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Describe the Rise of Alexander the Great and the Spread of Greek Culture

Alexander the Great's Empire, spanning from Adriatic Sea to the Indus River, over 3,000 miles.
Alexander the Great's Empire, spanning from Adriatic Sea to the Indus River, over 3,000 miles.

This page focuses on Alexander the Great and the influences of his empire and conquests on the ancient world.

Focus Question: How did Alexander the Great promote the spread of Greek culture?

Topics on the Page

Alexander's Life and Times
  • Human Mixing Events and Cultural Exchanges
The Egyptian City of Alexandria
The Library at Alexandria

Alexander's Life and Times

After centuries of fighting between Persia and Greece, Alexander the Great became famous for doing the impossible and finally defeating the Persian Empire.

  • In 338 BC he first brought Greece under his control, and later in 334 BC had amassed enough of an army to launch his military campaign against Persia.
    • Alexander the Great is known for spreading Greek culture (also known as Hellenistic) wide and far. His Empire reached all the way to modern day India, and in Alexandria Egypt, he built the largest library in the world then with 10,000 scrolls.

The Battle of Issus
  • The big turning point for Alexander was defeating the Emperor of Persia Darius III in the Battle of Issus.

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 11.48.22 AM.pngA description of that battle in the famous Mosaic of from the House of Faun, Pompeii, can be seen below:

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 11.48.22 AM.pngSee AP Art History: Ancient Mediterranean for more on the spread of Greek culture

For further background on the life and times of Alexander the Great:

timeline2_rus.svg.pngTimeline of Alexander the Great:
  • Born July 356 BC in Greece to Philip II of Macedon and Olympias.
  • Takes over father's empire in 336 BC and starts several campaigns to create an empire stretching from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.
  • Becomes the King of Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Persia, and King of Asia by 330 BC.
  • In 326 BC, tries to invade India, but is turned away.
  • Dies of an unknown cause in June 323 BC at the age of 32.

A full description of the life of Alexander the Great can be found here:

Live Science - Alexander the Great

Link to material on Grade 7.24 related to the geography of Greece and the impact of Alexander the Great.

  • Although many primary source documents have been lost to historians, Alexander The Great: The "Good Sources"from Ancient Warfare Magazine provides a look at some of the authors who wrote about Alexander the Great during his lifetime.

  • Read The Death of Alexander from Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman Senator and Greek historian who wrote about events that happened 400 years before his lifetime by assembling a wide variety of sources, now lost, in a text known as Anabasis. In 2012, a new volume in the translation of his work was published, The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander--Anabasis Alexandrou.

  • Read a list of rare, written sources to choose from on Alexander the Great here. This link lists a number of sources (most lost or fragmented) about Alexander. Some sources are still preserved (such as one written by Arrian of Nicomedia).

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 12.13.15 PM.pngThe Need for Source Criticism: A Letter from Alexander to Aristotle? Fordham University

external image Aleksander-d-store.jpg
Alexander the Great lived from 356-323 B.C.E. and is considered one of the most successful military commanders in history, reigning from 336 BCE to the time of his death In 323 B.C.
  • During his early years, he was personally tutored by Aristotle, who influenced Alexander's respect for Greek culture. He came to power at the age of twenty after the assassination of his father, Philip II.

Philip had successfully united many of the city states in Macedon, and as the next king of Macedonia, Alexander continued his conquests.
  • After first overthrowing and conquering the Persian Empire, he annexed Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Bactria, Mesopotamia as well as parts of India.
  • He additionally planned to extend his empire to the "ends of the world." But what allowed Alexander the Great to extend his empire so quickly? His bravery in combat was well heralded, but his military prowess was also an instrumental factor.

Click here to read how the phalanx formation changed the way in which wars were fought. See also Special Topic page Phalanx Warfare

Another successful part of Alexander's campaign was his inclusion of foreigners in his army.
  • His "policy of fusion" included the encouragement of intermarriage between foreign women and his soldiers as well as the inclusion of Persians on equal terms into his army.
    • By including those of other cultures in his campaign, Alexander began the spread of Greek life and culture, as evidenced by artifacts from the time period.

multicultural.pngThis article from BBC news explains how Persians may have viewed Alexander the Great. Though he had a respect for the Persian people and empire, some question his motivations.

Alexander the Great and Classical Greek Quiz Questions
Take a trip through Alexander the Great's life and his achievements as the Great Greek ruler, then quiz your self with the interactive question cards on Alexander's favorite Greek topics.

As a result, Alexander facilitated the merging of Greek and Middle Eastern cultures. He brought Greek culture into all of the lands that he conquered and he encouraged its spread into Asia. Alexander the Great's, greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 B.C.E.), which is now northern Iraq. Click here for a video game representation of what the battle of Gaugamela might have looked like,

Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela
Upon being given the title of "Great King" of Persia at the age of 25, Alexander the Great, for eight years, spread his reign and created an Empire which spanned across three continents and covered about two million square miles.

By means of a network of trade and commerce, and united by a common Greek language and culture, Alexander the Great was able to promote and spread the Greek culture to the areas which he conquered.

Alexander died in 323 B.C.E.. It is unclear if his death was induced after a night of drinking, an illness, or poisoning. He died without a successor and thus ushered in the downfall of the Macedonian Empire. The empire then became fragmented and ruled by Alexander's former surbodinates according to geographical regions. As of January 2015, there is a possibility that Alexander's tomb has been found with the tomb of his mother.

