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Alexander the Great

King of Macedon

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Alexander III
An ancient Roman floor mosaic (c. 100 BC), showing Alexander fighting king Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Issus
King of Macedon
Reign336–323 BC
PredecessorPhilip II
Successor
Reign336 BC
PredecessorPhilip II
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign332–323 BC
PredecessorDarius III
Successor
  • Alexander IV
  • Philip III
King of Persia
Reign330–323 BC
PredecessorDarius III
Successor
  • Alexander IV
  • Philip III
Lord of Asia
Reign331–323 BC
PredecessorNew office
Successor
  • Alexander IV
  • Philip III
Born20 or 21 July 356 BC
Pella, Macedon, Ancient Greece
Died10 or 11 June 323 BC (aged 32)
Babylon, Mesopotamia
Spouse
Issue
Names
Alexander III of Macedon
Greek
  • Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος[d]
    Mégas Aléxandros
    lit.'Great Alexander'
  • Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας
    Aléxandros ho Mégas
    lit.'Alexander the Great'
DynastyArgead
FatherPhilip II of Macedon
MotherOlympias of Epirus
ReligionGreek polytheism

Alexander III of Macedon (Greek: Αλέξανδρος Γʹ ὁ Μακεδών; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great (Greek: ὁ Μέγας), was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon[a] and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Western Asia and Northeastern Africa, and by the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to northwestern India.[1][2] He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.[3]

During his youth, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle until age 16. After Philip's assassination in 336 BC, he succeeded his father to the throne and inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. Alexander was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father's pan-Hellenic project to lead the Greeks in the conquest of Persia.[4][5] In 334 BC, he invaded the Achaemenid Empire (Persian Empire) and began a series of campaigns that lasted 10 years. Following the conquest of Anatolia, Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, including those of Issus and Gaugamela. He subsequently overthrew Persian King Darius III and conquered the Achaemenid Empire in its entirety.[b] At that point, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Beas River.

Alexander endeavoured to reach the "ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea" and invaded India in 326 BC, winning an important victory over the Pauravas at the Battle of the Hydaspes. He eventually turned back at the demand of his homesick troops, dying in Babylon in 323 BC, the city that he planned to establish as his capital, without executing a series of planned campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia. In the years following his death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, resulting in the establishment of several states ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander's surviving generals and heirs.

Alexander's legacy includes the cultural diffusion and syncretism which his conquests engendered, such as Greco-Buddhism. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander's settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century AD and the presence of Greek speakers in central and far eastern Anatolia until the Greek genocide and the population exchange in the 1920s. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the mould of Achilles, and he features prominently in the history and mythic traditions of both Greek and non-Greek cultures. He was undefeated in battle and has become the measure against which many military leaders compare themselves.[c] Military academies throughout the world still teach his tactics.[6] He is often ranked among the most influential people in human history.[7][8]

Alexander the Great Intro articles: 37

Early life

Lineage and childhood

Bust of a young Alexander the Great from the Hellenistic era, British Museum
Aristotle Tutoring Alexander, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Alexander was born in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon,[9] on the sixth day of the ancient Greek month of Hekatombaion, which probably corresponds to 20 July 356 BC, although the exact date is uncertain.[10] He was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of Epirus.[11] Although Philip had seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for some time, likely because she gave birth to Alexander.[12]

Several legends surround Alexander's birth and childhood.[13] According to the ancient Greek biographer Plutarch, on the eve of the consummation of her marriage to Philip, Olympias dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunderbolt that caused a flame to spread "far and wide" before dying away. Sometime after the wedding, Philip is said to have seen himself, in a dream, securing his wife's womb with a seal engraved with a lion's image.[14] Plutarch offered a variety of interpretations of these dreams: that Olympias was pregnant before her marriage, indicated by the sealing of her womb; or that Alexander's father was Zeus. Ancient commentators were divided about whether the ambitious Olympias promulgated the story of Alexander's divine parentage, variously claiming that she had told Alexander, or that she dismissed the suggestion as impious.[14]

