Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Alexander the Great: King of Macedonia

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Alexander the Great stood at the head of the worlds most feared army, using it to carve

for himself a vast empire.

He crushed the Persian Empire and then thrust his way into Egypt and India to become the

acknowledged king of kings.

Then at the height of his power he was cut down, leaving behind a legacy of heroism,

divinity and tyranny.

In todays Biographics, we examine the incredible life of Alexander.

Early Years The future Alexander the Great was born in

Pella, Macedonia, the capital of Ancient Greece.

Because the Greeks used a different calendar than we do, we cant say with certainty

what his date of birth was.

Most historians believe that he was born on July 20th, 356 BCE.

He was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II and the principle one of his seven wives,

Olympias of Epirus.

As the son of the king, Alexander was raised by a nurse.

He had private tutors, with the first one being a relative by the name of Leonidas.

This man was a strict teacher who demanded a high level of academic rigor of the young


Leonidas schooled Alexander in such subjects as math, reading and languages.

At around the age of seven, Alexander started instruction under one of his fathers generals,

a man by the name of Lysimachus of Acarnania.

His job was to teach the boy to behave like a noble.

Alexander was taught to play the lyre as well as to ride and hunt.

Lysimachus also gave him instruction in fighting.

When he was ten years old, Alexanders father was presented with a horse for sale by a trader.

But the horse was wild and no one could mount it.

Philip was about to dismiss the trader when, young Alexander stepped forward and said that

he could tame the animal.

The boy set himself to breaking the animal in and becoming its master.

This was a dangerous task even for a grown man, but young Alexander showed impressive

determination and perseverance to conquer the horse.

His father, the king, was so proud of his son that he gave way to tears.

He told his son . . . My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough

for your ambitions.

Macedon is too small for you", and bought the horse for him.

Philip purchased the horse and gave it to Alexander.

He named it Bucephalas, which means ox head.

He rode the horse over most of his career and it carried him into many battles.

When Bucephalas died of old age at thirty, Alexander named a city after him.

When he was thirteen, Alexanders education was taken to a new level when Philip employed

the greatest philosopher of the day, Aristotle, to tutor his son.

The daily lessons were held at the temple of Nymphs at Mieza.

Alexander lived there with other royal children in a privileged version of a boarding school.

Some of the teenagers that Alexander associated with at that time would become his generals

in later life.

Aristotle provided instruction in religion, morals, philosophy, art and logic.

In appreciation for the education that he was providing for his son, the king rebuilt

Aristotles home town of Stageira, which he had previously destroyed.

He also purchased every slave in the town and freed them.

Rising to the Challenge When he reached the age of sixteen, Alexander

was handed a huge responsibility.

His father had just declared war on Byzantium and was about to lead his army to battle.

He left the capital city of Macedon under the control of Alexander.

It was a huge display of trust on behalf of the king, but others soon took advantage.

A group of European tribes known as the Thracian Maedi rose up in rebellion, under the impression

that the kingdom was weakened under the teenage prince.

But Alexander was up to the challenge.

He sent his army in and the Thracians were quickly driven out of their territory.

He had the area repopulated with Greeks and renamed it as Alexandropolis.

When King Philip returned from battle, he was extremely impressed with the way that

his son had dealt with the Thracian revolt.

He gave Alexander his own small army and the job of stomping out any minor revolts that

cropped up throughout the empire.

Over the next three years, Alexander joined his father on a number of military campaigns

to dominate Greek states.

On one occasion, it was reported that Alexander saved his fathers life during a campaign

against the Greek state of Perinthus.

They defeated the cities of Elatea and Amphissa.

Then they came up against the united armies of Athens and Thebes.

The armies met during an epic battle near Chaeronea in Boeotia.

Philip took the right wing of the army and put the left wing under Alexander, with Macedonias

top generals having to answer to him.

The Thebes and Athenians were defeated, giving Philip control of the majority of the Greek


He then set about uniting them in a Hellenic alliance.

Family Challenges Having stamped his dominance on a largely

united Greece, Philip set his sights on conquering Persia.

This time he left his son in control of a hugely expanded empire.

When he returned, Philip added an extra wife to his household.

Her name was Cleopatra Eurydice.

This marriage put Alexanders position as heir to the throne in danger.

Cleopatra was a full Macedonian, while Alexander was only half Macedonian.

This meant that, if Cleopatra had a son, this one would supersede Alexander in the line

of succession.

During the wedding feast, Attalus, the uncle of Cleopatra, who was one of Phillips top

generals, was heard to drunkenly request of the gods that the king and his new bride should

quickly produce a son and heir.

