Essay, Research Paper
Life and Times of Alexander the Great
Alexander the great made an impact on world history that few individuals
can profess to have done. He ruled all of the known world, and one of the
largest empires ever. His men were the first westerners to encounter tales of
the Yeti. They even discovered and classified new types of flora and fauna,
such as the red mold that grew on their bread while they were in Asia, and made
it appear as if it were bleeding. He expanded the Hellenist sphere of influence
to the farthest reaches of the globe.
When the king of Greece visited the British colony of India around the
turn of the century, the colonial government had some native Indian dances
displayed for him. He was shocked when he immediately recognized the dances as
the same harvest dances that his fellow Greeks performed near Thessalonika.
This was the breadth of Alexander’s influence on hundreds of different cultures
around the world. Throughout the whole of Europe, Asia, and North Africa,
stories of this great man have been handed down from generation to generation
throughout the centuries. In many cases Alexander has even taken on a
superhuman aura, and many unbelievable legends have been based on his life.
When Julius Caesar visited Alexandria, he asked to see the body of the
greatest warrior of all time-Alexander the Great. Such was Alexander’s
reputation, able to impress even the powerful Caesar. He was, without a doubt,
one of the most remarkable men that ever walked the face of this Earth. And
this is the story of his life.
The Life and Times of Alexander the Great
The story of Alexander the Great is one of courage, genius, and great
accomplishment; but it is also somewhat of a bittersweet one, ending with his
tragic death during the prime of his life, at thirty-two.
Alexander was born to Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, his principal
wife, in 356 BCE, mpic Games. Just three years earlier, Philip had ascended to
the throne after the death of his older brother, Perdikkas1, and named the city
of Philipi after himself. Shortly thereafter, at the age of twenty, he met
Olympias at a religious ceremony on the island of Samothrace.
Olympias was of the Mystery Religions, and was initiated at an early age.
She spent her time at wild orgies during which snakes were wrapped around the
worshippers limbs. She kept this custom of sleeping with snakes throughout her
marriage to Philip. In addition, she sacrificed thousand of animals to her
particular god or goddess each year. Interestingly enough, she had a cruel
streak normally common only to the Greek men of her time. Throughout her career
she was no slower than her male rivals to kill off enemies who seemed to
Olympias, believing that she was descended from Achilles, and being of
royal Epeirosian blood herself, thought that she was rightly entitled to respect
from Philip as his queen. For this reason Olympias was constantly upset at
Philip’s long stays away from home. This anger was especially directed towards
his torrid affairs with the nearest nubile waif.
At the time of Alexander’s birth, Philip was involved in a campaign to
defeat the Illyrian provinces in battle and incorporate them into the Greek
empire that he was building for himself. In that month, Philip received three
messages bearing good in quick succession: his victory over the Illyrians,
Alexander’s birth, and Macedonian victory in the Olympic races.
Alexander resembled his mother more than his father. It was in memory
of Macedonia’s greatest king, Alexander I, that Alexander was named. Philip,
currently engaged in a plan for the conquest of Greece and eventually parts of
Asia, had high hopes for his firstborn son to eventually continue in his
footsteps. In the following year Alexander’s only sibling, a sister named
Cleopatra, was born.
Alexander probably had no recollection of his father having both of his
eyes, because Philip lost his eye storming an Athenian fortress. During
Alexander’s early years, he was watched over by a man named Leonidas2. Leonidas
saw to all of Alexander’s education and tutelage in many varied subjects
including: writing, geometry, reading, arithmetic, music, archery, horseback
riding, javelin, and other types of athletics.
Alexander’s nursemaid was an endearing gentleman whose name was
Lysimachos, who won Alexander’s heart at an early age by playing imagination
games with Alexander and his playmates: Ptolemy, Harpalos, Nearchos, Hephaistion,
When Alexander reached the ripe old age of thirteen, Philip decided it
was time for Alexander to receive a higher education better befitting his young
heir. Searching throughout his empire, Philip was lucky enough to find a
student of Plato who was at the time unemployed, a young genius named
Aristoteles (commonly known as Aristotle). Aristotle’s father, Nakimachos, had
been Macedonia’s court physician, so Aristotle was quite familiar with the area.
