Geography Pages


The Empire of Alexander the Great

 

All boundaries, and borders of countries, are approximate

The territory controlled by a king or people varied from time to time, and was often disputed by other peoples. The coast-line has varied over the years, particularly in the Gulf of Persia. An approximation to the modern coast-line is generally used in the maps

 

Map of Alexander's Empire
333 BC 334 BC - 332 BC. The start of Alexander's conquest. He started from his capital at Pella in Macedonia, and marched with 50,000 men to Asia Minor (what is now Turkey). After crossing the Dardanelles, he went to Troy to offer sacrifices to Athena and to the heoes of the Trojan war. Then continuing south he defeated the Persian army at the battle of Granicus and then marched to Ephesus. The Persians had already retreated from Ephesus, so Alexander continued to Miletus and beseiged and occupied the town
After Miletus, Alexander took Halicarnassus and the remaining cities of southern Anatolia
Turning north, Alexander went to Gordion, where there was a famous knot which no-one had been able to untie. Alexander showed how to do it - by cutting it through with his sword
Turning south, he took Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, and came through the Cilician Gates (a mountain pass) in the Taurus Mountains, to Tarsus. At Tarsus, Alexander went swimming in the Cyndus river, and nearly died of what may have been a respiratory infection or malaria; he sufferred from recurring bouts of fever or sickness for the rest of his life
Darius, king of Persia, had brought his army to Issus in an attempt to stop Alexander. In Septmebr 333 BC, the armies of Darius and Alexander met in the Battle of Issus. The Persian army was larger, and their cavalry were stronger, but Alexander led his men straight for Darius, who turned and fled, leaving his mother and his wife to be captured by Alexander. When the Persians saw Darius fleeing, the army fell apart and started to flee; about 100,000 of them were killed. Alexander treated the wife and the mother of Darius royally and with respect
Darius fled easterwards to Persia. However, Alexander did not follow him, but continued south along the coast of the Levant. The Phoenician city of Tyre tried to hold out against him, but after a long siege Alexander captured the city and killed most of the inhabitants because they had defied him
Alexander continued to Egypt, where he was proclaimed as Pharaoh, and founded the city of Alexandria. While he was in Egypt he travelled to a temple of Ammon, the Egyptian sun god, and recounted that he had had a vision in which Ammon made him a god
332 BC 332 BC - 331 BC. Alexander returned northwards, and then east towards Persia. At Gaugamela there was a battle between Alexander and the remains of the Persian army. Alexander won the battle, and continued to the Persian capitals of Susa and Persepolis
At Persepolis, it is not clear whether Alexander had been drinking and ordered the palace set on fire, or whether there was an accidental fire; the city and its palaces were burned to the ground
Darius fled to Bactria, leaving his family in Alexander's power; Alexander settled Darius' family with honor in Susa, and turned north to pursue Darius
331-326 BC 330 BC - 327 BC. Alexander took Ecbatana, the capital of Media
Darius was still on the run, and took refuge in Bactria, where Bessus, the Bactrian leader stabbed him and left him to die
Alexander was proclaimed King of Persia, Lord of Asia, and Great King, and pursued Bessus across the Oxus River. Bessus was eventuually captured and sent to Ecbatana, where he was executed
It took Alexander some time to crush various rebellions and revolts by local tribes; during this period he captured Roxanna, the daughter of one of the chiefs, and married her. Alexander was becoming increasingly autocratic, assuming the customs of the Persian emperors, and having some of his own generals killed on grounds of treason
326 BC 327 BC - 326 BC. Alexander turned to the East, crossing the Hindu Kush into India
It was here that his horse Bucephalus died, and Alexander founded the city of Bucephala in his honor
Alexander wanted to continue East into India, but his army refused to go further, and mutiny began to break out, so Alexander eventually agreed to turn back. He built a fleet of ships, and sailed down the Indus, with some of his army on the ships, and some marching on either side of the river, taking part in heavy fighting against local towns
For the route back home, Alexander divided his army into three parts. The weak and injured were to take a northern route, with the baggage trains, elephants, and armaments, under the leadership of Craterus
Nearchus was to take the ships and explore the sea route back to the Persian Gulf
Alexander himself determined to take the challenge of crossing the Gedrosian desert - what is now called Baluchistan
326 BC 325 BC Craterus was in charge of the group comprising those who were weak or ill, and led them back to Persia by the easier route to the north
326 BC 325 BC - 324 BC Nearchus led a fleet of about 100 ships to explore the coastal route back to Persia. It had been planned that Alexander and his army would march near the coast, and establish supply depots for the fleet, but the terrain was so bad that Alexander had to go further inland and the fleet had to fend for itself
326 BC 325 BC - 324 BC. Alexander's crossing of the Gedrosian desert was disastrous. Many of his men died from lack of food and water; others were killed by a sudden flash flood while they were camping in a wadi. The terrain was worse than Alexander had expected, and he was unable to march near the coast to set up supply depots for Nearchus. However, eventually Alexander and Nearchus managed to meet up again and proceed to Susa
Alexander was becoming more and more imperious; he accused some of his generals of treason and executed them; local governors were deposed and executed
As part of his pacification plan for Persia, Alexander arranged for his men to marry Persian women - 80 of his officers and about 10,000 of his soldiers took native wives, while Alexander and his friend Hephaestion married two of Darius' daughters. Shortly after this Hephaestion died, and Alexander gave way to a prolonged period of extravagant mourning which culminated in his demand that Hephaestion be granted the status of a Hero, and that he himself be accepted as a god and worshipped as such. He was planning an expedition to the Caspian Sea, and further exploration of the Sea route to India when he became ill after a long banquet and booze-up. He died ten days later, on June 13, 323 BC. His general Ptolemy took Alexander's body to Alexandria in Egypt.
Initially, his generals appointed as joint "kings" Alexander's feeble-minded half-brother and the son whom Roxana bore him posthumously, Alexander IV. Within a few years both "kings" had been murdered, and the generals fought for control of various parts of the Empire

Go here for the History of the period.

Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved

Dr. Rollinson

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Last Updated: June 26, 2010

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