Did Alexander the Great Arrange His Father’s Murder?

Did Alexander the Great Arrange His Father’s Murder?


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In the ancient world, the young and dashing Alexander the Great led his army from northern Greece to what is now Pakistan, leading from the front, killing enemies with sword and spear, ordering executions and massacres, even stabbing one old friend to death in a drunken rage. He killed a lot of people, but did he launch his career as a king by arranging the murder of his own father, the hugely successful Philip II?

Philip’s career made Alexander’s conquests possible, for it was Philip who saved Macedonia from the verge of extinction, beating off powerful neighbors before expanding until he dominated Greece and the Balkans. In the process, he created a uniquely effective army, combining many different types of troops into one formidable, fast moving team. This was the army Alexander led against the Persian Empire, composed of Philip’s men, fighting in the same way they had done for more than 20 years.

The facts of Philip’s murder, in 336 BC, are plain and undisputed. The assassin struck in the theater at Aegae (modern Vergina), watched by a crowd who had travelled from all over Macedonia and Greece to show support for the king. As Philip made his entrance—limping from an old wound, but still active in his 47th year—one of his bodyguards, a young man named Pausanias, ran toward him. Producing a concealed dagger from beneath his cloak, he stabbed Philip between the ribs and fled. The king died within moments, followed quickly by his assassin—as Pausanias sprinted towards the waiting horses, he tripped on a vine root and was swiftly dispatched by his fellow bodyguards.

READ MORE: How Alexander the Great Conquered the Persian Empire

An Assassination Prompted by Personal Grievance

Pausanias’ personal motive for the murder was also widely known. As a teenager, he had for a while been the king’s favorite and lover. Polygamous like all Macedonian kings, Philip was notorious for his numerous affairs with women and young men. Yet soon Philip’s eye wandered, and he replaced Pausanias with another youth. Resentful, Pausanias mocked the new lover, accusing him of being effeminate and an easy conquest. The new lover, stung by the jokes, tried to prove his manhood in battle by fighting recklessly and was killed.

The dead youth had friends and relatives in high places, notably Attalus, whose niece was taken as a bride by Philip in 335 BC. Secure at court, Attalus decided to take revenge on Pausanias, inviting him to a feast and getting the young man drunk. The nobleman and his friends savagely beat Pausanias and may have raped him. Then they gave the battered youth to Attalus’ muleteers, who proceeded to violate him, one after another.

As word of the humiliation spread, Pausanias went to Philip, seeking justice. Philip, always a wily politician, sought to compromise and keep everyone happy: He sent Attalus away to become one of two commanders in charge of the advance guard sent to Asia Minor as the start of the great war against Persia. And he rewarded Pausanias by making him one of his seven personal bodyguards.

While this was a considerable honor for one so young, it did nothing to remove the memory of the outrage, and no doubt Attalus’ relatives and supporters at court made sure there were plenty of reminders. Brooding on it all, Pausanias focused his hatred on Philip for failing to treat him with the respect he felt was his due as a former lover and more generally from the king to a member of the Macedonian aristocracy, who fought alongside him in battle and feasted with him in peacetime. Aristotle, who knew Philip and spent several years at his court, used the murder as an illustration of an assassination prompted by a personal grievance.

READ MORE: 8 Surprising Facts About Alexander the Great

Was the Murderer a Pawn in a Bigger Plot?

Yet then and now, questions arose as to whether there was more to the story—whether Pausanias acted alone or whether someone used this traumatized young man as a pawn in some larger game. Some thought–and think–it was suspicious that Pausanias had placed more than one horse for his planned escape. Others wonder whether the other bodyguards swiftly dispatched the assassin to silence him before he could implicate anyone else.

Alexander later accused the Persian king of arranging the murder, as a way to end the threat of Macedonian hostility, not knowing how aggressive and successful Philip’s son would prove.

Some accounts blamed Alexander’s mother, Olympias. Out of Philip’s seven or eight wives, she enjoyed prestige as the mother of the probable heir to the throne, but it was widely believed that Olympias and her husband had come to loathe each other. She was believed to resent Philip’s latest wife and was held responsible when Attalus’ niece and her newborn baby were murdered soon after the assassination. Much later, after Alexander’s death, Olympias led armies and killed rivals in the struggle to control the succession. She was without doubt a formidable character—as clever, capable and ruthless as her husband and her son.

READ MORE: Alexander the Great Died Mysteriously at 32. Now We May Know Why

The Case Against Alexander Remains Speculative

At the time, plenty of people suspected that Alexander himself, the kingdom’s heir apparent, arranged his father’s killing. The obvious motive: an ambition to rule.

Alexander, at 21, was proclaimed King of Macedonia within hours of Philip’s murder. To secure his position, he swiftly ordered two potential rivals executed and sent orders to Asia Minor for the elimination of Attalus. His rapid military campaigns over the next year or so cemented his domination of Southern Greece and his borders on the Balkans. None of this necessarily indicates any involvement or foreknowledge of Philip’s murder. Once Philip was dead, these were necessary precautions, since any other course of action would likely have resulted in Alexander’s own murder. Hesitation was not a characteristic Alexander displayed at any age.

At the very least, Philip’s death proved very fortunate for Alexander: It placed him at the head of a reformed, unified and flourishing Macedonia, and in charge of its formidable army with the grand expedition against Persia barely begun. History shows the advantage Alexander took of this opportunity. Perhaps he was simply lucky and–like so many famous leaders–a consummate opportunist. Not enough is known about his inner character to say whether he could have arranged his father’s murder, nor do any facts show that he did. This remains one more enigma to add to the many surrounding the great and terrible career of Alexander of Macedon.

Adrian Goldsworthy is historian and novelist specializing mainly in the Classical world. He has written numerous nonfiction histories and biographies, including Caesar. The Life of a Colossus. His most recent book is Philip and Alexander. Kings and Conquerors.

History Reads features the work of prominent authors and historians.


Two Great Historians On Alexander the Great, Part One

(First in a series of weekly conversations between historians James Romm [JR] and Paul A. Cartledge [PAC], editor and introduction-author, respectively, of the new Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander, just published by Pantheon under series editor Robert Strassler. This discussion was created by the Reading Odyssey, a non-profit that aims to reignite curiosity and lifelong learning for adults through lectures, reading groups and webcasts.)

JR: Paul, there are only a few people in history who are universally known as "the Great," and Alexander of Macedon, who reigned and conquered much of the known world between 336 and 323 B.C., probably tops the list. The word "great" in this context, to my mind, is always positive -- implying both that Alexander's achievements were huge in scale, and that his nature was heroic and awe-inspiring. The question many in the modern world might ask, however, is: Do these two things go hand in hand? Perhaps in the scale of his achievements Alexander was Great, but in his nature Terrible -- or perhaps even Terrible in both. So as you and I begin this ten-part dialogue on the controversial figure of Alexander (a conversation made more timely by the recent release of Pantheon's The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander), maybe it makes sense to ask: Does the appellation "the Great" still make sense for Alexander? Or is it an outdated holdover from an age when conquest and military expansion were more admired than they are now?

PAC: Jamie, I remember a (now very) senior Oxford colleague long ago telling me that all 'great' men were by definition bad men. Well, that may be so, but we historians shouldn't primarily be concerned with our subjects' morals, but rather with how and why they did what they did, and with what consequences, including among those our current appreciation of their historical significance. Whatever may be thought of Alexander's morals, there's no denying that he matters hugely - and always has so mattered, at least from the moment he was acclaimed king of the state of Macedon (which controlled ancient Macedonia - and much else), in the summer of 356 BCE, when he was barely 20.

Very few historical actors have been called 'the Great', and Alexander is one of only two known to me (I stand to be corrected . ) who have had that title incorporated in their very name: Megalexandros in modern Greek - the other is Charlemagne ('Karl der Grosse' in German, crowned Holy Roman Emperor at Aachen on Christmas Day, AD 800). Shakespeare has a character (in Twelfth Night) claim that some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them - I doubt myself that the first member of that trilogy makes any real historical sense, but Alexander's parents, King Philip II and Olympias, were certainly memorable, and their extremely fraught union decisively shaped his first 20 years at least. But by themselves neither they nor his teaching by Aristotle when he was 13, nor any other aspect of his upbringing and background in that corner of northeastern Greece could by themselves account for Alexander's truly astonishing 13-year reign (336 - 323 BCE).

In the succeeding exchanges you and I will be re-examining all sorts of aspects of Alexander's career, personality and achievement. Here let me kick off with what I consider to be unarguably an argument in favour of his being called 'the Great', regardless of what side one happens to be on in any of the many other major controversies that still surround this larger-than-life figure. He was, as it's been nicely put, a military Midas: as a general - off as well as on the battlefield, in strategy as well as tactics - pretty much everything he touched turned to gold, so long that is as he was pursuing strictly military objectives, whether defeating an enemy, or conquering and holding a territory. He was never defeated in a pitched battle, and in siege or guerrilla operations he suffered only relatively slight reverses at worst. This is not to say he never made a mistake, leading his men as he did over thousands of kilometres through the most formidable terrain for over a decade nonstop. But those mistakes never added up to an outright defeat. 'Invincible' the Delphic priestess had allegedly declared him in advance of his campaigning in Asia, invincible he proved. Death alone (by whatever means. ) at Babylon in early June 323 BCE proved him literally mortal. Of course, if you happen to be a pacifist by conviction, you probably hate all that Alexander stood for as well as what he did in war, but, if the premise of war be granted, he was surely a formidably great generalissimo.

JR: Paul, Your last point raises a question to which I'm afraid I don't know the answer: When did Alexander first become called "the Great," and by whom? I would imagine it was the Romans, with their great reverence for military prowess, that awarded him the honor. I would think that the Greeks, who had very mixed and often adverse responses to Alexander -- a topic we'll be discussing in more depth in coming weeks -- would not have called him Great, though their were some Greeks of the Roman Empire who very much admired him. Among these was Arrian, a Greek writer and intellectual who became a top administrator in the Roman empire, and who wrote one of the most important accounts of Alexander that survives from antiquity: The Anabasis, translated "Campaigns of Alexander" in the new Landmark edition.

PAC: Jamie, it seems that the earliest certain surviving reference to Alexander as 'Alexander the Great' is in a play by the Roman New Comedy author Plautus (flourished c. 200 BCE), whose plays were based, often very closely, on earlier Greek originals, so we can confidently (I think) say - it was at some time before 200 BCE! (This site - - contains some relevant stuff, along with a lot of irrelevance.)

But I would at once add that in itself the title doesn't matter all that much: what does I think matter a lot is how he was perceived by, on the one hand, the movers and shakers of the immediate post-Alexander Greek world, and, on the other, by 'ordinary' Greeks of that same 'Hellenistic' (as we scholars know it) world. The former group, that is the rival kings and dynasts and would-be kings and dynasts known collectively as the 'Successors' and 'Epigones' who slugged it out for well over a generation (323-281 BCE) all to a man (re)presented themselves as Alexander-clones. The latter group included many Greeks living in Asia Minor, who had been liberated from alien barbarian Persian domination by Alexander, and who worshipped him as a god. Without any compulsion, it would seem.

You ask whether I might add something about the topics we're going to go on to discuss in this exchange. With pleasure - here are some possible topics we could argue the toss over:

Did Alexander participate in the murder of his father?

How good a historian was Arrian?

Why did so many Greeks hate Alexander - whereas others (literally) worshipped him?

Was Alexander as great a general as he's usually cracked up to be?

Was Alexander a religious fanatic?

How genuine was Alexander's Hellenism (love and promotion of Greek culture)?

What really was Alexander's relationship with his right-hand man Hephaestion? or/and What did Alexander really think of women?


Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, Was Buried with Wife and Child after Assassination Says New Study

Spectacular golden tombs containing the remains of ancient Macedonian royalty are under scrutiny after new examinations challenge previous research. A new study claims to conclusively identify King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and determines he was buried in Tomb I, not Tomb II, as previously believed.

The tombs were originally discovered in 1977 in the village of Vergina in northern Greece, and astonishing gold caskets were uncovered housing the remains of several people.

Numerous studies have been published concerning the relatively intact human remains found in the 24-carat gold casket in Tomb II . A study published in the journal Science in 2000, for example, concluded that the remains could not be Philip II as they did not bear traces of injuries that Philip supposedly suffered during his lifetime. Then, a study released in 2010, conversely state that the remains must be Philip II as a notch in the eye socket is consistent with a battle wound received by Philip II years before he died.

The newest research by a team of archaeologists led by Antonis Bartsiokas, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conclusively identifies Philip II as the occupant of Tomb I, rather than the occupant of Tomb II.

Phys.org reports: “The most striking evidence comes in the form of a leg bone—an upper thigh fused to a shin at the knee with a hole in it—it appears to align with historical texts that describe Philip as suffering a wound from a lance. Additional testing showed the bone had fused and smoothed over in just a few years’ time, which also agrees with writings from the time—Phillip was murdered just a few years after suffering the injury. Dating showed the skeletal remains to be that of man approximately 45 years old, which is consistent with the age at which Philip reportedly died.”

Also found in Tomb I were the remains of Cleopatra, Philip’s young wife, and a child born a few days before Philip II’s assassination. Ancient writings record that both wife and baby were killed soon after Philip’s murder.

Forensic dating of the remains of the other occupants revealed a young woman of approximately 18 years of age, matching the description of Cleopatra, and bones of a newly born baby were also identified.

The evidence cements Tomb I occupants as Philip II, Cleopatra, and baby.

It has been found the bones in Tomb II were entombed a long time after those in Tomb I, making them too late to have been Philip II and his wife. This indicates to researchers that Tomb II instead serves as the final resting place for some of Alexander the Great's other relatives, such as King Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice.

When archaeologist Manolis Andronikos started excavations on the tombs in 1977 he found that two of the four tombs had been undisturbed since antiquity, and contained fabulous, high quality treasures. The shrines found within were thought to have been dedicated to the worship of the royal family. Not seen as gods, they were instead celebrated and recognized as heroes.

Golden larnax containing cremated remains and golden crown found in Tomb II in Vergina. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Philip II was the 18th king of Macedonia (359–336 BC). He restored internal peace to his country and gained domination over all Greece by military and diplomatic means, thus laying the foundations for its expansion under his son Alexander the Great.

Philip II is described as a powerful king with a complicated love life. He married between five and seven women, causing confusion over the line of succession. In 336 BC, Philip II was assassinated at a celebration of his daughter's wedding, perhaps at the behest of a former wife, Olympias.

Alexander the Great succeeded his father as king.

The archaeological team concludes in the study that this new reconstruction solves an ancient mystery concerning the Royal Tombs of Vergina “which has puzzled historians, archaeologists, and physical anthropologists” alike.

