Alexander the Great\'s relation to triumph is obvious, he created an army which took over most of the known world. But what is not known widely is how tragic his life was. I cannot do full justice to his life but I will do my best to describe it.

When Alexander was a child his parents were constantly fighting and his father was usually away on campaigns, so he rarely saw him when he was young. He therefore was usually under his mother\'s influence.

When he was a young man his father was killed and he had to take over an entire country by himself which was in very bad shape. As he grew he had to deal with disputes, revolts and cruel neighboring rivals.

When he was a grown man he killed many people, including some of his friends while in a drunken rage who had saved his life. At one point in his life he killed a life long friend while drunk and then realizing what he had done would have killed himself if his bodyguards had not restrained him. He then went into seclusion for three days.

This is most likely just a small number of things that shaped Alexander the Great\'s life and it is likely some of the memories tormented him through most of his life. Most of Alexander\'s life was one big problem after another. I personally think it would have been hard to live with the blood of so many friends deaths on my hands, but maybe he could.

Apart from the immense increase of international trade and the fraternization of many nations, what were the results, temporary and enduring, of the career of this great man? Of supreme and lasting importance to the world was the extension of Greek culture; secondly, a vast territory was opened up which had been useless as a desert until the conquered nomad tribes had been trained to follow civilized ways of life. This included the incentive to build cities, create harbors, ships and other aids for travel on land and sea; thirdly, financial and economic reforms; and lastly, the partial realization of Alexander\'s dream of universal toleration for all religions and the brotherhood of mankind. These results differed in many regions of the empire; for various reasons the successors of Alexander had not been able to follow all his visions.

Greece and the Greek language were forgotten during the Dark Ages, but with the Renaissance their natural supremacy was recognized and became the basis of European culture. Hellenic culture continues to influence the world to this day. In Bacteria, it left an indelible mark which extended to northern India and parts of the Far East; two large volumes, beautifully illustrated, describe this information: L\'Art Greco-Bouddique du Gandhara, by A. Foucher. Comparatively recent discoveries by archaeologists show how the technique of Hellenic art was adapted to Indian buildings and statues. Brief as was the transit of the Macedonian march from the Cophen Valley to the Delta of the Indus, the refining influence of Greek art can be traced all along Alexander\'s path from the Hindu-Kush, Peshawar and Taxila to the mouth of the Indus. Even in Turkestan and China, where Alexander never penetrated, the Buddha statues are modified by the gracious style of Greece.

Alexander had started out as a crusader, to avenge the invasion and the destruction of the precious buildings of Greece, but later had as his goal the extension of Hellenic ways of life throughout his empire. In this he succeeded. Greek democratic liberty-freedom to think and to speak, and the duty of the individual to take his share in the government of his city was instituted wherever he became master.

After the surrender of the robbers and semi-savage tribes of the mountainous regions of Persia, who had for centuries been a persistent menace to life on the plains, Alexander founded new towns and improved communications. The so-called \"Foundation cities\" were built at the junction of important roads, in positions specially chosen to assist the transit of merchandise and to command the valleys-a precaution necessary for adequate military supervision. The towns were planned on the Greek pattern, with a market square, school, offices, shops, temple, theater, gymnasium, and often a fountain. The young were given instructions in military methods and in Hellenic culture with its ideals of chivalrous courage.

Some records speak of seventy cities having been founded, but only sixteen are certain; those hastily built with mud walls soon crumbled into dust. Six remain to this day: in Egypt was Alexandria; in Aria was Herat (in modern day Afghanistan); in Arachosia was Ghazni (also in modern day Afghanistan); in Margiane was Merv; on the Oxus River was Termez (on the modern day Amudarja River in Uzbekistan); and on the Jaxartes was Chodjend. Seven endured a considerable time: among these seven were Susiana, Prophthasia, Alexandria-ad-Caucasum, and Bucephala. The new cities were placed near enough already existing villages to permit association with the native population, yet so far apart that the Macedonian and Greek settlers could maintain their own custom of life. The new colonists, chiefly Greek mercenaries, old and wounded men, introduced Macedonian methods of farming and agriculture to the mountain tribes. Many married Oriental women; thus began the fusing of the nations according to the plan which had been simmering in Alexander\'s vision for the future since his winter in Egypt in 332-331 BC.

