Alexander the Great (All Parts)

In 334 BC, Alexander, King of Macedonia, began
one of the greatest military campaigns in history – against the superpower of the
age – the Persian Empire. Just 20 years-old, his brilliant and fearless
leadership won him battle after battle. And in an astonishing 10 year campaign that
took him to the edge of the known world, he carved out one of the largest empires ever
known. Few men have had such a massive impact on
the course of history. To the Persians, he was Alexander the Accursed,
but to the west, he was immortalised… as Alexander the Great. Ancient Greece. From around 500 BC, this rugged land was the
scene of remarkable developments in art, philosophy, and warfare. Its two greatest city-states were Athens,
a naval power, where democracy, art, drama and philosophy flourished; and Sparta, an
austere, militaristic society, famed for its formidable army. In 480 BC, these two city-states had joined
forces to fight an invasion by the mighty Persian Empire. At the narrow pass of Thermopylae, a small
Greek force, led by 300 Spartans, held up the enormous Persian army for three days,
before they were finally encircled and killed. Then, in the straits of Salamis, the Greek
fleet defeated the Persian navy … But they couldn’t prevent the Persians burning
the sacred temples of the Athenian acropolis. The next year, at Plataea, the Greeks won
a decisive land battle against the Persians, and forced them to abandon their invasion. The next fifty years were the golden age of
classical Greece. But rising tension between Athens and Sparta,
and their allies, eventually led to war, dragging the Greek world into decades of destructive
fighting. Wars between the Greek city-states continued
for almost a century, leaving them exhausted… and vulnerable to a new, rising power to the
north… For centuries, sophisticated Greeks had viewed
the mountainous kingdom of Macedonia as a backwater, hicksville – barely Greek at all. But under King Philip II, Macedonia emerged
as a formidable military force. His most famous reform: the introduction of
the sarissa, an 18 foot pike, twice the length of a normal Greek spear, and wielded by trained
infantry fighting in close formation, known as a phalanx. In 338 BC, at the Battle of Chaeronea, Philip’s
army crushed the joint forces of Thebes and Athens. Through alliance and conquest, Philip had
already gained control over most of his neighbours. Now, following this victory, he united all
Greece in an alliance known as the Hellenic League, or League of Corinth, with Philip
as hegemon – or supreme commander. Only Sparta stood aside. Philip began to plan a great campaign – a
Panhellenic, or all-Greek, war against the Persian Empire. Their old foe was now an ailing
superpower, its great riches ripe for the taking… But on the eve of launching his war, Philip
was assassinated by his own bodyguard – victim of Macedonia’s brutal court rivalries. He was succeeded by his 20 year-old son Alexander:
brilliant, restless, tutored by the great philosopher Aristotle, and already an experienced
military commander. Alexander inherited his father’s grand plan
to invade Persia, but first he had to secure his own position as king: At home, he had potential rivals executed,
then crushed rebellions in Illyria, Thessaly, and central Greece. He made a special example of Thebes – completely
destroying the ancient city, and selling its people into slavery. In the spring of 334 BC, now ready to launch
his war against the Persian Empire, Alexander led his army across the Hellespont into Asia
Minor. It was the start of one of the greatest military
campaigns in history. Alexander’s army was about 40,000 strong,
drawn from all parts of Greece. The infantry were commanded by the veteran
Macedonian general Parmenion. In the front rank, 9,000 Macedonian phalangites,
armed with the 18-foot sarissa. These were professional soldiers, well-trained
and drilled, who formed up for battle in the phalanx, 16 ranks deep. This packed formation presented a solid wall
of iron spear-tips, and was virtually unstoppable. But it was also difficult to manoeuvre, and
highly vulnerable to attacks on its flanks or rear. So 3,000 elite infantry, the hypaspists, or
‘shield-bearers’, armed with shorter spears, guarded its flanks. They were commanded by
Parmenion’s son, Nikanor. The second line of Alexander’s army was made
up of 7,000 Greek allies and 5,000 mercenaries, armed as hoplites. They took their name from
the hoplon, their large round shield, and carried, shorter, 8 foot spears. A hoplite phalanx was not as effective as
