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Alexander the Great

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ALEXANDER THE GREAT: HERO, HUMANITARIAN, OR MANIAC?

INTRODUCTION

Alexander the Great is by all historical accounts one of the most influential figures of history. He was the son of Philip II, the King of Macedon who conquered Greece in 338 B.C. but was assassinated soon thereafter. Alexander thus became king at the age of seventeen (in 336 B.C. ), and at the age of twenty he set off to conquer the known world. In a series of lightning campaigns he conquered the Persian Empire that had until then been invincible, and in a certain sense he avenged Greece for the earlier Persian Wars. He marched through Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia, conquering all before him. In monumental battles he defeated the Persians at Granicus (334 B.C.), Issus (333 B.c.), and Gaugamela (331 B.c.). He drove his soldiers on, crossing the mountains and deserts of central Asia, until he reached the borders of India (326 B.C.). There he finally turned back, retreating to Babylon, where he established his court. At Babylon he fell sick and suddenly died, at only thirty-two years of age (323 B.c.). Alexander hardly had time to organize his new empire, and this makes it all but impossible to know how he would have been as a ruler, instead of a conqueror. After his death, Alexander's empire fell apart and was ruled by his successors, Macedonian generals who became kings of independent areas. Most of these rulers continued Alexander's policies of toleration and cultural integration. Alexander's remarkable military success made him a legend, already in his own time, and his accomplishments certainly changed the direction of history: at the very least his conquests provided for a rich blending between the cultures of the Greeks and those of ancient Mesopotamia and Iran. His "larger-than-life" status and his sudden and mysterious death, however, have made it difficult to

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