Alexander III, the “Basileus of Macedon”, the “Hegemon of the Hellenic League”, the “Shahanshah” of Persia, the “Pharaoh” of Egypt and the “Lord of Asia” — better known as Alexander the Great — was one of the most significant figures in human history.
Born in Pella, in modern-day Central Macedonia, northern Greece, in 356 B.C., he was the son of Philip II, the King of Macedon and his wife, Olympias. But Alexander was no royal place-holder. He became renowned at a very early age for both for his military and political capabilities.
Alexander, whose name in Greek (Alexandros) means “defender of men”, knew as the son of a king that his destiny was already written, putting him at the forefront of history.
This was why, while he was still a teenager, he began to be tutored by one of Greece’s most respected men, the giant of philosophy and science, Aristotle.
Since his education included philosophy, politics, ethics and science, Alexander was clearly not brought up to become just a warrior but a thoughtful leader of men and society.
Fate dictated that, following his father’s assassination when Alexander was only twenty, he would take into his hands not only the Kingdom of Macedon but also the generalship of the Hellenic League of Greece.
Several years prior to that, his father Philip had managed to unite most of Greece’s city-states, urging them to address the Persian threat as a united and solid front. Alexander fearlessly took on this enormous responsibility after the death of his father, and began the great march of the Hellenes to the East.
Thousands of soldiers followed him. What are now the modern-day countries of Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and the entirety of the modern-day Arab world, became Greek in less than ten years’ time. In a few short years, Alexander had conquered all the way east to the western borders of India.
Battle after battle, fight after fight, Alexander and his men were able not only to beat many enemies while conquering the vast Achaemenid Empire, but to establish a new status quo which would respect the local people. At the same time, the Greek overlords would introduce into their everyday life and culture elements of the Greek way of thinking and acting.
Alexander’s original plans included a conquest to the last centimeter of the East. It is recorded in history that he stated his vision was to literally reach “the end of the world”. But Alexander’s long military campaigns finally led his men to demand his return to their beloved homeland of Greece.
Alexander wisely eventually listened to his officers and men, who once had blindly followed him eastward, and he reluctantly began his long journey home from the borders of present-day India.
His plans called for the city of Babylon to become the new capital of his vast empire. But the Fates did not pay heed to the conqueror’s grandiose plans.
Alexander, at the very young age of 33, suddenly fell gravely ill, and to this day the cause of his illness remains a mystery. In the span of just a few days, his strong body betrayed him, and he died in his bed.
But Alexander’s legacy never died.
More than twenty cities around the world bear his name. Alexander’s influence in the East was left as a gift to the entire world, reflected in the thousands of towns and villages once under his command and in the vast lands which were colonized by Greeks.
Nearly 2,400 years after his birth, Alexander the Great is still considered one of the greatest men to have ever lived, and definitely one of the most influential Greeks in history.