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Alexander the Great: 8 Surprising Facts Revealed!

Written By Anne Kostick
Last updated: January 8, 2024

We’ve all heard tales of the mighty conqueror, Alexander the Great, whose name echoes through the annals of history. But what about the stories untold and mysteries unexplored? This article isn’t just another retelling of his battles and conquests; instead, we’re peeling back the layers to discover fascinating tidbits that rarely see the light of day.

Our journey delves into a side of Alexander rarely showcased. Are you ready to uncover a side to this historical figure that will leave you awestruck? From his ancient Macedonian heritage to intriguing personal quirks, there’s so much more to Alexander than meets the eye.

These lesser-known facts paint a rich tapestry beyond his reputation as one of history’s greatest military minds. Strap in for a thrilling exploration into unseen corners of Alexander’s life and find out just why he continues to be a subject of fascination for historians and casual observers alike.

Unveiling the Ancestry of Alexander the Great

As we delve into the annals of ancient history, the figure of Alexander the Great looms large, casting a long shadow over the pages of time. His name is synonymous with conquest and strategy, but his story doesn’t start with battles won and lands claimed.

Unveiling the Ancestry of Alexander the Great

It begins instead with his remarkable ancestry—a thread weaving through Macedonia’s past to create a tapestry rich in power and legend. We’re about to unravel this heritage, peeling back layers shrouded in myth to reveal the familial foundation that set young Alexander on a path to eternal renown.

Join us as we take a closer look at the time-honored dynasty that would influence one of history’s most iconic leaders on his journey toward greatness.

The Ancient Bloodline

Have you ever wondered what made Alexander “Great”? Part of his greatness came from his bloodline. You see, Alexander was no ordinary man; he was royalty, born into Macedonia’s elite. His ancestors were not mere rulers; they were founders and defenders, carving their place in ancient history.

Alexander’s father was King Philip II—a man known for uniting Macedonia under one rule and for his shrewd eye for military tactics. Philip took disparate tribes and fashioned them into one powerful kingdom that commanded respect across ancient Greece.

Now, picture this: at a young age, Alexander watched his father conquer lands and outsmart enemies both near and far. It molded him, taught him (how power works), showed him (the value of strategy) – but most importantly – it planted an unstoppable ambition deep within him.

But there’s more: through Philip’s line, there’s whispered talk that their blood was linked with none other than Zeus himself—the mightiest of Greek gods! Whether myth or truth, this connection to divinity only raised Alexander’s standing.

His mother, Queen Olympias—a fierce spirit in her own right—descended from heroes too! She claimed her line went back to Achilles—that nearly immortal warrior who fought at Troy—as well as Neoptolemus. These tales bound the very essence of heroism to Alexander’s identity from the cradle onwards.

Also Read: Pricus: A Detailed Exploration of The Sea Goat

The Architect Behind Alexander’s Triumphs

As we peel back the layers of history, we often find that the legends we admire didn’t stand alone; behind them were architects of victory, those who laid the foundation for their greatness. Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world in his time, but he didn’t do it on impulse. His success was built on a framework meticulously assembled by his father, King Philip II.

The Architect Behind Alexander's Triumphs

This insight takes us to Macedonia’s strategic depths where a father’s master plan was set in motion—a blueprint that would one day lead to uncharted victories and shape ancient history.

In our journey through time, let’s uncover how Philip’s military groundwork became the cornerstone for Alexander’s monumental conquests.

King Philip’s Master Plan

We often speak of Alexander the Great and his remarkable feats, but it’s vital to remember that behind his success stood the vision and foundation laid by his father, King Philip II. It was this groundwork that set the stage for the military triumphs Alexander is so well known for.

