Alexander the Great: The Economics of Upheaval – Part I

Alexander the Great: The Economics of Upheaval – Part I

Alexander the Great has been termed a maverick whose 13-year meteoric reign was an aberration in the history of the age. He was a mythopoeic conqueror who simultaneously lived by the tenets of the strategically sound and the proportionally outrageous; a tribal leader recalling heroic deeds, and a mortal seeking apotheosis through his progression from Macedonian king, to Greek hegemon, pharaoh of Egypt and the Persian king of kings. Was Alexander the Great an empire builder or an empire destroyer?

Detail from the so-called ‘Alexander Sarcophagus’ in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum ( CC BY-SA 3.0)

Since antiquity, views have varied wildly by the historians, philosophers and emperors who either vilified or praised Alexander. What no one can deny is the upheaval he caused, both during his reign and in the years after his death, when the dynasties established by his brilliant generals ruled the Graeco-Persian world.

New Commander-in-Chief Faces Financial Challenge

At the death of his father Philip II in 336 BC, Alexander III of Macedon, became the commander-in-chief of a force of 30,000 infantry and 4,500 strong cavalry, who had been gathered for the invasion of the Persian Empire. However, the decade of war waged by Philip, which saw Macedon expand into the first land empire in Europe, followed by the unrest Alexander had to quell in Greece and the Balkans after his father’s death, meant the Macedonian treasury was depleted before the invasion had even begun.

The Macedonian Empire at the death of Philip II in 336 BC ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

To obtain the funding for the expedition Alexander had been forced to borrow heavily from the Macedonian barons and aristocracy. He exempted them from tax to consolidate his position and handed out state lands to secure further funds and loyalty. The funds remaining in the royal coffers at Philip’s death would have covered the wages of the mixed infantry Alexander required to cross into Asia for a few months, discounting the far higher cost of keeping cavalry in the field. As a result, Alexander was soon forced to disband his 160-ship navy, though his continued mistrust of his Greek naval officers in the face of 400 Phoenician ships still in Persian employ, possibly played a part.

Sacker of Cities?

So, the pressure was on for a confrontation that would prize the Persian treasury open. This immediate and pressing need for funds did not foster an environment in which Alexander could practically govern the land he conquered in any stable way, as his new administration brought with it the collapse of the Persian tax revenue system.


His short-lived reign began in 336 B.C. when his father, Philip II of Macedon, was assassinated. The teachings of the famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, greatly influenced his life. When his father died, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. Coupled with his tactical ability and skills in military conquests , he was successful to conquer much of what was then the civilized world. The political and cultural impacts of these conquests lasted for centuries.

Due to many territories that he conquered, the dominion that Alexander the Great had was regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the world. Through these conquests, he managed to bring together Greece, Egypt, and the Middle East to form one culture referred to as the Hellenistic civilization. The ideals of the new Hellenistic culture tremendously changed the world even after his death. Due to Alexander the Great’s politics, individualism, philosophy, learning, and economics principles were considered to be part of the new culture.

As his biography states, during the reign of his father, Alexander assisted him in conquering Greece. This experience led to the cavalry during the Battle of Chaeronea, which was one of the critical victories for Philip. After his father’s death, due to his skills in the military campaign and the love that his army had for him, he started by conquering the Persian army.

The Persians were controlling most of the known world at that time, including Egypt. Alexander continued with his father’s pragmatic approach to leadership and all through the many battles that he fought, he did not lose even one of them. However, he was not yet contented with the victories, and he proceeded further to the east.

He continued to push as far east as Pakistan and India. In 324 B.C., because his army rejected his opinion to advance further, he came back to Babylon. Before his sudden demise two years later, he started making plans for his new empire and prospects of making it larger.


Discussion

Alexander used his powerful army to conquer the world during his time. Whenever he conquered new empires, he introduced the Greek language, science knowledge and other aspects of Greek civilization (Noble, 2008, p.95). As an explorer, Alexander discovered that the world extended beyond the Indus River.

He made this discovery with the aid of his geographers who helped him to explore new lands. In addition, he introduced certain aspects of different cultures that he felt were useful in conquering more empires and continuing his reign.

One of the main influences of Alexander on western civilization was his policies on commerce. He established roads that facilitated commerce with the western world after conquering Persia (Noble, 2008, p.96).

These roads were in existence before but inaccessible to the western world because they were under the control of the Persians. This monopoly diminished the chances of the western world of trading and conducting commerce with India, China, Bactria and many other countries that were famous for their trade acumen at that time.

The opening of these roads established trade between the west and these countries. This led to the introduction of precious metals and stones, jewelry and jade to the west (Noble, 2008, p.97). For example, Silk Road is one of the many roads that Alexander the Great opened to the western world. These roads exposed the west to other parts of the world.

Alexander combined his capacities as king and scholar to establish and develop his empires. In order to control the populations of the empires that he conquered, he adopted some of their traditions. This led to the establishment of an ideological king, a concept that ensured that the kingdom remained strong.

However, it split into three empires after his demise due to bad leadership (Noble, 2008, p.99). Alexander had a significant influence because of his brilliant thinking. He envisioned a massive empire that constituted many states under his control. In today’s context, the empire that Alexander built can be compared to the United States of America. His extraordinary ideas enabled him to conquer other empires and encompass them under his rule.

The spread of the Greek language to other parts of the world was due to the introduction of the Macedonian culture to the Persian Empire. The introduction of the Greek language led to its adoption in governing and ruling the empire. This encompassed many people under a common language and introduced the cultures, thoughts, ideas and beliefs of other empires (Spielvogel, 2011, p.96).

For example, the translation of the Old Testament in Greek introduced Christianity to the western world. The Old Testament was originally in Hebrew and was limited to people who understood that language. The translation was initially intended for Hebrews who had lived in other places for long periods, and therefore, unable to read in the Hebrew language. However, this brought the Jewish theology to other parts of the world.

This theology introduced the concept of monotheism that formed the basis of Christianity for the western world (Spielvogel, 2011, p.92). Alexander the Great influenced the establishment of religion in the west through popularizing the Greek language. The Greek language made the introduction of the New Testament possible and was phenomenal in promoting Christianity (Spielvogel, 2011, p.93).

The most influential change on western civilization was the concept of monotheism (Spielvogel, 2011, p.96). This was the basis for the founding of Christianity. It all started with the dispersion of Jews into different regions due to war and violence. Gradually, these immigrants led to the adoption of Greek as a common language. As a result, many Jews spoke Greek and started translating their literature into the Greek language. The most notable was the translation of the bible. In addition, the Hellenist world had monumental influence on the spread of Christianity to the west. For example, Paul was a Jew from Tarsus who incorporated some Hellenistic elements in his teaching. This made the teachings pleasant to many people who responded by embracing Christianity (Spielvogel, 2011, p.97).

Alexander introduced Hellenism and the Greek culture that were pivotal in the founding of the renaissance and the Enlightenment movements (Staufenberg, 2011, p.52). After his death, people became more knowledgeable than they were before his death. They became aware of the fact that the world was much larger than it was thought to be during Alexander’s reign.

Therefore, they explored more lands and travelled to many places. This marked the commencement of the modern world. History teaches that the modern world began with the renaissance because the Hellenistic period was partially responsible for civilization. This is because most of the advancements during the era of Alexander became obsolete as the empire crumbled after his death (Staufenberg, 2011, p.53).

During the middle ages, people wallowed in ignorance and retrogressed from the progress that was initiated by Alexander’s rule. Progress began again when the Turks took over Byzantium and when Christians began to migrate to Rome (Staufenberg, 2011, p.58). They introduced the culture and the civilization that was promoted by Alexander the Great.

Another aspect of Alexander’s rule that had a significant impact on western civilization was his economic policies. Alexander’s reign was highly influential to the economy of the Mediterranean basin. This resulted in enormous social and economic changes that had a positive effect on the west (Staufenberg, 2011, p.62).

These social and economic changes influenced other areas such as medicine and philosophy. For example, Alexandria was the center of medical research. Researchers learned how to carry out surgical operations and diagnose various diseases (Staufenberg, 2011, p.65). These medical advancements reached the west and formed a basis for their medical fields that are among the most advanced in the world today.

Under Alexander’s reign, there was immense spread of the Hellenistic civilization that made Greek the language that was used to conduct business. Under a common language, trade prospered and Alexandria became the center of trade. It was famous for the manufacture and importation of products.

The products that were produced by the Egyptians included silk, wine, cosmetics, cloth, salt, glass, beer and paper (Staufenberg, 2011, p.72). In the western parts of Asia, common products included asphalt, carpets, petroleum, drugs and woolens. The effect of trade on the involved regions was immense. During the years that followed the death of Alexander, the region of Judea became inhabited by Greek merchants and government officials.

Gradually, these new inhabitants began to “Hellenize” the original inhabitants of the region. In addition, there was dispersion and migration as violence erupted in different parts of the empire. As they moved to new places, they carried their civilization and brought about various changes in the culture of the inhabitants.

As a scholar, Alexander had strong interests in science, mathematics, geometry, arts and literature. It is difficult to determine in which of these fields Alexander had the greatest influence on the western civilization. The artwork created by the great artists of the Hellenistic era is similar to that of the renaissance artists that is common today (Spielvogel, 2011, p.103).

This implies that the Hellenistic period influenced the work of artists that lived during the renaissance period. For example, today’s cities are designed using a grid plan that was developed by Hippodamus of Miletus (Spielvogel, 2011, p.106).

In addition, the geometry developed by Archimedes is used in the building and construction industry. Literature from the era is still available today, and the fields of history and chronology were established during the same era (Spielvogel, 2011, p.108). All these aspects of the Hellenistic period were vital in developing the western civilization. The development of these aspects was made possible by the rule of Alexander the Great, and the western world owes its civilization to him.


Alexander The Great… Globalist?

Globalization is the watchword of our time, but maybe Alexander The Great was the first global citizen.

When you’re known to history as “the Great,” as Alexander III of Macedonia was, you’re bound to be scrutinized by generations to come. Aléxandros ho Mégas, as he is known in Greek, died on May 18, 323 BCE in Babylon. He was 32 years old, and had led armies from Greece to conquer an enormous swath of North Africa and Eurasia that stretched from Egypt through what is now Pakistan and India. That empire was the first attempt at the “universal state” envisioned by Alexander’s teacher Aristotle. (Ever since, ambitious mothers—his own had his competitors to the Macedonian throne executed—have used him as a goad: “Why can’t you get a job? Alexander had already conquered Egypt by the time he was your age….”)

But was Alexander also the first globalist? The political theorist Hugh Liebert thinks so, arguing that Alexander was in fact the founder of globalization by way of his “indeterminate identification,” a kind of pan-cultural global citizenship, the antithesis of nationalism. Not Macedonian, Greek, Egyptian, Persian, nor King of Asia (one of his titles), but all combined.

Globalization may be simply defined as the market-driven interdependence of the world which makes borders porous if not irrelevant. It is usually considered a contemporary phenomenon. But the word globalization is “as ubiquitous as it is imprecise,” says Liebert, who lays out several theories of the concept. His main point is that globalization is not an imperial project but rather “a process of expansion divorced from domination.”

The Alexander of globalization is thus “not a harsh tyrant eager to bring humanity to heel rather he is a humanist willing to transcend his own boundaries of nation and cult, and eager to effect a similar transformation in the spirits of his subjects.” Liebert notes that others disagree strongly with this, for instance those who paint Alexander as “a Greek crusader eager to empower his civilization by Hellenizing the world—at spear point, if necessary.”

In fact there are, as in most cases, many more than two readings. Liebert’s reframing of this familiar figure is exemplar of the lessons that history, even ancient history, continues to offer.


Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, a Macedonian king, conquered the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, the Middle East, and parts of Asia in a remarkably short period of time. His empire ushered in significant cultural changes in the lands he conquered and changed the course of the region&rsquos history.

Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, depicted in typical Hellenistic style in this alabaster bust from Egypt, was probably physically ordinary. By most accounts, he was short and stocky. Many historians also think Alexander had heterochromia—one eye was brown, the other blue.

Photograph by Kenneth Garrett, National Geographic

Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III or Alexander of Macedonia is known as one of the greatest generals in all history.

Alexander was born in 356 B.C.E. in Pella, Macedonia, to King Philip II. As a young boy, Alexander was taught to read, write, and play the lyre. He developed a life-long love of reading and music. When Alexander was a teenager, his father hired Aristotle to be his private tutor. He studied with Aristotle for three years and from Aristotle&rsquos teachings, Alexander developed a love of science, particularly of medicine and botany. Alexander included botanists and scientists in his army to study the lands he conquered.

In 336 B.C.E., at age 20, Alexander became king of Macedonia when a political rival assassinated his father. Alexander began his reign by subduing rivals in the Greek and Macedonian regions. At a council of the League of Corinth, he was chosen as the commander of a military invasion of Asia. King Alexander began his invasion of the Middle East in 334 B.C.E. He spent most of his reign on a military campaign through northeast Africa and southwestern Asia.

Alexander built many new cities in the lands he conquered, including Alexandria in Egypt. He went on to conquer the lands of the Persian Empire, establishing more cities, and like Alexandria, often naming them after himself. His conquest continued through Asia until he reached the shores of the Ganga (Ganges) River in India. At this point, his army refused to continue further into India, exhausted and discouraged by heavy rains.

Alexander was 32 when he died in 323 B.C.E.

During his 13-year reign as the king of Macedonia, Alexander created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India.


Why you voted for Alexander the Great:

Alexander was the Philospher King. He led militarily but also understood how to really build an empire that would follow you, even those conquered.
Mike

The man brought down the greatest empire the world had seen, seemingly without difficulty and within a matter of just a couple of years, conquered most of the known world while fighting far from home, never lost a battle, led from the front, was tutored by Aristotle and maintained his passion for philosophy throughout his life, spread Greek culture across the globe … you get the idea. Oh, and he did all of this before the age of 33. Perhaps the clincher, however, is this: Julius Caesar weeped when he considered Alexander’s accomplishments.

He had an undefeated battle record. Upon his death, Alexander had conquered most of the world then known to the ancient Greeks.
Thomas

He conquered most of the known world, frequently doing things that were widely believed to be impossible!
And I’m named after him!
Alex

He conquered the world by his 18th birthday
Shane

He conquered his entire known world and continued onwards

Alexander was the Philospher King. He led militarily but also understood how to really build an empire that would follow you, even those conquered.

He had an undefeated battle record. Upon his death, Alexander had conquered most of the world then known to the ancient Greeks.

He conquered most of the known world, frequently doing things that were widely believed to be impossible!

He conquered the world by his 18th birthday

He conquered his entire known world and continued onwards

Surely its Alexander, he lived in times before Jesus yet they still teach his tactics at military academies today

Alexander III of Macedon , commonly known as Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great’s accomplishments and legacy have been preserved and depicted in many ways. Alexander has figured in works of both high and popular culture from his own era to the modern day. Titles: King of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt and Lord of Asia

For the age in which they lived they were by far the most advanced technological and militarial civilization in the world using many inventions and techniques that still hold sway today. All of this held under a system that in equal measures was democratic but extremely ruthless.

Tremendous lasting impact in both military and cultural spheres – his tactics are still studied 2300 years later.

All would be rulers of the world were in awe of Alexander. His story, based largely on legends of his persona, is everything a military leader wished to be in life (handsome, bold, fearless, an artist and a dashing warrior).

In reality Alexander more than an experienced leader was an extremely lucky and able heir to the throne. Alexander is today revered and set apart from other leaders because of eurocentrism that still remains to this day.

Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors and tactical minds of all time, as evidenced by his large empire acquired with relatively small resources. He was inspiring and charismatic, his men would (and did) follow him anywhere. Beyond the conqueror, however, he took Hellenistic culture to an entirely different level instead of the ideas of liberty, equality, philosophy, drama, and scientific categorization and study remaining in Greece and slowly spreading by basic trade and other modicums of idea osmosis, he spread it like wildfire across Asia Minor and the Middle East all the way to the Indian subcontinent. Very similar to Napoleon, except that Napoleon spread Nationalism, efficient bureaucracy, and a renewed vigor for republics. Both are great, but Alexander has to win in my book.

His stunning and rapid record speaks for itself, brilliant commander and fearless.

Conquered most of the known world, ruled Afghanistan, created one of the largest empires in history, all before he was 33. If he hadn’t dropped dead, he might have conquered the world.

He fought in the head of his army. His conditions were the same as of his soldiers his starting point was terrible small state with a huge an seemingly undefeatable enemy

Out of the choices given I believe Alexander is the greatest leader. I thought of such greats as Bismarck, Washington, Napoleon, and Augustus, however Alexander was able to be a very successful military leader and politician. The others were either great commanders or political leaders, not both.

With Alexander he was able to conquer lands with military tactics across the then-known world. The other candidates weren’t able to spread their military campaigns as far as he did as well as “liberate” territories such as Egypt.

On the battlefield, Alexander, like Napoleon, gave the soldiers a dramatic surge in morale. However, unlike Napoleon, Alexander also understood the different religions, cultures, and economies of the territories he captured. Granted, like Napoleon they may have both been aggressive military leaders, but Alexander was able to gain a lot of respect worldwide by not just conquering but keeping a lot of the conquered areas in-tact.

Because Alexander was able to conquer a lot of territory of the then-known world, allowing to keep their customs, inspiring his soldiers, and acknowledging economics impact by establishing Alexandria, I believe this shows that Alexander was a great military commander and political leader. Which is what makes him the greatest leader out of the choices.

He commanded an elite army inherited from his father, but even so, it takes some talent to crush the greatest empire in the world. Furthermore, he managed to keep his Macedonians from bickering and plotting too much against each other – not bad when leading a people among whom political assassinations was practically a standard procedure and every ascension on the throne was followed by the killing of all those opposed and all rival claimants.

An innovative general, Alexander led a superbly trained army, against many foes and throughout the known ancient world. Yet his force was small compared to those he fought, (Persians, Indians) and he never lost a battle. When he died at 33, he had conquered the entire known world, and we will never know if he was a capable governor because he died so young before he could truly rule his empire, yet as a military leader he is certainly without equal

He’s responsible for spreading Hellenic culture all the way to India shaping the Classical Age single handedly. Julius Ceaser is noted to have cried at the sight of a statue of Alexander because he could never be a great a leader as Alexander. Also, a simple statement of military tactics that is attributed to Alexander “Hammer and Anvil”.

He liberated more than conquered, and fought in the wars he waged.

Alexander III of Macedon (Alexander the Great) is the single greatest leader in all of history because he lead one of the grandest armies in the world and established one of the largest armies of antiquity. Dozens of the cities which he established still exist today, and the culture he spread and assimilated is very evident in the lands in which his empire existed. Truly, Alexander’s exploits have stood the test of time, and likely will remain standing until some other great leader buries them under blood and bone.

Uncomparably vast feats in significantly short space of time that will forever be remembered and compared.

Did the unimaginable by conquering the most powerful empire of its time, then pushing his army east into the unknown, spreading Hellenism and his name throughout the land. Alexander was a brilliant on-the-fly tactician, integrating units from disparate lands and cultures while also utilizing the terrain and his opponents tendencies to his advantage.

He created one of the largest empires in a short time

He was a fearless warrior and took part of front line battles. Therefore, unlike many other leaders, he inspired his people better than a “regular” king of sorts would have done. He was also a tactical and stratetical mastermind. His exploits speak for themselves.

Christopher

He rose from a small kingdom to conquer the known world – and his reputation was so fearsome that decades after his death people still refused to revolt out of fear that he might really still be alive and come back to punish them.

It’s a real shame that Ghengis Khan is not on the list, though.

A huge empire in his lifetime with some splendid military victories.

He helped unify most of the ancient world. And he was a certified military genius. Some of the combat accomplishments were quite amazing.

Alexander was so young when he conquered the then-world that it puts all these other old fogeys to shame – a true child prodigy. He was a kind and fair ruler to his citizens, which held together despite the vast mix of cultures. It was only after he died that his empire crumbled, signalling that it was really him that was the key piece that held the empire together. He also defeated Darius III, another leader in this poll, something that doesn’t apply to any of the other leaders I think. Go Alexander the Great!

Alex won every battle he fought. I believe no one else did that. Ceaser, Augustus, Gendis Khan all lost battles at one time.

Alexander the Great never lost a battle ever in his entire military campaign all the way to India. Had he not died he could have made the Grecian Empire as great or greater than the Roman Empire that was formed years later.

Alexander took the unity forged by his father in the Agean and with it conquered the colossus of Persia in 10 years and enabled Greek thought and language to permiate the entire near east and through the conquests of the Romans, extend throughout Western Europe, influencing all of modern history.

He was the greatest and brightsest leader. He didn’t only conquered all the known world (for the greeks until that time) but he also focused on unifying them.

He also used a lot of scientist during his quest including doctors engineers and many more. All together united under the commands of Alexander made the greatest empire the world has ever known in such a sort time (if we take into account the huge distances and the difficulty of transportation during that period) and by one ruler..

Smart cunning and ruthless he was the greatest because he thought for himself and knew what he wanted how he would get it

Run close by Napoleon, by to achieve so much in such a short period of time is something that is very hard to match, especially as the whole logistical side of what he did would have been far harder than Napoleon, plus he never lost.

He was the first real icon for unity amongst all people, he had his flaws though but his idea & vision is something that would inspire many, and what he achieved being so young in short span of time was amazing aswell. Also one of his quotes or something that he showed. Nothing is Impossible,everything is possible, you just have to have the willpower to do it.

To me, a leader is one who provides a strong example of how followers should live and believe, not necessarily how they must. I think Alexander fits this bill very well.

Not only did he utilize the military advances his father developed to defeat the most imposing army and empire of the time, often leading assaults himself (much to the worry of his officers and troops), but he then tried to join the cultures of Greece and Persia into a greater whole. To advance this idea, he even married a woman of that eastern empire and encouraged his followers to do so as well.

When he led his soldiers to the Indus River and they decided that they would go no further, he let them have their way. Unfortunately, many woes befell them during their return to Babylon, and later, Alexander failed to consolidate his dream for a combined east-west empire, but his conquests did help Greek culture thrive and survive through the middle ages, the crusades and on to inspire the Renaissance.

Alexander was the greatest military strategist of all time. He redefined warfare for ages to come and his death brought a civil war fought between the Seleucids and Ptolemaics that would last until Roman conquest hundreds of years later. Alexander was able to destroy a Persian army that massively outnumbered his and still have enough men to march through Persia and conquer the empire. Alexander may not have had the best of everything, but he made it work

He conquered most of the known world at the time with ease, all before he died young. He was known mainly for his military skills.

It may be true that without his father, Phillipous the second of Macedonia, Alexander the Great would not have been that great. However the reported historical fact depict him as an intelligent and charismatic personality, understanding complexities that go beyond simple strategy and tactics. He used the conquered lands, sent back to Europe a great variety of plants and animals that did not existed and bringing them a lot of the advantages that the Greek city-states had developed. He build cities all around the then known world in strategic locations, many of which continue to prosper. He allowed the conquered nations to continue their existences without forcing a religion upon them. And above all he did all this with minimal resources, always involving himself in all the aspects of his military, economic and cultural campaign. He brought forth an age of contact between nations that ignored each others existence and is rightfully remembered as Alexander the Great. If that is not a sign of greatness, I do not know what is.

