Alexander III reigned from July 356 to June 323 BC and earned the sobriquet of Alexander the Great. He became emperor at the tender age of 20 and campaigned (I mean killed innocent people) ruthlessly in Asia and North East Africa to set up an empire that stretched from Greece to Egypt to Northwest India.
History terms the Emperor as “Great” purely on the basis of his military exploits. Without diminishing his drive, ambition and military skills in any way, one may also want to look at him from another perspective.
During his reign he ruthlessly slaughtered armies wholesale, sacked cities and villages in his path and even killed in cold blood those who were near to him. Life, for him, had little value; kingdoms did.
That would seem surprising given the fact that he was tutored by Aristotle and Plutarch and had his father Phillip as the role model. He was a patron of the arts and sciences but was of a violent, hasty temper; highly self restrained yet indulgent in alcohol; showed little interest in sports yet valued glory and honor.
He had charisma. He was the Force that united a mighty empire and one that can be appreciated by the fact that the empire fell apart on his death. There was no one to fill his shoes.
Lord Acton did say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power filled, Alexander turned into a megalomaniac who ended up thinking of himself as divine with little regard for lives of people.
A drunk and paranoiac, he was highly suspicious even of people close to him and falsely implicated them in conspiracies. Killing them was the natural conclusion.
History is too full of incidents that show Alexander ordering the killing of military troops and non-combatants who had surrendered. In fact, his strategy was to attach non-combatants and refugees first, killing them ruthlessly in order to demoralize soldiers.
As his kingdom spread, control became difficult and his harshness increased in proportion with death being the only thing that seemed to satisfy him.
A telling incident is one in which his lover Hapaestion died in Ecbatana and the shell shocked emperor massacred a mountain tribe living in the neighborhood of Zagros.
Alexander and his men razed the city of Thebes and killed every living being inside, even women and children. Certainly not an act that would earn anyone the title of Great.
Hitler and his army, in their day, also conquered vast stretches of territory that rivaled the empire of Alexander and like the Emperor, they too killed innocents and carried out genocide and mass executions.
No one in his right senses would, by any stretch of imagination, term the Feuhrer as great unless he were a hard boiled Nazi. If you say “Alexander the Great”, you have to say “Hitler the Great” too.
Dear Historians, please stop using the term “Alexander the Great”. He is a mass murderer.