Timeline of World History: Year by Year from Prehistory to Present Day


  Illustrated History of the World

The Ancient World - ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.

The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The Rise and Fall of a World Power:

From Macedonia to the Diadochoi



Alexander the Great. Mosaic of  Battle of Issus.


Initially, the Greeks hardly took note of the Macedonians and regarded them as useful "semi-barbarians" who shielded their civilization from invasions from the north. In the fifth century B.C., however, the Macedonians began to unify as a cohesive nation under a strong monarch and eventually, under Philip II, became the leading power in Greece. From Macedonia, Philip's son 1 Alexander the Great conquered the known world, although his empire did not survive his death. His successors, the Diadochoi, carried the Hellenistic culture throughout the empire and into the Near and Middle East.

The Rise of Macedonia

Starting in the fifth century B.C., Macedonian rulers were able to develop a relatively cohesive state structure. Macedonia was thus able gradually to build up its influence and become a great power.


In its early period, Macedonia, in the north of Greece, did not play a strong role in shaping Greek culture. Its populace, predominantly peasants, spoke a distinct dialect and did not regard itself as Greek. Macedonia's early history was characterized by conflicts with the Illyrians and Thracians, its neighbors to the north and south respectively. By the seventh century B.C ., the Argead dynasty ruled in Macedonia. The king was commander of the army, supreme judge, and ritualistic religious leader in one, with his power held in check by an assembly of the army and the warrior aristocracy.

By the fifth century B.C., Macedonia had become a cohesive state. 4 King Alexander I (the Philhellene) supported the Greeks in the Persian Wars and had, by 480 B.C., extended his kingdom to Mount Olympus and the Pangaion region. He gave his kingdom a more stable structure through military, administrative, and coinage reforms. His successor, Perdiccas II, used clever tactics between the sides of the Peloponnesian  War. The rise of Macedonia as a military power began under Archelaus, who made Pella his capital, occupied parts of Thessaly around 400 B.C., and invited famous Greek artists, Euripides foremost among them, to his court. Macedonia faced catastrophe in 359 B.C. when its king was killed: Perdiccas III. who had won a victory over the Athenians in 360, fell in battle against the Illyrians along with 4.000 of his 3 warriors. His son and heir Amyntas IV. was still a child, and the Illyrians and Paionians took advantage of this to enter Macedonia. In desperation, the fallen king's younger brother and the child's regent, 2 Philip II, was raised to the throne and the situation immediately changed.


2 Olympia, mother of Alexander the Great
2 Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great
3 Alexander the Great


4 Alexander I of Macedonia has Persians killed by youths disguised as girls,
during a feast organized by his father, Philip II


Macedonia as a Great Power under Philip II

Within a few years, Philip II turned Macedonia into the leading military and political power in Greece. He sought a political and cultural union between the Greeks and the Macedonians under his own leadership.


7 Philip II

 9 Reconstruction of armor from the
grave of Philip II in Vergina

7 Philip II (559-336 B.C.) was an outstanding statesman and also a brilliant 9 military commander.

After the death of his brother he governed the country as guardian of his young nephew. Once on the throne, he resolved to capture the various Greek cities. First, he drove the Illyrians and the Paionians out of the country and in the following years conquered a large part of Thrace and the Pangaion. Beginning in 354 B.C. he pushed ever farther into Greece and in 351 conquered the Bosporus. Between 348 and 342 he occupied Thessaly, the Chalcidice, and the entirety of Thrace and incorporated them into his kingdom. Philip built up the Macedonian fleet and reorganized his army.

He backed 11 mercenaries and professional officers, chose capable generals, and made use of his own military engineers to construct siege devices such as battering rams and catapults.

However, the primary reasons for Philip's successes were the weakness and internal strife of the Greek states that had resulted from the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians were particularly anxious about the liberty of the Greek cities.


11 Mercenaries fighting for Philip II,
wood engraving, 1867

The orator 12 Demosthenes warned the Greeks of the "Macedonian barbarian," in his four 6 Philippics ("speeches against Philip").


12 The Greek orator Demosthenes

6 Demosthenes Practising Oratory
by Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouy.


Philip's advances led to open war in 340 B.C., during which the Athenians initially gained an upper hand due to their superiority at sea.

In the 10 Battle of Chaeronea in August 338, however, the 5, 8 Macedonian phalanx under Philip and his son Alexander won a crushing victory over the "Hellenic League" of Greek cities led by Athens and Thebes.

Philip, who called himself the "unifier of Greece," dictated moderate peace terms that allowed the illusion of autonomy, and Athens, Thebes, and most of the other cities joined the Corinthian League and a "Common Peace." Philip then became the undisputed sovereign of the first truly united Greece.

In 337 B.C. Philip called for a war against the Persians to extend his power eastward. In the spring of 336, a great army of Greeks and Macedonians crossed the Hellespont into Anatolia. However, Philip was assassinated in the middle of preparations for war during the wedding feast for his daughter's marriage.


