Just what made Alexander the Great so great? Was it his tolerance for other cultures? Was it the comprehensive education he received from Aristotle? Was it his ambition? Was it the fact that he was thought to be a descendant of the war hero Achilles? One could argue that there was not one single factor that made him so successful, but that his education, use of strategy, tolerance for other cultures, and drive to succeed all played an important part in his success.
Even though students might not at first see how Alexander the Great's life and example can apply to modern times, it will become more clear as they delve deeper into his actions. Alexander’s appreciation of other cultures and willingness to let those he conquered maintain their cultural identity was virtually unprecedented. It is always interesting to lead students in a discussion about things that can be learned from Alexander the Great, and whether or not modern leaders seem to have followed his example. For example, how many modern leaders ride into battle alongside their troops?
It is hard to imagine how different the world might have been had Alexander not died suddenly at the age of 32. The amount of land he conquered was beyond what anyone at that time had imagined possible. Had Alexander lived, what other lands and cultures might he have conquered? What problems might he have encountered once back in Macedonia? What kind of monarch would he have proven himself to be? These questions will forever remain unanswered, but provide an excellent opportunity for students to contemplate what kind of leader is best.
A logical first step for educators teaching about Alexander the Great is to have students do some map work. Perhaps the most important concept for students to grasp when studying Alexander is the vast scope of his empire. Students should label and color a map of the land that was under the rule of Alexander, including all territories, cities and important landmarks. They should then chart the route he and his army took from Macedonia to India and back. Students should compare this to a modern map to see how many countries Alexander's conquests affected.
In today's world, some people believe that "image is everything." Students learning about Alexander can assume the role of "spin doctor" or public relations expert. Teachers can ask students to create a press release informing people in outlying lands that Alexander is on his way, and how his arrival will ultimately benefit them. Students will need to have a good understanding of Alexander's positive qualities in order to write persuasively in this activity. Conversely, students could write letters to the editor in which they express their dissatisfaction with Alexander's arrival in their country and why they would prefer to remain sovereign.
Alexander the Great is legendary in western civilization because he was so far ahead of his time in many respects. He is one of the positive influences on western culture which makes teaching about him so enjoyable. Students are always amazed that by the time he was their age, Alexander had already had extensive military training, and had been tutored by Aristotle, one of the leading philosophers of his day. For those teaching about ancient Rome after teaching about Alexander, it is quite easy for students to see why, with a series of such bizarre emperors, Rome was destined to fall. What follows are more Alexander the Great lessons.
Alexander the Great Lessons:
Capitalizing on students’ familiarity with the media, social networking sites, and technology, this lesson gives students the opportunity to conduct a press conference, talk show, or tabloid interview with Alexander the Great. As aspiring journalists, students will try to uncover the real Alexander the Great while performing skits and making videos.
Through research students will be given the opportunity to determine if Alexander was actually great or whether he simply inherited his father’s legacy. Once their research is complete, students will write a thesis-driven essay in which they answer that very question. This lesson is an excellent way to assess students’ depth of knowledge on this topic.
This lesson provides an excellent segue between ancient Greece and Alexander’s empire while narrowing the focus to the impact that Alexander had on the economy. While learning about the goods that were available for trade in the fourth century B.C.E., students learn about the cultural diffusion that was a direct result of Alexander’s conquests. Students also discuss how artifacts, such as coins, can help us learn about the past.
Students discuss how much land Alexander conquered, and learn about the vibrant cultural life that flourished in some places, such as Alexandria. This lesson focuses on the library at Alexandria, which was truly one of the most remarkable resources of the ancient world. This lesson is particularly valuable in an age when the book is being replaced by the Kindle and the iPad. Students are charged with making predictions about the state of books, bookstores, and libraries in the future, while acknowledging the inherent value in books.
Alexander’s unexpected death in 323 B.C.E. left an enormous empire with no clear leader; after all, no one had expected Alexander to die at such a young age. Certainly, Alexander himself was not expecting to die, and therefore had left no plan for succession. Alexander’s once great empire was divided up among his top generals, and quickly lost the unity it once enjoyed. This lesson focuses on the characteristics of the Hellenistic Age and the consequences of Alexander’s death.