King Philip II of Macedon (reigned from 359-336 BC) would, if not for his son, be a household name today. The king took the backward state of Macedon and made it into a world power.My son, ask for thyself another Kingdom, for that which I leave is too small for thee.
Macedon, a glance at a map will show, lies north of Greece. The kingdom had been greatly Hellenized by the influence of its southern neighbours, but was viewed as barbaric and uncouth by the cultured Athenians, poor by the Thebans, and weak by the Spartans. Philip II was able not only to turn Macedon around, he also was able to defeat every Greek city-state (with the exception of Sparta).
For those of you who aren't that familiar with the Classical period, this would have been equivalent to Canada invading and beating the United States in our time. A remarkable feat, to say the least.
Philip organized his military along lines later copied by the Romans, medieval kings, and even into modern times. The basic infantry unit was the Macedonian phalanx. A modification on the Spartan unit, the Macedonian one was armed with two-handed pikes and massed in squares sixteen rows deep and wide. Members of the phalanx were trained to wheel in step in any direction or to double their front by filing off into rows of eight. His cavalry, known as the Companions, were the elite troops. Drawn mostly from nobility (horses were expensive, after all!), the Companions became the king's personal guard, as well as the core of the entire army.
For all Philip's greatness, he could not hope to match his son in ability or ambition as a commander. Alexander was raised among the horsemen of the Companion cavalry. His friends, sons of Companions themselves, and he trained all their lives in martial exploits. This is not to say Alexander was nothing but a soldier. His education was undertaken by none other than Aristotle, pupil of Plato.Near to the east in a part of ancient Greece in an ancient land called Macedonia, was born a son to Philip of Macedon the legend his name was Alexander
Philip II died under dubious circumstances. He had recently had an arguement with his heir, Alexander. His second (and favourite) wife encouraged him to disown Alexander, and proclaim her own son by him as the heir to the throne. When Philip refused to do this, the second wife is said to have gone mad. She charged into a party Philip was having and killed him. Some historians have speculated that Alexander himself was behind this plot, but we'll never know.At the age of nineteen he became the Macedon King
In what was, perhaps, the wisest political move in history, Alexander and his comparatively small Macedon-Greek army invaded the mighty Persian Empire.and he swore to free all of Asia Minor
The Persians had tried to invade and conquer the tiny Greek city-states three times, and failed. Each time, however, it was a very close fight, wit the Greeks barely surviving (Athens itself was burned to the ground at least once!). As you can imagine, this did little to endear Persia to the Greeks.
When the quasi-Greek Macedonians came marching in, the only way they could keep a hold over their new Greek subjects was by promising to attack and destroy the old enemy, Persia. This was not going to be an easy task. The Persian Empire was vast. It consisted of (in modern names): Turkey, Northern Libya, Egypt, the Middle East, Iran (Persia proper), Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the East Bank of the Indus River. Compare that with Greece. Not very good odds, huh?
The Battle of Granicus (west of modern Istanbul), was an utter defeat for Persia. The small Macedonian Army massacred nearly every enemy soldier, taking very few losses of their own. This was a double blow for Persia, because not only was their army in shambles, but Greeks were flocking to join Alexander’s army in the thousands. Alexander decided to press his advantage and see how much of the Persian Pie he could get.By the Aegean Sea in 334 BC he utterly beat the armies of Persia
Like any successful commander, his soldiers believed in him. Many thought he was of divine ancestry – Greece’s Gods had finally come through and given them a leader to eliminate the Persian threat once and for all. Indeed, some believed Alexander to be more powerful than even the Olympians. After all, they had barely been able to stand up to Persian might, whereas Alexander was able to destroy it. There are stories of hundreds of Persian troops fleeing before ever engaging Alexander’s army, entire cities simply opening their gates to him in hopes of receiving preferential treatment. Some even viewed him as a liberator from generations of Persian oppression.Alexander the Great, his name struck fear into hearts of men
Alexander the Great, became a legend/god amongst mortal men
Alexander fell ill with symptoms we would now associate with malaria. He refused the bed-rest recommended him by his doctors. Combined with his battle-scarred body, his condition declined and he died on (by our calendar) June 10, 323 BC.King Darius the third defeated fled Persia the Scythians fell by the river JaxartesThe details of Darius’s defeat are sketchy. What we do know is that at one point Darius was willing to cede the western half of his empire. Alexander, knowing Darius was helpless (Darius’s family was captured earlier in battle), declined this offer.
