The ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, situated in the north of modern Greece, was established by Perdiccas I about 640 B.C. Perdiccas was a Dorian, although the Macedonian tribes included Thracian and Illyrian elements. Originally a semibarbarous and fragmented power, Macedon became tributary to Persia under the Persian kings Darius I and Xerxes I and thereafter struggled to maintain itself against Thracians and other barbarians and against the Greek cities of the Chalcidice as well as Sparta and Athens.
A new stage began with Archelaus (d.399 B.C.), who centralized the kingdom with a system of roads and forts; he also fostered the Hellenization of his people by inviting famous Greek artists, Euripides among them, to his court.
Few regions gave much thought to Macedonia. The area was so primitive that it seemed to belong to another age- it was a rude, brawling, heavy-drinking country of dour peasants and landowning warriors. The language was Greek, but so tainted by barbarian strains that Athenians could not understand it. Macedonia remained an outland. Growth of trade in the early fourth century promoted the rise of several cities, yet when Perdiccas III, king of Macedonia, fell in 359 B.C. while fighting the Illyrians the seaboard of his state was largely under Athenian control or in the hands of the Chalcidian league, grouped about Olynthus.
Philip (382-36), brother of the dead king, was made regent for the infant heir, soon set aside his nephew, and became outright king.
Once power was his, the young monarch swiftly brought order to his domain by armed force when necessary, by diplomatic guile whenever he could, Philip set out to make Macedon the greatest power in the Greek world. Alexander was born in 356 to the first wife of Philip. As a teenager Alexander was educated by Athenian philosopher
Aristotle. By the year 337 all of the Greek city-states had been conquered or forced into an alliance by Philip. He was planning to lead their joint forces for an invasion of the Persian empire when he was assassinated in 336. Thus at the age of 20, Alexander became king of the Macedonians.
After Philip’s death, some Greek cities under Macedonian rule revolted. In 335 B.C. Alexander’s army stormed the walls of the rebellious city of Thebes and demolished the city. About 30,000 inhabitants were sold in slavery. Alexander’s action against Thebes discouraged, for a time, rebellion by other Greek cities
With Greece under control, Alexander turned to his fathers plan for attacking the Persian Empire. In 334 B.C., he led an army of about 35,000 infantry and cavalry across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. The Persians sent out troops that met Alexander’s forces at the Granicus River. Alexander and his cavalry charged across the river and won the battle. This victory opened Asia Minor to Alexander. After marching along the southern coast of Asia Minor. Alexander and his army headed north to the city of Gordium.
By 333 B.C., Alexander had reached the coast of Syria. There, in a fierce battle at Issus, he defeated the king of Persia, Darius III, but could not capture him. Alexander’s army them marched south into Phoenicia to capture key naval bases at port cities. Part of one such city, Tyre, stood on an island about 1/2 mile offshore. Unable to capture the island from the sea, Alexander ordered his engineers to build a causeway out to the island, converting it to a peninsula that still remains today. His troops used such weapons as battering rams, catapults, and mobile towers in their attack. The Tyrians on the island surrendered in 332 B.C, after seven months of fighting. Alexander’s use of huge siege machines at Tyre introduced a new age of warfare.
Alexander next entered Egypt. The Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator from Persian rule, and they crowned him pharaoh. On the western edge of the Nile Delta, Alexander founded a city in 331 B.C. and named it Alexandria after himself.
From Alexandria, the Macedonian king made a long difficult trek through the Libyan Desert, a part of the Sahara, to the oasis of Siwah. He consulted the oracle of the god Zeus-Ammon, and, according to legend, the oracle pronounced Alexander the son of god.
Alexander left Egypt with an army of 4000,000 foot soldiers and 7,000 cavalry. He crossed the Euphrates and entered Mesopotamia where in 331 B.C. he met the Persian king once more at Gaugamela, east of the Tigris River. In spite that the fact was that his army was smaller than that of the Persians, Alexanders superior tactics won the field,
and Darus was forced to flee again. By this victory he effectively won the war, although much more fighting was needed before the Persian empire disappeared. It took three years to subdue all of eastern Iran.
After the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander entered the ancient city of Babylon as a conqueror. From there he moved on to the great cities of the Persian Empire: Susa, Persepolis, and Pasargadae. In 330 B.C. he defeated an army that was guarding a narrow path known as the Persian Gates by finding a track that led around it and attacking from the rear. This gave him entrance to the Persian capital of Persepolis, where he and his men went on an orgy of destruction and burned down the palace of Xerxes.