Alexander heard the plea and was not happy.

He went up to the general and poured a drink over his head, exclaiming . . .

This so irritated Alexander, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain,"

said he, "what, am I then a bastard?"

Alexander felt abandoned by his father.

After the wedding he and his mother left Macedon and headed for Epirus, where her mothers

brother, King Alexander I resided.

Leaving his mother there, he continued on to Illyria, in the western part of the Balkan


He was welcomed as a visiting dignitary by the Illyrian king.

Back in Macedon, the King was saddened by his sons departure.

He sent a messenger to persuade Alexander to return.

The reality was that Philip had never intended to displace Alexander as heir.

However, shortly after Alexanders return to Macedon, there was more tension between

the two.

Philip arranged for Alexanders younger brother, Philip Arrhidaeus to marry.

Alexanders trouble-making friends persuaded him that the king was again trying to cut

him off from inheriting the throne.

However, when Philip heard of the rumors, he angrily banished the troublemakers.

King of Macedonia In October of 336 B.C.E, the Macedonian royal

court was in Aegae for the wedding of Alexander I of Epirus and Alexanders sister Cleopatra

of Macedon.

Philip was assassinated by one of his bodyguards as he entered into the towns theater.

The reasons for the assassination are unclear.

But the result was very clear.

Twenty-year older Alexander was now king of Macedonia.

Alexander was shaken by his fathers murder.

He knew that plotters were intent on stealing the throne out from under him.

If he didnt take decisive action, he too would be dead.

He began by having his cousin, Amyntas IV, put to death, along with a pair of Macedonian

princes from Lycenistis.

He also ordered the execution of Attalus, the uncle of his step-mother Cleopatra.

His mother, Olympias, saw danger in the form of Cleopatra, the woman who had married Philip

a few years earlier.

She arranged for Cleopatra and the daughter shed had with Philip to be killed.

She also poisoned others, leaving some of them mentally and physically disabled for


Alexander was furious at his mother for poisoning his half-sister, who he didnt consider

to be a threat to him at all.

With the news that the stable, dominant rue of Philip had been replaced by his twenty-year-old

son, a number of states were emboldened to rise up in revolt.

Recently conquered states, including Athens and Thessalonica attempted to reassert their


Despite his advisers urging a diplomatic response, Alexander was determined to stamp his dominance

on the rebellious states.

He personally led a force of 3000 soldiers to sort things out.

In many cases, the uncooperative states resistance evaporated at the sight of Alexander at the

head of his army.

Those who didnt were put down swiftly.

As he rode through the various states that his father had united, Alexander was heaped

with praise.

His swift action had cemented his power and provided a seamless transition from his fathers

rule to his.

Having put down a series of revolts, Alexander wanted to ensure that there were no further


In his second year as king, he took his army east and defeated the Thracian people who

had rebelled against him four years ago.

He also conquered the Triballi tribe.

By now Alexanders Macedonian kingdom had become so large that, if he went north to

put down a rebellion, people in the south would rise up.

Then when he went south, those in the north would again rebel.

What was needed was a show of dominance that would prevent further uprisings.

With the northern states brought under control, Alexander took his army south.

He went directly to Thebes, the only southern state which had dared to rebel.

Alexander was set to make an example of them.

The city was completely destroyed.

He then created a series of smaller cities that were populated with people from other


The Theban assault finally brought all of Greece under Alexanders dominion.

He now set out to conquer Asia.

To keep the home kingdom under control he put a general by the name of Antipater in

charge with a sizeable army.

Into Asia In 334 BCE, Alexander marched a 40,000 strong

army out of Macedonia.

He was focused on talking possession of the entire Persian Empire, which he considered

to be a personal gift to him from the Gods.

Unlike his father, Alexander was never interested in achieving diplomatic negotiations.

He was all about taking what he wanted by force of arms.

The first resistance that the Macedonian army found as they swept into Persia was at the

Battle of Granicus River.

This river was a formidable obstacle that the Greek army would have to cross.

The Persians, under Memnon of Rhodes, positioned themselves around the river to await the arrival

of the enemy.

Their strength was a little over half that of the Greeks.

Alexander led his army into a direct frontal attack using a classic wedge-shaped assault.

They drove into the middle of he Persian line.

In the melee that followed, it was reported that Alexander personally killed several Persians.

He was almost felled with an axe blow but was able to recover and save himself.

The superior numbers of the Greeks, combined with this use of the lance to counter the

javelin attacks of the Persians, eventually won the day.

The Persians were routed and chased from the field.

Total Persian casualties were around 4,000 with Alexanders army having lost a tenth

of that number.

