Alexander the Great and the Situation ... the Great? Crash Course World History #8

Alexander the Great and the Situation ... the Great? Crash Course World History #8


In which you are introduced to the life and accomplishments of Alexander the Great, his empire, his horse Bucephalus, the empires that came after him, and the idea of Greatness. Is greatness a question of accomplishment, of impact, or are people great because the rest of us decide they're great?

Also discussed are Kim Kardashian and the Situation, gender bias in history, Catherine the Great's death (not via horse love), the ardent love other generals--from Pompey the Great to Napoleon--had for Alexander, a bit of Persian history.

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The Motivations of Alexander the Great: What motivated the famous general as he was conquering the world?

Historians have offered many theories to explain what could drive Alexander the Great to so rapidly conquer much of the known world. Some suggest Alexander was an idealistic visionary who sought to unite the world, helping men of all races and religions live in peace and harmony. Others argue that Alexander was a self-promoting tyrant, a proto-Fascist, whose hunger for conquest drove him. However, both theories fall short in that they attempt to fit Alexander into a pre-constructed ideological framework. Such categorization is woefully inadequate for Alexander, a man who quite consciously sought to escape all boundaries.

.Alexander’s love of war and his vaulting ambition to become a supreme ruler motivated him to create a vast empire and dictated every aspect of his life.

Given the nature of studying Alexander the Great, it is very difficult to present an accurate and unbiased presentation of the man. Biased accounts abound because“…in the case of Alexander studies, the sources are so bad and in many cases so contradictory, that one tends to find the Alexander that one is looking for.”[1] Wishful thinking and personal bias often cloud historical thought. Two men whose theories stand out for their extreme bias are W. W. Tarn and F. Schachermeyr. Their theories show the diverse range of possible interpretations of Alexander. Schachermeyr presents Alexander as a proto-Nazi but Tarn treats the young conqueror as a thoughtful humanitarian.[2] Both views of Alexander fail to accurately present the conqueror, however.

Alexander certainly fits Schachermeyr’s idea of a superhuman tyrant in some respects but his behavior as a ruler indicates he was not simply a power-hungry fascist. Alexander’s desire to rule a huge empire and his great personal ambition seems to confirm Schachermeyr’s thesis. However, Alexander proved, time and again, that he was more complicated than this. He loved fighting more than ruling. Plutarch says that Alexander was “more bent upon action and glory than either upon pleasure or riches, [and] he… would have chosen rather to succeed in a kingdom involved in troubles and wars, which would have afforded him frequent exercise of his courage, and a large field of honour, than to one already flourishing and settled.”[3] (804). Were he actually motivated by ego alone as Schachermeyr argues, such a description would not have fit. Alexander would have been a more “Hitler-like” ruler, lording it over his empire while other men expanded it for him. Instead, Alexander chose the thrill of battle over the tedium of rule. By focusing on only Alexander’s ambition, Schachermeyr gives an incomplete picture of Alexander.

Tarn’s view of Alexander as a social idealist similarly fails to accurately describe Alexander because it draws on only certain aspects of Alexander. While Alexander’s prayer for unity following the mutiny at Opis and the mass wedding at Susa indicate that Alexander desired his subjects to be united, Alexander’s career gives no indication that he desired unity for all mankind (unless he were their ruler). In Arrian’s account the prayer for unity was no more than𠇊 tailpiece… of merely two sections to the Opis mutiny” rather than the ideological crossroads that historians like Tarn later made it out to be.[4] The marriages at Susa certainly helped foster unity but, apart from mixing of cultures, Alexander’s marriages to foreign women were also political.[5]

Both the wedding and the prayer, popular among those who see Alexander as an idealistic visionary, were really motivated politically. Alexander believed that relying on “the good-will which might arise from intermixture and association as a means of maintaining tranquility, [was better] than upon force and compulsion.”[6] Alexander was motivated by a desire to better control his ethnically diverse empire rather than ideals of equality or brotherhood. There is no indication in Alexander’s actions that he wanted real universal unity except under himself and Plutarch’s biography, for example, does not present Alexander as a believer “in the brotherhood of man” in any novel way.[7] Had Alexander truly wished to promote unity among men for ideological reasons, it is unlikely he would have achieved it through warfare, especially, as was the case in the Persian War, one that was begun based on national differences.

Alexander certainly had unique ideas about philosophy and culture, but these sentiments are not so clear cut as historians like Schachermeyr and Tarn present them. Indeed, even among ancient histories of Alexander “often contain statements that are projections backward from Stoicism and other later thought.”[8] This system of �kward projection” persists to the present day with historians who attempt to make Alexander’s views conform to a philosophy formulated by others.

The interpretations of Alexander’s motives by modern scholars are no more biased than those presented by Alexander himself. Alexander, on various occasions, publicly declared nationalistic motivations for his actions but these professed motives were always carefully crafted to suit the needs of the young conqueror. From the very beginning of his career, Alexander proved an astute reader of the political climate.

When Philip II died, his plans for a war of revenge on the Persian Empire on behalf of the Greeks passed to Alexander.[9] Therefore, it made perfect sense for Alexander to present himself as eager for vengeance on Persia in order to retain the loyalty of the Greeks through the Corinthian League. If Alexander wanted to conquer Persia purely for revenge, he would have had no reason to push into the Black Sea region or India. These later conquests prove Alexander acted more out of a love for conquest than for ideological or nationalistic reasons.

Alexander was motivated not by pure ego, ideology, or nationalism but by his ambition and his love of battle. Alexander’s ambition led him to struggle against and overcome all limits that were placed upon him. He sought to make himself the first in every sense of the word.

Alexander’s ambition caused friction between himself and his father, Philip II, and a desire to “one-up” his father may have fueled his early imperial aspirations. Philip proved a strong leader at a young age at 27, he was the head of a superior army of seasoned and dedicated troops.[10] Alexander followed his father’s example and achieved momentous victories while he was still in his twenties. Even earlier than this, Alexander showed signs of ambition and a desire to surpass Philip. According to Plutarch, when Alexander “heard that Philip had taken any town of importance, or won any signal victory, instead of rejoicing at it altogether, he would tell his companions that his father would anticipate everything, and leave him and them no opportunities of performing great and illustrious actions.”[11] Alexander was clearly eager to surpass Philip in personal achievements on the battlefield. This was hardly the behavior of a young man who wanted to rule a great empire. Rather it was the behavior of a young man who wanted to build a great empire.

