Alexander III of Macedonia, commonly referred to as Alexander the Great, exhibited military genius, great courage, and lasting cultural impact during his reign as a king. He was born in Pella in 356 B.C. and until his premature death at the age of 33 years in 323 B.C.; he left a legacy that is still being admired by many (Speake, 13).
His short-lived reign began in 336 B.C. when his father, Philip II of Macedon, was assassinated. The teachings of the famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, greatly influenced his life. When his father died, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army and coupled with his tactical ability and skills in military conquests, he conquered much of what was then the civilized world. The political and the cultural impacts of these conquests lasted for centuries.
Because of the many territories that he conquered, the dominion that Alexander the Great had was regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the world. Through these conquests, he managed to bring together Greece, Egypt, and the Middle East to form one culture referred to as the Hellenistic civilization. The ideals of the new Hellenistic culture tremendously affected the world even after his death. Individualism, philosophy, learning, and economics principles were greatly considered to be part of the new culture.
During the reign of his father, Alexander assisted him in conquering Greece. This led to the cavalry during the Battle of Chaeronia, which was one of the important victories for Philip. After his father’s death, due to his skills in military campaign and the love that his army had for him, he started by conquering the Persian army.
The Persians were controlling most of the known world at that time, including Egypt. Alexander continued with his father’s pragmatic approach to leadership and all through the many battles that he fought, he did not lose even one of them. However, he was not yet contended with the victories and he proceeded further to the east.
He continued to push as far east as Pakistan and India. In 324 B.C., because his army rejected his opinion to advance further, he came back to Babylon. Before his sudden demise two years later, he started making plans for his new empire and future prospects of making it larger.
Still, even though his vast empire started to fall down soon after his death, Alexander had left a significant political and cultural impact, which was able to transform the world. For the Greeks, he had increased their territorial boundary four times.
Since many of the Greeks had gone with him to the campaigns in Pakistan and India, on coming back, they started to open their thoughts to the big world around them. Therefore, they started to pay less attention to their poleis since they saw themselves not merely as citizens of a polis, but as individuals.
As a result, many of them were no longer interested in what they were required to do to assist their polis. Increased interest in what they could carry out in order to gain personal wealth or happiness became more prevalent. The hunt for individual contentment resulted in the formation of other philosophies. These included Stoicism and Epicureanism philosophies.
Additionally, Alexander also played a significant role in the spreading of the Greek culture across the known world (Lucas, 171). This was to make sure that the culture would continue influencing the lives of people for a long time to come. As he continued stamping the culture of the world “with a Greek character,” he formed the Hellenistic culture by mixing the Greek culture with the culture of the individuals he had subjugated.
For example, in many occasions he compelled the Greeks and the Persians to marry one another. Moreover, he also ordered for the construction of new cities, which made many people to migrate to them in seeking for better lives. Various professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers, came from across the empire because of the employment opportunities that had been created.
A number of these cities, once constructed, contained a huge collection of various books. This resulted in more education opportunities to be created, and thus more individuals flocked these cities. As students and scholars from various parts of the world met in these cities, they were able to learn from one another.
An example is the city of Alexandria in Egypt, which was renowned for its wide collection of literary materials. Because the city had a large library that contained more than seven hundred thousand roles, it was referred to as the world’s center of science and literature.
Therefore, as more and more cities were being built, individuals of various origins and nationalities converged in these cities and, as anticipated, by means of contact with one another, these individuals spread their cultural ideas and embraced some other different cultural ideas.
This cultural exchange was possible because Alexander conquered most of the world and formed an empire that enabled the free movement of people from one place to another. His conquests ensured that he brought down regimes that did not permit the free flow of information. The political barriers that prevented Individuals from coming into direct contact with one another were broken.
For instance, the Greeks and the Babylonians were able to see eye to eye since they were now regarded as one empire and their different ideas no longer stayed within the confines of their individual nations. Due to the creation of the common culture by Alexander, individuals were now able to make long distance voyages without the panic of entering a hostile country.
Therefore, ideas were now spreading at a faster rate than before and knowledge was more accessible. This made renowned scholars, for example, mathematicians Pythagoras and Euclid, to start dedicating themselves in specific areas of learning.
Another outcome of the common culture created by replacing the region’s separate countries was the increase in trade activities. This is because Alexander brought down the political barriers that had previously impaired trade activities in the region. For instance, the Persians never wanted to engage with the Greek in any form of trade. Since he tore down these barriers, trade was able to flourish once again.
Trading activities also increased when Alexander’s troops traversed the empire and they got in contact with very new products. On coming back home, they brought with them the craving for these new products. Therefore, traders all over the Middle East took advantage of the market that had been created. In addition, the introduction of a common currency all over the kingdom by the young king facilitated trade activities.
As a final point, the long-lasting consequences of the common culture that Alexander had formed were instrumental to the advancement of Christianity. Since there was a common language, the followers of Jesus were now able to spread the Gospel to different places in the region without being constrained by language barriers.
The Hellenistic culture contributed to the universality of Christianity since the disciples were now able to tell the story of Jesus to an increased number of people. Therefore, the common language that existed in the region contributed to more people embracing the Christian faith.
From the discussion above, it is evident that the conquests of Alexander shaped the politics and the culture of the world. It can be said that he single-handedly created the Hellenistic culture. The Middle East region was united because of the efforts that he made. The common culture that he had formed enabled individuals of various cultural backgrounds to meet and exchange beneficial ideas. During this time, knowledge advanced.
The works of various Hellenistic intellectuals, especially those of Pythagoras and Euclid, are still significant in the current academic world. Additionally, Alexander is accredited for transforming the Greek’s way of thinking. He transformed their polis-driven approach to life with the desire to seek for personal happiness.
The Greek trade thrived largely because of his efforts. Through extending the Greek culture to other regions, he kept it future generations. Lastly, the universal language that he promoted contributed to more people joining the Christian faith. Consequently, Alexander the Great made significant contribution in shaping the culture of the world.
Lucas, Henry S. A short history of civilization. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953. Print.
Speake, Jennifer. Literature of Travel and Exploration. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003. Print.