Hades and Persephone, fresco in the tomb called "Eurydice", Vergina, Greece. Colors on marble. 48 x 80 cm. ( Public Domain )

Featured Image: The marble facade of Philip II tomb, Vergina Greece. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Liz Leafloor is former Art Director for Ancient Origins Magazine. She has a background as an Editor, Writer, and Graphic Designer. Having worked in news and online media for years, Liz covers exciting and interesting topics like ancient myth, history. Read More


Who Was the Tutor of Alexander the Great?

Back in 336 BC, the murder of Philip II was one of the greatest assassinations that the era of antiquity ever saw.

The sudden incident led to his son’s rise to the throne. This is where the epic journey of Alexander’s victories began.

Alexander III famous around the globe as Alexander the great was merely 20 when he took the throne. A lot has been written about the heroics of adult Alexander.

But, what about his early days? What was his childhood like? That’s something we rarely read or hear about. So let’s dive a bit deeper to get the taste of Macedonian environment that saw the childhood of Alexander the great.


A Change of Luck

From Babylon, to Susa, and then to Persepolis, each city in the Persian empire slowly collapsed and gave in to the might of Alexander the Great. Each fallen city presented Persian gold and loot that almost seemed endless. However, during Alexander's five-month stay at Persepolis the eastern palace of Xerxes I caught on fire and spread to raze the city.

The tragedy was brought on by a drunken Alexander, who argued with his companion Hetaera Thais. As the city burned, Alexander watched with regret and then, in his humility, spoke with a fallen statue of Xerxes I, asking for advice on how to view the aftermath of the fire. Whatever was answered would remain between the statue and Alexander.

The pursuit of Darius III continued, but Alexander's dream of seizing glory was also robbed when Darius became less of an emperor and more of a refugee on the run. His fate left him to be taken prisoner by his Bactrian kinsman named Artaxerxes V. Before Alexander could free Darius III, Artaxerxes killed him and retreated into Central Asia bringing the official end to the Achaemenid Empire and making Alexander the official king of Asia.

With a murmur of a win, rather than stopping at the far reaches of the Persian Empire, he pushed further into Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Media, Aria, Parthina, Drangiana, Bactria, Arachosia, and Scythia. His armies collected even more loot and gold. His trade routes further secured trades into the east, and with every establishment of a new Alexandria, his empire grew more prosperous.

However, it didn’t satisfy his lust for conquest. Instead, it just pushed Alexander further away from his own subjects, his supportive generals, and his own way of life. Alexander the Great soon adopted Persian dress and customs.

Additionally, the praise Alexander was given as a living god further fed his ego. It was then he identified less as his Macedonian self, and his own generals began to plot against him. Assassination attempts were made in Afghanistan by Philotas in 330 BC, which resulted in his entire family being executed for treason.

Then in 328 BC, in Maracanda Uzbekistan, Alexander killed Cleitus the Black by throwing a spear into his heart after a long drunken dispute over hunting steppe nomads. It slowly appeared that Alexander was losing control of his inhibitions, as well as his officers. Callisthenes made a second attempt on his life of Olynthus. Alexander uncovered the plot and had all the people he thought were involved tortured on the rack until death.

Though he had brought immense wealth and prosperity to Greece through his newly formed Alexandria colonies, he called for more men to be collected and absorbed into his military machine - along with masons, architects, farmers, and engineers. He had given Greece and his newly formed empire no end of riches, but was purchasing the lives of his subjects to continue supporting his never-ending wars with new-found Asian kingdoms.


Contents

In his youth, Cassander was taught by the philosopher Aristotle at the Lyceum in Macedonia. He was educated alongside Alexander the Great in a group that included Hephaestion, Ptolemy and Lysimachus. [5] His family were distant collateral relatives to the Argead dynasty. [6]

Cassander is first recorded as arriving at Alexander the Great's court in Babylon in 323 BC, where he had been sent by his father, Antipater, most likely to help uphold Antipater's regency in Macedon, although a later contemporary who was hostile to the Antipatrids suggested that Cassander had journeyed to the court to poison the King. [7]

Whatever the truth of this suggestion, Cassander stood out amongst the Diadochi in his hostility to Alexander's memory. [7] As Cassander and the other diadochi struggled for power, Alexander IV, Roxana, and Alexander's supposed illegitimate son Heracles were all executed on Cassander's orders, and a guarantee to Olympias to spare her life was not respected. [8] Cassander's decision to restore Thebes, which had been destroyed under Alexander, was perceived at the time to be a snub to the deceased King. [9] It was later even said that he could not pass a statue of Alexander without feeling faint. Cassander has been perceived to be ambitious and unscrupulous, and even members of his own family were estranged from him. [10]

As Antipater grew close to death in 319 BC, he transferred the regency of Macedon not to Cassander, but to Polyperchon, possibly so as not to alarm the other Diadochi through an apparent move towards dynastic ambition, but perhaps also because of Cassander's own ambitions. [11] Cassander rejected his father's decision, and immediately went to seek the support of Antigonus, Ptolemy and Lysimachus as his allies. Waging war on Polyperchon, Cassander destroyed his fleet, put Athens under the control of Demetrius of Phaleron, and declared himself Regent in 317 BC. After Olympias’ successful move against Philip III later in the year, Cassander besieged her in Pydna. When the city fell two years later, Olympias was killed, and Cassander had Alexander IV and Roxane confined at Amphipolis.

Cassander associated himself with the Argead dynasty by marrying Alexander's half-sister, Thessalonica, and he had Alexander IV and Roxanne poisoned in either 310 BC or the following year. By 309 BC, Polyperchon began to claim that Heracles was the true heir to the Macedonian inheritance, at which point Cassander bribed him to have the boy killed. [12] After this, Cassander's position in Greece and Macedonia was reasonably secure, and he proclaimed himself king in 305 BC. [13] After the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, in which Antigonus was killed, he was undisputed in his control of Macedonia however, he had little time to savour the fact, dying of dropsy in 297 BC.

Cassander's dynasty did not live much beyond his death, with his son Philip dying of natural causes, and his other sons Alexander and Antipater becoming involved in a destructive dynastic struggle along with their mother. When Alexander was ousted as joint king by his brother, Demetrius I took up Alexander's appeal for aid and ousted Antipater I, killed Alexander V and established the Antigonid dynasty. The remaining Antipatrids, such as Antipater II Etesias, were unable to re-establish the Antipatrids on the throne.

Of more lasting significance was Cassander's refoundation of Therma into Thessalonica, naming the city after his wife. Cassander also founded Cassandreia upon the ruins of Potidaea.


Contents

Lineage and childhood

Alexander was born in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon, [8] on the sixth day of the ancient Greek month of Hekatombaion, which probably corresponds to 20 July 356 BC (although the exact date is uncertain). [9] He was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias, daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of Epirus. [10] Although Philip had seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for some time, likely because she gave birth to Alexander. [11]

Several legends surround Alexander's birth and childhood. [12] According to the ancient Greek biographer Plutarch, on the eve of the consummation of her marriage to Philip, Olympias dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunderbolt that caused a flame to spread "far and wide" before dying away. Sometime after the wedding, Philip is said to have seen himself, in a dream, securing his wife's womb with a seal engraved with a lion's image. [13] Plutarch offered a variety of interpretations of these dreams: that Olympias was pregnant before her marriage, indicated by the sealing of her womb or that Alexander's father was Zeus. Ancient commentators were divided about whether the ambitious Olympias promulgated the story of Alexander's divine parentage, variously claiming that she had told Alexander, or that she dismissed the suggestion as impious. [13]

On the day Alexander was born, Philip was preparing a siege on the city of Potidea on the peninsula of Chalcidice. That same day, Philip received news that his general Parmenion had defeated the combined Illyrian and Paeonian armies and that his horses had won at the Olympic Games. It was also said that on this day, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, burnt down. This led Hegesias of Magnesia to say that it had burnt down because Artemis was away, attending the birth of Alexander. [14] Such legends may have emerged when Alexander was king, and possibly at his instigation, to show that he was superhuman and destined for greatness from conception. [12]

In his early years, Alexander was raised by a nurse, Lanike, sister of Alexander's future general Cleitus the Black. Later in his childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother, and by Lysimachus of Acarnania. [15] Alexander was raised in the manner of noble Macedonian youths, learning to read, play the lyre, ride, fight, and hunt. [16]

When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted, and Philip ordered it away. Alexander, however, detecting the horse's fear of its own shadow, asked to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. [12] Plutarch stated that Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son tearfully, declaring: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you", and bought the horse for him. [17] Alexander named it Bucephalas, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalas carried Alexander as far as India. When the animal died (because of old age, according to Plutarch, at age thirty), Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala. [18]

Education

When Alexander was 13, Philip began to search for a tutor, and considered such academics as Isocrates and Speusippus, the latter offering to resign from his stewardship of the Academy to take up the post. In the end, Philip chose Aristotle and provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as a classroom. In return for teaching Alexander, Philip agreed to rebuild Aristotle's hometown of Stageira, which Philip had razed, and to repopulate it by buying and freeing the ex-citizens who were slaves, or pardoning those who were in exile. [19]

Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of these students would become his friends and future generals, and are often known as the "Companions". Aristotle taught Alexander and his companions about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. Under Aristotle's tutelage, Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad Aristotle gave him an annotated copy, which Alexander later carried on his campaigns. [20]

Alexander was able to quote Euripides from memory. [21]

During his youth, Alexander was also acquainted with Persian exiles at the Macedonian court, who received the protection of Philip II for several years as they opposed Artaxerxes III. [22] [23] [24] Among them were Artabazos II and his daughter Barsine, future mistress of Alexander, who resided at the Macedonian court from 352 to 342 BC, as well as Amminapes, future satrap of Alexander, or a Persian nobleman named Sisines. [22] [25] [26] [27] This gave the Macedonian court a good knowledge of Persian issues, and may even have influenced some of the innovations in the management of the Macedonian state. [25]

Suda writes that, also, Anaximenes of Lampsacus was one of his teachers. Anaximenes, also accompanied him on his campaigns. [28]

Regency and ascent of Macedon

At the age of 16, Alexander's education under Aristotle ended. Philip II had waged war against the Thracians to the north, which left Alexander in charge as regent and heir apparent. [12]

During Philip's absence, the Thracian tribe of Maedi revolted against Macedonia. Alexander responded quickly and drove them from their territory. The territory was colonized, and a city, named Alexandropolis, was founded. [29]

Upon Philip's return, Alexander was dispatched with a small force to subdue the revolts in southern Thrace. Campaigning against the Greek city of Perinthus, Alexander reportedly saved his father's life. Meanwhile, the city of Amphissa began to work lands that were sacred to Apollo near Delphi, a sacrilege that gave Philip the opportunity to further intervene in Greek affairs. While Philip was occupied in Thrace, Alexander was ordered to muster an army for a campaign in southern Greece. Concerned that other Greek states might intervene, Alexander made it look as though he was preparing to attack Illyria instead. During this turmoil, the Illyrians invaded Macedonia, only to be repelled by Alexander. [30]

Philip and his army joined his son in 338 BC, and they marched south through Thermopylae, taking it after stubborn resistance from its Theban garrison. They went on to occupy the city of Elatea, only a few days' march from both Athens and Thebes. The Athenians, led by Demosthenes, voted to seek alliance with Thebes against Macedonia. Both Athens and Philip sent embassies to win Thebes's favour, but Athens won the contest. [31] Philip marched on Amphissa (ostensibly acting on the request of the Amphictyonic League), capturing the mercenaries sent there by Demosthenes and accepting the city's surrender. Philip then returned to Elatea, sending a final offer of peace to Athens and Thebes, who both rejected it. [32]

As Philip marched south, his opponents blocked him near Chaeronea, Boeotia. During the ensuing Battle of Chaeronea, Philip commanded the right wing and Alexander the left, accompanied by a group of Philip's trusted generals. According to the ancient sources, the two sides fought bitterly for some time. Philip deliberately commanded his troops to retreat, counting on the untested Athenian hoplites to follow, thus breaking their line. Alexander was the first to break the Theban lines, followed by Philip's generals. Having damaged the enemy's cohesion, Philip ordered his troops to press forward and quickly routed them. With the Athenians lost, the Thebans were surrounded. Left to fight alone, they were defeated. [33]

After the victory at Chaeronea, Philip and Alexander marched unopposed into the Peloponnese, welcomed by all cities however, when they reached Sparta, they were refused, but did not resort to war. [34] At Corinth, Philip established a "Hellenic Alliance" (modelled on the old anti-Persian alliance of the Greco-Persian Wars), which included most Greek city-states except Sparta. Philip was then named Hegemon (often translated as "Supreme Commander") of this league (known by modern scholars as the League of Corinth), and announced his plans to attack the Persian Empire. [35] [36]

Exile and return

When Philip returned to Pella, he fell in love with and married Cleopatra Eurydice in 338 BC, [37] the niece of his general Attalus. [38] The marriage made Alexander's position as heir less secure, since any son of Cleopatra Eurydice would be a fully Macedonian heir, while Alexander was only half-Macedonian. [39] During the wedding banquet, a drunken Attalus publicly prayed to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir. [38]

At the wedding of Cleopatra, whom Philip fell in love with and married, she being much too young for him, her uncle Attalus in his drink desired the Macedonians would implore the gods to give them a lawful successor to the kingdom by his niece. This so irritated Alexander, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain," said he, "what, am I then a bastard?" Then Philip, taking Attalus's part, rose up and would have run his son through but by good fortune for them both, either his over-hasty rage, or the wine he had drunk, made his foot slip, so that he fell down on the floor. At which Alexander reproachfully insulted over him: "See there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another."

