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Who was Alexander the Great?

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The son of Philip of Macedon, Alexander was given his first military command when he was 16 and was left in charge of Macedonia while his father was away on campaign.

He later played a prominent part in the victory of Chaeronea, which established Macedonian control over the Greek city states. He succeeded his father after his assassination in 336 BC and showed military prowess early in his reign, defeating unruly neighbors to the north and quelling a rebellion in Greece.

Alexander the Great destroyed Thebes in 336 BC as a warning to other rebellious Greek cities; Athens was spared out of regard for Aristotle.

Having secured his hold on Greece, Alexander turned his attention to the conquest of Asia Minor. In 334 BC he crossed the Hellespont (Dardenelles) at the head of an army of 40,000 and won his first victory over the Persians, led by Darius III. In the next year, at Issus, he again defeated Darius, capturing the Persian king's mother, wife and children. In 332 BC Alexander marched into Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. In the same year he advanced once again to meet Darius and defeated him at Gaugemala beyond the River Tigris.

The heartland of the Persian Empire was now open to him and he marched onwards to Babylon, Susa and Persepolis, all of which surrendered. Alexander was now master of Asia. Darius was seized by one of his vassals, Bessus of Bactria, and put to death, but Alexander invaded Bactria in 329 BC, capturing and killing Bessus. During the next 2 years Alexander completed his conquest of the Persian Empire.

In 327 BC he invaded India, marching without opposition· to the River Hydaspes, where he defeated the Indian ruler, Porus. He advanced as far as the River Hyphasis; this was the end of the journey, as the Macedonians refused to go any farther. In 326 BC he reached the Indian Ocean. Some of Alexander's troops and the fleet, under the command of Nearchus, were ordered to sail along the coast of the Persian Gulf, while he marched overland to Susa with the remainder of the army. At Susa, he put into practice his plan to weld the Macedonians and Persians into one race. He assigned Asiatic wives to many of his senior officers and he himself married Barsine, the daughter of Darius.

Towards the end of 325 BC Alexander went to Ecbatana (Ramadan) and later to Babylon, which he intended to make the capital of his empire. At Babylon in 323 BC he contracted a fever and 11 days later he died. He appointed no successor, leaving his vast territories, in his own words, 'to the strongest'.

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