For Alexander, what were the incentives of expanding to the west vs to the east?

If Alexander would have decided to go westwards, would it be as successful and rewarding in comparison to his eastwards expansion.

  • Persia was in the east, why would he go west? The rest of the question appears to be a call for speculation. – Semaphore Sep 4 '15 at 10:59
  • @Semaphore : Yes, Why did he go east instead of west is the question. So Persia was all there was? nothing in the west? is there no difference between speculation and analysis of cost/benefits of historical events? Why he went east? – jimjim Sep 4 '15 at 11:01
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    Alexander didn't just wake up one morning and decide to conquer the known world. He inherited his father's plans, years in the making, of invading Persia at the head of a Panhellenic alliance. Beyond them both is a legacy of centuries of Greco-Persian warfare, which gave Greee a banner of revenge. It was not a matter of "cost/benefit analysis", and any answer to what would have happened if he went west would be speculative. – Semaphore Sep 4 '15 at 11:23
  • I am not asking what would have happened if he went west. I am asking what were the pay offs of going east vs west. For example after finishing Persia, why continue with India and Egypt? and after that why not also expand westwards? was there nothing worth taking in the west? – jimjim Sep 4 '15 at 11:31
  • Why would have anyone wanted to invade the poor West? Persia was rich, and the expedition of the 10.000 had shown that its army was ill-prepared against Greek/Macedonanian heavy infantry – SJuan76 Sep 4 '15 at 13:21

The east had much more money than the west. To the east lay large empires with huge cities teaming with people and gold. All the major trade routes led to these places. Egypt itself produced vast amounts of grain. Italy's cities were much smaller and their economies relatively tiny. It would have cost far more to invade Italy than any amount that could be recovered there. Douglas MacArthur famously said "Wars are caused by undefended wealth" and that is certainly the case here.

Livy nationalistically claimed that had Alexander invaded Italy, Rome, a tiny city state at the time, would have defeated him, a popular (with Romans), but not very realistic assessment. Strabo wrote that Alexander sent an embassy to Rome to complain about pirates operating out of Tuscany.

  • On the other hand, within a century Rome had held off the 'next Alexander', Pyrrhus of Epirus and within the next century after that had wiped out all of the Alexandrian successor states without breaking a sweat. – Oldcat Sep 4 '15 at 23:20

It should also be noted that Macedonia was a relatively poor kingdom and the wealth of Persia was on a much higher level, especially for its aristocracy. The Greeks had been aware of this for at least two hundred years. The Persians were also hated by most Greeks. As it has been mentioned, it's easy to motivate people to go conquer a hated enemy AND get rich doing it. Conquering a relatively poor and ineffectual territory? Not so much.

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