Alexander the Great Terms

Alexander the Great's name is associated with battles, the Gordian Knot, and the end of the free, self-governing city states in Greece. After Alexander the Great's death, new dynastic empires arose. Here are some terms to know in connection with Alexander the Great and his legacy.

Achaemenid kings
The Achaemenid dynasty in Persia ran from about 560-330 B.C., when Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia.

Founded by Cyrus II (the Great) in the area of Babylonia (in southwest Iran and Mesopotamia), the Persian Achaemenid dynasty ran from about 560-330 B.C., when Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia. The Achaemenid Empire was divided into twenty satrapies which allowed relative regional autonomy to the areas. At its height under Darius, the Achaemenid empire stretched from the Indus River to Egypt.

Although the official language of the Achaemenid Empire was Old Persian, the most common language was Aramaic. Most of the ancient references to the Achaemenids come from Greek sources (Herodotus, Aeschylus, Xenophon, and Ctesias).

Reference: "Seals and the Elite at Persepolis: Some Observations on Early Achaemenid Persian Art," by M. B. Garrison; Ars Orientalis, (1991), pp. 1-29.

Bactria was a large, agriculturally prosperous area, located in modern Afghanistan, where Alexander fought. Among the Diadochi, Seleucus took control of Bactria. Invasions from beyond the Oxus River put an end to the Greek presence by 130 B.C.

Bactria was located in the northwestern portion of what is now Afghanistan and Tajikistan, bounded by the Hindu Kush mountain range, in the south, and by the Oxus River (Amu Darya), in the north. Its ancient capital was known as Balkh. Bactria, a satrap or province of the Persian Empire, bounded by Parthia, Aria, Drangiana and Arachosia, and part of the Silk Road, was partly conquered by Alexander the Great, who married a Bactrian noblewoman, Roxane. After Alexander, Bactria fell to Seleucus. Ancient Bactria was conquered again, two centuries after Alexander the Great, by the Tokharians.

Bactria is thought to have been the home of Zoroaster.

Chaeronea (338 B.C.) was a decisive victory for Philip and defeat for the independent Greek poleis. The Greek forces that Philip defeated were led by Athens and Thebes. The Theban Band was annihilated.

Chaeronea was the site of two important ancient battles. The first Battle of Chaeronea was fought in August 338 B.C. Macedonia, led by Philip II and his 18-year-old son Alexander (soon to be Alexander the Great), defeated the Greek poleis of Athens and Thebes ("Sacred Band"). When Macedonia won, they killed many Greeks and sold others into slavery, so Athens agreed to a treaty. Among the terms, Athens agreed to join Phillip's Hellenic union in exchange for the release of prisoners.

One ancient source on the Battle of Chaeronea is Diodorus Siculus 16.85.5-86.
Sulla won a later Battle of Chaeronea, in 86 B.C., defeating Mithridates of Pontus.

Chaeronea was also the location of a battle between Sulla and Mithridates.

Companion Cavalry
In Alexander the Great's Macedonian army, the Companion Cavalry was a unit of 8 squadrons (225 horsemen each). The Companion Cavalry, under the lead of Philotas, was important at such events as the Battle at the Granicus, in June 334; during the siege of Tyre; at the Battle at Gaugamela, in October 331; at the Battle at the Persian Gate; and in the pursuit of King Darius of Persia. In December 330 B.C., Philotas was accused of treason and was executed. An inexperienced Hephaestion and Clitus then split Philotas' command of the Companion Cavalry.
Also Known As: Hetairoi

The infantry counterpart was the Pezetairoi.

The Diadochi were the rival successors of Alexander the Great who split up his empire after much fighting and several assassinations.

Diadochi Basics
The Diadochi were important rival successors of Alexander the Great, his Macedonian friends and generals. They include:

* Antigonus (Monophthalmos 'One-eyed', had been governor of Phrygia),
* Antipater (had been left in Europe as Alexander's viceroy),
* Cassander,
* Lysimachus (was Alexander's bodyguard and commander),
* Ptolemy (later, Soter 'Savior'), and
* Seleucus (Nicator 'Conqueror', friend of Alexander).

These men divided Alexander's empire among themselves. The era of the Diadochi extended from Alexander's death in 323 until 301 with the Battle of Ipsus or 281 with the Battle of Corupedium, according to the OCD, which corresponds with the death of the last important Diadochi, Seleucus I. The empire of Alexander was eventually divided into 3 main divisions, in Egypt, Asia, and Macedonia.

Gordian Knot
The prophecy about the Gordian knot was that the person who untied it would rule all of Asia. Alexander the Great is said to have undone the knot by slashing through it with a sword.

One of the legends about Alexander the Great is that when he was in Gordium, in Turkey, in 333, he undid the Gordian Knot. The prophecy about the Gordian knot was that the person who untied it would rule all of Asia. Alexander the Great is said to have undone the knot by slashing through it with a sword or, according to Aristobulus, by pulling out a yoke pin that was in the center of the knot. The man who tied the knot is disputed, too. It is believed to have been either Midas of golden touch fame or his father Gordius.

