Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BC) Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympias, His family life is shrouded in mythology with rumors of his mother performing rituals and part taking in religious orgies, this put great strain on the already lack luster marriage.

Even as a boy Alexander had heard stories that his mother told him about his "real father" Zeus Ammon, a combination of Zeus and Amun, this gave Alexander an unrealistic idea of who or what he was and could possibly give a little insight into what sort a person could do and accomplish the things Alexander did in such a short time.

From Plutarch, p256 chapter 2. "On one occasion some ambassadors from the king of Persia arrived in Macedon, and since Philip was absent, Alexander received them in his place. He talked freely with them and quite won them over, not only by the friendliness of his manner, but also because he did not trouble them with any childish or trivial inquiries, but questioned them about distances they had travelled by road, the nature of the journey into the interior of Persia, the character of the king, his experience in war, and the military strength and prowess of the Persians."

This excerpt from Plutarch shows Alexander as a very intelligent, mature and driven young boy, In Alexander desires greatness, Philip see's this exceptional quality in his son and so does Olympias.

Alexander expressed his desire or lack thereof to inherit his father's kingdom which offered him riches, luxuriates and beyond all else power, His choice was a life of struggle, of wars and of unrelenting ambition.

Excerpt from Plutarch, p257 chapter 2.  " There came a day when Philoneicus the Thessalian brought Philip a horse named Bucephalas, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The king and his friends wnet down to the plain to watch the horse'strials, and came to the conclusion that he was wild and quite unmanageable, for he would allow no one to mount him, nor would he endure the shouts of Philip's grooms, but reared up against anyone who approached him. The King became angry at being offered such a vicious animal unbroken, and ordered it to be led away.  But Alexander, who was standing close by, remarked, ' What horse they are losing, and all because they don't know how to handle him, or dare not try!' Philip kept quiet at first, but when he heard Alexander repeat these words several times and saw that he was upset, he asked him, ' Are you finding fault with your elders because you think you know more than they do, or can manage a horse better? At least I could manage this one better, retorted Alexander. And if you cannot, said his father, what penalty will you pay for beingso impertinent? I will pay the price of the horse, answered the boy.

At this the whole company burst out laughing, and then as soon as the father and son had settled the terms of the bet, Alexander went quickly up to Bucephalas, took hold of his bridle, and turned him towards the sun, for he had noticed that the horse was shying at the sight of his own shadow, as it fell in front of him and constantly moved whenever he did. He ran alongside the animal for a little way, calming him down by stroking him, and then, when he saw he was full of spirit and courage, he quietly threw aside his cloak and with a lighting spring vaulted safely on to his back. For a little while he kept feeling the bit with the reins, without jarring or tearing his mouth, and got him collected. Finally, when he saw that the horse was free of fears and impatient to show his speed, he gave him his head and urged him forward, using a commanding voice and a touch of the foot.

At first Philip and his friends held their breath and looked on in an agony of suspense, until they saw Alexander reach the end of his gallop, turn in full control, and ride back triumphant and exulting in his success."

Philip in congratulations says to Alexander "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you."

This phrase show's our Philip realizes Alexander's strong self will and that Philip could never influence Alexander by force, therefore Philip tried a different approach where he would attempted to persuade the boy instead of ordering him around. He considered the task of educating and training his son was far too important to entrusted with an ordinary teacher, so Philip sent for Aristotle the most famous and learned of the philosophers of his time.

Philip made a deal with Aristotle since Philip had destroyed Aristotle's city of birth 'Stageira', Philip repopulated and rebuilt Aristotle's city and also brought back any native to the area that had been exiled by Philip. He also gave Aristotle and his pupil the Temple of the Nymphs near Mieza as a place where they could study and converse, It seems too clear that Alexander was instructed by Aristotle, he was not only taught the principles of ethics and politics, but also in those secret and esoteric studies which philosophers did not impart of regular studentsand only existed by word of mouth.

The influence that Aristotle had on Alexander is obvious with not only Alexander's interest in philosophy but also in the art of medicine and healing and implanted a love for knowledge and reading literature,

  Excerpt from Plutarch, p259 chapter 2. "He was also devoted by nature to all kinds of learning and was a lover of books. He regarded the Iliad as a handbook of the art of war and took with him on campaigns a text annotated by Aristotle"

Aristotle was so greatly admired by Alexander so much so that Alexander used to say Philip gave him the gift of life, but the other (Aristotle) had taught him how to live.

Philip became extravagantly fond of his son, so much so that he took pleasure in hearing the Macedonians speak of Alexander as their king and Philip as their general, But before long the domestic quarrels of various failed marriages of King Philips had infected the kingdom which led to bitter clashes and accusations between Philip and Alexander, Olympias did not fail to take advantage of this weakness and widened and stirred the relationship between father and son.

 

Olympas, a woman of jealous and vindictive temper, who incited Alexander to oppose his father, was eventually brought to a head at the wedding feast of Philip's newest bride Cleopatra . . .

Excerpt from Plutarch, p261 chapter 2.   a maiden whom Philip was taking to wife, having fallen in love with the girl when he was past the age for it.15 7 Attalus, now, was the girl's uncle, and being in his cups, he called upon the Macedonians to ask of the gods that from Philip and Cleopatra there might be born a legitimate successor to the kingdom. 8 At this Alexander was exasperated, and with the words, "But what of me, base wretch? Dost thou take me for a bastard?" threw a cup at him. 9 Then Philip rose up against him with drawn sword, but, fortunately for both, his anger and his wine made him trip and fall. 10 Then Alexander, mocking over him, said: "Look now, men! Here is one who was preparing to cross from Europe into Asia; and he is upset in trying to cross from couch to couch." 11 After this drunken broil Alexander took Olympias and established her in Epirus, while he himself tarried in Illyria.

Alexander's relationship with Philip was torn and frayed by his mother, a vindictive and vengeful woman but his most important guide and could even be a part of what made Alexander so successful was Aristotle a genius of his time and an excellent mentor for a such a driven specimen as Alexander, his home life mirrored that of today's youth that belong to dysfunctional separated parentswhere he was torn between the love of his mother which arguments could be made that Olympias manipulated his feelings towards her to do her bidding  and the respect and love of his father and seems to be almost as if he couldn't have one without ruining the other.