Monday, June 1, 2009

Alexander, The great

Alexander the Great (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας or Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος,[1] Mégas Aléxandros; 356 BC – 323 BC),[2] also known as Alexander III of Macedon (Ἀλέξανδρος Γ' ὁ Μακεδών) was an ancient Greek[3] King (basileus) of Macedon (336–323 BC). He was one of the most successful military commanders of all time and is presumed undefeated in battle. By the time of his death, he had conquered (see Wars of Alexander the Great) the Achaemenid Persian Empire, adding it to Macedon's European territories; according to some modern writers, this was most of the world as known to the ancient Greeks.[4][5][n 1]

Alexander assumed the kingship of Macedon following the death of his father Philip II, who had unified[6] most of the city-states of mainland Greece under Macedonian hegemony in a federation called the League of Corinth.[7] After reconfirming Macedonian rule by quashing a rebellion of southern Greek city-states and staging a short but bloody excursion against Macedon's northern neighbours, Alexander set out east against the Persian Empire, which he defeated and overthrew. His conquests included Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Bactria and Mesopotamia, and he extended the boundaries of his own empire as far as Punjab, India.

Alexander had already made plans prior to his death for military and mercantile expansions into the Arabian peninsula, after which he was to turn his armies to the west (Carthage, Rome and the Iberian Peninsula). His original vision, however, had been to the east, to the ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea, as described by his boyhood tutor and mentor Aristotle.

Alexander integrated many foreigners into his army, leading some scholars to credit him with a "policy of fusion". He also encouraged marriages between his soldiers and foreigners, and he himself went on to marry two foreign princesses.

Alexander died after twelve years of constant military campaigning, possibly a result of malaria, poisoning, typhoid fever, viral encephalitis or the consequences of alcoholism.[8][9] His legacy and conquests lived on long after him and ushered in centuries of Greek settlement and cultural influence over distant areas. This period is known as the Hellenistic period, which featured a combination of Greek, Middle Eastern, Egyptian and Indian culture. Alexander himself featured prominently in the history and myth of both Greek and non-Greek cultures. His exploits inspired a literary tradition in which he appeared as a legendary hero in the tradition of Achilles.[10]
Early life"The night before the consummation of their marriage, she dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body, which kindled a great fire, whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about, and then were extinguished. And Philip, some time after he was married, dreamt that he sealed up his wife's body with a seal, whose impression, as be fancied, was the figure of a lion. Some of the diviners interpreted this as a warning to Philip to look narrowly to his wife; but Aristander of Telmessus, considering how unusual it was to seal up anything that was empty, assured him the meaning of his dream was that the queen was with child of a boy, who would one day prove as stout and courageous as a lion."
Plutarch describing Olympias and Philip's dreams.[11]

Alexander was born in July 356 BC, in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon. He was the son of King Philip II, the King of Macedon. His mother was Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus I, the king of the north Greek state of Epirus. According to Plutarch, Alexander's father claimed descent from Heracles through Caranus of Macedon and his mother from Aeacus through Neoptolemus and Achilles.[12]

According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, Olympias, on the eve of the consummation of her marriage to Philip, dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunder bolt, causing a flame which spread "far and wide" before dying away. Some time after the marriage Philip was said to have seen himself, in a dream, sealing up his wife's womb with a seal upon which was engraved the image of a lion. [13] Plutarch offers a variety of interpretations of these dreams; that Olympia was pregnant before her marriage, indicated by the sealing of her womb; or that Alexander's father was Zeus. Ancient commentators were divided as to whether the ambitious Olympias promulgated the story of Alexander's divine parentage, some claiming she told Alexander, others that she dismissed the suggestion as impious.

On the day that Alexander was born, Philip was preparing himself for his siege on the Greek colony of Potidea, which bordered Macedon. On the day that Alexander was born, Philip also received news that his general Parmenion had defeated the combined Illyrian and Paeonian armies and that his horses had won at the Olympic Games. It was also said that on this day, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus -one the Seven Wonders of the World- was burnt leading Hegesias of Magnesia to say that it burnt because Artemis was attending the birth of Alexander.[14]

In his early years, Alexander was raised by his nurse, Lanike (Lanike was the sister of Alexander's future general, Cleitus the Black). Later on in his childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother's uncle and by Lysimachus.[15]

When Alexander was ten years old, a horse trader from Thessaly (a region of Greece to the south of Macedon famed for their horsemanship), brought Philip a horse which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted by anyone and Philip ordered it to be taken away. Alexander, however, asked for a turn to tame the horse and eventually managed to mount the horse and Philip bought it for him. Alexander would name the horse Bucephalus, meaning ox-head, and take him all the way to India.[16]
A bust depicting Philip II of Macedon, Alexander's father

When Alexander was thirteen years old, Philip decided that Alexander needed a higher education and he began to search for a tutor. Many people were passed over including Isocrates and Speusippus, Plato's successor at the Academy of Athens, who offered to resign to take up the post. Philip offered the job to Aristotle, a former pupil of Plato's, who had left Athens to live at Lesbos. Aristotle accepted and Philip gave them as their classroom the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza. In return for teaching Alexander, Aristole's payment was that Philip rebuild Aristotle's hometown of Stageira, which Philip had razed, and that he repopulate it by buying and freeing the citizens who were slaves or pardoning those who were in exile.[17]

Mieza acted like a boarding school for Alexander and the other noble children, like Ptolemy and Cassander that joined him there. Most of the children that were with Alexander there would be his future friends and generals. At Mieza, Artistotle taught and discussed with Alexander and his companions about healing, biology, philosophy, happiness, religion, classification, logic and art. It was also from Aristotle that Alexander got his undying love for the works of Homer and in particular the Iliad, with Aristotle giving him an annotated copy which he would take with him on campaign.[17]


When Alexander became sixteen years old his lessons with Aristotle stopped. When Philip departed to attack the city of Byzantium, the sixteen year old Alexander was left as regent of the kingdom. During Philip's absence, the Thracian Maedi tribe revolted against Macedon. Alexander responded quickly and crushed the Maedi insurgence and drove them from their region and colonised it with Greeks and founded a city call Alexandroupolis.[18]

Following Philip's return from Byzantium, he was sent with a small force to subdue some revolts in southern Thrace. He was also said to have saved his father's life during the siege of the Greek city of Perinthus. Meanwhile, the city of Amphissa began to plough the lands that were sacred to the God Apollo near Delphi. Still occupied in Thrace, Philip ordered Alexander to muster a force but to stop intervention from other Greek states make it look like he was attacking Illyria. When the Illyrians heard of his they attacked Macedon but once again Alexander repelled the invaders.[19]

Battle of Chaeronea
Main article: Battle of Chaeronea

Philip joined Alexander with his army in 338 BC and they marched down through Thermopylae, which they took with a struggle from its Theban garrison and went on to occupy the city of Elatia, a few days march from both Athens and Thebes. Meanwhile, the Athenians led by Demosthenes voted for an alliance with Thebes in opposition to Macedon. Both Athens and Macedon sent embassies to Thebes in order to win Thebes' favour with Athens eventually gaining the alliance.[20]

Philip carried out the mission appointed to him by the Sacred League and marched on Amphissa, captured the mercenaries sent there by Demosthenes and accepted the city's surrender. Philip retreated back to Elatea and sent a final offer of peace to Athens and Thebes which was rejected.[21]
Battle plan of the Battle of Chaeronea

The Macedonian army of 30,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry met the united Greek army of 30,000 men at Chaeronea in Boeotia. Philip commanded the Macedonian right and he gave Alexander command of the elite, Companion Cavalry on the left flank to counter the elite Theban Sacred Band on the Greek left flank, while Philip faced the Athenians lead by the inexperienced Demosthenes.[21]

Philip managed to draw the Athenian left flank out of its defense position on a slope by feigning retreat. This also drew the Athenian centre from their position and they advanced to attack Philip. Alexander exploited this opportunity and charged the gap between the Thebans and the Athenian centre. Following some strong resistance, Alexander managed to route the Theban and slaughter the Sacred Band to the last man before attacking the Athenian centre. Philip's men broke the Athenian right and they attacked Athenian centre at the same time as Alexander making it break a flee.[21]

Philip sold the captured Theban soldiers as slaves before establishing a garrison in Thebes and executing or banishing some of the city's anti-Macedonian leaders. From Thebes, he went to Athens were he gave them their captured soldiers back without a ransom. Philip and Alexander marched unopposed into the Peloponnese and at Corinth, Philip was named 'Supreme Commander' of the Greek forces by the League of Corinth, a federation of all the Greek states except for Sparta, in his planned war against the Persia Empire.[22]

Exile and return"At the wedding of Cleopatra, whom Philip fell in love with and married, she being much too young for him, her uncle Attalus in his drink desired the Macedonians would implore the gods to give them a lawful successor to the kingdom by his niece. This so irritated Alexander, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain," said he, "what, am I then a bastard?" Then Philip, taking Attalus's part, rose up and would have run his son through; but by good fortune for them both, either his over-hasty rage, or the wine he had drunk, made his foot slip, so that he fell down on the floor. At which Alexander reproachfully insulted over him: "See there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another."
Plutarch describing the feud at Philip's wedding.[23]

After returning to Pella, Philip fell in love with a young Macedonian noblewoman by the name of Cleopatra Eurydice, the niece of one of his generals, Attalus. This marriage made Alexander position as heir to the throne less secure as if Cleopatra Eurydice bore a son by Philip, the son would be full Macedonian while Alexander was only half Macedonian.[24]

During the banquet after Philip's wedding to Cleopatra Eurydice, a drunken Attalus made a speech praying to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir to the Macedonian throne. Alexander shouted to Attalus, "What, am I then a bastard?"[13] and he threw his goblet at him. Philip who was also drunk drew his sword and advanced towards Alexander before collapsing leading Alexander to say, "See there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another."[13][25]

Alexander fled from Macedon taking his mother with him. He dropped off his mother at her brother's capital, Dodona, in Epirus before he went to Illyria where he sought refuge with the Illyrian King and was treated like a guest by the Illyrians despite having defeated them in battle a few years before. Alexander returned to Macedon after six months in exile due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus the Corinthian, who mediated between the two parties.[26]

The following year, the Persian satrap (governor) of Caria in Asia Minor, Pixodarus, offered the hand of his eldest daughter to Philip's mentally and physically disabled son, Philip Arrhidaeus. Olympias and several of Alexander's friends had it seem that this move showed that Philip intended to make Arrhidaeus, his heir. Alexander reacted by sending an actor, Thessalus from Corinth, to tell Pixodarus that he should not offer his daughter's hand to an illegitimate son but instead to Alexander. When Philip heard of this, he scolded Alexander for wishing to marry the daughter of Carian. Philip had four of Alexander's friends, Harpalus, Nearchus, Ptolemy and Erygius exiled and had the Corinthians bring Thessalus to him in chains.[27]

The Kingdom of Macedon in 336 BC

In 336 BC, while attending the wedding of his daughter by Olympias, Cleopatra and Olympias' brother, Alexander I of Epirus at Aegae, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguard, Pausanias, who reportedly had a grudge against Philip, who was his former lover.i[›] As Pausanias tried to escape he tripped over a vine and was killed by his pursuers, including two of Alexander's friends Perdiccas and Leonnatus. Alexander was proclaimed King by the Macedonian army and by the Macedonian noblemen at the age of 20. [28]

Alexander began his reign by having his potential rivals to the throne murdered. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed, as well as having two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, while a third, Alexander Lyncestes, was spared. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and her daughter by Philip, Europa, burned alive. When Alexander found out about this, he was furious with his mother. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus, who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor. Attalus was at the time in correspondence with Demosthenes with intentions of defection to Athens. Alexander also spared the life of his half brother Arridaeus.[28]

News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly and the Thracian tribes to the north of Macedon. When news of the revolt reached Alexander he responded quickly. Though his advisor's advised him to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered the Macedonian cavalry of 3,000 men and rode south towards Thessaly, Macedon's immediate neighbor to the south. When he found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, he had the men ride through Mount Ossa and, when the Thessalians awoke, they found Alexander at their rear. The Thessalians surrendered and added their cavalry to Alexander's force as he rode down towards the Peloponnese.[29]

Alexander stopped at Thermopylae, where he was recognised as the leader of the Sacred League before heading south to Corinth. Athens sued for peace and Alexander received the envoy and pardoned anyone involved with the uprising. At Corinth, he was given the title 'Hegemon' of the Greek forces against the Persians. While at Corinth, he heard the news of the Thracian rising to the north.[30]

Balkan Campaign

Before crossing to Asia, Alexander wanted to safeguard his northern borders and, in the spring of 335 BC, he advanced into Thrace to deal with the revolt, which was led by the Illyrians and Triballi. He was reinforced along the way by the Agriani, a Thracian tribe under the command of Alexander's friend, Langarus. The Macedonian army marched up to Mount Haemus, where they met a Thracian garrison manning the heights. The Thracians had constructed a palisade of carts, which they intended to throw upon the approaching Macedonians. Alexander ordered his heavy infantry to march in loose formation and, when the carts were thrown, to either open the ranks or lay flat on the ground with their shields over them. The Macedonian archers opened fire and when the Macedonian infantry reached the top of the mountain they routed the Thracians.[31]

Meanwhile, a large Triballian army led by their king, Syrmus, advanced upon the Macedonian rear. The Triballians retreated to a gorge, where they were drawn out by Alexander's light infantry. On the open ground, they were crushed by Alexander's infantry and cavalry, leaving behind 3,000 dead. The Macedonians marched to the Danube River where they encountered the Getae tribe on the opposite shore. As Alexander's ships failed to enter the river, Alexander's army made rafts out of their leather tents. A force of 4,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry crossed the river, to the amazement of the Getae army of 14,000 men. The Getae army retreated after the first cavalry skirmish, leaving their town to the Macedonian army.[32]

News reached Alexander that Cleitus, King of Illyria, and King Glaukias of the Taulanti were in open revolt against Macedonian authority. Alexander and his men started to besiege the Illyrians in a hill fort, Pelium. The following day, Glaukias arrived with his army to relieve the town. Philotas, one of Alexander's friends and generals, was trapped by the Taulanti while foraging. When Alexander heard of his friend's predicament he rushed in with his army and managed to frighten Glaukias off attacking Philotas.[33]