The distinction between ruling a peaceful empire and fighting to build an empire was important for Alexander, because the glory won in battle meant more to him than simply the honor of being a ruler. Alexander’s love of the glories of battle would be an ongoing theme in his life and a driving force in his struggle for world conquest.

Alexander’s love of battle was exhibited throughout his short life in numerous cases. Alexander loved to fight and also to pit himself against the great rulers of his day like Darius III. During his campaigns, Alexander 𠇎xposed himself to many hazards in the battles which he fought, and received many severe wounds.”[12] Surely, this proximity to his troops boosted Alexander’s popularity, but later conquerors found safer ways of keeping their soldiers’ loyalty. Alexander’s active participation in battle showed that he enjoyed fighting. Alexander’s love of battle made him restless to conquer more and, combined with his ambition to rule even larger territory, led him farther afield. After conquering Persia, Alexander became obsessed with a scheme to capture India which would make him ruler of Asia.[13] These desires combined with Alexander’s experiences to shape his philosophy.

As Alexander conquered deeper into �rbarian” territory, he was forced to reconsider the “Hellenistic-supremacist” viewpoint that dominated Greece and was espoused by his tutor Aristotle. Alexander, although not Greek-born himself, would likely have considered Asians �rbarians” incapable of the cultural achievements of Greece and weakened by despotic rule. However, as Alexander witnessed the splendor and power of the Persian Empire, his views clearly shifted. A lack of Macedonian and Greek troops forced Alexander to begin to rely on Asian troops who soon proved effective and trustworthy fighters. The fact that he was willing to use them was a major step in his new thoughts on unity among his subjects.[14]

However, this new equality degraded the superior status previously enjoyed by the Greeks and Macedonians in Alexander’s force. 𠇊lexander decided to abandon the comradely relationship with his officers, which had long characterized the Macedonian monarchy, and to put an end to wavering support and possible plots by becoming an autocrat.”[15] Rather than risk displeasure of his generals, Alexander proved he could do just as well without them by taking on foreign troops. In any case, this new arrangement was completely utilitarian, more about what the �rbarians” could do for Alexander than what Alexander could do for the �rbarians.”

Although Alexander sought to promote equality among his new Persian subjects and his old Greek allies, there is no reason to believe establishing equality or promoting Greek culture were his goals when he began his conquest. This viewpoint has unfortunately become adopted by some modern historians, among whom Alexander’s conquests are 𠇏requently justified in a rather unthinking way by appealing to the spread of Hellenism.”[16] Alexander certainly would not have given the spread of Greek culture as one of his reasons for world conquest. Indeed, Alexander took on some elements of Persian culture.

Alexander became fascinated with the Persian treatment of their monarchs and sought to imitate Persian kings, promote unity in his empire, and fulfill his own ambition. After conquering the Persians, Alexander began to dress as a Persian king. In part, this was Alexander’s way of saying “that he proposed to become king of the barbarians as well as of the Macedonians.”[17] However, Alexander likely had more than merely unity in mind. He also clearly saw the possibilities that dressing as a Persian created.

By dressing as a Persian ruler, Alexander could expect to be treated as a Persian ruler, enjoying all the prestige and privileges that went with it. Plutarch proposes that Alexander donned Persian garments “with the view of making the work of civilising [the Persians] easier” but he also suggests it “may have been as a first trial, whether the Macedonians might be brought to adore as the Persians did their kings, by accustoming them by little and little to bear with the alteration of his rule and course of life in other things.”[18] Since Alexander did indeed expect his Greek and Macedonian followers to �ore” him in the obsequious manner of the Persians and since Alexander did little to 𠇌ivilize” the Persians, the latter seems a more likely explanation. Rufus, however, is far less charitable toward what he describes as Alexander’s choice “to ape the Persian royalty with its quasi-divine status” and his desire that men “who had conquered scores of nations… lie prostrate on the ground and venerate him.”[19]Alexander’s ambition certainly attracted him to the Persian way of showing respect for their monarchs. It was the Persian custom of treating their kings as the Greeks treated their gods that led Alexander to one of his most infamous excesses.

Not content to be treated as a mere mortal, Alexander demanded to be worshipped as a god. Here, Alexander’s ambition led him to seek to transcend even humanity. Plutarch supports this view, writing that it was 𠇊pparent that Alexander in himself was not foolishly affected, or had the vanity to think himself really a god, but merely used his claims of divinity as a means of maintaining among other people the sense of his superiority.”[20]

This desire for superiority has led some scholars to claim that Alexander actually thought he was a god. Rufus concurs with Plutarch on this point, agreeing that Alexander “wished to be believed… the son of Jupiter.”[21] Alexander did not believe he was divine, but he wanted others to believe it. Alexander’s claims to divinity were made in carefully arranged situations to strengthen his rule and enhance his reputation. This was evidenced by the fact that he changed his manner and bearing depending on the situation. While Alexander �rried himself very haughtily, as if he were fully persuaded of his divine parentage” when among �rbarians,” he treated the “Grecians more moderately, and with less affectation of divinity.”[22] This alteration in Alexander’s behavior showed that he exaggerated his 𠇍ivinity” when it could influence �rbarians” but played it down when he was among the Greeks who it might offend. Alexander’s belief in his divinity was merely a pose to exalt his status.

Alexander sought to create an empire which was a unified body with him as its head. Alexander did not intend to impress any culture on another and probably expected most subjects to continue their lives as normal but “there was to develop a new life based on an interchange and mixture of customs and blood. Here was to be the driving force of the empire, a new attitude toward the world.”[23] This new idea of unity made Alexander a stronger ruler since he was no longer, at least in his own mind, a Macedonian ruling Greece and Persia but a ruler of a new empire composed of diverse peoples. The merging of Persian and Greek and Macedonian cultures were critical to Alexander’s imperial strategy.

