Alexander III the Great still remains one of the greatest commanders who have ever lived. He was born in 21st July, 356 BC and died in 11th June, 323 BC. He was the King of Macedon whom, at only thirty years of age, had already conquered the biggest empire that any leader can ever imagine. He had conquered Europe and most of Asia. This conquest was however short-lived as he unexpectedly died at age thirty two with fever. His death marked the beginning of fall to his vast kingdom as divisions come up from his various generals. Fight for the control of power led to divisions of this empire. This was something he would have never agreed to if given a chance to do so. This paper seeks to explore reasons why Alexander III the Great’s empire fell so fast after his death.
He succeeded his father, King Philip II of Macedon, who was assassinated by one of his bodyguards at a wedding ceremony. His mother was Philip’s fourth wife Olympias who was the King of Epirus’ daughter. She was Philip’s principle wife for most of his kingship. Alexander the Great therefore grew in the royal family. In his early life, he had been tutored by Aristotle. He was taught much of arts, war, music, and philosophy. This greatly contributed to his zeal for success. The lessons molded him for the great task ahead. At only sixteen, his father had entrusted him with the army when he was away. Alexander defeated the Thracian neighbors going ahead to establish his first city. He named it Alexandropolis after himself.
Alexander had also managed to tame a hostile horse that was to belong to his father Philip. This horse was afraid of the shadow from the sun. Alexander offered himself to tame this horse and superbly succeeded. This made his father to buy him the horse. These were clear signs of the potential Alexander possessed as this only happened at ten years of age. He was therefore destined to be the heir to the throne. Not only was he groomed for this but he was also aware of it and adequately prepared himself for it. He was well taught the act of war, something he well perfected during the battles. King Philip II, his father had entrusted him with commanding the army. He took this opportunity under the guidance of hid father to expand and strengthen the army. This helped the father to easily defeat his enemies. They could go to wars with Alexander controlling one group of soldiers while the father controlling the other.
After the death of his father, Alexander took over the throne as an already established soldier. He took time during his previous years to build a very strong army. His father Philip had also been able to establish a very peaceful empire. He took time to diplomatically bring peace among the other parts of his kingdom that had rebelled. This may have a very good beginning for Alexander’s as he had little internal battles to fight. He however ordered for the execution of those he thought were a threat to his kingship. He was later given the award of the Greece generalship. This gave him an opportunity to continue with his father’s plans. The late Philip had planned to systematically expand the kingdom. This assured him of his grip on power. Thebes also had refused to acknowledge his authority. He responded by invading it with his army killing all the 6,000 soldiers there.
After successfully taking control of Greece, he decided to invade and capture Persia. He succeeded in the first attempt but king Darius of Persia and his army retreated controlled a section of their territory. Alexander and his army went ahead southwards against Egypt. He was welcomed here and was like a liberator for them as they had been under Persian rule for long. He went ahead to the lower Asian territories. After many conquests, he returned with his army to finish out Persia. This is a mission he successfully accomplished. King Darius died in this war. He therefore matched to Babylon and occupied king Nebuchadnezzar II’s palace. He had planned to establish Babylon as the capital of his entire kingdom. This was to be his base as he planned to attack Arabia and North Africa. This plan was however not successful as he died after a short while.
As noted by Depuydt in Die Welt des Orients, Alexander the Great died on 11th June 323 BC in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. He had fever following a private drinking party that had been hosted by Medius of Larissa. His fever grew worse by each day bringing worry to the soldiers. By the time he was becoming speechless, his Macedonian soldiers were arranged to pass by him as an honor. The best he could do at this time was to speechlessly wave to them. He later succumbed to this ailment. This was the end to a king who had ambitiously conquered a considerably large empire for himself. As per his plans, he was to continue with this trend to maybe the entire world.
The astonishment starts after the death of this great king. The news of his sudden death spread to the unbelief of Greece and other towns. This was to be the beginning of another twist to the Macedonian empire. He had set a different legacy in all the territories he had conquered. He believed in the maintenance of peace through intermarriages. This was seen as he encouraged his soldiers to marry with the natives. He also imported people from other towns to live with the rest. He believed that his empire would be a peaceful one through such coexistence. This was his legacy.
By the time of his death, he had not picked an apparent heir to his throne. This was an important factor in his succession. The process of picking the heir was not an easy as their there was no automatic one. The one who could have been one was not yet born. This prompted his generals to fight for his position. Rivalry was evident as each one of them fought to control a section of the empire. Perdicas and Meleager were some of the commanders who were killed in Asia. Later, another general named Antigonas controlled the Macedonian empire. This however did not last long as rivalry still come into surface prompting other commanders to gang against him. He later died in battle. Consequently, the entire Macedonian kingdom was split into four main territories: Macedonia which included Greece was controlled by Cassander; Ptolemy became the king of Egypt; Celeusus become the king of Asia; and Thrace was controlled by Lysimachus.
