Alexander the Great Conqueror and Demigod

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Alexander III. (356-323 BC), King of Macedon, was one of the most successful military commanders in history. He ……………………… most of the world known to the ancient Greeks without losing a…………………. At the time of his early death – he was only 33 – Alexander’s ………………… stretched from Greece to what is now Pakistan. Even in his lifetime Alexander became a leg- endary figure reaching the status of a …………………. Alexander’s life is a great example of how one powerful man can shape history. F A M O U S L I V E S Alexander the Great 1 Alexander the Great - Conqueror and Demigod Part of the “Alexander Mosaic”: Alexander fighting on his horse Bucaphelus against Darius III, King of Persia (333) empire n: a group of countries controlled by one ruler or government; battle n: a fight between armies; demigod n: powerful person treated like a god; half man and half god; conquer v: take land by fighting a war.

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Page 1: Alexander the Great Conqueror and Demigod

Alexander III. (356-323 BC), King of Macedon, was one of the most successful military commanders in history. He ……………………… most of the world known to the ancient Greeks without losing a…………………. At the time of his early death – he was only 33 – Alexander’s ………………… stretched from Greece to what is now Pakistan. Even in his lifetime Alexander became a leg-endary figure reaching the status of a …………………. Alexander’s life is a great example of how one powerful man can shape history.


Alexander the Great 1

Alexander the Great- Conqueror and Demigod

Part of the “Alexander Mosaic”: Alexander fighting on his horse Bucaphelus against Darius III, King of Persia (333)

empire n: a group of countries controlled by one ruler or government; battle n: a fight between armies; demigod n: powerful person treated like a god; half man and half god; conquer v: take land by fighting a war.

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The Legend and the ManIt is difficult to draw an accurate portrait of Alexander because most of the contemporary sources have been lost. The most important descriptions of Alexander’s life were written hundreds of years after his death. Even in his life time myths and legends surrounded the great man so it is often difficult to distinguish between truth and legend. If a modern reader or historian wants to explore Alexander’s character and to interpret his behaviour, he is often forced to speculate.

Early LifeAlexander was the son of King Philip II (382-336)1 of Macedon. The Macedonians lived in northern Greece and spoke a Greek dialect. They were, however, regarded as barbarians by their southern brothers. As a matter fact, life in Macedon was a little rougher than in

other parts of Greece, which had a great influ-ence on Alexander’s character. For centuries the Macedonians had had to fight against aggressive neighbouring tribes. These con-stant fights shaped the Macedonian culture: fighting, horse-riding and hunting wild ani-mals became a central part of a young man’s education. You were not regarded as a real man if you had not killed a wild boar on a hunt or a man in battle. Drinking parties (symposium) were also very popular, being able to hold your drink was highly regarded.2

Intellectual education concentrated on study-ing literature. The heroic deeds of the heroes in Homer’s epics inspired Alexander, the

famous Greek hero Achilles became a role model for the young prince. The Greek phi-losopher Aristotle was in charge of Alexan-der’s education from the age of 14 onwards. What famous epic poems did Homer write?

At the age of 16 Alexander had his first direct experience with war: During his father’s ab-sence he negotiated with a Persian envoy and led a campaign against a neighbouring tribe. From that time on Alexander became one his father’s most important helpers.

The Rise of Macedon For centuries Macedon had been in the shadow of the powerful Greek cities of Athens and Sparta. The ancient rivalry between the two most important city states culminated in the Peloponnesian War (431-404). This epic struggle ended with the defeat of Athens, whose power was forever destroyed. Sparta had won the war but was seriously weakened. This caused a power vacuum which was filled by Macedon under Philip II. The Macedonian king conquered the northern part of Greece and then formed the League of Corinth, a confederation of Greek states controlled by Macedon. Macedon had become the most powerful of all the Greek states. Alexander had led the cavalry in the Battle of Chaeronea (338), which played an important part in the Macedonian victory. He was only 18.


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1 All dates are BC.2 They were perfectly right, of course.

