History of Alexander - History

History of Alexander - History

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(ScStr: dp. 6,181,1. 342'3 1/2"; b. 43'0", dr. 23'0", s. 10 k. (max.) cpl. 68; a. 2 6-pars., 2 3-pars.)

Alexander—a screw steamer built in 1894 at Stockton-on-Tees England, by Richardson Duck & Co.—was purchased by the Navy from New Star Blue Line Steamers on 25 April 1898 and was commissioned at Norfolk on 2 June 1898, Comdr. William T. Burwell in command.

Converted to a collier, Alexander served on the Atlantic station supporting the blockade of Cuba during the SpanishAmerican War. On 2 November 1898, the ship was decommissioned at Norfolk. Although she remained out of commission until the spring of 1900, it appears that she made a merchant cruise with a civilian crew—probably in 1899. On 4 March 1900 Alexand er was recommissioned at Norfolk for duty in the collier service.

Over the next year, she made one round-trip voyage from the Atlantic coast to the Asiatic station with coal and stores. In the faH of 1901, she voyaged to South American Atlantic ports and thence, in January 1902, rounded Cape Horn and steamed on to Hawaii. The collier entered port at Honolulu on 19 February 1902 and remained there until 13 March at which time she headed back to the east coast of the United States. Late in 1902 and early in 1903, Alexander made another extended voyage around South America, visiting numerous Latin American ports along the wav before returning to Norfolk on 21 March 1903.

By the middle of 1903, the ship was assigned to collier duty with the Asiatic Fleet. Sometime in 1907, whe was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet but evidence strongly suggests that she continued voyages to the Far East. On 15 April 1910, Alexander was once again placed out of commission—this time at Cavite in the Philippine Islands. She returned to active service on the Asiatic station a little over 14 months later on 6 July 1911. The ship remained active just over two years. She was decommissioned at Cavite on 9 August 1913, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 16 August 1913. Her ultimate disposition is unknown.

How Alexander Hamilton's Widow, Eliza, Carried on His Legacy

After Vice President Aaron Burr killed Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, Hamilton’s widow, Elizabeth Schuyler 𠇎liza” Hamilton, had to find a way to go on without her beloved husband. One of the ways she found solace𠅊nd honored his memory—was to found two institutions in New York that supported lower-income children.

The Hamilton Free School, established in northern Manhattan (not far from where the couple had lived) offered education to students of families who couldn’t afford private education for their children. She also became a founder of the Orphan Asylum Society, the city’s first private orphanage, which built a Greenwich Village facility that provided a home for hundreds of children.

By focusing on children, Eliza found connection to her late husband’s legacy. Hamilton grew up as an orphan from the Caribbean and was able to come to America to study when benefactors paid his way.

Alexander History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

On the western coast of Scotland and on the Hebrides islands the Alexander family was born among the ancient Dalriadan clans. Their name comes from the given name Alexander, which in turn was originally derived from the Greek name, which means defender of men. In the late 11th century, Queen Margaret introduced the name, which she had heard in the Hungarian Court where she was raised, into Scotland by naming one of her sons Alexander. The popularity of the name Alexander was ensured by the fact that it was born by three Scottish kings, the first being Margaret's son who succeeded to the throne of Scotland following the death of Malcolm III.

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Early Origins of the Alexander family

The surname Alexander was first found in Kintyre, where they held a family seat from ancient times.

"As a surname Alexander is very common on the west coast, where, according to the authors of Clan Donald, some of the descendants of Godfrey, second son of Alastair Mor, appear to have settled in the Carrick district of Ayrshire. " [1]

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Early History of the Alexander family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Alexander research. Another 462 words (33 lines of text) covering the years 1230, 1295, 1475, 1602, 1200, 1605, 1615, 1765, 1846, 1431, 1570, 1640, 1614, 1588, 1655, 1640, 1643, 1619, 1681, 1665, 1681, 1620, 1665, 1660, 1665, 1653, 1686, 1743, 1797 and are included under the topic Early Alexander History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Alexander Spelling Variations

In various documents Alexander has been spelled Since medieval scribes still spelled according to sound, records from that era contain an enormous number of spelling variations. Alexander, Alistair, MacAlexander, Alisandre, Alischoner, Alsinder, Alastair, MacAlexter, Callestar, Aleckander, Alexandri, Alisdair, Alaisder, Alestare, Alistare and many more.

Early Notables of the Alexander family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Sir William Alexander (circa 1570-1640), 1st Earl of Stirling, Scottish government official, knighted in 1614, appointed Governor of the barony of Nova Scotia William Allestry (Allestrie) (1588-1655), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons of England (1640-1643).
Another 48 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Alexander Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Alexander family to Ireland