  • First, we should note that King Philip II brought change to how armies fought. Before him, warriors would fight in small groups or one-on-one. But he saw strength in unity. He made his soldiers fight as a unit, a formation known as the phalanx.
  • He didn’t stop there. To make sure they were tough, he gave them harder training than before. They became strong fighters who could face any challenge on battlefields far from home.
  • Next up was arming his troops with longer spears called sarissas, which kept enemies farther away in battle—making it safer for his own fighters.
  • Not just skill and weapons, but also smarts were crucial in Philip’s plan. He built an intelligence network across Greece and beyond to know about any dangers or plans against him ahead of time.
  • Communication is key in battles – something King Philip knew well. So he created signals using shields and trumpets so that even in the chaos of war, orders could be passed quickly and clearly.
  • Money matters in war just like anything else. King Philip made sure his kingdom had enough gold by taking control of mines; with this wealth, he could fund battles and keep soldiers paid.

Philip’s master plan wasn’t only about fighting; it was also about thinking ahead and staying prepared—a lesson Alexander used to create an empire unmatched even today.

8 Lesser-Known Facts About Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great is a name steeped in glory, known across the world for his unprecedented military conquests and sprawling empire. People often recount tales of his battlefield prowess and strategies, but beyond these well-trodden stories lies a treasury of fascinating details that sheds new light on his character.

8 Lesser-Known Facts About Alexander the Great

As we peel back the layers of ancient history, we discover aspects of Alexander’s life that are not commonly talked about – intriguing tidbits that deepen our understanding of who he was beyond just a warrior and emperor. Join us as we explore eight lesser-known facts about this legendary ruler which paint a richer, fuller portrait of one of history’s most enigmatic figures.

  • Alexander Had A Unique Upbringing: Unlike other children of his time, Alexander was taught by none other than Aristotle himself. This education shaped him into a leader with both wisdom and valor.
  • His Horse Was Famous Too: Bucephalus wasn’t just any horse; he was Alexander’s loyal companion in many conquests, and his loss deeply affected Alexander.
  • He Looked Up To A Hero: Alexander was inspired by Homer’s The Iliad. He believed himself to be a descendant of heroes like Achilles and carried with him a copy of the epic.
  • A City Named After His Horse: Not only did he name many cities after himself, but one city, Bucephala, was named in honor of his beloved horse.
  • Alexander Never Lost A Battle: It is truly rare for a commander to finish their career undefeated, but that’s what makes his military strategy legendary even today.
  • A King Encouraged By Prophets And Omens: He often sought guidance from oracles and believed he had divine support for his endeavors—a belief that spurred him on through impossible odds.
  • His Body Did Not Decay Quickly: After his death, it is said that his body didn’t show signs of decay for several days—a fact that astounded many during that era.
  • Cities As Eternal Memorials: Constructing cities and naming them ‘Alexandria’ was part adventure strategy part personal branding—an ancient way of leaving an indelible mark on history.

1. Alexander the Great: Heir to an Ancient Dynasty

Many of us know Alexander the Great as one of history’s most legendary conquerors, a leader whose name and legacy have echoed through time. But behind his monumental accomplishments and the vast empire he built lies the story of where it all started.

Alexander the Great: Heir to an Ancient Dynasty

We often overlook the fact that this towering figure was, before anything else, a child born into an illustrious line of Macedonian kings. His bloodline was steeped in regal history and tales of power that set the stage for his rise to greatness.

Join us as we unravel Alexander’s origins and explore how being heir to an ancient dynasty shaped the man who would come to be known as “Great.”

The Royal Lineage of Macedonia

When we talk about Alexander the Great, often our minds are filled with his battles and how he built an empire that stretched from Greece to Egypt and into India.

But we sometimes forget that before he became “the Great,” he was just a boy born into a family of rulers who had been leading their people for generations. Let’s take a step back in time to get to know where Alexander came from.

  • The Beginning: Long before Alexander was born, his family had been ruling Macedonia, a land in what is now northern Greece.
  • The Kingdom: Macedonia wasn’t always seen as powerful as the city-states of Athens or Sparta. However, they had their own strengths and culture.
  • Philip II: This is where Philip II, Alexander’s father comes into the picture. Before Alexander could make history, it was Philip who made Macedonia strong.
  • A Powerful Influence: We cannot talk about our hero without mentioning his dad’s work. It was Philip II who turned a rough army into one of the most feared military forces.

