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Alexander the Great

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(Ἀλέξανδρος , man-defender, a title often bestowed by Homer upon Paris, son of Priam, and hence a frequent Grecian name), the name of several men mentioned or involved in Biblical history, or in the Apocrypha and Josephus.

1. The third of the name, surnamed THE GREAT, son (by Olympias) and successor of Philip, king of Macedon. He is not expressly named in the Bible, but he is denoted in the prophecies of Daniel by a leopard with four wings, signifying his great strength; and the unusual rapidity of his conquests (Daniel 7:6); also by a one-horned he-goat, running over the earth so swiftly as not to touch it, attacking a ram with two horns, overthrowing him, and trampling him under foot, without any being able to rescue him (Daniel 8:4-7). The he-goat prefigured Alexander; the ram Darius Codomannus, the last of the Persian kings. In the statue beheld by Nebuchadnezzar in a dream (Daniel 2:39), the belly of brass was the emblem of Alexander, and the legs of iron designated his successors (Lengeike, Daniel p. 95 sq.). He is often mentioned in the books of the Maccabees (Wernsdorf, Defide libror. Maccabees p. 40 sq.); and his career is detailed by the historians Arrian, Plutarch, and Quintus Curtius (Droysen, Gesch. Alex. d. Gr. Berl. 1833, Hamb. 1837).

Alexander was born at Pella B.C. 356 (comp. 1 Maccabees 1:7; Euseb. Chron. Ann. 2, 33). At an early age he was placed under the care of Aristotle; and while still a youth he turned the fortune of the day at Chaeronea (B.C. 338). Philip was killed at a marriage feast when Alexander was about twenty. After he had performed the last duties to his father, and put down with resolute energy the disaffection and hostility by which his throne was menaced, he was chosen by the Greeks general of their troops against the Persians, and entered Asia with an army of 34,000 men, B.C. 334. In one campaign he subdued almost all Asia Minor. In the battle of Granicus he defeated Orobates, one of Darius's generals; and Darius himself, whose army consisted of 400,000 foot and 100,000 horse, in the narrow pass of Issus, which leads from Syria to Cilicia. Darius fled, abandoning his camp and baggage, his children, wife, and mother, B.C. 333. After he had subdued Syria, Alexander came to Tyre, and the Tyrians opposing his entrance into their city, he besieged it. At the same time he is said to have written to Jaddus, high-priest of the Jews, that he expected to be acknowledged by him, and to receive those submissions which had hitherto been paid to the king of Persia. Jaddus refusing to comply, as having sworn fidelity to Darius, Alexander resolved to march against Jerusalem when he had reduced Tyre (q.v.). After a protracted siege, the latter city was taken and sacked, B.C. 332. This done, Alexander entered Palestine and reduced it. Egypt next submitted to him; and in B.C. 331 he founded Alexandria (q.v.), which remains to the present day the most characteristic monument of his life and work. In the same year he finally defeated Darius at Gaugamela; and in B.C. 330 his unhappy rival was murdered by Bessus, satrap of Bactria. The next two years were occupied by Alexander in the consolidation of his Persian conquests, and the reduction of Bactria. In B.C. 327 he crossed the Indus, penetrated to the Hydaspes, and was there forced by the discontent of his army to turn westward. He reached Susa, B.C. 325, and proceeded to Babylon, B.C. 324, which he chose as the capital of his empire. In the next year he died there (B.C. 323) in the midst of his gigantic plans; and those who inherited his conquests left his designs unachieved and unattempted (comp. Daniel 7:6; Daniel 8:5; Daniel 11:3). His death is attributed to intemperance; and upon his death-bed he sent for his court, and declared that "he gave the empire to the most deserving." Some affirm, however, that he regulated the succession by a will. The author of the first book of Maccabees (1:6) says he divided his kingdom among his generals while he was living; and it is certain that a partition was eventually made of his dominions among the four principal officers of his army. He died at the age of thirty-three, after reigning twelve years-six as king of Macedon and six as monarch of Asia. He was buried at Alexandria. (See MACEDONIA).

