The reasons why Alexander decided to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire. Another motivating factor that could have influenced, and motivated Alexander was that he was motivated for religious reasons. As mentioned previously, when the Persians had managed to force their way into Athens, they had razed the Acropolis of Athens which contained very sacred temples to the Greeks. Many of the Greeks were extremely angered at this and there is an example within Alexander’s conquest that could prove that his motivation was for Religious purposes. Alexander arrived in the Persian capital city of Persepolis in 330BC. There was a huge and impressive palace that had previously been built by Darius I, however, when Alexander left the place, the city nor the palace was impressive anymore.
Alexander encouraged and urged on by his men and the people around him, sets fire to the palace of Persepolis and the rest of the city. This action could be viewed as being retaliation for the Persians burning of the sacred Acropolis and shows that Alexander was clearly a pious man who took the burning of the sacred building to heart. His burning of the city of Persepolis reflects how one of his motivations could have been for religious purposes, with the burning of the city of Persepolis, otherwise, this action would have been pointless to him and his path of conquest.
Alexander was a man who worshipped the Gods greatly, sacrificing daily to the Gods and before and after each battle he conducted. He even conducted some religious festivals whilst he was on his conquest of the Persian Empire. Before he crossed the Hellespont, in modern-day referred to as the Dardanelles, a waterway that is the continental border between Europe and Asia, which would have started his conquest, Alexander first decided to go to consult the Oracle at Delphi. The oracle was a ‘person believed to make infallible predictions’(Breslin, McKeown and Groves, 2012) and in ancient times was a priest or priestess who was thought to read and uncover the will of the Gods. When Alexander arrived at Delphi and the oracle was not in business, but Alexander did not give up and called for the Priestess Pythia and even when she refused to help him, he dragged her to the oracle and made her tell him what it said. This shows just how much Alexander valued the will and wishes of the Gods with him being determined not to leave without hearing what he thought they wished on him.
Alexander then decided to go and start his conquest of the Persian Empire. This can be viewed as heavily contributing to Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire because if he had been given a warning against going and conducting what he was about to do, or if he did not get the God blessing on his conquest due to him being very pious and respecting all of the Gods greatly, he would have most likely postponed or abandoned his plans of conquering the Persian Empire. Therefore, because of his religious beliefs and Alexander perceiving that the Gods were on his side and he would succeed in his goals, Alexander was motivated to go on the conquest of the Persian Empire. In this instance, Alexander’s religious beliefs could be viewed as being a very key motivation because it was the last push that he needed to go and conquer the Persian Empire.
Another key factor that could be viewed as being a key motivating factor is the topic of Alexander wanting revenge on the Persians for their actions they conducted in the past. After the Battle of Issus which occurred in November 333 BC, between Alexander and Darius III, the Persian leader. Alexander’s army won after Darius lead his army on a surprise march to Alexander’s army in an attempt to cut off their supplies. After this battle, Darius realized just how big of a threat Alexander was to the Persian Empire and was very keen to appease him and get rid of the threat Alexander posed to him. Darius sent a letter to Alexander offering amongst other things, to surrender half of his Empire to Alexander and then the two of them would be at peace with one another and the fighting and Alexander’s conquest would draw to a halt. Alexander however refused and decided to pursue Darius. In the letter, Alexander sent to Darius III in response, Arrian records that he himself specifically gave Darius a reason as to what motivated him and why he has decided to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire (Ancient-origins.net, 2019).
This example clearly states that Alexanders motivation was because of the fact that he wanted revenge on the Persians because of the Greco-Persian wars which occurred in the past and that he had no choice, but to go and attack the Persians, because they were in fact the ones who were attacking them and that he was after revenge for the actions they had previously done in the past evidencing a big motivation, at least on Arrians behalf, for why Alexander decided to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire was for the idea of revenge and wanting to make the Persians pay, inheriting his own father’s need and want to gain revenge on the Persians for what they had done in the past, which was passed onto Alexander when Phillip II was assassinated.
Another example of Alexander wanting revenge on the Persians and their allies is through the sheer brutality he met his enemies with and the fact that he showed little mercy to them. One of the first battles which Alexander fought against the army of the Persian Empire was at the battle of the River Granicus. As part of the Persian army, there were around 10,000 Greek mercenaries who were adding the Persian army. Alexander attacked the Persian army with swift speed and despite being slightly outnumbered, he defeated the Persian army. The Greek mercenaries, however, because they were stationed right at the back of the army they did not have time to join in the battle due to the quick nature of Alexander’s attack. Instead of allowing his fellow Greeks to join their side or let them go freely, angered by the traitors, Alexander ordered for all of them to be completely massacred and there were promptly slaughtered. This is another example of revenge being a key factor in Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire because, instead of letting them go, Alexander wanted revenge all of the people who had wronged Macedonia and Greece in the past, not even stopping in his revenge to let his fellow Greeks live.
Alexander’s want for money and riches for himself and the countries and city-states which he ruled over also played a key part in motivating him to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire. From any invasion and conquest, people gain money and riches from ransacking and pillaging towns and gaining their riches as well as gaining slaves for labor tasks from a city’s inhabitants. This could have played a huge factor in motivating Alexander to indeed go on a conquest of the Persian Empire, with it being interesting to note that Arrian (Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander) recorded that Alexander conducted a speech after his army mutinied and refused to follow him any further in Opis in 324 BC :
‘I inherited from my father a few gold and silver cups, and less than 60 talents in the treasury; Philip had debts amounting to 500 talents, and I raised a loan of a further 800. I started from a country that could barely sustain you and immediately opened up the Hellespont for you, although the Persians then held the mastery of the sea.’