On the day Alexander was born, Philip was preparing a siege on the city of Potidea on the peninsula of Chalcidice. That 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. This led Hegesias of Magnesia to say that it had burnt down because Artemis was away, attending the birth of Alexander.[15] Such legends may have emerged when Alexander was king, and possibly at his instigation, to show that he was superhuman and destined for greatness from conception.[13]

In his early years, Alexander was raised by a nurse, Lanike, sister of Alexander's future general Cleitus the Black. Later in his childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother, and by Lysimachus of Acarnania.[16] Alexander was raised in the manner of noble Macedonian youths, learning to read, play the lyre, ride, fight, and hunt.[17]

Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece

When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted, and Philip ordered it away. Alexander, however, detecting the horse's fear of its own shadow, asked to tame the horse, which he eventually managed.[13] Plutarch stated that Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son 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.[18] Alexander named it Bucephalas, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalas carried Alexander as far as India. When the animal died (because of old age, according to Plutarch, at age thirty), Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala.[19]

Education

When Alexander was 13, Philip began to search for a tutor, and considered such academics as Isocrates and Speusippus, the latter offering to resign from his stewardship of the Academy to take up the post. In the end, Philip chose Aristotle and provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as a 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.[20]

Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of these students would become his friends and future generals, and are often known as the "Companions". Aristotle taught Alexander and his companions about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. Under Aristotle's tutelage, Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad; Aristotle gave him an annotated copy, which Alexander later carried on his campaigns.[21]

Alexander was able to quote Euripides from memory.[22]

During his youth, Alexander was also acquainted with Persian exiles at the Macedonian court, who received the protection of Philip II for several years as they opposed Artaxerxes III.[23][24][25] Among them were Artabazos II and his daughter Barsine, future mistress of Alexander, who resided at the Macedonian court from 352 to 342 BC, as well as Amminapes, future satrap of Alexander, or a Persian nobleman named Sisines.[23][26][27][28] This gave the Macedonian court a good knowledge of Persian issues, and may even have influenced some of the innovations in the management of the Macedonian state.[26]

Suda writes that, also, Anaximenes of Lampsacus was one of his teachers. Anaximenes, also accompanied him on his campaigns.[29]

Alexander the Great Early life articles: 51

Philip's heir

Regency and ascent of Macedon

Philip II of Macedon, Alexander's father

At the age of 16, Alexander's education under Aristotle ended. Philip waged war against Byzantion, leaving Alexander in charge as regent and heir apparent.[13] During Philip's absence, the Thracian Maedi revolted against Macedonia. Alexander responded quickly, driving them from their territory. He colonized it with Greeks, and founded a city named Alexandropolis.[30]

Upon Philip's return, he dispatched Alexander with a small force to subdue revolts in southern Thrace. Campaigning against the Greek city of Perinthus, Alexander is reported to have saved his father's life. Meanwhile, the city of Amphissa began to work lands that were sacred to Apollo near Delphi, a sacrilege that gave Philip the opportunity to further intervene in Greek affairs. Still occupied in Thrace, he ordered Alexander to muster an army for a campaign in southern Greece. Concerned that other Greek states might intervene, Alexander made it look as though he was preparing to attack Illyria instead. During this turmoil, the Illyrians invaded Macedonia, only to be repelled by Alexander.[31]

Philip and his army joined his son in 338 BC, and they marched south through Thermopylae, taking it after stubborn resistance from its Theban garrison. They went on to occupy the city of Elatea, only a few days' march from both Athens and Thebes. The Athenians, led by Demosthenes, voted to seek alliance with Thebes against Macedonia. Both Athens and Philip sent embassies to win Thebes's favour, but Athens won the contest.[32] Philip marched on Amphissa (ostensibly acting on the request of the Amphictyonic League), capturing the mercenaries sent there by Demosthenes and accepting the city's surrender. Philip then returned to Elatea, sending a final offer of peace to Athens and Thebes, who both rejected it.[33]

