Alexander III of Macedon (356 BC-311 BC), more commonly known as Alexander the Great (Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας, Aléxandros ho Mégas) was the King of Macedon from 336 BC until his death in 311 BC. He is most remembered for his massive campaigns in Egypt, Asia, Arabia, and Italy, orchestrating the downfall of the Persian Empire and the Roman Republic. He is considered to be one of the greatest tacticians and generals in history. His effect on the world, both in Asia and in Europe, is undeniable. Over thirty cities have been named after Alexander with many more being named after his generals and even his legendary horse, Bucephalus.
Born to King Phillip II of Macedon in 356 BC in Pella, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16 before joining Phillip II in his conquest of the Balkan Peninsula. Alexander proved his leadership ability at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. After the assassination of Phillip II in 336 BC, Alexander became the King of Macedon, leading a valiant crusade against the Persian Empire and Egypt. This crusade led to the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire and the Persian Empire. Egypt and the Indus River region were under Alexander's control by 324 BC, only ten years into his reign. Despite being at odds with generals at times, he was able to conquer the Arabian Peninsula in 318 BC before taking much of Italy before his death in 311 BC.
Prince of Macedon
Alexander III was born on or around 20 July, 356 BC in Pella, the capital of ancient Macedon to King Philip II of and Olympias. The birth of Alexander the Great is shrouded by legend due to his claims to have been the son of Zeus. Philip II had multiple wives at the time of Alexander's birth, though Olympias became his 'primary wife' due to her being the mother of Philip II's heir.
Alexander received his horse, Bucephalus, at the age of ten after taming the scared animal. This horse would follow him throughout his journeys until Bucephalus died of old age in India. The young Alexander was tutored by many family friends from Epirus and allies around the northern Greek world. Perhaps the most notable of these tutors was the great philosopher, Aristotle. Alexander was tutored by Aristotle at the age of 13. When Alexander turned 16, his tutorship under Aristotle ended. After this tutorship was over, Alexander became the regent and heir apparent of Macedon due to Philip II being away at war with Byzantion.
As the regent, Alexander III put down a rebellion in Tracia and renamed it Alexandropolis. Philip II was pleased at his son's work upon his return and the two worked together to put down rebellions in their realm. Alexander III was responsible for leading armies when the Illyrians invaded. Perhaps Alexander's greatest feat of ingenuity early on was at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Alexander accompanied Philip II during much of his conquest of the Greek world.
Upon Philip II's return to Pella, he fell in love with Cleopatra Eurydice, whom he later married. Due to Cleopatra Eurydice being Macedonian, any son produced by her would challenge Alexander's position as heir of the Macedonian throne. After an altercation with his drunken father, Alexander fled Macedon with his mother for six months, hiding in Illyria. Upon his return, Alexander learned that Philip II never wanted to disown Alexander III, who had already been trained.
In 336 BC, assassins struck at the wedding of Cleopatra of Macedon, the sister of Alexander and the daughter of Philip II. The captain of Philip II's bodyguards, Pausanias. This left Alexander as the King of Macedon and its armies at the age of 20.
Alexander intended to march on the Persians, hoping for revenge over the past wars between the Greek world and the Persian Empire. Before doing so, Alexander worked to strengthen his northern border. He also ensured his survival and security of his rule by ordering the assassination of several of his father's generals and Alexander's rivals. Upon the death of Philip II, several states revolted against Macedonian rule, prompting Alexander III to reassert rule over these nations. Among these states were Athens and Thessaly.
Alexander quickly responded to these rebellions with force. He first invaded Thessalyes with 3000 cavalry. He rode around the Thessalian army and attacked the city from the rear, forcing their capitulation. He then marched on Athens, though the city state quickly sued for peace. Upon reaching Corinth, Alexander assumed the title of Hegemon much like his father.
Alexander spent roughly two years trying to establish his Balkan border and put down intermittent rebellions from Athens and Thebes.
