CrashCourse Video Notes: Alexander the Great and the Situation…the Great?
So, quick biography of Alexander of Macedon, born in 356 BCE, died in 323 BCE at the ripe old age of _______________.
Alexander was the son of King ______________________ the 2nd, and when just 13 years old he tamed a horse no one else could ride named Bucephalus, which impressed his father so much he said:
“Oh thy son, look thee at a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for ______________________ is too little for thee.”
By that time he was already an accomplished general, but over the next decade he expanded his empire with unprecedented speed and he is famous for having never lost a battle.
Today we’re going to look at Alexander of Macedon’s story by examining three possible definitions of greatness.
First, maybe Alexander was great because of his accomplishments. This is an extension of the idea that history is the record of the deeds of great men. Now, of course, that’s ridiculous. For one thing, half of people are women for another, there are lots of historic events that no one can take responsibility for, like for instance the Black Plague.
But still, Alexander was accomplished. I mean, he conquered a lot of territory. Like, a lot. No, not a lot, A LOT. Yes.
His father, Philip, had conquered all of ______________________, but Alexander did what the Spartans and Athenians had failed to do: He destroyed the ______________________Empire. He conquered all the land the Persians had held including Egypt, and then marched toward India, stopping at the Indus River only because his army was like, “Hey, Alexander, you know what would be awesome? Not marching.”
Also, Alexander was a really good general, although historians disagree over whether his tactics were truly brilliant or if his army just happened to have better technology, specifically these extra-long spears called sarissas.
Much of his reputation as a general, and his reputation in general, anybody? Puns? I should stop? OK. Is because of Napoleon. Napoleon like many other generals throughout history, was obsessed with Alexander the Great, but more on that in a moment.
That said, Alexander wasn’t very good at what we might now call ______________________-building. Alexander’s empire was definitely visually impressive, but it wasn’t actually much of an empire. Like, Alexander specialized in the tearing down of things, but he wasn’t so great at the building up of institutions to replace the things he’d torn down.
And that’s why, pretty soon after his death, the Greek Empire broke into three empires, called the ______________________ Kingdoms. Each was ruled by one of Alexander’s generals, and they became important dynasties. The Antigones in Greece and Macedonia, the ______________________ in Egypt, the Selucids in Persia, all of which lasted longer than Alexander’s empire.
A Second Greatness: Maybe Alexander was great because he had an enormous impact on the world after his death. Like King Tut, Alexander the great was amazingly good at being a dead person. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.
So, After Alexander of Macedon died, everyone from the Romans to Napoleon to Oliver Stone loved him, and he was an important military model for many generals throughout history. But his main post-death legacy may be that he introduced the Persian idea of Absolute Monarchy to the Greco-Roman world, which would become a pretty big deal.
Alexander also built a number of cities on his route that became big deals after his death, and it’s easy to spot them because he named most of them after himself and one after his horse.
The ______________________ in Egypt became a major center of learning in the classical world, and was home to the most amazing library ever, which Julius Caesar probably “accidentally” burned down while trying to conquer a bunch of land to emulate his hero, Alexander the Great.
Plus, the dead Alexander had a huge impact on culture. He gave the region its common language, ______________________, which facilitated conversations and commerce. Greek was so widespread that archaeologists have found coins in what is now Afghanistan with pictures of their kings and the word “king” written beneath the pictures—in Greek. This is also why, incidentally, the New Testament was eventually written in Greek.
Although Alexander was mostly just conquering territory for the glory and heroism and greatness of it all, in his wake emerged a more closely ______________________world that could trade and communicate with more people more efficiently than ever before.
Thanks, Thought Bubble. Okay, a third definition of greatness: Maybe Alexander is great because of his ______________________: Since no accounts of his life were written while he lived, embellishment was easy, and maybe that’s where true greatness lies.
I mean the guy died at ______________________, before he ever had a chance to get old and lose battles, He was tutored by ______________________.
And even at his death, people tried to make Alexander live up to this heroic ideal. Like, ______________________ tells us that he died of a fever, but that’s no way for a masculine, empire building awesome person to die! So rumors persist that he died either of alcohol poisoning or else of assassination-y poisoning. I mean, no great man can die of a fever.
Best wishes, John Green.
So in Alexander the Great we have a story about a man who ______________________ the world while riding a magical horse only he could tame across deserts where it magically rained for him so that he could chase down his mortal enemy and then leave in his wake a more enlightened world and a gorgeous, murderous wife.
And that takes us to my opinion of how Alexander really came to be Great…
And long before Napoleon, the Romans really worshipped Alexander particularly the Roman General ______________________, AKA Pompeius Magnus, AKA Pompey the Great. Pompey was so obsessed with Alexander that he literally tried to emulate Alexander’s boyishly disheveled hair style.
In short, Alexander was Great because others decided he was Great. Because they chose to admire and emulate him. Yes, Alexander was a great ______________________. Yes, he conquered a lot of land.
We made Alexander Great, just as today we make people great when we admire them and try to ______________________ them.