Alexander the Great: God-King or Mere Mortal?

by cmoneyspinner

Alexander the Great was not a prophet. But he does hold a place in history as being one of the most exceptional political and military leaders.

“My father will get ahead of me in everything, and will leave nothing great for me to do.”

Alexander the Great said these words when he heard of his father's conquests. Clearly, Alexander was not a prophet. For when most people speak of King Philip of Macedon, they almost always reference his name as "the father of Alexander the Great".

Alexander was born on 21st July 356 BC in Pella, son to King Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, princess of Epirus.

Alexander was brought up in Pella, which now lies in ruins in modern Greece. At great expense, his father had the famous Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, educate him. Aristotle instructed Alexander in politics, war, and in critical thinking.

At age 16, he became a captain in the Macedonian armies; and at age 20 (336 BC), Alexander became the king of Macedonia, after his father was murdered.

He died in Babylon mysteriously at age 33, but not before he had gotten ahead of his father in everything and had accomplished far greater conquests, leaving behind a vast empire. Because he did not leave an heir to take his place, the empire was divided into three kingdoms by his successors (generals) - Ptolemy took Egypt; Seleucus, the East; and Antigonus I, Macedonia.

Although his name is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, many biblical scholars believe that he is the "mighty king" referred to in the book of Daniel the Prophet (Chapter 11).

Man's Defender, Warrior

Alexander's name suited him.

The meaning of the name Alexander is: "man's defender, warrior". Such a name seems suitable for a notable historical figure that conquered and ruled the greater part of the known world before his death at the age of 33 (thirty-three).  Most people know this person as "Alexander III the Great, the King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire is considered one of the greatest military geniuses of all times". (1)

Alexander the Great was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia, to Philip II, king of Macedonia, and Olympia, a princess of Epirus. He was a fearless Macedonian, educated by Aristotle, purveyor of Hellenistic culture, conqueror of everything from Greece and Egypt to the Indus River, and a brilliant strategist and military leader. He wanted to rule the world (as did so many of his predecessors; a pointless ambition but nevertheless he tried because, according to his philosophy "There is nothing impossible to him who will try." )  Though he succeeded in conquering the known world of his day and time, he never lived to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Let us examine Alexander's plan for world domination and its outcome.

Alexander's Father Held Hostage

It all began with Philip, Alexander's father, who was held hostage in Thebes (368 - 365 BC). During this period, though a captive, he received a military and diplomatic education. He studied Greek culture and the organization of the Theban military; in particular, the hoplite phalanx. In 364 BC, Philip returned to Macedonia and in 359 BC, the deaths of both of his older brothers allowed him to become king. When Philip ascended to the throne, he formed an army consisting of 10,000 soldiers. The army was divided into two different groups: the cavalry (which consisted of landowners and nobles), and the infantry that was organized into the phalanxes (comprised of hunters and peasants).

Equipped with the knowledge of Greek military and cultural activities which he had acquired while being held hostage in Thebes, Philip unified his kingdom and went after Greece. Demosthenes, a well-known Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens, had warned the citizens of Athens about Philip's intentions. Nevertheless, Greek traitors betrayed their city-states and aligned themselves with Philip because they had been given an "incentive". Philip not only established a formidable army, but also discovered that there were gold mines in his kingdom. The gold was the incentive and proved to be far more useful than his army. History notes that Philip was in the habit of saying "a fortress can always be taken if only a mule laden with gold can be got inside".

Ultimately, Philip became the master of Greece when he defeated Thebes and Athens in 338 BC, at the battle of Chaeronea .

Alexander on His Great Horse?
  • Bucephalos was the war horse of Alexander the Great, and is very likely the most famous horse of antiquity. Alexander treasured him so much that he built the city of Bucephala in his memory. Read more ...

