Alexander the Great

When Alexander set out to see the world, he changed the course of world history and brought about a new political and cultural order. Discover and analyse Alexander's life and the controversies surrounding his ethnicity, personality and deeds.

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Teacher Date Day Time Sessions Fee Enrol
Sven Erlic 2017 dates TBC 6-7:30pm 6 sessions $ Join our mailing list

"For the courageous, nothing is unattainable" (Plutarch. Alex. 58.1). Alexander the Great was arguably the most successful individual that ever lived, he changed the course of world history and brought about a new political and cultural order that still forms the foundation of modern society. This course will narrate Alexander’s life and critically analyse the argument that surround controversies about Alexander’s ethnicity, personality and deeds. This course is for people who are interested in the critical examination of history.

The purpose of this course is to: like Thucydides, investigate cause and effect; like Herodotus, tell a fantastic narrative; like Machiavelli, identify worthy lessons from the past and like Socrates, to seek the fundamental and underlying truth. The focus will be to sift through our extant sources to find the real Alexander and to be able to then evaluate the real nature of his accomplishments and their effects.

Course outline

  • Lecture 1: Macedon before Alexander became King
  • If the extraordinary events set in motion by Alexander had not taken place, his father Philip II, would have been known in history as Philip the Great. In this lecture we will explore the world in which Alexander was born; the wars and diplomacy of his father; the establishment of the Corinthian league; the role of the Macedonian pike; Alexander’s education and his early military experience.

  • Lecture 2: The succession of Alexander and the Invasion of Asia
  • With the assassination of Philip II, Alexander first had to secure his recognition as king and then deal with numerous revolts from several Greek cities, Illyria and Thrace. In this lecture we will examine how various historians analyse the sack of Thebes; the battle of Granicus; the reasons for Alexander’s Persian Campaign; the legend of the Gordian Knot and we will investigate how historians deal with inconstancy in the sources.

  • Lecture 3: Alexander in Egypt
  • After the Battle of Issus and the Siege of Tyre, Alexander set his sights on Egypt. He founded the City of Alexandria and then travelled the hazardous route to the Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis. We will critically analyse how do the image of Alexander as an unbeatable military commander with fearless courage continually setting insurmountable feats compare to that of the image of a reckless drunkard pirate?

  • Lecture 4: Alexander in Babylon
  • In this lecture we will follow Alexander III at; the epic Battle of Gaugamela against Darius III of Persia; the surrender of Babylon and Susa; the defeat of Persepolis; the campaign in Bactria and Sogdiana; the capture of the Rock of Ariamazes and the marriage to Roxane. We will analyse the various interpretations of the ‘symbolic’ burning of the palace at Persepolis and look at Alexander’s logistical challenges.

  • Lecture 5: Alexander in India
  • Here we will look at the battle at the Hydaspes River against King Porus and the invasion of India. We will compare the various interpretations of the Mutiny of Hyhasis; the mass marriages at Susa; the re-organisation of the army; the proclamation of the Exiles Decree; his plan to circumnavigate Africa; the death of Hephastion and have a look at how Alexander was preparing to govern and tax his empire.

  • Lecture 6: The Alexander Debates: Personalitry and Controvery
  • It seems that Alexander can be portrayed either as a megalomaniac or a genius. We will look closely at both sides of the arguments and analyse in detail how they are substantiated. We will also look at the heritage and legacy of Alexander the Great. What has been his impact on World History, Science, Philosophy and Education? We will examine the accuracy of various TV Documentaries and Hollywood in their portrayal of the world’s most known secular historical figure? This lecture will attempt to align and connect the History of Alexander with modern life and notions.

About your Professor

Sven is a classics scholar with a Master’s Degree in History from Macquarie University and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Newcastle University. His research interests are in epistemology, classical philosophy and the controversies of Alexander the Great. He is an affiliate of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies and has presented a number of papers on Alexander the Great at academic conferences since 2013 both interstate and overseas. He has also been interviewed on radio, you can download the podcast from this link: https://radio.adelaide.edu.au/aristotle-and-alexander-the-great-team/

Who should enrol?

This course is open to anyone interested in Alexander the Great.

Comments from past students of Sven's course:

  • Very enjoyable, well-informed and fascinating course. I highly recommend it.
  • The greatest story I ever heard. I want to hear it again.
  • I liked the enthusiasm of the tutor.
  • Very well prepared, wish it was longer.
  • The tutor made the subject interesting and challenging.
  • Very dynamic class, very well supported by pictures, maps, audio-visuals and complete references

Updated:  22 November 2016/ Responsible Officer:  CCE Manager/ Page Contact:  CCE Webmaster