The end of Alexander - World History

The end of Alexander - World History
Posted on 30-12-2022

The end of Alexander ( 330 ) Death of Alexander the Great.

Alexander had earned the nickname "the great" for some time. He had gradually abandoned the manners of a Macedonian king (a noble among nobles, in the Homeric style), to adopt the customs of the Persian monarchs. He liked the flattery and bowing, and it even seemed that he was beginning to believe that he was the son of Zeus. These attitudes began to create reluctance among his men, or at least it seemed so to him. In late 330, when he was in present-day Afghanistan, he accused Philotas,   one of his generals, of conspiracy, put him on trial, and had him executed. Philotas was the son of Parmenius, who was in charge of the troops from Media, some 1,500 kilometers to the west. Alexander understood that he could not trust Parmenio once he found out about the death of his son, so he sent messengers to kill him, and they did so.

Greece was still firmly ruled by Antipater. Sparta had been subdued and Athens had remained on the sidelines, although Demosthenes had encouraged the Spartan revolt. The city awarded him a golden crown in recognition of his services, but Aiskhines rose to speak out against the homage with a masterly speech. Demosthenes replied with what would be the most famous of his speeches: "About the crown."Demosthenes's victory was so complete that Aiskhines was forced to leave Athens. He retired to Rhodes, where he spent the rest of his life directing a school of oratory. It is said that years later a student who had read Aeschines' speech against the crown marveled that his teacher had lost. "Ah," replied Aiskhines, "you would not be astonished if you had read Demosthenes's reply."

Around this time, a Greek traveler named Pytheas traveled along the Atlantic coast, and it appears from his reports that he must have reached as far as the British Isles and Iceland. He also explored northern Europe, as far as the Baltic Sea. In the Atlantic he observed the tides, and conjectured that they were caused by the moon.

During the next two years, Alexander continued to fight against the satraps and the savage tribes. He was never defeated. He persecuted Besso (or Artaxerxes IV), forcing him to leave Bactria. In 329 he was betrayed by his own men, who handed him over to Alexander. He ordered his nose and ears to be cut off. He then sent him to Ecbatana, where he was executed. In 328 he reached Maracanda(present-day Samarkand), on the eastern borders of the Persian Empire. There he gave a great banquet. According to custom, several men rose to toast Alexander in fawning, saying that he was much greater than his father. Alexander seemed most pleased when he most belittled Philip II. However, an old veteran named Clito could not take it anymore and rose to defend Philip II. He said that he had laid the foundations of Macedonian greatness and that Alexander had won his victory with Philip's army. Alexander, drunk, took a spear and killed Cleito.

The Empire of Alexander the Great

Alexander of Epirus was still in Italy helping the southern Greek cities against the northern Italian tribes. He had made an alliance with Rome, which must have worried the Samnites, who could find themselves simultaneously attacked by the Romans to the east and the Greeks to the south. So far they were only at war with the Greeks, but Rome founded a colony at Fregellae, right on the border with Samnium.

Alexander the Great wanted to consider himself king of the Greeks and Persians alike. In 327 he married a Persian princess, Roxana, and began training 30,000 Persians in the Macedonian manner to serve in the army. That same year an Indian king asked him for help against a rival king. The Greek chronicles call him Taxiles, although it is not clear that this was his name, but rather a name derived from his kingdom, Taxilia, located in northern India near the border with Persia. His rival was Poros,whose kingdom stretched east of Taxilia. Alexander immediately accepted and crossed the Indus, beyond the Persian borders. Poros's army had a new weapon for Alexander: elephants. In 326 a battle took place along the Hydaspes River, a tributary of the Indus. Alexander skillfully maneuvered his army in such a way that he puzzled Poros and gave him no chance to take advantage of his elephants. Bucephalus, Alexander's horse, died in battle. After his victory, he is said to have asked the proud Poros how he expected to be treated. "Like a king," he replied, and so it was. Alexander let him rule his kingdom as satrap, and Poros was loyal to him as long as he lived.

