Homer and the Importance of Education

Intro

To understand Ancient Greece you need to examine Homer and his works. The stuff is about to get exciting.

His great works of literature are important. How they affect us even today and most importantly, how they cast a shadow on the great captains of history.

Just wait until I tell how ‘The Iliad’ drove Alexander the Great to do some of his most stupid yet bravest feats.

The same ideas of nobility and bravery were the basis for us going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Tying it all together takes time, but it is worth it, I promise.

Homer

Homer is the accredited author of the two most celebrated and widely read stories ever told. The Iliad and The Odyssey are the first works of European literature. Little is known about the author.

Authorship is usually assigned to a Greek, blind poet named Homer. It is under this name that the works have been published for almost 3,000 years.

The stories however they came about owe a tremendous debt to a long tradition of unwritten, oral poetry. This practice preserved the memory of the two heroic tales of the Bronze Age, 400 years before the poems were published.

Imagine hearing the tales of Columbus discovering America or the battles of George Washington through a traveling storyteller. They would only be told only through song and memory and never read from a book.

Homer’s stories that were told again and again changing each time as they were passed down through history. This how The Iliad and The Odyssey were told. Multiple poets working in collaboration in succession through history. This is how the Afghans, a largely illiterate population hurdling towards the 10th century, tell stories.

Throughout history, Homer was always accredited as the author of the two stories. The Iliad is probably a work of his youth and the Odyssey a work of his old age. There is a difference of style, treatment of the characters. The idea of a man looking back on his life, as Odysseus does, is the reflections of an older author.

The Stories in their time

The historical and archaeological evidence states they were composed between 750 BC and 650 BC (Iron Age). They are set about 500 years before in the Mycenaean Greece in the twelfth century BC (Bronze Age). All the soldiers that Thucydides wrote about in the History of the Peloponnesian War (431 BC- 404BC) knew the stories by heart. Just as school children today know the tales of the Bible.

 

The Greeks believed this this was a more glorious and sublime age. The gods of Olympus walked the earth and demigod men with superhuman powers did great deeds.

Both stories depict life and how it led to the great kingdoms of the Bronze Age. Many scholars throughout history believed that the Trojan War was a creation of Greek imagination.

In the late 19th century an Austrian archaeologist named Heinrich Schliemann declared he had discovered the remnants of Troy. The site is a dozen miles from the Aegean coast in northwestern Turkey.

The site fits the geographical descriptions given of Homer’s Troy. Beneath all the poetic embellishment there may be some truth to the two stories.

The Importance of the Tales

The importance of the stories in history cannot be overstated. They affect us even today.

The influence on the kings and warriors of Greek was great. It was how they learned and remembered the meaning of “being noble” with the legends of Odysseus and Achilles as their guide.

“The Iliad” is a 2,700-year-old chronicle of jealousy, pride, cowardice, sacrifice, and war. At the center of the tale is Achilles. He is a demigod who chooses honor and glory and a young death over living a long, happy life into old age. He loves and fights fiercely using his superhuman strength and endurance to help his friends and kill his enemies.

He is the basis for almost all the great heroes of literature. In the end he is willing to sacrifice everything so his name will be remembered. In “Game of Thrones” he is Robert Baratheon, the King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The perfect warrior who is a savage and good for nothing else.

Odysseus is a major player in the Iliad, but the lead character in the Odyssey. He is the best public speaker (a highly respected skill in Greek literature), he is brave and cunning. In “Game of Thrones” he is Eddard Stark, the head of House Stark, Lord of Winterfell.

Homer’s “The Odyssey” was retrofitted into “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”. “Gladiator” has elements of both stories in it. The modern blockbuster “Troy” with Brad Pitt as Achilles and Eric Bana as Hector (more about this tomorrow) is a retelling of The Iliad.

Elements of Greek mythology have appeared many times in culture and popular culture, even today. Concepts that utilized the Greek mythology from both The Iliad and The Odyssey can be seen in the television show “Heroes.” The concept of the new generation of gods overthrowing the old.

