Word Count: 1418″It is a lovely thing to live with great courage and die leavingan everlasting fame.”Long before thebirth of Christ, the land directly above what we know asGreece today, was called Macedonia. Macedonia stillexists, but it is now Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and modernGreece. Macedonia was considered to be part of ancientGreece, but the people of these two countries couldn’t bemore different. No people in history ever gave so much tothe human race as the ancient Greeks.
They producedarchitectural monuments, four of the greatest dramaticactors who ever lived, one of the most brilliant statesmenand two of the greatest historians. Scientists, philosophersand artists all thrived in this country. The political systemwe call democracy had its roots in this culture. TheMacedonians in comparison with their Greek neighborswere crude and fierce in their outlook. They were a roughpeople. They never produced any artists, philosophers, orgreat actors. But they produced Alexander The Great – aman with a legacy so remarkable that it has challenged theminds of men ever since. Alexander was born to conquerthe world.
His life was bold and from beginning to end, itwas etched with dramatic clarity. Every important event inhis life brought him one step closer to fulfilling his ambition.He was the first leaders, like Caesar and Napoleon, whopartly be accident and partly by design, set out to gatherthe whole world into their fists, unify it, rule it and enlightenit. But unlike the other great giants of history, Alexanderwas a shooting star whose blaze of glory ended with hisdeath, at not quite thirty-three years old Alexander wasborn in 356 BC to King Philip of Macedonia and his wife,Olympias. On the day of Alexander’s birth, Philip wasaway in battle. A courier brought Philip the message of hisson’s birth, along with two other messages – Philip’s horsehad won first prize in the Olympic Games and his army hadjust won a very important battle. With three pieces of goodnews at once, Philip always thought his son’s arrival into theworld came with an omen of good luck.
As Crown Princeof Macedonia and at that time, his father’s only heir,Alexander was raised to inherit his father’s kingdom.Alexander was good at sports and even as a young childshowed a very ambitious streak. One of his courtierscommented on how well he ran and suggested that hecompete in the Olympic foot races. Alexander refused andreplied that we would only run against kings, so that hecould be sure that no one threw the race in his favor. As ayoung boy, Alexander began to show many of the traitsthat made him famous – courage, cleverness and completeself-confidence. Once when Alexander’s father broughthome several horses, one horse in particular caughtAlexander’s eye. It was an enormous black horse and onethat none of King Philip’s men seemed to be able to mountand ride. Alexander approached his father and asked forthe horse.
On a dare and a bet from his father, Alexanderdid what no one else had been able to do, mount and ridethe horse. The horse, Bucephalus, became one of the mostfamous horses in history and for most of the sixteen yearsof his life was the only horse that Alexander ever rode inbattle. When Bucephalus died, Alexander gave him afuneral worthy of a king and named a city after him.Alexander’s education is said to have been the mostexpensive in history. Philip persuaded Aristotle, the Greekphilosopher and scientist to be Alexander’s tutor.
Inaddition to the large sum of money paid to Aristotle for hisyears of service as a teacher, Philip also agreed to rebuildthe town where Aristotle had been born (which Philip haddestroyed in a raid) and permit its exiled citizens to return.Aristotle introduced Alexander to many things, but inparticular he instilled in Alexander the love of books.Alexander’s favorite was Homer’s Iliad, which he learnedby heart. Throughout his entire life, whereever he was,Alexander slept with two things under his pillow – a daggerfor protection and a copy of the Iliad. When Alexanderwas seventeen, his father left him temporarily in charge ofMacedonia while he attended state matters in Greece.
While his father was away, a tribe in a northern province,apparently hoping to take advantage of Alexander’s youthand inexperience started a revolt. Alexander gathered hisarmy, marched against the rebels, beat them in battle andcaptured their chief city. He renamed their city after himselfAlexandropolis. By the time Alexander was eighteen, thingswere not well between his parents.
What has started, as alove match between Philip and Olympias had become ahateful and vengeful relationship. Philip decided to marryagain, taking a second Queen. Alexander, who had alwayshad a good relationship with his father, but loved his motherdeeply, sided with her. During the next two yearsAlexander and Philip held a troubled truce. When Philipwas assassinated, whispers emerged that his first wife,Olympias was involved in the plot. Within days of Philip’sdeath, Olympias had her husband’s second wife and herinfant son murdered, so as to not shed any doubt onAlexander’s claim to the throne.
At twenty, Alexander wasking of Macedonia. He set about restoring order inMacedonia and Greece with a vengeance. During this time,a serious revolt broke out in Thebes, a city in Greece.Alexander and his army marched against Thebes andburned it to the ground.
Over thirty thousand Thebans weresold into slavery. In the entire city, Alexander spared onlyone house – the home of a poet called Pindar, whosepoetry Alexander has always liked. The battle of Thebeswas the first of many atrocities that Alexander committed.The memory of the battle lingered and Alexander’sreputation spread.
He never had any difficulties in keepingthe Greeks in line after this campaign. Alexander admiredcourage in all forms. Many times he spared the lives ofpeople who showed courage in the face of pain or death.In 334 BC, Alexander set out to conquer Persia. Noexpedition like it had ever been undertaken and few rival itsince. Alexander’s army was small by that day’s standard,but it was very efficient.
Alexander was also something of amilitary genius and he systematically set about to overtakeparts of Persia in a series of smaller and victorious battles.He then moved on to Asia Minor, the Mediterranean coastand Egypt. By the time Alexander was twenty-four most ofthe known world at that time was under his rule. In Egypt,Alexander founded Alexandria, which is still one of thechief world ports today. When Alexandria was completedit was one of the most impressive cities in the world. Thestreets were lettered or numbered and it was the first city inhistory to have lights at night. Four years after Alexanderset out to conquer Persia he finally met the Persian king inbattle. Alexander won.
The battle was called the Battle ofArbela and marked the end of Persian power. Alexanderbecame King of Persia, along with being King ofMacedonia, Greece, Egypt and Asia. He was twenty-six.
Alexander married when he was twenty-eight. Because hehad spent the majority of his time since becoming an adultin Persia, it was no surprise that he married a Persianprincess. Everyone knew that Alexander and his Queenwere friends and liked each other. But because Alexanderspent most of his life surrounded by his male friends, ratherthan seek relationships with women, the marriage wasknown as one of duty to produce an heir than a love matchfor either Alexander or Roxana.
Alexander’s battle forIndia was his last battle of any consequence. He won thebattle against the great Indian king, Porus. But Alexander’sarmy was getting tired. They had been away from homeand fighting for over eight years. After overtaking morethan 5000 towns and villages in India, Alexander’s armywanted to go home.
They started the long trek back toMacedonia. During this time, the army never lost a battleand they never broke ranks. When they made it to Persia,two major events happened. First, to further his politicalties with Persia, especially since he was heading back toMacedonia, Alexander decided to marry another Persianprincess.
He also orchestrated the marriages of 9000 of hismen to Persian women, just to solidify the two countries.Second, he watched his best friend, constant companionand general of his armies’ die of fever. Alexander, mad withgrief became a drunken wreck almost overnight. Hebecame manic in his dealings. Alexander never returned toGreece.
He died in Persia of fever, similar in symptoms toMalaria. After he died, Alexander was buried in Alexandia.Roxana, Alexander’s first wife and mother to his first bornson, had the second wife and her child murdered, hoping tosecure Alexander’s throne. Roxana and her child weremurdered as well, and Alexander’s kingdom went to one ofAlexander’s generals, rather than an heir. Alexander TheGreat lived a life, which in human terms has never beenmatched.
His contributions to history, despite his faults, willnever dim. The stories of his exploits will live forever.