Alexander the Great Legacy Essay

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Describe the manner of Alexander the Great’s death

After 13 years of campaigning to build the greatest empire in the world, Alexander the Great returned with his army to Babylon (near modern Baghdad) to rest and strategize for his next conquest. His push for endless campaigning had led his generals to threaten mutiny; and through his increasingly eccentric behavior, he had lost the loyalty of some of his close friends. On May 23, 323 BC, Alexander attended a dinner party hosted by a close friend. He joined in the heavy drinking and feasting over a whole day and night and by the end, he came down with a fever. Over the successive days his health deteriorated, and he suffered excruciating abdominal pain and paralysis. Finally, too weak to leave his bed, Alexander died ten days later.

The exact cause of Alexander's death is not known as it was not customary at the time to record the cause of death. Historians have debated the cause of death for centuries with some suggesting it may have been attributed to his years of war and injuries. Other theories are that he died of typhoid, malaria, or alcohol poisoning (he drank heavily at times) and another theory is that he was assassinated by a poison such as strychnine. A more recent theory is that he contracted a disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome caused by a virus resulting in an extreme immune response and paralysis. This may explain why his body did not decompose for up to 6 days after death as he may have still been alive but without a perceptible pulse.

His death was so sudden that when news of his death reached Greece, they were not immediately believed. Alexander left no legitimate heir to his empire because his son Alexander IV was born after his death (Briant, 2012).

After Alexander's death, his vast empire fell into civil war as his four top generals fought against each other for the expansion of their parts of the empire.

Discuss the impact of Alexander the Great’s personality on his career

Alexander’s military exploits extended the Macedonian empire as far east as India. There is no question that he was a spectacularly successful general and that he had demonstrated brilliance in battle and siege tactics. His willingness to fight rather than hold back until battles were over was both commendable in general and an inspiration to his troops; Alexander always led the charge and was always to be found in the thick of fighting. This meant that he, too, was often wounded. He was quick to identify with his mean, and to suffer the same hardships as they did, nor would he abandon them, often risking great personal danger.

From a tender age, Alexander was brought up to believe that his birth was divine and that he was a descendant of heroes and the gods Zeus and Achilles. (Heckel,&Tritle, 2011). His feats and successes instilled this belief. When he was just a teenager, he tamed a wild giant of a horse called Bucephalus causing his father to tell him he was destined to lead a giant empire.

His father, Philip II of Macedonia, ensured that Alexander was given the best Greek education, with the great philosopher Aristotle as his teacher and mentor. His education infused Alexander with knowledge of logic, music, philosophy, and culture. He was extensively educated in “The Iliad”, the legendary story of the greatest battle of all time and Alexander modeled himself on the hero and half-god Achilles. Aristotle’s teachings led Alexander to treat his conquered subjects well, allowing them to maintain their own beliefs while following Greek culture. This brought him admiration and loyalty throughout his empire.

Alexander experienced his father’s campaigns through many victories, thereby learning the art of war from a young age. He saw how Philip modeled the Macedonian army from citizen warriors into a professional army that conquered all of Greece. Philip suffered severe injuries in battles such as the loss of an eye and a broken shoulder, but he kept on fighting, something that Alexander would do as the commander of his army. In one incident, Philip decided to leave Alexander a 16-year-old teenager in charge of Macedonia while he was away (Freeman, 2011). Alexander took this opportunity and defeated the Thracian people known as Maedi. When Alexander was just 20 years old, his father was assassinated, and by then he had the means and the ambition to create his empire.

He had great charisma, leadership, courage, and belief in his divinity. Alexander was also a visionary leader able to dream, plan, and strategize on a large scale to defeat bigger kingdoms with larger armies and win many battles even when seriously outnumbered. His army was well-trained and organized and their powerful phalanx formations ruthlessly led by Alexander were superior to the enemy. (Heckel,& Tritle,2011).

This visionary leadership and belief in his greatness motivated his army. The other benefits such as glory, acquisition of land, and power from these conquests were bestowed upon his loyal generals.

Alexander was also inspiring and courageous. He devoted much of his time training his army, rewarding them with spoils and honors and going into battles beside them, increasing their devotion and confidence. Anson (2013) states that Alexander was a young, handsome, and empathetic leader who helped improve his influence on his soldiers and subjects.

However, his character was full of contradiction, particularly in his later years when he became increasingly erratic and paranoid. Despite his military achievements, Alexander failed to win the respect of some of his subjects. For instance, he was paranoid about his top general, Parmenion (whose son was executed by Alexander for treason), suspecting that he would overthrow him. Alexander was seen as too ambitious. He intended to build an empire that stretched from Gibraltar to the Bay of Bengal and across the Italian and Arabian Peninsula. He was ready to do anything to achieve his ambition and be recognized worldwide as the god-king. But this caused issues with his army which threatened mutiny as he planned to invade India.

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Assess Alexander the Great’s achievements as a military leader. Support your response using evidence from the above source and other relevant sources.

