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Alexander III the Great - King of Macedonia 336-323 B.C.
Alexander III of Macedon (20/21 July 356 – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great from the Greek alexo "to defend, help" + aner "man"), was a king of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece. Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16. By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas.He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history's most successful commanders.
Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II of Macedon, to the throne in 336 BC after Philip was assassinated. Upon Philip's death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father's military expansion plans. In 334 BC, he invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor and began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, most notably the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He subsequently overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire. At that point, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.
Seeking to reach the "ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea", he invaded India in 326 BC, but was eventually forced to turn back at the demand of his troops. Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, without executing a series of planned campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia. In the years following his death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, resulting in several states ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander's surviving generals and heirs.
Alexander's legacy includes the cultural diffusion his conquests engendered. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander's settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the mold of Achilles, and he features prominently in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. He became the measure against which military leaders compared themselves, and military academies throughout the world still teach his tactics.
Lineage and childhood
Alexander was born on the 6th day of the ancient Greek month of Hekatombaion, in Pella, the capital of the Ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedon.He was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of Epirus. Although Philip had seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for some time, likely a result of giving birth to Alexander.
On the day that Alexander was born, Philip was preparing a siege on the city of Potidea on the peninsula of Chalcidice. That same day, Philip received news that his general Parmenion had defeated the combined Illyrian and Paeonian armies, and that his horses had won at the Olympic Games. It was also said that on this day, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, burnt down. This led Hegesias of Magnesia to say that it had burnt down because Artemis was away, attending the birth of Alexander.
In his early years, Alexander was raised by a nurse, Lanike, sister of Alexander's future general Cleitus the Black. Later in his childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother, and by Philip's general Lysimachus. Alexander was raised in the manner of noble Macedonian youths, learning to read, play the lyre, ride, fight, and hunt.
When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted and Philip ordered it away. Alexander however, detecting the horse's fear of its own shadow, asked to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son tearfully, declaring: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you", and bought the horse for him.Alexander named it Bucephalas, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalas carried Alexander as far as Pakistan. When the animal died at age thirty, Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala.
When Alexander was 13, Philip began to search for a tutor, chose Aristotle and provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as a classroom. In return for teaching Alexander, Philip agreed to rebuild Aristotle's hometown of Stageira, which Philip had razed, and to repopulate it by buying and freeing the ex-citizens who were slaves, or pardoning those who were in exile.
Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of these students would become his friends and future generals, and are often known as the 'Companions'. Aristotle taught Alexander and his companions about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. Under Aristotle's tutelage, Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad; Aristotle gave him an annotated copy, which Alexander later carried on his campaigns.
At age 16, Alexander's education under Aristotle ended. Philip waged war against Byzantion, leaving Alexander in charge as regent and heir apparent. During Philip's absence, the Thracian Maedi revolted against Macedonia. Alexander responded quickly, driving them from their territory. He colonized it with Greeks, and founded a city named Alexandropolis.
Upon Philip's return, he dispatched Alexander with a small force to subdue revolts in southern Thrace. Campaigning against the Greek city of Perinthus, Alexander is reported to have saved his father's life. Meanwhile, the city of Amphissa began to work lands that were sacred to Apollo near Delphi, a sacrilege that gave Philip the opportunity to further intervene in Greek affairs. Still occupied in Thrace, he ordered Alexander to muster an army for a campaign in Greece. Concerned that other Greek states might intervene, Alexander made it look as though he was preparing to attack Illyria instead. During this turmoil, the Illyrians invaded Macedonia, only to be repelled by Alexander.
Philip and his army joined his son in 338 BC, and they marched south through Thermopylae, taking it after stubborn resistance from its Theban garrison. They went on to occupy the city of Elatea, only a few days' march from both Athens and Thebes. The Athenians, led by Demosthenes, voted to seek alliance with Thebes against Macedonia. Both Athens and Philip sent embassies to win Thebes' favor, but Athens won the contest.Philip marched on Amphissa (ostensibly acting on the request of the Amphictyonic League), capturing the mercenaries sent there by Demosthenes and accepting the city's surrender. Philip then returned to Elatea, sending a final offer of peace to Athens and Thebes, who both rejected it.
As Philip marched south, his opponents blocked him near Chaeronea, Boeotia. During the ensuing Battle of Chaeronea, Philip commanded the right wing and Alexander the left, accompanied by a group of Philip's trusted generals. According to the ancient sources, the two sides fought bitterly for some time. Philip deliberately commanded his troops to retreat, counting on the untested Athenian hoplites to follow, thus breaking their line. Alexander was the first to break the Theban lines, followed by Philip's generals. Having damaged the enemy's cohesion, Philip ordered his troops to press forward and quickly routed them. With the Athenians lost, the Thebans were surrounded. Left to fight alone, they were defeated.
