Was Alexander the great a hero or a villain? In my eyes I believe he was a hero. I feel that his amazing battle skills make up for all the horrible acts of cruelty. Alexander brought a fresh approach after the intrigues of his father Philip II. Alexander was not quite twenty when he succeeded to the throne in 336 BCE. His tutor had been Aristotle, a man to whom is credited great knowledge and wisdom. So it could be said that Alexander was well grounded educationally. This thirst for knowledge continued, as his campaigns were sometimes more like expeditions as individuals made notes as they moved east.
Alexander was born in Pella, Macedonia, the son of Philip of Macedon, who was an excellent general and organizer. His mother was Olympias, princess of Epirus.
She was brilliant and hot-tempered. Alexander inherited the best qualities of both his parents. But he was even more ambitious than his father. He wept bitterly when he heard of Philip’s conquests and said, ” My father will get ahead of me in everything, and will leave nothing great for me to do.” Alexander’s mother taught him that Achilles was his ancestor, and that his father was descended from Hercules. Alexander learned the Iliad by heart, a story about the deeds of Achilles. He carried a copy of the Iliad with him, and Achilles became Alexander’s model.
Even as a boy Alexander was fearless and strong. He tamed the beautiful and spirited Bucephalus, a horse that no one else dared to touch or ride. Later, this famous steed carried him as far as India, where it died. Alexander then built the city of Bucephala on the Hydaspes River in memory of his beloved horse. Philip was so proud of Alexander’s power over the horse that he said, “O my son, seek out a kingdom worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.”
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When Alexander was 13 years old, he became the pupil of Aristotle. He was always eager to learn. Aristotle inspired the talented youth with a great love for literature. He took part in sports and daily exercise to develop a strong body. Aristotle also inspired in Alexander a keen interest in other countries and races of people, and in animals and plants. Alexander’s education was not all from books. He talked with ambassadors from many foreign countries, and with other noted persons at his father’s court. When he was only 18, he commanded part of Philip’s cavalry at the battle of Chaeronea. Alexander also acted as his father’s ambassador to Athens.
Alexander was 20 when he became king of Macedonia. The Greek other states had grown restless under Macedonian rule. While Alexander was away making war on some barbarian tribes in the north, someone spread a story that he was dead. The people in the city of Thebes revolted and called upon the people of Athens to join them. Alexander soon appeared before Thebes with his army. His soldiers stormed the city. Every building in Thebes was destroyed, except the temples and the house of the poet Pindar. About 30,000 inhabitants were sold into slavery. Alexander’s action broke the spirit of rebellion in the other Greek states.
The ambitious young king then turned his thoughts to conquering Persia. This had been part of his father’s plan before him. He crossed the Hellespont with an army of 35,000 soldiers in the spring of 334 B.C.E He had very little money, and gambled on a quick victory. The Persians met him on the banks of the Granicus River.
Alexander stormed across the river with his cavalry. This victory opened all Asia Minor to him. Only Halicarnassus withstood a long siege.
In 333 B.C.E Alexander became seriously ill. But he recovered and marched along the coast into Syria. The king of Persia, Darius III, raised a large army. He fortified a riverbank near Issus behind Alexander. Alexander turned north and routed the Greek and Persian heavy infantry with his phalanx. He captured the king’s camp, including Dairus’ wife and mother. His gallantry toward them was his finest act. Alexander then marched south into Phoenicia and captured Tyre after a seven-month siege. The city was on an island, but Alexander built a causeway out to it, so that it is now a peninsula. About 8,000 Tyrians were slain and 30,000 sold into slavery. Alexander’s victory over Tyre is sometimes considered his greatest military achievement. The whole region then submitted to him except Gaza, where a brave Persian governor resisted for three months. Gaza eventually suffered the same fate as Tyre.
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Alexander next went to Egypt. The Egyptians welcomed him as a deliverer, because they hated their harsh Persian rulers. Alexander founded a city on a strip of land between Lake Mareotis and the Mediterranean Sea. This city, Alexandria, became a world center of commerce and learning. While it was being built, Alexander made the long, dangerous march to the temple and oracle of Zeus-Ammon, in the Libyan desert. Alexander was told that he was the son of the god and would conquer the world.
THE BATTLE OF ARBELA
Alexander turned again to the Persian front in 331 B.C.E Darius had collected an enormous army, including the famous heavy cavalry of the Iranian steppe, and many chariots with scythelike knives protruding from the wheels. The Persians smoothed and cleared a vast level plain near Arbela, east of the Tigris River. The Persian cavalry outflanked Alexander’s left and captured his camp. But, with a charge which he led himself, Alexander routed Darius, and the Persian Army retired to the east. The battle of Arbela is also known as the Battle of Gaugamela. It is considered one of the most decisive battles in history.
The city of Babylon surrendered, and Alexander easily captured the Persian cities of Susa and Persepolis. These cities yielded him vast treasures of gold and silver. All the inhabitants of Persepolis were either killed or sold into slavery. Alexander burned Persepolis in revenge for the Persian burning of Athens in 480 B.C.E
Alexander crossed the Zagros Mountains into Media in 330 B.C.E. Darius had fled there, and was soon afterward killed by his own nobles. His death left Alexander king of Asia. He marched on, against only local opposition from tribespeople, and occupied the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Continuing to the east, he set up Iranian nobles as new local governors, but they revolted after he left. Alexander swung south into Arachosia (southeast Persia) and then north into Afghanistan, founding cities to serve as garrisons and centers of administration. He entered Bactria and Sogdiana, behind the Hindu Kush mountain range, and marched as far as the Jaxartes River. It took two years to pacify the region. Alexander married Roxane, the daughter of a Sogdian baron.
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In Sogdiana, Alexander lost his temper and killed a close friend, Clitus, in a drunken quarrel. This cost him the sympathy of his Macedonian troops. There were plots against his life, and he executed several prominent people.
You have seen above the heroic and villainous acts of Alexander the great. I believe I don’t have to repeat them but Alexander changed the world in many ways. He did so much in only 32 years. He is a hero and certainly deserves the title “Alexander the Great”.