Alexander the Great

One of the key things I noticed in this module about Alexander was his ability to handle himself as a military and political leader over the people and cultures that ultimately came under his control, which included other Greeks and foreign peoples.  When he conquered Thebes, for example, which was another Greek polis, he destroyed practically everything except for the house of a poet and the various temples to the gods that were built there.[1]  In doing so, although the people that inhabited Thebes were either killed or sold into slavery, Alexander showed deference to the customs and beliefs of the area while simultaneously demonstrating that insurrection would not and could not be tolerated under his regime.[2]

Alexander was similarly versed in propaganda over non-Greeks who he conquered as well.  When he fought the battle of Issus, for example, in the Persian campaign, King Darius fled the field and Alexander was able to capture Darius’ family who he treated respectfully and brought them under his protection thereby asserting himself as rightful successor of Darius’ empire.[3]

In Egypt, as Alexander was going to repeat, he made sacrifices to the Egyptian bull Apis, respecting Egyptian religious independence from Greek religious beliefs, which allowed him to be proclaimed Pharaoh by the priests.  Unlike so many later conflicts, Alexander did not conquer with the necessary intent to force the conquered to become more Hellenized or to accept and worship Greek gods.  Instead, he made sacrifices to the local gods in places he took over and by doing so put himself out there as someone who respected the customs and cultures of the peoples now under his control.[4]  He demonstrated this policy again Babylon where he not only sacrificed to the local gods but also ordered the temple of Marduk rebuilt.[5]

Alexander encountered difficulties with his own men by adopting and practicing Persian ceremonies and wearing Persian dress on occasion.  He also invited Persians into positions of power within his entourage, which led to difficulties with jealousy within his own ranks.[6]  While Alexander’s tendency to adopt various cultural traditions brought difficulties into the ranks of the army, it was clever propaganda against those who he now ruled, allowing him to be seen not only as an outside conqueror but as one of them in a sense, who allowed them to become a part of Alexander’s brilliant military machinery as it continued to campaign even farther than anyone (with the possible exception of Alexander himself) could have imagined.


[1] D. Brendan Nagle, The Ancient World 8th Edition (Boston: Pearson, 2014), 138.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, pg 140.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, pg 141.

[6] Ibid.

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