alexander the great teacher
When Alexander was young, he was taught to fight and ride by Leonidas of Epirus, a relative of his mother Olympias, as well as to endure hardships such as forced marches. His father, Philip, was interested in cultivating a refined future king and so hired Lysimachus of Acarnania to teach the boy reading, writing, and to play the lyre. This tutelage would instill in Alexander a lifelong love of reading and music. At the age of 14, Alexander was introduced to the Greek philosopher Aristotle who Philip hired as a private tutor. He would study with Aristotle for the next three years, and the two remained in correspondence throughout Alexander’s later campaigns.
Alexander III of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great (21 July 356 BCE – 10 or 11 June 323 BCE), was the son of King Philip II of Macedon. He became king upon his father’s death in 336 BCE and went on to conquer most of the known world of his day. He is known as ‘the great’ both for his military genius and his diplomatic skills in handling the various populaces of the regions he conquered. He is further recognized for spreading Greek culture, language, and thought from Greece throughout Asia Minor, Egypt, and Mesopotamia to India and thus initiating the era of the “Hellenistic World”.
Alexander was saddened when he found his dead body. He respected Darius as the head of the mighty Persian Empire, though Alexander regarded himself as a higher authority because he believed his power came from the gods, according to Abernethy. He sent Darius’s body back to Persepolis and ordered that he be given a royal burial.
In a recently published conference paper, Elpida Hadjidaki, the past director of Maritime Antiquities in the Greek Ministry of Culture, points out that Agis III, the king of Sparta, worked with the Persians to fortify a harbor at Phalasarna, in west Crete. Persia gave him money and ships and in return “Agis sent the money and triremes [a type of ship] to his brother Agesilaos, directing him to pay the salaries of the crews, and to sail directly to Crete to settle the affairs of the island for the benefit of Sparta,” writes Hadjidaki. In his excavations he has found that, with Persian support, the Spartans built fortifications and a larger harbor at Phalasarna.
Greek philosophers were edging towards the radical idea that there were no gods who controlled the destiny of life on earth from some detached mountaintop. Rather, it was man himself who, thanks to his own brainpower, could decipher the laws of the universe to become master of all nature.
Supreme among such thinkers was Aristotle (384BCE-322BCE). The scope of his works was truly immense, covering everything from speculations on the nature of the human soul to the physics of the universe; from city politics and personal ethics to the history of plants and animals; and from public speaking and poetry to music, memory and logic.
In July 331 Alexander was at Thapsacus on the Euphrates. Instead of taking the direct route down the river to Babylon, he made across northern Mesopotamia toward the Tigris, and Darius, learning of this move from an advance force sent under Mazaeus to the Euphrates crossing, marched up the Tigris to oppose him. The decisive battle of the war was fought on October 31, on the plain of Gaugamela between Nineveh and Arbela. Alexander pursued the defeated Persian forces for 35 miles to Arbela, but Darius escaped with his Bactrian cavalry and Greek mercenaries into Media.
From his accession Alexander had set his mind on the Persian expedition. He had grown up to the idea. Moreover, he needed the wealth of Persia if he was to maintain the army built by Philip and pay off the 500 talents he owed. The exploits of the Ten Thousand, Greek soldiers of fortune, and of Agesilaus of Sparta, in successfully campaigning in Persian territory had revealed the vulnerability of the Persian empire. With a good cavalry force Alexander could expect to defeat any Persian army. In spring 334 he crossed the Dardanelles, leaving Antipater, who had already faithfully served his father, as his deputy in Europe with over 13,000 men; he himself commanded about 30,000 foot and over 5,000 cavalry, of whom nearly 14,000 were Macedonians and about 7,000 allies sent by the Greek League. This army was to prove remarkable for its balanced combination of arms. Much work fell on the lightarmed Cretan and Macedonian archers, Thracians, and the Agrianian javelin men. But in pitched battle the striking force was the cavalry, and the core of the army, should the issue still remain undecided after the cavalry charge, was the infantry phalanx, 9,000 strong, armed with 13-foot spears and shields, and the 3,000 men of the royal battalions, the hypaspists. Alexander’s second in command was Parmenio, who had secured a foothold in Asia Minor during Philip’s lifetime; many of his family and supporters were entrenched in positions of responsibility. The army was accompanied by surveyors, engineers, architects, scientists, court officials, and historians; from the outset Alexander seems to have envisaged an unlimited operation.
In the summer of 327 Alexander marched toward India. In northern India, he defeated the armies of King Porus. Impressed with his bravery and nobility, Alexander allowed Porus to remain king and gained his loyalty.
By autumn 334 Alexander had crossed the southern coast of Asia Minor (now Turkey). In Asia Minor, Alexander cut the famous Gordian Knot. According to tradition, whoever undid the intricate Gordian Knot would become ruler of Asia. Many people began to believe that Alexander had godlike powers and was destined to rule Asia.