Alexander the Great-Military strategies

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Alexander the Great-Military strategies

Smit patel

Professor Masters

history 134

12 October 2014

Alexander III, King of Macedonia, was the true ruler of the known world and seen by many as between a man and god. The Macedonian army had faith in him as a god-like hero and leader, and in his genius for war, which not only made him one of the greatest leaders ever known, but which distinguishes him for all and each one of them. This loyalty and allegiance the army pledged to Alexander coupled with his knowledge of incorporating logistics into every aspect of his military theory, strategy, and tactics enabled the support of a world-conquering army. Alexander was never defeated in battle, and his military tactics helped him stay victorious and is one of the reasons why he is considered one of the greatest battle commanders in history. Many of his military tactics and strategies are still used today including the organization of his army in battles, the manner in which his army traveled, and how he chose to deal with conquered lands.

Alexander’s logistics strategy was characterized as direct and lacking of subtlety. To a large degree, logistics concerns shaped Alexander’s strategy and tactics. He considered logistical implications in every aspect of the military, from the routes he traveled to the allies he saw, in successfully moving the Macedonian army across the desserts of Asia Minor. One of his logistical strengths was the organizational of his army. A key to his combat superiority and logistics prowess was his staff. In addition to the traditional second in command, called the Secretariat, Alexander had Keepers of the Diary, Keepers of the King’s Plans, Surveyors and Official Historians. 1 In addition to the more traditional staff functions, he also kept a large number of specialists and scientists on his staff that did not fight, such as siege engineers, historians, and doctors. Their expertise would be key to the campaign's success. 2Alexander’s use of his staff of experts made his army formidable, not only in terms of its ability to execute combat operations but also in terms of its ability to plan and support combat operation. This tactic of organizing his army by using others is used by essentially every country with an army in the world today. Using the United States as an example, it has the President as its leader, the Vice President as second in command, followed by the Speaker of the House, and then there specialists on the staff called advisors that would help contribute to the President’s decisions. While putting together a staff was a smart move by Alexander, it was not his only one, as evident by how he maneuvered his army.

Under King Phillip’s direction, the Macedonian army underwent a significant change in the way that troops and supplies traveled. Phillip eliminated the use of wagons in the Macedonian army, which gave them far more speed and flexibility than any of their contemporaries. His son, Alexander, continued this idea by limiting the number of followers, civilians who tracked behind any army providing a range of services. He used only horses, camels, and mules because of their greater speed and endurance over traditional pack animals such as oxen and donkeys.3 The horses were necessary to carry the army’s tents, hammocks, medical supplies, siege machinery, and firewood. Even though these animals were needed, he attempted to limit the number of them on campaigns by ordering the troops to carry many of their own supplies. 4 The speed and flexibility this provided to the Macedonian army proved to be its greatest asset on many different occasions. This swift speed allowed his army to scare opposing armies into fleeing, allowing them to slaughter them as they fled. This tactic of using speed and flexibility for moving is still taught and used today by many different fighting forces. Some examples include the U.S Army Special Forces and U.S Navy Seals, which travel lightly in a stealthy manner and they move fast. They carry whatever supplies they need on them, and this minimal weight allows them to quickly complete their mission with precision. It is not exactly the same as Alexander moving an entire army, because the examples mentioned are not as large as an army in numbers, but the tactic of speed and maneuverability is still mimicked.

