Alexander the Great: Was He a Biblical Figure?
Early Military Career
Alexander III, better known today as Alexander the Great, was born in Pella, Macedonia in 356 B.C. Born the son of Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander inherited his kingdom at an early age when his father was assassinated; however, this wasn’t his first foray into power. Four years prior, at the age of 16, his father had promoted him to regent of Macedonia, and two years later he was put in charge of the Macedonian army during the battle of Chaeronea. Alexander would be credited with the victory, and it would be the launch of an unimaginable military career.
Even before these accomplishments Philip, and his wife Olympias, seemed to have been preparing their son for a life of military conquests. Alexander had gone on military campaigns with his father, and so had already seen many battles from an early age. After seeing his young son break a horse which no one else seemed to be able to tame, Philip declared to Alexander, “My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you.” His mother added to the prestige Alexander would come to believe he had inherited by telling him that he was a direct descendent of his hero, Achilles, whom he had learned about during his studies with the great philosopher, Aristotle.
It was during these years of learning from Aristotle that Alexander developed a fascination with the works of Homer. Most historians believe that Alexander modeled himself after his newfound hero of the Iliad. So fascinated was Alexander with this book, that he always carried a copy of it with him into all his conquests, even sleeping with it under his pillow.
Eliminates All Rivals to the Throne
As was common at the time, Alexander’s first order of business after he assumed the throne was to eliminate any potential heir which might challenge his rule. Among those ordered to be killed were his cousin, Amyntas IV, and Attalus, commander of the advance guard in Asia Minor who was also the uncle of one of Philip’s other wives, Cleopatra. Alexander’s mother also had Cleopatra and her daughter, Europa killed. Now that there were no longer any threats to his reign, Alexander could now set about continuing what his father had started: defeating the Persians.
The Thebes Underestimate the Young New King
Due to a revolt by the Thebes, Alexander had to postpone his conquering of the Persians in order to quash the rebellion. Several of the city-states which had been conquered by King Philip saw the ascension of the young Alexander to the throne as an opportunity to break out from under the rule of the Macedonians. Seeing a potential threat to his rule, and realizing that it would have to be dealt with immediately and harshly, Alexander set out with an army of 3,000 cavalrymen and 30,000 soldiers. Arriving suddenly and without warning, Alexander surprised the Thebes, giving them no time to prepare for battle or seek alliances with their neighbors. Just three days after arriving at Thebes, Alexander and his army attacked. It was a ruthless and bloody battle. No one was spared the sword that day: men, women, and children alike were slaughtered like animals. What few did escape were taken and sold into slavery. It was a brutal way to curb an uprising, but “his intimidation tactic proved effective; the other Greek city-states, including Athens, chose to pledge their allegiance to the Macedonian Empire…” (Biography.com, 2017)
Alexander Conquers the World
After quelling the rebellion in Thebes, Alexander next set his sights on conquering Asia. In the spring of 334 B.C., Alexander and his army arrived in Troy where he quickly defeated the army of King Darius III of Persia. Alexander next defeated Egypt in 331 B.C. Whether this was a defeat of the Egyptians, or the liberation of the people of Egypt is up for debate amongst many historians, nonetheless, the Egyptian people welcomed him as a hero. The Macedonian army went on to win decisive battles in Iran and India. It wasn’t until he was headed towards the Ganges River, and his troops refused to follow, that Alexander finally turned back from his conquests. His military exploits finally came to an end at his death in Babylon at the age of 32.
He Came, He Saw, He Conquered
In his short twelve years as king, Alexander the Great conquered kings and nations, one after the other. He seemed to have an insatiable desire for war and fighting. He lived and dreamed only to conquer a new nation. Even through assassination plots and rebellion amongst his troops, he continued to press forward, never stopping. Although he is today considered one of the most brilliant military strategists to ever live, his legacy lives on as one who fought and conquered for no other reason than to divide and conquer. There was absolutely no way one man could rule such a vast empire. It seems though that ruling wasn’t in Alexander’s interest, only conquering anyone he came into contact with. After his death, his kingdom was divided amongst his four generals.
The "Alexander" of the Bible
Although not mentioned by name, a king greatly resembling Alexander the Great is described in the Book of Daniel in the Bible:
And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.
Biography.com Editors. (2017, April). Alexander the Great Biography. Retrieved 8 August 2018 from https://www.biography.com/people/alexander-the-great-9180468.
The Bible and Alexander the Great
Is the king mentioned in the bible and Alexander the Great the same person?
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© 2018 Stephen Moore