In 337 BC, Alexander fled Macedon with his mother, dropping her off with her brother, King Alexander I of Epirus in Dodona, capital of the Molossians. [41] He continued to Illyria, [41] where he sought refuge with one or more Illyrian kings, perhaps with Glaukias, and was treated as a guest, despite having defeated them in battle a few years before. [42] However, it appears Philip never intended to disown his politically and militarily trained son. [41] Accordingly, Alexander returned to Macedon after six months due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus, who mediated between the two parties. [43]

In the following year, the Persian satrap (governor) of Caria, Pixodarus, offered his eldest daughter to Alexander's half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus. [41] Olympias and several of Alexander's friends suggested this showed Philip intended to make Arrhidaeus his heir. [41] Alexander reacted by sending an actor, Thessalus of Corinth, to tell Pixodarus that he should not offer his daughter's hand to an illegitimate son, but instead to Alexander. When Philip heard of this, he stopped the negotiations and scolded Alexander for wishing to marry the daughter of a Carian, explaining that he wanted a better bride for him. [41] Philip exiled four of Alexander's friends, Harpalus, Nearchus, Ptolemy and Erigyius, and had the Corinthians bring Thessalus to him in chains. [44]

Accession

In summer 336 BC, while at Aegae attending the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to Olympias's brother, Alexander I of Epirus, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguards, Pausanias. [e] As Pausanias tried to escape, he tripped over a vine and was killed by his pursuers, including two of Alexander's companions, Perdiccas and Leonnatus. Alexander was proclaimed king on the spot by the nobles and army at the age of 20. [46] [47] [48]

Consolidation of power

Alexander began his reign by eliminating potential rivals to the throne. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed. [49] He also had two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, but spared a third, Alexander Lyncestes. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and Europa, her daughter by Philip, burned alive. When Alexander learned about this, he was furious. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus, [49] who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor and Cleopatra's uncle. [50]

Attalus was at that time corresponding with Demosthenes, regarding the possibility of defecting to Athens. Attalus also had severely insulted Alexander, and following Cleopatra's murder, Alexander may have considered him too dangerous to leave alive. [50] Alexander spared Arrhidaeus, who was by all accounts mentally disabled, possibly as a result of poisoning by Olympias. [46] [48] [51]

News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt, including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the Thracian tribes north of Macedon. When news of the revolts reached Alexander, he responded quickly. Though advised to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered 3,000 Macedonian cavalry and rode south towards Thessaly. He found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, and ordered his men to ride over Mount Ossa. When the Thessalians awoke the next day, they found Alexander in their rear and promptly surrendered, adding their cavalry to Alexander's force. He then continued south towards the Peloponnese. [52]

Alexander stopped at Thermopylae, where he was recognized as the leader of the Amphictyonic League before heading south to Corinth. Athens sued for peace and Alexander pardoned the rebels. The famous encounter between Alexander and Diogenes the Cynic occurred during Alexander's stay in Corinth. When Alexander asked Diogenes what he could do for him, the philosopher disdainfully asked Alexander to stand a little to the side, as he was blocking the sunlight. [53] This reply apparently delighted Alexander, who is reported to have said "But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes." [54] At Corinth, Alexander took the title of Hegemon ("leader") and, like Philip, was appointed commander for the coming war against Persia. He also received news of a Thracian uprising. [55]

Balkan campaign

Before crossing to Asia, Alexander wanted to safeguard his northern borders. In the spring of 335 BC, he advanced to suppress several revolts. Starting from Amphipolis, he travelled east into the country of the "Independent Thracians" and at Mount Haemus, the Macedonian army attacked and defeated the Thracian forces manning the heights. [56] The Macedonians marched into the country of the Triballi, and defeated their army near the Lyginus river [57] (a tributary of the Danube). Alexander then marched for three days to the Danube, encountering the Getae tribe on the opposite shore. Crossing the river at night, he surprised them and forced their army to retreat after the first cavalry skirmish. [58]

News then reached Alexander that Cleitus, King of Illyria, and King Glaukias of the Taulantii were in open revolt against his authority. Marching west into Illyria, Alexander defeated each in turn, forcing the two rulers to flee with their troops. With these victories, he secured his northern frontier. [59]

While Alexander campaigned north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander immediately headed south. [60] While the other cities again hesitated, Thebes decided to fight. The Theban resistance was ineffective, and Alexander razed the city and divided its territory between the other Boeotian cities. The end of Thebes cowed Athens, leaving all of Greece temporarily at peace. [60] Alexander then set out on his Asian campaign, leaving Antipater as regent. [61]

According to ancient writers Demosthenes called Alexander "Margites" (Greek: Μαργίτης ) [62] [63] [64] and a boy. [64] Greeks used the word Margites to describe fool and useless people, on account of the Margites. [63] [65]

Asia Minor

After his victory at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), Philip II began the work of establishing himself as hēgemṓn (Greek: ἡγεμών ) of a league which according to Diodorus was to wage a campaign against the Persians for the sundry grievances Greece suffered in 480 and free the Greek cities of the western coast and islands from Achaemenid rule. In 336 he sent Parmenion, with Amyntas, Andromenes and Attalus, and an army of 10,000 men into Anatolia to make preparations for an invasion. [66] [67] At first, all went well. The Greek cities on the western coast of Anatolia revolted until the news arrived that Philip had been murdered and had been succeeded by his young son Alexander. The Macedonians were demoralized by Philip's death and were subsequently defeated near Magnesia by the Achaemenids under the command of the mercenary Memnon of Rhodes. [66] [67]

Taking over the invasion project of Philip II, Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC with approximately 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry and a fleet of 120 ships with crews numbering 38,000, [60] drawn from Macedon and various Greek city-states, mercenaries, and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. [68] [f] He showed his intent to conquer the entirety of the Persian Empire by throwing a spear into Asian soil and saying he accepted Asia as a gift from the gods. This also showed Alexander's eagerness to fight, in contrast to his father's preference for diplomacy. [60]

After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis he then proceeded along the Ionian coast, granting autonomy and democracy to the cities. Miletus, held by Achaemenid forces, required a delicate siege operation, with Persian naval forces nearby. Further south, at Halicarnassus, in Caria, Alexander successfully waged his first large-scale siege, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea. [69] Alexander left the government of Caria to a member of the Hecatomnid dynasty, Ada, who adopted Alexander. [70]

From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities to deny the Persians naval bases. From Pamphylia onwards the coast held no major ports and Alexander moved inland. At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city. [71] At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future "king of Asia". [72] According to the story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone and hacked it apart with his sword. [73]

The Levant and Syria

In spring 333 BC, Alexander crossed the Taurus into Cilicia. After a long pause due to an illness, he marched on towards Syria. Though outmanoeuvered by Darius's significantly larger army, he marched back to Cilicia, where he defeated Darius at Issus. Darius fled the battle, causing his army to collapse, and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous treasure. [74] He offered a peace treaty that included the lands he had already lost, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions. [75] Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant. [70] In the following year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he captured after a long and difficult siege. [76] [77] The men of military age were massacred and the women and children sold into slavery. [78]

Egypt

When Alexander destroyed Tyre, most of the towns on the route to Egypt quickly capitulated. However, Alexander was met with resistance at Gaza. The stronghold was heavily fortified and built on a hill, requiring a siege. When "his engineers pointed out to him that because of the height of the mound it would be impossible. this encouraged Alexander all the more to make the attempt". [79] After three unsuccessful assaults, the stronghold fell, but not before Alexander had received a serious shoulder wound. As in Tyre, men of military age were put to the sword and the women and children were sold into slavery. [80]

Alexander advanced on Egypt in later 332 BC, where he was regarded as a liberator. [81] He was pronounced son of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. [82] Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and after his death, currency depicted him adorned with the Horns of Ammon as a symbol of his divinity. [83] During his stay in Egypt, he founded Alexandria-by-Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after his death. [84]

Assyria and Babylonia

Leaving Egypt in 331 BC, Alexander marched eastward into Achaemenid Assyria in Upper Mesopotamia (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius again at the Battle of Gaugamela. [85] Darius once more fled the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. Gaugamela would be the final and decisive encounter between the two. [86] Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) while Alexander captured Babylon. [87]

Persia

From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its treasury. [87] He sent the bulk of his army to the Persian ceremonial capital of Persepolis via the Persian Royal Road. Alexander himself took selected troops on the direct route to the city. He then stormed the pass of the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains) which had been blocked by a Persian army under Ariobarzanes and then hurried to Persepolis before its garrison could loot the treasury. [88]

On entering Persepolis, Alexander allowed his troops to loot the city for several days. [89] Alexander stayed in Persepolis for five months. [90] During his stay a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes I and spread to the rest of the city. Possible causes include a drunken accident or deliberate revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War by Xerxes [91] Plutarch and Diodorus allege that Alexander's companion, the hetaera Thaïs, instigated and started the fire. Even as he watched the city burn, Alexander immediately began to regret his decision. [92] [93] [94] Plutarch claims that he ordered his men to put out the fires, [92] but that the flames had already spread to most of the city. [92] Curtius claims that Alexander did not regret his decision until the next morning. [92] Plutarch recounts an anecdote in which Alexander pauses and talks to a fallen statue of Xerxes as if it were a live person:

Shall I pass by and leave you lying there because of the expeditions you led against Greece, or shall I set you up again because of your magnanimity and your virtues in other respects? [95]

Fall of the Empire and the East

Alexander then chased Darius, first into Media, and then Parthia. [97] The Persian king no longer controlled his own destiny, and was taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. [98] As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men fatally stab the Great King and then declared himself Darius's successor as Artaxerxes V, before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. [99] Alexander buried Darius's remains next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a regal funeral. [100] He claimed that, while dying, Darius had named him as his successor to the Achaemenid throne. [101] The Achaemenid Empire is normally considered to have fallen with Darius. [102]

Alexander viewed Bessus as a usurper and set out to defeat him. This campaign, initially against Bessus, turned into a grand tour of central Asia. Alexander founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Alexandria Eschate ("The Furthest") in modern Tajikistan. The campaign took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia. [103]

In 329 BC, Spitamenes, who held an undefined position in the satrapy of Sogdiana, betrayed Bessus to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's trusted companions, and Bessus was executed. [104] However, when, at some point later, Alexander was on the Jaxartes dealing with an incursion by a horse nomad army, Spitamenes raised Sogdiana in revolt. Alexander personally defeated the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes and immediately launched a campaign against Spitamenes, defeating him in the Battle of Gabai. After the defeat, Spitamenes was killed by his own men, who then sued for peace. [105]

Problems and plots

During this time, Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis, either a symbolic kissing of the hand, or prostration on the ground, that Persians showed to their social superiors. [106] The Greeks regarded the gesture as the province of deities and believed that Alexander meant to deify himself by requiring it. This cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen, and he eventually abandoned it. [107]

A plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to alert Alexander. The death of the son necessitated the death of the father, and thus Parmenion, who had been charged with guarding the treasury at Ecbatana, was assassinated at Alexander's command, to prevent attempts at vengeance. Most infamously, Alexander personally killed the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Cleitus the Black, during a violent drunken altercation at Maracanda (modern day Samarkand in Uzbekistan), in which Cleitus accused Alexander of several judgmental mistakes and most especially, of having forgotten the Macedonian ways in favour of a corrupt oriental lifestyle. [108]

Later, in the Central Asian campaign, a second plot against his life was revealed, this one instigated by his own royal pages. His official historian, Callisthenes of Olynthus, was implicated in the plot, and in the Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian states that Callisthenes and the pages were then tortured on the rack as punishment, and likely died soon after. [109] It remains unclear if Callisthenes was actually involved in the plot, for prior to his accusation he had fallen out of favour by leading the opposition to the attempt to introduce proskynesis. [110]

Macedon in Alexander's absence

When Alexander set out for Asia, he left his general Antipater, an experienced military and political leader and part of Philip II's "Old Guard", in charge of Macedon. [61] Alexander's sacking of Thebes ensured that Greece remained quiet during his absence. [61] The one exception was a call to arms by Spartan king Agis III in 331 BC, whom Antipater defeated and killed in the battle of Megalopolis. [61] Antipater referred the Spartans' punishment to the League of Corinth, which then deferred to Alexander, who chose to pardon them. [111] There was also considerable friction between Antipater and Olympias, and each complained to Alexander about the other. [112]

In general, Greece enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity during Alexander's campaign in Asia. [113] Alexander sent back vast sums from his conquest, which stimulated the economy and increased trade across his empire. [114] However, Alexander's constant demands for troops and the migration of Macedonians throughout his empire depleted Macedon's strength, greatly weakening it in the years after Alexander, and ultimately led to its subjugation by Rome after the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC). [16]

Forays into the Indian subcontinent

After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Raoxshna in Old Iranian) to cement relations with his new satrapies, Alexander turned to the Indian subcontinent. He invited the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara (a region presently straddling eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan), to come to him and submit to his authority. Omphis (Indian name Ambhi), the ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Hydaspes (Jhelum), complied, but the chieftains of some hill clans, including the Aspasioi and Assakenoi sections of the Kambojas (known in Indian texts also as Ashvayanas and Ashvakayanas), refused to submit. [115] Ambhi hastened to relieve Alexander of his apprehension and met him with valuable presents, placing himself and all his forces at his disposal. Alexander not only returned Ambhi his title and the gifts but he also presented him with a wardrobe of "Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, 30 horses and 1,000 talents in gold". Alexander was emboldened to divide his forces, and Ambhi assisted Hephaestion and Perdiccas in constructing a bridge over the Indus where it bends at Hund, [116] supplied their troops with provisions, and received Alexander himself, and his whole army, in his capital city of Taxila, with every demonstration of friendship and the most liberal hospitality.

On the subsequent advance of the Macedonian king, Taxiles accompanied him with a force of 5,000 men and took part in the battle of the Hydaspes River. After that victory he was sent by Alexander in pursuit of Porus, to whom he was charged to offer favourable terms, but narrowly escaped losing his life at the hands of his old enemy. Subsequently, however, the two rivals were reconciled by the personal mediation of Alexander and Taxiles, after having contributed zealously to the equipment of the fleet on the Hydaspes, was entrusted by the king with the government of the whole territory between that river and the Indus. A considerable accession of power was granted him after the death of Philip, son of Machatas and he was allowed to retain his authority at the death of Alexander himself (323 BC), as well as in the subsequent partition of the provinces at Triparadisus, 321 BC.

