Alexandros III the Great (356-323 BC)


Alexandros III the Great is probably one of the few personalities that influenced that much the world's history and inspired so many legends, being responsible for the great spread of the Greek language and culture and it's evolution into the Hellenistic culture and language. That alone proves that he was Greek not only in his origin, but also in his spirit. He was a son of king of Macedonia Philippos II and princess of Molossoi Olympias (Molossoi was the dominant tribe amongst the other ancient Greek tribes of the Epirotes). Mythically he was a descendant of Hercules (from his father's side) and a descendant of Achilleas and his son Neoptolemos (from his mother's side). He was probably the only conqueror that was loved by the conquered nations that much, mainly because of the way that he lived that was mostly remarkable:

  • He became a king at the age of 20
  • He carried almost all of the world's wisedom
  • He persued and realized a dream
  • He was never defeated!

Childhood - Education

Alexandros was probably the best educated person in history, basically thanks to his father Philippos who looked after his son's proper education. It is said that when he was born, Philippos sent a letter to Aristotle saying:

"..Philippos salutes Aristotle. My son was born. I am very grateful to the gods, not only for the child's birth, but also cause he was born in your time.."

In charge of Alexandros' education was Leonidas, an Epirot relative of Olympias. According to Ploutarchos, Leonidas was rather strict and taught Alexandros how to be frugal. He exercised him a lot and he often untied Alexandros' clothes and bed sheets in case Olympias has placed there something soft or unnecessary. Alexandros seemed to respect him, since he sent him presents from Syria (332BC). Assistant of Leonidas was Lysimachos from Acarnania, who used to call Alexandros as "Achilleas", Philippos as "Pileas" and himself as "Phinikas", obviously influenced by Homer. Other teachers of Alexandros was Philiskos and perhaps Menaichmos (mathematician).

But, the most known teacher of Alexandros was Aristotle, who educated him for about 3 years (342-339BC). Aristotle carried Alexandros away from Pella, to Mieza (near Naoussa), probably with Philippos' encouragement. Philippos wanted to keep Alexandros away from Pella for a number of reasons:

  • To prevent Alexandros from Olympias' hard influence
  • His personal life (souses, women, etc) wasn't a good example for young Alexandros
  • Alexandros shouldn't watch or hear of his father's souses
  • Alexandros shouldn't watch his mother anger caused by Philippos' cheating on her

Along with Alexandros, Aristotle carried to Mieza and some other children of Macedonian aristocrats: Kleitos, Philotas, Nikanoras, Ektoras, Leonnatos(?), Marsyas, Kassandros, Dikonarchos, Ptolemaios, Arpalos(?), Perdikkas or Alketas (son of Orontos), Ifaistionas. Aristotle taught Alexandros physical science, medicine, ethics, politics and what does free society mean. Alexandros' best friends were Ifaistionas, Krateros and Klearchos, and some others of his friends were Nearchos, Erigyos and Laomedontas.

One of the most known incidents of his childhood is the one with his horse, Bucephalus. In that incident Philippos admired his son's cleverness. Generally Philippos was proud of his son. Also Alexandros admired his father, but disapproved of his private life, and probably never forgave him for divorcing his mother. Pseudokallisthenis reports that everytime a foreign ambassador visited the palace, Alexandros surprised him by asking him about his country, the Persians and their army. Also everytime he learned about another of his father's victories, he became sad and complained to his friends:

"..my father will not leave anything great for me to do.."

One time he was asked why, since he was good at road running, wouldn't he participate in the Olympics in Olympia (like his father that had participated and was 3 times and Olympionic), and he replied that "..he would do so, if he was to compete with other kings..".

Alexandros as a king

After his father's death (336BC) Alexandros quickly organized his burial in order to take over the state as soon as possible. The excavation of Philippos tomb, by M. Andronikos, proved that the tomb was quickly built. In that way Alexandros would be quickly dismissed of the obligation of his father burial, and could go to Pella to deal with the Throne's succession. He decisively dealt with the other throne's claimants:

  • Amyntas (son of Perdikkas III, and Alexandros' cousin) was impeached and executed by the army.
  • Attalos was executed by the army.
  • Karanos (son of Philippos II and Kleopatra) was murdered, along with his mother by Olympias.

After that he decided to secure his rule over the other Greek states that had rebelled. With an army of 30000 men he moved to the South, where he was given the leadership of the Corinthian alliance. In the spring of 335BC he moved North and subjugated the Trivalloi, scared off the Yetes and defeated the rebelled Illyrians. When he returned to Macedonia he was informed of the Theba's rebellion and in 13 days he appeared in front of the town which he invaded, conquered and totally destroyed, after his allies' encouragement. Only the temples and the house of the poet Pindaros escaped the destruction. The punishment of Theba for its rebellion formed an example for all the other states, that had rebelled with the Persians' support. Now he was free to proceed with the realization of his father's dream, the expedition against the Persians.

The expedition to the East

Alexandros spent the winter of 335BC to prepare his army and in the spring of 334BC he departed from Pella, leaving behind Antipartos in charge of the state with 12000 infantrymen and 1500 horsemen. Arrianos (I,11,3) reports that he departed with:

 

The death of Alexandros the Great

When Alexandros returned to Babylon, (323BC) he was infected by a heavy form of malaria. That along with the weakened condition of his body, after 12 years of fighting, worsened the situation, and leaded to his death. Despite the feaver, he spent the last days of his life talking with his companions, about his future plan, the coast-sailing of the Arab Peninsula. Before he died he asked to see his troops for the last time. It was that kind of love that they had for him that they rushed into his tent, paying no attention to his guards!