Alexander III

("the Great") (356 b.c.-323 b.c.)
   A Macedonian Greek king who, in the extraordinarily brief period of a decade, conquered all of Mesopotamia, along with Anatolia (or Asia Minor), Egypt, and what is now Afghanistan. Though Alexander's empire was equally brief in duration, it was the largest single centralized realm that ever existed in the Near East. Alexander was the son of Macedonia's King Philip II and Olympias, one of Philip's seven wives. The boy was an excellent student and early developed a driving ambition to achieve great deeds and everlasting fame. Like the legendary Greek warrior Achilles (the central character of Homer's epic poem the Iliad), with whom he often identified himself, Alexander consciously chose a brief life of fame and glory over a long one of obscurity. "Those who endure hardship and danger are the ones who achieve glory," Alexander said, according to his ancient biographer Arrian, "and the most gratifying thing is to live with courage and to die leaving behind eternal renown." (Anabasis Alexandri 5.26)
   Alexander certainly fulfilled this singular, lofty goal. In 338 b.c., at the age of eighteen, he commanded the Macedonian cavalry in the Battle of chaeronea, in which Philip defeated the major city-states of southern Greece. Soon afterward Philip was assassinated, and the twenty-year-old Alexander was king of Macedonia and captain-general of Greece. After ruthlessly putting down rebellions by those Greeks who had underestimated him because of his youth, he turned his attention to the invasion of the Persian Empire, which Philip had been planning for some time. In 334 b.c. Alexander led an army of some thirty-two thousand infantry and five thousand cavalry across the Hellespont (now the Dardenelles strait) and into Anatolia. He quickly won a major victory at the Granicus River, defeating an army led by some of the local Persian governors. Then he marched southward and at Issus in Syria defeated a larger army commanded by the Persian king, Darius III, although Darius escaped capture. Next, Alexander marched through Palestine and into Egypt, which he liberated from Persian control. In the Nile delta he founded the city of Alexandria, named after himself, which rapidly developed into one of the major commercial and cultural centers of the ancient world.
   The hills and plains of Mesopotamia now beckoned Alexander. Early in 331 b.c. his forces penetrated the Persian heartland (now Iraq and Iran) and at Gaugamela, located 270 miles (435 km) north of Babylon, he crushed another large army commanded by Darius. The Persian king escaped once more, but soon some of his own nobles, led by a provincial governor named Bessus, betrayed him and tried to trade him to Alexander in exchange for leniency for themselves. They murdered Darius, after which Alexander captured them.
   The way Alexander dealt with Bessus is an excellent illustration of the young conqueror's often ruthless methods. It also shows how Alexander avidly, and in many cases quite strategically, adopted customs of the countries he conquered. For example, cutting off the nose and ears or tearing someone limb from limb were not normal means of punishment and execution in Greece, but they were in ancient Mesopotamia and Iran, including Assyria and Persia. So Alexander inflicted one or both of these gruesome penalties on Bessus. Two different accounts of Bessus's fate have survived. One, an account which Arrian purports was taken from a book written by one of Alexander's leading followers, Ptolemy, claims:
   Alexander [said] that he [Bessus] must be stripped of his clothes and led in a dog-collar and made to stand on the right [side] of the road, along which he [Alexander] and his army would pass. The order was obeyed, and when Alexander saw him [Bessus] there, he stopped his chariot and asked him why he had treated Darius, the king, kinsman and benefactor, so shamefully, first seizing him, then hurrying him off in chains, and finally murdering him. Bessus answered that ... the object was to win Alexander's favor. ... At this, Alexander ordered him to be [whipped]. . .. [Later] Alexander had Bessus brought before a full meeting of his officers and accused him of treachery to Darius. He then gave orders that his nose and the tips of his ears should be cut off. (Anabasis Alexandri 3.30, 4.8)
   In contrast, Alexander's other major ancient biographer, the first-century a.d. Greek writer Plutarch, claims that Bessus was executed in the following manner:
   [Alexander] had the tops of two straight trees bent down so that they met, and part of Bessus's body was tied to each. Then, when each tree was let go and sprang back to its upright position, the part of the body attached to it was torn off by the recoil. (Life of Alexander 43)
   During the months during which Alexander chased and dealt with Bessus and the other conspirators who had killed Darius, the Macedonian king occupied the three Persian capitals - Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis - none of which offered any resistance. Then Alexander completed his conquest of Persia, a process that took him to the western borders of India. There, in 326 b.c., he defeated a local king, Porus, on the banks of the Hydapses River. Though Alexander desired to press on and conquer the rest of India, his exhausted and homesick troops refused to go any farther. Reluctantly, therefore, Alexander ordered the army's return to Babylon, a difficult journey in which many soldiers died. Reaching Susa, he married Darius's eldest daughter, perhaps in hopes of initiating a lasting merger of Greek and Persian/Mesopotamian culture. Then he moved on to Babylon and began planning an invasion of Arabia. However, Alexander, then only thirty-three, suddenly died in Babylon on June 10, 323 b.c., perhaps of alcohol poisoning. Arrian later summed up this remarkable man this way:
   He had great personal beauty, invincible power of endurance, and a keen intellect. . . . He had an uncanny instinct for the right course in a difficult and complex situation. . . . Noble indeed was his power of inspiring his men, of filling them with confidence, and . . . sweeping away their fear by the spectacle of his own fearlessness. . . . Never in all the world was there another like him, and therefore I cannot but feel that some power more than human was concerned in his birth. (Anabasis Alexandri 7.28-29)
   Alexander's vast empire did not last long, mainly because his principal generals and governors, the so-called Successors, en-gagedinal on gand bloody power struggle for possession of it. A handful of victorious Successors, including Seleucus and Ptolemy, divided the realm into smaller units, including the Seleucid Empire, which encompassed most of Mesopotamia.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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  • Alexander III. — Alexander III. ist der Name folgender Personen: Weltliche Herrscher: Alexander III. von Makedonien, genannt Alexander der Große (356 v. Chr.–323 v. Chr.), König (356 bis 323 v. Chr.) Alexander III. (Schottland) (1241–1286), König (1249 bis 1286)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alexander III —     Pope Alexander III     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope Alexander III     Pope from 1159 81 (Orlando Bandinelli), born of a distinguished Sienese family; died 3 August, 1181. As professor in Bologna he acquired a great reputation as a canonist …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Alexander III — may refer to:*Alexander III of Macedon, also known as Alexander the Great *Alexander (emperor), Byzantine Emperor (912–913) *Pope Alexander III pope from 1159 to 1181 *Alexander III of Scotland (1241 1286), king of Scotland *Alexander III of… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander III. — Alexander III., d. Gr., geb. im Herbste 356 v. Chr., Zögling des Aristoteles, gelangte 336 nach der Ermordung seines Vaters zur Herrschaft. Einen unmündigen Sohn des Philipp beseitigte Aʼs. Mutter Olympias, den Attalus, der ein Heer am Hellespont …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Alexander III — 1. died 1181, Italian ecclesiastic: pope 1159 81. 2. (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich) 1845 94, czar of Russia 1881 94. * * * I born Sept. 2, 1241 died March 18/19, 1286, near Kinghorn, Fife, Scot. King of Scotland (1249–86). Son of Alexander II, he… …   Universalium