In the winter of 327/326 BC, Alexander personally led a campaign against the Aspasioi of Kunar valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus valley, and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. [117] A fierce contest ensued with the Aspasioi in which Alexander was wounded in the shoulder by a dart, but eventually the Aspasioi lost. Alexander then faced the Assakenoi, who fought against him from the strongholds of Massaga, Ora and Aornos. [115]

The fort of Massaga was reduced only after days of bloody fighting, in which Alexander was wounded seriously in the ankle. According to Curtius, "Not only did Alexander slaughter the entire population of Massaga, but also did he reduce its buildings to rubble." [118] A similar slaughter followed at Ora. In the aftermath of Massaga and Ora, numerous Assakenians fled to the fortress of Aornos. Alexander followed close behind and captured the strategic hill-fort after four bloody days. [115]

After Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region lying between the Hydaspes and the Acesines (Chenab), in what is now the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. [119] Alexander was impressed by Porus's bravery, and made him an ally. He appointed Porus as satrap, and added to Porus's territory land that he did not previously own, towards the south-east, up to the Hyphasis (Beas). [120] [121] Choosing a local helped him control these lands so distant from Greece. [122] Alexander founded two cities on opposite sides of the Hydaspes river, naming one Bucephala, in honour of his horse, who died around this time. [123] The other was Nicaea (Victory), thought to be located at the site of modern-day Mong, Punjab. [124] Philostratus the Elder in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana writes that in the army of Porus there was an elephant who fought brave against Alexander's army and Alexander dedicated it to the Helios (Sun) and named it Ajax, because he thought that a so great animal deserved a great name. The elephant had gold rings around its tusks and an inscription was on them written in Greek: "Alexander the son of Zeus dedicates Ajax to the Helios" (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ Ο ΔΙΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΑΙΑΝΤΑ ΤΩΙ ΗΛΙΩΙ). [125]

Revolt of the army

East of Porus's kingdom, near the Ganges River, was the Nanda Empire of Magadha, and further east, the Gangaridai Empire of Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander's army mutinied at the Hyphasis River (Beas), refusing to march farther east. [126] This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests. [127]

As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at-arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand war elephants. [128]

Alexander tried to persuade his soldiers to march farther, but his general Coenus pleaded with him to change his opinion and return the men, he said, "longed to again see their parents, their wives and children, their homeland". Alexander eventually agreed and turned south, marching along the Indus. Along the way his army conquered the Malhi (in modern-day Multan) and other Indian tribes and Alexander sustained an injury during the siege. [129]

Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest back to Persia through the more difficult southern route along the Gedrosian Desert and Makran. [130] Alexander reached Susa in 324 BC, but not before losing many men to the harsh desert. [131]

Discovering that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence, Alexander executed several of them as examples on his way to Susa. [133] [134] As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedon, led by Craterus. His troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis. They refused to be sent away and criticized his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units. [135]

After three days, unable to persuade his men to back down, Alexander gave Persians command posts in the army and conferred Macedonian military titles upon Persian units. The Macedonians quickly begged forgiveness, which Alexander accepted, and held a great banquet with several thousand of his men. [136] In an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, Alexander held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. [134] Meanwhile, upon his return to Persia, Alexander learned that guards of the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae had desecrated it, and swiftly executed them. [137] Alexander admired Cyrus the Great, from an early age reading Xenophon's Cyropaedia, which described Cyrus's heroism in battle and governance as a king and legislator. [138] During his visit to Pasargadae Alexander ordered his architect Aristobulus to decorate the interior of the sepulchral chamber of Cyrus's tomb. [138]

Afterwards, Alexander travelled to Ecbatana to retrieve the bulk of the Persian treasure. There, his closest friend and possible lover, Hephaestion, died of illness or poisoning. [139] [140] Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander, and he ordered the preparation of an expensive funeral pyre in Babylon, as well as a decree for public mourning. [139] Back in Babylon, Alexander planned a series of new campaigns, beginning with an invasion of Arabia, but he would not have a chance to realize them, as he died shortly after Hephaestion. [141]

On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. [142] There are two different versions of Alexander's death and details of the death differ slightly in each. Plutarch's account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa. [143] He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. The common soldiers, anxious about his health, were granted the right to file past him as he silently waved at them. [144] In the second account, Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Heracles, followed by 11 days of weakness he did not develop a fever and died after some agony. [145] Arrian also mentioned this as an alternative, but Plutarch specifically denied this claim. [143]

Given the propensity of the Macedonian aristocracy to assassination, [146] foul play featured in multiple accounts of his death. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mentioned the theory that Alexander was poisoned. Justin stated that Alexander was the victim of a poisoning conspiracy, Plutarch dismissed it as a fabrication, [147] while both Diodorus and Arrian noted that they mentioned it only for the sake of completeness. [145] [148] The accounts were nevertheless fairly consistent in designating Antipater, recently removed as Macedonian viceroy, and at odds with Olympias, as the head of the alleged plot. Perhaps taking his summons to Babylon as a death sentence, [149] and having seen the fate of Parmenion and Philotas, [150] Antipater purportedly arranged for Alexander to be poisoned by his son Iollas, who was Alexander's wine-pourer. [148] [150] There was even a suggestion that Aristotle may have participated. [148]

The strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days passed between the start of his illness and his death such long-acting poisons were probably not available. [151] However, in a 2003 BBC documentary investigating the death of Alexander, Leo Schep from the New Zealand National Poisons Centre proposed that the plant white hellebore (Veratrum album), which was known in antiquity, may have been used to poison Alexander. [152] [153] [154] In a 2014 manuscript in the journal Clinical Toxicology, Schep suggested Alexander's wine was spiked with Veratrum album, and that this would produce poisoning symptoms that match the course of events described in the Alexander Romance. [155] Veratrum album poisoning can have a prolonged course and it was suggested that if Alexander was poisoned, Veratrum album offers the most plausible cause. [155] [156] Another poisoning explanation put forward in 2010 proposed that the circumstances of his death were compatible with poisoning by water of the river Styx (modern-day Mavroneri in Arcadia, Greece) that contained calicheamicin, a dangerous compound produced by bacteria. [157]

Several natural causes (diseases) have been suggested, including malaria and typhoid fever. A 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed his death to typhoid fever complicated by bowel perforation and ascending paralysis. [158] Another recent analysis suggested pyogenic (infectious) spondylitis or meningitis. [159] Other illnesses fit the symptoms, including acute pancreatitis and West Nile virus. [160] [161] Natural-cause theories also tend to emphasize that Alexander's health may have been in general decline after years of heavy drinking and severe wounds. The anguish that Alexander felt after Hephaestion's death may also have contributed to his declining health. [158]

After death

Alexander's body was laid in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus that was filled with honey, which was in turn placed in a gold casket. [162] [163] According to Aelian, a seer called Aristander foretold that the land where Alexander was laid to rest "would be happy and unvanquishable forever". [164] Perhaps more likely, the successors may have seen possession of the body as a symbol of legitimacy, since burying the prior king was a royal prerogative. [165]

While Alexander's funeral cortege was on its way to Macedon, Ptolemy seized it and took it temporarily to Memphis. [162] [164] His successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, transferred the sarcophagus to Alexandria, where it remained until at least late Antiquity. Ptolemy IX Lathyros, one of Ptolemy's final successors, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one so he could convert the original to coinage. [166] The recent discovery of an enormous tomb in northern Greece, at Amphipolis, dating from the time of Alexander the Great [167] has given rise to speculation that its original intent was to be the burial place of Alexander. This would fit with the intended destination of Alexander's funeral cortege. However, the memorial was found to be dedicated to the dearest friend of Alexander the Great, Hephaestion. [168] [169]

Pompey, Julius Caesar and Augustus all visited the tomb in Alexandria, where Augustus, allegedly, accidentally knocked the nose off. Caligula was said to have taken Alexander's breastplate from the tomb for his own use. Around AD 200, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, a great admirer, visited the tomb during his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are hazy. [166]

The so-called "Alexander Sarcophagus", discovered near Sidon and now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is so named not because it was thought to have contained Alexander's remains, but because its bas-reliefs depict Alexander and his companions fighting the Persians and hunting. It was originally thought to have been the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus (died 311 BC), the king of Sidon appointed by Alexander immediately following the battle of Issus in 331. [170] [171] However, more recently, it has been suggested that it may date from earlier than Abdalonymus's death.

Demades likened the Macedonian army, after the death of Alexander, to the blinded Cyclops, due to the many random and disorderly movements that it made. [172] [173] [174] In addition, Leosthenes, also, likened the anarchy between the generals, after Alexander's death, to the blinded Cyclops "who after he had lost his eye went feeling and groping about with his hands before him, not knowing where to lay them". [175]

Division of the empire

Alexander's death was so sudden that when reports of his death reached Greece, they were not immediately believed. [61] Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander's death. [176] According to Diodorus, Alexander's companions asked him on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom his laconic reply was "tôi kratistôi"—"to the strongest". [145] Another theory is that his successors wilfully or erroneously misheard "tôi Kraterôi"—"to Craterus", the general leading his Macedonian troops home and newly entrusted with the regency of Macedonia. [177]

Arrian and Plutarch claimed that Alexander was speechless by this point, implying that this was an apocryphal story. [178] Diodorus, Curtius and Justin offered the more plausible story that Alexander passed his signet ring to Perdiccas, a bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, in front of witnesses, thereby nominating him. [145] [176]

Perdiccas initially did not claim power, instead suggesting that Roxane's baby would be king, if male with himself, Craterus, Leonnatus, and Antipater as guardians. However, the infantry, under the command of Meleager, rejected this arrangement since they had been excluded from the discussion. Instead, they supported Alexander's half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. Eventually, the two sides reconciled, and after the birth of Alexander IV, he and Philip III were appointed joint kings, albeit in name only. [179]

Dissension and rivalry soon afflicted the Macedonians, however. The satrapies handed out by Perdiccas at the Partition of Babylon became power bases each general used to bid for power. After the assassination of Perdiccas in 321 BC, Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between "The Successors" (Diadochi) ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocs: Ptolemaic Egypt , Seleucid Mesopotamia and Central Asia, Attalid Anatolia, and Antigonid Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered. [180]

Last plans

Diodorus stated that Alexander had given detailed written instructions to Craterus some time before his death, which are known as Alexander's "last plans". [182] Craterus started to carry out Alexander's commands, but the successors chose not to further implement them, on the grounds they were impractical and extravagant. [182] Furthermore, Perdiccas had read the notebooks containing Alexander's last plans to the Macedonian troops in Babylon, who voted not to carry them out. [61]

According to Diodorus, Alexander's last plans called for military expansion into the southern and western Mediterranean, monumental constructions, and the intermixing of Eastern and Western populations. It included:

  • Construction of 1,000 ships larger than triremes, along with harbours and a road running along the African coast all the way to the Pillars of Hercules, to be used for an invasion of Carthage and the western Mediterranean [183]
  • Erection of great temples in Delos, Delphi, Dodona, Dium, Amphipolis, all costing 1,500 talents, and a monumental temple to Athena at Troy[61][183]
  • Amalgamation of small settlements into larger cities ("synoecisms") and the "transplant of populations from Asia to Europe and in the opposite direction from Europe to Asia, in order to bring the largest continent to common unity and to friendship by means of intermarriage and family ties" [184][183]
  • Construction of a monumental tomb for his father Philip, "to match the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt" [61][183]
  • Conquest of Arabia [61]
  • Circumnavigation of Africa [61]

The enormous scale of these plans has led many scholars to doubt their historicity. Ernst Badian argued that they were exaggerated by Perdiccas in order to ensure that the Macedonian troops voted not to carry them out. [183] Other scholars have proposed that they were invented by later authors within the tradition of the Alexander Romance. [185]

Generalship

Alexander earned the epithet "the Great" due to his unparalleled success as a military commander. He never lost a battle, despite typically being outnumbered. [60] This was due to use of terrain, phalanx and cavalry tactics, bold strategy, and the fierce loyalty of his troops. [186] The Macedonian phalanx, armed with the sarissa, a spear 6 metres (20 ft) long, had been developed and perfected by Philip II through rigorous training, and Alexander used its speed and manoeuvrability to great effect against larger but more disparate Persian forces. [187] Alexander also recognized the potential for disunity among his diverse army, which employed various languages and weapons. He overcame this by being personally involved in battle, [90] in the manner of a Macedonian king. [186]

In his first battle in Asia, at Granicus, Alexander used only a small part of his forces, perhaps 13,000 infantry with 5,000 cavalry, against a much larger Persian force of 40,000. [188] Alexander placed the phalanx at the center and cavalry and archers on the wings, so that his line matched the length of the Persian cavalry line, about 3 km (1.86 mi). By contrast, the Persian infantry was stationed behind its cavalry. This ensured that Alexander would not be outflanked, while his phalanx, armed with long pikes, had a considerable advantage over the Persians' scimitars and javelins. Macedonian losses were negligible compared to those of the Persians. [189]

At Issus in 333 BC, his first confrontation with Darius, he used the same deployment, and again the central phalanx pushed through. [189] Alexander personally led the charge in the center, routing the opposing army. [190] At the decisive encounter with Darius at Gaugamela, Darius equipped his chariots with scythes on the wheels to break up the phalanx and equipped his cavalry with pikes. Alexander arranged a double phalanx, with the center advancing at an angle, parting when the chariots bore down and then reforming. The advance was successful and broke Darius's center, causing the latter to flee once again. [189]

When faced with opponents who used unfamiliar fighting techniques, such as in Central Asia and India, Alexander adapted his forces to his opponents' style. Thus, in Bactria and Sogdiana, Alexander successfully used his javelin throwers and archers to prevent outflanking movements, while massing his cavalry at the center. [190] In India, confronted by Porus's elephant corps, the Macedonians opened their ranks to envelop the elephants and used their sarissas to strike upwards and dislodge the elephants' handlers. [136]

Physical appearance

The outward appearance of Alexander is best represented by the statues of him which Lysippus made, and it was by this artist alone that Alexander himself thought it fit that he should be modelled. For those peculiarities which many of his successors and friends afterwards tried to imitate, namely, the poise of the neck, which was bent slightly to the left, and the melting glance of his eyes, this artist has accurately observed. Apelles, however, in painting him as wielder of the thunder-bolt, did not reproduce his complexion, but made it too dark and swarthy. Whereas he was of a fair colour, as they say, and his fairness passed into ruddiness on his breast particularly, and in his face. Moreover, that a very pleasant odour exhaled from his skin and that there was a fragrance about his mouth and all his flesh, so that his garments were filled with it, this we have read in the Memoirs of Aristoxenus. [191]

The semi-legendary Alexander Romance also suggests that Alexander exhibited heterochromia iridum: that one eye was dark and the other light. [192]

British historian Peter Green provided a description of Alexander's appearance, based on his review of statues and some ancient documents:

Physically, Alexander was not prepossessing. Even by Macedonian standards he was very short, though stocky and tough. His beard was scanty, and he stood out against his hirsute Macedonian barons by going clean-shaven. His neck was in some way twisted, so that he appeared to be gazing upward at an angle. His eyes (one blue, one brown) revealed a dewy, feminine quality. He had a high complexion and a harsh voice. [193]

Historian and Egyptologist Joann Fletcher has said that Alexander had blond hair. [194]

Ancient authors recorded that Alexander was so pleased with portraits of himself created by Lysippos that he forbade other sculptors from crafting his image. [195] Lysippos had often used the contrapposto sculptural scheme to portray Alexander and other characters such as Apoxyomenos, Hermes and Eros. [196] Lysippos's sculpture, famous for its naturalism, as opposed to a stiffer, more static pose, is thought to be the most faithful depiction. [197]

