Alexander the Great for Kids and Teachers Illustration

Alexander the Great for Kids

Over 2,300 years ago, in ancient times, a young prince was born in Macedonia. His name was Alexander.  Macedonia (Macedon) was a kingdom located to the north of the Greek city-states. While growing up, Alexander had many teachers, one of whom was Aristotle. Aristotle spoke of his admiration for the Greeks many times to his student, the young prince, Alexander.

The great teacher Aristotle only taught the young prince for 3 years, but he was an outstanding and persuasive teacher, probably because Aristotle's own training was exceptional. Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle who taught Alexander. What a lineup! Alexander grew up dreaming of the day he would be king. When he was king, he too would teach everyone about the Greek culture he had come to know and love so well. Aristotle had a great affect on Alexander and what he believed, but Alexander had other teachers as well, teachers who taught him how to wage war, how to conquer other people, and how to be a Macedonian king.

When Alexander was 19 years old, his father died. After his father's death, Alexander took over as king of Macedonia from 336 BC until his death in 323 BC. "He quickly dealt with his enemies at home, and reasserted Macedonia power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire and other civilizations." BBC

But here the thing - Alexander did not believe his father, the prior king of Macedonia, was in fact his father. He believed his father was the mighty Zeus, the king of all the Greek gods. How he got that idea nobody knows. But that belief affected his entire life.

  • As a scholar, Alexander felt it was his mission to spread the Greek culture. He did not force conquered people to follow the ancient Greek ways, or to worship the Greek gods, especially Zeus, but he established schools everywhere he went to teach Greek philosophy and the Greek language.

  • As a politician, Alexander adopted many of the customs of the local people he conquered, blending their culture with the Greek culture.

  • As a warrior, he was reckless. He entered wars as if he were immortal. He was chopped, sliced, battered, and nearly died more than once, but he never lost a battle. He was a military genius. He defeated the mighty Persian Empire.

  • As a person, viewed by historians, Alexander had a dark side. When he did not get his way, he would stomp around or disappear into his tent and pout or sulk for days. Sometimes, his behavior was much worse. He had a terrible temper, a dangerous one. From time to time, Alexander would arbitrarily murder close advisors and even friends. Towards the end of his 13 years of power, he slaughtered thousands of people whose only crime was being in his way.

  • However, there is no denying that Alexander changed the world.

By the time he was 25 years old, against incredible odds, Alexander had become not only the king of Macedonia, but also the leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor, pharaoh of Egypt, and the great king of Persia. "Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents, and covered around two million square miles. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, and south into Egypt, and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects." Alexander the Great, BBC. He did all this in 13 years!

He probably would have kept going, perhaps all the way to China, but Alexander died young. He was only 33 years old when he died. There was talk at the time that he might have been murdered by his men. The rumor could be true. "Many soldiers hadn't seen their families for ten years, and wanted to return to Greece and Macedonia. Alexander's army refused to follow the king any farther east. After retreating to his tent to sulk for two days, Alexander emerged saying that the gods willed that he should return home. (On the way home) When Alexander reached the coast at Pattala, he used ships to bring many of the original soldiers of his army back to Greece and Macedonia, the others he marched back through a desert. There was little water, and many of his soldiers died during this desert crossing. Alexander survived the crossing, making it back to Babylon, the capital of his empire. In 323 BC, while in Babylon, Alexander got very sick with a fever and died."

Alexander had made no plans on what to do with his vast empire after his death. It did not seem to occur to him that he could actually die. On his death bed, his generals asked who should take over. Alexander said the strongest. And died.

After Alexander's death ....

"The Macedonia empire included present-day Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, the Phoenician lands and many other basin regions of the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. The major centers of the Mediterranean at the time became part of Alexander's empire as a result. His empire quickly disintegrated, and the Middle East, Egypt, and Greece were soon again independent. Alexander's conquests spread Greek knowledge and ideas throughout the region." Athens University, Athens, Greece

"Alexander's Legacy from

  • Alexander spread Greek culture throughout the Persian Empire, including parts of Asia and Africa. Alexander respected the local cultures he conquered, and allowed their customs to continue. Alexander himself embraced local customs, wearing Persian clothes and marrying Persian women. Alexander encouraged his soldiers to marry Persian women, in this way, the children of these marriages would share both Persian and Greek cultures.

  • Alexander created the Hellenistic Age, a time when Greek culture mixed with the various cultures of Alexander's Empire. This was a time of advances in learning, math, art, and architecture. Some of the great names of learning in this Age include Archimedes, Hero, and Euclid. It was a time of relative peace. (The Hellenistic Age began with Alexander's death and ended about 200 years later when the Romans conquered the entire Mediterranean region.)

  • Because of the relative peace during the Hellenistic Age, travel and trade increased. Antipater of the city of Sidon, created a poem around 140 BC that listed seven wonders of the world. Antipater picked these buildings and statues for there art and architecture. The list became a set of tourist attractions for people of the ancient world.

  • The great cities of the Hellenistic Age included Antioch in Syria, Pergamum in Asia Minor, and Alexandria in Egypt, with its Library of Alexandria, the largest library of the ancient world. Although none of these cities were in Greece, they all had Greek architecture."

Was ancient Macedonia a Greek city-state? And why does it matter?  A discussion continues in scholarly circles over whether or not ancient Macedonia was a Greek city-state or a separate country or empire. On the web, you'll see statements like Alexander led the Greeks to victory, and references to the Greek Empire and the Macedonian Empire. For our purposes in our 6th grade class, it doesn't matter if you call it the Greek Empire or the Macedonian Empire, as long as you understand that it is the same empire - a time when Alexander ruled and spread the Greek culture into Europe, Africa, and Asia.  Just an FYI: Most scholars call it the Macedonian Empire or Alexander's Empire.

For discussion purposes only: "The ancient Macedonians regarded the ancient Greeks as neighbors, not as kinsmen. The Greeks treated the Macedonians as foreigners ("barbarians") whose native language was Macedonian, not Greek." History of Macedonia, Greek Conflict

Here is a map that will show you how this part of the world was divided. It's important to know that, for a while, the Greek city-state of Thebes controlled Macedonia and considered it a province. That's how some Macedonian people learned the Greek language. See the League of Corinth for more info on how King Phillip (Alexander's father) briefly allied Macedonia and the Greek city-states to stand together against a Persian attack.

(Macedon is pictured in orange below. Persia is in purple.
Each independent Greek city-state is a little dot in the yellow area.)

The answer is - it matters to historians because everything matters to historians.

PIECES OF THE PAST:  Keep in mind, we're talking about events and happenings and people who lived over 2,300 years ago. Historians are still putting pieces of the past together. There are written records. Some are romanticized, fictionalized, idealized - you get the idea. Historians try to put pieces of the past together accurately. It's not an easy job. There is still a great deal of work to do.

Alexander the Great (ppt)

Alexander the Great (biography)

The League of Corinth

Alexander the Great - Was he really great?

Alexander the Great, his life, into the Hellenistic age

Hellenistic Greece

QUIZ: Alexander the Great (Interactive with answers)