Alexander the Great
Alexander III, better known as Alexander the Great, was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia, near present-day Thessaloniki in 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, one of his many wives. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle. Philip was assassinated when Alexander was 20, and he inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom.
First, he dealt with his enemies at home and reasserted Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire. Against all odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. He became great King of Persia at the age of 25.
Later, he travelled a further 15,000 kilometres, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents and covered over 5 million square kilometres. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast trade network. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.
Alexander was acknowledged as a military genius, although his belief in his own indestructibility meant he was often reckless with his own life and those of his soldiers. His loyal army only refused to follow him once in 13 years of a reign during which there was constant fighting. He died in Babylon in 323 BC.
The origins of the expression “Gordian knot” might be legendary. It seems in 333 BC, Alexander the Great, on his march through Anatolia, reached Gordium, the capital city of Phrygia. There he was shown the chariot of the ancient founder of the city, Gordius, with its yoke lashed to the pole by means of an intricate knot. According to tradition, this knot was to be untied only by the future conqueror of asia. Alexander sliced through the knot with his sword. The phrase “cutting the Gordian knot” now refers to a bold solution to a complicated problem.
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