Alexander the Great
Alexander III of Macedonia, better known worldwide as Alexander the Great, was born in Pela, Greece, around 20 or 21 July 356 BC.
He died on 10 or 13 June in Babylon, 323 B.C. He was king of Macedonia and one of the greatest conquerors in the history of the world, extending his territory from Central Europe to East Africa, and from here to Central Asia.
Beginning of his life
Alexander was the son of the Macedonian king Philip II and Olympia, daughter of the king of Epirus Neoptolemy. However, there are versions according to which he was not the son of Philip II but of Zeus or Pharaoh Nectanebo I.
The latter is more accepted because Alexander was taken as a child to the oracle of Amon, the god with whom he is related.
It is known that in his childhood he was harshly educated by Leonidas in sports and by Lisimachus in literature, who treated him with great kindness, calling him Achilles.
There is also the story that his father had bought a horse that no one could break, Bucephalus.
Then Alexander approached him and discovered that his violent character was due to his fear of his shadow. So he rode it towards the sun and was able to tame it.
He would later participate in the Olympic Games, where he would win in the car racing competition.
Philip II had prepared his son to rule, providing him with a military experience.
Entrusting his intellectual formation to Aristotle, who awakened in the young Alexander his admiration for Greek culture and ancient epics, particularly for the Iliad of Homer.
Having already proven his courage and skill on the battlefield, Alexander succeeded his father, who was murdered in 336 B.C. at the age of twenty.
Alexander the Great (PodCast)
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
After being educated by Aristotle, his father appointed him regent in 340 B.C., so he must have received Darius’ emissaries to make Macedonia pay taxes.
Two years later he would lead his nation’s cavalry in the Battle of Keronia. He then became governor of Thrace on the same date.
However, Philip II would marry soon after, endangering Alexander’s throne.
The latter, in the middle of a party, would argue with both his father and his new father-in-law, because it had been suggested that he was a bastard and that the new union would give a legitimate heir to Macedonia.
Because of his father’s anger at his behavior, Alexander went into exile in Epirus, his mother’s land, along with her. Eventually, though, Philip II would forgive his son.
In 336 B.C., Pausanias would murder Philip II because of an unknown stratagem. So Alexander became king of Macedonia when he was 20 years old.
His father had been given to rule a rather small and oppressed state; Alexander, on the other hand, had been given to rule a state with a vast territory that had control over Greece.
Precisely, the Greeks, suspecting the weakness of the young ruler, began to revolt, although they were quickly repressed in Thessaly and Thebes, cops that were destroyed.
Then Alexander went to Athens, where he was shut out for fear of a repeat of the destruction in Thebes.
Alexander the Great entered alone with a group of friends, and the Athenians recognized him as the king of all Greece.
Alexander the Great devoted the first years of his reign to imposing his authority over the peoples of Macedonia.
They had taken advantage of Philip’s death to rebel. And immediately (in 334) he launched his army against the powerful and extensive Persian Empire or Achaemenid.
Founded two centuries earlier by Cyrus the Great (579-530 B.C.), it continued the enterprise his father had started shortly before his death: a war of revenge by the Greeks (under the leadership of Macedonia) against the Persians.
With a small army (about 30,000 infants and 5,000 horsemen), Alexander the Great invariably prevailed over his enemies, thanks to his excellent organization and training, as well as to the courage and strategic genius he demonstrated.
The military innovations introduced by Philip II (such as the slanted line tactic) provided additional advantages.
After securing supremacy in Greece, he left for Asia Minor to liberate the Greek cities under Persian rule.
With 40,000 men, Alexander defeated the opposing army, led by Memnon, and liberated the cities of Ephesus, Pergamos, Miletus, Halicarnassus and many others.
Later he faced the Persian army led by Darius III in the Battle of Isos, where Alexander the Great would win against an army ten times larger than his own.
After this defeat, Darius III withdrew to the east, while his family was captured by the Macedonians.
This was well treated by Alexander, to the point of offering him marriage to Barsine-Estatira, daughter of Darius III.
Alexander would then travel to Egypt, where its inhabitants would proclaim him Pharaoh and join in their struggle against Persia.
Alexander victoriously crossed Asia Minor (Battle of Gránico, 334), Syria (Issos, 333), Phoenicia (siege of Tyre, 332), Egypt and Mesopotamia (Gaugamela, 331), until he took the Persian capitals of Susa (331) and Persepolis (330).
The last Persian emperor, Darius III, was killed by one of his satraps or provincial governors, Bessos, to prevent him from surrendering. Bessos continued the resistance against Alexander in eastern Iran.
After joining the Egyptians, Alexander entered Persia without much difficulty from the warriors of Darius III, occupying Babylon and then Susa and Persepolis.
In Ecbatana, Alexander realized that Darius III had been killed by Bessos, who now ruled Persia and had fled into the interior of Asia.
Magno gave a funeral to his former opponent and was in solidarity with his family, so he won the favor of the Persians, who named him king of their region and supported him in his persecution of Bessos.
Finally, after a journey full of fantastic tales and various hardships through Central Asia, Ptolemy, a courtier from Bessos, handed him over to one of Alexander’s generals.
Bessos was executed, although the reaction of several Persian princes was to rebel against Alexander.
After several battles, Alexander was able to impose his order and unify all the lands he had conquered. Around that time, he married the Persian princess Roxana.
Then, joining forces and after some difficulties, Alexander also conquered much of the Indian subcontinent.
With the conquest of the Persian Empire, Alexander discovered the degree of civilization of the Orientals, whom he had previously considered barbarians.
He then conceived the idea of unifying the Greeks with the Persians in a single empire in which they lived together under a culture of synthesis (year 324).
To this end, he joined a large contingent of Persian soldiers in his army, organized the”marriage of East and West” in Susa (the simultaneous marriage of thousands of Macedonians to Persian women) and married two Persian princesses: a princess of Sogdiana and the daughter of Darius III.
The cultural fusion took place around the imposition of Greek as a common language (Koine). And some seventy new cities were founded, most of them under the name of Alexandria (the main one in Egypt and others in Syria, Mesopotamia, Sogdiana, Bactriana, India, and Carmania).
The death of Alexander the Great
Finally, Alexander the Great died in June 323 B.C. in Babylon at the age of 33.
a victim of malaria prevented him from consolidating the empire he had created and relaunching his conquests; in fact, Alexander the Great’s empire barely survived the death of its creator.
Successor struggles broke out in which the wives and children of Alexander died until the empire was divided among its generals (the Didocs): Seleucus, Ptolemy, Antigone, Lysimachus, and Cassander; Ptolemy, author of a biography of him.
He started a dynasty in Egypt that was to last until the time of the famous Cleopatra. The resulting states were the so-called Hellenistic kingdoms.
Over the following centuries, these remained Alexander’s ideal of transferring Greek culture to the East. At the same time, they insensitively let Eastern cultures penetrate the Mediterranean.
The Mystery of the Tomb of Alexander the Great
His grave. Perhaps the greatest mystery is the present location of the Macedonian’s mortal remains.
According to ancient sources, the body was preserved in a clay container filled with honey, which was then placed in a gold coffin.
Ptolemy I took him to Alexandria (Egypt), where the tomb was visited – and sometimes looted – until the 3rd century by fascinating figures from Rome such as Julius Caesar, Octavian Augustus, Caligula or Caracalla. And then he disappeared.
Theories: that it is in the sanctuary of Siwa (Egypt), still in Alexandria or in Macedonia.
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- Kathryn Waterfield, Robin Waterfield
- Penguin Workshop
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