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Alexander the Great, 356–323 BC Teachers' Guide

This Teacher's Guide is taken from the OCR Alexander the Great, 356-323BC Teachers' Guide which can be accessed at the OCR website and downloaded in full here.

Overview of the topic

The accounts of Alexander and his campaign enthral students of the ancient world. Full of memorable events and moral ambiguities, the accounts of Arrian, Plutarch and Diodorus provoke lively discussion and debate. Students often form strong opinions concerning the merits of Alexander’s aims, the extent of his achievements, and the nature of his character and beliefs. Alexander has cast a long shadow, his deeds acting as an inspiration for some and a source of bitterness for others. A host of famous Romans sought to emulate his conquests and the Ptolemaic dynasty was born from the upheavals surrounding his death. Alexander was also a man of his times, and thus his story sheds light on many other aspects of the period. This depth study should thus enable students to understand the complexities of Alexander’s reign and the interplay of political, military, religious, cultural and technological forces within it. Students should be able to identify and analyse the influences acting on Alexander as well as his character traits and beliefs. The study should enable learners to understand the factors that motivated Alexander to launch his expedition and then persist with it all the way to India. An understanding of how Alexander deployed his forces in different circumstances and his relationship with his men at different times are other key themes of this study. Students will also need to analyse and evaluate the evidence concerning some of the most significant events of the campaign while taking into consideration the aims, methods, sources and backgrounds of the ancient authors.

Alexander was a man who became a legend, generations of history writers reinterpreting him within the context of their own value systems. The ancient authors, writing from a Romanised western perspective, were often sympathetic in their treatment of his actions. Students will therefore need to understand the complex origin and nature of the evidence. As mentioned, fundamental to the study is a requirement to understand the aims, methods, sources and backgrounds of the writers and how these factors may have affected the utility of their accounts.

This depth study is designed to take approximately 27–32 hours of teaching time to complete. This guide will provide an overview of how this content might be taught in that timeframe. The planning guide is structured around the narratives / content and contains possible points that might be considered or discussed in class. The planning guide does not contain activities. This is intentional to enable you to choose a series of activities that compliment your own teaching.

Teachers may use this guide as an example of one possible way of approaching the teaching of the ‘Alexander the Great’ depth study and NOT a prescriptive plan for how your teaching should be structured.

What this guide is intended to do is to show you what the teaching outline might look like in practice. It should then help you to build your own scheme of work, confident that you’ve covered all the required content in sufficient depth.

Planning guide


It is important to note that this unit is a depth study. Focus will be on a wide range of historical concepts including: causation, change and continuity, significance, and similarity and difference. The basic format of this termly planning guide is to take the events in chronological order as the easiest approach for students to gain familiarity with the facts and sources. The themes in the specification can be accessed at various points in the scheme. Throughout this planning guide relevant ancient sources are suggested as well as useful themes for discussion in the classroom. The areas for discussion in the right-hand column are by no means an exhaustive list; many of the themes of the unit are very much overarching and can be discussed in relation to several of the incidents outlined in the essential narrative. For example, Alexander’s aims and beliefs; his character; his relationships with his army, companions and mother; and his military tactics, can all be discussed at multiple points of the course.



Essential Content

Relevant ancient sources

Themes for Discussion

Introduction and the developments of the Macedonia state and army under Philip

(Suggested timing: 1 ½–2 hours)

· Background to the rise of Macedon and familiarity with the geography of the areas covered in the depth study, most of which should be fairly familiar from the Persian period study.

· Introduction to key (textual) ancient source authors: Arrian, Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus.

· Alexander’s success built on the firm foundations laid down by Philip. Philip trained and organised a new army, at the same time ensuring the men swore loyalty to him rather than Macedonia. Philip made the traditional formation deeper so that his phalanx could exert greater force against an enemy. This required him to develop a longer spear; his men were from then on supplied with a five metre long lance known as a sarissa.