10 The Philippeion, commissioned by Philip II
after his victory at Chaeronea in 338 B.C.
in honor of his family


5 Method of attack used by basic unit of the Macedonian phalanx as it was organized
under both Alexander the Great and his father Philip II


8 Macedonian phalanx




The Panhellenic Movement

The term "Hellenes" was taken from Hellen, a mythical patriarch. His sons gave their names to the Aeoleans, Dorians, and lonians. At first it referred to a tribe in Thessaly, but was later extended to include all Greeks. "Zeus Panhellenios" was declared the universal godhead of all Greeks and was honored in rites on the island of Aegina. Philip U and Alexander used Panhellenism as a political integration strategy and intervened as arbitrators in internal Greek conflicts in its name.



Alexander the Great and His Campaigns

Map of Alexander's empire.

Alexander rapidly conquered the Near East and Asia as far as India. He was prevented from marching farther by a mutiny of his troops.


3 Alexander III, son of Philip II, is one of the outstanding personalities of world history.

3 Mosaic representing the battle of Alexander the Great against Darius III, perhaps after an earlier
Greek painting of Philoxenus of Eretria. This mosaic was found in Pompeii in the House of the Faun
and is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples). It is dated first century BC.

His youthful elan and tactical genius were admired by his contemporaries; his personality and aims continue to present riddles to this day. With his campaigns and his plans for a world empire, he altered Greek identity and Europe's world view, yet ultimately failed as a result of his excesses. Alexander, who was educated by the philosopher 1 Aristotle, was entrusted by his father with important duties as early as 340 B.C., at age 16, but felt slighted when Philip remarried in 337. Possibly Alexander and his mother Olympias were involved in Philip's murder.

1 Aristotle and his student Alexander



"The Categories"

As the new king, Alexander suppressed rebellion in various Greek cities and demonstrated his strength by destroying the city of Thebes in 335 B.C., then took up the aggressive 5 war against the Persians planned by his father.

5 The aftermath of the conquest of the Persian Empire
by Alexander the Great, 334-331 B.C.

He crossed over to Asia Minor and defeated the Persian army under Darius III at 4 Issus in 333, then occupied Syria and Phoenicia in 332.

4 Battle of Issus between the Macedonians under Alexander and the Persians, stone relief, 333 B.C.

He entered Egypt peacefully in 332-331, had himself crowned 2 pharaoh, and founded Alexandria.

2 Alexander the Great depicted as a
pharaoh greeting the god Amun

In 331 Alexander crossed the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers into Persia, defeated the Persians once more, and proclaimed himself "king of Asia." The subjugations of Babylon, the imperial capital Susa, and Persepolis were symbolic acts that strengthened his claim as ruler of Persia.

In 327 B.C. Alexander pushed further cast, into India, occupying the areas through which he proceeded. He defeated the Indian king 6 Porus at the Hydaspes River in 326, but as he was preparing to press on to the Ganges, a mutiny of his soldiers forced him to turn back.

The army marched along the Indus to the delta, where it split up in 325. Alexander continued back to Iran through the desert of Gedrosia with the major
part of his army, while the fleet was sent to explore the sea passage through the Persian Gulf. Alexander's plan to integrate the cultures in his vast empire by making Macedonians and Persians equal in the army and government met with an army mutiny and resistance in Macedonia and the Greek city-states.


6 Alexander and Porus (Puru) during the Battle of the Hydaspes and the captured Indian king, by Charles Le Brun




The Gordian Knot

After Alexander the Great had subjugated Phrygia, he found, in Gordium on the Persian "Royal Road," in the Temple of Jupiter in Gordium, the royal chariot of King Gordius, the yoke of which was knotted up with a rope. According to the oracle, whosoever loosened the knot would rule over Asia. Alexander shouted, "What does it matter how I loose it?" and cut through the legendary Gordian Knot with his sword.



Alexander cuts through the Gordian Knot with his sword, by Jean-Simon Berthelemy

Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, also known as Alexander III or Alexander of Macedonia

born 356 bc, Pella, Macedonia
died June 13, 323 bc, Babylon

He was born in 356 bc at Pella in Macedonia, the son of Philip II and Olympias (daughter of King Neoptolemus of Epirus). From age 13 to 16 he was taught by Aristotle, who inspired him with an interest in philosophy, medicine, and scientific investigation; but he was later to advance beyond his teacher’s narrow precept that non-Greeks should be treated as slaves. Left in charge of Macedonia in 340 during Philip’s attack on Byzantium, Alexander defeated the Maedi, a Thracian people; two years later he commanded the left wing at the Battle of Chaeronea, in which Philip defeated the allied Greek states, and displayed personal courage in breaking the Sacred Band of Thebes. A year later Philip divorced Olympias; and, after a quarrel at a feast held to celebrate his father’s new marriage, Alexander and his mother fled to Epirus, and Alexander later went to Illyria. Shortly afterward, father and son were reconciled and Alexander returned; but his position as heir was jeopardized.

In 336, however, on Philip’s assassination, Alexander, acclaimed by the army, succeeded without opposition. He at once executed the princes of Lyncestis, alleged to be behind Philip’s murder, along with all possible rivals and the whole of the faction opposed to him. He then marched south, recovered a wavering Thessaly, and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth was appointed generalissimo for the forthcoming invasion of Asia, already planned and initiated by Philip. Returning to Macedonia by way of Delphi (where the Pythian priestess acclaimed him “invincible”), he advanced into Thrace in spring 335 and, after forcing the Shipka Pass and crushing the Triballi, crossed the Danube to disperse the Getae; turning west, he then defeated and shattered a coalition of Illyrians who had invaded Macedonia. Meanwhile, a rumour of his death had precipitated a revolt of Theban democrats; other Greek states favoured Thebes, and the Athenians, urged on by Demosthenes, voted help. In 14 days Alexander marched 240 miles from Pelion (near modern Korçë, Albania) in Illyria to Thebes. When the Thebans refused to surrender, he made an entry and razed their city to the ground, sparing only temples and Pindar’s house; 6,000 were killed and all survivors sold into slavery. The other Greek states were cowed by this severity, and Alexander could afford to treat Athens leniently. Macedonian garrisons were left in Corinth, Chalcis, and the Cadmea (the citadel of Thebes).

