Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great, born July 21 -356 in Pella, died June 13 at -323 Babylon, is a Greek king of Macedonia and one of the most famous in antiquity.
Son of Philip II, a student of Aristotle and king of Macedonia from -336, he became one of the greatest conquerors in history. He does his little kingdom the ruler of the vast Achaemenid Persian empire, advances to the banks of the Indus and founded nearly seventy cities, most of which bears the name of Alexandria.
The reputation of Alexander explained mainly by its desire to conquer the entire known world. This aspiration, both illusory and yet almost completed before he died suddenly at the age of thirty-three years, results - in a very short time - never found a political unity between the West and then the East.
The legacy of Alexander, marked by an attempted merger of Eastern and Greek culture, is shared among his generals to form the various kingdoms and dynasties from the Hellenistic period.
Birth and parentage
Alexander was born in Pella, the capital of the kingdom of Macedonia, 20 (?) Or July 21 -356. He is the son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, princess of Epirus, his third wife. Through his mother, he is the nephew of Alexander the Hound, king of Epirus, a territory which is today among the Greek region of Epirus and southern Albania today. Her mother gives birth to a daughter in -355 Cleopatra.
A legend, known since antiquity, "says Alexander Olympias was not designed with Philip, who was afraid of her and her habit of sleeping in the company of snakes, but with Zeus. Alexander has used these folktales for political purposes, referring to the god rather than Philip when he mentions his father. Another legend dating from the third century, of Egyptian origin that and falsely attributed to calisthenics, Alexander Romance, Alexander wants to be the son of the last Egyptian pharaoh of the XXX Dynasty, Nectanebo II.
By his father Philip II, Alexander claims descent from Temenos Argos, himself a descendant of Heracles, the son of Zeus - for this reason, the Macedonian dynasty called Dynasty Argeades or Temenides. Through his mother, Olympias, the Eacides dynasty, descended from Alexander says Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.
According to a statement of the time, reported among others by Plutarch, Alexander was born the same night that Erostratus fire temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Alexander later uses this coincidence to strengthen its political will, and proposes to finance the restoration of the temple, which was however refused by Ephesians.
Plutarch also states that Philip and Olympias dreamed of the future birth of their son. After consulting Aristandre Telmessos of which determined that Olympias was pregnant and the child would have the character of a lion. As for his physical, he seemed to have eyes and minnows, because of a war wound that would have severed a nerve, his head tilted to the right.
Childhood and education
Alexander has, in the eyes of the Greeks, a dual membership. It is firstly a barbarian, because it is a Macedonian who has a passionate temperament and gets carried away by wrath of a terrible violence, inheritance attributed to his mother, but often followed by quick repentance. It is capable of generous impulses which combine reward unfailing. His religious convictions are tainted with superstitions. However, the dominant trait of character is without question his iron will, which can go up to the obstinacy and stubbornness.
Meanwhile, Alex is deeply influenced by Greek culture. It is true that, located in northern Greece today, Macedonia is one of ancient pelagic regions. The language was then one of the many Greek dialects and, from time of King Archelaus (late fifth century BC.), The official language of the court and Chancery Macedonian became the Ionian -penthouse. Philip, who has lived in Thebes in the house of Epaminondas as a hostage (between -369 and -367), for its part, speaks fluently and his son. The latter according to Plutarch speaks Macedonian only under the strong emotion.
After being educated by Leonidas, a relative of his mother Olympias and Lysimachus of Akarnania Alexander receives the philosopher Aristotle to tutor from -343 to -340. The latter is the son of Nicomachus, physician to Amyntas III, grandfather of Alexander. He wrote an annotated edition of the Iliad for his pupil. Alexander also read Herodotus and Xenophon, that authors can exploit later when his conquests. Alexander proved a gifted student. He knows by heart many tragedies, the Iliad, and has many ideas of medicine, history and mathematics.
Several childhood friends of Alexander, which Ptolemy Philotas, Hephaestion, was found beside him during the conquest of Asia.