the Macedonian phalangites, but still well-armed and heavily armoured for the time. The Agrianes were the army’s elite skirmishers,
expert javelin-throwers from what’s now southern Bulgaria. Other skirmishers from Thrace, and Illyria,
were armed with javelins, slings and bows. The shock troops of Alexander’s army were
the Companion Cavalry, 1,800 elite horsemen armed with spear and sword, commanded by Philotas,
another son of Parmenion. Alexander led the royal squadron in person. There were also 1,800 cavalry from Thessaly,
commanded by Kallas, 600 from other parts of Greece, led by Erigyius, and 900 mounted
scouts from Thrace and Paeonia, under Kassander. The great Persian Empire was divided into
provinces, called satrapies. Each satrapy was ruled by a governor, or satrap. Those in Asia Minor now threatened by Alexander’s
invasion met to discuss strategy. Memnon of Rhodes, a skilled Greek general
in Persian service, urged them to avoid battle with Alexander. Instead, he advised them to
use a ‘scorched earth’ strategy – to burn villages and crops, and withdraw to the interior
– Alexander’s army, he promised, would quickly starve. It was good advice. But the satraps were unwilling
to lay waste to their own provinces without a fight. So they decided to face Alexander’s army at
the River Granicus. The Persian army formed up behind the river,
which was shallow, but 60 feet wide with steep banks. Their front line was a wall of cavalry, about
10,000 horsemen from across the empire – Medes and Hyrcanians from modern Iran, Bactrians
from Afghanistan, and Paphlagonians from Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Behind, in reserve, were the infantry – several
thousand Greek mercenaries, a common sight in Persian armies at this time. These men
fought for Persian gold, and were armed with the round shield and short spear of hoplites. The Persians may have been unsure if they
could trust these men in combat against fellow Greeks, and so placed them at the rear. Alexander, determined to attack and destroy
this Persian force before it could retreat, raced to the Granicus with his best troops. On his left wing, he posted Thessalian, Greek
and Thracian cavalry, under Parmenion’s command. In the centre, were the massed spears of the
phalanx, its six divisions commanded by Perdikkas, Koinos, Amyntas, Philip, Meleager, and Krateros. On the right, Alexander himself, with the
Companion Cavalry under Philotas, as well as the elite hypaspists, the Agrianes javelin-throwers,
and the archers. Alexander, with 13,000 infantry, and 5,000
cavalry in all, was probably slightly outnumbered. But ignoring advice to wait until dawn to
cross the river, he ordered an immediate assault. He sent a squadron of Companion cavalry to
ford the river, followed by a regiment of hypaspists and the Paeonian light cavalry. Alexander, calling on his men to show their
courage, then led his right wing across the river. As they reached the middle of the river, the
Greeks came under a hail of javelins, darts and arrows from the Persian line. Those that
made it to the far bank were immediately charged by the Persian cavalry. Alexander was in the thick of the fighting. “he attacked where the whole mass of their
cavalry and leaders were stationed. Around him a desperate conflict raged… horses were
jammed against horses and men against men, the Macedonians striving to drive the Persians
away from the river bank, the Persians determined to prevent them crossing and to push them
back into the river.” Alexander’s attack seemed reckless, but he
was buying time for the rest of his army to cross the river, including the irresistible
Macedonian phalanx. Then suddenly Alexander was fighting for his
life, charged by two Persian nobles. “Rhoesaces rode up to Alexander and struck
him on the head with his sword, breaking off a piece of his helmet. But the helmet broke
the force of the blow, and Alexander struck him down with his lance. Then, from behind,
Spithridates raised his sword against the king, but Black Cleitus, son of Dropidas,
anticipated his blow, struck his arm, and cut it off, sword and all.” Now the Greek army was across the river, and
the Persian cavalry faced a wall of Macedonian spears. Most turned and fled. The speed and shock of Alexander’s attack
meant Persia’s Greek mercenaries hadn’t even had time to join the battle. Alexander, in a blood-rage, or possibly regarding
these Greeks as traitors, ignored their appeals for mercy. The mercenaries were surrounded
