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Alexander the Great
In your opinion, to what or whom do you owe your success as a general and an emperor?
I owe my success to no one: I won it through hard work and intelligence, but I suppose there are a few advantages that I had over my opponents. Most of all confidence, which is a very important thing for any leader to have. I am, after all, the son of Zeus. Artemis herself attended my birth, causing her own Temple of Artemis in Ephesus to burn down. The gods do not take such interest in just anybody, so I knew I was destined for greatness. My education, as well, was superior. Father had Stageira rebuilt so that Aristotle would tutor me. I was very close with my father. He would often take me with him when he was campaigning and let me help lead the army. Once in 338—I was 18 years old at the time—we fought Athens and Thebes together in the Battle of Chaeronea. I took the left wing, father took the right and for countless hours—maybe days—we fought the Athenian hoplites bitterly. Then father retreated and the amateur hoplites pursued which allowed me—me!—to break the Thebans’ lines and surround them. Naturally, they both surrendered and from there we marched unchallenged all the way to the Peloponnese, those simpering city-states too afraid to oppose a son of Zeus!
How did you make sure that you remained in power after your father, Philip, was assassinated?
I lived in a dangerous time, so it wasn’t easy. The threat of assassination by another heir was always present, so I killed them. I had my cousin, Amyntas IV, executed, and those two Macedonian princes from Lyncestis. But I spared my half-brother, Arrhidaeus: he was mentally disabled so only a fool would make him king. Of course, there were also the revolts of Thebes, Athens, and Thessaly. I surrounded the Thessalian army while they were sleeping and they promptly surrendered—the lazy cowards! After that victory, those Athenians asked for peace, and I pardoned the rebels. From there, I continued south to Corinth where I met a very interesting man named Diogenes. I asked him what I could do for him, and he told me to stand a little to the side as I was blocking his sunlight! He was a very clever man.
What was your favorite conquest?
It was definitely the conquest of Asia Minor: it marked the beginning of a long and glorious war to conquer the Persian Empire. In 334 B.C., I crossed the Hellespont with 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry, and 120 ships. Those Persians never stood a chance. My first victory was at the Battle of Granicus, where I accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital of Sardis. From there, I forced Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap Orontobates to withdraw from Caria by sea. Afterwards, I had little more difficulty in Asia Minor. I even won the Phrygian capital of Gordium with a legend which proclaimed that only the future king of Asia could undo the Gordian Knot. It was quite flimsy: I hacked it apart with my sword.
Do you really believe that you are the son of a god?
What is that supposed to mean, you impudent slanderer?!!! I am the son of Zeus! The Egyptians called me the new “Master of the Universe” and the son of Amun—who happens to be their own primitive equivalent of my great father. I’m even in that Christian prophecy by some Danielus or another equally strange name (those darn Christians and their peculiar appellations). That was the only thing that saved Jerusalem, you know.
In which city that you conquered would you say you gained the most loot?
I actually had a run of rather good luck in that regard—that is to say a run of incredible feats of military genius on my part—just after Babylon. Of course, before Babylon I was doing splendid as well: I captured Egypt, defeated Darius again at the Battle of Guagamela—I had defeated him previously at the Battle of Issus, but the dastardly coward ran away before I could finish him off. Why the Persians let that fool run an army I’ll never know, but then again they have always been a bit off-kilter, it you know what I mean. Personally, I would never have let such an incompetent anywhere near my army. (ahem) Anyway, after Babylon I captured one of the Achaemenid capitals, Susa, and its legendary treasury. Afterwards I headed to Persepolis, the Persian ceremonial capital. I let my army loot it for days. I myself stayed there for five months. Might’ve stayed there longer, but there was that fire in the palace of Xerxes which spread throughout the city. Terrible, that—tragic, really.
During the first half of the Persian war, Darius III (the king of Persia) could be said to have been your archenemy. Why then did you give him such a regal funeral?
First of all, he was killed by his own kin, which is a terrible way to die. It was Bessus, his Bactrian (or Bacterian) satrap who did him in. When my army approached, he had him stabbed and declared himself the successor as Artaxerxes V. Then he went and launched a guerrilla campaign against me in Central Asia. Guerilla! That’s all they really are though, a bunch of blithering apes. No more sense than a bunch of bananas. He was a terrible usurper, that lowly Bacterial Ape. Besides, I did owe old Darius something—he named me successor to the Achaemenid Empire.
How did you keep the conquered people happy, while you were out campaigning against the rest of Persia?
I took the Persian title Shahanshah, or “King of Kings” to prove to them that I wouldn’t try to turn them into Macedonians. Even for me, it would have been impossible to turn those Persian simpletons into Macedonians if I had a hundred years: they simply weren’t made from the same cloth. I also adopted some elements of their dress and customs, as was unfortunately necessary. The one I remember most was proskynesis, where they either kiss the hand or prostrate on the ground before their social superiors. Unfortunately my brethren—who as stubborn people couldn’t bring themselves to realize how truly Great I was—got very angry because they thought I was trying to deify myself. They didn’t realize that it wasn’t necessary. Only some sort of narcissistic, egotistic king would do something like that.
Aside from Persia, what
lane was most difficult to conquer?
That would probably be India: those Indians are tougher than they look, you know. I invited them to surrender first, and Omphis, the ruled of Taxila—a great kingdom spanning from the Indus to the Hydaspes—agreed. But the chieftains of some hill clans decided that they were too good to join my empire. So from 327 to 326 I led a campaign against the Aspasioi of the Kunar valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus valley, and the Asskenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. I was wounded in the shoulder by a dart in a battle with the Aspasioi, but I didn’t let it stop me from putting them in their place. Afterwards, I turned my attentionto the Assakenoi, who took refuge in the strongholds of Massaga, Ora, and Aornos. It took days of fighting to reduce Massaga, and I was unfortunately sounded in the ankle. Ora was about the same. Then after four days of fighting I captured Aornos.
How did you die?
In 323, I decided to return to Babylon, where my fleet and army were gathering for the expedition into Arabia. I should have listened to my astronomers, those Chaldaeans; they told me that if I entered the city I would die. Honestly, I would have preferred to die in battle, but it was not to be. By the end of May, I was sick, and on June 11 I died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. I was thirty-two years old—there was so much campaigning left to do. To think that I had been all over the world, conquered most of it, and was taken down by a fever. A fever!! An illness! Oh, the shame!!
What happened to your empire after you died?
Well, at first they didn’t really believe that I was dead. Greece is a ways away from Babylon. Unfortunately, my son was born after my death, so he wasn’t a legitimate heir. They asked me as I was dying who the successor was to be, and I said quite clearly “Toi kratistoi”—that is to the strongest. I couldn’t have my empire being run by some weakling. I also gave my signet ring to my bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, Perdiccas, but the bloody fools still didn’t understand me. Instead he said that my baby would be king if he was a boy, with himself as guardian. Unfortunately the infantry didn’t like that and there was some debate. It was resolved, however, and when Alexander IV was born Perdiccas divided the satrapies at the Partition of Babylon between my generals so that they could keep order in them and prevent them from revolting. But instead they became power bases that they used to bid for power. When Perdiccas was assassinated in 321, the entire Macedonian unity collapsed and started 40 years of war between my so-called successors. Eventually my kingdom settled into four power blocks, the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the East, the kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and Macedon.