Statue of Alexander in Istanbul Archaeology Museum

As Philip marched south, his opponents blocked him near Chaeronea, Boeotia. During the ensuing Battle of Chaeronea, Philip commanded the right wing and Alexander the left, accompanied by a group of Philip's trusted generals. According to the ancient sources, the two sides fought bitterly for some time. Philip deliberately commanded his troops to retreat, counting on the untested Athenian hoplites to follow, thus breaking their line. Alexander was the first to break the Theban lines, followed by Philip's generals. Having damaged the enemy's cohesion, Philip ordered his troops to press forward and quickly routed them. With the Athenians lost, the Thebans were surrounded. Left to fight alone, they were defeated.[34]

After the victory at Chaeronea, Philip and Alexander marched unopposed into the Peloponnese, welcomed by all cities; however, when they reached Sparta, they were refused, but did not resort to war.[35] At Corinth, Philip established a "Hellenic Alliance" (modelled on the old anti-Persian alliance of the Greco-Persian Wars), which included most Greek city-states except Sparta. Philip was then named Hegemon (often translated as "Supreme Commander") of this league (known by modern scholars as the League of Corinth), and announced his plans to attack the Persian Empire.[36][37]

Exile and return

When Philip returned to Pella, he fell in love with and married Cleopatra Eurydice in 338 BC,[38] the niece of his general Attalus.[39] The marriage made Alexander's position as heir less secure, since any son of Cleopatra Eurydice would be a fully Macedonian heir, while Alexander was only half-Macedonian.[40] During the wedding banquet, a drunken Attalus publicly prayed to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir.[39]

At the wedding of Cleopatra, whom Philip fell in love with and married, she being much too young for him, her uncle Attalus in his drink desired the Macedonians would implore the gods to give them a lawful successor to the kingdom by his niece. This so irritated Alexander, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain," said he, "what, am I then a bastard?" Then Philip, taking Attalus's part, rose up and would have run his son through; but by good fortune for them both, either his over-hasty rage, or the wine he had drunk, made his foot slip, so that he fell down on the floor. At which Alexander reproachfully insulted over him: "See there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another."

— Plutarch, describing the feud at Philip's wedding.[41]

In 337 BC, Alexander fled Macedon with his mother, dropping her off with her brother, King Alexander I of Epirus in Dodona, capital of the Molossians.[42] He continued to Illyria,[42] where he sought refuge with one or more Illyrian kings, perhaps with Glaukias, and was treated as a guest, despite having defeated them in battle a few years before.[43] However, it appears Philip never intended to disown his politically and militarily trained son.[42] Accordingly, Alexander returned to Macedon after six months due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus, who mediated between the two parties.[44]

In the following year, the Persian satrap (governor) of Caria, Pixodarus, offered his eldest daughter to Alexander's half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus.[42] Olympias and several of Alexander's friends suggested this showed Philip intended to make Arrhidaeus his heir.[42] Alexander reacted by sending an actor, Thessalus of Corinth, to tell Pixodarus that he should not offer his daughter's hand to an illegitimate son, but instead to Alexander. When Philip heard of this, he stopped the negotiations and scolded Alexander for wishing to marry the daughter of a Carian, explaining that he wanted a better bride for him.[42] Philip exiled four of Alexander's friends, Harpalus, Nearchus, Ptolemy and Erigyius, and had the Corinthians bring Thessalus to him in chains.[45]

Alexander the Great Philip's heir articles: 41

King of Macedon

Accession

The Kingdom of Macedon in 336 BC
The emblema of the Stag Hunt Mosaic, c. 300 BC, from Pella; the figure on the right is possibly Alexander the Great due to the date of the mosaic along with the depicted upsweep of his centrally-parted hair (anastole); the figure on the left wielding a double-edged axe (associated with Hephaistos) is perhaps Hephaestion, one of Alexander's loyal companions.[46]

In summer 336 BC, while at Aegae attending the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to Olympias's brother, Alexander I of Epirus, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguards, Pausanias.[e] As Pausanias tried to escape, he tripped over a vine and was killed by his pursuers, including two of Alexander's companions, Perdiccas and Leonnatus. Alexander was proclaimed king on the spot by the nobles and army at the age of 20.[47][48][49]