Alexander's 3-Step Plan

World Domination and a United Empire?? No Problem!
"In 338 B.C. the liberty of the old Greek city-states was blasted at Chaeronea in Boeotia by the victory of Philip of Macedon. This battle implied the passing of the Greek system of city-states and the substitution of large military monarchies." (2)

During his conquest of Greece, Philip's son, Alexander, had led attacks on Greek city-states. His military prowess earned him the respect and admiration of many Greeks who defected and joined the Macedonians. After the battle of Chaeronea, Philip was at the zenith of his career. He was making plans to invade Persia when his life was cut short. He was murdered at his daughter's wedding. The motive of the assassin was never verified because justice was administered swiftly. The army officer who had killed King Philip was pounced on and killed by the other soldiers. The story is told that the soldier who murdered Philip was his former lover who was angry because Philip had discarded him and had taken another lover and made no effort to defend his former lover from the insult and injury of another soldier. Those facts have not been proven. What has been proved is that Alexander, son of King Philip II of Macedonia, became king at the age of 20.

Alexander envisioned an empire united under one culture, the Hellenistic culture, which would connect the divided and diverse worlds of the East and West and would merge the best features of both the Greek and the Persian societies - their backgrounds, traditions, customs, way of life, etc. Alexander immediately went to work on the implementation of his three-step plan to achieve world domination and rule over a united empire.


Alexander founded 70 new cities (most of them named Alexandria, in his honor) {Rather confusing on a map I would think.} The most famous of these cities was Alexandria in Egypt. He made an exception for his beloved horse and named one city after his horse, Bucephala (the name means "ox head"; apparently his horse had a funny shaped head). The faithful stallion died during one of the greatest of Alexander's battles in India against Porus, one of the most powerful Indian leaders. Alexander also rebuilt old cities as cultural centers for his empire, and settled Macedonians and Greeks in each one.


Alexander combined the separate nations, races, ethnicities, whatever, whoever - the Greeks and the Persians - into ONE efficient ruling class by compelling his generals to intermarry with Persian royalty or nobility. To set an example, Alexander married Roxana of Amu Darya, the daughter of a nobleman, who bore him a son whom Alexander never knew because he died before the child was born. Alexander reckoned that by the might of the sword one could create a huge empire but through alliance the empire could be preserved.


Alexander believed and proclaimed himself to be a god-king. Alexander claimed he was not the son of Philip but was the son of Zeus-Ammon and insisted on being honored as part-man, part-god. The Persians chafed at the idea. But the Egyptians believed it to be so and the Greeks thought it a likely possibility.
"Alexander and Porus" by Charles Le Brun, painted 1673.
"Alexander and Porus" by Charles Le Brun, painted 1673.

"Sex and sleep alone make me conscious that I am mortal." --- Alexander the Great

(Find famous quotes about sex at

The Final Step

What Separates a God-King From a Mere Mortal?

The Final Step? - That of being acknowledged and revered as a god-king - was the most important step because his future decisions to continue the expansion of his empire would go (or rather should have gone) unchallenged. His subjects or servants would simply obey the great god-king and yield to his ambitious goals, desires and wishes.

Only ... that did not happen!

*This is what happened.

After crushing Greek rebellions and declaring himself to be master of Greece, he traveled through and conquered most of Asia Minor, on his way to Syria and Egypt. Following those conquests he set out for Mesopotamia and Persia. When all of those areas had been conquered he pushed on and overran the Punjab, determined to conquer all the lands with the aim of dominating India.

As was mentioned earlier, he engaged in a violent battle, at the river Hydaspes in July 326 BC, against the forces of Porus, an Indian leader. But the Indians were defeated.

After this battle, according to one historical account:

"Alexander's next goal was to reach the Ganges River, which was actually 250 miles away, because he thought that it flowed into the outer Ocean. His troops, however, had heard tales of the powerful Indian tribes that lived on the Ganges and remembered the difficulty of the battle with Porus, so they refused to go any farther east. Alexander was extremely disappointed, but he accepted their decision ... During this trip, Alexander sought out the Indian philosophers, the Brahmins, who were famous for their wisdom, and debated them on philosophical issues. He became legendary for centuries in India for being both a wise philosopher and a fearless conqueror." (3)

**So that's what happened.

When Alexander and his army reached the mouth of the Indus River, before he could cross into India, his army got fed up with him and refused to advance any further.

Can you imagine? Rebelling against a god-king? Challenging his authority? REFUSING TO FIGHT FOR HIM?

