Alexander the Great - Wasson's · PDF file 2020. 1. 31. · Alexander's conquests...
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Alexander the Great The Stuff in Red is important!
356 -323 B.C. , King of the Macedonians
Cavalry commander at age eighteen, king at twenty, conqueror of the Persian Empire at twenty-six, explorer of the Indian frontier at thirty,
Alexander the Great died before his thirty-third birthday
Alexander's defeat of the Persian Empire removed the bloc that had prevented the spread of Greek settlements into the East.
Although no surviving evidence suggests that Alexander himself promoted a policy of Hellenization, Greek culture undoubtedly penetrated into Asia as the result of his conquests
This is Alexander's most certain, though unintended, historical achievement.
Alexander's military genius is undisputed.
He improved the fine army inherited from his father, Philip, by the addition of allied forces; he strengthened the cavalry arm, utilized weapons specialists, and employed a corps of engineers; he was invincible in both siege warfare and set battles.
His movements were marked by speed; his logistical, intelligence, and communications operations were flawless; and his ability to improvise was unrivaled.
Yet he was careful in strategy: rather than strike deep into Asia immediately, he spent nearly two years securing the coastal areas of Asia Minor and the Levant in order to ensure that Persian naval forces would not interdict his lines to Europe.
Bit by bit he wore away the western sections of the Persian Empire before driving into Mesopotamia and the Iranian plateau.
Only three setbacks checked his progress: along the Indian frontier his officers refused to march farther east, after his return to Babylonia, his Macedonian troops mutinied against the integration of Asian troops into the ranks. the horrible loss of personnel in the Makran desert on the return march from India to the Persian Gulf, where lack of water and food accomplished what no enemy army had been able to do.
Alexander's conquests created a legend that would provide the standard by which other leaders measured their careers. Kings, generals, and emperors discovered that they were unable to compete with the legend and turned to emulation— Antiochus the Great, Pompey the Great, Nero, Caracalla, Severus Alexander, and Charlemagne , to mention a few—and Alexander's career as a metaphor for achievement has reached even into modern times.
But the ruler who is arguably the most famous secular figure in history was little admired in his own lifetime.
Although we lack sufficient details about his character, there was no doubt that he was an inspiring leader and personally a very brave soldier.
He was ruthless toward those who opposed him—even from within his own ranks —but fair and honest toward those who exhibited courage and skill.
He probably suffered from an overwhelming ambition and an uncontrollable temper that often arose from drinking excessive amounts of wine.
He was widely despised by many of the subject Greeks, whose attitude might best be summed up by the comment attributed to one Athenian orator who, when informed of Alexander's death, replied, "What? Alexander dead? Impossible! The world would reek of his corpse!"
Alexander's first battles were fought under the command of his father, during a period when King Philip was campaigning to pull together the city states of Greece into a ‘Greek Community' whose members would "swear to keep the peace among themselves, maintain existing Constitutions and permit change only by constitutional methods, and combine in action against any violator of the Common Peace....."
Prior to this campaign, the city states had suffered from continual ‘stasis', or revolution; and fighting among themselves. Philip's campaign built the base of a united Greece that allowed Alexander's later expeditions.
Alexander learned military arts from his father, but he also learned diplomacy; in a period when true diplomacy was little known. (Much like today.) Honorable enemies were treated well, while enemies who had broken oaths or allegiances were treated harshly. Alexander took his lessons with him into Asia, and made good use of them.
Alexander ascended to the Macedonian throne in 335 BC, on the death of Philip by assassination. For the next two years, he scrambled to hold together the ‘Community', whose members still harbored dreams of their own greatness and intentions of revolt. His achievements were astonishing, both militarily and politically.
Alexander won every single battle he entered.
The battles were usually won with minimal loss on his side, in spite of the fact that he was frequently outnumbered and was usually at the end of a relatively long supply line.
He marched his army from his frontiers in the Balkans to Thebes to put down revolution because "Alexander thought that, when he was going on an expedition far from the homeland, he ought not to leave his neighbors planning revolt unless they had been completely humbled."
During the next twelve years, when he was conquering Asia, there were no significant revolts in Greece.
Politically, Alexander followed the example of his father's generosity in victory.
States that lost to him normally lost only their political independence. Their customs were allowed to remain the same, their form of government was allowed to remain essentially the same, and tribute to the new king was not excessive.
The biggest change was that revolution (stasis) was no longer allowed, and was severely punished.
His enemies were better off after being subdued than they were before, and a form of peace finally came to Greece.
Alexander's army, when he entered Asia, consisted of about 5,100 cavalry and 32,000 infantry; of which only about half were Macedonian.
The other half came from the various tribes he had subdued in the Balkans and the city states of Greece that were also now subservient to him.
His fleet of 220 warships was supported by an undefined number of merchant ships, and total naval crews totaled about 90,000. Only about 6,000 of these were Macedonian.
So the majority of his forces were non-Macedonians, yet they served loyally. They won his first battle, although the portion of the army he took into the fight was outnumbered two to one and the enemy was in a strong defensive position.
During his extensive campaigns, Alexander received periodic reinforcements from Greece and Macedonia;
but the army became more and more populated by soldiers from the provinces that were ‘spear won.'
His genius becomes evident in his treatment of his conquered foes; and his pattern after he entered Asia was consistent.
Every city that he entered was annexed; with privileges and duties dependent on a variety of factors. On first landing in Asia, he had issued a proclamation forbidding looting and ravaging, because ‘his own property was to be spared.'
He considered the lands that he was conquering to be, rightly, his own.
He left the local governments in place to administer their own laws with such additions as he added for his needs and he frequently took into his service former enemy soldiers, especially cavalry, who wished to join him.
Word of his policies spread ahead of him, so that by the time he approached Sardis, the city's military commander and the chief citizens met him well outside the town and surrendered the city and the treasury.
This pattern continued, essentially unchanged, for the remainder of his campaigns. Military action where needed, usually against great odds, was always successful.
The surrounding countryside was then annexed and the people allowed to continue their lives peacefully, but now under his rule.
Soldiers and supplies would be added to the army to replace losses, and commanders, garrisons and governors would be left behind as needed, to administer the new territories, while the army advanced further East.
The only real exception to this pattern was on the rare occasion when a territory revolted after being annexed.
Even then, Alexander might be lenient, but if the situation was serious and an example was required, he executed all the men in town and enslaved the women and children.
Alexander refrained from destruction and ravaging because he considered the new territories ‘his own', and had no wish to damage his own property.
The side benefit of this, and other humanitarian policies, resulted in the native peoples of the territories he invaded joining him and becoming loyal subjects.
This is the more common pattern, and it is because of this that Alexander stands out. He was a great general and a great statesman together.