Alexander's Conspiracy here is a National Geographic's article of the conspiracies surrounding Alexander the Great's death and burial mound. The article takes an in-depth look own Alexander's father, King Phillip II, and his significance in the Great Greek's life; it also stands as a great resource for finding fallacies in history.

  • In this video, historians discuss the mystery behind Alexander's sudden death at a young age, and with the help of a physician come up with a hypothesis that Alexander might have died from typhoid fever.

  • In this video, historians talk about Alexander the Great's rise to power. The historians talk about how Alexander's mother, Queen Olympia, played a key role in ensuring that her son achieved the throne of Macedonia after King Philip II was assassinated.

external image Music_note_B.jpgAlexander the Great Rap by a 13 year-old student on YouTube.

external image Music_note_B.jpgAlexander the Great lyric video by Iron Maiden, a popular and classic rock band from England. Alexander_the_great.jpg

Rotating_globe-small.gifHuman Mixing Events, Alexander the Great and the Kalash People of Pakistan

Tracing Ancestry, Researchers Produce a Genetic Atlas of Human Mixing Events (The New York Times, February 13, 2014)

The Lost Children of Alexander the Great

external image Reports.gifA Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History from Science (February 2014).


Female_Rose.pngHere is a paper about Olympias, Alexander the Great's mother, who played a significant role in Philip II's reign, Alexander the Great's reign, and after Alexander's death. Look at pages 3-5.

Furthermore, women were idolized in statue form throughout the Hellenistic World at this time
“The Statues of Women in Greek, Roman, and Jewish Society”

Pioneering Multiculturalism
This article describes the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies partnership with the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria take on Alexander the Great's tolerance and diversity within his enormous empire through music. The performance takes the audience through Alexander's presence from Macedonia stretching to the Indus River of India.

Alexander, Philip II, and Cleopatra Eurydice
  • The royal family split apart after the defeat of the Greeks at Chaerona, when Phillip II married Cleopatra Eurydice.
  • The story goes that Cleopatra's uncle made a statement essentially stating that Phillip II should have a child who is a "legitimate heir" and in response Alexander the Great threw his cup at him for essentially being called a bastard child. In response Phillip II raised his sward and charged at Alexander and in a drunken slumber tripped over his own feet.
  • Alexander is quoted as stating to his father: "Here is a man who was making ready to cross from Europe to Asia, and who cannot even cross from one table to another without losing his balance"

The Egyptian City of Alexandria

The Many Alexandria of Alexander the Great
  • Listing of dozens of cities founded by Alexander

Artistic Rendering of the Library of Alexandria
Artistic Rendering of the Library of Alexandria

Raising Alexandria describes the efforts of archaeologists discovering the remains of the Egyptian city founded by Alexander the Great 2000 years ago from Smithsonian Magazine.
Multimedia.pngThe Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Ancient Port of Alexandria on YouTube

Egyptian Influence on Daily Life in Alexandria

Library at Alexandria

The Seven Ancient World Wonders from LiveScience includes the Library at Alexandria


external image Hypatia_portrait.png
Hypatia, Ancient Alexandria's Great Female Scholar from Smithsonian. She was one of the first women to study math, astronomy and philosophy.

Go here for a biography of Hypatia

See also Hypatia from the Great Philosophers website at Oregon State University
external image cape-town-hypatia-v-final-pdf-2-638.jpg?cb=1475568433
The Hypatia Stone

The Stone's Composition Leaves Researchers Questioning Where and How It Formed, Astronomy Magazine (January 18, 2018)

Extra-Terrestrial Hypatia Stone Rattles Solar System Status Quo

Alexander the Great's Empire at its height

Alexander the Great's conquering route

Here is a great site for quick reference of Classical Greek culture Alexander the Great was so fond of and based his Empire around
Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.30.24 PM.pngHere is a fun lesson idea for how to introduce Alexander the Great to students from Discovery Education. Students think about the effects that modern day media could have had on Alexander the Great.

book.pngRecommended Books:
Alexander the Great by Demi. 2010. ISBN 0761457003 - picture book about Alexander the Great's conquests.
Alexander the Great: Master of the Ancient World (Wicked History) by Doug Wilhelm. 2010. ISBN 0531212750. - picture book with text about Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great: The Boy Soldier Who Conquered the World by Simon Adams. 2005. ISBN-13: 9780792236603. - chapter book with pictures about Alexander the Great's life.
Alexander the Great by Jacob Abbott. 2014. ISBN-13: 9781500746971. - chapter book about Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great by Samuel Willard Crompton. 2003. ISBN-13: 9780791072196. - chapter book about Alexander the Great.

[1] Alexander the Great: Alexander of Macedon Biography. Found on February 2011. http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/AlexandertheGreat.html.

[2] Alexander the Great. Found on 5 February 2011. http://history-world.org/alexander_the_great1.htm .

[3] Alexander the Great. Found on 5 February 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/alexander_the_great.shtml

[4] Alexander the Great. Found on 6 February 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0vB1pj6QYs

[5] Map of Alexander the Great's Empire. Found 11 February 2013. http://i.imgur.com/6P1FMpv.jpg

[6] Alexander the Great's rise to power. Found 11 February 2013. http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-the-great-9180468/videos

[7] Alexander the Great's mysterious death. Found 11 February 2013. http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-the-great-9180468/videos/alexander-the-great-mysterious-death-17438787545

[8] Olympius, mother of Alexander the Great. Found 29 January 2014. http://roadrunnersguidetotheancientworld.com/olympias-mother-of-alexander-the-great/

[9] 13 Year old Rapping- Alexander the Great. Found February 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0vB1pj6QYs.