Alexander the Great


Alexander the Great, a patient and often devious man; had
never struck without careful planning. The youthful,
headstrong Alexander liked to settle problems by immediate
action. Making decisions with great speed, he took
extraordinary risks; his success was achieved by the amount
of sheer force and drive to overcome these risks. Alexander
was educated as a student by the Greek philosopher
Aristotle. The philosopher imbued Alexander with a love of
Greek art and poetry, and instilled in him a lasting
interest in Philosophy and science. 

Within a year of his accession, Alexander extended his
dominions northward toward the Danube River and westward
towards the Adriatic Sea. He then turned his attention to
Greece where Thebes and Athens were threatening to bolt the
league with weapons purchased with Persian gold. Also,
Athens and Thebes were to unite in war against Macedon. In
335 B.C. Alexander decided to punish the city for what he
regarded as treachery; .The city was destroyed and its
people sold into slavery or killed. All of the city_s
buildings were destroyed except for temples and the house
of Pindar the poet. Pindar was long dead, but Alexander
wanted to prove that even a Macedonian conqueror could be a
Hellene. The savage lesson of Thebes brought results, the
Athenian assembly quickly congratulated Alexander, and the
Greek states, with Sparta as the continuing exception,
remained Macedonian allies. 

Alexander now took on a project that Philip had planned but
never carried out: an invasion of Persia. He decision to do
this was purely a political one. For a century Persia had
interfered increasingly in Greek affairs and had constantly
oppressed the Greek cities in Asia Minor. Alexander had
personal reasons too. Avid for glory and for identification
with Greece, Alexander knew no better way to win both than
by attacking Greece_s ancient foe. In some ways the
invasion, the longest military campaign ever undertaken,
was a reckless undertaking. It required a large army to
move an enormous distance from its supply bases, through
and unfamiliar country, against a power incalculably rich
in money and men. Furthermore, Persia was governed by a
patriotic and devoted military caste that was egar to show
its strength in war. However the enemy had a weakness. The
current king, Darius III, had come to the throne through
the murder of his predecessor and was highly
incompetent._Darius was no leader-in fact, he was not even
a brave man. The best of his generals and satraps might
have been able to compensate for his shortcomings, but the
rigidly structured hierarchy of the Empire did not give
them a chance._ Besides the fact that Persia was poorly
ruled, Alexander was counting on another shortcoming of the
Persian Empire to aide in his conquest. The Persian
Empire_s subject were unloyal to and had very little
affection towards their ruler(s) and would be unlikely to
resist and invading army. 

In 334 B.C. Alexander crossed the Hellespont. Something
that his father had planned but not fully achieved. He
defeated the Persian forces that were gathered on the Asian
side of the River Granicus. After this victory Alexander
sent three hundred suits of Persian armor back to Athens.
The message that went with them read, _Alexander, the son
of Philip, and the Greeks, except the Spartans, have won
this spoil from the barbarians of Asia,_ thus expressing in
one brief and self-assured sentence his contempt for the
Persians, his even greater contempt for the Spartans, and
his conviction that he was furthering a Greek cause. _Of
all the generals of the ancient world Alexander was surely
the greatest. He possessed an almost clairvoyant insight
into strategy and was a consummately resourceful tactician.
Alexander could be compared to Napoleon in swiftness and in
movement, but Alexander could be patient as well. As he
showed in his siege of the fortress of Tyre, which lasted
for about seven months. The old port of Tyre had been
abandoned for some time, and the Tyrians were now securely
enclosed behind massive walls on an island that was half a
mile from the shore. Alexander made attempts to negotiate
an entrance into the city but they were halted by a display
of force against his envoy by the Tyrians. _Alexander was
determined to run every risk and make every effort to save
the Macedonian army from being held in contempt by a single
undistinguished city._ This commitment turned out to be far
more exacting then Alexander could have ever imagined.
Nevertheless, his determination and aversion to failure
drove him to conjure up a more imaginative approach. He
built a solid causeway over the water, half a mile long and
two hundred feet wide. Then he constructed siege towers of
150 feet in height. Unfortunately the Tyrians responded to
each and every effort with innovations of their own. At one
point during the siege, his advisors gave him reason to
abandon the assault. However, Alexander was not about to
admit that he had labored in vain, nor was he willing to
leave Tyre behind as a monument of his fallibility.
Reinforced by ships from the Persian fleet that had
defected to him, Alexander launched a varied assault on the
city. Eight thousand Tyrians were said to have perished
during the sack. Alexander personally led the attack on a
breached section of the city_s wall. The siege was a
moderate success in his eyes considering the resources
lost. _Alexander was a man incapable of shrugging his
shoulders and walking away from an unsuccessful effort. If
as a result of several futile attempts, frustrated and
angry, he would have decided that a quick and sudden attack
would rescue him from embarrassment. Victory on the
battlefield promised to be more complex. During the
intervening two years since the battle of Issus, Darius had
assembled some 25,000 horseman from his eastern satrapies,
an untold number of infantry, 200 scythed chariots, and
even 15 elephants. He was now encamped on a wide plain near
Gaugamela. Alexander could only field 7,000 horsemen and
40,000 footmen. His men were superior in discipline and
experience in the field, but he was short in numbers and
well aware of it. Alexander delayed the attack until he had
seen the battle field with his own eyes. Scanning the
terrain for advantageous positions to make up for the
lacking number of Macedonian forces. The day of the battle
came and went with a stunning victory for Alexander. His
plan was to create a rift in the center of the Persian
troops. For that was where Darius was and where the
commands for the Persian army were coming from. Alexander
simply charged towards Darius_s chariot. Like Issus this
tactic again proved to be successful. Darius fled Gaugamela
like he fled at Issus. 