In the 2000 movie Unbreakable the superhero mythology goes even deeper. It is both a comic book story and a literary one. The narrative (the journey) is done with comic book tropes and themes. It is a character drama.

The movie is a brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology. Bruce Willis’ performance as superhuman security guard David Dunn was “what if Superman was here on earth, and didn’t know he was Superman?” His tale of the discovery of his powers and what to do next is a retelling of both The Iliad (the superhuman Achilles’ question of how to live) and The Odyssey (once Odysseus is home what to do next).

The importance of literary knowledge

I believe the greatest weakness of man is doubt. Not believing that something is possible can drain your energy. In Matthew 14:31 Jesus asked ”O you of little faith, why do you doubt me?” Whatever you believe it is natural to have fears grown from doubt.

Doubt is silenced by education and knowledge. Looking at the great authors and literary works of all time can answer many of life’s most pressing questions. Soldiers answer those same questions by risking your life in service to your country.

We are the most privileged people in the history of mankind. We have an important job- the education of our young people. Education is the way out of the darkness and into the light.

You don’t need an Ivy League education to know of the great works of history. They are available at your local library.

One of the greatest books I ever read was the Autobiography of Malcom X. I am not a left-wing radical, but I do enjoy reading everything I can get my hands on. I just finished President George W. Bush’s book “Decision Points.” Both books are great reading.

The book was published in 1965 and was the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. In it, he talks about time in prison and how he self-educated himself using the prison library. He memorized a dictionary seeing it as a portable encyclopedia.

Willie Lynch

Later I was discussing the book with a friend and he told me about the vicious slave owner in the West lndies, Willie Lynch.

The slave-masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves. They sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. The word ”lynching” comes from his last name.

His methods were very simple, but they were diabolical. Keep the slave physically strong, but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master.

Keep the body, take the mind. A mind that is strong, educated and alert is the most dangerous weapon of them all.

By being aware of the great works of his history you develop a righteous mind. You see your world differently. It allows you to live a more meaningful and happier life. It is a journey I look forward to talking with all of you.

 

 

The Greek Olympics

Ancient Greek Culture

Ancient Greece was a collection of city states during the great Hellenic period. Thousands of years before the modern age the saw great civilizations rise and flourish.

Their wealth was massive, their cities were magnificent, their achievements in artistic, military and political- have rarely been equaled. How did they do it? And why, eventually, did they all fail?

Glorious monuments may be durable reminders of past societies, but less tangible achievements can leave just as lasting a legacy. Some cultures have endured as much by what they did as by what they built.

Although the ancient Greeks produced some of the finest achievements and works of arts ever seen, their largely, and possibly the most important legacy is more the product of their minds than their hands.

Greek concepts live on in our thoughts and politics. Their words fill modern western languages. The ideas of Homer, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle are with us still.

Another Greek creation whose longevity would have surprised its inventors. It has brought the Greeks and their ideas to a wider audience more than almost anything else. And nearly 3,000 years later, it’s still recognized in every country in the world.

The Beginnings

In 1,000 BC, a group of women gathered in a remote corner of the Peloponnese (Peninsula in Greece) to celebrate a successful harvest. They danced on a mountainside. It was a sacred place dedicated to the gods. It was called Olympia.

400 years later, a temple had been built to Hera. She was wife to the great god Zeus. She was the goddess of women’s affairs and her followers, all female, ran races in her honor.

In 50 more years, Olympia had been transformed into the major spiritual center of the ancient Greek world. There were dozens of new buildings.

A large central temple dedicated to the god Zeus. Within the temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Standing 60 feet high made of ivory and gold was a statue of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods.

The informal girl races of the Hera worshipping days gave away to new sporting events. The raves were still dedicated to the gods, but formalized and expanded. They were watched by hundreds of spectators and all the competitors were men.

The Olympics

This was the beginning of the world’s first and longest lasting major organized sporting event- the Olympics Games. For more than a 1,000 years the games would be celebrated once every 4 years at Olympia.

