Ancient Greece Lessons
Alexander the Great and Hellenism
Macedonia was the mountainous land north of the Greek peninsula. Alexander the Great became King of Macedonia when his father was assassinated in 336BC. King Philip had conquered most of the Greek peninsula. The Greeks believed they could free themselves of Macedonian rule since their new king was a "mere boy." Alexander proved the Greeks wrong by capturing the city of Thebes. Alexander destroyed the entire city as a warning to the others. Alexander then conquered Persia, the longtime enemy of Greece, and the mightiest empire in the world at that time.
Alexander was a military genius, possibly the greatest warrior of all time. His troops were better trained and organized than the Persian army. His soldiers admired Alexander because of his personal courage. Alexander led his soldiers in battle instead of remaining behind the lines. The troops saw that Alexander was sharing their danger and was not asking them to take any risks he would not take himself.
Once he conquered the Persians, Alexander quickly assembled a huge empire, which was the largest empire the world had seen up to that time. In 332BC, Alexander moved south to Egypt, where he rested his troops. The Egyptians welcomed Alexander as a hero because he freed them from harsh Persian rule. They crowned Alexander Pharaoh and declared him a god.
Alexander eventually created an empire that stretched as far east as India. As a child, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle. Aristotle was a well known Greek philosopher who was influenced by the ideas of Socrates. Aristotle taught Alexander that the Greeks were the most advanced people in the world, and that all other cultures were barbarians. Once Alexander defeated the Persians, he came to see the Persians very differently. Alexander saw that many Persians were intelligent people and were worthy of his respect. Alexander accepted many Persians into his army and married the daughter of a Persian king.
In 323BC, when Alexander was only thirty-three years old, he fell ill from a fever and died a week later. Alexander had created a huge empire in less than thirteen years, but it quickly crumbled after his death.
Alexander changed the world, but not through his accomplishments on the battlefield. Alexander's empire combined Greek culture with the cultures of Persia and the other lands he conquered. Later historians called this combination of cultures the Hellenistic civilization. Hellenism is a word derived from the Greeks' traditional name for themselves. Long after Alexander's empire fell apart, Hellenism produced great advances in science, philosophy, and drama.
The Egyptian city of Alexandria became the center of Hellenistic learning and culture. A library in Alexandria housed the accumulated knowledge of the Greeks. This would become very important in the centuries that followed because the Greek civilization and the Roman civilization that followed would eventually fall to tribes who could not read.
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Dowling, Mike. "Aristotle." www.mrdowling.com. Updated March 28, 2013 . Web. Date of Access. <http://www.mrdowling.com/701-aristotle.html>