Alexander the Great - The first Greek emperor The star of Argead dynasty

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Returning home

When the Greek army was crossing the Gedrosia desert, some soldiers found, in a ravine, some water and brought it inside a helmet, to their king. Alexandros asked: "Is it enough for all the soldiers?" The soldiers answered: "No my king, it is not enough". Then the Hellene king emptied the water to the ground.

On the Hydaspes the Greek emperor built a fleet of 1000 ships. Porus was assigned governor of all lands in India. Craterus with a third of the army was sent to Persia, through Arahosia and Carmania. Alexander proceeded down the river and into the Indus, with half his forces on shipboard and half marching along the bank. The fleet was commanded by the Cretan Nearchus, and Alexander's own captain was Onesicritus. The Macedonian king of Asia enjoyed very much the voyage on the Indus seeing strange birds, crocodiles and giant trees, but he enjoyed more the debates on philosophical issues with the Indian philosophers.
"Which are more numerous the living or the dead?", Alexander asked.
"The living," said the Brahman, "because the dead no longer count."
-"Which produces more creatures, the sea or the land?"
-"The land because the sea is only a part of it."
-"What should a man do to make himself loved?"
-"Be powerful without being frightening."
-"What does a man have to do to become a god?"
-"Do what is impossible for a man."
-"Death or life is stronger?"
-"Life is stronger than death, because it bears so many miseries."
Alexandros o Meghas He became legendary for centuries in India for being both a wise philosopher and a courageous conqueror.

Most of the villages received them friendly, but it was Malloi, a warlike tribe, who attacked them suddenly while they sailed down the Indus river. The Greeks counterattacked and pursued the Indians who ran behind the walls of their capital. There Alexandros demonstrated his courage and intrepidity. He took a ladder and first of all climbed on the walls of the enemy city. He fought alone for some minutes, surrounded by enemies, while his startled companions tried to climb the walls to save their king. During the history of the mankind, one can hardly read a similar incident. The powerful ruler of a vast empire attacking alone ahead of his soldiers. Alexander received an arrow that penetrated his lung and the blood filled his body. It was Avreas, Pefcestas and Leonnatos who first reached their king and protected him with the sacred shield of Troy saving his life. Avreas was killed and Alexandros fell, almost dead. The doctor Cretodimos of Cos removed the arrow from his breast and the heavily wounded Macedonian stayed in bed for weeks. He recovered and mounted his horse only to be seen by his soldiers who thought that he was dead. Thousands of Greek and Persian soldiers cheered when they saw him. The king was back and healthy to drive them home. A new town was founded in the country of the Sogdians, Alexandria Sogdiane and Greek veterans with their native wives decided to stay here.

Alexander continued his sailing down the Indus river but many villages under the influence of Brahmans resisted and fought against the unknown enemies. Kings Musicanus, Oxycanus and Sambus surrendered and the Greek army reached the Indus delta in July 325. The rajah of Patala Moires came to meet the new ruler and to offer him presents. Alexandros built a harbor and docks and explored both arms of the delta to the ocean. Because of the little knowledge of the tides the fleet was stuck in the mud and was almost destroyed. Then the Macedonian king ordered Nearchus to sail along the shores of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, while himself would march through the dangerous Gedrosian desert.

The Gedrosian desert - September 325

In September Alexander set out through Gedrosia (modern Baluchistan), but because of the conditions of the desert and the insufferable heat he lost contact with his fleet. The queen Semiramis had followed the same route and had lost an army of 20000 men in this terrible desert. So Alexander's march through Gedrosia proved disastrous; The shortage of food and water caused great suffering, and half of his soldiers perished. They passed through the land of Ixhtyofagon (Fish-eaters) a primitive people who ate only raw fish and drunk sea water. After sixty days' march they entered the capital Pura where they rested for some days and waited for all the soldiers to arrive. Alexandros moved west to Armazeia and sent some scouts to the coast to find the fleet. Nearchus and the fleet had also suffered losses from hunger and thirst, had fought against hostile tribes and had been terrified when they saw some huge animals in the water which they sprung water. Army and fleet were rejoined and their joy doubled when they met also Craterus at Carmania. Alexander organized feasts to celebrate the meeting of his friends and the survival of the soldiers.


The Greek army departed for Persepolis and was arranged to meet the fleet at the Tigris delta. At Persepolis the Brahman philosopher Calanos became seriously ill and asked a funeral pyre to be built for him. Then he said to Alexander "We will meet at Babylon soon", he climbed on the pyre where he was burnt alive. That night, Alexander held a banquet for a large number of his friends and officers, and he offered a prize for the man who could drink the most wine. Promachus drank twelve quarts and got the prize, but three days later he died.