Before we ever heard the name “Alexander the Great,” there was a kingdom and a lineage waiting for him – one with history etched deep into its roots. Our understanding of him becomes richer when we see him not as a standalone conqueror but as part of this ancient lineage.

Also Read: Mjolnir: Mysteries Behind Thor’s Enchanted Hammer

2. King Philip II’s Military Mastery

Before we dive into the legendary conquests of Alexander the Great, it’s crucial to understand where his path to glory began. Behind the scenes, another figure looms large – his father, King Philip II of Macedon. This master strategist laid a solid foundation that would shape the military landscape for years to come.

King Philip II's Military Mastery

It was under King Philip’s watchful eye and rigorous tutelage that Alexander was groomed for greatness, equipped with not just the courage but also the cunning required to conquer vast territories. Let’s explore how this king’s foresight and military mastery armed his son with an unparalleled strategic edge on the battlefield.

The Roadmap for Conquest

When we look at the story of Alexander the Great, we can’t overlook his father’s influence. King Philip II was not just a ruler; he was a master of war tactics. He had big plans for Alexander and worked hard to make sure his son could lead an army to great victories.

  • First off, King Philip built a strong army. He made sure his soldiers were well-trained and ready to fight any enemy. They learned how to use different weapons and how to work together like parts in a well-oiled machine.
  • Next, he made something special called the phalanx. This was a way of arranging soldiers so that they were very hard to beat. They stood close together with long spears that kept enemies far away.
  • King Philip also paid attention to the lands around him. He knew who he might have to fight one day, and he studied them closely. This meant that when it was time for battle, there were no surprises.
  • He didn’t just focus on fighting on land but also knew the value of having control over the sea. So, he built powerful warships that could protect his kingdom from attacks coming from across the water.
  • Money matters in war too. King Philip made sure his kingdom had enough gold and silver flowing through its heart. With this wealth, he could pay for soldiers, weapons, and everything else needed for long battles far from home.
  • Lastly, King Philip spent time teaching Alexander everything about being a leader and warrior. He shared all his knowledge about wars, enemies, politics – everything that would one day help Alexander build an empire.

It’s clear as daylight – without King Philip’s careful planning and smart ideas about battle strategies We would possibly never speak of Alexander the Great.

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3. The Philosophical General: Aristotle’s Mentorship

When we think of Alexander the Great, our minds often fill with images of epic battles and a map dotted with his conquests. However, the makings of a truly legendary leader stretch well beyond their prowess in combat. The pages of Alexander’s youth were inscribed with lessons from none other than Aristotle, one of history’s most venerated philosophers.

The Philosophical General: Aristotle's Mentorship

This bond between pupil and mentor was not just about imparting knowledge; it was a transformative journey that chiseled the very essence of who Alexander would become—not merely as a formidable general, but as an intellectual stalwart whose thirst for wisdom was as vast as his empire.

It is in this intellectual shaping that we uncover some astonishing insights into Alexander’s path from pupil to powerhouse.

From Pupil to Powerhouse

The story of Alexander the Great is not just about battles and conquests. It also has chapters filled with wisdom and learning. One such chapter begins with Aristotle, a very wise man from ancient times, who taught Alexander when he was just a boy. The things Aristotle taught Alexander shaped him into a great leader and thinker.

  • Learning from the Best: Aristotle was not just any teacher; he was one of the brightest minds in all history. He knew so much about nature, people, and life itself.
  • Deep Thoughts: Under Aristotle’s guidance, Alexander learned to think deeply about the world around him. This wasn’t just about knowing facts but understanding how things worked together.
  • Wisdom for War: Yes, war is about fighting. But it’s also about knowing why you fight and making smart choices on the battlefield. Aristotle’s lessons helped Alexander make better decisions when he led his army.
  • Leading People: A king does more than command an army; he leads his people. Wisdom from his early years with Aristotle stuck with Alexander as he grew into power.
  • A Lasting Legacy: Even today, people remember how wise Alexander was—not just powerful or brave but full of knowledge that helped him lead.

