This Day in History

Alexander the Great dies


Alexander the Great, the young Macedonian military genius who forged an empire stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to India, dies in Babylon, in present-day Iraq, at the age of 33.

Born in Macedonia to King Phillip II and Queen Olympias, Alexander received a classical education from famed philosopher Aristotle and a military education from his father. At the age of 16, Alexander led his first troops into combat and two years later commanded a large part of his father’s army that won the Battle of Chaeronea and brought Greece under Macedonian rule. In 336 BC, Phillip II was assassinated, and Alexander ascended to the throne.

Two years later, the young king led a large army into Asia Minor to carry out his father’s plans for conquering Persia. Consistently outnumbered in his battles against superior Persian forces, Alexander displayed an unprecedented understanding of strategic military planning and tactical maneuvers. He never lost a single battle, and by 330 BC all of Persia and Asia Minor was under his sway.

Although Alexander controlled the largest empire in the history of the world, he launched a new eastern campaign soon after his return from Persia. By 327 BC, he had conquered Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Northern India. In the next year, his army, exhausted after eight years of fighting, refused to go farther, and Alexander led them on a difficult journey home through the inhospitable Makran Desert.

Finally reaching Babylon, Alexander began constructing a large fleet to take his army back to Egypt. However, in June 323 BC, just as the work on his ships was reaching its conclusion, Alexander fell sick and died. Perhaps earnestly believing himself to be a god (as many of his subjects did), he had not selected a successor, and within a year of his death his army and his empire broke into a multitude of warring factions. His body was later returned to Alexandria, where it was laid to rest in a golden coffin. —History