on all sides, and massacred. Alexander had won a great victory. Asia Minor now lay at his mercy. But the Persian Empire was still a land of
immense wealth and power. Already it was mobilising its vast resources to face him. If Alexander was to conquer this empire and
take his place in history, he’d next have to face Darius, King of Kings, himself… In 334 BC, Alexander, the 21 year old king
of Macedonia, led a coalition of Greek forces against the greatest power of the age – the
Persian Empire. He led an army of skilled veterans – at
its heart, men of the Macedonian phalanx, armed with the 18 foot sarissa pike, and the
elite horsemen of his Companion Cavalry. Together, at the Battle of the River Granicus,
they’d won a first decisive victory over the Persian army. Now, as Alexander approached Sardis, capital
of the Persian province of Lydia, its commander surrendered without a fight. But before Alexander could advance further,
he needed to neutralise Persian naval power – Persia had a powerful fleet, with major naval
bases around the eastern Mediterranean – that could potentially cut his lines of communication
back to Greece. Rather than challenge the Persians at sea,
Alexander decided to attack their nearest bases: the Greek coastal cities of Miletus
and Halicarnassus. Both put up determined resistance, but were
taken by winter. The following spring of 333 BC, Alexander
continued his advance into Lycia… and Phrygia. At Gordium, he was shown the legendary ‘Gordian
Knot’ – a prophesy said that whoever could unpick it would rule all Asia. Alexander simply took his sword, and sliced
it in half. Meanwhile Memnon of Rhodes, a skilled Greek
general in Persian service, led Persian warships into the Aegean, and captured the islands
of Chios and Lesbos. But after Memnon’s sudden death from illness,
the offensive was abandoned. 18 months had passed since Alexander’s army
crossed the Hellespont and invaded the Persian Empire. Now Alexander led his men into Cilicia…
and was soon poised to cross the Nur Mountains into Syria. But then the main Persian army, led by King
Darius III himself, emerged behind the Greek army, to the north. Darius was determined to trap and destroy
Alexander’s army, which he outnumbered almost 2 to 1. So he blocked Alexander’s only escape route,
by moving his army to the coastal plain near Issus, just 6 miles wide from mountains to
sea. The narrow battlefield would force Alexander
to fight, but it also prevented Darius exploiting his huge numerical advantage. His army, by some estimates, was up to 100,000
strong, and contained some of the finest soldiers in his vast empire – including 10,000 of his
own household troops, known as the Immortals. His best cavalry were massed on his right,
towards the sea, where the ground was better for horses. His best infantry, his Greek mercenary
hoplites, formed the centre. Persian infantry formed his left wing. Alexander deployed his own army for battle,
once again entrusting his left wing, nearest the sea, to Parmenion, with the Greek cavalry
and infantry. In the centre, as always, was the Macedonian
phalanx. Alexander positioned himself and his best
troops on the right wing, toward the mountain slopes – his elite Agriane javelin-throwers,
his archers, and behind them, the Hypaspists and the Companion cavalry. When Alexander saw the strength of the Persian
cavalry facing Parmenion on the left, he moved across his Thessalian cavalry to reinforce
him. Despite his overwhelming numbers, Darius held
his position behind a small river, the Pinarus, and waited for Alexander to attack. He didn’t have to wait long. Alexander called out to his men, urging them
to fight bravely, picking out some by name. Then, at the head of his army’s right wing,
he charged. Once again, the speed and shock of the Macedonian
advance sent the enemy reeling back. But in the centre of the battlefield, the
Macedonian phalanx was in trouble. In its effort to keep up with Alexander, its formation
had become disordered. Now, in fierce fighting, with Darius’s Greek
mercenaries, the phalanx was slowly being driven back. Alexander, seeing the danger, regrouped, and
led the Companions in a headlong charge straight at the Persian centre. The Greek mercenaries,
threatened on their flank, were soon in disarray, and the Macedonian phalanx was able to resume
its advance. Alexander fought his way towards the Great
King, Darius himself. Rather than face this apparently mad and fearless
Macedonian king, Darius fled the battlefield in his royal chariot. Meanwhile the Macedonian left wing, under
Parmenion, was in a desperate fight against the best of the Persian cavalry. If the Persians