Alexander might have become known as a great warrior regardless, but without Aristotle’s mentorship, we might never speak of him as we do now—as a ruler whose mind was sharpened by one of the greatest philosophers ever.

4. A Tale Enshrined in Epic Prose

When we hear tales of Alexander the Great, we often think of battles, conquests, and a kingdom stretched far across ancient lands. But behind his monumental feats was a young man whose heart and mind were deeply influenced by the majestic stories of the old. Nestled among these was Homer’s The Iliad, an enduring epic that became a blueprint for Alexander’s life and ambitions.

A Tale Enshrined in Epic Prose

It wasn’t merely a collection of verses but a vibrant landscape where he found his heroes, his ideals, and ultimately, himself reflected in every line. Let us explore how this ancient poem wove itself into the fabric of Alexander’s dreams, guiding him from page to palpable reality.

“The Iliad” as Alexander’s Blueprint

Long ago, the tale of The Iliad by Homer touched the heart of a young man who would become one of history’s most talked-about leaders. Alexander the Great found more than just words on a page in this epic. He saw a guide, a spark for his dreams, and a mirror to his soul.

  • Inspiration Personified: In The Iliad, heroes like Achilles were more than mere characters to Alexander; they were ideals to live up to. Their bravery on the fields of Troy set a burning desire inside him to achieve similar feats.
  • Dreams Fuelled by Legend: The stories wrapped in the ancient lines of Homer’s writing fed Alexander’s imagination. Each verse seemed like a stepping-stone placed specially for him on his path to greatness.
  • A Model for Glory: Homer not only offered entertainment but an example — almost like an ancient hero’s handbook — that laid out what it meant to be legendary. The scenes portrayed acts of honor and courage that Alexander aimed to embody.
  • Eternal Friendship: Within The Iliad, there was also camaraderie and loyalty among warriors. This influenced how he formed bonds with his own men, leading them not just as soldiers but as companions chasing collective glory.
  • Reflections in War and Life: Beyond battles, The Iliad showed moments of wisdom among elders and even gods. As young Alexander listened or read these parts, they shaped his understanding of leadership, both on and off the battlefield.

We can see how deeply The Iliad rooted itself into Alexander’s very being — influencing how he thought about war, friendship, leadership, and legacy. For him, this wasn’t just a story from long ago; it was real life waiting outside its pages.

Also Read: The Myth of Ariadne: Unveiling an Ancient Greek Enigma

5. Bucephalus: Companion in Arms

We often marvel at the tales of heroes and their loyal companions. Among these stories, one bond that stands out in ancient history is that of Alexander the Great and his cherished horse, Bucephalus.

Bucephalus: Companion in Arms

Their relationship was more than a tale of a warrior and his trusty steed; it was a profound friendship emblematic of loyalty, intelligence, and mutual respect.

Together, they traversed great distances, conquered vast territories, and ascended to legendary status. Sharing moments both in the peace of quiet times and in the roar of battle, Bucephalus was not just an animal to Alexander; he was an integral part of his life’s journey—a fellow soldier whose story we’ve come to cherish as a testament to their inseparable bond.

Beyond a Steed – A Legendary Friendship

We often talk about famous pairs: Batman and Robin, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but there’s one duo that history loves to recall. We’re talking about Alexander the Great and his horse, Bucephalus. The bond they shared was not just of a man and his ride – it was a legendary friendship that often reflects how close we can be with our pets.