· Philip abolished the monarchies of some of the northern tribal states and instead these former ruling elites joined the traditional Macedonian noble families as part of the Companions of the King. The sons of the tribal leaders were invited to Philip’s court to form a class of royal pages. They also acted as hostages ensuring the loyalty of their fathers.

· Philip partook in a succession of politically strategic marriages. The marriages aimed to secure his borders by establishing better relations with Macedonia’s neighbours. For example, he married Olympias, the daughter of the king of the Epirus.


· Philip’s developments in the Macedonia army

· The weapons and armour of the Macedonia army

· Philip’s methods for securing the Macedonia state



Alexander’s birth and youth, and important events up to 336 BC

(Suggested timing: 2 ½–3 hours)

· Plutarch details episodes and stories that were connected to Alexander’s birth and youth. As Alexander became a heroic figure, legends quickly took hold of the historical record.

o Plutarch outlines the stories told about Alexander’s conception and birth. The stories are a mix of contextualised folktale and propaganda, designed to imply the pre-determined nature of Alexander’s ascent to greatness.

o The evidence concerning Alexander’s youth was selected to portray him as a boy marked out for success as well as to characterise him more generally.

· In 338 Philip moved into central Greece looking to fight a decisive battle against Thebes and Athens. He was seeking to emerge as the most powerful man in Greece. The battle took place at Chaeronea.

· Philip married a Macedonian called Cleopatra – a niece of Attalus. At the wedding Alexander fell out with his father in an argument incited by Attalus. Alexander and Olympias left Macedonia, although Philip recalled Alexander the following year.

· In 337 Philip established a council of Greek states known as the League of Corinth. Philip was elected its leader or hegemon. As hegemon, Philip was handed the responsibility of invading Persia in the name of Greece. In reality, he handed this responsibility to himself as it is far from clear that the Greek city-states shared his enthusiasm for avenging Xerxes’ invasion.

· In spring 336 Parmenio and Attalus were sent to Asia in charge of an advance party.

Plutarch, The Life of Alexander 2–3 and 6–9


· The nature of the evidence on Alexander’s birth and youth

· Alexander’s character as revealed at key moments prior to becoming king

· Greeks views of Philip and Macedonia

· Philip’s policy towards the Greek city-states

· The significance of Philip marrying Cleopatra

· The reason for Philip and Alexander’s falling out in 338/337

· Alexander’s relationship with Philip

· The character and influence of Olympias

The murder of Philip

October 336 BC

(Suggested timing: 1 ½–2 hours)

· Cleopatra Eurydice may have given birth to a son to compliment the daughter she had already had with Philip. Alexander and Olympias’ position was possibly now in even greater danger.

· Philip and Olympias’ daughter (who was also called Cleopatra) married Alexander of Epirus. Alexander of Epirus was both Olympias’ brother and King of Epirus. This union would have weakened Olympias’ position further in that she was no longer Philip’s main link with the neighbouring state of Epirus.

· The wedding celebrations were attended by a significant number of Greeks as well as Macedonians. Olympias was not present.

· The day after the wedding ceremony Philip was murdered. The situation of the assassin Pausanias does not seem enough of a motive on its own. He was angry with Philip for not punishing Attalus, yet he could, as a bodyguard, have more easily murdered Philip elsewhere. Olympias (and Alexander) could have influenced Pausanias, although Alexander later claimed the Persians had bribed the murderer.

Diodorus, Library of History 16.91–94

· The reasons for Philip to marry his daughter to her uncle

· The reasons for Philip’s murder

Alexander consolidating his position and the initial reasons for the expedition against Persia

(Suggested timing: 1 hour)

· On the murder of his father, Alexander launched a purge of possible rivals for the throne. Attalus was executed on Alexander’s instructions and with Parmenio’s help.

· Alexander travelled to Corinth where, like his father, he was appointed hegemon of Greece. The position carried the authority to wage war on Persia on behalf of the League of Corinth.

· Alexander then turned his attention towards Greece where Thebes and Athens were in rebellion. Theban exiles had returned to their city to foment rebellion. Alexander captured Thebes and massacred many of its inhabitants.