Alexander and his army were trapped between the Illyrians and the Taulanti, who each held high ground. When Alexander's army moved towards the Taulanti threat, yelling their war cries, the Taulanti fled from the heights and went into the town. After noticing Pelium's lack of defenses, Alexander feigned a retreat, and, in the night, stormed the town, forcing Cleitus and Glaukias to flee with their armies, leaving Alexander's northern frontier secure.[34]

While he was triumphantly campaigning north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once more. Alexander reacted immediately, but, while the other cities once again hesitated, Thebes decided to resist with the utmost vigor. This resistance was useless, however, as the city was razed to the ground amid great bloodshed and its territory divided between the other Boeotian cities. Moreover, the Thebans themselves were sold into slavery.[35] Alexander spared only priests, leaders of the pro-Macedonian party and descendants of Pindar, whose house was the only one left standing. The end of Thebes cowed Athens into submission. According to Plutarch, a special Athenian embassy, led by Phocion, an opponent of the anti-Macedonian faction, was able to persuade Alexander to give up his demand for the exile of leaders of the anti-Macedonian party, most particularly Demosthenes.[36]

Period of conquests
Main article: Wars of Alexander the Great

By the time of his death, Alexander had conquered most of the Ecumene, the extension of the "known world" at the time of ancient Greeks,[4] concretely he conquered the extensions lying to the south and east of Greece, including places not explored until then.[5][n 1]

Fall of the Achaemenid Persian Empire
Map of Alexander's empire and the paths he took

Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont with approximately 42,000 soldiers from Macedon, various Greek city-states, mercenaries and tribute soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis and proceeded down the Ionian coast. At Halicarnassus, Alexander successfully waged the first of many sieges, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea. Alexander left Caria in the hands of Ada, who was ruler of Caria before being deposed by her brother Pixodarus. From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities and denying them to his enemy. From Pamphylia onward, the coast held no major ports and so Alexander moved inland. At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city. At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future "king of Asia." According to the most vivid story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone, and he hacked it apart with his sword.[37] Another version claims that he did not use the sword, but realized that the simplest way to undo the knot was to simply remove a central peg from the chariot—around which the knot was tied.
Alexander Mosaic, showing Battle of Issus, from the House of the Faun, Pompeii

Alexander's army crossed the Cilician Gates, met and defeated the main Persian army under the command of Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. Darius was forced to flee the battle after his army broke, and in doing so left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous amount of treasure. He afterwards offered a peace treaty to Alexander, the concession of the lands he had already conquered, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions. Proceeding down the Mediterranean coast, he took Tyre and Gaza after famous sieges (see Siege of Tyre) suffered the most brutal attacks during Alexander's war in Asia.[38][39] It was after his capture of Tyre that Alexander crucified all the men of military age, and sold the women and children into slavery.[40]

During 332–331 BC, Alexander was welcomed as a liberator[41] in an Egypt ruled by Persians and was pronounced the new Master of the Universe[42] and son of Zeus[citation needed] by Egyptian priests of the deity Amun[42] at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and subsequent currency depicted him, adorned with ram horns as a symbol of his divinity.[43] He founded Alexandria in Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty after his death. Leaving Egypt, Alexander marched eastward into Assyria (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius once more at the Battle of Gaugamela. Once again, Darius was forced to leave the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. While Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamedan), Alexander marched to Babylon.

From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its legendary treasury. Sending the bulk of his army to the Persian capital of Persepolis via the Royal Road, Alexander stormed and captured the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains), then sprinted for Persepolis before its treasury could be looted. It was here that Alexander was said to have stared at the crumbled statue of Xerxes and decided to leave it on the ground—a symbolic gesture of vengeance. During their stay at the capital, a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes and spread to the rest of the city. Theories abound as to whether this was the result of a drunken accident, or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War. The Book of Arda Wiraz, a Zoroastrian work composed in the 3rd or 4th century AD, also speaks of archives containing "all the Avesta and Zand, written upon prepared cow-skins, and with gold ink" that were destroyed; but it must be said that this statement is often treated by scholars with a certain measure of skepticism, because it is generally thought that for many centuries the Avesta was transmitted mainly orally by the Magi.
Statuette of a Greek soldier, from a 4th–3rd century BC burial site north of the Tian Shan, at the maximum extent of Alexander's advance in the East (Ürümqi, Xinjiang Museum, China) (drawing)

Alexander then set off in pursuit of Darius anew. The Persian king was no longer in control of his destiny, having been taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men fatally stab the Great King and then declared himself Darius' successor as Artaxerxes V before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. Darius was found by one of Alexander's scouts, dying, in a baggage train being pulled by an ox. Before he died, Darius remarked that he was glad that he would not die alone. His remains were buried by Alexander next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a full military funeral.[44] Alexander claimed that, while dying, Darius had named Alexander as his successor to the Achaemenid throne, a striking irony since it was Alexander who had pursued him to his death. Alexander, viewing himself as the legitimate Achaemenid successor to Darius, viewed Bessus as a usurper to the Achaemenid throne, and eventually found and executed this 'usurper'. The majority of the existing satraps were to give their loyalty to Alexander, and be allowed to keep their positions. Alexander, now the Persian "King of Kings", adopted Persian dress and mannerisms, which, in time, the Greeks began to view as decadent and autocratic. They began to fear that Alexander was turning into an eastern despot. Ultimately, however, the Achaemenid Persian Empire is considered to have fallen with the death of Darius. With the death of Darius, Alexander declared the war of vengeance over, and released his Greek and other allies from service in the League campaign (although he allowed those that wished to re-enlist as mercenaries in his army).

His three-year campaign, first against Bessus and then against Spitamenes, the satrap of Sogdiana, took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia. In the process of doing so, he captured and refounded Herat and Maracanda. Moreover, he founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Alexandria Eschate ("The Furthest") in modern Tajikistan. In the end, both of his opponents were defeated after having been betrayed by their men—Bessus in 329 BC, and Spitamenes the year after.


During this time, Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis, a symbolic kissing of the hand that Persians paid to their social superiors, but a practice that the Greeks disapproved. The Greeks regarded the gesture as the province of deities and believed that Alexander meant to deify himself by requiring it. This cost him much in the sympathies of many of his countrymen. Here, too, a plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to bring the plot to his attention. The death of the son necessitated the death of the father, and thus Parmenion, who had been charged with guarding the treasury at Ecbatana, was assassinated by command of Alexander, so he might not make attempts at vengeance. Most infamously, Alexander personally slew the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Cleitus the Black, during a drunken argument at Maracanda.[45] Later in the Central Asian campaign, a second plot against his life was revealed, this one instigated by his own royal pages. His official historian, Callisthenes of Olynthus (who had fallen out of favor with the king by leading the opposition to his attempt to introduce proskynesis), was implicated in the plot, however, there never has been consensus among historians regarding his involvement in the conspiracy.

The Persians referred to Alexander’s castle in Persia as the "Kelah-i-Dive-Sefid" meaning Castle of the White Demon[46] with Alexander representing the Div-e Sepid of the Shahnameh epic.

Invasion of India
See also: Alexander's Conflict with the Kambojas and Battle of the Hydaspes
Campaigns and landmarks of Alexander's invasion of Southern Asia.

