Was, and if so to what extent was Alexander the Great, cruel?

Essay by benvHigh School, 10th grade September 2007

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The greatness of Alexander (the Great) is often a much debated question. The importance of such debates is arguably minimal- Alexander was quite clearly a great ruler, possibly the greatest to ever live. A much more disputable question regarding Alexander is that of his cruelty throughout his reign as Macedonian King. In order to ascertain the extent of Alexander's cruelty one must analyze a number of key events which occurred during his kingship. These include the actions he took following Phillips death, Alexander's Razing of Thebes, the slaughter of Greek Mercenaries at Granicus, The Siege of Tyre and the deaths of Callisthenes, Philotas, Parmenio and Cleitus.

After Alexander's father and Macedonian King, Phillip was murdered in late 336BC Alexander took numerous steps to ensure that he succeeded his father as King. Firstly, he ordered the murder of his cousin, Amyntas, who also had some claim to the throne- his father had been a Macedonian King sometime in the past.

Before labeling such an act as cruel one must first understand the customs and morals of ancient Greek antiquity. Killing someone, even a relative in order to gain access to the throne was at this time not at all unusual. Indeed, Phillip himself as well as countless others killed off competitors which naturally included relatives in their quest for the Macedonian kingship.

The murder of Attalus was however a completely different story. His death can be attributed, almost single handedly to drunken comments he made during the wedding feast celebrations after the marriage of Phillip, to his second wife Cleopatra. According to Plutarch, he called on the guests to pray for a 'legitimate heir', implying that Alexander was not fit to take the reigns of Macedonia because of his mother, Oylmpias's foreign blood. Attalus's murder was thus revenge taken by Alexander...