The Year was 340 BC

Alexander’s father Philip II

That was the year the Macedonian king decided he couldn’t be bothered to deal with a troublesome rebellion in southern Thrace. So he sent his 16-year-old son to take care of it. Not only did the teenager succeed, he renamed the major city after himself – Alexandria. That was the beginning of Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great

He had the elixir of the gods in his veins. Hercules. Achilles. That was what his beloved mother, Olympias, told him. Alexander never questioned it. His tutor was none other than Aristotle, who wrote an annotated version of the Iliad for Alexander; he kept it with him all his life.


While Alexander was away battling Trace, his father repudiated his mother, sending her home to her family. Alexander was furious. Four years later, Alexander’s father was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter. Now, Alexander, just past his 20th birthday, was king of Macedonia.

In one of his first battles as king, Alexander defeated the unbeatable Persians, led by Darius III, even though the Macedonians were greatly outnumbered. Next, Alexander destroyed the Phoenicians at their unconquerable stronghold of Tyre after a seven-month siege. It was on to Egypt, Palestine, Babylon, and points east with his army.

Battle of Issus

At the end of a day’s fighting or marching, Alexander ate with his troops, arranged contests, sang, drank. After a decade and a half, his army rebelled; they wanted to go home. Alexander led them back through a desert in summer, losing thousands of his men to dehydration.

Macedonia at the time of Philip’s death.

sedentary life of an emperor did not fit him well – Alexander drank too much and developed a hair-trigger temper.  He was planning an Arabian campaign with a new army when he fell ill in Susa, at Nebuchadnezzar II’s palace in Babylon. Alexander supposedly spent a night drinking, got chilled and died of a fever a 12 days later, one month before his 33rd birthday.

Alexander the Great’s Empire.

The cause of death is still being debated, more than 23 centuries later. It may have been malaria. It may have typhoid. It may have been West Nile virus. It may have been overmedication with hellebore. His generals accused each other of poisoning him. Alexander the Great’s massive kingdom fell apart the moment of his death. His generals divided it among themselves.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Steve says:

    It’s interesting to see, of Alexander’s great empire, how much of it is still torn by war and strife today.

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