After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Roshanak in Bactrian) to cement his relations with his new Central Asian satrapies, in 326 BC Alexander was finally free to turn his attention to the Indian subcontinent. Alexander invited all the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara, in the north of what is now Pakistan, to come to him and submit to his authority. Ambhi (Greek: Omphis), ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Jhelum (Greek:Hydaspes), complied. But the chieftains of some hill clans including the Aspasioi and Assakenoi sections of the Kambojas (classical names), known in Indian texts as Ashvayanas and Ashvakayanas (names referring to the equestrian nature of their society from the Sanskrit root word Ashva meaning horse), refused to submit.

Alexander personally took command of the shield-bearing guards, foot-companions, archers, Agrianians and horse-javelin-men and led them against the clans—the Aspasioi of Kunar/Alishang valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus (Panjkora) valley, and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. Writes one modern historian: "They were brave people and it was hard work for Alexander to take their strongholds, of which Massaga and Aornus need special mention."[47][48] A fierce contest ensued with the Aspasioi in which Alexander himself was wounded in the shoulder by a dart but eventually the Aspasioi lost the fight; 40,000 of them were enslaved. The Assakenoi faced Alexander with an army of 30,000 cavalry, 38,000 infantry and 30 elephants.[49] They had fought bravely and offered stubborn resistance to the invader in many of their strongholds like cities of Ora, Bazira and Massaga. The fort of Massaga could only be reduced after several days of bloody fighting in which Alexander himself was wounded seriously in the ankle. When the Chieftain of Massaga fell in the battle, the supreme command of the army went to his old mother Cleophis (q.v.) who also stood determined to defend her motherland to the last extremity. The example of Cleophis assuming the supreme command of the military also brought the entire women of the locality into the fighting.[50][51] Alexander could only reduce Massaga by resorting to political strategem and actions of betrayal. According to Curtius: "Not only did Alexander slaughter the entire population of Massaga, but also did he reduce its buildings to rubbles." A similar slaughter then followed at Ora, another stronghold of the Assakenoi.
A painting by Charles Le Brun depicting Alexander and Porus (Puru) during the Battle of the Hydaspes

In the aftermath of general slaughter and arson committed by Alexander at Massaga and Ora, numerous Assakenians people fled to a high fortress called Aornos. Alexander followed them close behind their heels and captured the strategic hill-fort but only after the fourth day of a bloody fight. The story of Massaga was repeated at Aornos and a similar carnage of the tribal-people followed here too.

Writing on Alexander's campaign against the Assakenoi, Victor Hanson comments: "After promising the surrounded Assacenis their lives upon capitulation, he executed all their soldiers who had surrendered. Their strongholds at Ora and Aornus were also similarly stormed. Garrisons were probably all slaughtered.”[52]

Sisikottos, or Sashigupta who had helped Alexander in this campaign, was made the governor of Aornos. According to H. C. Seth and Ranajit Pal, he was the same as Chandragupta Maurya. After reducing Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against a local ruler Porus (original Indian name Raja Puru), who ruled a region in the Punjab, in the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC.
Silver coin of Alexander (336-323 BCE). British Museum.

After the battle, Alexander was greatly impressed by Porus for his bravery in battle, and therefore made an alliance with him and appointed him as satrap of his own kingdom, even adding some land he did not own before. Alexander then named one of the two new cities that he founded, Bucephala, in honor of the horse who had brought him to India, who had died during the Battle of Hydaspes.[53] Alexander continued on to conquer all the headwaters of the Indus River.

East of Porus' kingdom, near the Ganges River (original Indian name Ganga), was the powerful Nanda Empire of Magadha and Gangaridai Empire of Bengal. Fearing the prospects of facing other powerful Indian armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, his army mutinied at the Hyphasis River (the modern Beas River) refusing to march further east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests:

As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at-arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants.
—Plutarch , Vita Alexandri, 62[54]

Gangaridai, a nation which possesses a vast force of the largest-sized elephants. Owing to this, their country has never been conquered by any foreign king: for all other nations dread the overwhelming number and strength of these animals. [Thus Alexander the Macedonian, after conquering all Asia, did not make war upon the Gangaridai, as he did on all others; for when he had arrived with all his troops at the river Ganges, and had subdued all the other Indians, he abandoned as hopeless an invasion of the Gangaridai when he learned that they possessed four thousand elephants well trained and equipped for war. ]"---Megasthenes (c. 350 BC-290 BC). Quoted from the Epitome of Megasthenes, Indika. (Diod. II. 35-42. ), Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian. Translated and edited by J. W. McCrindle.
Ptolemy coin with Alexander wearing an elephant scalp, symbol of his conquests in India.

Alexander spoke to his army and tried to persuade them to march further into India but Coenus pleaded with him to change his opinion and return, the men, he said, "longed to again see their parents, their wives and children, their homeland". Alexander, seeing the unwillingness of his men agreed and turned south. Along the way his army conquered the Malli clans (in modern day Multan), reputed to be among the bravest and most warlike peoples in South Asia. During a siege, Alexander jumped into the fortified city alone with only two of his bodyguards and was wounded seriously by a Mallian arrow.[55] His forces, believing their king dead, took the citadel and unleashed their fury on the Malli who had taken refuge within it, perpetrating a massacre, sparing no man, woman or child.[56] However, due to the efforts of his surgeon, Kritodemos of Kos, Alexander survived the injury.[57] Following this, the surviving Malli surrendered to Alexander's forces, and his beleaguered army moved on, conquering more Indian tribes along the way. He sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with his general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest of his forces back to Persia by the southern route through the Gedrosian Desert (now part of southern Iran and Makran now part of Pakistan).

In the territory of the Indus, he nominated his officer Peithon as a satrap, a position he would hold for the next ten years until 316 BC, and in the Punjab he left Eudemus in charge of the army, at the side of the satrap Porus and Taxiles. Eudemus became ruler of a part of the Punjab after their death. Both rulers returned to the West in 316 BC with their armies. In 321 BCE, Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya Empire in India and overthrew the Greek satraps.

After India
Statuette of the young Alexander astride a horse, Begram, Afghanistan.

Discovering that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence, Alexander executed a number of them as examples on his way to Susa. As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send those over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedonia under Craterus, but his troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis, refusing to be sent away and bitterly criticizing his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units. Alexander executed the ringleaders of the mutiny, but forgave the rank and file. In an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, he held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. Meanwhile, upon his return, Alexander learned some men had desecrated the tomb of Cyrus the Great, and swiftly executed them. For they were put in charge of guarding the tomb Alexander held in honor.

His attempts to merge Persian culture with his Greek soldiers also included training a regiment of Persian boys in the ways of Macedonians. Most historians believe that Alexander adopted the Persian royal title of Shahanshah (meaning: "The King of Kings").

It is claimed that Alexander wanted to overrun or integrate the Arabian peninsula, but this theory is widely disputed. It was assumed that Alexander would turn westwards and attack Carthage and Italy, had he conquered Arabia.

After traveling to Ecbatana to retrieve the bulk of the Persian treasure, his closest friend and possibly lover[58] Hephaestion died of an illness, or possibly of poisoning. Alexander, distraught over the death of his longtime companion, sacked a nearby town, and put all of its inhabitants to the sword, as a 'sacrifice' to Hephaestion's ghost. Alexander mourned Hephaestion for six months.

