Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece. By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history's most successful commanders.
Alexander fell ill at one of many all-night drinking parties in Babylon, in modern Iraq, crying out from a "sudden, sword-stabbing agony in the liver." The overlord of an empire stretching from Greece to India, was taken to bed with abdominal pain and a very high fever.
Over the next 12 days, he worsened. Alexander could only move his eyes and hands and was unable to speak. He later fell into a coma.
Alexander was pronounced dead on June 11, 323 B.C. -- just before his 33rd birthday.
And, in 335, Thebans heard and believed a rumor that Alexander had also died. They revolted and trapped a Macedonian garrison in their city's citadel. Alexander led an army to Thebes, and in street fighting he overpowered the Thebans. He scattered the Thebans and sold many into slavery. All other Greek resistance to Macedonian domination suddenly ceased, and Alexander returned to pursuing his father's plan to liberate the Greeks in Asia Minor.
Alexander's defeat of the Persian Empire removed the bloc that had prevented the spread of Greek settlements into the East. Although no surviving evidence suggests that Alexander himself promoted a policy of Hellenization, Greek culture undoubtedly penetrated into western Asia as the result of his conquests, and western Asia, up to the Mesopotamian frontier, became for the first time a part of the Greek world. This is Alexander's most certain, though unintended, historical achievement.
In 334 B.C., he led a grand army across the Hellespont in Asia. With some 43,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry, it was the most formidable military expedition ever to leave Greece. The first to reach Asiatic soil, Alexander leapt ashore, cast a spear into the land, and dramatically claimed the continent as "spear won." In a remarkable campaign that lasted eleven years, he went on to fulfill his claim and more by conquering the Persian empire of western Asia and Egypt, and by continuing into Central Asia as far as the Indus Valley.
Alexander had inherited an efficient military machine, and he had learned lessons in good military strategy and diplomacy. Moreover, among kings he was exceptional: he could plan like a master chess player, and in battle he was bold and quick in seeing sudden shifts in advantages and disadvantages. He was perhaps foolhardy about his own safety but not toward the safety of his troops, and, because of his care and tactics, his casualties would be lighter than his enemy's.
Alexander turned back to fight in the coastal plain of Issus, where Darius could not benefit from his larger numbers: once Alexander was clearly winning, Darius fled, abandoning his chariot, his shield, his bow, his cloak and his family - and Alexander surprised his men by giving the family appropriate royal treatment.
Siege warfare was an area in which Alexander excelled (though he did also experience setbacks), taking advantage of technical developments which had begun under Philip and which continued under him. In 334 he attacked first Miletus and then Halicarnassus, the strongest walled city in Asia Minor, where Memnon was holding out. At Halicarnassus Alexander had towers, rams and catapults (this is the first mention of torsion-powered stone-throwers); the defenders had toiwers and arrow-firing catapults.
Sometime in his early formative years he decided to model himself after Achilles.
Emulating the famous hero was apparently encouraged by his teacher, the great philosopher Aristotle. According to the Roman historian Plutarch, Aristotle personally annotated a copy of the Iliad for Alexander. Alexander kept it with him throughout all his later travels, even sleeping with it under his pillow.
As crown prince, he received the finest education in the Macedonian court under his celebrated tutor Aristotle. At the age of twenty, already a charismatic and decisive leader, Alexander quickly harnessed the Macedonian forces that his father's reforms had made into the premier military power in the region.
Alexander succeeded Philip as king of Macedon and hegemon (leader) of the League of Corinth on his father's assassination in 336 BC. He was the son of Olympias, who claimed that his was a divine conception. Estrangement between Philip and Olympias complicated Alexander's relationship with his father... It seems reasonably clear, however, that Philip always considered Alexander his true heir.
His movements were marked by speed; his logistical, intelligence, and communications operations were flawless; and his ability to improvise was unrivaled. Yet he was careful in strategy: rather than strike deep into Asia immediately, he spent nearly two years securing the coastal areas of Asia Minor and the Levant in order to ensure that Persian naval forces would not interdict his lines to Europe.