Alexander the Great is a pivotal historical figure. Born in 356 BCE, he was the heir to King Philip II of Macedon’s (his father’s) throne. However, a single throne didn’t turn out to be enough for Alexander. In fact, he would later go on to cultivate one of the largest empires of the ancient world.
How did he do it? Let’s start from the beginning.
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Birth & Early Years
Alexander the Great’s birth was an eventful one. Much has been written about the day he was born, as it coincided with a few major events that were believed to be divine signs from the Gods. There was a very bright start shining over Macedonia the night he was born. In addition, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned down the night of Alexander’s birth. This was taken as a foreboding sign.
Despite his dramatic birth, Alexander had an idyllic childhood. He was told by his mother, Queen Olympias, that his father was Zeus himself. This instilled a great deal of purpose in Alexander, who took a great interest in his learning. At the age of 13, he began being tutored by none other than Aristotle himself! Under the tutelage of Aristotle, he took to a number of subjects including literature, science, medicine, and philosophy.
Assuming the Throne
At the age of 20, when his father, Philip II, was assassinated, Alexander assumed the throne. He would go on to become known as one of the greatest military masterminds of all time. He had a unique combination of incredible military skills as well as impressive diplomatic prowess. This combination helped him thrive in his pursuit to expand his empire. Which, as you know, he did quite successfully.
Expanding the Macedonian Empire
Upon assuming the throne, Alexander quickly had his rivals killed before they had a chance to question his claim. Next, the king rapidly stifled a rebellion for independence in Northern Greece.
Once he felt his homeland was in order, Alexander journeyed out to add to the Macedonian empire. His campaign began in Persia where he successfully gained control of the region, including the Greek city of Ephesus. Upon gaining control of Ephesus, Alexander offered to rebuild the Temple of Artemis that had been destroyed on the very night of his birth. However, the city turned down his offer. Later, he would defeat King Darius III of Persia at the Battle of Issos to gain full control of Persia.
From Ephesus, Alexander moved south and took the city of Sardes. After that conquest, he set his sights on Gordian. Legend has it that Alexander came across the Gordian Knot, a group of tightly tied ropes, believed to be nearly impossible to untangle. It was said that whoever untangled the knot would go on to conquer all of Asia. Although Alexander did not quite untangle the knot, he did manage to cut it in half with his sword and claim power over the region.
The Gordian Knot certainly predicted Alexander’s ongoing success in expanding the Macedonian Empire. He went on to capture Syria and then Egypt, where he founded the city of Alexandria. He then turned his attention to the land of Phoenicia, which he captured with ease.
After this victory, Alexander went on to face King Darius III a second time in battle. After successfully defeating King Darius III and his army, Alexander declared himself the King of Asia.
The Death and Legacy of Alexander the Great
Fulfilling the prophecy of the Gordian Knot did not stop Alexander, he went on to capture the city of Persepolis and then India. After a battle with King Porus of Paurava, Alexander’s troops mutinied and refused to go on to conquer more land. So, he and his troops returned to Persia. Shortly after his return, Alexander fell ill with a fever and died. His empire was divided amongst four of his generals.
Ever heard the saying “The world is yours for the taking?” It probably wasn’t around in Alexander’s time, but if it was, he took it all too literally. That being said, Alexander’s expansion of the Macedonian empire was astonishing, to say the least. Although he didn’t end up taking the whole world, he got a sizable chunk of it, and will thus go down in the history books as one of the most successful conquerors in history.
Think you learned a few things about Alexander the Great and Ancient Greece, test your knowledge with these fun quizzes!
- Alexander the Great, This is Your Life
- The Battles of Alexander the Great
- Alexander the Great – Logic Puzzle