Already, by 776 BC, the games were a prestigious event and Olympic athletes were celebrated throughout the Greek speaking world. The games were of such importance that meticulous records were kept of every single winner. It’s the oldest chronological list in the Greek and Roman world.

The Olympics were more than a sporting event. The thing that distances our practice of sports from their practice is the aspect of religion.

In Ancient Greece athletes before they competed, they worshipped. The religious fervor went further than the ritual that surrounded the games.

The events themselves were considered a sacred offerings. In the Greek ideal, sports- a practice for war- and religion were inseparable. Athletes flocked to the Olympic Games to compete and to worship.

They came from all the City States (Athens, Sparta, Croton and others) into which the area of Greece was divided.

Pride and Honor

The games were rooted in religion, but the competition was fierce and often dangerous. Second place meant nothing. The winner gets it all.

Not just the prize, but the status of being a winner when he got home. He’ll get the same status if he dies in the games.

Not all events were as dangerous as the chariot races where competitors were stomped to death. Each event demanded absolute dedication.

The more often an athlete won, the more the pressure mounted to win again and again.

Phayilos the Olympian

Phayilos was said to be the greatest Olympic pentathlete. His praises were sung far and wide. A hero of the Persian wars he had a formidable reputation to maintain and defend.

There was a lot riding on the result.

Victory would bring “kudos” (praise) not to himself, but to Croton, his city-state. He spent months in training for the event. Under the keen eye of the judge, cheating occasionally happened. Phayilos prepared for his final decisive discus throw.

He should have been more confident. His was the longest recorded throw with the heavy bronze discus. His prize was a simple wreath made of olive leaf and the esteem of the gods. There was more to come.

Olympic Heroes

Returning Olympic heroes had gifts heaped upon them.

Their rewards included a lifetime and the right to take their meals at public expense, front row seats at the theater and tax exemption. All were provided by the winner’s city-state as a mark of their respect and gratitude.

City-states took a keen interest in their champions. For them the games had a significance beyond religious. They were an alternative to war.

Alternative to War

Ancient Greece was not a united nation in the way we would recognize today.

Many historians regard the Olympics as being typical of what being Greek was all about. You were a part of a network of city-states.

What they have in common their religion, their language and culture.

They were almost always in a state of war with each other. They only united when the threat of the Persians became too much for a few city-state to defeat.

What happens at Olympia is that war with each other becomes sublimated and changes from bad to good in the competition.

When called to war every citizen was expected to take part in the hostilities. It was a civic duty to fight for your city-state.

Much of the fighting was hard hand-to-hand combat, where strength and endurance were basic requirements. Fitness, it followed was highly valued. A goal to which the entire society aspired.

The ideal male, revered in life and celebrated in Greek art and sculpture was a supreme athlete with a muscular, toned body.

The Gymnasium

It was the Greeks who invented the gymnasium. Going to the gymnasium was accepted part of Greek daily life.

Every city had a municipal gymnasium at its heart. A large, well-appointed complex of buildings that male life centered around.

Most able-bodied men went every day for exercise, bathing and massage. The gymnasium’s focus was simple: the development and care of the male body.

There were baths, changing rooms, and even areas where athletes could douse themselves in olive oil. Outside areas were marked out for wrestling, strength training, javelin and discus throwing.

The activities of the gymnasium were modeled after the demands of the battlefield. Discus throwing strengthened the shield arm. The javelin was a variant of spear throwing.

Wrestling was preparation for hand-to-hand fighting. These were the core gymnasium skills from which the first Olympic game events were developed.

In the games the city-states saw a chance not only to demonstrate not just their athletic skills, but their potential prowess in battle. Events on the sports field were as hotly contested as any military encounter.

The Greeks discovered that sporting contests could act as a nonviolent way to conduct their struggles without the need to call out whole armies. A truce was called for, leading up to and including the games.

This allowed the city-states to concentrate on the contest without the distraction of a real battle. What the Olympics were really about was providing a sort of arena where the Greeks cities could slug it out without killing too many people.

There is a lot to be said for that as a justification of the games. The phrase used that George Orwell coined about sports and competition, “… that it is about war minus the shooting.”

