Alexander the Great

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Alexander the Great (356 BC - 323 BC) was born Alexander III, son of Philip, King of Macedonia.

Macedonia was a country to the north and east of classical Greece. Most Greeks regarded it as foreign and semi-barbarian, but the Macedonians were proud of being Greeks. Alexander's mother was from Epirus, another semi-Greek state to the northwest of the Greek peninsula.

Alexander was a high-spirited youth, a wild horseman, and a favorite captain of his father's army. Aristotle was his private tutor.

In 336BC, he succeeded his father on the throne. Having established his political power in Greece, he set off in 334 on his famous conquest of Persia. Within two years, he had conquered the eastern Mediterranean coast, entered Syria and at Issus defeated the great Syrian king Darius III.

In 332-331, he conquered Egypt and, returning to Persia proper, occupied Babylon. He proceeded to Media and Scythia, captured Herat and went on to India. He adopted Persian dress and customs and his subjects had to cast themselves on their faces when approaching him, Persian-style. This cost him the sympathies of many of his Greek countrymen. Many of his soldiers died when he drove his army further and further east, through deserts and other hostile landscape. Having battled in India, he returned west through Makran trying to consolidate his empire.

On June 10, 323, before he had returned, he died of a sudden fever, in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II. Alexander the Great was only 32 years old.

He left a huge empire of Persio-Greek culture (which then broke up into three parts), and an odd assemblage of towns: Alexandrias, Alexandropolises and other Alexvilles all over Greece, Persia, Egypt, all the way to India.

Oddly, he seems to be cursed to this day in Iran for having burned Persepolis, which was quite pretty before Alexander arrived. This ill reputation is undeserved, for in life Alexander was a strong supporter of equality between Greeks and Persians. Even so, modern critics have found much blame in his other actions, and modern opinion is strongly divided as to whether he was a heroic general or an ancient Hitler.

We treat the death of Alexander the Great and the birth of the successor kingdoms to divide Hellenic civilization from Hellenistic civilization. Alexander's conquests and the administrative needs of his Greek-speaking successors promoted the spread of the Greek language and Greek culture across the eastern Mediterranean and into Mesopotamia.

see also:

Ptolemaic dynasty
Seleucid dynasty
Antigonid dynasty