The first matter to consider is what constitutes “greatness”. There are no set standards no checklist, to apply to a person, to determine it they are “great.” The simplest way that I could conceive to decide whether this title should apply to Alexander was to determine if he was, in some way, superior to the rulers that came before or after his reign. The most obvious place for me to start my consideration is with Alexander’s vast accomplishments as a conquerer.
Alexander inherited an impressive military from his father and a stable kingdom; he also followed his father’s plans to invade Asia. Does this detract from his own accomplishments with the Macedonian army? I would argue that it does not. It does not matter how large his or how well trained his standing army had been, there can be no success without some form of military leadership.
Alexander began his military campaign and his rule much where his father left off. Whether or not it was his aim, this created a sense of normality for the men that was part of his father’s regime. Alexander’s position as a warrior-king who stood side-by-side among his men also served to create respect among his peers. Gradually, as Alexander conquered more Persian land, he began to adopt the policies of Persian rulers. Alexander’s change in policy extended beyond just political roles, he gave consideration to the local gods in many of the lands that he conquered. Eventually, Alexander brought people in from the conquered nations to serve under him.
It is unknown whether Alexander intended to adopt these practices; if he adopted the policies that he liked; or if he adopted policies for political purposes. No matter his intentions, Alexander’s changes in leadership policy created some turmoil among his Macedonian soldiers and companion, but they also served to make an easier transition for the peoples that he conquered. Alexander understood truths about society that other’s of his time either did not grasp or care to entertain. He knew to separate battles and keep destruction from the cities. This served a few purposes. Alexander could award the riches of the conquered lands to his soldier and this gave the conquered people a reason to respect him. This highlights what is probably the most genius aspect of Alexander’s military prowess; he knew how to separate military strategy from political aims on the battlefield, but how to exploit his military prowess for his political gain.
Alexander’s battlefield skills are exalted in much of the writings that we have, yet it is his uncanny ability to know how far to push the violence in battle, or when to back down that truly represents his greatness. Alexander was brilliant in the management of war - he knew which areas to attack, where to lead the battle, and when to pull back; he was able to determine how best to direct the wars that he waged.
Alexander was able to use his excellent battlefield skills in conjunction with his...