Who was Alexander the Great?

Who was Alexander the Great? He was a king, a conqueror and a tyrant. He believed he was a god, and the way he took over much of the known world would probably have convinced many of his followers that he was. Then, at the age of 32 he was dead, leaving an empire and countless legends about his life and legacy.

Alexander Alexander III of Macedon was born in July 356 BC, the son of Philip II, king of Macedon, and his fourth wife, Olympias. By the age of 20 he had inherited the throne and soon began a series of wars against the Persian army. He would ultimately conqueror the Middle East and Egypt, and then attempted to invade India. Although he never lost a battle, his dream of conquering the entire known world was never achieved.

In discussing his military achievements, Thomas Christianson, writes “Alexander was without equal on the battlefield. He dressed conspicuously in his regal armor and hundreds of enemy soldiers would attempt to claim him as their victim. He lost many horses killed beneath him, his breastplate was pierced by a lance, and he shattered numerous spears himself. Alexander’s helmet was once pierced, and he survived only because one of his most trusted lieutenants, Cleitus, saved him, running a spear through the enemy who was attempting to finish off Alexander.”

Alexander’s invasions pushed Hellenistic civilization out far beyond Greece, and several cities all called Alexandria were established by his forces, the most famous one being in Egypt.

Alexander the Great’s achievements came to an end on either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, when he died – how he died is still a mystery, with some believing he died of malaria, West Nile virus, alcoholism or even poisoning. For the next five hundred years people would visit his tomb in Egypt.

His legend would continue – you can find mentions of Alexander in the Bible and Qur’an, and other stories about can be found from Afghanistan to Iceland. Historians have been debating who was Alexander – a great leader or an evil monster? In a recent biography, Philip Freeman reminds his readers that Alexander “was a man of his own violent times, no better or worse in his actions than Caesar or Hannibal. He killed tens of thousands of civilians in his campaigns and spread terror in his wake, but so did every other general in the ancient world. If he were alive today, he would undoubtedly be condemned as a war criminal – but he did not live in our age…Alexander was and is the absolute embodiment of pure human ambition with all its good and evil consequences.”

Some interesting facts about Alexander the Great

1. Alexander suffered from a condition called Heterochromia, which caused his eyes to have two different colours – one was blue and the other brown.

2. His favourite dog was named Peritas, and some legends say the animal was strong and fierce enough to fight a lion and an elephant. When the dog died, Alexander named a town after him. He also named a city in India after his favourite horse Bucephalus.

3. Alexander’s tutor was the philosopher Aristotle. Alexander read often, and he even carried with him a copy of Homer’s Iliad that was given to him by Aristotle.

4. He was wounded at least eight times in battle, including an arrow that stuck his lung, a cleaver slash in the head, and a sword wound in his thigh.

5. Among the many legends made about him, it was said that he built the Gates of Alexander in the Caucasus to keep out the Asian barbarian tribes from attacking Middle East and Europe.

Videos about Alexander the Great

The Founder of Globalization? Our Strange Fascination with Alexander the Great – lecture by Hugh Liebert given at the University of Richmond in 2009

Articles about Alexander the Great

Descendants of Alexander the Great’s army fought in ancient China, historian finds

A recent article is examining the possibility that a contingent of soldiers from the Mediterranean fought at the Battle of Talas River in 36 BC, but instead of being Roman forces, new research suggests they may have been descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great.

The army of Alexander the Great and combat stress syndrome

In the summer of 326 BC, Alexander the Great’s triumphal seven-year campaign in Asia was unexpectedly halted in the upper reaches of the Indus river — not by enemy action, but by the troops’ refusal to march further eastwards.

The Persian Policies of Alexander the Great: From 330-323 BC

Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and sought to create a unique realm, where all people Greek and non-Greek would be able to live in relative autonomy under the monarch.

The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander

Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus, Justin, and other ancient historians report that rumors of poisoning arose after the death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 BC.

The Failure of Alexander’s Conquests and the Administration of Bactria-Sogdiana

Despite his fame, several of Alexander the Great’s conquests were not as successful as popular memory suggests.

Alexander the Great and West Nile Virus Encephalitis

One incident, mentioned by Plutarch but not considered by previous investigators, may shed light on the cause of Alexander’s death.

King meets dog: the origin of the meeting between Alexander and Diogenes

The article questions some scholarly assumptions about the famous anecdote on the meeting between Alexander and Diogenes the Cynic.

Alexander the Great and Sport History: A Commentary on Scholarship

Sport historians must be more precise about the nature of how and why Alexander the Great used sport, never losing sight of the fact that Alexander probably never had a systematic philosophy about athletes, sport or athletics.

Mightier Than the Sword: Propaganda in Case Studies of the Battles of Alexander the Great

The description of Alexander’s military campaigns has been powerfully affected by the insertion of propaganda, both by Alexander himself and by his Successors, which has largely been passed down through the extant sources.

Valuing the Numismatic Legacy of Alexander the Great

The conquests of Alexander III (“The Great”) transformed the economic as well as political landscape of ancient Greece and Persia

Did Alexander the Great read Xenophon?

It has been assumed by writers, ancient and modern, that Xenophon’s literary output had a direct influence on Alexander the Great. But is there any evidence to prove that it did?

The Death of Philip of Macedon

Who caused the assassination of Philip II, King of Macedon from c. 355 to 336 BC? Was it his wife Olympias, his son Alexander, or some other person or group?

Aristotle and the Murder of Alexander

In the study of Aristotle’s thought there has been no systematic effort to examine the allegations in relation to Aristotle’s political philosophy.

Ethnicity and Cultural Policy at Alexander’s Court

There is, in fact, one surviving theme that runs through the literature and is also one of the most enduring public views of the great king’s achievement: Alexander spread Greek civilization by means of his passage through Asia.

Ancient and modern treatment of Alexander the Great

This dissertation examines the different interpretations of the secondary sources for Alexander the Great by three modern historians.

Conversations in History: Arrian and Herodotus, Parmenio and Alexander

Arrian’s account of Alexander’s stay at Persepolis stands apart from those of other authors in many ways.

Contesting the Greatness of Alexander the Great: The Representation of Alexander in the Histories of Polybius and Livy

By investigating the works of Polybius and Livy, we can discuss an important aspect of the impact of Alexander upon the reputation and image of Rome.

The “Pixodarus Affair” Reconsidered Again

Plutarch presents the so-called ‘Pixodarus affair’ as an illustration of the disorders in the Macedonian royal household involving tensions between Philip and Alexander which Alexander’s mother Olympias made worse.

The death of Alexander the Great

Alexander, King of Macedonia, conqueror of the Persian empire, died in Babylon at sunset on the 10th of June, 323 BC.1 He was not yet 33 years old, had been king for 12 years and 8 months and had shown himself to be fully deserving of the title “The Great”.

Alexander The Great: Who Did He Say He Was?

Did Alexander believe he was a hero, or did he believe he was a god?


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