History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've always been fascinated by the figure of Alexander the Great, due to his achievements even though he was really young at the time.

There is an episode that I've heard about his early life which I can't confirm on the internet, so I thought of asking here.

From what I know, when Alexander fully earned his throne, the other poleis started to have rebellious thoughts since he was just a kid/young man, underestimating him. As a response Alexander, destroyed a single city as an example, proving that he wasn't just a kid and that he knew how to control his reign.

Is this historically accurate or just a legend that "improves" its figure in history?

share|improve this question
Good question, and welcome to the site! – Steven Drennon Nov 27 '12 at 13:59
Alexander was born into the helm of the ancient world's mightest military machine, and just piloted it competently for a few years. To my mind the more interesting person is is father Phillip, who built the machine. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Macedon – T.E.D. Nov 27 '12 at 14:34
@StevenDrennon Thank you! :) – Alenanno Nov 27 '12 at 16:29
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Actually, it wasn't intended specifically to set an example, but it did serve to deliver a message that he was not someone who was going to just go away. Alexander's father, Phillip, was murdered in 336 BC, leaving Alexander to rule in his place. Many states, including Thebes and Athens, rose up in revolt when they heard the news. Alexander responded immediately by taking a cavalry force of 3000 men to put down the revolt.

Alexander and his cavalry was able to surprise the city of Thessaly, resulting in their surrender and also resulted in the Thessalians joining Alexander's cavalry. From there he advanced on Thermopylae and Corinth, and then Athens settled for peace. While he was in Corinth, Alexander was given the title of "Hegemon", or leader, of the Greek forces against the Persians.

From here, Alexander had to move north and put down an uprising in Thrace and then Illyria before he could feel copmfortable setting off against the Persians. When he was finally able to move back into southern Greece, he found that he still had to deal with the city of Thebes.

A full year had passed since Phillip's death, and Thebes was the last place to resist accept Alexander as their leader. Although he tried several times to send embassadors requesting that the city surrender on peaceful terms, they stubbornly refused. As a result, he had no choice and had to advance on the city, leaving it totally destroyed.

To say that he intentionally destroyed Thebes to set an example would probably be obverstating things. By the time he came to Thebes, the rest of Greece had pretty much accepted his leadership. It may be true that he destroyed the city to set an example of what would happen to others who may choose to defy him, but he didn't appear to have set out with that intention.

See Alexander's Balkan Campaign to read some more information.

share|improve this answer
Worth noting that Thebes was a bit special: It was considered at the time the most ancient Greek city, and up until Phillip obliterated the Sacred Band, it had considerable military power. Furthermore Thebes was traditionally antagonistic, siding with the Persians during the Greco Persian wars, with the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War (Thebes is far more closer to Athens than Sparta) and also derailed Agesilaus Asian campaign (battles of Leuctra & Mantinea). – Yannis Nov 28 '12 at 13:48
Lastly, Philip was brought up in Thebes, as a hostage, and although he spared the city, it's not inconceivable that the young Alexander would want to make a statement against the city that had captured his father. Plutarch mentions that Alexander was favourable to Thebans after the destruction of the city, possibly having regretted his decision and trying to make amends. /cc: @Alenanno. – Yannis Nov 28 '12 at 13:50
@YannisRizos Thanks for the additional information! :) – Alenanno Nov 28 '12 at 14:02
Thanks for the answer Steven! :) – Alenanno Feb 28 '13 at 23:00

Yes, the city in question was Thebes.

UPDT: For a source, check out the always-excellent livius.org website. Here.

share|improve this answer
Hello Felix, thanks for the answer. Would you mind to elaborate a bit? I mean, adding references, explanations, etc. Thanks. :) – Alenanno Nov 27 '12 at 11:03
Good answer - but as @alenanno says, a reference would help for those of us who would like to read "the rest of the story". – Mark C. Wallace Nov 27 '12 at 12:45
I would agree with @MarkC.Wallace, as there are no sources, and elaboration would be both helpful and interesting in this instance, I believe. Is there anything more you could post, Felix? – Reliable Source Nov 27 '12 at 13:23
@ReliableSource I find your nickname to be quite ironic in this situation. :D eheh nice. – Alenanno Nov 27 '12 at 16:27

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.