Copy of a bust of Alexander (British Museum)

SymposiumSymposium originally referred to a drinking party (the Greek verb sympotein means " to drink a lot " ) but has since come to refer to any academic conference whether or not drinking takes place. Symposia were an important social institution in ancient Greece. They were a forum for men to debate, plot, boast, or simply to party. They were frequently held to celebrate the introduction of youths into aristocratic society. A youth would attend as the companion and beloved of an adult with whom he was involved in a pederastic relationship. Symposia were also held by aristocrats to celebrate other special occasions, such as victories in athletic and poetic contests. Symposia were usually held in the men's quarters of the household. Singly or in pairs, the men would lie on couches positioned against the walls of the room. Food, wine (usually mixed with water and served by nude young men), and entertainment was provided, and depending on the occasion could include games, songs, flute-girls and slaves performing various acts.

Alexander fighting a lion. 3rd century BC mosaic. Pella Museum, Greece.

accurate adj: correct, precise, true; contemporary adj: happening or existing at the same period of time; source n: documents etc that give you historical informa-tion; distinguish v: tell the difference; tribe n: group of people who have the same beliefs, customs, language etc; boar n: male pig; deed n: action; role model n: person you admire and want to imitate; negotiate v: ‘verhandeln’; envoy n: ‘Gesandter’; campaign n: a series of military actions; struggle n: long fight

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Alexander Becomes King (336)In 336 Philip II was murdered. Because Alex-ander had had a serious quarrel with his fa-ther, suspicion fell on Alexander. It is not completely impossible but rather unlikely that he was involved in the murder of his father.What reason may Alexander have had for killing his father?

The succession to the Macedonian throne was not automatic but it was clear that Alexander would follow his father. Philip only had two sons and Alexander’s brother was physically handicapped. Alexander was proclaimed king and immediately had all his potential rivals killed. Soon afterwards he led several cam-paigns against various tribes in the Balkans, traditional enemies of the Macedonians.Why did Alexander attack the Balkan tribes?

When the Greek city of Thebes heard the ru-mour that Alexander had died in a battle, they called on other Greek cities to stand up against the Macedonians. Alexander heard

about this treason, marched with his troops to Thebes and stormed the city. 6,000 Thebans were killed, the rest were sold into slavery. He then ordered the city to be razed to the ground (335). He spared, however, the city of Athens, which had joined the Theban rebel-lion.Why did Alexander punish Thebes so drastically?Why did Alexander spare Athens?

The Campaign against Persia, Part One: Asia Minor (334-333) Persia had been an enemy of Greece for more than 150 years. In the sea battle at Salamis (480) Athens had defeated the Persian fleet decisively and saved Greece from being con-quered by the Persians. However, the Greek cities in Asia Minor had become part of the Persian Empire. These cities were Alexander’s first target in his campaign against Persia. Officially, he was leading a “campaign of revenge” against Persia but at this stage Alex-ander was mainly trying to strengthen the Macedonian power in the Mediterranean Sea.

In 334 Alexander crossed the strait between Europe and Asia with 40,000 troops. This was a monumental event to Alexander so he marked it with a number of symbolic acts. On landing on Asian soil, for instance, he rammed a spear into the ground and jumped off the boat in full armour. Afterwards Alex-ander went to the place of ancient Troy, made some sacrifices and put down a wreath at the (alleged) tomb of Achilles.Why did Alexander celebrate the crossing to Asia?Why did Alexander go to Achilles’ tomb?

The Persian side was prepared. The satraps (governors) of the provinces in Asia Minor were waiting for Alexander and were willing to face him in battle. The Greek commanders of the Persian troops advised the satraps to avoid direct confrontation against Alexander. They suggested using “scorched earth” tactics instead. The Satraps rejected the advice. What are “scorched earth” tactics? Why did the Persian governors reject them?


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quarrel n: fight, argument; suspicion n: feeling that sb is guilty of a crime; proclaim v: say publicly; rumour n: information that may not be true; treason n: ‘Verrat’; spare sb v: not punish; defeat v: win against; fleet n: group of war ships; target n: object of an attack; revenge n: ‘Rache’; strengthen v: make stronger’; strait(s) n: a narrow part of an ocean; soil n: ground, earth; armour n: metal protection worn by soldiers in battle; sacrifice n: an offering to a god; wreath: ‘Kranz’; alleged adj: believed to be; tomb n [tu:m]: place where sb is buried (usu above ground); governor n: person in charge or running a country that is part of a larger empire; avoid v: ‘vermeiden’; scorched adj: burnt; reject v: not take, not accept.

