Surnamed 'The Great'. Great King of Persia and King of Upper and Lower Egypt: few men, if any, have had more written about them and few have remained more enigmatic than this son of Philip II of Macedon. During his extraordinary campaigns, directed principally against the power of the Persian Empire and his strange, almost dreamlike pursuit of Darious III, he advanced on Gaza after the victorious battle of Issos in the late summer of 332 BC. Egypt was surrendered to him without a battle by the Persian satrap, Mazaces. Alexander, perhaps influenced by the stories surrounding his birth, which suggested that his true father was the god Amun, set out on a journey to the god's oracle at Siwa. There he appears to have undergone some sort of mystical experience - to which he was in any case somewhat prone - which confirmed him in the belief that he was foreordained to assume the kingship of Egypt. He was greeted with acclamation by the Egyptians, who acknowledged him as their savior, releasing them from the oppression of the Persians.
It was after his coronation at Memphis and his recognition as a god, the son of a god, that he began to lose touch with reality. He assumed the horns of Amun in numerous of his portraits, including the most widely distributed on the coinage of the successors to his empire. He undertook the proper functions of a king of Egypt, endowing temples at Karnak and Luxor, the evidence of which remains.
Returning to the Delta in 331 BC he gave instructions for the building of the Egyptian Alexandria; the city became the administrative center of the country in the succeeding centuries and one of the most important trading and intellectual centers of the ancient world.
Alexander died in Babylon in June 323 BC. His mummified body, borne on a huge and richly appointed catafalque, was seized by Ptolemy, one of his generals, who had determined to take control of Egypt. The body was taken to Memphis from where, in the reign of Ptolemy II, it was transferred to Alexandria, to be installed in a splendid mausoleum.
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Last Updated: June 19th, 2011
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