Alexander was extremely skillful at dealing with unfamiliar
tactics of warfare, such as the use of chariots armed with
scythes, elephants deployed in battle, and evasive,
encircling movements by nomad horseman. Nevertheless, he
sometimes received unexpected help from his enemies.
Darius, who was cruel as well as cowardly, treated
prisoners with a harshness that embittered the Macedonian
soldiers. Alexander saw this and led his army to victory at
Issus in 333 B.C., and Gaugamela in 331 B.C., both times
Darius fled from the battle field. With these two victories
Alexander broke the main Persian resistance and in the
autumn of 331 B.C. he entered Babylon, the winter capital
of the Persian kings. In December of the same year he
entered the summer capital at Susa. Both cities were taken
relatively without major problems. From Susa he went on to
the ceremonial capital at Persepolis. Persepolis gave
Alexander a great deal of wealth/treasure that would
require 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels to remove it. Before
leaving Persepolis, Alexander burned the palace of the
great king for reasons that have never been made clear.
Possibly it was a whim, some sources say that he did it in
a fit of drunken excitement, while others say he did it to
signify that the Persian invasion of Greece had at last
been avenged. Alexander had already considered himself king
of Persia, but his right to the throne was in question as
long as Darius was still alive and at large. So in the
summer of 330 B.C. he marched north in pursuit of Darius.
Alexander had almost caught up to him but Darius was slain
by his own men, finally brought to rebellion by their long
resentment of his mismanagement of the Persian defense.
When Alexander came upon Darius_s body he ordered it to be
sent back to Persepolis to be buried in the royal cemetery
of the Achaemenid kings. Now, at last, Alexander was
officially the great king of Persia. In his new role he
headed east to take possession of the remaining Persian
provinces. After two years he reached and subdued Bactria
and Sogdiana; he now controlled all that belonged to

As the campaign of Persia was ending, Alexander_s plan
expanded. Originally his purpose had been simply to destroy
the Persian army. He had decided to take over the whole
Persian empire, and he went on to achieve this without
losing a single battle. If Alexander thought of the Persian
empire at all, he thought of it simply as a source of
wealth. However, as he took o
ver more and more territory, he saw that he could not hold
the empire without governing it. To govern it effectively,
he had to merge it with the Greek world. _Alexander proved
to be as skillful at statecraft as he was at military
matters Since his main concern was to keep the empire
functioning , Alexander tolerated many local religious, and
social customs. He even, to some extent, permitted each
country to keep its national institutions. At the same time
he introduced Hellenic ideas. The most important being the
Greek city state. As Alexander traveled and conquered he
founded many cities, most of which bear his name
(Alexandria) The first and most famous one was an Egyptian
city, which later (a century) became the center of the
Hellenistic world. As his empire grew Alexander saw that
Asia could not be administered simply as a colony of
Greece. Somehow he had to bring Persians and Greeks
together into a single unit. In 327 B.C., partly for
political reasons, Alexander married a Sogdian Princess,
Three years later he married the elder daughter of Darius
in a purely political union. This wedding was a communal
affair: at the same time, on Alexander_s order, 80 of his
top-ranking officers married 80 Persian girls of noble
birth. Further to consolidate his empire Alexander drafted
Persian cavalry into his own army and ordered 30,000
Persian boys to be trained in Macedonian combat techniques.
He adopted Persian dress for himself and for a time even
tried to get his soldiers to follow the Persian custom of
prostration before the king. His Macedonian captains did
not take well to this as this custom was implying worship,
and Alexander was not a god in the eyes of his soldiers.
All of these changes brought his newly conquered empire
Alexander mainly wanted his Persian captains to feel that
they were the equals of the Macedonians and wanted the
Macedonians to accept this equality. Most of Alexander_s
ideas for consolidating the Greek and Persian peoples made
little impression on his Macedonian companions. They were
soldiers, not political scientists. His concept of empire
did not fit their own crude ambitions and they had no
sympathy for his desire to govern responsibly. Basically
they felt that he was setting himself above them, spoiling
the old comradeship-in-arms which was a well defined
characteristic of the Macedonian army. 

