Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Sketches

Alexander, The Great-1

Back to Sketches | Next

Alexander, The Great-1
July 20/21, 356 - June 10/11, 323 BC = 33 yrs

Many people know the name of Alexander, the Great. He was the king of Macedonia - a North-Eastern region of Greece. He had created a very large empire in the ancient history. He was the disciple of Aristotle since 343 BC when he was 13 years old. His fathers name was Philip II. He died in Babylon in 323 BC. He became hero, in the mold of Achilles.

His Birth
He was the son of Philip's fourth wife Olympias. Although Philip had 7-8 wives but Olympias was his chief wife for some time. It is said that on the eve of the consummation of her marriage to Philip, she dreamed that her womb was struck by a thunder bolt, causing a flame that spread "far and wide" before dying away. Some time after the wedding, Philip was said to have seen himself, in a dream, sealing up his wife's womb with a seal upon which was engraved the image of a lion. Plutarch offers a variety of interpretations of these dreams: that Olympia was pregnant before her marriage, indicated by the sealing of her womb; or that Alexander's father was Zeus. Ancient commentators are divided as to whether the ambitious Olympias promulgated the story of Alexander's Divine parentage, while some claim that she told Alexander and others that she dismissed the suggestion as impious.

When Alexander was ten years old, a horse trader brought Philip a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen Talents (a type of currency used in those times). The horse refused to be mounted by anyone, and Philip ordered it to be taken away. Alexander, however, detected the horse's fear of his own shadow and asked for a turn to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. According to Plutarch, Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed him tearfully, declaring: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you", and bought the horse for him. Alexander would name the horse Bucephalus, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalus would be Alexander's companion throughout his journeys as far as India. When Bucephalus died (due to old age for he was already 30), Alexander named a city after him (Bucephala).

Alexander's Education
When Alexander was 13 years old, his father looked for a tutor for him. He got Plato's successor Aristotle to tutor him - Plato's Guru was Socrates, so Socrates -> Plato -> Aristotle -> Alexander. So Aristotle resigned his job and took up this job. Philip gave him the Temple of Nymphs at Meiza as their classroom. In return of teaching Philip rebuilt the hometown of Aristotle. Alexander learnt medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic and art. He developed a special interest towards Homer, in particular for Iliad, here. He finished his education by the age of 16. Aristotle gave him an annotated copy of Iliad, so whenever he went on his campaigns, he took that copy with him. By the age of 33 he had built the largest empire of the ancient world - from the Ionian Sea to the Himaalaya. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history's most successful commanders.

His Invasions
Following his desires to reach the end of the world, he invaded India in 326 BC but was forced to go back because of near-mutiny of his army. In the winter of 327/326, he came towards India, crossed the Indus River and fought the epic war with Poras who was ruling in Panjaab at that time. There is an incident most quoted in Indian history, that is, that when Poras got defeated, Alexander asked him - "How you should be treated?" Poras replied - "As a King treats a King." He was greatly impressed by Poras' bravery so he made an alliance with him and appointed him a Satrap of his kingdom.

Alexander's horse died in this battle. Towards East of Poras, near the Gangaa River (wide about 32 furlong = 4 miles at that time), there was Nand Empire (see Alexander's Invasion and Poras) which was very powerful. Fearing the other powerful Empire, his army mutinied and he had to go back to his own country from the fifth river of Panjaab - River Vyaas. He did not cross the River Vyaas.

On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon at the age of 33.

Some Events of Alexander's Life

Alexander-The Slave of the Slaves
There is an amusing story concerning Alexander, the Great. When he came to India, he found that the Indians were a race of brave, fearless people. He made friends with them.

When he was about to return to his country, he remembered that his people had asked him to bring to them an Indian Yogee. They had heard a lot about Indian Yogee and were very desirous of seeing one, meeting him, hearing him speak and receiving his blessings. Alexander was told that the Yogee dwelt in the forest, so in quest of finding a Yogee he went to a forest. Sure enough, he found one sitting underneath a tree, in deep meditation. He waited patiently until the Yogee opened his eyes. They shone with a strange, mystic light. Reverently, Alexander requested the Yogee to accompany him to Greece, saying - "I will give you everything you need or ask for. But, I pray, do come with me. My people would love to meet you." The Yogee quietly answered - "I need nothing, I am happy where I am."

