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Alexander the Great



Alexander the Great
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.22

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    abort, backwater, overdrinking, regicide, satrap, strategizing, unchallenged, following, ruling, universally, co-rulers, unfulfilled, showdown, scant, anyhow, half-brother
     content words:    Alexander III, Philip II, Sacred Band, Persian Empire, When Alexander, Asia Minor, Darius III, Nile River, In July, Hindu Kush


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Alexander the Great
By Vickie Chao
  

1     Since the beginning of time, ambitious military commanders have never been in short supply. Some of them focused on gaining control inside their own kingdoms. Others set their goals higher. Alexander the Great -- or Alexander III -- belonged to the second group. During his short reign of thirteen years, he defeated several regional powerhouses. By the time he died in 323 B.C., he had done the unthinkable and built a kingdom with lands stretching across three continents -- Europe, Asia, and Africa. After him, only a handful of generals could duplicate or even surpass his success. For more than 2,000 years, Alexander the Great has been recognized universally as the world's first great military commander. Here is an account of his life.
 
2     Alexander the Great was born on July 20 or 26, 356 B.C. His father, Philip II, was the king of Macedonia (or Macedon), and his mother, Olympias, was the princess of Epirus. At the time of his birth, Macedonia was still a backwater country lying north of Greece, but that was about to change. Using a combination of alliances and warfare, Philip started to push his nation's boundary southward. His goal was to rule all of Greece one day. After years of planning and strategizing, he finally realized his dream in 338 B.C. That year, the Macedonians defeated Athens and Thebes, the two strongest Greek city-states, at the Battle of Chaeronea. Alexander, a mere teenager then, led a cavalry and fought fearlessly against the famed Sacred Band of Thebes. In the end, he emerged as the victor and killed the elite Theban force that was once believed invincible! Not long after this great success, Philip cast his eyes on the Persian Empire. Hoping to expand his nation even farther, he began to prepare his armies for an invasion. Unfortunately, he never got to carry out this grand military plan of his, for he was assassinated in 336 B.C.
 
3     Upon Philip's untimely death, his loyal troops hailed Alexander as their new king, but not everybody in Macedonia welcomed this young ruler who just turned twenty years of age. Having been recently conquered, both the Athenians and the Thebans wanted their independence back, so they began to plot against Alexander. When Alexander got wind of this, he and his soldiers moved swiftly. In two weeks, they covered 240 miles and quickly took Thebes under siege. The Thebans' refusal to surrender turned out to be a very costly mistake. As soon as Alexander subdued Thebes, he allowed his men to plunder the entire city and kill anybody in sight! Whoever survived the attack was sold into slavery. Alexander's intention was clear. He wanted to make an example out of Thebes for the rest of Greece to see. His warning worked! Athens immediately changed its mind and swore allegiance to Macedonia. Now, with all the domestic troubles being taken care of, Alexander could finally continue his father's unfulfilled dream -- conquering the Persian Empire.
 
4     In the spring of 334 B.C., Alexander crossed the Strait of Dardanelles (formerly known as the Hellespont) and brought his force to Asia Minor (modern day's Turkey). He had close to 30,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry with him at the time. Though the size of his armies was not very impressive, he devised a smart strategy and tackled the coastal cities first. By gaining control of the ports, he successfully blocked the Persian navy from making landfall. After securing the coastline, Alexander directed his soldiers to travel inland and reach Gordium, the capital of Phrygia. According to legend, this city-state's founder, Gordius, had tied an intricate knot in his chariot a long time ago. He proclaimed that only the future conqueror of Asia could untie the knot. When the chariot was presented to Alexander upon his arrival, he boldly sliced through the knot with his sword. With a quick move of his arm, he made it clear that he would be the conqueror of Asia!
 
5     In the autumn of 333 B.C., Alexander himself encountered Darius III, the Persian king. At the decisive Battle of Issus, Darius saw his force being crushed and fled before the war even ended. In haste, he never bothered to take along his family members. All he cared about was saving his own skin. After claiming victory, Alexander rounded up Darius' mother, wife, and children. He assured them of their safety and treated them kindly. He even went on to marry Darius' eldest daughter as one of his many wives several years later.

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