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Alexander The Great

Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III, king of Macedon, was one of the most successful military commanders in history. The name 'Alexander' derives from the Greek words "alexo" (a????, refuge, defense, protection) and "aner" (a???, man). Before his death, he conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks.

Alexander is also known in the Zoroastrian
Middle Persian work Arda Wiraz Namag as "the accursed Alexander" due to his conquest of the Persian Empire and the destruction of its capital Persepolis. He is known as Eskandar-e Maqduni (Alexander of Macedonia) in Persian, Al-Iskander Al-Makadoni (Alexander of Macedonia) in Arabic, Alexander Mokdon in Hebrew, and Tre-Qarnayia in Aramaic (the two-horned one, apparently due to an image on coins minted during his rule that seemingly depicted him with the two ram's horns of the Egyptian god Ammon), al-Iskandar al-Akbar ???????? ?????? in Arabic, Sikandar-e-azam in Urdu, Skandar in Pashto. Sikandar, his name in Urdu and Hindi, is also a term used as a synonym for "expert" or "extremely skilled".

Following the unification of the multiple city-states of ancient Greece under the rule of his father, Philip II of Macedon (a labour Alexander had to repeat twice because the southern Greeks rebelled after Philip's death), Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, including Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Bactria and Mesopotamia and extended the boundaries of his own empire as far as the Punjab.

Before his death, Alexander had already made plans to also turn west and conquer Europe. He also wanted to continue his march eastwards in order to find the end of the world, since his boyhood tutor Aristotle told him tales about where the land ends and the Great Outer Sea begins. Alexander integrated foreigners into his army, leading some scholars to credit him with a "policy of fusion." He encouraged marriage between his army and foreigners, and practiced it himself. After twelve years of constant military campaigning, Alexander died, possibly of malaria, West Nile virus, typhoid, viral encephalitis, or the consequences of heavy drinking.

His conquests ushered in centuries of Greek settlement and cultural influence over distant areas, a period known as the Hellenistic Age, a combination of Greek and Middle Eastern culture. Alexander himself lived on in the history and myth of both Greek and non-Greek cultures. After his death (and even during his life) his exploits inspired a literary tradition in which he appears as a legendary hero in the tradition of Achilles.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
20 Mar 2007

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The Early Life of Alexander The Great

Born in Pella, Macedonia (modern day Greece), Alexander was the son of King Philip II of Macedon
and of his fourth wife Olympias, an Epirote princess. According to Plutarch (Alexander 3.1,3), Olympias was impregnated not by Philip, who was afraid of her and her affinity for sleeping in the company of snakes, but by Zeus Ammon. Plutarch relates that both Philip and Olympias dreamt of their son's future birth. Olympias dreamed of a loud burst of thunder and of lightning striking her womb, followed by a fire which traveled from it, and was not quenched until half-way across the room. In Philip's dream, he sealed her womb with the seal of the lion. Alarmed by this, he consulted the seer Aristander of Telmessus, who determined that his wife was pregnant and that the child would have the character of a lion. Another odd coincidence is that the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was set on fire the same night of his birth. Plutarch claimed the gods were too busy watching over Alexander to care for the temple.

World view at the time of Alexander: reconstruction of Hecataeus' ancient world map, 5th century BC.
Aristotle was Alexander's tutor and he gave Alexander a thorough training in rhetoric and literature and stimulated his interest in science, medicine, and philosophy. After his visit to the Oracle of Ammon at Siwa, according to five historians of antiquity (Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, Justin, and Plutarch), rumors spread that the Oracle had revealed Alexander's father to be Zeus, rather than Philip. According to Plutarch, his father descended from Heracles through Caranus and his mother descended from Aeacus through Neoptolemus and Achilles. Aristotle gave him a copy of the Iliad which he always kept with him and read frequently. Alexander also had another tutor named Leonidas, who thought Alexander narcissistic, and silly, and who was equally disliked by Alexander. Apparently, when Alexander threw in a large amount of sacrificial insence to the gods, Leonidas harshly reprimanded him, telling him that when he had conquered the spice bearing regions, he could waste as much as he wanted. Years later, when Alexander had conquered Gaza, a city directly on the Persian spice trade route, he sent back over 15 tons of Myrrh to Leonidas as a sort of ultimate comeback.