One would think the penalty or punishment for daring not to submit to the commandments of a god-king would be brutal. Nope! Alexander actually argued with his men for 3 days and then he turned back. He reluctantly turned back. But he did turn back.

Some god-king, eh? Why didn't he zap a few lightning bolts on a few of them and put the other ones in check? The reason why (I think), in his own words: "Sex and sleep alone make me conscious that I am mortal."

  • Per, "Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest." Why did Alexander concede and submit to the (reasonable) demands of his army? Alexander had burnout. That's my non-medical conclusive diagnosis.

His army turned back and Alexander withdrew to Babylon where one night he fell ill. He suffered horribly for about eleven days and then on the 10th of June, 332 BC, he breathed his last breath. Some sources say he died of malaria or a fever, while others state that the cause of his illness was unknown.

I say you can't have a god-king die from a common disease or illness. His death has to be a mystery, unless it's an obvious assassination/murder, like his father.

On his deathbed when asked who would be his successor, it is reported that his response was: "The kingdom shall go to the strongest."

So several years following the death of Alexander the Great, you know who else had to go? That's right. His wife, the beloved Roxana, and his son, young Alexander, were poisoned.

His general fought over his empire until 301 BC, when finally three generals (Honored as guess what? God-kings.) divided it into three kingdoms. Antigonus I took Macedonia and Greece. Ptolemy I ruled over the kingdom of Egypt. Anatolia, Syria and Parthia along with the rest of the Alexander's empire in Asia were ruled by Seleucus I.

The course of history continues, but this HUB stops here because it's about Alexander the Great and not about what happened after he died, especially considering the fact that his bloodline was snuffed out when they killed his only son.

So the remaining commentary will be devoted to the legacy of Alexander the Great, i.e. what civilization inherited upon his untimely demise.

What Was Alexander's Legacy?

In Summary:

Because of Alexander's commitment to the spread of Hellenistic culture, a major change swept cross both the Western and Eastern worlds. Hellenistic philosophy and science influenced Western thought for centuries to come. With regard to economy, most cities were placed on trade routes to increase the flow of goods between East and West, thus trade became the most profitable of activities. The cities of Alexandria were the cultural centers Alexander had envisioned. The cities had market centers, theaters, schools and gymnasiums. The famed city of Alexandria in Egypt even had a museum and a library, which were later destroyed. As this library was deemed the ancient world's single greatest archive of knowledge, its destruction has been lamented for ages. Seriously!

I remember the scene in the movie "Cleopatra" where Elizabeth Taylor came charging into the room bellowing about that library being burned.

Cleopatra: "How DARE you and the rest of your barbarians set fire to my library? Play conqueror all you want, Mighty Caesar! Rape, murder, pillage thousands, even millions of human beings! But neither you nor any other barbarian has the right to destroy one human thought!" (4)

That one scene in the movie really made an impression on my young mind. I was born in 1955. "Cleopatra" came out in 1963; I was a devoted fan of Elizabeth Taylor and watched all of her movies.

But I digress.

The legacy of Alexander the Great has been aptly summarized as follows:

"This, then, was the legacy of Alexander the Great: to bring the West and the East together in a brotherhood of mankind, peoples of many descents making up one people, speaking a common language, trading a multitude of goods with a common currency as a means of exchange, sharing knowledge of math, science, and medicine--enjoying the world view of a young man from Macedon who didn't live to see his dream come true." (5)


(1) Alexander the Great (Alexander of Macedon) Biography History of Macedonia Blog

(2) Ancient History Sourcebook: Diodorus Siculus (1st Cent BCE]: The Battle Of Chaeronea, 338 BCE FORDHAM UNIVERSITY Ancient History Sourcebook

(3) Alexander in India
Copyright © 1996 by Jed Untereker, James Kossuth, Bill Kelsey

(4) Cleopatra (1963) - Memorable quotes Cleopatra Quotes on IMDb: Movies, TV, Celebs, and more...

(5) The Legacy of Alexander the Great Part 2: Alexander the Bringer of Culture  Alexander the Great changed the world in several significant ways. ...


Much to Cleopatra's dismay, the library at Alexandria can never be recreated.

