Was Alexander Great?

Jul 2018
497
Hong Kong
#11
Of course Alexander was Great and there are very few dissenters.
From the perspective of impact and legacy, unquestionably he was one of the greatest figure in world history. But if someone think that his greatness stemmed from his unmatched leadership, ability or knowledge in comparison with all of other contemporaries and most of later great people, then he / she is gravely mistaken.

Just taking contemporary people as example : Philip II, Seleucus, Ptolemy, Memnon of Rhodes, Eumenes, or even Darius III (yes, do not underrate this Persian king)....dare you assert that Alexander was greater than them because he had stronger leadership, charisma or ability than them ? It's just like saying that Cao Cao was greater than Yuan Shao in military leadership, or Tokugawa Ieyasu was greater than Ishida Mitsunari in charisma and political ability. Indeed, indeed, throwing away the veil of heroism based on the standard of victors and defeated, you'll find that situation is much complicated beyond your comprehension focusing on several key leaders' ability or role only.

We Chinese have a proverb : It's the tide creates heroes, rather than heroes create the tide. (時勢造英雄)
Ability and leadership are essential for being great, but it also requires status, rank, bloodline, patrons, reputation or vast support to make you great.

Why Liu Bei personally "invited" Zhuge Liang for joining his cause ? Just because Zhuge Liang had extraordinary talents !? If you think so, then surely you do not comprehend the huge impact of those "prominent-scholar families" (I could not find a better translation of 豪門世族). Zhuge Liang was heavily mythified as a godlike person just like Alexander the Great somehow, so powerful, so amazing ! Just like their subordinates, their contemporaries were nothing more than a "symbol" in comparison with this holiest person in the contemporary era.

Darius III might be inferior than Alexander the Great in overall military leadership and bravery as popular evaluated, but there were a dozen of Persian satraps / generals / admirals ever fought Alexander's army or navy. Historical records didn't narrate their deeds, planning and thought in detail doesn't mean they were inferior than Alexander in these field. And Alexander the Great had numerous able generals and right-hand men as his aid.

Alexander the Great might be one of the greatest military commander in antiquity. But if someone is fantastic enough to attribute the fall of the Persian Empire entirely to his incredible talents of military leadership and even treat him like the "God" who is invincible and undefeatable, then I have to say : their mind is stuffed with all of those "fairy tales".

Indeed, no matter how talented a person was, how charismatic and noble he is, he would be abandoned if he violates or fails to satisfy the "common interest" — think about how Eumenes was betrayed to Antigonus by the Silver Shield mercilessly, you'll understand what is the meaning of "every person is bornt with blood and brain" — my point is : those so-called great military or political leaders are so holy and exalted merely because their cause earned the majority of their men's support. Their leadership could satisfy all factions within the internal camp, that's why he could continue to be "great" by performing his courage and skillful rule keeping his men united.

Moreover, it requires extraordinary luck for achieving astounding success like of Alexander the Great. Imagine it, if a single arrow from the Persian army struck him in the Battle of Granicus River, and his career ended there as he perished, anybody would still think him a "great conqueror" ?

History is the result of great game involved with multiple sides and players. Yes, nobody deny that Alexander is one of the greatest people whether in the contemporary era or later era, but mythify him by claiming that it's all (or largely) his credit for the conquest and victory he had done while ignoring all the other relevant factors / figures promoting his triumph is not helping us comprehend about Alexander's role in leadership and planning of the campaign.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#12
Moreover, it requires extraordinary luck for achieving astounding success like of Alexander the Great. Imagine it, if a single arrow from the Persian army struck him in the Battle of Granicus River, and his career ended there as he perished, anybody would still think him a "great conqueror" ?
Well, obviously nobody would consider him a great conqueror if he died before he conquered anything. What a ridiculous argument to make. What were you even trying to say here?
 
Jul 2018
497
Hong Kong
#13
And which of his contemporaries conquered the Persian Empire in less than a decade? I can't think of any, off the top of my head.
You just simply give all the credit to Alexander the Great ignoring the role of his generals, the tenaciousness of his men and the extraordinary luck he had.

Also, if Darius III chose to stand firm, rallied his troops to fightback rather than fleeing in Issus or Gaugamela, how are you so sure that the Persian army could not turn the tide and maybe even defeat Alexander the Great's army ultimately !? Victory and defeat are always decided by many of variable factors, fate is such an unpredictable thing you cannot control — in fact, if Parmenion failed to hold his flank, or Darius successfully repelled Alexander's central-thrusting offensive...how are you so sure that these would not occur ? From the perspective of victors, we certainly think that because Alexander surpassed his contemporaries' in bravery, leadership or charisma....that's because of his remarkable achievement.

