I shared a bit about Julius Caesar in a previous post and now I am going to share about the greatest Greek General, and possibly greatest military mind, that ever existed.
Alexander III of Macedon otherwise known as Alexander the Great.
Alexander was born in Pella in 356 BC. The son of King Philip II, he succeeded his father to the throne at the age of 20. From there he went on the greatest empire building military campaign in the history of the world. At the time of his death, a mere 12 years later, his kingdom stretched from Greece to India, including all of Persia, and into northeastern Africa, including Egypt.
Alexander studied under the great Aristotle until age 16. This served him well later to learn calm deductive reasoning, which ran counter to his often rash and impulsive nature. And while his mother imbued in him a sense of destiny and immortality (she told he was the son of Zeus) his father provided the competitive impetus, through his own conquests, to drive young Alexander to be even better.
As a child, young Alexander once lamented to a friend about his father. Would leave him “no great or brilliant achievement to be displayed to the world“. A statement that while Alexander recognized his father’s greatness, he sought to downplay it and promote his own victories as more significant. I suppose the rivalry between fathers and sons will always exist.
But victories and brilliant achievements awaited him. Alexander led his troops in no less than 20 major campaigns and no enemy ever defeated him. This despite him often being significantly outnumbered. His military genius, ability to inspire troops, and tactical intelligence are all taught in military institutions even in modern times.
I fought with Alexander only once, at The Battle of Issus, against an army personally led by Darius III. It was Alexander’s second great battle of his Persian Campaign, but the first where the two leaders personally faced one another. Here my Greek brethren showed his superior military genius.
Leading up to the battle, Alexander had already pushed deep into Persia, in the area of modern day Turkey. Darius sought to blunt his advance by moving unexpectedly into position, cutting his supply lines. This maneuver forced Alexander to adjust and march to Darius to secure his flanks as well as re-open supply and communication lines through the narrow mountain passes that traced the region. We faced off against Darius, and established a front. Outnumbered over 2:1 by the most conservative of guesses, still we held a distinct advantage. The significantly larger Persian force could not field itself as long as we could, hence they would be forced to retreat or attack while we could battle from a defensive position.
The battle waged at The Pinarus River, not far from where it emptied into the Gulf of Issus. Our troops struggled against both Grecian mercenaries who fought against us and the overwhelming Persian cavalry who threatened to overwhelm our left flank. General Craterus can be credited with holding them off, at great odds, long enough for Alexander himself to drive a wedge in the Persian line with a wedge of infantry to which I was attached. On this day I saw my father, Ares, smile on the Macedonian king as Alexander splintered the cohesive line of Persians with our infantry charge. That being not enough, Alexander then seized a horse and in conjunction with our cavalry, launched a direct frontal assault on Darius’ personal retinue that routed the opposing king and drove him from the field.
Alexander inspired confidence and loyalty in his generals and troops again and again over the years by fighting with them, not over them and talking to them, not at them. The mark of a great leader is to create a bond that binds followers through obedience only after inspiring them through trust. Great leaders always command the trust of their followers, and they actively work to cultivate that trust by showing the same care for their people as they expect their people to show to them.
If his ego existed, he kept it in check and made sure to lead by example. Never considering himself too good to do what he asked another to do.
I’m Greek, so as far as Romans go, I’m not much of a fan. But there is one who I simply cannot put down as being like ‘all the rest’.
Et tu Brute? Yeah that guy.
Despite his well-publicized death, I want to talk about his early life. Julius came from a significant, but not exceptionally wealthy family and had more than his share of hardships, in addition to becoming the dictator of the most powerful empire in Europe at the time.
When Julius was just 25 years old he traveled to Rhodes to study. While en-route his shipped was attacked and seized by Cilician pirates, who were unaware of his identity, and kidnapped him for ransom. When the young Caesar discovered that the pirates had demanded 2o talents of silver (about 620kg or 1375lbs) he became incensed, demanding they ask for more. He considered such a low request demeaning and told them to raise the ransom to 50 talents (1550 kg or 3400lbs) of silver, which they did.
The pirates dispatched several of Caesar’s companions to fetch the ransom, leaving Julius mostly alone. But did he cower and wait for the payment? Not in the slightest. Reports from other captives later claimed that Caesar all but bullied the pirate captors the entire time, at one point even demanding that he not be disturbed at night because he needed his rest. During the day he made them listen to poetry and speeches he composed, directed them in their chores and daily routines, and even exercised as well as played games with his captors. Collecting the ransom took forty days and there is no disputing that by the time it was paid most of the pirates treated him more as their superior than their hostage. Some later claimed to greatly respect him, despite his young age.
At his release Julius informed the pirates that while they had joy, fun, and a season in the sun, he did not appreciate the whole captivity thing and he planned to hunt them all down and have them crucified. Apparently none believed a private citizen had this sort of clout, so when he arrived a year later with a private fleet he hired, he captured them quite easily and reclaimed his silver.
After their capture he did follow through, as a man of his word and got the authorities in Pergamon to find them guilty and execute the entire lot. Moments before the crucifictions, however, Julius showed a modicum of compassion and slit all their throats to ease their suffering, rather than the hours or days it would take to die on their crosses.
What a soft-hearted guy. I suppose that summer frolicking in the summer Med with them meant more to him than maybe he let on.
Interesting fact about his death. Sixty senators plotted against Caesar to kill him and they all agreed to stab him so none would be able to determine who made the actual kill. When his body was examined post-mortem, Caesar was found to be wounded by twenty-three stab wounds. Of those, only one was actually a killing blow.
That means barely a third of the people who signed up, actually did what they promised to do.
And of those who did do what they promised? 95% did an ineffectual job and were useless.
Let this be a reminder the next time you get forced into a group project at work or school. Because from experience? These percentages still ring true.
And finally, always remember, politicians are more always vicious and blood-thirsty than common pirates and thieves.
Days are longer and brighter as the sun awakens from it’s month’s long nap and flexes muscles slowly like a morning stretch that tests the body without inviting a cramp
Birds are restless and waiting for any opportunity to share a cheerful chirp or even flash their wings in exuberance over the upcoming change of seasons
We trace the sun across our horizon and watch it’s course over and over as we measure moments, solstices and equinoxes in addition to all the days in between that measure our lives and define our years
Once again we steal the sun from our neighbors south of the equator with the promise to return it in six more months when they have likely grown weary of the gloom, the cold, and the dreary muck that comprises the depths of hard winter on this giant blue marble careening through space in it’s captive course
Enjoy your days, don’t wish for future ones No one is guaranteed the promise of tomorrow since it never arrives, but rather becomes another today which will give way to an addition on a mountain of yesterdays that comprise where we have been.\
Today Today is the day that matter so live it to the fullest, then freely relinquish it that scrapyard of yesterdays
So often we get caught up in the expectations and demands of others, regardless of their reasonableness. Remember, when you are doing your best for others then you are doing enough. There are those who will never be satisfied, no matter how much you give.
Take care of yourself, for if you fall victim to the energy vampires you will not be available for those who truly need assistance.
The Snow Moon, second full moon of the calendar year and first full moon of the Lunar New Year. It is the only full moon that does not appear every year. Instead every 19 years February skips a full moon and then both January and March have two full moons, a phenomenon known as Double Blue Moon.