Alexander the Great

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Alexan’der the Great, son of Philip of Macedon, was born at Pella, in 356 B. C. Gifted by nature and carefully educated by Aristotle, he early gave promise of his great character. Philip’s triumphs saddened him, and he once exclaimed: «My father will leave nothing for me to do!» When only 16, he took charge of the government in his father’s absence. Two years later he showed such courage in the battle of Chæronea that his father, embracing him, said: «My son, ask for thyself another kingdom, for that which I leave is too small for thee.» At Philip’s death, Alexander, not yet 20 years old, ascended the throne and prepared to finish the conquests which his father had begun. He struck terror into all Greece by razing Thebes to the ground and punishing all who had revolted.

He then turned toward Persia. Crossing the Hellespont, in 334, he defeated the Persians in a number of battles, overthrowing the son-in-law of King Darius with his own lance. The cities of Asia opened their gates to the conqueror as he marched to meet Darius and his army of 500,000, in the defiles of Cilicia. At the pass of Gordium was the famous Gordian knot. An oracle had foretold that whoever should untie it would become master of the world, but Alexander boldly cut it with his sword.

Meeting Darius between the mountains and the sea, the resistless Macedonian phalanx utterly routed the disorderly masses of the Persians in the great battle of Issus, 333 B. C. The family of the Persian monarch fell into the hands of Alexander, and all Asia, as far as the Euphrates was offered as the condition of peace; but the conqueror proudly refused, saying that Darius must regard him as the ruler of all Asia and the lord of all his people. Alexander now turned southward and conquered the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. In Egypt he restored the religious customs of the people, which the Persian rulers had changed, and built the city of Alexandria. He visited the temple of Jupiter Ammon in the Libyan desert and was hailed as a son of the god. In the spring, he routed Darius again, at the battle of Arbela (331 B. C.). He marched to the interior, entering in triumph Babylon and Susa, the storehouse of the. treasures of the East, and Persepolis, the capital of Persia. But these successes turned his head, and he began to lead a life of cruelty and dissipation. In a fit of anger he killed some of his best friends, and while drunk burned the beautiful city of Persepolis.

In 320 B. C., Alexander marched northward to the furthest known limits of Asia and conquered the Scythians on the banks of the Jaxartes. Two years later, he invaded India. When a king named Porus was brought to him, Alexander asked him how he would like to be treated. «Like a king,» was the reply, which so pleased Alexander that he restored him his kingdom, and Porus became an ally and friend. Here his favorite horse, Bucephalus, which no one else could ride, died from a wound. Alexander gave the horse a splendid burial, and founded a town, named Bucephala, in his honor. Alexander advanced through India, until his soldiers refused to follow him further. He sailed down the Hydaspes to the Indus, thence to the Indian Ocean.

He returned to Babylon, receiving on his way ambassadors from all parts of the world. Here, while forming new plans for the future, both of conquest and civilization, he was taken sick at a banquet and died at the age of 32, after a reign of less than thirteen years, during which he had become master of most of the then known world. His body was carried to Alexandria and placed by Ptolemy in a golden coffin. The Egyptians and other nations worshiped him as a god. His vast empire was divided among his generals. When asked who should inherit his throne he replied: «the worthiest.»

*The New Student’s Reference Work (1914): Alexander the Great

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