· Alexander invaded Persia for a host of interconnected reasons that should be analysed and attributed due weight.

· Darius III, the new king of Persia, was in a weak position. He was not from the principal royal line and had gained power after a series of coups.


· The ways Alexander secured power

· The reasons for Alexander’s Persian expedition

Alexander in Asia-Minor

(Suggested timing: 4–4 ½ hours)

· Antipaer was left in charge of Greece by Alexander.

· In 334 Alexander crossed the Hellespont with his army and made a detour to Troy. Alexander was said to have laid a wreath on the tomb of Achilles and taken sacred weapons dating from the time of the Trojan War.

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 1.11–12

· The significance of Alexander’s visit to Troy

· Alexander’s relationship with his companions (Hephaestion)

Battle at the River Granicus (May 334 BC)

· An army led by the Persian satraps of Asia-Minor and Memnon was waiting for Alexander at the River Granicus. Alexander fought bravely during the battle, leading a Companion Cavalry charge at Mithridates (Darius’ son-in-law). At this point Cleitus saved his life. Alexander showed particular contempt for the Greek mercenaries opposing him: his army was instructed to show them no mercy and those who survived were classed as traitors and enslaved to the mines of Macedon. Alexander sent Persian armour back to Athens to show the Athenians what he had achieved.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 1.13–16


· The use of cavalry, the phalanx and other troops

· The nature and aims of Arrian

· The nature of the evidence regarding the Battle of Granicus

· After the Battle at the River Granicus, the city of Sardis surrendered to Alexander. Alexander also takes control of Ephesus and Miletus.

· Unable to match the Persians at sea, Alexander’s fleet was becoming a financial liability: it was disbanded.

· Alexander moved down the coast and besieged Halicarnassus.

· Alexander sent the younger men in his army home for the winter to be with their wives. He and Parmenio split the rest of the army to better deal with other pockets of resistance.



Alexander at Gordium

· Alexander’s forces reconvened at Gordium in the spring of 333. The cutting of the Gordian knot was symbolic: Alexander was signalling his greater vision for the expedition. Cutting the knot was also important for propaganda reasons: it encouraged the soldiers by making them believe they were destined to take over Asia as the prophecy foretold.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 2.3


· What does Arrian’s account of the legend of the Gordium knot reveal about the nature of ancient historical writing?

· Alexander’s character

The Battle of Issus (November 333 BC)

· At the Battle of Issus Alexander faced a much larger Persian army across a river. The steep banks of the River Issus provided a dangerous obstacle for Alexander’s phalanx. However, Alexander led a strong cavalry charge that forced Darius to flee. Darius got away but Alexander captured his family.


Alexander sarcophagus

Mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii


· The tactics used in the main battles


Alexander in Phoenicia and Egypt

(Suggested timing: 1 ½–2 hours)

· Parmenio was sent with a detachment to Damascus where he took possession of vast amounts of Darius’ wealth.

· Darius, having suffered a significant defeat, offered to make peace as Alexander marched down the Phoenician coast. Alexander replied demanding to be recognised as King of Asia.

· Alexander was determined that all cities should submit to him. The Phoenician cities had to be forced to submit as the Persians could not be allowed to possess bases for their fleet and thus continue controlling the seas and trade routes. Alexander had disbanded his fleet while at Halicarnassus (for financial reasons) and so an active Persian fleet may have disrupted his plans.




