A More Civilized Age

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 Every man will fall, though born a man, proudly presumes to be a superman. - Sophocles

 

 Click any picture to view enlarged version

 

 Alexander the Great Mosaic From Pompeii


Macedonian Battle Formation

 

  The Greek historian Herodotus wrote concerning the Persian Royal Road, "There is nothing in the world that travels faster than these Persian couriers." — "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness of night prevents them from accomplishing the task proposed to them with the very utmost speed" — the inspiration for the unofficial motto of postal carriers.

 

 A Model of a Greek Hoplite

   

Phalanx Formation Sketch

  

 Scene from the Movie Alexander


 The Empire at the Time of Alexander's Death

    The first Greeks arrived in Europe some time before 1500 BC, and at its peak, Greek Civilization ruled everything from Greece to Egypt to the far away Indus River.  This conquest was primarilly accomplished by Alexander the Great and his father, Philip the II.  Philip unified multiple Greek City-States, laying a foundation for Alexander's future conqering of the known world.  When Philip was assassinated in 336 BC he was succeeded by his son Alexander.  Alexander had to crush southern Greek rebels after Philip's death and reunified Greece.  In 335 BC Alexander began a campaign against the Thracians and Illirians in an attempt to secure the Danube River as Macedon's northern border.  At this time the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once more and Alexander crushed their rebellion simply.  He took the city of Thebes and razed the entire city and sold the inhabitants into slavery with the exceptions of the priests and pro-Macedonians.  This violent end of Thebes convinced Athens to submit and it readily accepted Alexander's demand for the exile of the leaders of the anti-Macedonians.

    Alexander was at last free to invade Persia.  He crossed into modern-day Turkey at the Hellespont with roughly 42,000 Greek soldiers, mostly Macedonians, but also including some Thracians and Illirians in addition to other Greek soldiers that were part of a League of Greek City-States.  Alexander won victory after victory over the Persian forces and at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC, Alexander defeated the main Persian Army under the personal command of Darius III.  Darius fled for his life and left behind his wife, children, and mother as well as some of his personal treasure.  Darius's mother never forgave him.  She disowned him and adopted Alexander as her own son.  After the Battle of Issus, Alexander moved down the western Mediterranean coast and conquered Tyre after a very famous siege.  Alexander was welcomed as a liberator in Egypt and he founded Alexandria.  He then moved on to Assyria and defeated Darius again, who again was forced to flee.  Alexander then marched on Babylon.  Alexander then conquered and looted a numer of cities and set out to capture the Persian Capital, Persepolis, by way of the Persian Royal Road.  Persepolis was looted and then a fire broke out.  It was not known if it was an accident or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Athenian Acropolis during the Second Persian War.  After taking Persepolis, Alexander turned his attention back to purusing Darius.  Before he could catch up to him Darius was kidnapped and murdered by followers of Bessus, a Persian provincial governor who sought to usurp Darius.  With Darius dead, Alexander released his Greek League and allied forces from service, but allowed them to re-enlist if they wished.

      With Persia crushed, Alexander moved on the usurper of Darius, Bessus.  After 3 more years of campaigning, Alexander had conquered much more territory and founded many more cities, all named Alexandria.  Among these are the modern city of Kandahar, Afganistan and Alexandria Eschate (Alexandria the Furthest), in modern Tajikistan. In 326 BC Alexander turned his attention on India.  The best besieger in history then besieged his last city, Aornos.  Aornos wass situated on a strongly reinforced mountain spur above the narrow gorges in a bend of the upper Indus. It had a flat summit well supplied with natural springs and wide enough to grow crops: it could not be starved to submission.  Yet Alexander had cracked tougher nuts (Tyre) and the city was taken by storm.  He then fought Porus at the Battle of Hydaspes where Alexander and his men came face to face with Asian War Elephants.  Alexander once again won the day, but his horse, Bucephalus, which he had ridden into all of his battles from Greece to India, was wounded and died.  He was grief stricken and founded a city in his horse's name.

    His men, exhausted by years of campaigning and afraid of another powerful Indian army, mutinied and refused to march further east.  Alexander figured it was for the best after discussion with his officers and followed the Indus River south to the Persian Gulf.  Alexander let it be known that he intended to launch a campaign against the Arab tribes.  After they were subjugated it was assumed that Alexander would turn west and attack Carthage and Italy.  Before he could accomplish these goals Alexander fell ill of a mysterious disease and died in a palace in Babylon in 323 BC.  Who knows?  Alexander could have changed western history entirely and the Roman Empire may never have risen as it did. . .

Alexander never lost a single battle.  Every military commander since has compared his achievements to Alexander's.

    After Alexander's death his empire was carved up by his officers under the pretense of preserving a united empire.  They later became rival monarchies and states.  By 270 BC they had consolidated into three states: the Antigonid Empire (In Macedon), the Seleucid Empire (From the Indus to Asia Minor), and the Ptolemaic Empire (Egypt, Palestine and Phoenecia).

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    Just over 100 years before Alexander's short existance (He died a month before his 33rd birthday.) the Greeks were at the mercy of the Persian Empire.  (To be continued at a later date)