Alexander the Great
After the death of King Phillip II of Macedonia, his twenty years old son inherited his throne. Under his reign, Phillip conquered all Greek city-states. Alexander had grown in the arms of lead warriors and great teachers like Aristotle. Alexander accompanied his father in several battles in the position of cavalry commander. This early expedition prepared him as a warrior. After the death of King Phillip, Alexander successfully imposed authority over at home and over the Greek city-state of Thebes through military conquest (Costly, 2005). He then advanced to the Greek cities in Asia Minor, the current day Turkey after conquering Persia and its ruler, King Darius III. This invasion was revenge against Persia for defeating and destroying Athens around 150 years before. Alexander led his troops of 35000 and dominated Hellespont, the land separating Asia and Europe in 334 BC
Alexander faced little resistance and violently crushed opposition from Persians in Asia. Although Darius did not personally command his troops, he invented a confounding puzzle that challenged King Alexander and his military men upon entry into the city of Gordium. A complicated knot tied by an ancient king was symbolic of authority. According to a legend, the one who untied the knot inherited the throne, which Alexander did with such ease using two swords. After conquering Gordium, Alexander led his troops through the city of Jerusalem into Egypt, which submitted without confrontation. In his administrative duties, alexander put up the city of Alexandria before leaving Egypt. The city became the center of Hellenistic culture and civilization.
Alexander continued with his military conquest and made a grand entry into Mesopotamia, where he confronted King Darius III(Costly, 2005). Darius fled the battlefield before being captured and assassinated by his provincial governors who hoped to gain favor before the eyes of Alexander in the city of Babylon. Alexander proclaimed himself King of Babylon, Asia, and Four Quarters of the World after conquering Darius on the battlefield. The next expedition would see him conquer the Persian homeland. The region submitted to his dominance, and he spared the ruling city, Susa. To revenge the ancient attacks on Athens, Alexander burnt down the great palace city of Persepolis. With the threat of Darius dissolved, Alexander married the daughter of one of Darius’ satraps, Roxane.
With little opposition, Alexander continued his military action as he drove further east to the lands near the Caspian sea before the triumphant entry into the now Afghanistan. He would later advance into western India across the Indus River. Alexander was determined to drive further east. However, he stopped when his military men desired to return home. After dominating over the new world in under ten years, Alexander and his men returned to settle in Persia (Costly, 2005). While in Susa, Alexander organized for all military men to marry Persian women in a grand wedding. He then married another woman, the daughter of Darius as part of his mission to unite Macedonia, Greek, and Asia e under one universal empire. Alexander, just like the Greeks, treated the Asians as Barbarians and tried to adopt some of their cultures creating a new channel to spread his new Hellenistic culture.
In Persia, Alexander began wearing Persian clothing designs and ordered his men to follow suit. He demanded that they all follow the Persian way of life of prostrating themselves when approaching his throne. Alexander appointed some of Darius satraps as provincial officers while including some in his Macedonian army. In 332 BC, Alexander later returned to Babylon in 332 BC and declared himself an invincible god (Costly, 2005). Alexander would later conquer the North of Africa and Arabia. His mission was to unite all conquered nations under the great brotherhood of humankind. However, his dream was cut short with his sudden death at the age of 33. Alexander’s half-brother was mentally incompetent to ascend to the throne by himself. Although Roxane, his Persian wife bore a son shortly after his death, he would not be able to rule for a while. Therefore, Alexander’s generals in Babylon reached a compromise to crown his newborn son alongside his half-brother co-kings with one successor temporarily assuming power in their names. The next half-century witnessed constant turmoil. The civil strife saw the emergence and dissolution of alliances. Both co-kings were executed before six successors named themselves kings. Three major Hellenistic empires had emerged in Egypt, Macedonian, and Southwest Asia before 280 BC.
The Ptolemy in Egypt
In Egypt, one of Alexander’s successor Ptolemy curved his kingdom assuming the divine title of savior. However, he did not attempt to reign control over Alexander’s entire empire. Ptolemy’s reign saw the introduction of bureaucracy and the imposition of harsh taxation, monopolies, and economic regulations. His new formed dynasty required many resources to fund his military as they pursued the eastern Mediterranean and sustain the six wars with neighbors Seleucid kingdom(Costly, 2005). Alexandria remained the most significant city during the Hellenistic era. The presence of a double harbor made Alexandria city an ideal place for trade between Asian and Mediterranean countries. .
The Seleucids in Southwest Asia
In Southwest Asia, another of Alexander’s successor, Seleucus, Alexander’s successor in Southwest Asia asserted dominance over the state of Syria, Persia, and Mesopotamia. These states formed the largest part of Alexander’s empire. This region consisted of numerous religions, cultures, and characteristically diverse languages. Additionally, the Seleucid rulers rejected Alexander’s idea of incorporating conquered people among the class of administrators. The ruling class included Greeks and Macedonians. The Seleucid kings considered themselves absolute and god-like monarchs and were determined to hold on to power while defending and expanding their territories through armed confrontations.
The Seleucid kings built other cities besides the Hellenistic monarch. This new structures became the first to incorporate arch and vault architecture, the unique designs of the large buildings that had huge outdoor theatres that housed up to 20000 people(Costly, 2005). Greeks and Macedonian immigrants dominated most of the new cities. Immigrant women-owned businesses and participated in public affairs compared to their homeland. The populations included ethnically diverse natives mostly comprising slaves. New trade routes from India and China opened up the region and stimulated a money economy. The reign of Seleucid kings included the exploitation of civilians by imposing high taxes, rents and tributes.
Spreading Hellenistic Culture
Constant outbreaks of war and civil strife threatened to divide the Hellenistic world. Greek language would emerge as the unifying factor as it became (the universal language of commerce, education, governments, religion, science, and literature. The military gymnasiums, served as important centers of spreading Hellenistic culture. The learning facilities became the centers for development for philosophy, poetry, music, and science(Costly, 2005). They resembled high school for Macedonians and Greek young men in all Hellenistic kingdoms. The training centers were endowed with other facilities including running tracks, swimming pool, and a stadium for athletics sports, lecture rooms, and a library.
The spread of Hellenistic culture is associated with growth of art and literature. Various paintings, mosaics, and sculptures portrayed instances in normal life besides being used to decorate private homes and public buildings. Hellenistic art comprised several styles from different cultures. Moreover, psychology informed large elements of Greek drama, as well as poetry and some form of a novel, originated in Alexandria. Greek philosophers achieved success in most parts of Hellenistic culture. Greek religion however, failed to spread mostly because it was difficult to convert foreigners to Greek religion. Conversion required the new world to abandon and adopt certain sets of beliefs, rituals, and ceremonies. This saw the development of native religions like Mithraism and Judaism.
Costly, A. (2005). BRIA 21 4 a The Legacy of Alexander the Great – Constitutional Rights Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-21-4-a-the-legacy-of-alexander-the-great