He conquered all Greece, then Egypt, Persia, India… that makes a huge empire with so much victories during a so hard period of the History. Desire of territories was his main objective as an explorer and he will stay in the History by Alexander the great who makes Macedonia has one of the most extensive territories of all time.

None other in this list have realy had the same long time effect og his rule, making sure that greek culture became so dominant and making sure Rome herited it. Also he’s seen as a great figure not only in the “western” world, but in the middle east and India as well, and few have had as brilliant military careers as he have.

Because of introducing the psychology of the God/Man King, and using it to his advantage in warfare and conquest, while at the same time inspiring the world with advances in the sciences and mathematics.

No other man in history has conquered so vast an area with so little an Army I will be the first to point out that the classical Macedonians were Greek through and through, and only the snobbery of the Southern Greek states -who viewed anyone who didn’t both speak Greek, and organize themselves in city states as various shades of barbaric- but at the end of it, even if more or less controlled by Macedonia b the time of Alexander, it was the Macedonian army and some mercenary ‘auxiliaries’ that toppled what had been the greatest empire the world had ever seen, spread Greek culture to the Indus (where it would influence Indian culture, and have faint reverberations even in China and Japan- usually seen as culturally impregnable entities, even they felt the result of Alexanders mighty thrust East.)

As a single man, none have accomplished a greater feat the only man who might offer a challenge in terms of pure military conquest, Ghengis Khan falls flat on his face when one considers the cultural effect as a legacy of conquest, and between the two, i think its fairly certain that through modern eyes, it is far more easy to see Alexander, the Philosopher-King as perhaps the greatest ruler our little species has so far produced- had he lived longer, what else might he have done to make his legend yet greater then it already was?

Took over most of Europe and much of Asia and Africa. Was loved by his people. Ahead of his era and forward thinking in the fields of art, religion, architecture, city planning, and many other cultural and technological fields.

A military genius and a man that was wise enough to know when to consult others in areas where he did not know himself.

The battles he won, the enemies he defeated and the subjects he gained. In a few short years he forever became the benchmark for being called great.

Just with the sheer scale of the empire that Alexander created at an early time, he has to be the greatest

Surely its Alexander, he lived in times before Jesus yet they still teach his tactics at military academies today
Ian

Alexander III of Macedon , commonly known as Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great’s accomplishments and legacy have been preserved and depicted in many ways. Alexander has figured in works of both high and popular culture from his own era to the modern day. Titles: King of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt and Lord of Asia
Alexander

For the age in which they lived they were by far the most advanced technological and militarial civilization in the world using many inventions and techniques that still hold sway today. All of this held under a system that in equal measures was democratic but extremely ruthless.
Gary

The man brought down the greatest empire the world had seen, seemingly without difficulty and within a matter of just a couple of years, conquered most of the known world while fighting far from home, never lost a battle, led from the front, was tutored by Aristotle and maintained his passion for philosophy throughout his life, spread Greek culture across the globe … you get the idea. Oh, and he did all of this before the age of 33. Perhaps the clincher, however, is this: Julius Caesar weeped when he considered Alexander’s accomplishments.
Darryl

Tremendous lasting impact in both military and cultural spheres – his tactics are still studied 2300 years later.
Jennifer

All would be rulers of the world were in awe of Alexander. His story, based largely on legends of his persona, is everything a military leader wished to be in life (handsome, bold, fearless, an artist and a dashing warrior).

In reality Alexander more than an experienced leader was an extremely lucky and able heir to the throne. Alexander is today revered and set apart from other leaders because of eurocentrism that still remains to this day.
Rodrigo

Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors and tactical minds of all time, as evidenced by his large empire acquired with relatively small resources. He was inspiring and charismatic, his men would (and did) follow him anywhere. Beyond the conqueror, however, he took Hellenistic culture to an entirely different level instead of the ideas of liberty, equality, philosophy, drama, and scientific categorization and study remaining in Greece and slowly spreading by basic trade and other modicums of idea osmosis, he spread it like wildfire across Asia Minor and the Middle East all the way to the Indian subcontinent. Very similar to Napoleon, except that Napoleon spread Nationalism, efficient bureaucracy, and a renewed vigor for republics. Both are great, but Alexander has to win in my book.
Maxwell

His stunning and rapid record speaks for itself, brilliant commander and fearless.
Alex

Conquered most of the known world, ruled Afghanistan, created one of the largest empires in history, all before he was 33. If he hadn’t dropped dead, he might have conquered the world.
Julian

He fought in the head of his army. His conditions were the same as of his soldiers his starting point was terrible small state with a huge an seemingly undefeatable enemy
Ronen

Out of the choices given I believe Alexander is the greatest leader. I thought of such greats as Bismarck, Washington, Napoleon, and Augustus, however Alexander was able to be a very successful military leader and politician. The others were either great commanders or political leaders, not both.

With Alexander he was able to conquer lands with military tactics across the then-known world. The other candidates weren’t able to spread their military campaigns as far as he did as well as “liberate” territories such as Egypt.

On the battlefield, Alexander, like Napoleon, gave the soldiers a dramatic surge in morale. However, unlike Napoleon, Alexander also understood the different religions, cultures, and economies of the territories he captured. Granted, like Napoleon they may have both been aggressive military leaders, but Alexander was able to gain a lot of respect worldwide by not just conquering but keeping a lot of the conquered areas in-tact.

Because Alexander was able to conquer a lot of territory of the then-known world, allowing to keep their customs, inspiring his soldiers, and acknowledging economics impact by establishing Alexandria, I believe this shows that Alexander was a great military commander and political leader. Which is what makes him the greatest leader out of the choices.
Jaron

He commanded an elite army inherited from his father, but even so, it takes some talent to crush the greatest empire in the world. Furthermore, he managed to keep his Macedonians from bickering and plotting too much against each other – not bad when leading a people among whom political assassinations was practically a standard procedure and every ascension on the throne was followed by the killing of all those opposed and all rival claimants.
Öjevind

An innovative general, Alexander led a superbly trained army, against many foes and throughout the known ancient world. Yet his force was small compared to those he fought, (Persians, Indians) and he never lost a battle. When he died at 33, he had conquered the entire known world, and we will never know if he was a capable governor because he died so young before he could truly rule his empire, yet as a military leader he is certainly without equal
Ben

He’s responsible for spreading Hellenic culture all the way to India shaping the Classical Age single handedly. Julius Ceaser is noted to have cried at the sight of a statue of Alexander because he could never be a great a leader as Alexander. Also, a simple statement of military tactics that is attributed to Alexander “Hammer and Anvil”.
Brett

He liberated more than conquered, and fought in the wars he waged.
Mike

Alexander III of Macedon (Alexander the Great) is the single greatest leader in all of history because he lead one of the grandest armies in the world and established one of the largest armies of antiquity. Dozens of the cities which he established still exist today, and the culture he spread and assimilated is very evident in the lands in which his empire existed. Truly, Alexander’s exploits have stood the test of time, and likely will remain standing until some other great leader buries them under blood and bone.
Will

Uncomparably vast feats in significantly short space of time that will forever be remembered and compared.
Richard

Did the unimaginable by conquering the most powerful empire of its time, then pushing his army east into the unknown, spreading Hellenism and his name throughout theland. Alexander was a brilliant on-the-fly tactician, integrating units from disparate lands and cultures while also utilizing the terrain and his opponents tendencies to his advantage.

He created one of the largest empires in a short time
George

He was a fearless warrior and took part of front line battles. Therefore, unlike many other leaders, he inspired his people better than a “regular” king of sorts would have done. He was also a tactical and stratetical mastermind. His exploits speak for themselves.
Christopher

He rose from a small kingdom to conquer the known world – and his reputation was so fearsome that decades after his death people still refused to revolt out of fear that he might really still be alive and come back to punish them.
It’s a real shame that Ghengis Khan is not on the list, though.
David

A huge empire in his lifetime with some splendid military victories.
Chris

He helped unify most of the ancient world. And he was a certified military genius. Some of the combat accomplishments were quite amazing.
Jonathan

Alexander was so young when he conquered the then-world that it puts all these other old fogeys to shame – a true child prodigy. He was a kind and fair ruler to his citizens, which held together despite the vast mix of cultures. It was only after he died that his empire crumbled, signalling that it was really him that was the key piece that held the empire together. He also defeated Darius III, another leader in this poll, something that doesn’t apply to any of the other leaders I think. Go Alexander the Great!

He dared
Philippe

Alex won every battle he fought. I believe no one else did that. Ceaser, Augustus, Gendis Khan all lost battles at one time.
Stephen

Alexander the Great never lost a battle ever in his entire military campaign all the way to India. Had he not died he could have made the Grecian Empire as great or greater than the Roman Empire that was formed years later.
Ryan

Alexander took the unity forged by his father in the Agean and with it conquered the colossus of Persia in 10 years and enabled Greek thought and language to permiate the entire near east and through the conquests of the Romans, extend throughout Western Europe, influencing all of modern history.
John

He was the greatest and brightsest leader. He didn’t only conquered all the known world (for the greeks until that time) but he also focused on unifying them.
He also used a lot of scientist during his quest including doctors engineers and many more. All together united under the commands of Alexander made the greatest empire the world has ever known in such a sort time (if we take into account the huge distances and the difficulty of transportation during that period) and by one ruler..
Dimitris

Smart cunning and ruthless he was the greatest because he thought for himself and knew what he wanted how he would get it
Trevor

Run close by Napoleon, by to achieve so much in such a short period of time is something that is very hard to match, especially as the whole logistical side of what he did would have been far harder than Napoleon, plus he never lost.
Kevin

He was the first real icon for unity amongst all people, he had his flaws though but his idea & vision is something that would inspire many, and what he achieved being so young in short span of time was amazing aswell. Also one of his quotes or something that he showed. Nothing is Impossible,everything is possible, you just have to have the willpower to do it.
Mohammed

To me, a leader is one who provides a strong example of how followers should live and believe, not necessarily how they must. I think Alexander fits this bill very well.

Not only did he utilize the military advances his father developed to defeat the most imposing army and empire of the time, often leading assaults himself (much to the worry of his officers and troops), but he then tried to join the cultures of Greece and Persia into a greater whole. To advance this idea, he even married a woman of that eastern empire and encouraged his followers to do so as well.

