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Classical Studies
CLAS 1000
John Walsh

Chapter Eleven: Alexander the Great Alexander changed the world that the Greeks knew. He died in 323 B.C, which marked the end of the Classical Period. Philip II transformed Macedon into the leading military power in the region (controlled his empire that stretched from the Danube River to central Greece). Philip II was assassinated on the eve of his projected invasion of Asia. Alexander III was only 20 when his father died (summer of 336 B.C). Even though Philip had other children from different wives, Alexander was treated as his father’s heir throughout Philips rein. Alexander was ready for this role. His father had him tutored by Aristotle (taught him Greek literature and culture). From this, Alexander gained a love for Homer and the Iliad and he became determined to equal or exceed his legendary ancestors (Heracles and Achilles). Omens were said to forecast Alexander’s rule. His mother Olympias dreamed that lightning struck her womb. Alexander also had practical training in kinship. He governed Macedon in Philip’s absence and suppressed a Thracian rebellion. He also commanded the companion (hetairoi) cavalry in the decisive Battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C. Alexander’s succession was not assured. People claimed that Alexander and/or Olympias had something to do with Philip’s assassination. There was talk of other possible successors including the former king Amyntas IV. Antipater, Philip’s most senior commander saved the succession for Alexander by quickly presenting him to the Macedonian troops at Aegae for the traditional acclamation as king. Battle of Granicus Alexander invaded Asia in spring 334 B.C. His army was 37,000 strong: 12,000 Macedonian phalanx troops, 3,000 hypapists (royal guards), 1,800 companion cavalry, 9,000 allied Greek infantry and cavalry, fleet of almost 200 Greek ships. Alexander was the first Macedonian to land on Asian soil. He placed his spear in the ground as to claim the land. He then went to the traditional site of Troy, where he sacrificed to Athena, asked pardon of the legendary Trojan King Priam for invading Asia, and paid homage to his alleged ancestor Achilles. In Macedon, Antipater governed for Alexander. Alexander’s second in command in Asia was Parmenion (friend of Antipater and a former ally of Cleopatra’s family). Alexander wanted a quick victory to achieve the goals of his campaign. Alexander was almost killed by the Persians because he stood out wearing Achilles armor. Cleitus the Black, brother of Alexander’s nurse saved Alexander. He sliced off the arm of a Persian noble. The Persians lost. Alexander sent 300 suits of Persian armor to Athens to display their victory and it was also a dedication to Athena. Alexander’s forces went to the west coast of Anatolia. Lydia, Caria, and Lycia fell to Alexander. Battle of Issus Alexander became very sick (brink of death) and so that delayed the departure of the Macedonian army from Anatolia. When Alexander was sick, everyone realized his importance in the army. Alexander chose to avoid confronting the forces of Darius III in Mesopotamia and instead he went south along the coast of Egypt. Alexander chose to confront the Persian army at Issus at Cilicia, which is a narrow coastal plain. Darius’s numerical superiority did not matter at this point. Callisthenes, a nephew of Aristotle treated the Battle of Issus as a Homeric contest between Alexander and Darius. Victory resulted from a cavalry charge led by Alexander. Darius was forced to abandon his army and flee. The royal treasure stored at Damascus was now Alexanders. Alexander even took Darius’s family: mother, wife, daughters, son, and heir to the Persian throne. Darius wrote to Alexander asking for friendship and alliance for his family back and Alexander rejected him. From Issus to Egypt: Conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean (332-331 B.C.) Alexander continued to conquer Syria, Palestine, and Judaea. Only Tyre and Gaza resisted Alexander. Alexander surrounded and conquered Tyre. Tyre also suffered the same brutal fate as Thebes: slaughter of most of the male population and sale of the surviving women and children. Gaza suffered the same 2 months later. The fall of Gaza gave Alexander the greatest prize of the first phase of his Asian adventure : Egypt Alexander in Egypt The Egyptians welcomed Alexander’s army during the march to Memphis, where they played Greek styled games and sacrificed to Zeus. Alexander consulted the oracle of Zeus- Ammon, who was one of the three principle oracles patronized by the Greeks. No one knows why he wanted to see this oracle or what was said. Some ideas are that: he desired to duplicate his legendary ancestor Heracles’ visit to the oracle, or to surpass the Persian King Cambyses who had failed to conquer the oasis, or to obtain divine approval for the new city of Alexandria. The Greeks equated Ammon with Zeus. Alexander founded Alexandria and it was his final major act in Egypt. His actions in Egypt show continuity between his policies there and those he followed in the territories conquered earlier. Alexander had a model that he followed. The Macedonians held military power and the Egyptians and Greeks only had civil authority. From Alexandria to Persepolis: The King of Asia (331-330 B.C.) After founding Alexandria, Alexander left Egypt to seek and final confrontation with Darius III. Darius did his best to avoid battle, offering Alexander marriage to his eldest daughter, cession of all territory west of Euphrates River, and an enormous ransom for his family. Parmenion told Alexander to take this offer. Alexander did not want to accept this offer, so Darius assembled another army to face the Macedonians. The two armies met on October 1 331 B.C at Gaugamela in northeastern Iraq. Thanks to the capture of the Persian plans in Darius’ headquarters after his defeat, the Battle of Gaugamela is the best-documented battle in Greek history. Darius changed his strategies hoping to win this battle but he did not. Darius ran off to Iran. Alexander is the new king of Asia. Alexander captured Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis in rapid succession. He treated these successions differently. Alexander entered Babylon in triumph. As in Egypt, he wanted to offer sacrifice to Babylon’s chief god Marduk and he ordered the reconstruction of his temple that the Persians had destroyed. He rewarded the satraps who had surrendered Babylonia and Susa by leaving them in their positions. Far different was the fate of Persepolis and it’s citizens. Persepolis was the spiritual centre of the Persian Empire where major rituals of Persian rule such as the new year’s festival and the ceremonial presentation of their tribute to the Great King by his subjects took place. Alexander and the Macedonians torched the city’s palaces. A large entourage of noncombatants including slaves, women, children, and entrepreneurs accompanied the army. It was decided that Persepolis would be burned in revenge of the Persians’ destruction of Athens in 480. The High Road to India: Alexander in Central Asia Alexander had pretty much conquered everything at this point, he just needed to kill Darius to have put an end to the long line of Archaemenid rulers. The Death of Darius Alexander’s strategy was clever and effective. Darius was assassinated and his body was taken back to Persia to be buried with full royal honours. It was rumored that Darius’ last wish was to be avenged by Alexander. The Struggle for Bactria and Sogdiana (330-327 B.C) Alexander’s ignorance of conditions in eastern Iran almost cost him everything he had gained through his astute dynastic policy. Unaware of the close ties between the people in eastern Iran and the Scythians and the intricate network of tribal relations in the region, Alexander i
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