Alexander was certainly not an idealistic humanitarian seeking to free Asia from the shackles of tyranny, nor was he simply a self-worshipping egomaniac. When Alexander began his Asian campaign, he did not 𠇌ome as a mere marauder and seeker after loot.”[24] He wanted to rule the largest empire in the world as evidenced by his remarks before venturing into India. Wearing Persian clothes, marrying foreign women, praying for harmony, and setting himself up as a god were merely the means to an end. However, to say that Alexander wanted to rule the largest empire in the world oversimplifies Alexander’s motivations and hovers dangerously near Schachermeyr’s fallacious thesis. Alexander enjoyed battle and wanted to have the glory of personally bringing the world into his empire. His love of battle and glory superseded everything else, including his love of ruling, and his ambition pushed him to raise himself ever higher above others. These were the true motives of Alexander.

[1] Michael Flower, “Not Great Man History: Reconceptualizing a Course on Alexander the Great,” The Classical World 100.4 (2007): 418-419.

[2] Edmund M. Burke, “Philip II and Alexander the Great,” Military Affairs 47.2 (1983): 67.

[3] Plutarch, “The Life of Alexander,” in The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. John Dryden and Arthur Hugh Clough (New York: Random House, Inc., 1932): 804.

[4] E. Badian, 𠇊lexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind,” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 7.4 (1958): 428.

[5] C. A. Robinson, Jr., “The Extraordinary Ideas of Alexander the Great,” The American Historical Review 62.2 (1957): 336-337.

[19] Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, trans. John Yardley (New York: Penguin Books, 1984): 128.

Long and Short Essays on Alexander the Great for Students and Kids in English

We are providing students with essay samples on a long essay of 500 words and a short essay of 150 words on the topic Alexander the Great for reference.

Long Essay on Alexander the Great 500 Words in English

Long Essay on Alexander the Great is usually given to classes 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Alexander the Great was a king of Macedonia who conquered an empire that stretched from Balkans to modern-day Pakistan. He was born on July 20th, 356 BC in Pella, which was the administrative capital of Macedonia.

Alexander was the son of Philip II and Olympias, one of Philip’s eight wives. He was brought up with the belief that he was of divine birth. From his early days, Olympias had encouraged him to believe that he was a descendent of heroes and gods. Nothing he had accomplished would have discouraged him from believing. The personality of Alexander the Great was a paradox. He had great charisma and force of personality, but his character was full of contradictions, especially in his later years. However, he had the ability to motivate his army to do what seems to be impossible.

Alexander was a visionary. His ability to dream, plan and strategize on a large scale allowed him too many battles, even when he was outnumbered. It also helped motivate his men, who knew they were part of one of the greatest conquests in history. Alexander could be inspiring and courageous, continued Abernethy. He was devoted to training his mean, rewarding them with honours and spoils, and going into battle beside them, which furthered their devotion and confidence. The fact that Alexander was young, beautiful and empathetic only helped to increase his influence on his soldiers and subjects.

His father was often away, conquering neighbouring territories and putting down revolts. Nevertheless, King Philip II of Macedon was one of Alexander’s most influential role models. Philip ensured Alexander was given a noteworthy and significant education. He arranged for Alexander to be tutored by Aristotle himself. His education infused him with a love of knowledge, logic, philosophy, music and culture. The teachings of Aristotle would later aid him in the treatment of his new subjects in the empires he invaded and conquered, allowing him to admire and maintain these disparate cultures.

Alexander watched his father campaign nearly every year and win victory after victory. Philip remodelled the Macedonian army from citizen-warriors into a professional organization. In early 324 BC, Alexander reached the city of Susa in Persia. Wanting to unite the Persians and Macedonian and create a new race loyal to him, he ordered many of his officers to marry Persian princesses at a mass wedding. He also took two more wives for himself.

The Macedonian army resented Alexander’s attempt to change their culture, and many mutinied. But after Alexander took a firm stand and replaced Macedonian officers and troops with Persians, his army-backed down. To further diffusion the situation, Alexander returned their titles hosted a huge reconciliation banquet.

Many conquered lands retained the Greek influence Alexander introduced, and several cities he founded remain important cultural centres even today. The period of history from his death to 31 BC, when his empire folded, would come to be known as the Hellenistic period. Alexander the Great is revered as the most powerful and influential leaders in the ancient world ever produced.

Short Essay on Alexander the Great 150 Words in English

Short Essay on Alexander the Great is usually given to classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

In 334 BC Alexander III of Macedon better known as Alexander the Great set out on his grand campaign of conquest against the Persian Achaemenid Empire, aged just 22. Benefitting from the conquests, diplomacy and military reforms of his father, Philip II, Alexander has inherited a powerful professional army that utilized the Phalanx formation.

He would go on to forge one of the largest empires the world had yet seen, conquering the mighty Persian Empire and marching his army as far as the Beas River in India. Alexander won four victories against the Persians: the Battle of the Granicus: May 334 BC, The Battle of Issus: 5 November 333 BC, The Battle of Gaugamela: 1 October 331 BC, The Battle of the Persian Gate: 20 January 330 BC. His ability to dream, plan and strategize on a large scale allowed him too many battles, even when he was outnumbered.

10 Lines on Alexander the Great in English

  1. Alexander the Great was a king of Macedonia who conquered an empire that stretched from Balkans to modern-day Pakistan
  2. Alexander was inspiring and courageous, continued Abernethy.
  3. His ability to dream, plan and strategize on a large scale allowed him too many battles, even when he was outnumbered.
  4. He won the Battle of the Granicus: May 334 BC.
  5. He won The Battle of Issus: 5 November 333 BC.
  6. He won The Battle of Gaugamela: 1 October 331 BC.
  7. He won The Battle of the Persian Gate: 20 January 330 BC.
  8. Alexander was a visionary.
  9. Alexander succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20.
  10. Alexander the Great is revered as the most powerful.

FAQ’s on Alexander the Great Essay

Question 1.
Why Alexander the Great famous?

