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?

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    Good question, and welcome to the site! Nov 27, 2012 at 13:59
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    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, 2012 at 14:34

4 Answers 4



Actually, it wasn't intended specifically to set an example, but it did serve to deliver a message that Alexander 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 were able to surprise the city of Thessalonika, 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 uprisings in Thrace and then Illyria before he could feel comfortable 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 accepting Alexander as their leader. Although he tried several times to send ambassadors 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 Alexander intentionally destroyed Thebes to set an example would probably be overstating 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.

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    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, 2012 at 13:48
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    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, 2012 at 13:50
  • @YannisRizos Thanks for the additional information! :)
    – Alenanno
    Nov 28, 2012 at 14:02

Yes, the city in question was Thebes.

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

  • Hello Felix, thanks for the answer. Would you mind to elaborate a bit? I mean, adding references, explanations, etc. Thanks. :)
    – Alenanno
    Nov 27, 2012 at 11:03
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    Good answer - but as @alenanno says, a reference would help for those of us who would like to read "the rest of the story".
    – MCW
    Nov 27, 2012 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? Nov 27, 2012 at 13:23
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    @ReliableSource I find your nickname to be quite ironic in this situation. :D eheh nice.
    – Alenanno
    Nov 27, 2012 at 16:27

The one city that Alexander The Great did destroy-(or set ablaze), was the Persian imperial Capital, Persepolis. However, in actuality, Alexander and his Armies did not entirely destroy the centuries old city of Persepolis since a sizable portion of the original city still stands-(and in remarkably good condition 2300 plus years since Alexander's invasion). Alexander's near destruction of Persepolis may have been revenge against the Persian Empire for their attack and near destruction of Athens under the Emperor Xerxes 150 years earlier-(the city of Athens was set ablaze by the invading Persian Empire several generations before Alexander's time).

There is an interesting story about the town of Merv in Turkmenistan. Alexander had conquered a sizable portion of Central Asia, which included Turkmenistan-(which had another name during his time). Alexander and his Armies founded the town of Merv. After Alexander's death, the town of Merv contniued to exist-( though in near historical obscurity). However, when the ferocious warlord Genghis Khan "came to town", he and his Mongolian Army devastatingly razed the already obscure town into historical oblivion.

Alexander The Great was a warrior and launched campaign after campaign against fellow Greek city-states, the Persian Empire and reached the distant Northern Indian subcontinent in less than 15 years. However, he also founded cities and towns across his Empire; the most famous of course, was Alexandria in Egypt, though he also founded the town of Kandahar in Bactria/(present-day Afghanistan. The town is named on his behalf), as well as the above mentioned town of Merv in Modern-day Tajikistan.

When looking at his legacy, Alexander, though a fierce and formidable campaigner, did not set out to rampage and ravage foreign cities "to demonstrate his ability to reign". Rather, it was Alexander's primary mission to capture, conquer and bring Hellenism-(albeit imperialistically), to the near and distant corners of the known world. This landmark achievement was the ultimate example of his ability to reign.


Although late to the party, let me add that Alexander the Great did destroy a city as an example. The city of Tyre, which was an island city, would not surrender to him (there are others who say they pledged support but wouldn't allow him in the city due to it being a festival). Consequently, Alexander built a land bridge to the city (well, he built two with the first one failing) and then crushed all resistance and crucified 2000 men on the beach of the mainland after killing over 6000 others. That act served as an example to the other city-states and smaller nations in the Levant such as Judea, Idumea, and so on.

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