Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III the Great, reigned as the King of Macedonia and emerged as a conqueror of the Persian Empire. Widely regarded as one of history’s most brilliant military strategists, he achieved numerous conquests within his relatively brief lifetime.
EARLY LIFE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Born on either the 20th or 21st of July in 356 BC in Pella, Macedon, Alexander the Great’s parents were King Philip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus, daughter of Neoptolemus I, the king of Epirus.
During his formative years, Alexander was raised by his nurse and received education from the strict Leonidas of Epirus, a relative of his mother. His upbringing followed the noble Macedonian tradition, encompassing skills such as reading, lyre playing, horsemanship, combat, and hunting.
Additionally, he was tutored by Lysimachus, General of Philip II, who employed role-playing to engage the young prince. A notable incident involved Alexander taming a horse that feared its own shadow, impressing his father, who remarked that Macedon was too small for his ambitions.
At the age of 13, Alexander commenced tutelage under the renowned philosopher and scientist, Aristotle. Aristotle’s teachings encompassed medicine, philosophy, ethics, religion, logic, and art, fostering Alexander’s passion for Homer’s works, particularly the Iliad. Aristotle gifted him an annotated copy of the Iliad, which Alexander cherished throughout his military campaigns, serving as a wellspring of inspiration for his legendary exploits.
THE GREATEST CONQUEROR
A critical juncture arose when King Philip II married Cleopatra Eurydice, the niece of General Attalus, potentially threatening Alexander’s claim to the throne as any child of Philip and Cleopatra would be a full Macedonian heir.
Fearing disinheritance, Alexander fled with his mother but later reconciled with his father, Philip II. Upon Philip II’s assassination by his bodyguards in 336 BC, Alexander skillfully secured the throne by winning the loyalty of Macedonian troops. He also assumed leadership of the League of Corinth, a coalition of Greek states.
In 334 BC, Alexander embarked on his ambitious campaign to conquer the Persian Empire.
Through a series of decisive battles, including Issus and Gaugamela, he vanquished Persian King Darius III, claiming the title of King of the Persian Empire. At its zenith, Alexander’s empire extended from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.
In 332 BC, he initiated the Egyptian conquest, where he was hailed as the “master of the Universe” and bestowed the name Alexandria upon the city he founded. Alexandria is one of 20 cities bearing his name.
Continuing his eastward march, Alexander confronted Darius III again in Mesopotamia, achieving victory at the Battle of Gaugamela. During his lifetime, Alexander married Roxana, a Bactrian nobleman’s daughter, out of love. He later wedded Stateira II, a Persian princess and Darius III’s daughter, for political reasons.
Alexander the Great’s reign marked the consolidation of numerous kingdoms, expanding his empire to encompass vast territories, including northern India. Notably, he demonstrated magnanimity by reinstating King Porus as ruler and granting him additional land.
Alexander the Great passed away at the age of 32, between June 10th and 11th, 323 BC, succumbing to a fever believed to be caused by malaria, typhoid fever, meningitis, or West Nile virus. While theories of poisoning persist, the rapid onset of his illness challenges this notion, as long-acting poisons were not available at the time.
Renowned as a classical hero akin to Achilles, Alexander the Great left an indelible mark on Greek and non-Greek cultures, becoming a prominent figure in both history and mythology. In 2004, actor Colin Farrell portrayed Alexander in the film directed by Oliver Stone, titled “Alexander.”