After the victory at Chaeronea, Philip and Alexander marched unopposed into the Peloponnese, welcomed by all cities; however, when they reached Sparta, they were refused, but did not resort to war.At Corinth, Philip established a "Hellenic Alliance" (modeled on the old anti-Persian alliance of the Greco-Persian Wars), which included most Greek city-states except Sparta. Philip was then named Hegemon (often translated as "Supreme Commander") of this league (known by modern scholars as the League of Corinth), and announced his plans to attack the Persian Empire.
When Philip returned to Pella, he fell in love with and married Cleopatra Eurydice, the niece of his general Attalus. The marriage made Alexander's position as heir less secure, since any son of Cleopatra Eurydice would be a fully Macedonian heir, while Alexander was only half-Macedonian.
Alexander fled Macedon with his mother, dropping her off with her brother, King Alexander I of Epirus in Dodona, capital of the Molossians.He continued to Illyria, where he sought refuge with the Illyrian King and was treated as a guest, despite having defeated them in battle a few years before. However, it appears Philip never intended to disown his politically and militarily trained son. Accordingly, Alexander returned to Macedon after six months due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus, who mediated between the two parties.
In 336 BC, while at Aegae attending the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to Olympias's brother, Alexander I of Epirus, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguards, Pausanias. As Pausanias tried to escape, he tripped over a vine and was killed by his pursuers, including two of Alexander's companions, Perdiccas and Leonnatus. Alexander was proclaimed king by the nobles and army at the age of 20.
Alexander began his reign by eliminating potential rivals to the throne. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed. He also had two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, but spared a third, Alexander Lyncestes. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and Europa, her daughter by Philip, burned alive. When Alexander learned about this, he was furious. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus, who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor and Cleopatra's uncle.
News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt, including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the Thracian tribes north of Macedon. When news of the revolts reached Alexander, he responded quickly. Though advised to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered the Macedonian cavalry of 3,000 and rode south towards Thessaly. He found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, and ordered his men to ride over Mount Ossa. When the Thessalians awoke the next day, they found Alexander in their rear and promptly surrendered, adding their cavalry to Alexander's force. He then continued south towards the Peloponnese.
Alexander stopped at Thermopylae, where he was recognized as the leader of the Amphictyonic League before heading south to Corinth. Athens sued for peace and Alexander pardoned the rebels. The famous encounter between Alexander and Diogenes the Cynic occurred during Alexander's stay in Corinth. When Alexander asked Diogenes what he could do for him, the philosopher disdainfully asked Alexander to stand a little to the side, as he was blocking the sunlight. This reply apparently delighted Alexander, who is reported to have said "But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes." At Corinth Alexander took the title of Hegemon ("leader"), and like Philip, was appointed commander for the coming war against Persia. He also received news of a Thracian uprising.
Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC with approximately 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry and a fleet of 120 ships with crews numbering 38,000,drawn from Macedon and various Greek city-states, mercenaries, and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. He showed his intent to conquer the entirety of the Persian Empire by throwing a spear into Asian soil and saying he accepted Asia as a gift from the gods. This also showed Alexander's eagerness to fight, in contrast to his father's preference for diplomacy.
After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis; he then proceeded along the Ionian coast. Though Alexander believed in his divine right to expend the lives of men in battle, he did experience sorrow, as those who died were rewarded generously. He did not directly influence the culture of the Persians they did not feel the need to begin a rebellion as their men and rulers were treated with proper respect.
The Levant and Syria
Alexander journeyed south but was met by Darius’ significantly larger army which he easily defeated, causing Darius to panic. Although he was chased by some troops ‘Alexander treated them (his family) with the respect out of consideration’ which demonstrated his continued generosity and kindness towards those he conquered.Darius fled the battle, causing his army to collapse, and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous treasure.He offered a peace treaty that included the lands he had already lost, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions.
Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant. In the following year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he captured after a long and difficult siege.Alexander massacred the men of military age and sold the women and children into slavery.
When Alexander destroyed Tyre, most of the towns on the route to Egypt quickly capitulated, with the exception of Gaza. The stronghold at Gaza was heavily fortified and built on a hill, requiring a siege. Alexander came upon the city only to be met with a surprising resistance and fortification. When ‘his engineers pointed out to him that because of the height of the mound it would be impossible… this encouraged Alexander all the more to make the attempt’ . The divine right that Alexander believed he had gave him confidence of a miracle occurring.After three unsuccessful assaults, the stronghold fell, but not before Alexander had received a serious shoulder wound. As in Tyre, men of military age were put to the sword and the women and children sold into slavery.
