Alexander the Great is considered one of the most successful military commanders of all time. He was inspiration for later conquerors such as Hannibal the Carthaginian, the Romans Pompey and Caesar, and Napoleon. He is the first king to be called "the Great."
Alexander was born in 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was son of Philip II, King of Macedonia, and Olympias, the princess of neighboring Epirus. When he was 13, his parents hired Aristotle to be his personal tutor. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle. Alexander was trained together with other children of the nobility at Aristotle’s Nyphaeon. Aristotle gave Alexander a thorough training in rhetoric and literature and stimulated his interest in science, medicine, and philosophy, all of which became of the utmost importance for Alexander in his later life.
At an early age he proves himself well equipped to share in these military adventures. He is only sixteen when he is left in charge of Macedonia, while his father campaigns in the east against Byzantium. During his father's absence he crushes a rebellious tribe, the Thracians. As a reward he is allowed to found a new town in their territory - Alexandroupolis, the first of many to be named after him. That Alexander was given such a position at such a young age indicates that he was already accomplished in battle. But Alexander never got along well with his father, although Philip was proud of Alexander for the Bucephalus incident. Alexander had always been closer to Olympia than to Philip. Philip and Olympia also did not along all that well, owe primarily to Olympia's non-Macedonian heritage.
Philip's campaign in 340 against Byzantium provokes Athens and Thebes into taking the field against the Macedonians. The two sides meet in 338 at Chaeronaea. Later tradition credits the 18-year-old Alexander with leading a cavalry charge which decides the outcome of the battle. There is no historical evidence for this. But the prince certainly fights at Chaeronaea, and the day ends with a conclusive win for the Macedonians.
The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became 'great king' of Persia at the age of 25.
Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around two million square miles. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.
Alexander was acknowledged as a military genius who always led by example, although his belief in his own indestructibility meant he was often reckless with his own life and those of his soldiers. The fact that his army only refused to follow him once in 13 years of a reign during which there was constant fighting, indicates the loyalty he inspired.
He died of a fever in Babylon in June 323 BC.