Alexander’s philosophy was not for revenge and destruction, but for control and ownership. When brought under Alexander’s control, either through defeat, or in many cases by self-capitulation, a conquered city was left with a measurable level of autonomy. His method throughout his reign was always the same. He separated civil administration from military control. The first he handed over to the representative of the conquered people, the second he placed in the hands of one of his chosen Macedonians.5 His goal was not for equality just among Greeks, but among all men, including the Persians. This was a smart tactic used by Alexander because this policy held many political and military logistics benefits. Politically, it helped reduce rebellions against him because he was treating all of the people with equality, as evident by him allowing the representative of the conquered people to be in charge of their civil administration. In terms of the military benefits, by placing one of his Macedonians in charge of the military control, Alexander controlled the conquered military. This was a smart tactic in all because by gathering support from the conquered people by giving them semi-freedom, he allowed them to concentrate on themselves while he would control what was more important: the military. His tactic of military control was also demonstrated by his personality. Alexander was tremendously brave and inspirational, and he used that as a strategy to input confidence into his men. His courage and bravery inspired so much confidence in his men that they would follow him anywhere and do anything for him.6 This tactic of ruling as an autonomous ruler as opposed to complete monarchy is still being used today. The United States could be used as an example of this. Alexander was the leader of Macedonia, and Barrack Obama is the leader of the United States; they both have a representative of each city/state for civil administration; and both control their militaries. Although Obama may not have complete control over military, he is still the commander in chief, so he still has a lot of control.

Alexander the Great is a man recognized as one of the greatest leaders ever known and his name is synonymous with success. His flawless battle record with zero defeats might not have happened if he did not learn from Aristotle and his father. Many say that he is lucky that his father built the army, which was passed down to him. Whatever the reasons disputing his greatness may be, I believe it is clearly evident that Alexander was a military genius because even with an inheritance of a large army, one must still be able to know how to use it, and he certainly did by conquering a lot of land including Persia. His military successes grew because of the tactics he used which are still used today including organizing his army, optimizing traveling efficiencies, and how he managed his conquered lands.


1 Hardemon, Richard A. Air Force Journal of Logistics. April2011, Vol. 35 Issue 1/2, p78-95. 18p.

2 Brown, Bryan. Junior Scholastic. May2011, Vol.113 Issue 15, p20-23. 4p.

3 Hardemon, Richard A. Air Force Journal of Logistics. April2011, Vol. 35 Issue 1/2, p78-95. 18p.

4 Kelly, Thomas. American Historical Review. Jun2009, Vol. 84 Issue 3, p721-722. 2p.

5 Brown, Bryan. Junior Scholastic. May2011, Vol.113 Issue 15, p20-23. 4p.

6 Heller, Margaret. Library Journal. June 15, 2014, Vol. 139 Issue 11, p108-112, 5p.

Works Cited

Brown, Bryan. "Alexander the Great: In the Fourth Century B.c, This 20-something Military

Genius Conquered Half the Known World." Junior Scholastic 113.15 (2011): 20-23.

Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

This article is about the story of Alexander the Great, and how he came to be the ruler of the known world at such a young age. It explores the journey he took and the way he took it to get there. I believe that this is a good source because the article it is not being biased, but rather just recalling the facts as they have been recalled throughout history. This article can be applicable to research regarding Alexander the Great's life, even though it does not go into great detail of just one particular aspect of it, it does provide general information including his military strategies.

Hardemon, Richard A. "General Logistics Paradigm: A Study of the Logistics of Alexander,

Napoleon, and Sherman." Air Force Journal of Logistics 35.1/2 (2011): 78-95. Academic

Search Complete. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

The article focuses on the logistics practices of military leaders Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and William Tecumseh Sherman. It notes that Alexander's conduct of his campaign was influenced by logistics concerns. The article provides informative pieces of Alexander's military tactics and it is useful because it is not biased, but rather stating the facts as they are. The information in the article could easily be applied to finding research on Alexander the Great's battle tactics and then seeing if they are used today.

Heller, Margaret. "By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the

Macedonian Empire." Library Journal 139.11 (2014): 108-12. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

This article talks about the military aspects of the Macedonian empire and how Alexander was just continuing the growth of an empire built by his father. It is a good article because it talks about Alexander in terms of his bad qualities for a change and it provides light on his whole self. This article is definitely usable for research, especially for a paper about military strategies because it talks about Alexander's tactics in it.
Kelly, Thomas. "Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army Review."

American Historical Review 84.3 (2009): 721-22. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

This article is about Alexander the Great's use of logistics in his military campaign. It details how he utilized his resources to maximize efficiency and conserve his army to conquer many lands. I think it is a good source because it is not biased and seems to be solely recalling the facts of Alexander the Great. I think this article is definitely usable for research, especially for military tactics because it is mostly about Alexander's strategies used.

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