Consolidation of power

Alexander began his reign by eliminating potential rivals to the throne. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed.[50] He also had two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, but spared a third, Alexander Lyncestes. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and Europa, her daughter by Philip, burned alive. When Alexander learned about this, he was furious. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus,[50] who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor and Cleopatra's uncle.[51]

Attalus was at that time corresponding with Demosthenes, regarding the possibility of defecting to Athens. Attalus also had severely insulted Alexander, and following Cleopatra's murder, Alexander may have considered him too dangerous to leave alive.[51] Alexander spared Arrhidaeus, who was by all accounts mentally disabled, possibly as a result of poisoning by Olympias.[47][49][52]

News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt, including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the Thracian tribes north of Macedon. When news of the revolts reached Alexander, he responded quickly. Though advised to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered 3,000 Macedonian cavalry and rode south towards Thessaly. He found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, and ordered his men to ride over Mount Ossa. When the Thessalians awoke the next day, they found Alexander in their rear and promptly surrendered, adding their cavalry to Alexander's force. He then continued south towards the Peloponnese.[53]

Alexander stopped at Thermopylae, where he was recognized as the leader of the Amphictyonic League before heading south to Corinth. Athens sued for peace and Alexander pardoned the rebels. The famous encounter between Alexander and Diogenes the Cynic occurred during Alexander's stay in Corinth. When Alexander asked Diogenes what he could do for him, the philosopher disdainfully asked Alexander to stand a little to the side, as he was blocking the sunlight.[54] This reply apparently delighted Alexander, who is reported to have said "But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes."[55] At Corinth, Alexander took the title of Hegemon ("leader") and, like Philip, was appointed commander for the coming war against Persia. He also received news of a Thracian uprising.[56]

Balkan campaign

The Macedonian phalanx at the "Battle of the Carts" against the Thracians in 335 BC

Before crossing to Asia, Alexander wanted to safeguard his northern borders. In the spring of 335 BC, he advanced to suppress several revolts. Starting from Amphipolis, he travelled east into the country of the "Independent Thracians"; and at Mount Haemus, the Macedonian army attacked and defeated the Thracian forces manning the heights.[57] The Macedonians marched into the country of the Triballi, and defeated their army near the Lyginus river[58] (a tributary of the Danube). Alexander then marched for three days to the Danube, encountering the Getae tribe on the opposite shore. Crossing the river at night, he surprised them and forced their army to retreat after the first cavalry skirmish.[59]

News then reached Alexander that Cleitus, King of Illyria, and King Glaukias of the Taulantii were in open revolt against his authority. Marching west into Illyria, Alexander defeated each in turn, forcing the two rulers to flee with their troops. With these victories, he secured his northern frontier.[60]

While Alexander campaigned north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander immediately headed south.[61] While the other cities again hesitated, Thebes decided to fight. The Theban resistance was ineffective, and Alexander razed the city and divided its territory between the other Boeotian cities. The end of Thebes cowed Athens, leaving all of Greece temporarily at peace.[61] Alexander then set out on his Asian campaign, leaving Antipater as regent.[62]

According to ancient writers Demosthenes called Alexander "Margites" (Greek: Μαργίτης)[63][64][65] and a boy.[65] Greeks used the word Margites to describe fool and useless people, on account of the Margites.[64][66]

Alexander the Great King of Macedon articles: 28

Conquest of the Persian Empire

Asia Minor

Map of Alexander's empire and his route
Gérard Audran after Charles LeBrun, 'Alexander Entering Babylon,' original print first published 1675, engraving, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC.
Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot (1767) by Jean-Simon Berthélemy

After his victory at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), Philip II began the work of establishing himself as hēgemṓn (Greek: ἡγεμών) of a league which according to Diodorus was to wage a campaign against the Persians for the sundry grievances Greece suffered in 480 and free the Greek cities of the western coast and islands from Achaemenid rule. In 336 he sent Parmenion, with Amyntas, Andromenes and Attalus, and an army of 10,000 men into Anatolia to make preparations for an invasion.[67][68] At first, all went well. The Greek cities on the western coast of Anatolia revolted until the news arrived that Philip had been murdered and had been succeeded by his young son Alexander. The Macedonians were demoralized by Philip's death and were subsequently defeated near Magnesia by the Achaemenids under the command of the mercenary Memnon of Rhodes.[67][68]

