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Alexanders empire

Alexander's Empire

The ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, situated in the north of modern Greece,

was established by Perdiccas I about 640 B.C. Perdiccas was a Dorian, although

the Macedonian tribes included Thracian and Illyrian elements. Originally a

semibarbarous and fragmented power, Macedon became tributary to Persia under the

Persian kings Darius I and Xerxes I and thereafter struggled to maintain itself

against Thracians and other barbarians and against the Greek cities of the

Chalcidice as well as Sparta and Athens.

A new stage began with Archelaus (d.399 B.C.), who centralized the kingdom

with a system of roads and forts; he also fostered the Hellenization of his

people by inviting famous Greek artists, Euripides among them, to his court.

Few regions gave much thought to Macedonia. The area was so primitive that

it seemed to belong to another age- it was a rude, brawling, heavy-drinking

country of dour peasants and landowning warriors. The language was Greek, but so

tainted by barbarian strains that Athenians could not understand it. Macedonia

remained an outland. Growth of trade in the early fourth century promoted the

rise of several cities, yet when Perdiccas III, king of Macedonia, fell in 359

B.C. while fighting the Illyrians the seaboard of his state was largely under

Athenian control or in the hands of the Chalcidian league, grouped about


Philip (382-36), brother of the dead king, was made regent for the infant

heir, soon set aside his nephew, and became outright king.

Once power was his, the young monarch swiftly brought order to his domain

by armed force when necessary, by diplomatic guile whenever he could, Philip set

out to make Macedon the greatest power in the Greek world.

Alexander was born in 356 to the first wife of Philip. As a teenager

Alexander was educated by Athenian philosopher Aristotle. By the year 337 all of

the Greek city-states had been conquered or forced into an alliance by Philip.

He was planning to lead their joint forces for an invasion of the Persian empire

when he was assassinated in 336. Thus at the age of 20, Alexander became king of

the Macedonians.

After Philip's death, some Greek cities under Macedonian rule revolted. In

335 B.C. Alexander's army stormed the walls of the rebellious city of Thebes and

demolished the city. About 30,000 inhabitants were sold in slavery. Alexander's

action against Thebes discouraged, for a time, rebellion by other Greek cities

With Greece under control, Alexander turned to his fathers plan for

attacking the Persian Empire. In 334 B.C., he led an army of about 35,000

infantry and cavalry across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. The Persians

sent out troops that met Alexander's forces at the Granicus River. Alexander and

his cavalry charged across the river and won the battle. This victory opened

Asia Minor to Alexander. After marching along the southern coast of Asia Minor.

Alexander and his army headed north to the city of Gordium.

By 333 B.C., Alexander had reached the coast of Syria. There, in a fierce

battle at Issus, he defeated the king of Persia, Darius III, but could not

capture him. Alexander's army them marched south into Phoenicia to capture key

naval bases at port cities. Part of one such city, Tyre, stood on an island

about 1/2 mile offshore. Unable to capture the island from the sea, Alexander

ordered his engineers to build a causeway out to the island, converting it to a

peninsula that still remains today. His troops used such weapons as battering

rams, catapults, and mobile towers in their attack. The Tyrians on the island

surrendered in 332 B.C, after seven months of fighting. Alexander's use of huge

siege machines at Tyre introduced a new age of warfare.

Alexander next entered Egypt. The Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator

from Persian rule, and they crowned him pharaoh. On the western edge of the Nile

Delta, Alexander founded a city in 331 B.C. and named it Alexandria after


From Alexandria, the Macedonian king made a long difficult trek through the

Libyan Desert, a part of the Sahara, to the oasis of Siwah. He consulted the

oracle of the god Zeus-Ammon, and, according to legend, the oracle pronounced

Alexander the son of god.

Alexander left Egypt with an army of 4000,000 foot soldiers and 7,000

cavalry. He crossed the Euphrates and entered Mesopotamia where in 331 B.C. he

met the Persian king once more at Gaugamela, east of the Tigris River. In spite

that the fact was that his army was smaller than that of the Persians,

Alexanders superior tactics won the field, and Darus was forced to flee again.

By this victory he effectively won the war, although much more fighting was

needed before the Persian empire disappeared. It took three years to subdue all

of eastern Iran.

After the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander entered the ancient city of

Babylon as a conqueror. From there he moved on to the great cities of the

Persian Empire: Susa, Persepolis, and Pasargadae. In 330 B.C. he defeated an

army that was guarding a narrow path known as the Persian Gates by finding a

track that led around it and attacking from the rear. This gave him entrance to

the Persian capital of Persepolis, where he and his men went on an orgy of

destruction and burned down the palace of Xerxes.

