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Alexander III (Alexandros)

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Alexander III
Basileus of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League

Alexander the Great mosaic.jpg
Mosaic of Alexander's charge during the Battle of the Granicus.
King of Makedon
Reign 336 – 334 BC
Predecessor Philip II
Successor Hephaestion
Hegemon of the Hellenic League
Predecessor Philip II
Successor Antipater (disputed)

Hephaestion

Full name
Alexander III of Macedon
Greek
  • Aléxandros
Dynasty Argeads
Father Philip II of Macedon
Mother Olympias
Born 21 July, 356 BC
Pella, Macedon
Died May, 334 BC (Aged 22)
Granicus River, Anatolia


Burial Pella, Macedon
Religion Greek polytheism

Alexander III of Macedon (Greek: Aléxandros; 21 July 356 – May 334 BC), was a King of the ancient Hellenic kingdom of Macedon, and a member of the Argead dynasty. Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander became king after the assassination of his father, Phillip II, ascending to the throne at the age of twenty. Alexander spent the first two years of his rule consolidating power in Macedon and undertaking several successful military campaigns. This continued until 334 BC, when Alexander launched an invasion of Persia and was killed at the Battle of the Granicus, in Anatolia.

While still a youth, Alexander was tutored by the philosopher Aristotle until Alexander was 16 years of age. Shortly following his father's assassination in 336 BC, Alexander succeeded his father to the throne of Macedon, with a now hardened and prepared military force. He would then shortly attempt to invade the Achaemenid Empire in order to exact revenge for what the Persians did to Greece in the Greco-Persian Wars. However, with the abrupt end of Alexander's life, so did his dreams. The Macedonian power structure soon fell into disunity and needed to return to Macedonia, starting the Macedonian Succession Crisis.

Early Life

Main Article: Alexander III of Macedon's Early Life

Accession

In 336 BC, Philip II of Macedon was beginning preparations for a Greek invasion of Persia. While in Aigai, the old, ancient capital of Macedon, attending the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra. Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguard, Pausanias. The Macedonian army and noblemen declared Philip's son Alexander to be his successor, and Alexander was proclaimed king of Macedon.

File:Map of the Balkans at Philip II's Death.png

Potential rivals to Alexander's throne were murdered, including his cousin Amyntas IV, as well as two Macedonian princes. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and her daughter by Philip, Europa, burned alive, which made Alexander furious at his mother. Alexander also had Attalus murdered, who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor. Attalus was probably viewed too powerful to be left alive by Alexander. The only possible threat to the throne spared by Alexander was his half brother, Arrhidaeus, who was mentally disabled.

When the other nations of Greece learned of Philip's death they entered into a state of rebellion against Alexander. This included Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the Thracian tribes to the north of Macedon, which sought to be freed of Macedonian influence. Alexander's advisers cautioned the young king by recommending he use diplomacy to subdue the Greeks. This was ignored by Alexander, who mustered an army of 3,000 Macedonian cavalry and rode south into Thessaly. The Thessalian army had garrisoned in the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, and Alexander had his men ride over Mount Ossa to launch a surprise attack on the defending Greeks. When the Thessalian army awoke the next morning they found Alexander to their rear and surrendered, their cavalry joining Alexander's force as he rode down towards the Peloponnese. Alexander rode on to Thermopylae, before heading south for Corinth, where he received the title of Hegemon. After crossing into the Peloponnese the city of Athens sued for peace with Alexander. Alexander was appointed commander of the upcoming war with Persia, succeeding his father as commander of the Greek army.

Military Campaigns

Balkan Expedition

With the majority of the Greek states now under Alexander's control, he embarked on a campaign in the Balkans to pacify the region and to ensure his border would be safeguarded during his invasion of Persia. With an army of 2,000 heavy infantry, 8,000 light infantry, and 3,000 cavalry, Alexander first marched into Thrace, to deal with revolts from the native Illyrians. Alexander's forces marched on, where they engaged a Thracian garrison stationed on the mountainside. The defending Thracian army had constructed a defensive wall out of carts, which they intended to throw upon the Macedonians as they approached. Alexander ordered his heavy infantry to proceed up the hill, and when the carts were released, to either jump to the side or duck underneath the carts. At the same time the Macedonian archers opened fire upon the defender's position. With the hill clear to advance up, the Macedonian infantry proceeded toward the defensive positions causing the Thracians to rout.

