The History's of Greatest Leaders And Visionaries, Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, Greatest Leaders, Visionaries, ancient civilizations
One of history's greatest leaders and visionaries, or a ruthless tyrant who massacred thousands of people and destroyed ancient civilizations in his thirst for power? Whichever way you choose to look at him, you cannot fail to be impressed at his epic journey that took him from his home in Greece, eastwards through to India. The marches, the bloody battles, drunken orgies, murderous feuds, and the destruction of cities across the Persian empire.

Alexander the Great was the son of King Philip II of Macedon and of his fourth wife, Epirote princess Olympias. Aristotle was Alexander's tutor and he gave Alexander a thorough training in rhetoric and literature and stimulated his interest in science, medicine, and philosophy. When his father Philip led an attack on Byzantium in 340 BC, Alexander, aged 16, was left as regent of Macedonia. In 338 BC Alexander assisted his father at the decisive Battle of Chaeronea against the Greek city-states of Athens and Thebes. In 336 BC, Philip was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra of Macedonia to King Alexander of Epirus. The assassin was supposedly a former lover of the king, the disgruntled young nobleman Pausanias, who held a grudge against him. After Philip's death, the army proclaimed Alexander, then aged 20, as the new king of Macedon. Greek cities like Athens and Thebes, which had been forced to pledge allegiance to Philip, saw in the new king an opportunity to retake their full independence. Alexander moved swiftly and Thebes, which had been most active against him, submitted when he appeared at its gates. The assembled Greeks at the Isthmus of Corinth, with the exception of the Spartans, elected him to the command against Persia, which had previously been bestowed upon his father. Alexander's army met and defeated the main Persian army under the command of Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. In late 332 BC, Alexander moved from Gaza along the coast into Egypt. There was little opposition, no attempt to hold the border fortress and defence wall at Pelusium, where the deciding conquering "battle" took place. In fact Alexander's arrival in Egypt appears to be more of a triumphal procession than an invasion. Alexander visited the Sun Temple at Heliopolis, before sailing up the eastern arm of the Delta to reach the main artery of the Nile.

The founding of Alexandria
The key political question for Alexander was how to be acknowledged as the new leader of Egypt. He journeyed to the Siwa Oasis, in the far western desert, to visit the temple of the oracle on the hill of Aghurmi. Apparently, according to the Greek historian Plutarch, the priests at the temple proclaimed him the "son of Amun" and "king" as they would have greeted an Egyptian pharaoh. Whilst we'll never know exactly what took place at Siwa, Alexander returned from the desert and successfully consolidated Macedonian power throughout Egypt. He marked out the foundations of a new great city on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt that was to bear his name, the first of over thirty cities that would do so, sited between central Asia, the Indus Valley and North Africa. Alexandria was born.
The founding of Alexandria would bring a shift in the centre of gravity of Egypt's intellectual and economic life. For the next few centuries, Egypt would now look to the Mediterranean and a wider world. Alexandria was known as "Alexandria by Egypt" not "in Egypt" as one would expect. It became the city through which the wealth of Egypt would flow, and the crossroads of the entire world. Today, only fragments remain of that wonderful age, tombs, theatres, mosaics, and the works of Greek philosophers and historians who lived there. In 331 BC, having founded Alexandria, Alexander left Egypt to continue his conquests, assigning overall control to two Greek officials, Kleomenes of Naukratis and Ptolemy son of Lagos, one of his generals. Kleomenes was empowered to collect taxes from the newly appointed local governors, and Ptolemy was the commander of the Egyptian army.

The end of the Macedonian Phase
As Alexander actually spent hardly any time in the country, he had little opportunity to make any personal impact on the Egyptian political and economic structure. His "fast living" and raucous lifestyle finally caught up with him in 323 BC, when he died of a fever. His half brother Philip Arrihidaeus (323-317 BC) and his son Alexander IV (317-310 BC) attempted to hold the newly acquired empire together, although it eventually dissolved into a number of separate kingdoms ruled by generals and their descendants. Ptolemy initially functioned as a general alongside Kleomenes, but after the death of Alexander IV he eventually became the first Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt.

A note on the (lack of a) royal beard!
Rather interestingly, Alexander was always shown clean-shaven, which during these times was something of an innovation - all previous portraits of Greek statesmen or rulers had had beards. This royal fashion lasted for almost five hundred years and almost all of the Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors until Hadrian were portrayed beardless. Alexander was the first king to wear the all-important royal diadem, a band of cloth tied around the hair that was to become the symbol of Hellenistic kingship.
The Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history can be somewhat confusing, due to the fact (if nothing else!) that every ruler just happened to be named Ptolemy! The Ptolemaic period eventually to came an end with the death of the infamous Cleopatra, when Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

Alexander the Great!
Alexander Sword of the Great Warrior

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