7 Intriguing Facts About Alexander the Great You Won’t Learn in School
Alexander III of Macedon, also known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in 356 BC in Pella, and he died young at the age of 32 in 323 BC in Babylon. The reason for his death remains a mystery even today. (1)
Alexander started to become ill after drinking a lot of wine at the party, and two weeks later, he was dead. Alexander’s father, King Philip II of Macedon, was murdered by his bodyguard, and because of that, there was some suspicion that Alexander was poisoned by someone close to him. However, modern-day medical experts suggest he might’ve had malaria, lung infection, liver failure, or typhoid fever, but we’ll probably never know what was it that killed Alexander the Great. (2)
Alexander is best known for his conquests in Asia. Alexander wanted to conquer the entire world, and he believed that the world ends in India, at the point where the ocean starts. He overthrew the Persian empire, and eventually invaded India in 326 BC. After three years of battling, he decided to go back home at the demand of his tired and homesick troops. He never reached home, and he died in Babylon in 323 BC.
After his death, a series of civil wars emerged and tore his empire apart. These wars resulted in the establishment of several states that were ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander’s surviving generals and heirs. (1)
Even during his lifetime, Alexander was the subject of fabulous tales. After his death, and as time went by, he became a legend. Today, it’s hard to say which facts about Alexander the Great are true, and which ones are purely fiction.
We collected a series of facts about Alexander the Great that are most likely to be true. Without further ado, let’s find out more about him!
1. He was tutored by Aristotle
When Alexander the Great was 13 years old, his father hired Aristotle to be his tutor. As an heir to the throne, Alexander had a lot to learn about philosophy, medicine, and warfare. Even though Aristotle had a vast knowledge and a large number of things he was interested in, Alexander disagreed with many things taught by Aristotle.
One of their main disagreements was the fact that Aristotle believed all non-Greeks should be treated as slaves. Eventually, Alexander grew beyond this narrow perception. He had no intention of turning Persians into slaves. He wanted to learn from them and find a way to unite Greek and Persian cultures. Later in his life, he would even start dressing as Persians.
Aristotle and Alexander had their misunderstandings, but Aristotle’s teachings still had a great influence on Alexander. This can be seen in his handling of challenging political problems. (3)
If you want to learn more about Aristotle’s life and work, don’t forget to check out this article about him!
2. More than 15 cities were named after him
As Alexander went on with his conquests in Asia, he wanted to leave a mark behind him, naming more than 15 cities after his own name, and one after his horse. These cities were usually built up around previous military forts.
The most famous city of these carries his name even today. Alexandria, the second-largest city in present-day Egypt, was founded at the mouth of the Nile river in 331 BC.
Other cities were scattered throughout present-day Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. After the battle of the river Hydaspes, which was the costliest victory of Alexander’s Indian campaign, Alexander decided to found a city named Bucephala. That was the name of his favorite horse, that died in the battle. (4)
3. During 13 years of conquest, Alexander never lost a single battle
Alexander lived in the age of brutal tyrants, and his father was not an exception. From an early age, Alexander was taught that the Macedon empire is too small for his ambitions and that he should seek an empire that will equal his ambitions. And so he did.
Alexander grew up to be one of the most legendary military commanders. He was well-educated in warfare and strategy, and he didn’t shy away from leading his forces into nearly impossible battles, which he would eventually win. These victories allowed him to form one of the largest empires the world has ever seen. (5)
4. Alexander believed that he was a direct descendant of Achilles
One of the little known facts about Alexander the Great is that he believed that he was a direct descendant of Achilles. This is something that his father and tutors instilled in him from an early age. Because of that fact itself, Alexander believed he was superior to others, and that the world belonged to him. This belief could explain why Alexander had so much confidence when going into battles with armies that are much smaller than his opponents. (5)
5. Alexander arranged a mass wedding in order to unify Persians and Greeks
After some of his conquests in Asia, Alexander learned that even though he won the territory, people were reluctant to see him as their leader. That’s why in 324 BC, he arranged a mass wedding in Susa. His officers were ordered to marry noble Persian women. The goal was to try to unite the Greek and Persian cultures. Alexander believed that this would legitimize him as the King of Asia and that he would create a new race that would be loyal only to him.
Unfortunately for Alexander, this move backfired quickly. The Macedonian army resented him because of this. They didn’t appreciate his try to change their culture. Soon enough, most of these marriages ended in divorce, and Alexander hosted a huge reconciliation banquet.
The mass wedding wasn’t Alexander’s only attempt to unite the two cultures. He realized that the nation that has several centuries of history, and a well-established culture wasn’t going to change so quickly just because they have a new king.
He realized that to maintain control of his vast empire, he would have to find a way to assimilate. He started wearing the striped tunic, girdle, and diadem of Persian royal dress. (6)
6. He hosted a drinking contest in which 42 people died from alcohol poisoning
An alcohol drinking contest is probably one of the facts about Alexander the Great that’s very hard to believe! In 324 BC, while Alexander and his army were in the Persian city Susa, one of his most trusted philosophers informed him that he wants to commit suicide. Gymnosophist Calanus was 73 years old at the time, and he was feeling extremely weakened by the travel. Instead of living as an invalid and dying in pain, he decided to end his life. Alexander tried to change his mind, but Calanus eventually killed himself by self-immolation.
In order to honor Calanus, Alexander organized the Olympics, but the locals weren’t familiar with the Greek sports. Being a heavy drinker himself, Alexander decided to host a wine-drinking contest instead. At the time, the Greeks were the ones that consumed a lot of alcohol, while other people weren’t used to the same amounts.
Out of the 41 local contestants that participated, 41 died on the spot. The winner of the contest was a Greek soldier, Promachus. According to some letters, he probably drank around 13 liters of wine. He died four days later from alcohol poisoning.
Alexander was a heavy drinker himself. It’s believed that he started drinking during his teenage years, due to the pressure that came from his high-demanding parents. (7)
7. It’s not clear what happened to Alexander’s remains
After Alexander’s death, his body was treated by Egyptian embalmers, and one year after his death, the body was sent to Macedonia. The body never reached Alexander’s home, as it was intercepted by Ptolemy I, one of Alexander’s former generals. Ptolemy sent the body back to Egypt. He did so because he believed that controlling Alexander’s body would make him be seen as the obvious successor of the empire.
Alexander’s body was eventually placed in Alexandria, and the tomb remains the central site of Alexandria for centuries. However, all records of the tomb disappear at the end of the 4th century. Even today, it’s not quite clear what actually happened to the tomb, and many historians believe it’s no longer in Egypt. (8)
Alexander the Great Facts
Those were some of the most interesting facts about Alexander the Great. Are all of them true or not? There’s so much mystery around Alexander’s life that we’ll probably never know for sure. Even if some of these weren’t true, Alexander was a unique and powerful military leader, and it’s easy to see why he inspired so many tales and legends to be created around his character.
Which one of these facts about Alexander the Great did surprise you the most? Do you know about some other cool things about him? Leave a comment below and let us know!