Great Conquerors: Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great was one of history’s most celebrated conquerors. Born as heir to the Macedonian King, his great ambition led him to take on the high Persian Empire. At its height, Alexander’s empire stretched from modern-day Italy clear to the Himalayas.
Alexander The Great Leadership: A Short Biography
Alexander was born July 20, 356 BC, in Pella, a city in the Ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedonia. As the son of Philip II, King of Macedon, Alexander was raised as a noble Macedonian youth. Alexander's priorities were learning to read, play the lyre, ride, fight, and hunt.
As he got older, his father had the famous Aristotle tutor his son. His father knew he could no longer effectively challenge the mind and body of his son. Aristotle educated Alexander and his companions in various disciplines, such as medicine, philosophy, morality, religion, logic, and art. Many of his study companions would later become generals in his army.
When King Philip was assassinated, Alexander ascended to the throne at age 20. After quelling minor uprisings and rebellions after his father’s death, Alexander began his campaign against the Persian Empire.
Crossing into Asia with over 100,000 men, he began his war against Persia which lasted more than seven years. Alexander displayed tactical brilliance in the fight against the Persian army, remaining undefeated despite having fewer soldiers.
His successes took him to the edge of India, to the banks of the Ganges River. His armies feared the might of the Indian empires and mutinied, which marked the end of his campaign to the East. He had intended to march further into India, but he was persuaded against it because his soldiers wanted to return to their families.
Alexander died unexpectedly after his return to Babylon. Because his death was sudden and he did not name a successor to his throne, his empire fell into chaos as generals fought to take control.
Alexander the Great is still considered one of history's most successful military leaders. His conquests shaped not just Eastern and Western culture but also the history of the world.
Alexander The Great Leadership Style
Alexander the Great's leadership style can be characterized by his charisma, tactical brilliance, personal bravery, and ability to inspire loyalty in his troops. He was known to lead from the front, often participating in the thick of battles, which earned him the respect of his soldiers and commanders. Alexander was an innovative strategist who could adapt to changing circumstances and exploit his enemies' weaknesses. In addition, he often incorporated the conquered people into his administration and army, demonstrating a level of tolerance and cultural integration uncommon for his time.
Furthermore, Alexander understood the importance of maintaining morale among his troops, celebrating their victories, and sharing their hardships. He was an adept diplomat, using marriages and alliances to secure his rule and establish stability in the territories he conquered. However, his leadership style also had flaws; his ambition and desire for glory sometimes led to rash decisions, and his temper could be volatile. Despite these shortcomings, Alexander the Great's remarkable accomplishments in such a short life have made him one of the most iconic and studied military leaders in history.
Alexander The Great: Leadership Lessons
- Believe in yourself
From a very young age, his parents instilled in Alexander a belief that it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire. This belief would stay with Alexander until his deathbed. At a few points in his life, Alexander even believed that he was the Son of Zeus and was to be worshiped. This demonstrates the depth of his self-belief.
Although it may seem to many that such extreme egoism could be harmful, your self-worth and self-confidence need to believe in yourself wholeheartedly. There has never been a leader in the history of the world who did not have a considerable amount of self-belief and confidence. This is how great leaders inspire the same self-confidence and self-worth in their teams and how you can.
Do you genuinely believe in your ability to succeed? If you can't give an outright ‘yes,’ take a closer look at what beliefs hold you back.
- Leverage your team’s strengths.
Alexander was a brilliant and cunning tactician in battle. He knew that the disorganized Persian army would be unable to withstand his phalanxes (a body of troops in a tight military formation). So he used them to their best effect each time, breaking through enemy ranks and forcing the Persians to retreat.
A good leader understands the strengths and weaknesses of his team, and he puts them in positions where they are more likely to succeed.
You might liken it to being a chess player. You have various resources: people with differing skills and abilities. The key is always to learn how to position each person in a role that leverages their strengths.
- Make yourself an unnecessary part of the team.
Although Alexander conquered much of the known world during his time, his empire never survived him. His strength when he was alive became a weakness after his death.
After Alexander had passed away, no one had the charisma or leadership to rule such a vast empire. Civil war soon broke out, and what Alexander built in one generation was destroyed in the next.
A good leader makes himself indispensable to the team, but a great leader makes himself thoroughly dispensable! He can leave the team and still have them perform at total capacity.
So please find a way to position your team such that you become an unnecessary part of it. When your team can still perform at a high level, even when you remove yourself from the equation, you have done your role as a leader.
Alexander The Great: Ambition
Alexander was taken with the character Achilles in Homer's epic tale, the Illiad, in his growing-up years. He decided to model himself after Achilles.
Alexander's teacher was the well-known philosopher Aristotle, and he annotated the full version of The Illiad for Alexander, so he could better emulate Achilles. He cherished this gift from his mentor and would even sleep with it under his pillow.
