Alexander the Great was the King of Macedon, who overthrew the Persian empire and laid the essential foundations for the growth and expansion of the Hellenistic league. Alexander led an army of 70000 men across one end of the known world to the other and was undefeated in battle, this is his story
Alexander was born to Philip II (Alexander’s predecessor to the Macedonian throne) and Olympias in 356 BC, in the Macedonian capital, Pella. Alexander grew up with a great knowledge of the Hellenic literature, music and the arts of war. In 342 BC, when Alexander was 14, Philip enlisted Aristotle to be Alexander’s tutor; Alexander and a group of young Macedonian men lived and learned together under Aristotle’s guidance and teachings in a village called Mieza. In this same year, Alexander had tamed a magnificent horse named Bucephalus, who then became Alexander’s life long companion who he would ride with into battle.
In 336 BC, King Philip II, was assassinated by his own personal bodyguard, Pausanias. At the moment of Philip’s assassination Alexander was proclaimed king by the acclamation of the Macedonian army. Aged 20, Alexander began his reign as King by murdering Amyantas, who was Alexander’s cousin and a potential heir to the throne. Philip’s wife Cleopatra and her daughter were burned alive under the orders of Alexander’s mother, Olympias. Olympias’ savagery was a warning of the ruthless ambition she had for her son. Alexander also murdered all the male members of Cleopatra’s family in order to ensure that there wouldn’t be any future problems. Alexander’s actions were seen as not barbaric but rather as a necessary step for the greater good and security of the Macedonian kingdom.
War with Persia
At the time of Alexander, the Persian empire was a vast focus of power, stretching from the Caucasus to the Mediterranean, from Egypt to the Indus Valley and to the borders of Ethiopia. Alexander had claimed to avenge the Greeks who had suffered under the rule of the former Persian King Xerxes who had occupied the Greek settlements along the coast of Asia Minor. However this was just an excuse to benefit Alexander’s ambitions of expanding his empire and conquering all of Asia.
King Darius III was the King of Persia at the time and was respected for his bravery in battle and for crushing revolts in Egypt and other parts of the middle east. Although the Persian empire was widespread all over the world, the empire began to rapidly slide into a decadence. King Darius and his nobles believed that they could not be defeated by an invading Macedonian army led by a young and inexperienced man. However they had underestimated the young and inexperienced man , who was said to be the descendant of Achilles, the man with a ruthless drive and hunger for power. At his disposal Alexander had two thirds of the Macedonian cavalry and light infantry and a strong fleet of 22 triremes and 38 other warships. 30000 men were prepared to march from Pella to the Hellespont, with their King Alexander. After 3 weeks of marching , Alexander and his men had reached the Hellespont. Some of Alexander’s notable battles against the Persians include: The battle of the Granicus river, the Battle of Issus, The Siege of Tyre and the battle of Gaugamela. By 330 BC, King Darius III had been killed by his own men and Alexander had finally defeated the Persian Empire.
Alexander’s final conquest- India
After defeating the Persian Empire, Alexander set upon another conquest. In 327 BC, Alexander and his army (which now consisted of Thessalonians, Athenians, Bactrians, Persians, Cretans, Cypriots, Greek Mercenaries and Macedonians) began their march towards India through the raw and fearful Khyber Pass. As they marched towards India, Alexander and his men encountered resistance from the local tribesman who guarded their land with great passion, however this was just a minor obstacle for Alexander to overcome. It was one of these battles in which Alexander was wounded by an arrow, which enraged him, this caused him to raze the local settlement to the ground and to butcher everyone in it. As a result of Alexander’s actions, many other local settlements on Alexander’s route towards the Indus, had surrendered without fighting.
After defeating an Indian force on the tough mountain terrain at the rock of Aornos, Alexander was now determined to defeat King Porus of Pauravas. In order to guarantee a victory against Porus, Alexander requested the help of Ambhi the ruler of Taxila (modern day Rawalpindi) . Ambhi was delighted to help Alexander because by defeating Porus, he could ensure his kingdom’s safety. To help Alexander and the future safety of his kingdom, Ambhi offered Alexander 25 war elephants to add to his army.
The Battle of the Hydapses
If Alexander wanted to continue his march towards India, he had to defeat King Porus. In 326 BC, Alexander and his army engaged Porus in a bloody battle at the Hydapses river. Alexander had defeated Porus by engaging his infantry (phalanx) with Porus’ centre without the support of the cavalry. To ensure the safety of his infantry, Alexander had made sure that Porus’ cavalry would be engaged on one flank only. Alexander’s plan was put into immediate affect as he used his horse archers to engage Porus’ cavalry on the left wing, Alexander then sent in his cavalry which ensured the destruction of Porus’ cavalry which enabled the advancing infantrymen to push back Porus’ forces, Alexander then surrounded the whole enemy line with his cavalry and slaughtered the rest of Porus’ men. The battle of the Hydapses was over within a day, resulting in a decisive victory for Alexander and his men. Around 12000 Indians were slain and a further 9000 others and 80 elephants were captured. Alexander had only lost just 1000 men. Although this battle was one of Alexander’s most glorious and tactical victories as it opened the pathway for Alexander to continue into India, it had enraged his army who did not want to fight anymore. Alexander’s army finally revolted against their King, who had to succumb to their demands, which was to end this campaign and to go home.
The Journey Back Home
After the horrific battle of the Hydapses, there were great levels of unease amongst Alexander’s men, they did not want to follow their King anymore. Alexander’s officers grew concerned and advised Alexander to listen to his men. Eventually Craterus finally revealed the severity and seriousness of the situation to Alexander, making it clear that not only the men but also the officers wanted to stop fighting. Alexander eventually succumbed to his army’s demands. Before leaving, Alexander ordered that a number of vast siege towers were to be erected, bridles and bridles to be made for huge horses and horses to be made for a race of “supermen”. All of this to be scattered along the countryside. Alexander wanted to create a sense of fear in anyone who dared or thought that they could follow in his footsteps. Alexander sacrificed to the gods and selfishly prayed that no one would ever go further than he had. In August 325 BC, Alexander took his men through the horrible Gedrosian Desert, which runs through the length of the Indian coastline. This march took a heavy toll on Alexander’s army, men died from disease, thirst and exhaustion.
In June 323 BC, Alexander had suddenly fallen ill. During this time strange happening and occurring’s had taken place. These events include when an unknown man was found sitting on Alexander’s throne, wrapped in the royal cloak and claimed to not know who had brought him here- despite being tortured he still could not give an explanation. Alexander grew more and more nervous and was on edge, despite his illness, he continued to carry out his religious duties. Soon Alexander was consumed by fever and was confined to his bed. On his deathbed, many of his officers asked him who was the heir to his throne, Alexander replied “only the strongest and the bravest”. On the 10th of June Alexander the Great was no more.
NOTE!!!- In this article I have mentioned the battles of : Issus, Gugamela, the siege of Tyre and the battle of the Granicus rive. However the only battle I wrote about in depth was the Battle of Hydapses river, this is because I feel this was an important battle in Alexander’s military career (his other battles are also important too) because it was his last ever battle. In future I will be releasing articles on Alexander’s other battles.
AG & LMC