The free intercourse opened up from the East relieved some of the economic difficulties which had threatened the West. Disputes between the city-states had led to neglect of the farms; at one time food became so scarce in Greece that its pottery had to be sold to pay for imports of corn. The new cities in Asia provided some solution of the unemployed during the time of financial crisis in Greece.

Alexander had envisaged vast building projects even during his early experience in Egypt. Many great conquerors had visited the coast of that country; how came it about that a youth in his early twenties almost as a first glance grasped the importance of building a town on the site where he founded Alexandria and foresaw that it would develop into a center for an immense exchange of commerce between Egypt and the western Mediterranean? And later, when he had controlled all the territory as far as Pattala, what far-sighted statesmanship enabled him to search for and to find a sea route which would encourage trade from India to Babylon? And then, just before his death, what filled him with a longing to explore the Arabian shore to seek a safe path which would connect Babylon with Alexandria?

When before Alexander mysteriously died he had designs for the construction and the completion of buildings for dockyards, harbors, lighthouses; temples to be restored, new cities to be founded; rivers to be opened out for safe navigation; an efficient irrigation system for Babylonia and for other neglected land. Wilcken stated that what had been accomplished were \"achievements of colossal dimensions.\"

With the coming of Alexander came new methods of government in civil, military, and financial administration. Just as he was swift to alter and modify his tactics in battle to meet new situations, so also did he adapt new political methods to suit the different regions of his empire. Nor did he ever hesitate to throw aside those who were unsuccessful; failure only stimulated him to consider a more practical solution. The chief positions in government were at first confined to Macedonians, later to Persian satraps; finance and taxation remained in Macedonian hands. In Asia Minor superintendents of finance collected the taxes direct from the peasants and remitted them to the Treasury. In the large towns, such as Susa, Persepolis, Babylon, and Memphis, a commandant was appointed, directly responsible to the King. In India the chief princes and rajahs proved to be loyal allies. Persian treasures were converted into useful coinage, and a universal system of currency was introduced, with immediate benefit to trade.

Important and far-reaching consequences followed when Alexander adopted Greek as a universal language throughout the empire. Confusing mistakes had constantly occurred when financial and business transactions were conducted through the medium of interpreters; a uniform currency and tongue simplified commerce and also exchange of ideas. Education in the Greek language extended knowledge of Hellenic culture, so that nations which had followed separate lines of thought, traditions, and customs, became members of a common civilization, citizens of the same world. Just as today the French language lends itself to express thought with concise precision, so in clear thinking was best conveyed in Greek. Greek became the chief agent of the unification of the East and the West. St. Paul spoke and wrote in Greek; the Gospels were written in Greek so that their message could reach a wide public. It can with truth be said that Alexander paved the way for Christianity; without his spade-work its preachers would have made slower headway in western Europe.

With a common language Oriental knowledge became more accessible to the West. Rapid progress was made possible when Greek and Babylonian scholars collaborated in mathematics, science, and astronomy. Babylonia had studied astronomy long before Christ; the distance of the sun and the moon from the earth had been calculated with almost exact precision. They knew that the earth turned on its axis, that certain planets revolved around the sun and that the sun was much larger than the earth.

As the city-states in Greece remained at variance, some called on Rome for assistance. The reputation of Athens was so high that Roman visitors regarded it as an honor to be invited to participate in the Olympic Games and to speak at public receptions; some were privileged to witness the Eleusinian Mysteries. Rome gradually acquired much of the refinement of Greece; it adopted the alphabet, the art, the literature, even some of the legal methods of Greece.

Alexander\'s dream of the brotherhood of mankind was not destined to materialize during the short spell of life allotted to him, and without the guidance of his strong personality none of his successors could undertake the task. When one looks back upon a lifetime one can often trace a plan, as of a master designer; behind the scene of the conscious self of the individual a pattern has been woven which during the years of its gradual unfolding could not be seen or understood. The influence and the example of Alexander lived on, even in the years of warfare between his successors. In their different spheres his generals, who eventually became kings, tried to copy his example, not only in war, but also by encouraging the extension of Hellenic culture and by working for the benefit of their subjects.

Related Essays on History: World