No doubt Alexander the Great envisioned that all cities in all empires would have a library. So create your own library and include books about about this notable leader.
Alexander the Great
$18.00  $5.89
The Nature of Alexander
$14.00  $3.00
Alexander: Invincible King of Macedon...
Potomac Books Inc.
$12.95  $4.99
Alexander the Great: Lessons from His...
Palgrave Macmillan
$22.00  $4.96
100 Great Military Leaders: History's...
Arcturus Publishing
The Truth About Prophecy in the Bible
Beyond Today Publishing
$25.00  $19.99

Learn More About Alexander the Great?

Suggested Links of Interest

Interesting and Amazing Things About Alexander the Great:  Here's a list of 100 interesting and amazing things about Alexander the Great. Apparently, Alexander had 3 wives. Don't know what happened to them. I guess when the other 2 saw what happened to his 1st wife and child, they decided to pass on the "promotion".

Gordian Knot - Crystalinks Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot:  The Gordian Knot is a metaphor for an intractable problem, solved by a bold stroke ("cutting the Gordian knot"). The myth it refers to is associated in legend with Alexander the Great.According to a Phrygian tradition, an oracle at Telmissus, the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Lighthouse of Alexandria The History of the Lighthouse of Alexandria - Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one had a practical use in addition to its architectural elegance:

Biographies: Philosophers: Diogenes (BC, c412-323). Short note on the life and work of Diogenes.  Alexander the Great said - "If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes." Why did he say that?

Greece Timeline | TIME For Kids Travel through the TFK timeline of major events in Greece's history. 336-323 B.C. Alexander the Great, son of King Phillip II, expands his father's empire and brings Greek culture to the lands he conquers. ...

Is Body in Greek Tomb That of Alexander the Great? - Alexander the Great died in Babylon and many believed he was laid to rest in Alexandria, Egypt. However, the discovery of a skeleton in a lavishly decorated tomb in ancient Greece, “not mentioned in any historical document”, has the experts at a loss for a satisfactory identification and explanation. Could this be the final resting place of the great military general?

~ Cmoneyspinner Around the Web ~

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Updated: 07/02/2015, cmoneyspinner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


othellos on 09/08/2014

Great article from a non-Greek. This is the least I can say...

Guest on 12/09/2013

cmoneyspinner: Thank you! I enjoy your thoughts as well! :-)

cmoneyspinner on 12/07/2013

Thanks Ms. Emma! I always enjoy your intellectual stimulation. :)

Guest on 12/07/2013

cmoneyspinner, He died at that remarkable age of 33, so perhaps he felt that it was a good time to die. He had made himself memorable. So I've had the same thoughts that you've had about his death being timely, not untimely.

cmoneyspinner on 12/06/2013

@EmmaSRose – When you die young with a mystery that shrouds your cause of death and you had already earned the reputation of a great leader, you become the stuff of legends. I think Alexander the Great died because he chose to no longer live; felt he had accomplished all he was going to and decided he wanted to be remembered that way. At that point in his career, he was considered greater than his father in conquests. Why not leave that mark in history? It's a thought.

Guest on 12/06/2013

cmoneyspinner, Alexander the Great continues to cast a spell, long long long after his death. It's the philosophical aspect of his legends which has always fascinated me.

cmoneyspinner on 10/19/2013

@KathleenDuffy - Thanks! Thanks!! Thanks!! Appreciate you stopping by. Let's hope there will be no more libraries destroyed.

KathleenDuffy on 10/19/2013

That's a brilliant article! So much information - and humour too. I've always had a 'crush' on Alexander the Great! Glad to see that the book by Mary Renault is listed there! That's a really good book. Thanks for this! :)

cmoneyspinner on 09/30/2013

@jptanabe - We all must admit, whether we liked him or despised him, Alexander the Great definitely left his mark in the pages of history. But if you must know the truth, I didn't care too much for his daddy. However a discussion of Philip of Macedon would require another article and I'm just not up to it. :)

Thanks for commenting!

jptanabe on 09/30/2013

Great article! Alexander certainly had a great influence on the world. His idea of a unified world culture that would be peaceful and prosperous sounds good. He even had some good ideas on how to achieve it - just relying on the sword to create it in the first place was a problem, especially when his men refused to fight any more!

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