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What would you do if you could rule the world? This seems like a preposterous question to most, but to one man it started to become a reality. It all started with the dreams of one King, Alexander the Great. Alexander was born in 356 BC in Macedonia, the area around present day Thessaloniki in northern Greece. Though the Macedonians might have considered themselves part of the Greek cultural world, the other Greeks viewed them as a half-barbaric mountain tribe. Alexander was the King of Macedonia in 336 BC, the Pharaoh of Egypt starting 332 BC, the King of Persia in 330 BC, and the King of Asia from 331 BC until the time of his unfortunate death in 323 BC. He was first crowned King of Macedonia at the young age of 19. Barely an adult, Alexander managed to transform his small Macedonian country into his own domain consisting of the three largest and most feared Empires in just 13 years. Right after his father’s death, Alexander had started his plans to conquer and unite all of the Ancient Greek city-states, along with the empires of Persia, Asia, and India. Although he was not successful in all of his plans, he managed to conquer and unite all of Ancient Greece, and conquer Persia and Asia, as well as some of India. Therefore, Alexander managed to transform the lesser known small mountain village of Macedonia into the largest and most powerful empire in all of Ancient Europe.
The biographical novel Alexander The Great by Philip Freeman singlehandedly details all of the battles and important occurrences in Alexander’s life from his childhood until his death, as well as the legacy of the Empire he left behind which lasted several hundred years after his death. With the help of nobody but a select few of his father’s old generals, mainly his father’s right hand man Parmenion; Alexander was able to revolutionize the way of ancient warfare and destroy any Empire that stood in his way. As an absolute genius at psychological and unconventional warfare, along with some high risk and high reward decisions, Alexander overcame some of the greatest obstacles in his way without breaking a sweat. I have always found Alexander has always been an extremely interesting and inspiring man to learn about in History, so I decided to learn more about his life and how he was able to conquer the Persian Empire, an Empire with the army size of almost twice that Alexander had in his control. In the following speech, I will tell the story of Alexander the Great and his adventures, many victories and very few defeats, during his conquest of the entire region of Greece, Persia, and Asia.
Alexander’s father King Philip was an impressive ruler who had started the systematic policy of expanding the control of Macedonia. Philip’s main conquest was that of the Greek mainland, after his victory at Chaeronea [Karineea] in 338 BC. The call to adventure was first introduced to Alexander while he was still in his teens, his father wanted to give him to commanded the Macedonian cavalry during this battle to prove Alexander’s worth as an heir to the throne. The Battle of Chaeronea took place in 338 BCE on an early August morning outside the town of Chaeronea [Karineea] in Boeotia [Beeotia], Greece. Although for centuries the cities of Athens and Sparta dominated Greece, politically, militarily and economically, the Battle of Chaeronea, one of the most renowned of all Greek battles, only involved one of these cities: Athens. However, Athens was not alone. They combined forces with Thebes including the sacred band of thebes, an elite group consisting of 150 pairs of male soldiers who were the most fearsome warriors of Ancient Greece.
The soldiers were all male lovers which, although peculiar, was effective because they wanted to impress and defend each other with their lives because they didn’t want to see their lover perish in battle. Both armies came together with the idea that they would destroy the conceited army of Macedonians and send them back to their homelands in the mountains. However, we quickly learn that this was not the case. Philip reorganized the old, traditional strategy of phalanx (which was a tightly moving group of soldiers) and replaced the outdated hoplite spear with the sarissa, an 18 to 20 foot pike, adding a smaller double-edged sword. Finally, he redesigned the antiquated shield and helmet, making them much more sturdy and viable. The Macedonians under Philip II’s rule would soon prove their worthiness and skill in this battle by slaughtering the enemy army including the sacred band of thebes.
The Macedonians lost under 100 soldiers while the enemy forces casualties included 2,000 dead and 4,000 captured. Alexander decided to burn down and completely destroy the city as an example to other Greek states to show them what would happen if they rebelled. The Macedonian victory at Chaeronea would put Greece into a deep slope, both politically and militarily. It would never again regain its supremacy in the Mediterranean. Macedonia had established troops in Corinth and all of Ancient Greece recognized him as their leader and couldn’t afford to revolt. Philip was determined to transform his weaker citizen-based army into a worthy army of highly trained professional soldiers. Having well succeeded at this, it didn’t take long for him to reveal to the rest of Greece the might of the Macedonian army, attacking and defeating the Thracians to the north, proving to the people of Athens that Philip was a viable threat.
Alexander’s first trials came around the same time of his father’s death. Philip II served as king from 359 BC until he was assassinated in 336 BC. Alexander was the runner up as King since he was Philip’s own child. However, seizing the throne after an untimely death of a beloved King can be chaotic so Alexander was not unopposed. He slayed his potential threats for the throne and secured his position as king of Macedon at just the age of 19. After securing the throne, he began to put his plans of conquering Ancient Europe into action. After gathering an impressive amount of troops consisting of highly determined and war-hardened Macedonians, Greek mercenaries, thracian troops and the whole Athens fleet, Alexander began his war against the Persians in 334 BC. At the time the Macedonian leader was twenty-two years old. Darius was prepared for battle having selected this spot to meet his enemy. After his defeat at Issus two years previously, Darius made sure that this battleground favored his army and its tactics; mainly being war chariots. The ground here was flat which was perfect for chariots. Darius made it even flatter by ordering the terrain plowed and leveled. All was ready and on October 1, 331 BC the Persian army of possibly 200,000 faced off against Alexander’s 35,000.
