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Alexander the Great administration

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Alexander governs his administration using techniques of Macedonian and Persian’s. The Persian satrap in Asia enabled Alexander to govern a large amount of territory. In India, he replaced hostile rulers with rulers loyal to him and increased their territory. He used the Macedonia practice of founding cities to encourage loyalty with the natives. While he allowed the Persians and Indians to move up in his administration, he primarily used Macedonians.

Alexander took the throne of Macedonia after the assassination of his father. To secure his position as King, he moved quickly to establish himself. Upon Philip’s death, he had not settled the Greek city-states leaving them in a state of confusion. His death brought forth internal and external crisis as which Alexander was going to have to secure before he would truly be an unchallenged King. (Plutarch, 263) He first appeased the people of Macedonia by exempting them from taxation. As part of his inheritance he took Philip’s position in the League of Corinth. At the League of Corinth, Alexander obtained the approval of the Greeks to liberate the Greek in Asia from Persia. Alexander challengers to the throne were killed and others fled to the Persians. (Hamilton 44) He quickly acted by force against the uprisings of barbarians at Macedonia’s northern boarder.

In Greece, Alexander continued his father’s vision. He continued the core elements of the League of Corinth. He allowed the existing governments and administration in the city-states to remain as they were. As Hegemon of the League of Corinth, Alexander guides the Greeks foreign policy but left them to their internal governing. Alexander left the tribes in Thrace that submitted and pledged an alliance. They were allowed to continue their tradition way, the king of Triballiand and other various cities along the Danube became client kings. Client King’s continued ruling in tradition way however, they answered to Alexander. They collected tribute that was to be paid to Alexander. The tribes that were hostile once captured would be given to his allied tribes to govern. (A p 49) Prior to leaving Macedonia for Asia. Alexander left Antiparter (companion of his father) to govern Greece, Macedonia, and Thrace as his deputy. Anitpater would also act as deputy Hegemon on behalf of Alexander.

Alexander was able to integrate the various peoples he conquered into a unified empire by arranging appropriate forms of administration in each region. In Asia he kept the indigenous administrative system intact under joint Persian and Greek rule. While Alexander did use Persians and Asians in his administration it was always Macedonians and Greeks who controlled the army and the treasury. Alexander wanted to have the different races working together in order to make the local administration function as efficiently as possible.

Alexander continued the Persian custom of satrap. The satrap was responsible for governing large territories and answered directly to him. Alexander continued many of the Persian King’s customs, such as giving money to the women of Persis. (Plut. 326) The taxes that were once paid to Darius were continued but were to be paid to Alexander. In some cases Alexander lessened or increased the amount the city paid.

Once in Asia, Alexander allowed the people he conquered to continue in their religion and he even honored their religions, showing them the respect required to win their loyalty. In liberating the people such as the Lydians and Sardis, he allowed them to continue with their customs. (Arrian 1.17) The cities like Ephesus, which had an oligarchy that supported Persia, were replaced by a democracy loyal to Alexander and required to pay tribute. (Hammond 58) Alexander continued the Persian tradition of placing satraps over large tracts of territories. The satrap’s were commonly picked from his Companions. On rare occasions a satrap of Persian descent was appointed. Mithrenes, a ranking Persian, was appointed as satrap of Armenia. This was a reward for giving up the treasury of Sadis and for his loyalty to Alexander.

In Susa, he appointed Abulites (Persian) as satrap of Susa and appointed his companion Mazars garrison commander. (A 173) Mazaeus, who had been satrap of Syria under Darius and commander of the Persians at the battle of Gaugamela, was made satrap and allowed to produce coinage. (B 173) However, Apollodorus of Amphipolis commanded the garrison and Asclepiodorus collected the taxes (Arr. 3.16.4). To cover all possibilities Alexander left Nicias and Amphipolitan with garrisons. (B174) The garrisons were Alexander’s watchdogs and looked out for Macedonian interest. In this he created a checks and balances system. Alexander showed that qualified Persians were able to compete with his Macedonians for leading positions in his administration in Asia.

Alexander changed his standard approach to the organization of his administration in Egypt. Alexander did not follow the Persian system. Rather, he divided the territory into four sections watering down its concentration of power. The division between civil and military was to provide security and prevent any one person from using the mass wealth to challenge his empire. (Hammond 161) Alexander appointed Doloaspis an Egyptian as governor and two of his companion’s commanded garrisons in Memphis and Pelusium. Lycidas a Greek commanded the mercenaries. (Arrian 3.5) Eugnostus a companion was Secretary of foreign troops, and “of Aeschylus and Ephippus of Chalcis to superintend the work of the two latter men” (Arrian 3.5)

In India, “the small native rulers, if friendly, were left in charge of their own territories, with those of hostile rulers added to them” (Badian178) Along with their native chieftain, Alexander kept the administrative tool of satrap to govern districts, and left the natives subordinate to the satrap (district governor). Peitho the district governor was sent to put down the Musicanus rebellion. (Arrian 6.17) The tribe’s chieftain was executed for starting the revolt. (Curitus 9.8.16) Philip was appointed satrap of Nicanor and used Macedonian and Thracian soldiers to secure his territory. (Badian 179) Porus, a native, was given satrapy of his region; however, he did not hold an area of great value. In this way he followed the Macedonian policy of leaving the original laws and customs in place but added his own men to share power with the native. (Plut. 318)

The Macedonian tradition of founding cities gave extra security for the newly conquered territory. In Asia and India, Alexander founded several cities, populating them with retired soldiers and native peoples. This was to assure loyalty to his empire in the region and to have ready armament if needed. In India, he founded “Nicaea on the site of the battle and Bucephala near Haranpur” (H 115). In Bactria, 327 BC, Alexander increased the population by settling families from surrounding areas and retiring his older soldiers (A 239). He carried over the method of marriage for alliances and ensured loyalty by marring his companions to leading native women

(A 353). The Macedonian were forced to marry the native noble women

(A 7.6.2). The mixed marriages would lessen the potential of revolt among the natives.