Personality

As is the case with personality traits in general, Alexander's prominent personality traits reflected those of his parents. His mother had huge ambitions, and encouraged him to believe it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire. [193] Olympias's influence instilled a sense of destiny in him, [199] and Plutarch tells how his ambition "kept his spirit serious and lofty in advance of his years". [200] However, his father Philip was probably Alexander's most immediate and influential role model, as the young Alexander watched him campaign practically every year, winning victory after victory while ignoring severe wounds. [49] Alexander's relationship with his father "forged" the competitive side of his personality he had a need to outdo his father, illustrated by his reckless behavior in battle. [193] While Alexander worried that his father would leave him "no great or brilliant achievement to be displayed to the world", [201] he also downplayed his father's achievements to his companions. [193]

According to Plutarch, among Alexander's traits were a violent temper and rash, impulsive nature, [202] which undoubtedly contributed to some of his decisions. [193] Although Alexander was stubborn and did not respond well to orders from his father, he was open to reasoned debate. [203] He had a calmer side—perceptive, logical, and calculating. He had a great desire for knowledge, a love for philosophy, and was an avid reader. [204] This was no doubt in part due to Aristotle's tutelage Alexander was intelligent and quick to learn. [193] His intelligent and rational side was amply demonstrated by his ability and success as a general. [202] He had great self-restraint in "pleasures of the body", in contrast with his lack of self-control with alcohol. [205]

Alexander was erudite and patronized both arts and sciences. [200] [204] However, he had little interest in sports or the Olympic games (unlike his father), seeking only the Homeric ideals of honour (timê) and glory (kudos). [206] He had great charisma and force of personality, characteristics which made him a great leader. [176] [202] His unique abilities were further demonstrated by the inability of any of his generals to unite Macedonia and retain the Empire after his death—only Alexander had the ability to do so. [176]

During his final years, and especially after the death of Hephaestion, Alexander began to exhibit signs of megalomania and paranoia. [149] His extraordinary achievements, coupled with his own ineffable sense of destiny and the flattery of his companions, may have combined to produce this effect. [207] His delusions of grandeur are readily visible in his will and in his desire to conquer the world, [149] in as much as he is by various sources described as having boundless ambition, [208] [209] an epithet, the meaning of which has descended into an historical cliché. [210] [211]

He appears to have believed himself a deity, or at least sought to deify himself. [149] Olympias always insisted to him that he was the son of Zeus, [212] a theory apparently confirmed to him by the oracle of Amun at Siwa. [213] He began to identify himself as the son of Zeus-Ammon. [213] Alexander adopted elements of Persian dress and customs at court, notably proskynesis, a practice of which Macedonians disapproved, and were loath to perform. [106] This behaviour cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen. [214] However, Alexander also was a pragmatic ruler who understood the difficulties of ruling culturally disparate peoples, many of whom lived in kingdoms where the king was divine. [215] Thus, rather than megalomania, his behaviour may simply have been a practical attempt at strengthening his rule and keeping his empire together. [216]

Personal relationships

Alexander married three times: Roxana, daughter of the Sogdian nobleman Oxyartes of Bactria, [217] [218] [219] out of love [220] and the Persian princesses Stateira II and Parysatis II, the former a daughter of Darius III and latter a daughter of Artaxerxes III, for political reasons. [221] [222] He apparently had two sons, Alexander IV of Macedon by Roxana and, possibly, Heracles of Macedon from his mistress Barsine. He lost another child when Roxana miscarried at Babylon. [223] [224]

Alexander also had a close relationship with his friend, general, and bodyguard Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. [139] [193] [225] Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander. [139] [226] This event may have contributed to Alexander's failing health and detached mental state during his final months. [149] [158]

Alexander's sexuality has been the subject of speculation and controversy in modern times. [227] The Roman era writer Athenaeus says, based on the scholar Dicaearchus, who was Alexander's contemporary, that the king "was quite excessively keen on boys", and that Alexander kissed the eunuch Bagoas in public. [228] This episode is also told by Plutarch, probably based on the same source. None of Alexander's contemporaries, however, are known to have explicitly described Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion as sexual, though the pair was often compared to Achilles and Patroclus, whom classical Greek culture painted as a couple. Aelian writes of Alexander's visit to Troy where "Alexander garlanded the tomb of Achilles, and Hephaestion that of Patroclus, the latter hinting that he was a beloved of Alexander, in just the same way as Patroclus was of Achilles." [229] Some modern historians (e.g., Robin Lane Fox) believe not only that Alexander's youthful relationship with Hephaestion was sexual, but that their sexual contacts may have continued into adulthood, which went against the social norms of at least some Greek cities, such as Athens, [230] [231] though some modern researchers have tentatively proposed that Macedonia (or at least the Macedonian court) may have been more tolerant of homosexuality between adults. [232]

Green argues that there is little evidence in ancient sources that Alexander had much carnal interest in women he did not produce an heir until the very end of his life. [193] However, Ogden calculates that Alexander, who impregnated his partners thrice in eight years, had a higher matrimonial record than his father at the same age. [233] Two of these pregnancies — Stateira's and Barsine's — are of dubious legitimacy. [234]

According to Diodorus Siculus, Alexander accumulated a harem in the style of Persian kings, but he used it rather sparingly, "not wishing to offend the Macedonians", [235] showing great self-control in "pleasures of the body". [205] Nevertheless, Plutarch described how Alexander was infatuated by Roxana while complimenting him on not forcing himself on her. [236] Green suggested that, in the context of the period, Alexander formed quite strong friendships with women, including Ada of Caria, who adopted him, and even Darius's mother Sisygambis, who supposedly died from grief upon hearing of Alexander's death. [193]


Alexander the Great's Father Found — Maybe

A decades-old mystery about the body of Alexander the Great's father has been solved, anthropologists claim.

A new analysis of bones from a Macedonian tomb complex reveals a skeleton with a knee injury so severe that it would have caused a noticeable limp in life. This injury matches some historical records of one sustained by Philip II, whose nascent empire Alexander the Great would expand all the way to India.

The skeleton in question, however, is not the one initially thought to be Philip II's — instead, it comes from the tomb next door. The skeletons are the subject of an entrenched debate among experts on ancient Greece and Macedonia. While some praised the new study, others pushed back, suggesting the new research will not quell 40 years of controversy.

"The knee is the clincher," said Maria Liston, an anthropologist at the University of Waterloo, who was not involved in the new study, which is detailed today (July 20) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). [See Photos of the Tomb at Vergina and Mysterious 'Philip' Bones]

"This publication in PNAS is incorrect," said Theodore Antikas, a researcher at Aristotle University in Greece and author of another controversial study on bones from the tombs.

A violent history

The story of Philip II is wrought with twists and turns. In 336 B.C., the king was murdered by one of his bodyguards. The motives for the assassination are unclear. Some ancient historians wrote that the murder was an act of revenge stemming from a sordid tale of suicide and sexual assault between Philip II's male lovers and other members of the court.

Whatever the cause, murder was de rigueur for the Macedonian royal family. Within days of Philip II's murder, one of his wives, Olympias — mother of Alexander the Great — let her own homicidal tendencies run free. According to the Latin historian Justin, Olympias killed the newborn daughter of Philip II's newest wife, Cleopatra, in her mother's arms. She then forced Cleopatra to hang herself.

A generation later, after the death of Alexander the Great, the conqueror's half-brother Philip III Arrhidaeus (also spelled Arrhidaios) took the throne. Philip III Arrhidaeus was king in name only, and ancient historians record him as being mentally unfit. His wife, Eurydice, was a warrior, however. She was determined to make her husband more than a figurehead puppet for Alexander's generals, who were by this time vying for power in the void left by his death.

But Philip III Arrhidaeus and Eurydice would lose that battle. In 317 B.C., Olympias came out against them. The couple's troops refused to fight the forces of the mother of Alexander the Great. Olympias had the pair killed and buried. Some months later, they were exhumed and cremated in a display to shore up legitimacy for the next king. [Family Ties: 8 Truly Dysfunctional Royal Families]

Cremation and controversy

Philip II. Cleopatra. Philip III. Eurydice.

When archaeologists uncovered a Macedonian tomb complex near the Greek city of Vergina in the 1970s, they knew they had royal burials on their hands. But which tombs belonged to which royals?

There are three tombs at the site. Tomb I had been plundered in antiquity but contained human remains and an intricate wall painting of the Rape of Persephone. Tomb II was intact. Inside were the cremated bones of a man and a woman, surrounded by armor and other lavish items. Tomb III is widely accepted to belong to Alexander IV, Alexander the Great's son.

Initially, the bodies in lavish Tomb II were identified as those of Philip II and Cleopatra. But debate has raged over possible injuries to the male skull, over the ages and dating of the skeletons, and over whether the bones were burned with flesh on or off. (As Philip III Arridaeus was cremated long after burial, archaeologists looked for signs that the bones had been burned after the flesh had rotted away.) Many archaeologists suspected the two burned bodies were not Philip II and Cleopatra, but Philip III and Eurydice.

The two sides have been lobbing research papers at each other for years, but seemed at an impasse.

"In fact, the issue has become eminently political, and for years a sort of vendetta has been raging between factions," said historian Miltiades Hatzopoulos of International Hellenic University, who was not involved in the new research.

Now, Antonis Bartsiokas of Democritus University of Thrace in Greece has taken a different tact. Instead of examining the burnt bones in Tomb II, he and his team took a close look at three skeletons from the tomb next door.

The smoking gun

The analysis revealed that the man in Tomb I was in his 40s when he died, and stood 5 feet 9 inches tall (180 centimeters) — impressive for the era. The woman died around 18 years of age, based on measurements of the fusion of her bones. She was about 5 feet 4 inches tall (165 cm). The baby was a newborn, probably only a week to three weeks past the due date.

The ages match historical records of Philip II, Cleopatra and their infant. But the real smoking gun, Liston said, was a knee injury on the male skeleton.

The man's left thigh bone, or femur, had fused with one of his lower leg bones, the tibia. This fusion left the knee joint frozen in place at a 79-degree angle. A hole in the bone suggests the wound was caused by a penetrating injury from a projectile, such as a spear.

And that's where things get exciting. According to historical records, Philip II was injured in the leg during a battle in 345 B.C. He then limped for the rest of his life.

"When I found the femur fused to the tibia at the knee joint, I suddenly remembered the leg injury of Philip, but I could not recall any details," Bartsiokas told Live Science. "I then ran to study the historical evidence."

He found a description of Philip II's wounds in the writings of the ancient historian Justin. "At that moment," he wrote in an email to Live Science, "I knew the bone must belong to Philip!" [Bones With Names: Long-Dead Bodies Archaeologists Have Identified]

The injury does match descriptions of Philip II's limp, the University of Waterloo's Liston said.

"This was a devastating injury that separated the knee joint and left it probably completely unstable until it fused," Liston told Live Science. The pain would have been excruciating, she said.

After reading the new PNAS paper, she said, she asked two middle-age men at her lab in Athens to stand on one foot, with the toes of the other foot just touching the ground. The angles of their knees were 72 degrees and 80 degrees. This ad hoc experiment suggests that, like Philip II, the man in the tomb could have walked, but only with difficulty. He probably could have ridden a horse — but he may have been vulnerable in hand-to-hand combat.

"This injury may also explain why Philip, a skilled warrior, was so utterly unable to fight off the assassins," Liston said. "With this knee, he would have limited mobility and very poor balance."

An end to controversy?

If Philip II and his wife and baby occupy Tomb I, it stands to reason that Philip III and his wife are the contested skeletons in Tomb II, Bartsiokas and his colleagues write today (July 20) in PNAS. [See Images of the Tomb II and Bones Inside]

Whether the finding will rewrite history remains to be seen. The museum at the site of the Royal Tombs of Vergina identifies Tomb II, not Tomb I, as belonging to Philip II. So does UNESCO, which classifies the monuments as a royal heritage site.

"These are bold claims that I don't think will be very welcome in certain quarters in Greece," said Jonathan Musgrave, an anatomist at the University of Bristol, who has argued that the bones in Tomb II belong to Philip II and Cleopatra.

Indeed, researchers who have argued for Tomb II as Philip II's final resting place were not quickly convinced by the new study. In 2014, two bags of human and animal bones were found in a storage area with plaster from Tomb I, Antikas told Live Science. He and his team have analyzed those bones, he said, and found that Tomb I contained not two adults and a baby as discussed in Bartsiokas' new paper, but two adults, a teenager, a fetus and three newborns. Those findings have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, pending permission for further study from Greece's Central Archaeological Council, Antikas said.

"Any prejudgment concerning the occupants is impossible before the complete context is re-examined," said Chrysoula Paliadeli, an archaeologist at the director of the Aristotle University excavations at Vergina.

Even the "smoking gun" leg wound falls under scrutiny ancient historians were not always very detailed or clear with their sourcing. Bartsiokas and his team trust the writings of Demosthenes, a contemporary of Philip II, who simply wrote that the king was wounded in his leg. But 300 years later historian Didymos wrote that Philip's wound was in his right thigh, said Hatzopoulos of International Hellenic University. The wound on the skeleton analyzed by Bartsiokas was on the left leg.

It might seem natural to trust the historian who was writing at the time of Philip II's life versus the one writing 300 years later, but Didymos' source was probably Theopompos, who did live at the same time as Philip II, Hatzopoulos said.

"Having followed this controversy through four decades I have come to the conclusion that in this particular issue one cannot put much faith in the so-called 'exact sciences,'" Hatzopoulos said. "Reputed scientists have contradicted one another time and time again."

Bartsiokas and his team seemed prepared for ongoing strife.

"I think that we have made a very strong case," said study co-author Juan-Luis Arsuaga of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. "Now the focus of attention will turn to Tomb I. I am open to debate."

Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct a mention of Desmothenes that should be Didymos.