Alexander is often referred to as 'the Great' due to his extraordinary leadership, and strategic and military achievements. Some of Alexander the Great’s achievements include the following:

    • The Battle of Chaeronea and the defeat of Sacred Band

The rise of Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander’s father, was a threat to Greece's independent city-states such as Thebes and Athens. This led to the battle of Chaeronea in Boeotia, central Greece in 338 BC, in which 18 Alexander, aged 18, led the left-wing cavalry command securing his father's victory (Worthington, 2014). Alexander defeated the Sacred group of Thebes, an elite corps, historically believed to be unstoppable.

    • Reaffirmation of Alexander as the King of Macedonia and control of Greece

Alexander was declared King of Macedonia at the age of 20, following the assassination of his father, King Philip II, in 336 BC. Phillip's death bolstered several states and tribes such as Athens, Thebes, and Thessaly. With 3,000 cavalries, Alexander moved quickly to force Thessaly into surrender. Athens soon joined the league and they granted Alexander the designation 'Hegemon.'

Alexander needed to protect and secure his northern boundaries before his Asian mission. He successfully crushed the Thracian rebellions headed by Cleitus, the King of Illyria, and Glaukias, the King of Taulantii, among others. These victories followed the victory over of the city of Thebes, which had revolted again. Finally, these triumphs made Greece as a whole accept Alexander’s rule (Freeman, 2011). Alexander, therefore, secured full control of Greece in just two years.

    • Conquest of the Achaemenid Empire- The Battles of Persia against Darius III

For over a century, the Persians had harassed the Greeks with many invasions and interference in Asia Minor. Alexander, therefore, planned revenge by invading and taking over the power of the enormous Persian empire stretching across Asia to India. The Persian Emperor was Darius the III.

    • Battle of Granicus River 334 BC

The first major battle in Asia Minor (Turkey) at the Hellespont (Dardanelles) at Granicus River saw Alexander demonstrate his courage and strategic brilliance. Against the advice of his general Parmenion to delay, he attacked as soon as they arrived at the river even though his army was tired. Alexander could see that the Persian cavalry were on difficult ground closest to the river with the infantry behind them – a strategic error. His infantry attacked across the river head-on, drawing the Persian cavalry to become caught up in close-quarter hand-to-hand fighting on muddy ground with the infantry behind them of no use. Alexander’s cavalry then crossed the river on the flanks and defeated the Persians. This greatly weakened the Persians in Asia Minor with many Satraps (governors) killed in this important battle. Alexander was courageous and in the thick of the battle himself with his conspicuous glittering armor and white plume. He was almost killed, earning him even greater loyalty from his army. (John R. Mixter, 1997)

    • Battle of Issus 333 BC

The 2nd major battle was at Issus on the plan at the Gulf of Iskendarm in Southern Turkey. Darius led this battle with vastly superior numbers. (Wasson, 2011) However, he chose poor ground with the river and the surrounding mountains restricting his numerical superiority. Alexander had his infantry phalanx in the center and stretched his cavalry far out to the right to the mountains. There he outflanked the Persians and personally, on foot, broke through the Persian lines. Alexander saw Darius on the field and pursued him causing him to flee on his chariot. The Persian troops were thus demoralized, and the battle was won by Alexander. Alexander pursued the wounded Darius on a horse until nightfall but could not catch him. Darius’ wife and daughters were left behind and became part of Alexander’s entourage where they were treated as royalty. Alexander even married one of Darius’ daughters. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998)

    • Battle of Guagemela 331 BC

After the battles of Tyre and Gaza, it was a relatively peaceful time in Egypt for Alexander, where his army recovered and strengthened. He also founded the great city of Alexandria. Alexander then moved north on the coast of Phoenicia (Gaza Israel Lebanon) with solid supply support from his navy then marched through the north of modern-day Syria. He travelled down the Tigris through fertile land which was relatively weakly fortified. Thus, Alexander’s troops were in excellent condition when they arrived at Guagemela where Darius had chosen the battleground to meet Alexander. The Greeks were able to take the high ground on a hill before the battle allowing rest while Darius' army had to remain ready for an attack at any time. The battle saw both sides stretch out on a clear plain, the Persians outnumbering the Greeks by estimates of 2 – 10 times. Alexander split his army into left and right flanks and Darius attacked the weaker middle but without much effect. Alexander was in the right flank and was able to get behind Darius' middle formation and directly attack Darius’ weaker last line of defense. Darius was defeated and once again fled the field. This defeat effectively brought the Persian Empire to an end.

Other major feats included the Battle of The Persian Gate, a fortified mountain pass, January 330 BC where Alexander marched all night in freezing conditions and led a successful surprise attack from the rear of the gate. Darius was then killed by his army, reportedly by his general Bessus, in July 330 BC.

Finally, In India, Alexander won The Battle of the Hydaspes in a thunderstorm against King Porus who had a superior army with many battle elephants. (Hughes, 2018)

Alexander was known for his heartless, persevering, diplomacy. It was perhaps these attributes that helped him to sustain his long campaigns where he never lost any battles.

At the time of his death, Alexander's Empire was the biggest at the time, occupying nearly 2,000,000 square miles. His victories led to the rule of Macedonia in many areas of Asia and for the next three centuries, as many of these territories remained under Greek influence. His efforts have also greatly improved east-west interaction and exchange. He also established around 20 towns that bore his name. In the ancient world, the Roman rulers admired Alexander and his achievements and regarded him as their role model.

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