Alexander changed the course of history. He created a vast empire that stretched from Macedonia to Egypt.

Question 2.
How did Alexander the Great die?

Alexander became ill after a prolonged banquet and drinking. He was thought that he either contracted malaria or typhoid fever or that he was poisoned.

Question 3.
Who defeated Alexander the Great?

King Porus defeated Alexander the Greta in the Battle of Hydaspes.

Question 4.
What countries did Alexander the Great conquer?

His conquests included Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Bactria.

7 Marseilles, France

On the evening of August 25, 1608, near Marseilles, France, a single spacecraft was seen flying erratically. After the craft stopped in midair, two beings got out and seemed to battle. The same scene was witnessed over Nice, France, also.

If that wasn&rsquot remarkable enough, a similar UFO battle took place a few miles away in Genoa. The following week, a heavy, red rain fell. It&rsquos interesting to see so many witnesses to the same event in a time when air travel did not exist.

Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea – “Alexander the Great” scenario

With great pleasure and anticipation I recently decided to play another, already third solo scenario in Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea (ACIS). That time I will not be in a defensive position, like when protecting Western or Eastern Roman Empires from barbarians, or trying to deter the Darius / Xerxes Persian invasion of the Greek world. No, this time I am going to be on the offensive, running against the time, Achaemenid Empire and trying to recreate feats of the greatest Macedonian general in history – Alexander the Great!


I am playing as Greeks , against Land Persians and Sea Persians . The ultimate goal – destroy all cities with Gold on enemy side (eight in total). At the same time, Greek mainland should be protected (four gold provinces) (click to enlarge) I have pretty decent civilization and three very important combat cards, one refreshed each turn and two which I can easily “draw” (click to enlarge) My opponents are formidable and their both special abilities are active (as opposed to “Greeks and Persians” scenario) (click to enlarge)

Turn 1

Turn 1. Let’s the game begin! I immediately attack in first turn – almost the whole Asia Minor is under siege (click to enlarge) Persians are slow to respond as per rules and the Battle of Granicus River is decisively won! (click to enlarge) The situation at the end of Turn 1. I had some losses due to cards in mainland Greece, but other than that the progress is good!

Turn 2

The Turn 2 will be very difficult for me. To the breaking point. First, Persians will receive massive reinforcements due to events (from draw phase) (click to enlarge) Then I will be really hard-hit by the enemy events, especially “Bread &* Circus” – which in order to still have enough talents / cards for combat, I had to resolve by losing 5 VPs… (click to enlarge) Not much change after Turn 2? Yes, and this is really not good for me. Instead of crossing to Syria, I had to repeal the counter-attack in Asia Minor as well as Persian landings in Attica and Laconia (click to enlarge)

Turn 3

Turn 3. Time to take the things seriously. Alexander crosses Strait of Al Mina – even at the cost of losing the fleet. Last stronghold in Asia Minor has to fall as well as a foothold in Syria created. Of course, the persistent Persians will again land in Greece! (click to enlarge) A close-up before the combat resolution. Many good warriors will perish (click to enlarge) And so it happened – the Persian empire lost all but the naval battles. A relief… (click to enlarge) Close-up on the Asia Minor and Syria. I like how does it look like! (click to enlarge) Just as the turn ended and we were drawing cards, another set of reinforcements arrived for Land Persians. Great… (click to enlarge) Turn 3 final picture. The progress is good but a little slow. I have 1 to 3 turns (depending on the rolls) to finish the conquest. Will I manage? (click to enlarge)

Turn 4

Time to hit, and to hit hard again. All Phocian cities are under siege. All will be razed to the ground (click to enlarge) Great, Syria is free of enemy presence and Sea Persians are out of game! Only one piece – Egypt- awaits. What can possibly go wrong?…


…and here the game ended. Yes, Alexander run out of time. There is a possibility to continue one or two more turns but it hinges on a “die roll” – if you get even card number from deck you continue, if not – Macedonian army is too tired to continue and refuses to fight. That what they did exactly when I was planning last step of conquest – Egypt.

It was close, it was satisfying and challenging. Definitely the bots / AI plays much better in defensive than when has to execute attack. I will have to play once more that scenario to try to repeat the feats of great general. But this is for another time… As always, great fun with ACIS.


Sources Edit

There are no ancient sources at all giving an Indian account of the campaign, or even mentioning it at all. [9] Though there are many Indian literary sources from earlier and around the same period (a few using Greek).

Of those who accompanied Alexander to India, Aristobulus, Onesicritus, and Nearchus wrote about the Indian campaign. [10] The only surviving contemporary account of Alexander's Indian campaign is a report of the voyage of the naval commander Nearchus, [11] who was tasked with exploring the coast between the Indus River and the Persian Gulf. [10] This report is preserved in Arrian's Anabasis (c. AD 150). Arrian provides a detailed account of Alexander's campaigns, based on the writings of Alexander's companions and courtiers. [11]

Arrian's account is supplemented by the writings of other authors, whose works are also based on the accounts of Alexander's companions: these authors include Diodorus (c. 21 BC), Strabo (c. AD 23), and Plutarch (c. AD 119). [12]

Socio-political conditions in India Edit

Alexander's incursion into India was limited to the Indus River basin area, which was divided among several small states. These states appear to have been based on dominance of particular tribes, as the Greek writers mention tribes such as the Malloi as well as kings whose name seem to be tribal designations (such as Porus of the Puru tribe). The Achaemenid Empire of Persia had held suzerainty over the Indus valley in the previous decades, but there was no trace of Achaemenid rule beyond the Indus river when Alexander's army arrived in the region. [13] Strabo, sourcing his information from the earlier writer Eratosthenes, states that the Achaemenid king controlled the area to the west of the Indus. [14] This area (including the Kapisa-Gandhara region) was probably the territory of the Indians, who according to the Greek accounts, fought alongside their overlord Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela. [15]

