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Useful Notes / Alexander the Great

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"There is nothing impossible to him who will try."

"Alexander the Great was the king of Macedon during the 4th century B.C. who saw the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia and decided they would make a really bitchin' backyard."

Born in 356 B.C., full name Alexander III of Macedon, he was the son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus. "Alexander" is actually the Roman/Latin form of his name, which is in fact (Ἀλέξανδρος) Aléxandros in Greek, and was how he was known in his lifetime, by his peers, and by himself. During his conquests in Persia, he adopted the customs of the Persian rulers (who called their rulers "The Great King", most famously Cyrus the Great, whom Alexander saw as a role model), and became Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας/Aléxandros ho Mégas/Alexander the Great.

In his lifetime he came to acquire the following titles: Basileus (King) of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt, Lord of Asia. He is generally considered one of four great conquerors (alongside Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Napoléon Bonaparte) whose military and political activities literally changed the world. He was taught by Aristotle until he was about 16; it's said he was particularly interested in his teacher's lessons in geography and on Homer (he was known for carrying his copy of The Iliad with him wherever he went). As a young man he served in his father's army as a commander in his campaigns, and came to power after the assassination of his father by the captain of his bodyguard. He benefited greatly from the military reforms of Philip, who developed the Macedonian phalanx formation and introduced the sarissa (a pike roughly twice the length of a typical Greek spear), which gave his army an edge over the rest of Greece and a force that could potentially expand the power of Greece outside the Peloponnese peninsula. Alexander promptly put down a series of rebellions around the Balkans and attracted other allies and fence-sitters to support an invasion of Persia. He was elected Hegemon of the Hellenic League (composed of Macedonian allies, subjects and other city-states and kingdoms, except of course for the Spartansnote ).

He marched his army into the Achaemaenid Empire of Persia that governed over Asia Minor, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, Bactria and frontiers into Central Asia. To the Greeks of the ancient world, this was more or less the edge of the known world and Alexander's invasion was more or less synonymous with conquering the world. In actual fact, Alexander's empire was only slightly smaller than the Achaemenid Empire at its height, was exceeded by the Han and Tang dynasties, and would also be exceeded in size by other land empires such as the Mongol Empire and the Russian Empire, albeit in terms of territory it was larger than The Roman Empire at its height. His famous campaign began in Egypt and marched alongside the coasts, taking over cities, winning over allies, sacking and murdering rebels and holdouts and wrecking the Balance of Power on which the Persian Empire was based. After Alexander's forces defeated the enormously numerically superior Persian armies and forced King Darius III to flee the Battle of Gaugamela, Darius was assassinated by a general who fled with him and Alexander seized control of the empire. Alexander is one of a very few military leaders who never lost a battle, and was notably willing to absorb tactics and soldiers that impressed him - notably, after Gaugamela, the use of war elephants. Later, Alexander's forces marched into Bactria and India, where Alexander was forced to stop his expansion under the threat of revolt from his army, who were beginning to wonder if he truly would march to the very end of the world, circumstances permitting. Alexander married a Bactrian woman named Roxana, who later bore him a son after his death. Alexander died in 323 B.C. after a period of sickness in Babylon. It's unclear exactly what killed him. Some historians have suggested that he died of alcohol poisoning after a drinking contest with some of his soldiers, others suggest that he was poisoned, and still others believe that he may have caught some form of disease, specifically untreated typhoid fever. His empire collapsed shortly afterwards, with his generals dividing up Persia, Egypt, and Macedonia amongst themselves.

All the surviving sources we have about Alexander's conquests and reign come several centuries after his death and as such there's a lot of internal contradictions and diverging accounts. One thing that comes through clearly and which is borne out by archaeological evidence is that the man was a bunch of contradictions piled on top of each other. He was intelligent, rational, loved the arts, philosophy and poetry, but he was also an alcoholic with Testosterone Poisoning and prone to bouts of brutal violence and sadism. He was capable of acts of generosity and kindness to conquered peoples and his subjects (notably, when he asked the defeated King Porus how he wished to be treated, Porus said, "like a King", and Alexander rewarded him by restoring him as a monarch, beneath only Alexander himself). However, he was also capable of sadistically tying Batis, the commander of Gaza, to a chariot while the man was still alive and dragging his body around apparently - if we can believe the chronicles - to cosplay as Achilles in The Iliad. He and his allies claimed to be liberating Persian cities from the tyranny of Darius, only to more or less sack the cities and sell people and inhabitants into slavery. As for patronage of arts and philosophy, he famously destroyed Persepolis, the center of Persian government and learning, and burnt many of its libraries - though it has to be said, the stories go that he did it while drunk out of his mind and was was very remorseful/embarrassed about it later. In Iranian chronicles under the Parthian and Sassanian empires, Alexander is remembered and vilified as the man who destroyed their culture and heritage.

