Alexander The Great Essay, Research Paper
One of the greatest generals in all of history was Alexander The Great. Alexander was born in the capital of Macedonia where his father, Phillip II, was king. His mother, Olympias, was the princess of Epirus. Leonidas trained Alexander s body, Lysimachus taught him letters, and Aristotle formed his mind. Perhaps it was the philosopher who instilled into the mind of the youth that ardor for unity, which gave some grandeur to Alexander s victories (Wepman 24). He always admired Greek literature and envied Greek civilization. To two Greeks sitting with him at a banquet he said, Do you not feel like demigods among savages when you are sitting in company with these Macedonians?
Physically, Alexander was an ideal child. He was good in every sport. He was a swift runner, a dashing horseman, a brilliant fencer, a practiced Bowman, and a fearless hunter. When Alexander succeeded in taming a giant horse which nobody else could tame, Philip said to him My son, Macedonia is too small for you; seek out a larger empire, worthier of you. He hated rich foods and refused the famous chefs who were offered to him. He was handsome beyond all precedents for a king (Krensky 10). He had soft blue eyes, and luxuriant auburn hair. He introduced to Europe the custom of shaving a beard.
Alexander was very superstitious. He put a lot of confidence in soothsayers and astrologers. He would sometimes change big plans because of them. He never learned to recognize his own faults or limitations, but allowed his judgement to be soaked and drowned in praise (Wepman 64).
When his father was assassinated, Alexander became King of Macedonia. The northern tribes in Thrace and Illyria revolted and there were revolts in Macedonia. Alexander quickly ended all opposition at home and marched south into Greece. All Greek states except for Sparta renewed their allegiance and they all apologized. This pleased Alexander so he abolished all dictatorships in Greece, and decreed that each city should live in freedom according to its own laws. He was proclaimed captain general of the Greeks and he was promised that they would contribute men and supplies for his Asiatic campaign. He suppressed all who went against him very swiftly. In the mean time a rumor arose in Athens that Alexander was killed in suppressing the Illyrians. Thebes revolted and killed the Macedonian officials left there by Alexander. When Alexander heard about this he was furious. He quickly defeated the army sent against him. He decided to leave the fate of the city to her ancient enemies- Plataea, Orchomenos, Thespiae, and Phocis. They decided that Thebes should be burned to the ground, and her inhabitants sold as slaves. Hoping to give other rebels a lesson, Alexander signed the order, but said that the troops should spare the home of Pindar, the lives of priests and priestesses, and of all Theban who could prove that they had opposed the revolt. Later he looked back with shame at his violent revenge, and was sure to grant without the least difficulty whatsoever any Theban asked of him (Durant 116).
Alexander returned to Macedonia, and prepared for the invasion of Asia. When he returned he found that his state treasury was almost empty. He borrowed 800 talents and set out to conquer Persia. It was reported that the Persians could muster a million men; Alexander s expeditionary force did not exceed thirty thousand infantry and five thousand Calvary. Nevertheless Alexander, leaving twelve thousand soldiers under Antipater to guard Macedonia and watch Greece, set out in 334 upon the most daring and romantic enterprise in the history of Kings (Durant 125). He had his first battle in Asia at the river of Granicus. He attacked an army of forty thousand men. According to legend he lost only 110 men in the fight. During this battle Cleitus saved Alexander s life by severing the arm of the Persian who was about to strike Alexander from behind. After this first victory all the states of Asia Minor submitted to him. When passing through Phrygia he is said to have cut with his sword the Gordian Knot. Gordius tied this knot, and it was tied so well that nobody could undo it. It was told that the person who can untie this knot would become the ruler of all Asia. When Alexander couldn t untie it, he just cut it through.
He met the maid force of King Darius III at Issus. Darius III was the King of all Persia. Darius was reported to have an army of 600,000 men. Alexander won this famous battle by using his Calvary for attack and his infantry for defense. This was one of his many brilliant strategies. Darius fled leaving behind his money and his family. After peaceably taking Damascus and Sidon Alexander laid siege to Tyre. This ancient city resisted for so long that when at last he captured it, Alexander lost hi head and allowed his men to massacre eight thousand Tyrians, and to sell thrity thousand as slaves. Jerusalem surrendered quietly, and was well treated. Gaza fought until every man in the city was dead and every woman raped.
