Few historical figures stand out to the degree of Alexander. A warrior at 16, a commander at 18 and a king by 20 his young man did what few dreamt about and fewer still achieved, he conqueror the known world.
While there have been films concerning Alexander nothing can compare to the famous treatment that only the History Channel can provide.
Although many of us have cable with hundreds of channels, the History Channel has become one of my personal favorites because of shows like this. Their latest opus, ‘Alexander the Great’ is the only treatment of this man that is worthy of the accolade, Great.
Alexander was groomed for greatness from his birth. His father, Philip II of Macedon, had the habit of taking a new wife with each successful campaign.
His fifth wife, Olympias, princess of Epirus, daughter of King Neoptolemus, the wife that would bear Alexander, was not at all like the others, she was ambitious, devious and strongly attached to the powerful cults of Dionysus and Orpheus. From the start she wanted little more in life than to ensure her son would be the heir to the throne.
When Alexander was born in Pella in Macedonia in late July of 356 BCE the world was about to change forever.
Much of this presentation was done in the typical History channel format; live reenactments intermixed with various talking head experts.
While that has always worked well for them here they take a bit of a novel and entertaining variation. They present several of the men that originally recorded the history of Alexander as if they where among the experts commenting on his life. They even have the required text banner identifying them under their face.
This works so well since it truly makes history come alive. It also works since so much of Alexander’s conception; life and death are surrounded by myths.
One such myth is the dream his mother allegedly had the night of his conception, Olympias was of her womb being struck by a lighting bolt as a lion looked on. Later her husband found her in their bed entwined with a serpent, such dreams and events had a profound affect on Phillip.
Not only did he have to content with the worries of battle his home life was one of constant struggle. Born into such a tumultuous home life naturally affected young Alexander. He had the best of all opportunities including being tutored by none less than Aristotle. Still, while he would never have loving parents he was trained in all forms of war, strategy and the management skills required by a ruler.
He was molded from the start for the historical role he would play. Alexander was noted as saying that his father may have given him the gift of life but Aristotle showed him how to live well.
This was not a barbarian, some uneducated man that seized power; he was a driven young man that only knew how to control the world.
This presentation showed just how much a teenager could accomplish. At sixteen he was a fully combat trained soldier. In just a couple of years his skills and training elevated him to commander, a young man that would not only succeed his father but also completely over shadow him.
Even the best training would not be worth anything without the raw talent and this feature shows just how much native ability Alexander had. He was a quick study, not only of the ancient texts that his tutors brought him, but more importantly he studied men.
He could combine a vast knowledge of historical battles with an understanding of his foes. There was a bit of natural psychologist to Alexander. He knew almost instinctively how best to defeat an enemy. He also used this ability to rally his men.
Most battle hardened soldiers would be reticent to follow a mere boy king but Alexander could inspire his troops like few rulers could. After a few victories the men believed Alexander to be a god, a position that sat very well with Alexander.
His military career was unprecedented and has rarely been rivaled. Alexander the Great swept through what we now know as the Middle East with apparent ease. Nation after nation fell to the might of his armies and his quick mind.
Although his reign lasted only some twelve years Alexander the Great did more than any other man. Alexander the Great not only conquered Alexander the Great built up the devastated nations.
Each nation that fell to Alexander the Great was made into a launch pad for the next country in his agenda. In Issus his forces where reported to be out numbered some ten to one Alexander the Great responded with the unheard of tactic of holding back a reserve force, just one of many military first for this young king.
Whether by land or sea no nation could stand before Alexander the Great.
As with his birth his death was equally fodder for mystery. At the age of thirty-two Alexander the Great succumbed to an apparent poisoning. His last words were in response to who would inherit the world from him, "To the Strongest".
Interred in a golden coffin Alexander the Great legacy endures to today and remains a life stilled studied in most military training.
The History Channel has a motto that they bring history to life and this is not just a slogan to them, they always deliver. It always seems that when I start channel surfing I wind up on the History Channel. They are a gem in a wasteland to stations.
With this production of Alexander the Great they surpass even their exception standards. The re-enactments in Alexander the Great are better done than most Hollywood mainstream films. There is a voyeuristic sense in Alexander the Great, a feeling that you are watching news instead of history.
Alexander the Great demonstrates that learning can be entertaining, something lost by most networks. The History Channel scores again with this engrossing look at one of the most powerful men that ever lived.
Alexander the Great is a show that the whole family can watch together. At times you will be so involved with the epic that you will not even realize that you are learning history.
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