Alexander's Empire at his death in 323 BC.

On the afternoon of June 11, 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. He was one month short of 33 years of age. Various theories have been proposed for the cause of his death which include poisoning by the sons of Antipater or others, sickness that followed a drinking party, or a relapse of the malaria he had contracted in 336 BC.[59]

It is known that on May 29, Alexander participated in a banquet organized by his friend Medius of Larissa. After some heavy drinking, immediately before or after a bath, he was forced into bed due to severe illness. The rumors of his illness circulated with the troops causing them to be more and more anxious. On June 9, the generals decided to let the soldiers see their king alive one last time. They were admitted to his presence one at a time. Because the king was too ill to speak, he confined himself to moving his hand. Plutarch records that on the same day, Python and Seleucus went to the Temple of the God Serapis and inquired of the God if Alexander should be moved there, yet the God replied that Alexander should remain where he was. [60] It is quite plausible that this event did indeed occur; however, it should be borne in mind that Plutarch was writing several centuries after the events themselves. Thus, it is possible that such a tale developed over time as an allegory for the breakup of Alexander's Empire. (The God Serapis replied that Alexander should remain in his palace in Babylon, which he had made the capital of his Empire. Hence, the Empire died with Alexander, which was indeed the case, divided as noted below among his generals.) At all events, what is certain is that on June 11, Alexander was dead.[59]


The poisoning theory derives from the story held in antiquity by Justin and Curtius. The original story stated that Cassander, son of Antipater, viceroy of Greece, brought the poison to Alexander in Babylon in a mule's hoof, and that Alexander's royal cupbearer, Iollas, brother of Cassander and eromenos of Medius of Larissa, administered it.[61] Many had powerful motivations for seeing Alexander gone, and were none the worse for it after his death. Deadly agents that could have killed Alexander in one or more doses include hellebore and strychnine. In R. Lane Fox's opinion, the strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days had passed between the start of his illness and his death and in the ancient world, such long-acting poisons were probably not available. However, according to Unearthing Ancient Secrets, it might still have been possible if Alexander was poisoned first with hellebore during his drink, then later have been poisoned a second or third time, perhaps with poison on the feather used to encourage vomiting. [62]
Coin of Alexander the Great, depicting Athena in profile, and a standing Nike.

The warrior culture of Macedon favoured the sword over strychnine, and many ancient historians, like Plutarch and Arrian, maintained that Alexander was not poisoned, but died of natural causes; malaria or typhoid fever, which were rampant in ancient Babylon. A 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed his death to typhoid fever complicated by bowel perforation and ascending paralysis,[63] whereas a recent analysis has identified pyogenic spondylitis or meningitis.[64] Other illnesses could have also been the culprit, including acute pancreatitis or the West Nile virus.[9] The West Nile virus theory holds sway because the symptoms match up, Alexander had been trekking through swamps prior to getting ill, and an ancient account of birds pecking each other in the air seen on Alexander's approach into Babylon, which was at the time seen as a bad omen, but could have also been the result of infected birds.[62] Recently, theories have been advanced stating that Alexander may have died from the treatment not the disease. Hellebore, believed to have been widely used as a medicine at the time but deadly in large doses, may have been overused by the impatient king to speed his recovery, with deadly results. Disease-related theories often cite the fact that Alexander's health had fallen to dangerously low levels after years of heavy drinking and suffering several appalling wounds (including one in India that nearly claimed his life), and that it was only a matter of time before one sickness or another finally killed him.[62]

Physical deformity and the cause of death

More recently Alexander’s physical characteristics have been combined with the information of his final days to arrive at the cause of his death. Many descriptions and statues typically portray Alexander with a cervical neck deformity, typically with a gaze looking upward and outward (an image still used in modern day heroic photography). Both his father Philip II and his brother Philip Arridaeus also suffered from physical deformities, leading some to suggest a congenital scoliotic disorder (familial neck and spinal deformity).[64] A familial scoliotic deformity has therefore been ascribed as the cause of his death by means of an ascending spinal infection (pyogenic spondylitis or meningitis),[64] which would also explain the ascending spinal paralysis in his final days. Furthermore, such a condition has also been proposed as a potential cause for Alexander’s depictions with horns by way of a scoliosis associated neurocutaneous Epidermal Nevus Syndrome.[citation needed]

No story is conclusive. Alexander's death has been reinterpreted many times over the centuries. What is certain is that Alexander died of a high fever on June 11, 323 BC.[65]

An Astronomical diary from the year 323–322 BC that records the death of Alexander. Located at the British Museum, London

On his death bed, his marshals asked him to whom he bequeathed his kingdom. Since Alexander had no obvious and legitimate heir (his son Alexander IV would be born after his death, and his other son was by a concubine, not a wife), it was a question of vital importance. There is some debate to what Alexander replied. Some believe that Alexander said, "Kratisto" (that is, "To the strongest!") or "Krat'eroi" (to the stronger).

Alexander may have said, "Krater'oi" (to Craterus). This is possible because the Greek pronunciation of "the stronger" and "Craterus" differ only by the position of the accented syllable. Most scholars believe that if Alexander did intend to choose one of his generals, his obvious choice would have been Craterus because he was the commander of the largest part of the army (infantry), had proven himself to be an excellent strategist, and because he displayed traits of the "ideal" Macedonian. But Craterus was not around, and the others may have chosen to hear "Krat'eroi" — the stronger. Regardless of his reply, Craterus does not appear to have pressed the issue. The empire then split amongst his successors (the Diadochi).

Before long, accusations of foul play were being thrown about by his generals at one another, and no contemporaneous source can be fully trusted.


Alexander's body was placed in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus, which was in turn placed in a second gold casket and covered with a purple robe. Alexander's coffin was placed, together with his armour, in a gold carriage that had a vaulted roof supported by an Ionic peristyle. The decoration of the carriage was very lavish and is described in great detail by Diodoros.
A rare coin of Ptolemy I, showing himself on the obverse at the beginning of his reign, and on the reverse Alexander the Great triumphantly riding a chariot drawn by elephants, a reminder of his successful campaigns with Alexander in India.

According to one legend, Alexander was preserved in a clay vessel full of honey (which can act as a preservative) and interred in a glass coffin. According to Aelian (Varia Historia 12.64), Ptolemy stole the body and brought it to Alexandria, where it was on display until Late Antiquity. It was here that Ptolemy IX, one of the last successors of Ptolemy I, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one, and melted the original down in order to strike emergency gold issues of his coinage. The citizens of Alexandria were outraged at this and soon after, Ptolemy IX was killed.

The Roman emperor Caligula was said to have looted the tomb, stealing Alexander's breastplate, and wearing it. Around 200 AD, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, was a great admirer of Alexander, and visited the tomb in his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are sketchy.