Greek writings as well archaeological excavations indicate the existence of an urban economy dependent on agriculture and trade in the Indus basin. The Greeks mention the existence of cities and fortified towns such as Taxila. Arrian mentions that after defeating Porus, Alexander marched eastwards towards the Chenab River, and captured 37 towns: the smallest of these towns had 5,000 or more inhabitants. [16] In the Swat valley, Alexander is said to have seized 230,000 oxen (possibly Zebu), intending to send them to Macedonia for ploughing land. [11] Aristobulus saw rice being grown in paddy fields, Onesicritus reported the existence of a crop called bosmoran (possibly the pearl millet), and Nearchus wrote of "honey-yielding reeds" (presumably the sugarcane). [12] Nearchus also mentions that Indians wore clothes made of cotton. Rock salt was extracted from the Salt Range, and supplied to other parts of India. [16] Some primitive communities existed in the forest, desert, and coastal regions of the subcontinent. For example, Nearchus mentions that people around the Tomeros river (Hingol) subsisted on fishing, and used stone tools instead of iron ones. [16]

The Greek writers mention the priestly class of Brahmanas (as "Brachmanes"), who are described as teachers of Indian philosophy. [17] They do not refer to the existence of any religious temples or idols in India, although such references commonly occur in their descriptions of Alexander's campaigns in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Iran. Greek accounts mention naked ascetics called gymnosophists. A philosopher named Calanus (probably a Greek transcription of the Indian name "Kalyana") accompanied Alexander to Persepolis, where he committed suicide on a public funeral pyre: he was probably a Jain or an Ajivika monk. Curiously, there is no reference to Buddhism in the Greek accounts. [18]

Other than their mention of the Brahmanas, the Greek narratives about Alexander's invasion do not directly mention the caste system. Some Brahmanas acted as advisors to local princes: Alexander had groups of Brahmanas hanged in present-day Sindh for instigating the rulers Musicanus and Sambus to revolt against him. The Greek writings attest the existence of slavery in at least two places: Onesicritus describes slavery in the territory ruled by Musicanus, and Aristobulus mentions poor people selling their daughters publicly in Taxila. Aristobulus also observed Sati, the practice of widows immolating themselves on their husbands' pyre, at Taxila. The practice of exposing dead bodies to vultures, similar to the Magian practice of Tower of Silence, was also prevalent in Taxila. [17]

Nearchus mentions that Indians wrote letters on closely woven cloth it is possible that this is a reference to a precursor of the Kharoshthi script, which may have developed from the Aramaic alphabet during the Achaemenid rule. [17] While describing a tribe on the coast of present-day Balochistan, Nearchus mentions that they were different from Indians in "their language and customs", which implies that he associated a particular language with the Indians. [19] This does not mean that the Indians spoke a single language: the language that Nearchus associated with India might have been a lingua franca used for official and commercial purposes. This lingua franca was most probably the Gandhari Prakrit, as the Greek names (e.g. "Taxila" and "Sandrokottus") for Indian people and places seem to be derived from this language (e.g. "Takhasila" and "Chandagutta") rather than Sanskrit (e.g. "Takshashila" and "Chandragupta"). [18]

Nearchus attests the existence of medical science in India: he mentions that when the Greek physicians failed to provide remedies for snake-bites to Alexander, the king gathered Indian healers who were also able to cure other diseases and painful conditions. The Greek accounts do not mention any other sciences of contemporary India. [18]

Alexander's preparation Edit

After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Raoxshna in Old Iranian) in 326 BC to cement his relations with his new Central Asian satrapies, Alexander was finally free to turn his attention to India. For Alexander, the invasion of India was a natural consequence of his subjugation of the Achaemenid Empire, as the areas of the Indus valley had long been under Achaemenid control, since the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley circa 515 BC. [20] Alexander was only taking possession of territories which he had obtained from the Achaemenids, and now considered rightfully his own. [20]

Alexander invited all the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara, to come to him and submit to his authority. Ambhi (Greek: Omphis), ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Jhelum (Greek: Hydaspes), complied. At the end of the spring of 327 BC, Alexander started on his Indian expedition leaving Amyntas behind with 3,500 horse and 10,000 foot soldiers to hold the land of the Bactrians. [21]

Alexander personally took command of the shield-bearing guards, foot-companions, archers, Agrianians, and horse-javelin-men and led them against the clans – the Aspasioi of Kunar valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus (Panjkora) valley, and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. [ citation needed ]

Alexander faced resistance from Hastin (or Astes), chief of the Ilastinayana (called the Astakenoi or Astanenoi) tribe, whose capital was Pushkalavati or Peukelaotis. [22] He later defeated Asvayanas and Asvakayanas and captured their 40,000 men and 230,000 oxen. Asvakayanas of Massaga fought him under the command of their queen, Cleophis, with an army of 30,000 cavalry, 38,000 infantry, 30 elephants, and 7,000 mercenaries. Other regions that fought Alexander were Abhisara, Aornos, Bazira, and Ora or Dyrta. [23] [24] [25]

A fierce contest ensued with the Aspasioi, in the course of which Alexander himself was wounded in the shoulder by a dart, but eventually the Aspasioi lost the fight 40,000 of them were enslaved. The Assakenoi faced Alexander with an army of 30,000 cavalry, 38,000 infantry, and 30 elephants. [26] They had fought bravely and offered stubborn resistance to the invader in many of their strongholds such as the cities of Ora, Bazira, and Massaga. The fort of Massaga could only be reduced after several days of bloody fighting in which Alexander himself was wounded seriously in the ankle. When the Chieftain of Massaga fell in the battle, the supreme command of the army went to his old mother, Cleophis, who also stood determined to defend her motherland to the last extremity. The example of Cleophis assuming the supreme command of the military also brought the entire population of women of the locality into the fighting. [27] [28] Alexander was only able to reduce Massaga by resorting to political strategem and actions of betrayal. According to Curtius: "Not only did Alexander slaughter the entire population of Massaga, but also did he reduce its buildings to rubbles". [29] A similar slaughter then followed at Ora, another stronghold of the Assakenoi.

