Alexander the Great

Alexander became the King of Macedon at the age of 20. In 13 short years he amassed the largest empire in the entire ancient world — an empire that covered 3,000 miles. Eventually he became known as Alexander the Great.

Many of Alexander's accomplishments were made possible by his father, Philip of Macedon. Macedon, which existed roughly where the modern country of Macedonia lies today, was a kingdom located north of the Greek city-states. Alexander's tutor was the Greek philosopher Aristotle. In 338 B.C.E., King Philip of Macedon invaded and conquered the Greek city-states. He succeeded in uniting Greece.

Philip's next goal was to defeat Persian, Greece's enemy to the east. For years, the Persian Empire threatened the existence of the Greek way of life. But before Philip was able to pursue this goal, he was assassinated. His son, Alexander, took the throne in 336 B.C.E. and set out to complete his father’s plans. In 334 B.C.E., Alexander invaded Persia.

After three harsh years of warfare, Alexander defeated the Persian armies at the Tigris River and conquered the mighty Persian Empire, including the legendary city of Babylon. For many Greeks, this victory was revenge against a bitter foe.

By the age of 25, Alexander now ruled an expansive empire. Nevertheless, his ambitions were not satisfied. While fighting the Persians, Alexander also conquered Egypt and founded a city at the mouth of the Nile River. This city, which he named Alexandria after himself, became a cosmopolitan center of trade, the arts, and ideas.

Still Alexander was not done. He continued his campaign, driving farther east, until he reached India and the Indus River in 326 B.C.E. At this point, his exhausted troops refused to fight further. They told Alexander that a truly great leader knows when it is time to stop. Without the support of his army, Alexander was forced to turn back. He began consolidating and organizing his far-flung empire. On his way home in 323 B.C.E., Alexander died from disease.

Though he was a skilled and highly respected military leader, Alexander the Great was feared by those around him. He was paranoid and had a quick temper, leading him to murder thousands, including close advisors and even friends, for no apparent reason. Alexander ended the Persian Empire and spread Greek culture across his empire. This period became known as the Hellenistic Age. Without Alexander's ambition, Greek ideas and culture might have remained confined to Greece.

Source: Alexander the Great
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