The Leadership of Alexander the Great: Plutarch’s Vision

Plutarch emphasizes Alexander’s natural gift for leadership. Indeed, he ascended the throne as early as at the age of twenty-one. Moreover, the political situation in Macedon was highly unstable at that time. However, Alexander did not listen to older advisers and made his own decisions as to Macedon’s external policy. Instead of offering concessions to his subject territories, Alexander confidently suppressed the uprisings. As a result, his decisive actions proved to be highly effective. They reinforced the position of his kingdom and ensured Alexander’s unquestionable authority.

The writer emphasizes Alexander’s exceptional skills in the art of war. For instance, Plutarch remarks that during Alexander’s campaign against the barbarians, “it was his own generalship which did most to win the victory”. Indeed, although the barbarians strongly outnumbered Alexander’s army, his strategic skills ensured the victorious outcome, putting the enemies to flight. Plutarch also points out that thanks to Alexander’s wise military regulation, there were very few casualties on his side during battles.

Indeed, after one of the campaigns, there were “twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry” lost in the Persian army as against “only thirty-four soldiers in all” killed on Alexander’s side. Hence, the writer admires Alexander, because “his life-span… was filled to overflowing with the most prodigious achievements”. Plutarch points out Alexander’s audacious character and tenacious pursuit of his ambitions. Due to these virtues, he managed to succeed and assert himself as a brilliant leader.

Another remarkable trait of Alexander is his mercy towards the conquered. For example, he provided favorable conditions for Darius’s womenfolk, respecting their dignity and ensuring their peaceful life after the conquest. Furthermore, Alexander always treated his opponents with due justice. For instance, he allowed the Thebes to surrender without plundering the city. Upon the citizens’ refusal, he razed Thebes to the ground but spared those who did not support the revolt.

Besides, Alexander was a very generous and far-sighted leader. For example, after winning a battle, he did not forget “to give the other Greek states a share in the victory”. Thus, he understood the significance of external relations even at that time. Furthermore, Plutarch refers to Alexander’s method of unfastening the Gordian Knot, an intricate yoke made of cornel fibers. According to one version, Alexander cut it apart with his sword. However, Aristobulus asserted that Alexander figured out to remove the linchpin, which held the entire yoke together.

In either case, he managed to find a solution to a problem that previously had been considered unsolvable. In such a manner, the biographer admires Alexander’s extraordinary determination and readiness to face any challenges. Thus, due to all these remarkable achievements and exceptional qualities, he certainly deserves the title of “Alexander the Great.” He was not only a talented military commander but a sage ruler, generously gifted with numerous virtues.

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