Alexander The Great
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Alexander the Great, was a son of Philip of Macedon and Olympias, a daughter of Neoptolemus. He was born at Pella, in 365 B. C. His father was a man of most extraordinary courage and hardihood. He had raised his kingdom from a pretty province to the strongest military power in Europe. His mother was a woman of intense energy, unbridled ambition, and fierce superstition. Alexander inherited the qualities of both his parents. He united the boundless ambition of Olympias with the military genius and skill of Philip. The education of the young prince was entrusted to Leonidas, a kinsman of his mother. By this man he was trained in Spartan simplicity and hardihood ; but by the Arcanian, Lysimachus, Alexander was taught to emulate the heroes of the Trojan wars. By this means he was inspired with the most ambitious notions, and imbued with the superstitions that did not leave him to the day of his death. But the genius of Alexander, the greatest of military conquerors, was molded, in a great degree, by Aristotle, the greatest conqueror in the world of thought. For three years he was the pupil of this remarkable man, and that he profited from the lessons of his great teacher, the achievements of his life fully attest. From Lysimachus the youthful prince learned the lesson of frugal habits which served him so well on many a toil-some march from the Hellespont to the Indus river. But from the great Aristotle he learned those Iessons of intellectual and moral wisdom which fitted him, in the greatest degree, for the magnificent enterprise which awaited him. At the age of sixteen, Alexander, was Regent of Macedonia, in the absence of Philip. At eighteen he was in the army at Chaeroneia, was posted upon the Macedonian right, and led a dashing charge against the Theban sacred band, which saved the day for Macedon and crushed the hopes of Greece.
After a magnificent reign of twenty-four years, Philip died by the hand of an assassin in B. C. 336. In 337, at the feast where Philip had wedded Cleopatra, the beautiful niece of Attalis, Alexander and Philip had quarreled, and it was for a time doubtful whether the legitimate heir to the Macedonian dominions would be crowned or not; but this was done with pomp and ceremony in the year 336 B. C. Philip had formed ambitious plans for the conquest of Asia. They were now to be carried out by the great Alexander. But he had first to subdue Greece and make his Macedonian kingdom secure. He advanced with great promptness upon the Grecian states, and quickly alarmed them into negotiations for peace. He then moved rapidly to the Danube to destroy some wandering tribes that were threatening his domains from that direction. In his absence the Greek cities, headed by Thebes, made an insurrection. Alexander re-turned as upon the wings of the wind, conquered Thebes and razed their city to the ground, leaving only the house of the poet Pindar in the general wreck and ruin. This brought the states of Greece to the feet of Alexander to sue for peace. Peace was completed, and he immediately began extensive preparations for the great invasion that has made his name immortal. In 334 he crossed the Hellespont, and never again looked upon his paternal kingdom. He met a large force of Persian infantry and Greek mercenaries at the river Granicus. Alexander, at the head of his men, marched boldly into the river and fought with terrible courage, slaying two Persian officers with his own hand. The Persian army was finally completely routed, and Alexander was in undisputed possession of Western Asia. He then passed through the province of Asia Minor, conquering such cities as opposed him, and entered Syria in 333 B. C. The Persian Darius had gathered a large army to dispute his advance. This was cut to pieces at the battle of issus. Darius fled from the field, leaving behind his mother and beautiful wives in the camp. They were taken prisoners and treated with much consideration by the Macedonian conqueror. He turned the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, stormed the city of Tyre, and completely destroyed its ancient civilization. He stormed the city of Gaza and entered Egypt with victory upon his banners. He laid the foundations of the beautiful city at the mouth of the Nile, which for twenty centuries has borne his name. He now turned to seek the fleeing Darius and crush him in his vast dominions. He overtook the Persian King at Arbela, not far from Ninevah. Alexander's victory was complete, but the Persian commander once more fled in mad haste from the field of battle and left his army to its fate. He turned southward to Babylon and entered it in great triumph in 331, B. C. He appeased the ancient Babylonians by restoring the temple of Belus and renewing the ancient religion, which had been overthrown by the Medes. He now pursued the royal fugitive, captured Susa and Persipolis, where he obtained great treasures and penetrated to the Indus river two thousand miles from the Hellespont. The Macedonian now pursued the fleeing Persian monarch to Ekbatana, the capital of Media. Darius fled as before ; but Alexander pursued him into the mountains south of the Caspian and finally came up with him in a lonely river valley. The Persian monarch directed one of his attendants to slay him and not permit him to fall into the hands of Alexander. The body of the dead king was treated with every mark of respect, buried in pomp, and the Persians treated most liberally.