could break through here, they could envelop Alexander’s army, and snatch victory from
the jaws of defeat. But Parmenion and his troops fought doggedly,
and continued to hold the Persians at bay. As the news that Darius had fled spread among
his troops, they abandoned the fight, and tried to save themselves. The battle turned into a massacre. Ptolemy, one of the Macedonian commanders,
told Alexander there were so many Persian dead, his men had used them to fill a deep
ravine, so they could cross over it. The Battle of Issus was a stunning victory
for Alexander. And amongst the spoils of victory, were Darius’s
wife, mother, and three children, all taken alive, and well treated by Alexander. With the Persian field army in retreat, Alexander
now turned to subduing the western territories of the Persian empire. The next year, 332,
the coastal cities of Phoenicia submitted to Alexander – ending Persian naval power
in the Mediterranean. But the island-city of Tyre resisted. Tyre’s defenders fought bravely and skilfully
– even when Alexander began building a causeway to the island, protected by two giant siege
towers… which they counter-attacked with fire ships. But after seven months, the city walls were
breached, and Tyre fell. Most of its citizens were killed or enslaved. Gaza too was taken by siege. Alexander continued to Pelusium, on the Nile
Delta, where the Persian governor of Egypt surrendered the entire province to Alexander,
along with the royal treasury. At Memphis, priests of this ancient land welcomed
Alexander as their liberator from Persian rule, and crowned him Pharaoh. At the mouth of the Nile, he founded a new
city, Alexandria… then travelled to the desert oracle of Siwah, where, according to
some accounts, the priests welcomed him as son of Amun, king of the gods. Alexander returned east to Tyre… where in
331 BC, he received news of trouble back home. Despite his great victories over the Persians,
many Greeks regarded Alexander as a tyrant. King Agis of Sparta, with Persian support,
now launched a revolt against Macedonia. Antipater, Alexander’s commander in Greece,
was already dealing with rebellion in Thrace. But he quickly marched south… and met Agis
in battle near the city of Megalopolis. Even the legendary Spartans were now no match
for Macedonian military power. The Spartan army was crushed. King Agis himself was among the fallen. With his base in Greece secure once more,
Alexander advanced towards the Persian heartlands, seeking a final showdown with Darius. He received a letter from the Persian king,
offering him a fortune in gold, his daughter in marriage, and half his empire in exchange
for peace. But Alexander’s stunning victories, all the
oracles and acclamations, had now convinced him that his destiny was to rule the world… He rejected the Persian king’s offer. He didn’t
want half the empire – he was coming to take it all… In 334 BC, Alexander, 21 year-old ruler of
the small Greek kingdom of Macedonia, led an invasion of the vast Persian Empire. It seemed impossible odds, but thanks to Greek
military dominance, and Alexander’s fearless leadership, he won two great battles against
the Persians… at the River Granicus, and at Issus. Having subdued Persian lands west of the Euphrates
River, he now headed east into the empire’s heartlands, seeking a final showdown with
the Persian King, Darius III. Receiving news that a great Persian army,
led by Darius, had assembled at Gaugemela, near modern Mosul in Iraq – he made straight
for it. This was Darius’s last chance to stop Alexander
– and Alexander’s chance to smash Persian power once and for all. Darius had chosen to fight on open ground,
where his advantage in numbers would be more telling. His soldiers had also worked hard to clear
and flatten the terrain, to make it suitable for Persian war chariots. By modern estimates, the Persian Army was
between 50 and 80,000 strong, and made up of contingents from across the empire: infantry from Syria and Babylonia… cavalry from Armenia, India and Central Asia… up to 200 scythed chariots… even a handful
of war elephants. Alexander’s army was smaller, and may have
been outnumbered by as much as two to one. He deployed his units in their usual formation: On the left flank, Thracian and Thessalian
cavalry, commanded by Parmenion. In the centre, the Macedonian veterans of
the phalanx – each armed with their 18 foot sarissa pike. On the right flank, Alexander with his elite
cavalry, the Companions; and his best infantry, the hypaspists. These were the units with