Next his mission of conquest took him to Egypt. When Alexander showed respect for the county s gods, Alexander was welcomed as a divinely send liberator from Persian rule. He did the same in Siwa and was crowned Pharaoh. Alexander decided to make a new capital at one of the Nile s many mouths. He built it to be a more convenient depot for the enlarged Greek trade that might now be expected between Egypt and Greece. In this city called Alexandria, there were temples for both Greek and Egyptian gods.
Marching back into Asia, he met the vast army of Darius at Gaugamela. Alexander s army was made up of only 47 thousand men and Darius army was said to have about a million men. Those numbers dismayed even Alexander. The disorderly hosts of Darius could make no deadway against the phalanxes, and knew not how to defend themselves against the swift and incalculable dashes of the Macedonian cavalry (Wepman 97). Alexander won and Darius ran away again. His generals for being a coward murdered him. After this battle Alexander received a submission from Babylon. The great city of Susa quickly surrendered as well. He rapidly marched over mountains in the winter to seize Persepolis. Here again his good judgement left him (Krensky 158), and he burned the magnificent city to the ground his soldiers looted the houses, ravaged the women and killed the men. His campaign in Sogdiana, Ariana, and Bactriana was bloody and bootless. Near Bokhara his men captured Bessus, who had killed Darius. Alexander became the avenger of the great king tortured the general horribly before killing him by having the bending force of two trees rip his body in half. At every new remove from Greece Alexander was becoming less and less a Greek, more and more a barbarian king (Krensky 182).
Alexander then journeyed to India. He wanted to continue to the Ganges but his soldiers refused to go further. Alexander renewed his march along the Indus where his army suffered tremendously. Heat killed thousands and thirst killed more. A little water was found and was brought to Alexander, but he deliberately poured it out upon the ground. When the remains of his force reached Susa, about ten thousand men died and Alexander was half-insane.
The more time he spent in Asia the more good he saw in the Persians. Finally he decided to unite the Greek and the Persian kingdoms. He encouraged his men to marry Persian women and he himself took two Persian wives. One of which was the oldest daughter of Darius III. Alexander, influenced by Persian ways began to change. His soldiers saw in this change the conquest of Alexander by the Orient. For mostly diplomatic reasons Alexander proclaimed himself as the son of Zeus-Ammon, and therefore a god. He did this to help him unify to hostile worlds. Perhaps, indeed, he thought to overcome the disruptive diversity of faiths in his empire by providing, in his own person, the beginning of a sacred myth and a common unifying faith (Durant 191). After attempts on the new gods life, Alexander became ever more suspicious, severe, and lonely. His new lifestyle caused him to start a lot of drinking. On one night, when he was very drunk, he was insulted by an also drunk Cleitus, the man who saved his life. Alexander killed Cleitus and couldn t forgive himself for it. In the end the discontent in the army caused an open mutiny. His troops wished to go home. Alexander killed the leaders of the sedition and gave his men a speech in which he reminded them what they did for each other. His men were persuaded and wished to stay again.
Deceived by this show of affection, Alexander dreamed of new victories (Wepman 205). Then his dearest friend, Hephaestion, fell sick and died. He couldn t eat for many days and started drinking even more. One night in Babylon, he drank heavily and caught a fever. In eleven days he died. He was thirty-three years old. When his generals asked him to whom he left his empire he answered, To the Strongest.
The intellectual career of Aristotle, after he left his royal pupil, paralleled the military career of Alexander; both lives were expressions of conquest and synthesis (Krensky 59). Alexander the great was one of the greatest generals of all time, he was noted for his brilliance as a tactician and troop leader and for the rapidity with which he could conquer great expanses of territory. He started out as a brave and generous man but towards the end of his life, Alexander became more unjust and cruel. This, like many other things in history, shows that Absolute power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
1) Wepman, Dennis. Alexander The Great. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992
2) Durant, Will. The Life of Greece: Alexander. New York: Simon And Schuster, 1939
3) Krensky, Stephen. Conqueror and Hero: The Search for Alexander. Boston: Little Brown, 1981