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In May 334 the first battle between Greeks and Persians occurred. Alexander used unusual tactics: He rode at the front of his cavalry and attacked the enemy frontally. The element of surprise helped the Greeks to win the battle but Alexander almost fell victim to his own courage, just barely avoiding being killed. After the battle the Greek mercenaries fighting on the Persian side were all killed.

Why did Alex have the Greek mercenaries killed? Why did he not integrate these experienced soldiers into his own army, which was relatively small?

In the following months Alexander brought the western half of Asia Minor under his con-trol. Alexander had to lay siege to some cities, others joined him without a fight. Because he could not be present everywhere, he usually handed the government of the cities to old Greek families.

The incredible success of the young com-mander – He was only 22! – led to the creation of many legends surrounding the Macedonian leader. Alexander supported this development because he loved to be regarded as a hero like the great Achilles. The most famous legend

was the story of Alexander cutting the Gor-dian knot3 .

The Persian Great King Darius III (380-330) had come to power in 336. After the defeats of his satraps against Alexander Darius was forced to take control of his army himself and to move to Asia Minor. Alexander expected that. Moving south towards Cilicia, the Mace-donian commander knew that he would meet the main Persian force. Alexander sought the direct confrontation with the heart of the op-ponent, in the same way as he frontally at-tacked the strongest part of an enemy during battle. Darius was looking for the great battle too. As the Great King of the largest empire the world had ever seen to that day, he could not simply sit back. He had to defend his country personally by crushing the enemy. It certainly helped that Darius’ army was two or three times as large as Alexander’s.4 At Issos the two armies met.

Issos (333)5 and Its ConsequencesAgain Alexander tried to attack the centre of the enemy forces. After some initial problems he finally managed to appear in front of Dar-

ius. The Great King – standing on a gilded chariot surrounded by 2,000 guards for pro-tection – panicked and ordered a retreat. It was a total victory for Alexander. The Greeks also captured the royal household, including the war chest and the ladies’ of the Great King.Why were chariots used in these battles? What were the advantages and disadvantages?

The reputation of Persia and its king was seriously damaged. Alexander, however, let Darius escape. He decided to consolidate his power in the Mediterranean. He needed to bring the harbour towns on the coast of mod-ern Lebanon and Israel under his control be-cause the Persian fleet was based in these ports. Most ports offered no resistance and capitulated when Alexander’s army appeared outside the city gates.

There was one exception: Tyre, the most im-portant and proudest town in the area. The citizens of Tyre refused to allow Alexander to enter their town. They felt safe because their town was located on small island off the coast and had never been conquered before. It was,


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3 An ancient ox-cart, often shown as a chariot, was kept in the palace at Gordion. It was tied to a post with a complicated knot nobody had ever been able to untie. According to a prophecy the person who would untie the knot would become the king of Asia (Asia Minor). When Alexander arrived at Gordion he simply cut the knot in two with his sword. The story is probably just a legend but it is typical of Alexander’s way of solving problems.4 The Persian king was travelling with a huge train – including a harem. We understand.5 Ein Vers aus guten, alten Schulzeiten: ‘Bei Issos 333, grosse Keilerei.’

Part of the “Alexander Mosaic”: Darius on his chariot

occur v: happen; victim n: person hurt or killed in an accident, battle etc; mercenary n: professional soldier; siege n: ‘Belagerung’; support v: help; development n: ‘Entwicklung’; force n: army; sought v: looked for; opponent n: enemy; crush v: destroy; initial adj: in the beginning; gilded adj: ‘mit Gold beschlagen’; retreat n: movement away from the enemy; war chest n: large box of wood filled with gold, money etc; reputation n: ‘Ruf’; damage v: hurt; resistance n: fighting against sth.

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of course, a bad mistake. Alexander was furi-ous and vowed to take Tyre. The following siege lasted 8 months and Alexander had an enormous dam built to connect the island with the mainland. In August 332 Tyre was finally conquered. Alexander made an exam-ple of its inhabitants and punished them harshly. 2,000 men were nailed to the cross along the coast.

