The Political Campaigns of Alexander the Great
This piece will analyse arguably two of the greatest political and military leaders the world has ever seen; two men who independently took control of an empire and through their conquest and reigns have changed the world and whose lives and tactics have inspired future leaders from the kings of medieval Europe to the generals of Nazi Germany. Behind these empires, regarded by history as being noble, glorious and in some cases political archetypes, lie the more ruthless, manipulative and treacherous tactics employed by both leaders.
This piece focuses on two questions: How did the styles of leadership of Alexander the Great and Caesar affect aspects of their reign? Are leaders born or does one attain the traits considered vital for leadership through practice and exercise? The analysis of these questions allows for further understanding as to what made these leaders successful on a personal level. The question as to whether a leader is born or is conditioned is a topic that has been discussed since the classical period. This discussion is highlighted by the use of Machiavelli’s principles as put forward in his letter to the Medici family: “The Prince.” By going through the lives of both leaders, from their childhoods to their deaths, and by analysing their conquests both politically and militarily, one will be able to clearly see the development of both leaders as people and how the tactics used to gain control of a government do not greatly differ to those used in winning a military campaign. This piece will focus on these leaders and will highlight parts of their life where their personalities and tactics are clearly visible be it militarily or politically.
The conclusion of this piece will put forward a hypothesis as to what makes a good leader, whether one is born a leader, or whether the ability to lead is acquired throughout the course of one’s life. This question requires the analysis of leaders and below is a summary of the two leaders that will be focused on in this essay. Throughout his life Caesar displays a level of cunning, manipulation through both force and negotiation and cruelty towards enemies whom he considered threatening. Although Alexander was no stranger to killing threats, he strived to portray himself as noble whereas Caesar was content to build a reputation as a powerful individual not frightened to use force. It seems, as will be shown throughout this piece, that Caesar deliberately created an image for himself in which he seemed powerful, ruthless and without feeling.
This image worked to his advantage against many enemies and it seems that he strived to portray himself in this manner to further his power. Alexander on the other hand was intent on portraying himself as god-like. Some historians argue that he truly believed that he was the descendant of Achilles and that his action when dealing with threats were portrayed to be noble in manner so as to either display an image of godliness to his soldiers and people or perhaps to satisfy his own need for proof of his divinity. The main sources used in this piece are: “Julius Caesar.” (The volumes “The Young Caesar” and “Imperial Caesar” combined) by Rex Warner, published in 1967, the two individual volumes being published in 1958 and 1960 respectively, and “Alexander and the Hellenistic Empire” by A.
R Burn, published in 1947. The main source for chapter 4 is Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” translated by George Bull and published in 1961. Chapter 2: Childhood and Early Life To argue that one is born a leader requires the analysis of the early life of those known to be successful leaders. Through an analysis of this stage of life, in which the individual is unlikely to have been aware of reputation, styles of leadership and political ability, one can begin to understand whether the traits that determine success can be found at an early age. Both leaders were born into high-class families, Alexander into the royal family of Macedonia, Caesar into an old noble family in which one member (depending on the time period) held the position of consul in the senate of Rome. Although both leaders did not fully rely on their positions in society to further their influence, it is to these positions that they owe much of their success.
Without the benefits that these positions provided, neither would have progressed in society as quickly or with as great an affect as they did. This reverts back to the question of whether they were fortunate and that without this position they would never have succeeded, or whether even without their advantageous births they would have been the type of leader that they became. Caesar: Julius Caesar’s family married into one of the most powerful families in Rome, his aunt, Julia, married Gaius Marius, a major political leader and aristocrat who led the opposition to Sulla, one of the leaders of Rome at the time. He himself was married to Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna who took Gaius Marius’ place after his death. Caesar showed, from a young age, his calculating and sceptical nature which would prove to be one of his greatest assets in the future.
Marius was regarded as a perfect example of a Roman idea by his family, the stories told to Caesar at a young age should have been enough to immediately inspire awe in the young boy. When Caesar was around fifteen attending a dinner party, he was told a story by Marius in which he recounted that he had, as a child, found seven eagle eggs in a nest fallen from a cliff, this was supposedly a sign that he was to hold the position of head of Rome seven times. Caesar noted that the number of eagle eggs increased every time Marius was elected head of state and commented on the story, stating that eagles never lay more than two eggs (Caesar showed an avid interest of Natural History during his childhood) and shocked many of the guests around him. Marius replied that for Marius, the gods would lay a hundred eggs. Here we see an example of Caesar’s confident personality and his lack of childish shyness and insecurity.
At a young age it is unlikely that Caesar would have had the mental agility (see chapter 4) to give the impression of possessing these traits and this suggests he was born with them. Suggesting, purely for debatable purposes, that he did possess this mental agility implies that, once again, he was born with this mental agility again proving that his charisma, if not his ability to lead which cannot be proven through the anecdote above, was a trait that he was born with. His position in society was secured from his birth with the many connections and the large amount of influence his family had. This position was threatened by civil war in 90BC in which Sulla led troops against Marius. After a long period of war Sulla emerged victorious and the conquest of Marius, who had died earlier in 86BC, was proven to be in vain.