Siege of Tyre (January–July 332 BC)

· Chief among the Phoenician cities was Tyre. Situated on an island half a mile out to sea, the Babylonians, among others, had previously tried and failed to take the city. Alexander convinced his men that his ancestor Heracles had visited him in a dream and demanded that he worship in the Temple of Heracles in Tyre. More prosaically, he was determined to prevent the Persians from using the Phoenician ports to shift the war over to Greece where their allies the Spartans were fomenting unrest.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 2.24



· the main events of the siege of Tyre

· Alexander’s character and leadership as revealed by his actions during the final capture of Tyre


· The Tyrians taunted the Macedonians from their walls saying Alexander would never capture the city. Attempts at negotiation failed when the Tyrians threw some of Alexander’s men from the city wall. Alexander built a mole across the sea in order to use his siege engines against the city’s walls. The Tyrians shot arrows at his men from both their walls and their triremes. The Tyrians then burnt his mole using a fire ship. Increasingly determined, Alexander built a wider mole. Alexander had forecast that, due to his recent victory at Issus, other Phoenician cities would switch allegiance. This hope was realised when the newly conquered Sidon willingly sent ships to pin the Tyrians in their harbours. The Tyrians could no longer sally out to attack the new mole and neither could they import supplies into the city. Yet even then Tyre’s landside walls proved too strong. Alexander used his new fleet to sail round to a weaker part of the wall. He put his siege engines on rafts anchored to the seabed. In desperation the Tyrians sent divers to cut the anchor ropes and threw hot sand on Alexander’s men from their walls. Alexander replaced the anchor ropes with metal chains. After the failure of a desperate Tyrian naval attack, Alexander’s siege engines smashed a gap in the wall and a detachment of shield-bearers was ordered to exploit it. After their leader was killed, Alexander and his Companions took over the attack. 8,000 Tyrians were massacred.




Alexander in Egypt

· Instead of heading into the Persian heartland, Alexander moved into Egypt. While his men were founding Alexandria, Alexander travelled hundreds of miles into the desert to the oracle that was located at the oasis that is now modern-day Siwa.



· The importance of foundation cities

· Alexander’s beliefs

The Battle of Gaugamela

(Suggested timing: 2 ½–3 hours)

Battle of Gaugamela (October 331 BC)

· Darius had amassed a large army; Alexander realised his smaller army could easily be outflanked and attacked on its weak sides and rear. Therefore Alexander stationed infantry in the midst of his cavalry to strengthen his flanks. The infantry would surprise Darius’ cavalry. The soldiers on each side of the phalanx could also move back like flaps to prevent being outflanked. Alexander’s plan was to move right so that Darius would initiate action to prevent the battle moving off the ground he had prepared for his chariots. It was hoped that Darius would advance his cavalry on the left in an attempt to outflank Alexander’s right and stop the Macedonians moving further to the right. Alexander hoped that this would create a gap in the Persian line through which he could lead a Companion Cavalry charge at Darius. The Persians had too many men to attempt anything else – Alexander therefore had to win the battle in a decisive move against Darius. The plan generally worked as envisaged and Darius was forced to flee the battle. The ancient sources say Parmenio was struggling to hold the left-flank and had to ask for assistance. The implication is that this request prevented Alexander from capturing Darius and gaining a full victory.


Plutarch, The Life of Alexander 31–33

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 3.9–15

Babylonian Astronomical Diary tablet mentioning Gaugamela


· Reasons for Alexander’s victory

· The use of cavalry, the phalanx and other troops

· What does Plutarch’s account of the battle reveal about his priorities as a writer?

· The nature of the evidence for the Battle of Gaugamela

· After the battle Alexander’s army moved to Babylon where the soldiers were allowed to rest and recuperate; many Babylonians welcomed Alexander as the Egyptians had done.

· Antipater, who had been left in charge of Macedon, beat King Agis of Sparta in a battle at Megalopolis. Agis had sought to destroy Macedon’s pre-eminent position in Greece and had been liaising with the Persians.



The Battle of the Persian Gates and Alexander’s visit to Persepolis

(Suggested timing: 1 ½ –2 hours)

Battle of the Persian Gates (January 330 BC)

· Alexander moved on to the Persian capital at Persepolis after fighting his way through the mountain pass known as the Persian Gates. Meanwhile Parmenio was charged with leading the other half of the army on a more circuitous, less mountainous, route to Persepolis.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 3.18


· the events of the Persian Gates

· Alexander’s character as revealed by the events at Persepolis

· The reasons for the burning of the Palace at Persepolis

· The nature of the sources regarding Alexander’s visit to Persepolis

Alexander in Persepolis

· Arrian says that Alexander set fire to the palace to avenge Xerxes’ destruction of Athens 150 years earlier however Plutarch gives another story where Thais, Ptolemy’s mistress, encourages Alexander to burn down the palace.

