History has been described using metaphors like a flowing river symbolizing a linear narrative or a woven cloth piece which aptly stands for the more complex non linear stories. Taking the cloth analogy, some characters in history are so pivotal that their presence has resulted in shaping the world as we know it and their omission cannot be comprehended, therefore putting them in the place of the binding threads in this piece of cloth called history. One such personality often introduced by various titles like conqueror, accursed or even demigod but forever immortalized by the title The Great is Alexander of Macedonia. Regarded by many as the not one of but the single greatest military strategist and conqueror in the entire recorded history.
His story, which is filled with wars, conquests and victories is one of those tales if seen with a neutral point of view is bound to light a fire in your belly and raise the bar of ambitions you’ve had. Greatness often grows from great sources, Alexander’s father Philip II was an exceptional ruler and expert in political maneuvering. During the course of his life he transformed Macedonia from barely Greek, many times regarded as the backwoods to actual Greece ( Athens and Thebes) to an economic and military powerhouse while also stabilizing a conflict ridden Greece. One of his greatest dreams was to seize Persia, a superpower back in those times but before he could realize it he was assassinated, leaving Alexander to inherit his throne and his dream. Alexander, this point 20 years in age tutored by one the pioneers in philosophy Aristotle, had proven his acumen in combat during his father’s military expeditions in Greece. Upon sitting on the throne, he quickly crushed all the obstacles in his way and made examples out of his enemies by either murdering them or by selling them in slavery. He burnt the city of Thebes in response to a revolt they held.
In 334 BC he led one of the most astounding campaigns ever heard even in those days, He bravely led an army of 40000 men from the entirety of Greece across Hellespont into Asia Minor, the mouth of the massive Persian empire. Now it is integral to know some details about this seemingly invincible army Alexander led into the decade spanning campaign. The weapon that ensured victory for Macedonians was Sarissa pike, a 18 feet long spear used to impale enemies before coming into range of attack. The part of the army holding the Sarissa pikes were called Phalanx, 9000 phalangites divided in 16 ranks heading the charge. This one spectacle of military might made the phalanx division look like a solid wall of iron spear tips looking virtually unstoppable. These were guarded on sides or flanks by shield bearers and followed by infantry, cavalry, javelin throwers and foot soldiers. The army was commanded by either Alexander himself or by one of his trusted veteran macedonian generals Parmenion. Upon their entry, Alexander’s army was greeted by the armies of Asia minor’s provinces on the banks of River Granicus, a shallow yet unnaturally wide river. Alexander planned to pierce through these armies straight into the heart of Persia, just as he did. The cavalry headed by himself initially confused the opposition while phalanx tore through them. The opposition were either brutalized or fled the land. With Asia minor lying beneath his feet, he further took control of the port cities which either surrendered to him or were painted with blood. This one victory boosted the Greek morale but also alarmed the Persian high command about the approaching enemy. This prompted the then king Darius to mobilise the vast resources of his empire.
After the battle of Granicus, Alexander captured ports to secure his communication to the Greek home ground and put an end to the naval supremacy of Persians. During his capture of ports, Alexander reached Gordium, where he was presented the Gordian Knot. A prophesied knot, whose legend was that anyone who unpicked it would be the next ruler of the entirety of Persia. This one incident, symbolizes Alexander’s psyche more than anything else as he simply cut it in half using his sword. The sheer display of simplistic brute force and swiftness were the defining characteristics of Alexander’s military strategy. Marching forward, past Cilicia, on the foot of Nur Mountains, Alexander’s forces were ambushed by Persian Emperor’s army. The battlefield was all set near the coastal town of Issus. The Persian Strength was easily double compared Alexander’s comrades. The battlefield did play an important role here, it was a rugged bottleneck region which eliminated the chances of escape for Greek troops and neutralized the numbers advantage and chariots for Persian’s. Both battlefronts separated by River Pinarus glared at each other. Persians looking to trap and slaughter Greeks, while Macedonian men looking to solidify their place in history. While Darius waited for Alexander’s first step. Alexander charged full force at the adversaries. Alexander quickly overpowered a larger army utilizing the skill and savagery of his own army. Meanwhile Persians tried their best to get rid of the lethal Phalanx division. Upon the conclusion of the battle , Darius ran to live another day while Alexander stepped forward as the victor. This massacre resulted in a morbidly high number of Persian corpses, enough to fill deep ravines so that Alexander’s armies could cross them.