And yes, achievement and astounding victories made him great, but certainly not unmatched wisdom and leadership over other people made him great.
 
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#14
The trouble with the term 'great' as applied to people's names is that it implies a moral judgement, that the activities that won them that title are admirable; he certainly achieved extraordinary things and was a great genereal and conqueror (which can in no way be reasonably downplayed because his father provided him with good starting conditions), but are people like Alexander or Julius Caesar (killer or enslaver of hundreds of thousands) really the kind of people that we shoud single out from other sas being unequivocally 'great'? This use of the word makes me uncomfortable - it implies the worship of power and conquest.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Solidaire
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#16
You just simply give all the credit to Alexander the Great ignoring the role of his generals, the tenaciousness of his men and the extraordinary luck he had.

Also, if Darius III chose to stand firm, rallied his troops to fightback rather than fleeing in Issus or Gaugamela, how are you so sure that the Persian army could not turn the tide and maybe even defeat Alexander the Great's army ultimately !? Victory and defeat are always decided by many of variable factors, fate is such an unpredictable thing you cannot control — in fact, if Parmenion failed to hold his flank, or Darius successfully repelled Alexander's central-thrusting offensive...how are you so sure that these would not occur ? From the perspective of victors, we certainly think that because Alexander surpassed his contemporaries' in bravery, leadership or charisma....that's because of his remarkable achievement.

And yes, achievement and astounding victories made him great, but certainly not unmatched wisdom and leadership over other people made him great.
Yes, people who aim at such things and don't have the luck on crucial occasions, or the right circumstances and starting conditions, won't become 'great' in this way in the first place; that will always require a combination of personal qualities and good fortune from outside, and I don't think that when people credit someone with extraordinary achievement, they are actually claiming that he could have achieved that without favourable circumstances, or would think that it detracts from his achievement to point to them. In the field of war, exceptional achievers are often exceptional risk-takers, a Nelson survived and many others that he have never heard of were killed in trying the same kind of things, but it dosen't detract from the achievement of those who succeeded to say that they needed a good share of luck.
 
Last edited:

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,879
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#17
It's like for "Ramses the Great". Egyptians never called Ramses "Great". He was Horo, he was divine, to be "great" was even reductive in their eyes! Humans are great, deities don't need to be great.

So, the real point is the cultural context. We love to define this or that leader "great", following a Roman habit: Romans adored to define a leader "magno" ["great" in Latin].

But ... which was the context before of the Romans?
 
Feb 2019
450
Thrace
#18
He was most likely above his contemporaries, but there are a few Greek generals before him whom I think would have achieved as much as him in his place. This doesn't however take anything away from his greatness. It's only meant to say that classical Greece had many outstanding individuals.
 
Mar 2019
1,535
KL
#19
for the western world alexander is great but not for the rest, the guy became great since he was mentioned in the bible, probably was good to the jews, same case with cyrus as well, but i think that persian empire was not the first nor the last great empire of the western world, babylon was a great empire as well, what about median empire, what about egyptian empire which was probably the first great empire in the region, the egyptian kings are practically loathed in the bible, which means they pissed the jews off, the babylonians were also not mentioned probably for the same reasons. europeans probably loath Muhammad and curse him day and night, who actually made arabs achieve what they achieved in the form of islamic golden age, their influence extended from atlantic to the pacific at their height.

same goes to chandragupta, which wouldn't have been remembered and totally forgotten if not for buddhist, jain and greek sources, i dont think that chandragupta achievements were less than alexander, probably ruled over more kingdoms than alexander with much more resources/richer considering alexander was conquering practically a desert bearing the ionian greeks in anatolia and nothing else, same goes to ashoka, guptas were probably the only celebrated empire in india, probably because they appeased the hindus.

i think there were many conquerors who conquered persia other than alexander, like hepthalites, the arab/khalid bin waleed etc, why is khalid bin waleed not called khalid the great? he even defeated the persian and romans together, this guy should be the greatest guy in history if we go like this, i also think that the persians might have run out of air after defeats from the greeks.

regards
 
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#20
Alexander is not mentioned in the Bible. Europeans don't curse Mohammded day and night, Mohammed didn't make the Arabs achieve the (often overstated) scientific and scholarly achievements of the Islamic Golden Age, the scientists and scholars in question were building on ideas from other civilizations which had nothing whatever to do with Islam as such.
 

Similar History Discussions