The so-called "Alexander Sarcophagus," discovered near Sidon and now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is so named, not because it was ever thought to have contained Alexander's remains but because its bas-reliefs depict Alexander and his companions hunting and in battle with the Persians. Originally thought[66] to have been the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus (died 311 BC), the king of Sidon appointed by Alexander immediately following the battle of Issus, 331,[67] some recent opinion makes it earlier than Abdalonymus' death.[68]


Some classical authors, such as Diodorus, relate that Alexander had given detailed written instructions to Craterus some time before his death. Although Craterus had already started to implement Alexander's orders, such as the building of a fleet in Cilicia for expedition against Carthage, Alexander's successors chose not to further implement them, on the grounds that they were impractical and extravagant.[69] The testament, described in Diodorus XVIII, called for military expansion into the Southern and Western Mediterranean, monumental constructions, and the intermixing of Eastern and Western populations. Its most remarkable items were:
The completion of a pyre to Hephaestion
The building of "a thousand warships, larger than triremes, in Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus for the campaign against the Carthaginians and the other who live along the coast of Libya and Iberia and the adjoining coastal regions as far as Sicily"
The building of a road in northern Africa as far as the Pillars of Heracles, with ports and shipyards along it.
The erection of great temples in Delos, Delphi, Dodona, Dium, Amphipolis, Cyrnus and Ilium.
The construction of a monumental tomb for his father Philip, "to match the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt"
The establishment of cities and the "transplant of populations from Asia to Europe and in the opposite direction from Europe to Asia, in order to bring the largest continent to common unity and to friendship by means of intermarriage and family ties." (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historia, XVIII)

Personal life
Main article: Alexander the Great's personal relationships

Alexander's lifelong companion was Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. Hephaestion also held the position of second-in-command of Alexander's forces until his death, which devastated Alexander. The full extent of his relationship with Hephaestion is the subject of much historical speculation.

Alexander married two women: Roxana, daughter of a Bactrian nobleman, Oxyartes; and Stateira, a Persian princess and daughter of Darius III of Persia. There is also an accepted tradition of a third wife – Parysatis – whom he is supposed to have married in Persia, though nothing else is known about her. Another personage from the court of Darius III with whom he was intimate was the male eunuch Bagoas. His son by Roxana, Alexander IV of Macedon, was killed after the death of his father, before he reached adulthood.

Alexander was admired during his lifetime for treating all his lovers humanely.[70][71]

Legacy and division of the empire
Main article: Diadochi
Coin of Alexander bearing an Aramaic language inscription.
The Hellenistic world view after Alexander: ancient world map of Eratosthenes (276-194 BC), incorporating information from the campaigns of Alexander and his successors.[72]

After Alexander's death, in 323 BC, the rule of his Empire was given to Alexander's half-brother Philip Arridaeus and Alexander's son Alexander IV. However, since Philip was apparently feeble-minded and the son of Alexander still a baby, two regents were named in Perdiccas (who had received Alexander's ring at his death) and Craterus (who may have been the one mentioned as successor by Alexander), although Perdiccas quickly managed to take sole power.

Perdiccas soon eliminated several of his opponents, killing about 30 (Diodorus Siculus), and at the Partition of Babylon named former generals of Alexander as satraps of the various regions of his Empire. In 321 BC Perdiccas was assassinated by his own troops during his conflict with Ptolemy, leading to the Partition of Triparadisus, in which Antipater was named as the new regent, and the satrapies again shared between the various generals. From that time, Alexander's officers were focused on the explicit formation of rival monarchies and territorial states.

Ultimately, the conflict was settled after the Battle of Ipsus in Phrygia in 301 BC. Alexander's empire was divided at first into four major portions: Cassander ruled in Macedon, Lysimachus in Thrace, Seleucus in Mesopotamia and Persia, and Ptolemy I Soter in the Levant and Egypt. Antigonus ruled for a while in Anatolia and Syria but was eventually defeated by the other generals at Ipsus (301 BC).

Control over Indian territory passed to Chandragupta Maurya, the first Maurya emperor, who further expanded his dominions after a settlement with Seleucus.

By 270 BC, the Hellenistic states were consolidated, with
The Antigonid Empire in Greece;
The Seleucid Empire in Mesopotamia and Persia;
The Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, Palestine and Cyrenaica
The Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius (reigned c. 200–180 BCE), wearing an elephant scalp, took over Alexander's legacy in the east by again invading India in 180 BCE, and establishing the Indo-Greek kingdom (180 BC–10 AD).

By the 1st century BC though, most of the Hellenistic territories in the West had been absorbed by the Roman Republic. In the East, they had been dramatically reduced by the expansion of the Parthian Empire. The territories further east seceded to form the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (250–140 BC), which further expanded into India to form the Indo-Greek kingdom (180 BC–10 AD).

The Ptolemy dynasty persisted in Egypt until the epoch of the queen Cleopatra, best known for her alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, just before the Roman republic officially became the Roman Empire.

Alexander's conquests also had long term cultural effects, with the flourishing of Hellenistic civilization throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, and the development of Greco-Buddhist art in the Indian subcontinent. Alexander and his successors were tolerant of non-Greek religious practices, and interesting syncretisms developed in the new Greek towns he founded in Central Asia. The first realistic portrayals of the Buddha appeared at this time; they are reminiscent of Greek statues of Apollo. Several Buddhist traditions may have been influenced by the ancient Greek religion; the concept of Boddhisatvas is reminiscent of Greek divine heroes,[73] and some Mahayana ceremonial practices (burning incense, gifts of flowers and food placed on altars) are similar to those practiced by the ancient Greeks. Zen Buddhism draws in part on the ideas of Greek stoics, such as Zeno.[74]

Among other effects, the Hellenistic, or koine dialect of Greek became the lingua franca throughout the so-called civilized world. For instance the standard version of the Hebrew Scriptures used among the Jews of the diaspora, especially in Egypt, during the life of Jesus was the Greek Septuagint translation, which was compiled ca 200 BC by seventy-odd scholars under the patronage of the Macedonian ruler Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Thus many Jews from Egypt or Rome would have trouble understanding the teachings of the scholars in the Temple in Jerusalem who were using the Hebrew original text and an Aramaic translation, being themselves only acquainted with the Greek version. There has been much speculation on the issue whether Jesus spoke Koine Greek as the Gospel-writers, themselves writing in Greek, do not say anything decisive about the matter.

Spread of Greek ideas

Alexander had been educated by Aristotle. An important part of this education was the knowledge of Homer's Iliad, the common root for Greek identity, and of the Athenian heroes.[75] Alexander took especial favour with the Homeric hero Achilles, the mythical founder of his mother's tribe, and the statesman Pericles, who enabled the Golden Age of Athens.[75] His imperial ambitions did contain an agenda for the conquered barbarians, according to Aristotle's definition, to learn Greek and study Greek ideas. The military success spread the concept over a large part of the world. This Greek heritage was in large parts Athenian merit and thus was ensured the survival of the historical and cultural legacy of the Delian League.[75] During Alexander's campaign, he visited Achilles' tomb. Achilles was Alexander's role model and hero. For good luck, Alexander took Achilles' shield into his battle with the Persians. Unlike most leaders, Alexander actually fought shoulder to shoulder with his men. Each time Alexander conquered new lands, he built a city named Alexandria after himself. The Alexandrias were all built in Greek style. The most famous Alexandria was the one in Egypt. There was a library and a lighthouse (lighthouse of Alexandria) which was one of the ancient 7 wonders of the world. It also housed the temple of the Muses. Mueseums are named after the Muses.