Siege of Aornos Edit

In the aftermath of general slaughter and arson committed by Alexander at Massaga and Ora, numerous Assakenians fled to a high fortress called Aornos (not definitely identified but somewhere between Shangla, in Swat, and the Kohistan region, both in northern Pakistan). Alexander followed close behind their heels and besieged the strategic hill-fort. The Siege of Aornos was Alexander's last siege, "the climax to Alexander's career as the greatest besieger in history", according to Robin Lane Fox. [30] The siege took place in April 326 BC. [31] It presented the last threat to Alexander's supply line, which stretched, dangerously vulnerable, over the Hindu Kush back to Balkh, though Arrian credits Alexander's heroic desire to outdo his kinsman Heracles, who allegedly had proved unable to take the place Pir-Sar, which the Greeks called Aornis. The site lies north of Attock in what is now the Punjab, Pakistan, on a strongly reinforced mountain spur above the narrow gorges in a bend of the upper Indus. Neighboring tribesmen who surrendered to Alexander offered to lead him to the best point of access. [ citation needed ]

At the vulnerable north side leading to the fort, Alexander and his catapults were stopped by a deep ravine. To bring the siege engines within reach, an earthwork mound was constructed to bridge the ravine. A low hill connected to the nearest tip of Pir-Sar was soon within reach and taken. Alexander's troops were at first repelled by boulders rolled down from above. Three days of drumbeats marked the defenders' celebration of the initial repulse, followed by a surprise retreat. Hauling himself up the last rockface on a rope, Alexander cleared the summit, slaying some fugitives – inflated by Arrian to a massacre [32] – and erected altars to Athena Nike, Athena of Victory, traces of which were identified by Stein. Sisikottos, or Saśigupta, who had helped Alexander in this campaign, was made the governor of Aornos. [ citation needed ]

After reducing Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus to begin campaigning in the Punjab region.

Socrates was Plato’s teacher, Aristotle learned at Plato’s Academy, and Aristotle was the well-paid tutor of Alexander the Great.

In other words, the famous Greek philosophers and the famous Greek philosopher-king (of sorts) all had a student-teacher relationship.

  • Socrates is mostly known through the accounts of classical Greek writers, but Plato describes him as his teacher. (AKA the Academy) was founded by Plato in circa 387 BC in Athens.
  • At seventeen or eighteen years of age, Aristotle joined Plato’s Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BC).
  • Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great beginning in c. 343 BC.

NOTE: The image (an engraving by an artist named Granger) used in the header shows Aristotle passing along the knowledge of philosophy to a young and uninterested Alexander the Great. The term arete was added to the image by me the author. It is meant to imply that Aristotle is helping Alexander achieve his “highest good” (his own highest good and later the highest good of the state) by opening his mind to “the love of wisdom” (philosophy). He is in Plato’s terms, guiding him through the cave. Further, it implies that the transference of knowledge from Socrates’s predecessors to you today is part of the same story. Learn more about arete.

After his tutelage, Alexander then went on to conquer the east (for better or worse at the time).

Along the way, he founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, Alexandria in Egypt (according to legend), and Alexandria Eschate (“The Furthest”) in modern Tajikistan.

The campaign took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia.

Alexander’s campaign resulted in some of the first attempts at a Utopian society (his Alexandrias notably the Egyptian one with the “Library of Alexandria” in which public schools were constructed to fit the city’s liberal and philosophy focused culture) and helped to spread the knowledge of Greek philosophy across the globe.

The line of thinking spread by Alexander had far-reaching influence. From Rome, to the Golden Age of Islam, to the Italian Republics, to the Enlightenment, and now to you. Not only was the style of thinking passed down across the globe and throughout generations, other aspects of culture were to. For example, you almost certainly live in a Republic at least partly based on Plato’s Republic (and you likely also have live in a place where culture was transferred by colonization… that being the other part of the story). #ThanksEnlightenedImperialism. I.e. You aren’t all good, but you play an important role in spreading the best parts of history throughout the globe (like the cannon of the old philosophies of Plato and Aristotle).

NOTE: Socrates is the main subject of almost all Plato’s works serving as an “idealist symbol of philosophy.” There is a chance Socrates, being both a person and an ideal character of Plato’s works, is partly fictionalized. So we should understand the Socrates we know as “Plato’s Socrates.”

TIP: The main theme of Plato’s Socrates is the idea that sophists (those who think they know and charge money) are “less than” philosophers (those who know they don’t know, but love wisdom). Plato is more an idealist, and Aristotle more a realist. Aristotle notably took a well-paid tutoring job when he left Athens to tutor Alexander the Great.

TIP: Another interesting teacher-student relationship is George Buchanan and James VI. Both were philosophers, George Buchanan an early political realist of Scotland predated in the west only by select figures like Machiavelli and James VI a sort of philosopher-king (in the same way Alexander was, which was King first, philosopher second).

The student teacher relationship between the famous Greek thinkers and King is interesting. They all had great success and are generally historically admired, one has to assume this had a lot to do with the very useful nature of philosophy (which at the time meant both science and philosophy and other cerebral arts like rhetoric).

"Socrates Taught Plato, Who Taught Aristotle, Who Taught Alexander the Great" is tagged with: Plato. Aristotle. and Other Greek Philosophers

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (*356 r. 336-323): the Macedonian king who defeated his Persian colleague Darius III Codomannus and conquered the Achaemenid Empire. During his campaigns, Alexander visited a.o. Egypt, Babylonia, Persis, Media, Bactria, the Punjab, and the valley of the Indus. In the second half of his reign, he had to find a way to rule his newly conquered countries. Therefore, he made Babylon his capital and introduced the oriental court ceremonial, which caused great tensions with his Macedonian and Greek officers.

Philip's Legacy

Alexander's father Philip had been king of Macedonia and had changed this backward kingdom in a strong state with a powerful army. In order to achieve this aim, he had embarked on an expansionist policy: every year, he waged war, and the Macedonian aristocrats benefited. To keep his monarchy intact, Philip had to continue his conquests if he stopped, the noblemen would start to ask questions.

