Term Paper: Alexander the Great

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Alexander the Great

There is not much more that can be said about Alexander the Great. He has been the subject of countless books, several movies, and hundreds of years of speculation. People have varying opinions about Alexander. Many doubt that he should be referred to as Alexander the Great, because he destroyed so many civilizations and cultures that had prospered for years before his reign. Others believe that he deserved the moniker because he expanded the Greek empire into territories far beyond those it controlled prior to his reign. In fact, Alexander was credited with conquering the known world. Therefore, even though opinions vary, there is little doubt that Alexander the Great had a tremendous impact on the world, and that his impact continues to shape the face of the world today.

However, what if Alexander's desire to conquer the world had been thwarted? There can be no doubt that the face of the modern world would be dramatically changed if Alexander had not conquered the Greek city-states, and then gone on to conquer the known world. Since his death more than 2000 years ago, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion about the impact of his victories. In contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to discussing whether Alexander's victories were inevitable. Instead, the inevitability of Alexander's success has been treated as if it was a given. This attitude overlooks two critical facts. The first critical fact is that Alexander's later successes were largely dependent upon his early success. The second critical fact is that Alexander's early success was not due solely to Alexander's military might, but was greatly due to luck. However, Alexander's early successes may have been partially based on luck, but they helped establish the myth of Alexander. This mythology helped make Alexander almost invincible. Therefore, Darius' only actual opportunity to defeat the Macedonian may have been to attack the armies controlled by Alexander's generals, Parmenion and Attalus, when Alexander sent them in to secure Greek support for Alexander as the king of Macedonia. In fact, if Darius III had attacked the armies of Parmenion and Attalus, he may have been able to defeat Alexander before Alexander established control of all of the armies that had previously been controlled by Philip II of Macedon. Without these armies, Alexander would not have had the support of the city-states, and would have been unsuccessful in his efforts to conquer the world.

In order to determine whether or not Darius would have been successful, it is important to investigate whether or not Greece's allegiance to Alexander was ever in question. History demonstrates that it was. Alexander's father, King Philip II, had divorced Alexander's mother. Therefore, whether or not Alexander would actually succeed to the throne was uncertain during Philip's lifetime. However, Philip's assassination worked to Alexander's favor, because Philip had failed to name another successor. Therefore, Alexander appeared as the de facto successor.

Despite that, many leaders of the Greek city-states were not convinced that Alexander had the ability to lead Macedonia. Therefore, they were not immediately willing to pledge allegiance to Alexander. However, Alexander had demonstrated his leadership ability to the Macedonian army, and it was the army that proclaimed Alexander the new king of Macedonia. The fact that the army supported Alexander really had little impact on the opinions of the leaders of the Greek city-states. However, it would be incorrect to assert that the army's support was insignificant. In fact, the army's support gave Alexander the ability to execute all of his potential rivals for the leadership of Macedonia. The importance of the army's support was largely due to changes that Philip II had instituted in military life. For example, Philip not only introduced new military tactics, but he also made the military a full-time occupation, which gained lifelong loyalty from soldiers. The support of Macedonia was essential to Alexander's ability to take over the leadership of Greece. Likewise, the support of Greece was essential in Alexander's plan to conquer the Persian Empire. Conquering the Persian Empire was a tremendous goal because the Persian Empire was immense in both land and time. It had "dominated the ancient world for over two centuries." In addition, dominating the Persian Empire helped display Alexander's military prowess; his relatively small army was able to defeat the immense army commanded by Darius, which was reputed to have as many as 1,000,000 troops.

It is one thing to suggest that Darius should have attempted to attack the armies of Parmenion and Attalus in order to prevent Alexander from taking control of Greece. It is quite another thing to suggest that Darius had the military strength and strategic ability to be able to do so. However, an examination of Darius' past military engagements reveals that he was a strong and capable warrior and led an impressive army. Furthermore, an examination of the pivotal battles that occurred between the armies led by Darius and Alexander illuminates the areas where a few simple changes in battle strategy would have permitted Darius to emerge as the victor of those disputes. Looking at these two components, it becomes clear that Darius had both the military strength and the ability to prevent Alexander the Great from conquering the world.

In the year 336 BC, King Darius III became the king of the Persian Empire. At the time he inherited the kingdom, Persia was immense, spanning from Libya to the Himalayas in India. In addition, Persia had been the dominant world power for over two centuries. In fact, it would not be an unfair comparison to classify Persia as the greatest empire in the historical period preceding Alexander the Great's empire. However, even before Alexander became a ruler, the Persian Empire was not free of problems. The predecessors to Darius III, King Artaxerxes III of Persia and his son King Arses, were both killed by the chiliarch Bagoas. Bagoas:

sought to install a new monarch who would be easier to control. He chose Codomannus, distant relative of the royal house who had distinguished himself in a combat of champions in a war against the Cadussi and was serving at the time as a royal courier...Codomannus took the regal name Darius III, and quickly demonstrated his independence from his assassin benefactor. Bagoas then tried to poison Darius as well, but Darius was warned and forced Bagoas to drink the poison himself. The new king found himself in control of an unstable empire, large portions of which were governed by jealous and unreliable satraps and inhabited by disaffected and rebellious subjects.

In addition to having internal problems, Persia faced problems from outside of its borders. Before Darius became king, Egypt had withdrawn from Persia. Therefore, Darius' first act as a ruler was to attempt to recapture Egypt, or at least part of Egypt. "Darius immediately launched a campaign and restored the Nile as a Persian river in January 334 BC." It was during his Egyptian campaign that Darius was first introduced to the military power of Alexander the Great's army. In May of 334 BC, just four months after Darius began his Egyptian campaign, Alexander brought his troops into Asia Minor and "crushed the Persians in battle at the river Granicus." The Macedonian victory was unsurprising because "Darius had made no serious preparations to resist the invasion, Alexander defeated an Achaemenid army at the Granicus and, by the following year, had won most of Asia Minor and reached Cilicia." The one thing that makes Alexander's victory at Granicus remarkable is that his army won in hand-to-hand combat, despite the relatively larger size of Darius' army.

The battle at Granicus was only the first of the battles between Darius and Alexander. Darius experienced a setback when his general Memnon died. Memnon's death was devastating because he had been in charge of the western defense troops. After Memnon's death, Darius' confidence in his ability to defeat Alexander by taking only a defensive stance was greatly diminished. Therefore, after Memnon died, Darius responded by raising a full scale Royal army to face Alexander. However, facing Alexander directly in the field proved to be Darius' first major tactical mistake. In November 333 BC, Alexander's forces decimated Darius' army, and then captured the royal family. Darius was able to escape. He took what he had learned from the previous battle to make improvements to his army. These improvements enabled him to stand against Alexander's army and provide some resistance to Alexander's forces. However, Alexander was eventually successful, and Darius lost the battle of Gaugamela.

The battle of Gaugamela may not have marked the official end of Darius or his army, but it is now widely regarded as the end of the Persian Empire. The battle of Gaugamela resulted in Alexander's capture of Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis. More importantly, it placed Alexander and his armies in a superior position. Rather than being able to face the Macedonians in battle, Darius and his army was forced to continuously retreat from them. However, it was not Alexander… [END OF PREVIEW]

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