Alexander of Macedonia

15 Sep

     (b. 356 BC, Pella, Macedonia; d. June 13, 323 BC, Babylon), also known as Alexander III or , king of Macedonia (336?323 BC). He overthrew the Persian empire, carried Macedonian arms to India, and laid the foundations for the Hellenistic world of territorial kingdoms. Between the ages of 13 and 16, he was taught by Aristotle, who inspired his interest in philosophy, medicine, and scientific investigation. He would later advance beyond his teacher’s narrow precept that non-Greeks should be treated as slaves. In 336 BC, on the assassination of his father and reigning monarch Philip II, Alexander was acclaimed by the army and succeeded without opposition. A dynamic personality, he immediately executed the princes of Lyncestis, alleged to be behind Philip’s murder, along with all possible rivals, and the whole of the faction opposed to him. Marching south, he recovered a wavering Thessaly, and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth was appointed generalissimo for the forthcoming invasion of Asia, already planned and initiated by Philip.
 
Invasion of India
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Alexander crossed into India in 327 BC with a reinforced army consisting of 35,000 men under a reorganized command. After crossing the Hindu Kush, by the Bamian and Ghorband valleys, Alexander divided his forces into two. Half the army, led by Hephaestion and Perdiccas – both cavalry commanders – was sent through the Khyber Pass, while he himself led the rest through the hills to the north. Advancing through Swat and Gandhara he stormed the almost invincible pinnacle of Aornos (modern day Pir-Sar, Pakistan), a few kilometres west of the Indus and north of the Buner river. It was an impressive feat of siege craft. In the spring of 326 BC, he entered Taxila after crossing the Indus near Attock. Taxiles, the ruler of Taxila, furnished elephants and troops in return for support against his rival Porus, who ruled the lands between the Hydaspes (Jhelum) and the Acesines (Chenab) rivers. He founded two cities there, Alexandria Nicaea and Bucephala. In June, Alexander fought his last great battle on the left bank of the Hydaspes.
 
How much Alexander knew of India beyond the Hyphasis river (probably the modern Beas) is uncertain, but he was anxious to press on. On reaching the Hyphasis, his weary army mutinied, refusing to go further in the harsh tropical conditions. Finding the army adamant, Alexander was forced to turn back.
 
He erected 12 altars to the 12 Olympian gods on the Hyphasis, and on the Hydaspes he built a fleet of 800 to 1,000 ships. Nearchus and Onesicritus, commanders in Alexander’s army later wrote accounts of the return march. The march was attended with much fighting and heavy, pitiless slaughter; at the storming of Malli near the Hydraotes (Ravi) river, Alexander received a severe wound that left him weakened. On reaching Patala, located at the head of the Indus delta, he built a harbour and docks and explored both arms of the Indus, which probably then ran into the Rann of Kutch (Kachchh). He planned to lead part of his forces back by land, while the rest in 100 to 150 ships. In September 325 BC, Alexander set out along the coast through Gedrosia (modern Baluchistan). He was forced to turn inland because of the mountainous country. Alexander’s march through Gedrosia proved disastrous. The waterless desert and shortage of food and fuel caused great suffering, and many, especially women and children, perished in a sudden monsoon flood while encamped in a valley.
 
Returning to Susa, the capital of Elam and administrative centre of the Persian empire, Alexander carried out an expedition against the Cossaeans in the spring of 324. Suddenly, in Babylon, Alexander was taken ill after a prolonged feasting and drinking session. On June 13, 323 BC, he died in his 33rd year; he had ruled for 12 years and eight months. His body was diverted to Egypt by Ptolemy, a general in Alexander’s army. (He later declared himself king and was known as Ptolemy I.) Alexander’s final resting place is in Alexandria. He received divine honours both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Greek cities.
 

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