Some of the Alexander family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 153 words (11 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Alexander migration +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Alexander Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Mr. Alexander, who landed in Virginia in 1635 [2]
  • Mr. Alexander, who arrived in Virginia in 1637 [2]
  • Patrick Alexander, who landed in Virginia in 1638 [2]
  • John Alexander Sr., who landed in Massachusetts in 1640 [2]
  • Mr. Alexander, who landed in Virginia in 1640 [2]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Alexander Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Alexander, who landed in Carolina in 1700 [2]
  • Jos Alexander, who arrived in Virginia in 1704 [2]
  • John Alexander, who landed in Virginia in 1705 [2]
  • John Alexander, who arrived in Carolina in 1707 [2]
  • James Alexander, who landed in Maryland in 1714 [2]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Alexander Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Alexander, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1800 [2]
  • Andrew Alexander, aged 30, who arrived in New York in 1800 [2]
  • William Alexander, who arrived in America in 1802 [2]
  • Sarah Alexander, aged 2, who landed in New York, NY in 1803 [2]
  • William Alexander, aged 32, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1803 [2]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Alexander migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Alexander Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Peter Alexander, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1749
  • John Alexander, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Mr. Hugh Alexander U.E., United Empire Loyalist who settled in Home District, South Central Ontario c. 1783 [3]
  • Sarah Alexander U.E., United Empire Loyalist who settled in Saint David, Charlotte County, New Brunswick c. 1783 a member of Cape Ann Association [3]
Alexander Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, who colonized Nova Scotia, in Antigonish, Pictou, the Carolinas, Virginia and Upper Canada
  • John Alexander, aged 20, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Lady Campbell" in 1833
  • Joseph Alexander, aged 17, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • Samuel Alexander, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Sea Horse" in 1833
  • Margaret Alexander, aged 29, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Salus" in 1833
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Alexander migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Alexander Settlers in Australia in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Dew, English convict who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Barwell" in September 1797, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[4]
  • Mr. Alexander Loraine, English convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for life, transported aboard the "Barwell" in September 1797, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[4]
Alexander Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Alexander, British convict who was convicted in Lancashire, England for 7 years for forgery, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1804 the settlement was listed as abandoned and most of the convicts transported to Tasmania on the "Queen" in 1804 [5]
  • Mr. Alexander Antrobus, English convict who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Baring" in April 1815, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[6]
  • Mr. Alexander Wilson, English convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for life, transported aboard the "Baring" in April 1815, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[6]
  • Mr. Alexander Grant, Scottish convict who was convicted in Aberdeen, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Baring" in December 1818, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[6]
  • Mr. Alexander Routlidge, English convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Baring" in December 1818, arriving in New South Wales, Australia[6]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Alexander migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Alexander Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • William Alexander, who landed in Bay of Islands, New Zealand in 1836
  • A Alexander, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship Martha Ridgway
  • James Alexander, who landed in Wanganui, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship Martha Ridgway
  • J Alexander, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship Martha Ridgway
  • Mr. J. Alexander, British settler travelling from England aboard the ship "Martha Ridgway" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 14th November 1840 [7]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Alexander (post 1700) +

  • John "Jack" Armit Alexander (1935-2013), Scottish musician, half of the easy-listening folk-music duo The Alexander Brothers
  • Thomas Armit Alexander (1934-2020), Scottish musician, half of the easy-listening folk-music duo The Alexander Brothers
  • Jack Alexander (1935-2013), Scottish entertainer and comedian, half of the folk music duo The Alexander Brothers
  • Arun Alexander (1973-2020), Indian actor and a dubbing artist
  • Peter Alexander (1939-2020), American artist who was part of the Light and Space artistic movement in southern California
  • Brian LaWan Alexander (1975-2020), American professional basketball player who played for Salon Vilpas
  • Mrs. Justina Susannah Alexander M.B.E., British recipient of Member of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to British Nationals in Dominica [8]
  • Mr. David Alexander O.B.E., British Professor and recipient of Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to UK/US links in the space industry and to higher education [8]
  • William Alexander (1726-1783), American general who claimed to be the sixth Earl of Stirling, born at New York [9]
  • Daniel Asher Alexander (1768-1846), English architect, born in London and educated at St. Paul's School [9]
  • . (Another 26 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Historic Events for the Alexander family +

Arrow Air Flight 1285
  • Mr. Herbert D Alexander (b. 1962), American Private 1st Class from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, USA who died in the crash [10]
Flight TWA 800
  • Mr. Matthew James Alexander (1976-1996), from Florence, South Carolina, USA, American student from North Carolina flying aboard flight TWA 800 from J.F.K. Airport, New York to Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Rome when the plane crashed after takeoff he died in the crash [11]
HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Ronald Alexander, British Able Bodied Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [13]
Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie)
  • Ronald Ely Alexander (1942-1988), Swiss Businessman from New York, New York, America, who flew aboard the Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, known as the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and died [14]
RMS Titanic
  • Mr. William Alexander (d. 1912), aged 23, English Third Class passenger from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking [15]
USS Arizona
  • Mr. Elvis Author Alexander, American Seaman Second Class from Arkansas, USA working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he died in the sinking [16]

Related Stories +

The Alexander Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Per mare, per terras
Motto Translation: By sea, by land.

Alexander Family History

Scottish, English, German, Dutch also found in many other cultures: from the personal name Alexander, classical Greek Alexandros, which probably originally meant ‘repulser of men (i.e. of the enemy)’, from alexein ‘to repel’ + andros, genitive of aner ‘man’. Its popularity in the Middle Ages was due mainly to the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great (356–323 bc)—or rather to the hero of the mythical versions of his exploits that gained currency in the so-called Alexander Romances. The name was also borne by various early Christian saints, including a patriarch of Alexandria (ad c.250–326), whose main achievement was condemning the Arian heresy. The Gaelic form of the personal name is Alasdair, which has given rise to a number of Scottish and Irish patronymic surnames, for example McAllister. Alexander is a common forename in Scotland, often representing an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name. In North America the form Alexander has absorbed many cases of cognate names from other languages, for example Spanish Alejandro, Italian Alessandro, Greek Alexandropoulos, Russian Aleksandr, etc. (For forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988.) It has also been adopted as a Jewish name.

Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press

How Did Alexander the Great Change the Course of History?

Alexander the Great is revered as a visionary, a prophet, a holy man, or even a saint even till today, in the East as well as in the West. (Image: Image Library/Public domain)

Alexander the Great could not have changed the course of history without the support of his army. And many soldiers in his army were mercenaries. At the same time, a lot of credit must be given to his father Philip II his mother Olympias, and his tutor Aristotle. But still, Alexander deserves most of the credit. By the time he was 26 years old, he had already won over the once-mighty Persian Empire.

It took nearly half a century after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. before three stable kingdoms finally emerged: Greece proper, ruled by the Antigonids Southern Turkey, Babylonia, Syria, Iran, and central Asia, ruled by the Seleucids and finally Egypt, ruled by the Ptolemies. The era from the death of Alexander the Great to the time of Roman conquest in 30 B.C. is called the Hellenistic era. This is named so because during this era the Hellenic or Greek culture, language, and administration had spread over a large geographical area. This included not only the countries mentioned above but also present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Kashmir region of India.

This is a transcript from the video series The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Alexander Organized Susa Weddings

Some idealistic scholars had once favored the perception that Alexander the Great believed in the universal brotherhood of man. This is a hugely exaggerated fact. The basis for such perception was an event that was known as the Susa weddings.

This was a mass wedding that took place just a year before the death of Alexander in 324 B.C. under his auspices in the Persian city of Susa. He himself married the Persian King’s eldest daughter and made arrangements to marry his officers with honorable Persian women. His purpose in arranging this mass wedding was to produce a mixed-race of Greek-Macedonian and Persian elite.

He also supported marriages between his soldiers and native women irrespective of they being Persian or not—allegedly there were some 10,000 marriages in all. It can be said that this was one of the bravest social experiments that have ever been undertaken. However, the fact was that Alexander the Great saw it as a purely political activity.

Alexander the Great’s Vision

To put it in some kind of perspective, some poll findings have indicated that it was only in the last decade that most of the Americans have said that they do not have any issue with mixed marriages between American Africans and whites. Alexander the Great was thinking much ahead of his time. But then it does not mean that most of the Greeks were also thinking out of the box. That is far from the truth. In fact, a very large majority of Greeks, that included Alexander’s senior Macedonian officers, were shocked. So, this experiment failed, more so because of his death in the following year i.e. 323 B.C.

Alexander the Great attempted to bridge the East-West gap by carrying out a social experiment. (Image: British Museum/Public domain)

Even then, it should be said that Alexander the Great showed an unusually amazing inclusive vision. He was attempting to bridge the East-West gap by taking this one small step. Although his intentions were purely political, and although his men burned and ravaged the Persian capital Persepolis, he still deserves credit for thinking what was unthinkable at that time. So if he is revered as a visionary, a prophet, a holy man, or even a saint even till today, in the East as well as in the West, there is no wonder in it.

During his journey to destroy the Persian Empire, when Alexander the Great first arrived in Egypt, he was regarded as a liberator by the Egyptians. The reason for this was that he had kicked out the previous rulers, the Persians who were hated by the Egyptians. He laid the foundation stone for his first and the most magnificent of his cities, Alexandria most probably in 331 B.C.

Alexander the Great’s Alexandria

Alexander the Great changed the world in many ways. And one of them was he built a number of foundations throughout his empire. He called most of those foundations Alexandria. Alexandria was located on the western edge of Nile delta facing the Mediterranean. It possessed natural harbors. This gave it access to the interiors of Egypt. Arguably, Alexandria became the greatest city in the ancient world far ahead of Rome which was smelly, stuffy, and overpopulated. Even Athens, which had only Acropolis and agora to recommend it, was no match for it.

The architecture of Alexandria would have blown you away. It was laid out according to a grid pattern and some of the buildings were truly stunning. Unfortunately, most of this beautiful city is now under the sea. But we must thank the underwater archaeology and also a few surviving descriptions that have helped us to reconstruct the essential outline of Alexandria.

Alexander never saw the finished city of Alexandria during his lifetime, although it is believed that he did lay the first building block. He returned posthumously as Ptolemy I had hijacked his corpse while it was on its way to Macedon.

Common Questions about Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great organized Susa Weddings to bridge the gap between the East and the West. His purpose in arranging this mass wedding was to produce a mixed-race of Greek-Macedonian and Persian elite.

Alexander the Great was 26 years old when he won over the Persian Empire.

Alexander the Great laid the foundation stone for his first and the most magnificent of his cities, Alexandria most probably in 331 B.C.

During his journey to destroy the Persian Empire, when Alexander the Great first arrived in Egypt, he was regarded as a liberator by the Egyptians. The reason for this was that he had kicked out the previous rulers, the Persians who were hated by the Egyptians.

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He observed himself in mirrors and noticed that he stiffened his neck, pulled his head back and down and depressed his larynx. This went with an audible gasping for air as he opened his mouth to speak. This seemed to be the root of his problem. It gradually became clear to him that this was part of a bigger pattern of tension involving the whole of his body. This tension pattern manifested itself at the mere thought of reciting.

Alexander spent several years working out a way to change this habitual reaction and learn how to prevent this harmful misuse pattern, thereby improving his health and functioning in general. As he improved his vocal use, breathing and stage presence, other people started coming to him for help.

From about 1894 onward, he started teaching his discoveries in Melbourne, and later in Sydney, until teaching became his main occupation. A number of doctors referred patients to him. In 1904 he brought his Technique to London, with letters of recommendation from JW Steward MacKay, an eminent surgeon in Sydney.

He established a thriving practice in London, published four books (link to books) and from the 1930s trained about 80 teachers in his Technique. He never returned to his native Tasmania and continued to teach right up to his death in London in 1955.


In London, Alexander's reputation grew rapidly. Eminent students of his include George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley and Lillie Langtry. A number of scientists endorsed his method, recognising that Alexander’s practical observations were consistent with scientific discoveries in neurology and physiology.

The most eminent of these was Sir Charles Sherrington, today considered the father of modern neurology. Another Nobel Laureate, Nikolaas Tinbergen, who won the prize for “physiology or medicine” in 1973, dedicated a significant part of his Nobel acceptance lecture to the work of Alexander. You can watch his speech here.

Many doctors, including Peter MacDonald, who later became chairman of the BMA, were advocates of his work and sent patients to him. In 1939, a large group of physicians wrote to the British Medical Journal urging that Alexander’s principles be included in medical training.

With its wide application, Alexander’s technique drew people from all walks of life, including politics (Sir Stafford Cripps and Lord Lytton), religion (William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury), education (Esther Lawrence, principal of the Froebel Educational Institute) and business (Joseph Rowntree).

Alexander Technique and Education

Alexander spent some time in the USA, where he met and gave lessons to philosopher John Dewey, the “father of the American education system”. Dewey asserted that effective learning must be based on first-hand experience he demonstrated his support and enthusiasm for Alexander's work by writing the prefaces to three of Alexander’s books.

It [the AT] bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities.

John Dewey (The Use of the Self, p. 12)

Alexander believed it was important to incorporate his technique into the education of children. In 1924 he founded the ”Little School”, helped by two of his assistants, Ethel Webb and Irene Tasker, who had also been trained by Maria Montessori in Italy. In the school, children were encouraged to apply the Alexander principles during lessons and in all other activities.

The children were evacuated to the USA during the Second World War and the school was never re-established.

From the First Alexander Technique Teachers to the present day

In 1931 Alexander opened a formal three-year teacher training course, which continued to run until his death at the age of 86.

Three years later, in 1958, his graduates founded the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT), to preserve and continue the work according to the standards Alexander had set out (see About STAT). People came to the United Kingdom from around the world to train as teachers of the Technique. Today there are many professional affiliated societies worldwide.


Lineage and childhood

Alexander was born in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon, [8] 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). [9] He was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias, daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of Epirus. [10] Although Philip had seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for some time, likely because she gave birth to Alexander. [11]

Several legends surround Alexander's birth and childhood. [12] 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. [13] 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. [13]

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. [14] 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. [12]

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. [15] Alexander was raised in the manner of noble Macedonian youths, learning to read, play the lyre, ride, fight, and hunt. [16]

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. [12] 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. [17] 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. [18]


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. [19]

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. [20]

Alexander was able to quote Euripides from memory. [21]

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. [22] [23] [24] 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. [22] [25] [26] [27] 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. [25]

Suda writes that, also, Anaximenes of Lampsacus was one of his teachers. Anaximenes, also accompanied him on his campaigns. [28]

Regency and ascent of Macedon

At the age of 16, Alexander's education under Aristotle ended. Philip II had waged war against the Thracians to the north, which left Alexander in charge as regent and heir apparent. [12]

During Philip's absence, the Thracian tribe of Maedi revolted against Macedonia. Alexander responded quickly and drove them from their territory. The territory was colonized, and a city, named Alexandropolis, was founded. [29]

Upon Philip's return, Alexander was dispatched with a small force to subdue the revolts in southern Thrace. Campaigning against the Greek city of Perinthus, Alexander reportedly 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. While Philip was occupied in Thrace, Alexander was ordered 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. [30]

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. [31] 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. [32]

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. [33]

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. [34] 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. [35] [36]

Exile and return

When Philip returned to Pella, he fell in love with and married Cleopatra Eurydice in 338 BC, [37] the niece of his general Attalus. [38] 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. [39] During the wedding banquet, a drunken Attalus publicly prayed to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir. [38]

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."

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. [41] He continued to Illyria, [41] 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. [42] However, it appears Philip never intended to disown his politically and militarily trained son. [41] Accordingly, Alexander returned to Macedon after six months due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus, who mediated between the two parties. [43]

In the following year, the Persian satrap (governor) of Caria, Pixodarus, offered his eldest daughter to Alexander's half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus. [41] Olympias and several of Alexander's friends suggested this showed Philip intended to make Arrhidaeus his heir. [41] 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. [41] Philip exiled four of Alexander's friends, Harpalus, Nearchus, Ptolemy and Erigyius, and had the Corinthians bring Thessalus to him in chains. [44]


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. [46] [47] [48]

Consolidation of power

Alexander began his reign by eliminating potential rivals to the throne. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed. [49] 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, [49] who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor and Cleopatra's uncle. [50]

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. [50] Alexander spared Arrhidaeus, who was by all accounts mentally disabled, possibly as a result of poisoning by Olympias. [46] [48] [51]

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. [52]

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. [53] This reply apparently delighted Alexander, who is reported to have said "But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes." [54] 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. [55]

Balkan campaign

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. [56] The Macedonians marched into the country of the Triballi, and defeated their army near the Lyginus river [57] (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. [58]

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. [59]

While Alexander campaigned north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander immediately headed south. [60] 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. [60] Alexander then set out on his Asian campaign, leaving Antipater as regent. [61]

According to ancient writers Demosthenes called Alexander "Margites" (Greek: Μαργίτης ) [62] [63] [64] and a boy. [64] Greeks used the word Margites to describe fool and useless people, on account of the Margites. [63] [65]

Asia Minor

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. [66] [67] 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. [66] [67]

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, [60] drawn from Macedon and various Greek city-states, mercenaries, and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. [68] [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. [60]

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. [69] Alexander left the government of Caria to a member of the Hecatomnid dynasty, Ada, who adopted Alexander. [70]

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. [71] At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future "king of Asia". [72] According to the story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone and hacked it apart with his sword. [73]

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. [74] 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. [75] Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant. [70] In the following year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he captured after a long and difficult siege. [76] [77] The men of military age were massacred and the women and children sold into slavery. [78]


When Alexander destroyed Tyre, most of the towns on the route to Egypt quickly capitulated. However, Alexander was 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". [79] 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. [80]

Alexander advanced on Egypt in later 332 BC, where he was regarded as a liberator. [81] He was pronounced son of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. [82] 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. [83] During his stay in Egypt, he founded Alexandria-by-Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after his death. [84]

Assyria and Babylonia

Leaving Egypt in 331 BC, Alexander marched eastward into Achaemenid Assyria in Upper Mesopotamia (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius again at the Battle of Gaugamela. [85] 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. [86] Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) while Alexander captured Babylon. [87]


From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its treasury. [87] 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. [88]

On entering Persepolis, Alexander allowed his troops to loot the city for several days. [89] Alexander stayed in Persepolis for five months. [90] 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 [91] 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. [92] [93] [94] Plutarch claims that he ordered his men to put out the fires, [92] but that the flames had already spread to most of the city. [92] Curtius claims that Alexander did not regret his decision until the next morning. [92] 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? [95]

Fall of the Empire and the East

Alexander then chased Darius, first into Media, and then Parthia. [97] The Persian king no longer controlled his own destiny, and was taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. [98] 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. [99] Alexander buried Darius's remains next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a regal funeral. [100] He claimed that, while dying, Darius had named him as his successor to the Achaemenid throne. [101] The Achaemenid Empire is normally considered to have fallen with Darius. [102]

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. [103]

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. [104] 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. [105]

Problems and plots

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. [106] 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. [107]

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. [108]

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. [109] 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. [110]

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. [61] Alexander's sacking of Thebes ensured that Greece remained quiet during his absence. [61] 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. [61] Antipater referred the Spartans' punishment to the League of Corinth, which then deferred to Alexander, who chose to pardon them. [111] There was also considerable friction between Antipater and Olympias, and each complained to Alexander about the other. [112]

In general, Greece enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity during Alexander's campaign in Asia. [113] Alexander sent back vast sums from his conquest, which stimulated the economy and increased trade across his empire. [114] 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). [16]

Forays into the Indian subcontinent

After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Raoxshna in Old Iranian) to cement relations with his new satrapies, Alexander turned to the Indian subcontinent. He invited the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara (a region presently straddling eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan), to come to him and submit to his authority. Omphis (Indian name Ambhi), the ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Hydaspes (Jhelum), complied, but the chieftains of some hill clans, including the Aspasioi and Assakenoi sections of the Kambojas (known in Indian texts also as Ashvayanas and Ashvakayanas), refused to submit. [115] Ambhi hastened to relieve Alexander of his apprehension and met him with valuable presents, placing himself and all his forces at his disposal. Alexander not only returned Ambhi his title and the gifts but he also presented him with a wardrobe of "Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, 30 horses and 1,000 talents in gold". Alexander was emboldened to divide his forces, and Ambhi assisted Hephaestion and Perdiccas in constructing a bridge over the Indus where it bends at Hund, [116] supplied their troops with provisions, and received Alexander himself, and his whole army, in his capital city of Taxila, with every demonstration of friendship and the most liberal hospitality.

On the subsequent advance of the Macedonian king, Taxiles accompanied him with a force of 5,000 men and took part in the battle of the Hydaspes River. After that victory he was sent by Alexander in pursuit of Porus, to whom he was charged to offer favourable terms, but narrowly escaped losing his life at the hands of his old enemy. Subsequently, however, the two rivals were reconciled by the personal mediation of Alexander and Taxiles, after having contributed zealously to the equipment of the fleet on the Hydaspes, was entrusted by the king with the government of the whole territory between that river and the Indus. A considerable accession of power was granted him after the death of Philip, son of Machatas and he was allowed to retain his authority at the death of Alexander himself (323 BC), as well as in the subsequent partition of the provinces at Triparadisus, 321 BC.

In the winter of 327/326 BC, Alexander personally led a campaign against the Aspasioi of Kunar valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus valley, and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. [117] A fierce contest ensued with the Aspasioi in which Alexander was wounded in the shoulder by a dart, but eventually the Aspasioi lost. Alexander then faced the Assakenoi, who fought against him from the strongholds of Massaga, Ora and Aornos. [115]

The fort of Massaga was reduced only after days of bloody fighting, in which Alexander was wounded seriously in the ankle. According to Curtius, "Not only did Alexander slaughter the entire population of Massaga, but also did he reduce its buildings to rubble." [118] A similar slaughter followed at Ora. In the aftermath of Massaga and Ora, numerous Assakenians fled to the fortress of Aornos. Alexander followed close behind and captured the strategic hill-fort after four bloody days. [115]

After Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region lying between the Hydaspes and the Acesines (Chenab), in what is now the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. [119] Alexander was impressed by Porus's bravery, and made him an ally. He appointed Porus as satrap, and added to Porus's territory land that he did not previously own, towards the south-east, up to the Hyphasis (Beas). [120] [121] Choosing a local helped him control these lands so distant from Greece. [122] Alexander founded two cities on opposite sides of the Hydaspes river, naming one Bucephala, in honour of his horse, who died around this time. [123] The other was Nicaea (Victory), thought to be located at the site of modern-day Mong, Punjab. [124] Philostratus the Elder in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana writes that in the army of Porus there was an elephant who fought brave against Alexander's army and Alexander dedicated it to the Helios (Sun) and named it Ajax, because he thought that a so great animal deserved a great name. The elephant had gold rings around its tusks and an inscription was on them written in Greek: "Alexander the son of Zeus dedicates Ajax to the Helios" (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ Ο ΔΙΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΑΙΑΝΤΑ ΤΩΙ ΗΛΙΩΙ). [125]

Revolt of the army

East of Porus's kingdom, near the Ganges River, was the Nanda Empire of Magadha, and further east, the Gangaridai Empire of Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander's army mutinied at the Hyphasis River (Beas), refusing to march farther east. [126] This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests. [127]

As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at-arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand war elephants. [128]

Alexander tried to persuade his soldiers to march farther, but his general Coenus pleaded with him to change his opinion and return the men, he said, "longed to again see their parents, their wives and children, their homeland". Alexander eventually agreed and turned south, marching along the Indus. Along the way his army conquered the Malhi (in modern-day Multan) and other Indian tribes and Alexander sustained an injury during the siege. [129]

Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest back to Persia through the more difficult southern route along the Gedrosian Desert and Makran. [130] Alexander reached Susa in 324 BC, but not before losing many men to the harsh desert. [131]

Discovering that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence, Alexander executed several of them as examples on his way to Susa. [133] [134] As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedon, led by Craterus. His troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis. They refused to be sent away and criticized his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units. [135]

After three days, unable to persuade his men to back down, Alexander gave Persians command posts in the army and conferred Macedonian military titles upon Persian units. The Macedonians quickly begged forgiveness, which Alexander accepted, and held a great banquet with several thousand of his men. [136] In an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, Alexander held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. [134] Meanwhile, upon his return to Persia, Alexander learned that guards of the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae had desecrated it, and swiftly executed them. [137] Alexander admired Cyrus the Great, from an early age reading Xenophon's Cyropaedia, which described Cyrus's heroism in battle and governance as a king and legislator. [138] During his visit to Pasargadae Alexander ordered his architect Aristobulus to decorate the interior of the sepulchral chamber of Cyrus's tomb. [138]

Afterwards, Alexander travelled to Ecbatana to retrieve the bulk of the Persian treasure. There, his closest friend and possible lover, Hephaestion, died of illness or poisoning. [139] [140] Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander, and he ordered the preparation of an expensive funeral pyre in Babylon, as well as a decree for public mourning. [139] Back in Babylon, Alexander planned a series of new campaigns, beginning with an invasion of Arabia, but he would not have a chance to realize them, as he died shortly after Hephaestion. [141]

On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. [142] There are two different versions of Alexander's death and details of the death differ slightly in each. Plutarch's account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa. [143] He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. The common soldiers, anxious about his health, were granted the right to file past him as he silently waved at them. [144] In the second account, Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Heracles, followed by 11 days of weakness he did not develop a fever and died after some agony. [145] Arrian also mentioned this as an alternative, but Plutarch specifically denied this claim. [143]

Given the propensity of the Macedonian aristocracy to assassination, [146] foul play featured in multiple accounts of his death. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mentioned the theory that Alexander was poisoned. Justin stated that Alexander was the victim of a poisoning conspiracy, Plutarch dismissed it as a fabrication, [147] while both Diodorus and Arrian noted that they mentioned it only for the sake of completeness. [145] [148] The accounts were nevertheless fairly consistent in designating Antipater, recently removed as Macedonian viceroy, and at odds with Olympias, as the head of the alleged plot. Perhaps taking his summons to Babylon as a death sentence, [149] and having seen the fate of Parmenion and Philotas, [150] Antipater purportedly arranged for Alexander to be poisoned by his son Iollas, who was Alexander's wine-pourer. [148] [150] There was even a suggestion that Aristotle may have participated. [148]

The strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days passed between the start of his illness and his death such long-acting poisons were probably not available. [151] However, in a 2003 BBC documentary investigating the death of Alexander, Leo Schep from the New Zealand National Poisons Centre proposed that the plant white hellebore (Veratrum album), which was known in antiquity, may have been used to poison Alexander. [152] [153] [154] In a 2014 manuscript in the journal Clinical Toxicology, Schep suggested Alexander's wine was spiked with Veratrum album, and that this would produce poisoning symptoms that match the course of events described in the Alexander Romance. [155] Veratrum album poisoning can have a prolonged course and it was suggested that if Alexander was poisoned, Veratrum album offers the most plausible cause. [155] [156] Another poisoning explanation put forward in 2010 proposed that the circumstances of his death were compatible with poisoning by water of the river Styx (modern-day Mavroneri in Arcadia, Greece) that contained calicheamicin, a dangerous compound produced by bacteria. [157]

Several natural causes (diseases) have been suggested, including malaria and typhoid fever. A 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed his death to typhoid fever complicated by bowel perforation and ascending paralysis. [158] Another recent analysis suggested pyogenic (infectious) spondylitis or meningitis. [159] Other illnesses fit the symptoms, including acute pancreatitis and West Nile virus. [160] [161] Natural-cause theories also tend to emphasize that Alexander's health may have been in general decline after years of heavy drinking and severe wounds. The anguish that Alexander felt after Hephaestion's death may also have contributed to his declining health. [158]

After death

Alexander's body was laid in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus that was filled with honey, which was in turn placed in a gold casket. [162] [163] According to Aelian, a seer called Aristander foretold that the land where Alexander was laid to rest "would be happy and unvanquishable forever". [164] Perhaps more likely, the successors may have seen possession of the body as a symbol of legitimacy, since burying the prior king was a royal prerogative. [165]

While Alexander's funeral cortege was on its way to Macedon, Ptolemy seized it and took it temporarily to Memphis. [162] [164] His successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, transferred the sarcophagus to Alexandria, where it remained until at least late Antiquity. Ptolemy IX Lathyros, one of Ptolemy's final successors, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one so he could convert the original to coinage. [166] The recent discovery of an enormous tomb in northern Greece, at Amphipolis, dating from the time of Alexander the Great [167] has given rise to speculation that its original intent was to be the burial place of Alexander. This would fit with the intended destination of Alexander's funeral cortege. However, the memorial was found to be dedicated to the dearest friend of Alexander the Great, Hephaestion. [168] [169]

Pompey, Julius Caesar and Augustus all visited the tomb in Alexandria, where Augustus, allegedly, accidentally knocked the nose off. Caligula was said to have taken Alexander's breastplate from the tomb for his own use. Around AD 200, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, a great admirer, visited the tomb during his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are hazy. [166]

The so-called "Alexander Sarcophagus", discovered near Sidon and now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is so named not because it was thought to have contained Alexander's remains, but because its bas-reliefs depict Alexander and his companions fighting the Persians and hunting. It was originally thought to have been the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus (died 311 BC), the king of Sidon appointed by Alexander immediately following the battle of Issus in 331. [170] [171] However, more recently, it has been suggested that it may date from earlier than Abdalonymus's death.

Demades likened the Macedonian army, after the death of Alexander, to the blinded Cyclops, due to the many random and disorderly movements that it made. [172] [173] [174] In addition, Leosthenes, also, likened the anarchy between the generals, after Alexander's death, to the blinded Cyclops "who after he had lost his eye went feeling and groping about with his hands before him, not knowing where to lay them". [175]

Division of the empire

Alexander's death was so sudden that when reports of his death reached Greece, they were not immediately believed. [61] Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander's death. [176] According to Diodorus, Alexander's companions asked him on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom his laconic reply was "tôi kratistôi"—"to the strongest". [145] Another theory is that his successors wilfully or erroneously misheard "tôi Kraterôi"—"to Craterus", the general leading his Macedonian troops home and newly entrusted with the regency of Macedonia. [177]

Arrian and Plutarch claimed that Alexander was speechless by this point, implying that this was an apocryphal story. [178] Diodorus, Curtius and Justin offered the more plausible story that Alexander passed his signet ring to Perdiccas, a bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, in front of witnesses, thereby nominating him. [145] [176]

Perdiccas initially did not claim power, instead suggesting that Roxane's baby would be king, if male with himself, Craterus, Leonnatus, and Antipater as guardians. However, the infantry, under the command of Meleager, rejected this arrangement since they had been excluded from the discussion. Instead, they supported Alexander's half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. Eventually, the two sides reconciled, and after the birth of Alexander IV, he and Philip III were appointed joint kings, albeit in name only. [179]

Dissension and rivalry soon afflicted the Macedonians, however. The satrapies handed out by Perdiccas at the Partition of Babylon became power bases each general used to bid for power. After the assassination of Perdiccas in 321 BC, Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between "The Successors" (Diadochi) ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocs: Ptolemaic Egypt , Seleucid Mesopotamia and Central Asia, Attalid Anatolia, and Antigonid Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered. [180]

Last plans

Diodorus stated that Alexander had given detailed written instructions to Craterus some time before his death, which are known as Alexander's "last plans". [182] Craterus started to carry out Alexander's commands, but the successors chose not to further implement them, on the grounds they were impractical and extravagant. [182] Furthermore, Perdiccas had read the notebooks containing Alexander's last plans to the Macedonian troops in Babylon, who voted not to carry them out. [61]

According to Diodorus, Alexander's last plans called for military expansion into the southern and western Mediterranean, monumental constructions, and the intermixing of Eastern and Western populations. It included:

  • Construction of 1,000 ships larger than triremes, along with harbours and a road running along the African coast all the way to the Pillars of Hercules, to be used for an invasion of Carthage and the western Mediterranean [183]
  • Erection of great temples in Delos, Delphi, Dodona, Dium, Amphipolis, all costing 1,500 talents, and a monumental temple to Athena at Troy[61][183]
  • Amalgamation of small settlements into larger cities ("synoecisms") and the "transplant of populations from Asia to Europe and in the opposite direction from Europe to Asia, in order to bring the largest continent to common unity and to friendship by means of intermarriage and family ties" [184][183]
  • Construction of a monumental tomb for his father Philip, "to match the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt" [61][183]
  • Conquest of Arabia [61]
  • Circumnavigation of Africa [61]

The enormous scale of these plans has led many scholars to doubt their historicity. Ernst Badian argued that they were exaggerated by Perdiccas in order to ensure that the Macedonian troops voted not to carry them out. [183] Other scholars have proposed that they were invented by later authors within the tradition of the Alexander Romance. [185]


Alexander earned the epithet "the Great" due to his unparalleled success as a military commander. He never lost a battle, despite typically being outnumbered. [60] This was due to use of terrain, phalanx and cavalry tactics, bold strategy, and the fierce loyalty of his troops. [186] The Macedonian phalanx, armed with the sarissa, a spear 6 metres (20 ft) long, had been developed and perfected by Philip II through rigorous training, and Alexander used its speed and manoeuvrability to great effect against larger but more disparate Persian forces. [187] Alexander also recognized the potential for disunity among his diverse army, which employed various languages and weapons. He overcame this by being personally involved in battle, [90] in the manner of a Macedonian king. [186]

In his first battle in Asia, at Granicus, Alexander used only a small part of his forces, perhaps 13,000 infantry with 5,000 cavalry, against a much larger Persian force of 40,000. [188] Alexander placed the phalanx at the center and cavalry and archers on the wings, so that his line matched the length of the Persian cavalry line, about 3 km (1.86 mi). By contrast, the Persian infantry was stationed behind its cavalry. This ensured that Alexander would not be outflanked, while his phalanx, armed with long pikes, had a considerable advantage over the Persians' scimitars and javelins. Macedonian losses were negligible compared to those of the Persians. [189]

At Issus in 333 BC, his first confrontation with Darius, he used the same deployment, and again the central phalanx pushed through. [189] Alexander personally led the charge in the center, routing the opposing army. [190] At the decisive encounter with Darius at Gaugamela, Darius equipped his chariots with scythes on the wheels to break up the phalanx and equipped his cavalry with pikes. Alexander arranged a double phalanx, with the center advancing at an angle, parting when the chariots bore down and then reforming. The advance was successful and broke Darius's center, causing the latter to flee once again. [189]

When faced with opponents who used unfamiliar fighting techniques, such as in Central Asia and India, Alexander adapted his forces to his opponents' style. Thus, in Bactria and Sogdiana, Alexander successfully used his javelin throwers and archers to prevent outflanking movements, while massing his cavalry at the center. [190] In India, confronted by Porus's elephant corps, the Macedonians opened their ranks to envelop the elephants and used their sarissas to strike upwards and dislodge the elephants' handlers. [136]

Physical appearance

The outward appearance of Alexander is best represented by the statues of him which Lysippus made, and it was by this artist alone that Alexander himself thought it fit that he should be modelled. For those peculiarities which many of his successors and friends afterwards tried to imitate, namely, the poise of the neck, which was bent slightly to the left, and the melting glance of his eyes, this artist has accurately observed. Apelles, however, in painting him as wielder of the thunder-bolt, did not reproduce his complexion, but made it too dark and swarthy. Whereas he was of a fair colour, as they say, and his fairness passed into ruddiness on his breast particularly, and in his face. Moreover, that a very pleasant odour exhaled from his skin and that there was a fragrance about his mouth and all his flesh, so that his garments were filled with it, this we have read in the Memoirs of Aristoxenus. [191]

The semi-legendary Alexander Romance also suggests that Alexander exhibited heterochromia iridum: that one eye was dark and the other light. [192]

British historian Peter Green provided a description of Alexander's appearance, based on his review of statues and some ancient documents:

Physically, Alexander was not prepossessing. Even by Macedonian standards he was very short, though stocky and tough. His beard was scanty, and he stood out against his hirsute Macedonian barons by going clean-shaven. His neck was in some way twisted, so that he appeared to be gazing upward at an angle. His eyes (one blue, one brown) revealed a dewy, feminine quality. He had a high complexion and a harsh voice. [193]

Historian and Egyptologist Joann Fletcher has said that Alexander had blond hair. [194]

Ancient authors recorded that Alexander was so pleased with portraits of himself created by Lysippos that he forbade other sculptors from crafting his image. [195] Lysippos had often used the contrapposto sculptural scheme to portray Alexander and other characters such as Apoxyomenos, Hermes and Eros. [196] Lysippos's sculpture, famous for its naturalism, as opposed to a stiffer, more static pose, is thought to be the most faithful depiction. [197]