The Macedonian king was informed about the attitude of some unscrupulous and incompetent satraps in Persia. Years of absence and rumors of his death were enough to turn them to corruption. They lived lavishly, had desecrated tombs of kings, including the tomb of Cyrus, had emptied the state treasury, kept mercenary armies and were hated by the people and by the soldiers. Alexander replaced senior officials and executed six governors, including the Persian satraps of Persis, Susiana, Carmania, and Paraetacene; four Greek generals: Cleander, the brother of Coenus (who had died a little earlier), Sitacles, Agathon and Heracon were accused of corruption and summoned to Persis, where they were arrested, tried, and executed. Only one escaped the punishment and he was the worst of all. Harpalus, the treasurer, who had been friend of Alexandros, had stolen dozens of thousands of talents, and had recruited 6000 mercenaries. He left Persia and with 30 ships reached Athens. Athenians sent away the vicious Macedonian who was later murdered in Crete.

The foundation of Ecumenical Hellenism

In spring 324, Alexander reached Susa, where he held athletic games and feasts to celebrate the return of his army and fleet after so many years of absence. Admiral Nearchos, Leonnatos, Peucestas, Hephaestion, Onisecritos were some of the soldiers who were rewarded for their valiance and received golden diadems. Alexandros wanted to build a new empire in which Greeks and Persians wouldn't be hostile one to another. Hellenic thought, customs, religion, language would dominate in his state while in the same time the customs of the people he had conquered would be respected. The satraps of the empire and the noble Orientals had already adapted themselves to the Greek culture, a culture which was spread all over the Asia. Alexandros' statue at Thessaloniki Antioch and Alexandria would succeed Athens and Sparta as the world's cultural capitals. The famous Alexandrian library would contain the wisdom of all antiquity. Archaeologists would excavate a town in Afghanistan that would be in all aspects Greek. The Asian people would remember Alexander for centuries as the greatest civilizer in world, as hero or even as a God. Tribes in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, even today claim proudly that they are ancestors of the ancient Macedonians.

Alexandos married Darius' daughter Statira and Hephaestion married the youngest daughter Drypetis. His officers and 10000 of his soldiers were ordered to marry Persian wives according to Persian rituals. That time a corps of 30000 Persians, Sogdians, Bactrians and Midians came in Susa. They had received a Macedonian military training and were incorporated into the Companion cavalry (Etairoi). In addition, Persian nobles had been accepted into the royal cavalry bodyguard.


This policy had disappointed the Macedonians and the others Greeks. They felt betrayed when they were forced to obey their former enemies and they had no sympathy for this new concept of the empire. The relations between the king and the Greek soldiers deteriorated at the town of Opis (324), when Alexander decided to send home Macedonian veterans under Craterus. There was an open mutiny involving almost the whole of his army. "He lives like a barbarian" (Varvarizei) complained his soldiers. "We left home young and healthy and now he sends us away old and wounded, just because he prefers to live with his barbarians". "You can go home if you want to, I do not need you any more" was the wrathful answer of their king. So when Alexander dismissed his whole army and enrolled Persians, the opposition broke down. The soldiers stayed for two days and nights outside of his tent waiting for him to come out and forgive them. An old veteran named Callines convinced Alexandros to forgive his men. The reconciliation was followed by a vast banquet with 9000 guests. Ten thousand veterans were now sent back to Macedonia with gifts under Craterus who was to replace Antipater as governor of European lands.

In autumn 324 Hephaestion fell ill and seven days later he died in Ecbatana. Alexander sorrowful, mourned for his best friend for three days, ordered the execution of Hephaestion's doctor Glafcias, and a royal funeral was given in Babylon with a pyre costing 10000 talents.

Death of Alexandros o Meghas

In the spring of 323 Alexander marched to Babylon. When he reached the ancient city, which he intended to make capital of his empire, the Chaldean priests asked him not to enter the town because he wouldn't leave her again. The king of Asia didn't take them seriously and continued his marching. At Babylon he received embassies from the Libyans, Romans, Carthaginians, Celts, Iberians. The Italians had killed, the king of Epirus Alexander of Molossoi, who was the husband of Kassandra (Alexander's sister) and they had also come to pay homage to the Greek Emperor. Representatives of the cities of Greece also came in Babylon.

The indefatigable Macedonian prepared a huge fleet of thousands ships for an expedition along the Arabian coast. The army had almost 200000 men. They were Greeks, Indians, Persians, Lydians, Vactrians, and others from various nations. He also appointed Heracleides to explore the Hyrcanian (Caspian) Sea. The Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily confirms that Alexandros had plans for the conquest of Italy, Carthage and the western Mediterranean. Rome was at that time a strong state in central Italy, and if Alexandros had realized his plans there would never be a Roman Empire. His ambitions reached as far as the Pillars of Heracles (modern Givraltar) and even more. Alexander's ambitions had no limits. Only one man could stop them. He was the man who drove the souls through Acheron river to the king of Ades, Pluton. This man was called Charon (Death).

