356 BCE — Alexander the Great is born

One of the greatest conquerors and military leaders the world has ever known was born in Pella, the capital of Macedon. His father was the king of Macedon, Philip II, and he himself was Alexander the Great. The genealogies of his parents were not merely royal – Philip claimed descent from Heracles, while his mother, Olympias, claimed descent from Achilles – and Alexander’s second cousin was the noted general Pyrrhus of Epirus.

He was raised as a noble’s son, and taught the arts of his class and sex – which naturally included warfare. From the ages of 13 to 16, he was tutored by the philosopher Aristotle, after which he served as his father’s regent while his father was absent pursuing military conquests. After Philip’s death and Alexander’s own accession to the throne of Macedon at the age of 20, Alexander began what would become one of the greatest conquests the world had ever seen.

Referenced in:

Alexander the Great — Iron Maiden

331 BCE — Alexander the Great defeats Darius III at Arbela

In the short, glorious history of Alexander the Great’s empire-building, this victory was probably the most significant. The battle is variously known as either Arbela or Gaugamela, by either way, it was the decisive encounter of Alexander’s Persian campaign. On a battlefield that he chose, the numerically superior forces of Darius III’s Achaemenids were mowed down without mercy by the Macedonians and their allies.

Despite being outnumbered two to one, Alexander’s forces inflicted massive casualties – possibly as many as 90,000 Persians were killed – while losing less than 10% of their own number that day. Although Darius escaped, his defeat here ceded half of his territory to Alexander, and left the remainder in disarray. Darius would die in a subsequent battle the following year, disappointing Alexander who had wished to take him alive.

Referenced in:

Alexander the Great — Iron Maiden

323 BCE — Alexander the Great dies in Babylon

The reason for Alexander’s untimely end – he was one month short of his 33rd birthday – is unknown. The three leading theories are poisoning, a relapse of malaria or some sort of illness brought on by feasting on May 29. Alexander took ill right after that feast, and never left his bed again afterwards. He died on either the 10th or 11th or June.

Alexander’s death was also the death knell of his empire. Over the next five decades, the empire would fall into civil war, and by 270 BCE it would have devolved into three successor states, the Antigonid Empire in Greece; the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, Palestine and Cyrenaica; and the Seleucid Empire in Mesopotamia and Persia. The former two would be wholly absorbed by Roman expansion over the next three centuries, along with the western half of the territory of the Seleucid Empire.

Referenced in:

Alexander the Great — Iron Maiden

334 BCE — Alexander the Great defeats the Persian Army in the Battle of the Granicus

In the first of three major engagements during his Persian campaign, Alexander the Great and his forces defeated a numerically superior foe. The Persian forces were bolstered by the presence of Greek mercenaries, but hampered by their command structure, which consisted of feuding satraps – the Persian emperor Darius did not fight in this battle.

The battle took place on the road from Abydos to Dascylium (near modern day Ergili, Turkey), at the crossing of the Granicus River (modern day Biga Çay?) – near the site believed to have once been Troy. It was a near thing for Alexander, because the Persians had orders to specifically target him, their leaders having reasoned that Alexander’s forces would fall apart without his leadership.

Referenced in:

Alexander the Great — Iron Maiden