Source: "Alexander, Midas, and the Oracle at Gordium," by Ernest A. Fredricksmeyer. Classical Philology, Vol. 56, No. 3. (Jul., 1961), pp. 160-168.

Alexander the Great won the Battle of the Granicus in May/June 334 B.C. The battle was fought along the Granicus River against the Persians

Alexander the Great first defeated the Persians in May/June 334 B.C., at the Battle of the Granicus, a river near Troy [see Map Bb or Google Earth]. As a result of this battle, Alexander gained a strong base in Asia Minor.

Setting out for Asia in 334 B.C., Alexander the Great commanded about 47,000 men, in combined infantry and cavalry units, part Macedonian and part levied from the Hellenic League. (See Diodorus for the composition.) They faced the Persian army for the first time, at the Granicus River, in Asia Minor, in May of 334. (Plutarch says the month was Thargelion.) Alexander's second-in-command, Parmenio, commanded the infantry phalanx. The Persian army of about 24,000 was led by satraps: Alexander did not face the Persian king Darius III himself until Issus in the autumn of 333 B.C.

Macedonian forces attacked, drawing out the Persian forces on one side using a move described as a feint attack. Meanwhile, Alexander rode with the Companion Cavalry, on the other side, and broke the weakened line of Persians. In the ensuing melee when the two sides met, Alexander was stunned with an axe, by Rhoesaces. Black Clitus killed Spithridates, who came up from behind, before he could deliver Alexander's death blow. Alexander won the battle, took about 2000 prisoners, and executed thousands of Greek mercenaries. He "liberated" Greek cities of Asia Minor from Persian rule. No longer need they pay the Persians tribute; now they could support Alexander's army.

Hellenistic Greece
There are a few similar sounding terms that are easily confused. Hellenistic Greece refers to the periodin the history of ancient Greece from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. to Octavian's victory at Actium in 31 B.C.

The name of 'Greece' is 'Hellas' (and the adjective 'Greek' is 'Hellenic'), according to the inhabitants of Hellas, who are themselves Hellenes. The name comes from Hellen who was not the woman famed from the Trojan War (Helen of Troy), but the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha of flood fame, who was named Hellen. Hellen, the male, has two ls in his name; whereas Helen has only one. It should be noted that Greek doesn't have an "h," but what is referred to as rough breathing. Hellenistic Greece refers to the period in Greek history following Alexander the Great. Egypt, and particularly Alexandria, came to be the center of Hellenism. The end of the Hellenistic World came when the Romans took over Egypt, in 30 B.C., with the death of Cleopatra.

Read what Thucydides writes about the Hellenes and the unity of the Greeks:

Before the Trojan war there is no indication of any common action in Hellas, nor indeed of the universal prevalence of the name; on the contrary, before the time of Hellen, son of Deucalion, no such appellation existed, but the country went by the names of the different tribes, in particular of the Pelasgian. It was not till Hellen and his sons grew strong in Phthiotis, and were invited as allies into the other cities, that one by one they gradually acquired from the connection the name of Hellenes; though a long time elapsed before that name could fasten itself upon all. The best proof of this is furnished by Homer. Born long after the Trojan War, he nowhere calls all of them by that name, nor indeed any of them except the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original Hellenes: in his poems they are called Danaans, Argives, and Achaeans. - Richard Crawley translation of Thucydides Book I

Alexander the Great fought the Battle at Issus soon after the Battle at the Granicus. Like his father Philip, glory-seeking Alexander aimed to conquer the Persian Empire. Although greatly outnumbered, Alexander was a better tactician; although wounded, he won.

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Alexander looted the Persian capital city of Persepolis in 331 B.C. When he set fire to the great palace, he baked clay sealings, thereby preserving them. This was an act of revenge on behalf of the Greeks against the Persians.

Darius I established Persepolis as a capital city in Persia (modern Iran), in the late 6th century B.C. Persepolis served as treasury, residence, and burial site for the kings of the Achaemenid Dynasty. In 331 B.C. Alexander the Great sacked Persepolis and set fire to the palaces. Thousands of administrative texts written in Elamite were thereby preserved. Bas-relief provides us with examples of Achaemenid art.

One of the Diadochi, Ptolemy (Soter) ruled in Egypt after Alexander the Great died. The Ptolemies were responsible for building up Alexandria as a great center of learning.

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The Seleucid Empire was created out of the Macedonian Empire. It is the empire founded by Seleucus, one of the Diadochi.

The Seleucid Empire was created out of part of Macedonian Empire, after the death of Alexander the Great. The Seleucid Dynasty ruled the area from 312-64 B.C. It covered Syria and a part of western Asia, with a capital at Antioch. At its height, extended from southern coast of modern Turkey south through Palestine and east to India's border. It incorporated policies of the Achaemenid rulers in its policy, including using local people and satrapies for administration.

Although the Seleucids lost territory through the centuries, it came to an end when Pompey annexed Syria in 64 B.C.

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