After a splendid entertainment in honour of Nearchus' departure for Arabia, Alexandros became sick. Alexandros dies For 10 days his condition had no improvement and the fever remained high. Then all his soldiers, with eyes filled with tears, and their minds filled with memories, men who had been with him for so many years, and had marched from Europe to Africa and from Africa to Asia, came to his bed for a last greeting. Alexandros shaked hands with each one of his soldiers who were weeping for the loss of their "father".
"To whom you leave the power?", asked him his generals and friends.
"To kratisto (To the best)", was his answer. He gave his ring to Perdiccas and died on June 13, 323. He had lived only 33 years the same number that Jesus had lived on earth.

Hellenistic Era

His body, was transfered to Egypt by Ptolemy, the later king, and was eventually placed in a golden sarcophagus in Alexandria. No heir had been appointed to the throne, and this caused the slow disintegration of the vast empire which was precipitated by the civil wars between Alexander's Successors Diadochoi or Epigonoi. Six Greek states were created: a) Egypt and Cyrene under the leadership of Ptolemy, b) Pontus under Eumenes, c) Thrace under Lysimachus, d) Mesopotamia under Seleucus Nicator, e) Asia Minor (Pamphylia, Lycia, Phrygia, Cappadocia) under Antigonus and f) European lands (Macedonia, Central Greece, Epirus, Thessaly, Peloponness) under Cassander, son of Antipater, who married Thessalonica, Alexander's sister. (Thessalonica's name was given to the second in power city of the Byzantine Empire. The Sqopians, people without history, claim part of the unbounded Greek history and call this city Solun. They discard the macedonian name Thessalonica, just because they are not Macedonians). Perdiccas and Meleager were murdered and also Alexander's sons (Heracles from Barsine and Alexander from Roxane) had the same fate.

The largest cultural development took place in Alexandria between 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. We should mention the historian Polybius, the mathematician Euclid, the astronomers Aristarchus, Hipparchus and Seleucus, the philosophers Demetrius of Phaleron, Straton and Ecataeo of Abdyra and the geographers Eratosthenes and Poseidonius. It was the philosophic period of the Epicureans and Stoics and the artistic period that left to posterity such now-famous sculptures as the "Venus de Milo," the "Victory of Samothrace," and the "Laocoon." Ptolemeos II, the Philadelphus, founded the Museum at Alexandria, with its large library, which became the meeting place of scholars and writers. Callimachus of Cyrene, a leading Greek poet, was responsible for the catalog of the 500 thousands books of the library. He was succeded by Zenodotos, Apollonios, Rodhios, Aristophanes Byzantios and others. The rise of Rome put an end to Hellenic kingdoms. The famous Cleopatra VII, the last Macedonian descendent of Ptolemy committed suicide in 30 BC, after which Egypt was added to the Roman Empire.

As a general Alexander is among the greatest the world has known. He showed unusual versatility both in the combination of different arms and in adapting his tactics to the challenge of enemies who commanded novel forms of warfare--the Scyths nomads, the Indian hill tribes, or Porus with his elephants. His strategy was skillful and imaginative, and he knew how to exploit the chances that arise in every battle and may be decisive for victory or defeat; he also drew the last advantage from victory by relentless pursuit. His use of cavalry was so effective that he rarely had to fall back upon his infantry to deliver the crushing blow. He suffered the same wounds as his soldiers, he payed attention to every single man in the army and he always led the attack in person. Alexander's short reign marks a decisive moment in the history of Europe and Asia. His expedition and his own personal interest in scientific investigation brought many advances in the knowledge of geography and natural history. Alexander had set the limits of what was considered the inhabited earth. It would last until the voyages of the Portugese and Spanish, in the late 15th century, before Europeans were convinced that they had finally explored further than Alexander had done.

His career led to the moving of the great centres of civilization eastward and initiated the new age of the Greek territorial monarchies; it spread Hellenism in a vast colonizing wave throughout the Middle East and created, if not politically at least economically and culturally, a single world stretching from Gibraltar to the Punjab, open to trade and social intercourse and with a considerable overlay of common civilization and the Greek koine as a lingua franca. It is not untrue to say that the Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity as a world religion (based on the Greek koine), and the ten centuries of Byzantium were all in some degree the fruits of Alexander's achievement. The wisdom of classic Athens continued in the cities of Minor Asia, Pergamus and Ephessus, it was preserved in the cities of Alexandria and Antioche and finally came in the cities of Rome and Constantinople. The Europe we have today with its unique civilization is marked by three elements: Christianism, Ancient Greek thought and culture and Roman law. All three have their roots to Alexander's civilisation. He is one of the few individuals who shaped the world as we know it.

Arrianus - Alexander's Anavasis
Plutarch - Alexandros
Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos - History of Hellenic Nation
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Ekdotike Athinon S.A
Valerio Massimo Manfredi - Alexandros

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