by Jared Garcia, Josue Souza, Aminta Gamez, Ryan Lane
Alexander (far left) in the battle of Issus
Kruck, Werner. Battle of Issus. 1st century BC. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. alexandermosaik.de Web. 5 Dec. 2015
What made Alexander “Great”?
The Macedonian King’s ambitions lent extension of Macedonian rule over Greece, Central Asia and land in India. In order to maintain Macedonian rule over a vast empire and unite people, he used several tactics to complete his conquests. Alexander was a brilliant military leader, an amazing tactician and he did so much in the years he ruled that he was named “the Great”.
What were Alexander’s tactics to unite and rule his empire?
First, defeat his enemies. Second, spread Greek ideas and mesh them with Macedonian ideas. Third, take advantage of religion as a steppingstone. Lastly, adopt foreign ways to finalize unification of people and consolidate his ruling.
How did he manage to rule an empire?
At the age of 20 Alexander takes the throne after his father, Philip II, had died. So he connects himself to Heracles, saying that he is descendent of him. Which is very important because Heracles was looked at as “the hero” of mythology. Heracles was the strongest of them all and to connect your self to someone that many people have told stories about and looked up to is very important, it allows justifies why he is the ruler of Greece and why he is allowed to rule, instead of someone else. He also links himself to the great god Zeus. He’s claimed to be Zeus’ son, there for a making himself a demigod, and essentially a hero people look up to. Throughout mythology we see that being a son of a god has its advantages since you are looked up to and are someone who shouldn’t have there authority challenge and is someone who you know has the divine right to rule.
Bust of Alexander the Great
Dunn, Andrew. AlexanderTheGreatBust. 2004. British Museum, London. andrewdunnphoto.com. Web. 5 Dec. 2015
In order to unite so many different people, what was his plan to do this?
Throughout his conquest, Alexander, the brilliant man he is, utilizes the norms and practices of other cultures, and he is able to adapt and even uses some things in other cultures to further his own power. Although he is only half Greek, Alexander understands the importance of mythology to the Greeks, and how if you are connected to a person of myth you can establish legitimacy to ruling the Greeks.
We can see an example of Alexander utilizing other cultures to gain power, when he is in Persia. He connects himself with the royal family. Not only does he connect himself to the royal family but creates a link between Greek/Macedonian and Persian gods. Alexander was trying utilized Persians gods and connects it with Greek gods so that he can have an advantage over the people in Persia to make them believe he was doing what the gods wanted him to do.
The way that Alexander was able to spread the Greek culture and ideas was in the cities he built. Like Greek cities, the cities he built in the places he conquered had marketplaces, temples, and theaters. One of the most famous of the new cities was called Alexandria. It was located in Egypt near the sea. Alexandria was designed with wide major streets crossed by narrower streets. It had many Greek features. It had a marketplace, a university, a gymnasium, and a theater. The city also boasted law courts and a library. There was even a temple dedicated to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea within it. This shows that Alexander was not only able to conquer Egypt, but he was also able to convince them to adopt major parts of the Greek culture within a newly built city.
Alexander’s plan to use the religion of the place he is conquering. When he began to attempt to conquer Egypt and Persia he recognized their gods and treated them as equals to the Greek gods. He would visit oracle sites, make sacrifices, and would have temples built in their honor. On one occasion, he visited the oracle site of the Egyptian god Ammon. When he arrived, a priest welcomed him as “God’s son.” When the priest said this it helped Alexander gain the loyalty of the Egyptians. After being called “Gods son”, Alexander began encouraged the idea that he himself was a god. After his visit to the Egyptian oracle, he began to start wearing a crown of two rams’ horns. This crown was the sacred headdress of the Egyptian god Ammon. Seeing Alexander wearing the crown encouraged the Egyptians to accept him as a god. So by accepting and then becoming part of the Egyptian religion, Alexander was able to be hugely accepted by Egyptians and then was also able to keep peace between Greek and Egyptian culture while he was conquering Egypt.
Were his conquests successful?
An example of Alexander the Great successfully utilizing other cultures to benefit him is when he is invading India. His conquests in India lead him to a battle against 2 kings of Indian tribes. During the battle the Indian army had brought out something that Alexander had never seen in battle before, which were the war elephants. Alexander the Great was not accustomed to fighting war elephants since he never had, so he was brilliantly able to adapt to these new instrument of war and was able to defeat the elephants. It is only because Alexander is so gifted in being able to adapt to different cultures and adapt to the situation at hand that he was able to defeat the Indian army.
Another example is when he goes into Egypt during the campaigns of Persia. Egypt saw him as a liberator and welcomed him with open arms. Alexander the Great sets up the city of Alexandria to link it to Greece. Also wile in Egypt he rebuilds temples for the Greeks, and he openly embraces the Egyptian culture, which can be seen as a political move to try and have them as an ally or even try to rule Egypt himself.
Alexander’s tactic to show respect for the cultures of the people he conquered. For example, in Persia he adopted the Persian system of government. He allowed Persian governors to run the day-to-day business of their lands. Alexander also borrowed Persian customs. He began wearing decorative Persian-style clothes. He received official visitors as a Persian king would, in a luxurious tent. The tent was supported by 30-foot columns. The columns were covered in gold and silver and decorated with precious stones. Alexander even encouraged marriage between Macedonians and Persians. He himself even married the eldest daughter of Darius.
Alexander covering the body of Darius with his cape
Steakley, James. Den Leichnam des Darius. 2009. Privately Owned. Wikimedia.com. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.
Alexander the Great was a man that conquered many places. The places that are most surprising are Persia and Egypt, he was able to conquer Egypt by mixing into their religion and make him very trustworthy to them. He was able to conquer Persia by embracing their style of clothing and making himself look very much like a Persian. He not only made himself look like a Persian but he demanded that he be greeted like a Persian king when meeting people. By doing these things and fully embracing other cultures and their beliefs, Alexander the Great was well liked everywhere, even while he was conquering their land.
Walbank, Frank W. “Alexander the Great | King of Macedonia.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 07 Apr. 2015. Web. 05 Dec. 2015. <http://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexander-the-Great>.
Pomeroy, Sarah B. A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.