Contents

Lineage and childhood

Alexander was born in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon, [8] on the sixth day of the ancient Greek month of Hekatombaion, which probably corresponds to 20 July 356 BC (although the exact date is uncertain). [9] He was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias, daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of Epirus. [10] Although Philip had seven or eight wives, Olympias was his principal wife for some time, likely because she gave birth to Alexander. [11]

Several legends surround Alexander's birth and childhood. [12] According to the ancient Greek biographer Plutarch, on the eve of the consummation of her marriage to Philip, Olympias dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunderbolt that caused a flame to spread "far and wide" before dying away. Sometime after the wedding, Philip is said to have seen himself, in a dream, securing his wife's womb with a seal engraved with a lion's image. [13] Plutarch offered a variety of interpretations of these dreams: that Olympias was pregnant before her marriage, indicated by the sealing of her womb or that Alexander's father was Zeus. Ancient commentators were divided about whether the ambitious Olympias promulgated the story of Alexander's divine parentage, variously claiming that she had told Alexander, or that she dismissed the suggestion as impious. [13]

On the day Alexander was born, Philip was preparing a siege on the city of Potidea on the peninsula of Chalcidice. That same day, Philip received news that his general Parmenion had defeated the combined Illyrian and Paeonian armies and that his horses had won at the Olympic Games. It was also said that on this day, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, burnt down. This led Hegesias of Magnesia to say that it had burnt down because Artemis was away, attending the birth of Alexander. [14] Such legends may have emerged when Alexander was king, and possibly at his instigation, to show that he was superhuman and destined for greatness from conception. [12]

In his early years, Alexander was raised by a nurse, Lanike, sister of Alexander's future general Cleitus the Black. Later in his childhood, Alexander was tutored by the strict Leonidas, a relative of his mother, and by Lysimachus of Acarnania. [15] Alexander was raised in the manner of noble Macedonian youths, learning to read, play the lyre, ride, fight, and hunt. [16]

When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted, and Philip ordered it away. Alexander, however, detecting the horse's fear of its own shadow, asked to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. [12] Plutarch stated that Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son tearfully, declaring: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you", and bought the horse for him. [17] Alexander named it Bucephalas, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalas carried Alexander as far as India. When the animal died (because of old age, according to Plutarch, at age thirty), Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala. [18]

Education

When Alexander was 13, Philip began to search for a tutor, and considered such academics as Isocrates and Speusippus, the latter offering to resign from his stewardship of the Academy to take up the post. In the end, Philip chose Aristotle and provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as a classroom. In return for teaching Alexander, Philip agreed to rebuild Aristotle's hometown of Stageira, which Philip had razed, and to repopulate it by buying and freeing the ex-citizens who were slaves, or pardoning those who were in exile. [19]

Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of these students would become his friends and future generals, and are often known as the "Companions". Aristotle taught Alexander and his companions about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. Under Aristotle's tutelage, Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad Aristotle gave him an annotated copy, which Alexander later carried on his campaigns. [20]

Alexander was able to quote Euripides from memory. [21]

During his youth, Alexander was also acquainted with Persian exiles at the Macedonian court, who received the protection of Philip II for several years as they opposed Artaxerxes III. [22] [23] [24] Among them were Artabazos II and his daughter Barsine, future mistress of Alexander, who resided at the Macedonian court from 352 to 342 BC, as well as Amminapes, future satrap of Alexander, or a Persian nobleman named Sisines. [22] [25] [26] [27] This gave the Macedonian court a good knowledge of Persian issues, and may even have influenced some of the innovations in the management of the Macedonian state. [25]

Suda writes that, also, Anaximenes of Lampsacus was one of his teachers. Anaximenes, also accompanied him on his campaigns. [28]

Regency and ascent of Macedon

At the age of 16, Alexander's education under Aristotle ended. Philip II had waged war against the Thracians to the north, which left Alexander in charge as regent and heir apparent. [12]

During Philip's absence, the Thracian tribe of Maedi revolted against Macedonia. Alexander responded quickly and drove them from their territory. The territory was colonized, and a city, named Alexandropolis, was founded. [29]

Upon Philip's return, Alexander was dispatched with a small force to subdue the revolts in southern Thrace. Campaigning against the Greek city of Perinthus, Alexander reportedly saved his father's life. Meanwhile, the city of Amphissa began to work lands that were sacred to Apollo near Delphi, a sacrilege that gave Philip the opportunity to further intervene in Greek affairs. While Philip was occupied in Thrace, Alexander was ordered to muster an army for a campaign in southern Greece. Concerned that other Greek states might intervene, Alexander made it look as though he was preparing to attack Illyria instead. During this turmoil, the Illyrians invaded Macedonia, only to be repelled by Alexander. [30]

Philip and his army joined his son in 338 BC, and they marched south through Thermopylae, taking it after stubborn resistance from its Theban garrison. They went on to occupy the city of Elatea, only a few days' march from both Athens and Thebes. The Athenians, led by Demosthenes, voted to seek alliance with Thebes against Macedonia. Both Athens and Philip sent embassies to win Thebes's favour, but Athens won the contest. [31] Philip marched on Amphissa (ostensibly acting on the request of the Amphictyonic League), capturing the mercenaries sent there by Demosthenes and accepting the city's surrender. Philip then returned to Elatea, sending a final offer of peace to Athens and Thebes, who both rejected it. [32]

As Philip marched south, his opponents blocked him near Chaeronea, Boeotia. During the ensuing Battle of Chaeronea, Philip commanded the right wing and Alexander the left, accompanied by a group of Philip's trusted generals. According to the ancient sources, the two sides fought bitterly for some time. Philip deliberately commanded his troops to retreat, counting on the untested Athenian hoplites to follow, thus breaking their line. Alexander was the first to break the Theban lines, followed by Philip's generals. Having damaged the enemy's cohesion, Philip ordered his troops to press forward and quickly routed them. With the Athenians lost, the Thebans were surrounded. Left to fight alone, they were defeated. [33]

After the victory at Chaeronea, Philip and Alexander marched unopposed into the Peloponnese, welcomed by all cities however, when they reached Sparta, they were refused, but did not resort to war. [34] At Corinth, Philip established a "Hellenic Alliance" (modelled on the old anti-Persian alliance of the Greco-Persian Wars), which included most Greek city-states except Sparta. Philip was then named Hegemon (often translated as "Supreme Commander") of this league (known by modern scholars as the League of Corinth), and announced his plans to attack the Persian Empire. [35] [36]

Exile and return

When Philip returned to Pella, he fell in love with and married Cleopatra Eurydice in 338 BC, [37] the niece of his general Attalus. [38] The marriage made Alexander's position as heir less secure, since any son of Cleopatra Eurydice would be a fully Macedonian heir, while Alexander was only half-Macedonian. [39] During the wedding banquet, a drunken Attalus publicly prayed to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir. [38]

At the wedding of Cleopatra, whom Philip fell in love with and married, she being much too young for him, her uncle Attalus in his drink desired the Macedonians would implore the gods to give them a lawful successor to the kingdom by his niece. This so irritated Alexander, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain," said he, "what, am I then a bastard?" Then Philip, taking Attalus's part, rose up and would have run his son through but by good fortune for them both, either his over-hasty rage, or the wine he had drunk, made his foot slip, so that he fell down on the floor. At which Alexander reproachfully insulted over him: "See there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another."

In 337 BC, Alexander fled Macedon with his mother, dropping her off with her brother, King Alexander I of Epirus in Dodona, capital of the Molossians. [41] He continued to Illyria, [41] where he sought refuge with one or more Illyrian kings, perhaps with Glaukias, and was treated as a guest, despite having defeated them in battle a few years before. [42] However, it appears Philip never intended to disown his politically and militarily trained son. [41] Accordingly, Alexander returned to Macedon after six months due to the efforts of a family friend, Demaratus, who mediated between the two parties. [43]

In the following year, the Persian satrap (governor) of Caria, Pixodarus, offered his eldest daughter to Alexander's half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus. [41] Olympias and several of Alexander's friends suggested this showed Philip intended to make Arrhidaeus his heir. [41] Alexander reacted by sending an actor, Thessalus of Corinth, to tell Pixodarus that he should not offer his daughter's hand to an illegitimate son, but instead to Alexander. When Philip heard of this, he stopped the negotiations and scolded Alexander for wishing to marry the daughter of a Carian, explaining that he wanted a better bride for him. [41] Philip exiled four of Alexander's friends, Harpalus, Nearchus, Ptolemy and Erigyius, and had the Corinthians bring Thessalus to him in chains. [44]

Accession

In summer 336 BC, while at Aegae attending the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to Olympias's brother, Alexander I of Epirus, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguards, Pausanias. [e] As Pausanias tried to escape, he tripped over a vine and was killed by his pursuers, including two of Alexander's companions, Perdiccas and Leonnatus. Alexander was proclaimed king on the spot by the nobles and army at the age of 20. [46] [47] [48]

Consolidation of power

Alexander began his reign by eliminating potential rivals to the throne. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed. [49] He also had two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, but spared a third, Alexander Lyncestes. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and Europa, her daughter by Philip, burned alive. When Alexander learned about this, he was furious. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus, [49] who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor and Cleopatra's uncle. [50]

Attalus was at that time corresponding with Demosthenes, regarding the possibility of defecting to Athens. Attalus also had severely insulted Alexander, and following Cleopatra's murder, Alexander may have considered him too dangerous to leave alive. [50] Alexander spared Arrhidaeus, who was by all accounts mentally disabled, possibly as a result of poisoning by Olympias. [46] [48] [51]

News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt, including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the Thracian tribes north of Macedon. When news of the revolts reached Alexander, he responded quickly. Though advised to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered 3,000 Macedonian cavalry and rode south towards Thessaly. He found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, and ordered his men to ride over Mount Ossa. When the Thessalians awoke the next day, they found Alexander in their rear and promptly surrendered, adding their cavalry to Alexander's force. He then continued south towards the Peloponnese. [52]

Alexander stopped at Thermopylae, where he was recognized as the leader of the Amphictyonic League before heading south to Corinth. Athens sued for peace and Alexander pardoned the rebels. The famous encounter between Alexander and Diogenes the Cynic occurred during Alexander's stay in Corinth. When Alexander asked Diogenes what he could do for him, the philosopher disdainfully asked Alexander to stand a little to the side, as he was blocking the sunlight. [53] This reply apparently delighted Alexander, who is reported to have said "But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes." [54] At Corinth, Alexander took the title of Hegemon ("leader") and, like Philip, was appointed commander for the coming war against Persia. He also received news of a Thracian uprising. [55]

Balkan campaign

Before crossing to Asia, Alexander wanted to safeguard his northern borders. In the spring of 335 BC, he advanced to suppress several revolts. Starting from Amphipolis, he travelled east into the country of the "Independent Thracians" and at Mount Haemus, the Macedonian army attacked and defeated the Thracian forces manning the heights. [56] The Macedonians marched into the country of the Triballi, and defeated their army near the Lyginus river [57] (a tributary of the Danube). Alexander then marched for three days to the Danube, encountering the Getae tribe on the opposite shore. Crossing the river at night, he surprised them and forced their army to retreat after the first cavalry skirmish. [58]

News then reached Alexander that Cleitus, King of Illyria, and King Glaukias of the Taulantii were in open revolt against his authority. Marching west into Illyria, Alexander defeated each in turn, forcing the two rulers to flee with their troops. With these victories, he secured his northern frontier. [59]

While Alexander campaigned north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander immediately headed south. [60] While the other cities again hesitated, Thebes decided to fight. The Theban resistance was ineffective, and Alexander razed the city and divided its territory between the other Boeotian cities. The end of Thebes cowed Athens, leaving all of Greece temporarily at peace. [60] Alexander then set out on his Asian campaign, leaving Antipater as regent. [61]

According to ancient writers Demosthenes called Alexander "Margites" (Greek: Μαργίτης ) [62] [63] [64] and a boy. [64] Greeks used the word Margites to describe fool and useless people, on account of the Margites. [63] [65]

Asia Minor

After his victory at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), Philip II began the work of establishing himself as hēgemṓn (Greek: ἡγεμών ) of a league which according to Diodorus was to wage a campaign against the Persians for the sundry grievances Greece suffered in 480 and free the Greek cities of the western coast and islands from Achaemenid rule. In 336 he sent Parmenion, with Amyntas, Andromenes and Attalus, and an army of 10,000 men into Anatolia to make preparations for an invasion. [66] [67] At first, all went well. The Greek cities on the western coast of Anatolia revolted until the news arrived that Philip had been murdered and had been succeeded by his young son Alexander. The Macedonians were demoralized by Philip's death and were subsequently defeated near Magnesia by the Achaemenids under the command of the mercenary Memnon of Rhodes. [66] [67]

Taking over the invasion project of Philip II, Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC with approximately 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry and a fleet of 120 ships with crews numbering 38,000, [60] drawn from Macedon and various Greek city-states, mercenaries, and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. [68] [f] He showed his intent to conquer the entirety of the Persian Empire by throwing a spear into Asian soil and saying he accepted Asia as a gift from the gods. This also showed Alexander's eagerness to fight, in contrast to his father's preference for diplomacy. [60]

After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis he then proceeded along the Ionian coast, granting autonomy and democracy to the cities. Miletus, held by Achaemenid forces, required a delicate siege operation, with Persian naval forces nearby. Further south, at Halicarnassus, in Caria, Alexander successfully waged his first large-scale siege, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea. [69] Alexander left the government of Caria to a member of the Hecatomnid dynasty, Ada, who adopted Alexander. [70]

From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities to deny the Persians naval bases. From Pamphylia onwards the coast held no major ports and Alexander moved inland. At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city. [71] At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander "undid" the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future "king of Asia". [72] According to the story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone and hacked it apart with his sword. [73]

The Levant and Syria

In spring 333 BC, Alexander crossed the Taurus into Cilicia. After a long pause due to an illness, he marched on towards Syria. Though outmanoeuvered by Darius's significantly larger army, he marched back to Cilicia, where he defeated Darius at Issus. Darius fled the battle, causing his army to collapse, and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous treasure. [74] He offered a peace treaty that included the lands he had already lost, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions. [75] Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant. [70] In the following year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he captured after a long and difficult siege. [76] [77] The men of military age were massacred and the women and children sold into slavery. [78]

Egypt

When Alexander destroyed Tyre, most of the towns on the route to Egypt quickly capitulated. However, Alexander was met with resistance at Gaza. The stronghold was heavily fortified and built on a hill, requiring a siege. When "his engineers pointed out to him that because of the height of the mound it would be impossible. this encouraged Alexander all the more to make the attempt". [79] After three unsuccessful assaults, the stronghold fell, but not before Alexander had received a serious shoulder wound. As in Tyre, men of military age were put to the sword and the women and children were sold into slavery. [80]

Alexander advanced on Egypt in later 332 BC, where he was regarded as a liberator. [81] He was pronounced son of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. [82] Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and after his death, currency depicted him adorned with the Horns of Ammon as a symbol of his divinity. [83] During his stay in Egypt, he founded Alexandria-by-Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after his death. [84]

Assyria and Babylonia

Leaving Egypt in 331 BC, Alexander marched eastward into Achaemenid Assyria in Upper Mesopotamia (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius again at the Battle of Gaugamela. [85] Darius once more fled the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. Gaugamela would be the final and decisive encounter between the two. [86] Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) while Alexander captured Babylon. [87]

Persia

From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its treasury. [87] He sent the bulk of his army to the Persian ceremonial capital of Persepolis via the Persian Royal Road. Alexander himself took selected troops on the direct route to the city. He then stormed the pass of the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains) which had been blocked by a Persian army under Ariobarzanes and then hurried to Persepolis before its garrison could loot the treasury. [88]