which Alexander planned to launch his main attack. Greek hoplites formed a second line, and supported
both wings – which were angled back, to guard against encirclement by the Persians. The battle began when Alexander led his wing
out to the right – a move that took the Persians by surprise. Could Alexander really be trying to encircle
their huge army? The Persians mirrored his movement, taking
troops away from their centre, to outflank Alexander, and prevent him leaving the area
they’d cleared for the Persian chariots. But Alexander’s unusual manoeuvre was a trap
– to entice the Persians to weaken their centre. When he saw that it had worked, he ordered
his Greek cavalry to charge, to keep the Persians fixed in position. A giant cavalry battle developed on the right
wing. Darius, meanwhile, judging this to be the
decisive moment, unleashed his chariots. But expert Agrianes javelin-throwers took out
horses and crews – while the Greek infantry opened lanes, allowing the chariots to pass
harmlessly through. Now Alexander led his Companion cavalry, and
parts of the Macedonian phalanx, in a headlong charge straight at the weakened Persian centre,
fighting his way towards Darius himself. The sudden ferocity of Alexander’s assault
threw the Persians into panic – the centre of the army broke and ran – King Darius himself
leading the rout. But Alexander’s left wing was in serious trouble
– Parmenion, facing a huge onslaught by Persian cavalry, was virtually surrounded
– Indian and Scythian horsemen had even ridden through a gap in the Greek line – but rather
than wheeling and attacking the Greeks from behind, they’d carried straight on to loot
their camp. Parmenion sent a desperate appeal to Alexander
for help. The King abandoned his pursuit of Darius,
regrouped, and charged the Persian right wing. It was the hardest and bloodiest fighting
of the battle – claiming the lives of sixty of Alexander’s Companions. Finally, as news of Darius’s flight spread
across the battlefield, the last Persian horsemen turned and fled. The Battle of Gaugamela was a stunning and
complete victory for Alexander. According to ancient sources, he lost just
a few hundred men, while the Persians lost thousands. Alexander had routed Darius’s great army,
and now the road to Babylon – the empire’s main capital – lay open. The Macedonian king entered the great city
in triumph, recognised by Persian officials as its new rightful ruler. So too at the city of Susa, where Alexander
ceremonially took his seat upon the royal throne of Persia. In the Zagros mountains, at a pass known as
the Persian Gates, a courageous Persian force held up Alexander’s army for a month. The Greeks eventually found a mountain path
that bypassed their position, allowing them to encircle and wipe out the defenders. In early 330 BC, Alexander reached Persepolis,
the empire’s ceremonial capital. Alexander wanted to appear as a liberator
to the Persians – as a legitimate successor to King Darius – but now, he ordered Persepolis
to be pillaged and burnt – retribution for the Persian invasion of Greece, and the burning
of Athens’ sacred temples in 480 BC. Alexander now headed north into Media, where
Darius had taken refuge in the royal city of Ecbatana. Alexander was determined to capture
Darius – but the fugitive king fled east in the hope of raising a new army in the provinces
of Parthia, Bactria, and Sogdia. It was not to be. As Alexander closed in,
the Persian king was murdered by one of his own governors, Bessus, who then proclaimed
himself the empire’s new ruler. Alexander gave orders for Darius to be buried
in the royal tombs of Persepolis, alongside his ancestors. Then he paused to organise his vast new empire. Alexander appointed viceroys to rule the provinces
on his behalf, keeping several Persians – who had sworn loyalty – in their posts. He also
allowed Greek troops, who wished, to return home. Then he resumed his march east. His goal: to find and kill the usurper Bessus… subjugate the empire’s eastern provinces… and reach the far edge of the world… In 330 BC, Alexander continued his march east. His goal: to find and kill Bessus – a Persian
usurper, claiming to be the rightful king – and to subjugate the empire’s eastern
provinces… Alexander headed first for Aria, today part
of Afghanistan, where the Persian governor Satibarzanes had launched a revolt – after
initially pretending to submit to Alexander. The rebellion was crushed, and Satibarzanes
killed in single combat by a Greek cavalry officer. Nearby, Alexander founded the city of Alexandria