Life » Beginnings of the Persian expedition
From his accession Alexander had set his mind on the Persian expedition. He had grown up to the idea. Moreover, he needed the wealth of Persia if he was to maintain the army built by Philip and pay off the 500 talents he owed. The exploits of the Ten Thousand, Greek soldiers of fortune, and of Agesilaus of Sparta, in successfully campaigning in Persian territory had revealed the vulnerability of the Persian Empire. With a good cavalry force Alexander could expect to defeat any Persian army. In spring 334 he crossed the Dardanelles, leaving Antipater, who had already faithfully served his father, as his deputy in Europe with over 13,000 men; he himself commanded about 30,000 foot and over 5,000 cavalry, of whom nearly 14,000 were Macedonians and about 7,000 allies sent by the Greek League. This army was to prove remarkable for its balanced combination of arms. Much work fell on the lightarmed Cretan and Macedonian archers, Thracians, and the Agrianian javelin men. But in pitched battle the striking force was the cavalry, and the core of the army, should the issue still remain undecided after the cavalry charge, was the infantry phalanx, 9,000 strong, armed with 13-foot spears and shields, and the 3,000 men of the royal battalions, the hypaspists. Alexander’s second in command was Parmenio, who had secured a foothold in Asia Minor during Philip’s lifetime; many of his family and supporters were entrenched in positions of responsibility. The army was accompanied by surveyors, engineers, architects, scientists, court officials, and historians; from the outset Alexander seems to have envisaged an unlimited operation.

After visiting Ilium (Troy), a romantic gesture inspired by Homer, he confronted his first Persian army, led by three satraps, at the Granicus (modern Kocabaş) River, near the Sea of Marmara (May/June 334). The Persian plan to tempt Alexander across the river and kill him in the melee almost succeeded; but the Persian line broke, and Alexander’s victory was complete. Darius’ Greek mercenaries were largely massacred, but 2,000 survivors were sent back to Macedonia in chains. This victory exposed western Asia Minor to the Macedonians, and most cities hastened to open their gates. The tyrants were expelled and (in contrast to Macedonian policy in Greece) democracies were installed. Alexander thus underlined his Panhellenic policy, already symbolized in the sending of 300 panoplies (sets of armour) taken at the Granicus as an offering dedicated to Athena at Athens by “Alexander son of Philip and the Greeks (except the Spartans) from the barbarians who inhabit Asia.” (This formula, cited by the Greek historian Arrian in his history of Alexander’s campaigns, is noteworthy for its omission of any reference to Macedonia.) But the cities remained de facto under Alexander, and his appointment of Calas as satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia reflected his claim to succeed the Great King of Persia. When Miletus, encouraged by the proximity of the Persian fleet, resisted, Alexander took it by assault; but, refusing a naval battle, he disbanded his own costly navy and announced that he would “defeat the Persian fleet on land,” by occupying the coastal cities. In Caria, Halicarnassus resisted and was stormed; but Ada, the widow and sister of the satrap Idrieus, adopted Alexander as her son and, after expelling her brother Pixodarus, Alexander restored her to her satrapy. Some parts of Caria held out, however, until 332.

Life » Asia Minor and the Battle of Issus
In winter 334–333 Alexander conquered western Asia Minor, subduing the hill tribes of Lycia and Pisidia; and in spring 333 he advanced along the coastal road to Perga, passing the cliffs of Mt. Climax, thanks to a fortunate change of wind. The fall in the level of the sea was interpreted as a mark of divine favour by Alexander’s flatterers, including the historian Callisthenes. At Gordium in Phrygia, tradition records his cutting of the Gordian knot, which could only be loosed by the man who was to rule Asia; but this story may be apocryphal or at least distorted. At this point Alexander benefitted from the sudden death of Memnon, the competent Greek commander of the Persian fleet. From Gordium he pushed on to Ancyra (modern Ankara) and thence south through Cappadocia and the Cilician Gates (modern Külek Boğazi); a fever held him up for a time in Cilicia. Meanwhile, Darius with his Grand Army had advanced northward on the eastern side of Mt. Amanus. Intelligence on both sides was faulty, and Alexander was already encamped by Myriandrus (near modern Iskenderun, Turkey) when he learned that Darius was astride his line of communications at Issus, north of Alexander’s position (autumn 333). Turning, Alexander found Darius drawn up along the Pinarus River. In the battle that followed, Alexander won a decisive victory. The struggle turned into a Persian rout and Darius fled, leaving his family in Alexander’s hands; the women were treated with chivalrous care.