First Alexandrian Crusade
War With Persia
In 334 BC, Alexander invaded the Persian Empire through the Hellespont with over 50,000 soldiers at his side. Later that year, the Battle of Granicus, one of three major battles fought between Alexander and Persia, occurred in northern Asia Minor. Macedon outnumbered their enemy severely, leading to a complete victory. Macedon only lost about 300-400 men in this battle whereas the Persians lost upwards of 3000 men. With this battle, Alexander won roughly half of the entirety of Asia Minor. His subsequent invasions of the Ionian coast led to a complete Macedonian takeover of Asia Minor.
After the invasion of Asia Minor, Alexander worked to invade Syria and the Levant. The king of Persia, Darius III, mounted a counterattack at Issus in 333 BC, though the Macedonians easily defeated the armies of Persia despite being outnumbered by over 10,000 troops. Their defeat led to Darius III retreating from battle, abandoning his family and a large sum of money. Darius attempted to negotiate peace, but Alexander refused, stating that he decided what happened to Persian territories since he was the king of Asia. The Battle of Issus secured the lower half of Asia Minor for Alexander and the Macedonians. Alexander then rode for Tyre, besieging it for seven months before building a ramp into the city over the fortifications to allow his troops to pour in and take the city in 332 BC.
With the Battle of Tyre, Persia had lost the Levant to the Macedonians, who then rode on Egypt. Most of the towns encountered by Macedon offered minimal resistance in the face of Alexander's army. Gaza was the only exception. The town was taken by Alexander, though the Macedonian king received a vicious shoulder wound at the hands of the fortified stronghold of Gaza. Still, he pressed on to Egypt.
The Egyptians were pleased with Alexander's arrival, believing him to be liberating them from the Persians. They put up little resistance. Whilst in Egypt, Alexander visited the Oracle of Siwa-Oasis where he claimed he was the son of Zeus and had been pronounced "Master of the Universe" by the Egyptian sun-god Amun. Alexander also founded the well-known city of Alexandria in northern Egypt.
Alexander left Egypt in 331 BC and invaded Mesopotamia. The most notable battle during his invasion of Mesopotamia occurred at Gaugamela where Alexander's forces once again met the forces of Darius III. The Macedonian army triumphed over the Persian armies. Babylon was captured and Darius III fled to Ecbatana. Alexander chased the king throughout his shattered empire, winning the Battle of the Persian Gate and effectively conquering the Persian Empire in 330 BC, only four years after his initial invasion in 334 BC. Alexander and his forces stayed at Perseopolis for five months before burning it down.
While on the run, Darius III was betrayed by the Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, who killed him as Alexander approached the Persian king before fleeing from the Macedonians. Alexander took this opportunity to claim that Darius III had named Alexander his successor as he died. While chasing Bessus, Alexander, now the king of Persia, carved a huge swath of land in Central Asia for Macedon and for himself, naming several cities after himself while fighting in the region. Bessus was eventually betrayed and captured by Ptolemy, who executed Bessus in 329 BC.
As the ruler of Persia, Alexander worked to integrate the Persian Empire into the Macedonian Empire, appointing satraps and allowing Persia to keep its old way of life. He named himself the King of Kings. In an effort to appease the Persians, he began integrating Persian methods into his court, though this led to controversy among the Macedonians, forcing Alexander to cease their practice. Some conspiracies arose as generals worked to take Alexander down. The Macedonian king was able to stop these conspiracies, but his still had critics among his generals. One of the most noted critics was Cleitus the Black who famously spoke his mind at a banquet in 328 BC.
Wars in India
Once the conspiracies against Alexander were over, he married Roxana, who worked to consolidate Alexander's relationships with his new satrapies. Upon seeing that his position in Persia was secure, Alexander invaded the Indian subcontinent, working with some tribes and against others to invade the northern Indian regions. Most notably, he called the former chieftains of Gandhara to submit to his rule. While some accepted his rule, some tribes, notably the Kamboja, refused. Alexander invaded the tribes that refused in 327 BC and 326 BC. The tribes put up quite a fight at the fortress Massaga.