It remained for the conqueror of Persia to invade Bactria, penetrate into India and return to Babylon in 324, B. C., weeping, says tradition, because there were no more worlds for him to conquer. Embassadors from all parts of Greece, from Libya and still more distant regions were waiting to salute him as the conqueror of Asia. Since the battle of Arbela Alexander had assumed the dress and customs of a Persian king, and the celebrations of his triumphs were doubt-less the most magnificent that the ancient city had ever known. The later life of the Macedonian conqueror, was marked with great indulgence and excess. As he grew in power he grew nervous and suspicious. He slew Philotas, one of his generals, when no evidence existed against him ; sent a trusted servant to assassinate another and with his own hand slew Clitus, who had saved his life at the battle of Granicus. This was done in a drunken revel and it must be said to the credit of the great commander that he spent three days in remorseful sorrow over his rash deed, and refused food or sleep during that period.
The mind of Alexander was still occupied with plans of brilliant conquest. When he was seized with unequivocal symptons of fever, he was making preparations to invade Arabia with a view of conquering the whole known world. After long carousals, in which he had drunk deeply, the disease had taken too strong a hold upon him. It could not be broken, and the conqueror of Asia, who had marched more than seven thousand miles in pursuit of his conquests, died at the early age of thirty-two. Few men in the history of the world have crowded so great deeds into so short a life. The greatness of his conquests have been ridiculously over-estimated. A hundred years before Alexander's invasion, ten thousand Greeks had penetrated to the gates of the king, and after laughing him to scorn, had returned to Hellas, proving to their as countrymen that the great Persian Empire was a hollow shell through which any bold leader with a few thousand resolute followers could march without opposition. Alexander, however, has many great claims to eminence. He had subdued the great king, who was regarded among the Greeks as the type of worldly power and felicity. He had become master of his vast territories, had rifled his treasure houses, had ruled from the Hellespont to the Indus, and from the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea. He had accomplished all this in twelve years, and died at an age when the Athenian citizen was not thought worthy of the office of strategus, and the Roman, not sufficiently mature for the office of consul. At an age when Julius Caesar was unknown, when Napoleon had hardly begun his mighty career, Alexander had risen to the highest pinnacle of earthly glory. Timayenis thus closes his estimate of the renowned Macedonian:
"Some have wished to compare him with Csar or Napoleon. But Napoleon was banished from his country after he was put down by his enemies. He did not even rule over the whole of Europe, and towards the end of his career he saw others divide his empire piece-meal. Caesar not only conquered very few countries, in comparison with Alexander, but his death also made little impression on the fortunes of the Roman empire, because men were at once found capable of continuing and completing his work. But the empire of Alexander was so vast and so closely linked with his own incomparable genius that his loss was irreparable. The nations that were not as yet subdued deemed them-selves freed from the greatest of dangers, while those that had been conquered saw their fetters suddenly broken. Yet for many centuries they underwent constant changes—unions and divisions of empires, languages, tribes, religions—all of which had their beginning and cause in the first and great undertaking of Alexander.
As a conqueror, accordingly, both by reason of the extent of his conquests and the influence which they had on the fortunes, both of his contemporaries and successors, Alexander has not his equal in the history of humanity. As a warrior, as well by his daring and organizing mind as his strategical genius, he is said to have united all the advantages which Homer attributes to the impetuous Ares and to the wise Athene, and again is declared to have been without a parallel in the history of antiquity."
The results of Alexander's conquests were marked both upon Asia and Europe. The tide of Asiatic invasion was successfully turned back for five hundred years from Europe. The Greek language with the Hellenic customs and Hellenic art were carried all over Western Asia. The Hellenic dialect of Greece became the commercial language of Asia for more than four centuries, and when in later times the Apostle of our Lord would pen the record of his marvelous lifeand teachings, Alexander's conquests had naturalized the Greek language in Syria, and it became the chosen instrument of revealing the Gospel of Christ to the world. The great empire over which he held his terrible and brilliant sway fell to pieces all too soon, but the Greek mind and the Greek genius had been left wherever the great conqueror went, and carried untold benefit to the civilization of those ancient Asiatic cities. The young Alexander, burning out his life in exhausting debaucheries after the terrible toils of his long marches and hard-fought battles, made the mistake that any man of ardent passions might make, that thousands, indeed, have made. But aside from these, in the bold and dashing career of invasion, he fairly won the title by, which he is known—that of the Great Alexander.