Alexander III the Great was a King and a conqueror of the Persian Empire. He was known as one of the greatest military prodigies of all time. He inspired many, such as Hannibal the Carthaginian, the Romans Pompey, and Napoleon. He was born around July 20, 356 B. C. in Pella, which is the prehistoric capital of Macedonia. Alexander was the son of Phillip II, King of Macedonia, and of his fourth wife Olympias, an Epirote princess. Alexander’s childhood revolved around his father. He spent most of his time watching his father transform Macedonia into a great military power.
He also watched them win victory after victory on the battlefields of Balkans. At the age of twelve he showed his father and bystanders his equestrian skills when he tamed Bucephalus, a wild stallion. Thereafter, he would ride him into every major battle. At age sixteen Alexander’s father left him in charge to rule Macedonia while he invaded Thrace. During the invasion, a Thracian tribe bordering North Eastern Macedonia rebelled and became a threat to the country. Alexander created and lead his army against the rebels and defeated the Maedi and renamed it Alexandropolis.
Two years later, Alexander’s father gave him a high ranking position among his senior generals as the Macedonia army invaded Greece. Not long after the Macedonian army defeated the Greeks at Chaeronea, Alexander’s parents separated and the family split. King Philip later married Cleopatra, an aristocratic Macedonian girl. Shortly thereafter, Alexander and his mother, Olympias, fled the country to Epirus after Alexander had an altercation with his stepmother’s uncle, General Attalus and his father, King Philip.
The General commented at King Philip and Cleopatra’s wedding banquet that the couple would one day give birth to a “legitimate heir” – – a child of pure Macedonian blood. Alexander became enraged and threw his cup at the General. In turn, King Philip drew his sword and charged toward Alexander. Years later, Alexander returned to Macedonia, but lived in isolation and remained removed from the Macedonian court. In the spring of 336 BC, while the Persian invasion was going on, King Phillip was assassinated by a Macedonian noble Pausanias.
Both ancient and modern historians questioned why he was killed. There are accusations that he was murdered because he denied the Pausanias justice and sought support in punishing Cleopatra’s uncle Attalus for his early mistreatment. There are also claims that Olympias and Alexander were responsible for the assassination. Philip’s dream of conquering the Persian Empire would now rest in the hands of his successor, his 22-year old son, Alexander III. Once Alexander succeeded his father as King of Macedonia, he ordered the execution of all of his native enemies.
He also found himself embroiled in a series of rebellions against the conquered nations who saw their opportunity to gain independence due to his father’s death. Alexander had to act quickly to diffuse these uprisings by bringing the Illyrians, Thracians, and the Greeks back under Macedonian rule. Alexander would go on to display his military power by entering into three great battles; the Battle of Granicus, the Battle of Issus, and the Battle of Gaugmela. His total attention was focused on invading Asia and conquering that territory.
As Alexander sailed to the Asia Minor’s Coast, he threw a spear while on board that stuck into the ground. When Alexander stepped onto shore he pulled the spear from the ground and pronounced that all of Asia would be defeated by that Macedonian spear. The Macedonians defeated the Persians, but the Greeks held their ground and fought back. Nevertheless, the Macedonians were victorious. Eighteen thousand Greeks perished on the banks of Granicus and 2,000 survivors were captured and sent to Macedonia as forced laborers.
The second great battle was the Battle of Issus. The Macedonians came across the Persian armies under the authority of King Darius III in Northwestern Syria. The Macedonians were critically outnumbered, but the battle ended in a great win for Alexander. Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed from the opposing side and King Darius fled in desperation, leaving his family behind. The third Battle was the Battle of Gaugamela. In this battle, Alexander received support from Europe, restructured his forces, and set out for Babylon.
Alexander seized lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and established the Persian army at the plains of Guagamela. It is estimated that the army consisted of one million men. Once again, Darius and Alexander met on the battlefield and just as he did in the battle of Issus, Darius fled in defeat. This time he fled to Ecbatana in Media. The Macedonians burned the royal palace in Persepolis several months thereafter, finishing the termination of the ancient Persian Empire. Alexander would continue to pursue King Darius to Persepolis, but would discover that he had been assassinated by another enemy.
Out of respect for King Darius, Alexander gave him a royal funeral. Years later, Alexander and 80 of his closest friends married Persian noblewomen. He began to promote marriages between non-native soldiers and native women. The Macedonians did not like this idea. One of Alexander’s desires was to unify the Macedonians and Persians and form a mixed breed elite army that would be attached only to him. Sadly, this would never come to be. Shortly before beginning his Arabian campaign, Alexander became ill, with a fever, after attending his friends Medius of Larisa’s party.
His illness worsened day by day and got so bad that he couldn’t move or speak. On June 7, 323 BC, Alexander passed away. Alexander the Great died at the age of 33 without naming a successor to the Macedonian Empire. Once again, the Greeks rebelled and started up a war known as the Lamian War. The Macedonians were defeated and were forced to split into four kingdoms, Seleucus (Asia), Ptolemy (Egypt), Lysimachus (Thrace), and Antipater’s son Cassander (Macedonia, including Greece).
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