The seduction of the character is probably due to this contradictory mixture: Greek and barbarian, mystical and realistic, violent and generous, carried away by his imagination and his dream and guided by his lucidity. His inflexible doubles as a real opportunist and an innate sense of direction.
A prince associated with power (-338 / -336)
Although regarded as barbaric by the Athenians, the kingdom of Macedonia under the reign of Philip, extended its hegemony over classical Greece. It defeats Athens at Thermopylae in -352, intervenes in a conflict between Thebes and Phocidians, triumph of a coalition of Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea in -338. Alexander y proven cavalry commander and cutting to pieces the sacred battalion of Thebes.
Philippe is also the initiator of the League of Corinth, bringing together all the Greek cities, with the exception of Sparta, under his command. The league must take the war against the Persian Empire. In -340, in the absence of his father's party besiege Byzantium, Alexander, at sixteen, became regent of Macedonia.
In -337, however, a violent argument between father and son when Alex takes the side of his mother Olympias that Philippe wants to impose Cleopatra, sister or niece of a general of Philip, Attalus, as a second wife and legitimate he has a son soon. Alexander must take refuge in his mother's family in Epirus. But the quarrel did not last and soon forgiven, Alexander saved the life of his father during a confrontation with Triballi.
The elimination of any potential rival (was -336)
During the summer -336, Philip was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to the king of Epirus, Alexander the Hound, the brother of Olympias. The murderer is a young nobleman Pausanias of Orestis, a former officer of the king who keeps a grudge against Philip, the latter having ignored a request that would have made. The ancient historians have sometimes thought that the murder of Philip had been a plot involving Olympias and Alexander but perhaps Diodorus looking for a personal motive of the murderer. Few contemporary historians consider that Alexander was involved in the murder of his father while throughout the conduct of Philip shows his intended successor.
Another hypothesis involves Darius III, the new king of Persia. Plutarch mentions a letter from Alexander to Darius virulent, where the Macedonian blame Darius (Bagoas and his grand vizier that Darius III was swiftly removed shortly thereafter), for the murder of his father, arguing that it was Darius who boasted to the various Greek cities of how he murdered Philip.
After Philip's death, the army proclaimed Alexander, then twenty years, the new king of Macedonia. Greek cities like Athens and Thebes, which had pledged allegiance to Philip, are not so eager to do the same vis-a-vis the young man. Alexander immediately ordered the execution of all potential rivals. Thus, for not having a competitor to the throne, he murdered his cousin Amyntas IV, king of Macedonia to -360 / -359 Philip II was overthrown while he was a child. As for Olympias, taking advantage of the absence of his son gone off to war in the north, she killed the son of Philip II and Cleopatra and forced it to hang. The latter's uncle, Attalus, who is campaigning in Asia with Parmenion, is also murdered. Impossible to know if acting with the consent of Alexander or not always is it that the new king of Macedonia has no rival capable of challenging his throne.
The consolidation of power (end -336 / -334 Spring)
Alexander is not only king of the Macedonians, but also, like his father, archon of Thessaly to life and Hegemon ("Commander in Chief") and self-proclaimed strategist of the League of Corinth. In fact, the League policy is dictated entirely by the Macedonians Philip and Alexander. This began a rapid diplomatic tour in Greece so that the diplomatic network consisting patiently by his father does not disintegrate. Allegiance is renewed and Thessalian League of Corinth (then the Athenians) was sworn in new hegemony.
However, before resuming his father's project to bring the war in Asia, it ensures the safety of his kingdom by two expeditions to northern Macedonia, one to the Danube, the other Illyrian revolt (late -336 year and early summer until -335). Next Strabo and Arrian, emissaries Celtic - the ancestors of the mid-Scordisci third century - meet Alexander on the Danube, on this occasion -335. The following anecdote is related:
"When Alexander had defeated the Dacians and leveled the city on the Danube, he came to the embassies of all sides and including the Gauls, who are (he says) of great men. Alexander then asked them what they feared most in the world, expecting that these people say they feared nothing more than him, but he was disillusioned because he was dealing with people who considered themselves no less than himself, they told him that something of this world they feared most was that the sky would fall on them, which meant that they feared nothing."
