Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great: A Children’s Story


Daniel Bacon & Dan Koontz

14 October 2011 


In a time when the sun shone brightly upon the forest of the world there were three great elders among the trees. In the Eastwood, there arose the mighty Sequoia who was quite Athenian if you ask me. In the Westwood stood a Cedar seemingly Theban in nature; and in the Southwood like a stone sat the scared Redwood having the appearance of a war hardened Spartan. Tall were these elders, much taller than the others. Though their trunks were separate their leaves canopied and their roots sunk deep and intermingled.

In this time there came a woodpecker from the Northwood Pines to unite these great elders. His name was Phil.  He was tall, strong, handsome and popular—as woodpeckers go, but the elders were not impressed. You see Phil wanted them to fight together against their common enemy[1] who sat east of them, across the wavy sea[2]. Though the trees sympathized with the ruddy woodpecker, they were anything but united with one another to act on it.

But Phil was a stubborn woodpecker. He began to peck away at the bark of the Sequoia and the Cedar and the Redwood. He pecked, and he pecked, and he pecked until finally he pecked right through their trunks and they fell with a crash.[3] The forest was Phil’s for the taking, and take it he most certainly did.

Phil the woodpecker was very used to getting what he wanted. He was a rather cocky fellow and at one time was exceedingly so. In this particular time he held a banquet in his own name. [4] He was the bird of the cage, if you will, and had his fare bit of squawking to do. Unfortunately for Phil, before he squawked as much as he would have liked, Pausanias the Owl (a bird quite as boring and droll as his tediously long name) snatched him from the air. Phil never squawked again.

The Story of Apollon and Epiktetos

It is now thirteen years later[5] and here sits young Epiktetos a ten year old boy who seems to be curious about everything, at the feet of his grandfather, Apollon—a strong, wise old man teaching Epiktetos everything that he knows. It was well that he was teaching young Epiktetos, for Apollon had fought alongside Alexander the Great during his conquest of the known world.  Now both were Greek, from the city of Delphi.

“There was a lot of noise in the market place today, grandfather,” Epiktetos said. Apollon nodded woefully,

“Yes Epiktetos, there has been a great tragedy that has befallen our beloved emperor.” Epiktetos, moved by the uncommon tear in his aging grandfather’s eyes begged to be told more.

“Why do they cry for the emperor?” Apollon, thinking it a strange question, countered it,

“Why do we cry for anyone that we’ve lost?” Epiktetos thought for a moment and answered tentatively,

“It was because they loved him, isn’t it?” Apollon smiled at the boy’s innocence.

“Yes, Epiktetos we loved him greatly. He was Alexander the Great, our conqueror, our hero, and our emperor.” Apollon fell silent after this and took on a nostalgic stare only to be interrupted by more questions from Epiktetos.

“Grandfather, will you please tell me more about Alexander the Great?” Apollon took a moment to consider the daylight.

“Yes, I think I will. Alexander was born into the house of King Phillip II of Macedon, before the empire was gathered together.  He was a feisty young boy, ready at any time to take on a challenge…a bit like you Epiktetos.”  They both smiled, and Apollon continued, “In fact, have you heard the story of Alexander and Bucephalas?”

“Why no, grandfather,” Epiktatos responded.

“Ha!  Well, sit still, and open your ears my boy,” roared Apollon, surprising Epiktetos a bit.  “The tale goes something like this.  It was the day when a man brought Philip, Alexander’s father, a horse, wanting to sell it for thirteen talents; the name of that horse was Bucephalas.[6]  So Philip, his men, and Alexander brought the horse out to see how it would ride.  But, Bucephalas would not behave for any of the men.  Eventually, Philip’s patience had worn thin and he demanded the horse be returned.  It was at this point that Alexander began to repeatedly say, ‘What a horse they are losing simply because they are too inexperienced and too spineless to be able to handle him!’[7]  Now, what do you think his father said to that?”