Darius began negotiations with Alexander. Their details are unclear but it seems that the Persian ruler made the Greek commander a generous offer. Typically, Alexander was not satisfied with merely keeping what he had achieved. He wanted more, he wanted every-thing. He was ready to fight Darius for the ultimate prize: the Persian Empire. It is likely that Alexander was already thinking of ruling the entire world, which meant the whole in-habited world as it was known to the Greeks (oikumene).

Alexander in Egypt (331)Alexander marched his army to Egypt, which belonged to the Persian Empire as well. He met with no resistance, the Persian satrap handed over the province without putting up

a fight. Alexander then paid his respects to the Egyptian gods, showing everyone that he did not intend to replace Egyptian traditions with Greek culture. Egypt’s elite therefore accepted Alexander as their new ruler and even crowned him as the new pharaoh. Alexander ordered a new town to be built in the Nile delta and called it Alexandria. Why did Alexander found a town in Egypt? Why did he call it Alexandria?

Alexander then travelled into the Libyan de-sert to visit the oracle at Siwa oasis. As phar-aoh Alexander was the son of the god Amun, one of the most powerful Egyptian gods. The Greeks identified Amun with their own god Zeus. By visiting the Siwa oracle – which was dedicated to Amun – Alexander showed the whole world that he saw himself as the son of a god (Amun-Zeus). It is not known what questions Alexander asked the oracle nor what answers he received. It is, however, quite possible that Alexander asked whether he should try to conquer the whole world, and that the answer was yes.Where was the most famous oracle of ancient Greece located?

The Decision: The Battle of Gaugamela (331) Alexander then moved towards the heart of the Persian Empire. He marched through Mesopotamia and crossed the river Tigris, knowing that Darius was waiting for him on the other side. The Great King was seeking the decisive battle, bringing scythed chariots and Indian war elephants into the battle. The Bat-tle of Gaugamela ended like the Battle of Is-sos. Again Alexander was able to push for-ward and reach Darius, and again the Great King lost his nerve and ran. Alexander let his opponent escape again.

Still on the battlefield, Alexander had himself proclaimed “King of Asia”. It was not simply Alexander’s aim to weaken his opponent or even defeat him, he wanted to become the new ruler of the Persian Empire. But ruling a country is usually a lot more difficult than conquering it.


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vow v: ‘schwören’; inhabitants n: people who live in a town, country etc; generous adj: ‘grosszügig’; rule v: be the master of; desert n: extremely dry area; dedicate v: ‘widmen, weihen’; decisive adj: ‘entscheidend’; scythe n: ‘Sense’.

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At the Heart of the Persian Empire (331/330)After the victorious Battle of Gaugamela Al-exander moved east towards the centres of the Persian Empire. The first major city he reached was Babylon, one of the most famous and historic towns of the time. The Babyloni-ans welcomed the 25-year-old Macedonian enthusiastically as their new ruler. In the opin-ion of Babylon’s citizens, Alexander was lib-erating them from Persian rule. Like in Egypt Alexander paid his respects to the local gods and arranged himself with the local leaders. Military command, however, was given to Greek officers.What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a procedure?

On his way to Persepolis, the capital of the empire, the Greeks met with some resistance. So on marching into the city Alexander al-lowed his soldier to pillage the town. After-wards, however, Alexander paid his respects to Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. It was obvious that Alexander no longer consid-ered himself just as a conqueror but as the legitimate successor of the oriental rulers.

Alexander stayed in Persepolis for several months. At the end of his stay Alexander him-self and a few officers set fire to the imperial palace. One must assume that the Macedoni-ans were completely drunk.

As long as Darius was not defeated, the war against Persia was not yet won. Alexander now decided to pursue Darius and defeat him decisively. The Great King did not engage in battle that time and fled to the east of his em-pire to organise resistance against Alexander. Darius had however lost a lot of respect be-cause he had twice escaped from the battle-field. On his flight from Alexander Darius was captured by Bessus, his satrap in Bactria and the leader of eastern Persian tribes. As Alex-ander’s troops were coming closer, Darius was stabbed. Bessus probably killed Darius because he was afraid that the Great King would give up and transfer his power to the Greek conqueror. When Alexander arrived, Darius was dead. The winner of the great struggle for the power in Asia was standing above his rival’s corpse.

