Conquests of Alexander the Great
Begin this Alexander the Great Lesson Plan by reviewing Alexander The Great’s conquests. Here are some key events. Point out actions that reveal the many sides of Alexander’s character.
Alexander takes advantage of his new power, an expeditionary force already in Asia Minor, and a vote of unity by Greek city states to align with Alexander, and invades Persia.
- In many ways, his invasion is retribution for the Great Persian War of the previous century. An invasion of Greece, this is the war of the Three Hundred and a Spartan/Athenian alliance. Although pushed out of Greece, the Persians held dominance in the region and many Greek city states paid tribute to the Persian king; until Alexander.
- Alexander the Great first stops in Troy and visits Achilles’ tomb. He and Hephaistion run naked around the tomb and cut off locks of hair as tribute. Alexander then removes Achilles’ shield and leaves his own in its place.
In crossing the ancient river Granicus, Alexander and his army penetrate the Gates of Asia and deal the Persian King Darius III his first blow. Alexander is almost killed in this battle but Cleitus, a commander of his royal squadron in the calvary, saves him. (In 327 BC, Alexander would kill Cleitus during a drunken fight.) Greek mercenaries who fought for Persia are mercilessly shipped off to Thrace where they will toil in the silver mines for the rest of their lives. As an offering to Athena, the king sends 300 suits of Persian armor to Athens. Both acts were probably meant to display his power to Athenians, who did not care for the young Macedonian and had taken to calling him a “margites” or mad-hatter.
- Prior to the battle at Granicus, Memnon, the commander of the Greek mercenaries had sent his wife Barsine and their children to Darius for their safety.
Alexander brought Callisthenes, Aristotle’s nephew, along as an official historian. Much of his, and later historians’, accounts are partly fact, myth, and propaganda. For example, after Granicus Alexander moved down the coast south of Miletus to Didyma, the site of an oracle who had been silent since 494 BC when the priests of the temple of Apollo sided with the Persians against the rebelling Ionian Greeks. The temple was destroyed and the sacred spring stopped flowing; that is, until Alexander’s arrival. Callisthenes writes the spring came back to life and the oracle, through a new priestess, predicted triumph in Asia and the death of Darius. Callisthenes’s records would contribute to the creation of the myths surrounding Alexander. However, he would grow concerned with the young king’s tendency towards authoritarianism and adoption of Persian ways. Criticizing Alexander was dangerous business. After a failed attempt by royal pages to assassinate Alexander in his sleep, Callisthenes was suspected of instigating the attempt. There is no evidence of this but Alexander had him arrested. It is unclear what happened to him, but Callisthenes either died in prison or was tortured and crucified. (Wood, pp. 166-167)
- Before reaching Didyma, Alexander faced resistance from the Greek city-state Miletus. Alexander crushed the revolt but treated the city mercifully.
Following a siege at Halicarnassos and Memnon’s flight from the port city, Alexander marched on to the city of Gordian (or Gordium) where he cut through the fabled Gordian knot with his sword. It was said that whoever undid the knot would become ruler of Asia. Next would be the Battle of Issus in which Darius and Alexander would come face to face. Defended by many of his kinsmen, Darius managed to escape but many soldiers and his wife, children and royal women were left behind.Following Issus, Alexander’s General, Parmenio captured the Persian train in Damascus along with prisoners. One of these was Barsine, wife of Memnon, who had been educated in Greece. Eventually she bore Alexander a son, Heracles. Both survived Alexander’s death but little is known of their fate.
Rather than chasing after Darius, Alexander continued south capturing Phoenician seaports and putting his troops between the Persian fleet and their supply lines.
The Siege of Tyre
- Unlike other Phoenician cities, Tyre was not totally willing to accept Alexander as their new ruler. Tyre gave him supplies and a crown but asked him to stay off the island. Alexander wanted to make a sacrifice to Hercules of Tyre but the Tyrians insisted he do so in Old Tyre on the mainland. Alexander wanted surrender; Tyre refused. The siege at Tyre is significant. It is the longest of Alexander’s sieges and both sides suffered huge human and material losses.
- Alexander decides to build a causeway to Tyre which sat around 800 meters from the shore. Local populations were put to work for the siege expert Diades of Thessaly, and some towns were destroyed for their resources. Amused at first, the Tyrians became nervous as the causeway got nearer. They hit the workers with artillery and attacked the supply forces on the coast. Undeterred, Alexander took men into the mountains of Lebanon for lumber.
- The Tyrian set a lighted ship to collide with the siege towers on the causeway. Still determined, trees and boulders were used to create a solid surface.
- With the aid of Phoenician and Rhodian fleets, Tyre was taken. Since then Tyre has been a peninsula, attached to the mainland by Alexander’s causeway.
- (Wood, pp. 64-71)
- Alexander next met resistance at Gaza, a crucial Persian fortress defended by its governor, Batis. Mines were put into the soil by both the Persians and Alexander’s forces. Alexander was wounded by a catapult in the standoff but healed and led an assault in November 322 BC. Close fighting in the streets resulted in a leg injury for Alexander. The city was won. Alexander had 10,000 killed while the women and children were sold as slaves. When brought before Alexander, Batis refused to speak. Thongs were driven into his ankles and Batis was killed by being dragged behind a chariot. (Hector had a similar fate at the hands of Achilles.)
Visit to the Oracle of Siwa
- The Persian fleet and resistance no longer threats, Alexander looked to the east and Egypt. Sick of Persian rule, the Egyptians welcomed Alexander and made him a Pharaoh. This was not instantaneous, however. Politically astute, Alexander always respected the religion of his conquests and often incorporated their deities and rituals into his own. Once in Egypt, Alexander journeyed to the Siwa Oasis to consult the Oracle of Siwa; he insisted on a private audience. In the inner-sanctum he asked his questions and then awaited a written response in an adjoining room. A priest brought him the note confirming he was descended from the god Ammon-Zeus. Deemed a “Son of God”, the Pharaoh established Alexandria and Greek rule in Egypt.
- Alexander then invades Mesopotamia, defeating Darius’ army at Gaugamela. The unstoppable Macedonian follows this victory with the taking of thee Persian cities of Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis. He proclaims he is ruler of Persia when Darius is killed at the hand of one of. his own generals
- In 327 BC India is Alexander the Great’s next goal and he makes it to the Indus River in three years. His desire to go further is ended by the refusal of many of the Macedonian troops to go on. Alexander goes to Babylon, the capital of his empire where he becomes ill and dies in 323 BC at the age of 33. (Some historians believe his death was due to malaria while others point to typhus or pleurisy. It is also thought he may have been poisoned, possibly with strychnine. Still, it’s also thought his liver was damaged by years of excessive drinking.)
- After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was split among his generals. Egypt came under the rule of Ptolemy whose line of successors would end with Cleopatra. Greek culture, Hellenism, was spread throughout Alexander’s conquests and beyond.
Lesson Plan and Assignment
Lesson Focus: Who was Alexander the Great and Why was he Great?
Grade Level: 9-12
Time Needed: 1 or 2 class periods.
Prior Knowledge: A general understanding of Alexander’s life and who the Macedonians were.
NCSS Thematic Standard: II Time, Continuity, and Change.
NCSS Thematic Standard: VI Power, Authority, and Governance.
NSS-WH.5-12.1 ERA 3: Classical Traditions, Major Religions, and Giant Empires, 1000 BCE-300 CE; Standard 2, The emergence of Aegean civilization and how interrelations developed among people of the eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia, 600-200 BCE.
Before beginning this lesson, review the previous article and lesson plan on Alexander the Great which focuses on his childhood, education, and early experiences. It contains a vocabulary list and information about his marriages and children.
Discuss the conquests of Alexander.
Invasion of Persia
Further conquests and Expansion of his empire.
Note skills, traits and qualities of Alexander.
Loyal to those loyal to him and ruthless with those he believed disloyal.
Open to other cultures. Alexander encouraged the blending of Greek and Middle Eastern cultures. He often dressed in the Persian style and pushed his soldiers to marry the women of conquered lands. Alexander himself married Darius’ daughter Stateira and Hephaistion married her sister Drypetis.
Have each student design a resume or curricula vitae for Alexander using the format below. They should supplement what they learned from the lesson with individual research in the library or on the internet.
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
(Start with most recent experience. Include start and end dates and reason for leaving. Include detailed description of responsibilities and special skills required.)
SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES AND QUALIFICATIONS:
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS:
- Classroom experience.
This post is part of the series: World History Lesson Plans for Social Studies Part Two
A series of lesson plans in World History. This series continues with lesson plans on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. The lesson plans use various teaching methods to meet the needs of different types of learners.