Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC in Pella, which was the capital of the kingdom of Macedon. His tutor was Aristotle. Alexander the Great came to the throne when he was twenty and he began conquering Asia as the ruler of Greece. During the ten years he built an empire that stretched from Macedonia to Egypt, Afghanistan and the Indus River.
In 330 BC Alexander the Great came to the throne of Egypt and he founded the city of Alexandria two years before, which became the seat of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the capital of Egypt later. Among the other things this city is famous for its beautiful lighthouse, on the top of which stood a statue of Zeus. The lighthouse guided seafarers of all the Mediterranean in the harbour.
Alexander’s campaign against the Persian Empire
After Alexander the Great strengthened his position in his native country, he set out a campaign in which he attained almost the entire known world of that time. Alexander set out in the spring of 334 BC. He had the army of 30,000 infantry, large numbers of light infantry, archers and 5,000 cavalrymen. His aim was to defeat the Persian Empire, which could easily stand over a million men on the field, though they were of less quality than the Macedonians.
The first issue Alexander had to solve was the overcoming of Hellespont, which was guarded by the Persian fleet. Luckily for the Macedonians they did not attack at all and let all the soldiers to sail the strait without losses. So Alexander left Europe then, which he was not meant to see again.
Troy - Dardanelles – battle of Granicus
First Alexander headed to Troy destructed ages ago, where he paid tribute to the Trojan heroes (Alexander loved Homer’s epics immensely). Alexander then set out to the north to Dardanelles and turned east there, where he won the battle of Granicus and defeated the Persian King Darius III for the first time. Battle of Granicus is described elsewhere in this site.
After this first battle from a long line of Alexander’s successful battles against the Persians, the Macedonians went to Sardis. Here the local Lydians opened the gates for him and also gave him municipal treasure of a significant price, which stove off Alexander's financial problems for some time. Like Sardis the Macedonians gained famous Ephesus as well, where local people lynched the Persian control of the city and opened the gates by the first mention of Alexander.
Alexander in Caria and Halicarnassus
Then Alexander moved on to Caria, where the expelled ruler Ada asked for help to recapture her rights. So Alexander went to the centre of the country, the city of Miletus. The commander of the city wanted to surrender at first, but then he found out about reinforcement on the way and entrenched himself. Alexander placed his fleet of 160 ships cleverly on very advantageous place and thus the delayed Persian fleet of 400 ships lost its advantage.
Parmenion, the highest commander of Alexander, urged to fight the battle on the sea, but Alexander refused and attacked the city. Parmenion hired there part of defeated defenders (it was pretty usual with Alexander, who admired bravery), dissolved his fleet, because he didn’t have money for it and set out to Halicarnassus. The city had considerable fortification and in addition one of its commanders was Memnon of Rhodes, the highest commander of the Greek mercenaries in Persian service, who was very capable.
Alexander prepared himself for a long siege. First he let fill the moat in front of the walls with soil to move his siege engines closer. Attacks of the garrison didn’t change anything, so the task was finished soon. Arrian writes that due to boastfulness of two Macedonian soldiers the city was almost conquered then, but the defenders stopped the improvised attack at last. However, the situation of Halicarnassus became critical. Alexander would conquer the city at the next attack, but he allegedly stopped his soldiers to prevent the destruction of the city and waited for the peace proposals. Instead, the Persian and Greek mercenaries set the city on fire and part of them escape, including Memnon. After the conquest Alexander let all the soldiers, who had married just before the campaign, take a holiday, which was both popular and beneficial.
Alexander in Babylonia
The way to Babylonia opened to Alexander, after the battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander defeated Darius III. definitively. Alexander took the opportunity and went with the whole army towards the city that had a strong fortification. But he didn’t use the army again, because the city surrendered without fight. Among other treasures Alexander also found the state treasury, thus he could present himself as a generous man and gave two extra pays to his soldiers, organized monumental games and stayed in Babylonia for over a month. Then Alexander came to Susa, where he found 40,000 talents of silver and the same amount of gold darics, which was tremendous fortune at that time. Alexander decided to go to Persepolis then. On the way he met with a first resistance since the battle of Gaugamela, but the local tribe was defeated.
Alexander met a crowd of thousands of Greek slaves from Asia Minor on his way to Persepolis, who escaped and went to meet their new ruler. All of them were crippled, mostly with cut off limbs, which they didn’t need for work. Alexander provided them and drew to Persepolis the next day, the ceremonial capital of the whole empire. Alexander sacrificed the city to his men. Darius spent the winter in Ekbatana in absolute calm and didn’t make any preparations for war, so Alexander could dare a trip to the tombstone of Cyrus the Great.
Everything head towards the last battle of Alexander the Great and Darius.