Life » Conquest of the Mediterranean coast and Egypt
From Issus Alexander marched south into Syria and Phoenicia, his object being to isolate the Persian fleet from its bases and so to destroy it as an effective fighting force. The Phoenician cities Marathus and Aradus came over quietly, and Parmenio was sent ahead to secure Damascus and its rich booty, including Darius’ war chest. In reply to a letter from Darius offering peace, Alexander replied arrogantly, recapitulating the historic wrongs of Greece and demanding unconditional surrender to himself as lord of Asia. After taking Byblos (modern Jubayl) and Sidon (Arabic Ṣaydā), he met with a check at Tyre, where he was refused entry into the island city. He thereupon prepared to use all methods of siegecraft to take it, but the Tyrians resisted, holding out for seven months. In the meantime (winter 333–332) the Persians had counterattacked by land in Asia Minor—where they were defeated by Antigonus, the satrap of Greater Phrygia—and by sea, recapturing a number of cities and islands.

While the siege of Tyre was in progress, Darius sent a new offer: he would pay a huge ransom of 10,000 talents for his family and cede all his lands west of the Euphrates. “I would accept,” Parmenio is reported to have said, “were I Alexander”; “I too,” was the famous retort, “were I Parmenio.” The storming of Tyre in July 332 was Alexander’s greatest military achievement; it was attended with great carnage and the sale of the women and children into slavery. Leaving Parmenio in Syria, Alexander advanced south without opposition until he reached Gaza on its high mound; there bitter resistance halted him for two months, and he sustained a serious shoulder wound during a sortie. There is no basis for the tradition that he turned aside to visit Jerusalem.

In November 332 he reached Egypt. The people welcomed him as their deliverer, and the Persian satrap Mazaces wisely surrendered. At Memphis Alexander sacrificed to Apis, the Greek term for Hapi, the sacred Egyptian bull, and was crowned with the traditional double crown of the pharaohs; the native priests were placated and their religion encouraged. He spent the winter organizing Egypt, where he employed Egyptian governors, keeping the army under a separate Macedonian command. He founded the city of Alexandria near the western arm of the Nile on a fine site between the sea and Lake Mareotis, protected by the island of Pharos, and had it laid out by the Rhodian architect Deinocrates. He is also said to have sent an expedition to discover the causes of the flooding of the Nile. From Alexandria he marched along the coast to Paraetonium and from there inland to visit the celebrated oracle of the god Amon (at Sīwah); the difficult journey was later embroidered with flattering legends. On his reaching the oracle in its oasis, the priest gave him the traditional salutation of a pharaoh, as son of Amon; Alexander consulted the god on the success of his expedition but revealed the reply to no one. Later the incident was to contribute to the story that he was the son of Zeus and, thus, to his “deification.” In spring 331 he returned to Tyre, appointed a Macedonian satrap for Syria, and prepared to advance into Mesopotamia. His conquest of Egypt had completed his control of the whole eastern Mediterranean coast.

In July 331 Alexander was at Thapsacus on the Euphrates. Instead of taking the direct route down the river to Babylon, he made across northern Mesopotamia toward the Tigris, and Darius, learning of this move from an advance force sent under Mazaeus to the Euphrates crossing, marched up the Tigris to oppose him. The decisive battle of the war was fought on October 31, on the plain of Gaugamela between Nineveh and Arbela. Alexander pursued the defeated Persian forces for 35 miles to Arbela, but Darius escaped with his Bactrian cavalry and Greek mercenaries into Media.

Alexander now occupied Babylon, city and province; Mazaeus, who surrendered it, was confirmed as satrap in conjunction with a Macedonian troop commander, and quite exceptionally was granted the right to coin. As in Egypt, the local priesthood was encouraged. Susa, the capital, also surrendered, releasing huge treasures amounting to 50,000 gold talents; here Alexander established Darius’ family in comfort. Crushing the mountain tribe of the Ouxians, he now pressed on over the Zagros range into Persia proper and, successfully turning the Pass of the Persian Gates, held by the satrap Ariobarzanes, he entered Persepolis and Pasargadae. At Persepolis he ceremonially burned down the palace of Xerxes, as a symbol that the Panhellenic war of revenge was at an end; for such seems the probable significance of an act that tradition later explained as a drunken frolic inspired by Thaïs, an Athenian courtesan. In spring 330 Alexander marched north into Media and occupied its capital Ecbatana. The Thessalians and Greek allies were sent home; henceforward he was waging a purely personal war.

As Mazaeus’ appointment indicated, Alexander’s views on the empire were changing. He had come to envisage a joint ruling people consisting of Macedonians and Persians, and this served to augment the misunderstanding that now arose between him and his people. Before continuing his pursuit of Darius, who had retreated into Bactria, he assembled all the Persian treasure and entrusted it to Harpalus, who was to hold it at Ecbatana as chief treasurer. Parmenio was also left behind in Media to control communications; the presence of this older man had perhaps become irksome.

In midsummer 330 Alexander set out for the eastern provinces at a high speed via Rhagae (modern Rayy, near Tehrān) and the Caspian Gates, where he learned that Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, had deposed Darius. After a skirmish near modern Shāhrūd, the usurper had Darius stabbed and left him to die. Alexander sent his body for burial with due honours in the royal tombs at Persepolis.

