Alexander III of Macedon, popularly known as Alexander the Great (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας or Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος, Mégas Aléxandros; 356–323 BC), was an Ancient GreekTemplate:Cref king (basileus) of Macedon who created one of the largest empires in ancient history. Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander succeeded his father Philip II of Macedon to the throne in 336 BC after the King was assassinated, and died 13 years later at the age of 32. Whilst both Alexander's reign and empire were short-lived, the cultural impact of his conquests lasted for centuries. Alexander is one of the most well known figures of antiquity, and is remembered for his tactical ability, his conquests, and for spreading Greek civilization into the east.
Philip had brought most of the city-states of mainland Greece under Macedonian hegemony, using both military and diplomatic means. Upon his death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He succeeded in being awarded the generalship of Greece and with his authority firmly established, launched the military plans for expansion left by his father. He invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor, and began a series of campaigns lasting 10 years. Alexander repeatedly defeated the Persians in battle, marched through Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Bactria and in the process he overthrew the Persian king Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire.Template:Cref Following his desire to reach the "ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea", he invaded India, but was eventually forced to turn back by the near-mutiny of his troops, who had tired of war.
Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, before having the chance to realize a series of planned campaigns, beginning with an invasion of Arabia. In the years following Alexander's death, his empire was torn apart in a series of civil wars, which resulted in the formation of a number of states ruled by Macedonian nobility. Remarkable though his conquests were, Alexander's lasting legacy was not his reign, but the cultural diffusion engendered by his conquests. The import of Greek colonists and culture to the east, initiated by Alexander, resulted in a new Hellenistic culture, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire up until the mid-15th century. Alexander himself became legendary, as a classical hero in the mould of Achilles and features prominently in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. He became the measure against which generals, even to this day, compare themselves, and his tactical exploits are still taught in military academies throughout the world.Template:Cref
- 1 Sources
- 2 Early life
- 3 Philip's heir
- 4 Exile and return
- 5 Accession
- 6 Balkan campaign
- 7 Conquest of the Persian Empire
- 8 Problems and plots
- 9 Invasion of India
- 10 Return from India
- 11 Last years
- 12 Death
- 13 Succession
- 14 Character
- 15 Legacy
- 16 Notes
- 17 References
- 18 Sources
- 19 External links
There are numerous surviving ancient Greek and Latin texts about Alexander, as well as some non-Greek texts. The primary sources, texts written by people who actually knew Alexander or who gathered information from men who served with Alexander, are all lost, apart from a few inscriptions and fragments. Contemporaries who wrote accounts of his life include Alexander's campaign historian Callisthenes; Alexander's generals Ptolemy and Nearchus; Aristobulus, a junior officer on the campaigns; and Onesicritus, Alexander's chief helmsman. Finally, there is the very influential account of Cleitarchus who, while not a direct witness of Alexander's expedition, used sources which had just been published. His work was to be the backbone of that of Timagenes, who heavily influenced many historians whose work still survives. None of these works survives, but we do have later works based on these primary sources.
The five main surviving accounts are by Arrian, Curtius, Plutarch, Diodorus, and Justin.
- Anabasis Alexandri (The Campaigns of Alexander in Greek) by the Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia, writing in the 2nd century AD, and based largely on Ptolemy and, to a lesser extent, Aristobulus and Nearchus. It is considered generally the most trustworthy source.
- Historiae Alexandri Magni, a biography of Alexander in ten books, of which the last eight survive, by the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, written in the 1st century AD, and based largely on Cleitarchus through the mediation of Timagenes, with some material probably from Ptolemy;
- Life of Alexander (see Parallel Lives) and two orations On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great (see Moralia), by the Greek historian and biographer Plutarch of Chaeronea in the second century, based largely on Aristobulus and especially Cleitarchus.
- Bibliotheca historia (Library of world history), written in Greek by the Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus, from which Book 17 relates the conquests of Alexander, based almost entirely on Timagenes's work. The books immediately before and after, on Philip and Alexander's "Successors," throw light on Alexander's reign.
- The Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus by Justin, is highly compressed version of an earlier history by Pompeius, with the selections governed by Justin's desire to make moralistic points, rather than with an eye for the history itself.
In addition to these five main sources some scholars, there is the Metz Epitome, an anonymous late Latin work that narrates Alexander's campaigns from Hyrcania to India, and much is also recounted incidentally by other authors, including Strabo, Athenaeus, Polyaenus, Aelian, and others.
Alexander was born on 20 July 356 BC, in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon. He was the son of Philip II, the King of Macedon. Alexander claimed patrilineal descent from Heracles through Caranus of Macedon and matrilineal descent from Aeacus and Achilles through Neoptolemus. His mother was Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus I, the king of the north Greek state of Epirus. Although Philip had either seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for a time. On his mother's side, Alexander was a second cousin of the celebrated general Pyrrhus of Epirus, who was ranked by Hannibal as, depending on the source, either the best or second best (after Alexander) commander the world had ever seen.