To his own soldiers, he was A Father to His Men and a Frontline General willing to banquet and party with them even after he became Pharaoh, Shahanshah ("King of Kings" in Persian, which is the title all Persian rulers used) and other titles, but his bouts of rage, fueled by alcoholism, often led him to take his anger out on them. In one notable incident, Alexander murdered one of his companions, Cleitus, in the middle of an alcoholic binge. Notably, Alexander could be an extremely Bad Boss, whether in viciously purging officials he deemed corrupt or inept, or even punishing his entire army when they revolted and refused to go any farther by leading them home through the Gedrosian Desert, where thousands died. Likewise, Alexander claimed divine heritage (though that particular story was started by his mother, Olympias) and, according to some reports, starting claiming to be a God-Emperor or in some cases seemed to see himself as a God, which even his fellow countrymen found too much even in their time and place.

In short, Alexander was the personification of Hot-Blooded, his fire leading him to amazing achievements and horrific brutalities at the same time.

Alexander's own policies also created divisions among his generals. He started syncretizing aspects of Greek mythology and culture with that of Egypt and Media. He called himself Pharaoh, and identified Ammon as an aspect of Zeus. To the eyes of his Greek soldiers, he was Going Native to an unacceptable degree, dressing in Persian fashion and custom, asking his men to kneel before him and, most offensively to them, recruiting and promoting Persian soldiers and commanders to ranks in his combined armies on the basis of merit and competence, seemingly treating the Macedonians and allied Greeks no differently from the others. The challenge of ruling the large empire of Persia was quite a difficult feat for the Achaemenids, and Alexander, after wrecking and destabilizing it, more or less wanted to put it back in place only with himself in charge. Alexander seemed to want to reconcile the unfamiliar and seemingly strange culture of the East with the European West, and he encouraged syncretism, cultural contact, intermarriage with locals, and even seemed to suggest resettlement and exchanges of natives from Persia and Media to Greece and vice versa. This rather positive aspect of his reign was valued and admired in Asia even after his death and the dissolution of his conquests, and influenced central and South Asian culture for most of a millennium afterwards. In Iran after the fall of the Sassanids and the rise of Shi'a Islam, Alexander came to be seen positively and even acknowledged as a Shah in The Shahnameh and in Afghanistan, Pakistan and North India (around Punjab where the River Beas was the furthest in India he ever came), the name Sikander (derived from Alexander) remains a name for warrior, champion or victor well into the 21st Century.

Alexander's conquests led to Greek culture being spread to the East, and ideas from the East going back to the West, marking the start of the Hellenistic period, which led to Greek becoming the lingua franca or common tongue of the Ancient Middle East, influencing Persia (Greek remained the language of administration well into the Sassanid Empire in the 6th century A.D.), India, Ancient Arabia, and Judea. In a 2009 poll conducted on Greek television, Alexander the Great was voted the greatest Greek of all time. Still, it cannot be denied that even if his conquests led to the Hellenistic empires and spread Greek culture across the Middle East and North-West India, it more or less marked the end of Greece's Classical era. His poor handling of his succession and addiction to war led to the Macedonian Succession Wars, where his generals (the Diadochi, or "Successors") ended up fighting each other. Eventually Greece would be swallowed by the Romans, who crushed the successor kingdoms of Pyrrhus, Mithridates and other Macedonian holdouts, and thereafter Greece would become part of the Roman Empire, and be Demoted to Extra. Likewise, modern historians note that Alexander set a bad example for the likes of Pompey Magnus, Julius Caesar, and later Napoleon Bonaparte, who all sought to invade, expand, and conquer in imitation of their hero, and much of this came at the expense of land, life and dignity of people on the ground, and it led many of them to a sticky end...not unlike Alexander himself!