There had been about 18,000 Greek mercenaries who had fought for the Persians in this battle.

They were captured by the Greek army.

Alexander considered these men to be traitors to their country and deserving of no mercy.

He had half of them executed and the rest taken as slaves.

Following this victory, Alexander took possession of Sardis, the provincial capital of the kingdom

of Lydia.

He then travelled down the Ionian coast.

Most towns welcomed him as a conqueror and he duly declared that were free of their Persian

overlords and able to rule themselves as autonomous states.

As he moved down the coast, the Persian navy was constantly trying to engage Alexander

in battle.

However, he resisted, preferring to fight on land.

Moving south, Alexander came to Halicarnassus where he engaged in his first full scale siege


The Persian fleet had sailed to the port of Halicarnassus where it set up its base.

Prior to Alexanders arrival the Queen of Halicarnassus, Ada of Caria had been driven

from the city and replaced by a satrap named Orontobates.

Ada set herself up in the fortress of Alinda.

When Alexander rode in, she surrendered the fort to him.

The defenders of the city of Halicarnassus now set up to defend the city.

Still, Alexanders army managed to break through the city walls.

However, they were driven back by the catapults from within the city.

A renewed assault overcame this peril and stormed through a second time.

Memnon of Rhodes, who was in defense of the city after having evaded capture at Granicus

River, set the city on fire before retreating.

The Persian fleet also withdrew.

Alexander formally returned the city to Queen Ada.

In return she adopted him as a son, therefore making sure that the city would pass to him

on her death.

The Gordian Knot Control of Halicarnassus and the coastal cities

meant that the Persians could no longer dock their fleet.

Continuing on his conquest, Alexander arrived at the Phrygian capital of Gordium.

It was here that, according to Greek legend, he was taken before a famed oxcart which was

tied with an incredibly complicated rope knot, known as the Gordian knot.

It was said that whoever could undo the knot would become the ruler of Asia.

Alexander is said to have examined the knot closely.

Then, having no idea of how to undo it, he pulled out his sword and cut the rope in half

with a single stroke.

We dont know whether the story is true, but it sure makes a good tale!

Continuing south, Alexanders army encountered, for the first time, a more formidable army

than his own.

It was under the leadership of Darius III, king of the Achaemenid empire of Persia.

Despite being outnumbered, Alexanders tactical skill and personal bravery in leading from

the front won the day.

Darius was completely overwhelmed by the loss.

He took to his heels, leaving behind his army, a great treasure and all of his kingdom.

Alexander claimed it all.

Siege of Tyre With the absolute dominance of Alexanders

Greek army over the Persians, bordering nations began to panic.

The all-conquering warrior king had developed an aura of invincibility and many nations

simple acceded to him as he entered their territory.

By 332 he had taken Syria and the coastal Levant.

He then set about taking Tyre, which was a coastal island base sitting about a mile out

in the Mediterranean Sea.

Conquering the island would be a great challenge to Alexander, with the combination of the

sea and the high walls that surrounded the island leaving him with few options.

For seven months, Alexander blockaded the island, preventing either entry or exit.

He then had his army build a causeway out of rocks to allow them to get to the city


When the city walls were eventually breached, Alexander was so angry with the extended Tyrian

holdout that, according to contemporary historian Arrian of Nicomedia, he ordered the massacre

of up to 8,000 citizens.

Following the taking of Tyre, most of the cities on Alexanders campaign route surrendered

without putting up any resistance.

The only city that stood firm as he wound his way toward Egypt was Gaza.

As this city sat atop a hill, it looked as if Alexander was in for another protracted


Yet this was one siege that seemed like an impossibility.

The walls were, according to Alexanders engineers, too high and too thick to be penetrated.

For, Alexander this was just the sort of challenge that got his juices flowing.

He became even more determined to conquer the city.

He was convinced that destiny would find a way.

The Greek army made three desperate attempts to breach the walls.

Eventually, on the final attempt they made the breakthrough.

But the cost was terrific, with thousands of men falling to the missiles of the enemy.

Alexander himself suffered a serious shoulder wound.

Once the city was taken, severe punishment was exacted upon the inhabitants, with the

men being slaughtered and the women and children sold into slavery.

When the all-conquering Greek army approached the holy Jewish city of Jerusalem, the Jews

threw open the gates and welcomed them into their midst.

It was reported that Alexander was taken into the Great Temple of Solomon and shown a prophetic

text from the Book of Daniel that referred to him as a mighty king who would conquer

the land.

Alexander left Jerusalem in peace, and headed south to lay claim to Egypt.

In that land he was welcomed as a liberator.