Life » Campaign eastward, to Central Asia
Darius’ death left no obstacle to Alexander’s claim to be Great King, and a Rhodian inscription of this year (330) calls him “lord of Asia”—i.e., of the Persian Empire; soon afterward his Asian coins carry the title of king. Crossing the Elburz Mountains to the Caspian, he seized Zadracarta in Hyrcania and received the submission of a group of satraps and Persian notables, some of whom he confirmed in their offices; in a diversion westward, perhaps to modern Āmol, he reduced the Mardi, a mountain people who inhabited the Elburz Mountains. He also accepted the surrender of Darius’ Greek mercenaries. His advance eastward was now rapid. In Aria he reduced Satibarzanes, who had offered submission only to revolt, and he founded Alexandria of the Arians (modern Herāt). At Phrada in Drangiana (either near modern Nad-e ʿAli in Seistan or farther north at Farah), he at last took steps to destroy Parmenio and his family. Philotas, Parmenio’s son, commander of the elite Companion cavalry, was implicated in an alleged plot against Alexander’s life, condemned by the army, and executed; and a secret message was sent to Cleander, Parmenio’s second in command, who obediently assassinated him. This ruthless action excited widespread horror but strengthened Alexander’s position relative to his critics and those whom he regarded as his father’s men. All Parmenio’s adherents were now eliminated and men close to Alexander promoted. The Companion cavalry was reorganized in two sections, each containing four squadrons (now known as hipparchies); one group was commanded by Alexander’s oldest friend, Hephaestion, the other by Cleitus, an older man. From Phrada, Alexander pressed on during the winter of 330–329 up the valley of the Helmand River, through Arachosia, and over the mountains past the site of modern Kābul into the country of the Paropamisadae, where he founded Alexandria by the Caucasus.

Bessus was now in Bactria raising a national revolt in the eastern satrapies with the usurped title of Great King. Crossing the Hindu Kush northward over the Khawak Pass (11,650 feet), Alexander brought his army, despite food shortages, to Drapsaca (sometimes identified with modern Banu [Andarab], probably farther north at Qunduz); outflanked, Bessus fled beyond the Oxus (modern Amu Darya), and Alexander, marching west to Bactra-Zariaspa (modern Balkh [Wazirabad] in Afghanistan), appointed loyal satraps in Bactria and Aria. Crossing the Oxus, he sent his general Ptolemy in pursuit of Bessus, who had meanwhile been overthrown by the Sogdian Spitamenes. Bessus was captured, flogged, and sent to Bactra, where he was later mutilated after the Persian manner (losing his nose and ears); in due course he was publicly executed at Ecbatana.

From Maracanda (modern Samarkand) Alexander advanced by way of Cyropolis to the Jaxartes (modern Syrdarya), the boundary of the Persian Empire. There he broke the opposition of the Scythian nomads by his use of catapults and, after defeating them in a battle on the north bank of the river, pursued them into the interior. On the site of modern Leninabad (Khojent) on the Jaxartes, he founded a city, Alexandria Eschate, “the farthest.” Meanwhile, Spitamenes had raised all Sogdiana in revolt behind him, bringing in the Massagetai, a people of the Śaka confederacy. It took Alexander until the autumn of 328 to crush the most determined opponent he encountered in his campaigns. Later in the same year he attacked Oxyartes and the remaining barons who held out in the hills of Paraetacene (modern Tadzhikistan); volunteers seized the crag on which Oxyartes had his stronghold, and among the captives was his daughter, Roxana. In reconciliation Alexander married her, and the rest of his opponents were either won over or crushed.

An incident that occurred at Maracanda widened the breach between Alexander and many of his Macedonians. He murdered Cleitus, one of his most trusted commanders, in a drunken quarrel; but his excessive display of remorse led the army to pass a decree convicting Cleitus posthumously of treason. The event marked a step in Alexander’s progress toward Eastern absolutism, and this growing attitude found its outward expression in his use of Persian royal dress. Shortly afterward, at Bactra, he attempted to impose the Persian court ceremonial, involving prostration (proskynesis), on the Greeks and Macedonians too; but to them this custom, habitual for Persians entering the king’s presence, implied an act of worship and was intolerable before a man. Even Callisthenes, historian and nephew of Aristotle, whose ostentatious flattery had perhaps encouraged Alexander to see himself in the role of a god, refused to abase himself. Macedonian laughter caused the experiment to founder, and Alexander abandoned it. Shortly afterward, however, Callisthenes was held to be privy to a conspiracy among the royal pages and was executed (or died in prison; accounts vary); resentment of this action alienated sympathy from Alexander within the Peripatetic school of philosophers, with which Callisthenes had close connections.

Life » Invasion of India
In early summer 327 Alexander left Bactria with a reinforced army under a reorganized command. If Plutarch’s figure of 120,000 men has any reality, however, it must include all kinds of auxiliary services, together with muleteers, camel drivers, medical corps, peddlers, entertainers, women, and children; the fighting strength perhaps stood at about 35,000. Recrossing the Hindu Kush, probably by Bamian and the Ghorband Valley, Alexander divided his forces. Half the army with the baggage under Hephaestion and Perdiccas, both cavalry commanders, was sent through the Khyber Pass, while he himself led the rest, together with his siege train, through the hills to the north. His advance through Swāt and Gandhāra was marked by the storming of the almost impregnable pinnacle of Aornos, the modern Pir-Sar, a few miles west of the Indus and north of the Buner River, an impressive feat of siegecraft. In spring 326, crossing the Indus near Attock, Alexander entered Taxila, whose ruler, Taxiles, furnished elephants and troops in return for aid against his rival Porus, who ruled the lands between the Hydaspes (modern Jhelum) and the Acesines (modern Chenāb). In June Alexander fought his last great battle on the left bank of the Hydaspes. He founded two cities there, Alexandria Nicaea (to celebrate his victory) and Bucephala (named after his horse Bucephalus, which died there); and Porus became his ally.

