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     Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

1. Philip II (359-336 BC) became ruler of Greece after the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Rather than reorganizing the Greek cities (thus leaving the prior aristocracy in place), Philip turned his attention to fighting the weakened Persian empire. While in Greece and before any military conquest he was assassinated in 336. His son Alexander (356-323) inherited his father's monarchy as well as his plans to invade Persia. Through several military advances, Alexander made his was, first into Asia Minor and the western part of the Persian empire, then later proceeded to take Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt. At the battle of Gaugamela (331) Alexander dealt the final blow to the Persian king Darius II and proceeded to occupy the Persian capitals and claim their treasures. When king Darius II dies, Alexander took the title "Great King" for himself. Alexander eventually pushed his conquests to the Indus River (birthplace of Buddha) before his army's restlessness forced him to turn back. He died of a fever in Babylonia.

2. This Greek superiority resulting from military conquest and civil administration soon brought more important cultural changes to the conquered regions. The predominant cultural developments following the conquests of Alexander are:

  1. the movement of Greeks abroad, resulting in their ascendancy to positions of power throughout the regions;
  2. the accelerated speed of the conquest by Greek culture;
  3. the emergence of a "one world" economy, with a currency established by Alexander himself, silver coins based on the Attic standard;
  4. the further spread of Greek language, and the form which emerged, koine (common) Greek is that of the New Testament writers;
  5. a body of ideas accepted by all;
  6. a higher level of education and an increase in literacy, such that the level and extent of communication and intelligibility was significantly increased;
  7. the spread of Greek deities and cults, often identified and incorporated into native gods;
  8. the emergence of philosophy as representing a way of life, preparing the way for the Sophists and Socrates;
  9. the framework of society around the city (polis), rather than the previous temple-states, villages, or countryside;
  10. an increase in individualism.
All of these created the environment in which Christianity not only emerged but flourished, and it is hard to imagine Christianity succeeding as it did apart from these cultural results of Alexander's conquests.

Sources utilized in these pages may include:
  • Everett Ferguson's: Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • Walker's: History of Christianity (out of print)

    (These links will take you to book detail pages at

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