Alexander, famous in history as Alexander the Great, was the son of Philip of Macedon. Macedon or Macedonia was a kingdom, situated up in the north of Greece. It was a mountainous country.
The Greeks from their plains looked upon the Macedonians as barbarians. But, like the Greeks, the Macedonians belonged to the Aryan race and regarded themselves as Greeks.
They were brave and sturdy and worked hard on their rocky soil to live.
When the Greek city states on the mainland of Greece were fighting among themselves and heading towards decline, Macedon became very powerful under a remarkable warrior named Philip. Philip became king in 359 B.C. and became ambitious enough to extend his power. The weakness of the city states gave him a golden opportunity. He raised a powerful army famous as the Macedonian Phalanx.
It was a new type of military force. The soldiers in the Phalanx stood shoulder to shoulder like solid walls, line after line. Each soldier covered his body by holding a huge shield in his left hand. In his right hand, he held a long spear. As the Phalanx advanced in that shape, their bodies were protected by shields from the enemy arrows, while then- long spears pierced the bodies of the enemies when they advanced to fight. On either side of the marching Phalanx, there were soldiers on horseback to attack the enemy. The Macedonian Phalanx presented an advanced art of warfare in Western military system.
Taking advantage of the weakness of the Greek city states, Philip of Macedon invaded them and destroyed their freedom. Ultimately, he became the supreme master of the entire Greek world. With unlimited ambition, Philip next prepared to invade the Persian Empire in the East. As he was about to march on his eastern expedition, he suddenly fell dead in hands of an assassin in the year 336 B.C.
Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedon, was only twenty years old when his father met his unexpected death. He was born in 356 B.C. As bold as his father and much more ambitious, young Alexander ascended the throne of Macedon and assured the waiting army that he would soon take up the invasion of the East. His generals and soldiers did not doubt the ability of their young monarch and his liking for battles.
Alexander’s mother Olympias had inspired her son from his childhood to become a great hero like the Greek heroes of the epics of Homer. In his romantic dream, he hoped of becoming a hero like the mythical Achilles.
When Alexander was only 13, his father appointed the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle as the tutor of the young prince. It was from that great teacher that Alexander got the vision of a wider world, a desire for knowing many subjects, and for discovering new things for sake of knowledge. Temperamentally, Alexander was proud, haughty, cruel revengeful and emotional. At the same time, his education made him enlightened and cultured. He was a curious mixture of bad and good qualities, vices and virtues.
From his early youth, Alexander received a good military training and showed his genius as a born soldier. When Philip was fighting his famous battle of Chaeronea to conquer Greece, the 18 year old Alexander assisted his father as the commander of the cavalry force and amazed the army by daring acts of heroism. The Macedonian soldiers since then regarded the young hero as a rare general and became devoted to him as their future leader. His energy, tact, courage and ability, as well as thirst for battles proved his worth as a prospective conqueror.
The death of king Philip brought to young Alexander his opportunity for greatness. His father had prepared the ground for his rise. He was now the undisputed leader of Macedon and Greece and the supreme commander of the Macedonian army to which were joined the Greek soldiers of the mainland. With everything ready, Alexander looked towards the East to undertake the mission of his father’s hopes.
Some of the Greek city states felt that the death of king Philip was the end of Macedonian supremacy. They, therefore, rose in revolt to regain independence. But Alexander was too strong for them. He taught a lesson to the revolting city states by destroying the city state of Thebes completely. All houses of that place were raged to ground except the house of a poet named Pindar and a few places of worship. As a demonstration of his anger, he slaughtered six thousand people of thebes. Many others were sold as slaves.
By such extreme cruelty, Alexander silenced the Greek city-states into submission. They were forced to accept him as their leader and subscribed soldiers to his army for the invasion of the East. As the leader of the Greek race Alexander at last proceeded towards the East in the year 334 B.C. His brief career as a world conqueror began.