A Dream of One World
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Petrified Lightning

A Dream of One World

During the fourth century b.c., in the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula slightly beyond the reach of Greek civilization lay the semibarbaric kingdom of Macedonia. In the city of Pella, Macedon, in 356 b.c. a son was born to King Philip II and his wife Olympias, a princess from Epirus. His name was Alexander III, to be known to future generations as Alexander the Great.

Time, place, and birthright were favorable for Alexander. Immersed in his father's claim that he was descended from Heracles (Hercules) and with his mother's ancestry traced back to Achilles, Alexander felt predestined to become the most successful conqueror the world had ever known.

At the time of Alexander's birth a veneer of Greek civilization was masking the rough, uncultivated population of Macedon. Philip, educated in the Greek tradition, demanded the best for his son. He summoned Aristotle to the Macedonian court to instruct the young prince in Greek literature and lore, science, and logic. Alexander was an apt pupil, and as his entire character became immersed in the splendor of Greek genius and culture, he could easily imagine himself another Homeric hero destined to fulfill a prophecy.

As Alexander was approaching manhood, he learned from his father the art and science of warfare. From the peasant Macedonian population, Philip assembled a standing army of professional soldiers, added a cavalry unencumbered by chariots, and advanced as an invincible machine with all parts working in unison. He began his conquests in regions east and north, where he would meet the least resistance. Finally Philip was able to unite the Greek city—states into a federation of Greek allies, with himself as leader rather than conqueror.

Philip was preparing to embark on a mission into Asia Minor, where other Greek cities would be freed to join the federation, when he was stabbed and mortally wounded. Power passed into the hands of Alexander, a youth of 20 years. He continued his father's work with the assistance of remarkably capable and devoted leaders from the Macedonian court.

The Greek states became rebellious against Macedonian leadership and determined to overthrow the youthful ruler. Thebes, the first to revolt, was destroyed by Alexander. Only the house of the great poet Pindar was spared. All of Greece learned quickly to respect young Alexander's power.

Alexander moved directly into Asia with armies augmented by troops from the league of Greek states. He camped at the site of the Trojan War to absorb the aura of Achilles. At Gordium he listened to the legend revealing that whoever undid the Gordian knot would reign over the entire East, and he promptly cut the knot with his sword. He continued eastward to conquer Persia under King Darius III. He finally crossed into India, conquering until his victories encompassed the breadth of the civilized world, from the Adriatic Sea to beyond the Indus River.

According to legend, when Alexander realized that there were no more worlds to conquer he cried. This seems unlikely. When a "longing came over him," as his biographers observed, he would plan another conquest. Several semibarbaric lands to the west still had not met Alexander the Great, and they never did!

Alexander founded 18 new cities in his two million—square—mile empire. At least 10 were named after himself, one after his dog; one at the site of a river crossing where his horse Bucephalus was killed he named Bucephala. His interchange of science (he sent hundreds of natural history specimens to his old teacher Aristotle), commerce, arts, and architecture had a lasting impact on Greek as well as Oriental civilization.

Alexander recognized that to hold together a single world of many different nations the people would have to intermingle freely without being poisoned by racism. The unification of his vast empire could be best achieved by intermarriage between the conquering and the conquered people. He put his theory into practice by arranging mass marriages between his Greek and Macedonian troops and the people of Persia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Assyria, India, and every other nationality in the empire. His own wife, Roxane, considered the most beautiful maiden of all Asia, was a captive from eastern Persia. He planned to continue widespread intermarriage until all people would be one race, one nation, one melting pot.

Alexander's ambitious plan might have been successful except for an unforeseen bite from a mosquito. At age 32 he suddenly became ill and died within a few days. The symptoms resembled malaria, and this seems the most logical of possible explanations. Having no son to carry on his reign as king of the world, he was asked on his death bed to whom he would leave his kingdom. He is said to have whispered, "To the strongest." No successor was named, and his generals began to fight among themselves while carving up the empire. Alexander, and his empire, crumbled to dust that blended with the dust of those who died for his greatness. Only thus, in the powdered earth of mingled remains, did he achieve his dream of one world.