Discover the Ancient World of Alexander the Great | Historical Landmarks | History Hit

Discover the Ancient World of Alexander the Great

See where history happened: walk in the shoes of Alexander the Great at these 12 historic sites, from the place of his birth to the battlefields of his military career.

Harry Sherrin

28 Sep 2021

Alexander the Great was one of the most fearsomely successful military leaders in history. In 336 BC he inherited the crown of Macedon aged just 20, going on to conquer vast territories, even as far east as India.

When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, he presided over one of the most extensive contiguous empires the world had ever seen.

The relics and locations of his life and military career can be found across the globe, from Europe and Asia to northern Africa. There, you can discover and explore the ancient world of Alexander the Great.

1. Aigai

Aigai in northern Greece was once the capital of the Macedonian kingdom and it was here in 336BC that Alexander the Great was proclaimed King of Macedon after the assassination of his father, Philip II. Aigai survived into the Roman era but gradually declined during the latter Imperial period.

Today, Aigai can be found near the modern town of Vergina and there are a number of interesting sites to explore. Probably the most famous of Aigai’s sites are the royal burial tombs, which are believed to house the tombs of Phillip II and Alexander the Great’s son, Alexander IV. An impressive museum – the Royal Tombs of Vergina Museum – was built to enclose these tombs and visitors can explore this underground experience.

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2. Pella

A must-see for any Alexander the Great tour, Pella in Greece was the capital of ancient Macedonia, a cultural and commercial hub and the birthplace of Alexander the Great. By the time of its peak, from the late fourth to second century BC, Pella would have been brimming with public, religious and commercial buildings.

Visitors can see several sites at Pella, including a series of remains of houses, mostly dating back to the Hellenistic period and the marketplace or “agora”. There is also a museum housing artefacts from the site.

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3. Corinth

Corinth was a major city to both the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans. It was at Corinth in 336 BC that Alexander was selected to lead the Greeks in the war against Persia. Throughout the classical era, Corinth had held regular sporting tournaments known as the Isthmian Games. These were continued under the Macedonians and t was at the 336 BC Isthmus Games that Alexander the Great was selected to champion the Greeks in battle against Persia.

Today, visitors to Corinth can see its many ancient sites, including the fairly well-preserved ruins of the Temple of Apollo, which was built in 550 BC and the remaining columns of the Temple of Octavia.

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4. Perperikon

Perperikon was an important Thracian sanctuary turned Roman town then medieval fortress. It was here in 334BC that Alexander the Great was said to have been told that he would conquer the world.

Today, visitors can wander through historic Perperikon to see its fascinating ancient ruins including the remains of important public buildings, houses, stairways, altars, tombs and walls.

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5. Ephesus

Alexander entered Ephesus in 334BC after defeating the Persians at the Battle of the Granicus. The city would hail him as a deity. Fought over continuously by Alexander’s successors and their descendants, Ephesus, like so much of the region, was eventually absorbed into the Roman Republic, in the late 2nd century BC.

Today, Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing visitors to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.

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6. Pasargadae

Pasargadae was the first capital of the Persian Empire, the UNESCO-listed ruins of which are located in Iran. It was conquered by Alexander during his war with Persia.

Now a town in Iran, Pasargadae was established by the first ruler of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Cyrus the Great. Amongst the sites still visible are several palaces – including the Presidential Palace – making up a royal complex and a fortress known as the Tall-e Takht.

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7. Babylon

The ancient metropolis of Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world and today can be found near the town of Al-Hillah in modern-day Iraq. It is likely that Babylon was founded in the third millennium BC and rose to prominence over the next thousand years. In 331 BC Alexander the Great captured Babylon, and it was here he died in 323 BC.

The ruins of Babylon have suffered greatly due to looting and destructive policies, leaving little behind that captures the glory of the once-great city. Of Babylon’s ancient ruins, it is still possible to see parts of the old city walls. It is also possible to see a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

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8. Persepolis

Persepolis was the capital of the ancient Persian Empire and was destroyed by the forces of Alexander after his capture of the city in 330BC. The great palace of Xerxes was set alight with the subsequent fire burning vast swathes of the city. Persepolis then gradually declined in prestige, never again becoming a major seat of power.

Today, the imposing remains stand in modern-day Iran and the site is also known as Takht-e Jamshid. Located roughly 50 miles northeast of Shiraz, the ruins of Persepolis contain the remains of many ancient buildings and monuments. These include The Gate of All Nations, Apadana Palace, The Throne Hall, Tachara palace, Hadish palace, The Council Hall and The Tryplion Hall.

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9. Luxor Temple

The Luxor Temple in the city of Luxor, Egypt was once a sacred temple built in honour of the deity Amun. Constructed in the 14th century BC by Amenhotep III, the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Luxor Temple was part of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.

Today, together with the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of “Thebes and its Necropolis”. It is incredibly well-preserved and, with its statues of Ramesses II, it is clear that several pharaohs and other leaders added to it at later stages, including Tutankhamun and later even Alexander the Great.

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10. Thebes

Thebes was a powerful city in Ancient Greece, the few remains of which can now be seen in the modern Greek town of Thiva. Thebes began to decline in 338 BC, when it suffered defeat at the hands of the Macedonians in the Battle of Chaeronea. The final blow to the city occurred in 335 BC, when Thebes revolted against Alexander the Great, resulting in its absolute destruction. So great was the damage that Thebes never recovered and very little survives today.

Some ruins which can still be seen are the fortified Mycenaean palace of Kadmos, also known as Cadmea, and the Temple of Apollo Ismenios (found between the Electran Gates and the Aghios Loukas cemetery).

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11. Tomb of Cyrus the Great

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is located in the former Persian capital of Pasargadae, now a UNESCO-listed town in Iran. It is one of the main historic sites of modern Pasargadae. A stepped limestone structure crowned with a rectangular chamber, the Tomb of Cyrus the Great dates back to approximately 540-530 BC.

Legend has it that when Alexander the Great conquered Pasargadae in 330 BC, he had the tomb renovated in honour of Cyrus the Great. However, it has never been conclusively proved that this is indeed the tomb of the great Persian king.

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12. Taxila

Taxila, also known as the Ancient Gandhāran city of Takshashila, is an ancient site in the Punjab Province of Pakistan dating back as far as the sixth century BC. Over its 5-century-long lifespan, the site witnessed the evolution of numerous civilizations, including the Persians, Greeks and Hindus. Alexander the Great conquered Bhir during his victorious route through Taxila.

Taxila is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a great place to discover the roots of Buddhism, the art of Gandhara and the ancient culture of the subcontinent.

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