The companion’s were essential to Alexander. The companions came from the nobility of Macedonia and had ready access to the King. The companions had an “inborn reverence for their kings” (Curtius 3.6.17). The companions would not only serve in his military, make up his satraps and garrison, but would serve on assemblies. Alexander periodically held assemblies, or court, for various reasons. Macedonians would judge their brothers; Persian and Asians did not serve on the Macedonians assemblies relating to trials. In the case of the trial of Philotas it was the Macedonians, who held the trial (Curtius 6.8-9). In military affairs Alexander would hold meetings with his companions to discuss plans of action. The companion’s had the ability to discuss the matter, but that did not mean Alexander had to take their advice. Parmenio gave Alexander advice and he rebuked it

(A 1.18). On occasions he would hold the assemblies to ask his army to continue campaigns. He initially spoke to small council of commanders and if he got the answer he wanted he would hold the assembly. If he did not get the answer he wanted he would modify his decision or their decision. The case of turning back before he had completed his vision for India. In this as in assembly he announced his decision to turn back (A 5.25-28).

Alexander used both Macedonian and Persian methods of administering a great empire and developed them into his own style. He blended the customs of native people to those of the court. He encouraged his companions to take up the Persian language and dress. He himself wore native dress and took up native habits as an attempt to soften the native’s hearts (Plutarch 45). He introduced the native people’s nobility to his companions. Alexander, after returning from Gedrosia, reorganized his companions creating a fifth element of Asian companions. He armed the companions with Macedonian weapons (Hammond 135).

Alexander sent Craterus to Macedonia to take over as regent and tell Antipater to return to Asia with fresh soldiers. This was done to shake up the power structure and put a check on Antipaters rising power (A 7.12). Alexander after sending his retirees home, decreed that all Greek city-states were to allow their exiles to return. This was against the laws of the League of Corinth and, technically, Alexander did not have the power to make such a decree. He no longer cared about Greek autonomy. He held no illusion of who he was or to what limits his position held (Curitus 10.2.4-12).

When the satrap governed poorly, or promoted self-interest, Alexander would have them replaced. In Bactria, the governor was replaced for incompetence (A 239). In the Paropamiss command he removed Tyriaspes who was executed for abuse of his position and replaced him with his father-in-law Oxyartes (B 179). Artabazus was replaced as satrap of Sogdiana because the people refused to recognize his authority. A younger man, Amyntas replaced him (Hammond 100). When Ordanes and several other officers in Alexander’s administration were accused of abusing their positions. Alexander had them executed to set an example to those of his administration (A 6.27). Orxines was put to death and replaced by Peucestas, who had taken up Persian customs. (A6.30) When the native satraps acted poorly, Alexander replaced them with a Macedonian or Greek counter part. Apollophanes was replaced with Thoas. When Thoas died Menon, governor of Arachosia, took the position (Hammond 131).

Ada was made queen and given Caria and no satrap was appointed. Caria was left with small forces controlled by a Macedonian commander. (Badian 171) When Ada dies Alexander appoints ______________ as satrap.

Alexander brought the Persians into his administration to promote co-operation among them and the Macedonians. The Persians however, were not placed in charge of the Macedonians. Macedonian Generals were in charge of the Persian privates. When Alexander used a Persian satrap, a Macedonian garrison was near. He had native tax collectors who answered to a Macedonian finance officer that collected from the entire region.

The financial administration of Alexander’s empire in the east was placed in the hands of Macedonians. He allowed the natives to collect the tribute owed but the money was placed in the hands of the Macedonians. Coeranus collected contributions from the Phoenicians, who did not have a satrap. Philoxenus retrieved contributions from the League of Corinth members. Apollonius, son Charinus and Cleomenes of Naucratis collected tribute from the nomarchs of Libya and Arabia (Arrian 3.5-6). Once Alexander had captured the Persian treasury, Philoxenus’ position became obsolete. Since he had proved himself competent, Philoxenus was placed in charge of eastern Aegean and Greek city-states of Asia. Philoxenus would become Alexander’s deputy and his power would parallel Antipaters (Badian 169-170). Harpalus was to keep up and manage the movement of the contributions to assure that the tribute should not rest in one central place.

It cannot be determined if Alexander would have changed the administration or organization of his empire once he settled in Asia or Macedonia after his conquests. He seems to be aware that any change that may suppress or change any of the current establishment would cause unrest. It is possible he was aware of this because he did not allow the Asian families of his Macedonian soldiers return to Macedonia with the soldiers. Even upon his return to Asia from India, he did not change the administration process. The only changes that emerged from the native system were to the satraps and administrative leaders after their failure to meet his expectations.


Alexander the Great

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Bosworth, A.B., Alexander and the East. The Tragedy of Triumph (Oxford 1996)

De Selincourt, Aubrey., The Campaigns of Alexander, Penguin Classics.

Hamilton, J.R., Alexander the Great (London 1973)

Higgins, W.E., ‘Aspects of Alexander’s Imperial Administration: some modern methods and

views reviewed’. Athenaeum 58 (1980) 129-52.

Scott-Kilvert, Ian., Plutarch: The Age of Alexander, Penguin Classics, with introduction

by G. T. Griffith.

Warner, Rex., Xenophon: A History of My Times, Penguin Classics,

with introduction, Notes by George Cawkwell.

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Waldemar Heckel.

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