Having penetrated this far into modern day Iran, Alexander's army was now

in a country unmapped and virtually unknown to the Greeks. Still pursuing Darius,

he turned northwest toward Ecabatana (modern Hamadan) then northeast to Rhagae

(near Teheran). Darius had been taken hostage by Bessus, the ruler of the

province of Bactria. Alexander caught up with him as he was dying. Alexander had

his body taken back to Persepolis to be buried in the royal tombs. At the death

of the Persian king, Alexander adopted the title of lord of Asia--as the ruler

of the Persian Empire was called.

By this time Alexander was becoming more and more despotic. He killed his

own foster brother, Clitus, in a drunken brawl after Clitus had insluted him. He

antagonized many of his Greek and Macedonian followers by marrying a Persian

princess,Roxane. When a plot was discovered to murder him, he had his old

teacher and historian Callisthenes put to death. Alexander spent the year 328

B.C. subjugating Bactria and in the early summer 327 B.C. recrossed the Hindu

Kush to the south headed for India. Sending half of the army ahead by way of the

Khyber Pass with orders to build a boat bridge across the Indus River, Alexander

himself fought his way to the river through the hills north of the pass. He

spent the winter fighting the local hill tribes.

His greatest accomplishment in this campaign was in scaling and taking

Mount Aornos (Pir-Sar), which was supposed to be unconquerable. Following this

victory, Alexander led his army to the banks of the Indus where they rested

until spring. Then they crossed the river an marched three days to the city of

Taxila, where he was greeted by the king and much pomp and ceremony. He then

continued on to the Hydaspes (Jhelum) river, where he met and defeated King

Porus in what was to be his last great battle. He pushed on to the east, but on

the banks of the Hyphasis (Beas) river-his army rebelled. They were tired after

long years of war and were anxious to see their families back in Greece.

Alexander could not persuade them otherwise and after sulking in his tent for

two days agreed to lead them back home.

Alexander shared the classical belief that the Indus and Nile Rivers were

the same. He resolved to test this theory and see whether he could return to the

Mediterranean that way. On the Hydaspes River, he constructed a large number of

boats in which part of his force sailed downstream. The remainder were divided

into three groups and made the journey by land. They departed in November 326

B.C Going downstream Alexander engaged in constant warfare. The Indians would

not supply his troops without a fight. At a city that is thought to be present

day Multan, Alexander climbed a ladder to lead a attack and was badly wounded.

For several days it seemed as though he would die, and his men went berserk

destroying everything and everyone that got in their way. They reached the

mouths of the Indus in the summer of 325 B.C Alexander explored both arms of the

river and proved that it was not connected to the Nile.

Before the expedition had reached the Indian ocean, Alexander sent Craterus,

one of his senior officers, back to Persia with the largest part of the army. He

instructed Nearchus to wait until the monsoon in October and then to sail along

the coast to the Persian Gulf to find a sea route back to the mouth of the

Euphrates. Alexander and the remainder of the expedition made their way along

the unexplored Makran coast which is now Pakistan. He intended to follow the

coastline and set up supply depots for the ships along the way, but the Taloi

Mountains forced him to turn inland. Nearchus and the fleet were left to find

their own supplies along a very desolate shore.

Alexander's journey through what he called the Gedrosia Desert in the

mouths of August, September, and October 325 B.C was among the most difficult he

made. The expedition, including many women and children, had to walk over the

waterless desert at night to avoid the intense heat by day. They did not have

enough food or water, and many of them died before they reached Pura, the

capital of the province of Gedrosia. Alexander then went to Kerman where he was

met by Craterus and his forces. It was another six months before Alexander and

Nearchus met at the Persian port of Ormuz.

Alexander's army reached the Persian city of Susa in the spring of 324 B.C.

Alexander adopted more and more of the customs of the Asian despots, taking a

second wife and integrating non-Greeks into his Army. These measures alarmed his

Greek and Macedonian veterans, and they voiced their discontent. Alexander

discharged them and many headed back to Europe. During this time, however,

Alexander laid the basis for future expeditions. He sent Heraclides to explore

the Caspian Sea, to find out whether it was joined to the ocean that was

supposed to circle the world. He also planned to send a fleet under Nearchus to

sail around Arabia, hoping to discover a route between India and the Red Sea. He

seems to have had plans to conquer Arabia as well. All of these projects were

abandoned, however, when Alexander became ill at a Banquet on June 1, 323 B.C He

died on June 13 at the age of 32, possibly as a result of having been poisoned.

Few men changed the world so profoundly as Alexander the Great. In his

brief reign he covered 22,000 miles and never lost a battle. Usually he knew

more of the terrain than the natives did. In his epic march across Asia, he pul

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