One time a Thessalian brought a black horse to sell it to Philip, but the horse was wild and no man could mount him. The young Alexander went to the horse, and turned him towards the sun for he had noticed that the horse was just afraid of his own shadow, then he was able to mount it and run it. His father and other people who saw this were very impressed, and when the young Alexander returned and dismounted the horse Philip kissed him with tears of joy and said "My son, seek thee out a kingdom equal to thyself; Macedonia has not room for thee." This line probably had as much paranoid fear in it as pride. Philip II knew perfectly well what happened to Macedonian kings with ambitious sons. The horse was named Bucephalus (which means "ox-head"). Bucephalus would be his companion and one of his best friends for the next two decades until the horse died (according to Plutarch due to old age, for he was already 30), other sources claimed that Bucephalus died of wounds sustained in a battle in India. Alexander then named a city after him called Bucephalia or Bucephala.

Ascent of Macedon
Sardonyx cameo representing Alexander the Great. Thought to be by Pyrgoteles, engraver of Alexander, around 325 BC. Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.

When Philip led an attack on Byzantium in 340 BC, Alexander, aged 16, was left as regent of Macedonia. In 339 BC, Philip took a fifth wife, the Macedonian Cleopatra. As Alexander's mother, Olympias, was from Epirus (a land in the western part of the Greek peninsula and not part of Macedon), and Cleopatra was a true Macedonian, this led to a dispute over Alexander's legitimacy as heir to the throne. Attalus, the uncle of the bride, supposedly gave a toast during the wedding feast giving his wish for the wedding to result in a legitimate heir to the throne of Macedon; Alexander hurled his goblet at Attalus shouting "What am I, a bastard then?" Alexander's father apparently had drawn his sword and moved towards Alexander, but then had fallen in a drunken stupor. Alexander remarked "Here is the man planning on conquering from Greece to Asia, and he cannot even move from one table to another." Alexander, his mother, and sister (also named Cleopatra) then left Macedon in anger.

Eventually Philip reconciled with his son, and Alexander returned home; Olympias and Alexander's sister remained in Epirus. In 338 BC Alexander assisted his father at the decisive Battle of Chaeronea against the city-states of Athens and Thebes, in which the cavalry wing led by Alexander annihilated the Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite corps regarded as invincible. After the battle, Phillip led a wild celebration, from which Alexander was notably absent (it is believed he was treating the wounded and burying the dead, both of his own troops and of the enemy). It is speculated that Alexander personally treated Demades, a notable orator of Athens, who had opposed Athenian alignment against Philip. The assembled Athenian army voted on a peace plan drawn up and presented by Demades. Philip was content to deprive Thebes of its dominion over Boeotia and leave a Macedonian garrison in the citadel. A few months later, to strengthen Macedon's control over the Greek city-states, the League of Corinth
was formed.

In 336 BC Philip was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra of Macedonia to King
Alexander of Epirus. The assassin was supposedly a former lover of the king, the disgruntled young nobleman Pausanias of Orestis, who held a grudge against Philip because the king had ignored a complaint he had expressed. Philip's murder was once thought to have been planned with the knowledge and involvement of Alexander or Olympias. Another possible instigator could have been Darius III, the recently crowned King of Persia. After Philip's death, the army proclaimed Alexander, then aged 20, as the new king of Macedon. Greek cities like Athens and Thebes, which had been forced to pledge allegiance to Philip, saw in the new king an opportunity to retake their full independence. Alexander moved swiftly and Thebes, which had been most active against him, submitted when he appeared at its gates. The assembled Greeks at the Isthmus of Corinth, with the exception of the Spartans, elected him to the command against Persia, which had previously been bestowed upon his father.