How much Alexander knew of India beyond the Hyphasis (probably the modern Beas) is uncertain; there is no conclusive proof that he had heard of the Ganges. But he was anxious to press on farther, and he had advanced to the Hyphasis when his army mutinied, refusing to go farther in the tropical rain; they were weary in body and spirit, and Coenus, one of Alexander’s four chief marshals, acted as their spokesman. On finding the army adamant, Alexander agreed to turn back.

On the Hyphasis he erected 12 altars to the 12 Olympian gods, and on the Hydaspes he built a fleet of 800 to 1,000 ships. Leaving Porus, he then proceeded down the river and into the Indus, with half his forces on shipboard and half marching in three columns down the two banks. The fleet was commanded by Nearchus, and Alexander’s own captain was Onesicritus; both later wrote accounts of the campaign. The march was attended with much fighting and heavy, pitiless slaughter; at the storming of one town of the Malli near the Hydraotes (Ravi) River, Alexander received a severe wound which left him weakened.

On reaching Patala, located at the head of the Indus delta, he built a harbour and docks and explored both arms of the Indus, which probably then ran into the Rann of Kutch. He planned to lead part of his forces back by land, while the rest in perhaps 100 to 150 ships under the command of Nearchus, a Cretan with naval experience, made a voyage of exploration along the Persian Gulf. Local opposition led Nearchus to set sail in September (325), and he was held up for three weeks until he could pick up the northeast monsoon in late October. In September Alexander too set out along the coast through Gedrosia (modern Baluchistan), but he was soon compelled by mountainous country to turn inland, thus failing in his project to establish food depots for the fleet. Craterus, a high-ranking officer, already had been sent off with the baggage and siege train, the elephants, and the sick and wounded, together with three battalions of the phalanx, by way of the Mulla Pass, Quetta, and Kandahar into the Helmand Valley; from there he was to march through Drangiana to rejoin the main army on the Amanis (modern Minab) River in Carmania. Alexander’s march through Gedrosia proved disastrous; waterless desert and shortage of food and fuel caused great suffering, and many, especially women and children, perished in a sudden monsoon flood while encamped in a wadi. At length, at the Amanis, he was rejoined by Nearchus and the fleet, which also had suffered losses.

Life » Consolidation of the empire
Alexander now proceeded farther with the policy of replacing senior officials and executing defaulting governors on which he had already embarked before leaving India. Between 326 and 324 over a third of his satraps were superseded and six were put to death, including the Persian satraps of Persis, Susiana, Carmania, and Paraetacene; three generals in Media, including Cleander, the brother of Coenus (who had died a little earlier), were accused of extortion and summoned to Carmania, where they were arrested, tried, and executed. How far the rigour that from now onward Alexander displayed against his governors represents exemplary punishment for gross maladministration during his absence and how far the elimination of men he had come to distrust (as in the case of Philotas and Parmenio) is debatable; but the ancient sources generally favourable to him comment adversely on his severity.

In spring 324 he was back in Susa, capital of Elam and administrative centre of the Persian Empire; the story of his journey through Carmania in a drunken revel, dressed as Dionysus, is embroidered, if not wholly apocryphal. He found that his treasurer, Harpalus, evidently fearing punishment for peculation, had absconded with 6,000 mercenaries and 5,000 talents to Greece; arrested in Athens, he escaped and later was murdered in Crete. At Susa Alexander held a feast to celebrate the seizure of the Persian Empire, at which, in furtherance of his policy of fusing Macedonians and Persians into one master race, he and 80 of his officers took Persian wives; he and Hephaestion married Darius’ daughters Barsine (also called Stateira) and Drypetis, respectively, and 10,000 of his soldiers with native wives were given generous dowries.

This policy of racial fusion brought increasing friction to Alexander’s relations with his Macedonians, who had no sympathy for his changed concept of the empire. His determination to incorporate Persians on equal terms in the army and the administration of the provinces was bitterly resented. This discontent was now fanned by the arrival of 30,000 native youths who had received a Macedonian military training and by the introduction of Orientals from Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, and other parts of the empire into the Companion cavalry; whether Orientals had previously served with the Companions is uncertain, but if so they must have formed separate squadrons. In addition, Persian nobles had been accepted into the royal cavalry bodyguard. Peucestas, the new governor of Persis, gave this policy full support to flatter Alexander; but most Macedonians saw it as a threat to their own privileged position.

The issue came to a head at Opis (324), when Alexander’s decision to send home Macedonian veterans under Craterus was interpreted as a move toward transferring the seat of power to Asia. There was an open mutiny involving all but the royal bodyguard; but when Alexander dismissed his whole army and enrolled Persians instead, the opposition broke down. An emotional scene of reconciliation was followed by a vast banquet with 9,000 guests to celebrate the ending of the misunderstanding and the partnership in government of Macedonians and Persians—but not, as has been argued, the incorporation of all the subject peoples as partners in the commonwealth. Ten thousand veterans were now sent back to Macedonia with gifts, and the crisis was surmounted.