The Olympic Games Today

The games have come a long way since the days of old. They no longer act as an alternative to war, but the competition between nations live on. At their best, they embody the noblest Greek ideals of patriotism, sportsmanship, and excellence.

Still, nearly 3,000 years later, an Olympic victory is acknowledged as the greatest of sporting achievements. Now, every 4 years, the nations of the world gather to light the Olympic flame.

As the world focuses on the pinnacles of competition, it remembers the ancient Greeks. It is unlikely the Greeks could have ever predicated their most globally recognized legacy.

It makes you wonder what we will leave behind for future generations to discover.

 

 

Alexander the Great and Philosophy

Intro

Alexander ‘the Great’ conquered half the known world by the time he was 32. His story is one of the most captivating in history. He is remembered as history’s golden boy.

He is the ultimate endowment of youth, intellect and heroism. He pursued an extraordinary destiny and burned out too soon to see what he would do next. The Greeks said, ‘Those whom the gods love best die young,’ (Gergel, 2004).

His victories against the enemies of Greece established him as a mortal demigod. He would surpass the bounds of history and legend itself.

In the space of 13 years, as a young man, he would manage to change world history. He would set a standard for the world to follow.

The Macedonians

The Macedonians were a rugged people from a mountainous region of northern Greece. They were seen as the barbarian kingdom of the Greek city-states. It was mostly a poor, farming community.

Alexander’s father Philip, created a powerful army. It was patterned after the Greek-style phalanx. His phalanx gave each hoplite a longer, 18-foot spear called a ‘Sarissa’.

The new phalanx was organized into eight to 16 rows that moved toward the enemy. Using the Sarissa it easily killed from a distance of 20 feet.

He started a full-time army so his men drilled year around. Through constant drilling he perfected the co-ordination of different troop types. This was an early example of combined arms tactics (Liddell Hart, 1956).

He used new the heavy infantry phalanx, skirmish infantry, archers, light and heavy cavalry, and siege engines were all deployed in battle. Each unit was separately and together used for its own particular advantage. It created a synergy of mutual support.

This new army crushed all opposition within Greece, including the famed Spartans (Cummins, 2009).

The Persian Threat

Across the Aegean Sea, lay the western provinces of the Persian Empire. It was the greatest power that existed in the world. It was ruled over by its king, Darius. It stretched from Upper Egypt to the Indus. It went as far north as the modern Tajik-Uzbek border and ran into the Aral Sea (Gergel, 2004).

150 years earlier the Persians had been defeated in battles at Salamis and Plataea. To the Greeks the Persian war represented a latter-day heroic age. The Greeks never forgot the desecration of their temples.

The World before Alexander’s Birth

As the Macedonians came to power in Greece they saw themselves as the avengers of Greek culture. Philip prepared and planned on mounting a war of revenge with his new powerful army (Gabriel & Boose).

By the time Alex is born there has been an entire century of war. It is between the city-states of Greece and internal struggles for power in the cities themselves.

Plato creates the swan songs of his dialogues the famous, “Laws.” In it the great scribe is deeply distressed by the civil wars. He describes the ideal city-state in the belief that this would contribute to the reconciliation of the states.

Up to the last moment of his life. He saw before him a vision of reconciliation which never came.

At the heart of this turbulent time, Alexander comes into the world.

Alexander’s Childhood- Aristotle and Olympias

In 356 BC Alexander III, is born in Pella to King Phillip II and Queen Olympias.

Two important people helped to the intellect of Alex. His mother, Olympias, and his wise teacher Aristotle.

Olympias

Olympias had an explosive temperament and sacrificed to the Olympian gods daily. She would talk to her son for hours and hours about the secret cult life of the Cabeirian mysteries, a cult she belonged to.

From his mother he learned of the allegory of metal and fire. Metals were the crude, unrefined material elements of nature. It represented coarse and simple people.

Fire was the spiritual light, which penetrates cosmic matter and the human body. That which reaches in the inner sanctum of the soul, and the mind to raise them up to be heavenly spheres. The embodiment of perfection in the spirit and intellectual form.

