Sample Research Paper On Alexander The Great And Egypt, C. 300 BCE
Alexander the Great, as was popularly known, was born in 356 BC and was the ruled over the old Greek Kingdom of Macedon for the periods of July 356 to June 323 BC. He belonged to the Argead Dynasty and was also known as Alexander III of Macedon. Until the tender age of sixteen, he was a student of Aristotle. Alexander’s mission was to” reach the ends of the world and conquer all seas” (Freeman 2014, 90). As part of his ambitions, he strived to conquer all the neighbouring kingdoms and dynasties and stretched out. His power originated mainly from his inheritance of a strong army and a strong kingdom left to him by King Philip, his father, after being assassinated. His first contact with Egypt occurred during his conquest of Persia. The conquest stretched out over a period of ten years and was characterised by a series of battles. Alexander stayed several weeks in Egypt as he continued his campaign against the then mighty empire of Persian of Darius III.At the time of the conquest, Egypt was under the control of the Achaemenes Persian Empire. Even though some historians regard Alexander’s sojourn in Egypt as more of an eccentric diversion, his sojourn there was critical to his ambitions and plans (Freeman 2011, 76). Both Alexander the Great and Egypt gained a lot from the historical relationship that each had with the other. It was a point in which the Greek civilization and the Egyptian civilizations met and integrated. This paper tries to scrutinize the historical relationship between Alexander the great and Egypt, from the period of his first encounter tile his death in 323 BC.
The legacy of Alexander includes but is not limited to the cultural diffusion that the kingdoms, he conquered, including Egypt, experienced. An example is the Greco-Buddhism. The relationship resulted in growth and changes in economics, politics and culture. Alexander is responsible for the creation of cities, some of which were named after him as well as the spread of the Greek culture to the East. In the field of education, Alexander influenced the history and myth of Greek and Non-Greek cultures. He was the criteria against which rulers (military and non-military alike) compared themselves with. After his death, The Egyptian still taught his tactics in its military academies. At the time of Egyptian’s conquest in late 322 BC, the Egyptians regarded him as a liberator (Makhlouf, Eugene, Sergei and Alexander 2014, 91).
After Alexander’s conquest of Egypt, the two parties enjoyed a mutual economic relationship. At the time, Egypt was under the autocratic rule of Achaemenes of Persian Empire. This period in the Egyptian history was rife with uprisings and did not create a conducive empire for successful economic activities. The Persian Empire had occupied Egypt for close to two hundred years, and its rulers exploited its vast grain reserves and heavily taxed its people. The Persian populace disrespected the Egyptians beliefs and cultural traditions, and this resulted in a lot of rebellions from the Egyptians. The rebellions had an adverse effect on the Egyptian economic (Freeman 2014, 82). In spite of having vast financial resources, most remained untapped and underutilized. Alexander’s conquest was liberating. The Egyptians started to enjoy a peace of peace and tranquillity that allowed economic activities to thrive. It led to the opening of trade routes and networks that were previously closed due to the political instability that had existed before.
“Under the Ptolemies, a line of Greek kings, Alexandria soon sprang into eminence, and, accumulating culture and wealth, became the most powerful metropolis of the Orient. Serving as the port of Europe, it attracted the lucrative trade of India and Arabia. Its markets were enriched with the gorgeous silks and fabrics from the bazaars of the Orient. Wealth brought leisure, and it, in turn, the arts. It became, in time, the home of a wonderful library and schools of philosophy, representing all the phases and the most delicate shades of thought. At one time it was the general belief that the mantle of Athens had fallen upon the shoulders of Alexandria” (Freeman 2011, 101).
Alexander founded the city of Alexandria which was an important centre of trade and economic activities. It profited greatly from its critical location at a point of convergence of the connections between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Consequently, it was an important centre of international sea travelling. As a result, traders from various parts of the present-Mediterranean region and North Africa as well as the Middle East converged at Alexandria. It led to the exchange of trade goods and amassing of wealth among traders. In the Ancient world, after Rome, Alexander was the most powerful city (Freeman 2011, 67). Alexander the Great also benefitted greatly from the interaction. Most traders brought him gifts in terms of gold, silver, smoked quails, bronze in order to earn his blessings to conduct their trading activities in his empire. Economic activities thrived partly as a result of Alexander’s exceptional ability to unify his vast kingdom that stretched from Greece to Egypt. The economic relationship between Greece and Egypt blossomed greatly. Greek commodities gained third entry into the Egyptian population. These included porcelain bowls, attire, food materials as well as Greek art. The trade volume was enviably large in Egypt. Egypt could export bushels of grain totalling twenty thousand a year. The first banks of Egypt owe their origins to Greeks like the Bank of Alexandria and the General Bank of Alexandria, and they were the result of the interaction between the two civilizations.
“It seems that during the reign of Alexander the Great, seeing that he stopped the Persian forces in Egypt, the Egyptians were very thankful. The country began to thrive again for several generations and dynasties. However, there is no way one can imagine that there was no exchange in ideas and beliefs between the two civilizations. There were most definitely international individual relations and the birth of a new culture, or rather a different view on cultural interactions teachings. Like any kind of war or battle, there is always an influence of the enemy on the local people. Through violence, cultures tend to merge with one another and old traditions are done away with while new ones begin. The Greek influence that Alexander had on the Egyptians is a direct consequence in a thriving historical city like Alexandria, but more importantly the creation of new beliefs” (Garland 2014, 69).
