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Alexander the Great: this great military genius changed the face of the world.


Students should understand

* that Alexander changed the world by conquering Mediterranean Europe and Asia, laying the groundwork for the spread of the Roman Empire and Christianity.


barbarian: In Alexander's time, it meant "foreign," or "different from us." Today, it has a negative meaning--"uncivilized" or "inferior."


Ask: "Can a single person influence history? If so, how?"


Traditionally, historians have said that Alexander intended to bring Europe and Asia together, through the "elevating" influence of Greek civilization. One attempt at this was the mass wedding he engineered at the Persian city of Susa in 324 B.C., between 80 of his officers and Persian brides.

The relationship of Greece to Macedonia was complex. Ancient Greeks saw the Macedonians as barbarians, while Alexander venerated Greek culture. Today, Greece objects to the Republic of Macedonia's use of the name, saying that Macedonia has always been a region of Greece. Macedonians say their language and history have always been distinct from Greece's.


COMPARE/CONTRAST: How did Alexander's treatment of peoples who welcomed him differ from that of those who resisted him? (The first: He declared himself their liberator and treated them relatively well; the second: He treated them harshly, selling children into slavery.)


MAP IT! Alexander founded, conquered, and/or renamed numerous cities on his long campaign. Research and plot these cities on a map. Have students (individually or in small groups) chose one each and research the city's history, including its present name and country.

Few conquerors have been more important than Alexander III of Macedonia (ma-suh-DOH-nee-uh). The Romans called him Alexander the Great. In 13 short years, he conquered a territory from the Mediterranean Sea into India (see GeoSkills, p. 14). His kingdom laid the foundations for the Roman Empire and, eventually, Christianity.

Alexander was born at Pella in 356 B.C. His father, King Philip II, was a fierce warrior who had united Macedonia. Alexander seemed destined for greatness from the beginning. Strikingly handsome, the prince was an excellent athlete, hunter, and horseman. He was tutored by the great Greek philosopher Aristotle.

From the time Alexander was a boy, he was fearless. When no one else could tame the giant horse Bucephalus, Alexander succeeded. "My son, Macedonia is too small for you," his father said. "Seek out a larger empire worthier of you."

Alexander's mother, Olympias, also had high ambitions for her son. She claimed to be a descendant of Achilles (uh-KIHL-eez), the warrior hero of Homer's Iliad.

Throughout his life, Alexander was obsessed with Homer's story of the Greek siege of Troy. He believed that the spirit of the great Achilles guided his own destiny.

Alexander was only 20 when Philip was assassinated in 336 B.C. But the young man quickly secured power and took up his father's conquests. Philip had intended to defeat the mighty Persian empire, which the Greeks and Macedonians considered to be barbarian.

In the spring of 334 B.C., Alexander left Macedonia with an army of 30,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 cavalry. Stopping at Troy, Alexander vowed to carry on the legacy of his hero, Achilles. His life's great crusade had begun. He would never see home again.


Soon, Alexander began taking Persian territory. At Issus, he faced the 600,000 men of Persia's King Darius III. Alexander's great daring as a battlefield genius won the day. Darius fled, stranding his mother, wife, and daughters. Alexander treated the women kindly. By doing this, he showed respect for Darius as a fellow warrior, and may have symbolically laid claim to Darius's throne.

Alexander then pushed south and east. In the places that welcomed him, he proclaimed himself liberator, not conqueror. But cities that resisted were shown no mercy. Defeating the Phoenician (fuh-NIHSH-un) city of Tyre after a seven-month siege, Alexander sold the women and children into slavery. In Egypt, he was crowned Pharaoh. There, he founded Alexandria--the first of many cities to which he gave his name.

In 331 B.C., Alexander defeated Darius at the battle of Gaugamela. The following year, he captured Persepolis, Darius's capital. When Darius was later found murdered by one of his own generals, Alexander proclaimed himself "Lord of Asia."

Still, Alexander kept pushing east, taking on all armies in his path. Inspired by his bravery, his soldiers worshipped him. Yet, as the years passed and deaths mounted, many of them began to grumble. How long would this campaign go on?

The Macedonian soldiers were also offended when Alexander adopted Persian ways, wearing "barbarian" clothes. He even married an Asian princess, Roxanna of Bactria (see map, p. 14).


Alexander began to imagine that people were plotting against him. More often, he gave into a cruel streak. He found an excuse to kill one of his best generals, with whom he was feuding.

In time, he declared himself a god. In the summer of 327 B.C., Alexander invaded India. A year later, after a costly victory at Hydaspes (hye-DAS-peez), his soldiers refused to go any farther. Alexander took to his tent to pout. Legends say that he wept because there were no more worlds for him to conquer. After three days, the great leader finally agreed to turn back.

Alexander eventually returned to Babylon, which he had seized in 331 B.C. But after many battles and wounds, his body was worn out. In 323 B.C., he was overcome by a fever and died. He was 32.

Alexander's generals had asked him to whom he would leave his empire. "To the strongest," he had said. But there was no one that strong. By 300 B.C., Alexander's vast empire had split into several independent states. Still, his accomplishments were enormous. Mythical tales have made Alexander a romantic hero. He was also one of the greatest military commanders the world has ever seen.

Your Turn


1. Why are Alexander's soldiers loyal to him?

2. Which of Alexander's traits do you admire? Which do you not admire? Explain.



* Power, authority, and governance: How Alexander gained, used, and justified power.

* Culture: How Alexander's belief that he was descended from a legendary warrior influenced his decisions and actions.



* Adams, Simon, Alexander: The Boy Soldier Who Conquered the World (National Geographic Society, 2005). Grades 5-7..

* Bankston, John, The Life and Times of Alexander the Great (Mitchell Lane, 2004). Grades 6 & up.


* Alexander the Great

* In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great

Alexander the great's empire.


Alexander came from Macedonia, a region north of Greece on the Balkan Peninsula. In ancient times, Macedonia struggled with the city-states of Greece for influence. The most important of these cities was Athens, which resented the power that Macedonia achieved under Alexander's father, Philip II.

Pushing east into Asia, Alexander took on the Persian Empire, then more than two centuries old. By the time Alexander died in 323 B.C., he had conquered a stretch of Asia through present-day Pakistan and into India. (This month, an earthquake centered in the mountainous Kashmir area of Pakistan killed more than 30,000 people. See page 4.) Study the historical map above, then answer the following questions.



1. Alexander's empire stretched over which continents?--

2. On what landmass was Macedonia located?--

3. The ruins of the ancient city of Troy are located in present-day Turkey. What was the name of that region?--

4. What is the name of the first battle noted on Alexander's route?--

5. Where in Africa did Alexander's route take him?--

6 . Which major battle took place the farthest east?--

7. Which other major battle was fought near the Tigris River?--

8. Between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal lies the present-day country of India. What river did Alexander have to cross to reach India? (Note the present-day borders on the map.)--

9. Alexander married a princess named Roxanna from Bactria, a country that today is part of Afghanistan, What is the modern name of a city Alexander seized in Afghanistan?--

10. What is the name of the city to which Alexander returned before his death?--


1. parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa

2. the Balkan Peninsula

3. Asia Minor

4. Issus

5. Egypt

6. Hydaspes

7. Gaugamela

8. the Indus River

9. Kandahar

10. Babylon
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Title Annotation:WORLD HISTORY
Author:Brown, Bryan
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Oct 31, 2005
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