When he led his soldiers to the Indus River and they decided that they would go no further, he let them have their way. Unfortunately, many woes befell them during their return to Babylon, and later, Alexander failed to consolidate his dream for a combined east-west empire, but his conquests did help Greek culture thrive and survive through the middle ages, the crusades and on to inspire the Renaissance.
Jonathon

Alexander was the greatest military strategist of all time. He redefined warfare for ages to come and his death brought a civil war fought between the Seleucids and Ptolemaics that would last until Roman conquest hundreds of years later. Alexander was able to destroy a Persian army that massively outnumbered his and still have enough men to march through Persia and conquer the empire. Alexander may not have had the best of everything, but he made it work
Darren

He conquered most of the known world at the time with ease, all before he died young. He was known mainly for his military skills.
Matthew

It may be true that without his father, Phillipous the second of Macedonia, Alexander the Great would not have been that great. However the reported historical fact depict him as an intelligent and charismatic personality, understanding complexities that go beyond simple strategy and tactics. He used the conquered lands, sent back to Europe a great variety of plants and animals that did not existed and bringing them a lot of the advantages that the Greek city-states had developed. He build cities all around the then known world in strategic locations, many of which continue to prosper. He allowed the conquered nations to continue their existences without forcing a religion upon them. And above all he did all this with minimal resources, always involving himself in all the aspects of his military, economic and cultural campaign. He brought forth an age of contact between nations that ignored each others existence and is rightfully remembered as Alexander the Great. If that is not a sign of greatness, I do not know what is.
Anastase

He conquered all Greece, then Egypt, Persia, India… that makes a huge empire with so much victories during a so hard period of the History. Desire of territories was his main objective as an explorer and he will stay in the History by Alexander the great who makes Macedonia has one of the most extensive territories of all time.
Nicolas

None other in this list have realy had the same long time effect og his rule, making sure that greek culture became so dominant and making sure Rome herited it. Also he’s seen as a great figure not only in the “western” world, but in the middle east and India as well, and few have had as brilliant military careers as he have.
Jimmy

Because of introducing the psychology of the God/Man King, and using it to his advantage in warfare and conquest, while at the same time inspiring the world with advances in the sciences and mathematics.
Steve

No other man in history has conquered so vast an area with so little an Army I will be the first to point out that the classical Macedonians were Greek through and through, and only the snobbery of the Southern Greek states -who viewed anyone who didn’t both speak Greek, and organize themselves in city states as various shades of barbaric- but at the end of it, even if more or less controlled by Macedonia b the time of Alexander, it was the Macedonian army and some mercenary ‘auxiliaries’ that toppled what had been the greatest empire the world had ever seen, spread Greek culture to the Indus (where it would influence Indian culture, and have faint reverberations even in China and Japan- usually seen as culturally impregnable entities, even they felt the result of Alexanders mighty thrust East.)

As a single man, none have accomplished a greater feat the only man who might offer a challenge in terms of pure military conquest, Ghengis Khan falls flat on his face when one considers the cultural effect as a legacy of conquest, and between the two, i think its fairly certain that through modern eyes, it is far more easy to see Alexander, the Philosopher-King as perhaps the greatest ruler our little species has so far produced- had he lived longer, what else might he have done to make his legend yet greater then it already was?
Harrison

Took over most of Europe and much of Asia and Africa. Was loved by his people. Ahead of his era and forward thinking in the fields of art, religion, architecture, city planning, and many other cultural and technological fields.

A military genius and a man that was wise enough to know when to consult others in areas where he did not know himself.
Chris

The battles he won, the enemies he defeated and the subjects he gained. In a few short years he forever became the benchmark for being called great.

Just with the sheer scale of the empire that Alexander created at an early time, he has to be the greatest


Alexander the Great: The Economics of Upheaval – Part I - History

The Greek city-states after successfully warding off an imperial Persian conquest in the fifth century B.C. fell into civil war that sapped their energies and resources. Nevertheless Greek art, culture and technology became pre-eminent in the world of that time. The Persian Empire made great use of Greek mercenaries in its armies and navies. Some wealthy Persians came to Greece for an education.

In the north, Macedonia under Phillip II emerged as a battle-hardened militaristic power that conquered the feuding city states of Greece proper in much the same way that during the Warring States period in China the Qin state conquered all of the other kingdoms to unite China. Another analogy is the emergence of Prussia as the dominant, leading state of Germany in the 19th century.

Phillip was not an imposing warrior, being only about five foot four inches in height. He built his power over a twenty year period through organizational skill and the perfection of the phalanx as a battle formation. As a mature man he fell in love at first sight with Olympias, the twelve year daughter of the king of Epirus, and married her. (Epirus was in what is now Albania. About three years after her marriage Olympias gave birth to Alexander. Olympias grew up to be a strong-willed, ruthless woman and became interested in some exotic religious cults. Phillip stopped going to bed with her after he discovered that she sometimes kept snakes in her bed. He took other wives and he and Olympias became estranged. But they did have one child, Alexander, and what a child he was.

The most famous story of Alexander's childhood is the story of the horse, Buchephalus. The name means ox-head . The horse was so-named because of the ox-head mark he bore he bore on his coat. Phillip had spotted Buchephalus as a magnificent horse and acquired him but Buchephalus was too tough to break to riding. Phillip announced that he was going to get rid of him. Alexander, a ten year old, asked his father to give him the horse to tame. Alexander worked with Buchephalus, always keeping him facing the sun so he would not be startled by the sight of his shadow. When Alexander tamed Buchephalus he showed Phillip who remarked,

Another notable incident from Alexander's childhood was when the Persian ambassador visited Phillip's palace. Alexander questioned him closely about the geography of the Persian Empire and the distances between the various cities.

This latter incident may have been prompted by the dream that Greeks grew up with to avenge the atrocities committed in Greece by the Persian army during the Persian Wars 150 years prior to Alexander's time.

At thirteen or fourteen Alexander was sent by Phillip to Mieza to be educated by Aristotle of Stagira. Aristotle had an important influence on Alexander's thinking and his goal of the creation of an empire to spread Hellenistic culture.

Alexander as a teenager later participated in the battles of Phillip's armies against the Grecian states. He distinguished himself by his courage and his ability to make good tactical decisions in battles. Later in life Alexander felt his father did not give him proper credit for his accomplishments at that time. Alexander felt his father was jealous of his abilities. Phillip's estrangement from Alexander's mother Olympias may have affected his attitude toward Alexander.

Phillip had a son by his new wife and there was the possibility that that son might take the place of Alexander in the kingdom. When Phillip was assassinated there was some suspicion that Olympias might have been involved in the plot. In any case, Alexander did secede Phillip and Olympias had Phillip's new wife and child killed.

Alexander was only twenty years old when became the king of Macedonia in 336 B.C. Almost immediate he started subduing the Greek city states. Thebes resisted and Alexander ordered the inhabitants to be either slaughtered or sold into slavery. Furthermore he ordered the city itself destroyed. Alexander thus wiped Thebes, one the major cities of Greece, out of existence. Alexander also started preparing an expedition allegedly to avenge the greviances Greece suffered during the Persian Wars. An advanced guard of 12 thousand soldiers under Parmenio, a general from Phillip's reign, was sent into Anatolia. Alexander then assembled 32 thousand troops in northern Greece for the invasion. In the spring of 334 B.C. they commenced their march to the Hellespont. Before the march Alexander consulted the oracle at Delphi. Alexander was apparently very serious about the religion of his culture.

The Invasion of Anatolia

The western edge of Anatolia was populated by Greeks but controlled by Persia. The first order of business for Alexander was the liberation of these cities. Not all Greeks were in favor of having a Macedonian tyranny replace the Persian tyranny.

The Battle of Granicus

Alexander's troops arrived at the Granicus near sundown, but Alexander launched his attack immediately despite the advice of his general, Parmenio, to postpone the attack until the next morning. Alexander sent a contingent of about 1500 into the river to fool the Persians into unleashing a counterattack. While the Persian army was concentrating on the center Alexander took his cavalry upstream to cross the river and attack the Persians from their flank. When the Persian cavalry retreated Alexander led his cavalry in an attack on the Greek mercenaries who had been held in reserve. The cavalry was followed by the Macedonian phalanx. The Greek mercenaries who were not massacred were send in chains back to Greece to work in the mines for the rest of their lives.

Some of the Greek cities of western Anatolia accepted Alexander willingly, others had to be taken in siege. South of Miletus Alexander visited the ruins of an oracle temple at Didyma. Almost two centuries before the Persian emperor Darius had punished the city of Miletus for revolting by destroying and desecrating the temple at Didyma. Alexander believed in oracles and considered the destruction of an oracle temple as a terrible thing.

The city of Halicarnossos on the southwest coast of Anatolia was the main Persian administrative center in the region. Memnon, the Greek commander of the Persian forces, decided to defend the city. When Alexander's forces arrived they had to lay siege to the city. It was a standoff for a while as Alexander's forces demolished walls only to find the defenders had built an inner wall to maintain the defenses. But when Memnon felt Halicarnossos could no longer be defended he commanded an organized retreat by sea. Memnon was a wily opponent for Alexander. Memnon's strategy might have tied Alexander down and thwarted his conquest of the world, but Memnon fell ill and died.

Memnon's death removed a capable commander from the opposition to Alexander and set up the rise to command of an incompetent. Darius, the Persian emperor, not finding a suitable replacement for Memnon assumed command himself. Whatever Darius' capabilities and virtues were, generalship was not among them.

The Battle of Issus

It is generally a very bad idea for the head of state to be at the head of the army. For a notable instance of how bad it is consider the case of General Antonio Lopez de Santana, the President of Mexico, leading the army to put down the rebellion of American settlers in Texas in the 1830's. Santana was captured by the Texans and forced to sign a declaration of the independence of Texas. Antonio Lopez de Santana may have been a charismatic political leader but he was a total incompetent as a military leader. The Persian Emperor Darius was on par with Santana as a military leader.

While generally it is a bad idea for the head of state to lead the army Alexander was an exception. He had great tactical skills and these were decisive.

Darius had arrayed his army in three wings at a creek bed at Issus. His infantry troops on his left wing were weak and therefore Darius stationed archer units with his left wing to give them protection. Darius was at the head of the center unit of his army. Alexander was on the right wing of his army. When Alexander saw the archers protecting Darius' left wing he immediately knew that was Darius' weak point. Alexander led his cavalry unit across the creek bed and attacked the weak point of the Persian line. Alexander's troops destroyed the weak left wing of the Persian army and then turned on the center unit where Darius himself was. From their improved position across the creek bed Alexander's troops commenced the destruction of the remaining Persian units. Darius fled from the battlefield further destroying the integrity of the Persian forces. Darius's family, his mother, wife and children, were captured by Alexancer's army. Darius thus lost his army and his family was being held hostage. He never really recovered from his defeat at Issus although more competent leaders probably could have done so.

The Siege of Tyre

The Phoenician city of Tyre was on an island before Alexander came. He demanded surrender but the city leaders felt secure on their island with their substantial navy. They refused to surrender. Alexander determined to built a causeway to bring his siege engines up to the city wall. Alexander was successful in this strategy but it was not without setbacks. The navy and soldiers of Tyre were able to stop one line of causeway building and Alexander's forces had to start another. Alexander's revenge for the city defying him was terrible: the slaughter of the men and the sales of the others into slavery.

Alexander marched on to capture other cities of the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt fell easily to his forces. Alexander was apparently not worried that Darius would regroup his forces. After a leisurely tour of Egypt Alexander marched to the north end of Mesopotamia. North of Babylon Darius marshalled his new army to challenge Alexander.

The Battle at Gaugamela

Darius dispared of the Persian infantry matching the phalanx of the Macedonian. He secured a cavalry about five times as large as that of Alexander. He had large numbers of infantry but his hopes for victory were with his cavalry.

Since the Persian army so vastly outnumbered his forces Alexander chose not to try to prevent Persians from outflanking his forces. Instead he encouraged it hoping that the rush to outflank his troops would open up holes in the Persian line which his forces could breach. Alexander organized a breakthrough of the Persian line which gave him the opportunity to attack Darius himself. Darius was once again threatened with capture and fled. When the Persian center collapsed the commander of the cavalry on the left wing ordered a retreat. The Persians were once again defeated.

From there Alexander easily captured Babylon without a battle. With the Tigris and Euphraates River Valleys under his control it was left only for him to capture Susa and go on to the Persian capital of Persepolis.

The Battle of the Persian Gates and the Sack of Perseopolis

Alexander's army had been reenforced in a level of about 80 thousand. This army traveled south along the plains at the foot of the Zagros Mountains. It was winter and Alexander stopped at Sussian Rocks. Here he split out 20 thousand soldiers to follow him through the mountains to Persepolis. The rest of the army under Parmenio, a trusted general from Philip's time, were to take the long route to the south around the mountains.

Alexander's route was uneventful until they came to the defile leading out of the mountains. This was called the Persian Gates. The Persians had fortified the exit. Alexander's army was trapped.

But again Alexander was resourceful. From a local shepherd he found that there was another trail out. The shepherd did not think it was passable by an army but Alexander took the chance and what is more amazing he took the trail at night.

Alexander's emerged behind and above the Persian guarding the fortification at the Persian Gates. The Persians were overwhelmed. Some five thousand managed to escape but the rest of the Persians were slaughtered. The city of Persepolis was now defenseless.

Alexander's army occupied Persepolis and took possession of the Persian treasury there. The gold Alexander acquired was sufficient to finance any campaign he chose to launch. After a period of drinking binges at Persepolis Alexander decided to leave and torched the palace.

Although Alexander has been known as The Great to Europeans, to Persians his image was more like that of Attila the Hun among Western Europeans. (Interestingly enough within the territories ruled by Attila his image is that a wise and benevolent monarch.) Alexander's image is further complicated because there is reference to him in the Holy Koran. The Arabic version of Alexander is Iskandar and it is a not uncommon name throughout the Middle East.

Darius fled north to the region near the Caspian Sea. He had with him some loyal Greek mercenaries as well as Persian nobles such as Bessus, the satrap of Bactria (the Greek kingdom in what is now northwest Afghanistan). It was not easy to raise a new army to resist what was appearing to be the invincible army of Alexander. Alexander and his army were heading north to capture Darius. Darius started fleeing toward Bactria, Bessus' stronghold. When Alexander's troops were spotted by Darius' entourage beyond the Ahuran Pass the nobles told Darius to leave his royal wagon and mount a horse to escape with them. Darius, ever divorced from reality, felt riding a horse was beneath his dignity as an emperor and he refused. In exasperation the nobles stabbed Darius and left him to die in his covered wagon somewhere at the roadside between the Ahuran Pass and the city of Quse. They probably did not want him to fall in the hands of Alexander who could then claim that Darius accepted him, Alexander, as his overlord, thus making Alexander the legal ruler of the Persian Empire. However, if this was the purpose in stabbing Darius it also required the hiding of his body. As it was a Greek soldier came upon the dying Darius and gave him aid. The story that emerged was that the dying Darius told the Greek soldier to convey his gratitude to Alexander for the humane treatment of Darius' family and that he bequeathed his empire to Alexander.

Bessus tried to raise a resistance army among the Persians but the stories of Darius' death would have made it difficult to rally support. On the other hand Alexander could and did pursue Bessus to wipe out any possible resistance to his control and he could justify it on the basis that he was punishing someone who betrayed his lawful sovereign.

Alexander with an elite guard had outdistanced the rest of the Macedonian army in his attempt to capture Darius. After Darius' death Alexander sent Darius' body to Persepolis for royal burial and launched the pursuit of Bessus as soon as the rest of the Macedonian army caught up with him. The line of pursuit touched upon the Caspian Sea before turning east into what is now Afghanistan.

Alexander and the Macedonian Army in What is Now Afghanistan in 330-328 B.C.

In his conquest Alexander found about thirty cities called Alexandria. One of them is the city now called Kandahar (Qandihar). This name is basically Alexandria. Another Alexandria is the city of Herat in Afghanistan. It was originally called Alexandria in Areia.

The act of establishing an Alexandria involved more than choosing a name. Troops had to be stationed at the new city.

Alexander did not march to Bactria directly in the pursuit of Bessus. Instead he secured the region that might supply troops for Bessus. He chose a line of march that took him up the valley of the Helmand River. It was there that he established the city of Kandahar (Iskandahar). It was originally Alexandria in Arachosia.

From Kandahar the march took Alexander to the east approaching the Indus Valley before entering Kabul in 329 B.C. Kabul was a well-established trade city on the route between Persia and India. Kabul offered no resistance and Alexander soon marched on into the Panshir Valley. There he established another Alexandria, Alexandria under the Caucasus, at Begrum.

To get to Bactria and annihilate Bessus, Alexander needed to cross the Hindu Kush. He chose to march his army up the Panshir Valley and take it over the Khawak Pass. This is a difficult journey in modern times, it was even more so in 329 B.C. It was an especially difficult logistical problem for a horde of tens of thousands of troops and camp followers. It points up that although the fighting prowess of Alexander's army was amazing the logistical capabilities were even more amazing. Having enough food and water for the horde was difficult enough but there was also the additional problem of getting that food and water to an army that may have stretched out fifteen miles. At the Khawak Pass the supply units could not quite cope with the logistics. Some of the pack animals were butchered for food and the meat eaten raw. But the army met no resistance and successfully crossed the Hindu Kush and passed down into the valley of the Amu Darya, known in ancient times as the Oxus River.

Bactria had had Greek settlements long before Alexander's time.

In Bactria at that time the principal city was Balkh. The city of Balkh apparently accepted Alexander without resistance. After a short stay Alexander decided to pursue Bessus who had fled from Bactria to north of the Oxus River. Beyond the Oxus River was the frontier province of the Persian Empire called Sogdia.

In the region beyond the Oxus the army came upon one city of Greeks who joyously welcomed Alexander and his men. But instead of reciprocating their joy, Alexander ordered their massacre because these Greeks were the descendants of priests who a century and a half earlier had turned their holy sanctuary over to the Persians. The Persians resettled those priests to a remote part of their empire. Although there may have been some rationale behind Alexander's action the real explanation probably lies in Alexander's mental condition. He most likely suffered from manic-depressive syndrome, now also known as bipolar syndrome. While in the manic phase Alexander possessed boundless energy and charm. He could be generous to his enemies as well as his friends. But in the depressive phase he could order monstrous atrocities and even personally carryout dispicable acts of violence. He consumed alcohol to excess and this probably made matters worse. It is fairly common for manic-depressives to try to cope with their depression by means of alcohol and they may get some respite in the short run but in the long run the alcoholism exacerbates the depression. The destruction of Thebes early in Alexander's career was probably a consequence of such depression.

In Sogdia Alexander's forces had more difficulty than in the previous campaign. The problem was not with Bessus. Alexander invaded the region quickly and nearly caught up with Bessus. Bessus' frightened troops turned him over to Alexander who had him mutilated, tortured and then sent back to the city of Hamadan where he was found guilty and executed. The problem of Bessus was thus dispatched with quickly. The problem in Sogdia was that the Sogdians were not willing to acknowledge Alexander's overlordship. Bactria and Sogdia had excellent horsemen who were quite willing to join a cavalry militia to challenge the Macedonians. The Sogdians annihilated some isolated garrisons of Macedonians and when Alexander with his army fought them Alexander suffered one of his more serious wounds, a broken leg. He recuperated in Maracanda (Samarkand).

The Sogdian resistance rallied around Spitamenes, a former follower of Bessus. Spitamenes was of Persian ancestry and a possible leader of Persian resistance elsewhere in the Empire so Alexander could not leave Spitamenes unchecked.

Alexander began the conquest of the Sogdian cities, one by one. Any city that resisted was overwhelmed with the siege equipment the Macedonian army carried with it and all the males of military age were executed.

But still Spitamenes' cavalry resisted and even administered a major defeat upon the Macedonians. They did this at Samarkand.

When the Macedonian army units arrived at Samarkand to take the city Spitamenes' troops withdrew in seeming retreat. But when the Macedonian troops followed them they were caught in an ambush in which about two thousand of Alexander's soldiers were wiped out.

Alexander's forces gained victories but the victories were not decisive and the resistance continued. At this point Alexander's mother sent him a message asking him why it was taking him so long in that area. Alexander replied to her question by sending back to Meacedonia four of the inhabitants along with a bucket of dirt. This was to say that it was taking him so long because the people there would fight each other over a fistfull of dust, as she could see for herself by observing the group he sent her.

There was a famous incident that occurred in Sogdia. The Sogdians had a pinnacle refuge, a tooth of a rock to which they could retreat and remove the means of access. A group of Sogdian were occupying the Sogdian Rock when Alexander and his troops approached. The Macedonian hailed the Sogdians from across a ravine that blocked access to the Rock. The Macedonian asked the Sogdian to surrender. The Sogdians replied to the effect that the Sogdians would not be afraid of the Macedonians until the Macedonian learned to fly. The Sogdians on the Rock were no threat to Alexander and he could easily have passed them by, but not after they had challenged his invincibility. Alexander called for volunteers who knew the techniques of rock climbing with ropes and pitons. Macedonia is a mountainous country and there were quite a few who did know rock climbing. Three hundred volunteered and during the night they climbed up the back side of the Rock. Their losses were substantial, ten percent did not make it. But at sun rise the next day the Sogdians looked up and so a mass of Macedonian soldiers in battle array. The Sogdians were dumbfounded and surrendered. Among those on the Rock was a teenage girl, Roxanne.

Another group of Sogdians sought safety in a mountain refuge and Alexander's catapults and siege equipment forced their surrender also. The will to fight left the Sogdians. Spitamenes was betrayed by his own troops and the resistance ended.

Alexander was benevolent toward the Sogdians. He sought a rapproachment with the Sogdians. He attended a Sogdian wedding. There one of the girls dancing for the ceremony was a fifteen year old, Roxanne, who had been on the Sogdian Rock when Alexander's troops captured it.

Alexander fell in love with Roxanne at first sight, just as his father Philip had similarly fallen in love with Alexander's mother Olympias. Alexander chose to marry Roxanne, to the consternation of the Macedonians. The Macedonians reactions was: Sure you want her but you are emperor of the world, you don't have to marry her. Their concern was that Alexander's heirs from such a marriage would be half barbarian Sogdians. But Alexander did marry her.

Alexander and the Macedonians in the Indus River Valley

From Samarkand Alexander returned to Kabul. From Kabul the army marched east. Roxanne was not the only wife journeying with the army. Altogether there were approximately 30 thousand camp followers, including several thousand children. These were the children of the soldiers and their wives. The number of soldiers was in the neighborhood of eighty thousand.

This horde passed through the desolate area east of Kabul. The main army, under the command of Alexander's companion Hephaistion, traveled through the Khyber Pass into the vicinity of Peshawar. Alexander took a smaller group on an alternate route which arrived in the Indus Valley upriver from Peshawar.

The ruler of Taxila had already made contact with Alexander and submitted to his overlordship. Upriver from Taxila there was refuge called Aornos. Aornos was situated on a plateau facing the river and protected by steep sides. Historical legend had it that the Greek man-god Hercules had tried to take Aornos and failed.

Alexander decided to capture Aornos for a number of reasons. First its capture would tell the people of the region that there was no escaping Alexander. Second, it would eliminate a possible center of resistance to his later rule. Third, it was a challenge for Alexander to outdo Hercules, whom he counted as one of his ancestors on his mother's side.

The main army under Hephaistion joined Alexander in the march to Aornos. At Aornos Alexander saw that an assault up the hillside on which it was located would probably fail. He found from local sources that there was a trail that led into the area above Aornos. The entrance to the trail was about five miles away. Alexander took the army and their siege equipment over this difficult trail. Where the trail came to Aornos there was a ravine about 1600 feet across and 100 feet deep. Alexander set the army to work building a causeway across the ravine. The catapults were used to bombard the defense force at Aornos. The defenders knew that it was just of matter of time before Alexander's forces captured Aornos. At night Alexander used a clever and ruthless trick to final destroy the defenders. He left guards off one escape route. The defenders thought it was an mistake and took the opportunity to try to make an escape. But it was not a mistake. Alexander had his troops lying in ambush and when the defenders of Aornos came out they were massaacred by Alexander's troops.

After the victory at Aornos Alexander was ready to conquer the rest of the region. Many rulers capitulated to Alexander. One ruler who did not was Porus who ruled a kingdom along the Hydaspes (Jhelum) River. This was in the region of Indus Valley called the Punjab, the five river region. Alexander's army was vastly superior to Porus' in numbers, equipment and experience. Porus hoped only to hold up the Macedonian army's crossing of the Jhelum River until the monsoon rains would swell the river to the point that it would be impossible for the army to cross.

