To what extent does Alexander deserve the epithet of ‘the Great’?
Assessment Requirements Page Number Synopsis 2 Essay 3 Bibliography 11 Source Evaluations 14
Whilst Alexander the Great is in many eyes the greatest military genius to have ever walked the earth, he is perhaps the most exemplary subject of ‘controversy’ among historians. Most notably, the reputable Ian Worthington once questioned, “How ‘great’ is Alexander III of Macedon?” and “Why was he even called ‘great’?” While simple, these are two questions that I and many others have failed to ask before studying the Macedonian leader. After coming up with a number of answers, I became intrigued at the different interpretations of Alexander in Worthington’s article, “How Great was Alexander?” As a result, my approach to Alexander the Great became entirely different in a way that I became sceptical to any information provided on him. On this account, in my research, I found that there were a multitude of sources that only described the positive aspects of Alexander the Great. However, after discovering that there are currently no contemporary sources of Alexander, it became clear that much of the information provided on him are works of exaggeration and hagiography. Due to this discovery, my interest became solely focused on the debate of what Alexander is best known for, his epithet of ‘the Great’. Today, Alexander is primarily known as a leader who led his vast army of tens of thousands of men to countless victories, and for expanding his empire to unprecedented measures. But how much of what we know about the supposed ‘great’ king true? Another way to put this is to look at Alexander in a different perspective; as the ruthless mass murderer of innocents and the villain that the prominent Ernst Badian and Ian Worthington see him. By taking this into account, my intention became glued upon debating the legitimacy of Alexander’s title, or in other words, how great he truly is. In another light, the difficulty as I mentioned, in studying Alexander is that there are currently no surviving primary sources of Alexander. This ultimately means that any attempt to discover the “real” Alexander may very well and truly be impossible. Above all else, perhaps the Alexander that history remembers him by is not actually “the Great” but the “downright awful”.
To what extent does Alexander deserve the epithet of ‘the Great’? Remembered in history as one of the most influential figures of all time, Alexander is arguably the greatest military genius to have ever lived. During his lifetime, Alexander displayed extraordinary leadership qualities and achieved feats still unmatched to this very day. He is chiefly remembered for his great conquests and achievements, yet a number of historians argue that despite this, Alexander does not deserve his epithet of ‘the Great’. Alexander’s enduring fame, his conquests spread over two million square miles and his role in creating the Hellenistic Age have been deemed by some as inferior to his actions of ruthlessness towards the innocent during his campaigns. For this reason, while some might call him Alexander ‘the Pretty Good’, many more would hail him as Alexander ‘the-downright-awful’.1 Subsequently, throughout the past few decades, Alexander has been the subject of debate among scholars, bringing rise to...
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Anson, E. (2013) Alexander the Great: Themes and Issues. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.
Source Evaluation #3:
Upbin, B. (2011) How Great a General was Alexander? [Internet]. United States of America. Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/booked/2011/01/10/how-great-a-general-was-alexander/b [accessed January 22nd, 2015]
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