His mother would tell him of the heroes of Greek culture- Orpheus, Hercules, Jason Odysseus, Agamemnon, and his father Phillip were all initiated into this ideal.

From Olympias he would learn about the cult of Orpheus, his descent into Hades, the kingdom of Pluto and Persephone. The soul stirring myth of Dionysus, who brought Persephone back to life with a kiss. It was the awakening of the soul from darkness to the light. It was a metaphor on the importance of education.

A tale of the miracle of love and the unique Orphic songs all were stories about the path leading to divinity through great and heroic deeds.

Childhood

In his childhood years he learned to be pious and just- the virtues of a learned man from Greece. He learned to excel in every kind of spiritual development. His destiny was linked to his willingness to be able to submit to the wills of the gods.

He came to believe in the ideal that the most moral thing is the best shed the divine light of godliness on his soul, which passionately sought to identify with the will of the gods.

This created within him the aspiration to unite men with divinity itself. From a young age he believed that man was a part of the gods. A man could be defied as an individual who seeks to become part of universal divinity.

Olympias’ real legacy was helping Alexander to understand the power of the gods in any kind of worship and in any type of cult. This would prove crucial later as Alexander made his way east.

Alexander believed in an ideal of a universal soul, universal humanism and the world unity of the people he would conquer.

Aristotle

In the year 342 BC, Phillip of Macedonia, hired Aristotle, for a large fee, to teach young Alex philosophy.

Their discussions took place outside the sanctuary of the nymphs, near Mieza, a beautiful place with caves in the rocks. Since the time of Plutarch, it has been considered a very impressive site.

Alexander would listen to his teacher’s views and advice with profound respect, attention and admiration. Aristotle’s influence on Alexander’s mind and soul was enormous.

Esoteric Secrets

Alex was introduced to esoteric secrets and the natural events of cosmology, geography, botany, zoology and medicine. Because of this he would take scientists of all these disciplines with him on every campaign.

Alexander listened carefully to Aristotle’s discourses on logic, metaphysics, and types of poetry. The importance of politics on a local and universal level, and, above all, the nature of the soul and its essence.

Aristotle believed that man had in his nature the power to create a state. In other words, he is a political animal by nature. Man can find his true vocation through the organized state.

Alexander once asked Aristotle, “What is a state?” The teacher answered it was a complex entity composed of citizens. A citizen is an equal member who can participate governing out and meeting justice.

Alexander got an idea of creating a happier state that did away with the hunger and poor conditions he heard about from the veterans of his father’s army. This change would take place when culture and knowledge replaced misery and ignorance.

Aristotle taught Alexander that if the government and the armed forces are the same hands, Alexander saw a road of civilized conquests, which was decried by his own destiny enforced by his mother.

The defining aim of the state is the happiness of the many, Aristotle drilled into student dogmatically.

Greek Philosophy

Greek philosophical schools in Athens and Ionia taught that even one man can rectify a whole community by his example. If a man thinks he has within him the power to change the regime of the state for its citizens to have a happier and more just life, this thought is a commitment to the gods.

The man is obliged to strive for its realization.

This thought is what fueled Alex to change the world map through his conquests. The words of Aristotle describing the soul and its substance were what gave birth to the idea for Alex to turn to the east.

A Shaping of Destiny

The meeting-point between Aristotle’s words and Alex’s destiny defined the victorious army commander’s crossroads in history. What defined Alex’s “greatness” was not his conquests, but for their essence.

This transformed the conqueror into a visionary and the defeated into beneficiaries of the supreme logic of Greek philosophy.

Aristotle taught Alex that his every move should never be based on chance. Everything has an aim and man must strive to realize that aim.

In battle, he who started the first movement must define from the very outset the main aim of the attack, and its essence, both of these constitute the why and because of the battle.

Everything was defined through its esoteric essence.

The body is the rented place of the mind. Every move should have, as its defining aim, the enhancement of the soul. The body dies, but the soul remains to enter the world of the gods. At the crossroads of the suns or into Hades, the dark of Pluto.