A monster on the battlefield, Alexander showed respect towards Darius’s family and treated them well. He moved ahead into Persian lands, winning them either by surrender or siege, one at a time. Upon reaching Egypt, he was received as a liberator and declared their Pharaoh. The Oracles heralded him as the Son of God Amun. After collecting the adulation of Egyptians, Alexander was ready to see Darius in the battlefield once again, this time to claim his throne and life all together. Darius, who feared his life, offered the young Macedonian king a fortune in gold, half his empire and the hand of the Princesses in marriage. Alexander’s ambitions were fueled by the declarations of him being a deity, he proclaimed proudly that he was not here to take parts but to take over. Therefore the war was now inevitable, it was the last chance for Darius to secure his kingship and another successful conquest for Alexander, taking him one step closer to his destiny. Darius invited Alexander to Gaugamela for the final showdown. A battleground that was plain and vast, providing Persian armies a total advantage. Alexander came charging into the battlefield with murder on his mind. In the first few skirmishes, Alexander attempted a bold move and tried to envelop the gigantic Persian army. While the foes rejoiced that Alexander’s pride had stabbed him in the back, they completely overlooked the fact that it was a ploy to distract them. As they were laser focused on Alexander and cavalry was leading, they ignored the deadly Phalanx which skewered them to death in mere instances. Darius tried to prolong the battle but his attempts were futile. The conclusion was the same, Darius escaped his demise and Alexander stood on a mountain of corpses to see the bright future that welcomed him and his trusted army. The gates to Babylon, the capital of the once great Persian empire lay open for Alexander. Greeks now controlled Persian land and resources. Alexander had achieved what his predecessors dreamed of. Upon his entry into Persian Mainland, Alexander was celebrated as the victor and god appointed ruler of the empire. The warm welcome of Persian capital was perhaps a bit too hot as it ignited the fire of spite Greeks had in their hearts for the better part of a century. A spiteful Alexander ordered the arson of Persian cultural capital Persepolis, to avenge the burning of Athens’ sacred temples in 480 BC, he pillaged and burned some more towns to ashes to make examples for his new subjects and simply because they were at his disposal.
Alexander’s thirst for conquest was not quenched yet, he still wanted to capture the Eastern Persian Provinces, the place where Darius currently took refuge. But his vast empire now needed governance, therefore he sat and promoted his generals to the position of governors and satraps. He also gave chance to look rulers to retain their kingship by pledging loyalty to him. Once the governance of the continent spanning empire was complete, he again saddled his horse and began his campaign. By this time, Bessus, a general in service of Darius, assassinated the aging Persian monarch and declared himself the new ruler. The death of his mortal enemy enraged Alexander, he recovered the corpse of Darius and sent a death threat to Bessus. As this chapter began in Alexander’s life, his life was threatened by his own brother in arms, his trusted general Parmenion and his sons were involved in a plot to assassinate the young ruler. Brutal justice was served before anything else could have happened. After facing this heart wrenching setback, Alexander was still fixated on the subjugation of the empire. He marched towards the eastern edge of Persia. In the initial days, Bessus’s men betrayed and handed the king slayer to Alexander for execution. After this, Alexander’s mighty army was tied down in guerrilla war with various local lords. After an extended painful period filled with these scuffles. Alexander found his bride, Roxana of Bactria, the daughter of a local lord. This resulted in a short period of peace for both parties, putting an end to the ugly guerrilla wars. Another threat loomed over Alexander’s kingship, The mighty armies who marched with Alexander and made him the formidable conqueror he is today grew home sick and had disdain for Alexander’s adoption of Persian culture. The Greek Alexander who fought to build a Greek empire was now replaced by another Persian Tyrant who believed in vainglorious and decadent rituals.
To end this summer of woes, Alexander regrouped his forces and again set out to conquer the world. This time he wanted to win the edge of the known world, the place that was only heard of and never seen, Indian subcontinent. His campaign took him face to face with another worthy rival, one that he had missed for the latter part of the decade. He had to face the king of Paurava, Porus. Porus, a ruler who was equally brave but lacked the skill, had an ace up his sleeve when it came to combat, war bred Elephants. Alexander’s Armies had never seen such gargantuan creatures in the battlefield. They had no idea how to vanquish an animal that is capable of trampling and thwarting contingents of soldiers. This proved to be a test for Alexander’s militaristic brilliance, something that had not been evaluated in quite some time. But Alexander came out as the eventual Victor, owning his success to a newly strategized shock cavalry attack which left elephants vulnerable to damage. The already homesick and frustrated force was at their limit in this battle. The news that Indian empires were already waiting for them with more elephants and better equipped armies scared them. Alexander had no other choice but to return to Babylon. Alexander whose dream of global domination was still left unfulfilled. Moreover his fragile empire, that was too big to be governed, was showing cracks due to his inadequacies in governance. Before he could resume his dream and begin the conquest of Arabia, the angel of death visited him. Alexander of Macedonia left the world with an incomplete ambition, a vast yet unstable empire and a toddler for successor. The cause of his death is speculated to be Malaria, cholera or other diseases he encountered in Asian land. The man who personified Wrath in battlefield was claimed by pestilence is a cruel poetry of fate. Post his demise, his empire crumbled and his near and dear ones were assassinated. In his life he might have been savage, brutal and unforgiving but there is another side to this penny, he was a man of sheer will and commitment to his ambition. Blinded by his ambition he was willing to lose it all. His actual crown is the conquest he made not the wealth he collected. While some may show displeasure upon the fact that Alexander paid the price of each mile he won by beheading numerous men and his take no prisoners attitude should not be appreciated but the feats he accomplished are no doubt extraordinary and glorious in the eyes of people and worthy in the eyes of gods. With a single line I’d like to conclude my article on the life of Alexander, that is,” Fight for your dreams and someday your dreams will immortalize you”.