The Life of Alexander the Great as a Successful and Influential Military Commander

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Alexander the Great, a Macedonian King, is considered one of the most successful and influential military commanders in world history. Alexander was born in July of 356 BC, at Pella, Macedon. He was the son of King Philip II of Macedon and his fourth wife, the Eprius princess, Olympias. However, legend explains that Alexander’s real father was Zeus, not Philip. Arixstandros Telmisy, a distinguished oracle, determined that Olympias was pregnant, and that her child possessed the traits of a lion.

Being born into nobility, Alexander had an excellent education. In fact, Alexander was thoroughly taught by Aristotle at the Mieze temple, in rhetoric and literature, along with the other boys belonging to the Macedonian aristocracy. Aristotle taught him to appreciate the Iliad and the works of Homer. In addition, Aristotle inspired Alexander’s interest in science, medicine, and philosophy. His uncle, Leonidas, taught Alexander how to play many musical instruments, such as the lyre. Philip II contributed greatly to his son’s education and hired the most renowned philosophers and teachers. Alexander’s father, Phillip II, ruled Macedon from 359 to 336 BC. Alexander’s accomplishments may not have been achieved if it weren’t for his father’s military and political efforts. Philip’s military work included fortifying the Macedonian army and establishing alliances, which would prove necessary for many of Alexander’s conquests.

One strength of the Macedonian army was their tactics and formation of the phalanx, which was created by Philip. The Macedonian phalanx had a variety of formations; however, for the most part, it was composed of a sixteen men on a side, with a total of 256 men in each unit. The soldiers were equipped with a sarissa, a thirteen-foot spear. In addition, the formation of the phalanx was able to transform into a line or wedge shape, which would be indicated by flags and trumpet signals. Another strength of the Macedonian army included their cavalry. Alexander divided his cavalry into three sections, light cavalry, companion cavalry, and heavy elite cavalry. The most interesting of the three is the companion cavalry, which consisted of the Macedonian nobility. The companion cavalry was made up of 200 men, who were equipped with a twelve-foot lance called the xyston. At the time, no army was as well organized or as technologically advanced. With Alexander’s devotion and valor, he would lead these armies and create the largest empire of his time.

Even at a young age Alexander demonstrated his fearless character. At the age of twelve, he tamed the wild Bucephalus, an infamous horse that no one else could ride. Philip was greatly amazed by Alexander’s intrepidness and said, “O my son, seek out a kingdom worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.” (Spodek, pg.154) At the beginning of Alexander’s conquests, he only rode this horse into battle. However, when Bucephalus died, Alexander held a magnificent funeral, and named a city in India after him.

When Alexander became a young adult, he fought alongside his father in many battles. Even in Alexander’s early battles he exemplified his bravery by leading his soldiers into battle. During Battle of Chaeronea, in 338 BC, at only eighteen he was placed in command of the left wing of Philip’s cavalry. It is said that he was the first man from Alexander’s army to charge against the Theban and Athenian army.

When Philip II led an attack on Byzantium in 340 BC he was not able to fight on the battlefield and control Macedon through extensive rule. However, Alexander had proven his worthiness, and at sixteen he was left as regent of Macedonia. Although Alexander did not have a great amount of experience, he was able to control the rebellious Maedi, a Thracian tribe. Alexander immediately captured their capital city and exiled its inhabitants. He created a new colony in their region and called the capital city Alexandropolis.

Many expected that Alexander would inherit the throne after his father’s death, however, in 339 BC, Philip II was remarried to Cleopatra from Macedon. Since Alexander’s mother, Olympias, was from Eprius (Western part of the Greek Peninsula), Alexander’s legitimacy as heir to the throne was questioned. Alexander, along with his mother and sister, immediately left Macedon. However, Phillip reunited with his son, and Alexander returned to Macedon without his mother and sister. In 337 BC, Philip declared war on Persia after recently gaining the support of Greece. In the spring of 336 BC, Philip sent Attalus and Parmenion with an army of 10,000 men into Asia Minor to begin liberating the Greek coastal cities from Persian control.

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The Life of Alexander the Great as a Successful and Influential Military Commander. (2023, May 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-life-of-alexander-the-great-as-a-successful-and-influential-military-commander/

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