Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome

By Victor Davis Hanson | Go to book overview

5.
Alexander the Great, Nation Building, and the
Creation and Maintenance of Empire

IAN WORTHINGTON

ALEXANDER THE GREAT (356–23 BC) fought strategically brilliant battles and laid sieges against numerically superior foes to establish one of the greatest geographic empires of antiquity, from Greece in the west to what the Greeks called India (modern Pakistan) in the east. When he died he was ready to undertake an invasion of Arabia, and plausibly after that he would have moved against Carthage. He created his empire in a little over a decade, invading Asia in 334 and dying in Babylon in 323. Not even the Romans, who boasted the largest empire of antiquity, could attribute their empire to just one man, and it took centuries to reach the extent it did before it fell. Alexander's campaigns also facilitated the spread of Greek culture in the areas through which he and his army marched, and they opened new trading avenues and possibilities between West and East, which forever changed relations between Greece and Asia.

This chapter shows how Alexander established his empire, discusses the problems he faced in ruling a large, multicultural subject population, and examines the approaches and strategies he took to what might be called nation building. In doing so, it allows us also to praise and critique his actions. Alexander's experiences in Asia arguably can inform present makers of modern strategy and shed light on contemporary problems in this or any culturally different region of the world. At the same time, the argument can be made that Alexander's failings (sometimes his fault, at other times not) show how little the modern world learns from, or even ignores, the past.

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