Alexander the Great: Historical People

Written by Hank Martin in The Backpack

Name: Alexander the Great

Born: 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia1

Died: 323 BC. The circumstances of his death were mysterious. He fell violently ill after attending a friend's private party and drinking wine there. Within days he lost his speech and movement, then died on June 7th.

One Sentence Bio: Alexander traveled 22,000 miles over 13 years from Greece to Southeast Asia.

Tags: military genius, leader, courageous world traveler

Alexander was the son of Philip II, the king of Macedonia, and spent his childhood observing his father win battle after battle in the Balkans and transform Macedonia into a military power.

At age 13 Alexander began studying under Aristotle, and was taught literature, rhetoric, philosophy, science, and medicine. Much of what he learned, and the curiosity for the world that Aristotle stimulated within Alexander, provided the backbone for the person Alexander became.

When he was 16, King Philip left on campaign leaving Alexander in charge of Macedonia while he was away. Today, many of us are learning to drive for the first time at age 16, and coming to terms with the new found freedom of having a vehicle. For Alexander, running a kingdom in his father's absence must have been quite daunting.



Macedonian Empire after King Philip II

During this time period Alexander raised an army and defeated the Maedi, a Thracian tribe bordering Northeast Macedonia. He took their stronghold and renamed it after himself. Two years later King Philip made Alexander a senior general in the army that invaded Greece. At one battle in particular Alexander's bravery is cited as the reason for their victory.

When Alexander was 20 his father was assassinated by a Macedonian noble. Before the man could be interrogated he was killed, adding further suspicion to who was behind the assassination. Some speculate Alexander had conscripted to have his father killed. Regardless, after Philip II's death, Alexander assumed the throne of Macedonia.

From here, the rest of his life was spent warring and conquering lands. His accomplishments are mainly related to war. He squelched several rebellions in Greece and left, only to return shortly after, marching from the north 240 miles in two weeks. He destroyed the rebellion at Thebe, plundered the city, and then burned it to the ground.

With Greece now firmly under Macedonian control, he again left for Asia Minor. He marched towards Egypt, conquering cities as he went. He defeated the Persian forces under King Darius III in northwestern Syria, took the island city of Tyre when they wouldn't let him access their temp, crushed Gaza, and finally Egypt.

Alexander went on to continue conquering lands until his death. He was holding a victory celebration when he mysteriously came down with a high fever. Shortly after he died at the age of 33, leaving behind no successor to the Macedonian Empire.

Alexander was known for his military strategy, he was an inspiration for men such as Augustus, Ceaser and Hannibal the Carthaginian with his endless marching across the world. He spent his life moving, bouncing from one place to another. When he died he left behind a massive empire.

Lessons From Alexander and Hellenism:

While the world has changed since Alexander's time, and while you shouldn't burn cities to the ground when you travel through them, Alexander can teach us a lot about travel. During his lifetime Alexander traveled many miles and visited many places. In fact his conquests helped usher in a new era of mankind, called the Hellenistic period. Hellenism refers to the spread of Greek culture and customs to other lands. With Alexander's great wanderings Greek politics and culture spread as well. The map below shows the Macedonian Empire at his death, and his march west from Macedonia (far left on the map).

While you don't need to build an empire to see the world, your life can resemble the map above. Metaphorically speaking, the world can be yours if you walk it. You can become where you have traveled, and in turn, let your travels shape you. You will know the subtleties of the world, the blemishes and hidden gems that only a perceptive visitor will know. Finally, with each place you travel you will leave behind a part of yourself. You will make friends and acquaintances and give them part of your soul. Our hope is that eventually you will have a kingdom as vast and rich as the one Alexander the Great had.


Hank Martin

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Traveling for a world education and writing about the life lessons learned.



1. The Forgotten Realm of Alexander

2. History of Macedonia


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