On this day: June 13th 323 BC King Alexander the Great died of fever in Babylon. He was only 32 years old.
To me Alexander the Great is a perfect example of a man who seized the moment – he took the years he had and did something with them. What he did echoes down through the years even to this day.
He was only 19 years old when his father Philip of Macedon was assassinated and Alexander inherited the throne of Macedon and the effective control of all of Greece. His father had forged a powerful alliance of most of the Greek City states. Alexander went on from that position. he took that power and within a couple of years left Greece on a campaign that he hoped would take him to the ends of the earth. What he would achieve would shake he ancient world. He was about to take on the most powerful Empire in the world at the time and defeat it in detail with a smaller force using tactical brilliance and sheer force of will.
He now embarked on a series of remarkable campaigns that took him into Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia and eastwards to Persia. At last he over threw the mighty King Darius III and defeated the Persian Empire. He had now added vast swathes of territory to Greek domains but he was not yet done. He passed on into Afghanistan where even to day there are cities named after him.
It was when he tried to invade India that his men revolted and refused to follow him any further. Then Alexander reportedly fell into a depression that he would never reach the ends of the earth. The following year whilst planning a campaign into Arabia he contracted a fever and died.
If you like you can argue the modern view point that we should not glorify a military leader – that a man who conquered an empire and as such caused the deaths of thousands should not by held up as a symbol to be admired.
But if you did argue that way, I am going to have to disagree with you. You see, to me Alexander is a man who was driven by the burning need to keep going, to get to that next hill, to win that next battle and above all to achieve things no one had previously done. That drive, that desire to make a mark, to try even if there was a risk of failure – that to me is the thing that I most admire about the man.
Alexander features in my young teen time travel adventure Tomorrow’s Guardian.