As is the case with personality traits in general, Alexander's prominent personality traits reflected those of his parents. His mother had huge ambitions, and encouraged him to believe it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire. [193] Olympias's influence instilled a sense of destiny in him, [199] and Plutarch tells how his ambition "kept his spirit serious and lofty in advance of his years". [200] However, his father Philip was probably Alexander's most immediate and influential role model, as the young Alexander watched him campaign practically every year, winning victory after victory while ignoring severe wounds. [49] Alexander's relationship with his father "forged" the competitive side of his personality he had a need to outdo his father, illustrated by his reckless behavior in battle. [193] While Alexander worried that his father would leave him "no great or brilliant achievement to be displayed to the world", [201] he also downplayed his father's achievements to his companions. [193]

According to Plutarch, among Alexander's traits were a violent temper and rash, impulsive nature, [202] which undoubtedly contributed to some of his decisions. [193] Although Alexander was stubborn and did not respond well to orders from his father, he was open to reasoned debate. [203] He had a calmer side—perceptive, logical, and calculating. He had a great desire for knowledge, a love for philosophy, and was an avid reader. [204] This was no doubt in part due to Aristotle's tutelage Alexander was intelligent and quick to learn. [193] His intelligent and rational side was amply demonstrated by his ability and success as a general. [202] He had great self-restraint in "pleasures of the body", in contrast with his lack of self-control with alcohol. [205]

Alexander was erudite and patronized both arts and sciences. [200] [204] However, he had little interest in sports or the Olympic games (unlike his father), seeking only the Homeric ideals of honour (timê) and glory (kudos). [206] He had great charisma and force of personality, characteristics which made him a great leader. [176] [202] His unique abilities were further demonstrated by the inability of any of his generals to unite Macedonia and retain the Empire after his death—only Alexander had the ability to do so. [176]

During his final years, and especially after the death of Hephaestion, Alexander began to exhibit signs of megalomania and paranoia. [149] His extraordinary achievements, coupled with his own ineffable sense of destiny and the flattery of his companions, may have combined to produce this effect. [207] His delusions of grandeur are readily visible in his will and in his desire to conquer the world, [149] in as much as he is by various sources described as having boundless ambition, [208] [209] an epithet, the meaning of which has descended into an historical cliché. [210] [211]

He appears to have believed himself a deity, or at least sought to deify himself. [149] Olympias always insisted to him that he was the son of Zeus, [212] a theory apparently confirmed to him by the oracle of Amun at Siwa. [213] He began to identify himself as the son of Zeus-Ammon. [213] Alexander adopted elements of Persian dress and customs at court, notably proskynesis, a practice of which Macedonians disapproved, and were loath to perform. [106] This behaviour cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen. [214] However, Alexander also was a pragmatic ruler who understood the difficulties of ruling culturally disparate peoples, many of whom lived in kingdoms where the king was divine. [215] Thus, rather than megalomania, his behaviour may simply have been a practical attempt at strengthening his rule and keeping his empire together. [216]

Personal relationships

Alexander married three times: Roxana, daughter of the Sogdian nobleman Oxyartes of Bactria, [217] [218] [219] out of love [220] and the Persian princesses Stateira II and Parysatis II, the former a daughter of Darius III and latter a daughter of Artaxerxes III, for political reasons. [221] [222] He apparently had two sons, Alexander IV of Macedon by Roxana and, possibly, Heracles of Macedon from his mistress Barsine. He lost another child when Roxana miscarried at Babylon. [223] [224]

Alexander also had a close relationship with his friend, general, and bodyguard Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. [139] [193] [225] Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander. [139] [226] This event may have contributed to Alexander's failing health and detached mental state during his final months. [149] [158]

Alexander's sexuality has been the subject of speculation and controversy in modern times. [227] The Roman era writer Athenaeus says, based on the scholar Dicaearchus, who was Alexander's contemporary, that the king "was quite excessively keen on boys", and that Alexander kissed the eunuch Bagoas in public. [228] This episode is also told by Plutarch, probably based on the same source. None of Alexander's contemporaries, however, are known to have explicitly described Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion as sexual, though the pair was often compared to Achilles and Patroclus, whom classical Greek culture painted as a couple. Aelian writes of Alexander's visit to Troy where "Alexander garlanded the tomb of Achilles, and Hephaestion that of Patroclus, the latter hinting that he was a beloved of Alexander, in just the same way as Patroclus was of Achilles." [229] Some modern historians (e.g., Robin Lane Fox) believe not only that Alexander's youthful relationship with Hephaestion was sexual, but that their sexual contacts may have continued into adulthood, which went against the social norms of at least some Greek cities, such as Athens, [230] [231] though some modern researchers have tentatively proposed that Macedonia (or at least the Macedonian court) may have been more tolerant of homosexuality between adults. [232]

Green argues that there is little evidence in ancient sources that Alexander had much carnal interest in women he did not produce an heir until the very end of his life. [193] However, Ogden calculates that Alexander, who impregnated his partners thrice in eight years, had a higher matrimonial record than his father at the same age. [233] Two of these pregnancies — Stateira's and Barsine's — are of dubious legitimacy. [234]

According to Diodorus Siculus, Alexander accumulated a harem in the style of Persian kings, but he used it rather sparingly, "not wishing to offend the Macedonians", [235] showing great self-control in "pleasures of the body". [205] Nevertheless, Plutarch described how Alexander was infatuated by Roxana while complimenting him on not forcing himself on her. [236] Green suggested that, in the context of the period, Alexander formed quite strong friendships with women, including Ada of Caria, who adopted him, and even Darius's mother Sisygambis, who supposedly died from grief upon hearing of Alexander's death. [193]

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Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BC)

Alexander the Great in battle on his horse, Bucephalas © Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, single-handedly changed the nature of the ancient world in little more than a decade.

Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympias. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle. Philip was assassinated in 336 BC and Alexander inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom. He quickly dealt with his enemies at home and reasserted Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire.

Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BC. The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became 'great king' of Persia at the age of 25.

Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around two million square miles. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.

Alexander was acknowledged as a military genius who always led by example, although his belief in his own indestructibility meant he was often reckless with his own life and those of his soldiers. The fact that his army only refused to follow him once in 13 years of a reign during which there was constant fighting, indicates the loyalty he inspired.


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