Alexander the Great's Lasting Legacy
Legend has it that there is a knot in the city of Gordium which is impossible to undo. An ancient prophecy said that whoever could untie this Gordion knot would become the ruler of Asia. According to the story, while Alexander was in Gordium he found a wagon with an ox yoke tied by a tight, complex knot. Alexander first tried to untie the knot, but was unsuccessful. He then drew his sword and cut it in a single stroke.
On July 26, 356 BCE, the world’s greatest conqueror was brought into the world. Alexander the Great was born in Pella, the capital of the Macedonian kingdom, to King Philip and Olympias, a princess from Epirus. As a child, Alexander always seemed to be consumed by a desire to achieve great fame and glory. He was very anxious to see military action and to join his father in the conquest of the Greek city-states. King Philip, however, did not feel that Alexander was ready to take on such a task, so he hired Aristotle, a great philosopher, to teach Alexander about Greek knowledge and culture.
Alexander’s formal training ended at the age of sixteen, when Philip was absent on a campaign and Alexander was forced to battle against the Thracians. The battle turned out to be a great victory for Alexander and in 338 BCE he commanded the cavalry in Philip’s army in the battle of Chaeronea. This battle brought Greece under Macedonian control. Philip’s next plan was to invade the Persian Empire, but before he could do so he was killed by one of his bodyguards, and Alexander became king of the Macedonians. Within the next 12 years following Philip’s death, Alexander conquered almost the entire known world of his time, and extended Macedonian and Greek power to a point that King Philip could not have dreamt of.
Alexander was determined to fulfill his father’s plan of attacking the Persian Empire, so in 334 BCE he led an army across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. Alexander and his army charged across the Granicus River and won the battle, opening up Asia Minor. Next they moved into Egypt and then traveled eastward into the Persian Empire.
Darius III, the King of Persia, was Alexander’s biggest enemy. Alexander fought him three times, and won each battle. The first battle was at the River Granicus in Turkey. Darius was defeated, but he could not be captured. The second and most famous battle was near the town of Issus. Alexander led an army of 20,000 to fight against Darius and his 150,000 troops. Although the Persians had more than seven times the amount of troops than Alexander had, Darius still faced a massive defeat. The third battle was at Gaugamela, Iraq. This was Alexander’s most magnificent victory, in which he gained power of the capitals of Perisa. Alexander and his troops moved into Egypt next. The Egyptians saw him as a liberator from Persian rule and crowned him pharaoh. It was here that he founded the city of Alexandria. Alexandria was the center of learning, and was conveniently located so that it would link Egypt, Greece, and the eastern Mediterranean.
Returning to Syria, Alexander then advanced into Mesopotamia where he again met up with Darius and his huge army. Although Alexander was greatly outnumbered, he possessed such military knowledge that no enemy could stand up to him, not even the Persians. Darius was forced to flee and escaped into Media. Alexander then captured Babylon and the Persian capital, Susa. Alexander’s army marched into Persepolis where they captured vast amounts of gold and silver and burned down the royal palaces. He then went north to try to find Darius, but Darius had been killed by his own nobles, making Alexander the king of Asia.
In 327 BCE Alexander was married to the Bactrian princess, Roxana. He then moved on, penetrating over 100 miles beyond the Indus River Valley, but turned back because his army refused to go on. Alexander later returned to Babylon where, at the age of thirty-two, died of high fever, leaving his wife pregnant with his first son.
Alexander’s body was placed in a glass coffin in a special tomb in Alexandria. His brother, Philip III, became king of Macedonia and later shared his rule with Alexander IV, the son of Roxana and Alexander. Unfortunately, both died soon after, and no other rulers could hold this huge empire together, so it eventually split up into a number of independent regions.
Alexander had many amazing accomplishments throughout his life, but the most fascinating achievement of all was the ability of Alexander to conquer 2/3 of the known world in only 12 years. In total, Alexander fought about 20 major battles, most of which were against his archenemy, Persia. With his determination, ambition, and obsession with his pursuit of glory, Alexander was able to accomplish things that others only dreamed of. He was an incredible leader and could inspire and motivate his troops to fight their hardest, no matter by how many they were outnumbered. He suffered the same wounds as his soldiers and always led the attack in person. He was also the only individual able to keep this enormous empire together, one of his tactics being the “marriage of East and West” where he conducted the mass wedding of 9,000 of his soldiers to eastern women in order to cement the new empire.
In my opinion, Alexander’s greatest failure is his own mercilessness. This is shown in the way that he treated others, even those who were close to him. For example, he once killed his best friend (who had saved his life at Granicus) during a brawl when he was drunk. He had become a chronic alcoholic and had many of his subordinates put to death, usually during drunken sprees. He even executed several prominent Greeks and Macedonians who he believed had conspired against him. It is also possible that Alexander may have arranged for the death of his father. There is no evidence of this, but some historians think that Alexander had him killed because, according to ancient stories, he became increasingly jealous of Philip’s successes. Also, during the siege of Tyre, Alexander had 2,000 inhabitants crucified. In Iran today, he is still thought of as an evil king who did his best to destroy the old Persian culture and religion.
As the legend told, the one who could undo the knot would become the ruler of Asia. The legend became a reality, as young Alexander, in only 12 years, conquered more territory than any other warrior before or since. He was an ingenious military general and an outstanding leader, as shown in his numerous achievements. Alexander led an exciting life, the excitement of battle, the riches of conquest, and best of all, the accomplishment of ruling such a vast kingdom. Emperors after him strove to live up to the Alexandrian ideal of divine kingship, but few men have changed the world so profoundly. Alexander was one of the greatest rulers in history, proven by his brilliance in battle and exceptional leadership qualities.
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