Centre for Continuing Education

Alexander the Great Course: Conqueror of the World

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

The world as we know it today has been shaped by events of the past. Learn about history the smart way with History courses at the University of Sydney.

Alexander the Great, the son of King Philip II of Macedon, inherited the throne in 336 BC at the age of 20. Two years later he began a series of campaigns which broke the power of the Persians, creating an empire which stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River. Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC and his empire would subsequently be torn apart by his generals and heirs. Alexander’s great legacy was the cultural diffusion which his conquests engendered, spreading Hellenistic civilisation throughout the Middle East.


This course aims to develop the participant’s understanding of how Alexander the Great built a world empire and why it collapsed at his death.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  1. State how Alexander was able to defeat the Persian Empire.
  2. Explore the material (archaeological) culture of Macedonia.
  3. Describe the personality of Alexander.
  4. List the consequences of Alexander’s premature and unexpected death.


This course covers the following topics:

Macedon before Alexander

The Kingdom of Macedonia in northern Greece was ruled from Aigai (modern Vergina) from the 7th Century BC. The state was unified under Amyntas III around 380 BC with Pella as its new capital. The Kingdom would gradually expand its influence over the rest of Greece. Macedon would become a major force during the reign of Philip II (359-36 BC), father of Alexander the great.

The early life of Alexander

Alexander was born to Queen Olympias on 21st July 356 BC. He would be educated by the celebrated philosopher Aristotle and brought up with great devotion for the Homeric poems. As a young boy he acquired a magnificent horse called Bucephalus who would accompany Alexander on his conquests to India. Alexander would first prove himself in battle against the Greeks – Philip’s assassination in 336 BC saw Alexander crowned as King.

The conquests of Alexander

Alexander consolidated his position with ruthless use of force, surrounding himself with Philip’s most loyal generals. The rebellious Greek city of Thebes was razed for rebelling against Macedonian rule. Keen to emulate his heroes from myth, particularly Achilles, Alexander set out on a remarkable campaign of conquest, reaching the Indus River before turning back unconquered.

Alexander the man

Alexander was a dynamic general who led his men to the edges of the known world. Convinced of his own divinity, he created a carefully managed image of heroic status. He was the new Achilles, and his close companion/lover Hephaestion was the new Patroclus. Alexander was interested in creating a worldwide Empire which would unite the various peoples of his conquered lands. To unify his new realm, he married a Bactrian Princess called Roxelana and had a child by her, the ill-fated Alexander IV.

Alexander’s death and the battles for succession

Alexander died after a drinking binge on 13th June 323 BC at the young age of 32 years. His son and heir, Alexander IV, was born after this date and there was little recognition of his authority. A period of conflict and chaos ensues as the surviving generals and heirs competed with each other for control of the vast

Delivery Style

This course will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussion will be encouraged.


Course handouts will be provided during class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion