Born on July 20, 356 B.C., in Pella, Macedonia, Alexander was son of King Philip II of Macedon and Queen Olympia. A clever tactician and successful general, he went undefeated in battles for an unprecedented period of over 15 years – a period of time in which he led his army in numerous victories. He died fairly young for someone who had conquered most of the known world. But even in that short period of time, from his ascension to the throne of Macedonia to this death, he accomplished far more than the biggest of the names in history did in their entire lifetime. Looking back at the life of arguably the most influential ruler in history, here is a list of top 10 facts about Alexander the Great.
10. Philosophical encounters
When Alexander was about 14 years old, his father King Phillips II decided to tutor him under the guidance of the biggest names in contemporary philosophical teaching. At that time, Aristotle had not already made a name for himself, but he was a known pupil of Plato. So, King Phillip II invited Aristotle to impart his knowledge to his son – a decision much favored by Alexander’s mother. She had a lot of faith on Plato’s insightful apprentice. There is the famous story of the first encounter between Alexander and the famed ascetic Diogenes. Diogenes believed man only needed what is essential to survive. So, he would sleep in a barrel, travel places, and preach his thoughts to whoever would listen.
Once Alexander met him in a public plaza and asked him “if there is anything he could do for him”. Diogenes calmly replied, “Yes, you can step aside a little so as not to keep the sunshine from me. ” Alexander was rather impressed at his sheer blunt reply and is believed to have said to his soldiers that if he wasn’t Alexander, he would have been Diogenes.
9. Ascension to throne
Although Alexander had a great relation with his father during his childhood, things between them had notably soured by the time Phillip decided to marry Cleopatra, a woman who had noticeable Macedonian roots. When King Phillip was stabbed to death by one of his bodyguards in 336 B.C. at a wedding banquet, many eyebrows were raised at Alexander and his mother’s involvement behind the scenes. But, with the throne now open for grab, Alexander wasted no time to react. He was quick to eliminate all possible hurdles on his way to the throne. King Phillip also had a son from his last wife, but Alexander had him swiftly killed off at the hands of his allies. But, soon, a number of rebellions rose among the Thracians and Greeks.
Alexander silenced them all with resounding authority by forcing his way into Greece and restoring the Macedonian rule over all conquered states. His agility took everyone by surprise and soon they all could do nothing, but acknowledge his authority.
8. Conquest Names
In the period of 13 years, Alexander pretty much changed the face of Europe and Asia, conquering all neighboring enemies and the nations far beyond. With around 43,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry under his command, he led a fearsome military muscle on one of the biggest expedition in history. During this period, he wrecked through settlements, conquered nations and empires, and founded around 70 new cities in different locations. Being Alexander, he named all of them after himself – Alexandria. All these different Alexandria can be traced along the paths of his military advances from the beginning of his expedition to its end.
Perhaps, the most famous among these was founded at the mouth of Nile in 331 BC. Coincidentally, it happens to be the second largest city in the present day Egypt. There was the city of Bucephala that Alexander founded at the site of his toughest battle during the campaign of conquering India. The name was given after his favorite horse Bucephalus who died in that decisive battle.
7. Alexander and Roxane
Roxane (Raxana) was the daughter of Sogdian nobleman named Oxyartes who had the responsibility of defending a mountain fortress against an invading army led by Alexander the great himself. Alexander was in the middle of his military campaign in the Achaemenid Empire, and the Macedonians were putting on an arduous effort to control their conquests. It was obvious that they needed to achieve truce with the native population in order to gain their trust and loyalty.
Amid all this, Alexander was surveying the captives after breaking in through the said fortress when he saw Roxane for the first time. Soon they got married in a traditional wedding ceremony, at the end of which Alexander sliced a bread loaf in two with his sword and shared it with his new bride. Roxane then went with her husband on his campaigns in India in 326 BC, and gave birth to Alexander’s child very shortly after his death.
6. Great Military tactician
Alexander had a great presence of mind when it came to military warfare. He was a cunning tactician who would devise ways to defeat enemies with greater strength in terms of soldiers and weapons. Upon that, Alexander got to take command of a well-trained army from his father, and further improved their skills. The size of his army never crossed 50,000 at any point – a direct result of fact that Alexander valued the military speed, skill and agility far more over the number of his men.
Alexander is also attributed with mastering the unique Macedonian battle technique known as the phalanx. It was a formation developed by his father, but Alexander turned it into a dominant war technique. His soldiers would attack in a formation of 8 to 32 men – each of them wielding a 12 to 18 feet Cornelian wood spear. Add to that an experienced army that he inherited from his father, Alexander had a formidable force at his disposal.
5. Bucephalus – The Royal Steed
Bucephalus was the name of a mighty horse that had cost king Phillip a fortune. But the horse’s behavior in the field was as exorbitant as its price. The trainers were finding it impossible to bring his viciousness under control. While observing their efforts to control the steed go in vain, Alexander noticed that Bucephalus was actually agitated by its own shadow. That is when he bet his father he can tame the horse.
He calmly made Bucephalus face the sun, slowly climbed into the saddle and then triumphantly rode around on its back. Amid all the cheers from onlookers, legends has it that his father King Phillip took him in his arms and said, “O my son look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.” In many ways, this single incident was pivotal in reflecting a glimpse of the fame Alexander would then go on to build for himself. And this point on, Bucephalus was arguably destined to become the most famous steed in the history.
4. The Gordian Knot
It was an intricate knot used by Gordius, the founder of City of Gordium, to securely tie his chariot. But far more famous was the legend foretold by an oracle that whoever untied the knot would go on to become the true ruler of entire Asia. Needless to say, countless people tried to undo it from time to time, but no one succeeded. And as fate would have it, Alexander soon reached the central mountains in the town of Gordium.
At a young age of 23, he was well on course for his Conquer-Asia-Minor campaign. Being a man who was willing to go all ends to conquer the known world, Alexander decided to tackle the “Gordian Knot” himself. With a crowd of Macedonians and locals around, he frustratingly toiled around with the complex knot. Soon his patience gave away, and he drew out his sword and sliced it through the knot. When one observes how the rest of history went down, this incident truly foretold that Alexander was destined to become “The Great”.
3. Defeat of the mighty Persians
Once Alexander restored peace and Macedonian authority over the neighboring states, he reinstated the campaign to take over the mighty Persian Empire. Alexander went on to face off against the far superior force of Persian King Darius III in three monumental battles. The Macedonian won the first battle at the Granicus River in Asia Minor in the spring of 334 BC. When the battle was over, Alexander now controlled all of Asia Minor states at the loss of only 110 of his men.
The two sides came to blows again for the second time in the battle of Issus. Despite the enemy’s advantage in numbers, Alexander’s cunning offensives sent the Persians into withdrawal and Darius had to flee from the battlefield to save himself. The two then faced off in the decisive battle of Gaugamela where around 200,000 infantry and 34,000 cavalry led by Darius went against the Macedonians. Again, the Macedonians army brought their skills and agility to good use – insuring the defeat and inevitable fall of the Persian Empire.
2. Mysterious death
By the time Alexander had turned 32, he had spent most of his previous 13 years in annexing much of the known world that he had traversed. It was the month of May in 323 BC when he had returned to Baghdad after years of campaigning all over Asia. Then on May 29, amid all plannings for his next conquests, he went to a dinner party thrown by one of his close confidants. After a long session of heavy drinking, he started to feel unwell and went to bed with a rising fever.
His conditions only further deteriorated in the following days as the strong fever took hold of his body. Finally, on the 10th day, with no more will to even leave his bed, one of the most famous conquerors in human history died at such an early age. Of course, his premature death bought with it a number of conspiracies. His general Antipater and Antipater’s son Cassander came under serious suspicions. Some even speculated that Aristotle might have had a hand in it too. Though the modern medical experts attribute his death to malarial infection.
1. Alexander the Conqueror
Once, he became the undisputed King of Macedonia in 336 BC, Alexander faced an early plethora of obstacles in the form of neighboring rebellions. Of course, he handled the situation with such commanding authority that the rebelling Thracian and Greek settlements did not give second thoughts on accepting him as their king. And then, when he was only 22 years old, he took on the Persian Empire. Flash forward to 323 BC, exactly 11 years later, Alexander had traveled to places hitherto unknown and conquered much of the known Asia.
From his first victory at age of 18 while fighting under the command of his father, to the historical victories against the mighty Persians and many formidable Asian nations and settlements, Alexander truly made a legend for himself. That he never lost a battle during his countless campaigns gives a testament to all of his military conquests. By the time his army had reached the Indus River in Indian subcontinent, the Macedonian had laid down an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.
Alexander the Great’s legacy lives to this day and holds a profound impact on modern day historians. The Macedonians saw an unprecedented scale of unification and expansion during his rule – a campaign that was started by his father and truly enacted by him. Not only did he expand his empire to then furthest known point in Asia, he was also responsible in spreading the Greek culture to an incredibly vast part of the world. And not to forget, Alexander undoubtedly was one of the greatest tactician and military mind to have ever lived. It was his tricks and training that molded an already experienced army into a skilled killing machine. His battlefield tactics as a general remain a subject of research for the modern day counterparts at present.