Alexander the Great Dies on This Day in Ancient History, June 10, 323
Alexander the Great of Macedon was arguably the greatest conqueror in history. By the 300s BC, the Greek city-states were beginning to wane in terms of military dominance. Rome was on the rise, Persia marched across the east, the Celts were probably doing magic or whatever, and Greece had perhaps already seen its greatest military days. Then, along came Alexander the Great, bisexual icon.
The Early Life of Alexander the Great
Alexander was born in Pella in ancient Greece in 356 BC. His father was King Philip II of Macedon. He was tutored by Aristotle (yes, that Aristotle) as a teenager. Philip led an invasion against the Achaemaenid Empire in Persia. The invasion was going well until Philip was assassinated at Alexander’s sister’s wedding. The Greeks were demoralized and ultimately defeated.
Alexander rose to the throne and began a redemption conquest.
Alexander the Conqueror
Alexander became King of Macedon in 334 at the age of 20. At the age of 20, this writer was still stealing rolls of toilet paper from the communications building on campus. Alexander was undeniably built different.
For most of Greek history, the Greek city-states were independent cities that operated autonomously. For example, Sparta was a city. Then, there were surrounding areas that were controlled (some places more than others) by the city. Think of a city and its suburbs, not a modern nation-state. These various Greek city-states were similar in terms of language, religion, and culture, but they were separate areas. To mount a Greek campaign, a ruler first had to unite the Greek city-states. They did, however, form free associations that we call “leagues”. Delian League, Peloponnesian League, etc.
As king of Macedon, Alexander managed to seize control of a number of Greek city-states through some truly stunning military tactics. For example, when he marched on Thessaly, he marched directly over the mountains instead of through a mountain pass. When the sun rose on Thessaly, they found thousands of Macedonians at the rear of their army and immediately surrendered. Strokes of genius such as this created a near-mythic aura around Alexander while he was still alive.
He eventually became leader of the Amphictyonic League. With control of a number of city-states, he was ready to march on Asia and finish what his father started (a coalition of the willing. They’ll be greeted as liberators). Before, he could do that, he had to put down rebellions in Thebes and other city-states. They were independent, remember? They didn’t much care to serve Alexander, bisexual icon.
But, he beat all of the rebels because he was Alexander, near-mythic military commander and bisexual icon.
Alexander Spears Asia
In 334 BC, Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Asia. He threw a spear into the ground and declared Asia was a gift from the gods to him. He intended to conquer all of it.
For ten years, he conquered throughout the East. He conquered Syria, the Levant, parts of India, Persia, modern-day Iraq, and more. Everywhere he went, he established cities named Alexandria. He also became increasingly Eastern in culture. Most significantly, he began demanding that subordinates kiss his hand. His compatriots felt that this was an indication he saw himself as a deity (he did).
Eventually, they became disillusioned with his campaign through Asia and wanted to go home. He gave an impassioned speech that rallied the veterans back to his side. And he marched onward.
Alexander the Great Dies
In Babylon in late May 323, Alexander fell ill. He was sick for about twelve days and died on this day in 323 BC. His cause of death isn’t clear. Poison is definitely possible, but this was also the time before penicillin, germ theory, handwashing, mask mandates, and just about any other kind of useful preventative care. So, he could have died of a stubbed toe.
Either way, Alexander didn’t designate a successor. Instead, he is reported to have left his empire “to the strongest.” This led to fighting amongst his successors and the eventual split of his empire into four different successor empires.
On this day — June 10 — in 323 BC, Alexander the Great (bisexual icon) died at the age of 32. He created an empire that ruled 15% of the world’s population, spanning 4% of the world’s area. The Roman Empire at its greatest extent ruled about 30% of the world’s population and 4% of the world’s area, for comparison. He inspired future conquerors such as Julius Caesar, and his tactics are still taught by militaries to this day.
He did it all by the age of 32. Also, he never lost a battle. That’s pretty great.