25 Unusual Facts About Alexander The Great

Posted by , Updated on March 22, 2024

You may already be acquainted with some information regarding Alexander the Great, given his significant impact on history. It was under his rule that a significant historical era, the Hellenistic age, was born. His reign observed an unparalleled level of consolidation and expansion among the Greeks, and his campaign stands out as one of the most extensive – potentially the very greatest – executed by a sole leader. Throughout this period, Greek cultural dominance and authority reached its zenith in Europe, Africa, and Asia, seeing advancements and success in various fields such as exploration, literature, theater, architecture, music, mathematics, philosophy, and science.

His settlement of Greek colonies and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the East lasted many centuries, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-fifteenth century and the presence of Greek speakers in central and far eastern Anatolia until the 1920’s. Even more importantly, his undefeated status and his genius battlefield tactics became the measure against which military leaders compared themselves, while military academies throughout the world still teach his strategies. The following 25 unusual facts about Alexander the Great will make it perfectly clear why his legacy continues to live on and retains a strong hold on contemporary historians.


Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty, an ancient Greek royal house from Peloponnese.

Alexander the Great's coinsSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

His name comes from the Greek alexo, “defend,” and andr, “man,” thus his name means “protector of men.”

Alexander the GreatSource: dictionary.cambridge.org, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, hired Aristotle, one of history’s greatest philosophers alongside Socrates and Plato, to educate thirteen-year-old Alexander. He tutored Alexander for three years until age sixteen, when Alexander took the throne of Macedonia.

AristotleSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

Alexander’s mother, Olympias, was the daughter of Neoptolemus I, king of the Molossians, an ancient Greek tribe in Epirus. Angelina Jolie portrayed her successfully in Oliver Stone’s 2004 film Alexander.

Angelina JolieSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox/ imdb.com, Image: Wikipedia

There is some controversy concerning Alexander the Great's sexuality. However, Alexander the Great had three wives: Roxane, Statiera, and Parysatis.

Alexander and RoxaneSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

It is believed that Alexander had two children: Herakles, a son with his mistress Barsine, and Alexander IV, his son by Roxane. Unfortunately, after his death both children were murdered before they could reach adulthood.

Greek painting Source: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Alexander founded more than seventy cities and named at least twenty after himself, with the most popular being Alexandria in Egypt. Additionally, near the site of the battle of the river Hydaspes (now known as Jhelum River in India), Alexander founded the city of Bucephala, named after his horse, which was mortally wounded in the battle.

BucephalaSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

He was one of the most admired foreign historical figures in Rome, even many years after his death. Maybe that’s why Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Augustus made pilgrimages to Alexander’s tomb in Alexandria.

Julius CaesarSource: history.com, Image: Wikipedia

Can you guess what Alexander, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon have in common? You’re probably thinking is world domination but that’s not the case. They are all reputed to have suffered from ailurophobia—the fear of cats.

catSource: theguardian.com, Image: Wikipedia

Alexander the Great’s military tactics and strategies are still studied in military academies today. From his first victory at age eighteen until his death (at age thirty-three) he never lost a single battle.

military academySource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Ever heard of Greco-Buddhism? This term refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the fourth century BCE and the fifth century AD in Bactria and the Indian subcontinent, corresponding to the territories of modern-day Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great, carried further by the establishment of the Indo-Greek kingdom and extended during the flourishing of the Kushan Empire.

mapSource: Wikipedia, Image: Wikipedia

One of the most famous legends about Alexander is that in 333 when he was in Gordium, in Asia Minor, he undid the Gordian knot. The prophecy about the Gordian knot said that he who untied it would rule all of Asia. Alexander is said to have undone the knot by slashing through it with a sword. It is believed that the man who tied the knot was either Midas of golden touch fame or his father, Gordius.

Gordian knotSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

The Republic of Macedonia, a modern country located in the central Balkan Peninsula in southeast Europe, is not related historically to the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. Its name, however, derives from the Greek region Makedonía, capital of Alexander’s ancient kingdom.

mapSource: Wikipedia, Image: Wikipedia

Three of Fidel Castro’s sons are named after Alexander the Great: Alexis, Alejandro, and Alexander.

Fidel CastroSource: 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Alexander once held a drinking contest among his soldiers. When it was over, forty-two soldiers had died from alcohol poisoning.

Greek paintingSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

Alexander the Great was king of the Greek kingdom of Macedon, pharaoh of Egypt, king of Persia, and king of Asia all at the same time!

mapSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

After defeating the Persians, Alexander started dressing like a Persian king and had two Persian wives so the newly conquered people would feel more comfortable with their new leader.

Alexander v PersiansSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

Even though there have been many theories throughout the years, the real cause of Alexander’s death remains one of the many mysteries of the ancient world. In modern times, medical experts have claimed that malaria, lung infection, liver failure, or typhoid may have been the causes but no one can say for sure.

Alexander's deathSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

The Iliad and The Odyssey were his favorite books. Since childhood he was inspired by the Homer’s heroes and slept with The Iliad under his pillow. Further, the Greek warrior Achilles, who fought at Troy, fascinated him and captured his imagination more than any other character in the epics.

AchillesSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

However, Alexander’s biggest idol and influence was the one and only Heracles (Hercules). His admiration for the most famous Greek mythological figure of all time was so deep that he called himself son of Zeus (just like Heracles ), and always bragged that he was descended from Heracles on his father’s side.

HeraclesSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Despite being known as one of the greatest generals and warriors of all time, Alexander loved philosophy so much that during his conquest of India, he paused his military campaign to have lengthy discussions with the gymnosophists, “naked philosophers” in the Hindu and Jain religious traditions (they eschewed human vanity and clothing).

Hindu philosophersSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: Wikipedia

Alexander the Great washed his hair on a daily basis in saffron to keep it shiny and orange. Keep in mind that saffron was rare at the time and a little more expensive than gold.

saffronSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The 2008 television program Great Greeks, based on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Britons and the Discovery Channel’s The Greatest American, named Alexander the Great the greatest Greek of all time (via audience voting) an astonishing 2,331 years after his death.

Alexander's statue in GreeceSource: skai.gr/tv, Image: Wikipedia

It is said that Alexander the Great smelled even greater. The Greek historian Plutarch reports in his book Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans that “a most agreeable odor” exuded from Alexander’s skin, and that his breath and body was so fragrant as to perfume the clothes he wore.

PaintingSource: Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by Plutarch, Image: Wikipedia

Alexander the Great had heterochromia iridum: one of his eyes was blue and the other was brown.

heterochromia iridumSource: Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox, Image: commons.wikimedia.org