The famous tradition of the visit of Alexander to Jerusalem during his Phoenician campaign (Josephus, Ant. 11, 8, 1 sq.) has been a fruitful source of controversy. The Jews, it is said, had provoked his anger by refusing to transfer their allegiance to him when summoned to do so during the siege of Tyre, and after the reduction of Tyre and Gaza (Josephus, 1. c.) he turned toward Jerusalem. Jaddua (Jaddus) the high priest (Nehemiah 12:11; Nehemiah 12:22), who had been warned in a dream how to avert the king's anger, calmly awaited his approach; and when he drew near went out to Sapha (צָפָה, he watched), within sight of the city and temple, clad in his robes of hyacinth and gold, and accompanied by a train of priests and citizens arrayed in white. Alexander was so moved by the solemn spectacle that he did reverence to the holy name inscribed upon the tiara of the high- priest; and when Parmenio expressed surprise, he replied that "he had seen the god whom Jaddua represented in a dream at Dium, encouraging him to cross over into Asia, and promising him success." After this it is said that he visited Jerusalem, offered sacrifice there, heard the prophecies of Daniel which foretold his victory, and conferred important privileges upon the Jews, not only in Judaea, but in Babylonia and Media, which they enjoyed during the supremacy of his successors. The narrative is repeated in the Talmud (Yoma, 69, ap. Otho, Lex. Rabb. s.v. Alexander; the high-priest is there said to have been Simon the Just), in later Jewish writers (Vajikra R. 13; Joseph ben Gorion, ap. Ste. Croix, p. 553), and in the chronicles of Abulfeda (Ste. Croix, p. 555). The event was adapted by the Samaritans to suit their own history, with a corresponding change of places and persons, and various embellishments (Aboul'lfatah, quoted by Ste. Croix, p. 209-212); and in due time Alexander was enrolled among the proselytes of Judaism. On the other hand, no mention of the event occurs in Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, or Curtius; and the connection in which it is placed by Josephus is alike inconsistent with Jewish history (Ewald, Gesch. d. Volkes Isr. 4, 124 sq.) and with the narrative of Arrian (2, 1). (See JADDUA).

But admitting the incorrectness of the details of the tradition as given by Josephus, there are several points which confirm the truth of the main fact. Justin says that "many kings of the East came to meet Alexander wearing fillets" (11, 10); and after the capture of Tyre "Alexander himself visited some of the cities which still refused to submit to him" (Curt. 4:5, 13). Even at a later time, according to Curtius, he executed vengeance personally on the Samaritans for the murder of his governor Andromachus (Curt. 4:8, 10). Besides this, Jewish soldiers were enlisted in his army (Hecat. ap. Josephus, Apion, 1, 22); and Jews formed an important element in the population of the city, which he founded shortly after the supposed visit. Above all, the privileges which he is said to have conferred upon the Jews, including the remission of tribute every sabbatical year, existed in later times, and imply some such relation between the Jews and the great conqueror as Josephus describes. Internal evidence is decidedly in favor of the story even in its picturesque fullness. From policy or conviction, Alexander delighted to represent himself as chosen by destiny for the great act which he achieved. The siege of Tyre arose professedly from a religious motive; the battle of Issus was preceded by the visit to Gordium; the invasion of Persia by the pilgrimage to the temple of Ammon. And if it be impossible to determine the exact circumstances of the meeting of Alexander and the Jewish envoys, the silence of the classical historians, who notoriously disregarded (e.g. the Maccabees) and misrepresented (Tac. Hist. 5, 8) the fortunes of the Jews, cannot be held to be conclusive against the occurrence of an event which must have appeared to them trivial or unintelligible (Jahn, Archceol. 3, 300 sq.; Ste. Croix, Examen critique, etc., Paris, 1810 [in Eng. Bath, 1793]; Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, 2, 193 sq.; and, on the other side, Ant. van Dale, Dissert. super Aristed, Amstel. 1705, p. 69 sq.; Favini, De Alex. M. ingress. Hierosolyma, Flor. 1781). (See PERSIA).

