Term Paper: Alexander the Great King Philip II

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Alexander the Great

King Philip II did not leave his son Alexander's destiny to chance. He had the boy learn how to play the lyre, recite and debate and placed him under the tutorship of no less than Aristotle (Smitha 1998), so that visitors from Athens later praised the boy as "thoroughly Greek" for his remarkable memory and speaking ability. At only 16, Alexander was placed in charge of Macedonia during his father's siege of Thrace and later headed a force that crushed a rebellion by the Maedi people there in the famous Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC (Marx 2000). He eventually became king of Macedonia, the conqueror of the Persian Empire and one of the greatest military geniuses of all time (Microsoft 2004).

Alexander was born in 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia, to King Philip II and Olympias, a princess of Epirus (Microsoft 2004). He received thorough training in rhetoric and literature from Aristotle and developed strong interest in science, medicine and philosophy. After his father was assassinated in 336 BC, Alexander became king of Macedonia at the age of 20 at a time of seething internal and external unrest.

As a first and immediate step, he ordered the execution of his domestic enemies and all their conspirators. He went with an army of 35,000 to Thessaly to regain Macedonian supremacy from independence forces that had won it, re-established position in Greece in 336 BC and was elected by a congress of states in Corinth (Microsoft 2004). The following year, as the general of the Greeks, he trampled upon defecting Thracians and won the campaign against the Persians his father was unable to do. From there, he wiped out threatening Illyrians in a single week and proceeded to Thebes, which had revolted, and nearly decimated it by leaving only the temples of the gods and the house of Greek poet Pindar. He sold approximately 8,000 defeated inhabitants to slavery and put Thebes and other Greek states into quick and humiliating subjection to him (Microsoft) and hastening to offer him ships and warriors for Alexander's next attack on the Persians in Asia Minor. In the spring of 334 BC, he overcame a strong Persian force of 40,000 at the Granicus River and proceeded south along its coast and set the Greek cities of Aeolis and Ionia. After this, all the states of Asia minor bowed to him in submission (Microsoft). The following year, Alexander went east with his forces across ancient Phrygia and cut the legendary knot of Gordius, founder of Phrygia. He reached northern Syria where he encountered and toppled a large Persian force led by King Darius III in the Battle of Issue in 333 BC (Marx 2000). King Darius fled and abandoned his mother, wife and children to Alexander's forces. But Alexander showed them respect and compassion because they were royalties (Microsoft).

He was met by strong resistance in Tyre, a fortified seaport, but he conquered it after seven months in 332. Capturing Gaza afterwards, he gained control of the whole eastern Mediterranean coastline and founded the City of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile River in 332 (Microsoft 2004). The City became the center of literary, scientific and commercial activity in the Greek world. Alexander's power extended to Carthage when Cyrene, the capital of the ancient North African kingdom of Cyrenaice, afterwards yielded to him. In the meantime, Darius asked for terms of peace with Alexander, offering all his territories to Alexander, 10,000 talents and his daughter in marriage. But Alexander proceeded through Syria and the Euphrates and the Tigris into Assyria where he confronted with Darius' forces again and defeated these one more time (Marx 2000). And one more time, Darius fled through the mountains to Media as Alexander took Babylonia with little effort and resistance and Persia, where he seized, plundered and burned its capital, Persepolis, down in 330 BC. This completed the destruction of the Persian Empire, the aspiration of his father. At this time, Alexander's dominion went beyond the Caspian Sea and included modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan and north into Bactria and Sogdiana, which comprised modern Western Turkistan, also known as Central Asia (Microsoft 2004). It took him only three years to conquer this vast area from the spring of 330 BC to the spring of 327 BC.

In Ecbatane, he confronted Darius a third time and there, Alexander's officers killed the fleeing Persian leader on his way to the Persian province of Bacteria, north of the Hindu Kush mountains (Microsoft 2004).

Alexander's claim to divinity related to a pilgrimage he made in the spring of 331 at the great temple and oracle of Amon-Ra, the Egyptian sun god identified with Zeus of the Greeks. Earlier Egyptian pharaohs were considered sons of Amon-Ra, and since Alexander had then become the new ruler of Egypt, he sought to be recognized as one of the sons of Amon-Ra and the negotiations appeared to have been successful (Microsoft 2004). This laid down the grounds for that claim to divine origin.

In coming after the remnants of the Persian Empire, of which western India was part, Alexander crossed the Indus River in 326 BC and took Punjab up to the river Hyphasis. His land forces rebelled and refused to go farther than this point. Alexander formed a fleet to cross the Indus that September up to the Persian Gulf in 325 BC. His land forces crossed the desert to Media, but severe food and water shortage handicapped them (Microsoft 2004). He spent a whole year organizing the territories he had won and in surveying the Persian Gulf for further conquests. He was in Babylon in 323 BC when he had a fever and died within a few days (Microsoft). He was only 33 years old.

Alexander confronted a major problem with such a vast empire (Marx 2000). The inhabitants spoke different languages and observed different customs and cultures. He was absolute monarch to the ancient Persian Empire, a god in Egypt, only a commander-in-chief to the Greeks and none of these in Macedonia. He had wanted to consolidate and unify his empire by forming an absolutist government, similar to that of Persia, with a ruling class through intermarriages between Macedonian and Persian nobles. Alexander set the example by marrying Roxanne of Bacteria and the Persian princess, the eldest daughter of Darius.

The political entity Alexander fashioned passed away with him, but his conquests created a vast and uniform economic and cultural world spanning the Straits of Gibraltar to the Indus River (Marx 2000) so that during the Hellenistic Age from 323-146 BC, the ancient world had a common Greek-Oriental culture. Merchants from the different regions shared a single trade area, which consisted of what are now known as the "silk routes. (Marx 2000)."

Alexander is considered one of the greatest generals of all time for his tactical brilliance and troop leadership. He was particularly remarkable in conquering a great expanse of territory with great speed (Microsoft 2004). He was courageous and generous on one extreme and cruel or even merciless on the other extreme, when politics demanded. He was believed to be alcoholic and his conquests were followed by revelry. There are also rumors that he killed his friend Clitus in our drunker fury, but something he later on regretted.

Many historians attested to his dream to unite the East and the West into a single world empire and a new one with a single enlightened brotherhood (Microsoft 2004). He trained thousands of young Persians in Macedonian tactics and enlisted them into his huge army. Although he went after the ancient Persian Empire and its remnants, he himself adopted Persian conduct and married Roxana of Bacteria and Barsine or Stateira of Persia, eldest daughter of Darius. He encouraged and even bribed his officers to do the same (Microsoft). Some of his governors took advantage of his absence by recruiting their own private armies and abusing the local people and, upon hearing the charges, Alexander had most of them executed. He imposed policy that integrated his forces with the inhabitants, so that around 10,000 of his soldiers were said to have married local women and received huge dowries from Alexander's government and were demobilized. Their wives and children remained in the East, where these children were educated and trained on Greek culture and values at government expense. They were turned over to their fathers upon reaching adulthood (Smitha 1998). Alexander integrated Persians in his Macedonian army and this dismayed the Macedonians, but Alexander was un-affected by the reaction. He placed Macedonians in the front rank to carry pikes and Persians in rows behind, carrying swords and javelins. This combination greater mobility than before and would become the pattern for the forthcoming Roman Republic.

Upon returning to Babylon in 323, Alexander was putting the pieces of a great new empire into places. It was to be the kind that Aristotle envisioned to be ruled by a benevolent philosopher-king, who would carve a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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