According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, Olympias, on the eve of the consummation of her marriage to Philip, dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunder bolt, causing a flame which spread "far and wide" before dying away. Some time after the marriage Philip was said to have seen himself, in a dream, sealing up his wife's womb with a seal upon which was engraved the image of a lion. Plutarch offers a variety of interpretations of these dreams; that Olympia was pregnant before her marriage, indicated by the sealing of her womb; or that Alexander's father was Zeus. Ancient commentators were divided as to whether the ambitious Olympias promulgated the story of Alexander's divine parentage, some claiming she told Alexander, others that she dismissed the suggestion as impious.
On the day that Alexander was born, Philip was preparing himself for his siege on the city of Potidea on the peninsula of Chalkidiki. On the same day Philip also 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, leading Hegesias of Magnesia to say that it burnt down because Artemis was attending the birth of Alexander.
In his early years, Alexander was raised by his nurse, Lanike, the sister of Alexander's future friend and general Cleitus the Black. Later on in his childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother's uncle, and by Lysimachus.
When Alexander was ten years old, a horse trader from Thessaly, brought Philip a horse which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted by anyone and Philip ordered it to be taken away. Alexander, however, detected the horse's fear of his own shadow and asked for a turn to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. According to Plutarch, Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed him 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 would name the horse Bucephalus, meaning 'ox-head'. Bucephalus would be Alexander's companion throughout his journeys as far as India. When he died (due to old age, according to Plutarch, for he was already thirty), Alexander named a city after him (Bucephala).
When Alexander was thirteen years old, Philip decided that Alexander needed a higher education and he began to search for a tutor. Many people were passed over including Isocrates and Speusippus, Plato's successor at the Academy of Athens, who offered to resign to take up the post. In the end, Philip offered the job to Aristotle, who accepted, and Philip gave them the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as their 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 acted like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy and Cassander. Many of the pupils who learned by Alexander's side would become his friends and future generals, and are often referred to as the 'Companions'. At Mieza, Aristotle educated Alexander and his companions in medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic and art. Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer from Aristotle's teaching, and in particular the Iliad, which Aristotle gave him an annotated copy of, which Alexander was to take on his campaigns.
When Alexander became sixteen years old, his tutorship under Aristotle came to an end. Philip, the king, departed to wage war against Byzantium and the sixteen year old Alexander was left in charge as regent of the kingdom. During Philip's absence, the Thracian Maedi revolted against Macedonian rule. Alexander responded quickly and crushed the Maedi insurgence driving them from their territory, colonised it with Greeks and founded a city called Alexandropolis.
After Philip's return from Byzantium, Alexander was dispatched with a small force to subdue certain revolts in southern Thrace. During another campaign 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 which offered Philip the opportunity to further intervene the affairs of Greece. Still occupied in Thrace, Philip ordered Alexander to begin mustering an army for a campaign in Greece. Concerned by the possibility of other Greek states intervening, Alexander made it look as if he was preparing to attack Illyria instead. During this turmoil, the Illyrians took the opportunity to invade Macedonia, but Alexander repelled the invaders.
Philip joined Alexander with his army in 338 BC and they marched south through Thermopylae, which they took after a stubborn resistance from its Theban garrison and went on to occupy the city of Elatea, a few days march from both Athens and Thebes. Meanwhile, the Athenians, led by Demosthenes, voted to seek an alliance with Thebes in the war against Macedonia. Both Athens and Philip sent embassies to try to win Thebes's favour, with the Athenians eventually succeeding. Philip marched on Amphissa (theoretically acting on the request of the Amphicytonic League), captured the mercenaries sent there by Demosthenes, and accepted the city's surrender. Philip then returned to Elatea and sent a final offer of peace to Athens and Thebes which was rejected.
As Philip marched south he was blocked near Chaeronea, Boeotia by the forces of Athens and Thebes. During the ensuing battle, Philip commanded the right, and Alexander the left wing, accompanied by a group of Philip's trusted generals. According to the ancient sources, the two sides fought bitterly for a long time. Philip deliberately withdrew his troops on the right wing, counting on the untested Athenian hoplites to follow him, thus breaking their line. On the left, the sources agree in saying that Alexander was the first to break into the Theban lines, followed by Philip's generals. Seeing this, Philip turned and attacked the Athenians pursuing his forces, and routed them. With the rout of the Athenians, the Thebans were left to fight alone and surrounded by the victorious enemy, eventually they were crushed.
After the victory at Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) Philip and Alexander marched unopposed into the Peloponnese and at Corinth, Philip established a "Hellenic Alliance" (modelled on the old anti-Persian alliance of the Greco-Persian Wars) of all Greek states, with the exception of Sparta. Alexander and his father Philip had marched through the Peloponnese welcomed by all cities however when they reached Sparta they were refused, and simply left. Philip was then named as Hegemon (often translated as 'Supreme Commander') of this league (known by modern historians as the League of Corinth). Philip then announced his plans for a war of revenge against the Persian Empire, which he would command.
