Wednesday, June 10, 2015

This Day in History...Alexander the Great

From time to time I'll do a "This Day in History" feature.  In it I'll tell you about an important historical event, or person and an important event in their lives.  Today, that person is Alexander the Great, who died on either June 10th or June 11th, in the year 323 BCE.  (This site views history from a purely historical angle, not a religious one, so we'll use "BCE" in place of "BC" or "Before the Common Era" and "CE" in place of "AD" for "Common Era".)

Alexander III of Macedon was born probably around July 20, 356 BCE.  Born the son of King Phillip of Macedon, it was only the best for Alexander from birth through adolescence, including tutoring from the great Aristotle himself.  At the young age of 16 however, his youth and education came to an abrupt end, and he was left in charge as "regent" while his father waged war abroad.  It wasn't long before Alexander was forced to prove his leadership qualifications as he was quickly thrust into the proverbial fire.

While his father was gone, the Thracian Maedi revolted, and Alexander beat them back, building a city named after him in the process.  Upon his father's return he was dispatched again to deal with uprisings in Thrace, and after success there the two of them paired up to wage a campaign that tore through Greece, restructuring the balance of power in that area of the world, transitioning it from the Spartans and the "Peloponnese alliance" to the Macedonians, and their newfound "Hellenic Alliance" or "League of Corinth" which essentially included all of Greece except the Spartans, who may have been having a bit of a hard time coming to terms with their new place in the world.

Alexander's ascension to the throne should have been a sign of things to come.  He brutally and systematically had almost every relative regardless of how distant or powerful-from his father the king to clear the throne itself to distant cousins who might have some claim to power-executed, beginning with his father.  His father's death was at the hands of Pausanias, the head of his bodyguard and was motivated either by Olympia-Alexander's mother-or Alexander himself.  Both were concerned over Phillip's recent marriage to Cleopatra Euricydes.  If he were to have a child with her, that child might have a stronger claim to the throne than Alexander, as he would be fully Macedonian and Alexander was not.  Their concern clearly motivated their quick and decisive actions, taking the throne in a whirlwind of murder and deceit.

The news of his father's death prompted revolts throughout the current kingdom, which Alexander chose to deal with militarily.  After quelling these uprisings, he turned his attention to the Persian front, intent on conquering it all and even announcing it as a gift to him from the gods at one point.  He prepared himself by securing his own borders, putting down any rebellions and putting together a force of at least 48,000 soldiers to launch a campaign of attacks against Persia.

Over the course of the next two years Alexander waged a merciless war against the Persian empire, conquering all in his path.  He also underwent something of an evolution as a leader and conqueror; he started as a man with a reputation for being a kind conqueror and one who showed his enemy respect.  Before the end of the second year of campaigning however, Alexander had learned the power a victory held, and began making significant demands in negotiations for surrender.  These demands struck fear into the leaders of some, motivating them to cede power to Alexander without a battle.  By now, Alexander had taken to massacring all men of military age, and selling all women and children into slavery after conquering a nation, and as he marched through Persia, then on to Egypt he showed no mercy, building his empire and completely annihilating his opponents in the process.

Alexander spent years waging war, and whether it was the toll of injuries over those years, disease, or assasination by poison, at the age of 32 years old and after about 2 weeks of sickness, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, in Babylon.  After death his body was being transported to Macedon when it was stolen and brought to Memphis instead.  It was displayed there for several hundred years before being closed to the public in about 200 CE.  It is no longer known exactly where his tomb is.