Alexander the Great and the Spread of Greek Culture

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13128

A boy who tamed a wild horse no man could tame became a man who conquered the known world and spread Greek culture far and wide. Learn about his fascinating life and find out why he's called "Great!"

categories

World

subject
History
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Have you ever heard the story of Alexander and Bucephalus?

This is the story of how young Alexander the Great got his horse, the massive black stallion who would later carry him through many battles on his way to conquering the world.

Watch as Alexander begs his father to let him have the horse that none of the men can ride.

Alexander The Great and Bucephalus - The myth begins - By Oliver Stone from Alexander the Great Channel:

Alexander the Great conquered ancient Greece, Persia, Egypt, and India. He loved Greek culture so much that he spread it throughout his empire.

But before we get to Alexander, let's meet Alexander's father: Philip, King of Macedonia.

Monument of King Philip of Macedonia

Philip was a young man around 300 BC when he was kidnapped, taken from his homeland, and held hostage for three years in a Greek city.

  • Do you think he, therefore, grew up hating the Greeks?
  • Might he promise to destroy them if he ever had the power to do so?

On the contrary, Philip learned to love everything Greek! He began to speak the Greek language and adopt Greek ways. He agreed with the Greeks, who saw his own people as "barbarians" while the Greeks were "civilized." He resolved that if he ever got back home, he would bring Greek education and Greek culture to his homeland.

He did return home to Macedonia, a kingdom just north of Greece, where he grew up and eventually became king. As king, his dream was to unite all the Greek city-states into one empire under his rule. Not only that, but he wanted to lead the united Greeks against the great Persian Empire! He wanted to conquer the known world and spread Greek culture everywhere.

map showing the Greek world ca. 500–479 BC

Image by Bibi Saint-Pol [Persian War graphics removed], via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported license.

Philip died before he could accomplish that daring plan; however, he left behind someone even more daring in his place: his son, Alexander.

Alexander the Great versus Darius

  • Do you think King Philip passed on his love for Greek learning and culture to his son?

Yes, he sure did! Though he was not able to spend much time at home teaching his child, Philip hired tutors for him. Alexander's first tutor was a relative of his mother. This man's name was Leonidas of Epirus, and his goal was not to be gentle with Alexander but to "toughen him up." He taught Alexander how to ride a horse and how to fight and made him go on long marches with very little food.

Lysimachus of Acarnania, Alexander's next tutor, was very different. King Philip hired him to make his boy more refined and civilized. So Lysimachus taught Alexander how to read, write, and play the lyre, which is a small, U-shaped stringed instrument.

lyre

Because of this, Alexander maintained a love of music throughout his life.

Finally, as the "finishing touch" to his education, Philip hired the famous philosopher Aristotle to teach Alexander. Aristotle was from Macedonia as well, so he was willing to come "home" and help his own people learn the things he had learned from the Greek philosopher Plato in Athens.

Aristotle tutoring Alexander

Image by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

So, when Philip died, he left Alexander with a great education, a strong and united kingdom, and a large army. What else could he do but go out and conquer the world?

Watch the following animated video for an amusing introduction to Alexander's life before answering the questions below it.

Alexander the Great | World Ahoy from WORLD AHOY animation series:

 

 

Let's watch one more short video on Alexander. This time, make a list of all the things you learn that were not in the previous video.

Alexander the Great - Skwirk Educational Animations from Skwirk Online Education:

 

As you learned in the videos, Alexander did not live long enough to enjoy ruling his new empire. However, when he died, a whole new world was begun called the "Hellenistic" period of world history. This time period of Greek influence lasted until the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Now that you've met Alexander, head over to the Got It? section where you'll learn some more about his tutor Aristotle and create a timeline of Alexander's life and adventures!

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