Concept of civilized world versus barbarian world

At the time of Alexander there existed the concept of oikouménē (Ecumene), meaning literally "the inhabitated world".[76] Alexander, with his conquers, changed it to mean "the civilized world", the group of civilizated nations which has common interests, as opposed to the barbarian nations.[76][77] The concept would also include now not only the geography, but also its social, cultural and political dimensions.[76] Alexander put it into practice by unifying Greece, the Near East, the Indus Valley, Central Asia and Egypt and then appointing himself as the guardian who would guard its frontiers so barbarians nations would not be able to attack the civilized nations inside.[77]

Influence on Ancient Rome
A mural in Pompeii, depicting the marriage of Alexander to Barsine (Stateira) in 324 BC. The couple are apparently dressed as Ares and Aphrodite.

In the late Republic and early Empire, educated Roman citizens used Latin only for legal, political, and ceremonial purposes, and used Greek to discuss philosophy or any other intellectual topic. No Roman wanted to hear it said that his mastery of the Greek language was weak. Throughout the Roman world, the one language spoken everywhere was Alexander's Greek.[citation needed]

Alexander and his exploits were admired by many Romans who wanted to associate themselves with his achievements, although very little is known about Roman-Macedonian diplomatic relations of that time. Polybius started his Histories by reminding Romans of his role, and since then subsequent Roman leaders saw him as his inspirational role leader.[76] Julius Caesar wept in Spain at the mere sight of Alexander's statue; when asked to see other great military leaders Caesar said Alexander was the only great one. Pompey the Great rummaged through the closets of conquered nations for Alexander's 260-year-old cloak, which the Roman general then wore as the costume of greatness. Augustus' empire was seen as the more perfect successor of Alexander's.[76] However, in his zeal to honor Alexander, Augustus accidentally broke the nose off the Macedonian's mummified corpse while laying a wreath at the hero's shrine in Alexandria, Egypt. The unbalanced emperor Caligula later took the dead king's armor from that tomb and donned it for luck. The Macriani, a Roman family that rose to the imperial throne in the 3rd century A.D., always kept images of Alexander on their persons, either stamped into their bracelets and rings or stitched into their garments. Even their dinnerware bore Alexander's face, with the story of the king's life displayed around the rims of special bowls.[78]

In the summer of 1995, a statue of Alexander was recovered in an excavation of a Roman house in Alexandria, which was richly decorated with mosaic and marble pavements and probably was constructed in the 1st century AD and occupied until the 3rd century.[79]

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Modern opinion on Alexander has run the gamut, from the notion that he believed that he was on a divinely inspired mission to unite the human race to the view that he was a megalomaniac bent on world domination.[citation needed] Such views tend to be anachronistic, and sources allow for a variety of interpretations. Much about Alexander's personality and aims remains enigmatic: there were no disinterested commentators in his own time or soon afterwards, so all accounts ought to be read with scepticism.[citation needed]

Alexander is remembered as a legendary hero in Europe and much of both Southwest and Central Asia, where he is known as Al-Iskander or Al-Iskandar Zulkarnain ("Alexander of the two horns" in Arabic). To Zoroastrians, however, he is the conqueror of their first great empire and as the destroyer of Persepolis. Ancient sources are generally written with the agenda either of glorifying or of denigrating the man, making it difficult to evaluate his actual character. Most refer to a growing instability and megalomania in the years following Gaugamela, but it has been suggested that this simply reflects the Greek stereotype of an orientalising king.

At any rate, it is difficult to see much in the claim of Plutarch that, despite his drive and passion, Alexander was a man of admirable self-restraint. The murder of his friend Cleitus, which he deeply and immediately regretted,[45] is often cited as a sign of his paranoia, as is his execution of Philotas and his general Parmenion for failure to pass along details of a plot against him. There is also the view, of course, that this was more prudence than paranoia.

Modern Alexandrists, such as George Cawkwell, E. Badian and A. B. Bosworth, continue to debate these issues and others. One unresolved polemic involves whether Alexander was actually attempting to better the world by his conquests or if his purpose was primarily to rule the world.

Partially in response to the ubiquity of positive portrayals of Alexander, an alternate character is sometimes presented[by whom?] which emphasises some of Alexander's negative aspects. Some proponents[who?] of this view cite the destructions of Thebes, Tyre, Persepolis and Gaza as atrocities, arguing that Alexander preferred fighting to negotiating. It is further claimed[by whom?], in response to the view that he was generally tolerant of the cultures of the people whom he conquered, that his attempts at cultural fusion were strictly practical and that he never genuinely admired Persian art or culture.[citation needed] To this school of thought, Alexander was more a general than a statesman.[citation needed]

Alexander's character also suffers the interpretation of historians who themselves are subject to the biases and ideals of their times. William Woodthorpe Tarn, of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, saw Alexander in an extremely positive light, while Peter Green, who wrote after World War II, saw little in him and his deeds that was not inherently selfish or expedient. Tarn wrote in an age during which world conquest and warrior-heroes were acceptable, even encouraged; Green wrote against the backdrop of World War II with its 70 million dead and nuclear weaponry.

Greek and Latin sources

There are numerous Greek and Latin texts about Alexander, as well as some non-Greek texts. The primary sources, texts written by people who actually knew Alexander or who gathered information from men who served with Alexander, are all lost, apart from a few inscriptions and some letter-fragments of dubious authenticity. Contemporaries who wrote full accounts of his life include the historian Callisthenes, Alexander's general Ptolemy, Aristobulus, Nearchus, and Onesicritus. Another influential account is by Cleitarchus who, while not a direct witness of Alexander's expedition, used sources which had just been published. His work was to be the backbone of that of Timagenes, who heavily influenced many historians whose work still survives. None of these works survives, but we do have later works based on these primary sources.

The five main surviving accounts are by Arrian, Curtius, Plutarch, Diodorus, and Justin.
Anabasis Alexandri (The Campaigns of Alexander in Greek) by the Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia, writing in the 2nd century AD, and based largely on Ptolemy and, to a lesser extent, Aristobulus and Nearchus. It is considered generally the most trustworthy source.
Historiae Alexandri Magni, a biography of Alexander in ten books, of which the last eight survive, by the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, written in the 1st century AD, and based largely on Cleitarchus through the mediation of Timagenes, with some material probably from Ptolemy;
Life of Alexander (see Parallel Lives) and two orations On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great (see Moralia), by the Greek historian and biographer Plutarch of Chaeronea in the second century, based largely on Aristobulus and especially Cleitarchus.
Bibliotheca historia (Library of world history), written in Greek by the Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus, from which Book 17 relates the conquests of Alexander, based almost entirely on Timagenes's work. The books immediately before and after, on Philip and Alexander's "Successors," throw light on Alexander's reign.
The Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus by Justin, which contains factual errors and is highly compressed. It is difficult in this case to understand the source, since we only have an epitome, but it is thought that also Pompeius Trogus may have limited himself to use Timagenes for his Latin history.

To these five main sources some scholars add the Metz Epitome, an anonymous late Latin work that narrates Alexander's campaigns from Hyrcania to India. Much is also recounted incidentally in other authors, including Strabo, Athenaeus, Polyaenus, Aelian, and others.

