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Alexander the Great

(Alexander III of Macedonia; Pella, Macedonia, 356 B.C.) - Babylon, 323 B.C.) King of Macedonia whose
conquests and extraordinary military endowments allowed him to forge, in less than ten years, an
empire that stretched from Greece and Egypt to India, thus initiating the so-called Hellenistic period (IV-I
centuries B.C.) of Antiquity.

His father, the monarch Philip II of Macedonia, had turned this region, once bordering Greece and
sparsely Hellenized, into a powerful kingdom exercising a thriving hegemony over the Greek city-states.
Philip II had prepared his son to rule, giving him a military experience and entrusting his intellectual
training to Aristotle, who aroused in the young Alexander his admiration for Greek culture and ancient
epics, particularly for the Iliad of Homer. Having already proven his courage and expertise on the
battlefield, Alexander succeeded his father at the age of twenty, assassinated in 336 BC.

Alexander the Great dedicated the first years of his reign to impose his authority on the peoples
submitted to Macedonia, who had taken advantage of Philip's death to rebel. And immediately (in 334)
he launched his army against the powerful and extensive Persian Empire or Achaemenid, founded two
centuries earlier by Cyrus the Great (579-530 B.C.), thus continuing the enterprise that his father had
begun shortly before he died: a revenge war of the Greeks (under the leadership of Macedonia) against
the Persians.

With a small army (some 30,000 infants and 5,000 horsemen), Alexander the Great invariably prevailed
over his enemies, thanks to his excellent organization and training, as well as the courage and strategic
genius he demonstrated; the military innovations introduced by Philip II (such as the oblique line tactic)
provided additional advantages.

Alexander triumphed in Asia Minor (Battle of Panic, 334), Syria (Issos, 333), Phoenicia (siege of Tyre,
332), Egypt and Mesopotamia (Gaugamela, 331), until he took the Persian capitals of Susa (331) and
Persepolis (330). The last Persian emperor, Darius III, was assassinated by one of his satraps or provincial
governors, Bessos, to prevent him from surrendering. Bessos continued the resistance against Alexander
in eastern Iran.

Once the Persian capital was conquered, Alexander licensed the Greek troops that had accompanied
him during the campaign and had himself proclaimed emperor, relieving the Achaemenid dynasty. He
immediately launched new conquest campaigns towards the east: he defeated and killed Bessos and
subdued Partia, Aria, Drangiana, Aracosia, Bactriana and Sogdiana.
Owner of Central Asia and present-day Afghanistan, Alexander the Great set out to conquer India (327-
325), already hosting a project of world domination. Although he incorporated the western part of India
(vassalage of King Poros), he had to renounce to continue advancing towards the east due to the mutiny
of his troops, exhausted by such a long succession of conquests and battles.

With the conquest of the Persian Empire, Alexander discovered the degree of civilization of the
Orientals, whom he had previously regarded as barbarians. He then conceived the idea of unifying the
Greeks with the Persians in a single empire in which they lived together under a culture of synthesis
(year 324). To do this he integrated a large contingent of Persian soldiers in his army, organized in Susa
the "marriage of East and West" (simultaneous marriage of thousands of Macedonians with Persian
women) and he himself married two oriental princesses: a princess of Sogdiana and the daughter of
Darius III.

The reorganization of that great Empire began with monetary unification, which opened the doors to
the creation of an immense market; commercial development was promoted with geographical
expeditions such as the one commanded by Nearcos, whose fleet descended through the Indus and
went up the Persian coast of the Indian and the Persian Gulf to the mouth of the Tigris and the
Euphrates. Roads and irrigation canals were also built. Cultural fusion took place around the imposition
of Greek as the common language (Koiné). Some seventy new cities were founded, most of them named
Alexandria (the main one in Egypt and others in Syria, Mesopotamia, Sogdiana, Bactriana, India and
Carmania).

Alexander's early death at the age of 33, a victim of malaria, prevented him from consolidating the
empire he had created and relaunching his conquests; in fact, Alexander the Great's empire barely
survived the death of its creator. Successor fights broke out in which Alexander's wives and sons died,
until the empire was divided among his generals (the deacons): Seleucus, Ptolemy, Antigonus,
Lysimachus and Cassander; Ptolemy, author of a biography of him, started a dynasty in Egypt.