The Macedonian leader immediately sized up the Persian’s tactical advantage and countered by ordering his cavalry to shift to the right along with Alexander himself hoping to move his enemy away from their flat field. The Persians marched parallel along with him, far outflanking him upon their left. Then the Persian cavalry rode along the line and came into contact with the front men of Alexander’s army; nevertheless he still continued to defensively march towards the right, and almost entirely got beyond the ground that had been cleared and leveled by the Persians. Then Darius, fearing that his chariots would become useless if the Macedonians advanced upon the uneven ground, ordered the front ranks of his left wing to ride round the right wing of the Macedonians, where Alexander was commanding, to prevent him from marching his wing any further. As soon as Darius set his whole battle line in motion, Alexander ordered Aretes, his general controlling the left ground units and javelineers to attack those who were riding clear around his right wing; and up to that time Alexander himself was leading his men in column. But when the Persians made a break in the front line of their army by having their cavalry charge to aid those executing the flanking movement, Alexander wheeled towards the gap, forming a wedge between the cavalry and part of the phalanx. He led them with a loud battle cry that every unit in his army followed in with that was so loud it frightened the Persians and caused the frontline to start a retreat.
Darius quickly saw what was happening and commanded them to stay and fight. Alexander rode straight towards Darius, looking for the glory that would come if he killed the Great King of Persia himself. Then came a short hand-to-hand melee; but as Alexander and his troops pressed on vigorously, thrusting themselves against the Persians and striking through forces with their great sarissas, Darius, whose courage already had been shaken had turned and fled. Likewise the Persians who were trying to outflank, panic-stricken at the vigorous attack of Aretes, took to flight; a the Macedonians chased after and slaughtered those who they caught. Alexander’s victory at the battle of Gaugamela on the Persian plains was a decisive conquest that insured the defeat of the Persian King Darius III. Alexander then moved to the city of Sardis, the capital of Ancient Lydia. This was an important city due firstly to the amount of Persian troops stationed there, secondly to its control on an important road leading from the inside of Sardis outward to the Aegean[Ajian] coast, and thirdly to it’s access to the wide and fertile plains of the Hermus where important direct food to the city could be grown and developed year round. He then moved on to Phoenicia, an ancient civilization composed of independent city-states which lay along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. First starting with Baalbek. Baalbek was a religiously devoted city that was not loyal to the Persians who currently ruled them with constant religious interference. Because of this, they surrendered to Alexander and his army without a fight. Next came his destruction of the Phoenician city Sidon.
Alexander attempted a peace offering to allow Sidon to surrender without a fight. They distastefully refused, calling Alexander a tyrant. Alexander was so insulted by being called a Tyrant that he ordered his engineers to besiege the high city walls and invaded the city with no mercy. Killing over 2000 soldiers and 1000 civilians, Alexander captured and sold the rest off into slavery, hoping to make an example of them. This seemed to work because after the fall of Sidon, the important and very wealthy trading city of Aleppo sent delegates to Alexander offering a golden crown as a symbol of their surrender. Following the fall of Aleppo came the long besiege of the very well protected Tyre. After Tyre fell to Alexander’s control quite easily once the walls came down, Alexander conquers Syria, who more than willingly surrendered without hesitation. Alexander then finished the conquest of Levant, the name given to the widely to the eastern Mediterranean coastal lands of Asia Minor and Phoenicia. Alexander then moved on to the mysterious lands of Egypt and was welcomed as a liberator and conquered Egypt without a fight. Alexander and all of his empire now called him the Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Asia, as well as King of Persia and King of Macedonia.
In conclusion, Alexander was a man destined for greatness from the time of his birth. Turning a small Macedonian state into one of the largest Empires to exist in the Ancient world, his influence on the modern world comes in many different forms. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders. The traits that contribute to him being one of the most successful military commanders of all time are not only limited to his high intelligence in battle however. As Niccolò Machiavelli, an italian philosopher influenced directly by Alexander’s’ own tutor Aristotle himself, once famously quoted “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” He expressed behaviors of the lion when he revoked his merciful nature, and acted as a fox in his attentive yet generous manner when attempting to win his battles in a peaceful way. He was a merciful and generous leader, believing in fairness and equality no matter what religion or race you were. However, when his authority was challenged, he revoked his mercy to secure his position as a leader of the Ancient Greek Empire. He was never unjust in his punishments, and always gave his enemies a chance at peace. Alexander’s behaviorisms as a leader were very logical, reasonable, and most importantly merciful. These qualities are what I believe every human should aspire to have and for this reason he is my personal hero.
“A horse must be a bit mad to be a good cavalry mount, and its rider must be completely so.”
“A cavalryman’s horse should be smarter than he is. But the horse must never be allowed to know this.”
“This man has conquered the world! What have you done?”
The philosopher replied without an instant’s hesitation, “I have conquered the need to conquer the world.”
“Always attack. Even in defense, attack. The attacking arm possesses the initiative and thus commands the action. To attack makes men brave; to defend makes them timorous.” “Fame Imperishable and glory that will never die that is what we march for!” “When deliberating, think in campaigns and not battles; in wars and not campaigns; in ultimate conquest and not wars.” “There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” “A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough.
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