Alexander the Great
In the history of each state, there are individuals who are destined to change the fate of the entire nation. Although Alexander the Great was a particularly controversial figure in world history, he managed to prove his leadership qualities to the whole world. The personality of Alexander the Great, as well as his brilliant military successes, has made a great impression on his contemporaries and the following generations. The acknowledged artists dedicated their masterpieces, including the poems, paintings, and novels, to the feats of this brave man. The contemporaries believed that Alexander the Great was a wise and persistent ruler whose contradictory character combined generosity and cruelty, cold calculation and ardent temperament, indomitable will and ability to maneuver. Being a great king, he was able to face the most difficult challenges with dignity and perseverance. Thus, this paper will analyze the personality of Alexander the Great and explore why this man is considered a significant historical figure.
Alexander was born on July 20, 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia, in the family of the Macedonian king Philip II and a beautiful woman Olympia, the daughter of King of Epirus Neoptolemus I. The dark-eyed and curly-haired boy hardly saw his father because the king spent his entire life in military campaigns. Thus, it was a loving mother, who served as the role model for Alexander. A little boy loved Olympia and inherited many positive features from her, including her enthusiasm and deep feelings. Noteworthy, these qualities distinguished Alexander from the other historical figures. Even being a child, Alexander was characterized by his boundless ambitions, courage, and faith in his strength. Following the example of his father, he sought military glory. Significantly, Alexander’s courage manifested itself in early adolescence. The history knows the moment when Philip II was going to purchase a horse called Bucephalus. When the king came closer to the animal, it turned out to be wild and wayward, constantly getting up on its hind legs, hitting its hooves and biting anyone who dared to touch it. Philip decided that there was no need to buy such a wild animal and just wanted to go while a fourteen-year-old Alexander claimed that he would manage to curb the horse. Initially, Philip was angry at the audacity of the boy, but soon he wanted to see how his son would tame Bucephalus. Alexander boldly went to the horse, grabbed him by the bridle and turned against the sun. He noted previously that the animal was frightened of its own shadow. Then the young man spent some time near the horse letting the animal get used to him. After noticing that the horse was tired and it began to breathe heavily, Alexander jumped up on it. When the animal became accustomed to the rider, the boy made it obey him. In such a way, a brave boy tamed Bucephalus, which later became the best friend of the Great Conqueror in all his campaigns. This moment serves as a brilliant example of Alexander’s character and perseverance.
Philip II trusted the education of his son to the greatest contemporary philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle not only managed to teach the young boy the military service but also involved the future king in medicine and natural sciences. In addition, the young boy was good at archery, math, horsemanship, etc. Alexander liked reading, and he dedicated all his free time to this hobby. Most of all, he loved the stories about the brave warriors who defended their native land or traveled pursuing a happier fate. As for motivation, Alexander considered Achilles as the best example of a strong and skillful warrior. Overall, he considered the books as useful manuals during the war.
Alexander was only twenty years old when his father died, and he became the ruler of Macedonia. It was the dark period for the state since it was in danger from different sides. In the north, it suffered from the rebellion of the Thracian tribes while in the south, the Greek nation, conquered by Philip, was preparing to regain its freedom. First and foremost, Alexander rushed to the north. In several battles, he pacified the rebellious Thracians. After that, the king turned against the Greeks. Macedonians have rushed into central Greece and besieged the city of Thebes, which, along with Athens, led the Greek uprising against the Macedonian domination. In spite of the heroic resistance of the Thebans, the city was taken and destroyed. All its residents, except for the supporters of the Macedonian king, were turned into slaves. It was a terrible example of what Alexander was going to do with the states, which dared to oppose him. After making sure that the Greeks were reconciled with the Macedonian domination, Alexander united all the representatives from the Greek states and invited them to declare the war with the Persians. Having no other choice, the Greeks were forced to accept the king’s plan. Alexander’s army was perfectly organized and trained. The fighting qualities of Alexander’s soldiers were much better than the Persians’ craft, and Alexander triumphed on this land. The following campaigns to Central Asia, India, and Egypt were successful as well. When in 331 BC Alexander went to Egypt to prove his power, the country fell without resistance. In 331 BC, Alexander the Great created the new city Alexandria, which was designed as a hub for Greek commerce and culture. David Lonsdale (2007) points out that “Alexandria in Egypt was an outlet for the rich produce of Egypt, Sudan, and Libya” (54).