Alexander’s reaction to Darius’ death was unmistakable: He was ready to take the place

of the Great King. He paid full respect to Darius’ and gave him a magnificent funeral.Why did Alexander make sure that Darius was given a proper funeral at which he himself was present?

Alexander in Central Asia (329-327)Alexander took on another important task of a legitimate new ruler: He vowed to take re-venge on the murderers of the previous king. Alexander went off in pursuit of Bessus, Dar-ius’ murderer and captured him in Bactria, Central Asia. Bessus was punished harshly.6

Alexander conquered Bactria with little resis-tance. He then crossed the passes of the Hindu Kush mountain range, reaching Sogdi-ana and the river Yaxartes. The Yaxartes clearly marked the end of cultivated land and the beginning of the empty desert steppe. Alexander believed that he had reached one end of the world. He therefore founded a town he called Alexandreia Eschate (“The Furthest Alexandria”). Alexander’s great vi-sion to rule all of the inhabited (and known) world was becoming more and more obvious.


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6 Naked, and wearing a neck iron, Bessus was forced to walk along the entire Macedonian army. Later Alexander ordered Bessus’ nose and ears to be cut off because rebels and murderers of kings were usually punished like that in Persia. Bessus was then sent to Ecbatana, where he was probably decapitated or crucified.

enthusiastically v: with great joy; liberate v: free; procedure n: the way things are done; pillage v: ‘plündern’; consider v: regard; legitimate adj: having the right to do sth; pursue v: follow; fled: past form of flee (escape); stab v: wound or kill with a sharp item, like a knife etc; corpse n: dead body; unmistakable adj: it can-not be misunderstood; funeral n: act when a person is buried; task n: job; previous adj: the one before; go off in pursuit n: follow.

Glazed Relief in the Palace at Susa“Immortals” “Immortals” were the elite bodyguards of the Persian King. They always numbered 10,000 men.

In the Imperial Palace at PersepolisThe Achaemenid Persian Empire (559-338)The dynasty of the Achaemenids were the first to create a centralized state in Persia – what is now Iran. The first Persian Empire was the largest and most powerful empire that world had yet seen. In its time it was a superpower with high cultural and economical achievements. It was also well managed and organized. The 20 provinces were linked with highways, the most famous being the Royal Road from Susa to Sardis: Persian couriers were able to travel 2,500 km in seven days.The Persian Empire was ruled by kings, there was no democratic tradition like in Greece. But the Persian rulers allowed the local cultures to survive if they did not threaten their power.Slavery was outlawed and every worker was compensated – unlike in Greece, where slavery was common.The Achaemenid Empire united people and kingdoms from every major civilization in south west Asia. For the first time in history, people from very different cultures were in contact with one another under one ruler.

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At first Sogdiana had offered little resistance. But it soon became clear that the conquest had been deceptively easy. The Sogdian and Bac-trian riders started a guerilla war, which caused Alexander great problems.What is a guerilla war? Why was it difficult for Alexander’s army to win it?

When Alexander realized that it would be very difficult to defeat the Bactrians and Sog-dians, he looked for a different way to win their loyalty and support. So when a Sogdian nobleman offered Alexander his daughter’s hand in marriage, he accepted. Alexander married Roxana (“Rashanak – “Little Star”) in 327. Roxana’s father got a high position in Alexander’s army.

During a drinking party at Maracanda (Sa-markand) one of Alexander’s best friends – he was completely drunk – dared to criticise the famous commander and king. Alexander, just as drunk, grabbed the lance of guard standing by and ran it through his friend, killing him.

To the End of World (326)Alexander seems to have been fascinated by the idea of reaching the end of the world. In 326 he moved eastwards to India. In the Greek view of the world India meant the northern part of the Indus valley in modern-day Paki-stan. They believed that the Indus and the Nile were the same river.Alexander’s troops crossed the Khyber Pass, which connects modern-day Afghanistan with the Indus river basin. In spring 326 they crossed the mighty river and were confronted with the army of an Indian Raja who refused to accept the Macedonian as the new ruler. Alexander defeated the Indians in what was to be the last major battle of his conquest. However, Alexander’s horse Bucephalus, which he had received at the age of 12, died in battle. Alexander promptly founded a city in honour of the horse.

