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Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire by Kenneth W. Harl

Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire

by Kenneth W. Harl

Title Details

Unabridged Edition
Running Time
18 Hrs.


With the exception of Jesus Christ, virtually no figure in antiquity is more renowned in the history of the West than Alexander the Great. His feats are the stuff of legend, inspiring medieval romances, painting and sculptures, and even blockbuster movies.

And more than two millennia after the legendary ruler's death, Alexander's remarkable victory over the Persians in 331 B.C. still stands as an emblem for superlative military leadership. The young Julius Caesar compared his achievements to those of the Macedonian king—and found them lacking. Napoleon styled himself as a new Alexander, even invading Egypt in the shadow of his Macedonian predecessor. Even U.S. general Norman Schwarzkopf, when asked to comment on the U.S. victory in the Gulf War, cited a surprising inspiration: Alexander the Great.

But the historical Alexander—the man behind the legend—is even more intriguing than the stories that have sprung up about him in the centuries since his death. Alexander was more than simply a battle lord or king; through his remarkable achievements, he changed the face of the ancient world and laid the foundation for the great traditions of the Roman Empire. And he did it all in fewer than 12 years.

In Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire, go beyond the myth to learn about this great military leader and his world. In 36 spellbinding lectures, you'll enter the world of Alexander and witness the astonishing feats of military genius that made his name renowned for millennia after his death.

Your guide into the life of this legendary leader is Professor Kenneth W. Harl of Tulane University. An expert on the classical world, Professor Harl presents Alexander within the context of his life and times. You'll see Alexander as the successor to great political and cultural traditions as well as an innovative military genius who forged a new world order. Through this detailed portrait, you'll go beyond the legends and the myths to truly understand what made Alexander great.

Who Was Alexander?

The story of Alexander starts generations before his birth, in the tumultuous conflicts that shook ancient Greece. Professor Harl takes you deep into this history, providing a context for understanding Alexander's daunting challenges and incredible achievements.

The course begins with an overview of history in the Greek city-states in the centuries prior to Alexander's reign. You'll learn about the battles, alliances, and competing interests that shaped Alexander's world, from the clashes among Greek forces, to the earth-shattering conflict with the Persians, to the surprising rise of the Macedonians under Alexander's father, Philip II.

Next, you'll witness Alexander's sudden ascendance to the throne of Macedon and trace his remarkable military career as he conquered the Balkans, Persia, central Asia, and Egypt and pushed the boundaries of the known world with his historic invasion of India. In the final section of the course, you'll consider Alexander's legacy, examining the struggles for power that arose after his death and exploring his influence on later history.

Along the way, several Alexanders emerge: the military general, Macedonian king, Persian emperor, Egyptian pharaoh, and leader of the Hellenic League. You see all sides of Alexander and learn about the many aspects of this extraordinary individual—the passions that drove him, the extraordinary talents and insights he brought to the battlefield, and the intensive training that helped mold his character.

Throughout, Professor Harl cites contemporary sources, including classical histories and eyewitness accounts, to reveal Alexander as he was seen in his own time. You'll weigh and balance these various accounts and learn how Alexander has been interpreted by both ancient and modern historians.

On the Field of Battle

Key to understanding Alexander's greatness is an appreciation of his genius on the battlefield. With Professor Harl's expert guidance, you'll learn how battles were fought and won in the ancient world as you survey some of the key battles that rocked the Mediterranean prior to Alexander's reign. From the historic clash of the Persian pretender, Cyrus, against his brother Artaxerxes to Philip's extraordinary victory over the Greeks, Professor Harl illuminates the brilliant battlefield tactics that would later inspire Alexander.

Professor Harl elucidates Alexander's great martial achievements within this larger military history. You'll survey how Alexander continued the reorganization of the Macedonian army begun by his father and consider the methods he used to motivate his troops, inspire loyalty, and maintain discipline.

You'll also head onto the battlefield, where you'll take a tactician's perspective on some of Alexander's greatest triumphs:

  • The Battle of the Granicus River: Alexander waited to start the battle late in the day and employed audacious tactics to lure his Persian enemy off high ground and onto the river bank where the troops were most vulnerable.
  • The Battle of Issus: Alexander conducted a spectacular strategic march to surprise the great King Darius on the banks of the Pinarus in late afternoon and smashed the Persian weak left wing with a furious cavalry assault.
  • The Battle of Gaugamela: In his climactic clash with Darius, Alexander brilliantly manipulated his enemy's strategies, the local terrain, and the placement of his troops to deliver a staggering defeat that was his greatest martial masterpiece.
  • The Battle of the Hydaspes River: After undertaking a perilous nighttime river crossing, Alexander launched a masterful cavalry battle against daunting Indian forces.

Each battle is brought vividly to life through detailed lectures and schematic representations of Alexander's innovative troop maneuvers and tactics. Professor Harl provides a blow-by-blow account of each conflict, illustrating how this great general assessed the terrain, predicted the movements of his enemy, and moved his forces to win the day.

How Alexander Changed the World

Alexander's empire did not survive beyond his lifetime. After his untimely death at the age of 33, the vast empire he had so brilliantly united was divided among his various successors. And yet, despite the collapse of his empire, Alexander's legacy has cast a long shadow on the history of the West.

Professor Harl traces the many ways that Alexander continued to shape the world of the Mediterranean, the Near East, and beyond. You'll consider, for example, how Alexander transformed the economy of the ancient world through his various military and civic projects. Drawing on his special expertise in the study of ancient coins, Professor Harl illuminates how Alexander's large-scale projects put into circulation wealth that had been locked away in royal treasuries, creating a new and robust commercial economy.

You'll also examine the impact of Alexander's influence in other spheres:

  • The spread of Greek culture: Although a Macedonian by birth, Alexander espoused many Greek traditions and exported these "Hellenistic" practices to the lands he conquered.
  • The founding of new, Greek-style cities: Alexander founded a string of cities—his Alexandrias—throughout the Mediterranean world, the Near East, and central Asia.
  • The image of military leadership: After Alexander, subsequent rulers modeled their appearance on the iconic image of the young Macedonian conqueror.
  • The practice of religion: Alexander assimilated gods of his conquered lands to his system of Greek gods, and through his presumption of divine birth, laid the foundation for the veneration of later rulers.

An Enduring Legacy

As you examine Alexander's achievements, you'll see how, in Professor Harl's words, "a single individual can rapidly, fundamentally, and irrevocably change his world." From his dissemination of Hellenistic culture, which served to unify the Western world and lay the foundation for the Roman Empire, Alexander reshaped his world and left a legacy that is still felt today.

With Professor Harl as your guide, you'll gain a uniquely comprehensive understanding of this legacy. A noted scholar, teacher, and researcher, Professor Harl shares the fascinating insights drawn from his expert knowledge of historic battles, ancient writings, and the latest archaeological excavations. He neither faults nor praises Alexander's strategies and decisions, but instead gives an unbiased, wholly factual account of this enduring figure's life and its resonating impact on the world.

Join Professor Harl for this journey into the world of Alexander and see how the Western world—and, indeed, our world—still bear the marks of this legendary conqueror.

About Your Professor

Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University.

Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has earned Tulane's annual Student Body Award for Excellence in Teaching nine times and is the recipient of Baylor University's nationwide Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers.

In 2007, he was the Lewis P. Jones Visiting Professor in History at Wofford College. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey.

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