Liberation and tyranny are two seemingly very different topics, however, it is often difficult to distinguish between the two because they are based the viewpoint of an individual. What is considered tyranny to some may be considered liberation to others. The stance that an individual takes on either subject is solely dependent on their position in society.
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While a member of the upper-class believes that the society they live in is free of oppression, a lower-class member of that same society may feel as if their freedoms are heavily oppressed by other members of the society. The difference between liberation and tyranny is a matter of outlook. Alexander the Great, the king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, is one of the world’s most successful military leader and strategist. Although the leaders of conquered nations more than likely viewed Alexander the Great as a tyrant, he should ultimately be remembered in history as a liberator due to his ability to unite his diverse and far-reaching empire, his acceptance and inclusion of conquered people’s culture and customs, and his ability to listen to and inspire his followers.
An important aspect of Alexander the Great’s empire that was a key factor in its existence was his willingness to adopt the different beliefs and practices of the nations that he conquered and merging them with his own (Berg). This is something that was unlikely to happen in ancient times and even more unlikely for a tyrant to due. The reason being is that at first glance, it would seem easier to someone who has just conquered a nation to simply strip the conquered nation of their culture and instill their own personal beliefs and values. This would be something that a tyrant would do. A liberator would instead look for a way to ensure that the transition of their newly conquered peoples is as smooth and uneventful as possible. This is exactly what Alexander the Great did and accomplished. By taking the time to learn and respect the values and beliefs of nations that he conquered, he effectively minimalized the possibility of a future rebellion against his rule which would almost certainly crumple his entire empire. Alexander was certain to ensure that this kindness was not to be viewed as a weakness. While those who accepted his rule had very little to fear, those who resisted were brutally and publically dealt with (Mark).
In order to maintain control and unity of his massive empire, Alexander the Great understood that he would need to assign a different ruler to watch over sections of his empire, since he could not possibly rule over it all by himself. Alexander the Great was very gifted in judging the character of those that he met. This skill was vital to ensuring that those he appointed to rule would rule to his standard. On occasion, the selection of rulers for various parts of his empire were unorthodox.
An example of one of these occasions can be observed during Alexander’s conquest through India. While some tribes throughout India submitted to Alexander without a fight, others chose to stand their ground and fight for what was theirs. At the Battle of Hydaspes River in 326 BCE, Alexander the Great met King Porus of Paurava. Alexander was so impressed with how bravely and relentlessly Porus fought, that after defeating him, Alexander appointed him to rule over a larger part of his empire than Porus had previously ruled (Mark). By appointing Porus as a ruler of his empire after he had initially resisted, Alexander showcased his ability to swallow his own pride and make decisions that are in the best interests of his empire. A tyrant would have almost certainly destroyed Porus for his blatant resistance, but Alexander recognized the benefits that appointing Porus to rule over part of his empire offered.
The bond that a leader has with their subordinates can make or break their team. Subordinates who feel as if they have no connection to their leader or as if their leader does not care for them will not feel unified and will not be able to effectively work together towards a common goal. Alexander the Great was very skilled at creating and maintaining a bond between himself and his soldiers. After battles, Alexander would interact with many soldiers who had been injured and would have them explain the part that they played in the battle and to describe the events that led to their injuries (Berg). Interactions as simple as this between leader and follower go a long way in creating a connection between them that will help them push through the toughest of times. If Alexander the Great did not have such a powerful bond with his soldiers, it is likely that they would have lost motivation and would eventually quit fighting because they would soon lose sight of why they are fighting in the first place.
A leader needs to be able to make decisions based on not only their own personal agenda, but with the interests of their followers in mind as well. Alexander the Great was a leader who led by example. When his soldiers underwent hardships, he would undergo the same hardships. If his soldiers were starving or were on foot because their horses had been killed in battle, Alexander the Great would make sure that he was on the same page as them (Vries). This sort of compassion and respect for subordinates is a characteristic that tyrants do not possess. It is something that only a true leader and liberator is able to execute properly. Apart from leading from the front, Alexander was also able to make tactical decisions based on the needs and wishes of his soldiers.
Following the Battle of the Hydaspes River, Alexander the Great had planned on pushing further into India by crossing the Ganges River. Alexander’s soldiers were not pleased with this plan as they believed that once they crossed the Ganges River, the fighting that they had endured would seemingly never end. They were beginning to question their own personal motives for fighting and failed to justify the seemingly never-ending continuance of battle as they pushed through India (Curtius). Alexander attempted to persuade his soldiers to continue on, but he had ultimately failed to regain their motivation. He succumbed to their wishes and ended up halting their conquest through India (Mark). By listening to his soldiers wishes, Alexander more than likely gained even more respect from them than he already had. This is another example of how Alexander the Great is able to put the well-being of his followers above his own personal wishes.
Alexander the Great quickly discovered that an effective way to inspire his followers was to fight on the front lines alongside them. In fact, it was by doing this that he first stood out to those around him as a gifted soldier and leader. He often put himself directly in harm’s way in battle. An example of this can be observed during a siege of a hostile fortress where he unexpectedly used a ladder to reach the top of the fortress in order to gain access and begin the assault. While performing this seemingly suicidal act, Alexander sustained multiple wounds from rocks being thrown at him and from arrows. As seemingly reckless as this was, Alexander was able to continuously remind his fellow soldiers why he was the one in charge (Garvey). This kind of leadership was certainly the most effective for this era because of the lack of technology.
In the 21st century, leaders are able to communicate with their people at all times with the help of technology. They can deliver speeches, updates, and personal messages as they see fit. In Alexander’s era, the only way he could communicate with his people was directly or through word of mouth. Due to the massive size of his empire, it was very difficult for him to directly inspire the majority of his followers. By performing these courageous acts in battle with his soldiers as witness, Alexander the Great knew that his military feats would be spread throughout his empire by word of mouth and would effectively build an image of himself that would be able to inspire his followers even if he was thousands of miles away.
When historians look back at Alexander the Great, he should be remembered as a liberator, not a tyrant, because of his ability to unite his diverse empire, his willingness to include the various cultures and belief systems of conquered nations in his empire, and his ability to listen to and inspire his many followers. A tyrant is an individual who seizes power by force and rules in an oppressive way. While Alexander the Great did seize many nations by force, the nations that succumbed to him with little resistance knew they had nothing to fear as Alexander would allow them to continue their way of life, as long as it did not negatively affect his great empire. Alexander was able to unite his empire through his methods of creating a bond between himself and the people that followed him, an accomplishment that was very difficult in this era. The bond that Alexander the Great created effectively united the various nations in his empire to work towards a common goal.
Finally, the most convincing argument for why Alexander is not a tyrant is because of how he listened to his followers and was able to make important decisions with their well-beings in mind. A tyrant would simply force their will on their subordinates and would certainly not make decisions based on how their followers feel. All in all, the world can learn many great lessons by observing Alexander the Great’s life. He demonstrated many different leadership traits that military leaders of today can study and learn from.
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