Or- What we do life echoes in eternity!

Aristotle helped to forge the scope, speed, and brilliance of his intellect in making military decisions. At the tough battles, he waged at Gaugamela and Hydaspes he was able to make movements that would inflict damage on the enemy.

Bibliography:

Cummins, J. (2009). History’s Greatest Wars. New York : Crestline Publishing .

Gabriel, R. A., & Boose, D. W. (n.d.). The Great Battles of Antiquity A Strategic and Tactical Guide to Great Battles that Shaped the Development of War . Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press .

Gergel, T. (2004). Alexander the Great: Selected Texts from Arrian, Curtius and Plutarch . New York : Penguin Group .

Liddell Hart, B. S. (1956). Strategy. London: G. Bell & Sons .

 

 

Turning 40 at Fort Dix, NJ

Fort Dix, NJ- July 7, 2015 I turned 40 today. On the bright side of things you no longer have to worry about being middle age once you turn 40, I am officially a quadragenarian now, lol.

Odds are I will live to be double the age I am now. Good, tough genes on both sides of my family. I think your 20’s are where you learn how to be an adult and your 30’s is where you learn what you want. Maybe your 40’s are where you put it all together.

My 20’s were action packed and filled with adventure as I traveled all over the world for the first time. My 30’s were some of the same with me trying to “find myself.” I think I may be the worst example of the old adage, “All who wander are not lost,” I am still lost and looking.

At 38, I started to finally grow up. In the last six months of being 39 I did one of the greatest transformations of my life. I found love for the first time and started a new career (for the *cough* fourth time, *cough*).

The bravest thing I ever did was to start writing full-time. I am a compulsive writer and it is what I love to do most in the world, I can’t even help myself. I need to go to some meeting and say, “Hi, my name is Dom. I am a compulsive writer and I love to read books.”

Learning how to write is a great excuse to read good books, it’s how you learn to write better. My biggest regret as I didn’t have the courage to start writing earlier in my life because I was afraid to fail.

The best lesson I learned so far is how to do things even when you are afraid, I learned that in Iraq. Believe me, I am Mr. Anxiety and Make-A-Plan guy. I am always looking at all the angles, trying to figure stuff out. There is always a reason “NOT” to do something.

You should do things you love and give you pleasure. Life is short, and a little fun each day is what makes the hard work worthwhile. I see the lines around my eyes and the gray in my hair, or what’s left of it. I have a constant roll of flab around my stomach no matter how well I eat or how far I run, but what matters is that I am happy and healthy. I do need to eat more salad and less fries, something else I am working on.

I have learned that being “older” now of days is much more subjective. There are twenty-years-olds who are married with full-time jobs. There are forty-year-olds who are in graduate school, some of them living with their parents. Maybe it’s all about balance. In your 20’s, you live life without regrets. In your 30’s, you have lots of regrets.

At 40 you just learn to live life. You learn to defy labels because something has happened when all the stuff you really cared about when you younger smooths out because you realize you have some time left in the world. At 40 you are old enough to know better, but still young enough to do something about it. End of sermon.

Teaching Command & General Staff College

The class is going great. It was only the first day yesterday, but it went fantastic. We have a great group of 16 eager Majors with a wealth of experience. They are a diverse group. Most are traditional National Guardsmen and Reservists, but we have a three full-timers who are Active Guard and Reserve.

We have an attorney, a Blackhawk pilot, both females. We have a finance guy who was an Infantry Officer and now works as his state’s budget officer. Another student is a Signal Officer who is a full-time Admin Officer for his Infantry Battalion back home.

Most of them come from the Northeastern United States and up and down the East Coast. They hail from as far north as Connecticut and as far south as South Carolina.  Most of them are in their late 30’s, with a handful in their late 40’s. We have only two Combat Arms guys, the rest are Combat Service or Service Support.

One gentleman is a 58 year old Lieutenant Colonel who is a veterinarian.  He did ILE for “fun” and is signing up for more training when he gets done. He lives 20 minutes outside the back gate of Fort Dix, interesting guy. Almost all have a Master’s Degree and all but one have multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia.