Exile and return
After returning to Pella, Philip fell in love with, and married Cleopatra Eurydice, the niece of one of his generals, Attalus. This marriage made Alexander's position as heir to the throne less secure, since if Cleopatra Eurydice bore Philip a son, there would be a fully Macedonian heir, while Alexander was only half Macedonian. During the wedding banquet, a drunken Attalus made a speech praying to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir to the Macedonian throne. Alexander shouted to Attalus, "What, am I then a bastard?" and he threw his goblet at him. Philip, who was also drunk, drew his sword and advanced towards Alexander before collapsing, leading Alexander to say, "See there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another."
Alexander fled from Macedon taking his mother with him, whom he dropped off with her brother in Dodona, capital of Epirus. He carried on to Illyria, where he sought refuge with the Illyrian King and was treated as a guest by the Illyrians, despite having defeated them in battle a few years before. Alexander returned to Macedon after six months in exile due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus the Corinthian, who mediated between the two parties.
The following year, the Persian satrap (governor) of Caria, Pixodarus, offered the hand of his eldest daughter to Alexander's half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus. Olympias and several of Alexander's friends suggested to Alexander that this move showed that Philip intended to make Arrhidaeus his heir. Alexander reacted by sending an actor, Thessalus of Corinth, to tell Pixodarus that he should not offer his daughter's hand to an illegitimate son but instead to Alexander. When Philip heard of this, he scolded Alexander for wishing to marry the daughter of Carian. Philip had four of Alexander's friends, Harpalus, Nearchus, Ptolemy and Erygius exiled and had the Corinthians bring Thessalus to him in chains.
In 336 BC, whilst at Aegae, attending the wedding of his daughter by Olympias, Cleopatra to Olympias's brother, Alexander I of Epirus, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguard, Pausanias.Template:Cref 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 Macedonian army and by the Macedonian noblemen at the age of 20.
Alexander began his reign by having his potential rivals to the throne murdered. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed, as well as having two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, while a third, Alexander Lyncestes, was spared. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and her daughter by Philip, Europa, burned alive. When Alexander found out about this, he was furious with his mother. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus, who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor. Attalus was at the time in correspondence with Demosthenes, regarding the possibility of defecting to Athens. Regardless of whether Attalus actually intended to defect, he had already severely insulted Alexander, and having just had Attalus's daughter and grandchildren murdered, Alexander probably felt Attalus was too dangerous to leave alive. Alexander spared the life of Arridaeus, who was by all accounts mentally disabled, possibly as a result of poisoning by Olympias.
News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly and the Thracian tribes to the north of Macedon. When news of the revolts in Greece reached Alexander he responded quickly. Though his advisors advised him to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered the Macedonian cavalry of 3,000 men and rode south towards Thessaly, Macedon's neighbor to the south. When he found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, he had the men 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, as he rode down towards the Peloponnesus.
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 received the envoy and pardoned anyone involved with the uprising. At Corinth, he was given the title Hegemon, and like Philip, appointed commander of the forthcoming war against Persia. While at Corinth, he heard the news of the Thracian rising to the north.
Before crossing to Asia, Alexander wanted to safeguard his northern borders and, in the spring of 335 BC, he advanced to suppress several apparent revolts. Starting from Amphipolis, he first went east into the country of the "Independent Thracians", and at Mount Haemus, the Macedonian army attacked and defeated a Thracian army manning the heights. The Macedonians then marched on into the country of the Triballi, and proceeded to defeat the Triballian army near the Lyginus river. Alexander then advanced on to the Danube, encountering the Getae tribe on the opposite shore. Surprising the Getae by crossing the river at night, the Getae army proceeded to retreat after the first cavalry skirmish, leaving their town to the Macedonian army. News then reached Alexander that Cleitus, King of Illyria, and King Glaukias of the Taulanti were in open revolt against Macedonian authority. Marching west into Illyria, Alexander defeated each in turn, forcing Cleitus and Glaukias to flee with their armies, leaving Alexander's northern frontier secure.
While he was triumphantly campaigning north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once more. Alexander reacted immediately, but, while the other cities once again hesitated, Thebes decided to resist with the utmost vigor. This resistance was useless, however, as the city was razed to the ground amid great bloodshed and its territory divided between the other Boeotian cities. The end of Thebes cowed Athens into submission, leaving all of Greece at least outwardly at peace with Alexander.
Conquest of the Persian Empire
Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC with approximately 42,000 soldiers from Macedon, various Greek city-states, mercenaries and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. 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 and proceeded down the Ionian coast. At Halicarnassus, Alexander successfully waged the first of many sieges, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea. Alexander left Caria in the hands of Ada, who adopted Alexander as her son.
