Alexander the Great: His Career, Character, and What Made Him “Great”

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Duration 01:01:48

University of Illinois

Jennifer Tobin is Professor Emerita of History and Classics at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where she is a two-time recipient of their Silver Circle Teaching Award. Professor Tobin has published widely on everything from Roman architecture in Syria to Alexander the Great, and has worked on archaeological projects in Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Greece. She speaks Modern Greek, German, French, Italian and Turkish.


Alexander The Great’s Character & Career

The meteoric career of Alexander the Great is the stuff of legends.  As a precocious child he tamed the mighty horse Bucephalus, in his teens he led the Macedonian cavalry, and before the age of 20 he was proclaimed King of Greece.  Through ingenious military tactics and crafty diplomacy, he forged the largest empire the ancient world had ever known. But by the age of 32, he lay dead in Babylon.

While the outlines of his life are well known, the motivations that drove Alexander’s extraordinary trajectory are less clear.  In this presentation, Professor Tobin explores the forces that propelled Alexander to greatness as well as the demons that drove him to his early death.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Before his untimely death, Alexander was developing strategies that would create coherence within his multi-cultural empire.  What were some of these? Do you think they would have been successful if Alexander had lived to enforce them?
  1. Alexander was a charismatic leader.  How does he compare with other similar figures throughout history?  Do they share certain positive characteristics and/or “fatal flaws?”
  1. One scholar has noted that every person who studies Alexander reads him differently: we each have “our own Alexander.”  In your opinion, does your Alexander deserve the title of “Great?”


Professor Tobin’s Recommended Reading:

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, by Michael Wood (with an accompanying DVD)

Alexander the Great, by Robin Lane Fox

Alexander the Great: Selections from Arrian, Diodorus, Plutarch and Quintus Curtius – James S. Romm, Editor


Learn More About The Character Traits Of Alexander The Great

Learn more about Alexander The Great’s character and other important topics by checking out additional great videos at OneDayU, including ‘The Role Of Light In Gothic Architecture’, ‘Books Written By Presidents& ‘Common Habits of Geniuses’ all on-demand now. 



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kevin fox

Enjoyable (as a layperson unable to watch while exercising)

Conceivably not detailed enough for history majors but perfect for non-historians, and though I was able to glance at the maps and diagrams enough to know they were of sufficient quantity and supportive of the lecture they were not essential to following the lecture allowing me to follow while jogging as so many “One day’s” won’t.

1 year ago
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