Jerusalem instead opened its gates in surrender, and according to Josephus, Alexander was shown the Book of Daniel's prophecy, presumably chapter 8, which described a mighty Greek king who would conquer the Persian Empire. He spared Jerusalem and pushed south into Egypt.
Alexander advanced on Egypt in later 332 BC, where he was regarded as a liberator.He was pronounced the new "master of the Universe" and son of the deity of Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert.Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and subsequent currency depicted him adorned with rams horn as a symbol of his divinity. During his stay in Egypt, he founded Alexandria-by-Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after his death.
Assyria and Babylonia
Leaving Egypt in 331 BC, Alexander marched eastward into Mesopotamia (now northern Iraq) and again defeated Darius, at the Battle of Gaugamela. Darius once more fled the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. Gaugamela would be the final and decisive encounter between the two. Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamedan), while Alexander captured Babylon.
From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its legendary treasury. He sent the bulk of his army to the Persian ceremonial capital of Persepolis via the Royal Road. Alexander himself took selected troops on the direct route to the city. He had to storm the pass of the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains) which had been blocked by a Persian army under Ariobarzanes and then hurried to Persepolis before its garrison could loot the treasury.
On entering Persepolis, Alexander allowed his troops to loot the city for several days.Alexander stayed in Persepolis for five months. During his stay a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes and spread to the rest of the city. Possible causes include a drunken accident or deliberate revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War.
Fall of the Empire and the East
Alexander then chased Darius, first into Media, and then Parthia.The Persian king no longer controlled his own destiny, and was taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman.As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men fatally stab the Great King and then declared himself Darius' successor as Artaxerxes V, before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. Alexander buried Darius' remains next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a regal funeral.He claimed that, while dying, Darius had named him as his successor to the Achaemenid throne. The Achaemenid Empire is normally considered to have fallen with Darius. Alexander viewed Bessus as a usurper and set out to defeat him. This campaign, initially against Bessus, turned into a grand tour of central Asia. Alexander founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Alexandria Eschate ("The Furthest") in modern Tajikistan. The campaign took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia.
Spitamenes, who held an undefined position in the satrapy of Sogdiana, in 329 BC betrayed Bessus to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's trusted companions, and Bessus was executed. However, when, at some point later, Alexander was on the Jaxartes dealing with an incursion by a horse nomad army, Spitamenes raised Sogdiana in revolt. Alexander personally defeated the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes and immediately launched a campaign against Spitamenes, defeating him in the Battle of Gabai. After the defeat, Spitamenes was killed by his own men, who then sued for peace.The empire began falling as military leaders and eventually Alexander died.
Problems and plots
During this time, Alexander took the Persian title "King of Kings" (Shahanshah) and adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis, either a symbolic kissing of the hand, or prostration on the ground, that Persians showed to their social superiors. The Greeks regarded the gesture as the province of deities and believed that Alexander meant to deify himself by requiring it. This cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen, and he eventually abandoned it.
A plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to alert Alexander. The death of the son necessitated the death of the father, and thus Parmenion, who had been charged with guarding the treasury at Ecbatana, was assassinated at Alexander's command, to prevent attempts at vengeance. Most infamously, Alexander personally killed the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Cleitus the Black, during a violent drunken altercation at Maracanda (modern day Samarkand in Uzbekistan), in which Cleitus accused Alexander of several judgemental mistakes and most especially, of having forgot the Macedonian ways in favour of a corrupt oriental lifestyle.
Macedon in Alexander's absence
When Alexander set out for Asia, he left his general Antipater, an experienced military and political leader and part of Philip II's "Old Guard", in charge of Macedon. Alexander's sacking of Thebes ensured that Greece remained quiet during his absence. The one exception was a call to arms by Spartan king Agis III in 331 BC, whom Antipater defeated and killed in battle at Megalopolis the following year. Antipater referred the Spartans' punishment to the League of Corinth, which then deferred to Alexander, who chose to pardon them. There was also considerable friction between Antipater and Olympias, and each complained to Alexander about the other.
In general, Greece enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity during Alexander's campaign in Asia. Alexander sent back vast sums from his conquest, which stimulated the economy and increased trade across his empire.However, Alexander's constant demands for troops and the migration of Macedonians throughout his empire depleted Macedon's manpower, greatly weakening it in the years after Alexander, and ultimately led to its subjugation by Rome.