From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities. He did this in order to deny the Persians naval bases; since Alexander had no reliable fleet of his own, defeating the Persian fleet required land-control. From Pamphylia onward, the coast held no major ports and so Alexander moved inland. At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city. At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander 'undid' the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future "king of Asia". According to the most vivid story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone, and he hacked it apart with his sword.
After spending the winter campaigning in Asia Minor, Alexander's army crossed the Cilician Gates in 333 BC, and met and defeated the main Persian army under the command of Darius III at the Battle of Issus in November. Darius was forced to flee the battle after his army broke, and in doing so left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous amount of treasure. He afterwards offered a peace treaty to Alexander, the concession of the lands he had already conquered, 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. However, the following year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he eventually captured after a famous siege. It was after his capture of Tyre that Alexander crucified all 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 built on a hill and was heavily fortified. At the beginning of the Siege of Gaza, Alexander utilized the engines he had employed against Tyre. After three unsuccessful assaults, the stronghold was finally taken by force, but not before Alexander received a serious shoulder wound. When Gaza was taken, the male population was put to the sword and the women and children were sold into slavery.
Jerusalem, on the other hand, opened its gates in surrender, and according to Josephus, Alexander was shown the book of Daniel's prophecy, presumably chapter 8, where a mighty Greek king would subdue and conquer the Persian Empire. Thereupon, Alexander 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 ram horns 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 defeated Darius once more at the Battle of Gaugamela. Once again, Darius was forced to leave the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamedan), but Alexander instead marched to, and captured Babylon.
From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its legendary treasury. Sending 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. However, the pass of the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains) had been blocked by a Persian army under Ariobarzanes, and Alexander had to storm the pass. Alexander then made a dash for Persepolis before its garrison could loot the treasury. It was at Persepolis that Alexander was said to have stared at the crumbled statue of Xerxes and decided to leave it on the ground—a symbolic gesture of vengeance. During their stay at the capital, a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes and spread to the rest of the city. Theories abound as to whether this was the result of a drunken accident, or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War.
Fall of the Empire and the East
Alexander then set off in pursuit of Darius again, first into Media, and then Parthia. The Persian king was no longer in control of his destiny, having been 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. Darius was found by one of Alexander's scouts, dying, in a baggage train being pulled by an ox. Before he died, Darius remarked that he was glad that he would not die alone. His remains were buried by Alexander next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a full regal funeral. Alexander claimed that, while dying, Darius had named Alexander as his successor to the Achaemenid throne. The Achaemenid Empire is considered to have fallen with the death of Darius.
Alexander, now viewing himself as the legitimate successor to Darius, viewed Bessus as a usurper to the Achaemenid throne, and set out to defeat him. This campaign, which was initially against Bessus, would turn into a grand tour of central Asia, Alexander founding 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.
Bessus was betrayed in 329 BC by Spitamenes, who held an undefined position in the satrapy of Sogdiana. Spitamenes handed over Bessus to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's trusted companions, and Bessus was then executed. However, when, at some point later, Alexander was on the Jaxartes, Spitamenes raised Sogdiana in revolt against Alexander. Alexander therefore launched a campaign against Spitamenes, and after he was defeated in the Battle of Gabai, Spitamenes was killed by his own men, who then sued for peace. The majority of the existing Eastern satraps swore loyalty to Alexander, and were allowed to keep their positions. Alexander, taking the Persian title "King of Kings" (Shahanshah), adopted Persian dress and mannerisms, which, in time, the Greeks began to view as decadent.
Problems and plots
During this time, Alexander 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 paid 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 much in the sympathies of many of his countrymen. Here, too, a plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to bring the plot to his attention. 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 by command of Alexander, so he might not make attempts at vengeance. Most infamously, Alexander personally slew the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Cleitus the Black, during a drunken argument at Maracanda. Later in the Central Asian campaign, a second plot against his life was revealed, this one instigated by his own royal pages. His official historian, Callisthenes of Olynthus (who had fallen out of favor with the king by leading the opposition to his attempt to introduce proskynesis), was implicated in the plot, however, there never has been consensus among historians regarding his involvement in the conspiracy.
Invasion of India
After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Roshanak in Bactrian) to cement his relations with his new Central Asian satrapies, Alexander was finally free to turn his attention to the Indian subcontinent. Alexander invited all 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(whose actual name is Ambhi), 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 himself was wounded in the shoulder by a dart but eventually the Aspasioi lost the fight. Alexander then faced the Assakenoi, who fought bravely and offered stubborn resistance to Alexander in the strongholds of Massaga, Ora and Aornos. The fort of Massaga could only be reduced after several days of bloody fighting in which Alexander himself was wounded seriously in the ankle. According to Curtius, "Not only did Alexander slaughter the entire population of Massaga, but also did he reduce its buildings to rubbles" . A similar slaughter then followed at Ora, another stronghold of the Assakenoi. In the aftermath of Massaga and Ora, numerous Assakenians fled to the fortress of Aornos. Alexander followed close behind their heels and captured the strategic hill-fort after the fourth day of a bloody fight.