Towards the end of his life, Philip had contemplated a war against the nearby Persian empire, which was weakened after the death of king Artaxerxes III Ochus, but Philip had been murdered before he could leave (336 BCE). With help of two powerful courtiers, Antipater and Parmenion, Alexander succeeded his father and inherited the Persian war. He needed the first year of his reign to organize his kingdom, and left Antipater as his viceroy.

Asia Minor

In the spring of 334, Alexander and Parmenion crossed the Hellespont and attacked the local Persian army, which was defeated near the river Granicus in the northwest of what is now called Turkey. After their first victory, the Macedonians went to the south, where the Persian stronghold Sardes surrendered and the Macedonians could occupy Greek cities like Ephesus, Priene, and Miletus.

Their advance was halted when they reached Halicarnassus, the capital of Caria, which was defended by a Greek commander in Persian service, Memnon of Rhodes. The siege lasted long and although a large part of Halicarnassus was finally captured, its citadel, situated on an island, was not. The Macedonians had lost precious time and the new Persian king, Darius III Codomannus, had been able to build up a large army.


In 333, the troops of Alexander and Parmenion advanced through what is now called Turkey, and in November, they met the army of Darius at Issus. Battle was joined on a narrow strip of land, where the Persians were unable to benefit of their superior numbers. They were defeated for the second time, and Alexander could proceed to the south, where he besieged and captured Tyre and Gaza. Early in 331, he added Egypt, which was without defense, to his conquests. From now on, the Persian empire had no ports anymore, and Macedonia was safe. In spite of a Persian offer to negotiate, Alexander decided to continue the war.

Something had changed. Alexander had always been the leader of the Macedonians and something like an ordinary nobleman. After Issus, however, he had started to claim to be a real king, and after his visit to Egypt, he presented himself as the son of the supreme god Zeus, in his manifestation as the Egyptian Ammon. Not everyone accepted this, and we sometimes hear about complaining courtiers from his side, Alexander started to spy upon Parmenion's son Philotas. His ambitions had grown.

To the east

In the summer of 331, the Macedonians crossed the Euphrates and wanted to proceed to Babylon, but the Persian commander Mazaeus forced them to a more northern route, which brought them to the plain east of the Tigris. At Gaugamela, Darius waited for Alexander. Unfortunately for him, there was a lunar eclipse, and the omens were extremely unfavorable: the precise circumstances predicted a defeat for the ruler of Babylonia and Persia, and a successful, eight-year reign for an intruder from the west. This proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: the only contemporary source we have, the Babylonian Astronomical Diary, mentions how Darius was deserted by his own men.

In the autumn, Alexander reached Babylon and Susa, and in January the Macedonians fought their way through the Persian Gate, a mountain pass in the Zagros. They spent the winter of 330 in the Persian capital Persepolis, which they sacked in the spring.

/> The Dasht-e Kavir, where Darius was killed

Meanwhile, Darius was building a third army in Ecbatana, but some of his reinforcements never arrived, and ultimately, the great king decided to go to the east, where he would find new troops. Alexander followed him at lightning speed and intercepted his opponent, who was murdered near a town called Choara. According to the Macedonian propaganda, the assassins were Persian noblemen, and Alexander announced that he would punish them. After all, he had conquered a substantial part of Asia by now, and if he wanted to rule it, he needed help from the Persian aristocrats. Punishing the murderers was one way to obtain their support.

His soldiers did not like this. There was attempt to kill the king and it turned out that Parmenion's son Philotas had been aware of this conspiracy. He had not reported it and was therefore executed. His father, who held an independent command, was killed too. From now on, Alexander relied on "new men" like Craterus. Unhappy soldiers were placed in a punitive battalion. For two years, there was no opposition left.

Central Asia

Meanwhile, the last Persians had found a new leader, Bessus, who is also mentioned - perhaps correctly - as Darius' murderer. He was powerful in what is now Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and Alexander ordered his soldiers to march across the Hindu Kush. It was a detour, but the stratagem was successful: Bessus was surprised and was arrested by his own men, who surrendered him to Alexander's friend Ptolemy.

/> The Jaxartes, the northeastern frontier of Alexander's empire

Alexander now advanced to the northeastern part of the Persian world. Five years after he had crossed to Asia, he had conquered a large part of it and rooted out all opposition. But at this very moment of triumph, things started to go wrong. There was an insurrection among the Sogdians, led by a man named Spitamenes, who may have been an influential man in the Zoroastrian religious community. He started a guerilla, using fast horsemen to attack everywhere every time the Macedonians were ready to strike back, he had already disappeared. Alexander needed local supporters and hired the Dahae, who turned out to be loyal. He also married a local princess, Roxane, to win additional local support. But even after these diplomatic moves, the counter-guerrilla continued. Eventually, Alexander ordered mass deportations to become master of the situation. In the winter of 328/327, Spitamenes was killed.

Alexander had needed reinforcements and had hired many Greek mercenaries. At the same time, the "king of Asia" was increasingly relying upon eastern troops. His army was slowly becoming less Macedonian, and he had to adopt a new court ceremonial to become acceptable to his Asian courtiers and soldiers. Earlier attempts to win their hearts by accepting Persian royal garments had been acceptable to the Macedonians, and Alexander expected that they would also accept the introduction of proskynesis, the Persian court ritual. However, the Macedonians flatly refused because the gestures involved in proskynesis (bowing, prostrating, kissing) were associated with the cult of the gods. If Alexander needed one court ritual, he needed to become a god.

During a drinking party, something terrible happened: Alexander killed a nobleman named Clitus. It was an accident, but deep in his heart, the king wanted to strike at the Macedonian nobility anyhow, because it had been against proskynesis. Yet, the king felt guilty, until the philosopher Anaxarchus convinced him that as a king, he was "a god among men" and therefore beyond good and evil. This was the next step towards deification.

The Punjab

Late in 327, the Macedonians crossed the Hindu Kush again, and invaded the valleys of the Kabul and Swat. In fact, there was no justification for this attack, but Alexander's courtiers no longer asked questions. Many Indians seemed to identify the conqueror with an avatar of a local deity, who was identified by the Macedonians with their god Dionysus. Fighting was hard and merciless on more than one occasion, Alexander massacred people who had already surrendered. In the spring of 326, he reached the mighty Indus, where he attacked a group of refugees on a mountain citadel called Aornus. The only reason seems to have been that there was a local myth that the god Krishna had been unable to capture this mountain, a challenge that Alexander could not leave unanswered.