They are a dynamic group and the discussion that followed in our first 45 minutes showed they are ready to work. They are a slice of America and where our army is headed. By the looks of this group the army and this country are in good hands. The state of the world is ticklish enough and no one can be sure what will happen next (what else is new?).

These fine Americans are the best we have and the future is looking bright. Let me explain a little bit about why I think that. These young men and women are veterans with lots of experience who has barely done what they were first trained for during their deployments.

We have a Signal Officer who did two tours in Iraq doing Route Reconnaissance and Convoy Security missions. We have a Military Policeman who is a State Finance Officer and an Infantry Officer that is his brigade’s Public Affairs Officer.

They are the men and women of the National Guard and Army Reserve who get vague and ambiguous missions and make it work. They straddle two worlds being “citizen-soldiers” wearing a uniform one day and a suit and tie the next.

They are the workhorse of the “ready reserve,” they are seasoned troops and commanders with loads of experience to apply to strange missions like counterinsurgency or nation-building, odd tasks we barely have names for but they get the job done.

I turned 20 at Airborne School, I turned 30 in Iraq, and I can’t think of a better place to turn 40. It is a wonderful place to be at Fort Dix and seeing these amazing Majors in action is a real privilege and pleasure.

Alexander the Great

Intro

Alexander the Great’s is one of the great stories of history. In 13 short years he created the largest empire in the entire ancient world. An empire that covered 3,000 miles.

He did this without the benefit of modern technology and weaponry. In his day, troop movements were primarily on foot, and communications were face to face. Not bad for a kid who became the King of Macedon at the age of 20.

Alexander’s Timeline:

The Boetian Plains-August 338 BC

Alexander’s debut in battle under his father King Phillip II. Alexander led the elite “Companion Calvary” to a decisive victory.

336 BC King Phillip II is assassinated and Alexander becomes the King of Macedonia.

335 BC Alexander destroys Thebes, killing over 6,000 men, women, and children.

Granicus Rover- May 334 BC

Alexander’s first battle as King. First battle with the Persians whom Alexander’s father, Phillip II had always wanted to attack, but died before doing so.

333 BC Alexander cuts the Gordian knot, fulfilling a prophecy granting him the title, ruler of Asia.

Issus- Fall 333 BC

Battle against Darius III, King of Persia. Victorious, Alexander’s men looted the Persian camp, but left his family unharmed.

332 BC Egypt surrenders to Alexander and he crowned Pharaoh in Memphis, Egypt.

Gaugamela- Fall 331 BC

King of Persia, Darius III, offered Alexander land and a daughter for marriage in return for peace, but Alexander refused.

King Darius III flees after his defeat.

331BC the Oracle at Siwa confronts Alexander as a God. His army destroys the Persians led by Darius at the Battle of Gaugamela.

330BC Alexander sacks and burns Persepolis.

327BC Alexander marries Roxanne, his first wife.

Hydaspes (Now Jhelum) River- August 327 BC

Battle against Porus, ruler of extensive territory in the Punjab in Northern India. After capturing Porus, Alexander returned his kingdom, so long as Porus remained loyal to Alexander.

This battle proved to be the end of Alexander’s dreams of world conquest when his men refused to go any further.

323BC Alexander falls ill at a celebration.

321BC Alexander’s funeral procession is hijacked.

Consequences of the Greek Invasion

The prominent commander, Ptolemy noted, the result was always as Alexander had seen it from the start of the battle. Arrianus also wrote, Alex had the wonderful power of seizing the right movement, even when the situation looked nebulous.

From the time he landed in Asia, Alexander knew that he had to create his own kingdom there in order to win the willing cooperation of his subjects. The training began with young children from Sardis, who would become soldiers in his kingdom.

He developed the rivers- the Indus, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. They became floating roadways for trade. He organized a new system of irrigation in Mesopotamia.

His capacity to think ahead of each new project were verified in shipping especially between the Persian the Gulf and Indus River delta.

