Alexander III, who would later become known as Alexander the Great, was born in 356 BCE in Macedonia into the royal family of Philip II and Olympias. Due to the circumstances of his birth and his lineage, great things were expected from Alexander. Philip’s court prophet, and Olympia’s dreams previewed Alexander’s destiny for greatness as did his descent from the line of Hercules on his father’s side, and Achilles on his mother’s side. Philip dreamed his son would have the nature of a lion and Olympias dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunderbolt from Zeus (source). These factors would contribute to how Alexander saw himself and how the world saw him.
As a child, Alexander was exposed to Greek literature containing stories about great heroes and how mortals and gods interacted. These were not simply stories to Alexander however, they were accounts of his ancestors for him to learn from. Additionally, Olympias, his mother, believed that a god had impregnated her and that Alexander was the son of a divine father and she told him this, which would have led to Alexander wholeheartedly believing that he was at least partly divine. As Alexander got older he began to train in the many disciplines of warfare and studied under Aristotle. When he reached his teenage years he had already proved himself a worthy leader on the battlefield and in the royal court. Alexander and his father had a complicated and ugly falling out which resulted in Alexander and his mother fleeing. Soon after Philip was assassinated and Alexander rose to power. The situation is clouded in suspicion and mystery, but Alexander emerged from it as the unquestioned heir. He took time to re-establish Macedonian dominance and prove himself a worthy king, but lost no time in turning to his big goal: the conquest of Persia.
Alexander’s aspiration to conquer Persia can be traced back to his childhood and lineage. He believed his ancestors included Hercules and Achilles, two mythical legends. He grew up reading stories of their conquests and victories, and believed himself to be not only like them but capable of similar feats. Additionally, as a teen Alexander heard that his father had aspirations to take his armies to Persia, but never had the opportunity to execute those plans. All of these elements combined, plus Alexander’s ambitious nature led him to pursue the invasion of Persia so hard at his young age. Alexander blew off the recommendations of his advisors in regards to getting married and having an heir before going on a long term conquest in a far away land. (source). He went about preparing his nation, his army, and himself for the endeavours ahead of him. Alexander learned the value of soft power from his father and essentially paid off elites to maintain good relations, he made sure to do what he could to gain the favor of the gods, and he left garrisons behind to defend the homeland.
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