Depictions, Allusions, And Others:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The identity of Rider in Fate/Zero is Alexander (albeit using the Persian translation of his name, Iskandar). He's a Boisterous Bruiser who looks like thisnote , has a very odd view on various things, especially the wearing of pants, and is thinking about conquering the world again. He also is among the strongest Servants that are around, his Ionioi Hetairoi being of the highest Noble Phantasm-Rank. It drags the target into a Reality Marble where they will have to face the Heroic Spirits of Alexander's former guards and companions (even his horse became a Heroic Spirit!), who, having bonded with him in life, remain loyal to him even after death. He also has Shock and Awe powers because he is a descendant of Zeus here. There is also a sequence that elaborates on his reasons for conquering the world, how he desired to reach the end of the world and leave his footprints in the sand, and how he swept away anything that stood in his way and managed to convince many people to support and share his dream. Oh, and also, nearly everything the guy does is pure awesome. The Historical Hero Upgrade is strong in this one, even when he freely admits to Saber's claim that he is a greedy tyrant and considers that an acceptable price for what he managed to accomplish.
    • Additionally, a kid version of him appears in Fate/Grand Order, where he's more precocious but already showing the charisma he will expand in his adulthood. To differentiate, the kid version is actually referred as Alexander, while the adult version above is called Iskandar. This reflects how as an adult, Alexander adopted many of the customs of the nations he conquered, whereas in his childhood he knew nothing of those foreign customs and naturally would use only his Greek name.
    • For the record, the description for said child form uses the phrase "manifestation of possibility itself," while a later servant, based on a fellow famed conquerer has a skill called Light of Possibility which reflects his own Historical Hero Upgrade; the fact that he is based on the mythologized legend and not the all-too-fallible man. The evidence is strong that a similar effect is in-play here.
  • Mazinger Z: During a passionate speech, Dr. Hell declared that he would achieve what Alexander was unable to do (conquering the world).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Alexander is the antagonist, possessing his descendant Alex Brisbane, and wielded the Millennium Ring, which aided his historical conquests and created his Literal Split Personality. Notably, the unreleased Japanese dub of the spinoff (which was originally commissioned by 4Kids Entertainment) is labelled with the name Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters ALEX on the Studio Gallop website, making it an Antagonist Title.
  • Reign: The Conqueror (a.k.a. Alexander Senki) was a very... loose retelling of the story of Alexander's conquests, with character designs by Peter Chung of Æon Flux fame.
  • Alexander is an important character in Historie by Hitoshi Iwaaki. The protagonist is Eumenes of Cardia, who worked as his secretary from a young age.
  • Alexander's life is retold in Alexandros by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, better known as the original character designer for the Gundam franchise. Thus, Alexander looks rather like Amuro Ray.