This was the first time that anyone had turned down Alexander's request. He could not control himself. He flew into a rage and unsheathing his sword, he thundered - "Do you know who is speaking to you? I am the great King Alexander. If you will not listen to me. I shall kill you, cut you into pieces." Unperturbed, the Yogee answered - "You cannot kill me. You can only kill my body. And the body is but a garment I have worn. I am not the body. I am that which dwells within the body. I am not the Deh, I am the Dehin - the indwelling one."

The Yogee continued, "You say you are a king. May I tell you, who you are? You are a slave of my slave."
Stunned, Alexander asked - "How am I a slave of your slave?" In a voice tender with compassion, the Yogee explained - "I have mastered anger, so anger is my slave. See, how easily you gave way to anger. You are a slave of anger, and, therefore, a slave of my slave"

With another flavor, Prolog of the above incident -  when Alxander started for East for his victory tour, he went to his Guru Aristotle and said to him - "I am going to India on victory tour, what should I bring for you?" Aristotle replied - "If you can bring, bring five things for me from there - Gaaya (cow), Geetaa (Bhagvad Geetaa, the Book), Gyaanee (a learned person), and Gangaa water from there."

Guru's Strange Request to Alexander
It is said that when Alexander set off for his victory towards East, he went to his Guru Aristotle and asked him what should he bring from India. Aristotle respected India very much so he said to him - "You go there but do not fight there. I respect it, you should also respect it. If you want to bring me something from there bring (1) Geetaa (the holy book), (2) Gangaa Jal (Gangaa River water), (3) Sanyaasee, and (4) the dust of Sanyaasee's feet (blessings of a Yogee)." But he could not take anything for him. (Some say that Aristotle asked him to bring him these five things - Soil (Earth), Gangaa Jal (water), Geetaa, Bhagavantam and Sanyaasee)

Once Alexender asked his Guru: "Sir What's the difference between "like" and "love"?
Socrates' answer was a masterpiece: "When you like a flower, you just pluck it, but when you love a flower, you water it daily."
(In the same way when when you like a person you make use of that person but when you love the person, you care for him.)

Alexander Was Indeed Great
Alexander was not named Great just like that, he was indeed Great.
Once a thief accused Alexander the Great - "What is the difference between you and me? I am a small thief and you are a big thief. That's
all. Why you are punishing me? You are a big thief. You are doing the same thing I did. It is just that you did on a large level and i did on a small level." The thief was let loose.

Alexander the Great was actually great. He was the emperor and an ordinary thief was accusing him. He said - "Yes, I am a thief." and he admitted it - that is greatness. If he were not great then he would have hanged him or punished him saying - "Oh, you are accusing me? Alexander the Great, the Emperor" But no, he accepted it. That was his greatness. To commit a mistake is one fault, but to accept that "I have committed the mistake," that is greatness."

Alexander's Strange Wishes
The great King Alexander was returning home after conquering many kingdoms. On the way he fell ill and he was bed-ridden for months. When he knew that his death was near, he knew that how his conquests, great army, his sharp sword, and all his wealth was of no use. He called his Generals and said - "I will depart from this world soon, but I have three wishes. Please fulfill my wishes without fail. I would like the world to know three lessons I have learned in life." and saying this he started crying. The Generals assured him to fulfill his wishes.

(1) My first desire is this that my physician alone must carry my coffin, because people should realize that no one can protect us from inevitable death, not even his physician. Life should never be taken for granted.
(2) Secondly when my coffin is being carried to the graveyard, the path should be strewn with gold, silver, and precious stones, which I have collected in my treasury. It will show that we cannot take anything with us at death. People should realize that chasing after wealth is futile."
(3) Thirdly my both hands should be kept dangling out of my coffin. This will show the public that we come into this world empty handed and leave it with empty handed."

The people who gathered there were very surprised to hear his these strange wishes, but no one dared to question him. Alexander favorite general kissed his hand and pressed it to his heart. he said - "O King, we assure you that your all wishes will be fulfilled, but tell us why do you make such strange wishes?"

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said - "I would like the world to know of the three lessons, I have just learnt. I want my physician to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of the death. So let not people take their life for granted. The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the way to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold can be taken by me. let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth. And about my third wish, of my hands dangling out of the coffin, I want people to know that I came empty-handed into this world, and I am going empty-handed from this world."

Alexander's last words -- "Bury my body, do not build any monument, keep my hands outside, so that the world knows, the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying."

God Knows how far is this true because lately it has been found out that Alexander was without money and his general poisoned him

Some Sources on Alexander for Shashigupt and the poisoning of Alexander by Ranajit Pal   by ranjit pal a book on Alexander


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Sketches


Back to Sketches | Next

Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 09/25/13