Alexander then moved even further east to reach the end of the world at last. But the closer he seemed to get, the further away it seemed to be. How large was India? Alexan-der collected geographical information which suggested that the end of the world was much further than he had expected. He was told the Indus river was not the upper part of the Nile, but flowed into an ocean instead. Further-more, to the east there was said to be a huge river leading to a different ocean.What river was that? When did Buddha live?

To make matters even worse, the monsoon started. Heavy, seasonal rain was a meteoro-logical phenomenon the Greeks did not know at all. The rain turned the land into a sea of mud. The bad weather, constant attacks by the local population and the growing awareness that the end of the world was impossible to reach turned Alexander’s march into a horror trip. After 70 days of gruelling marching Al-exander’s army reached the Hyphasis. It was then that Alexander’s men for the very first time refused to follow their leader’s order. Alexander wanted to march on but his men had had enough. The invincible commander retired to his tent, stayed there for three days and finally declared that he had decided to turn back. Alexander’s decision may have been influenced by the awareness that it would been very difficult to integrate the strange culture of the Indian peoples into his empire. At any rate, it must have been ex-tremely difficult for Alexander to give up before reaching his goal. He felt that his men had let him down at a crucial moment.When they had first crossed the Hydaspes, Alexander had ordered a fleet to be built. When he returned, the ships were ready. Sail-ing south, the Greek ships were attacked sev-eral times and Alexander was wounded by an arrow, but they finally reached the Indian Ocean. Alexander sailed out to the open sea

and offered a sacrifice to Poseidon. At least in this area he had reached the end of the world.The Disastrous March (325)When it had become clear that the Indus was not connected to the Nile, Alexander wanted to explore the sea route to the mouth of the Tigris. It was uncharted territory, so the fleet had to be supplied by troops following it on land. This procedure was not unusual because Greek ships traditionally followed the coast-lines. However, Alexander set off with 60,000 troops, which was hardly necessary to supply the fleet. The problem was that the land route led through the Gedrosian desert, which was said to be impassable with a great army. It has been said that Alexander was ready to go on this extremely dangerous march because he wanted to take revenge on his troops who had let him down in India. Aanother explanation is more likely: Alexander knew stories about other great leaders who had failed to cross the desert. He certainly saw this as a challenge: He wanted to show the world that he could do it, and he was definitely willing to risk the lives of thousands of his men.

The troops were soon forced to leave the coast and march inland through the desert. Quick-sand, flash floods and above all a dramatic lack of water led to a catastrophe: only 15,000 men reached the end of the desert after 60 days of marching. The fleet was in great trou-ble as well but finally managed to reach the mouth of the Tigris and sailed upstream to Susa. The naval expedition was a success.

Alexander as Great KingAlexander’s long absence had caused great problems in various parts of the empire. There were minor rebellions; some of the governors Alexander had installed were abusing their power; some Persian and Greek officers had shown a great lack of discipline. Of course, Alexander could not accept this behaviour. On his return he punished them harshly.


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Hephaistion saves Alexander’s life while hunting lions

deceptively adv: ‘trügerisch’; dare v: have the courage; raja: king, prince; mud n: ‘Schlamm’; awareness n: realization; goal n: ‘Ziel’; crucial adj: ‘decisive’; disas-trous adj: catastrophic; uncharted adj: no maps existed; supply v: give food, drink etc; impassable adj: impossible to cross; challenge n: ‘Herausforderung’; quick-sand n: ‘Treibsand’; flash flood n: sudden floods caused by heavy rain; lack of sth n: ‘Mangel an’.

Indian War Elephant

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It had become obvious that Alexander had not simply led a campaign against Persia to defeat his most powerful enemy, he had conquered the Persian Empire to rule it. Darius’ death did not mean the end of the campaign: Alex-ander did not want to return home. Alexan-der’s troops accepted this decision but some of the Macedonian noblemen were worried.Why did the troops and some noblemen see Alexander’s decision differently?