Alexandria conquest of Egypt also led to a fusion and integration of the cultures of Egypt and Greece. The period following Alexander’s conquest of Macedonia and consequently Egypt is known as the Hellenistic age owing to the spread of Greek influence and culture across Asia to Egypt (Freemans 2014, 201). The cultural interaction was diverse in nature. An example of the influence of this cultural integration was the Babylonian Math and Egyptian medicine. The Greeks were not the inventors of the art of medicine. Instead, they were good at integrating and refining medical knowledge from all the kingdoms and dynasties that they conquered. A significant influence on the Greek medicine was as a result of their interaction with the Egyptians. This is because the Egyptian medicine was already old and well established by that time. The roots of Egyptian medicine lied mainly in spirituality and religion. The Greek borrowed this concept too especially after the conquest by Alexander the Great. Being a staunch believer in the gods himself, he worshipped the Egyptian gods of Amon and offered sacrifices to the deities (Makhlouf, Eugene, Sergei and Alexander 2014, 97). The ancient Egyptians wrote many medical articles (known as papyri) that contained medical instructions that they attributed to their gods (egg the god of Imhotep).The Greek borrowed these medical articles and took most of the ideas for their medicine from them. They even adopted ideal hygienic activities like bathing twice and boiling water before drinking from the Egyptians to ward off diseases.
The Egyptians acquired other useful cultural aspects from the Greeks. The following years saw marked influence of Greeks cultural features on the Egyptians in art, education, marriage et cetera. For instance, Greek sculpture had its influence on the Egyptian artistry. Most of the sculpture portrayed curly haired Buddha, even though, the Greeks were the only individuals who kept their hair curly. In addition, Alexander’s conquest had a linguistic influence on the Egyptians. Large areas of the Egyptian population started speaking Kline (Common) Greek a few years after the Egyptian Conquest. However, the linguistic influence was mainly situated in the areas that the Greeks had settled and rarely trickled down to the peasants. The Greece mostly resided in the cities and seldom travelled into the countryside where most of the peasants lived. Along with the linguistic influence. The Greek philosophy heavily infiltrated the Egyptian population. For instance, The Egyptians adopted the philosophy of stoicism that originated in Athens in Greece. The philosophical theory stressed among other things the culture of doing one’s duty and responsibilities and bearing upon oneself his or her hardship. Henceforth, Egypt became associated with leaders and nationals of strength and courage. The philosophy of Epicureanism, originating from Greece also widely spread among Egyptians (Garland 2014, 39). It depicts a life where an individual avoids pain. However, many Egyptians misinterpreted this philosophy to mean an “eating, drinking and marrying” lifestyle. The fusion of the two civilizations also resulted in educational integration. The Hellenistic age witnessed significant accomplishments in Mathematics and mechanical science. Greek mathematicians mainly excelled in geometry while the Egyptians were gifted in mechanical science. Working together resulted in significant discoveries in history such as formulas for finding circumferences. Hiero of Alexandria invented the steam engine while Archimedes showcased the properties of water displacement.
Alexander’s conquest had a significant political influence on the Egyptian. As mentioned above, prior to his entry into the Egyptian land, the Egyptians suffered under the authoritarian rule of the Persians. After conquering Persia, Alexander advanced towards Egypt. The Egypt’s Persian governor surrendered without putting up a fight to Alexander. Alexander built defensive forts around Egypt to protect it from external invasions. His firm belief in religion and spirituality was also a major unifying factor in Egypt. The Egyptians, as a result, hailed Alexander as their liberator and saviour (Bowman 2014, 100). They welcomed him warmly as their choice and legitimate ruler and gave him a double crown of the Two Lands. They also anointed him as a Pharaoh in Memphis and the high priests named him a “son of the great gods”. Alexander the Great’s rule over Egypt was peaceful and brought to an end the previous civil strife that had rocked the populace. The political stability enabled the Egyptians engage in social and economic activities without fear of unlawful arrests or mistreatment. Alexander’s peaceful rule was largely as a result of his charismatic personality. He knew most of the leaders under his rule in Egypt by name. He promoted the regular holding of cultural ceremonies in Egypt, which cemented the Egyptians’ together. Egypt became influential and strong politically as a result. Alexander laid down plans for govern ship in his absence that ensured Egypt remained under strong leadership even after his departure and death. On his side, Alexander did not gain much except for asserting his position as the greatest leader that existed at that time. Moreover, his conquest of Egypt after Persia earned him the trust of other rulers that surrendered their powers to him.
All in all, the relationship between Egypt and Alexander the Great (and in extension, his Greece followers) was one where each benefited. However, it is clear that Egyptians gained more from the relationship. Alexander’s conquest of Egypt enabled it to thrive economically, socially, culturally and politically. It became a centre of civilization that would secure its place in historical textbooks. Egypt flourished economically through expansion of trading networks and the growth of cities (e.g. Alexandria). It became a cultural hub with the establishment of the world biggest library at the time and the success in both Egyptian and Greek medicine. Politically, it enjoyed a period of peace, tranquillity and political stability never known before. Egypt, itself, took a toll on Alexander and the Greek civilization. It influenced their religion and medicine. Alexander worshipped the Egyptian gods and started following their religious practices. It is not surprising, therefore that Alexander’s body was laid to rest in Egypt following his death in 320 BC.
Freeman, Charles. 2014. Egypt, Greece, and Rome: civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. Oxford University Press.
Freeman, Philip. 2011. Alexander the Great. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Garland, Robert. 2014. Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great. Princeton University Press.
Makhlouf, Abdenacer, Eugene Paal, Sergei D. Silvestrov, and Alexander Stolin, eds. 2014. Algebra, Geometry and Mathematical Physics: Proceedings of the AGMP, Mulhouse, France, October 2011. Vol. 85. Springer.
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