· At this juncture Alexander changed the terms of service of his Greek soldiers in a move that perhaps signalled that he felt the revenge mission had finally been completed.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 3.18.10–3.18.12

Plutarch, The Life of Alexander 38

The pursuits of Darius and Bessus

(Suggested timing: 1 ½–2 hour)

· Alexander marched to Ecbatana and left Parmenio there with a lot of the Persian treasure.

· Alexander chased Darius down. Darius was eventually betrayed by his own men and held captive. In July 330 BC he was killed when Alexander’s troops attacked the camp where Darius was being held. Alexander gave Darius a state funeral at Persepolis.

· Bessus proclaimed himself Great King – Artaxerxes V. Alexander would not stand for this and needed to avenge the death of Darius. Many of Alexander’s men, no doubt, thought that the death of Darius would mean the end of the fighting and a return to Macedonia.


· The impact of Darius’ death on the nature of Alexander’s campaign

· Alexander’s character


Alexander’s adoption of Persian customs

· Immediately after the death of Darius, Alexander started to adopt some aspects of Persian dress.

· The first complaints about Alexander’s behaviour were voiced soon after.


Silver tetradrachm minted by Ptolemy I

Silver tetradrachm minted by Lysimachus


· Reasons for Alexander’s adoption of Persian customs


The conspiracy of/against Philotas (October 330 BC)

· Philotas boasted to his mistress that Alexander’s victories were really due to him and his father Parmenio.

· Some pages asked Philotas, Parmenio’s son, to arrange an audience with Alexander for them. Philotas twice turned down their request. As their information was important the pages therefore found another way of speaking to the King. It transpired that other pages were plotting against the King’s life. The plotters were dealt with but Alexander was furious that he had not been warned earlier. There was a suspicion, if no actual proof, that Philotas may have been involved. Alexander executed Philotas, sealed the camp to prevent information leaking out, and then sent an urgent message to Ecbatana instructing that Parmenio be killed in case the old general led a rebellion in an act of revenge.

· Alexander split Philotas’ sole command of the Companion Cavalry in two: between Cleitus and Hephaestion.



· Alexander’s relationship with his companions and his army (Phitotas and Parmenio)


Pursuit of Bessus

· In the spring of 329, Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush into Bactria in pursuit of Bessus. The crossing was a feat of determination, stubbornness and organisation given that Alexander was leading such a large force.

· In the summer of 329, Bessus was captured and mutilated, the customary Persian punishment for those who committed treason.



Alexander in Bactria and Sogdiana. The murder of Cleitus and the opposition of Callisthenes

(Suggested timing: 2 ½–3 hours)

The death of Cleitus (328 BC)

· Alexander’s enemies now employed guerrilla warfare tactics against him; his army was forced to split up to hunt out the different groups of fighters who attacked them. Not all the Macedonian leaders enjoyed success in the battles that followed and one night a singer began to mock those who had suffered defeat. Alexander encouraged the singer to continue despite Macedonian protests. Everybody was drunk and worn out after the fighting. An argument began in which Alexander stabbed Cleitus to death and then immediately regretted it.


Plutarch, The Life of Alexander 50–51

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 4.8–4.9.8


· The reasons for Cleitus’ argument with Alexander

· Alexander’s character and his relationship with his men

· In the spring of 327 Alexander sent men with climbing experience to storm a stronghold known as the Sogdian Rock. The Sogdians were said to have claimed their position unassailable, which, if Arrian is to be believed, fired Alexander’s determination to capture it even more.




· Alexander then married a noble girl called Roxane who had been taken prisoner on the Sogdian Rock. It was, despite Arrian’s views to the contrary, most likely a politically inspired union in that her father, Oxyartes, was a leading tribal chief in Sogdiana.