The next year, (335 BC), Alexander felt free to engage the Thracians and the Illyrians in order to secure the Danube as the northern boundary of the Macedonian kingdom. While he was triumphantly campaigning north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander reacted immediately and while the other cities once again hesitated, Thebes decided this time to resist with the utmost vigor. The resistance was useless; in the end, the city was conquered with great bloodshed. The Thebans encountered an even harsher fate when their city was razed to the ground and its territory divided between the other Boeotian cities. Moreover, all of the city's citizens were sold into slavery; Alexander spared only the priests, the leaders of the pro-Macedonian party, and the descendants of Pindar, whose house was the only one left standing. The end of Thebes cowed Athens into submission, but According to Plutarch, a special Athenian embassy led by Phocion, an opponent of the anti-Macedonian faction, was able to persuade Alexander to give up his demand for the exile of leaders of the anti-Macedonian party, particularly Demosthenes.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
21 Mar 2007

Alexander's Conquests

Fall of the Persian Empire
Alexander's army had crossed the Hellespont with about 42,000 Macedonians and Greeks, more southern city-states of Greece, but also including some Thracians, Paionians and Illyrians. After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of 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 was ruler of Caria before being deposed by her brother Pixodarus. From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities and denying them to his enemy. From Pamphylia onward, the coast held no major ports and so Alexander moved inland. At Termessus , Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city. At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the tangled 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. Another version claims that he did not use the sword, but actually figured out how to undo the knot.

Alexander's army crossed the Cilician Gates, met and defeated the main Persian army under the command of Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC . Darius was forced to leave the battle and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and much of his personal treasure. Later afterwards he offered a peace treaty to Alexander of 10,000 talents of ransom for his family, and a great deal of territory. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Persia, it was he alone who decided who got what territory. Proceeding down the Mediterranean coast, he took Tyre and Gaza after famous sieges (see Siege of Tyre). Alexander passed through Judea near Jerusalem but probably did not visit the city.

In 332 BC–331 BC, Alexander was welcomed as a liberator in Egypt and was pronounced the son of Zeus by Egyptian priests of the god Ammon at the Oracle of the god at the Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. Henceforth, Alexander referred to the god Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and subsequent currency featuring his head with ram horns was proof of this widespread belief. He founded Alexandria  in Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty  after his death. Leaving Egypt, Alexander marched eastward into Assyria  (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius and a third Persian army at the Battle of Gaugamela. Darius was forced to leave the field after his charioteer was killed, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. While Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan), Alexander marched to Babylon .

From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its treasury. Sending the bulk of his army to Persepolis, the Persian capital, by the Royal Road, Alexander stormed and captured the Persian Gates  (in the modern Zagros Mountains), then sprinted for Persepolis before its treasury could be looted. After several months Alexander allowed the troops to loot Persepolis. A fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes and spread to the rest of the city. It was not known if it was a drunken accident or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Athenian Acropolis during the Second Persian War. The Book of Arda Wiraz, a Zoroastrian work composed in the 3rd or 4th century AD, also speaks of archives containing "all the Avesta and Zand, written upon prepared cow-skins, and with gold ink" that were destroyed; but it must be said that this statement is often treated by scholars with a certain measure of skepticism, because it is generally thought that for many centuries the Avesta was transmitted mainly orally by the Magians.

He then set off in pursuit of Darius, who was kidnapped, and then murdered by followers of Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. Bessus then declared himself Darius' successor as Artaxerxes V and retreated into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. With the death of Darius, Alexander declared the war of vengeance over, and released his Greek and other allies from service in the League campaign (although he allowed those that wished to re-enlist as mercenaries in his imperial army).

His three-year campaign against first Bessus and then the satrap of Sogdiana, Spitamenes , took him through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia. In the process, he captured and refounded Herat and Maracanda. Moreover, he founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Alexandria Eschate ("The Furthest") in modern Tajikistan. In the end, both of his opponents were betrayed by their men, Bessus in 329 BC and Spitamenes the year after.

Hostility toward Alexander
During this time, Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis , a symbolic kissing of the hand that Persians paid to their social superiors, but a practice of which the Greeks disapproved. The Greeks regarded the gesture as the preserve 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 treason for failing to bring the plot to his attention. Parmenion, Philotas' father, who had been charged with guarding the treasury at Ecbatana, was assassinated by command of Alexander, who feared that Parmenion might attempt to avenge his son. Several other trials for treason followed, and many Macedonians were executed. Later on, in a drunken quarrel at Maracanda, he also killed the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Clitus the Black. Later in the Central Asian campaign, a second plot against his life, this one by his own pages, was revealed, and 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 on what many historians regard as trumped-up charges. There is evidence to show that Callisthenes, the teacher of the pages, was likely the one who persuaded them to assassinate the king.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
21 Mar 2007