  • The Tale of Taming: There’s a story we’ve heard where a young Alexander was presented with this wild horse that no one could tame. Big and black as night itself, this beast had a fierce spirit much like Alexander himself. They brought Bucephalus before him; while others had failed, Alexander noticed something special – the horse was scared of its own shadow.
  • Seeing Eye to Eye: Alexander turned Bucephalus towards the sun so their shadows fell behind them and climbed on his back without any fuss from the beast. This wasn’t just bravery; it showed how he understood the nature of animals as souls not so different from ourselves.
  • Trust Earned on Battlefield: Their legend grew with every battle they charged into together. It wasn’t just about fighting side by side; it was how they moved – almost as one being inseparable in danger or when taking victory laps after winning.
  • A Reflection of Ambition: Some say when we look at Bucephalus’s eyes, we might glimpse parts of Alexander’s own dreams for glory echo within them – ambitious eyes that saw beyond what lay ahead to lands uncharted.
  • Loyal Unto Death: The stories say when Bucephalus finally fell in battle during India’s conquests, Alexander’s grief struck hard – a clear mirror reflecting their undying loyalty to one another till death did them part.
  • A City Bearing His Name: Such was this love that Alexander founded a city called “Bucephala” in honor of his companion, marking eternal respect for their connection across time itself.

Also Read: how did Hitler rise to power?

6. A Regal Path Forged in Turmoil

The tale of Alexander the Great is often swathed in the aura of battlefield glory and legendary conquests. However, our journey into his ascent to power reveals a period rife with turbulence and bloodshed.

A Regal Path Forged in Turmoil

We dive into how following King Philip II’s death, Alexander walked a precarious tightrope to claim his rightful place as king amidst a maelstrom of political chaos.

In an era where might wielded through steel and cunning strategies shaped history, Alexander’s early days as king stood testament to his indomitable resilience and shrewdness.

Let us peel back the layers of time to witness the stark realities that forged a regal path through turmoil for history’s enduring conqueror.

Claiming Power amidst Bloodshed

Our story takes us to a land of great turmoil, where the stab of a sword not only cuts through flesh but also severs the bonds of loyalty. We’re talking about none other than Alexander the Great’s rise to power, which was no simple feat. It was a path marred by conflict and drenched in uncertainty.

When King Philip II, Alexander’s father and Macedonia’s ruler, met his end—not in battle, but betrayed by the blade of an assassin—chaos ensued. The kingdom quivered on the brink of collapse; power-hungry generals and scheming nobles lurked in every shadowy corner. With a throne left empty, it was Alexander who stepped forward to claim it.

But how did he do this amidst such bloodshed?

  • Immediate Action: Right after King Philip’s murder, Alexander acted swiftly. He gathered those loyal to him and secured their support.
  • Eliminating Rivals: With precision that would come to define him, Alexander rooted out all potential claimants to his throne—sometimes through exile and at times with ruthless execution.
  • Winning Allegiance: Recognizing that loyal armies win wars—and kingdoms—Alexander assured Macedonian soldiers that their future under his command would be bright (and profitable).
  • Garnering Greek Support: Even with Macedonia united behind him, he needed broader backing; thus he worked hard to ensure Greek city-states recognized him as their leader too.
  • Dispensing Justice: In what might be termed as both a political maneuver and poetic retribution for his father’s death, he made sure justice was served against those responsible for King Philip’s demise.

Dealing with threats at home before marching conquests abroad showed not just bravery but craftiness as well—a master class in securing one’s throne learned from necessity rather than nicety.

7. Invincible on Every Front

In our dive into the extraordinary life of Alexander the Great, we find that his record on the battlefield was nothing short of miraculous. The captivating tales that chronicle his journey often highlight his strategic prowess and relentless drive – but it’s his undefeated streak in battle that sets him apart as one of history’s most legendary warriors.

invincible on Every Front

On every front, whether facing vast armies or daunting terrain, Alexander proved to be invincible. This impressive feat not only solidified his status as a master of war during ancient times but has continued to resonate through the ages as a testament to his unmatched military acumen.

Now let’s explore why this unbroken chain of victories contributes so significantly to the enduring mythos of Alexander as one of history’s greatest military commanders.

An Undefeated Record

We often hear about famous leaders and their victories, but not many can say they never lost a battle. Alexander the Great is one such leader whose name has echoed through time, partly because of his undefeated record. What does it mean to win every battle and how has this shaped the way we see him today?

