Alexander the Great is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic figures in all of history. His achievements and feats are legendary. After inheriting the Kingdom of Macedon from his father, Philip II, he united all of Greece and embarked on the Persian campaign. In only a few years, the young conqueror toppled the Achaemenid empire, leading his armies to the end of the known world. The result was a vast Empire stretching from Greece and Egypt all the way to India. While Alexander the Great died young, and his empire collapsed in the wars of the Diadochi, he left behind a lasting legacy – the Hellenistic world, whose influence we still feel today.
Alexander United All of Greece
After Phillip II’s assassination in 336 BCE, his son Alexander became the king of Macedon. The new ruler was only 20 years old. His youth did not stop Alexander the Great from embarking on the first of many military campaigns – the subjugation of Greek city-states. The young king was aware that only united, the Greek world could confront its ancient nemesis – the Achaemenid Empire. Taking personal leadership of the well-trained and disciplined Macedon army and the elite companion cavalry, Alexander moved against the leading Greek city-states of Thebes. In 335 BCE, the Macedon army defeated the Thebans and razed the city. With the whole of Greece united under one banner, Alexander turned to the East, ready to invade the Persian Empire.
The Young Conqueror Toppled the Persian Empire
One of Alexander’s major accomplishments was the destruction of the ancient Persian Empire. The Persians were a thorn in the Greek side since the Greek-Persian wars of the fifth century BCE. The Greeks managed to defend their homeland, scoring a decisive victory at the Battle of Marathon, but the Peloponnesian War prevented any offensive in Asia. Alexander finally took the initiative and, in 334 BCE, invaded Persia. His Persian campaign is filled with iconic battles, like Granicus, Issus, and finally, Gaugamela. In each of those battles, the young conqueror’s superior leadership and strategy won the day, allowing his troops to defeat the more numerous Persian forces of Darius II. Darius’ death marked the end of the Persian Empire, leaving Alexander in control of the vast territory.
Alexander Created One of Largest Empires in History
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On the ashes of the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander built his own, creating an enormous realm that encompassed three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. One of the most important regions was Egypt, which Alexander the Great conquered early in the Persian campaign, and where he took the title of pharaoh. It was in Egypt where Alexander laid down the foundation for the capital of his vast empire – Alexandria-ad-Aegyptum. After founding the world’s first metropolis, Alexander established several more cities on his way towards India, all bearing the name of their founder. His unstoppable forces finally halted their advance in India. It was there where Alexander’s faithful horse – Bucephalus – died, and where his companion built a city in his honor.
He Created the Hellenistic World
Alexander’s Empire collapsed following its ruler’s sudden death in 323 BCE, in the Wars of Diadochi. Yet, his lasting legacy – the Hellenistic World – remained, outliving the famous conqueror. His armies did more than conquer. They also spread Greek ideas and customs during their advance eastwards. Greek soldiers married local women, creating the core of the fascinating mélange culture, which led to the creation of Hellenistic civilization. From Greece to India, the heirs of Alexander ruled over the Hellenistic kingdoms, building cities, patronizing art, and exchanging ideas, knowledge and people. But perhaps the most significant success was the Hellenization of the Roman Empire, which ensured that Alexander’s legacy was preserved up to the present day.
Alexander the Great Became a Legend
Alexander the Great never lost a battle, although he had a brush with death on many occasions. Most notably, he was heavily wounded while storming the fort in India. Despite being shot in the lung with an arrow, he continued to fight, inspiring his soldiers who saved their commander. Alexander also shared the hardships with his troops while on the campaign. During the infamous retreat across the great Gedrosian desert, he suffered all troubles, famine and lack of water alongside his men. Thus, it is not surprising that all great military leaders, from Hannibal and Caesar to Napoleon and Patton, admired Alexander’s charisma and talents, considering him a role model. After all, Alexander the Great’s accomplishments changed the course of history, helping to pave the way for the rise of the Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity, and centuries of Byzantine rule.