Though Alexander was injured during the battle, he and his forces managed to level the city of Massaga after days of conflict. Ora and Aornos met the same fate, their inhabitants slaughtered and their buildings burned. After taking these cities, Alexander crossed the Indus river into the Punjab region to take on the empires of India in 326 BC. He met King Poros in battle at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. This bloody battle was the costliest battle fought by the Macedonians under Alexander up to that point. Bucephalus, Alexander's famed horse, died in this battle. Alexander was so impressed with the valiance of King Poros that he named him a satrapy of the region. In doing so, he allowed a native to rule the satrapy, improving his relationship with the Indians and preventing a rebellion that would have likely occurred had a Macedonian been appointed as a satrap of the region.
Alexander prepared to march east on the Gangaridai Empire, but his army refused to travel any further. General Coenus urged Alexander to allow the Macedonians to return home. Alexander grudgingly accepted, marching his forces through a safer region than he had in OTL, thus preventing further mutinies. As he marched through Persia, he had discovered that several of his generals and satraps in Persia had misbehaved. He sent a detachment of forces to take care of these satraps before they rejoined Alexander at Babylon.
Second Alexandrian Crusade
Resting in Babylon
Alexander arrived in Babylon in 323 BC. There, he took time to recover from several of his injuries sustained at Punjab. From Babylon, Alexander plotted a new conquest: the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula, an area that had remained largely untouched by the civilized world thus far. While at Babylon, Alexander and Roxana bore a son named Alexander IV. The Macedonian king took time to be with his wife and child while, at the same time, instituting reforms allowing injured veterans and older soldiers to return to Macedon. Thanks to his clarity of mind, Alexander was sure to word this act well, preventing misunderstanding by his troops.
In 322 BC, Alexander chose to ride on the Arabian Peninsula, placing his son under the care of Roxana.
Conquering ArabiaIn 322 BC, Alexander marched on Arabia from Babylon, taking an army of 32,000 people with him. This somewhat smaller army utilized Persian horses and employed Persian Horse Archers as mercenaries in order to quickly march through the largely arid peninsula. The initial march into Arabia saw Alexander push into Gerrha, a city along the western coast of Arabia. Gerrha was a trading city that had begun to falter since the fall of the Persian Empire. Siege tactics on Gerrha combined with their already deteriorating state quickly led to the surrender of Gerrha before the end of 322 BC. Alexander marched into Gerrha and claimed it as Macedonian territory.
In 321, Alexander's forces moved on to Mascat territory. The Mascati people were largely disorganized compared to Alexander's previous foes. According to a formerly-Persian General known only as Apax, "They were hardly worthy of our time. Their soldiers fled like children, their kings wailed like infants. Why he intended to waste our time slaughtering these people is not known to me. Yet he butchers them like sport. His true spear arm strikes at these men, if they can be called such a thing, his face ringing of glee at times. I find myself worried by his zeal. I consider how many other people this man has slain for sport. Surely my own people were met with a dignified end?" By 320 BC, the Mascati people had capitulated. Mascat and Gerrha were combined into one satrapy known as Erembi Anatolia (East Arabia). Alexander named himself King of Arabia in Gerrha before continuing his invasion of Arabia.
Skimming the southern border of Arabia, the Macedonians suffered attrition. The Hadhramauti people lived in this region and had launched a series of guerrilla-like attacks on the Macedonians. Though Macedon conquered the region quickly, over one-tenth of Alexander's men had perished due to attrition in the desert and Hadramauti attacks. At the Battle of Saba in 319 BC, Alexander's forces reigned supreme. They hugged a somewhat more fertile coastline as they marched north, this time along the western Arabian coast. Erembi Eoperioz (West Arabia) was established as a new satrapy.
