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Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire

Go beyond the myth to learn about Alexander the Great, his empire, and why he is known as an innovative military genius who forged a new world order, led by a professor who is an expert on the classical world.
Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 104.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best lecture series on Wondrium I watched this series for the first time during COVID lockdown and absolutely loved it. I have watched it all the way through multiple times since then and learn something new every time. Harl is absolutely amazing in his knowledge and ability to organize it in a way that is easy to follow and understand. He isn't flashy, but he puts the information in a format that is fun to hear. There is no better course for information on Alexander. Watch it now.
Date published: 2024-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is the best series. Absolutely Riveting This series is without a doubt the best. I started it and after the first lecture, was absolutely addicted to Dr. Harl’s lectures on Greece and the Macedonian Empire. Harl has the ability to link historical events in a clear and logical manner. It is very much like listening to a master story teller while sitting at a campfire. His experience in the field allows him to discuss facts AND differentiate them from conjecture. I became more familiar with Alexander as a result of the recent Netflix series, and thought that i learned a lot about Alexander and his time. Oh, what little I knew!
Date published: 2024-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Scope of a Brilliant Course There is no replacing Harl for scope or precision. Military enthusiasts and war gamers will be delighted with his clear battle graphics. The difference between my own “battle evaluation" and Alexander’s “hammer and anvil” (Lecture 5 = L5) was wonderfully humbling. The Guidebook is tiny: buy a Transcript or take a lot of notes! L6&7 introduce Alexander’s father Philip II of Macedonia who brilliantly held wars in winter when Athens couldn't sail, practiced keen diplomacy (such as convincing the Phocians to restore the Delphi treasure), and had great siege engineering and logistical systems. Philip's forces were armed elites. He opposed navies because of their democratic citizen component. At Chaeronea, Philip wiped out the armies of Athens, Thebes, and Corinth including the "Sacred Band". When he became “Supreme Commander for Life”, Philip (L8) created the politically astute League of Corinth. This included "koine eirene" ("the common peace”), elements of a federally organized Panhellenism that was an imposition on Greek democracy. Macedon interestingly, was not obligated to join. L9 introduces Olympias: his strong willed chief wife who, like Philip, was borderline polygamous, and vindictive. She was wild, keeping snakes in their bed, yet sparing no expense raising her son Alexander - for example having Aristotle annotate her son's copy of Homer. Alexander, though widely read, was no nerd. He tamed the fearful horse Bucephalus via a clever observation - causing Plutarch’s remark: "Macedon will not hold you." Ambivalent to his father, Alex said: "If Philip continues to win these victories, there will be nothing left to me." The Greeks rejoiced when Philip died: “the monster is dead”. Little did they expect his son to quickly prove himself in the field. Alexander's army was unbelievably swift for its day: 3 men carried the pack of 1 animal thus avoiding carts (6-8 miles/d) to travel 20-25 miles/day. L12 describes the battle of Granicus where Persian Satrap Greek mercenaries watched Alexander (who saw battlefields “3-D” as did Napoleon) kill 3 western Satrap leaders and disrupt the mercenaries within a single hour. (L13) King Darius positioned himself to stop Alexander in western Persia. Charistemous, who was on his way to execution for advising Darius not to attack Alex, warned: "As for you, so suddenly transformed by your unlimited power, you shall be an example to posterity of how men can forget even their natural inclinations when they have surrendered themselves to fortune." Darius was indeed defeated at Issus. When he offered ½ of his kingdom to appease Alex, the terse reply was: “I have that." The battles of Tyro & Gaza became the gateways to Egypt when the Pharaoh was defeated. Egypt's 3 harvests/year were acquired (L14-15). While constructing Alexandria in Egypt, Alex was at one point lowered in a glass submarine to check on obstructions. Alex's exotic diversion was 175 miles of sandstones/desert to get to the Oracle of Siwah where the “omphalus stone" covered with emeralds made “certain rocking motions". L18-L22 cover Alex's exploits into West/Central Asia as far as Samarkand (then called Maracanda), touching on the Great Caravan Route to Europe. While a great adventure, the vast expanses and cultural adaptations are too great to condense here. After Samarkand his exhausted army began to return home while fighting massive elephant-reinforced armies through the ancient, massive Indus River populations (L23, 24). A few returned by back-tracking but the main forces built a navy for a western return trip. Traveling parallel to the navy and led by Alex on foot, the main army crossed the Gerosian Desert. At a desperate point, soldiers offered a helmet of water to Alex who, in front of his troops, poured it out. L26-36 cover Alex's death in 323 and its consequences. L36 gives the stats: Alex conquered Afghanistan in 2.5 years (Harl compares this to U.S. difficulties in Afghanistan) and the Persian Empire in 10 years. Harl ends astutely observing Alexander's spread of Greek thought: “Without Alexander, there would have been no Caesar…no Christ, and we wouldn’t be here right now."
Date published: 2024-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jam-packed, but awesome I love this course (I'm on lecture 7), as Dr. Harl is the master of organized and detailed presentation of history. He teaches his classes *as if* you, the learner, are going to be dedicating your life to the subject. (It's reminiscent of Richard Feynmann's attitude toward his first-year physics students that he would teach them *as if* they would all become physicists.) Sure, there's a lot of material, but he *wants* you to learn it! He has a familial, accessible delivery, or, to put it another way, he's the history dad you never had!
Date published: 2023-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course! Prof. Harl does a magnificent job of bringing Alexander and his times to life in this course. The professor's passion for this subject matter is palpable, and his knowledge is encyclopedic. While others have complained that he provides too much detailed information (and to be sure he covers a lot of ground in this course), I found that the many maps, animations, and photographs that illustrated his lectures provided valuable information that greatly aided comprehension and helped make this course a real delight. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2023-05-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dizzying I’m only a few lectures into this course and I’m dizzy from the avalanche of data given that is not explained. Absolutely crazy! Be forewarned, this course definitely is not for the novice.
Date published: 2023-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a great learning experience, highly informative, taught by a person well-versed in the subject
Date published: 2023-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Dr Harl's presentations reveals his knowledge of the many ancient sources. He lets you know his position of certain questionable events, but equitably quotes those who think otherwise, and doers not degrade their positions. Just plan excellent teacher.
Date published: 2022-12-10
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Go beyond the myth to learn about ancient history's greatest military leader and his time in Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire. In 36 spellbinding lectures, you'll enter Alexander's world and witness the astonishing feats of military genius that have made Alexander's name renowned to the present day. An expert on the classical world, Professor Kenneth W. Harl introduces you to all sides of this fascinating figure-the passions that drove him, the extraordinary talents and insights he brought to the battlefield, and the intensive training that helped mold his character. With this detailed portrait, you'll truly understand what made Alexander so great.


