ruler as a satrap.
The victory resulted in the exposure of Greek political and cultural influences to the Indian subcontinent that yielded works such as Greco-Buddhist art.
Alexander the Great endeavored to reach the "ends of the world" but, in 325 BC, a disastrous march through the Gedrosia desert, west of the Indus River, in what is now the Baluchistan region of Pakistan caused great suffering and many deaths from the effects of the desert, supply shortages and monsoons.
His war-weary army was homesick and refused to march further east.
Fearing mutiny, Alexander had no choice but allowed them to march back home.
Alexander the Great
In March 324 BC, Alexander the Great reached Susa, the largest city in Elam and one of the capitals of the Achaemenid empire.
Here, Alexander sought to ally himself with the Persian elite through marriage.
Alexander and his childhood friend and nobleman, Hephaestion married Darius III's daughters and eighty of his officers also married girls of the Persian aristocracy.
After, he sent many of his war-weary soldiers home and begins planning further expeditions.
After a short, two-week illness, Alexander the Great died in Babylon on June 13, 323 BC at the age of thirty three.
His illness from the royal diaries suggests that he died from malaria or typhoid fever which were rampant in ancient Babylon.
He did not name a successor and his empire rapidly splits into warring factions.
Alexander the Great's empire was divided between four of his generals who established their own kingdoms that ultimately, became dynasties.
1. Cassander (Greek: Κάσσανδρος (Kassandros) - 355 BC – 297 BC)
2. Ptolemy (Ptolemy I Soter (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Σωτήρ) Ptolemaîos - 367 BC – January 282 BC)
3. Antigonus (Antigonus I Monophthalmus (Greek: Ἀντίγονος Μονόφθαλμος) Antigonos Monophthalmos, "Antigonus the One-Eyed" - 382 – 301 BC)
4. Seleucus (Seleucus I Nicator - 358 – 281 BC (Greek: Σέλευκος Νικάτωρ) Séleukos Nikátōr, "the Victorious")
They became known as the Diadochi (Greek: Διάδοχοι) or "Successors."
The Four Kingdoms Were:
1. The Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt
2. The Seleucid Empire in the east, Antioch in Syria and Seleucia in Mesopotamia (Iraq)
3. The Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor
4. Antigonid Macedon in Greece (Hellas)
Alexander the Great
Ancient Greece, where many of Classical Civilization's intellectual and artistic ideas originated and became foundations of western thought and culture never really "came together" as one empire.
While they shared a common language and religion, their basic political unit was the city-state that had its own government, laws and military.
Every citizens loyalty was directed only to their own city-state.
Constant warring and changing alliances with other non-Greek countries made it difficult to unite as one.
They fought each other so much that they weakened themselves to the point that the Romans conquered the land from 187 BC.
Athens, during the Classical Period, had the ability to unite Greece into one empire.
But Athens devastating defeat to the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War marked the end of the Golden Age of Greece.
Philip II of Macedon ultimately unified the Greek city-states through war.
When he was killed, his son, Alexander the Great, took power and built Greece into an empire.
When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his generals carved the empire into four successor (the Diadochi) blocks.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great's legacy to the world lives on through the Hellenistic Age (4th to 1st century BC) beginning with the conquest of the Persian Empire till the rise of Augustus in Rome in 31 BC which saw the beginnings of the Roman Empire.
The Hellenistic Age became another Golden Age for Greece - it was a time when Greek culture was pure and unaffected by other cultures.
the Hellenistic Age followed the Classical Age of Greece and marks the unification of the Greek world.
During these three hundred years, Greek culture dominated much of the Mediterranean and Middle East and Greek became the international language.
It saw the rise of New Comedy, Alexandrian poetry, translation of the Septuagint, and the philosophies of Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Pyrrhonism
In science, the works of the mathematician Euclid and the polymath Archimedes were extraordinary.
Alexander the Great
Alexandria was founded in April 331 BC and became famous for the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world) and its Museum.
Alexander's chief architect for designing the new city was Dinocrates of Rhodes which ultimately attracted merchants, tourists, religious prophets and the finest intellectual minds of the time.
Its famous library in the 3rd century BC, was said to contain 500,000 volumes.
Its Museum was a center of research and had scholars such as Euclid (Greek mathematician referred to as the "Father of Geometry") and Eratosthenes (Greek mathematician, geographer and chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria) working there.
Alexandria was also a center for Biblical Studies who commissioned the Septuagint, which was the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament.
Cleopatra and the Ptolemaic Dynasty
The Ptolemaic Kingdom was an Ancient Greek state based in Egypt during the Hellenistic Period.
It was founded in 305 BC by Ptolemy I Soter, a general in Alexander the Great's military, and lasted until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC.
Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 BC – 10 August 30 BC) was queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt from 51 to 30 BC.
She was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
Her native language was Greek, and she was the only Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.
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