Ariana, modern Herat – one of around a dozen cities that Alexander would eventually found,
almost all bearing his name. Alexander marched on to Phrada. The Macedonian court had a long tradition
of plots and assassination. Six years before, Alexander’s own father, King Philip, had been
murdered by his bodyguard. He was now informed that Philotas, commander
of his Companion Cavalry, had uncovered a plot to assassinate Alexander, but kept it
secret. Philotas, and his father Parmenion, were among
the most respected of Alexander’s commanders, and had played crucial roles in all his great
victories. But when Philotas confessed under torture,
Alexander had him executed… then sent assassins back to Ecbatana, where Parmenion was governor,
to kill him before he even heard of his son’s death, and had a chance to turn against Alexander. In 329, Alexander resumed his pursuit of Bessus. En route, he founded the city of Alexandria
Arachosia – modern Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. As he reached Kunduz, Bessus was betrayed
by his own men, and handed over in chains. Alexander sent him back to Persia for execution,
as a king-slayer. Alexander pushed on into modern Tajikistan,
where the Sogdians rose up against him. He had to fight off attacks by local tribes,
and take several towns by assault. On the banks of the Jaxartes River, he founded
the city of Alexandria-Eschate, meaning Alexandria ‘the Furthest’ – so-named because he had,
at last, reached the limit of the Persian Empire. This frontier was frequently raided by nomads,
known to the Greeks as Scythians. Alexander lured them into a decisive battle
near the Jaxartes. The result was a crushing victory for the Macedonian king, that put
an end to the raids. But fighting against Bactrian and Sogdian
tribes continued, frustrating Alexander, and tying him down in a difficult guerilla war. By now, many of the Macedonian troops were
unhappy with Alexander. Most had not seen their homes in years, but their king seemed
bent on conquest without end. What was worse, he’d begun to adopt the rituals and dress
of their defeated Persian enemy – customs they viewed as effeminate, and decadent. At Maracanda, modern Samarkand, after a furious,
drunken argument, Alexander killed Cleitus the Black. Cleitus had been one of Alexander’s best generals,
and the man who’d saved his life at the Battle of the Granicus. Alexander was full of remorse, but his growing
arrogance was alienating more and more old comrades. When he tried to make his countrymen perform
the traditional Persian ritual of proskynesis – prostrating themselves before the king
– he crossed a line. To Greeks this was blasphemy – only a god
was worthy of such respect – and Alexander was forced to back down. In Bactria, another plot to assassinate Alexander
was uncovered. This time the ringleader was a royal page – one of the sons of Macedonian
nobility who attended the king. Hermolaus had become murderously bitter towards Alexander
over a perceived injustice. He and his accomplices were tortured, and then stoned to death. Callisthenes, Alexander’s official historian,
was also implicated in the conspiracy. He was thrown in prison, where he later died. That summer, in 327 – according to legend
– Alexander became captivated by the beauty of Roxana, daughter of a Bactrian lord. Their marriage was also a sound political
move, helping to end local revolt against his rule – and allowing him to continue
his advance… into modern Pakistan, and India. Alexander now prepared to subdue the Persian
Empire’s most eastern provinces, which had yet to recognise his kingship. To do so he would first have to cross the
Hindu Kush mountains and reach the Indus river valley. Advancing in two columns, his army won a series
of skirmishes against the Aspasii and Assaceni, as they fought their way into what’s now the
Swat Valley of northern Pakistan. After a fierce siege, Alexander took the Assacenian
capital of Massaga. According to legend it was ruled by a beautiful
queen, Cleophis, who bore Alexander a son, and was allowed to keep her throne. The ruler of Taxila, near modern Islamabad,
had formed an alliance with Alexander. Together they marched to face Porus, king
of Pauravas, at the Battle of the Hydaspes. It was Alexander’s costliest battle, as Porus’s
war elephants inflicted terrible casualties amongst the Greeks. But despite Porus’s fearless leadership, the
battle ended in a decisive victory for Alexander, winning him control of the Punjab. Alexander wanted to push on into India, to