That same year the Tarentines, who had called Alexander of Epirus to their aid, decided that he was becoming too powerful, and that it was better for them to face the Italians alone. Support was withdrawn from him and he was defeated at Pandosia in southern Italy. His successor had difficulty seizing the Epirote throne, so he did not bother with Italy. As soon as Alexander was gone, the Samnites turned to Rome. For its part, Rome was looking forward to confrontation, and an incident in Campania served as an excuse to start the Second Samnite War.To the south of Samnio there were two regions: Lucania and Apulia. The Italian tribes that inhabited them had fought alongside the Samnites against Alexander, but the Samnites were more dangerous to them than distant Rome, so they sided with Rome. For the southern Greeks, Lucania and Apulia were their immediate enemies, so they sided with Samnio. Thus, two thirds of Italy were at war. Etruria did not intervene. He had long since made a peace with Rome and scrupulously kept it.

Alexander the Great planned to cross India and thus reach the end of the world, according to the beliefs of the time, but his soldiers were tired. They had been fighting away from their homeland for six years and all they wanted was to return. Alexander sulked for three days, but in the end he agreed to return. He built a fleet that sailed up the Indus, while his army followed him along the shore. He had to subdue hostile tribes as he went along. It is said that on one occasion, while he was besieging a city, he lost patience and jumped over the wall with just three men. His men managed to get in shortly after and rescue him, but he was seriously injured. The fleet was sent back across the Indus under a general named Nearchus. It reached Babylon through the Persian Gulf. It was the first Western fleet to sail the Indian Ocean.

In 325 the new duke of Qin granted himself the title of king, as other Chinese princes had already done. Qin continued to grow more powerful as his administration became more efficient.

Meanwhile, Alexander crossed the desert of Gedrosia with his army, where his men suffered from hunger and thirst. There is speculation about the possibility that Alexander had decided to punish them for having forced him to return. Harpalus was in Babylon, who was not in a position to render an account to Alexander about his management, so, upon hearing of his return, he fled and in 324 He appeared in Athens carrying with him a great treasure. There he asked to be admitted and protected against Macedonia. For the first time Demosthenes made prudence prevail over his hatred of Macedonia. He maintained that Athens should not allow him entry. However, Harpalo made it clear that with the money he brought, Greece and Asia could be made to rebel against Alexander. With the opposition of Demosthenes, the Athenians welcomed Harpalus.

Antipater demanded that Athens hand over the traitor. Demosthenes objected, considering him unworthy. Anyway, Harpalus was arrested and his money kept in the Parthenon in order to return it to Alexander when he returned (he did return, of course). Now, between the time Harpalus handed over the money and the time it was counted and deposited in the Parthenon, the amount had been halved. Perhaps Harpalus had lied about how much he owned, but wouldn't Alexander rather believe that the Athenians had stolen the missing half? To make matters worse, Harpalo managed to flee to Crete, where he was assassinated shortly after. Athens opened an investigation to find those responsible who could appease Alexander. Included in the list was Demosthenes, who was probably innocent, but certainly a good scapegoat. He was sentenced to pay an amount that Demosthenes did not own, so he was imprisoned. However, he managed to flee.

Alexander had reached Babylon and had taken action against the rulers who, following Harpalus, had disobeyed his orders. He then went on with his plan to unify the Greeks and Persians. He ordered 10,000 of his soldiers to marry Asian women. He also ordered the Greek cities to recognize him as a god, just like the Persians did. Even Athens accepted Alexander's divinity, because with the Harpalus crisis she was not there to contradict him. Even Sparta gave in. His ephors sneered, "If Alexander wants to be a god, let him be."

That year Hephaestion, Alexander's friend and lover, died, which seriously affected the Macedonian king. He had the doctor killed who could not save him, refused to eat for four days, ordered a lavish funeral rites, and had the oracle of Ammon consulted whether he could venerate the deceased as a god. Naturally the answer was affirmative.

Alexander's plans became more and more grandiose. It seems that he began to prepare a fleet to take Carthage. However, in 323 he fell ill and within a few days he died. It is suspected that he was poisoned.

As when Philip II died, all of Greece revolted against Macedonia as soon as Alexander's death was reported. A Greek army was formed which defeated Antipater in Boeotia. The general had to withdraw to Lamia, north of Thermopylae, where he was besieged by the Greek allies. Aristotle, who was Macedonian and not very popular with certain Athenian sectors, discreetly fled to Euboea. Demosthenes entered Athens triumphantly. The city paid the fine for him.