Kenneth W. Harl

We will be looking largely at archeological evidence and analysis done by anthropologists because we are operating largely in a world without writing.


Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has earned Tulane's annual Student Body Award for Excellence in Teaching nine times and is the recipient of Baylor University's nationwide Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers. In 2007, he was the Lewis P. Jones Visiting Professor in History at Wofford College. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey. Professor Harl has also published a wide variety of articles and books, including his current work on coins unearthed in an excavation of Gordion, Turkey, and a new book on Rome and her Iranian foes. A fellow and trustee of the American Numismatic Society, Professor Harl is well known for his studies of ancient coinage. He is the author of Civic Coins and Civic Politics in the Roman East, A.D. 180-275 and Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700.

By This Professor

The Ottoman Empire
The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes
The Vikings
The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity
Alexander the Great-Conqueror or Tyrant?

01: Alexander the Great-Conqueror or Tyrant?

Who was Alexander, and how has his story come down to us? Learn about the ancient sources that contribute to our understanding of Alexander's life and legacy, and examine the ways this great figure has been perceived by modern scholars....

32 min
Greece in the Age of Hegemonies

02: Greece in the Age of Hegemonies

The story of Alexander starts centuries before his birth, in the Greek city-states scattered throughout the Aegean. Trace the conflicts, alliances, and political crises that shaped the Greek world in the generations before Alexander and paved the way for his father Philip's remarkable conquest of the region....

30 min
Achaemenid Persia

03: Achaemenid Persia

The Persian Empire of the 4th century offered a formidable opponent to Alexander in his conquest for world domination. Explore the history and conditions of this mighty empire in the two centuries before Alexander's rise and examine the political and administrative structures that contributed to its success as a world power....

30 min
The World of Early Macedon

04: The World of Early Macedon

Although they would ultimately unite Greece, Philip and Alexander were not considered full-fledged Greeks. Learn about their "barbarian" homeland of Macedon, and investigate its relationship to the more culturally influential city-states of Greece....

30 min
Philip II and the Macedonian Way of War

05: Philip II and the Macedonian Way of War

In his victories, Alexander was indebted to his father, Philip II, for his remarkable innovations in warcraft. Investigate Philip's achievements, including his reorganization of the Macedonian army, and gain an appreciation of his achievements through a study of three decisive battles....

30 min
The Third Sacred War

06: The Third Sacred War

Examine a turning point in Greek political history, the Third Sacred War, a conflict that pitted major powers in Sparta and Thebes in a battle for dominance. Trace the complicated negotiations in this conflict that led to Philip's control of Delphi and, ultimately, the Aegean....

30 min
The Macedonian Conquest of Greece

07: The Macedonian Conquest of Greece

By 346 B.C., Philip of Macedon could congratulate himself on some stunning victories, but his greatest achievement was yet to come. Investigate the ingenious political and military maneuvers, culminating in the decisive Battle of Charonea, which gave Philip control of the Greek world....

30 min
The League of Corinth

08: The League of Corinth

Philip's defeat of Greece was matched only by the diplomatically ingenious settlement of his newly conquered territories. Analyze the ruler's strategies for running his empire, and take a close look at one of his most impressive administrative projects, his creation of the League of Corinth....

31 min
Alexander, Heir Apparent

09: Alexander, Heir Apparent

Gain an introduction to Alexander as you learn about the influence of his parents, Philip II and Olympias. Examine the shaping force of life at the Macedonian court of Pella, explore the sense of "destiny" that would motivate the young king throughout his meteoric career, and investigate the lurid politics that put Alexander on the throne....

32 min
Securing the Inheritance, 336-335 B.C.

10: Securing the Inheritance, 336-335 B.C.

When Philip died, Alexander was only 20 or 21 years old. In this lecture, discover how the young king secured the remarkable political legacy left by his father, including his efforts to subdue Balkan peoples and take control of the League of Corinth....

30 min
The Invasion of Asia

11: The Invasion of Asia

When Alexander crossed into Asia in 334 B.C., he was essentially conquering the known world-or most of the civilized known world-for his generation. Take a close look at the forces Alexander brought to bear on this excursion, including his superb army, talented officers, and remarkable engineering corps....

31 min
The Battle of the Granicus

12: The Battle of the Granicus

Join Alexander on the field of war for the first of his four greatest battles as he encountered the Persian forces at the Granicus River in May 334 B.C. Analyze the audacious and ingenious strategies that allowed Alexander to defeat his Persian foe in a stunning victory....

31 min
The Turning Point-Issus and Tyre

13: The Turning Point-Issus and Tyre

With three decisive victories-one battle and two sieges-Alexander essentially conquered the western half of the Persian Empire, and all in fewer than three years. Follow the battle strategies of Alexander as he drove the Persian king Darius from the battlefield in their first conflict....

31 min
Alexander, Pharaoh of Egypt

14: Alexander, Pharaoh of Egypt

Following his remarkable victories over the Persians, Alexander entered the rich territories of Egypt. Explore the reasons for Alexander's easy conquest of the land of the pharaohs and learn about his great achievements there, including his establishment of a new city, Alexandria....

30 min
Heroes, Oracles, and the Gods

15: Heroes, Oracles, and the Gods

Alexander famously equated himself with heroic, semi-divine forebears, such as Achilles and Heracles. But did he really consider himself a god? Examine the evidence of Alexander's divine aspirations, and consider whether his emulation of the gods was pragmatic or idealistic....

31 min
The Campaign of Gaugamela

16: The Campaign of Gaugamela

Two years after Alexander's resounding defeat of Darius, the two foes met again on the battlefield of Gaugamela. Study the strategies and tactics that Alexander employed in his most inspired campaign, which effectively gave the Macedonian king control of the entire Persian Empire....

30 min
The Conquest of Iran

17: The Conquest of Iran

Following his stunning victory at Gaugamela, Alexander pushed on into ancient Iran in pursuit of Darius. Trace his steps as he pursued the former Persian king, subdued the various satraps who ruled these vast territories, and established his reign over the eastern regions of Bactria and Sogdiana....

30 min
Alexander on the Rim of the World

18: Alexander on the Rim of the World

After defeating the Persian Empire, Alexander defied expectation and continued his expansion into central Asia. Examine Alexander's wars of pacification to keep this new frontier under control, as well as his reorganization of the Macedonian army to prepare for fresh conquests....

31 min
Governing and Taxing the Empire

19: Governing and Taxing the Empire

Alexander is often seen as the supreme man of action, conquering new lands and expanding his frontier. But how did this man of action rule the lands he had conquered? Explore how Alexander administered his extensive territories and consider whether he deliberately sought a policy of cultural unification....

31 min
Alexander and the Macedonian Opposition

20: Alexander and the Macedonian Opposition

Despite Alexander's military successes, between 330 B.C. and 327 B.C., there were signs of unrest among the Macedonian forces. Consult contemporary sources to learn about three major incidents that provide evidence of a growing sense of opposition to Alexander....

32 min
The Invasion of India

21: The Invasion of India

Embark with Alexander on his most stunning campaign into the Indus Valley. Explore Alexander's reasons for wanting to undertake this expedition, learn about Indian battle methods and terrain, and examine why the Indian rajahs presented such formidable opposition to the invading Macedonians....