The chaos was experienced depicted that Alexander’s mission across the whole his entire empire was not embraced by the rest. He may have not had other allies who embraced his vision. He continued with conquest believing that he brought unity amongst these towns. This was not the case as evidenced by what happens after his death. Civil war broke up in Macedonia as power struggles ensured between different entities. Greece had been occupied by the Macedonians. Greece later planned to free themselves from their rule. They rebelled against them, a decision that started another war known as Lamian War. The Macedonians were defeated and expelled out of Greece. They however went back after getting reinforcement from Craterus.
The great Macedonian empire continued with is woes for the next almost fifty years. It was falling never to rise again to the former glory. Later the Romans attacked Macedonia terribly conquering it in 197 BC. It was later to be relegated to become one of the Roman provinces. This was the beginning of Roman Empire. They controlled Macedonia until the 19th century. Rome also conquered Greece at the same period. Egypt was later added to be part of the Roman Empire.
As it is pointed out by Knight (2010), those that worked with him never embraced his vision. Alexander’s death could have provided them an opportunity to continue with his works. It also comes out that Alexander the Great had written down an organized vision of how he wanted things to happen in the expanded Macedonian empire. All his commanders fail to implement these even after the written document is read to the soldiers. He was wanted the intermarriage between different cities in Europe and Asia. He believed this as the only way to enhance development in these regions. According to him, the family ties created would be an asset in peaceful coexistence. This is the reason he encourages his soldiers to marry and to have children with the native women. After Alexander’s death all these marriages broke proving that they did this out of insistence by the leader.
It should also be pointed out that Alexander had his weakness that featured after his death to influence the fall of the Macedonian empire. He was so much authoritative and ambitious that nothing could stand between him and his mission. He was a high tempered and an over reactive person. He could not stand any opposition as those who stood out like him were all done away with. This led him to the execution of all those who may have been the ideal heirs to the throne. This may have also distanced his potential allies from him due to fear. For all those years, he could not have missed to groom someone to be so close to him to take the throne in his absence. His ambition went had limitations. There is on the absolute authority of a leader during this system of ruler ship. It was upon him to ensure that another leader was ready at anytime. His father did that to him but he failed to do the same.
An effective government or kingdom must have structures. These structures are based on different levels of management with appointed leaders. Such is the only way to have absolute authority over the subjects. This is missing in Alexander the Great’s empire. Unlike his father Philip who was well organized, he failed to organize his vast kingdom. There is no place we see an organized structure of management in all the areas he conquers. His kingdom remains vulnerable as himself and his army continues fighting ahead. This greatly contributed to the fast downfall of his kingdom as he was the only unifying factor. The mention of his name made towns, cities and monarchs surrender. After his death, the loopholes in his rule resurface as rebellion openly emerges. There were no structures put in place to manage the entire Macedonian empire. This led to the civil wars and the divisions of the empire.
There had been some disquiet amongst some commanders in Alexander’s army just before his death. There was a problem when they had come from the Persian invasion. Many of the soldiers had died on their way back through the desert due to hunger and exhaustion. Alexander held a big victory party after he dismissed 10,000 veteran soldiers to go back to Macedonia. This led to the mutiny by the army, something that enraged him. He then ordered the execution of the ring leader to his bodyguards. This incident created tension in the army and most of his close generals. This may have contributed to the fall out of the generals after his death.
Alexander the Great may not have picked a successor like his father did due egoism. He was so much filled with himself and his achievements. He may never imagine anybody to be the king but him. In Persia, he trains the Persian youths in the Macedonian ways. He introduces his own culture in this territory. He recruits these almost 30,000 Persian youths in the army. It also seen that remains with all the children that were born by the Macedonian army men with the native women. He decides to live with them instead of giving them away to their mothers. He works on a plan of coming with a hybrid army that will only be attached to him. He has no thought of bringing other leaders into the picture. This may have distanced some of the leaders from him and the new breed of this army.
In conclusion, Alexander III the Great of Macedon was a King who achieved a lot in terms of the military power. He was able to establish the biggest empire for that matter. The success of this empire however vanished with the death Alexander. Immediately after his death, this kingdom encountered upheavals that led to its collapse. It was clear that his death came by surprise as he had not put things in order. He failed to provide a good structure for the unity of the entire empire. As much as he had great vision for this kingdom, it seemed that all those who worked with him had not embraced this. This remains to be part of history that is a lesson to all the present leaders who are so ambitious with their achievements at the expense of the long term stability of their jurisdictions.