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HOME   -   PEOPLE IN HISTORY A-Z   -   ALEXANDER THE GREAT

 
   


Alexander III the Great 356-323 BC
Alexander III the Great 356-323 BC

 

Conquering the World in a Decade

According to Napoleon, Alexander was one of the seven greatest generals in history.

Let's take it from a pro.
 

Above Image

Alexander the Great, Marble, British Museum.

Photo Yair Haklai


Alexander of Macedonia, or Alexander III, was born in Pella, Macedonia.

His life is at the root of many legends.

 

Alexander the Great in a Nutshell

Alexander conquered the entire then known world in a decade, which included the defeat of the ruling Persian Empire.

And here is the map

Alexander the Great - Map of His Conquests
The Conquests of Alexander the Great 336-323 BC

 

Alexander's Family, Friends, and Peers

His father,  Philip II, was assassinated when Alexander was 20 years old. Philip was the 18th king of Macedonia. Alexander became his successor in 336 B.C. 

Interesting tidbit: 336 B.C. was also the year in which  Darius III became king of the Persian Empire.

Alexander's mother was not Angelina Jolie (you wish) but Olympias. Olympias was the princess of Epirus. Here is a  map of Epirus. And if you watched  the movie Alexander closely, you know that she was the kind of gal who knew what she wanted.

Then there was Aristotle. Aristotle was Alexander's tutor during his childhood.

Alexander's main male lover was Hephaestion, one of his bodyguards. When Hephaestion died, Alexander arranged a humongous funeral.

Alexander's firstborn son was Heracles by Stateira (Barsine). Unfortunately for Heracles, he was illegitimate.

Roxana became Alexander's wife in 327 B.C. They had a son together, Alexander IV.

Macedonian General Antipater was in charge of everything in Macedonia while Alex was gone fighting. Antipater died in 319 B.C.

 

Controversy: Did Alexander Order the Assassination of his Father?

The majority of historians doesn't think so.

 

Alexander the Great's Army

Alexander's army was rather small. He had at his disposal 5,000 cavalrymen and 30,000 infantrymen.

Not being fear inspiring in size, the army's strength lay in its discipline and organization. Mastering the  phalanx with its arrangements of long pikes, Alexander's army swept through Persian forces.

 

ALEXANDER'S BATTLES

The four major battles that Alexander fought were the following:

Battle of the Granicus 334 BC

Battle of Issus 333 BC

Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC

Battle of the Hydaspes 326 BC


Again the previously posted map on which you can see the locations of these four important battles.

Alexander the Great - Map of His Conquests
The Conquests of Alexander the Great 336-323 BC

 

More details on these and Alexander's other battles below, starting with the year 338 BC.

 

The Battles of Alexander the Great

In 338 BC, and alongside his father Philip, Alexander fought in the  Battle of Chaeronea.

Battle of Chaeronea 338 BC
Map of the Battle of Chaeronea 338 BC

 

Thanks to his father, Macedonia had become a dominant power in Greece by the time he succeeded to the throne in 336 BC.


After becoming king of Macedonia, Alexander gained several victories over the northern barbarians who had attacked Macedonia, and destroyed Thebes, which, in conjunction with Athens, had taken up arms against the Macedonians upon receiving the news of Philip's death.

Alexander moved swiftly and thoroughly. He then prepared for his invasion of Asia, an operation his father had already envisioned back in the days.


334 BC - Alexander passed the Hellespont.


Early summer of the year 334 B.C. - The battle on the banks of the river  Granicus brought Alexander his first victory over Darius III and the Persians. Darius was not overly concerned, but he should have been.

Battle of the Granicus - Map
Map of the Battle of the Granicus 334 BC

Map of the Battle of the Granicus River, 334 BC
334 BC Battle of the Granicus (Order of Battle)

 

In 333 BC, the battle at  Issus looked like a cakewalk for Darius, because he had an army of some 600,000 men at his disposal.

Not so. The battle of Issus turned out to be a disaster for the Persians. Darius had to flee for his life. His army was defeated; his mother, wife, sister, and children had been captured by Alexander.

