Alexander the Great: Empire & Death

Alexander the Great was born in the Pella region of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia on July 20, 356 B.C., to parents King Philip II of Macedon and Queen Olympia, daughter of King Neoptolemus. Growing up, the dark-eyed and curly-headed Alexander hardly ever saw his father, who spent most of his time engaged in military campaigns and extra-marital affairs. Although Olympia served as a powerful role model for the boy, Alexander grew to resent his father’s absence and philandering.

The result was that Porus’s cavalry, foot soldiers and elephants eventually became jumbled together. Making matters worse for Porus, Alexander’s soldiers attacked the elephants with javelins, and the wounded elephants went on a rampage, stomping on both Alexander and Porus’s troops. Darius was later betrayed by one of his satraps, or regional governors, named Bessus (who then claimed kingship over what was left of Persia), and was killed by his own troops in 330 B.C..

  • As Alexander was nearing the end of his northern campaign, he was delivered the news that Thebes, a Greek city-state, had forced out the Macedonian troops that were garrisoned there.
  • “One courtier after another incited Darius, declaring that he would trample down the Macedonian army with his cavalry,” Arrian wrote.
  • At some point during Alexander’s campaign in central Asia, Parmenio’s son, Philotas, allegedly failed to report a plot against Alexander’s life.
  • He also agreed to give Alexander all the supplies he needed — which was very useful given Alexander’s long supply lines.

At first this went well, and Darius’s soldiers got in the rear of Alexander’s force. However, Darius’s army had been led to a narrow spot where the Persians could not use their superior numbers effectively, and at that point Alexander moved his force against the Persians. Alexander’s experienced army proved too strong for the Persian force, and eventually Darius fled, along with his army. In 325, after Alexander had recovered, he and his army headed north along the rugged Persian Gulf, where many fell prey to illness, injury and death. Desperate to retain his leadership and recruit more soldiers, he tried to connect Persian nobles to Macedonians in order to create a ruling class.

Significantly, however, it was Philip, and not Athens, who made the first overtures for peace, though all the military initiatives lay in his own hand. His plans for the future, in Greece and farther afield, included Athens as a willing ally, not as a defeated enemy. Macedonia, ancient kingdom centred on the plain in the northeastern corner of the Greek peninsula, at the head of the Gulf of Thérmai.

king of macedonia

His rapid military campaigns over the next year or so cemented his domination of Southern Greece and his borders on the Balkans. None of this necessarily indicates any involvement or foreknowledge of Philip’s murder. Once Philip was dead, these were necessary precautions, since any other course of action would likely have resulted in Alexander’s own murder. Many of the cities that Alexander founded were named Alexandria, including the Egyptian city that is now home to more than 4.5 million people.

Unlike earlier Greek comedies, which parodied public figures and events, New Comedy focused on the fictional trials of average citizens. The period after Alexander’s death, known as the Hellenistic Period, was one of extravagance and wealth throughout much of the Greek world. Places of entertainment and leisure, such as parks and theaters, proliferated. Phillip II introduced a new kind of infantry known as the Macedonian phalanx, in which each soldier carried a long spear (called a sarissa) that was approximately 13 to 20 feet long. The tight formation of the Macedonian phalanx formed a wall of spears, which was considered nearly impenetrable.

“Almost certainly he had himself crowned pharaoh in the old Egyptian capital of Memphis, thereby not only ingratiating himself with the Egyptian masses but also enfolding the old and still powerful Egyptian priesthood in the embrace of his new Egyptian monarchy,” Cartledge wrote. And conquered a huge empire that stretched from the Balkans to modern-day Pakistan. Finding himself impressed by Porus, Alexander reinstated him as king and won his loyalty and forgiveness. Alexander forged eastward to the Ganges but headed back when his armies refused to advance any farther.

After that victory, he was sent by Alexander in pursuit of Porus, to whom he was charged to offer favourable terms, but narrowly escaped losing his life at the hands of his old enemy. Subsequently, however, the two rivals were reconciled by the personal mediation of Alexander; and Taxiles, after having contributed zealously to the equipment of the fleet on the Hydaspes, was entrusted by the king with the government of the whole territory between that river and the Indus. A considerable accession of power was granted him after the death of Philip, son of Machatas; and he was allowed to retain his authority at the death of Alexander himself (323 BC), as well as in the subsequent partition of the provinces at Triparadisus, 321 BC. Polygamous like all Macedonian kings, Philip was notorious for his numerous affairs with women and young men. Yet soon Philip’s eye wandered, and he replaced Pausanias with another youth. Resentful, Pausanias mocked the new lover, accusing him of being effeminate and an easy conquest.

The new lover, stung by the jokes, tried to prove his manhood in battle by fighting recklessly and was killed. The assassin struck in the theater at Aegae (modern Vergina), watched by a crowd who had travelled from all over Macedonia and Greece to show support for the king. As Philip made his entrance—limping from an old wound, but still active in his 47th year—one of his bodyguards, a young man named Pausanias, ran toward him. Producing a concealed dagger from beneath his cloak, he stabbed Philip between the ribs and fled. The king died within moments, followed quickly by his assassin—as Pausanias sprinted towards the waiting horses, he tripped on a vine root and was swiftly dispatched by his fellow bodyguards. Alexander got married to two other women, in addition to Roxana, whom he had married in central Asia.

Leonidas, who had been hired by King Phillip to teach Alexander math, horsemanship and archery, struggled to control his rebellious student. Alexander’s next tutor was Lysimachus, who used role-playing to capture the restless boy’s attention. The general peace was a political innovation of the Greeks themselves, used several times in the past 50 years in attempts to stabilize affairs while promoting this or that hegemony.

Share Now:

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x