Alexander, surnamed the Great, son of Philip of Macedon and of Olympias of Epirus, born in 356 B. C, died in 323. His first tutor was a Greek, Lysimachus, and the first thing which he learned was the Iliad. At the age of 13 ho received further instruction from Aristotle, and enjoyed this teaching for three years, being then warmly attached to the philosopher. During his father's lifetime he shared in his wars, and in the government of the kingdom, early showing a strong will and an imperious temper. By his bravery he decided the issue of the battle of Chsaeronea (338), which made Philip the master of Greece, He ascended the throne at the age of 20, on the assassination of his hither, and put to death several of the guilty, as well as many relations of his father's second wife, and soon afterward Philip's infant son. At the head of an army he at once entered Greece, strengthened the submission of the Greek republics, and at a general Grecian assembly at Corinth was made commander-in-chief, with full powers on land and sea to prosecute the war against Persia. In the following spring (335), in an armed excursion against various tribes of Thracians and others north of Macedonia, he crossed the Danube without a bridge and in the face of an enemy.
During this campaign rumors of his death arose in Greece. Demosthenes, in Athens, and the patriots of other Greek cities, and above all the Thebans, considered this to bo a propitious moment to emancipate Hellas from Macedonian domination. The Thebans rose in arms. Alexander returned with his army in 13 days from beyond the north of Macedonia to Bœotia. After a murderous assault he razed Thebes to the ground, leaving only the house of Pindar standing, and sparing only the descendants of the poet from slavery or massacre. This blow crushed the aspirations of the Greeks for freedom. - Alexander now completed his preparations for the invasion of Asia. In March or April, 334, he crossed the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos, with a force of 30,000 foot and 4,500 horse. This army was composed in great part of Macedonians, with Macedonian commanders. At Ilium (Troy) he performed various rites and sacrifices in honor of the ancient heroes, a manifestation of that legendary sympathy which formed the only real relation between him and the Greeks. A Persian army defended the passage of the Granicus. Alexander was the first to enter the river at the head of his troops, fought foremost with great personal courage, and won a decisive victory.
Nearly the whole of Asia Minor submitted to him, and the few cities that attempted to resist, among them Halicarnassus, were taken by storm. At Tarsus in Cilicia he was seized with a violent fever, after bathing in the chilly waters of the Cydnus, and owed his recovery to the skill of his physician, Philip. The king of Persia, Darius III., commanding in person an army of five or six hundred thousand men, met him in a valley near Issus, and one of the most important and decisive battles recorded in history was fought there (333). Darius was defeated with immense slaughter, and the loss of his camp and treasures; while his mother, his wife Statira, celebrated as the handsomest woman in Asia, his infant son and two daughters, fell into the hands of the victor, by whom they were treated with unexpected magnanimity. Syria and Phoenicia submitted, with the exception of Tyre, which was taken after an arduous siege of seven months. Alexander was twice obliged to construct a mole more than 200 feet wide across the half-mile channel between the mainland and the islet on which Tyre was situated.
At the final storm the carnage was terrible, and 2,000 of the defenders were hung on the walls, 30,000 inhabitants sold into slavery, and the ancient and free-spirited population wholly extirpated. - Alexander now marched toward Egypt. Of the cities of Palestine, only Gaza, commanded by Batis, a eunuch, resisted him. The town had hitherto been thought impregnable, but Alexander surrounded it with artificial mounds equal in elevation to the hill on which the stronghold was situated, and, after having been beaten off in several attacks, in one of which he was severely wounded, took the city, and slaughtered nearly the whole population (332). Batis, covered with wounds, was taken prisoner. The infuriated victor ordered his feet to be bored, and his living body to be attached to a chariot, which he drove himself in full speed through the streets. Thus he copied the ignominious treatment which, according to the legend, was inflicted by Achilles, from whom he claimed descent, on the dead body of Hector. Egypt submitted without offering the slightest resistance.
Alexander founded the city of Alexandria, and marched through the desert into Libya to the temple of Jupiter Ammon (331). The priest addressed him as the son of the god, and the conqueror henceforth assumed such to be his parentage, to the great dissatisfaction of his Macedonian army and companions, He was now master of the whole eastern Mediterranean coast, and of all the islands, and returned to Asia in search of Darius, who was lost in the immense dominions which still remained to him. Alexander crossed the Euphrates and Tigris, and in the plains of Gaugamela, near Arbela, in Assyria, reached the Persian army, made up of the contingents from the Caspian sea, the rivers Oxus and Indus, the Persian gulf, and the Red sea. It is said that this army numbered 1,000,000 infantry, 40,000 cavalry, 200 chariots armed with scythes, and 15 elephants, which then made their first appearance on a field of battle beyond their native country. Alexander commanded 40,000 foot and 7,000 horse. The battle was severely contested, but at last the Persians were utterly routed (October, 331). The Persian empire was destroyed. Its two capitals, Babylon and Susa, surrendered, with immense treasures.
From Susa Alexander marched into Persia proper, the cradle of the earlier Persian conquerors, overpowering various barbarian mountain tribes on the march. Persepolis and Pasargada fell into his hands, with treasures surpassing those of Babylon and Susa. He set fire to Persepolis; the male inhabitants were slain, and the females dragged into servitude. Next he continued the conquest of the eastern part of the Persian empire, following Darius into Media, Hyrcania, and Parthia, where the fugitive king was murdered by his revolted satraps (330). Alexander ordered the body to be buried with regal pomp the royal sepulchres of Persis. Pursuing the satraps, he entered Aria, in the region adjoining the modern Herat. Thence he marched into Drangiana, the modern Sejestan. While at the chief town of this province, on the plea of a conspiracy against his life discovered among those nearest his person, he condemned to death Philotas, one of his first generals, and son of Parmenio, his best captain, and the companion in arms of his father Philip; and after this he ordered the murder of Parmenio himself.