Battle of Issus 333 BC - Map
Map of the Battle of Issus 333 BC - Movements to the Battlefield


Battle of Issus - Initial Situation 333 BC - Map
Map of the Battle of Issus 333 BC - Initial Situation


Map of the Battle of Issus - Decisive Action 333 BC
Map of the Battle of Issus 333 BC - Decisive Action



 

Alexander the Great, Accompanied by Haephestion, before the Family of Darius, King of Persia (The Mercy of Alexander)
The Mercy of Alexander: Alexander the Great, Accompanied by Haephestion, before the Family of Darius, King of Persia
Sard Carving by Giulio Fabri, Late 18th Century. State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg

 

 

Interestingly, Alexander didn't pursue Darius after the battle at Issus. Instead, he decided to spend January through July 332 B.C. in front of the closed gates of the city Tyre.

Similar to Darius III before the Battle of the Granicus, the citizens of Tyre were not too alarmed when Alexander set up his siege of their city. Tyre was located on a cozy little island half a mile away from the mainland, framed by sturdy walls a hundred and fifty feet high. Plus, Alexander didn't have a navy.

How did Alexander solved the problem?

He decided to build a causeway across the channel and, in addition, he borrowed a  Phoenician navy. That did the trick and Alexander's troops were able to breach Tyre's walls. The citizens of Tyre paid dearly for their resistance — some 8,000 were slaughtered right away, 2,000 were impaled, and 30,000 were sold into slavery.

On this occasion, Alexander put to work the highest siege towers ever used in the history of war so far. ( source)

All-Time Records in History
Highest siege towers ever used in war so far.


And here are the maps of the Siege of Tyre.



Siege of Tyre - Map
Map of the Siege of Tyre 333-332 BC



After a short rest in Jerusalem, Alexander went on to Egypt where he founded the city of Alexandria. The year? 332 B.C.

Persian rule in Egypt was officially terminated.

See more under Governments of Egypt.

 

Alexander moved on to Babylon with an army of some 47,000 men. With Darius III still at large, Alexander was itching for battle.

 

THE BATTLE OF GAUGAMELA

On October 1, 331 B.C., it followed the  Battle of Gaugamela which turned out to be the end of the  Persian empire. Darius III fled to Bactria where he was killed.



Battle of Gaugamela (Battle of Arbela) 331 BC


Battle of Gaugamela - Map
Map of the Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC - Initial Situation

Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC - Decisive Action - Map
Map of the Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC - Decisive Action


 

Babylon's Surrender

Alexander scored once again in 331 B.C. when Babylon, Persian's winter capital, was smart enough to surrender. Alexander loved the city of Babylon and decided it would become his new capital.
 

Triumphal Entrance of Alexander the Great to Babylon
Triumphal Entrance of Alexander the Great to Babylon
Etching by Gerard Audran, France, 1675. State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg


 

THE BATTLE OF HYDASPES

The  Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 B.C. was the last of the four major battles in Alexander's conquest.

It was also the last battle for one the most famous horses in history, Alexander's mount Bucephalus.

Battle of Hydaspes 326 BC - Crossing of the River - Map
Map of the Battle of the Hydaspes 326 BC - Crossing of the River


This battle proved to be a bit tricky for Alexander because he had to fight Indian leader Porus, who not only was a very strong opponent but who also had 200 serviced war elephants ready for battle.


Map of the Combined Arms Attack in the Battle of the Hydaspes - 326 BC
Map of the Battle of the Hydaspes 326 BC - Combined Arms Attack

 

But the great general managed and the Battle of Hydaspes became yet another victory for Alexander.


A new challenge arose for Alexander when his troops refused to march towards the Ganges. He commenced the descent of the Indus. On his march he attacked and subdued several Indian tribes, among others the Malli, in the storming of whose capital Mooltan, Alexander was severely wounded.


Alexander directed his admiral, Nearchus, to sail from the Indus to the Persian Gulf and lead the army back across Scinde and Beloochistan.

 

In the summer of 324 BC, a rebellion broke out at Opis, Mesopotamia. (The exact location of the ancient city of Opis is unknown.) Alexander addressed this revolt in his  Depart! speech, conserved for us by the Greek historian Arrian.

Later in 324 BC Alexander returned to Babylon.



ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Click image to enlarge


 

Alexander's Death

Babylon, the year 323 B.C. - Alexander suffered from fever (some say malarial, soma say typhoid fever, some say he might have been poisoned) and died. He left a gigantic empire, which reached from Europe to Asia Minor, Asia, the Middle East, and Egypt.

His dead body was transported into Egypt and buried in Alexandria.

