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Alexander the Great
Alexander was born on or around July 20, 356 B.C. to Philip and Olympias. Like all Macedonians, Alexander liked his liquor. His fondness for wine also caused some of his outbursts of rage. Alexander liked drama, the flute and the lyre, poetry and hunting. What he truly wanted in his life was glory and valor, rather than easy living and riches. To say the least, Alexander matured early. A famous anecdote describes Alexander skillfully receiving Persian envoys in Philip's court while Philip was out inspecting his troops. Alexander is said to have impressed the envoys more than Philip would have. This incident would have happened when Alexander was about five or six.
Philip and Olympias saw the potential greatness in the boy and arranged for his education. His first teacher was the harsh Leonidas, a strict disciplinarian who instilled in Alexander his ascetic nature which became famous during his Persian and Indian expeditions, where he would live simply, very much like his troops. Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus, who taught Alexander to play the lyre, and taught him an appreciation for the fine arts of music, poetry, and drama. When he was 13, his parents hired Aristotle to be his personal tutor. The two of them spent time at Mieza, a temple about 20 miles from the palace at Pella. Under Aristotle, Alexander learned philosophy, ethics, politics, and healing, all of which became of the utmost importance for Alexander in his later life. The two later became estranged, due to their difference of opinion on the status of foreigners; Aristotle saw them as barbarians, while Alexander sought to merge Macedonians and foreigners.
The legend of Bucephalus begins with Philoneicus, a Thessalian, bringing a wild horse to Philip for him to buy. None of the hands were able to handle it, and Philip grew upset at Philoneicus for bringing such an unstable horse to him. Alexander, however, publicly defied his father and claimed that he could handle the horse. The bet between Philip and Alexander was that if Alexander could ride the horse, Philip would buy it, if not, Alexander would have to pay the price of the horse which was 13 talents, and enormous sum for a boy of Alexander's age to have. Alexander apparently noticed that the horse had been shying away from its own shadow, and so he led it gently into the sun, so that its shadow was behind it, all the while stroking it gently and whispering into its ear. Eventually the horse let Alexander mount him, and Alexander was able to show his equestrian skill to his father and all who were watching. He named the horse Bucephalus, which means Oxhead.
In 340 B.C., when Philip went to Byzantium to fight rebels, Alexander, a mere 16 years old, was left in charge of Macedonia as regent, with the power to rule in Philip's name in his absence. That Alexander was given such a position at such a young age indicates that he was already accomplished in battle. During his time as regent, the Maedi of northern Macedonia revolted. Alexander traveled up there, put down the revolt, captured the city, drove the survivors north, and established a Greek colony, naming it Alexandroupolis.
Alexander never got along well with his father, although Philip was proud of Alexander for all his accomplishments. Philip and Olympias also did not get along all that well, owing primarily to Olympias' "barbarian" heritage of Epirus, now Albania. The family was split apart irreparably when Philip married a woman named Cleopatra, a Macedonian. At the wedding banquet, Cleopatra's father made a remark about Philip fathering a "legitimate" heir, meaning one that was pure Macedonian. Alexander took exception and threw his cup at the man, and killed him. Enraged Philip stood up and charged at Alexander, only to trip and fall on his face in his drunken stupor. Alexander, rather upset shouted:
"Here is the man who was making ready to cross from Europe to Asia,
and who cannot even cross from one table to another without losing his
Alexander then moved Olympias back to Epirus, and he went to Illyria. From then till the assassination of Philip, they remained family in name only. Some think that Olympias may have even had a role in Philip's murder.
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Film, 1st millennium BC, Ancient Greece, Cultural depictions of Alexander the Great, Alexander the Great, English-language films, Historical novels, Hellenistic ruler cult, Reign: The Conqueror, Olympias, Macedonia, Alexander
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