by Philip Freeman
As with most events that happened a really long time ago, Alexander’s life as we know it is based on accounts of accounts (Plutarch, Arrian) that read like a mix of tall tale and fact. Freeman’s obsequious narrating would leave one with the impression that Alexander alone conquered the persians. Certainly, Alexander’s conquest of the persian empire is noteworthy, however, Alexander didn’t add new land to the persian empire. Hence, a more appropriate moniker is Alexander the Mediocre.
Ok, you’re probably thinking, did you conquer the known world by the time you were 27? No, but then again, I also don’t sacrifice lambs in my backyard, or have King Phillip as a father, or think I’m the son of Zeus. Secondly, if we rank Alexander’s empire in terms of land mass, there are many empires that rank higher: British, Portuguese, Ummayid, Spanish, Russian, and Mongol empires were all larger than Alexander’s. So why do crusty historians keep referring to Alexander as being great but not Queen Victoria the Great or Genghis the Great? I don’t know, maybe because they are historians.
Furthermore, Alexander wasn’t a rag to riches renaissance man. He was born a king in training and had the best teachers available; literally the father of logic Aristotle, tutored him. After his father King Phillip was murdered, some speculate due to Alexander’s machinations, Alexander inherited a macedonian kingdom. So what did Alexander choose to do with the power and knowledge at his disposal? Of course, conquer his persian neighbors and kill thousands of people in the process. So unprovoked was the conflict, that the persian King Darius sent Alexander a letter after the persian defeat at Issus, noting that the persians had a good relationship with Alexander’s father, King Phillip, who had established an alliance with the persians.
To further the point of greatly squandering one’s inheritance, Alexander died a drunkard. He allegedly drank an entire wine skin, shrieked, and died after a couple days of crawling around his palace. Clearly not too great at managing empires, Alexander responded as follows when asked who would inherit his empire: “To the strongest.”
Let’s also not forget, after one of his generals, Cleitus, saved his life in battle, how did Alexander reciprocate? He killed him. Alexander also wrecked Persepolis, the persian capitol, killed one of his most trusted generals, Parmenion, and massacred a Greek peoples, the Branchidae.
Needless to say, the empire collapsed with infighting amongst generals and friends, all claiming a piece of the empire. Unlike Atilla who also suffered the same delusional and power hungry character defect, Alexander’s conquests actually had a legacy: indirectly contributing to the spread of Christianity.
Since Alexander brought the Greek language with him throughout his empire, centuries after his death, the bible was translated into Greek which then could be read all throughout the Mediterranean.