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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
It’s pretty difficult to make a comparison between Alexander the Great and any other generals in ancient history. He and his numerous conquests have had an enormous influence on all the societies he marched over, and his military tactics have become the subject of intense study worldwide. Many people, actually, regard Alexander the Great as one of the most iconic founding military leaders in the ancient history, but was he considered to be great by his peers and why does he get this name “great”? Perhaps, it was because of his legacy whereby Alexander managed to create one of the biggest and most powerful empires of the ancient world just by age 30, which stretched all the way from India to Greece.
Alexander was the heir of Philip II, the preceding Macedon king, who ruled before him. He soon became accustomed to military glory from a young age and became a talented general who strived hard to achieve what he’d set out to do. It’s no surprise that he was a high achiever given that the great philosophical mind of Aristotle was his mentor and teacher up to the age of sixteen. As his father was killed when Alexander was nineteen, he did whatever he could to get hands on the throne, even getting some of his siblings killed and forcing Cleopatra to famously commit suicide. After gathering support from Macedonian troops, at the age of just nineteen, in the year 356 BC, he became the Macedonian king in the town of Pella. By the young age of just twenty years old, the new king had already amassed a well-trained army with heavy infantry units and skilled spearmen.
A lot of history has studied great men and so it was only normal that people were referred to as the great but, nowadays, historians don’t tend to do this as much. It, normally, has some misogyny tied to it too, for example, you never hear about a great Queen, but only a great male figure. Alexander could have been known as great because of the many things he accomplished throughout his lifetime. This extends on from the idea that the most accomplished things in history words to do with the active men, further tying into the misogynistic name of “great”. This essay will consider the very reasons as to why Alexander donned the title of “the Great” and the historical evidence for this.
Alexander was actually very accomplished because he conquered a lot of lands just like his father. His father had only conquered Greece, whereas his son managed to take the whole of the Persian Empire, including Egypt and India. Alexander was also a renowned general in his time, with brilliant use of tactics in war and smart army decisions. Sometimes, a lot of Alexander’s military tactics have been disputed by historians, with many people sighting his excellence in the field because of technological developments such as having longer spears and swords in battles than the enemy. Alexander’s accomplishments included getting control and capturing a lot of lands, however, he was not good at building up the land into a better place – he tore down a lot of things successfully but didn’t build up things with “greatness”. Alexander could have also been known as “great” because of his impact that he has after his death in the world.
The post-death Legacy of Alexander the Great has lived for many years after, for instance, he built numerous cities along his conquering route named after him and one named after his horse! All throughout the Eastern Empire, you can find many towns called Alexandria – a sign of greatness or too much egotism? This person also impacted heavily upon cultural norms, for instance, giving his region the common language of Greek, using this to facilitate all economic transactions and conversations. Thanks to him, Greece became extremely widespread, so much that archaeologists have even found coins in Afghanistan with Greek writing on them.
A third reason, as to why Alexander may have been considered as great, was because of the legend that was passed down to him. Surprisingly, no account of Alexander’s life has been found about where he resided, yet many believed him to be a great man nonetheless. The fact that the man was tutored by Aristotle also made him great in some way, although one can’t say that he lived a lot of years, dying only at the age of 32! Alexander’s heroism could certainly be considered as great, for instance, his pursuits of glory and retribution. Alexander really wanted to kill the Persian King Darius, chasing him all around Iraq for no good reason other than he wanted him dead. Once he was murdered by someone else named Bessus, Alexander then went around trying to find him to kill, and he succeeded! These farcical pursuits from Alexander, although they seem comical now, made him a hero of the time. Other acts of bravery also have been passed down, such as apparent detail of Alexander walking through the desert before it suddenly started raining, making him look like some sort of divine ruler, before winning the battle he set to fight. Alexander’s courage was hyped up even up to the point of his death.
So what reasons can one consider as to why Alexander earned his title? One factor is that Alexander picked himself that he was great. Could this be so absurd in the face of all his egotism? This is only a suggestion, but it is worth considering.
Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC and he died at the age of thirty-two in 323 BC. He was the son of King Philip II and by the age of thirteen, he has already become an accomplished general who would expand his Empire over the next decade, becoming famous for never losing a battle. So can he really be called “great” and is this adjective justified as part of his name? Alexander the Great was historically a celebrated man and he can’t get a lot of lands, empire, earn a lot of trusts and also get a lot of girls. It may be disputed today as to whether his actions were great by any means, yet his name has attached this way throughout time and so, whether or not people care about this, Alexander will be known as “the Great” for many years to come.