“Maybe he gave the horse to Alexander?” asked Epiktetos.

“Well,” laughed Apollon, “at the very least, his father gave him a chance to see if he could handle the horse.  Alexander took to it, ran to Bucephalas and grabbed the reins.  Now, Alexander had noticed something: the horse was scared of his own shadow.  What do you think he did?”

“I would have blindfolded the horse!” replied Epiktetos.

“I don’t think he did that,” Apollon said with a chuckle.  “Well, Alexander pointed Bucephalas towards the sun so he couldn’t see his shadow.  Then, Alexander began to run with the horse, and eventually, he leaped onto his back, and took off!  When they returned, Alexander was victoriously riding the horse, proving he could manage Bucephalas.  Now, it is said that when Alexander dismounted, his father kissed him on the head and said, ‘Son, look for a kingdom that matches your size.  Macedonia has not enough space for you.’ [8]

“Wow, grandpa,” Epiktetos said in awe, “Alexander was brave.”

“Indeed he was, Epiktetos.  And, in a way, this story foreshadowed what Alexander would eventually do,”[9] replied Apollon.

“What did he do?” asked Epiktetos. Apollon answered with great pride and dignity.

“Rule the world,” he let that sit a moment and then continued “but we’re getting ahead of ourselves aren’t we? First he would continue in the training that would prepare him for his ultimate destiny. He was trained for battle under his own father and trained in the mind by one of the greatest of Grecian educators of that time, Aristotle.”[10] Epiktetos drew closer as the sun started to sink under the horizon, and an oil lamp was lit to add light to the pair’s conversation. Epiktetos spoke up after the lull in conversation

“What then? When did Alexander finally become the emperor?” Apollon drew silent, another look of pain in his eyes.

“It’s hard to speak of such things to you, Epiktetos, because I’m not sure that you fully understand, but since you’re curiosity knows no bounds I will relate it to you. It was in the Daesius, twenty three years ago when King Phillip II, Alexander’s father, was murdered at the wedding celebration of his daughter Cleopatra. The man was chased down and brought to justice but the matter stood—the king was dead and Alexander was the sole heir to the throne. His syntrophoi, the young nobles who Alexander brought to court with him worked quickly together to establish Alexander’s claim to the throne and the rest was left up to his tour convincing the people and the nobles of his right and fitness to rule.”[11]

For a moment Epiktetos lost himself in his own thoughts before declaring, “I would be so sad if my father died.  How did Alexander feel?”

“I’m not positive,” Apollon slowly answered, “I never questioned him on the issue.  Their relationship was somewhat strained, Epiktetos, but I am sure Alexander mourned.”

“Well, what did he do next,” pressed Epiktetos.

“Ah.  Now this was when Alexander shined the brightest,” Apollon’s tone lifted. “You have heard of Persia, have you not?”

“I have,” replied Epiktetos.

“Well, at the time, Persia ruled a number of Greek cities in the land[12] across the Aegean Sea; these were brothers to us.  Great Alexander also held a place in his heart for them, and he, like his father, desired to overthrow the Persian rule.  Even more than his father, however, Alexander wanted to conquer the entire Persian world.”[13]

“Wow!  Did he do it?” Epiktetos blurted.  Apollon burst into laughter,

“My boy, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”  Apollon paused for a moment and searched his mind. “Let me tell you of one battle Alexander fought against Darius, the King of Persia.[14]  I was even there.”

“You were Grandfather?”  Epiktetos asked excitedly.

“Indeed,” replied Apollon. “This battle took place many miles from here off the coast of the gulf of Issus.  Do you know where that is?”  Epiktetos thought for a minute,


“It’s all the way on the east side of the Mediterranean Sea, hid up in the northern corner.  You see, Alexander was marching us around the gulf in pursuit of Darius, who was not far off.[15]  We stayed close to the coast as we advanced.  Meanwhile, Darius and his army apparently marched around us, and before either side knew it, they found themselves to be north of our army, stumbling across our supply line.  Darius quickly cut it off, leaving us without the incoming supplies we desperately needed.”[16]

“Alexander didn’t know?” Epiktetos was shocked!