  • The idol of Ozymandias from Watchmen. He named himself after Ramses II because of Alexander (Alexander admired the pharaohs too, so taking on a pharaoh's name would by extension make him more like Alexander).
  • Alexander's Brain in a Jar (unwillingly) serves as military advisor to Dracula in Requiem Vampire Knight.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Numerous examples of early Real-Person Fic — especially the medieval Alexander Romance stories. Alex explores the ocean depths in a diving bell and talks to mermaids. His sister turns herself into one when she hears he has died.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • Alexander burns in Hell for Violence against Neighbor according to The Divine Comedy as he was called a tyrant by Seneca the Younger (who was featured in the Limbo of said book). It must be mentioned however that his appearance is disputed since Dante's other works speak of him in a positive light.
  • He is referenced in Augustine of Hippo's The City of God and is one of the most famed examples were he is treated in an unfavorable light since his actions are judged by Christian Morality rather than the Pagan Morality of the Classical world and his role is that of a proxy to St. Augustine's criticism that were also meant to Rome itself. For instance, the book makes reference to an apocryphal conversation between Alexander and a pirate with the latter arguing that both were deep down the same, with the difference being the scale of their acts (the pirate robbed gold while Alexander took land) as well as featuring a mention to a letter Alexander sent to his mother Olimpia of a conversation he had with a priest in Egypt who told him that the gods were essentially self-serving creations made for the interest of the rulers (in opposition to what Christianity, Islam or Judaism teach about God's relation with those that rule). Indeed, Saint Augustine's criticism of Alexander and the ideal of the virtuous conqueror that he came to represent in Antiquity was one of the first foundations on the modern concept of what we call a "Just War".
  • Mary Renault 's Alexander trilogy: Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy and Funeral Games. Her interpretation of the source material (mainly Plutarch, Arrian and Curtius) went into her nonfiction book The Nature of Alexander. Her writings were among the materials utilized by Oliver Stone in the creation of his Alexander film.
  • Historian Valerio Massimo Manfredi also dedicated his own Alexander Trilogy to the eponymous character. The rights for a film adaptation were bought a long time ago.
  • Appears in backstory in Dirge for Prester John where he helped save Pentexore from Gog and Magog.
  • In Eternity, the second book of The Way Series, Patricia ended up on parallel world where the one major difference was that Alexander survived his illness and lived to an old age.
  • His most bizarre "appearance" might be Gore Vidal's Julian, where Phony Psychic Maximus convinces Julian The Apostate that he's in tune with the supernatural. One day, he excitedly tells Julian that he spoken to the Cybele, The Great Mother, and that she wants him to conquer Persia. His victory is assured by the gods, and she'll even send Alexander's spirit down to guide him. Julian swallows it hook, line, and sinker, even writing in his diary that he can hear Alexander's voice whisper "advance, to the farthest edge of the world!"
  • The historical novel Thais of Athens has Alexander as a recurring character and the eponymous heroine's occasional lover.
  • Some later books in Rick Gualtieri's The Tome of Bill feature a vampirised Alexander as a major character.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Peter Oldring portrayed Alexander in an episode of History Bites, playing up his lustful side.
  • Pre-Star Trek, William Shatner starred in an Alexander the Great TV pilot.
  • Alexander lost to Attila the Hun in Deadliest Warrior.
  • In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, a documentary series by Michael Wood. Wood traveled to all the places Alexander went, guided by locals with their own stories of Alexander to tell. He often literally walked exactly where Alexander had walked and occasionally risked his own life.
  • Alexander's (famously-lost) tomb is a key plot point in Moon Knight, being the hidden location of Ammit, the central antagonist's worshipped deity. Alexander is also revealed to have been Ammit's Avatar in the past.

    Myth and Legend 
  • The Book of Daniel foretells Alexander's rise to power 200 years before his birthnote , when Daniel sees a vision of a ram with two horns (representing the Persian Empire) being slain by a goat with a single horn (Alexander) which then breaks into four pieces (the four new territories his generals divided amongst themselves.) Later on, Jewish history records that when Alexander arrived in Jerusalem, he embraced the High Priest, Jaddus, and went into the temple to see the prophecy written about him, and offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Under his rule, the Jews enjoyed the same rights as they did under the Persians, and even named many of their sons Alexander (Sender, in Hebrew form) in his honor.
  • The Trope Maker and Trope Namer of Cutting the Knot was the mythical, impossibly complex Gordian Knot that, the oracles predicted, could only be untied by the future king of Asia. Alexander the Great tried in vain to untie it and then, when that didn't work, simply drew his sword and sliced it in two. Other versions of the story are the exact opposite of the trope, however, with Alexander finding a clever way to untie the knot without cutting it, like where he basically removes the main object that the knot was apparently wrapped around, thus loosening its entire structure; the equivalent of leveling a building by removing its foundation. By the ancient Greek definition of Asia, he did indeed conquer all of it.
  • One of the most popular legends in Greece about Alexander the Great has his sister as the main character. It was said that Alexander asked the oracle for a way to live forever who told him how to find 'the immortal water' which would grant immortality to any who drank it. After many hardships, Alexander finds the water but before he had a chance to drink it, his sister Thessalonike, who was a real person, out of ignorance bathes and drinks the water. When she learns what she had done, she tried to commit suicide by jumping into the sea, only for Poseidon to take pity on her and turn her into a mermaid. Since that day she is forever roaming the seas and when she find finds ship she asks the same question "Does King Alexander still live?" if the answer is negative then her rage and grief are so great they transform her into a twisted gorgon that sinks the ship, but if the answer is "He lives and reigns and conquers the world" then the mermaid would smile and give the ship calm seas for a safe voyage.
    • as this is a folk tale they are many versions of this so let us take a look at some of the most important variables.
    • is the most common story that Thessalonike drank the water by accident but some do say it was in purpose.
    • On the other hand some sources claim that Alexander changed his mind and didn't want imortaly after all and made his sister immortal by bathing her hair with the immortal water.

