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.
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.
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.
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 .