There seems to have been a power struggle in the Greek camp. When Alexander realized that his position was threatened, he reacted in typical fashion: unscrupulously. Philotas, one of Alexander’s most important officers, was accused of conspiring against the king and was executed.

Alexander followed a clear strategy as far as ruling his empire was concerned: He tried to fuse the two cultures. His appearance as Great King was a blend of Greek and oriental ele-ments. Initially he also kept the Persian cus-tom of proskynesis: When subjects approached the king, they had bow down completely and kiss towards the ruler. The Greeks hated this practise so much, that Alexander did not al-ways insist on it.Why did the Greeks hate proskynesis ?

An event in Susa illustrated how Alexander saw the future of his empire: Together with 90 of his most important Macedonian followers he married women from the Persian aristoc-racy. (High-ranking Persians were allowed to have more than one wife.) In another mass ceremony 10,000 Macedonian officers and soldiers married Persian women.What was the purpose of those mass marriages?

Alexander respected local structures and hier-archies but again and again he showed that he himself stood above everybody and every-thing. In case of doubt, his command was the law. With a single gesture Alexander could pardon somebody or have them killed. Persia was his personal empire: an “egocracy”, as it were.

Alexander did not choose one place as a per-manent residence but constantly moved with his train between the centres of the empire. The real centre was where the king was. Alex-ander was always on the move.What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a procedure?

Alexander had not lost his will to lead mili-tary campaigns if he thought they were neces-sary. The king’s next target was the Arabian peninsula. Arabian Bedouins had made raids on towns and villages in Mesopotamia for centuries. It seems that Alexander wanted to solve the age-old problem by conquering Arabia and integrating it into his empire. What strategic advantage would a conquest of Arabia have had?

The Death of Alexander (323)Shortly before the Arabian campaign started, Alexander fell ill and died a week later, on 10 June 323, in Babylon. He was not even 33 years old. Of course, there have always been rumours that Alexander died an unnatural death, that he was poisoned. They are proba-bly not true. It is much more likely that Alex-ander died of malaria. His body may have been seriously weakened by heavy drinking and various severe wounds he had suffered during his campaigns. But the truth will never be known. Alexander was buried at Siwa oasis.

Alexander’s SexualityThe sources concerning Alexander’s sexuality contradict each other (which is true of most aspects of his life). It is generally assumed that Alexander had sexual intercourse with both women and men. Sexual relations between members of the same sex were nothing ex-traordinary among ancient Greeks. It is hard to believe that Alexander, whose friendship with several men was very profound, was an exception.

The Significance of Alexander’s Conquests: The Hellenistic Era (330-30)The three centuries following Alexander’s death are called the Hellenistic era. Greek soldiers had settled in the numerous cities Alexander had founded in many strategically important locations. Most of these towns prospered and grew into economic and cul-tural centres which helped to spread Greek culture in the east. Greek was becoming the dominant language of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. In the Hellenistic era the heritage of classical Greece was kept alive, but it was also a period of great achievements in art, philosophy and science. The knowledge of the world was collected and put into librar-ies, the most famous being the library at Alex-andria in Egypt.

The SuccessionAlexander’s empire did not survive when its founder and ruler died. Several men – called Diadochi – were fighting each other to become Alexander’s successor. None of them was strong enough to defeat his enemies deci-sively, so the empire was divided into several parts. These new states and kingdoms later saw themselves confronted with a rising power which was rapidly expanding into the Eastern Mediterranean: the Roman Empire. The last kingdom to be conquered by the Ro-mans was Egypt. It ended when Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Empire, com-mitted suicide in 30 BC. How did Cleopatra, according to legend, kill herself?


8 Famous LIves

Proskynesis at the Court of Darius I

conspire v: take part in a conspiracy (‘Verschwörung’); fuse v: ‘verschmelzen’; subject n: ‘Untertan’; insist on v: ‘bestehen auf’; pardon v: forgive; peninsula n: ‘Halbinsel’; raid n: attacks to rob and steal things; contradict v: say opposite things; settle v: stay to live; heritage n: ‘Erbe’; achievements n: ‘Leistungen’.