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Alexander the Great or Terrible?


Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia that lay in the northern part of the Ancient Greece. He was the student of Aristotle from a very early age after which he grew up to be one of the most successful army commanders that ever existed. It is said that he was never defeated in any battle. After succeeding his father who had been assassinated, he took advantage of the experienced military to expand the kingdom through conquest. This has led to some factions of academics referring to him as Alexander the Terrible. This essay seeks to explore whether Alexander was terrible or just great; that is whether he did bad or good things. Alexander was great in his success attitude and tactical approaches to war but was largely terrible in his intention to conquer other empires till ‘the ends of world’ and the exact manner in which he went about it.


Alexander was great, because he was very influential. His influence was felt in many parts of the world through Greek colonization and occupation of new lands (Dawson 551). He sought to spread the Greek language to all parts of the world through cultural diffusion. For instance, he named about twenty cities in his name as a way of perpetuating his legacy. One of these cities was Alexandria in Egypt. Further, it was found out that his influence led to the establishment of Hellenistic Civilization whose elements were strongly visible in the Byzantine Empire that was formed almost two thousand years later. Moreover, Alexander the Great was a wise man. Having been a student of Aristotle, he was full of insights and critical thought (Dawson 552). Through his wisdom, he was able to invent some of the most effective tactics in military. As a result, he is widely quoted in military science. In fact, he is used as a yard stick for military success by most people across the world. Due to his influence and wisdom, he is widely quoted in academics.

Although Alexander was great in wisdom and influence, he was terrible because of his use of force in occupying and acquiring new lands. Specifically, his conquest of India paints him as a terrible person in the eyes of the Indians though Europeans view him as the best for spreading Hellenistic culture. According to Allen (220), Asians refer to him as “the accursed one” or “the two-horned Satan”. This is because to them, he was no more than a “dispenser of death” and an evil person who deserves no praise but condemnation. Further, he was hated for deliberately striping the Persian empire of its Oriental ideals and imposing Western concepts unto them that were alien to the people there. He was simply a colonist but not a hero. Therefore, it appears that at home, he was great but where he colonized and killed people, he was terrible.

There are numerous examples to show that Alexander was terrible. According to Allen (225), Alexander destroyed Thebes: he burnt each and every house in the city. Nevertheless, there is a need to interrogate why Alexander was terrible. It should be noted that during his father’s rule, the leader of Persian Empire, Darius the Great, had fought and defeated Greece. Therefore, it appears that Alexander was avenging his father’s defeat. A rather academic question is to establish whether the use of force to avenge something that was unjustly done could be referred to as terrible. Historians have different views on the issue. Moreover, from the evidence in some of peer reviewed articles, there is no doubt that Alexander was a terrible person. For him, the end justified the means which is a terrible philosophy to use. Even at home, some of his generals did not like him. This explains why after his death, there were series of civil wars that lead to the fall of Greece; Athens fell and Sparta won. The former had been weakened by long periods of war.

In his Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great’s Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia, John Prevas explores in the most extensive way the terrible nature of Alexander the Great. He refers to him as destructive, arrogant, and spurious (Prevas 100). According to Prevas, Alexander’s character was “often a volatile mixture of self-centered adolescent exuberance and feminine hysteria”. Moreover, Prevas also saw the ‘great’ side of Alexander as gifted with ‘a special mixture of charisma, flattery, and intimidation’. This is perhaps why he managed to influence many soldiers. However, he was never contented with his achievements. Even after amassing a lot of land on the side of Greece, he still went ahead to cross some of the hottest deserts and climb some of the steepest mountains to add more land to himself and the empire. At the time of his death, he was preparing to conquer Arabia. This is a terrible attitude: selfishness and greed.


Although Alexander III of Macedonia is viewed as a great leader of his times, some historians view him as a brutal commander who had no mercy on people. He was a killer. Those who see him as a great leader consider only a few aspects such as his charisma, determination, hard work, and love for country. However, the means of reaching to his goals were brutal and dehumanizing. He killed Indians, colonized and took over cities, burnt people’s homes and avenged his father’s defeat by the Persians. Overall, Alexander was a terrible leader.

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