Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon (Alexander the Great, Alexander III of Macedon) (356-323 BCE.), King of Macedonia, was born in late July 356 BCE in Pella, Macedonia. He was unquestionably one of the greatest military geniuses in human history, and conquered much of what was then the civilized world, driven by his divine ambition of the world conquest and the creation of a universal world monarchy. He had tremendous impulsive energy and a fervid imagination.

Alexander had a tremendous desire to secure for himself a place in the pantheon of Gods. The cost of his successes all over the world was tremendous, but he did not seem to mind it as long as his goals were being achieved.

Even as a young boy, he was fearless and strong. At the age of twelve, he tamed the beautiful and spirited Bucephalus ("ox-head" in Greek), a horse that no one else could ride. He knew the Iliad by heart. He loved Homer, and is known to have always slept with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow. His first teacher was Leonidas, a relative of Olympia's.

Leonidas instilled in Alexander an ascetic nature for which he became famous during his future campaigns. Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus, who taught Prince Alexander to play the lyre and to appreciate the arts.

Aristotle teaching young Alexander
Young Alexander being tutored by Aristotle

In 343 BCE, Aristotle came to Pella at Philip's bidding to take up the education of his son Alexander from age 13 to 16. Aristotle taught him at the Mieza temple.

Alexander's first brush with combat came during Philip's expedition against Byzantium in 340 BCE. Alexander, then sixteen years old, was left in Macedonia in charge of the royal seal. But the constantly restless prince perceived this as an opportunity to show his battle skills, he managed to subjugate the rebellious Maedi, a Thracian tribe. Defeating a tribe is admirable, but it cannot be compared to full-fledged warfare.

At the battle of Chaeronea, Philip defeated the allied Greek states of the Sacred Band of Thebes, in September 338 BCE. An 18-year-old Alexander was leading the left wing of Philip's cavalry. He demonstrated personal valor in breaking the Band of States. In 336 BCE, Philip was suddenly assassinated, before he was able to depart for the marriage celebration of his daughter at Aegae. The death of Philip is shrouded in mystery; there is a hint of suspicion that Alexander could have been one of the perpetrators.

Soon after his father's death, Alexander reached Thessaly in seven days and Boeotia five days later. By a forced march, he took the Thebans completely by surprise, and in a few days, the city was his. The march for glory was well and truly on. He started with blitz campaigns against the Triballi and Ilyrians, which took him across the Danube. His army consisted of 30,000 foot soldiers and over 5,000 cavalry.

The Empire of Alexander the Great
The Empire of Alexander at its zenith

This army had an excellent mixture of arms―the lightly armed Cretan and Macedonian archers. The Thracians, and the Agrianian javelin men; the striking force was the cavalry, and the core of the army was the infantry phalanx, 9,000 strong, armed with shields and five and one-half meter long spears, the sarises, and the 3,000 men of the royal troops, the hypaspists.

Another positive outcome of Alexander's hegemonistic tendencies was that it created an economically and culturally homogenous single market extending from Gibraltar to the Punjab, open to trade, social and cultural exchange. There was a common thread that was visible in civilization, and Greek became the lingua franca of its time. The Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity as a world religion, and the thousand years of Byzantine rule were all in a way the consequences of his conquests.

ancient gold coins featuring Alexander
Ancient Greek coins featuring Alexander
statue of Alexander at Makedonia Greece
Statue of Alexander at Makedonia, Greece

One of the most important facts about Alexander, that is often overlooked, is that he died at the age of 32. He did not have the luxury of living for a long time. It is difficult to even imagine the extent to which he would have expanded his empire had he lived longer.

Alexander was in Babylon to overlook the irrigation of the Euphrates, this was also coupled with a grand feast in honor of Nearchus's departure for Arabia and the commemoration of the death of Heracles. He drank a huge beaker of unmixed wine in a single gulp. This led to a shooting pain in the liver. It is possible that it exacerbated an existing condition. It was during sunset on of 10th of June, 323 BCE, in the Palace of Nabukodonossor, Babylon, that Alexander died.