On entering Persepolis, Alexander allowed his troops to loot the city for several days. [89] Alexander stayed in Persepolis for five months. [90] During his stay a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes I and spread to the rest of the city. Possible causes include a drunken accident or deliberate revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War by Xerxes [91] Plutarch and Diodorus allege that Alexander's companion, the hetaera Thaïs, instigated and started the fire. Even as he watched the city burn, Alexander immediately began to regret his decision. [92] [93] [94] Plutarch claims that he ordered his men to put out the fires, [92] but that the flames had already spread to most of the city. [92] Curtius claims that Alexander did not regret his decision until the next morning. [92] Plutarch recounts an anecdote in which Alexander pauses and talks to a fallen statue of Xerxes as if it were a live person:

Shall I pass by and leave you lying there because of the expeditions you led against Greece, or shall I set you up again because of your magnanimity and your virtues in other respects? [95]

Fall of the Empire and the East

Alexander then chased Darius, first into Media, and then Parthia. [97] The Persian king no longer controlled his own destiny, and was taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. [98] As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men fatally stab the Great King and then declared himself Darius's successor as Artaxerxes V, before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. [99] Alexander buried Darius's remains next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a regal funeral. [100] He claimed that, while dying, Darius had named him as his successor to the Achaemenid throne. [101] The Achaemenid Empire is normally considered to have fallen with Darius. [102]

Alexander viewed Bessus as a usurper and set out to defeat him. This campaign, initially against Bessus, turned into a grand tour of central Asia. Alexander founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Alexandria Eschate ("The Furthest") in modern Tajikistan. The campaign took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia. [103]

In 329 BC, Spitamenes, who held an undefined position in the satrapy of Sogdiana, betrayed Bessus to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's trusted companions, and Bessus was executed. [104] However, when, at some point later, Alexander was on the Jaxartes dealing with an incursion by a horse nomad army, Spitamenes raised Sogdiana in revolt. Alexander personally defeated the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes and immediately launched a campaign against Spitamenes, defeating him in the Battle of Gabai. After the defeat, Spitamenes was killed by his own men, who then sued for peace. [105]

Problems and plots

During this time, Alexander adopted some elements of Persian dress and customs at his court, notably the custom of proskynesis, either a symbolic kissing of the hand, or prostration on the ground, that Persians showed to their social superiors. [106] The Greeks regarded the gesture as the province of deities and believed that Alexander meant to deify himself by requiring it. This cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen, and he eventually abandoned it. [107]

A plot against his life was revealed, and one of his officers, Philotas, was executed for failing to alert Alexander. The death of the son necessitated the death of the father, and thus Parmenion, who had been charged with guarding the treasury at Ecbatana, was assassinated at Alexander's command, to prevent attempts at vengeance. Most infamously, Alexander personally killed the man who had saved his life at Granicus, Cleitus the Black, during a violent drunken altercation at Maracanda (modern day Samarkand in Uzbekistan), in which Cleitus accused Alexander of several judgmental mistakes and most especially, of having forgotten the Macedonian ways in favour of a corrupt oriental lifestyle. [108]

Later, in the Central Asian campaign, a second plot against his life was revealed, this one instigated by his own royal pages. His official historian, Callisthenes of Olynthus, was implicated in the plot, and in the Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian states that Callisthenes and the pages were then tortured on the rack as punishment, and likely died soon after. [109] It remains unclear if Callisthenes was actually involved in the plot, for prior to his accusation he had fallen out of favour by leading the opposition to the attempt to introduce proskynesis. [110]

Macedon in Alexander's absence

When Alexander set out for Asia, he left his general Antipater, an experienced military and political leader and part of Philip II's "Old Guard", in charge of Macedon. [61] Alexander's sacking of Thebes ensured that Greece remained quiet during his absence. [61] The one exception was a call to arms by Spartan king Agis III in 331 BC, whom Antipater defeated and killed in the battle of Megalopolis. [61] Antipater referred the Spartans' punishment to the League of Corinth, which then deferred to Alexander, who chose to pardon them. [111] There was also considerable friction between Antipater and Olympias, and each complained to Alexander about the other. [112]

In general, Greece enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity during Alexander's campaign in Asia. [113] Alexander sent back vast sums from his conquest, which stimulated the economy and increased trade across his empire. [114] However, Alexander's constant demands for troops and the migration of Macedonians throughout his empire depleted Macedon's strength, greatly weakening it in the years after Alexander, and ultimately led to its subjugation by Rome after the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC). [16]

Forays into the Indian subcontinent

After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Raoxshna in Old Iranian) to cement relations with his new satrapies, Alexander turned to the Indian subcontinent. He invited the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara (a region presently straddling eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan), to come to him and submit to his authority. Omphis (Indian name Ambhi), the ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Hydaspes (Jhelum), complied, but the chieftains of some hill clans, including the Aspasioi and Assakenoi sections of the Kambojas (known in Indian texts also as Ashvayanas and Ashvakayanas), refused to submit. [115] Ambhi hastened to relieve Alexander of his apprehension and met him with valuable presents, placing himself and all his forces at his disposal. Alexander not only returned Ambhi his title and the gifts but he also presented him with a wardrobe of "Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, 30 horses and 1,000 talents in gold". Alexander was emboldened to divide his forces, and Ambhi assisted Hephaestion and Perdiccas in constructing a bridge over the Indus where it bends at Hund, [116] supplied their troops with provisions, and received Alexander himself, and his whole army, in his capital city of Taxila, with every demonstration of friendship and the most liberal hospitality.

On the subsequent advance of the Macedonian king, Taxiles accompanied him with a force of 5,000 men and took part in the battle of the Hydaspes River. After that victory he was sent by Alexander in pursuit of Porus, to whom he was charged to offer favourable terms, but narrowly escaped losing his life at the hands of his old enemy. Subsequently, however, the two rivals were reconciled by the personal mediation of Alexander and Taxiles, after having contributed zealously to the equipment of the fleet on the Hydaspes, was entrusted by the king with the government of the whole territory between that river and the Indus. A considerable accession of power was granted him after the death of Philip, son of Machatas and he was allowed to retain his authority at the death of Alexander himself (323 BC), as well as in the subsequent partition of the provinces at Triparadisus, 321 BC.

In the winter of 327/326 BC, Alexander personally led a campaign against the Aspasioi of Kunar valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus valley, and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. [117] A fierce contest ensued with the Aspasioi in which Alexander was wounded in the shoulder by a dart, but eventually the Aspasioi lost. Alexander then faced the Assakenoi, who fought against him from the strongholds of Massaga, Ora and Aornos. [115]

The fort of Massaga was reduced only after days of bloody fighting, in which Alexander was wounded seriously in the ankle. According to Curtius, "Not only did Alexander slaughter the entire population of Massaga, but also did he reduce its buildings to rubble." [118] A similar slaughter followed at Ora. In the aftermath of Massaga and Ora, numerous Assakenians fled to the fortress of Aornos. Alexander followed close behind and captured the strategic hill-fort after four bloody days. [115]

After Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region lying between the Hydaspes and the Acesines (Chenab), in what is now the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. [119] Alexander was impressed by Porus's bravery, and made him an ally. He appointed Porus as satrap, and added to Porus's territory land that he did not previously own, towards the south-east, up to the Hyphasis (Beas). [120] [121] Choosing a local helped him control these lands so distant from Greece. [122] Alexander founded two cities on opposite sides of the Hydaspes river, naming one Bucephala, in honour of his horse, who died around this time. [123] The other was Nicaea (Victory), thought to be located at the site of modern-day Mong, Punjab. [124] Philostratus the Elder in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana writes that in the army of Porus there was an elephant who fought brave against Alexander's army and Alexander dedicated it to the Helios (Sun) and named it Ajax, because he thought that a so great animal deserved a great name. The elephant had gold rings around its tusks and an inscription was on them written in Greek: "Alexander the son of Zeus dedicates Ajax to the Helios" (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ Ο ΔΙΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΑΙΑΝΤΑ ΤΩΙ ΗΛΙΩΙ). [125]

Revolt of the army

East of Porus's kingdom, near the Ganges River, was the Nanda Empire of Magadha, and further east, the Gangaridai Empire of Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander's army mutinied at the Hyphasis River (Beas), refusing to march farther east. [126] This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander's conquests. [127]

As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at-arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand war elephants. [128]

Alexander tried to persuade his soldiers to march farther, but his general Coenus pleaded with him to change his opinion and return the men, he said, "longed to again see their parents, their wives and children, their homeland". Alexander eventually agreed and turned south, marching along the Indus. Along the way his army conquered the Malhi (in modern-day Multan) and other Indian tribes and Alexander sustained an injury during the siege. [129]

Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest back to Persia through the more difficult southern route along the Gedrosian Desert and Makran. [130] Alexander reached Susa in 324 BC, but not before losing many men to the harsh desert. [131]

Discovering that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence, Alexander executed several of them as examples on his way to Susa. [133] [134] As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedon, led by Craterus. His troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis. They refused to be sent away and criticized his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units. [135]

After three days, unable to persuade his men to back down, Alexander gave Persians command posts in the army and conferred Macedonian military titles upon Persian units. The Macedonians quickly begged forgiveness, which Alexander accepted, and held a great banquet with several thousand of his men. [136] In an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, Alexander held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. [134] Meanwhile, upon his return to Persia, Alexander learned that guards of the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae had desecrated it, and swiftly executed them. [137] Alexander admired Cyrus the Great, from an early age reading Xenophon's Cyropaedia, which described Cyrus's heroism in battle and governance as a king and legislator. [138] During his visit to Pasargadae Alexander ordered his architect Aristobulus to decorate the interior of the sepulchral chamber of Cyrus's tomb. [138]

Afterwards, Alexander travelled to Ecbatana to retrieve the bulk of the Persian treasure. There, his closest friend and possible lover, Hephaestion, died of illness or poisoning. [139] [140] Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander, and he ordered the preparation of an expensive funeral pyre in Babylon, as well as a decree for public mourning. [139] Back in Babylon, Alexander planned a series of new campaigns, beginning with an invasion of Arabia, but he would not have a chance to realize them, as he died shortly after Hephaestion. [141]

On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. [142] There are two different versions of Alexander's death and details of the death differ slightly in each. Plutarch's account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa. [143] He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. The common soldiers, anxious about his health, were granted the right to file past him as he silently waved at them. [144] In the second account, Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Heracles, followed by 11 days of weakness he did not develop a fever and died after some agony. [145] Arrian also mentioned this as an alternative, but Plutarch specifically denied this claim. [143]

Given the propensity of the Macedonian aristocracy to assassination, [146] foul play featured in multiple accounts of his death. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mentioned the theory that Alexander was poisoned. Justin stated that Alexander was the victim of a poisoning conspiracy, Plutarch dismissed it as a fabrication, [147] while both Diodorus and Arrian noted that they mentioned it only for the sake of completeness. [145] [148] The accounts were nevertheless fairly consistent in designating Antipater, recently removed as Macedonian viceroy, and at odds with Olympias, as the head of the alleged plot. Perhaps taking his summons to Babylon as a death sentence, [149] and having seen the fate of Parmenion and Philotas, [150] Antipater purportedly arranged for Alexander to be poisoned by his son Iollas, who was Alexander's wine-pourer. [148] [150] There was even a suggestion that Aristotle may have participated. [148]

The strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days passed between the start of his illness and his death such long-acting poisons were probably not available. [151] However, in a 2003 BBC documentary investigating the death of Alexander, Leo Schep from the New Zealand National Poisons Centre proposed that the plant white hellebore (Veratrum album), which was known in antiquity, may have been used to poison Alexander. [152] [153] [154] In a 2014 manuscript in the journal Clinical Toxicology, Schep suggested Alexander's wine was spiked with Veratrum album, and that this would produce poisoning symptoms that match the course of events described in the Alexander Romance. [155] Veratrum album poisoning can have a prolonged course and it was suggested that if Alexander was poisoned, Veratrum album offers the most plausible cause. [155] [156] Another poisoning explanation put forward in 2010 proposed that the circumstances of his death were compatible with poisoning by water of the river Styx (modern-day Mavroneri in Arcadia, Greece) that contained calicheamicin, a dangerous compound produced by bacteria. [157]

Several natural causes (diseases) have been suggested, including malaria and typhoid fever. A 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed his death to typhoid fever complicated by bowel perforation and ascending paralysis. [158] Another recent analysis suggested pyogenic (infectious) spondylitis or meningitis. [159] Other illnesses fit the symptoms, including acute pancreatitis and West Nile virus. [160] [161] Natural-cause theories also tend to emphasize that Alexander's health may have been in general decline after years of heavy drinking and severe wounds. The anguish that Alexander felt after Hephaestion's death may also have contributed to his declining health. [158]

After death

Alexander's body was laid in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus that was filled with honey, which was in turn placed in a gold casket. [162] [163] According to Aelian, a seer called Aristander foretold that the land where Alexander was laid to rest "would be happy and unvanquishable forever". [164] Perhaps more likely, the successors may have seen possession of the body as a symbol of legitimacy, since burying the prior king was a royal prerogative. [165]

While Alexander's funeral cortege was on its way to Macedon, Ptolemy seized it and took it temporarily to Memphis. [162] [164] His successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, transferred the sarcophagus to Alexandria, where it remained until at least late Antiquity. Ptolemy IX Lathyros, one of Ptolemy's final successors, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one so he could convert the original to coinage. [166] The recent discovery of an enormous tomb in northern Greece, at Amphipolis, dating from the time of Alexander the Great [167] has given rise to speculation that its original intent was to be the burial place of Alexander. This would fit with the intended destination of Alexander's funeral cortege. However, the memorial was found to be dedicated to the dearest friend of Alexander the Great, Hephaestion. [168] [169]

Pompey, Julius Caesar and Augustus all visited the tomb in Alexandria, where Augustus, allegedly, accidentally knocked the nose off. Caligula was said to have taken Alexander's breastplate from the tomb for his own use. Around AD 200, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, a great admirer, visited the tomb during his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are hazy. [166]

The so-called "Alexander Sarcophagus", discovered near Sidon and now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is so named not because it was thought to have contained Alexander's remains, but because its bas-reliefs depict Alexander and his companions fighting the Persians and hunting. It was originally thought to have been the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus (died 311 BC), the king of Sidon appointed by Alexander immediately following the battle of Issus in 331. [170] [171] However, more recently, it has been suggested that it may date from earlier than Abdalonymus's death.