Aristotle taught Alexander, and sometimes his friends in a rural sanctuary for
the nymphs at Mieza. Aristotle actually composed two books, “In Praise of
Colonies” and “On Kingship”, for Alexander’s education. He taught Alexander
that other peoples were vastly inferior to the Greeks, and therefore fit for
subjugation. Alexander loved Aristotle like his own father as he said himself,
“One gave him life, but the other showed him how to live it.”
During this time , Alexander was involved in a homosexual relationship
with Hephastion, a friend he loved dearly. This was a very common occurrence,
looked upon as a learning experience for the boys. Their love was a very deep
and close one, and when he died prematurely during Alexander’s teenage years,
Alexander felt a crippling grief from which he never fully recovered.
Philip was constantly conquering more territory, and though Alexander
respected him, he was also a bit jealous. He once told Ptolemy, “Father is
going to do everything; at this rate he won’t leave any conquests for you and
During Alexander’s sixteenth winter, Philip went to attack Perinthos in
Thrace, and Alexander was left as regent in Macedonia. It was now, when Philip
was away, that the Madoi tribe chose to revolt. Alexander crushed the rebellion
expertly, in a merciless fashion. He was so victorious that when he built a
walled city at the site of the battle, he took the freedom of naming it
Alexandropolis, after himself, thus beginning his illustrious career.
It was love at first sight for Philip when he saw Cleopatra, the niece
of Attalus, Philip’s general. The wedding was to take place immediately. At
the wedding feast Attalus stood up for a toast to the bride and groom. In the
course of his speech he “called upon the Macedonians to pray to the gods that of
Philip and Cleopatra there might be born a legitimate son as a successor to the
Alexander had been quiet throughout the celebration, but with these
words, he’d finally had enough. He rose and shouted, “What of me villain? Do
you take me for a bastard4?”, and with that threw his goblet of wine in
An enraged Philip sprang from his seat and made for Alexander, but being
drunk, tripped and fell flat on his face. Alexander took the opportunity to
further mock his father by proclaiming, “Look, men! Here is the man preparing
to cross from Europe into Asia, and he can’t get from one couch to another
without falling down.”
After this incident Alexander no longer felt comfortable staying in
Macedonia, and left with his mother. After dropping her off in her home town of
Epeiros, he continued on and finally settled in Illyria, where he was welcomed
as a fellow dissident to the monarchy.
In a story reminiscent of King David and Absalom, Demarates, one of
Philip’s generals, convinced Philip to get Alexander to return. When Philip
gave the affirmative, Demarates went to return Alexander to his home. Philip
soon forgot the whole incident.
Pixodar, the ruler of Caria and a vassal of the king of Persia, wanted
to marry off his daughter to one of Philip’s sons so as to secure a peace with
Philip. Philip agreed, but didn’t want Alexander, his heir, to marry a vassal’s
daughter, so instead he chose Arrhidaios, an epileptic.
Alexander was still suspicious of Philip’s intentions (after Attalus’s
speech), and his friends convinced him that Philip was planning on making
Arrhidaios his heir in Alexander’s stead. Therefore Alexander offered to
Pixodar that he should take Arrhidaios’s place, noting that Arrhidaios was an
When Philip found out, he was mad as all Hell, but treated Alexander
maturely by reasoning with him. He argued, “Do you really think so little of
yourself to be the son-in-law of a lowly Persian vassal?!”
Alexander had at last learned his lesson and began trusting Philip.
Philip, though had finally had enough of Ptolemy and the rest of Alexander’s
friends meddling in Alexander’s business, and exiled them from Macedonia “sine
In Alexander’s twentieth year, Philip was ready to begin his conquest of
Persia and Asia Minor, but first he had to cement Epeiros’s allegiance to him by
marrying off Cleopatra (his only daughter from Olympias) to King Alexander of
At daybreak the wedding procession began. Twelve of the Greek deities
led the procession with Philip following close behind. A man posing as a guard
gained access to Philip’s entourage and stabbed Philip in the side before anyone
could stop him. This man, later identified as Pausanias, had a horse prepared
for a quick departure, but as fate would have it, he tripped over a bush, and
was transfixed with a spear before he was able to rise to his feet.
But there was no helping Philip- he was quite dead.
Alexander was a firm believer in the saying, “The king is dead,