Alexander the Great lived before Christ, but he was driven by a vision of global unity as modern as today.
Alexander is seen in many roles in our culture. The most famous of these is being a great general and conqueror of the world. During his short life, Alexander conquered the known world and helped spread the culture of the Greeks. Much of what he accomplished must be viewed in the circumstances of his time and his upbringing.
Without these we may not have had the spread of Greek culture or even heard of the man called Alexander. I will discuss how Alexander was able to accomplish all of this in such a short time and the events and strategies that helped him along the way. To understand the events of his life you need to know the man. Alexander’s father, Philip II influenced the events in the military and political areas that eventually helped Alexander in his conquests.
When Philip took power in 359 B.C., Macedonia was in turmoil and he immediately set out to put the people under his control. Philip developed the Macedonian army and formed alliances with the Balkan peoples.
Philip established many political reforms that made his state a great power. He increased the size of the Royal Companions/heairoi, which gave more people positions of power and a sense of belonging to the kingdom. Also, the sons of the nobles were allowed to receive education in the court of the king. The reason for this was that the sons would develop a strong loyalty to the king; furthermore it allowed Philip, in a sense, to keep the sons hostage from their parents, from interfering with his authority.
On the military side, the battle of Chaeronea, in August of 338 B.C., helped put Athenians and Thebans under Macedonia control, which left Sparta the only Greek state not under Philip’s authority. Also, Philip introduced new weapons to the army, such as the 6-meter sarissa, a wooden pike with a metal tip used by the infantry in the phalanx.
The sarissa when held upright in the phalanx (rows of eight), helped hide the maneuvers from the view of the enemy. If held horizontally by the front rows, it could penetrate from 20 feet away. Philip also made the military a full-time occupation that paid a salary, instead of a part-time job that it used to be. By doing this, the army was able to drill regularly, and build unity and cohesion within its ranks.
In addition to the phalanx, Philip used light auxiliaries, archers, siege trains, and a cavalry. This was making of one of the finest military machines ever seen to that day and even later. The system that Philip used in ruling the Greek states helped unify them, and eliminate the notion of being a conquered people. He granted freedom and autonomy to all parties in each state; but, at the same time, established bureaucracies that were stable and loyal to him.
This idea of not destroying the conquered people but placing them in charge, is seen consistently later on in Alexander’s Empire. After this was done, he declared war on Persia with the support of a unified Greece. After all this, before he could start his march on Persia, he was assassinated. Philip by conquest and the organization of rule, helped Alexander inherit a united Greece and Macedonia.
This enabled him to be able to conquer other lands and not waste time and effort fighting Greek states. His father, through reform, also developed the finest army of the age. These inheritances paved the way for Alexander’s success. Alexander’s family life was, at the least, dysfunctional.
His father, Philip and his mother, Olympias were not a happy couple. When Philip left Olympias to marry Cleopatra, the family was split and embittered. Some think that Olympia even had a role in Philip’s murder. Alexander clearly owed some of his characteristics to both his parents.
Like his father, he was a shrewd and practical politician. But, he also was attached to believing in oracles, cults, and omens, which he inherited from his mother, along with her volatile and emotional temperament. As a father, Philip was proud of