  • ALEXANDER III — I. ALEXANDER III cognomentô Magnus, (ob quam causam Graeci ἀλεξανδρῶδες pro ςθαυμαςτόν, admirabile, dixerunt, quod ad l. 13. Silii Heinsius observat p. 132) Philippi Macedonum Regis, et Olympiadis fil. quamlibet Olympias nobiliorem ei patrem… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Alexander III — (d. 1181)    Pope.    Alexander III was born Orlando Bandinelli in Siena, Italy. In his adult life, he was a successful teacher of Canon Law at the University of Bologna and he was elected Pope in 1159, in succession to hadrian iv. His candidacy… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Alexander III — noun son of Alexander II who was czar of Russia (1845 1894) • Syn: ↑Czar Alexander III • Regions: ↑Russia • Instance Hypernyms: ↑czar, ↑tsar, ↑tzar * * * 1. d …   Useful english dictionary

  • Alexander III — (1845–94)    Czar of Russia 1881–94. Alexander in was a stern and old fashioned Russian nationalist, opposed to any kind of reform. When he came to the throne he was determined to undo all the liberal influence brought in by his father ALEXANDER… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Alexander III — n. (1845 1894) Russian czar from 1881 to 1894; Orlando Bandinelli (c.1105 1181), pope from 1159 to 1181; Alexander the Great (356 323 BC), king of Macedonia and conqueror of the Greek city states and the Persian empire …   English contemporary dictionary

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