Callisthenes’ opposition and removal in the Pages’ Conspiracy

· Callisthenes argued with Alexander over the issue of whether Greeks and Macedonians should perform obeisance (proskynesis) before the King. It seems that Alexander was encouraged to organise a stage-managed event in which the ritual would be trialled; we don’t hear of it being demanded again. It may have been in this context that the Greek Callisthenes spoke out powerfully against Alexander’s growing preference for the custom. Callisthenes is portrayed as having put forward a powerful case suggesting that in freedom lays strength, and that some honours were only fit for gods and not men. The subtext of Callisthenes’ argument was that previous kings had failed to benefit from receiving proskynesis: free peoples had defeated all of them.

· Callisthenes was soon dead. He was either executed or died in prison after being accused of involvement in another plot against Alexander – the so-called ‘Pages’ Conspiracy.’ It is unlikely he was involved but the episode could possibly be interpreted as an example of Alexander’s vindictiveness and paranoia. The plot to murder Alexander in his sleep had been triggered when he overreacted to the actions of a page. The plot failed and its existence was revealed the next day. The pages were tortured until all the conspirators were unmasked. Callisthenes was their teacher and Alexander, having already argued with the Greek historian, appeared keen to implicate him in the affair.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 4.9.9–4.12


· The reasons for Callisthenes’ opposition to Alexander

· The degree of disapproval at Alexander’s adoption of Persian customs

Alexander in India

(Suggested timing: 2 hours)

The siege of the Aornos Rock (April 326 BC)

· Alexander took up the challenge of capturing the Aornus Rock. Alexander’s vigorous assault on this high mountain stronghold was perhaps motivated by a story that even Heracles had failed to take it. Ptolemy, making use of local guides, was tasked with leading an advanced force to secure a position from which to attack the main Indian stronghold. Ptolemy completed this difficult mission and Alexander was able to lead the main army up the mountain to join him. After laying siege to the mountaintop, Alexander ordered a ravine to be bridged so that his war engines could be brought within range of the Indian defences. The rock was captured after an intense assault followed by the false promise of a peace treaty. Many of those who had resisted Alexander were either massacred or fell to their deaths attempting to escape.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 4.28–30

Silver tetradrachm minted by Ptolemy I



· the methods Alexander used to capture the Aornus Rock

The campaign against Porus

· One Indian leader who offered significant resistance was Porus. Alexander admired how Porus had fought until all hope was lost and so the Indian was allowed to retain his kingdom – but only as a satrap – in return for his loyalty and help in subduing other pockets of resistance.

· Bucephalas died after the battle and in response Alexander founded a city in the name of his most trusted horse. Populated by a mix of local people and soldiers no longer fit for battle, the culture in each foundation was said to have been Greco-Macedonian in nature. Most of the foundations were garrison towns designed to leave a permanent military presence in areas where it was felt that rebellions might surface in the future. The inhabitants, often veterans and others loyal to Alexander, were meant to be a socialising force.



· Alexander’s character

· The nature and role of Alexander’s foundation cities

· the Indus Valley campaign and what it reveals about Alexander’s abilities and character

Mutiny at the River Hyphasis (Summer 326 BC)

· The Macedonians received reports that they were still a long way from the Great Ocean and that they would have to fight armies with thousands of elephants to get there. This news, along, no doubt, with the rain, mud, snakes, insects and proliferation of illness within the camp, eventually resulted in a mutiny at the River Hyphasis. Alexander couldn’t change the men’s minds; to save face he declared the omens were bad and ordered the army turn back.




· the Indus Valley campaign and what it reveals about Alexander’s aims, and relationships with his men

The difficulties encountered on the return to Babylon. The mass marriages at Susa

(Suggested timing: 1 ½–2 hours)

The march through the Gedrosian Desert

· Alexander made the decision to march through the Gedrosian Desert, thousands of soldiers and camp followers died. Alexander’s veterans survived because, led by Craterus, they took a different route avoiding the desert.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 7.4.1–7.4.3


· Why might Alexander have decided to march through the Gedrosian Desert?