By 318 BC, Macedon had nearly entirely circumnavigated the entire Arabian peninsula. One last obstacle remained, however; the Nabateans. The Nabateans had already defended against an unsuccessful Macedonian attack already. Some troops believed that the Nabateans should be avoided. Alexander took this as a personal challenge. He marched into Nabatean territory, pushing them back to the ancient city of Petra by mid 318 BC. The Macedonians took heavy losses during the siege of Petra. During the final push, the Macedonian lines were initially scattered. Alexander himself lost his horse. According to legend, he quickly mounted a Persian horse that had lost its owner and continued to ride on Petra, striking down Ammoxiopho in the heat of combat. Seeing their ruler dead, the Nabateans quickly surrendered. Alexander kept the new horse, alleging that Zeus himself commanded Alexander to ride 'this horse of victory'. The horse was named Ferruskelos (Iron Legs).
Though Arabia was captured, Alexander's forces were weary and angry by the end of the march on Arabia. Almost every Persian mercenary that had worked with Alexander swore to never again march with him. Alexander had started with 32,000 soldiers. He returned with only 17,000.
Stay in Pella
After the invasion of Arabia, Alexander himself was somewhat demoralized. He chose to take Roxanne and his son to Pella to live in peace. He intended to tour the empire once every five years to ensure the satraps were performing to Alexander's specifications. In 317 BC, he 'retired' to his palace in the capital of Macedon. It was the first time in nearly two decades since he had returned to Greece. During his stay in Pella, Alexander took to a more political life. He announced Alexander IV as his heir and took a less involved approach. Some believed that it was due to an injury sustained at the Battle of Petra, a belief that has continued to modern day.
Athens rebelled once again in 316 BC. Before more city-states could rebel with it, Alexander quickly put the rebellion down. As punishment, he conscripted the entire male population of Athens between the ages of 16 and 25 into the Macedonian military. In 315 BC, Alexander's retirement became short-lived. According to Alexander, he became restless at times, believing that he should still be conquering for Macedon. He mustered a force of 35,000 men and marched on Illyria. Many of these men were Athenians that had been conscripted into the military.
Third Alexandrian Crusade
Invasion of Illyria
The invasion of Illyria was a controversial topic at first amongst the Macedonian generals. They were unwilling to launch another massive crusade under Alexander and considered revolting. Alexander, however, assured them that the invasion was simply to secure their Western dominance and prevent incursions from the area. Still, many generals chose not to follow him. Others, such as Menander, had fought alongside Alexander during his wars in the east. Others were new generals that Alexander had not worked with before, such as Leonnander and Attaltus. Alexander's absence was a period of political intrigue. Before leaving, Alexander is believed to have instructed Roxanna with taking out several generals that had loudly voiced their opposition. By her death in c.310 BC, over two dozen political opponents had been murdered, either by Roxanna or by her servants.
In 315 BC, Alexander and his forces marched on the city states around the twin Prespes lakes. Fearing a Macedonian attack, these city states mounted a large defense, though many others accepted Macedonian reign. The city of Dassaretis offered Macedon passage to Pelion, a city state that refused to surrender to Macedon. The Macedonians invaded the city state at the Battle of the Prespes, where the city-state was aided by multiple other city states in its defense. Macedon was forced to retreat to Dassaretis, which soon revolted upon seeing that the Macedonians could be defeated by Greeks. The Battle of Dassaretis was a Macedonian victory, but the city was nearly completely leveled by Macedonian forces. Alexander enlisted the assistance of Epirus, which donated forces to Macedon in exchange for a sizeable sum of gold from Macedon's treasury. The offer was accepted and Macedon gained an alliance in the war against the Illyrians.
The Macedonians overcame their obstacles in late 315 BC at the Battle of Pelion. The battle was a Macedonian victory and resulted in the city being burned to the ground. The surrounding city states threw down their arms and swore fealty to Alexander and his empire, save for the city of Demastion, which was not Greek. The Macedonians triumphed at the Battle of Demastion, proving to the Illyrians that allies would be required if they wished to succeed against Macedon. Within months, the Illyrian League was formed, with Epidamnos at its head. The Illyrian League routed the Macedonian expansion in the area at the Battle of Apollonia in 314 BC.
After the Battle of Appolonia, the Illyrian League requested peace from Macedon in exchange for assistance in Epidamos' wars. Macedon accepted due to the fact that the Illyrians' foes were technically Macedon's forces as well. In March 314, the Illyrian League and Macedon marched on the Bryges before launching a year-long campaign to invade the rest of Illyria. During these two years, the Illyrian League gained territory along the coastline as far north as Daorsi.