After reducing Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against a local ruler Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab, in the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC. After the battle, Alexander was greatly impressed by Porus for his bravery in battle, and therefore made an alliance with him and appointed him as satrap of his own kingdom, even adding some land he did not own before. Alexander then named one of the two new cities that he founded, Bucephala, in honor of the horse who had brought him to India, who had died during the Battle of Hydaspes.
East of Porus' kingdom, near the Ganges River, was the powerful Nanda Empire of Magadha and Gangaridai Empire of Bengal. Fearing the prospects of facing other powerful Indian armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, his army mutinied at the Hyphasis River, refusing to march further east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests.
As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at-arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand war elephants.
Alexander spoke to his army and tried to persuade them to march further into India but 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, seeing the unwillingness of his men, eventually agreed and turned south. Along the way his army conquered the Malli clans (in modern day Multan). Following this his beleaguered army moved on, conquering more Indian tribes along the way.
Return from India
Alexander now sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with his general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest of his forces back to Persia by the southern route through the Gedrosian Desert (now part of southern Iran and Makran now part of Pakistan).
Discovering that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence, Alexander executed a number of them as examples, whilst on his way to Susa. As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send those over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedon under Craterus, but his troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis, refusing to be sent away and bitterly criticizing his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units. Alexander executed the ringleaders of the mutiny, but forgave the rank and file. In an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, he held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. Meanwhile, upon his return, Alexander learned some men had desecrated the tomb of Cyrus the Great, and swiftly executed them. For they were put in charge of guarding the tomb Alexander held in honor.
After Alexander traveled to Ecbatana to retrieve the bulk of the Persian treasure, his closest friend and possibly lover Hephaestion died of an illness, or possibly of poisoning. Alexander, distraught over the death of his longtime companion, sacked a nearby town, and put all of its inhabitants to the sword, as a 'sacrifice' to Hephaestion's ghost. Alexander mourned Hephaestion for six months.
On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon aged 32. Plutarch gives a lengthy account of the circumstances of his death, echoed (without firm dates) by Arrian. Roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained his admiral Nearchus, and then, instead of going to bed, spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa. After this, and by the 18 Daesius (a Macedonian month) he had developed a fever, which then grew steadily worse. By 25 Daesius, he was unable to speak. By 26 Daesius, the common soldiers had become anxious about his health, or thought he was already dead. They demanded to see him, and Alexander's generals acquiesced. The soldiers slowly filed past him, whilst Alexander raised his right hand in greeting, still unable to speak. Two days later, on 28 Daesius (although Aristobolus's account says it was 30 Daesius), Alexander was dead. Conversely, Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck down with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Hercules, and (rather mysteriously) died after some agony, which is also mentioned as an alternative by Arrian, but Plutarch specifically refutes this claim.
Given the propensity of the Macedonian aristocracy to assassination, it is scarcely surprising that allegations of foul play have been made about the death of Alexander. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mention the theory that Alexander was poisoned. Plutarch dismisses it as a fabrication, whilst both Diodorus and Arrian say that they only mention it for the sake of completeness. The accounts are nevertheless fairly consistent in fingering Antipater, recently removed from the position of Macedonian viceroy, and at odds with Olympias, as the head of the alleged plot. Perhaps taking his summons to Babylon as a death sentence in waiting, and having seen the fate of Parmenion and Philotas, Antipater arranged for Alexander to be poisoned by his son Iollas, who was Alexander's wine-pourer. There is even a suggestion that Aristotle may have had a hand in the plot. Perhaps the strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days had passed between the start of his illness and his death; in the ancient world, such long-acting poisons were probably not available.
Several diseases have been suggested as the cause of Alexander's death; malaria or typhoid fever are obvious candidates. A 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed his death to typhoid fever complicated by bowel perforation and ascending paralysis, whereas another recent analysis has suggested pyrogenic spondylitis or meningitis as the cause. Other illnesses could have also been the culprit, including acute pancreatitis or the West Nile virus. Another theory is that Alexander may have died as a result of overdosing on Hellebore, a plant at that time used medicinally, but deadly in large doses. Natural cause theories also tend to emphasise that Alexander's health may have been in general decline after years of heavy drinking and suffering severe wounds (including one in India that nearly claimed his life). Furthermore, it has also been suggested that the anguish that Alexander felt after Hephaestion's death may have contributed to his declining health.
Fate after death
Alexander's body was placed in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus, which was in turn placed in a second gold casket. According to Aelian, a seer called Aristander foretold that the land where Alexander was laid to rest "would be happy and unvanquishable forever". Perhaps more likely, the successors may have seen possession of the body as a symbol of legitimacy (it was a royal prerogative to bury the previous king). At any rate, Ptolemy stole the funeral cortege, 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 the last successors of Ptolemy I, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one, and melted the original down in order to strike emergency gold issues of his coinage. Pompey, Julius Caesar and Augustus all visited the tomb whilst in Alexandria, the latter allegedly accidentally knocking the nose off the body. Caligula was said to have taken Alexander's breastplate from the tomb for his own use. In around 200 AD, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, was a great admirer of Alexander, and visited the tomb in his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are sketchy.
