Under Macedonian Rule
The ruler in Macedonia in 359 B.C. was King Philip II. As a boy, Philip had spent several years in Greece. While there, he had admired the Greek way of life. It is possible that Philip first dreamed of ruling Greece during those years.
Beginning in 365 B.C., Philip used war and his strong army to defeat the Greek city-states one by one. However, in 336 B.C., just before final victory, one of Philip’s own noblemen killed him. With Philip dead, his son Alexander came to the throne. Alexander was only twenty years old at the time.
The young Alexander’s quick mind and iron will were equal to those of his father. In fact, his daring and military genius were even greater than those of Philip.
Philip’s goal had been to unite the Greek city-states. Alexander dreamed of ruling the world.
Alexander started where Philip had left off. Although he too admired the Greeks, Alexander dealt harshly with those Greek cities that continued to fight his rule. Quickly he crushed the revolts and then marched east, toward the great Persian Empire.
With an army of more than 50,000 Greeks and Macedonians, Alexander took over Egypt. Then he marched deeper and deeper into Persian territory. By 331 B.C., after five years of fighting, he was crowned king of Persia. Still Alexander did not rest. Beyond Persia lay India. Alexander with his army set out to conquer India as well.
By the time Alexander reached India, his troops had marched over 9,000 miles (14,480 kilometers). The men were weary, homesick, weakened by illness, and beaten down by the heat and fierce rains of India. Despite such extreme hardships, Alexander managed to gain control of the Indus River valley of northwestern India by 326 b.c.
However, Alexander never conquered the rest of India. He was not defeated by the Indian army, but by his own men.
Weary of war, they refused to go any farther. They had lost the will to fight and
wanted only to go home.
Sadly, Alexander returned with his exhausted army to Persia. Once there, he began making plans for governing the huge empire he had conquered. Before he could carry them out, however, he died of a fever. The great conqueror, now known as Alexander the Great, was only thirty- two years old when he died.
The Hellenistic Age
When Alexander died, his three strongest generals each seized a part of his empire. One general took Macedonia.
A second took Egypt. The kingdom of the third general lay in Southwest Asia.
The kingdoms created after Alexander’s death lasted for about 200 years. Today those years are known to scholars as the Hellenistic Age. The word Hellenistic means “Greek-like.” During this period, Greek culture influenced the entire region conquered by Alexander.
The Greek influence was greatest in the cities that Alexander had founded throughout the empire before his death. In building these cities, Alexander had hired Greek architects. These architects designed buildings to resemble those built in Greece.
Alexander’s new cities were cultural centers, where people learned Greek ideas. Residents decorated their homes with Greek pottery, art, and statues. Peo¬ple listened to Greek music and spoke a language that was similar to Greek, called Koine . The greatest of Alexander’s cities was Alexandria in Egypt. Alexandria’s mag¬nificent library attracted scholars from all over the world. One of these scholars was Euclid . He organized the findings of Greek geometry in a textbook. European universities used his book well into the 1900’s.
Each of Alexander’s cities also served as a great center of trade. Just as goods were traded, so too were ideas, beliefs, and technologies. Over many years, the peo¬ple of Europe, Asia, and Africa blended Greek culture with their own way of life. As a result, many of the ideas and skills of the Greeks were passed on and have had a great influence on the world. Greek culture is an important part of your heritage. The word heritage means “all the skills and ideas passed on by people who have lived before.”
One part of Greek culture that did not spread to Alexander’s empire was the idea of democratic government. The idea of citizenship and individual rights was not dead, however. The Romans, who lived to the west of Greece, also believed that people could and should govern themselves. By copying much of what Greece left behind, they too were able to build a great and long lasting civilization.
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