  • In The Qur'an, there is a heroic character of disputed prophethood known as Dhul Qarnayn ('the Two-Horned One') often identified with Alexander the Great. His connection to horns comes from an artistic representation of him with a two-horned helmet. In his Qur'anic depiction, he is described as a just king who conquered from east to west with the permission of God and as a just ruler who defeated Gog and Magog. This figure has also been identified as Cyrus the Great and other well-known rulers, but no theory has reached the mainstream and popular status of Alexander, who already had many romance legends in the region. Islamic legend interacted with Malay history and led to Sang Sapurba, the ancestor of all the rajas of Singapura and Sultans of Melaka (and their descendants) claiming descent from Alexander the Great.

  • A song made by Iron Maiden.
  • The song "Iskander D'hul Karnon" by Nile, which deals with his presentation according to some Muslim beliefs.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • Born James Wehba, General Skandor Akbar took his name from the Arabic for "Alexander The Great."
  • Better known as Big Dick Dudley, the late Alex Rizzo originally called himself "Alexander The Great."

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Traveller Rim of Fire there was a Terran commander in the Interstellar Wars whose hero was Alexander the Great. As the Interstellar Wars era does sometimes look like the relations between the Greeks and the Persians, it kind of makes sense.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Lord Commander Solar Macharius is heavily inspired in Alexander the Great. His conquests (1000 wolds in seven years) came to an end at the edge of the galaxy. Macharius prepared to move onwards but his armies, never beaten by the enemy, wavered and crumbled at the prospect of moving beyond the psychic light of the Astronomicon, the navigational aid essential to Warp travel. Also like Alexander, his conquests splintered among the seven generals he had, though the Imperium quickly brought them all back into the fold.

    Video Games 
  • In Age of Empires I, there is an Alexander Hero Unit, and the later missions for the Greek campaign involve playing as him.
  • In The Ancient Art of War, Alexander "keeps good food lines but is weak when not on the plains."
  • In Assassin's Creed, Alexander used Lost Technology from the Precursors and was assassinated by one of the predecessors of the Assassin Brotherhood. Assassin's Creed Origins makes reference to his status as a conqueror of Egypt.
  • The namesake of "Alex the Great" in BioShock 2.
  • Alexander boasts a perfect attendance record for the Civilization series, leading the Greeks through the fifth entry and being given command of a proper Macedonian civilization in a Civ VI DLC pack. He is reviled by the fandom as the biggest dick out of all the leader AIs, a warmonger capable of Classical Era rushes or late-game campaigns of conquest. In Civ V, Greece's "Macedonian League" ability means Alexander will be competing with the player for the favor of city-states, or leveraging alliances with them to help his conquests, while in Civ VI, Alexander's "To World's End" leader bonus lets Macedon ignore war weariness, allowing him to wage war for literally the entire game.
  • In Dante's Inferno, Lucifer mentions that Alexander was one of the many people throughout history who failed to free him from Cocytus.
  • He is featured on the box art of Empire Earth's and the last 3 missions of the game's Greek campaign are about his rise to power and his conquest of Persia.
  • The demons in God Hand have an odd obsession with him. Standard pre-attack taunts include "You're not Alexander!" and "I'm Alexander the Great!"
  • Imperator: Rome deals with his legacy. The game begins 19 years after his death (304 BCE), and his generals are now aging monarchs of their own empires. He appears as a deified ruler in the Hellenic pantheon.
  • The expansions of Pharaoh and of its successor Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile have the player character founding Alexandria on his behalf and aiding him in his Eastern conquests.
  • He is the star of a self-titled campaign in Rise of Nations' expansion.
  • Total War:
    • He is the protagonist of a Rome: Total War expansion pack, appropriately named Alexander. You get an automatic Non-Standard Game Over if Alexander ever routes from a battle.
    • He is one of the Greek commanders in Total War: Arena. His abilities are best suited for cavalry and he is a very Large Ham.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

  • The Battles of the World interactive CD is narrated in part by Alexander the Great, who introduces himself as, "in all honesty, the greatest general who ever lived". One of the ten battles depicted on the CD is the Battle of Gaugamela.