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What Was the Impact of Alexander the Great’s Rule on the Practice of Democracy?

At the time that Alexander the Great inherited the Macedonian throne democracy with varying degrees of popular participation and influence was practised or at least claimed to be operated in many Greek city-states. As will be examined Alexander the Great’s rule had an impact on the practice of democracy due to the various reasons and factors discussed. Democracy itself had already been practised for a centuries in some of the Greek city-states before Alexander the Great’s rule began, whilst his achievements would alter the political situation within Ancient Greece and beyond, mainly to his advantage. Democracy was not only practised in Ancient Greece proper, it was present in the Greek city-states that had been previously established in Asia Minor, and soon came under the control of Alexander the Great.

A great deal of attention paid towards Alexander the Great both from his contemporaries and historians since was focused upon his unrivalled success as a military commander during his relatively short reign as the Macedonian king. However attention should also be given to Alexander the Great’s achievements as a monarch as well as his remarkable astuteness as a political leader. Phillip II himself had been a strong monarch and also a capable military that amongst his achievements had increased Macedonian power and position in relation to the leading Greek city-states. Phillip possessed “brilliant strategic and tactical ability”, attributes that his son inherited. The concept that Phillip II put forward to the Greek city-states was that Macedonia should take the lead role in any conflicts with the Persian empire. Phillip II did not generally intervene in the internal affairs of the Greek city-states, and was indifferent to whether or not democracy was a feature of those city-states he wished to control and influence.

Arguably Alexander the Great continued his father’s pragmatic and some would contend cynical approach to the practice of democracy, supporting or opposing its use or extension whenever that suited him to do so. Phillip II did not allow any meaningful practice of democracy within Macedonia, and did not advance its use in any of the Greek city-states that he was allied to. Alexander the Great had similar political strategies, when it came down to the practice of democracy as well as ambitious plans for major military conquests. As far as Alexander the Great was concerned the practice of democracy would only be promoted or indeed restricted when it suited Macedonian interests to do so. If the practice of democracy made no difference to whether or not his political and military objectives could be achieved there was no need to alter how it operated within the Greek city-states. The practice of democracy was not at the top of Alexander the Great’s political, dynastic, and indeed his military agendas. To achieve his highly ambitious military objectives in reality would entail that he concentrated all the available political power and therefore military power into his own hands rather than dilute his authority through the practice of democracy. Alexander the Great was able to carry out his policies due to his military prowess, “the more a king conquered, the more secure his personal kingship became.”

Although Macedonia was heavily influenced by Greek culture, philosophy, and their political concepts, whilst the practice of democracy had never been as pronounced as it was in other city-states such as Athens, Corinth, Sparta, and Thebes. Whether or not Greek city-states were formally democracies, oligarchies, tyrannies, or monarchies had failed to unite them all under the authority of the most powerful city-states. Phillip II had contributed to the future power of Alexander the Great by defeating Athenian plans for the complete domination of the other Greek city-states, and then making alliances with some of these city-state as an attempt to counter the might of the Persian empire. Alexander the Great regarded the support and the compliance of Greek city-states as essential for his expansionist vision of a vast Macedonian empire.

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