The tradition, whether true or false, presents an aspect of Alexander's character which has been frequently lost sight of by his recent biographers. He was not simply a Greek, nor must he be judged by a Greek standard. The Orientalism, which was a scandal to his followers, was a necessary deduction from his principles, and not the result of caprice or vanity (comp. Arr. 7:29). He approached the idea of a universal monarchy from the side of Greece, but his final object was to establish something hi her than the paramount supremacy of one people. His purpose was to combine and equalize, not to annihilate; to wed the East and West in a just union not to enslave Asia to Greece (Plut. de Alex. Fort. 1, 6). The time, indeed, was not yet come when this was possible, but if he could not accomplish the great issue, he prepared for its accomplishment.

The first and most direct consequence of the policy of Alexander was the weakening of nationalities, the first condition necessary for the dissolution of the old religions. The swift course of his victories, the constant incorporation of foreign elements in his armies, the fierce wars and changing fortunes of his successors, broke down the barriers by which kingdom had been separated from kingdom, and opened the road for larger conceptions of life and faith than had hitherto been possible (comp. Polyb. 3, 59). The contact of the East and West brought out into practical forms thoughts and feelings which had been confined to the schools. Paganism was deprived of life as soon as it, was transplanted beyond the narrow limits in which it took its shape. The spread of commerce followed the progress of arms; and the Greek language and literature vindicated their claim to be considered the most perfect expression of human thought by becoming practically universal. The Jews were at once most exposed to the powerful influences thus brought to bear upon the East, and most able to support them. In the arrangement of the Greek conquests which followed the battle of Ipsus, B.C. 301, Judaea was made the frontier land of the rival empires of Syria and Egypt, and though it was necessarily subjected to the constant vicissitudes of war, it was able to make advantageous terms with the state to which it owed allegiance from the important advantages which it offered for attack or defense. (See ANTIOCHUS).

Internally also the people were prepared to withstand the effects of the revolution which the Greek dominion effected. The constitution of Ezra had obtained its full development. A powerful hierarchy had succeeded in substituting the idea of a church for that of a state, and the Jew was now able to wander over the world and yet remain faithful to the God of his fathers. (See DISPERSION).

The same constitutional change had strengthened the intellectual and religious position of the people. A rigid "fence" of ritualism protected the course of common life from the license of Greek manners; and the great doctrine of the unity of God, which was now seen to be the divine center of their system, counteracted the attractions of a philosophic pantheism. (See SIMON THE JUST). Through a long course of discipline, in which they had been left unguided by prophetic teaching, the Jews had realized the nature of their mission to the world, and were waiting for the means of fulfilling it. The conquest of Alexander furnished them with the occasion and the power. But, at the same time, the example of Greece fostered personal as well as popular independence. Judaism was speedily divided into sects, analogous to the typical forms of Greek philosophy. But even the rude analysis of the old faith was productive of good. The freedom of Greece was no less instrumental in forming the Jews for their final work than the contemplative spirit of Persia, or the civil organization of Rome; for if the career of Alexander was rapid, its effects were lasting. The city which he chose to bear his name perpetuated in after ages the office which he providentially discharged for Judaism and mankind; and the historian of Christianity must confirm the judgment of Arrian, that Alexander, "who was like no other man, could not have been given to the world without the special design of Providence" (Arr. 7:30). (See ALEXANDRIA). And Alexander himself appreciated this design better even than his great teacher; for it is said (Plut. De Alex. 1, 6) that when Aristotle urged him to treat the Greeks as freemen and the Orientals as slaves, he found the true answer to this counsel in the recognition of his "divine mission to unite and reconcile the world." (See SECTS, JEWISH).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Alexander the Great'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature.​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/alexander-the-great.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.