· Alexander’s relationship with his army and satraps

· Emerging from the desert, Alexander found his empire to be in a state of unrest; there had been rumours that he had died in the east. Alexander acted decisively, punishing the offending satraps to restore order. A further purge of satraps took place once Alexander reached Susa.


The mass marriages at Susa

· Alexander held a mass marriage ceremony for his Companions at Susa. Alexander married into two lines of the Persian royal clan.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 7.4.4–7.4.7


· The reasons behind the mass marriages at Susa


The mutiny at Opis

· At Opis Alexander faced another mutiny when he attempted to decommission his veteran soldiers who were no longer fit to serve. His soldiers, including those he was decommissioning, were angered that they were to be replaced by the Epigonoi — 30,000 young Persians who had been trained and armed in the Macedonian manner.



· Alexander’s relationship with his army


· His army newly reinforced by the Epigonoi, Alexander was now less reliant on his veterans than he had been at the Hyphasis. He executed thirteen men he considered to be the ringleaders of the mutiny and threatened to send all the Macedonian rebels in his army home without pay. The Macedonians pleaded with Alexander and he let them off while promising to view them all as his kinsmen.

· 10,000 veterans, including those who had married their oriental partners were discharged and ordered back to Macedonia. Their offspring by the oriental women were required to be left behind.





· In Macedon, Olympias and Antipater were at loggerheads. When Alexander sent the 10,000 veterans back to Macedon, Antipater was sent a request to bring out fresh Macedonia troops, potentially as a way to prevent his dispute with Olympias from turning nasty.



Hephaestion and Alexander’s deaths

(Suggested timing: 2 ½ hours)

Death of Hephaestion (324 BC)

· Alexander travelled to Ecbatana where Hephaestion died following a short illness. As Alexander’s favourite, Hephaestion had become increasingly unpopular. Alexander was naturally very upset given the closeness of his relationship with Hephaestion. He sent messengers to Siwa to see whether Hephaestion should be worshipped as a god. The oracle refused his request and so Alexander had to content himself with declaring Hephaestion a hero to whom sacrifices should be directed.


Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 7.14


· The impact of Hephaestion’s death on Alexander

· Alexander’s character and his relationship with his men

Death of Alexander (323 BC)

· Alexander returned to Babylon but did not immediately enter the city because of troubling oracles. Alexander suspected the Chaldaeans had dreamt up the oracles to further their own interests, yet he remained wary and held off entering the city.

· Alexander spent the remainder of the spring planning an expedition against the Arabians. Despite this apparent burst of activity, the sources continue to paint Alexander as paranoid, overly superstitious and too harsh.

· After a period of illness, during which he continued to drink heavily, Alexander died. Whether he died from an accumulation of natural causes, or was the victim of a conspiracy, has long been a subject of debate. Prime candidates for conspiracy theorists are Antipater and his family.


Plutarch, The Life of Alexander 73–77

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 7.24–26


· The state of Alexander’s relationship with his companions (Antipater [74] and his sons)

· Alexander’s state of mind during this period

· The cause and nature of Alexander’s death


Review of Alexander’s life

(Suggested timing: 1 hour)

· A chance to reflect on Arrian’s appraisal of Alexander’s life and character.

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander 7.28–30

· The accuracy and reliability of Arrian.

· The character and personality of Alexander


Endorsed textbooks from Bloomsbury

Resources for OCR specification for first teaching September 2017



OCR Ancient History GCSE Component 1: Greece and Persia

Sam Baddeley, Paul Fowler, Lucy Nicholas, James Renshaw

ISBN-13: 978-1350015173

Released July 2017


OCR Ancient History GCSE Component 2: Rome

Paul Fowler, Christopher Grocock, James Melville

ISBN-13: 978-1350015203

Released July 2017


This textbook supports OCR's GCSE Ancient History Component 1. It covers the period study on the Persian Empire and the three optional depth studies.