On his death being known at Greece, the Athenians, and others of the southern states, took up arms to shake off the domination of Macedon. They were at first successful, but the return of some of Alexander's veterans from Asia enabled Antipater to prevail over them.

 

Alexander's Successors

Alexander's brother Philip ruled Macedonia but only until 317 B.C. because his mother then murdered him.

After Philip, Alexander Jr. succeeded to the throne and made it until 311 B.C. He was then murdered by Cassander, one of his father's generals.

Son Heracles was murdered as well. That was in 309 B.C.

Thus, Alexander the Great's family tradition of ruling came to an end. Alexander's generals continued to rule instead.

 

The Diadochi

306 BC — After a long series of wars with each other, and after all the heirs of Alexander had been murdered, his principal surviving generals assume the title of king, each over the provinces which he has occupied. They were also called the  Diadochi.


The four chief among them were

Antigonus

Ptolemy

Lysimachus

and Seleucus.


Antipater was now dead, but his son Cassander succeeded to his power in Macedonia and Greece.

How did the generals manage?

General  Antigonus set himself up to rule over Asia but was killed in the  Battle of Ipsus in Phrygia, Asia Minor, in 301 B.C. by Seleucus and Lysimachus.

One general down, four more to go.


Here you can check the  map of the Diadochi after the Battle of Ipsus, 301 BC. It's actually two maps, the other one shows the realm of the Diadochi around the year 200 BC.

Map of the Diadochi - 301 BC and 200 BC
Map of the Diadochi
Click to enlarge

 

 Cassander took over Macedonia and Greece.  Lysimachus went for Asia Minor and Thrace.  Seleucus took Babylon, Media, Syria, Persia, and everything eastward of the Indus River.  Ptolemy took Egypt, Libya, Arabia, Palestine, Coele-Syria and became ancestor of Julius Caesar's sweetheart Cleopatra.


280 BC — Seleucus, the last of Alexander's captains, was assassinated. Of all Alexander's successors, Seleucus had formed the most powerful empire. He had acquired all the provinces between Phrygia and the Indus. He extended his dominion in India beyond the limits reached by Alexander.

Seleucus had some sparks of Alexander's genius in promoting civilization and commerce, as well as in gaining victories. Under his successors, the Seleucidae, this vast empire rapidly diminished. Bactria became independent, and a separate dynasty of Greek kings ruled there in the year 125, when it was overthrown by the Scythian tribes.

Parthia threw off its allegiance to the Seleucidae in 250 B.C., and the powerful Parthian Kingdom, which would become a pain in the neck for the Romans, absorbed nearly all the provinces west of the Euphrates, that had originally obeyed Seleucus.


Before the battle of Ipsus, Mithridates, a Persian prince of the Achaemenian dynasty, had escaped to Pontus, and founded there the kingdom of that name.


Besides the kingdom of Seleucus, which, when limited to Syria, Palestine, and parts of Asia Minor, long survived, the most important kingdom formed by a general of Alexander was that of the Ptolemies in Egypt.


And what about Macedonia, Alexander's home country?

The throne of Macedonia was long and obstinately contended for by Cassander, Polysperchon, Lysimachus, Pyrrhus, Antigonus, and others; but at last was secured by the dynasty of Antigonus Gonatas. The old republics of southern Greece suffered severely during these tumults, and the only Greek states that showed any strength and spirit were the cities of the Achaean league, the Aetolians, and the islanders of Rhodes.
 

In a nutshell, it went downhill with Macedonia. In 168 B.C., Macedonia became dependent upon Rome and in 146 B.C., it became a Roman province. Syria became a Roman province in 64 B.C

And here is a map of Macedonia in Roman times

Balkan 1st Century AD
MACEDONIA IN ROMAN TIMES
Click to enlarge



 

How Do We Know What We Know About Alexander?

The main sources for Alexander's history are the following historians:

Diodorus

Curtius (Quintus Curtius Rufus)

Plutarch

Arrian

Justin (Justinus)

 

Alexander the Great Trivia

A Greek newspaper reports that Macedonia renamed its Skopje airport "Alexander the Great."  Article here.


 

Here you will find  Alexander the Great's timeline.


And here is more on Alexander's horse Bucephalus.

Bucephalus - Alexander the Great's Stallion
Bucephalus

 

 

 



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