After the end of all the hostilities, the victorious Alexander had a particularly difficult task – to keep the enormous power in his hands. The wise man realized that to do this effectively, he needed to consolidate his power over the vast empire, organize effective management, and establish friendly relations between the Greeks as well as people from the eastern part of the new monarchy. Significantly, after reaching success in numerous battles, Alexander wanted to reach the world’s oceans, but his army rebelled. The Macedonians did not want to fight anymore, and they demanded to return to their homeland. The exhausted soldiers accused their king of excessive thirst for wealth and glory. Due to this, Alexander the Great had to give in even though he reached only half of the world and dreamed of getting more.
Analyzing the life and military activity of Alexander, Richard Stoneman claims, “from the outset of his career; Alexander is the destined conqueror and his overcoming king after king is no surprise” (xxii). Although the state he created disintegrated shortly after his death, his conquests initiated the era of Hellenism. They created the conditions for the Greek-Macedonian colonization of the Middle East and Central Asia and contributed to the intensive cultural interaction of Greek and Oriental civilizations. As for the other major accomplishments, Lance Kurke (2004) mentions that Alexander “invaded and conquered Asia Minor, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Middle East, the Persian Empire, Afghanistan, Sogdiana, Bactria; and invaded India.” Moreover, Alexander the Great is known for fighting in four great battles: Granicus (334 BC), Issus (333 BC), Gaugamela (331 BC), and Hydaspes (326 BC). In these bloody battles, he was wounded numerous times, among which three times were nearly fatal, but his thirst for life helped him survive and achieve impressive success.
Undoubtedly, Alexander was one of the greatest world generals and warriors. His profound knowledge of medicine helped him provide medical assistance to his soldiers. In the battlefields, he always fought in the forefront, and he never hid behind the shoulders of his men. However, it was not the army, but his wise politics that made him a great ruler. Thus, his power was based on a sober analysis of the existing conditions, as well as finding effective solutions. Being guided by the practical considerations, Alexander adopted some characteristics of Persian Empire management. Significantly, he refused to turn Asia into the province of the Macedonian Empire. Instead, he built a friendly relationship with the local nobility and provided these people with the places in the army and government. Unlike his predecessors, Alexander treated the inhabitants of the conquered land not as a cruel conqueror but as the rightful ruler of the state respecting their traditions. It should be mentioned that some soldiers did not approve of his desire to follow the Orient culture and traditions. Undoubtedly, a wise ruler understood that religion was the ultimate power that could help unite different nations as well as different communities within one country. David Lonsdale (2007) reasonably states that “In addition to his political actions, another important component of Alexander’s strive for stability was religious policy” (53). Alexander believed that religion was a powerful tool, which could help him stable his nation. Thus, this wise ruler is also known for his sensitivity to the local religious practices. When Alexander died, his empire collapsed as there was not such a strong man who could unite several countries with different cultures and traditions. “Alexander had conquered the Persian Empire, traveled farther east than the god Dionysus, and survived a multitude of war wounds” (O’Connor 35), but, unfortunately, he failed to leave a descendant who could continue his father’s politics.
In conclusion, it should be stated that Alexander’s personality is woven with contradictions. On the one hand, he was a brilliant commander, brave soldier, well-educated man, an admirer of art and literature. On the other hand, he was an immensely ambitious, cruel conqueror and autocratic despot, who considered himself a god. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the historical significance of the activities of Alexander the Great is enormous, and his military achievements served as excellent examples for the following generations of warriors.