Alexander the Great
Alexander next entered Egypt. The Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator from Persian rule, and they crowned him pharaoh. On the western edge of the Nile Delta, Alexander founded a city in 331 B.C. and named it Alexandria after himself.
From Alexandria, the Macedonian king made a long, difficult trek through the Libyan Desert, a part of the Sahara , to the oasis of Siwah. He consulted the oracle of the god Zeus-Ammon, and, according to legend, the oracle pronounced Alexander the son of the god.
Alexander left Egypt in 331 B.C., traveling eastward into the Persian Empire . King Darius had formed a huge army that met Alexander's forces on a vast plain between the villages of Gaugamela and Arbela, just east of the Tigris River . The Persians far outnumbered Alexander's army, but Alexander's tactics and the training of his troops proved superior in battle. Darius was forced to flee, and he escaped across the Zagros Mountains into Media. This clash of armies, known as the Battle of Gaugamela or the Battle of Arbela, ended more than two centuries of Persian rule in Asia .
Alexander easily captured the fabled city of Babylon and then the Persian capital at Susa . In the winter of 331-330 B.C., Alexander's army marched to Persepolis . There he seized the royal palaces and captured a vast storehouse of gold and silver. Before leaving Persepolis , Alexander had his soldiers burn down the palaces.
In the spring of 330 B.C., Alexander swung north toward the Caspian Sea to find Darius. The Persian king could not gather enough troops to fight Alexander, and he was killed by his own nobles. The death of Darius left Alexander king of Asia .
Alexander moved his army into Bactria and then across the Hindu Kush mountains into Sogdiana, overcoming local military challenges as he went. In 327 B.C., Alexander married the Bactrian princess Roxane.
By 326 B.C., Alexander's forces had reached the upper Indus River Valley , in what is now . Alexander wanted to continue east toward the Ganges River . But his homesick troops were tired of traveling and refused to follow him any farther eastward.
During his years in central Asia , Alexander began to adopt the customs of the Persian kings. Many of his troops resented this change. They considered their king a fellow warrior, not a godlike sovereign. Plots against Alexander's life appeared, and he executed several prominent Greeks and Macedonians who he believed had conspired against him. In a drunken brawl, Alexander killed his good friend Cleitus, who had saved his life at Granicus.
In 325 B.C., Alexander had ships built, and part of his army sailed westward from the mouth of the Indus River . These troops explored the northern shore of the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf . Alexander led the rest of his troops west across the Desert of Gedrosia . As many as half of his forces died on the way--more soldiers than enemy armies had killed.
Upon his return to Babylon, Alexander became busy with the administration of his vast domain, which stretched from to the Indus. He probably intended to make Babylon his capital. Alexander planned new expeditions to northern Africa and Arabia . He tried to encourage trade and commerce and to develop a greater spirit of cooperation between Macedonians and Persians. He married a Persian princess who was a daughter of Darius, and he performed a mass marriage ceremony joining thousands of his soldiers to Persian women. Alexander also tried to incorporate large numbers of Persians into his army. But he failed to establish a stable kingship to maintain what he had won.
In the spring of 323 B.C., Alexander became seriously ill with a fever at Babylon . He also suffered from exhaustion and the effects of several battle wounds. He died at the age of 32 on June 10, 323 B.C. His body was placed in a glass coffin in a special tomb at Alexandria .
After Alexander died, his half-brother, Philip III Arrhidaeus, became king of . At the time of Alexander's death, Roxane was pregnant with his son, Alexander IV, who later shared rule over the Macedonians with Philip. But Philip was murdered in 317 B.C., and young Alexander was killed about seven years later.
No one succeeded Alexander the Great in the rule of his vast empire. His leading generals became governors of various areas and fought among themselves for control of the empire. By 300 B.C., Alexander's empire had split into a number of independent states. The three most powerful states were led by Alexander's generals Antigonus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus.
Contributor: Eugene N. Borza, Ph.D., Prof. of Ancient History, Pennsylvania State Univ.
Ash, Maureen. Alexander the Great. Childrens Pr., 1991. Also suitable for younger readers.
Bosworth, A. B. Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge , 1988.
Green, Peter. Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography. Univ. of California Pr., 1991. Reprint of 1974 revised edition.
SOURCE: IBM 1999 WORLD BOOK