He now proceeded along the Uttarāpatha (the modern Grand Trunk Road) to the east, and reached Taxila. Its ruler Omphis surrendered and invited Alexander to attack the king of the next Indian state, Porus. This man waited for the invaders on the bank of the river Jhelum, which he believed to be unpassable. However, during a stormy night full of rain, the Macedonians were able to cross the stream, and Porus was defeated because his chariots were unable to proceed in the mud. It was not a big battle -only a sixth of Alexander's army was employed- but it was celebrated as a victory of the greatest importance. The king of Asia minted coins on which he was shown with a thunderbolt, claiming that he had caused the rainfall. Again, Alexander claimed divinity.

/> Commemorating the battle of the Hydaspes

He wanted to advance to the east, and indeed crossed two rivers, but then, his soldiers refused to go on. Alexander was furious. He must have imagined a different way to celebrate his thirtieth birthday. But he finally allowed himself to be persuaded by Coenus, one of the heroes of the battle at the Jhelum, and by the gods, who sent evil omens. This was important. To the king, it was imperative to stress that the gods, and not the soldiers, had forced him to return had it been otherwise, he would have lost his authority.

Now, the return voyage started: with a large fleet, the Macedonians sailed to the south. Alexander used his normal strategy, attacking refugees and non-combattants first, in order to terrorize the soldiers. Especially the Mallians, who gave their name to modern Multan, suffered heavily. Alexander was severely wounded but recovered and continued to the south, until he reached the Indian Ocean.

Return to Babylonia

He divided his army. Craterus commanded one division, Nearchus was to lead a naval expedition, and a third division was to proceed through the Gedrosian desert, commanded by the son of Zeus in person. This was to be the greatest mistake of Alexander's career: he lost many people in the hot and waterless area. Yet, there were survivors, who recognized Alexander as their god during a drinking party in Carmania, where their king presented himself as if he were the god Dionysus.

Alexander now ordered the executions of several governors whom he suspected of treason. Probably correctly: in Sogdia, the Punjab and the Indus valley, there had been large insurrections, which Alexander was no longer able to suppress. Modern scholars have called these executions the "reign of terror" and our main source, the Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia, writes that Alexander's rule now became "harsher" (oxyteros).

Early in 324, he returned to Persepolis and Susa, where he ordered his officers to marry Iranian ladies. During this mass wedding, the king married to two princesses. Alexander was now planning to conquer Arabia and proceed to the western Mediterranean, and started to reorganize the eastern part of his empire. Everywhere, he appointed Europeans as satraps (governors) and at the same time, he recruited young Asians to serve in his army. The Macedonians were allowed to go home, but they refused. They had conquered the east, but now they saw that the conquered nations were taking over the army. Yet, Alexander overcame their complaints and ordered Craterus to bring back the veterans to Europe.


In October, Alexander's lover Hephaestion died in Ecbatana. The king was shocked, and as a consolation, he massacred the Cossaeans, a mountain tribe in the Zagros, who were forced to give up their nomad lives and settle in towns. The king also ordered his subjects to sacrifice to Hephaestion as if he were a demigod. The implication was, of course, that he himself - as the greatest of the two lovers - was a god. Indeed, several Greek cities ordered that Alexander should be venerated as the "invincible god".

In the spring of 323, Alexander wanted to return to Babylon, where his fleet and army were gathering for the Arabian expedition. However, the Babylonian astronomers, the Chaldaeans, warned him not to enter the city, because he would die. After all, the omen of the battle of Gaugamela had predicted an eight-year rule. Alexander ignored the warning. At the end of May, he fell ill, and on 11 June, he died.

Alexander was succeeded by his brother Arridaeus. A few weeks later, Roxane gave birth to a son, who was called Alexander. By then, the Greeks had already revolted and civil war between Alexander's officers was about to begin.

How did Alexander create his Empire?

Alexander the Great became king of Macedonia after the death of his father, Phillip II. He had inherited a powerful kingdom and an overflowing treasury, but above all, he took control of the Macedonian army which often regarded by scholars as one best fighting forces in the history of warfare. After putting down a rebellion in Greece and securing Macedonia’s frontiers, he launched an invasion of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which spanned much of Western Asia. He claimed that he was waging a war of revenge in retaliation for the two previous Persian invasions of Greece. [1]

Alexander defeated the Persians at the River Granicus (332 BC), and he swiftly conquered all of Asia Minor (Turkey). The Great Persona King Darius II assembled a large army and confronted Alexander at the River Issus (332BC). The Macedonian was once again victorious, and he went on to capture Egypt. The Achaemenid monarch offered to cede to the son of Phillip II, the western portion of his Empire if he stopped his aggression. Alexander rejected this and invaded the heartland of the Persian state.

At the battle of Gaugamela, he wrecked Darius's army and proceeded to annex all of Persia. The Macedonian monarch pursued Darius II into Central Asia but failed to capture him before he was assassinated by one of his generals. Alexander’s conquests provided a great administrative challenge, and he adopted the Persian system of satrapies or semi-autonomous territorial units, which were ruled by his Macedonian lieutenant. He also chose a conciliatory policy towards the Persians, as evidenced by his treatment of the family of Darius. [2]

Alexander alienated many of his generals by his actions. In particular, they disliked the fact that he began to assume the prerogatives and manners of an Oriental monarch and was introducing Persians into the army. [3] The conqueror was not content with his vast domains and wanted to conquer the known world. He invaded north-west India and successfully annexed several kingdoms before his troops mutinied and forced him to turn back. The retreat from India was a disaster, and many died crossing the Gederosian Desert. Alexander returned to Babylon, but he soon developed a fever and fell gravely ill and died at the age of 32 in 323 BC.

Watch the video: Russia, the Kievan Rus, and the Mongols: Crash Course World History #20 (January 2022).