reach the great river which ancient Greek geographers said formed the edge of the world. But at the River Hyphasis, known today as
the Beas, his army mutinied. His men had marched thousands of miles, fought
countless battles, and not seen their homes in 8 years. They’d heard rumours of gigantic
armies waiting for them in India. They refused to go any further. Alexander was furious, but had to turn the
army around. He followed the rivers of the Punjab to the
sea – a journey that took 10 months. On the way, he defeated the Mahlians, but while
leading the assault on their capital, was wounded in the chest and nearly killed. On reaching the coast, part of the army, under
Nearchus, boarded ships, and returned to Persia by sea…. sailing through the Straits of
Hormuz…. and entering the Persian Gulf. It was one of the great ancient voyages of
exploration, as these waters had been previously unknown to Greeks. Meanwhile Alexander led the rest of the army
back by land through the Gedrosian desert, today in southern Pakistan. But extreme heat
and shortages of food and water led to terrible suffering, and many deaths among his army. On his return to Persia, Alexander executed
several of his viceroys and governors – men accused of ruling unjustly, and robbing temples
and tombs, during his long absence in the east. At Susa, he arranged a magnificent mass-marriage
of Macedonian officers to 80 Persian noblewomen, to strengthen bonds between his two kingdoms. Alexander himself married two Persian princesses. He also paid all his soldiers debts, and ordered
30,000 youths from across the empire to be trained in the Macedonian art of war. But at Opis, his Macedonian troops mutinied.
They were offended by Alexander’s apparent preference for Persian advisors and Persian
ways. Alexander had the ringleaders executed, and made a speech to the men, reminding them
of the glories they’d won together, and leading eventually to an emotional reconciliation. At Ecbatana, Alexander’s closest and most
trusted friend, Hephaestion, died of fever. The king was grief stricken, went days without
eating, and ordered a period of public mourning across the empire. Alexander waged a successful campaign against
the mountain raiders of Cossaea, who not even the Persian kings had been able to subdue. Returning to Babylon, he was met by embassies
from distant peoples, come to recognise his greatness – Aethiopians, Libyans, European
Scythians, Lucanians, Etruscans, Gauls and Iberians. Alexander’s Bactrian wife Roxana was now pregnant… But as he planned his next campaign, to Arabia
and beyond, he developed a sudden fever, and died days later, aged just 32. The cause of Alexander’s death has never been
established. It may have been malaria, cholera, typhus… or poison. Alexander died undefeated in battle. His reputation
as a brilliant, fearless and daring military commander remains undimmed. His decade long campaign created one of the
largest empires ever known, stretching from Greece to Pakistan. But it was vast and unstable, held together
only by his own brilliance and name. Alexander left no plans for his succession,
and his generals soon began fighting among themselves to carve out their own empires. In the Wars of the Successors, Alexander’s
widow Roxana and his young son were murdered. His own gold sarcophagus, en route to Macedonia
for burial was hijacked, and ended up in Alexandria, in Egypt. Today, it’s location remains one of the world’s
great unsolved mysteries. Few men have ever had such an impact on the
course of history as Alexander the Great. The breath-taking achievements of his short
life ushered in the Hellenistic Age, as Greek ideas spread across the territory of his former
empire, fusing with local traditions to trigger new developments in art, science, government
and language. Some of the successor kingdoms to his great
empire were short-lived – others endured for centuries.. but all, in turn, would fall
to new forces… and in the west, to the rising power of Rome. Research and artwork for this video comes
from Osprey Publishing’s extensive range of books on ancient history.
Every Osprey book examines a particular battle, campaign or combat unit in authoritative,
meticulous detail. And with more than 3,000 titles, they cover
everything from ancient warfare to modern conflict.
Visit their website to see their online catalogue. Thank you to all the Patreon supporters who
made this video possible, and to the channel ‘Invicta’ – find out more about key
moments from the past in their ‘Moments in History’ series.

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