Did Alexander the Great do something great?

Alexander the Great

Alexander on a mosaic in Pompeii, a Roman city. The picture was taken long after Alexander's death, but perhaps it was based on an old model.

Alexander the Great was a general in ancient Greece. His father was King Philip II of Macedonia. To his empire belonged much larger areas than today's North Macedonia, namely also all of Greece.

In his youth, Alexander was taught by Aristotle at times. He was one of the most famous and influential philosophers and naturalists in history. At the age of 16, his father made him the commander of an army. He became King of Macedonia at the age of 20 in 340 BC when his father was murdered.

This is how a painter around 1900 imagined how Alexanders met King Porus. Alexander had defeated Porus in battle, but since he admired his courage, he gave him his territory. But Porus had to recognize Alexander as the overlord.

Until shortly before his death he waged war almost without a break. First he put down insurrections in the Balkans and Greece. Then he attacked the Persian king Darius. Persia was then the largest empire in the world. Besides Persia, he conquered vast areas of Turkey and Egypt. His famous campaign spanned an area that is now in 13 different countries. But then he had to turn back because his soldiers were tired and wanted to go back home.

He returned to Persia. Now, for the first time, he did not conduct a campaign for about two years. But he was already preparing his next campaign to North Africa. Then he died in Babylon at the age of 32. What Alexander died of is unknown. One does not know his grave either.

In any case, after his death, the chiefs of his army argued about who should be his successor. They were called the Diadochi. In wars they divided the empire. Some of the “diadochin kingdoms” continued to exist for a long time: in Egypt until the time of Julius Caesar three hundred years later. His wife and son, who was only 13 years old, were killed fighting for the empire.

The conquests of Alexander had major consequences for the world: Greek has been spoken in the east of the Mediterranean ever since. It stayed that way later, until the end of the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages. Many conquerors saw Alexander as their great role model.

What kind of stories are there about Alexander?

There are many legends about Alexander: for example, he is said to have kidnapped the family of Darius. When Dareios offered him half his kingdom in exchange, he refused, although his advisors had advised him to accept it. But he wanted more. Also known is the story of the elephant troop of the Indian king Porus, who are said to have put Alexander to flight by throwing a sack of pepper in the face of an elephant.

Another well-known story is that of his horse Bucephalus. Alexander is said to have been the only one who could ride it. When it died in a battle, Alexander is said to have buried it, erected a memorial for it and named a city after it. Alexander is also often said to have been the only one who could untie a tight knot that King Gordios had in front of his chariot. When someone solves a difficult task today, we sometimes also say: "He has untied the Gordian knot". We don't know whether these stories really happened like that. As for the story of the elephants: Scientists today believe that javelin throws drove the elephants away from Poros.

  • Alexander is said not to have untied the Gordian knot with his fingers, but rather cut it with his sword.

  • On this statue Alexander was depicted as an Egyptian pharaoh.

  • The map shows the Macedonian Empire of Alexander at his death and the path of his campaign.

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