As part of our celebration of LGBT History month, today we’re taking a look at the life and times of Alexander the Great.
Alexander III of Macedon, but commonly referred to as Alexander the Great.
July, 356 BC
June, 323 BC. He was 32 at the time of his death.
Born in Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedon, Alexander was the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias.
From the age of 13, Alexander was tutored by philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle taught his students at the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza. Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles – boys such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of these fellow students would become the friends and future generals of Alexander, and are often known as the Companions. Aristotle taught Alexander and his companions about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. Under Aristotle’s tutelage, Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad.
Military life begins
At the age of 16, Alexander returned to his father’s side. Taking political and military responsibilities and strengthening his position as heir to the throne.
Due to the political intrigues of the court, Alexander’s claim on the throne was not certain or guaranteed, however when Philip was assassinated, the nobles and army of Macedon proclaimed Alexander as their king. At the time, Alexander was 20 years old.
Building an empire
Upon taking power, Alexander moved swiftly to eliminate his political rivals and quelling any regional revolts triggered by Philip’s death.
From there, Alexander’s military campaigns became increasingly ambitious. He successfully conquered the Persian Empire, and then turned his attention to the Indian sub-continent.
By the age of 30, Alexander had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world – stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle, and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders.
Alexander married three times, but it is close friendship with Hephaestion that is the focus of most attention.
Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble, became Alexander’s friend, general, and bodyguard.
The closeness of their friendship was described by contemporary chroniclers by highlighting Alexander’s visit to Troy where Alexander garlanded the tomb of Achilles, and Hephaestion that of Patroclus – hinting that he was a beloved of Alexander, in just the same way as Patroclus was of Achilles.
Hephaestion’s death devastated Alexander, and is believed to have contributed to Alexander’s failing health and detached mental state during his final months.
Alexander was in Babylon when he died in the year 323 BC. He was 32 years old. The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear – it is widely assumed that he was poisoned, as there had already been a number of assassination attempts against him, but it is possible that he died of natural causes.
Alexander’s empire brought East and West together, taking the influence of Greek civilisation far beyond the waters of the Mediterranean.