Alexander the Great

356–323 BC

Alexander the Great is considered one of the most successful military commanders of all time. He was the son of Philip II, a King of Macedonia who had spent twenty years bringing Thrace, Thessaly, and eventually all of Greece under Macedonian control. When Alexander came to the throne at age 20, he therefore had the most powerful army in the region at his disposal, as well as several of his father's best generals. Even considering these advantages however, the progress of his military success was astounding. Macedonia was still a poor and backward country when Alexander crossed the Hellespont in 334 B.C. with the notion of conquering all of Persia. He had only 40,000 troops and little money to begin with, but within three years he was master of a fabulously wealthy empire, whose domains spanned thousands of miles and included tens of millions of people.

Alexander the Great
Alexander was the eldest son of Philip II and his first wife, Olympia. During Alexander's entire youth, his father was engaged in a series of wars of conquests, first of the neighboring regions of Thrace, and later of Northern Greece. During this time Alexander learned the arts of war and when only 18, led a cavalry wing at the decisive Battle of Chaeronea. With this victory, Macedonia became the over-lord of all of Northern Greece. Only two years later, Philip was murdered and as a result, there were several rebellions within the Macedonian realm. Alexander acted immediately upon coming to the throne to put down the rebellions, first in Thrace, and later in Thebes with great severity. As a result of its rebellion, Thebes was razed to the ground, and there were no further revolts within Alexander's domain.

As soon as his rule was everywhere firmly established, Alexander began actively planning an invasion of Persia. With an army of just over 40,000 Macedonian and Greek troops, Alexander met the Persians in three major battles over a three year period. In each case the Macedonians were greatly outnumbered but prevailed everywhere due to superior tactics and generalship. Following each victory, Alexander spent a year consolidating his power and besieging a few fortified towns. His first victory, at Granicus, gained him all of Asia Minor. His second major battle, at Issus, opened up all of Syria, Mesopotamia, and ultimately Egypt. His final victory at Gaugamela crushed the last vestige of Persian power and opened up all of Central Asia. He continued his campaign in the eastern regions of the Persian Empire for several years after his victory at Gaugamela, but fought only local skirmishes rather than full-scale battles.

During the early years of Alexander's reign in Persia he tried to blend the Persian and Greek cultures to some extent, but his acceptance of some Persian customs caused resentment among some of his Greek generals. He preferred conquest to administration however, so in 326 embarked on another campaign which took him to the outer realm of the empire. He fought King Porus for control of northern India at the Battle of Hydaspes River, but his army refused to proceed when he tried to lead them into the Ganges Valley. They were exhausted after years of campaigning and wanted to return home. Disappointed, Alexander returned to Babylon. The final years of his life were considerably less creditable than his early years. He became paranoid and abrasive, and was responsible for the murder or assassination of several of his longtime friends and advisors. His death after an acute illness in 323 was certainly due to excessive drink and dissipation.

Since Alexander died without a clear plan of succession, his death resulted in a long series of wars between his generals for control of his kingdom. By the time of his death however, the process of "Hellenization", involving the introduction of Greek culture and learning into all the domains of the eastern Mediterranean was well along. Within 20 years of his death his empire had evolved into three long term empires, but all retained a Greco-Macedonian character in their administration.

Key events during the life of Alexander the Great:

356 BC
Birth of Alexander the Great.
338 BC
Philip II defeats Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea; Alexander led Macedonian cavalry.
336 BC
Death of Philip II, Alexander assumes throne; puts done a rebellion in Thrace.
335 BC
Rebellion in Thebes is put down severely. Thebes is razed.
334 BC
Macedonian army crosses the Hellespont; defeats Memnon of Rhodes at the Battle of Granicus.
334 BC
Alexander consolidates his power in all of Asia Minor.
333 BC
Defeats Darius in the great Battle of Issus. All of Syria falls into Macedonian hands.
333 BC
Egypt surrenders to Alexander without any resistance.
333 BC
Destroys Perisan capital of Persepolis.
332 BC
Builds a giant bridge in order to besiege the island city of Tyre. City falls and is severerly treated.
331 BC
Great Persian army is defeated at the Battle of Gaugamela. All of Persia falls into Macedonian hands.
331 BC
Death of Darius at the hands of a traitor.
330 BC
Campaigns in Media, Bactria and Afghanistan
328 BC
Returns to Capital at Babylon
327 BC
Marries Roxana, a Bactrian Princess.
326 BC
Defeats Porus in a great battle at the Indus River.
325 BC
Macedonian army refuses to continue on. Alexander returns to Babylon.
323 BC
Death of Alexander the Great