Alexander as a Military Commander

Alexander had an army of 40,000 men. His army continued to change as he marched east. At any time he had 5,100 cavalry and 33,000 infantry. The basic building block of his army and main weapon was his Macedonian contingent: 1,200 Companion Calvary and 12,000 infantry.

He repeatedly demonstrated an ability to successfully fight campaigns in every theatre of war in the ancient world had to offer. His naval experience was limited to the later stages of the siege of Tyre.

His greatest trait was his ability to adapt. He continuously adapted his strategies and tactics to every emerging circumstance.

He had an ability to analyze the evolving circumstances that the Afghanistan region presented. He and changed the organization of the army to deal with the new threat of guerrilla warfare.

Alexander’s sense of timing during his set-piece battles was also remarkable.

Alexander’s fundamental tactic was to attack in more than one direction simultaneously. We see this in his set-piece battles where he times his attacks so that the Companion Cavalry strike the flank of the enemy infantry at the same time the heavy infantry attack from the front.

His use of all the technology of his day was new and innovative. From siege engines, artillery, scaling ladders along using his cavalry and infantry in a combined effort to win a battle.

His use of subordinate commanders was important. Any successful general requires his subordinates to have some measure of ability. Alexander needed his orders to be conveyed to the rank and file, and he needed them to be carried out. This would not have happed with a less talented bunch.

Alexander’s Legacy

Alex grew up in a kingdom that was continually at war. Within the depths of his soul he had to disregard any kind of danger. He was always at the forefront of every battle. His leadership was about leading by physical example.

Based on his reading of ‘The Iliad’ and the example of Achilles, he considered a real hero to be one who based glory on bravery. He believed a real leader had to set an excellent example for his men by active participation in a battle.

The Aristotelian model of heroes, which Alexander had to imitate in his life, not only to reach their level but to suppress them. Phillip, Kairos, Hercules and Dionysus all were heroes in the mind of Alexander.

At this point Arrianus writes, if he had added Europe to Asia, which he was competing with himself because there was no rival.

As he went into each new country, he brought with him Greek culture in wisdom, art, education and language. Alexander established cities in Asia whose leaders were Greeks familiar with democratic institutions and the principles of justice government.

Alexander zealously established Greek schools everywhere. In his “Ethics,” Plutarch informs us that when Alexander died, the procedure of new schools was already under way. Greek culture was spreading to a new generation.

Alexander brought civilization to Asia, the reading material in the elementary schools was the epics of Homer. The works of Sophocles and Euripides were studied by teenagers.

Alexander was the bearer of Greek civilization. His influence in education left its mark on the people he conquered.

How he is remembered by history

Alexander’s empire left strange debris in its wake: lost cities, blue-eyed Indians, exotic treasures, and ancient manuscripts. His story is told over and over again in songs, poems, myths and legends.

He is remembered in the as a scourge in the biblical Book of Daniel as the ‘Third Beast who unleashes a bloody tide of humanity. In the Koran, he is the mysterious avenger of the ‘Two-Horned One’ who builds a magical wall to keep out Gog and Magog. They are the evil ones who will ravage the Satan in man’s last days.

He is the subject of desire, fantasy and fear in almost every culture he touched. He is the embodiment of manifest destiny. A real-life Superman who achieved anything beyond his wildest on a scale never seen before or since.

Alexander’s campaign was the first globalizing experience of the ancient world. As a result of his conquests Greek art and thought accelerated and deepened the exchange of ideas. All of this was done in the heartland of civilization.

Bibliography:

Cummins, J. (2009). History’s Greatest Wars. New York : Crestline Publishing .

Gabriel, R. A., & Boose, D. W. (n.d.). The Great Battles of Antiquity A Strategic and Tactical Guide to Great Battles that Shaped the Development of War . Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press .

Gergel, T. (2004). Alexander the Great: Selected Texts from Arrian, Curtius and Plutarch . New York : Penguin Group .

Liddell Hart, B. S. (1956). Strategy. London: G. Bell & Sons .