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Alexander's Hopes

With Greece pacified, Alexander in 334 B.C. led a Macedonian and Greek army into Anatolia1 to fulfill his father's plan to avenge Greece by attacking Persia. Alexander's astounding success in conquering the entire Persian Empire while in his twenties earned him the title “the Great” in later ages. In his own time, his greatness consisted of his ability to inspire his men to follow him into hostile, unknown regions where they were reluctant to go, beyond the borders of civilization as they knew it. Alexander inspired his troops with his reckless disregard for his own safety. He often plunged into the enemy at the head of his men, sharing the danger of the common soldier. No one could miss him in his plumed helmet, vividly colored cloak, and armor polished to reflect the sun. So intent on conquering distant lands was Alexander that he had rejected advice to delay his departure from Macedonia until he had married and fathered an heir2, to forestall instability in case of his death. He had further alarmed his principal adviser, an experienced older man, by giving away virtually all his land and property in order to strengthen the army, thereby creating new landowners who would furnish troops. “What,” he was asked,” do you have left for yourself?” “My hopes,” Alexander replied. Those hopes centered on constructing a heroic image of himself as a warrior as glorious as the incomparable Achilles of Homer's Iliad. Alexander always kept a copy of the Iliad under his pillow, along with a dagger. Alexander's aspirations and his behavior represented the ultimate expression of the Homeric vision of the glorious conquering warrior.

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