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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-09, 10:05 PM Thread Starter
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Default Alexander: The Great?

In a current thread buzzing around General 40k, alot of people were talking about Alexander the Great as a fantastic general that they'd love to teach them a thing or two...

This piqued my interest as, a couple of years ago, i wrote my thesis on how alexander was an over-rated under-achiever.

He relied on the innovation of others and the systemic failure of his enemies to stumble upon massive conquest, all the while putting himself conspicuously into harms way, and gradually weakening his own high command and ability to sustain a campaign.

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Originally Posted by Johnathanswift View Post
I am going to have to comment on torealis' comment:
Even if what you say is true, isn't having the people skills to benefit from "other people's genious and invention" a good skill for a general and statesman? Recognizing said geniouses and using them to win your war is part of generalship.
This isn't true at all, it is just common sense. You wouldn't call Hitler a great general or tactician, but he knew who to put in command. Also, i never said that Alexander wasn't a shrewd statesman. Just a poor general.

so, comments? questions?

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-09, 10:27 PM
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I agree In the main part. Now I'm not a great history enius or anything but wasn't all of his good ideas done by people appointed by a commitee type thing that he merely sat in on? A lot of the stuff he was commended for was done by others and that he ruled over. you wouldn't call the American president(at the time) a great man for inventing the car even though he only was in power over the man who did would you?

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-09, 10:43 PM
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Yikes!

Hitler was a meglamaniacal dictator who had good generals at his disposal and undid virtually everything they'd accomplished militarily.

Alexander strove to defeat the Persian army and then expand and merge the Greek world with the whatever he encountered on his quest. He likely suffered from some sort of depression, certainly, and I'd agree that he benefitted a lot from his father's military creations (most notably the Companion Cavalry and Hypaspists) but he "put the ball into play", so to speak, far better than Phillip ever did.

I always like to look upon Alexander's campaigns as explorations. He always sought to keep the status quo with a conquered nation (allowing the satraps to run Persian affairs in his absence and encouraging his soldiers to take Persian brides). If a people he and his army encountered merged peacefully, there was little to no impact. If he came across a warlord who ruled with an iron fist (like Porus), there was trouble.

As far as his Generalship goes, I think it was superior to anything in known history. He simply got the most from what he left Macedon with and used every single aspect from the lowly skirmisher to the mighty Phalanx to it's fullest potential. Hell, his army defeated one of the single greatest weapons known to the world at that time...the War Elephant (though a great cost). Personally, I thought his statesmanship was lacking. As Dirty Harry once said, "A man's GOT to know his limitations...". I think Alexander's limitation was that there were two options as he explored: Merge peacefully or merge with the sword. Though his army defeated Porus' Indian force, the cost to his men cause mutiny. Upon contact with this particular warlord, Alexander simply should have shown more flexability with his political skills and moved on.

Great topic!

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Last edited by Meatplow; 05-19-09 at 11:52 PM.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-09, 11:39 PM
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I'd neither go so far to call him over-rated or the best in known history (That goes to Hannibal). The ability to pick out your best men and put them in the right place is a major part of leading an army, since you can't be in every where at once, which was magnified by the fact that battlefield communication was so poor even the most brilliant tactician's plans thought up after the two forces had engaged wouldn't mean all that much since it would be nearly impossible to get those plans to your troops. I'd say even if he wasn't the best original thinker he still wasn't just luck and by no means an under achiever. He conquered the known world at age 33 for christsakes, you don't just stumble onto that and if you consider it under achieving I'd hate to have to satisfy you.

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-20-09, 07:56 AM
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This is an interesting topic, and certainly one worthy of further debate. Great military figures have often been surrounded by controversy, Nelson had periods of immense doubt, Grant battled with alcoholism, Wolfe was said to be mad (though George II wished a few of his other generals were as mad). What marked out Alexander's success in my opinion was his indomitable drive and determination to succeed, he was what Eisenhower would have called a lucky general, in that his belief and desire for victory inspired his troops to ever greater feats of soldiering.

Alexander was however a conquerer, and like all conquerers, the one thing he could never gain mastery over was his own lust for glory, therefore he strove ever further eastwards, and would have continued to do so had his men not mutinied.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-20-09, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meatplow View Post
Yikes!

Hitler was a meglamaniacal dictator who had good generals at his disposal and undid virtually everything they'd accomplished militarily.

Alexander strove to defeat the Persian army and then expand and merge the Greek world with the whatever he encountered on his quest. He likely suffered from some sort of depression, certainly, and I'd agree that he benefitted a lot from his father's military creations (most notably the Companion Cavalry and Hypaspists) but he "put the ball into play", so to speak, far better than Phillip ever did.
To be fair to Phillip, he didn't have the chance to quite get the ball rolling. He established (militarily) EVERYTHING for Alexander, Cavalry, Hypaspists and (most importantly) the invention of the Sarissa.

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I always like to look upon Alexander's campaigns as explorations. He always sought to keep the status quo with a conquered nation (allowing the satraps to run Persian affairs in his absence and encouraging his soldiers to take Persian brides).
This is shrewd statesmanship, and nothing to do with generalship. Though i mostly attributed it to his strange obsession with the East, mostly to do with his relentless self-aggrandizment.

Quote:
As far as his Generalship goes, I think it was superior to anything in known history. He simply got the most from what he left Macedon with and used every single aspect from the lowly skirmisher to the mighty Phalanx to it's fullest potential. Hell, his army defeated one of the single greatest weapons known to the world at that time...the War Elephant (though a great cost).
Part of the problem is a lack of primary sources, but by comparing and contrasting later sources, we can attempt to arrive at a picture of the truth.

If you look at the two major accounts, (i need to dig out my thesis for proper references) of the Battle of the River Granicus (his first major encounter in Persia) we find the suggestion that Alexander's over-eagerness almost scuppered him at the start, losing a first battle at night when he attempted to ford the river against a heavily defended, well-trained Persian force.

The next day, when Parmenio (his father's chief general) suggested, he attacked (with tactics) and won.

The accounts of Alexanders battles are littered with references to his superior troops, his enemies poor choice of ground/tactics, and his own reckless charges.

Numbers of enemies (and thus the 'greatness' of his victories) is always over-egged as well.

Alexander won battles on the backs of his exceptional men, not his unexceptional tactics.

Quote:
He conquered the known world at age 33 for christsakes, you don't just stumble onto that and if you consider it under achieving I'd hate to have to satisfy you.
It is my belief that he did.

Quote:
Alexander was however a conquerer, and like all conquerers, the one thing he could never gain mastery over was his own lust for glory, therefore he strove ever further eastwards, and would have continued to do so had his men not mutinied.
On his return to persia he actually began to plan the conquest of Arabia, using nearly exclusively persian troops. but he died before it started.

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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-22-09, 12:13 PM
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In my admittedly not in-depth understanding Alexander owed almost all of his early military success to Parmenio.

He also allowed himself to get bogged down in Afghanistan (luckily everybody learned from that though ). There was little or nothing of military or monetary value in Afghanistan but he just couldn't resist it.

As far as his tactical genius goes there is room for debate. But as for leadership (which is entirely different) we have to accept him as a great. He dragged his greek army through large shitty chunks of asia for years, albeit with the occasional internal troubles.

Just my bit
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