The rise of Alexander the Great



THE triumph of Sparta had established her empire among the Greeks; she used her power with a tyranny infinitely more galling than the sway of Athens. The Spartan character had become greatly demoralized. Agesilaus, who succeeded to the kingship, set on foot ambitious projects for a Greek conquest of Asia; but Greece began to revolt against the Spartan dominion. Thebes and other cities rose, and called for help from Athens, their former foe.

In the first stages of the ensuing war, of which the most notable battle was Coronea, Sparta maintained her supremacy within the Peloponnesus, but not beyond. Athens obtained the countenance of Persia, and the counter-diplomacy of Sparta produced the peace known by the name of the Spartan Antalcidas, establishing generally the autonomy of Greek cities. But this in effect meant the restoration of Spartan domination.

In course of time, however, this brought about the defiance of Spartan dictation by Thebes and the tremendous check to her power inflicted at the battle of Leuctra, by Epaminondas the Theban, whose military skill and tactical originality there overthrew the Spartan military prestige. As a consequence, half the Peloponnese itself broke away from Sparta; a force under Epaminondas aided the Arcadians and the Arcadian federation was established.

Hellenic Sicily during these years was having a history of her own of some importance. Syracuse, after her triumph over the Athenian forces, continued the contest with her neighbours, which had been the ostensible cause of the Athenian expedition. But this was closed by the advent of fresh invaders, the Carthaginians, who renewed the attack repulsed at Himera. Owing to the disaster to Athens, her fleets were no longer to be feared by Carthage as a protection to the Hellenic world; and for two centuries to come, her interventions in Sicily were incessant. Now, the presence of a foreign foe in Sicily gave intriguers for power at Syracuse their opportunity, of which the outcome was the subversion of the democracy and the establishment of Dionysius as despot.

His son, Dionysius II, succeeded, and was finally ejected by the Corinthian Timoleon, who, after a brilliant career of victories as Syracusan general against Carthage, acted as general liberator of Sicilian cities from despotisms, laid down his powers and was content with the position, not of despot, but of counsellor, to the great prosperity of Sicily as a whole.

GOING back to the north of Greece, the semi-Hellenic Macedon with a Hellenic dynasty was growing powerful. Philip--father of Alexander the Great--was now king, and was resolved to make himself the head of the Greek world. His great opponent is found in the person of the Athenian orator Demosthenes, who saw that Philip was aiming at ascendancy, but generally failed to persuade the Athenians to recognize the danger in which they stood. Philip gradually achieved his immediate end of being recognized as the captain-general of the Hellenes, and their leader in a new Persian war, when his life was cut short by an assassin, and he was succeeded by his youthful son Alexander.

The Greek states, awakening to their practical subjection, would have thrown off the new yoke, but the young king with swift and over-whelming energy swept down from Thrace upon Thebes, the centre of resistance, and stamped it out. He had already conceived, in part, at least, his vast schemes of Asiatic conquest; while he lived Greece had practically no disting-uishable history. She is merely an appendage to Macedon. Everything is absorbed in the Macedonian conqueror. With an army incredibly small for the task before him, he entered Asia Minor and routed the Persian forces on the River Granicus. The Greek Memnon, the one able leader for the Persians, would have organized against him a destructive naval power; but death removed him.

Alexander dispersed the armies of the Persian king Darius at the Issus, captured Tyre after a remarkable siege and took easy possession of Egypt, where he founded Alexandria. Having organized the administration of the conquered territories, he marched to the Euphrates, but did not engage the enormous Persian hosts till he had found and shattered them at the battle of Gaugamela, also called Arbela. Darius fled, and Alexander swept on to Babylon, to Susa, to Persepolis, assuming the functions of the 'Great King.' The fugitive Darius was assassinated.

ALEXANDER henceforth assumed a new and oriental demeanour; but he continued his conquests, crossing the Hindu Kush to Bactria and then bursting into the Punjab. But his ambitions were ended by his death, and their fulfilment, not at all according to his designs, was left to the 'Diadochi,' the generals among whom the conquered dominions were parted. Athens led the revolt against Macedonian supremacy, but in vain. Demosthenes, condemned by Antipater, took poison. The remainder of the history is that of the blotting out of Hellas and of Hellenism.





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