I am sucker for the History Channel and a couple of weeks ago, History Channel produced their special on Alexander the Great in anticipation of Oliver Stone’s movie. Alexander was a man moved by excessive ambition that was driven from his youth. Here was a man who took less than 50,000 men and conquered an Empire from the Balkans to Himalayas but died before he could consolidate what all that he conquered. It is hard to know whether the real Alexander was a visionary who intended to bring about a synthesis of two cultures to create one or a megalomaniac who was interested in seeing how much he could take. He may have been both.
The History Channel special emphasized the belief that Alexander considered himself a deity. Here was a man who could be reckless with his own life in battle and take unimaginable risks to win victories. Only a man who believed in his own divinity could have taken such risks.
As a man, he could swing from generosity to blind wrath against any who opposed him. History will record that Alexander's parents were the relentless Queen Olympias and the ruthless Phillip II of Macedonia. Alexander believed that he was a son of Achilles, a belief that his mother encouraged.
Alexander had a love-hate relationship with his father. In many ways, he was like his father but his mother wanted more from her son. Olympias viewed her son as more than the inheritor of her husband’s Empire. There is a story that showed Alexander's courage and special quality as a youth. He desired a wild black stallion, Bucephalas, and this horse had stymied rider after rider. Alexander noticed that the horse was afraid of his shadow and so he turned the horse’s head into the sun while stroking him. He then rode the horse in triumph. Phillip declared that Alexander should “find a kingdom big enough for your ambition.” Alexander would ride Bucehphalas until the horse’s death in present day Pakistan. Alexander studied ancient Greek Myth and as mentioned, believed himself the son of Achilles. Supposedly the oracles at the temple of Zeus-Ammon in the Libyan Desert told Alexander that he was, indeed, the son of the god.
Aristotle tutored the young Alexander and gave Alexander a perspective that went beyond the provincial Macedonia. Alexander would differ from his tutor in that he was less prejudiced about those who lived outside Greece and did not share the same bias that non-Greeks were barbarians. Alexander was reportedly bisexual and among his male lovers included Hephaestion, a fellow soldier and childhood friend. He also fathered a child with his wife Roxane and maybe another with a Persian mistress.