In summer 324 Alexander attempted to solve another problem, that of the wandering mercenaries, of whom there were thousands in Asia and Greece, many of them political exiles from their own cities. A decree brought by Nicanor to Europe and proclaimed at Olympia (September 324) required the Greek cities of the Greek League to receive back all exiles and their families (except the Thebans), a measure that implied some modification of the oligarchic regimes maintained in the Greek cities by Alexander’s governor Antipater. Alexander now planned to recall Antipater and supersede him by Craterus; but he was to die before this could be done.

In autumn 324 Hephaestion died in Ecbatana, and Alexander indulged in extravagant mourning for his closest friend; he was given a royal funeral in Babylon with a pyre costing 10,000 talents. His post of chiliarch (grand vizier) was left unfilled. It was probably in connection with a general order now sent out to the Greeks to honour Hephaestion as a hero that Alexander linked the demand that he himself should be accorded divine honours. For a long time his mind had dwelt on ideas of godhead. Greek thought drew no very decided line of demarcation between god and man, for legend offered more than one example of men who, by their achievements, acquired divine status. Alexander had on several occasions encouraged favourable comparison of his own accomplishments with those of Dionysus or Heracles. He now seems to have become convinced of the reality of his own divinity and to have required its acceptance by others. There is no reason to assume that his demand had any political background (divine status gave its possessor no particular rights in a Greek city); it was rather a symptom of growing megalomania and emotional instability. The cities perforce complied, but often ironically: the Spartan decree read, “Since Alexander wishes to be a god, let him be a god.”

In the winter of 324 Alexander carried out a savage punitive expedition against the Cossaeans in the hills of Luristan. The following spring at Babylon he received complimentary embassies from the Libyans and from the Bruttians, Etruscans, and Lucanians of Italy; but the story that embassies also came from more distant peoples, such as Carthaginians, Celts, Iberians, and even Romans, is a later invention. Representatives of the cities of Greece also came, garlanded as befitted Alexander’s divine status. Following up Nearchus’ voyage, he now founded an Alexandria at the mouth of the Tigris and made plans to develop sea communications with India, for which an expedition along the Arabian coast was to be a preliminary. He also dispatched Heracleides, an officer, to explore the Hyrcanian (i.e., Caspian) Sea. Suddenly, in Babylon, while busy with plans to improve the irrigation of the Euphrates and to settle the coast of the Persian Gulf, Alexander was taken ill after a prolonged banquet and drinking bout; 10 days later, on June 13, 323, he died in his 33rd year; he had reigned for 12 years and eight months. His body, diverted to Egypt by Ptolemy, the later king, was eventually placed in a golden coffin in Alexandria. Both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Greek cities he received divine honours.

No heir had been appointed to the throne, and his generals adopted Philip II’s half-witted illegitimate son, Philip Arrhidaeus, and Alexander’s posthumous son by Roxana, Alexander IV, as kings, sharing out the satrapies among themselves, after much bargaining. The empire could hardly survive Alexander’s death as a unit. Both kings were murdered, Arrhidaeus in 317 and Alexander in 310/309. The provinces became independent kingdoms, and the generals, following Antigonus’ lead in 306, took the title of king.

Of Alexander’s plans little reliable information survives. The far-reaching schemes for the conquest of the western Mediterranean and the setting up of a universal monarchy, recorded by Diodorus, a 1st-century Greek historian, are probably based on a later forgery; if not, they were at once jettisoned by his successors and the army. Had he lived, he would no doubt have completed the conquest of Asia Minor, where Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, and Armenia still maintained an effective independence. But in his later years Alexander’s aims seem to have been directed toward exploration, in particular of Arabia and the Caspian.

In the organization of his empire, Alexander had been content in many spheres to improvise and adapt what he found. His financial policy is an exception; though the details cannot be wholly recovered, it is clear that he set up a central organization with collectors perhaps independent of the local satraps. That this proved a failure was partly due to weaknesses in the character of Harpalus, his chief treasurer. But the establishment of a new coinage with a silver standard based on that of Athens in place of the old bimetallic system current both in Macedonia and in Persia helped trade everywhere and, combined with the release of vast amounts of bullion from the Persian treasuries, gave a much-needed fillip to the economy of the whole Mediterranean area.

Alexander’s foundation of new cities—Plutarch speaks of over 70—initiated a new chapter in Greek expansion. No doubt many of the colonists, by no means volunteers, deserted these cities, and marriages with native women led to some dilution of Greek ways; but the Greek (rather than Macedonian) influence remained strong in most of them, and since the process was carried further by Alexander’s Seleucid successors, the spread of Hellenic thought and customs over much of Asia as far as Bactria and India was one of the more striking effects of Alexander’s conquests.

His plans for racial fusion, on the other hand, were a failure. The Iranian satraps were perhaps not efficient, for out of 18, ten were removed or executed—with what justice it is no longer possible to say. But, more important, the Macedonians, leaders and men alike, rejected the idea, and in the later Seleucid Empire the Greek and Macedonian element was to be clearly dominant.