Taking over the invasion project of Philip II, Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC with approximately 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry and a fleet of 120 ships with crews numbering 38,000,[61] drawn from Macedon and various Greek city-states, mercenaries, and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria.[69][f] He showed his intent to conquer the entirety of the Persian Empire by throwing a spear into Asian soil and saying he accepted Asia as a gift from the gods. This also showed Alexander's eagerness to fight, in contrast to his father's preference for diplomacy.[61]

After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis; he then proceeded along the Ionian coast, granting autonomy and democracy to the cities. Miletus, held by Achaemenid forces, required a delicate siege operation, with Persian naval forces nearby. Further south, at Halicarnassus, in Caria, Alexander successfully waged his first large-scale siege, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea.[70] Alexander left the government of Caria to a member of the Hecatomnid dynasty, Ada, who adopted Alexander.[71]

From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities to deny the Persians naval bases. From Pamphylia onwards the coast held no major ports and Alexander moved inland. At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city.[72] At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future "king of Asia".[73] According to the story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone and hacked it apart with his sword.[74]

The Levant and Syria

In spring 333 BC, Alexander crossed the Taurus into Cilicia. After a long pause due to an illness, he marched on towards Syria. Though outmanoeuvered by Darius's significantly larger army, he marched back to Cilicia, where he defeated Darius at Issus. Darius fled the battle, causing his army to collapse, and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous treasure.[75] He offered a peace treaty that included the lands he had already lost, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions.[76] Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant.[71] In the following year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he captured after a long and difficult siege.[77][78] The men of military age were massacred and the women and children sold into slavery.[79]

Egypt

Name of Alexander the Great in Egyptian hieroglyphs (written from right to left), c. 332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum.

When Alexander destroyed Tyre, most of the towns on the route to Egypt quickly capitulated. However, Alexander met with resistance at Gaza. The stronghold was heavily fortified and built on a hill, requiring a siege. When "his engineers pointed out to him that because of the height of the mound it would be impossible... this encouraged Alexander all the more to make the attempt".[80] After three unsuccessful assaults, the stronghold fell, but not before Alexander had received a serious shoulder wound. As in Tyre, men of military age were put to the sword and the women and children were sold into slavery.[81]

Alexander advanced on Egypt in later 332 BC, where he was regarded as a liberator.[82] He was pronounced son of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert.[83] Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and after his death, currency depicted him adorned with the Horns of Ammon as a symbol of his divinity.[84] During his stay in Egypt, he founded Alexandria-by-Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after his death.[85]

Assyria and Babylonia

Leaving Egypt in 331 BCE, Alexander marched eastward into Achaemenid Assyria in Upper Mesopotamia (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius again at the Battle of Gaugamela.[86] Darius once more fled the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. Gaugamela would be the final and decisive encounter between the two.[87] Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) while Alexander captured Babylon.[88]

Persia

Site of the Persian Gate; the road was built in the 1990s.

From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its treasury.[88] He sent the bulk of his army to the Persian ceremonial capital of Persepolis via the Persian Royal Road. Alexander himself took selected troops on the direct route to the city. He then stormed the pass of the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains) which had been blocked by a Persian army under Ariobarzanes and then hurried to Persepolis before its garrison could loot the treasury.[89]

On entering Persepolis, Alexander allowed his troops to loot the city for several days.[90] Alexander stayed in Persepolis for five months.[91] During his stay a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes I and spread to the rest of the city. Possible causes include a drunken accident or deliberate revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War by Xerxes;[92] Plutarch and Diodorus allege that Alexander's companion, the hetaera Thaïs, instigated and started the fire. Even as he watched the city burn, Alexander immediately began to regret his decision.[93][94][95] Plutarch claims that he ordered his men to put out the fires,[93] but that the flames had already spread to most of the city.[93] Curtius claims that Alexander did not regret his decision until the next morning.[93] Plutarch recounts an anecdote in which Alexander pauses and talks to a fallen statue of Xerxes as if it were a live person:

Shall I pass by and leave you lying there because of the expeditions you led against Greece, or shall I set you up again because of your magnanimity and your virtues in other respects?[96]

Fall of the Empire and the East

Administrative document from Bactria dated to the seventh year of Alexander's reign (324 BC), bearing the first known use of the "Alexandros" form of his name, Khalili Collection of Aramaic Documents[97]

Alexander then chased Darius, first into Media, and then Parthia.[98] The Persian king no longer controlled his own destiny, and was taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman.[99] As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men fatally stab the Great King and then declared himself Darius's successor as Artaxerxes V, before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander.[100] Alexander buried Darius's remains next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a regal funeral.[101] He claimed that, while dying, Darius had named him as his successor to the Achaemenid throne.[102] The Achaemenid Empire is normally considered to have fallen with Darius.[103]

Alexander viewed Bessus as a usurper and set out to defeat him. This campaign, initially against Bessus, turned into a grand tour of central Asia. Alexander founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, 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.[104]

In 329 BC, Spitamenes, who held an undefined position in the satrapy of Sogdiana, betrayed Bessus to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's trusted companions, and Bessus was executed.[105] However, when, at some point later, Alexander was on the Jaxartes dealing with an incursion by a horse nomad army, Spitamenes raised Sogdiana in revolt. Alexander personally defeated the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes and immediately launched a campaign against Spitamenes, defeating him in the Battle of Gabai. After the defeat, Spitamenes was killed by his own men, who then sued for peace.[106]

Problems and plots

The Killing of Cleitus, by André Castaigne (1898–1899)

During this time, Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis, either a symbolic kissing of the hand, or prostration on the ground, that Persians showed to their social superiors.[107] The Greeks regarded the gesture as the province of deities and believed that Alexander meant to deify himself by requiring it. This cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen, and he eventually abandoned it.[108]

A plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to alert Alexander. The death of the son necessitated the death of the father, and thus Parmenion, who had been charged with guarding the treasury at Ecbatana, was assassinated at Alexander's command, to prevent attempts at vengeance. Most infamously, Alexander personally killed the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Cleitus the Black, during a violent drunken altercation at Maracanda (modern day Samarkand in Uzbekistan), in which Cleitus accused Alexander of several judgmental mistakes and most especially, of having forgotten the Macedonian ways in favour of a corrupt oriental lifestyle.[109]

Later, in the Central Asian campaign, a second plot against his life was revealed, this one instigated by his own royal pages. His official historian, Callisthenes of Olynthus, was implicated in the plot, and in the Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian states that Callisthenes and the pages were then tortured on the rack as punishment, and likely died soon after.[110] It remains unclear if Callisthenes was actually involved in the plot, for prior to his accusation he had fallen out of favour by leading the opposition to the attempt to introduce proskynesis.[111]

Macedon in Alexander's absence

When Alexander set out for Asia, he left his general Antipater, an experienced military and political leader and part of Philip II's "Old Guard", in charge of Macedon.[62] Alexander's sacking of Thebes ensured that Greece remained quiet during his absence.[62] The one exception was a call to arms by Spartan king Agis III in 331 BC, whom Antipater defeated and killed in the battle of Megalopolis.[62] Antipater referred the Spartans' punishment to the League of Corinth, which then deferred to Alexander, who chose to pardon them.[112] There was also considerable friction between Antipater and Olympias, and each complained to Alexander about the other.[113]

In general, Greece enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity during Alexander's campaign in Asia.[114] Alexander sent back vast sums from his conquest, which stimulated the economy and increased trade across his empire.[115] However, Alexander's constant demands for troops and the migration of Macedonians throughout his empire depleted Macedon's strength, greatly weakening it in the years after Alexander, and ultimately led to its subjugation by Rome after the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC).[17]

Alexander the Great Conquest of the Persian Empire articles: 94