Porus had an army of thirty thousand soldiers with two thousand of them cavalry. He had in addition three hundred war elephants, the ancient equivalent of tanks. Against any other opponent the force would have been formidable, but against Alexander's forces it was pitiable.

Alexander arrayed his forces so as to make it uncertain where the crossing of the Jhelum River would take place. Porus had to disperse his already indadequate forces opposite the places where Alexander's forces could be seen to be concentrated. But all of the visible concentrations were merely for show. The real crossing force Alexander managed to hide in a bend in the river as shown below.

Alexander's crossing force consisted of five thousand cavalry and four thousand infantry. The two crossings required were relatively easy with the river water often only chest high. The crossing commenced at night so that the force would be on the other side by dawn. When Porus was informed of the crossing he sent a force of two thousand men with fifty chariots under the command of his son. The chariots got mired in mud and all of them were lost. Porus' son was killed. Porus then directed his main force to the crossing. The battle was a decisive victory for the Macedonians. About one third of Porus' army was killed and one third captured including Porus himself. The war elephants caused some problem for the Macedonians but not much. The elephant drivers, the mahouts, were killed by Alexander's archers and the elephants themselves were maimed. The elephants once blinded and their trunks cut by swords were as much of a danger to Porus' forces as the Macedonians.

Porus' capture did not result in his execution for holding up Alexander's advance through India as might have been expeted. When the captured Porus was brought before Alexander asked him, "How do you want me to treat you?" Porus answered "Like a king." This answer had two interpretations: 1. Treat me like the king that I am. 2. Treat me with the generosity of the noble king that you, Alexander, are. This answer pleased Alexander and he must have been in a good mood, perhaps even in a manic mood, because he freed Porus and gave him back the rulership of his kingdom under Alexander's overlordship. Alexander even added some new territory to Porus' kingdom. Alexander's treatment of Porus fits in with mythology of the times i.e., that monarchs are special, noble people ordained by the gods to rule and deserving of regal treatment even in defeat.

The spectacular victory over Porus precipitated a crisis for the Macedonians. After that victory it was clear that no one could stop the Macedonians. Alexander wanted to march east into the Ganges River Valley. It was not far from the site of the defeat of Porus. With the support of Porus' kingdom the invasion of the Ganges River Valley would not be difficult. The problem was the army. Alexander did take the army in the direction of the Ganges Valley. When they reached the Beas River the soldiers refused to cross it. They were tired of campaigning and worried that they would never see their families back in Macedonia again. The climate of India was taking its toll. Tropical disease was much more of a threat in hot, humid India than it had been in desert and mountains of central Asia.

When Alexander called for the army to march east the soldiers refused to go. It was virtually mutiny, but Alexander had promised them when the campaign first began that he would not rule them as a tyrant. In the face of their refusal to continue he acquiesed and agreed to head back to Macedonia. He did however sulk in his tent for a few days.

The army returned to the Jhelum River where it made preparation for the journey down river. When the army did move down the Indus River Valley it did so in three branches. There was a fleet of ships and boats which traveled down the Indus River. Alexander joined this branch. Another branch traveled on the east side of the river under the command of Hephaistion and the third branch on the west side under Craterus. There was much fighting as Alexander insisted on destroying any opposition along the way which might be a threat to his future rule of the Indus region.

At the city of Multan Alexander led the assault and was hit by an arrow in the chest. He and three of his guards had been trapped in the city alone when a siege ladder broke. Two of his companions were killed by the city's defenders and Alexander would have been killed also if the Macedonians had not just in time broke through a city gate. The attackers thought Alexander had been killed and they took revenge on the city defenders. But Alexander was still alive and surgeons cut out the arrow. From the description of the surgery, which implied a perforated lung, it seems hardly credible that he could have survived. But he did survive and recovered enough that in a few days he could ride a horse. The people of Multan did not survive. The Macedonian massacred the entire population in revenge for Alexander's wound.

Along the way Alexander founded yet another Alexandria, this one called Alexandria at the Confluence. The confluence was of the Jhelum and Beas Rivers. This Alexandria is now the city of Uchch.

One part of the army separated and marched through what is now southern Afghanistan and Iran. When the rest of the army reach Patala the fleet went to the coast to embarck on the voyage west. Alexander with the remainder of the army and the camp followers marched west initially north of the Makran Desert. In part, the reason for Alexander ordering this difficult overland march was to arrange for supplies for the ships along the coast. Perhaps the other part of the reason was because it was a challenge.

The Return Journey

The march of the main force of Alexander's army was complicated by the increase in its size due to the incorporation of forces and camp followers from the Indus region. Initially Alexander chose a route north of the coast to avoid the extreme desert. The route he chose was still desert but not so extreme as the coast. However in the Kech River Valley there is a danger of flash floods from rainstorms in the nearby mountains. Natives in such regions know not to tarry in the dry stream beds, particularly not to camp there. It would have been difficult for Alexander's army as large and slow moving as it was to avoid such stream beds. The flash floods came and washed away much of the supply trains with their food, water and equipment. There was tremendous loss of life among the camp followers as well.

The loss of food and water led to later losses during the march in the desert. Everyone suffered privation. No one had as much water as needed. At one point his men scrounged enough water to give Alexander a helmet-full. Alexander, in a dramatic gesture, poured the water into the sand rather than drink while his men could not. His men must have thought that it was a shame he did not choose an equally dramatic way of expressing the same thought without wasting the precious water.

The army reached an oasis at Turbat and rested and replenished supplies there.

At this point Alexander took the army to the coast rather than the easier route through what is now Iran. He apparently was wanting to make contact with his fleet which might be short of water and food. At the coast, where Pasni is now, Alexander had his troops dig wells as a source of water for ship traversing the coast. He was not able to find the fleet at that time however.

From Pasni Alexander took the army on a route along the coast through the Makran Desert. The terrain is so desolate that it encourages comparison with Mars. In some places the plain is encrusted with salt that makes plant growth virtually impossible.

After a journey of about a hundred miles through the Makran Desert Alexander turned the army away from the coast and marched to the city that is now called Bampur and from there on to Salmous where his route crossed paths with contingent that took the more northerly route from the Indus Valley through what is now Afghanistan and southeastern Iran. From Salmous he journeyed down to the coast at the Strait of Hormuz where he found the fleet under the command of Nearchus. The fleet had had difficulties but had survived.

The fleet went on to Mesopotamia and Alexander returned to Salmous and headed west to the site of the Persian capital of Persepolis. After the march of about 600 miles from the Indus there must have been considerable remorse among the Macedonians that they had torched the city after a drunken orgy the last time they were there. Alexander himself expressed such remorse.

From Persepolis the army traveled on to the city of Susa, where the most notable happening was the arranged mass marriage of about one hundred of the higher officers of the army with Persian brides. Alexander and Hephaistion also married Persian brides at this time, the daughters of Darius, who had been captured at the Battle of Issus. Ten thousand of the common soldiers also took Persian brides in the mass marriage. Alexander's regime was becoming more Persian in personnell and practices and he showed little interest in Macedonia.

From Susa Alexander took the army along the coast of the Persian Gulf to the mouth of the Euphrates. There he founded yet another Alexandria, the last as it would turn out. He went by boat up the Eurphrates past the turnoff to Babylon to the city of Opis.

In Opis there was a sinister episode. In a confrontation with his Macedonian veterans he threatened to raise a new army from among the Persians. When some spoke out against him Alexander jumped into the crowd and singled them out and sent them to their death by execution.

From Opis he took the army to Ecbatana (Hamadan), an important administrative center for the Persian Empire. It was a higher altitude and a more pleasant climate. Alexander and many of his soldiers indulged in marathon drinking binges. Some drank so much that they died. One of those who died was Alexander's close companion Hephaistion.

Alexander and Hephaistion had been friends since boyhood. They even resembled each other quite a bit. One notable difference was that Hephaistion was taller than Alexander. When Alexander captured Darius' family at the Battle of Issus Darius' mother came to plead for their safety. When she entered Alexander's tent she took Hephaistion who was taller to be Alexander. After she addressed Hephaistion as Alexander and then found she had made an error she was fearful that all was lost, but Alexander raised her up and he told her that everything was alright because Hephaistion was Alexander too.

So Hephaistion was Alexander's friend, lover and lifelong companion, even his alter ego and now he was dead. Alexander was devastated. He lay on Hephaistion's body all day and night. He seemed to have lost his senses. He tried to have Hephaistion worshiped as a god but the priests said Hephaistion's celebration as a hero was the best that could be done. Alexander called for a furneral pyre for Hephaistion that was five stories tall and cost many fortunes.

It was perhaps at this point that Alexander began worrying that the gods had deserted him. Alexander's religiousness was what would be called superstitiousness today. He began to see ominous signs. The most ominous of these involved an elderly Hindu priest who had joined Alexander's entourage. The elderly man finding himself nearing death decided to burn himself on a funeral pyre. He said goodbye to all of Alexander's companions but said to Alexander, "We will say our goodbyes in Babylon."

This omen led Alexander to postpone and procrastinate about entering Babylon. When Alexander did enter Babylon there were crows fighting above the city wall, another evil omen. Yet Alexander continued to drink to excess. A month before his 33rd birthday he became ill with a fever and the fever worsened. Soon he was barely able to speak. He was asked to whom the empire should go Alexander whispered, "To the strongest of course!"

About ten days before he would have become 33 years of age Alexander, the ruler of a world empire he had created himself, died.

Was Alexander Manic-Depressive? Was He an Alcoholic?

Alexander was responsible for ruthless atrocities, but so were most leaders of that time. What was different about Alexander was a bipolarity. Contemporaries spoke of his charm and boundless energy. Others spoke of his brooding and murderous intolerance and that he was thought to be "melancholy mad." His gestures of generousity were well known, but so were his atrocities.

  • The city of Thebes, one of the major cities of Greece, defied him and order it sacked and destroyed and the Thebans massacred.
  • A man known as Black Cleitus had fought for Alexander's father Philip. He fought for Alexander and saved his life at the Battle of Granicus. Alexander in Samarkand announced his intention of appointing Cleitus satrap (provincial governor) of Bactria. At the banquet celebrating the appointment Alexander got drunk and began disparaging his father Philip. Cleitus challenged Alexander's statement and told Alexander that all his glory was due to his father. This made Alexander furious and when Cleitus made another remark Alexander stabbed him with a javelin, killing him.
  • In what is now western Afghanistan there was an episode called the Conspiracy of the Pages. A group among the pages that served Alexander decided to kill him. They arranged to be on duty all at the same time. The plot was foiled only by Alexander carousing all night and not coming home. A royal attendant heard of the plot and reported it to Philotas, the son of Alexander's top general Parmenio. Philotas failed to report the conspiracy of the pages to Alexander and Alexander not only had the pages executed (by stoning) but also Philotas. Philotas' father, Parmenio, had been left in the city of Hamadan in what is now Iran. Before Parmenio could hear of the fate of his son Alexander sent assassins to kill him. Thus Alexander repaid the past services of Parmenio.
  • In Bactria Alexander ordered the massacre of the descendants of Greek priests who had collaborated with the Persian king on the Ionian coast a hundred and fifty years before. The Greeks in that city had done nothing to indicate that they would be anything other than most loyal subjects for Alexander. They greeted him with great joy and he had them butchered.

The contradictions in his behavior are easily explained by his being afflicted with the manic-depressive syndrone, also called the bipolar syndrome. People who have been afflicted with manic-depressive syndrome and written about it give some understanding of how difficult it is for others to appreciate the seriousness of the condition. The writer William Styron says that his depressive episode were so terrible that he would rather have a limb amputated than go through one of them. A psychiatrist, Kay Redfield Jamison, who was also a manic-depressive says that the manic episodes were like skating on the rings of Saturn.

