Alexander III of Macedon (356–323 BC), popularly known as Alexander the Great (Greek: Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος, Mégas Aléxandros), was a Greeki[›] king
(basileus) of Macedon. He is the most celebrated member of the Argead Dynasty and created one of the largest empires in ancient history. Born in Pella
in 356 BC, Alexander was tutored by the famed philosopher Aristotle, succeeded his father Philip II of Macedon to the throne in 336 BC after the King
was assassinated, and died thirteen years later at the age of 32. Although both Alexander's reign and empire were short-lived, the cultural impact of
his conquests lasted for centuries. Alexander was known to be undefeated in battle and is considered one of the most successful commanders of all
time. He is one of the most famous figures of antiquity, and is remembered for his tactical ability, for his conquests, and for spreading Greek
culture into the East, marking the beginning of Hellenistic civilization.
Philip had brought most of the city-states of mainland Greece under Macedonian hegemony, using both military and diplomatic means. Upon Philip's
death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He succeeded in being awarded the generalship of Greece and, with his authority
firmly established, launched the military plans for expansion left by his father. He invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor, and began a series of campaigns
lasting ten years. Alexander repeatedly defeated the Persians in battle; marched through Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Bactria; and in the
process he overthrew the Persian king Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire.ii[›] Following his desire to reach the "ends of the
world and the Great Outer Sea", he invaded India, but was eventually forced to turn back by the near-mutiny of his troops.
Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, before realizing a series of planned campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia. In the years
following Alexander's death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, which resulted in the formation of a number of states ruled by Macedonian
aristocracy (the Diadochi). Remarkable though his conquests were, Alexander's lasting legacy was not his reign, but the cultural diffusion his
conquests engendered. Alexander's importation of Greek colonists and culture to the East resulted in a new Hellenistic culture, aspects of which were
still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire until the mid-15th century. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the mold of
Achilles, and features prominently in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. He became the measure against which generals, even to this
day, compare themselves, and military academies throughout the world still teach his tactical exploits.iii[›]
Early life -
Lineage and childhood
"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, dreamed that he sealed up his wife's
body with a seal, whose impression, as he 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.
Alexander was born on 20 (or 21) July 356 BC, in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon. He was the son of Philip II, the King of Macedon.
His mother was Philip's fourth wife Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus I, the king of the northern Greek state of Epirus. Although
Philip had either seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for a time.
As a member of the Argead dynasty, Alexander claimed patrilineal descent from Heracles through Caranus of Macedon.v[›] From his mother's side and the
Aeacids, he claimed descent from Neoptolemus, son of Achilles;vi[›] Alexander was a second cousin of the celebrated general Pyrrhus of Epirus, who was
ranked by Hannibal as, depending on the source, either the best or second-best (after Alexander) commander the world had ever seen.
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 that spread "far and wide" before dying away. Some time after the wedding, 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. 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 city of Potidea on the peninsula of Chalkidiki. On the same day,
Philip 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 of the Seven Wonders of the World-burnt down, leading Hegesias of
Magnesia to say that it burnt down because Artemis was attending the birth of Alexander.
Alexander fighting an Asiatic lion with his friend Craterus (detail). 3rd century BC mosaic, Pella Museum.
In his early years, Alexander was raised by his nurse, Lanike, the sister of Alexander's future friend and general Cleitus the Black. Later on in his
childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother, and by Lysimachus.
When Alexander was ten years old, a horse trader from Thessaly 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, detected the horse's fear of his own shadow and asked for
a turn to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. According to Plutarch, Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed him
tearfully, declaring: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you", and bought the horse for him.
Alexander would name the horse Bucephalus, meaning 'ox-head'. Bucephalus would be Alexander's companion throughout his journeys as far as India. When
Bucephalus died (due to old age, according to Plutarch, for he was already thirty), Alexander named a city after him (Bucephala).
Adolescence and education
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, who offered to resign to take up the post. In the end, Philip
offered the job to Aristotle, who accepted, and Philip gave them the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as their classroom. In return for teaching
Alexander, Philip agreed to rebuild Aristotle's hometown of Stageira, which Philip had razed, and to repopulate it by buying and freeing the ex-
citizens who were slaves, or pardoning those who were in exile.
Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of the pupils
who learned by Alexander's side would become his friends and future generals, and are often referred to as the 'Companions'. At Mieza, Aristotle
educated Alexander and his companions in medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. From Aristotle's teaching, Alexander developed a
passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad; Aristotle gave him an annotated copy, which Alexander was to take on his