30 min
The Battle of the Hydaspes

22: The Battle of the Hydaspes

During the India campaign, Alexander waged his most remarkable battle at the Hydaspes River. Learn why this battle-which required intense fighting in a rising river against forces backed by trained elephants-represents the general Alexander at his best....

30 min
Mutiny and Withdrawal

23: Mutiny and Withdrawal

Continue your study of Alexander's difficult eastward campaign by following the Macedonian forces as they trekked toward the mouth of the Indus River, and hear about the so-called mutiny of the Macedonian forces that halted Alexander's continued press into this forbidding territory....

29 min
The Gedrosian Desert and Voyage of Nearchus

24: The Gedrosian Desert and Voyage of Nearchus

After nearly 10 years on the march, Alexander's troops were ready to return to Macedon. Follow their long and dangerous march out of India across bleak stretches of landscape, and learn of the accompanying journey taken by Alexander's fleet, which would lay the course for future trade routes....

30 min
Deification and Succession

25: Deification and Succession

When Alexander returned from his India expedition, he had been away from his empire for almost six years and hadn't visited Macedonia in 10 years. Examine the administrative challenges he encountered upon his return and explore the changes he made to get his empire under control....

30 min
Alexander and the Macedonians-Opis

26: Alexander and the Macedonians-Opis

Learn about the final years of Alexander's reign before his premature death at the age of 33. Discover how his need to appease his new Persian subjects led to unrest among his Macedonian troops, culminating in the mutiny of Opis, and the steps Alexander took to quell this uprising....

31 min
Alexander and the Greeks-The Lamian War

27: Alexander and the Greeks-The Lamian War

Unlike his father, Philip, Alexander had a tenuous relationship with his Greek subjects and made many mistakes in his dealings with them after returning from India. Examine Alexander's position as the head of the League of Corinth, including the Greek uprising that followed his disastrous Exiles Decree....

31 min
The Diadochoi, 323-316 B.C.

28: The Diadochoi, 323-316 B.C.

At his death, Alexander failed to name a specific successor, saying instead that his empire should go to "the strongest." Meet the key players in the battle for supremacy of the Macedonian Empire, including some of Alexander's key generals, governors and satraps, and family members....

31 min
The Partition of the Empire, 316-301 B.C.

29: The Partition of the Empire, 316-301 B.C.

Continue your consideration of the break-up of Alexander's empire after his death and investigate the critical conflict in this confrontation, the Battle of Ipsus. Review the key players who maneuvered for power and examine their various solutions to the problem of how to rule the empire....

32 min
The Hellenistic Concert of Powers

30: The Hellenistic Concert of Powers

The immense Macedonian Empire built by Alexander was completely dismantled in the aftermath of the climactic Battle of Ipsus. Trace the contours of the newly divided territories as they were divvied up by the victorious leaders: Seleucus, Lysimachus, Cassander, and Ptolemy....

31 min
Macedonian Courts in the Near East

31: Macedonian Courts in the Near East

By 275 B.C., the Macedonian Empire had been divided into three kingdoms. Explore the ways the rulers of these new kingdoms attempted to emulate Alexander in their use of coinage, their definition of kingship, their interest in exploration and voyages of discovery, and their founding of new cities....

31 min
The Hellenization of the Near East

32: The Hellenization of the Near East

Begin your consideration of the legacy left by Alexander with a study of the political consequences of the great Macedonian ruler's reign. Investigate the traces of Alexander's "Hellenizing" influence as seen in the Greek-style cities, sponsorship of athletic and cultural festivals, and political administration in Asia, Egypt, and Macedon....

31 min
The Monetization of the Near East

33: The Monetization of the Near East

What was the effect of Alexander's massive military spending and city-building efforts on economic life in the Mediterranean? Explore how Alexander drastically transformed the economy of the ancient world through the widespread coinage of money, the creation of new markets, and the establishment of long-distance trade....

30 min
Hellenization and the Gods

34: Hellenization and the Gods

Wherever he went, Alexander viewed the foreign gods he encountered as versions of the Greek deities he worshiped in Macedon. Delve into the effect of this practices on religion in the ancient world and examine to what extent Alexander can be said to have "Hellenized" worship in his empire....

31 min
The Limits of Hellenization

35: The Limits of Hellenization

Why did Alexander's empire dissolve after his death? If his legacy was not his empire, what did he bequeath to his heirs? Consider the impact of Alexander's dissemination of Hellenistic culture on the ancient world and in later empires....

30 min
Alexander the Great and the Shadow of Rome

36: Alexander the Great and the Shadow of Rome

What would've happened if there had been no Alexander? Trace the influence of this great leader conqueror after his death, and explore his ultimate legacy as history's premier military general and the standard of excellence in leadership....

30 min