Alexander the Great and his Mentor – Aristotle
Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king that would conquer the known world in the third century B.C, was born in 356 BCE in Pella, Macedonia. Son of Philip II of Macedon and Princess Olympias of Epirus, he went on to inherit each of his parents’ best qualities. His father was an excellent general and organizer, while his mother was extremely intelligent. As a young boy he was always fearless, strong, and eager to learn.
Aristotle was invited by King Philip to become the tutor to his son Alexander in 343 BC. Legend tells us Alexander’s father Philip said, possibly to Aristotle himself, “Take this son of mine away and teach him the poems of Homer.”
It was Aristotle who inspired Alexander’s great love for literature. It is said that Aristotle gave Alexander his annotated copy of Homer’s “The Illiad”, a book that Alexander considered a handbook on the art of war. He had this book by his side during his legendary conquests. There can be no doubt that Aristotle taught Alexander much about persuasion and motivation considering that one of the Aristotle’s great books The Art of Rhetoric is a primer in the subject of finding “all the available means of persuasion.”
During Alexander’s remarkable march throughout the known world, it is said that the love Aristotle gave him for books led him to collect them. Whatever happened to that collection is unknown but some of those volumes may have made their way back to his beloved teacher.
Aristotle was appointed as the head of the royal academy of Macedon. During that time he gave lessons not only to Alexander, but also to two other future kings: Ptolemy and Cassander. Aristotle encouraged Alexander toward eastern conquest, and his attitude towards Persia was unabashedly ethnocentric. In one famous example, he counsels Alexander to be “a leader to the Greeks and a despot to the barbarians, to look after the former as after friends and relatives, and to deal with the latter as with beasts or plants”.