Realizing that his soldiers were doubtful in following his
authority, Alexander himself began to change. His soldiers
reported that he became more violent in times of
explanation; meaning he became upset if someone couldn_t
see something his way. _increasing loneliness of a growing
impatience with those who could not understandthe Alexander
of 324 was not the Alexander of 334._ Alexander became
obsessed about losing the support of the gods and that his
Macedonians would grow weary of their expedition. He became
increasingly suspicious of his close friends and switched
from emotions of fear and intense anger. Despite the resent
experiences, Alexander turned south and he
aded into India. Nearly two centuries before, in the reign
of Darius I, the Persian empire had included part of that
subcontinent. Determined to recapture it Alexander crossed
the Hindu Kusk mountains, followed the Kabul River down to
the Indus River and crossed overland to the Hydaspes River.
It was here where Alexander would fight one of the most
difficult battles of his entire career. His opponent was
the Indian King, Porus, whose army was several times larger
than Alexander_s and superbly trained. It included war
elephants which reduced Alexander_s striking power because
his horses would not go near them; however Alexander
devised a technique that transformed them into a hazard to
their own masters. The elephants were positioned fifty feet
from the Indian front line. Alexander launched a two-phase
cavalry charge against the horsemen and chariots on Porus_s
own wing first. When Porus committed horsemen from both
wings to an attack against what he thought was Alexander_s
entire cavalry, hiding horsemen would suddenly appear
having Porus_s horsemen in a trap. These tactics enabled
Alexander_s infantry, who had been specially trained for
the purpose, to deal with the elephants when the enemy was
in a state of confusion. Alexander_s men would strike the
elephants with two headed axes, making them run around
uncontrollably crushing friend and foe. Although victory
was inevitable for Alexander, Porus was determined to see
it through until he suffered a serious shoulder wound. He,
like Darius was forced to retire his elephant from the
battlefield. After the battle Porus requested that he meet
with the victor. Upon his reconvienience, Alexander asked
Porus how he wished to be treated. Porus responded; _Treat
me, Alexander, like a king._ Alexander was delighted by his
response. Despite the victory, Alexander suffered personal
loss. Bucephalas, Alexander_s famous steed died of wounds
suffered in battle. He was thirty years old , but the two
had been through crisis and triumph for most of their
lives. A city, Bucephala, was founded in the horse_s name
on the west bank of the Jhelum. 
Alexander, just inside modern India, had every intention of
crossing the Beas River. Like most men of his time, he
believed that the Indian continent was a small peninsula
jutting eastward that reached to a body of water, called
simply Ocean, that supposedly encircled the world.
Alexander expected to reach Ocean and explore it as the
climax of his long campaign. However, his soldiers had
heard rumors of vast deserts and fierce warriors with great
armies of elephants lying ahead. Veterans who had crossed
the Hellespont eight years before felt that they had
marched their limits and wanted to return to Macedon.
Alexander waited three days for them to change their minds.
When he was convinced that they would not, he agreed to
start home. In the spring of 323 B.C. he reached Babylon,
and began at once to regroup his army and plan an invasion
of Arabia. But in June a fever struck him and on the
thirteenth of June, 323 B.C., not even 33 years old
Alexander died.
For thirteen years Alexander remained unbeaten in his
campaigns in Persia, Egypt, and India. His battles against
enemy forces were all foresight and his brilliant tactics
were executed to achieve victory after victory. Alexander_s
fear of being overcastted by his fathers shadow was just,
but his conquests dwarfed those of his father. Alexander,
driven by brilliance and his view of a Hellenistic world,
seized every opportunity to go one step beyond his father.
Those steps brought him a great empire that he governed
fair and honorable. He treated his captures with both
dignity and respect which enabled him to maintain order for
so long. He brought with him the Greek culture that he so
strongly believed in, and spread that culture all over Asia
in the cites that bear his name; Alexandria(s).
Nevertheless, the ingeniousness tactics and strategies that
he created brought him great success which he rightfully
Bowra, C.M, Classical Greece, Virginia: Time-Life
Publishing, 1977.

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the Macedonian Army, Los Angeles: University of California
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University Press, 1964.
McNeill, William H., A World history, Oxford: Oxford
University Press,1979.
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Enemy. New York:Routledge Publishing, 1992.
Renault, Mary, The Nature of Alexander, New York: Penguin
Books, 1975.
Robinson, Charles Alexander, The History of Alexander The
Great, Providence, Rhode Island: Kraus Publishers, 1953.
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Enemy, (Routledge Publishing) 1992 pg.166.
John Maxwell O_Brien, pg.82.
John Maxwell O_Brien, pg.70.
Mary Renault, The Nature of Alexander, (Penguin Books
Publishing) 1975, pg. 134.
Charles Alexander Robinson, The History of Ale
xander The Great, (Kraus Publishing) 1953, pp 

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