Then, while the new king of Macedonia is occupied north, the Greek cities revolted. This is the result of the policy of Darius III Codomannus which, both by means of a Greek mercenary leader, Memnon of Rhodes, reconquered territories taken by Parmenio at the end of the reign of Philip, and tries the same time to raise a revolt in Greece on the Macedonian rear. A false rumor of Alexander's death triggers the rebellion of Thebes that promise to help Athens and Sparta.
The response is overwhelming Alexander, ruthless and paradoxical. Ruthless, as the city of Thebes was razed to the ground (fall -335) with the exception of the citadel of Cadmea, the birthplace of Pindar and the temples of the gods, his people enslaved and the land divided among the winners. Paradoxical, because Alexander savings Athens too happy to comply with the lesser evil. Without doubt we should see that generosity will not destroy the main center for the arts, philosophy of Greece, or the influence of his former master Aristotle, who moved this year -335 in Athens and founded the Lyceum. It also seems likely that the negotiating skills of Phocion and especially Demades have convinced the king not to destroy the city. Alexander claims that it is delivered Demosthenes, Lycurgus and Hyperides. That said, the rage in Alexander frequently alternate with gestures of generosity, the destruction of Thebes and Athens forgiveness is only the first of a long list.
Finally, little Alex is now a sovereign in his kingdom. When he left Europe in the spring of -334 for his expedition in Asia, is never to return.
The Battle of Granicus (May -334)
The young king of Macedonia from his capital Pella and in twenty days, reached in Sestos Thracian Chersonese. While Parmenion is charged by the King to carry the army at Abydos, bridgehead created by Philip II on the Hellespont, Alexander goes to Éléonte where it makes the first sacrifice of fallen hero during the Trojan War, Protesilaus. This gesture is the first in a long list that shows the will of the king to strike the imagination by posing for the new Achilles, without even possible to know if it is sincerely convinced of the pride of belonging to the breed of hero or if it is a simple gesture theatrical destination of its soldiers and peoples of Asia Minor and Greece.
Thus he arrives in Asia near the supposed site of Troy, stands in the altars of the Temple of Athena at Ilion, and will put a wreath on the tomb of Achilles, while Hephaestion did the same on that of Patroclus (Aelian says in its varied history (XII, 7) that "thus implying that Alexander was cute, as Patroclus was the Achilles." His book is a collection of stories, written over five centuries after Alexander's death and yet it is the only historian known to evoke such a relationship, which would probably be wrong. Hephaestion happening at other historians as "the best friend Prices of Alexander "). Only after, Alexander joined his army to Arisbé in four days, skirting the north of the massif Pityos.
The main Greek mercenary leader of Darius III, Memnon of Rhodes, was in favor of the scorched earth policy against the Macedonians, he believes, rightly value. He proposed that leads to the army inside the country without fighting, the troops of Alexander, while the Persian fleet carries the war to Macedonia. Memnon could legitimately expect a revolt of Greek cities, based on the gold of Darius and the legitimate resentment against Alexander after the sacking of Thebes. But the Persian satraps are wary of advice from a stranger and take no account of his opinion. Arsita, the satrap of Phrygia, says he will not leave one house burn its satrapy.
The capture of Miletus (May / July -334)
Alexander's victory was a major consequence to the battle of Issus, he has only just left garrisons in the cities to oppose it. In the wake of the Granicus, Sardis, the capital of Phrygia, surrendered without resistance, while Parmenion Dascylion grabs. The city of Ephesus, plagued by sectarian strife, where Memnon fled after the battle, sees the Democratic party favorable to Alexander win. This cleverly attracts the sympathy of the inhabitants of the city by giving the temple of Artemis the tribute that the city previously paid to Darius and recalling the banished.
The opponents of Alexander fled to Miletus, where Memnon, who just left Ephesus, takes things in hand after attempts at betrayal of the cause by Persian Hégésistrate, the leader of Greek mercenaries in the service of Darius. But the city is quickly taken in July by Alexander -334, after he banned the Persian fleet to anchor on the coast by taking the Cape Mycale.
See also Thomas Alva Edison
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