How far Alexander would have succeeded in the difficult task of coordinating his vast dominions, had he lived, is hard to determine. The only link between the many units that went to make up an empire more disparate than that of the Habsburgs, and far larger, was his own person; and his death came before he could tackle this problem.

What had so far held it all together was his own dynamic personality. He combined an iron will and ability to drive himself and his men to the utmost with a supple and flexible mind; he knew when to draw back and change his policy, though he did this reluctantly. He was imaginative and not without romantic impulses; figures like Achilles, Heracles, and Dionysus were often in his mind, and the salutation at the oracle of Amon clearly influenced his thoughts and ambitions ever afterward. He was swift in anger, and under the strain of his long campaigns this side of his character grew more pronounced. Ruthless and self-willed, he had increasing recourse to terror, showing no hesitation in eliminating men whom he had ceased to trust, either with or without the pretense of a fair trial. Years after his death, Cassander, son of Antipater, a regent of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander, could not pass his statue at Delphi without shuddering. Yet he maintained the loyalty of his men, who followed him to the Hyphasis without complaining and continued to believe in him throughout all hardships. Only when his whim would have taken them still farther into unknown India did he fail to get his way.

As a general Alexander is among the greatest the world has known. He showed unusual versatility both in the combination of different arms and in adapting his tactics to the challenge of enemies who commanded novel forms of warfare—the Śaka nomads, the Indian hill tribes, or Porus with his elephants. His strategy was skillful and imaginative, and he knew how to exploit the chances that arise in every battle and may be decisive for victory or defeat; he also drew the last advantage from victory by relentless pursuit. His use of cavalry was so effective that he rarely had to fall back upon his infantry to deliver the crushing blow.

Alexander’s short reign marks a decisive moment in the history of Europe and Asia. His expedition and his own personal interest in scientific investigation brought many advances in the knowledge of geography and natural history. His career led to the moving of the great centres of civilization eastward and initiated the new age of the Greek territorial monarchies; it spread Hellenism in a vast colonizing wave throughout the Middle East and created, if not politically at least economically and culturally, a single world stretching from Gibraltar to the Punjab, open to trade and social intercourse and with a considerable overlay of common civilization and the Greek koinē as a lingua franca. It is not untrue to say that the Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity as a world religion, and the long centuries of Byzantium were all in some degree the fruits of Alexander’s achievement.

Additional Reading
The original sources for Alexander are lost; among secondary authorities are Diodorus, book xvii; Quintus Curtius Rufus; Plutarch, Life of Alexander; Justinus’ abridgment of Trogus; and Arrian, Anabasis and Indica, especially in the edition titled Arrian, trans. and ed. by P.A. Brunt, 2 vol. (1976–83), in the Loeb Classical Library. Pseudo-Callisthenes, The Romance of Alexander the Great, trans. by Albert Mugrdich Wolohojian (1969), is the first English translation of a 5th-century Armenian version of the Historia Alexandri Magni, which was composed in Greek, probably in the 4th century ad, by an unknown poet and falsely ascribed to Callisthenes. Studies of ancient sources include Lionel Pearson, The Lost Histories of Alexander the Great (1960, reprinted 1983); J.R. Hamilton, Plutarch: Alexander, a Commentary (1969); N.G.L. Hammond, Three Historians of Alexander the Great: The So-Called Vulgate Authors, Diodorus, Justin, and Curtius (1983); and A.B. Bosworth, From Arrian to Alexander: Studies in Historical Interpretation (1988).

Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 bc, rev. and enlarged (1974, reissued 1991), is a complete biography, with genealogy and an annotated bibliography. W.W. Tarn, Alexander the Great, 2 vol. (1948, reprinted in 1 vol., 1981), surveys ancient sources and offers a favourable portrait of Alexander. J.R. Hamilton, Alexander the Great (1973), a historical account, treats Alexander as an efficient politician. A.R. Burn, Alexander the Great and the Middle East, rev. ed. (1973), is a biographical study that is both scholarly and popular. Mary Renault, The Nature of Alexander (1975, reissued 1983), is a popular, illustrated biography. An examination of Alexander drawn from newer research is found in Robin Lane Fox, The Search for Alexander (1980). A.B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire (1988), a biography, is divided into a narrative of Alexander’s reign and four thematic studies and includes an extensive bibliography. E. Badian, Studies in Greek and Roman History (1964), a scholarly collection, includes criticism of Alexander. Controversial issues are discussed in G.T. Griffith (ed.), Alexander the Great: The Main Problems (1966). John Maxwell O’Brien, Alexander the Great: The Invisible Enemy (1992), synthesizes current scholarship and contains an extensive bibliography.

Studies of Alexander as a military leader include J.F.C. Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great (1958, reprinted 1989); E.W. Marsden, The Campaign of Gaugamela (1964); R.D. Milns, Alexander the Great (1968); Donald W. Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (1978); N.G.L. Hammond, Alexander the Great: King, Commander, and Statesman (1980); and the appropriate chapter in John Keegan, The Mask of Command (1987). Frank L. Holt, Alexander the Great and Bactria (1989), examines Alexander’s impact on Central Asia. National Gallery Of Art, Washington, D.C., The Search for Alexander (1980), is an exhibition catalog with essays on Alexander and on Macedonian history and art.

Frank W. Walbank

Encyclopaedia Britannica