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Why was Alexander the Great so successful?

Why was Alexander the Great so successful?

Military History

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Hellenistic bust of a young Alexander the Great, possibly from Ptolemaic Egypt, 2nd–1st century BC, now in the British Museum

Alexander the Great’s empire developed not only because of his military prowess but also because of his father’s success, which took advantage of an unstable political context in Greece.

Alexander the Great was one of the greatest military commanders in history, and his conquests and campaigns established the Macedonian Empire as one of the most powerful and influential forces in the ancient world. Over the course of his reign, Alexander led his armies on a series of successful campaigns and military conquests, but he also experienced a number of setbacks and failures.

Alexander the Great’s family’s ascent to power began with his father, Philip II of Macedon. Philip II came to the throne in 359 BCE, after his brother was assassinated. At the time, Macedon was a relatively weak and divided kingdom, and Philip set out to strengthen and unify it.

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Philip II of Macedon, Alexander’s father

Philip II was a skilled politician and military commander, and he quickly began to expand the borders of Macedon through a series of successful military campaigns. He also implemented a number of important reforms, including the creation of a professional army, the reorganization of the military, and the establishment of new cities and settlements throughout the kingdom.

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Pausanius assassinates Philip II, Alexander’s father, during his procession into the theatre

In 336 BCE, Philip II was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, and Alexander the Great became the new king of Macedon at the age of just 20. Alexander inherited a strong and prosperous kingdom, and he set out to continue his father’s work by expanding the Macedonian Empire even further.

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The emblema of the Stag Hunt Mosaic, c. 300 BC, from Pella; the figure on the right is possibly Alexander the Great due to the date of the mosaic along with the depicted upsweep of his centrally-parted hair (anastole); the figure on the left wielding a double-edged axe (associated with Hephaistos) is perhaps Hephaestion, one of Alexander’s loyal companions.[46]

Over the course of the next decade, Alexander led his armies on a series of successful military campaigns throughout the Mediterranean world, conquering vast territories and establishing a vast empire that stretched from Greece to India. Along the way, he also implemented a number of important reforms, including the establishment of new cities and settlements, the promotion of Greek culture and language, and the spread of Hellenistic culture throughout the lands he conquered.

Despite his many military successes, Alexander’s reign was short-lived.

He died in 323 BCE at the age of just 32, and his empire quickly began to unravel in the years that followed. However, Alexander’s legacy lived on, and his conquests had a profound impact on the development of Western civilization. Today, he is remembered as one of the greatest military commanders and leaders in history, and his family’s ascent to power remains a fascinating and important chapter in the history of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean world.

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Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot (1767) by Jean-Simon Berthélemy

One of Alexander’s first military campaigns was against the Greek city-state of Thebes in 335 BCE. Thebes had rebelled against Macedon and was attempting to forge an alliance with other Greek city-states, but Alexander quickly crushed the rebellion and destroyed the city, sending a message to other would-be rebels that his rule would not be challenged.

Alexander’s next major campaign was against the Persian Empire, which was then the dominant power in the region. In 334 BCE, Alexander led his armies across the Hellespont and into Asia Minor, where he won a series of decisive victories against the Persian forces at the battles of Granicus and Issus. Alexander then marched south into Egypt, where he was welcomed as a liberator and declared himself the pharaoh. From there, he turned eastward and invaded the heart of the Persian Empire, winning a crushing victory at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE.

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The Macedonian phalanx at the “Battle of the Carts” against the Thracians in 335 BC

After the fall of the Persian Empire, Alexander continued his conquests eastward, invading and conquering territories as far east as India. He won a number of decisive battles against local rulers and armies, including the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BCE, but his campaign in India ultimately proved to be a failure. His troops were exhausted, and after facing fierce resistance from local armies, Alexander was forced to turn back and abandon his campaign in the east.

Despite his many successes, Alexander also experienced a number of setbacks and failures during his military conquests.

One of his biggest failures was his inability to capture the city of Tyre, which was a major naval power and one of the most heavily fortified cities in the Mediterranean world. Alexander’s siege of Tyre lasted for months, and he was eventually forced to build a causeway to the city to breach its walls. The effort was costly and time-consuming, and it delayed Alexander’s invasion of Egypt.

Another significant failure for Alexander was his attempt to integrate Greek and Macedonian culture with the cultures of the lands he conquered. Although he established a number of new cities and settlements and encouraged the spread of Greek language and culture, he was often met with resistance from local populations who were unwilling to accept Greek influence. This tension ultimately contributed to the fragmentation of Alexander’s empire after his death.

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Gérard Audran after Charles LeBrun, ‘Alexander Entering Babylon,’ original print first published 1675, engraving, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC.

Overall, Alexander the Great’s military conquests were marked by incredible success and achievement, but also by significant challenges and setbacks. Despite his many failures, he remains one of the greatest military commanders and conquerors in history, and his legacy continues to inspire awe and admiration more than two millennia after his death.

Alexander the Great’s empire had a significant influence on the Roman Empire, even though the two empires were separated by several centuries. Alexander’s conquests and the establishment of his empire created a power vacuum in the eastern Mediterranean, which was eventually filled by the Roman Empire. In many ways, the Roman Empire built on the foundations laid by Alexander and his successors.

One of the most significant ways that Alexander’s empire influenced the Roman Empire was through the spread of Greek culture and language. Alexander’s conquests brought Greek language and culture into contact with a variety of other cultures, and his empire became a cultural melting pot that influenced the art, literature, philosophy, and science of the Mediterranean world. The spread of Greek language and culture continued under Alexander’s successors, the Hellenistic kings, and this influence was felt in the Roman Empire centuries later. Greek language and culture became a hallmark of the Roman elite, and Roman writers, artists, and intellectuals were heavily influenced by Greek models.

Another way that Alexander’s empire influenced the Roman Empire was through the spread of ideas and knowledge. Alexander’s conquests opened up trade routes and facilitated the exchange of ideas and information between the different cultures of the Mediterranean world. Greek scholars and philosophers made significant contributions to fields such as mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy, and their ideas were later adopted and adapted by Roman thinkers. Greek literature, such as Homer’s epics, was also influential in Roman literature, and many Roman writers, such as Virgil, modeled their works on Greek literature.

Finally, Alexander’s conquests and the establishment of his empire paved the way for the Roman Empire to expand eastward. The territories conquered by Alexander, including Egypt and parts of the Near East, became Roman provinces in the centuries after Alexander’s death. The Roman Empire was able to build on the infrastructure and administrative systems established by the Hellenistic kings and use them to govern their own territories. The Roman Empire also adopted many aspects of Hellenistic culture, such as the use of Greek language in administration and education.

Alexander the Great Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek IN574 n1.jpg
Alexander the Great Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek IN574 n1

In conclusion, Alexander the Great’s empire had a profound influence on the Roman Empire. The spread of Greek language and culture, the exchange of ideas and knowledge, and the expansion of the Roman Empire into territories once ruled by Alexander all contributed to the Roman Empire’s cultural and political legacy. Alexander’s conquests laid the foundations for a new era of cultural exchange and integration in the Mediterranean world, and his legacy continues to influence the world today.

Why was Alexander the Great so successful?