The people proclaimed him to be a son of the Gods and gave him reverence on the same level

as their own pharaoh.

He founded the city of Alexandria, which would become a major trading center in future times.

Conquest of Babylon Leaving Egypt, Alexander travelled back north

as he set his sights on taking Babylon, the Persian capital where King Darius had positioned


Alexander marched with 47,000, but Darius had amassed a massive army, which some historians

have put at one million men.

The two armies met near the village of Gaugamela.

At the forefront of his lines, Darius placed chariots armed with scythes and fifteen elephants

in an attempt to mow through the Greek lines.

In response, Alexander placed his light troops up front to negate the effect of the chariots

with missiles directed at their horses.

Those chariots that made it to the Greek line were allowed to pass harmlessly through where

they were surrounded and captured.

Darius himself was in a scythe armed chariot but when his charioteer was felled by a javelin

he jumped from the chariot, mounted a horse and fled.

Seeing this, many of his men followed suit.

Panic ensued and the battle was over.

Following the conquest of Babylon, Alexander moved on to Susa, and then to the Persian

city of Persepolis.

He then determined to hunt down and kill Darius, the disgraced Persian king in order to prevent

any further reprisals.

He finally found Darius, but he had already been killed.

One of his most trusted men, Bessus, had killed him and now claimed his throne for himself.

Alexander now set his sights on tracking down Bessus, who had fled into central Asia.

Alexander explored much of Asia.

He found a number of cities, naming each of them in his own honor, Eventually Bessus was

betrayed by his own men and handed over for execution.

On his return to Persia, Alexander was hailed as the King of Kings.

He began to adopt Persian habits, including dressing in Persian clothing and following

Persian customs.

This was troubling to many Greeks, including some of his generals.

By now, Alexander had been away from Macedon for many years.

He had left Antipater as the military ruler of the city and he had effectively maintained

the peace.

However, Alexander was obstinately requesting troop reinforcements, which made the defenses

of the city weaker.

India Alexander now set his sights on conquering

the Indian subcontinent.

He sent delegates ahead of him to demand that the Indian leaders submit to him.

Some of the clans acquiesced but others did not.

These clans would be furiously attacked by Alexanders army.

Complete villages were burned to the ground and people were killed with impunity.

The Greek army met their strongest resistance at the hands of King Porus of the Punjab region.

The Indian forces were defeated in battle, but Alexander was so impressed with the tactics

and bravery of Porus that he offered a co-rulership to him.

While Alexander would control the land, he would hand the day to day running of the Punjab

to Porus.

By now Alexander had conquered more territory than any other ruler in history.

But he was still not satisfied.

He wanted to advance even deeper into the Indian subcontinent.

But his army did not.

They had had enough.

The soldiers revolted, refusing to advance any further.

The generals sided with them, with one of them, General Coenus telling Alexander that

the men.

. . longed to again see their parents, their wives,

their children, their homeland.

Alexander sympathized and decided that it was time to go home.

But he continued to conquer villages and claim more land on his return route.

In order to placate his men, he sent older and disabled soldiers directly back to Macedonia.

But this act backfired.

The men thought that they were all going directly home.

When Alexander marched then on further conquests, there was much anger.

The men of his army began to openly criticize Alexander.

They were especially unhappy with his adoption of Persian customs and the appointing of Persian

officers to command them.

In an attempt to win favor, Alexander ensured that Macedonian troops were ruled over by

Macedonian officers.

He also held a huge banquet for his men to celebrate the years of victory.

After returning to Persia, Alexander established himself in the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar

in Babylon.

He planned further campaigns of conquest into Arabia.

But these would never come to pass.

Struck Down Alexander died suddenly on either June 10th

or 11th, 332 BCE.

The cause of his death is unclear, with there being two main theories.

They both involve the excess use of alcohol.

In one account he developing a fever after a 24-hour drinking binge.

In the other, he became sick after drinking a bowl of unmixed wine.

There was also talk of poisoning.

The death of the king of kings at the height of his power was a huge shock to the entire


People could not believe that such a strong, dynamic and heroic individual could be struck

down without warning.

Alexanders body was placed in a gold sarcophagus.

After much disputing he was laid to rest in Alexandria.

Over the centuries many famous leaders came to pay respects.

But his body was not left in peace.

It is said that Roman emperor Augustus accidentally damaged the corpse and Caligula stole Alexanders


Such incidents prompted Emperor Septimius Severis to close the tomb to the public in

200 CE.

Where it was taken is unknown.

Today, the location of Alexanders tomb is one of the great mysteries of history.

The Description of Alexander the Great: King of Macedonia