Alexander's succession was far from clear. Of the royal family were his mother Olympias, his wife Roxana, a son, Alexander, who was born a few months after his death, a half-sister, Thessalonica, and a mentally defective half-brother, Philip. None of them was in a position to claim the throne. It is said that, shortly before he died, Alexander was asked who should be his successor, and that the answer was: "The strongest". Effective power was in the hands of some thirty generals scattered throughout the empire and who would soon start a tangle of confused wars in order to seize Alexander's conquests. They were known asdiadocos (successors). One of the most skilled was Ptolemy, who was rumored to be the illegitimate son of Philip II and therefore the half-brother of Alexander the Great. (Perhaps Ptolemy himself spread this rumor to legitimize his claim to the throne.) Immediately after Alexander's death he headed for Egypt, where he executed Cleomenes and appropriated the government. Furthermore, he had the cunning to seize Alexander's body and bury it in Memphis.

For his part, Lisímaco seized Thrace and Cratero went to Greece to help Antipater, besieged in Lamia. In 322 the Greeks were defeated at Cranon by the Macedonians, while a Macedonian fleet defeated the Athenian fleet near the island of Amorgos,southeast of Naxos. All Greece fell into the hands of Antipater. Athens agreed to hand over Demosthenes, but he fled to a small island, where he took refuge in a temple to avoid Antipater's envoys. They tried to get him out, but he decided to poison himself. Also that year Aristotle died, apparently from a stomach ulcer. The Lyceum came under the direction of Theophrastus, whose research focused mainly on botany, and he painstakingly described more than 500 species of plants. Around this time, Dicearcos,a geographer who had also studied at the Lyceum used the information brought back by Alexander's armies to make the best maps of the ancient world. He was the first to use lines of latitude.

The first war between the Diadochi was started by Perdiccas, who had served as prime minister at the time of Alexander's death and dominated his half-brother. He tried to get him to be recognized as Philip III and, at the same time, to act as regent. Faced with the general refusal, he attacked Ptolemy without success, then allied himself with Eumenes, to whom Cratero, who had just returned from Greece, disputed Asia Minor.

A few years earlier, a native (non-Greek) had set himself up as king of the ancient satrapy of Cappadocia, under the name of Ariarates I. However, Perdiccas killed him in 321 and took over the region, shortly after Craterus died in a battle and then Perdiccas was killed by a group of officers led by Seleucus, who gained control over Babylon. Cappadocia retained its kings, but, like Asia Minor, it remained in the hands of Eumenes.

In Italy, the Second Samnite War had already lasted five years, with a slight advantage for Rome. A Roman army in Campania received a false report from the Samnites that an Apulian city, allied with Rome, was under attack. The Romans decided to come to their aid, for which they had to cross the Samnio. The road took them through a narrow valley located next to the Samnite city of Caudius, for what was known as the Caudine Forks.  When the Romans reached the end of the gorge they found it blocked by trees and rocks. They turned around and found a Samnite army. They were trapped (disgracefully, too). The Samnites chose not to fight. They let the Romans finish off their supplies and waited for them to starve. Obviously, the Romans were forced to surrender. The Samnites demanded an end to the war with some additional conditions in their favour. Roman generals could not make peace. Only the Senate had that authority, and the Samnites knew it. So they decided to keep 600 hostages, taken from among the best Roman officers, and let the rest of the army go to negotiate peace.

When the army arrived in Rome, the Senate met to make a decision. One of the generals proposed that he and his companion be handed over to the Samnites for having deceived them with a false agreement and that the hostages be abandoned. Almost all the senators had relatives among the hostages, but the proposal was accepted. The Samnites killed the hostages, but lost their chance for a final victory. The war continued.

In 320 there was a dynastic change in the Indian kingdom of Magadha. The new dynasty was inaugurated by Chandragupta, of the Maurya family, who assassinated the last member of the royal house with the help of a group of outlaws. He established his capital at Pataliputra, and began a process of expansion that would make his kingdom the first historically known Indian empire.

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