The so-called "Alexander Sarcophagus", discovered near Sidon and now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is so named not because it was thought to have contained Alexander's remains, but because its bas-reliefs depict Alexander and his companions hunting and in battle with the Persians. It was originally thought to have been the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus (died 311 BC), the king of Sidon appointed by Alexander immediately following the battle of Issus in 331. However, more recently, it has been suggested that it may date from earlier than Abdalonymus' death.
The division of the Empire
Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander's death. This left the huge question mark as to who would rule the newly-conquered, and barely-pacified Empire. According to Diodorus, Alexander's companions asked him when he was on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom; his laconic reply was "tôi kratistôi"—"to the strongest". Given that Arrian and Plutarch have Alexander speechless by this point, it is possible that this is an apocryphal story. Diodorus, Curtius and Justin also have the more plausible story of Alexander passing his signet ring to Perdiccas, one of his bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, in front of witnesses, thereby possibly nominating Perdiccas as his successor.
In the event, Perdiccas initially avoided explicitly claiming power, instead suggesting that Roxane's baby would be king, if male; with himself, Craterus, Leonnatus and Antipater as guardians. However, the infantry, under the command of Meleager, rejected this arrangement since they had been excluded from the discussion. Instead, they supported Alexander's half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. Eventually, the two sides reconciled, and after the birth of Alexander IV, he and Philip III were appointed joint kings of the Empire—albeit in name only.
It was not long, however, before dissension and rivalry began to afflict the Macedonians. The satrapies handed out by Perdiccas at the Partition of Babylon became power bases for each general, from which to launch his own bid for power. After the assassination of Perdiccas in 321 BC, all semblance of Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between 'The Successors' (Diadochi) ensued, before the Hellenistic world settled into 4 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.
Diodorus relates that Alexander had given detailed written instructions to Craterus some time before his death. Although Craterus had already started to carry out some of Alexander's commands, the successors chose not to further implement them on the grounds that they were impractical and extravagant. The testament called for military expansion into the Southern and Western Mediterranean, monumental constructions, and the intermixing of Eastern and Western populations. Its most remarkable items were:
- The construction of a monumental pyre to Hephaestion, costing 10,000 talents
- The construction of a monumental tomb for his father Philip, "to match the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt"
- The erection of great temples in Delos, Delphi, Dodona, Dium, Amphipolis, Cyrnus and Ilium.
- The building of "a thousand warships, larger than triremes, in Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus for the campaign against the Carthaginians and the other who live along the coast of Libya and Iberia and the adjoining coastal regions as far as Sicily"
- The building of a road in northern Africa as far as the Pillars of Heracles, with ports and shipyards along it.
- The establishment of cities and the "transplant of populations from Asia to Europe and in the opposite direction from Europe to Asia, in order to bring the largest continent to common unity and to friendship by means of intermarriage and family ties."
Green provides a description of Alexander's appearance, based on ancient sources:
"Physically, Alexander was not prepossessing. Even by Macedonian standards he was very short, though stocky and tough. His beard was scanty, and he stood out against his hirsute Macedonian barons by going clean-shaven. His neck was in some way twisted, so that he appeared to be gazing upward at an angle. His eyes (one blue, one brown) revealed a dewy, feminine quality. He had a high complexion and a harsh voice".
Many descriptions and statues portray Alexander with the aforementioned gaze looking upward and outward. Both his father Philip II and his brother Philip Arrhidaeus also suffered from physical deformities, which had led to the suggestion that Alexander suffered from a congenital scoliotic disorder (familial neck and spinal deformity). Furthermore, as noted above, it has been suggested that this may have contributed to his death.
Alexander's personality is well described by the ancient sources. Some of his strongest personality traits seem to have formed in response to his parents. His mother had huge ambitions for Alexander, and encouraged him to believe it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire. Indeed, Olympias may have gone to the extent of poisoning Philip Arrhidaeus so as to disable him, and prevent him being a rival for Alexander. Olympias's influence does seem to have instilled huge ambition and a sense of destiny in Alexander, and Plutarch tells us that his ambition "kept his spirit serious and lofty in advance of his years" Alexander's relationship with his father seems to have generated the competitive side of his personality; he seemed to have a need to out-do his father, as his reckless nature in battle suggests. While Alexander worried that his father would leave him "no great or brilliant achievement to be displayed to the world", he still attempted to downplay his father's achievements to his companions.
One of Alexander's most evident personality traits seems to have been his violent temper and rash, impulsive nature, which undoubtedly contributed to some of his decisions during his life. Plutarch thought that this part of his personality was the cause of his weakness for alcohol. Although Alexander was stubborn, and did not respond well to orders from his father, he seems to have been easier to persuade by reasoned debate. Indeed, set beside his fiery temperament, there was a calmer side to Alexander; 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 his tutelage by Aristotle; Alexander seems to have been intelligent and quick to learn. The tale of his "solving" the Gordian knot neatly demonstrates this. We are told that he had great self-restraint in "pleasures of the body", contrasting with his lack of self control with alcohol. The intelligent and rational side to Alexander is also amply demonstrated by his ability and success as a general.
Alexander was undoubtedly erudite, and was a patron to both the arts and sciences. However, he appears to have had little interest in sports, or the Olympic games (unlike his father), seeking only the Homeric ideals of glory and fame. He had great charisma and force of personality, characteristics which made him a great leader of men. This is further emphasised by the inability of any of his generals to unite the Macedonians, and retain the Empire after his death—only Alexander had had the personality 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. His delusions of grandeur are readily visible in the testament that he ordered Craterus to fulfil, and in his desire to conquer all non-Greek peoples.
He seems to have come to believe himself a deity, or at least sought to deify himself. Olympias has always insisted to him that he was the son of Zeus, a theory apparently confirmed to him by the oracle of Ammon at Siwa. He began to identify himself as the son of Zeus-Ammon. Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis, and a practice of which the Macedonians disapproved, and were loathe to perform. Such behaviour cost him much in the sympathies of many of his countrymen.
Alexander's sexuality has been the subject of much controversy since W. W. Tarn, one of his biographers, felt compelled to specifically deny that Alexander was homosexual. Nowhere in the ancient sources is it stated that Alexander had homosexual relationships. 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 (an. Gr. for "beloved")" in ancient Greek does not necessarily bear sexual meaning, Alexander may indeed have been bisexual, an orientation, which in antiquity did not bear any ethical controversies as can often be the case today. What is certain is that Alexander married twice, Roxana, daughter of a Bactrian nobleman, Oxyartes, out of love; and Stateira, a Persian princess and daughter of Darius III of Persia out of political interest. He apparently had two sons, Alexander IV of Macedon of Roxana and Heracles of Macedon from his mistress Barsine and lost another child when Roxana miscarried at Babylon.
When Alexander's sexuality is discussed, it is usually in the context of bisexuality. Green argues that there is little evidence in the ancient sources Alexander had much interest in women, particularly since he did not produce an heir until the very end of his life. However, it is equally true that he was relatively young when he died, and Ogden suggests that Alexander's matrimonial record is highly even more impressive than his father's, at the same age. Apart from wives, Alexander had many more female companions. We are told that Alexander had accumulated a harem in the style of Persian kings but he used it rather sparingly; showing great self-control in "pleasures of the body". It is possible that Alexander was simply not a highly-sexed person. Nevertheless, Plutarch describes how Alexander was infatuated by Roxanne while complimenting him on not forcing himself on her. Green suggests that, in the context of the period, Alexander does seem to have formed quite strong friendships with women, including Ada of Caria, who adopted Alexander, and even Darius's mother Sisygambis, who supposedly died from grief when Alexander died.
Undoubtedly, the greatest emotional relationship of Alexander's life was with his friend, general and bodyguard Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander, sending him into a six month period of grieving. This event may have contributed to Alexander's failing health, and detached mental state during his final months. That Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion was sexual is nowhere stated by the ancient sources. If it indeed was, then this was not at all unusual in Greek culture. Another hint at Alexander's possible homosexual activity or his refusal to engage in such, is presented by Arrian, who has Alexander offered to be sent a male youth of exquisite beauty and form as a slave. Alexander angrily refused to receive such a gift but the offer and refusal are evidence of the varying ancient Greek views on homosexuality.
Alexander's most obvious legacy was the introduction of Macedonian rule to huge new swathes of Asia. Many of these areas would remain in Macedonian hands, or under Greek influence for the next 200–300 years. The successor states that emerged were, at least initially, dominant forces during this epoch, and these 300 years are often referred to as the Hellenistic Period.
The eastern borders of Alexander's empire began to collapse even during his lifetime. However, the power-vacuum he left in the north-west of the Indian subcontinent directly gave rise to one of the most powerful Indian dynasties in history. Taking advantage of the neglect shown to this region by the succesors, Chandragupta Maurya (referred to in European sources as Sandrokotto), of relatively humble origin, took control of the Punjab, and then with that power-base proceeded to conquer the Nanda Empire of northern India. In 305 BC, Seleucus, one of the successors, marched to India to reclaim the territory; instead, he ceded the area to Chandragupta in return for 500 war elephants. These in turn played a pivotal role in the Battle of Ipsus, the result of which did much to settle the division of the Empire.
