Alexander the Great

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great or Alexander III, 356–323 BC, king of Macedon, conqueror of much of Asia.

Youth and Kingship

The son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, he had Aristotle as his tutor and was given a classical education. Alexander had no part in the murder of his father, although he may have resented him because he neglected Olympias for another wife. He succeeded to the throne in 336 BC and immediately showed his talent for leadership by quieting the restive cities of Greece, then putting down uprisings in Thrace and Illyria. Thebes revolted on a false rumor that Alexander was dead. The young king rushed south and sacked the city, sparing only the temples and Pindar's house.

Conquests

Greece and the Balkan Peninsula secured, Alexander then crossed (334) the Hellespont (now the Dardanelles) and, as head of an allied Greek army, undertook the war on Persia that his father had been planning. The march he had begun was to be one of the greatest in history. At the Granicus River (near the Hellespont) he met and defeated a Persian force and moved on to take Miletus and Halicarnassus. For the first time Persia faced a united Greece, and Alexander saw himself as the spreader of Panhellenic ideals. Having taken most of Asia Minor, he entered (333) N Syria and there in the battle of Issus met and routed the hosts of Darius III of Persia, who fled before him.

Alexander, triumphant, now envisioned conquest of the whole of the Persian Empire. It took him nearly a year to reduce Tyre and Gaza, and in 332, in full command of Syria, he entered Egypt. There he met no resistance. When he went to the oasis of Amon he was acknowledged as the son of Amon-Ra, and this may have contributed to a conviction of his own divinity. In the winter he founded Alexandria, perhaps the greatest monument to his name, and in the spring of 331 he returned to Syria, then went to Mesopotamia where he met Darius again in the battle of Guagamela. The battle was hard, but Alexander was victorious. He marched S to Babylon, then went to Susa and on to Persepolis, where he burned the palaces of the Persians and looted the city.

He was now the visible ruler of the Persian Empire, pursuing the fugitive Darius to Ecbatana, which submitted in 330, and on to Bactria. There the satrap Bessus, a cousin of Darius, had the Persian king murdered and declared himself king. Alexander went on through Bactria and captured and executed Bessus. He was now in the regions beyond the Oxus River (the present-day Amu Darya), and his men were beginning to show dissatisfaction. In 330 a conspiracy against Alexander was said to implicate the son of one of his generals, Parmenion; Alexander not only executed the son but also put the innocent Parmenion to death. This act and other instances of his harshness further alienated the soldiers, who disliked Alexander's assuming Persian dress and the manner of a despot.

Nevertheless Alexander conquered all of Bactria and Sogdiana after hard fighting and then went on from what is today Afghanistan into N India. Some of the princes there received him favorably, but at the Hydaspes (the present-day Jhelum River) he met and defeated an army under Porus. He overran the Punjab, but there his men would go no farther. He had built a fleet, and after going down the Indus to its delta, he sent Nearchus with the fleet to take it across the unknown route to the head of the Persian Gulf, a daring undertaking. He himself led his men through the desert regions of modern Baluchistan, S Afghanistan, and S Iran. The march, accomplished with great suffering, finally ended at Susa in 324.

Discord and Death

At Susa Alexander found that many of the officials he had chosen to govern the conquered lands had indulged in corruption and misrule. Meanwhile certain antagonisms had developed against Alexander; in Greece, for instance, many decried his execution of Aristotle's nephew, the historian Callisthenes, and his other acts of seemingly senseless murder; and the Greek cities resented his request that they treat him as a god. Alexander's Macedonian officers balked at his attempt to force them to intermarry with the Persians (he had himself married Roxana, a Bactrian princess, as one of his several wives), and they resisted his Eastern ways and his vision of an empire governed by tolerance. He was also distrusted for his extremely heavy consumption of alcohol. There was a mutiny, but it was put down. In 323, Alexander was planning a voyage by sea around Arabia when he caught a fever and died at age 32. After his death his generals fell to quarreling about dividing the rule (see Diadochi). His only son was Alexander Aegus, born to Roxana after Alexander's death and destined for a short and pitiful life.

Legacy

Whether or not Alexander had plans for a world empire cannot be determined. He had accomplished greater conquests than any before him, but he did not have time to mold the government of the lands he had taken. Incontestably, he was one of the greatest generals of all time and one of the most powerful personalities of antiquity. He influenced the spread of Hellenism throughout the Middle East and into Asia, establishing city-states modeled on Greek institutions that flourished long after his death. There are many legends about him, e.g., his feats on his horse Bucephalus and his cutting of the Gordian knot. The famous Greek sculptor Lysippus did several studies of Alexander.

Bibliography

Arrian and Plutarch wrote biographies of him in ancient times, and the literature of the Middle Ages romanticized his life. See also modern biographies by C. B. Welles (1970), R. L. Fox (1974), N. G. L. Hammond (1981), A. B. Bosworth (1989), and P. Freeman (2011); studies by D. W. Engels (1978), A. B. Bosworth and E. J. Baynham, ed. (2002), and P. Briant (rev. ed. tr. 2010); E. Badian, Collected Papers on Alexander the Great (2012).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Alexander the Great
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.