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    Alexander the Great Biography and Military Career Essay

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    Alexander the Great was born in June 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. His parents were Philip II and Olympia. Some say that Zeus was his father, but it is probably just a myth.

    Aristotle taught Alexander in his early teen years. He stimulated his interest in science, medicine, and philosophy. In the summer of 336 BC, Alexander’s father was assassinated, and Alexander ascended to the Macedonian throne. He found himself surrounded by enemies at home and threatened by civilizations all over.

    But Alexander quickly disposed of all his enemies by ordering their execution. Then he went to Thessaly, where partisans of independence had gained ascendancy, and restored Macedonian rule. Before the end of the summer of 336 BC, as the general of the Greeks in a campaign against the Persians originally planned by his father before he died, he carried out a successful campaign against the defecting Thracians, penetrating to the Danube River. On his return, he crushed the threatening Illyrians in a single week and then went to Thebes, which had revolted. He took the city by storm and razed it, sparing only the temples of the gods and the house of the Greek lyric poet Pindar, and selling the surviving inhabitants, about 8000 in number, into slavery. Alexander’s promptness in crushing the revolt of Thebes brought the other Greek states into instant submission.

    Alexander began his war against Persia in the spring of 334 BC by crossing the Hellespont (now Dardanelles) with an army of 35,000 Macedonian and Greek troops. His chief officers, all Macedonians, included Antigonus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. At the river Granicus, near the ancient city of Troy, he attacked an army of Persians and Greek soldiers which totaled 40,000 men. His forces slaughtered the enemy and, according to tradition, only lost 110 men. After this battle, all the states of Asia Minor submitted to Alexander. Continuing south, Alexander encountered the main Persian army, commanded by King Darius III, at Issus. The size of Darius’s army was unknown, but ancient tradition said it contained about 500,000 men, which is now considered a very big exaggeration.

    The Battle of Issus in 333 BC ended in a great victory for Alexander, who treated them with the respect due to royalty. Tyre, a strongly guarded seaport, offered obstinate resistance, but Alexander took it by storm in 332 after a siege of seven months. Alexander captured Gaza next and then passed on into Egypt, where he was greeted as a deliverer. These successes led to the domination of the Nile River and the city of Alexandria, which later became the literary, scientific, and commercial center of the Greek world. Cyrene, the capital of the ancient North African kingdom of Cyrenaica, surrendered to Alexander soon afterward, extending his dominance to Carthaginian territory.

    In the spring of 331, Alexander made a trip to the great temple and oracle of Amon-Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun, whom the Greeks identified as Zeus. The earlier Egyptian pharaohs were believed to be sons of Amon-Ra, and Alexander, the new ruler of Egypt, wanted the god to acknowledge him as his son. Amon-Ra agreed.

    So, he cursed me by making my right arm longer than my left for 7 years. Crossing the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, Alexander met Darius at the head of an army of unknown size. According to the exaggerated accounts of antiquity, it was said to number a million men! This army he completely defeated in the Battle of Guagamela on October 1, 331. Darius fled as he had done at Issus and was later killed by two of his own generals. Babylon surrendered after Guagamela, and the city of Susa with its enormous treasures was soon taken over by Alexander. Then, in midwinter, Alexander forced his way to Persepolis, the Persian capital, plundered it and the royal treasures, took the riches, and burned the city during a drunken binge, thus completing the destruction of the ancient Persian Empire.

    His domain now extended along and beyond the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, including modern Central Asia. It had taken Alexander only three years to master this vast area. In June 323 BC, Alexander contracted a dangerous fever and died. He left his empire, in his own words, to the strongest, which resulted in huge conflicts for half a century.

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