The history of humanity is rich with individuals who played significant roles in the civilization of the world. Some of these personalities are credited of having single-handedly altered the nature of the ancient world. A number of them used their military prowess as well as authoritative influence to bring about change in the society at the time. This paper dwells on some of the prominent historical personalities with emphasis on their contributions to the world civilizations.
Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
Born to Phillip II and his wife Olympia in Pella in July 356 BC, Alexander was educated by Aristotle, the academic. Alexander grew up as a strong and fearless young man who was always eager to learn. As a matter of fact, he somehow inherited his dad’s rich qualities who was an excellent organizer, with very good organizational skills (JVL). Under the tutelage of Aristotle, Alexander grew up loving literature as well as learning the Greek ways of living, including the ideals of Greek civilization. Growing up into a great leader was not a bed of roses. In order to be fit and competent for leadership, Alexander had to spend lots of time exercising and doing sports (Bentley & Ziegler 529-537).
Leadership was also thrust unto him at a fairly tender age, after his father appointed him as the ambassador to Athens, when he was just eighteen years old. His leadership skills became evident when he crushed a revolt that threatened the survival of the Macedonian empire (JVL). This occurred when the people of Thebes revolted when he was away fighting. On his return, he attacked the city and shattered everything. This was instrumental in frittering away any kind of rebellion in future.
Consequently, Alexander was able to unite the Greek cities and form the League of Nation, of which he was the leader. Following the assassination of his father in 336 BC, Alexander took over the throne and inherited a powerful kingdom. After taking over the seat of power, Alexander decided to eliminate his local enemies and thereafter reaffirm the Macedonian supremacy inside Greece and beyond. After asserting his authority, Alexander set out to triumph over the gigantic Persian Empire.
In many ways, Alexander was able to defeat the Persian troops who had been waiting for him on the banks of River Granicus. Therefore, his victory over Persia made the rest of Asia Minor defenseless. As a result, Alexander was in a position of marching into Syria in 333 BCE, at a time when he was faced with the army of Darius III, the King of Persia. In spite of having a very large army, Darius III was still unable to resist Alexander’s dominant troops (JVL).
As a result, the entire expanse fell under the command of Alexander. His forays into Egypt resulted in him being met with jubilation since he was considered as a deliverer, due to the fact that Egyptians hated the cruel Persian dominance. It was in Egypt that Alexander founded the famous city, which was named after him. The city, called Alexandria, is situated between Lake Mareotis and the Mediterranean Sea. It was at one time a celebrated world center of education and commerce (JVL).
It did not take long before Alexander fought with the Persians again. In the crucial Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander overthrew Darius and drove his army to the East. It was after the surrender of Babylon that Alexander was able to easily take over Persepolis and Susa. After the assassination of Darius by one his general, Alexander became the King of Asia. Soon after that, he aimed his guns at India, which he took over after defeating Porus, the prince of India.
At the height of his reign, which was an empire that stretched over the Ionian Sea to the Northern parts of India, he had great plans for the future. His intention was to combine the whole of Europe and Asia, with Babylon as the new capital (JVL). In order to achieve his plans, Alexander eliminated corrupt officials, promoted intermarriages, and spread the Greek laws, customs, as well as ideas far and wide. Unfortunately, his plans came to a halt after he succumbed to malaria, which led to his death in 323 BC. He is remembered as one of the best generals in the history of mankind.
Ashoka is remembered as one of the most powerful emperors in the subcontinent of India. He was born to Emperor Bindusara, the Mauryan emperor, and queen Dharma in 304 BC. It is said that he was so legendary that even his birth was predicted by Buddha. Even though he had only one younger sibling, also he had a number of elder half-brothers. Right from when he was a young man, he exhibited great skills in weaponry as well as academics (Bentley & Ziegler 245-249).
Accession to the Throne
Ashoka was in a position of rising through the ranks since he was an outstanding warrior general as well as an intelligent statesman. He also had a good command of the Mauryan army; however, there was a situation that led to a lot of suspicions arising especially from his elder brothers who were favored by Bindusara to be the next emperor. At some point in time, Prince Susima, the eldest son, convinced the emperor to send Ashoka to quell a rebellion, which had arisen in Takshashila province (Chopra 77-80). This rebellion was as a result of different militia that had come up in the province. However, instead of fighting him, the rebels welcomed him with open hands, an occurrence, which lifted the profile of Ashoka as a successful leader.
Consequently, the Prince Susima began provoke Bindusura against Ashoka, who then sent him into exile. It is when he was in exile at Kalinga that he met Kaurwaki, a fisherwoman, whom he married. Following a violent uprising at Ujjain, the emperor called him back to quell the uprising. Furthermore, the battle against Ujjain was so fierce the he sustained serious injuries. It was at this time that came to learn about the life and the teachings of Buddha, and also met Devi, who also became his wife.
Soon after this, the emperor Bindusura fell ill, and became bed ridden. As a result, the emperor’s cabinet, led by Radhagupta, decided to call upon Ashoka to take over the kingdom. This led to a fierce fight between Ashoka and his step-brothers, with him killing all of them. Consequently, Ashoka became the Emperor and thereafter, commenced vicious attacks to spread out his kingdom. It was also at around this time that Devi, his Buddhist queen gave birth to the Princess Sanghamitra and Mahindra.
The Battle of Kalinga
Presently known as Orissa, the battle of Kalinga became the turning point in the life of Ashoka. Though, the exact cause of the battle is unknown to many, it is believed that Ashoka was enraged by the fact that one of his brothers was given refuge at Kalinga. As a result, Ashoka launched a vicious attack that led to the total destruction of the entire province as well as the subsequent murder of scores of people (Chopra 77-80).
Embracing and Spreading Buddhism
Following the battle of Kalinga, Ashoka decided to take a tour of the city. It was in this place that witnessed the negative consequences of his brutality, since burnt houses as well as scattered corpses were all over the place. Accordingly, on his return to Patliputra, Ashoka was troubled by the grave scenes that he witnessed at Kalinga (Chopra 77-80). The most unfortunate result of the entire episode was the fact that his wife, Queen Devi, a Buddhist, decide to end the marriage, after witnessing the brutality that was wrought against Kalinga.
Consequently, Ashoka decided to embrace Buddhism and thereafter, began spreading its main beliefs all over the world. This is a journey that took him far and wide, as far as Rome and Egypt. In this regard, Ashoka is credited for having made the first serious attempt to the development of the Buddhist guiding principles.
As a result of his conversion to Buddhism, Ashoka was able to build scores of Viharas and Stupas for the adherents of Buddhism. As a matter of fact, one of the stupas built by Ashoka, which is called the Great Sanchi Stupa, is currently one of the major World Heritage Sites according to UNESCO. Additionally, the modern Indian Republic adopted the Ashoka Pillar, which is located at Sarnath, as its national emblem. Ashoka is also remembered for propagating the policy of nonviolence (Chopra 77-80).
In fact, the killing or disfigurement of animals was brought to an end in his kingdom. Instead, Ashoka promoted the concept of vegetarianism. He also abhorred Indian caste system, and consequently, treated all the people in his kingdom as equals (Chopra 77-80). Additionally, Ashoka promoted human rights, freedom, equality and tolerance.
Under his patronage, Emperor Ashoka was able to spread the religion of Buddhism, by sending several missionaries far and wide. Moreover, he sent missionaries to places within and beyond India, including Egypt, Macedonia, Middle Asia, Greece, Albania and Libya. Unfortunately, after having led the Indian subcontinent for a period of almost forty years, he departed for the holy abode in 232 BC, with his empire lasting for approximately fifty years after his demise.
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