Alexander III, better known as Alexander the Great, was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and Olympia. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle.
Upon Philip’s assassination in 336 BC, Alexander inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom which he sought to secure by promptly defeating his enemies at the home front and reasserting Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire.
Though he was pitted against severe hardships, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BC.
The young king of Macedonia became the leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor; Pharaoh of Egypt and the ‘great king’ of Persia at the age of 25.
Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire stretching across three continents and covering around two million square miles.
The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce.
This was united by a common Greek language and Hellenic culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs and built alliances with the foreigners in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.
As Alexander’s kingdom spread and grew in size and strength, the use of coins became more prominent. He realized that coins could be used to better establish his stability as a ruler throughout his kingdom and he used the images of Zeus and Heracles on his coins to gain support from the Greeks who entered into his kingdom.
This method was successful because the Greeks could identify the images on the coins easily since some of their Gods and Heroes were being represented along with Alexander.
Alexander was acknowledged as a military genius who always led by example, although his belief in his own indestructibility meant he was often reckless with his own life and those of his soldiers. The fact that his army only refused to follow him once in the thirteen years of his reign, during which there was constant fighting, indicates the loyalty he inspired.
At the time of his death, he had created a vast empire across the eastern world. He established 33 Greek settlements and was brilliant at fusing local culture with that of the Hellenes. However, only Alexander the Great would have been capable of maintaining such an empire and upon his death, his generals, the Diadochi, which means successors in Greek, divided the empire between them.
After a series of wars over the next few decades, the spoils went to the following victors: Ptolemy took Egypt founding the Ptolemaic dynasty ruling from Alexandria (305BC), Antigonus established the Antogonid dynasty in Greece from Macedonia (306BC), Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Mesopotamia (305BC), Philetaerus established the Attalid dynasty in Pergamon, in Asia Minor (282BC).