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Heir to the Empire

By age 33, Alexander III of Macedon had accomplished more than what some people could in a lifetime. Not only was he a king, but also a conqueror and a successful general who never lost a major battle. He took the small kingdom of Macedon and turned it into an empire. To do so, he defeated the mighty Persian Empire in a ten-year conquest that took him from the Balkans, all the way to the Hindu Kush in Modern-day Pakistan.

This empire consisted of the Balkans, Asian Minor, the Middle East, Egypt, Central Asia, and parts of India. With such huge accomplishments, it’s unsurprising to see why Alexander became known as Alexander the Great.

With such power, it is unsurprising to see why Alexander began seeing himself as a god. Instead of a mortal, he believed he was the son of Zeus, the king of the gods in ancient Greece, and that it was his destiny to conquer the world.

Perisa was not supposed to be the end of his conquest. He had plans to finish his invasion of India, conquer the merchant empire of Carthage in North Africa, seize the Arabian Peninsula, and even take Rome.

This huge undertaking would have required decades of campaign, a powerful army, and relentless dedication. But if there was one person who had the will, brilliance, and ambition to launch this conquest, it was Alexander.

But though he believed otherwise, Alexander was still mortal. During a night of celebration after his Indian campaign, Alexander fell ill. To this day, no one is entirely sure what caused this sickness. Some say it was simply bad luck, but others say it was poison, or perhaps the countless wounds he took throughout his wars finally catching up to him.

Whatever the reason, Alexander did not recover and after several days it soon became clear he was dying. His generals and soldiers all mourned him, but there was another question on their minds. Although he conquered a massive empire, he had not designated an heir, and without an adult son, there was no clear successor.

When his soldiers asked him about this, Alexander was said to have whispered “tôi kratistôi” (“to the strongest”). And to the strongest, it would go as after he passed, his general would spend decades fighting each other over the remains of the Macedonian Empire.

When he, at length, despaired of life, he took off his ring and handed it to Perdiccas. His Friends asked: “To whom do you leave the kingdom?” and he replied: “To the strongest.”4 He added, and these were his last words, that all of his leading Friends would stage a vast contest in honour of his funeral. This was how he died after a reign of twelve years and seven months.6 He accomplished greater deeds than any, not only of the kings who had lived before him but also of those who were to come later down to our time.

– Diodorus Siculus writer of the Bibliotheca historica.

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