The great city of Alexandria, the Guardian of the Nile, was built from the ground under Alexander’s watch. He wanted a new capital in Egypt from which he could administrate his growing kingdom. The city became a centre of culture and learning, even long after Alexander was gone. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was a wonder of the world. The Romans, when they finally invaded, were awed by the city’s splendour. The city still bares his name, 2300 years later.Then Egypt fell to the Macedon King as well and he founded the city called Alexandria
The battle to which this refers is undoubtedly what historians call the Battle of Guagamela. The Persians were completely routed. Darius fled to the hills, but was captured and slain by a local tribal chief who hoped to gain Alexander’s favour. Alexander, however, was not amused. As the new King of Persia, Alexander had the chief executed for the assassination of his predecessor. This demonstrates Alexander’s respect for his foe, and also his respect for Persian laws and customs.By the Tigris river he met King Darius again and crushed him again in the battle of Arbela
Alexander’s march eastward brought him to such great cities, where there was ample opportunity for plunder. Only rarely, however, did his troops disobey his standing orders and ransack these villages – and they were subjected to harsh discipline.Entering Babylon and Susa treasures he found took Persepolis the capital of Persia
The story goes that King Gordius had tied the ropes of an ox-cart so complexly that no man could undo the knot. The king stated that his heir would be he who could undo the knot. For generations, no man could. When it was presented to Alexander, he, not being a man for such foolishness, simply drew his sword and sliced the know into pieces. Thus he symbolically proved it was his destiny to rule the known world.A Phrygian King had bound a chariot yoke and Alexander cut the 'Gordian knot'
And legend said that who untied the knot he would become the master of Asia
Indeed, the once uncouth Macedonians found themselves in charge of a vast cosmopolitan empire. To attempt to bring a sense of unity to his domains, Alexander ordered his highest ranking officers to take Persian noblewomen as their wives, creating a new Greco-Macedonian-Persian ruling caste. This bridging between the West and the East set the stage for the rise and spread of Christianity.Hellenism he spread far and wide, the Macedonian learned mind, their culture was a western way of life, he paved the way for Christianity.
After years of heavy fighting in Bactria (modern Afghanistan), Alexander’s army was tired, homesick, and fed-up with fighting. His officers warned him that the men would revolt if they were forced to cross the Indus River. With this in mind, Alexander wheeled around and marched his men westward to Babylon (in modern Iraq).Marching on, marching on
The battle weary marching side by side Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India tired of the combat, pain and the glory
Alexander the Great, he died of fever in Babylon
As he died, his friends gathered around him to hear his final words. Alexander had no children, so it was unsure to whom he would leave his empire. When asked, all he replied was “To the strongest.”
Thus, the three strongest Generals divided Alexander’s empire amongst themselves. Antigonus and his successors ruled Macedon and Greece until the coming of the Romans. The Seleucid dynasty ruled Asia Minor, as far East as modern Pakistan. Eventually the Western portion of this kingdom were absorbed by the Roman Empire. Perhaps the most famous dynasty of Alexander’s successors, however, ruled Egypt. Ptolemy was allowed to seize Egypt with almost no opposition (it was believed to be a hot, dry, barren wasteland). The Ptolemaic Dynasty came to style itself like Pharaohs of Egypt’s past. While they ruled Egypt for centuries, the language of the court was always Greek. No Ptolemaic King bothered to learn Egyptian until the very last of the line – the infamous Cleopatra (of Caesar and Marc Antony fame).
The lyrics and music of this song combine to make, perhaps, the best of Iron Maiden’s historically-based works. I put this song on, close my eyes, and can almost imagine myself as one of the Companions, marching with Alexander. Incidentally, this is the first Iron Maiden song LooseCannon ever heard (we were driving around in my car, and I put in this CD…..and it’s all been downhill from there [img src="style_emoticons/[#EMO_DIR#]/smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /])