Alexander the Great

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    Alexander the Great
    "Alexander the Great was the king of Macedon during the 4th century B.C. who saw the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia and decided they would make a really bitchin' backyard."
    Cracked on Alexander.

    Born in 356 B.C., Full name Alexander III of Macedon, he was the son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus. One of those extremely rare historical figures whose actual achievements have regularly outshined numerous fictional portrayals.

    He came to power after the assassination of his father by the captain of his bodyguard. He promptly put down a series of rebellions around the Balkans and marched his army into Persia.

    Alexander made his way through the Persian Empire, clashing with Persia's forces and mercenaries. Along the way, he seized Egypt away from Persia and was declared pharaoh. After Alexander's forces defeated the enormously numerically superior Persian armies and forced King Darius III to flee the battle, Darius was assassinated by a general who fled with him and Alexander seized control of the empire.

    Later, Alexander's forces marched into Bactria and India, where Alexander was forced to stop his expansion under the threat of revolt from his army, who were beginning to wonder if he truly would march to the very end of the world, circumstances permitting.

    Alexander married a Bactrian woman named Roxana, who later bore him a son after his death. Alexander died on 323 BC after a period of sickness (suggested to be due to poison, but argued against) in Babylon.


    Alexander the Great provides examples of the following tropes:
    • Achilles in His Tent: His reaction to the Hyphasis mutiny, where his Macedonian troops objected to any further advancement to the east and expressed their desire to return home and enjoy what they had already achieved. Alexander literally retired to his tent for three days, angry and sulking, before seeing omens that convinced him to relent. Appropriate, too, since Alexander was a strong devotee of Homer and the Iliad and believed himself a descendant of Achilles, whose path he sought to follow.
    • Actually, That's My Assistant: According to Arrianus, this happened to Alexander the Great, as he met with Darius's mother Sisygambis, who began to address Alexander's companion Hephaestion as Alexander. One of her subordinates corrected her. It seems they were Expecting Someone Taller. (Don't feel too bad, though; he too is Alexander.)
    • A God Am I: Believed he was a descendant of Zeus and acted as such. More precisely, he thought to have descended from both Herakles (a son of Zeus and himself a minor deity) through his father and Achilles through his mother. If it's true, he certainly made his heroic ancestors proud.
      • He was also, technically Pharoah, both for the obvious reason and because the Egyptian priests and politicians wished to get a dig in at the Persians. That kind of makes him God Emperor.
    • Anything That Moves: As mentioned below, women, men, young boys, and eunuchs.
      • Belive it or not, there is only one ancient source saying that Alexander had sexual reletionships with males. While Aelian hints that that Hephaestion was a "beloved" of Alexander, (although "beloved" did not have sexual meaning in Greece), Quintus Curtius explicitly describes the eunuch Bagoas as Alexander's eromenos. Mary Renault's research can be trusted here.
        • And yet, averted. Despite anything that moved being up for grabs, most sources say he was very 'moderate' in his sex life, and rarely indulged his desires.
    • A Real Man Is a Killer: And he was definitely a "real man"
    • Asskicking Equals Authority: He supposedly said that his realm would go to "the strongest". That wasn't decided until the the fledgling Roman Empire and Parthians showed everyone who the "strongest" was.
      • Although he may have actually said "To Craterus," one of his top generals. The ancient Greek word meaning "strongest" was "kratistôi," which sounds rather similar. There's evidence to suggest that some of his more power hungry generals may have intentionally "misheard" Alexander, allowing the empire to be split into four parts, and ruled by said generals.
        • Other reports indicate that Alexander on his deathbed was too far gone to have said anything. There are too many contradictory accounts to be sure.
    • Badass Family: His father, Philip II of Macedon, was definitely a Badass in his own right. If Philip wasn't assassinated than maybe it would had been "Philip the Great" instead.
      • Well, think of him as Philip the Pretty Good.
    • Barbarian Hero: Imagine if Conan was taught by Aristotle...
    • Blood Knight
    • Byronic Hero
    • Cool Horse: Bucephalus, who effectively would accept him alone as rider. Alexander named one of the cities he founded after the horse.
    • Cure Your Gays: Phillip II worried that his teenaged son was too effeminate, and would not be able to produce an heir, so he dealt with it in a refreshingly straight-forward manner: By sending a string of high class courtesans to his bed chamber. Turns out he needn't have worried as Alexander was, if anything, pansexual. He would sleep with women, men, eunuchs, and boys (although that was considered okay back then). No record of goats, however.
    • Cutting the Knot: The Trope Namer. Although, as pointed out on the trope's page, in some versions of this story Alexander untied the Gordian Knot without cutting it.
    • Determinator: The island of Tyre refuses to kneel before him, and Alexander doesn't have a fleet to invade with. The answer? Cutting down a forest to turn the island into a Peninsula!
      • Where seemingly everyone from Ancient Persia to the Soviet Union have generally failed, history may well record him as the only leader to ever conquer all of Afghanistan, "graveyard of empires", by the only method that seems to work: hunting down and subjugating every last rebel tribal leader in the whole country.
      • And then he left because he was tired of Afghanistan and never really wanted it in the first place, the same as everyone else. No one ever wants Afghanistan; they just want to get through it, keep someone else from getting through, or track down someone hiding there.
    • Egopolis: There were how many Alexandrias now? Even more than you might think, because many use other languages' translations of his name. Kandahar, Afghanistan is one example.
      • To be precise, he founded between a dozen and eighteen cities during his expeditions in Asia, of which the majority were named Alexandria. Even more cities called that were created after his death by his successors, who claimed that Alexander had founded those ones too.
      • A possible interpretation is that at least some of the cities were originally intended as supply dumps and grew into more permanent cities as garrisons remained and retired soldiers stayed and married local and natives from around came to trade. In any event several exist under different names today.
    • Folk Hero: He became this for centuries. The more cynical would argue that this just proves Humans Are the Real Monsters. A more charitable view is that Humans Are Warriors and admire a Badass and Alexander was at least that.
    • Glory Seeker: To name just one example, he literally ordered the Athenians, back in Greece, to declare him a god by official decree.
    • Handicapped Badass: Possibly - it's often claimed that he had epilepsy, but the actual evidence of this is doubtful.
    • Heroic BSOD: In 324BC, Hephaestion was struck with prolonged fever. When it seemed he had finally recovered and was out of danger, Alexander left to watch the festival games. His companion relapsed suddenly and Alexander was unable to return in time before he died. The loss of his lifelong friend plunged the young king into profound mourning that lasted until his own death, eight months later.

    "He flung himself on the body of his friend and lay there nearly all day long in tears, and refused to be parted from him until he was dragged away by force by his Companions" - Arrian

      • Toyed with in the film. In the Hindu Kush battle, Alexander is pierced with an arrow as is Bucephalus with a spear. After falling to the ground, he reopens his eyes and all the scenery is cast in shades of fuschia and red. Would this be an Heroic RSOD?
    • Heterosexual Life Partners: What a lot of people like to think he and Hepheastion were. Whether this was true, or that they were lovers is up for debate, but the latter is very likely.
    • Historical Hero Upgrade: See the trope for specifics.
    • History Marches On: Perhaps the Trope Codifier, as historians change their minds about him more often than the seasons.
    • Honor Before Reason: At the battle of Gaugamela he refused to make a night attack because it was undignified. Though as Arrian pointed out (it's 3(10)), this might have actually been both more honorable and more practical solution.
    • I Fight for the Strongest Side: Several Persian commanders, such as Mazaeus and Atropates, decided to switch sides and join Alexander in the months following his victory in the battle of Gaugamela. Some of these Persians eventually became satraps in Alexander's new empire. Similarly, Indian king Porus became Alexander's ally after Alexander defeated him in the battle of the Hydaspes River.
    • Idiot Ball: His arrogance could cause him to carry it at times. Prime example when he choose to cross Gedrosia instead of picking an easier route leading troops home, causing the deaths of more soldiers than any of his battles ever did thanks to dehydration, starvation, disease, and flash flood.
      • Some historians believe that this was intentional, out of anger at his troops questioning his desire to advance further into India. Even after being convinced to return home, this interpretation suggests that his infamous temper led him to punish his men for questioning him by taking the hardest possible route.
    • Invincible Hero: At least until he died.
    • Kill It with Fire
    • Like Father, Like Son: Alexander had a wilder streak then Phillip. But, yeah.
    • Noble Savage: Some say just savage.
    • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Macedonians
    • Pyrrhic Victory: Alexander's Indian campaign resulted in the conquest of only a small part of India, at the price of great losses and leaving the surviving soldiers so exhausted that they refused to advance any further. And as soon as Alexander's main army moved west, Indians started to revolt against Macedonians, who were forced to retreat from some part of India (including the Indus River Delta) even before Alexander's death.
    • Short-Lived, Big Impact: The man died at just 32, having spent almost half his life conquering everything in sight.
    • Succession Crisis: The events of over 40 years following Alexander's death. Only after the death of King Seleucus I in 281 BC the relatively long-lasting division of the Alexander's empire between Antigonids ruling in Macedonia, Seleucids ruling in Asia and Ptolemies ruling in Egypt crystalized.
    • Take Over the World: After finishing the conquest of Persia he wanted to conquer India as well. At the time of his death he was planning the conquest of Arabian Peninsula, Carthage and Western Europe, including The Roman Republic.
      • Was apparently planning the conquest. All of this comes from one document after he died that was released by someone of suspect honesty to begin with.
    • Testosterone Poisoning: Reading about him certainly starts to feel that way.
    • Tragic Bromance: Alexander and Hephaestion
    • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: He was not bad looking as such, but his wife Roxana was said to be the most beautiful woman in Asia.
      • If Alexander said his wife was the most beautiful woman in Asia would you argue with him?
      • Nor did he have any trouble attracting other women. Such as allegedly the wife and certainly the daughter of Darius III, the latter of whom he took as his second wife.
      • Not to mention Darius' favorite male concubine.
    • Values Dissonance: Starting a war for no clear reason other then to show what a Badass you are, is not generally considered gentlemanly behavior today.
      • It was frowned upon back in ancient times as well, so it's fortunate for Alexander that he was not, in fact, fighting to prove his badassitude. The stated purpose of the invasion of Persia was to avenge the Persian invasion of Greece - the destruction of Greek temples in particular - over a hundred years earlier.
    • Victory Is Boring: Allegedly, "When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer."
      • That would be a Beam Me Up, Scotty moment on the part of John Milton right there. The actual quote, from Plutarch, has Alexander weeping because "There are so many worlds and I have not yet conquered even one." Which is kinda the exact opposite. And makes more sense, as Alexander was well aware that he had not conquered the whole world.
        • That he openly admitted intending to conquer the whole world, and likewise got as far as he did (effectively on foot), really only adds to whole body of work.
    • Warrior Prince
    • What a Drag: After Macedonians captured Gaza in 332 BC Alexander had Persian commander Batis tied to a chariot and then dragged him around the city with it. He claimed that he wanted to follow the example of Achilles who did the same thing to Hector's body... except that unlike Achilles, Alexander apparently did this to a victim who was still alive.
    • What Did I Do Last Night?: Alex, you destroyed the Persian capital of Persepolis. Have a designated driver next time or something.
    • Worthy Opponent: The Athenian and Theban hosts at the Battle of Chaeronea. Small cities desperately clinging to what freedom they had left, they sent forth an old fashioned hoplite army of militia to fight the Macedonian military machine in a Last Stand. This was the last time the old Greek style farmer warriors took up their shields in a classic phalanx battle. From then on Greek warlords would use elaborate combined arms mercenary forces that included phalanxes but weren't dominated by them. After the battle, Alexander is said to have looked at the corpses of the Sacred Band, and given them a special tribute
      • To those unfamiliar, the Sacred Band of Thebes was an army comprised solely of gay Greek Battle Couples; the logic was that no man would want to look like a coward in front of his lover or leave his lover to die. The relationship between Alexander and Hephaestion mirrored them, in a way.
    • Young Conqueror

    Depictions, Allusions, And Others

    Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

    • The identity of Rider in Fate/Zero is Alexander. He's a Boisterous Bruiser who looks like this, has a very odd view on various things, especially the wearing of pants, and is thinking about conquering the world again. He also is among the strongest Servants that are around, his Ionioi Hetairoi being of the highest Noble Phantasm-Rank. It drags the target into a Reality Marble where they will have to face the Heroic Spirits of Alexander's former guards and companions (even his horse became a Heroic Spirit!), who, having bonded with him in life, remain loyal to him even after death. There is also a sequence that elaborates on his reasons for conquering the world, how he desired to reach the end of the world and leave his footprints in the sand, and how he swept away anything that stood in his way and managed to convince many people to support and share his dream. Oh, and also, nearly everything the guy does is Crazy Awesome. May we say Historical Hero Upgrade?
      • The fact that the book managed to make a self-proclaimed tyrant, who believes that it's not worth ruling unless you do whatever you want, sympathetic in his dreams and actions means yes, yes you can...
    • In the forgettable Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters miniseries, Alexander is the antagonist, and is also reincarnated as Alex Brisbane.
    • Reign: The Conqueror (a.k.a. Alexander Senki) was a very... loose... retelling of the story of Alexander's conquests, with character designs by Peter Chung of Aeon Flux fame.
    • Alexander is an important character in Historie (the protagonist is Eumenes who worked as his secretary at a young age).

    Comics[edit | hide]

    • The idol of Ozymandias from Watchmen. He named himself after Ramses II because of Alexander (Alexander admired the pharaohs too, so taking on a pharaoh's name would by extension make him more like Alexander).

    Film[edit | hide]

    Literature[edit | hide]

    • Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy: Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy and Funeral Games. She did an intense amount of research, which she wrote up in the nonfiction book The Nature of Alexander. Her writings were among the materials utilized by Oliver Stone in the creation of his Alexander film.
    • The historical novel Thais of Athens has Alexander as a recurring character and the eponymous heroine's occasional lover.
    • Appears in backstory in A Dirge for Prester John where he helped save Pentexore from Gog and Magog.

    Live Action Television[edit | hide]

    Music[edit | hide]

    Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

    • In Traveller Rim of Fire there was a Terran commander in the Interstellar Wars whose hero was Alexander the Great. As the Interstellar Wars era does sometimes look like the relations between the Greeks and the Persians, it kind of makes sense.
    • In Warhammer 40,000, Lord Commander Solar Macharius is heavily inspired by Alexander the Great. His conquests came to an end at the edge of the galaxy. Macharius prepared to move onward but his armies, never beaten by the enemy, wavered and crumbled at the prospect of exploring the psychic darkness at the galaxy's edge.

    Video Games[edit | hide]

    • The namesake of "Alex the Great" in Bioshock 2.
    • Alexander is the leader of the Greeks in many of the Civilization games.
    • He is the protagonist of a Rome: Total War expansion pack, appropriately named Alexander. You get a automatic Nonstandard Game Over if Alexander ever routs from a battle.
    • The demons in God Hand have an odd obsession with him. Standard pre-attack taunts include "You're not Alexander!" and "I'm Alexander the Great!"
    • The last missions of Empire Earth‍'‍s Greek campaign are about his rise and ends with the conquest of Persia.
    • He is the star of a self-titled campaign in the Rise of Nations expansion Thrones and Patriots.