Hellenization is a term coined by the German historian Johann Gustav Droysen to denote the spread of Greek language, culture and population into the former Persian empire after Alexander's conquest. That this export took place is undoubted, and can be seen in the great Hellenistic cities of, for instance, Alexandria and Antioch. However, exactly how widespread and deeply permeating this was, and to what extent it was a deliberate policy, is debatable. Alexander certainly made deliberate efforts to insert Greek elements into Persian culture and in some instances he attempted to hybridize Greek and Persian culture, culminating in his aspiration to homogenise the populations of Asia and Europe. However, the successors explicitly rejected such policies after his death. Nevertheless, Hellenization occurred throughout the region, and moreover, was accompanied by a distinct and opposite 'Orientalization' of the Successor states.
The core of Hellenistic culture was essentially Athenian by origin. The Athenian koine dialect had been adopted long before Philip II for official use and was thus spread throughout the Hellenistic world, becoming the lingua franca through Alexander's conquests. Furthermore town planning, education, local government, and art current in the Hellenistic period were all based on Classical Greek ideals, evolving though into distinct new forms commonly grouped as Hellenistic.
Some of the most unusual effects of Hellenization can be seen in India, in the region of the relatively late-arising Indo-Greek kingdoms. There, isolated from Europe, Greek culture apparently hybridised with Indian, and especially Buddhist influences. The first realistic portrayals of the Buddha appeared at this time; they are modelled on Greek statues of Apollo. Several Buddhist traditions may have been influenced by the ancient Greek religion; the concept of Boddhisatvasis reminiscent of Greek divine heroes, and some Mahayana ceremonial practices (burning incense, gifts of flowers and food placed on altars) are similar to those practiced by the ancient Greeks. Zen Buddhism draws in part on the ideas of Greek stoics, such as Zeno. One Greek king, Menander probably became Buddhist, and is immortalized in Buddhist literature as 'Milinda'.
Influence on Rome
Alexander and his exploits were admired by many Romans who wanted to associate themselves with his achievements. Polybius started his Histories by reminding Romans of his role, and thereafter subsequent Roman leaders saw him as his inspirational role model. Julius Caesar reportedly wept in Spain at the sight of Alexander's statue, because he thought he had achieved so little by the same age that Alexander had conquered the world. Pompey the Great searched the conquered lands of the east for Alexander's 260-year-old cloak, which he then wore as a sign of greatness. In his zeal to honor Alexander, Augustus accidentally broke the nose off the Macedonian's mummified corpse while laying a wreath at the Alexander's tomb Alexandria. The Macriani, a Roman family who, 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.
In the summer of 1995, a statue of Alexander was recovered in an excavation of a Roman house in Alexandria, which was richly decorated with mosaic and marble pavements and probably was constructed in the 1st century AD and occupied until the 3rd century.
There are many legendary accounts surrounding the life Alexander the Great, with a relatively large number deriving from his own lifetime, probably encouraged by Alexander himself. His court historian Callisthenes portrayed the sea in Cilicia as drawing back from him in proskynesis. Writing shortly after Alexander's death, another participant, Onesicritus, went so far as to invent a tryst between Alexander and Thalestris, queen of the mythical Amazons. When Onesicritus read this passage to his patron, Alexander's general and later King Lysimachus reportedly quipped, "I wonder where I was at the time."
In the first centuries after Alexander's death, probably in Alexandria, a quantity of the more legendary material coalesced into a text known as the Alexander Romance, later falsely ascribed to the historian Callisthenes and therefore known as Pseudo-Callisthenes. This text underwent numerous expansions and revisions throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages, exhibiting a plasticity unseen in "higher" literary forms.
In ancient and modern culture
Alexander the Great's accomplishments and legacy have been preserved and depicted in many ways. Alexander has figured in works of both "high" and popular culture from his own era to the modern day.
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- Keay, John (2001). India: A History. Grove Press. ISBN 0802137970.
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|40x40px||Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Alexander III.|
- Plutarch, Of the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Great Template:En icon
- Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus Template:En icon
- Alexander the Great: An annotated list of primary sources from Livius.org
- Wiki Classical Dictionary, extant sources and fragmentary and lost sources
- McColl, L. Alexander's Macedonian Army, Clio History Journal, 2007.
- A Bibliography of Alexander the Great by Waldemar Heckel
- Pothos.org: Alexander's Home on the Web
- Alexander III the Great, entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
- Alexander the Great on the Web, a comprehensive directory of some 1,000 sites
- Alexander The Great in the French museum Le Louvre
- Alexander, The Great Mystery by T. Peter Limber in "Saudi Aramco Magazine"
- Trace Alexander's conquests on an animated map
- Alexander the Great of Macedon, a project by John J. Popovic
- Alexander in the Punjab. A Photo Essay, photos of all sites Alexander visited
- Alexander the Great Coins, a site depicting Alexander's coins and later coins featuring Alexander's image
|width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Philip II |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|King of Macedon
336–323 BC |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="4"| Succeeded by
Philip III & Alexander IV |- |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Preceded by
Darius III |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Great King (Shah) of Persia
330–323 BC |- |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Pharaoh of Egypt
332–323 BC |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
New Title |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|King of Asia
331–323 BC |}
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