The histories and biographies of Alexander the Great, who would eventually go on to become one of the most famous and influential leaders in world history and that of his parents are consistent in their reports that Olympias had frequent emotional outbursts in an effort to gain her husband’s attention, but they also conclude that Olympias’s tempestuous mood swings seemed only to push Philip II farther away from her and into the arms of other women who were calmer and equally interested in being the object of the King’s affections (Fredricksmeyer 300-301; Hamilton 117-118). Clearly, the young Alexander the Great did not have an easy early life, despite any privileges that might have come as a result of his father, Olympias and his powerful position.

It is impossible, of course, to know exactly how Alexander the Great’s early home life affected him, although there is evidence that the strain and conflict created a distance that was both literal and emotional between Alexander and his father, Olympias, particularly during Alexander’s late adolescent years. In fact, despite Alexander’s deep admiration for his father, the son had a dramatic argument with his father upon Philip’s marriage to Kleopatra, Philip’s last of the seven wives, and the wife who effectively replaced Olympias (Thomas 92). The reason for the conflict was that Kleopatra was a full-blooded Macedonian, while Olympias was not (Thomas 90). At the feast celebrating the wedding of Philip and Kleopatra, a toast was made in which Philip was congratulated for having joined in union with a woman who could produce a legitimate heir to his throne (Thomas 92). The remark was an insult that wounded both Alexander and Olympias, and the conflict was apparently so divisive that it prompted Alexander to take his mother and leave their home, returning more than a year later (Hamilton 117; Thomas 92).

While both of Alexander’s parents were “striking personalities” who were known for their passion, intensity, and flaring tempers—a trait they passed down to their son—Alexander always seemed most loyal to his mother, “who always retained his affection” (Hamilton 117). Alexander’s relationship with his father, on the other hand, was characterized, particularly in the years immediately preceding Philip’s death, as a constant duel between competing feelings of “emulation and resentment” (Fredricksmeyer 300). Alexander had much in common with his father, both in terms of his personality, his temperament, and his leadership skills abilities, but their untempered passions, and, perhaps, some underlying and unconscious competitive feelings, made it difficult for them to relate to one another more effectively as farther and son.

No biography of Alexander the Great is complete without mentioning the influence of Aristotle on Alexander. Whereas his early home life with his father, Olympias, might have been dramatic and unstable, Alexander’s academic life appeared to have been very fulfilling to him and education is described as always having been of value and interest to Alexander (Thomas 12). Because of his noble lineage, Alexander was tutored privately throughout his childhood and adolescence; among his mentors and instructors was the esteemed philosopher Aristotle, of whom Alexander was especially fond (Bieber 183). Thomas, citing a history of Alexander written by Plutarch, noted that “‘It was Aristotle, more than anyone…, who did more than anyone to implant in Alexander his interest in healing as well as that of philosophy’” (126). Evidence suggests that Aristotle was fond of his intelligent student, too; Thomas indicates that Aristotle was purported to have written his text, On Monarchy, for Alexander (126) and that Aristotle considered Alexander to be one of his prized pupils; a worthy comment as Aristotle was a teacher to many powerful men of the time.