Capable Men of History: Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great is considered to be the most successful military commander and leader in history, as he was undefeated in the many battles that he and his army faced from 336 to 323 BC. At the young age of 30, Alexander the Great was able to expand the kingdom of Macedon into a gigantic empire that stretched from the Balkans in the west (now occupied by many European countries like Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia) up to India in the east.

Unfortunately, despite creating one of the biggest empires in the world, Alexander’s reign was short-lived due to his sudden death at the age of 32. After his death, the great Macedonian empire was then divided into several kingdoms that were governed by his allies since he did not have a legitimate heir. To know more about Alexander the Great as a capable man, here are details about his early life and his greatest achievements.

The Early Life of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, also known in historical records as Alexander III, was born in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon, in July 356 BC. He was the son of Philip II, his predecessor to the throne, who is known for making the kingdom of Macedon one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe by defeating the city-states of Athens and Thebes in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Alexander III’s mother was Olympias, the eldest daughter of Neoptolemus I, the king of Epirus. Olympias was the fourth wife of Philip II, and even though he had seven or eight wives, he chose Olympias as his principal wife during his reign as the king of Macedon.

When Alexander III was 13, his father started to look for a tutor that would help his son gain more knowledge, particularly in academics. Philip eventually chose Aristotle and offered the Temple of the Nymphs in the town of Mieza to be the classroom for Alexander. It is believed that Aristotle never asked for monetary gain for teaching Alexander, as what he asked from Philip was to rebuild his hometown of Stageira.


Along with Alexander, Aristotle taught several children of Macedonian nobles at the Temple of the Nymphs. Aristotle taught Alexander and the other children about philosophy, religion, ethics, medicine, art, and logic. Through Aristotle’s tutelage, Alexander developed a fondness for the works of Homer, like the “Iliad.” Aristotle gave Alexander an annotated copy of the “Iliad,” and the latter would later bring that copy wherever he went during his campaigns to expand the kingdom of Macedon.

When Philip II was assassinated at the wedding of Cleopatra of Macedon in 336 BC, Alexander the Great immediately ascended to the throne as the king of Macedon, as there wasn’t any opposition to his succession. After becoming the king, Alexander III ordered the execution of the princes of Lyncestis, who he believed to be responsible for the death of his father. Then, he would continue the campaign that Philip II left behind, which was to invade several lands in Asia to the east.

The Greatest Achievements of Alexander the Great

The Battle of the Granicus by Charles Le Brun painted in 1665 and depicted Alexander the Great’s army fighting against the forces of the First Persian Empire

Throughout his reign as the king of Macedon from 336 to 323 BC, Alexander the Great was able to win numerous battles, and some of these battles may even seem impossible for Macedon to win, but they surprisingly came out victorious. Here are the greatest achievements of Alexander the Great as king.

Ruling the North and the South

Before Alexander the Great started his campaign in Asia, he first wanted to secure the reign of Macedon within the nearby territories. So, he marched to the north in order to defeat the Thracian revolutionary groups led by Glaukia, King of Taulantii, and Cleitus, King of Illyria.

He would then reconquer the city-state of Thebes, which revolted again against Macedon. All of these battles occurred from 335 to 334 BC. Through Alexander’s trampling of the northern territories, the country of Greece to the south was forced to accept the reign of Alexander.

Alexander’s Win Against the First Persian Empire

The First Persian Empire, also called the Achaemenid Empire, is regarded as one of the largest empires in history, as it stretched from the eastern lands of the Balkans to the land of India in the east. Despite being much larger than Macedon, Alexander the Great was able to win against the Achaemenid Empire led by Cyrus the Great.

One of the reasons why Alexander won was because of his effective strategies, which included fighting the Persian forces within the narrow banks of the river Granicus (found in Turkey), which then limited how many armies Cyrus the Great was able to place against the Macedonia forces. In addition, the powerful chariots of the Persian army became ineffective at the banks because of the muddy soil that prevented the chariots from moving efficiently.

The battles within the territories of the Achaemenid Empire continued until 330 BC, when the Battle of Persian Gate occurred in present-day Iran. In the battle, Alexander the Great was able to infiltrate Persepolis, the heart and the capital of the First Persian Empire. Because the Persian forces were now surrounded by Alexander’s army, they were forced to give up.

By 328 BC, after defeating the last resisting forces of Persia, Alexander the Great successfully conquered the massive Achaemenid Empire. He would later try to conquer several lands in present-day India, but due to the harsh weather conditions and shortage of food and fuel, Alexander the Great’s forces retreated.

The Death of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great suddenly died in June 323 BC. There were multiple theories and accounts as to the cause of Alexander the Great’s death, although many believed that the king of Macedon developed a fever after a night of heavy drinking during a prolonged banquet. Alexander would then suffer from high fever and agonizing pain for ten or eleven days before passing away.

Because Alexander had no apparent heir after his death, some of his generals decided to divide Alexander’s empire into numerous territories that were led by Alexander IV, Alexander the Great’s posthumous son, and Philip Arrhidaeus, the illegitimate son of Philip II. Due to greed and lust for power, the generals controlling the two mentioned kings were unable to keep Alexander’s empire alive, and the territories would then become independent kingdoms by 310 or 309 BC.

Even though Alexander’s reign in Macedon and the territories of the Achaemenid Empire was short-lived, he is still considered one of the most influential people in history, as he was able to spread and share the culture of Macedon and Greece to many areas in Asia. In fact, some of the cities and countries in Asia still have Greek influence when it comes to their history and culture. Check out the museums in Greece and other countries in Europe and Asia to see many historical and cultural artifacts connected to Alexander the Great.