Alexander the Great was probably a good student, and an attentive one, too. A popular story told about the young Alexander seemed to foreshadow his greatness and future accomplishments by highlighting just how observant and intelligent the boy was. According to various accounts of Alexander the Great, Alexander was able to tame a wild horse that no other man, even with more age and experience than Alexander, had been able to mount (Thomas 13). He did so not by brute force, but by making the simple observation that the riders had always tried to mount the horse in the direction opposite the sun. The horse, Alexander had noticed, seemed afraid of its shadow, and put up fierce resistance when would-be riders approached him. Alexander simply turned the horse in the direction of the sun and was able to mount him easily (Thomas 13). Onlookers were deeply impressed by the young boy’s accomplishment, which seemed to them a confirmation of his future greatness (Thomas 13).

Alexander’s formal education incorporated book-learning, which he apparently enjoyed, but it also equipped him with certain life skills that would prepare him for his eventual ascension to the Macedonian throne (Thomas 12). The philosopher Aristotle used his teaching methods to instruct Alexander in the arts of rhetoric, philosophy, and political strategy, endowing Alexander with the political, strategy based and social acumen that the post of king would require of him, a position which he would assume just 20 years later (Thomas 12-13). By the time Alexander did assume the throne in 336, when he became king as the result of his father’s assassination, Alexander had already had some practical, hands-on experiencing in governing and giving orders. At the age of 16, Alexander had already been entrusted by his father to rule in his stead during Philip’s absences from Macedonia, and at 18 he was commanding an army unit in active battle at Chaironeia (Thomas 13).

This military and strategy experience would be useful, as two years into his rule Alexander was authorizing a war and leading troops on to Troy, the first of many battles to secure and expand Macedonian territory (Thomas 14). The bold and “impetuous young king and commander-in-chief” with a compelling air of “manliness and lion-like fierceness” (Bieber 183) systematically invaded and conquered what are modern-day Syria, Palestine, the Gaza Strip, and finally, Egypt, the crown jewel in a strategy that Heckel refers to as “conquer first and consolidate later” (8). It was his role as a conquering king and military leader with a great understanding of strategy that Alexander the Great relished, and it was this responsibility, which he took so seriously, that led him into battles and adventures that confirmed his greatness and created the stories that have become historical legends.

Alexander the Great spent most of his rule as a military king on the road to or in battle as a master of strategy in war; in the span of just eight years, he covered 12,000 miles as part of his campaign to constantly expand his empire (Thomas 19). His skills as a military leader because of his ability to visualize war strategy were unassailable, and he used an integrated strategy both to attract and retain troops, as well as to train and motivate them to be successful in their operations (Thomas 19). By the time the great military leader Alexander the Great reached what we recognize today as the territory belonging to India, he had developed a military force that was 35,000 soldiers strong, and had developed an impressive and functional communications system that was particularly remarkable for the age and its lack of technological resources (Thomas 19).