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Alexander the great

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), King of Macedon, lived a life of mythical proportions. He
modeled himself on Achilles and slept with a copy of the Iliad, annotated by Aristotle, his teacher,
under his pillow. Unrivalled by any historical military figure, he conquered the Mediterranean,
Persia, Afghanistan and northwest India during his brief life. A gifted strategist and self-
proclaimed deity, Alexander was impetuous and merciless on the battlefield. He won every battle
he fought, exhibited conspicuous personal bravery and, two millennia after his death, is still
remembered as the greatest soldier of all time. By the time he died at the age of 33 he had
introduced Greek civilization to the world.

Legend has it that there is a knot in the city of Gordium which is impossible to undo. An ancient
prophecy said that whoever could untie this Gordion knot would become the ruler of Asia.
According to the story, while Alexander was in Gordium he found a wagon with an ox yoke tied by
a tight, complex knot. Alexander first tried to untie the knot, but was unsuccessful. He then drew
his sword and cut it in a single stroke.

Alexander the Great was born in Pella, the capital of the Macedonian kingdom, to King Philip and
Olympias, a princess from Epirus. As a child, Alexander always seemed to be consumed by a
desire to achieve great fame and glory. He was very anxious to see military action and to join his
father in the conquest of the Greek city-states. King Philip, however, did not feel that Alexander
was ready to take on such a task, so he hired Aristotle, a great philosopher, to teach Alexander
about Greek knowledge and culture.

Alexander’s formal training ended at the age of sixteen, when Philip was absent on a campaign
and Alexander was forced to battle against the Thracians. The battle turned out to be a great
victory for Alexander and in 338 BCE he commanded the cavalry in Philip’s army in the battle of
Chaeronea. This battle brought Greece under Macedonian control. Philip’s next plan was to
invade the Persian Empire, but before he could do so he was killed by one of his bodyguards,
and Alexander became king of the Macedonians. Within the next 12 years following Philip’s
death, Alexander conquered almost the entire known world of his time, and extended
Macedonian and Greek power to a point that King Philip could not have dreamt of.

Alexander was determined to fulfill his father’s plan of attacking the Persian Empire, so in 334
BCE he led an army across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. Alexander and his army charged
across the Granicus River and won the battle, opening up Asia Minor. Next they moved into
Egypt and then traveled eastward into the Persian Empire.

Darius III, the King of Persia, was Alexander’s biggest enemy. Alexander fought him three times,
and won each battle. The first battle was at the River Granicus in Turkey. Darius was defeated,
but he could not be captured. The second and most famous battle was near the town of Issus.
Alexander led an army of 20,000 to fight against Darius and his 150,000 troops. Although the
Persians had more than seven times the amount of troops than Alexander had, Darius still faced
a massive defeat. The third battle was at Gaugamela, Iraq. This was Alexander’s most
magnificent victory, in which he gained power of the capitals of Perisa. Alexander and his troops
moved into Egypt next. The Egyptians saw him as a liberator from Persian rule and crowned him
pharaoh. It was here that he founded the city of Alexandria. Alexandria was the center of learning,
and was conveniently located so that it would link Egypt, Greece, and the eastern Mediterranean.
Returning to Syria, Alexander then advanced into Mesopotamia where he again met up with
Darius and his huge army. Although Alexander was greatly outnumbered, he possessed such
military knowledge that no enemy could stand up to him, not even the Persians. Darius was
forced to flee and escaped into Media. Alexander then captured Babylon and the Persian capital,
Susa. Alexander’s army marched into Persepolis where they captured vast amounts of gold and
silver and burned down the royal palaces. He then went north to try to find Darius, but Darius had
been killed by his own nobles, making Alexander the king of Asia.

In 327 BCE Alexander was married to the Bactrian princess, Roxana. He then moved on,
penetrating over 100 miles beyond the Indus River Valley, but turned back because his army
refused to go on. Alexander later returned to Babylon where, at the age of thirty-two, died of high
fever, leaving his wife pregnant with his first son.

Alexander’s body was placed in a glass coffin in a special tomb in Alexandria. His brother, Philip
III, became king of Macedonia and later shared his rule with Alexander IV, the son of Roxana and
Alexander. Unfortunately, both died soon after, and no other rulers could hold this huge empire
together, so it eventually split up into a number of independent regions.

Alexander had many amazing accomplishments throughout his life, but the most fascinating
achievement of all was the ability of Alexander to conquer 2/3 of the known world in only 12
years. In total, Alexander fought about 20 major battles, most of which were against his
archenemy, Persia. With his determination, ambition, and obsession with his pursuit of glory,
Alexander was able to accomplish things that others only dreamed of. He was an incredible
leader and could inspire and motivate his troops to fight their hardest, no matter by how many
they were outnumbered. He suffered the same wounds as his soldiers and always led the attack
in person. He was also the only individual able to keep this enormous empire together, one of his
tactics being the “marriage of East and West” where he conducted the mass wedding of 9,000 of
his soldiers to eastern women in order to cement the new empire.

In my opinion, Alexander’s greatest failure is his own mercilessness. This is shown in the way
that he treated others, even those who were close to him. For example, he once killed his best
friend (who had saved his life at Granicus) during a brawl when he was drunk. He had become a
chronic alcoholic and had many of his subordinates put to death, usually during drunken sprees.
He even executed several prominent Greeks and Macedonians who he believed had conspired
against him. It is also possible that Alexander may have arranged for the death of his father.
There is no evidence of this, but some historians think that Alexander had him killed because,
according to ancient stories, he became increasingly jealous of Philip’s successes. Also, during
the siege of Tyre, Alexander had 2,000 inhabitants crucified. In Iran today, he is still thought of as
an evil king who did his best to destroy the old Persian culture and religion.

As the legend told, the one who could undo the knot would become the ruler of Asia. The legend
became a reality, as young Alexander, in only 12 years, conquered more territory than any other
warrior before or since. He was an ingenious military general and an outstanding leader, as
shown in his numerous achievements. Alexander led an exciting life, the excitement of battle, the
riches of conquest, and best of all, the accomplishment of ruling such a vast kingdom. Emperors
after him strove to live up to the Alexandrian ideal of divine kingship, but few men have changed
the world so profoundly. Alexander was one of the greatest rulers in history, proven by his
brilliance in battle and exceptional leadership qualities.