It would have been difficult enough for Alexander to constrain his impulses given his status and the adulation he received. When this was compounded with the manic-depressive syndrome it is not surprising that the results would be bizarre. The end result was a life that reads like the script of a modern movie of an Anti-Christ , a figure who leads a charmed life and has a meteoric rise to power because he is the offspring of the Devil. Alexander himself was the father of at least two children. Roxanne bore him a son at the time of the Indus Valley campaign but that son died in infancy. After the death of Hephaistion Alexander conceived another child with Roxanne, another son who did survive infancy. He lived to be about ten, at which time he was a possible threat to the kingships of Alexander's generals. He and his mother Roxanne were killed to remove that threat. Alexander had married a second wife, one of the daughters of Darius. Roxanne had her killed long before Roxanne herself was killed. There were rumors of children of Alexander by other women but they disappeared, if they ever really existed.


Alexandria and the Hellenistic World

Today, Alexandria is the chief port and second largest city in Egypt with a population of over four million. It has a pleasant Mediterranean climate with sandy beaches, making it a favourite tourist attraction. Alexandria is the Egyptian Riviera, and is characteristically Egyptian with numerous mosques, palaces, monuments, parks, and gardens.

Egypt was invaded by the Arabs in 642 AD and became part of an expanding Islamic Empire. Since then, Islam has been the official religion of the country. The bulk of foreign trade passes through the port of Alexandria excellent railroads and highways connect it to Cairo, the modern capital. (1)

The Curious Capital

Alexandria was an important city of the ancient world. For more than two thousand years, it was the largest city in Egypt and was its capital for almost half of that time. As an important trading post between Europe and Asia, it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. During its three earliest centuries, it was perhaps the leading cultural center of the world, home to people of different religions and different philosophies. It was once the center of the Hellenistic Empire, and the hub of scholarship and commerce in the ancient world. Greek scholars, Roman emperors, Jewish leaders, fathers of the Christian Church, mathematicians, philosophers, scientists, poets, and other intellectuals flocked to Alexandria. One of the main attractions was the Alexandrian Library and Museum.

Alexandria was the intellectual capital of the world and famous for its extensive library, which in the 3rd century BC was said to contain 500,000 volumes. The Museum was a center of research, with laboratories and observatories, and had scholars such as Euclid and Eratosthenes working there. Alexandria was also a center for biblical studies. The chief librarian commissioned the Septuagint, which was the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament. Why did Alexandria become a destination for so many people of all races, creeds, and professions?

As Michael Wood said, "it was the first city of the civilized world in size, elegance, riches, and luxuries," (2) where one could obtain anything imaginable to fill the needs of the body and soul. Just as its famous Pharos Lighthouse was a welcome sight for weary travelers, Alexandria acted as a beacon for merchants, curious tourists, religious prophets, and most importantly, the finest intellectual minds of the times. Alexander the Great had a dream as he slept one night, (3) a vision in which he learned the location for his new megalopolis, (4) a capital for his empire. The small fishing village of Rhacotis was where Alexander could see the possibility of humanity coming together - people living together with tolerance for one another's cultural and religious ideologies living a life of freedom.

Plutarch tells us that Alexander went to Egypt and liberated the Egyptians from Persian rule, which they had suffered under since the 6th century BC occupation. When he freed the aristocracy, they welcomed him as their Pharaoh, a very great honour. They made him ruler of the oldest civilization in the world. (5)


Alexander the Great and Persian King Darius, Battle of the Issus River

On his way to visit the temple of the god Amoun, Alexander stopped at Rhacotis on the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. He liked the climate and the coastal location, which also had a natural source of fresh water nearby. Its harbours were also an important part of why he chose that area of Egypt to become the capital of his empire. They were able to receive both passenger and commercial ships, and played a central role in the exporting of valuable goods, such as grain and papyrus. Alexander asked his engineers to plan a city in his name at the site. He also appointed Dinocrates of Rhodes to be his chief architect for the project. But Alexander did not live long enough to see his well-planned city reach its phenomenal heights. Ptolemy I, his trusted friend and general, took his corpse there "to set the seal on the new capital," (6) insisting that Alexander would have wanted it that way. Ptolemy later had a mausoleum built in the city's center called the Sema, where Alexander's body was eventually placed in a golden sarcophagus. (7) By doing so, Ptolemy increased his own prestige, and also advanced his agenda to become Alexander's successor.

As time went on, many wars were fought amongst Alexander's generals, who were known as the Diodochi. After the Battle of Ipsus, it became evident that the great Hellenistic monarchs were destined to share in Alexander's conquests. Ptolemy's base was Egypt, and it was there that he and his descendants went on to build their capital into the greatest Greek colony of the ancient world. It was no longer the polis but the cosmopolis that epitomized the Hellenistic world. (8) The polis "was [now] simply a hometown, it was no longer the supreme norm of thought and culture." (9) This concept of cosmopolitan developed side-by-side with the Macedonian rulers. The world state, the mega-state, was proposed by them. (10) In the Hellenistic age, we get a sense of universalism in politics and a corresponding sense of individualism as the world expanded, and was linked by a common language (Greek koine). In Alexandria, there was a great fusing of many cultures it was a great city built on the foundation of a tiny village to become the capital for the late great Alexander's empire.

Ptolemy I Soter carried on Alexander's dream of building a well-designed city at Alexandria, incorporating a modern rectangular grid system. The city's two principal streets may have intersected at the Sema and were said to be over one hundred feet wide, (11) and "paved with gold." (12) An area called Brokion was found in the center of Alexandria, and was the Ptolemies' Royal City that covered over a square mile. (13) Temples, theatres, palaces, administrative buildings, a coin mint, the King's residence, a zoo, and its famous Museum and Library were designed and built by the Ptolemies. (14) A great university grew up around the Museum and attracted many scholars, including Aristarchus of Samothrace, the collator of the Homeric texts Euclid, the mathematician and Herophilus, the anatomist, who founded a medical school in Alexandria. Much of the city was built out of exquisite stone. Where did all the wealth come from to build and protect such magnificence?

Ptolemy I was an intelligent man with good administrative skills. The excellent port and dock facilities were the foundation of all his prosperity, with two harbours capable of accommodating the largest ships of the day. (15) Egypt had enormous surpluses in grain that were exported all over the Mediterranean world, besides the valuable cash crop of papyrus that was used as a writing material. Gold mines were sprinkled between the Nile and the Red Sea coast, yielding large quantities of the precious metal. The gold was beaten into shape or cast in molds. (16) Exports were the foundation of wealth for the Ptolemaic or Lagid dynasty - Egyptian exports, as well as raw materials discovered in other parts of Africa. As Michael Grant said, "Alexandria made one set of fortunes by exporting . and another by its maritime trading all over the near and Middle East." (17) Ptolemy was also a very experienced general. Since so much prosperity grew from his businesses, he was rich enough to have one of the finest mercenary armies of the time and a fleet that was hard to surpass. The army also kept a tight control on the Egyptian peasants, (18) who lived in grinding poverty and had very little to look forward to. Hellenistic monarchs like Ptolemy were very greedy and ruthless. They considered themselves great kings, even gods.

Religion

With the uncertainty of the time and the conflict that came with it, people began to look within themselves for peace of mind. The average male no longer had any say about political issues, nor could he be a soldier since mercenary armies were the norm in the Hellenistic World. Instead, he began to look at moral issues, and to the well-being of his soul. With traditional political religions no longer adequate, people turned to magic and mystery religions, with salvation or soteria, the object of their religious practises. (19) Thousands of papyri containing magical potions and spells have been found in Egypt. Reading the Pharmaceutria, an idyll by Theocritus, a belief in magical spells is easily seen:

The Greeks who went to Alexandria were also very open-minded about the local gods, and a strange synthesis emerged in Greek Egypt. Ptolemy had even invented a new god named Serapis, who was a combination of the Egyptian god, Osiris and the Bull god, Apis. But the greatest Egyptian deity was Isis and her cult went far beyond the borders of the Land of the Nile, spreading throughout Europe. She was Osiris' mother and consort, the glory of women. In Hellenistic Alexandria, she became identified with Arsinoe II, wife of Ptolemy II, and with later Ptolemic queens. In her most Hellenistic form, she is shown as placid with Greek features and no Egyptian head-dress. Isis' iconography of Mother of all things became attached to the character of the Mother Mary, while the figure of Christ took over the figure of Osiris. The Hellenistic religions became the building blocks of Christianity. (21)

The Jewish community in Alexandria was large and had its own separate quarter in the city, overseen by an ethnarch. The Jews also had their own council under the Ptolemies. Around the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Alexandrian Jews began the translation of their Bible into Greek. This version is known as the Septuagint and was very important because it made the religion more accessible to many Jews who found reading the original difficult. The Septuagint also made Judaism accessible to people of other faiths, who were curious about the basis for the Jewish religion. (22) Greeks, Romans, and Jews constituted the majority of people living in Alexandria in its heyday, but there were also many thousands of Egyptians, Persians, Syrians, Moroccans, Turks, and many Asiatics. (23) Alexandria was a melting pot of people from all over the ancient world. The outcome of having so many cultural and religious ideologies coming together in the city was that Christianity was able to rise out of the Hellenistic movements of magic and superstition, philosophy, mystery religions, and Judaism. It was the Hellenized/Gentilized Jewish philosophy typified by St. Paul and Philo of Alexandria - the fusion of Jewish and Greek thought - that formed the basis of modern Christianity, through Clement and St. Augustine. (24) As Michael Wood observed during his visit to Alexandria:

Paradise?

People living in or visiting Alexandria during those early days felt they were living in Paradise. Many had come from small, rural areas and no longer had to be concerned with the political or military aspects of their poli. Life had opened up in a lot of ways for a Hellenistic kosmopolites in terms of how they lived, where they could travel, and the gods they worshipped. Alexandria was the first great city of its time and people from everywhere went there for their own personal reasons. It was a land of opportunity, where anything was possible: the best wine, the most pungent of spices, the finest clothing, wealth which could not be imagined, luxurious architecture, expensive foods, games, numerous theatres, and the most beautiful women in the world. One poet writes of two women discussing why one of their husbands has vanished. He had gone to Alexandria on business and after ten months had not yet returned home. (26) The attractions of the city were intoxicating and some did not want to leave but it was also a very dangerous and unpredictable place. The city is described as bustling, crowded, and very rich. In Theocritus' idyll, The Festival of Adonis, Alexandria is said to be exhausting:

One can also read about a man who had killed a cat and before the day was over, was dead and his house burnt to the ground. (28) Law enforcement was often carried out by the mob, and in such cases, not even the king could change a person's fate. Cats were very sacred to Egyptians. Respect had to be shown to them or you suffered the consequences.

Patronage and the Alexandrian Museum and Library

Against this backdrop of excitement and power, another sector of the ancient population arrived in the city: the scholarly and intellectual men, who found their places in Alexandria's famous Museum and Library, and who took advantage of the Ptolemic patronage that made their work possible. The top minds of the day could concentrate on their research without having to worry about going to war or how to feed themselves. Centers of cultural activities in the Hellenistic era no longer centered around Athens, but instead, could be found in the capital cities of the great Hellenistic kings. For Greeks, the center of the earth was no longer Delphi the center had shifted dramatically. The Macedonians had a lust for culture, a lust that found its roots in the Greek perception that Macedonians were barbaric and stupid. Some Macedonians - surely the royal family - felt they were Greek and just as advanced. They now had the wealth to prove it. By possessing the written works of great intellectuals, they believed they could somehow possess the very souls of the creators. (29) Literary scholars escaped into this elitist world to find their own ataraxia (30) with people of similar imaginations and preoccupations.

