Alexander the Great was king of Macedonia and one of the greatest generals in history. He conquered the Persian Empire which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to India. Although he died at the age of 33 he conquered most of the known world at that time and spread Greek ideas and customs to western Asia and Egypt.
Alexander was born in 356 B. C. in Pella, the capital of Macedonia, a part of northern Greece but at that time an ancient kingdom. He was the son of Philip II, king of Macedonia, a strong ruler who conquered most cities of ancient Greece and was planning to take control of the Persian Empire.
When Alexander was thirteen years old, the Greek philosopher Aristotle came to Macedonia to teach him. He was trained in military strategy and planning but was also interested in art and sciences. At eighteen Alexander became commander of a part of the army and fought against Greek soldiers.
Alexander becomes king
When Philip was murdered in 336 B. C. Alexander became king of Macedonia and continued his father’s plans for invading Asia. In 334 he led an army across the Hellespont – the narrow strait between Europe and Asia – with 30,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 men on horseback. At the Granicus River he defeated a much larger group of Persians. Along the way he freed Greek cities that were under Persian rule and made them his allies.
When Alexander came to the city of Gordium in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey, a legend tells us that he was shown a strange, complex knot. The person who could untie the Gordian knot would be the ruler of all of Asia. Alexander tried hard but could not untie it with his hands, so he drew out is sword and cut the knot in a single stroke.
Defeat of Darius
In 333 Alexander met the Persian king Darius III at Isus in Syria. Darius lost the battle but was able to flee. Later in that year Alexander reached Egypt and freed it from Persian rule. The Egyptians welcomed Alexander made him their pharaoh. Near the delta of the Nile river he founded a new city and named it Alexandria. After that Alexander continued his search of King Darius. Both leaders met near the village of Gaugamela, which is in today’s Iraq. There he defeated the Persian king. Darius was murdered by his own people and Alexander became the new ruler of Persia.
Journey to India
From 329 to 326 Alexander led his army through the mountain regions of south-western Asia to the borders of India. He explored the Indus valley and wanted to push eastward as far as the Ganges River. However his soldiers became tired and refused to follow Alexander any further. In 325 Alexander decided to turn back. He built ships and some of his men sailed home. He commanded the others through the Asian desert but many of his soldiers died on their way home.
After returning to Persia he held a feast to celebrate the capture of the Persian Empire. As part of his effort to unify Persians and Macedonians, Alexander and 80 of his men married Persian women.
Final years of Alexander the Great
In 323 B. C, Alexander went to Babylon, a city that he probably wanted to make the capital of his empire. Long marches and wounds made him weaker and weaker. He got fever, fell ill and died at the age of 33, thirteen years after he had become king. His body was put in a gold coffin in Alexandria, Egypt.
Although his half brother Philip III became king of Macedonia after his death, no one succeeded Alexander the Great in the rule of his great empire. His generals fought over the control of the region, which by the year 300 B. C. broke up into many small independent states.