According to ancient sources, one day in 356 B.C., Phillip II got three pieces of good news. The first piece was that one of his generals had beaten the Illyrians in a great battle. The second piece was that his racehorse had won victory in the Olympics. The third piece was that his son, Alexander, had been born.
Another tradition said that on the same day Alexander was born, the great temple of the Goddess, Artemis, burned to the ground. Some people joked that her temple burned because she was so busy attending Alexanderís birth. Legends like these surround the lives of nearly all great and accomplished people.
Alexander became the King of Macedonia when his father was assassinated in 336 B.C. He not only carried out his fatherís plans, but he also went on to create something the world had never seen.
Boyhood and Education
Alexander was very eager to fight with his father in all the great battles he was in. Phillip insisted that Alexander would have his own glory when he was older. Over time, Alexander became jealous of his fatherís success. Whenever he heard that Phillip had captured same famous city or won a great victory, Alexander would show no interest in the exciting news. He believed that Phillip was conquering too much, and that there would be nothing left for Alexander to conquer when he was older.
Alexander was very anxious to leave Macedonia and see some action, but he was an energetic and accomplished student, and he enjoyed the Greek culture very much. In his teenage years, Alexander enjoyed music, poetry, and acting. At this time, Alexander had many different teachers that were all supervised by one head teacher named Leonidas. Later on though, Phillip thought Alexander would need a more experienced teacher, so he sent for Aristotle, the most famous and experienced teacher of his time. Aristotle taught Alexander for about three years, beginning in 343 B.C. He taught Alexander about political science, ethics, and literature.
Alexander Becomes King
Alexander was wise beyond his years, even before Aristotle taught him. He was very mature, and when he was 16, Phillip finally gave him a taste of the action he was longing for. Alexander quickly proved that he was ready to put down the Illyrian rebellion, and he later founded a new city, which he named Alexandropolis. Just two years later, when he was 18, Alexander faced a more difficult task. Phillip put Alexander in charge of the Macedonian Calvary (soldiers who rode on horseback), in the battle of Chaeronea.
In 336 B.C., when Alexander was 20, his father was assassinated. Sooner then expected, Alexander had become the King of Macedonia. Also, he had to become the new captain-general of the Greek troops that Phillip had assembled. Less than a year after Alexander took power, Thebes turned against his troops. The young king punished Thebes harshly, and had the Macedonians kill about six thousand Thebans. They sold another thirty thousand to be slaves.
Alexanderís Military and Political Plan
After a few years, Alexander established himself as a ruler to be respected. In 334 B.C., he created the great military that brought all of the land stretching from Greece to India under his power. When he crossed the Hellespont into Asia, in the spring of that year, his army had about 32,000 infantry and 5,000 horsemen. This does not sound like a lot, compared to the Persian Empire, which had armies of 200,000 or more troops, but Alexander was confident in his soldiers.
Alexander was also very confident in himself, which helped him on the road to success. Alexander handled his army brilliantly, often improving them as he went along. He also further developed the already effective capturing techniques he had learned from his father. In F.E. Adcockís words, Alexander "pressed his sieges home with fiery and resourceful determination. No city, however strong, and no fort, however defended by art and nature, foiled his skillful attack." This meant that Alexander was no army could defeat Alexander.
Alexander also had very good political plans. As part of his overall strategy in western Persia, for example, he freed the Greek cities he found under Persian control, and let them all rule themselves. Most Greeks believed in democracy and hated Persian dictators; so by offering them not only freedom, but also the right to rule themselves, Alexander could and did win them over.
The Conquest of Persia
Alexander clearly demonstrated the greatness of his army and personal talents in the winning streak that he had going. His first major victory came only a few weeks after he had crossed the Hellespont. At the Granicus River, in northwest Asia, Alexander came up against an army lead by some of the local Persian governors. They had gathered all their armies to block his path. There was a hush as both armies stood motionless on the bank of the river, as if in awe of what was to come. Then, Alexander moved forward into the river, praying to the God of Battle. The leading soldiers were met as they came up onto the riverbank by gunfire from the Persian Army. Eventually, the Macedonians won the day. They only lost about one or two hundred men, compared to perhaps six or seven thousand for the enemy.
Alexander then marched southward, and in the following year at Issus in Syria, met a much larger Persian enemy commanded by the Persian King Darius III. Once again, the Persians we defeated.
In the fall of 331 B.C, Alexander turned northeastward and got into the heart of the Persian Empire. At Gaugamela, near the Tigris River, which is now Iraq, Darius failed once again to stop him, losing over forty thousand men in the attempt. The Persian king made another escape, but was murdered by some of his own officers shortly afterward. After the battle, Alexander had won over the three Persian capitals- Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis.
The End of the Road
Alexander continued eastward, eventually reaching India. There, in 326 B.C., at the Hydapses River, he defeated a large Indian army with about two hundred battle elephants. He might have gone on to conquer all of India, but his exhausted troops compelled him to turn back.
Shortly after returning to Persia, Alexander died in Babylon on June 10, 323 B.C. He was only 33 years old. Historians have suspected that he died from malaria, a disease caused by mosquitoes.