“In time, he heard the unfortunate news,” replied Apollon.

“Well, why was the supply line so important?”

“The army was large,” continued Apollon, “and we needed supplies to stay healthy, similar to how you need to food to be healthy.  If we did not receive those supplies, the army would collapse on itself.  But not to fear my son, Alexander acted characteristically swift.  He marched us back up North; we arrived at the Pass of Jonah around midnight.[17]  We would enter battle the next day.  Now, how do you suppose we slept that night, Epiktetos?”

“I would never have even closed my eyes, grandfather.  Did you?”

“Son, I was tired,” responded Apollon.  “I needed the sleep, and so took it.  Was it the best night of sleep I’ve ever had?  No, but it was enough.  We were Alexander’s army. ‘Enough’, was all we needed and with it we could win any battle.”

“So, what happened next, grandfather?”

“We ‘woke, and we marched all the way to the river Payas,” Apollon’s voice slowed.  “When I saw it, my blood ran cold, Epiktetos.  Darius’ army was massive, much larger than ours.  Even more, they were just beyond the river, a most advantageous position.  Nevertheless, we marched.  Alexander did not seem to be concerned about the size of Darius’ army.  No, he took all the more control of the situation, quickly making decisive changes to the front line as we advanced.[18]

“As we marched the battlefield opened; the sea was on our left and the hills were on our right,” continued Apollon.  “Darius had wisely chosen his place, but he overlooked something; the narrowness of the battlefield minimized the fact that he had far more men than we did.  Our front lines were nearly equal.[19] Now, before we reached the river, Alexander called the army to a halt. We were in a battle line, some four kilometers long.”[20]  Apollon stretched out his arms to exaggerate his point; Epiktetos eyes widened at the sight.

“What did he do then, grandfather?”

“I’ll never forget the sight,” said Apollon.  A look of pride came over his face.  “He rode his horse down and up that line of men.[21]  His words shook us to the core.  It was as if fire entered our souls, and our eyes burned with passion.”

“I can see it now, grandfather!”


“Yes, Epiktetos,” he continued, “So, we took to the battle.  I was on the right wing of the line, in the cavalry.  In fact, I was quite near Alexander himself.  We rode across the river, and attacked with blunt force.  Weapons smashed into each other, shields shattered, horses were slain, men died.  I’ll never forget witnessing one of my dear friends, naught but three meters away from me, being knocked off his steed.  He fell to the ground wounded and lay there for a moment.  I jerked my horse to come to his aid, but it was all too late.”  A single tear emerged from Apollon’s eye.

“Grandfather, did he die?” asked Epiktetos.

“Yes, my boy.  He died a hero, and I’ll always honor him as such.”

“I’m sorry, grandfather.” Epiktetos said, as he got up and wiped away his grandfather’s tears.  Apollon swallowed once deeply, and continued,

“But not all was lost, my son.  Because of men of such courage and because of our great leader, our right wing triumphed over the enemy.[23]  We broke through, and headed towards Darius himself.  When Darius saw his misfortune, he turned and ran, he and many of his men.[24]  Epiktetos, that day Alexander was small and Darius large.  But, it was shouted from the top of the world that nothing would keep us from conquering!  We counted up our losses, and it came to 450 deaths, and 4,500 hurt.[25]  But it is said that Darius lost far more, some 110,000 men.[26]  I think we made our statement.”  Apollon stopped for a moment and looked at the child next to him.  Epiktetos was speechless, for he was playing it out in his mind’s eye.

“Grandfather,” Epiktetos slowly spoke up.

“Yes, my boy.”

“Will I ever be a warrior like you?”  Epiktetos asked.

