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Alexander the Inspirator

Alexander the Inspirator

When we were in school, we were told about Alexander the Great, a Macedonian general, a great conqueror who managed to expand the borders of Greece to three Continents.  Alexander was placed in the “limbo” of our teenage minds and sporadically in his memory, we feel a pride for our ancestor. That’s all. The key issues of the times demand our focus on addressing scarcity and fear, on individual and social injustice, on the painful phenomena that people, countries suffer and there is no time to reminisce. In these troubled times we live in, when we think that everything around us has been degraded and disdained, we suddenly become the recipients of a “ray of light” that comes to awaken memories from our distant past and speak to us: “Hard times in the fire, seven woes, seven wounds. And I hold an olive branch and you cry as you look at me. Greece, you carry the earth on your shoulders, you who carved the roads, you are asking to find your voice. Like a feast from the past golden age will come again. ” The lyrics, a glorious melody at the Herodion, by the composer-lyricist S. Spanoudakis in the tribute “FOR ALEXANDER”.

We refer to historical sources to get to know Alexander the Great and to recognize him as a simple conqueror, a lucky man or a model of Virtue. He said: “I am not interested in the origin of citizens or the race from which they were born. I treat them all with one criterion, virtue. For me, every good foreigner is a Greek and every bad Greek is worse than a barbarian”.

He was the son of the King of Macedonians Philip II and of Olympiad. Until the age of six he was cared for by his nurturer and his loving mother. Philip’s generals trained him in the martial arts, in sports, in the sword, the javelin, the bow, and riding. Teachers taught him music and lyre etc. In the 13th year of his age Alexander was delivered into the hands of Aristotle. He forged the personality of Alexander. In the beautiful site of the sanctuary of the Nymphs, he taught him rhetoric, history, philosophy, physics, botanical biology, medicine. He taught him bravery, magnanimity, moderation and self-control. The moral and intellectual virtues of justice, generosity, self-restraint and magnanimity. Virtues that we see in Aristotle’s work “Nicomachean Ethics”.

Alexander went beyond the limits of Aristotle’s teaching. Aristotle was a philosopher. Alexander was a philosopher who made philosophy “practice and way of life”. One of his tutors, Leonidas, asked him. “Alexander, when will the people prosper?” and he replied “when they unite under one kingdom and they become brothers“.

The aim of Alexander’s expeditions was the unification of the people under the same cause and within the framework of the same constitution. During their duration, he preserved the Macedonian custom of having symposiums. If he hadn’t done this, and if he hadn’t personally led the men into battle and in the raids, earning more wounds in his short life than any other warrior, it is doubtful if he would have kept the loyalty of his army. Moreover, he tried to achieve peaceful coexistence of peoples with different cultures, religions and languages. In his vast empire, he imparted the Greek culture. He imposed the use of the Greek language. His vision was the creation of a universal state, based on Greek education. The idea of the coexistence of the victors and the defeated is something that had never existed before, in the mind of any conqueror.

Plutarch calls Alexander a true philosopher. He characteristically mentions that Alexander taught the Hyrcanians to marry and the inhabitants of Arachosia to cultivate the land. Alexander persuaded the Persians to respect their mothers and not to marry them. Inspired by cynical philosophy, he declared: “honor the woman” and “woman is equal to man and she has the same rights as man”.

According to Nearchus Androtimos, Alexander the Great “domesticated” races that lived next to the Persians and the Medes (such as the Uxii, Mardi, Koissai, etc.) and he built cities so that they could turn from nomads into farmers and agriculturists. He assumed that if they had property to take care of, they would stop killing each other. And Onesikritus writes that Alexander the Great abolished the custom of the Sogdians and Bactrians to kill the elderly and the helpless and he taught them to care for the elderly and to help them.

The soul of Alexander was particularly fascinated by the Homeric epics. That is why he taught the people to read Homer. In addition, he taught the children of the Persians, the Susians and the Gedrosians to recite the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides. Thanks to Alexander, Bactria and the Indian Caucasus worshiped the gods of the Greeks. He founded more than seventy Alexandrias and he spread the Greek way of life throughout Asia. He taught millions of people to live by the laws and thus, he brought peoples out of miserable lives and he led them to prosperity (eudaimonia). The barbarian tribes came into contact with the Greek spirit and they changed the quality of their life and their thinking.

Alexander did not treat the Greeks in a hegemonic manner and the barbarians in a despotic manner, but he came as a common God-sent commissioner and a conciliator of all people, uniting their ways of life, morals and customs. Homeland was no longer the city, but the world and citadel were his camp. He considered as his relatives all virtuous people regardless of national origin and as foreigners those who were distinguished for their wickedness. Greeks and barbarians were no longer distinguished on the basis of sword and cloak, but on the basis of virtue and vice.

It is important to observe that any inhabitant of Asia could be characterized as Greek, simply by speaking the Greek language, by participating in Greek education and by sharing the goods of Greek culture. The inhabitants were not forced to change their religion or to renounce their own cultural goods. Thus, the Egyptians, the Persians, the Jews, the Syrians and generally those who participated in Greek education ended up being called Greeks.

According to Plutarch, the goddess Fortune reserved to Alexander few favorable circumstances, but also innumerable adversities. However, Alexander emerged superior to her. Fortune did not hand over to Alexander the magnificent edifice of his achievements, but he created it by himself. The epic he created was a reification of his personal greatness and the result of his Greek upbringing and his education and not a simple favor of blind luck. He was a man of virtue and bravery, because his ethos and morals had been forged by Greek education.

The historian Theodor Birt in his book “Alexander the Great and World Hellenism” writes: “The serenity that covered his face gave something heavenly and divine to his expression. His skin was clean and white, his hair golden and curly waved, his face looked like a divine image. His Macedonians, fascinated by their divine idol, they will follow him to the ends of the world and to the end of their lives without ever asking why. His voice was powerful when he shouted on the battlefield and the transition from calmness to ferocity had a mesmerizing effect on his soldiers, who were dazzled by his bravery (eupsychia), courage and heroism. He was an earthly god and whatever he wanted he dared.

Thou shalt come like lightning, the country shall have a feast, sea, earth and sky in thy light. I will dress in white to touch you again, you light and my heart how much I love you“.

~S. Spanoudakis



  • Plutarch. (1995). Alexander. Athens: Zitros.
  • Arrianos, F. (2004). Alexandrou Anavasis. Athens: Kaktos.
  • Plutarch. (2006). About Alexander Fortune or Virtue. Athens: Zitros.
  • Fuller, J. (2005). The Generalship of Alexander the Great. Translated by: Kolliopoulos. Athens: Piotita.
  • Apostolidis, H., & Apostolidis, S. (2015). M. Alexander. Athens: Gutenberg.

The total or partial reproduction of this text by electronic, photocopying or any other way is prohibit-ed, without the written permission of the author Maria Terzaki.