The "problem of the sources" is the main concern (and chief delight) of Alexander-historians. In effect, each presents a different "Alexander", with details to suit. Arrian is mostly interested in the military aspects, while Curtius veers to a more private and darker Alexander. Plutarch can't resist a good story, light or dark. All, with the possible exception of Arrian, include a considerable level of fantasy, prompting Strabo to remark, "All who wrote about Alexander preferred the marvelous to the true." Nevertheless, the sources tell us much, and leave much to our interpretation and imagination. Perhaps Arrian's words are most appropriate:
One account says that Hephaestion laid a wreath on the tomb of Patroclus; another that Alexander laid one on the tomb of Achilles, calling him a lucky man, in that he had Homer to proclaim his deeds and preserve his memory. And well might Alexander envy Achilles this piece of good fortune; for in his own case there was no equivalent: his one failure, the single break, as it were, in the long chain of his successes, was that he had no worthy chronicler to tell the world of his exploits.

Detail of Alexander on the Alexander Sarcophagus

Alexander was a legend in his own time. His court historian Callisthenes portrayed the sea in Cilicia as drawing back from him in proskynesis. Writing after Alexander's death, another participant, Onesicritus, went so far as to invent a tryst between Alexander and Thalestris, queen of the mythical Amazons. When Onesicritus read this passage to his patron, Alexander's general and later King Lysimachus reportedly quipped, "I wonder where I was at the time." (Plutarch, Alexander' 46.2)

In the first centuries after Alexander's death, probably in Alexandria, a quantity of the more legendary material coalesced into a text known as the Alexander Romance, later falsely ascribed to the historian Callisthenes and therefore known as Pseudo-Callisthenes. This text underwent numerous expansions and revisions throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages, exhibiting a plasticity unseen in "higher" literary forms. Latin and Syriac translations were made in Late Antiquity. From these, versions were developed in all the major languages of Europe and the Middle East, including Armenian, Georgian, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Serbian, Slavonic, Romanian, Hungarian, German, English, Italian, and French. The "Romance" is regarded by many Western scholars as the source of the account of Alexander given in the Qur'an (Sura The Cave). It is the source of many incidents in Ferdowsi's "Shahnama". A Mongolian version is also extant. Some believe that, excepting certain religious texts, it is the most widely read work of pre-modern times.

Alexander is also a character of Greek folklore (and other regions), as the protagonist of 'apocryphal' tales of bravery. A maritime legend says that his sister is a mermaid and asks the sailors if her brother is still alive. The unsuspecting sailor who answers truthfully arouses the mermaid's wrath and his boat perishes in the waves; a sailor mindful of the circumstances will answer "He lives and reigns, and conquers the world", and the sea about his boat will immediately calm. Alexander is also a character of a standard play in the Karagiozis repertory, "Alexander the Great and the Accursed Serpent". The ancient Greek poet Adrianus composed an epic poem on the history of Alexander the Great, called the Alexandriad, which was probably still extant in the 10th century, but which is now lost to us.

In the Bible
Alexander and Augustus depicted in a Byzantine style painting from 1568. Written on the left is 'Alexander, King of the Hellenes' and 'Augustus, Emperor of the Romans' on the right. From the Katholikon of Docheiariou Monastery, Mt. Athos, Greece.

Daniel 8:5–8 and 21–22 states that a King of Greece will conquer the Medes and Persians but then die at the height of his power and have his kingdom broken into four kingdoms. This is sometimes taken as a reference to Alexander.[citation needed]

Alexander was briefly mentioned in the first Book of the Maccabees. All of Chapter 1, verses 1–7 was about Alexander and this serves as an introduction of the book. This explains how the Hellenistic influence reached the Land of Israel at that time.

In the Qur'an
Main article: Alexander in the Qur'an

Alexander the Great sometimes is identified in Persian and Arabic traditions as Dhul-Qarnayn, Arabic for the "Two-Horned One", possibly a reference to the appearance of a horn-headed figure that appears on coins minted during his rule and later imitated in ancient Middle Eastern coinage.[citation needed] Accounts of Dhul-Qarnayn appear in the Qur'an, and so may refer to Alexander.

References to Alexander may also be found in the Persian tradition. The same traditions from the Pseudo-Callisthenes were combined in Persia with Sassanid Persian ideas about Alexander in the Iskandarnamah. In this tradition, Alexander built a wall of iron and melted copper in which Gog and Magog are confined.

Some Muslim scholars[who?] disagree that Alexander was Dhul-Qarnayn. There are actually some theories that Dhul-Qarnayn was a Persian King with a vast Empire as well, possibly King Cyrus the Great.[citation needed] The reason being is Dhul-Qarnayn is described in the Quran as a monotheist believer who worshipped Allah (God). This would remove Alexander as a candidate for Dhul-Qarnayn as Alexander was a polytheist. Yet contemporaneous Persian nobles would have practiced Zurvanism, thus disqualifying them on the same basis.

In the Shahnameh
15th cent. Persian miniature painting from Herat depicting Iskander, the Persian name for Alexander the Great

The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, one of the oldest books written in modern Persian, has a chapter about Alexander. It is a book of epic poetry written around 1000 AD, and is believed to have played an important role in the survival of the Persian language in the face of Arabic influence. It starts with a mythical history of Iran and then gives a story of Alexander, followed by a brief mention of the Arsacids. The accounts after that, still in epic poetry, portray historical figures. Alexander is described as a child of a Persian king, Daraaye Darab (the last in the list of kings in the book whose names do not match historical kings), and a daughter of Philip, a Roman king. However, due to problems in the relationship between the Persian king and Philip's daughter, she is sent back to Rome. Alexander is born to her afterwards, but Philip claims him as his own son and keeps the true identity of the child secret.


Alexander is also known in the Zoroastrian Middle Persian work Arda Wiraz Nāmag as "Alexander the accursed",[80][81] in the Persian language Guzastag,[82] due to his conquest of the Persian Empire and the destruction of its capital Persepolis. He is also known as Eskandar-e Maqduni[citation needed](Alexander of Macedonia") in Persian, al-Iskandar al-Makduni al-Yunani[83] ("Alexander the Macedonian, of Greece") in Arabic, אלכסנדר מוקדון, Alexander Mokdon in Hebrew, and Tre-Qarnayia in Aramaic (the two-horned one, apparently due to an image on coins minted during his rule that seemingly depicted him with the two ram's horns of the Egyptian god Ammon), الاسكندر الاكبر, al-Iskandar al-Akbar ("Alexander the Great") in Arabic, سکندر اعظم, Sikandar-e-azam in Urdu and Skandar in Pashto. Sikandar, his name in Urdu and Hindi, is also a term used as a synonym for "expert" or "extremely skilled".

In ancient and modern culture
Main article: Cultural depictions of Alexander the Great

Around seventy towns or outposts are claimed to have been founded by Alexander.[84] Diodorus Siculus credits Alexander with planning cities on a grid plan.[85]

Alexander has figured in works of both "high" and popular culture from his own era to the modern day.

Alexander was depicted on the reverse of the Greek 100 drachmas coin of 1990-2001.[86]

During the last few years there have been many claims by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia that Alexander the Great is actually a part of the country's history, and that present-day ethnic Macedonians are the descendants of the Ancient Macedonians. This comes as a result of many DNA-researches funded by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia which show that today's Macedonians are for the most part genetically linked to Ancient Macedonians, as well as some other peoples that lived in the region in the past. These results, however, have not been accepted by any renowned historian on the subject. Many Albanians today also see themselves as descendants of Alexander the Great.

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