“Son, I pray that you will never have to be.  I pray your generation will see peace, for that is what we hoped would come of Alexander’s conquest.”


<—- Return to History as Story


Hammond, N.G.L.. The Genius of Alexander the Great. London N1 6PB: The University of         North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1997.

Heckel, Waldemar and Yardley, J.C.. Alexander the Great: Historical Texts in Translation.           Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004.

Perry, Marvin; Chase, Myrna; Jacob, James R.; Jacob, Margaret C.; Von Laue, Theodore H..         Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, 9th ed.. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2009.

Plutarch, Alexander: Plutarchus Vitae Parallelae, ed. K. Ziegler, 3 vols. (Teubner: 1964-73),         quoted in Heckel, Waldemar and Yardley, J.C.. Alexander the Great: Historical Texts in         Translation. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004.

“The battle of Issus, from a mosaic found at Pompeii.” Image and description taken from Kimball, Charles. “A General History of the Middle East: Chapter 6: THE AGE OF HELLENISM: 336 to 63 B.C.” The Xenophile Historian (2000), (accessed October 13, 2011).

Welles, C. Bradford. Alexander and the Hellenistic World. Toronto, Canada. A.M. Hakkert LTD.


Wikipedia. “Aegean Sea.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 23 Sept. 2011. Web. 24 Sept.           2011.  <;.

[1] N.G.L. Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, (London N1 6PB: The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1997) 18-19.

[2] Wikipedia, “Aegean Sea”, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 23 Sept. 2011. Note: The wavy sea is a reference to the etymology of the Aegean sea coming “from the Greek word αἶγεςaiges = ‘waves’ (Hesychius of Alexandria; metaphorical use of αἴξ (aix) ‘goat’), hence ‘wavy sea’”.

[3] Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, 19.

[4] Ibid., 25-26.

[5] Marvin Perry, Myrna Chase, James R. Jacob, Margaret C. Jacob, Theodore H. Von Laue, Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, 9th ed. (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2009), 104. A reference to the dates of both the death of Philip and the death of Alexander.

[6] The following account of Alexander and Bucephalas is from: Plutarch, Alexander: Plutarchus Vitae Parallelae, ed. K. Ziegler, 3 vols. (Teubner: 1964-73), Alexander 6, quoted in Waldemar Heckel and J.C. Yardley, Alexander the Great: Historical Texts in Translation (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004), 45-46.

[7] Ibid..

            [8] Plutarch, Alexander: Plutarchus Vitae Parallelae, ed. K. Ziegler, 3 vols. (Teubner: 1964-73), Alexander 6.

[9] Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, 2.

[10] C. Bradford Wells, Alexander and the Hellenistic World, Toronto, Ancient and Modern Book Printers copyright 1970

[11] C. Bradford Welles, Alexander and the Hellenistic World. Toronto, Canada. A.M. Hakkert LTD.  1970

[12] Today, it is called Asia Minor.

[13] Marvin Perry, Myrna Chase, James R. Jacob, Margaret C. Jacob, Theodore H. Von Laue, Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, 9th ed. (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2009), 104.

[14] The following account of the Battle at Issus is taken from Hammond, The Genius of Alexander, 83-90.  At certain points throughout the following account, we do cite particular pieces of information.

[15] Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, 85.

[16] Ibid., 86.

[17] Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, 87.

[18] Ibid., 87-89.

[19] Ibid., 89.

[20] Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, 89.

[21] Ibid..

[22] “The battle of Issus, from a mosaic found at Pompeii.” Image and description taken from Charles Kimball, “A General History of the Middle East: Chapter 6: THE AGE OF HELLENISM: 336 to 63 B.C.” The Xenophile Historian (2000), (accessed October 13, 2011).

[23] Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great, 89.

[24] Ibid., 90.

[25] Ibid..

[26] Ibid..  Also note that according to Hammond, this number may be inflated.


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