  • First off, let’s be clear: when we talk about never losing a battle, it’s kind of a big deal. For a commander in ancient times, battles were risky things where one wrong move could mean the end. That Alexander came out on top each time says a lot about his skills as a military leader.
  • Now picture this: each victory is like a shiny medal adding to Alexander’s reputation. With every win, more and more people start to see him not just as strong but almost superhuman.
  • It goes beyond just winning fights; it’s about what those wins represent. They tell us that Alexander was more than brave – he was smart and knew how to make plans that worked out.
  • There’s also the idea of luck or favor from the gods – back then, people believed that if you kept winning, maybe the gods were on your side. So in some ways, his perfect record made folks think he had divine support.
  • Don’t forget how stories get around. As tales of his successes spread far and wide, they grew into legends that we still talk about now.
  • Consider how history remembers those who never stumble – they’re often set apart as examples of excellence to aim for.

Alexander’s undefeated streak weaves into our understanding of who he was: not merely an ordinary man but someone who achieved what seemed impossible over and over again. This alone magnifies his status among historical figures and makes us keep coming back to learn more about his life and exploits.

Also Read: Unraveling the Mystery of Fates in Ancient Greek Mythology

8. Immortality Through Urban Foundations

As we dive into the lessons of ancient history and unravel the tales of great conquests, one figure stands out with an extraordinary strategy for ensuring his name would echo throughout the ages. Alexander the Great, a conqueror whose desire to imprint himself upon the world went beyond mere battles and territories; he sought an everlasting legacy through the very cities he founded or renamed.

Immortality Through Urban Foundations

These cities were more than just pins on a map; they were living embodiments of his identity and vision. As we look closer at these urban foundations cast in his own image, we begin to see a man not just intent on ruling an empire in his lifetime but also on forging a legend that would outlive him for millennia.

Cities Cast in His Own Image

When we think about Alexander the Great, we often picture the battles, his clever tactics, and his incredible will to push towards new lands. But there’s another side to his quest for greatness: how he left a lasting mark through cities. Many places carry the name ‘Alexandria’, showing us just how much he wanted to be remembered.

Alexander built or renamed more than twenty cities after himself but why? Was it pride, a wish for immortality, or a way to stamp his power across the world? Here is what stands out:

  • Alexandria in Egypt: This city is likely the most famous Alexandria of them all. It was a center of knowledge and culture with its great library and lighthouse. It stood as a symbol of Alexander’s wisdom and vision.
  • Alexandria Eschate (The Furthest): Located in modern-day Tajikistan, Alexandria was as far east as he could go at that time. Perhaps it was like planting a flag on top of a mountain—to show just how far he had come.

Why did Alexander choose this path? Maybe he wanted each Alexandria to serve as an eternal reminder of him—as if every city was another chance for him to live forever in people’s memories.

Also Read: Shinichi Sakamoto


We’ve traipsed through the veiled corners of history, uncovering facets of Alexander the Great that linger beyond his well-known conquests. From his noble bloodline to the strategies laid by his father, from Aristotle’s mentorship to immortal cities named in his honor, each lesser-known fact unveils a layer of complexity of this historical figure.

His life wasn’t just about battles and territories; it was also about relationships, education, and legacy. We hope you found this journey into Alexander’s less frequented past as fascinating as we did.

Charles Eames

Anne Kostick has been Editor-in-Chief since September 2007. Previously, Anne was a principal at Foxpath IND, a publishing, consulting and editorial services company specializing in the transition to and from traditional content publishing and online content management, development and publishing. Her clients included trade book publishers, technology and financial services Web sites, and arts and cultural institutions. Previously, she worked as Licensing and Product Development Director, Senior Acquisitions Editor and Director of Electronic Publishing for Workman Publishing, and as Senior Acquisitions Editor for Harry N. Abrams/Stewart, Tabori & Chang. In the online world she worked as Director of Content Development for Anne has a B.A. in Greek and Latin, with a minor in Theater, from Beloit College. She is the author of several books for children, as well as a definitive collection of jokes.

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