One of the greatest leaders and generals that ever lived if from a small country called Macedonia. Macedonia is north of Greece. So why is Alexander the Great mentioned in the Greece section? The answer to this goes back to Alexander's father, Phillip II.
Phillip was exactly like the godfather. He used money, politics, and muscle. He started out invading Greece. He would take places by force. He would give them a choice, if they chose wrong, they would be punished badly. Phillip would pay off a city-state's army. He would have them "forget," or "come late" to a battle. Phillip would then divide and conquer.
Once he had Greece he ruled he set his sights east, Persia. Ironically, Persia had their sites west to Greece. The Greeks and Persians were fierce enemies for over a hundred years. The new leader of Persia, Darius III was the next in line.
Phillip's oldest son, Alexander had it all. Brains, athletic ability, personality, looks, everything. His father gave him a tutor, Aristotle. This was one of the best things that could happen to Alexander. Aristotle was able to take this youth and construct a mind that was ambitious and lethal. Some examples of Alexander's youthful brilliance are the Gordian Knot and Bucephalus.
The Gordian Knot was a riddle that people couldn't solve. Alexander was able to solve it easily. Alexander had this ability to be able to, "think out of the box." The knot was tied to this beautiful golden chariot. The ropes were tied under so it was unable to be cut loose. There are two stories on how he did this; each one though shows his knowledge. Story one is that he just cut the ropes. Story two was that he looked at the pin that held the chariot, took it out, pulled the chariot out of the ropes, and then untied the knot from within.
Bucephalus was Alex's horse. Phillip told his son that he could have any horse in the stable. Alex chose the horse that was wild, strong, and couldn't be broke. None of Phillip's men could break the horse, but Phillip gave Alex a chance to prove that the horse could be broke. What Alex noticed that no one else did was that the horse saw the shadows of the men because they would approach him from behind and then would be forceful. The horse was scared of the shadows because of what the men would do. Alex approached the horse from the front with a bridal. He kept eye contact with the horse and the horse was broken.
Alex's youth ended tragically at the age of 20. Phillip was assassinated on the way to his daughter's wedding. Alex quickly killed everyone that could oppose him and took the throne. Darius was getting ready to invade Europe, while Phillip was getting ready to invade Asia. Darius was banking on the fact that Alexander was an unfit ruler. He was hoping that Alex would just party with his new found power and wealth and ignore his father's plans. This was the first in a series of incorrect assumptions made by Darius.
Alexander did not just sit around and party. He decided to invade Asia, not just for his father, but for him to be remembered as a greater ruler and conqueror than his father. Right from the start, Alexander's campaign into Asia showed his brilliance. The battle was Granicus. Alexander's forces were pinned down right off the boat. They couldn't retreat and the amount of Persians in front. To make a long story short, Alex twisted the armies around and placed the Persian's back to the sea, and then killed them.
Darius was so scared, he fled the battle. Alex chased Darius down the coast which is now modern day Lebanon, Israel, and Cyprus. The next time that they met on the field of battle, Alex was greatly outnumbered again. And again, the terrain was against him. Alex was trapped in a mountain pass. Darius knew if he could keep him in there, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Darius used nearly 200,000 soldiers for this battle. Alex knew he was in trouble; he used his phalanx technique to get out of the pass. Darius lost more people. The soldiers were so eager to fight that the ones in the back accidentally pushed the soldiers on the edge to their deaths.
Darius knew that he couldn't beat Alex. Alex was not exactly humble, and he knew this too. Alex traveled down the coast further to seize a little gift left by Darius to keep him off his tail, the Western Persian Navy. Darius needed this time to keep Alex occupied. The navy was left on an island in the middle of a bay, far enough away to swim to, and close enough to desire them.
Alexander was in a bind, the entire Persian Navy in his sights. He is too far to get ships from Greece; the army did not carry shipbuilders; and it would take too long to obtain either from Greece. So, Alex thought of what he had and went to work. He had plenty of men, shields that make good shovels, and plenty of time. So, he made a land bridge out to the island, easily fought back the guards and took the navy. When Darius found this out, he offered Alexander the western part of the Persian Empire. Alex refused.
Playing him like a mouse, Alex decided to play with his prey. Alex took a trip to Egypt to liberate it. He found out about this oracle in the desert and went to visit. No one knows the exact question, but the good money lays that he asked the oracle if he was a god on earth like Hercules. The oracle said yes he was. Now, Alexander was ready to take the entire Persian Empire.
The final battle came at a place called Gaugamela. Darius was desperate and wanted to make sure that Alexander could not win. He leveled the entire area around Gaugamela so that Alexander could not use the geography to his advantage again. Darius employed nearly 1,000,000 to fight. The odds were about 27:1. That means for every one Greek soldier, there were 27 Persian soldiers.
Even though Alexander physically could not beat the Persians, the Persians believed he could. They were scared of him. On the eve of the battle, Alex had his army build fires in the night. This was a psychological tactic. By making the Persians believe that he was going to attack at any time, they stayed up all night without eating. At dawn they were tired and fatigued.
When the Greek charioteers saw this break, Alex sent them into the field to chop down their ranks. The stigma of defeat was always around the Persian army, they believed the Alex was mounting another come back, so they ran. So in a way it was a comeback because Alex was able to defeat the Persians. By the end of the battle Darius III was dead. The exact reason is not known, Darius may have killed himself, Alex might have hunted him down, or some Persian soldiers could have killed their cowardly king.
Now the story could end there but Alexander continued to march even after he conquered the Persian Empire. Alexander pushed his armies all the way into northern India past the Hindu Kush Mountains. Alexander's march entered India in 327 BC, the last great battle of his campaign came in 326 BC at the Battle of Hydaspes (currently known as the Jhelum River) against the Indian king Porus.
Porus incorporated war elephants onto the battle field. On top of the war elephants, Alexander engaged in battle during the Monsoon season. The river Hydaspes was flooded and Alexander engaged the enemy during a thunderstorm. It was the bloodiest battle the Greeks had to fight and in the end Alexander won again. His patience was the key. He had to wait until the war elephants were defeated before he could unleash the phalanxes.
Alexander was able to capture over 80 war elephants and Porus himself. Alexander's horse, Bucephalus was killed during the battle. To stay consistent with his style of conquering, Alexander let Porus continue to rule his kingdom. Alexander believed it was important to keep a conquered people consistent and familiar. Forcing the conquered to beliefs and laws that they are not familiar with, leads to rebellion.
Alexander started to return home to Macedonia and Greece. He sent people on land and by sea to reach Alexandria, Egypt. On the way Alexander died in 323 BC.
Alexander was a visionary in the greatest sort. Besides the great military battles, Alexander brought Greek, Egyptian, and Persian cultures together. This is called the Hellenistic Era. He was able to do this because of the entourage that followed him during his campaign:
Assorted civilians: women, children, scholars, artists, and merchants, blacksmiths, mechanics
Baggage Train: 3,000-4,000 wagons of equipment
Auxiliary units/mercenaries: 12,000
Mailmen: communication to Pella and Alexandria
Engineers and Artillery: 4,000
The Empire of Alexander did not last long, he never officially named a successor and his generals fought over the land.