He also received encouragement from his mother, Olympias. Rumors were that she consulted with the gods regarding her son and told him he was a direct descendant of Achilles and Hercules. This fueled the fire inside Alexander.
After taming a wild horse at just 14 years old, his father, Phillip II of Macedonia, was seeking to purchase, he proudly said, "My son, look thee out a kingdom equal and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee."
Weaknesses of Alexander The Great
- His temper was well-known. He could erupt like a volcano, and it was best not to get too close so you wouldn't get any fallout.
- While he was not considered an alcoholic by today's standards, he did turn to spirits heavily on occasion.
- He was too eccentric for many, including those close to him. Because of this, just before his death, he lost the loyalty of many people.
Famous and Well-Known Quotes from Alexander the Great
“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.”
“I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent than in the extent of my power and dominion.”
“Remember upon the conduct of each depends on the fate of all.”
“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”
“Heaven cannot brook two suns, nor earth two masters.”
“How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens.”
“A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.”
Random Facts about Alexander The Great
What is Alexander The Great Known For?
During his leadership run between 336 - 323 B.C., he successfully unified the Greek city-states and led the Corinthian League.
How did Alexander The Great die?
The exact causes are unknown as it was not a custom in his day in age to list the cause of death as it is today. The most common belief is he died of typhoid fever (which, along with malaria, was a common form of death during that period in ancient Babylon). This was the theory proposed by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1998. Other theories included alcoholic liver disease, fever, and even strychnine poisoning.
King Darius III - Commonly known as "Darius The Great," he was the fourth Persian King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire. Darius was the last Achaemenid ruler, reigned from 336 to 330 BCE, and was a crucial figure in the history of Alexander the Great. As the Persian ruler, Darius faced the unstoppable force of Alexander the Great, who sought to conquer the vast Persian Empire. Despite his efforts to resist Alexander's invasion, Darius suffered a series of devastating defeats, most notably during the Battle of Issus which occurred in 333 BCE, and the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE. These losses not only showcased Alexander's military prowess but also led to the collapse of the Achaemenid dynasty and the establishment of the Macedonian Empire in its place. While Darius failed to halt Alexander's conquest, his struggles against the Macedonian king exemplify the clash of two major empires in antiquity and the rise of a new era in world history.
Battle of Issus - Occurring in 333 B.C., this battle happened early in Alexander The Great's invasion of Asia, in which he successfully defeated the Persian army led by King Darius III. This battle marked a significant turning point in Alexander the Great's campaign to conquer the Persian Empire. As the young Macedonian king led his forces eastward, he encountered the formidable Persian army commanded by King Darius III at the Pinarus River near Issus.
Despite being outnumbered, Alexander displayed exceptional tactical acumen by exploiting the narrow battlefield to neutralize the Persian numerical advantage. Launching a fierce attack on the Persian left flank with his elite Companion cavalry, Alexander forced Darius to flee the battlefield in haste, securing a decisive victory for the Macedonian army.
This triumph cemented Alexander's reputation as an unrivaled military commander. It paved the way for the eventual downfall of the Achaemenid Empire and the expansion of Macedonian rule throughout the region.
Persian Customs - During Alexander the Great's reign (356-323 BC), Persian customs played a significant role in shaping the culture of the time. One such custom was the practice of proskynesis, a ceremonial form of obeisance or respect shown by bowing or prostrating before a superior. Alexander sought to incorporate this tradition into his court to solidify his rule over the conquered Persian territories.
Another notable custom was the Persian royal banquet, which exemplified the opulence and grandeur of the Persian court. These banquets featured a lavish spread of food and wine, with guests reclining on luxurious couches and cushions while entertained by musicians and dancers. The adoption of Persian clothing, such as the long-sleeved tunic and trousers, was also joint among Alexander's elite as a symbol of cultural integration. Overall, these Persian customs played a significant role in shaping the Hellenistic world during Alexander the Great's reign, blending Greek and Persian cultures in a powerful and lasting way.
Battle of Gaugamela - The Battle of Gaugamela fought on October 1, 331 BCE, was a pivotal confrontation between Alexander the Great's Macedonian army and King Darius III's Persian forces. Located near present-day Mosul in Iraq, the battle unfolded on a large, open plain that favored Darius's numerically superior army, complete with chariots and war elephants. Yet, despite the apparent disadvantage, Alexander employed a brilliant strategy that would ultimately lead to a decisive victory.
Alexander used a series of feints and flanking maneuvers to draw the Persian cavalry away from their center, creating gaps in Darius's battle line. He then personally led his elite Companion cavalry through one of these gaps, targeting the vulnerable Persian center and Darius himself. With the imminent threat, Darius was forced to flee the battlefield, leaving his army in disarray.