Demades likened the Macedonian army, after the death of Alexander, to the blinded Cyclops, due to the many random and disorderly movements that it made. [172] [173] [174] In addition, Leosthenes, also, likened the anarchy between the generals, after Alexander's death, to the blinded Cyclops "who after he had lost his eye went feeling and groping about with his hands before him, not knowing where to lay them". [175]

Division of the empire

Alexander's death was so sudden that when reports of his death reached Greece, they were not immediately believed. [61] Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander's death. [176] According to Diodorus, Alexander's companions asked him on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom his laconic reply was "tôi kratistôi"—"to the strongest". [145] Another theory is that his successors wilfully or erroneously misheard "tôi Kraterôi"—"to Craterus", the general leading his Macedonian troops home and newly entrusted with the regency of Macedonia. [177]

Arrian and Plutarch claimed that Alexander was speechless by this point, implying that this was an apocryphal story. [178] Diodorus, Curtius and Justin offered the more plausible story that Alexander passed his signet ring to Perdiccas, a bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, in front of witnesses, thereby nominating him. [145] [176]

Perdiccas initially did not claim power, instead suggesting that Roxane's baby would be king, if male with himself, Craterus, Leonnatus, and Antipater as guardians. However, the infantry, under the command of Meleager, rejected this arrangement since they had been excluded from the discussion. Instead, they supported Alexander's half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. Eventually, the two sides reconciled, and after the birth of Alexander IV, he and Philip III were appointed joint kings, albeit in name only. [179]

Dissension and rivalry soon afflicted the Macedonians, however. The satrapies handed out by Perdiccas at the Partition of Babylon became power bases each general used to bid for power. After the assassination of Perdiccas in 321 BC, Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between "The Successors" (Diadochi) ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocs: Ptolemaic Egypt , Seleucid Mesopotamia and Central Asia, Attalid Anatolia, and Antigonid Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered. [180]

Last plans

Diodorus stated that Alexander had given detailed written instructions to Craterus some time before his death, which are known as Alexander's "last plans". [182] Craterus started to carry out Alexander's commands, but the successors chose not to further implement them, on the grounds they were impractical and extravagant. [182] Furthermore, Perdiccas had read the notebooks containing Alexander's last plans to the Macedonian troops in Babylon, who voted not to carry them out. [61]

According to Diodorus, Alexander's last plans called for military expansion into the southern and western Mediterranean, monumental constructions, and the intermixing of Eastern and Western populations. It included:

  • Construction of 1,000 ships larger than triremes, along with harbours and a road running along the African coast all the way to the Pillars of Hercules, to be used for an invasion of Carthage and the western Mediterranean [183]
  • Erection of great temples in Delos, Delphi, Dodona, Dium, Amphipolis, all costing 1,500 talents, and a monumental temple to Athena at Troy[61][183]
  • Amalgamation of small settlements into larger cities ("synoecisms") and the "transplant of populations from Asia to Europe and in the opposite direction from Europe to Asia, in order to bring the largest continent to common unity and to friendship by means of intermarriage and family ties" [184][183]
  • Construction of a monumental tomb for his father Philip, "to match the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt" [61][183]
  • Conquest of Arabia [61]
  • Circumnavigation of Africa [61]

The enormous scale of these plans has led many scholars to doubt their historicity. Ernst Badian argued that they were exaggerated by Perdiccas in order to ensure that the Macedonian troops voted not to carry them out. [183] Other scholars have proposed that they were invented by later authors within the tradition of the Alexander Romance. [185]

Generalship

Alexander earned the epithet "the Great" due to his unparalleled success as a military commander. He never lost a battle, despite typically being outnumbered. [60] This was due to use of terrain, phalanx and cavalry tactics, bold strategy, and the fierce loyalty of his troops. [186] The Macedonian phalanx, armed with the sarissa, a spear 6 metres (20 ft) long, had been developed and perfected by Philip II through rigorous training, and Alexander used its speed and manoeuvrability to great effect against larger but more disparate Persian forces. [187] Alexander also recognized the potential for disunity among his diverse army, which employed various languages and weapons. He overcame this by being personally involved in battle, [90] in the manner of a Macedonian king. [186]

In his first battle in Asia, at Granicus, Alexander used only a small part of his forces, perhaps 13,000 infantry with 5,000 cavalry, against a much larger Persian force of 40,000. [188] Alexander placed the phalanx at the center and cavalry and archers on the wings, so that his line matched the length of the Persian cavalry line, about 3 km (1.86 mi). By contrast, the Persian infantry was stationed behind its cavalry. This ensured that Alexander would not be outflanked, while his phalanx, armed with long pikes, had a considerable advantage over the Persians' scimitars and javelins. Macedonian losses were negligible compared to those of the Persians. [189]

At Issus in 333 BC, his first confrontation with Darius, he used the same deployment, and again the central phalanx pushed through. [189] Alexander personally led the charge in the center, routing the opposing army. [190] At the decisive encounter with Darius at Gaugamela, Darius equipped his chariots with scythes on the wheels to break up the phalanx and equipped his cavalry with pikes. Alexander arranged a double phalanx, with the center advancing at an angle, parting when the chariots bore down and then reforming. The advance was successful and broke Darius's center, causing the latter to flee once again. [189]

When faced with opponents who used unfamiliar fighting techniques, such as in Central Asia and India, Alexander adapted his forces to his opponents' style. Thus, in Bactria and Sogdiana, Alexander successfully used his javelin throwers and archers to prevent outflanking movements, while massing his cavalry at the center. [190] In India, confronted by Porus's elephant corps, the Macedonians opened their ranks to envelop the elephants and used their sarissas to strike upwards and dislodge the elephants' handlers. [136]

Physical appearance

The outward appearance of Alexander is best represented by the statues of him which Lysippus made, and it was by this artist alone that Alexander himself thought it fit that he should be modelled. For those peculiarities which many of his successors and friends afterwards tried to imitate, namely, the poise of the neck, which was bent slightly to the left, and the melting glance of his eyes, this artist has accurately observed. Apelles, however, in painting him as wielder of the thunder-bolt, did not reproduce his complexion, but made it too dark and swarthy. Whereas he was of a fair colour, as they say, and his fairness passed into ruddiness on his breast particularly, and in his face. Moreover, that a very pleasant odour exhaled from his skin and that there was a fragrance about his mouth and all his flesh, so that his garments were filled with it, this we have read in the Memoirs of Aristoxenus. [191]

The semi-legendary Alexander Romance also suggests that Alexander exhibited heterochromia iridum: that one eye was dark and the other light. [192]

British historian Peter Green provided a description of Alexander's appearance, based on his review of statues and some ancient documents:

Physically, Alexander was not prepossessing. Even by Macedonian standards he was very short, though stocky and tough. His beard was scanty, and he stood out against his hirsute Macedonian barons by going clean-shaven. His neck was in some way twisted, so that he appeared to be gazing upward at an angle. His eyes (one blue, one brown) revealed a dewy, feminine quality. He had a high complexion and a harsh voice. [193]

Historian and Egyptologist Joann Fletcher has said that Alexander had blond hair. [194]

Ancient authors recorded that Alexander was so pleased with portraits of himself created by Lysippos that he forbade other sculptors from crafting his image. [195] Lysippos had often used the contrapposto sculptural scheme to portray Alexander and other characters such as Apoxyomenos, Hermes and Eros. [196] Lysippos's sculpture, famous for its naturalism, as opposed to a stiffer, more static pose, is thought to be the most faithful depiction. [197]

Personality

As is the case with personality traits in general, Alexander's prominent personality traits reflected those of his parents. His mother had huge ambitions, and encouraged him to believe it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire. [193] Olympias's influence instilled a sense of destiny in him, [199] and Plutarch tells how his ambition "kept his spirit serious and lofty in advance of his years". [200] However, his father Philip was probably Alexander's most immediate and influential role model, as the young Alexander watched him campaign practically every year, winning victory after victory while ignoring severe wounds. [49] Alexander's relationship with his father "forged" the competitive side of his personality he had a need to outdo his father, illustrated by his reckless behavior in battle. [193] While Alexander worried that his father would leave him "no great or brilliant achievement to be displayed to the world", [201] he also downplayed his father's achievements to his companions. [193]

According to Plutarch, among Alexander's traits were a violent temper and rash, impulsive nature, [202] which undoubtedly contributed to some of his decisions. [193] Although Alexander was stubborn and did not respond well to orders from his father, he was open to reasoned debate. [203] He had a calmer side—perceptive, logical, and calculating. He had a great desire for knowledge, a love for philosophy, and was an avid reader. [204] This was no doubt in part due to Aristotle's tutelage Alexander was intelligent and quick to learn. [193] His intelligent and rational side was amply demonstrated by his ability and success as a general. [202] He had great self-restraint in "pleasures of the body", in contrast with his lack of self-control with alcohol. [205]

Alexander was erudite and patronized both arts and sciences. [200] [204] However, he had little interest in sports or the Olympic games (unlike his father), seeking only the Homeric ideals of honour (timê) and glory (kudos). [206] He had great charisma and force of personality, characteristics which made him a great leader. [176] [202] His unique abilities were further demonstrated by the inability of any of his generals to unite Macedonia and retain the Empire after his death—only Alexander had the ability to do so. [176]

During his final years, and especially after the death of Hephaestion, Alexander began to exhibit signs of megalomania and paranoia. [149] His extraordinary achievements, coupled with his own ineffable sense of destiny and the flattery of his companions, may have combined to produce this effect. [207] His delusions of grandeur are readily visible in his will and in his desire to conquer the world, [149] in as much as he is by various sources described as having boundless ambition, [208] [209] an epithet, the meaning of which has descended into an historical cliché. [210] [211]

He appears to have believed himself a deity, or at least sought to deify himself. [149] Olympias always insisted to him that he was the son of Zeus, [212] a theory apparently confirmed to him by the oracle of Amun at Siwa. [213] He began to identify himself as the son of Zeus-Ammon. [213] Alexander adopted elements of Persian dress and customs at court, notably proskynesis, a practice of which Macedonians disapproved, and were loath to perform. [106] This behaviour cost him the sympathies of many of his countrymen. [214] However, Alexander also was a pragmatic ruler who understood the difficulties of ruling culturally disparate peoples, many of whom lived in kingdoms where the king was divine. [215] Thus, rather than megalomania, his behaviour may simply have been a practical attempt at strengthening his rule and keeping his empire together. [216]

Personal relationships

Alexander married three times: Roxana, daughter of the Sogdian nobleman Oxyartes of Bactria, [217] [218] [219] out of love [220] and the Persian princesses Stateira II and Parysatis II, the former a daughter of Darius III and latter a daughter of Artaxerxes III, for political reasons. [221] [222] He apparently had two sons, Alexander IV of Macedon by Roxana and, possibly, Heracles of Macedon from his mistress Barsine. He lost another child when Roxana miscarried at Babylon. [223] [224]

Alexander also had a close relationship with his friend, general, and bodyguard Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. [139] [193] [225] Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander. [139] [226] This event may have contributed to Alexander's failing health and detached mental state during his final months. [149] [158]

Alexander's sexuality has been the subject of speculation and controversy in modern times. [227] The Roman era writer Athenaeus says, based on the scholar Dicaearchus, who was Alexander's contemporary, that the king "was quite excessively keen on boys", and that Alexander kissed the eunuch Bagoas in public. [228] This episode is also told by Plutarch, probably based on the same source. None of Alexander's contemporaries, however, are known to have explicitly described Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion as sexual, though the pair was often compared to Achilles and Patroclus, whom classical Greek culture painted as a couple. Aelian writes of Alexander's visit to Troy where "Alexander garlanded the tomb of Achilles, and Hephaestion that of Patroclus, the latter hinting that he was a beloved of Alexander, in just the same way as Patroclus was of Achilles." [229] Some modern historians (e.g., Robin Lane Fox) believe not only that Alexander's youthful relationship with Hephaestion was sexual, but that their sexual contacts may have continued into adulthood, which went against the social norms of at least some Greek cities, such as Athens, [230] [231] though some modern researchers have tentatively proposed that Macedonia (or at least the Macedonian court) may have been more tolerant of homosexuality between adults. [232]

Green argues that there is little evidence in ancient sources that Alexander had much carnal interest in women he did not produce an heir until the very end of his life. [193] However, Ogden calculates that Alexander, who impregnated his partners thrice in eight years, had a higher matrimonial record than his father at the same age. [233] Two of these pregnancies — Stateira's and Barsine's — are of dubious legitimacy. [234]

According to Diodorus Siculus, Alexander accumulated a harem in the style of Persian kings, but he used it rather sparingly, "not wishing to offend the Macedonians", [235] showing great self-control in "pleasures of the body". [205] Nevertheless, Plutarch described how Alexander was infatuated by Roxana while complimenting him on not forcing himself on her. [236] Green suggested that, in the context of the period, Alexander formed quite strong friendships with women, including Ada of Caria, who adopted him, and even Darius's mother Sisygambis, who supposedly died from grief upon hearing of Alexander's death. [193]


History: 324 BC: Alexander the Great Arranges Mass Wedding

On an unknown date in 324 BC, the Macedonian (Greek) King Alexander the Great arranged about 80 weddings in the Persian city of Susabetween the daughters of Persian nobles and Greeks of high office. An astute judge of culture, Alexander regularly acknowledged a conquered people’s customs and culture and attempted to show respect and acceptance for their ways in order to better incorporate the new lands into his empire. Of course, Alexander also meant to further Greek culture into conquered lands as well.

Digging Deeper

Alexander had already married Roxana (aka Roxanne or Roxanna) the beautiful and young Persian Princess from Bactria, but as custom allowed multiple wives, he also took another wife in the mass ceremony, this time Stateira (aka Barsine), the oldest daughter of Darius and a third Persian wife, Parysatis as well. Married in the Persian fashion, the offspring of these marriages would all be both Persian and Macedonian, cementing the cultures together.

Not only did Alexander grant a generous dowry to each of his Greek officers that wed a Persian that day, but he had a roster made of all his Macedonians that had taken Persian wives and found that there were 10,000 such unions. Alexander promptly granted a wedding gift to each of these married couples to show his pleasure at the unions.

Unfortunately, Alexander’s legacy did not include the sanctity of these marriages, for once Alexander died in 323 BC (only a year later) all his officers promptly divorced their Persian wives! On top of that sorry tale, it is believed Roxana had Stateira and Parysatis both killed upon the death of Alexander. Roxana herself was protected by Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, but died along with her child by Alexander (Alexander IV) in about 310 BC, the victim of poisoning ordered by the then current King of Macedon, Cassander.

Cultural note: In the 2004 major motion picture, Alexander, Roxana is played by Rosario Dawson, an actress of African-Caribbean-American ethnic background, when the actual Roxana was said to be fair skinned, as would be expected of the people of her land at that time in history.

This casting of a Black actress as Roxana seems to have irritated historical purists and some people of Persian (Iranian) descent, such as Dr. Kaveh Farrokh.

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Comments:

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  5. Knoton

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