This shows that Alexander needed to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire due to the fact that despite Macedonia and its surrounding states being very powerful and monetarily wise, they were not as powerful, and when Phillip II was assassinated, he left behind a lot of debt for Alexander to manage. Alexander wanted to keep together the very powerful army his father had maintained and managed, but he would need to have been able to pay and provide for them and in order for him to have accomplished this, he would have been forced to gain money through other means, such as invading and the conquerest of the Persian Empire, which is why the gain of riches and money could be viewed as being a key motivation in making Alexander go on a conquest of the Persian Empire (Ancient-origins.net, 2019).
The last factor which could be viewed as being another key motivating factor for Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire was his thirst and desire for adventure. In Alexander’s case, his ‘thirst for adventure’ could be defined as ‘the craving and yearning’ of an ‘exciting or risky undertaking or exploit’ (Breslin, McKeown, and Groves, 2012). This is especially shown in the instance of the 10-year conquest of the Persian Empire where his army mutinied and point-blank refused to follow him any further. When Alexander had conquered essentially the whole of the Persian Empire, after the battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC, in India, against the King Porus of Pauvaa, this battle was the closest Alexander defeat, struggling to fight against the war elephants which King Porus used to his advantage. Undeterred, Alexander was desperate to push forward, outside of the Persian Empire to reach a Great River to which ancient Greek Geographers stated that it marked the end of their known world and lead into modern-day India. Alexander was desperate to push past it and explore the world beyond, showing that he really wanted to explore the world further and that despite him achieving his aim of conquering the Persian Empire, he wanted to go further and have more of an adventure, further evidencing that his motivation for going on a conquest of the Persian Empire was driven by his desire to explore the Persian lands and even go deeper and explore unknown lands to the Greeks, however, Alexander’s wishes did not occur, when his army mutinied at the River Hyphasis, known more commonly today as the River Beas, due to the fact that, unlike Alexander, the men did not have such a strong thirst for adventure and after 8 years of constant fighting and marching, they simply wanted to go home to the land and families they had not seen in many years and so although Alexander decided to turn his army around, it is fair to say he would have done this with a degree of reluctance.
There were also some instances in Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire where Alexander’s thirst for adventure and his want to know more about new cultures and practices, such as the Persian culture, was evident in his conquest. In around 330 BC there were multiple complaints as to the way Alexander had begun to dress. Alexander’s thirst for adventure and conquest had seemingly gone too much to his head and after the defeat of Darius III, when Alexander had become King of Persia, he had taken to wearing parts of Persian royal clothes, such as a diadem and a white and purple striped tunic. This understandably outraged many of the Greek soldiers and advisors under Alexander’s rule as they exclaimed that he was losing sight of his Greek roots. Despite this not being a prime example, this is still an example of Alexander’s discovery of a new culture, but the wearing of the Persian royal dress was possibly a step too far.
In conclusion, Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire was not based solely on the primary objective of seeking glory for himself, although that did, in part, motivate him to do so. At the start of Alexander’s campaign in the conquest of the Persian Empire, he had inherited his father, Phillip II’s, legacy in wanting to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire to gain revenge on the Persians for what they had conducted in the Greco-Persian wars, evidenced in Arrian’s account of Alexander stating in his speech to Darius that he started his conquest to gain revenge on the Persians and that he wanted to crush and conquer the Persian Empire in revenge. This also ties in with his burning of the Acropolis as recorded by Diodorus, because with him being a very pious man, respecting the Gods greatly, he exacted his revenge on the Persians for destroying the sacred temples on the Acropolis, showing that revenge and his religion played a very key part in motivating him to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire, with Alexander even going to ask the Gods at the oracle at Delphi if he should go on the conquest in the first place. Another key motivator in his conquest of the Persian Empire was because of the monetarily gain it would provide him and the places which he had already secured rule over, with Arrian again referencing Alexander to have said that he needed to go on a conquest of the Persian Empire because of the huge amount of debt his father had left him. However, these key motivating factors slowly faded and did not motivate Alexander as much when he had first started to conquer the Persian Empire. Instead, Alexander’s thirst for adventure and want for more glory became the main key motivating factors that pushed him further and further in his conquest, with him naming multiple cities after himself, being inspired to follow in the steps of the Hero he idolized, Achilles and winning all of the battles he fought in, even denying a peace agreement from Darius III which would have allowed him to gain more land, but instead wanting the glory of defeating Darius III in battle. His thirst for adventure even motivated him to want to conquer places outside of the Persian Empire, however, the only thing that stopped him was the fact that his army mutinied and refused to go any further, and his thirst to discover new cultures led to many of his Greek Allies getting angry at him, such as with him wearing Persian royal dress. Therefore, Alexander’s motivation for conquering the Persian Empire changed and molded over the years 336-323 BC, with his main motivations at the start being his need for money and riches, his inherited anger at the Persians and the need for revenge, his religious stance with him consulting the Gods to see if he should go down this path and his desire to exact vengeance on the Persians in retribution to what they had done to the Greek sacred temples. Therefore, once his motivations had been fulfilled, his motivations shifted to his thirst for adventure and his need to be recognized and gain glory. These motivations were almost fulfilled with Alexander having many more plans for his conquest in other places, but this stopped when, in 323 BC, he abruptly died in Babylon.