After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Roshanak in Bactrian) to cement relations with his new satrapies, Alexander turned to the Indian subcontinent. He invited the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara, in the north of what is now Pakistan, to come to him and submit to his authority. Omphis, ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Hydaspes, complied, but the chieftains of some hill clans, including the Aspasioi and Assakenoi sections of the Kambojas (known in Indian texts also as Ashvayanas and Ashvakayanas), refused to submit.In the winter of 327/326 BC, Alexander personally led a campaign against these clans; the Aspasioi of Kunar valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus valley, and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys.A fierce contest ensued with the Aspasioi in which Alexander was wounded in the shoulder by a dart, but eventually the Aspasioi lost. Alexander then faced the Assakenoi, who fought in the strongholds of Massaga, Ora and Aornos.The fort of Massaga was reduced only after days of bloody fighting, in which Alexander was wounded seriously in the ankle.
After Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. Alexander was impressed by Porus's bravery, and made him an ally. He appointed Porus as satrap, and added to Porus' territory land that he did not previously own. Choosing a local helped him control these lands so distant from Greece.Alexander founded two cities on opposite sides of the Hydaspes river, naming one Bucephala, in honor of his horse, who died around this time.The other was Nicaea (Victory) located at the site of modern day Mong, Punjab.
Revolt of the army
East of Porus' kingdom, near the Ganges River, were the Nanda Empire of Magadha and further east the Gangaridai Empire of Bengal. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander's army mutinied at the Hyphasis River, refusing to march farther east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests. Alexander tried to persuade his soldiers to march farther, but his general Coenus pleaded with him to change his opinion and return; the men, he said, "longed to again see their parents, their wives and children, their homeland". Alexander eventually agreed and turned south, marching along the Indus. Along the way his army conquered the Malli clans (in modern day Multan) and other Indian tribes. Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest back to Persia through the more difficult southern route along the Gedrosian Desert and Makran (now part of southern Iran and Pakistan).Alexander reached Susa in 324 BC, but not before losing many men to the harsh desert.
Last years in Persia
Discovering that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence, Alexander executed several of them as examples on his way to Susa. As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedon, led by Craterus. His troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis. They refused to be sent away and criticized his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units.
Death and succession
On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. Details of the death differ slightly – Plutarch's account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa.He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mentioned the theory that Alexander was poisoned.
The strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days passed between the start of his illness and his death; such long-acting poisons were probably not available. In 2010, however, a new theory proposed that the circumstances of his death were compatible with poisoning by water of the river Styx (Mavroneri) that contained calicheamicin, a dangerous compound produced by bacteria. Several natural causes (diseases) have been suggested, including malaria and typhoid fever.
Alexander's body was laid in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus that was filled with honey, which was in turn placed in a gold casket. While Alexander's funeral cortege was on its way to Macedon, Ptolemy stole it and took it to Memphis. His successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, transferred the sarcophagus to Alexandria, where it remained until at least late Antiquity. Ptolemy IX Lathyros, one of Ptolemy's final successors, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one so he could convert the original to coinage.
Pompey, Julius Caesar and Augustus all visited the tomb in Alexandria. Caligula was said to have taken Alexander's breastplate from the tomb for his own use. In c. AD 200, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, a great admirer, visited the tomb during his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are hazy.
Division of the empire
Alexander's death was so sudden that when reports of his death reached Greece, they were not immediately believed.Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander's death.According to Diodorus, Alexander's companions asked him on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom; his laconic reply was "tôi kratistôi"—"to the strongest".
In 321 BC, Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between "The Successors" (Diadochi) ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocks: the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered.
Alexander earned the epithet "the Great" due to his unparalleled success as a military commander. He never lost a battle, despite typically being outnumbered.This was due to use of terrain, phalanx and cavalry tactics, bold strategy, and the fierce loyalty of his troops.The Macedonian phalanx, armed with the sarissa, a spear 6 metres (20 ft) long, had been developed and perfected by Philip II through rigorous training, and Alexander used its speed and maneuverability to great effect against larger but more disparate Persian forces.Alexander also recognized the potential for disunity among his diverse army, which employed various languages and weapons. He overcame this by being personally involved in battle,in the manner of a Macedonian king.
When faced with opponents who used unfamiliar fighting techniques, such as in Central Asia and India, Alexander adapted his forces to his opponents' style. Thus, in Bactria and Sogdiana, Alexander successfully used his javelin throwers and archers to prevent outflanking movements, while massing his cavalry at the center. In India, confronted by Porus' elephant corps, the Macedonians opened their ranks to envelop the elephants and used their sarissas to strike upwards and dislodge the elephants' handlers.
