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Alexander the Great

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ALEXANDER THE GREAT, the 3d King of Macedon bearing the name which he made so famous: b. Pella 356 ts.c.; d. Babylon 323 B.c. His mother was Olympias, an Epirote princess, who traced her descent from Achilles: There is little reason to doubt that his father was Philip of Macedon, though the latter was not confident about his paternity and though there is no evidence of any feelings between the two such as are expected to exist between father and son. On the contrary, Philip seems to have resented the imperial qualities of his son, which he was clever enough to see and appreciate; and Alexander showed a precocious envy of his father's neglected opportunities of conquest, a feeling which the sagacious biog rapher Plutarch has noted and welt on. No open rupture took place till Philip repudiated Olympias to wed a Macedonian lady (Cleo patra according to Plutarch and others, but Eurydice according to Arrian). During the nuptial feasting Philip made at Alexander with his sword, while the son jeered at his father's drunken fury and unsteady gait. In the assas sination of Philip in 336 the repudiated and banished Olympias certainly had a hand, and we cannot be sure that Alexander was not an accomplice.

The memorable year in which Alexander first appeared on the stage of universal history was 339 B.C. At the age of 16 the regency of Greece was entrusted to him by Philip when he set out on an expedition against Byzantium; and in that capacity it fell to his lot to lead his first army against an Illyrian rising, to fotind his first Alexandria in the upper valley of the Strymon and to receive a deputation of envoys from the King of Persia,— a fit beginning for the miracle of precocity who was afterward to destroy Thebes at 21, to conquer Babylon at 25 and to die master of the world at 33. In the year after his appointment to the regency Alex ander showed eminent military capacity at the battle of Chzronea (338) and, on the murder of Philip, ascended the throne in 336, before he had reached his 20th year.

The brilliant natural gifts of Alexander had been developed under the tutelage of Aristotle. His personal beauty, with its ardent expressive ness and flashing eyes, was very remarkable. and he was pre-eminent in horsemanship and all athletic accomplishments. A habit (or per haps some peculiar muscular conformation of the neck) which gave his head a tilt toward the left shoulder imparted to him an air of hauteur, which gave a note of eminent distinc tion to manners of charming grace and affabil ity. He was of an extremely trusting disposi tion. His position in ascending the throne was a difficult one. He had enemies on every side. The Illyrians and Thracians were always watch ing an opportunity to attack Macedon, and indeed most of the Grecian states were ready, if possible, to throw off the Macedonian yoke. Persia regarded the growth of Macedon with suspicion, and finally his own Macedonian sub jects were far from being united in approval of the career of conquest on which Philip and Alexander had both resolved to embark.

His reign began with an act of cruelty such as was destined subsequently to become almost a matter of course on every change of rulers; his uncle and his half-brother were put to death and the little daughter of Cleopatra, Philip's widow, was butchered in the arms of her mother. In the autumn of 336 Alexander

marched into Greece and was confirmed in the chief command against Persia by the Ampluc tymies at Thermopylae. In 335 he advanced to the Humus range (the Balkans) and showed great ability in his campaign against the Thra aans, crossing the Danube — apparently out of mere bravado — in the face of the enemy with out losing a single man. He had no real friends among the Greek states. The Thebans, hearing a false report of his death, became overt en emies, proclaimed their independence and slew some Macedonian officers. Alexander ameared in Bceotia with amazing dispatch and took Thebes by storm on the third day of the siege. This was the occasion on which, in the words of Milton, " The great Emathian conqueror bade rpare The house of Pinder." Leaving Antipater to govern in EurOpe, he crossed over into Asia in the spring of 334 with 30,000 foot and 5,000 horse. The Persian empire, the conquest of which he undertoolc, was at least 50 times as large as his own and numbered about 20 times as many inhabitants. It extended from the Hellespont to the Punjab, from Lake Aral to the cataracts of the Nile. But it was a vast congeries of subject provinces having no internal bond and no principle of cohesion but the will of the king. For 80 years it had been tending to dissolution in its west ern provinces, which were the most exposed to danger. As stages in this process may be men tioned the revolt of Egypt under Amyrtmus in 410 and that of the Cypriote Evagoras, which was not put down till 383; the numerous re volts of satraps, of Greek cities and of semi Greek tyrants during the first half of the 5th century and the attack on Persia made by Tachos, King of Egypt, in 361. It has been well remarked by Adolf Holm that the position of the Persian empire when attacked by Alex ander had some resemblance to that of the Roman empire when overrun by the Germans. Both empires held together merely by the law of inertia; in both their strength lay not in their native elements, but in mercenaries taken from the very peoples, the Germans and the Greeks, who threatened respectively the safety of the two empires. Alexander proposed to himself nothing short of complete dispossession of Darius in favor of himself as captain-general of Hellas and the establishment of his own Panhellenic empire in the room of the Persian. He was not led from point to point by this or that strategical reason. His business was not to leave Asia till every satrapy in the Persian empire acknowledged his sway. Even the burn ing of the Persian capital Persepolis was prob ably no act of drunken folly, as which it has often been described, but rather a signal and emphatic assertion of mastery and ownership, as of one who should say, °The Persian empire is mine, to throw it into the fire if I please.° Alexander had no intention of remaining King of Macedon. His design was to be the Greek emperor of Europe and Asia, and this position in effect .he assumed on the death of Darius. With this view throughout his whole career in Asia he sought as much as possible to fuse and commingle his Asiatic and European sub jects, very much as England did in India. This was the project to which he was giving all his efforts at the time of his death.

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