Having penetrated this far into modern day Iran, Alexander’s army was now in a country unmapped and virtually unknown to the Greeks. Still pursuing Darius, he turned northwest toward Ecabatana (modern Hamadan) then northeast to Rhagae (near Teheran). Darius had been taken hostage by Bessus, the ruler of the province of Bactria. Alexander caught up with him as he was dying. Alexander had his body taken back to Persepolis to be buried in the royal tombs. At the death of the Persian king, Alexander adopted the title of lord of Asia–as the ruler of the Persian Empire was called.
By this time Alexander was becoming more and more despotic. He killed his own foster brother, Clitus, in a drunken brawl after Clitus had insluted him. He antagonized many of his Greek and Macedonian followers by marrying a Persian princess,Roxane. When a plot was discovered to murder him, he had his old teacher and historian Callisthenes put to death. Alexander spent the year 328 B.C. subjugating Bactria and in the early summer 327 B.C. recrossed the Hindu Kush to the south headed for India. Sending half of the army ahead by way of the Khyber Pass with orders to build a boat bridge across the Indus River, Alexander himself fought his way to the river through the hills north of the pass. He spent the winter fighting the local hill tribes.
His greatest accomplishment in this campaign was in scaling and taking Mount Aornos (Pir-Sar), which was supposed to be unconquerable. Following this victory, Alexander led his army to the banks of the Indus where they rested until spring. Then they crossed the river an marched three days to the city of Taxila, where he was greeted by the king and much pomp and ceremony. He then continued on to the Hydaspes (Jhelum) river, where he met and defeated King Porus in what was to be his last great battle. He pushed on to the east, but on the banks of the Hyphasis (Beas) river-his army rebelled. They were tired after long years of war and were anxious to see their families back in Greece. Alexander could not persuade them otherwise and after sulking in his tent for two days agreed to lead them back home.
Alexander shared the classical belief that the Indus and Nile Rivers were the same. He resolved to test this theory and see whether he could return to the Mediterranean that way. On the Hydaspes River, he constructed a large number of boats in which part of his force sailed downstream. The remainder were divided into three groups and made the journey by land. They departed in November 326 B.C Going downstream Alexander engaged in constant warfare. The Indians would not supply his troops without a fight. At a city that is thought to be present day Multan, Alexander climbed a ladder to lead a attack and was badly wounded. For several days it seemed as though he would die, and his men went berserk destroying everything and everyone that got in their way. They reached the mouths of the Indus in the summer of 325 B.C Alexander explored both arms of the river and proved that it was not connected to the Nile.
Before the expedition had reached the Indian ocean, Alexander sent Craterus, one of his senior officers, back to Persia with the largest part of the army. He instructed Nearchus to wait until the monsoon in October and then to sail along the coast to the Persian Gulf to find a sea route back to the mouth of the Euphrates. Alexander and the remainder of the expedition made their way along the unexplored Makran coast which is now Pakistan. He intended to follow the coastline and set up supply depots for the ships along the way, but the Taloi Mountains forced him to turn inland. Nearchus and the fleet were left to find their own supplies along a very desolate shore.
Alexander’s journey through what he called the Gedrosia Desert in the mouths of August, September, and October 325 B.C was among the most difficult he made. The expedition, including many women and children, had to walk over the waterless desert at night to avoid the intense heat by day. They did not have enough food or water, and many of them died before they reached Pura, the capital of the province of Gedrosia. Alexander then went to Kerman where he was met by Craterus and his forces. It was another six months before Alexander and Nearchus met at the Persian port of Ormuz.
Alexander’s army reached the Persian city of Susa in the spring of 324 B.C. Alexander adopted more and more of the customs of the Asian despots, taking a second wife and integrating non-Greeks into his Army. These measures alarmed his Greek and Macedonian veterans, and they voiced their discontent. Alexander discharged them and many headed back to Europe. During this time, however, Alexander laid the basis for future expeditions. He sent Heraclides to explore the Caspian Sea, to find out whether it was joined to the ocean that was supposed to circle the world. He also planned to send a fleet under Nearchus to sail around Arabia, hoping to discover a route between India and the Red Sea. He seems to have had plans to conquer Arabia as well. All of these projects were abandoned, however, when Alexander became ill at a Banquet on June 1, 323 B.C He died on June 13 at the age of 32, possibly as a result of having been poisoned.
Few men changed the world so profoundly as Alexander the Great. In his brief reign he covered 22,000 miles and never lost a battle. Usually he knew more of the terrain than the natives did.