There are so many questions to ask. Who were these special, gifted men, lucky enough to take part in this spiritual and scholarly fraternity? What was their legacy? What were the Museum and the Library of Alexandria?

Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle's, advised Ptolemy on the Library. The library of Aristotle actually provided the model for the Library of Alexandria. (31) Ancient geographer, Strabo tells us that Aristotle taught the kings of Egypt to establish a library:

Strabo is referring to the Peripatetic influence on both the Library and Museum, "with emphasis on the collection and comparison of material, rather than on abstract philosophies in the tradition of the Academy." (33) The library was founded by Ptolemy I, but his contribution was overshadowed by the magnificence of his son, Philadelphus. (34)

The founding of the library in 295 BC can be looked on as the turning point in bibliography and book-keeping. The library became the center of Hellenistic literature and literary life. Many ancient texts still survive to this day because they were collected, preserved, and stored at the Library of Alexandria. The library had a mission to collect a copy of every single book ever written. They collected copies of classical writers, collated them, and came up with a text that was as close as they could get to the original material. (35) In the third book of Galen's Epidemics, he says that Ptolemy became so obsessed with the collection of books that he ordered any books found on ships docking in Alexandria confiscated and copied. The originals would be kept by him and the copies given to the owners. These books were subsequently labeled "from the ships." (36) Books were mostly purchased at huge book markets in places like Athens and Rhodes. Galen also tells the amusing anecdote of Ptolemy asking unsuspecting Athenians if he could borrow the original standardized texts of their tragedies by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus, so he could have them copied. Ptolemy was asked to put a deposit of fifteen talents on the transaction, which he willingly did. Ptolemy never did return the originals, but gave the Athenians back copies. (37) Fifteen talents was nothing to such a wealthy man Ptolemy and his descendants were to spend much more attracting and keeping the scholars who graced the halls of their cultural establishments.

The monarchs wanted poets in their courts and libraries, and scholarly people working on scientific research for them. Membership in the scholarly circle depended on court patronage. One could apply for it by writing an ode to the king as Theocritus did for Ptolemy and then for his son, or a person could be sought after by the king. (38) If Macedonian rulers set out to prove they were as culturally advanced as the Athenians were, it seems likely they also tried to lure the most important intellectuals away from them. Just as the monarchs collected books and scientific information, they also collected intellectuals. What is important to emphasize is that the Alexandrian experience was the first evidence of widespread scholarship, and academia became a life-long occupation for the men who worked in the Library. (39) Their job was to collect books and copy them, to criticize and comment on the books, to punctuate, and to preserve them. Out of their work came the canonization of books, the first bibliographies, and biographies. They also advanced the formulated concepts of grammar and metre, making them sciences. Callimachus' Pinakes or Catalogues were models of organization. In its one hundred and twenty books, he took inventory of all manuscripts in the library. So how many books were in the Alexandrian Library? The number remains hazy, and some of the information dubious.

The Alexandrian Scholars were the first to divide Homer's works into twenty-four books. Did they count the twenty-four books of the Odyssey as one book or twenty-four? Athenaeus' Deipnosophists was traditionally split into fifteen books. Did they count the fifteen books as one book or fifteen? Different perceptions may account for many of the discrepancies. But we do know that men like Aristophanes of Byzantium worked there and spent his life reading and re-reading every book in the library. The great polymath Eratosthenes, who calculated the circumference of the earth, and whose map of the time was more detailed than any other before it, spent years at the library, as did Didymus Chalcenterus, who was said to have written 3500 books in his lifetime and was a teacher in Alexandria. The great Greek rhetorician, grammarian, and scholar, Athenaeus, also worked at the library. (40) But the greatest stars of Hellenistic Alexandria were the poets, whose work became very scholarly.

Callimachus of Cyrene, besides being the author of the Pinakes and the chief librarian, also divided literature into the categories we use today and wrote poetry. His style of poetry was the popular two to five line epigram. He disliked long poems, calling them "a big book, a big evil." (41) One of his colleagues at the time was Apollonius Rhodius, who wrote very long epic poems. His most famous was written in four books and was entitled Argonautica, "making him the first poet to use romantic love as the central theme for an epic poem." (42) Theocritus of Syracuse wrote poems, epigrams, mimes, and his famous idylls. (43) During his life he had lived both in the country and in cities, and tried to bring both realities together to present a realistic picture of how people really lived and what they were confronted with on a daily basis. Michael Grant calls "Theocritus his own unique person, who combined the greatest contradictions of the age: an urge to see things as they truly were and its counter-urge: to withdraw from this reality into the peace of mind that is invulnerable to its blows." (44) But one man epitomized the extent to which Alexandrian poetry went to impress its readers. His name was Lycophron. His job was to produce texts on comedies, but he also wrote poetry. Lycophron's most famous was a two thousand line epic called Alexandra, which had multiple allusions to mythological characters and events. By this time, poetry had become an esoteric art form. The struggles of the Diodochi discouraged the writing of any poetry that was not purely fictional. Instead, the monarchs preferred to be entertained and immortalized by poetry. Since it was no longer wise to write about political themes, poets wrote for their kings and their colleagues poetry became an educated game for the intellectuals. Dramatic and comedic playwrights were also encouraged to put aside political issues and were no longer able to poke fun at their powerful kings. In the Hellenistic Age, comedy and tragedy came together as one. The new Comedy of Menander was born, and was based on the lives of fictional neighbourhood characters. The happy ending motif was born. (45)

The Library formed a complex with the Museum, (46) which was the most famous temple of the Muses. Strabo writes that the Museum was part of the royal gardens and had a large house where common meals could be shared. The Museum had a priest in charge of it and enjoyed financial freedom. (47) It was a college of elite scholars who received grants or pensions to study. They, like the librarians, might be expected to teach the occasional member of the royal family, but basically it was a research position. The sheer amounts of knowledge collected and uncovered on Alexander's journeys opened up a whole world of facts. Theophrastus is famous for his eighteen book history on botany which came directly out of the expeditions and which still forms the foundation of botany today. He also wrote a book called Characters at the Museum, which seems to be the first work of psychology. This collection of thirty male character sketches reflects the Hellenistic world and its move towards realism. Menander used this work in writing his entertaining plays. (48) But it was not only the intellectuals who graced the halls of the Alexandrian Library and Museum, it was the very Ptolemic kings who financed these institutions, for they too were educated and wrote books on many subjects.

The scientific contributions of the Museum were far-reaching: history, applied science, mathematics, optics, psychology, applied medicine, botany, hydraulics, engineering, and mechanics. History as a pseudo-science was an invention of the Hellenistic Age. The first real historian was Polybios, who wrote a massive history on how the Greeks and Romans met, and on the causes of the Macedonian Wars. His style was not elegant, and as a result, was not preserved in its entirety, but we still have six books more or less intact. The literature that was saved constituted the best written, not always the most factual. Euclid wrote a thirteen book mathematical textbook called The Elements and developed geometry into a science. The astronomer, Aristarchus of Samos wrote On the Size and Distances of the Sun and Moon, being the first to say that the earth went around the sun. (49) Aristarchus virtually invented modern astronomy while living in the city. In the world of medicine, Herophilus and Erasistratus followed Aristotle's empirical methods while doing their work in comparative anatomy. Their knowledge was achieved by the dissection of living people, mostly prisoners. Science was promoted by the Hellenistic kings because of its importance in the development of military inventions, and its use in warfare strategy and moving large numbers of soldiers across long distances. In Alexandria, Archimedes the mathematician and astronomer, discovered specific gravity and did a lot of work on hydraulics, inventing the hydraulic pump. The development of mechanical engineering was critical for building machines of war, toys, and gadgets used in moving statues of gods to attract visitors and donations for temples. This technology, therefore, became very useful for religious purposes and as a source of entertainment. Although science eventually became fossilized under the Stoics, when scientific discoveries were frowned upon, the invention and creation of those Alexandrian machines were destined to play a great role in the Industrial Revolution of the future. (50)

Forgeries were an ongoing problem in Alexandria as in other Hellenistic capitals because the kings were afraid their libraries would lose out on important manuscripts. Instead, they preferred to pay large sums of money for any books they could buy in hopes they were authentic. (51) Some believed that this kind of wealth promoted the creation of forgeries. Others said that the scholarship undertaken in Alexandria was excessive. Timon wrote in his Satirical Poems that "in this populous Egypt of ours, there is a kind of bird-cage called the Museum where they fatten up any amount of pen-pushers and readers of musty tomes who are never tired of squabbling with each other." (52)

Conclusion

During this time of great intellectual work, it seems that no schools of philosophy had a lasting foothold in Alexandria. The kings offered little patronage to philosophers. Even so, the Ptolemies and Alexandria preserved the works of the Classical culture: Athenian Culture. Physical and spiritual upheaval were so rampant in the Hellenistic Age that these men of science and literature needed a safe haven to pursue their life's work. The Ptolemies gave this to them. If it had not been for them, Athenian Culture might have died. Eighty percent of our ancient literature would not exist without the Alexandrian Library, which is a staggering legacy to the Western World. Alexandria was an entity onto itself, an intellectual powerhouse, which was quite different from any other city of its time. In Alexandria: City of the Western Mind, Theodore Vrettos wrote that Alexandria was special and different from other large ancient cities of the Mediterranean. Carthage, Rome, and Sparta were all considered important military centers Alexandria was a city of the mind. (53) A curious capital that became not only the largest Greek city of the time, but more than anything else, a very important centre for culture and learning.

Related Papers

Notes

1 George Hart, Ancient Egypt (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1990) p. 10.

2 Michael Wood, Legacy: The Origins of Civilization Season 1, Ep. 4 Egypt: The Habit of Civilization (London: Carlton Television, 1991).

3 Plutarch, The Age of Alexander (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1973) p. 281.

4 Michael Grant, The Hellenistic Greeks (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990) p. 35.

7 Strabo, The Geography of Strabo VIII (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959) p. 35.

8 H.I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1956) p. 98.

10 Adrian Tronson, personal conversation.

11 E. Badian, Studies in Greek and Roman History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1964) p. 180.


Alexander and the Samaritans

  • What happened with the Samaritans under Alexander provides an interesting contrast with the legend of Alexander among the Jews. While the Jews submitted peacefully to Alexander, the Samaritans did not. At rst, the Samaritan governor, Sanballat III, supported Alexander and was even given permission by him to build the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim. However, after Sanballat III died, the Samaritans, for reasons that are not clear, rebelled against Alexander and burned his governor alive.
  • In punishment, Alexander destroyed the city of Samaria and banished the Samaritans from the city. The Samaritans went to live at the foot of Mount Gerizim, their sacred mountain. From that point on, the district of Samaria had two religious and political centers: the Samaritan, or Yahwist, population that was concentrated in the area of Mount Gerizim, and Samaria itself, which became a Greek city.

Did the Black Death Contribute to the Renaissance?

The Black Death radically disrupted society, but did the social, political and religious upheaval created by the plague contribute to the Renaissance? Some historians say yes. With so much land readily available to survivors, the rigid hierarchical structure that marked pre-plague society became more fluid. The Medici family, important patrons of Italian Renaissance culture, originated in the rural area of Mugello in Tuscany and moved to Florence soon after the plague. They initially established their fortune in the wool trade and then branched out into banking. As the family achieved wealth and power, they promoted such artists as Filippo Lippi, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo—not to mention producing four popes and two regent queens of France. Would such mobility have been possible without the social and economic upheaval caused by the Black Death? Historians will likely debate this question for many years.


Watch the video: Alexander the Great and the Situation.. the Great? Crash Course World History #8