As the battle was breaking out, King Syrmus of the Triballi had arrived with a large army intending to advance against the Macedonian rear. The Triballi were unable to penetrate the enemy lines and retreated to the gorge, before being drawn back out by Alexander's light infantry. As they proceeded back into the open battlefield the Triballi were crushed by Alexander's forces, leaving an estimated 3,000 dead.

With the battle against the Thracians and Triballi over, the Macedonians marched to the Danube River, where they encountered the Getae tribe waiting on the opposite shore. Alexander's ships failed to enter the river, so instead Alexander's army constructed rafts out of their leather tents, transporting a force of 4,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry across the river. The Getae army, numbering about 14,000 men in size, retreated after the Macedonian cavalry engaged them, leaving their town to be taken by the Macedonian army, which successfully ended Alexander's first campaign.

Alexander's Campaign in Anatolia

With Greece and the Balkans secured under the rule of Alexander, he set out on an expedition into Anatolia, the result of years of planning, first begun by his father Philip II. Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Anatolia, with the army of Macedon being transported by over one hundred triremes. This movement was initially ignored by the Persians, who were hesitant to act. For the first three months of Alexander's invasion he was not taken seriously by the Persians, and Darius refused to mount a serious offensive against him. Scorched earth tactics were proposed by Memnon of Rhodes, a Greek mercenary aligned with the Persians, advocating for the destruction of Persian lands in front of Alexander, so that his army would starve and he would be forced to retreat back to Greece, a Scorched earth policy. But the noble satraps of Anatolia refused to pillage their own land. Alexander continued to advance into Persian territory, and eventually Darius appointed Memnon the head of an army to meet Alexander on the battlefield, hoping that a confrontation would lead to his defeat.

In May, 334 BC Alexander's forces met Memnon on the battlefield, at the Battle of the Granicus in northwestern Anatolia, near the site of Troy. Alexander had advanced up the road to the capital of the satrapy of Phrygia, causing the various satraps of the Anatolia to gather their forces for battle near the village of Zelea, which would allow them to use the banks of the Granicus River as cover against Alexander's attack. Instead Alexander sought to use the river banks to minimize the effectiveness of the Persian numbers, and to limit the ability of their deadly chariots, which were far less effective in cramped, muddy river banks.

At the beginning of the battle the Persians positioned their cavalry in front of their infantry, assembling on the east bank of the river. The Macedonian line consisted of heavy phalanxes in their center, with cavalry on either side. Expecting the main Macedonian attack to originate from Alexander's position, the Persians moved a large amount of their forces from their center to their flank facing Alexander, to defend against his inevitable attack.

Despite advice to cross the river upstream and attack the Persians at dawn the next day, Alexander attacked the Persians immediately, catching the Persians off guard. The Macedonians began the attack with an assault of cavalry and light infantry from the Macedonian left, causing the Persians to respond by heavily fortifying that section of their lines. With the Persian forces now concentrated to one side, Alexander led a charge of the horse companions in a classic wedge-shape, and smashed into the center of the Persian line. Initially this attack was successful, and Alexander and his bodyguards were able to cut down a large number of Persian officers and soldiers, but ultimately their charge would leave them cut off from the rest of the Macedonian army.

Death

In this moment of isolation from the main line, Alexander was struck by a Persian nobleman named Spithridates, leaving him temporarily disoriented and susceptible to attack. On Spithridates' second swing he would successfully kill Alexander, causing his cavalry to rout with heavy casualties. The Persian cavalry charged into battle, attacking many of the fleeing Macedonians, ultimately causing the entire Macedonian army to rout. The battle would prove a decisive Persian victory, with the remaining Macedonian forces fleeing back to Greece.

Succession

Following the death of Alexander III of Macedon at the Battle of the Granicus, the Kingdom of Macedon was left without any direct heir, as Alexander had no children, having died at a very young age. Alexander's body was carried back to Macedon, where he was to be buried in a modest tomb with his father Philip II, in Pella. Numerous generals quarreled for control of Alexander's army, with the majority of his forces recognizing Alexander's friend and general Hephaestion as leader. Under Hephaestion's leadership the army of Macedon retreated back into Greece.

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