This textbook supports OCR's GCSE Ancient History Component 2. It covers the longer period study on the Foundation of Rome and the three optional depth studies.

These textbooks have been written by experts and experienced teachers in a clear and accessible narrative. Ancient sources are described and analysed, with supporting images. Helpful features include study questions, further reading, and boxes focusing in on key people, events and terms.

Suggested resources


Ancient Sources


The prescribed sources have all been translated for you in the OCR Source booklet. However, useful notes on aspects of some of the sources can be found in the following translations:


  • The Landmark translation of Arrian is especially easy to use due to both the helpful notes found on each page and its prodigious use of maps. The volume also provides a thought provoking set of appendices as well as an excellent introduction to Arrian’s beliefs, methods and writing.
  • The Historical Sources in Translation series has a volume dedicated to Alexander (Waldemar Heckel, & J. C. Yardley (eds.) Alexander the Great: Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell, 2003) ISBN 978-0631228219). It offers some interesting additions to the content outlined in the specification.




  1. B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge University Press, new edition, 2010) ISBN: 978-0521406796


Hugh Bowden, Alexander the Great, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2014) ISBN: 978-0198706151


Pierre Briant, Alexander the Great: The Heroic Ideal (Thames & Hudson, 1996) ISBN: 978-0500300701


Paul Cartledge, Alexander the Great: The Truth Behind the Myth (Pan, 2013) ISBN 978-1447237198


Matthew Dillon and Lynda Garland, The Ancient Greeks: History and Culture from Archaic Times to the Death of Alexander (Routledge, 2012) ISBN: 978-0415471435


Anita Ganeri & Rob Shone, Alexander the Great: the Life of a King and Conqueror, (Book House, 2005) ISBN 978-1904642800


Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography (University of California Press, 1992) ISBN 978-0520071667


Nicholas Hammond, Alexander the Great: King, Commander and Statesman (2nd edition, Bloomsbury, 2013) ISBN: 978-1853990687


  1. G. L. Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great (The University of North Carolina Press, 1997) ISBN: 978-0807847442


  1. R. Hamilton, Alexander the Great (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973) ISBN: 978-0822960843


Waldemar Heckel, The Wars of Alexander the Great 336–323 BC (Osprey Publishing, 2002) ISBN 978-1841764733


Waldemar Heckel and Ryan Jones, Macedonian Warrior: Alexander’s Elite Infantryman (Osprey Publishing, 2006) ISBN 9781841769509


Waldemar Heckel and Lawrence Tritle (eds.), Alexander the Great: A New History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) ISBN: 978-1405130820


Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great (Penguin 2006) ISBN 978-0141020761


John O’Brien, Alexander the Great: the Invisible Enemy (Routledge, 1994) ISBN 978-0415106177


Nick Sekunda, The Army of Alexander the Great (Osprey, 1984 Reprinted 2003) ISBN 9780850455397


Ruth Sheppard (ed.), Alexander the Great at War: His Army – His Battles – His Enemies (Osprey Publishing, 2008) ISBN 9781846033285


Richard Stoneman, Alexander the Great (2nd Edition, Routledge, 2004) ISBN 978-0415319324


Michael Wood, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (Ebury Press, 2004) ISBN 9780563521938


Ian Worthington (ed.), Alexander the Great: A Reader (2nd edition, Routledge, 2011) ISBN 978-0415667432


Ian Worthington, Alexander the Great. Man and God (Routledge, 2003) ISBN: 978-1405801621




  • Michael Wood’s In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great is a particularly useful teaching resource that can be used alongside the specified content to great effect.


  • The Great Commanders: Alexander the Great – The Battle of Issus (Channel 4, 1993)




  • The website contains a wealth of information related to the study of Alexander, Philip and Macedonia. The site contains detailed biographies of Alexander and his father. More significantly, there is detailed information on the competing historical traditions and the relationship between the different ancient sources. The site also provides a useful analysis on the Babylonian Astronomical Diary tablet mentioning Gaugamela.




















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