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Alexander and Bucephalus  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Lesson in Justice  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Gordian Knot  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Why Alexander Wept  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Fight on the River  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Conqueror  in  Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Birth of Alexander  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Alexander's Brilliant Beginning  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Alexander the Great  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
Alexander the Great  in  Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men  by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
Invasion of Alexander the Great  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Alexander the Great  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/soldiers/_back.html
Alexander  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Alexander the Great  in  Stories from Greek History  by  Ethelwyn Lemon
Alexander and Bucephalus  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Tyre Is Stormed by Alexander  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Alexander the Great Invades India  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Alexander the Great and Darius  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
Alexander the Great  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
Alexander the Great Explores India  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge
Alexander the Great  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge
Alexander the Great  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan
Alexander the Great  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Alexander  in  Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston  by  

Book Links
Alexander the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Young Macedonian in the Army of Alexander the Great  by  Alfred J. Church

Image Links

Alexander and Bucephalus
 in Alexander the Great

The Bathing in the River Cydnus
 in Alexander the Great

It is this that I cut all Gordian knots'
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

Who but Dulkarnein reddened with anger?
 in A Child's Book of Warriors

Alexander the Great
 in Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch

Alexander and Bucephalus
 in The Story of the Greeks

Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot
 in The Story of the Greeks

Death of Alexander
 in The Story of the Greeks

Alexander tames Bucephalus
 in Famous Men of Greece

The family of Darius at Alexander's feet, Crane
 in Famous Men of Greece

Porus before Alexander, Chappel
 in Famous Men of Greece

The death of Alexander, Piloty
 in Famous Men of Greece

Aristotle teaching Alexander, Laplante
 in Famous Men of Greece

Alexander the Great
 in Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men

Thais Suggests the Burning of Persepolis
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

Wedding of Alexander and Statira
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

The Death of Alexander
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

Alexander the Great
 in Back Matter

Alexander discovering the body of Darius
 in Back Matter

Alexander taming Bucephalus
 in Our Young Folks' Plutarch

Alexander and Diogenes
 in Stories from Greek History

Alexander scales the walls with three men
 in Stories from Greek History

He ran toward the horse and seized the bridle.
 in The Story of Greece

With an effort he looked at them as they passed.
 in The Story of Greece

The Death of Alexander the Great
 in Historical Tales: Greek

Alexander Training Bucephalus
 in Stories of the Ancient Greeks

Alexander (From a bust in Tivoli, Italy)
 in The Story of the Greek People

Alexander (From a bust found in Tivoli, Italy, in 1779.)
 in Old World Hero Stories

Alexander and Diogenes
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston

Quarrel between Alexander and Clitus
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston

Short Biography
Philip of Macedonia Used statesmanship as well as military force to bring Greece under sway of Macedonia.
Aristotle Renowned scientist and philosopher. Cataloged all types of knowledge. Tutor to Alexander the Great.
Demosthenes One of Greece's greatest orators. Spoke against Philip and the Macedonians.
Porus Proud King of India, defeated by Alexander, but then restored as Satrap of the region.
Memnon of Rhodes
Parmenio Chief general of both Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Eventually killed by Alexander.
Antipater One of Philip's most trusted generals. Left in charge of Macedonia during Alexander's conquests.
Olympias Wife of Philip of Macedon. Alexander's mother. Quarreled with Antipater over charge of Macedonia.
Darius III Last king of Persia, overthrown by Alexander the Great.