Alexander the Great: Life and Legacy
“Alexander was one of histories great commanders; he was absolutely brilliant on the battlefield.” –Barry Strauss.
Using brilliant tactics and extraordinary engineering feats he created an empire that spanned five time zones and three continents, conquered lands from Ionia to India and single handedly crushed the greatest empire the world had ever seen, Persia. But Alexander was the heart and soul of his empire and with his death the empire would collapse at the hands of greed, ambition, and the lust for power.
Alexander’s early life often revolved around his parents, his father Phillip was the king of Macedon a group of people who lived north of Greece and were mostly either farmers, or warriors. Soon after the Peloponnesian war Phillip II the king of Macedonia his kingdom swooped in and conquered the weak and divided Greece. Phillip II was the King of Macedon and Alexander’s father, he along with the famous philosopher Aristotle educated Alexander during Alexander’s early years and things worked well, Alexander even helped Phillip conquer the Greeks in a few battles such as Chaeronea but things soon took a turn for the worse. Before long Phillip divorced Olympias, Alexander’s mother and married a new woman-Cleopatra. One day during a dinner feast Alexander got into a fight with one of Phillips guests, after the gust stated that Phillip and Cleopatra might “have a son worthy of the throne” Alexander was enraged and he threw his glass of wine at the man and stated “what do you take me for”. Phillip then drew his sword and advanced on the two men but before he reached them he collapsed onto the ground from drunkenness. Alexander stated “look at this- here is the man who plans to cross all of Asia and he cannot even cross form one table to another”. Alexander exiled himself and Olympias for a short period of time until Phillip invited Alexander back. Phillip was assassinated shortly afterwards and Alexander rose to the throne, however words of revolt passed through the Thebans as they believed Alexander too was dead. When the Thebans revolted Alexander crushed them and razed their city. Most of the other city states quickly submitted and Alexander set his sights on an even greater goal which not even Phillip had achieved, the conquest of Persia.
Alexander quickly assembled a modest fighting force of 37,000 Greek and Macedonian infantrymen along with 5000 cavalry units and marched into Asia Minor and faced his first line of resistance at the Granicus River. With superior infantry Alexander easily defeated the Persian forces after using his Companion cavalry to divert the Persian forces allowing his troops to cross the river. Alexander moved on winning the battle of the Issus using tactics that canceled out the Persians numerical advantage and marched on until he met his first major obstacle-Tyre. You see, so far Alexander had been fighting battle of land but he had a problem, he didn’t have a fleet, so in order to neutralize this disadvantage Alexander had decided to conquer the great Persian naval bases. So far this strategy had worked but now he faced a problem- Tyre was an island surrounded by thick walls and massive Persian warships. Alexander came up with as solution by building a half mile long causeway to the island, after its completion Alexander deployed siege towers to crush the walls and after Tyre’s main defenses had been crushed Alexander ordered the city to be burned to the ground. Shortly after razing Tyre Alexander set his sights on the breadbasket of the Mediterranean, Egypt, but unlike Tyre conquering Egypt would require no bloodshed. After arriving in Egypt the Egyptians launched no resistance against Alexander and crowned him pharaoh of Egypt and like all pharaohs before him Alexander was declared a god. By now Alexander had shown his hand and Darius had no wish for further fighting, he offered Alexander 10,000 talents and all the lands west of the Euphrates River in exchange for his family which Alexander had obtained at the battle of Issus, in response to the offer one of Alexander’s most trusted generals, Parminio quoted “were I Alexander I would accept”, Alexander replied “I too… were I Parmenio!”. The stage was set, it was now clear Alexander would settle for nothing but the total conquest of Persia and Darius had his back against the wall, the final Great battle of the war was about to begin.
Alexander quickly swept across what was left of western Persian easily conquering all the lands east of the Euphrates while Darius gathered a fighting force in a final last ditch attempt to regain his empire, the two armies would meet at the plain of Gaugamela. After crossing both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers encountering no resistance he found Darius waiting for him at the Gaugamela. The 2 sides clashed and it seemed clear that it was so far a stalemate but with his 5-1 numerical advantage Darius could hold out longer and win. Many people say that when you are fighting a bear, since you are physically overwhelmed you have to drive the knife straight into the crucial point of the bear, the heart to win and that is exactly what Alexander did, after he and his elite companion cavalry had found a gap in the Persian lines he and the companions drove straight through it and headed point blank at Darius. Like at Issus Darius fled his army fearing his safety, and when word got out Darius had fled the Persian army naturally thought “well, if he’s fleeing what are we doing risking our lives?”, the majority of the Persian forces fled, and shortly afterwards Darius was murdered by his own officers. Alexander was now the king of Greece, Persia, and Macedonia but he was still not satisfied, and pushed further into India until his troops could take it no more and mutinied against him. Alexander finally returned to his empire with new plans of conquering lands to the west instead of east such as Europe and a rising Rome but Alexander would fall short of this goal as on his health was catching up to him and after years of subjecting himself to the same conditions as his soldiers, numerous battle wounds and many drinking parties Alexander fell ill to Malaria and died 10 days later. While ill, his commanders asked if he should die who should take the throne and Alexander only replied “the strongest”. With no clear heir Alexander’s commanders battled for control of the Empire ferociously even hijacking Alexander’s funeral. In the end Alexander’s shining empire was divided into four kingdoms split among his generals. Cassander took Greece and Macedonia, Lysimachus Pergamum and part of Asia Minor; Leseucus ruled West Asia and Ptolemy ruled Egypt, the age of Alexander was over but a new chapter just beginning, the Hellenistic Era.
Alexander was a brilliant general who conquered more land in less time than the people could possibly imagine. His empire dominated the known world, but his death was a blow which the empire would never recover from. Divided and with their god king dead the four kingdoms would be no match for the greatest civilization to ever set foot in the Mediterranean world, Rome. But what would have happened if Alexander had lived? Would his empire be so great it conquered the world crushing Rome, defeating Europe conquering Eastern Asia? Or if he was never born would Persia sole superpower of the world changing our lives today? We may never know the answer to these questions but we recognize his brilliance and forever give him the title of “the great”.