The victory at Gaugamela had a profound impact on Alexander's campaign. It marked the fall of the Achaemenid Empire and the beginning of the Macedonian Empire, as Alexander subsequently took control of key Persian cities such as Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis. In addition, the Battle of Gaugamela showcased Alexander's tactical genius. It solidified his reputation as one of history's most skilled military commanders, paving the way for his continued conquests in the East.
See the following video summarizing the battle fought in 331 B.C.
King of Macedonia - was a prestigious and influential title held by various rulers of the ancient Macedonian kingdom, a state in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula. Notable kings include Philip II (382-336 BC), who transformed Macedonia into a dominant military power by reforming its army and expanding its territory. Philip's accomplishments laid the foundation for his son, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), to build an empire that stretched from the eastern Mediterranean to India. Alexander's military genius and cultural diplomacy facilitated the spread of Hellenistic culture throughout his vast empire, leaving an indelible impact on Western history. Other significant Macedonian kings include Antigonus II Gonatas, who restored Macedonian power in the 3rd century BC, and Perseus, the last king of the Antigonid dynasty, who unsuccessfully fought against Rome during the Third Macedonian War. The legacy of the kings of Macedonia endures through their remarkable achievements and their role in shaping the ancient world.
Phillip II of Macedon (382-336 BC) - a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, reigning from 359 to 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and a member of the Argead dynasty. Philip was a skilled military leader and diplomat who transformed Macedonia into a formidable power in the Greek world.
During his reign, he implemented significant military reforms, turning the Macedonian army into a well-organized and highly effective fighting force. He introduced the sarissa, a long spear that gave his phalanx infantry a significant advantage in battle. Philip also employed a combination of infantry, cavalry, and siege equipment, making his army one of the most advanced and flexible of its time.
Philip's diplomacy and strategic marriages helped him secure alliances and expand Macedonian influence. He managed to unite the majority of the Greek city-states under the League of Corinth, except for Sparta. This alliance paved the way for a united Greek campaign against the Persian Empire, although Philip did not live to see the invasion.
In 336 BC, Philip II was assassinated at a wedding celebration by one of his bodyguards, Pausanias of Orestis. His son, Alexander the Great, succeeded him and went on to conquer the Persian Empire and create one of the largest empires in history. Philip's military innovations, diplomacy, and expansionist policies laid the groundwork for Alexander's remarkable achievements.
Alexander III - commonly known as Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), was a king of Macedon and one of the most successful military commanders in history. He was the son of King Philip II and Queen Olympias and ascended to the throne in 336 BC after his father's assassination. Alexander's reign marked a period of unprecedented conquest and expansion as he sought to fulfill his father's plan to invade the Persian Empire.
Alexander's military campaigns began with subjugating the remaining Greek city-states that resisted his rule. Once he consolidated power in Greece, he invaded the Persian Empire in 334 BC. Over the next decade, Alexander defeated Persian King Darius III in several significant battles, ultimately leading to the collapse of the Persian Empire. His conquests extended beyond Persia, reaching as far as Egypt, where he founded the city of Alexandria, and the Indian subcontinent, where he fought against the Indian king Porus at the Battle of the Hydaspes.
Throughout his campaigns, Alexander sought to blend Greek and Persian cultures, adopting Persian customs and promoting cultural exchange within his vast empire. His death in 323 BC marked the end of his extraordinary conquests. His empire was eventually divided among his former generals, leading to the Hellenistic period of ancient history.
Alexander the Great's military achievements, cultural integration policies, and the scope of his empire have cemented his legacy as one of the most influential figures in history.
Darius III (c. 380-330 BC) - was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire, ruling from 336 to 330 BC. Born as Artashata, he was a distant relative of the royal Achaemenid lineage and took the throne after the assassination of his predecessor, Artaxerxes IV Arses.
Darius III's reign was marked by the invasion of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great, who sought to avenge previous Persian invasions of Greece and expand his empire. Darius faced Alexander's forces in several significant battles, including the Battle of Issus in 333 BC and the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC. In both instances, despite having larger armies, Darius was defeated by Alexander's tactical prowess and the superior organization of the Macedonian forces.
After the loss at the Battle of Gaugamela, the Persian Empire began to disintegrate rapidly, Darius attempted to regroup and maintain control, but his satraps (provincial governors) and generals began to defect, and the empire crumbled. In 330 BC, as Darius was fleeing from Alexander's forces, he was captured and killed by one of his satraps, Bessus, who sought to seize power for himself.
Darius III's reign marked the end of the Achaemenid Empire, one of the ancient world's most powerful and influential empires. The fall of the Persian Empire paved the way for the rise of the Hellenistic period, in which Greek culture and influence spread throughout the territories once ruled by Persia.
This is why Alexander The Great was so great.
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