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Alexander the Great: Shaping a World

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Alexander The Great was born in Macedonia in the year 356 B.C., several hundred years before Christ and even before the rise of Rome. Despite this fact he is still a topic of discussion and study more than two millennium later for a plethora of reasons. His insight and ability on the field of battle has made him a shining example of how to conduct the art of war. He has been studied for centuries by both military journals and colleges. He has also kept the scholars of this world as busy as well. His choices to build cities and centers for learning and the preservation of knowledge such as the library at Alexandria have been able to provide work for generations of archaeologists and other scholars. His image over the years has been one that is almost impossible to describe. He has been cast as tyrant, alcoholic, and Christ figure.

It is impossible to explore the later facets of Alexander's life without at least glimpsing the years of his childhood and early adulthood. Born to Phillip II of Macedonia and Olympias, Alexander was heir to the throne of Macedonia. Probably the most important influence in his young life was the tutoring he received from Aristotle and Leonidas starting around the age of thirteen. By Aristotle Alexander was imbued with an incredible background in science, literature, and rhetoric all of which would serve him well in the future. Though they did not always have like minds on subjects of policy it is clear that Alexander always kept his teachers musings in mind. Unfortunately his final reward for his teacher was the execution of Aristotle's nephew Callisthenes many years later. Leonidas, was hired by Philip II to train and discipline Alexander's body. He sent Alexander on frequent all night marches and rationed his food. Alexander's schooling with his two teachers continued until he was 16 years old.

Alexander's father Phillip, growing quite tired of his wife Olympias' antics, chose to marry another woman. The woman he chose was Cleopatra, the niece of one of his commanders Attalus. During the wedding feast Attalus is said to have remarked that perhaps now Phillip would produce a legitimate heir to the throne. The strong spirited Alexander leapt to his feet demanding to know the meaning of this insult. Phillip, Alexander's own father, stood with his sword drawn, prepared to defend his new father-in-law's honor and immediately tripped to the ground. Alexander uttered his own famous taunt then: "The man who prepared to leave Europe for Asia could not cross from one chair to the next" (Snyder, P.31). Deeply troubled, and no doubt in a great deal of danger, he fled with his mother to her homeland in Epirus. It was this turmoil filled childhood that has made some observers suggest that he may have suffered from possible Oedipus complex (Thomas, P. 860).

By 336 Alexander and his father had publicly reconciled their differences. Alexander stood with his father once again. Philip II was assassinated at his daughter's wedding feast. The assassin was an aggrieved Macedonian nobleman. Pausanias assassinated Alexander's father in the doorway to a theater. The official verdict on Philip's assassination claimed the assassin had been bribed by Darius, the king of the Persian Empire. However, many suspected Alexander and his mother because they had recently fallen from royal favor. No one knows quite why Phillip was murdered, but it was finally declared that Alexander had taken no part in the deed. Pausanias was cut down immediately and legends say his body was crucified although there is no definitive evidence one way or another. At this time Alexander took possession of his father's throne. At first he was faced with rebellions on every side. He then began to surround himself with loyal friends and completely overhauled the upper echelons of power in Macedonia.

Before the end of the summer of 336 BC he had reestablished his position in Greece and was elected by a congress of states at Corinth. In 335 BC as general of the Greeks in a campaign against the Persians, originally planned by his father, he carried out a successful campaign against the defecting Thracians, penetrating to the Danube River. On his return he crushed in a single week the threatening Illyrians and then hastened to Thebes, which had revolted. He took the city by storm and razed it, sparing only the temples of the gods and the house of the Greek lyric poet Pindar, and selling the surviving inhabitants, about 8000 in number, into slavery. Alexander's promptness in crushing the revolt of Thebes brought the other Greek states into instant and abject submission. He was much more merciful to the Athenians who, though they had incited the unrest, were very quick kowtow to his power afterwards. Despite this, several of the states, such as Athens and Sparta, were to cause him headaches for much of his time as ruler.

At this point in his rule Alexander turned his eye to Asia and the lands of the east. Asia at this time referred almost entirely to the lands of the Persian Empire. At this time the ruler of these lands was Darius, called the Great King. Alexander's victories and triumphs in these campaigns against Darius and his armies would be far to numerous to list, but it is fact that his armies swept across the "spear won" lands of Persia. Alexander's military innovation and insight as well as his tenacity and drive are legendary. Tacticians have long studied his strategies and have reshaped them for use in modern warfare. He was always creative and inventive and was never afraid to use those traits in the field.

His problems with Darius, The Great king of Persia, would continue to plague him despite beating Darius' army on several occasions. By the end of 331 Alexander stood on Egyptian soil and was heartily welcomed by the inhabitants there.

In his travels Alexander certainly destroyed his share of cities and communities of all sorts. Perhaps this fact could diminish his building of cities, but it does not. In each case, the cities that Alexander and his followers built were vast improvements with innovations and ideas unique to the local climate, geography, and culture. However, his concept, and arguing point with Aristotle, of fusion of ethnicities never took hold. He found there was some mixing of ethnic sentiments, but his proposition of a blending was, sadly, never to be.

Upon arrival in Egypt, Alexander set about the creation of one of the greatest cultural and learning centers of the Mediterranean: Alexandria (Popovic, p.13). While there he sought out the oracle of Amon-Ra. He was pronounced the son of that great god and was made a pharaoh by the people of Egypt before he left.

Darius was to again feud with Alexander, Prompting him to leave Egypt in the summer of 331. This was the beginning of what would be the end



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