Macedon's battles in the area were defined by their defeat of many powerful nations in the area, especially the Delmate. By 313 BC, Macedon had reached the Adriatic Veneti's territory. Veneti refugees fled to the island of Venice where a detachment of Macedonians reached the island by boat. The scared inhabitants surrendered almost immediately. Alexander spared them and saw promise in their town. He renamed it Alexandria on the Adriatic and, from there, plotted his conquest of Italia.
Invasion of Italia
In 313 BC, Alexander proclaimed himself King of Italia and invaded the peninsula. The generally accepted date of his invasion is in the summer of 313 BC, when he crossed into Italia at the Battle of Spica. This invasion angered the native peoples of Picentus, which prompted a Macedonian invasion of the region. Picentus quickly fell to the Macedonians, scaring the Etruscans, though they were distracted by a war with Rome. Umbria, on the other hand, resisted Macedon, prompting a year-long invasion of Umbria by Maceon. Similarly, Rome feared for its existence. Despite efforts from the Roman senate to cease their war with the Etruscans, the war continued until Macedon offered the Etruscans an ultimatum: swear fealty or die.
The Etruscans chose the former, joining the Macedonians as an ally in order to vanquish Rome. The Roman Republic was offered the same deal. Consul Valerius Maximus Corvus believed that Rome should take the offer, though Consul Publius Decimus Mus believed that Rome should fight. He is quoted as saying, "Virtus aut mortem." He rallied the senate to make a wartime ally with the Samnites. The Roman Senate voted to deny the Macedonian ultimatum, sending every cohort they had to meet Macedon's forces. At the Battle of Lake Bracchiano, the Romans defeated a joint Macedonian-Epirus invasion and routed Macedon to the Appenine mountains.
In late 312 BC, Macedon invaded Rome from the east, Epirus invading from the north. The city held for seven months before a ramp was built over the Servian Walls. Macedonians poured into the city of Rome, conquering the Roman Republic. The Macedonians were depicted as being brutal in their methods. Much of Rome was burned, though parts remained. Like Alexandria on the Adriatic, Rome became an important city for Alexander's conquests, signifying his victory in the Italian peninsula. He stayed in Rome for months, falling in love with Tatiana of Roma and marrying her mere weeks after conquering Rome. During his wedding celebration, Alexander fell ill.
In the hours after his wedding ceremony, Alexander's illness became more pronounced. He became progressively worse before being found dead in his chambers the next morning in a pool of vomit. He was proclaimed dead, ending his rule in April 311 BC. Poison was instantly suspected, though many of Macedonian generals mourned his death for the sake of their nation, not the sake of Alexander himself. His body was returned to Pella where he was buried. Alexander IV succeeded his father as king of Macedon and its realms. When rebellions and invasions occurred, Alexander IV was blamed. Upset by this, in 307 BC, he took his own life, sparking the Diadochi Wars.
LegacyDue to Alexander producing an heir relatively late in his life and expanding too quickly, revolts and rebellions occurred throughout his Empire, shaking it apart in a series of wars that lasted centuries known as the Diadochi wars. Due to his son's suicide, the empire completely shattered. The feeble-minded Philip III of Macedon became the king of Macedon thereafter. Macedon never regained its lost territories.
Alexander's conquests in the East and in the West changed the respective areas culturally forever. The successor kingdoms that remained after the death of Alexander IV were responsible for bringing much Macedonian and Greek heritage to the areas. The Seleucid dynasty fused Persian and Greek ideals, for example. In the west, an amalgamation of Roman and Greek government ideas in the Attaltic Republic. Such a massive conquest not only led to the spread of Greek culture, it also made Greek a very widely-spoken language throughout the Mediterranean as well as the former Persian Empire. It reshaped Western politics and set the tone for world history. The Hellenic religion spread as far as Iberia, though it was overtaken by Christianity centuries later.