Greek historian Arrian described Alexander as:
Alexander suffered from heterochromia iridum: that one eye was dark and the other light.
Some of Alexander's strongest personality traits formed in response to his parents.His mother had huge ambitions, and encouraged him to believe it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire. Olympias' influence instilled a sense of destiny in him, and Plutarch tells us that his ambition "kept his spirit serious and lofty in advance of his years". However, his father Philip was Alexander's most immediate and influential role model, as the young Alexander watched him campaign practically every year, winning victory after victory while ignoring severe wounds.Alexander's relationship with his father forged the competitive side of his personality; he had a need to out-do his father, illustrated by his reckless behavior in battle. While Alexander worried that his father would leave him "no great or brilliant achievement to be displayed to the world", he also downplayed his father's achievements to his companions.
According to Plutarch, among Alexander's traits were a violent temper and rash, impulsive nature, which undoubtedly contributed to some of his decisions. Although Alexander was stubborn and did not respond well to orders from his father, he was open to reasoned debate. He had a calmer side—perceptive, logical, and calculating. He had a great desire for knowledge, a love for philosophy, and was an avid reader.This was no doubt in part due to Aristotle's tutelage; Alexander was intelligent and quick to learn. His intelligent and rational side was amply demonstrated by his ability and success as a general.
Alexander was erudite and patronized both arts and sciences.However, he had little interest in sports or the Olympic games (unlike his father), seeking only the Homeric ideals of honor (timê) and glory (kudos). He had great charisma and force of personality, characteristics which made him a great leader. His unique abilities were further demonstrated by the inability of any of his generals to unite Macedonia and retain the Empire after his death – only Alexander had the ability to do so.
During his final years, and especially after the death of Hephaestion, Alexander began to exhibit signs of megalomania and paranoia.His extraordinary achievements, coupled with his own ineffable sense of destiny and the flattery of his companions, may have combined to produce this effect.
He appears to have believed himself a deity, or at least sought to deify himself. Olympias always insisted to him that he was the son of Zeus,a theory apparently confirmed to him by the oracle of Amun at Siwa. He began to identify himself as the son of Zeus-Ammon.Alexander adopted elements of Persian dress and customs at court, notably proskynesis, a practice that Macedonians disapproved, and were loath to perform. This behavior cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen.However, Alexander also was a pragmatic ruler who understood the difficulties of ruling culturally disparate peoples, many of whom lived in kingdoms where the king was divine.Thus, rather than megalomania, his behavior may simply have been a practical attempt at strengthening his rule and keeping his empire together.
Alexander, left, and Hephaestion, right
The central personal relationship of Alexander's life was with his friend, general, and bodyguard Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble.Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander.This event may have contributed to Alexander's failing health and detached mental state during his final months.
Alexander married twice: Roxana, daughter of the Bactrian nobleman Oxyartes, out of love; and Stateira II, a Persian princess and daughter of Darius III of Persia, for political reasons. He apparently had two sons, Alexander IV of Macedon of Roxana and, possibly, Heracles of Macedon from his mistress Barsine. He lost another child when Roxana miscarried at Babylon.
Alexander's sexuality has been the subject of speculation and controversy. No ancient sources stated that Alexander had homosexual relationships, or that Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion was sexual. Aelian, however, writes of Alexander's visit to Troy where "Alexander garlanded the tomb of Achilles and Hephaestion that of Patroclus, the latter riddling that he was a beloved of Alexander, in just the same way as Patroclus was of Achilles". Noting that the word eromenos (ancient Greek for beloved) does not necessarily bear sexual meaning, Alexander may have been bisexual, which in his time was not controversial.
Influence on Rome
Alexander and his exploits were admired by many Romans, especially generals, who wanted to associate themselves with his achievements. Pompey the Great adopted the epithet "Magnus" and even Alexander's anatole-type haircut, and searched the conquered lands of the east for Alexander's 260-year-old cloak, which he then wore as a sign of greatness.Julius Caesar dedicated a Lysippean equestrian bronze statue but replaced Alexander's head with his own, while Octavian visited Alexander's tomb in Alexandria and temporarily changed his seal from a sphinx to Alexander's profile. The emperor Trajan also admired Alexander, as did Nero and Caracalla.The Macriani, a Roman family that in the person of Macrinus briefly ascended to the imperial throne, kept images of Alexander on their persons, either on jewelry, or embroidered into their clothes.
Alexander the Great's accomplishments and legacy have been depicted in many cultures. Alexander has figured in both high and popular culture beginning in his own era to the present day. The Alexander Romance, in particular, has had a significant impact on portrayals of Alexander in later cultures, from Persian to medieval European to modern Greek.
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