Alexander the Great was a Macedonian king who was one of the most successful and fearless conquerors, and by his 30s he conquered all the world known at the time, added them to the map of Greeks in fifteen years and created a very powerful and vast empire by uniting Europe and Asia. Alexander was a genius of military strategy and even nowadays military academics around the world still teach his tactics.
But Alexander wasn’t just a good ruler or a successful conqueror. It’s not commonly known that Alexander, first of all, was a very bright person, with a lot of talents and principles. Indeed, it seems that many of our modern life rulers should learn plenty of things from Alexander because he was described even by Persians as a “man whose virtues raised him above human nature.”
Top 5 Rare Facts About Alexander the Great
Alexander, despite his huge desire to overcome his father’s deeds and build the most powerful empire, thought that it was more important for a king to govern himself than to conquer his enemies. He thought that even brave heroes who undergo great labor and face dangerous obstacle should live just as ordinary people. Therefore, Alexander was very simple in food, clothes, and didn’t surround himself with any kind of luxuriousness. For example, this is how historian Plutarch describes his diet:
“His preceptor, Leonidas, having already given him the best, which were a night march to prepare for breakfast, and a moderate breakfast to create an appetite for supper.”
After the Battles of Issus in 333 BCE, Alexander defeated Darius III, but he ordered his people not to touch Persian elite, including Darius’s mother, wife, and two unmarried sisters. He told them that they should not fear any harm from Macedonians and provided them with everything they had at the Persian Palace. So, Darius’ family lived as though they are in their royal apartment right at the core of their enemy’s camp. As for the rest of the Persian female captives, Alexander showed great self-restraint in “pleasures of the body” by jestingly calling them “terrible eyesores.”
It’s commonly known that Alexander was a very big altruist. Way too big. He used to give all of his persuaded magnificent objects and money to his friends and relatives. He was more displeased if somebody rejected his presents than those who begged him. If somebody refused his gifts, Alexander would get very angry at that person and never consider him or her as friend anymore. He used to reward and honor his close ones so hard that people complained that instead of one Darius, he made many Alexanders.
But Alexander didn’t just reward his fellows with gifts; he also wasn’t afraid to risk his life to save them. One time when the Macedonian army was going through the Mount Antilibanus, most of the soldiers left their horses and went ahead on their feet. But one of the king’s best friends Lysimachus was too old to move as fast as other soldiers, got behind the Macedonian army, and had to spend the night in a very dark and inconvenient place. In the core of the mountains at night, he was surrounded by the enemy.
When Alexander saw lagging Lysimachus near many hostile scattered fires, he ran straight to one of the nearest fires, snubbed two of the barbarians with a dagger, snatched up a lighted brand, and returned with it to his soldiers. Then they made a great fire to intimidate hostile soldiers and most of them fled, so the Macedonian army rested securely for the rest of the night.
Indeed, Alexander was very strong, rush, and a swift-footed warrior. But, despite that, he didn’t pay too much attention to sport. Maybe it’s hard to imagine that such a successful conqueror hated sport. But instead, Alexander was a big fan of theater and art, so he enjoyed more of watching tragedians and musicians, than watching boxing and athletic competitions.
Likely, Alexander’s neglect toward sports was due to his hunger for fame. His life goal was to immortalize his name, to overcome his father’s deeds, and to build the most powerful empire his ancestors and contemporaries would ever know. When someone asked him if he would run a race in the Olympic Games, Alexander answered: “I would, if I might have kings to run with me.”
Alexander had a great passion for learning and reading. That was a result of Aristotle’s impact. That’s right, one of the greatest thinkers in history was Alexander the Great’s mentor, and he made a huge impact on a young king and taught him philosophy and different sciences, including medicine. Alexander was very educated in medicine and was always ready to help his friends or relatives by prescribing special treatment if someone or any of them were sick.
On the other hand, Alexander’s main goal was not just to conquer territories, but also to explore them and to spread knowledge and culture through the conquered land. He also built a library in every major city which contained all knowledge available at the time.
A Man of Honor
The most incredible and unique character trait of Alexander was that he, unlike many rulers and politicians, was a very good person and a man of honor.
For example, after very long and painful pursuit of Darius after the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE, Macedonian soldiers got so tired and thirsted that they were ready to give up. But then on their way soldiers met some Macedonians who carried water to their children. And when they saw Alexander dying of thirst, they immediately gave him a helmet full of water, saying that the king’s life is more important to them than the life of their kids and they can always repair the loss. But Alexander returned the helmet without tasting a drop of water and claimed that "For," said he, "if I alone should drink, the rest will be out of heart." That encouraged Macedonian soldiers so they were ready to overcome weariness and thirst with such a king and said that they would follow Alexander boldly.
Another story tells that before the Battle of Gaugamela when Macedonian commanders saw at the middle of the night the multitude amount of torches and realized how enormous the Persian army is, they decided that it would be way too difficult and hazardous to attack the enemy in the day. But when they informed Alexander about their plans to attack Darius at night, Alexander gave them the celebrated answer: “I will not steal a victory.”
Even though this decision can be described as very boyish and inconsiderate, he made that long before the concept of war crime, which started to emerge during the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, in the savage Ancient World where blood feud, sacrifices to the gods, and tortures were pretty much O.K.