Caesar was pardoned by Sulla on the condition that he divorce his first wife, Cornelia, who would be replaced with a wife of Sulla’s choosing. Already at a young age Caesar was picked out for his ambition, Sulla was in a position of complete control over Caesar and instead of having the previous supporter of Marius killed, he kept him alive. This suggests that Caesar did not rely on his position and that it was a disadvantage for him during this period in his life. One could argue that his personality and ambition were the reasons for his being sparedhowever whether he would have had the chances to display these character traits were he not of noble birth is debatable. An example of the development of Caesar’s political skills is the period of his life in which he is recorded to have looked up to other political figures, such as Cicero. He is also recorded to have understood that he made mistakes during his late youth.
An interesting part of Caesar’s life was in his early adult life when a ship he was travelling on was captured by Cicilian pirates who held him as a prisoner, demanding ransom money. Caesar tells of how he analysed the situation, understanding that he must put himself forward as an important figure, worth keeping alive even if the ransom should prove difficult to obtain. At hearing that his ransom had been set at twenty talents, he simply laughed and insisted that they raise it to fifty. He then insisted on being provided with comfortable living quarters on the island on which he was being held. His actions may seem arrogant, egoistic and unwise however they gained him the respect of the pirates and behind the masquerade of arrogance, Caesar had secured his position as an important prisoner and his life was now safer than it had been.
On discovering the uncivilised way in which they lived he went about reforming their lives, organising athletic events, he practiced his oration on them and organised theater pieces to be performed. Through these actions Caesar became more a leader than a prisoner and had secured his well being. These actions were not motivated by a delusional sense of leadership but by the hard reality that his life was at risk and that if these pirates were to become his enemies, he would be more likely to be killed. His mask of boyish pride was, in this case, his best defence. After his ransom was paid Caesar went about asking favours of influential men he had met during his military service. He persuaded them to help him gather a fleet which he captured the pirate base.
Almost all pirates became his prisoners and instead of having them killed on the spot, Caesar sent them to the governor of the region, as a sign of friendship and so as not to insult him. After consulting with the governor however, Caesar saw that it was clear that he intended to ransom the pirates to their wealthy leaders. Although the governor did not expressly state that this was his intention, Caesar was able to deduce, through the lack of compliments and the embarrassed nature of the governor, that this was the case. Knowing that he had gained popularity with the people of the region by capturing these pirates, he did not wish to have his reputation stained by their release. He therefore used his connection with a guard at the prison to carry out their execution through crucifixion. Caesar wished to portray himself as being merciless toward enemies but history books show that he had them hanged before they were crucified, due to his hatred of inflicting unnecessary pain.
Aside from being a very interesting anecdote, this story shows the reader how Caesar understood the situation he was in, he acted in a way that he knew would be beneficial to him and manipulated the emotions of and the people themselves so as to not only keep himself from harm but also to improve his position in society and as a leader. In the following section a story from Alexander’s life will be used as a comparison. Alexander: The relationship between Alexander and his father gives one a reasonably reliable insight into the type of child Alexander was. As the son of one of the greatest military leaders and politicians of the age, it is not surprising that Alexander respected and looked up to his father, much like Caesar and Marius. Alexander saw very little of his father. His mother Olympia, one of the wives of Philip and jealous of the many mistresses he was acquiring through his conquests, started to influence Alexander into a situation where, although Philip was his father, he did not love him.
Olympia could never however bring Alexander to stop respecting his father and from an early age it is clear that Philip was proud of his son’s abilities on horseback and his wit. A famous story of such a situation was during Alexander’s childhood when a horse dealer visited his father, presenting him a horse, Boukephalas, for which he charged thirteen talents, a relatively high price. The horse was a magnificent creature however it was nervous and unmanageable. Philip told the horse dealer he would not buy the horse and was preparing to leave when Alexander protested. His father is recorded to have said: “Do you really imagine you know more than the grooms, that you think you can manage a horse better than anyone else?” to which Alexander replied: “I could certainly manage this horse better than some people.
” Alexander was already showing a very direct manner of speaking and a rather brusque style of speech when angered, perhaps not an advantage when conducting diplomacy but throughout his life Alexander shows very little need or skill in diplomacy, preferring to make agreements at the tip of a blade. Philip allowed Alexander to attempt to ride the horse but asked what the price should be were he to fail. Alexander suggested he buy the horse, an incredibly bold gesture that caused laughter among the onlookers. Philip accepted in a rather cruel or harsh manner, leaving the possibility of Alexander becoming greatly indebted or having to spend a large sum of money which Philip would have certainly insisted he do.Alexander took the horse and positioned it so it was facing the sun, preventing the shadows from scaring it.
He stroked it and mounted it before riding for a few minutes. When he returned his father had, by some accounts, tears in his eyes and is recorded to have said: “My son, you must find a kingdom for yourself, Macedonia is not large enough to hold you.” We are presented with a startling contrast between the affection which his father felt in these situation and the harshness with which he treated Alexander beforehand. Alexander’s character did not change during this period, he remain a confident, almost arrogant child and the success he had only strengthened his ego and arrogance as his later successes would as well. A story that greatly contrasts this is one of the last meetings of Philip and Alexander during a feast celebrating his marriage to Cleopatra, the niece of one of his generals.
This wedding was not only an insult to Alexander’s mother, Olympias and himself, but also a great threat, creating a possibility for Alexander to lose his heirdom were his father to have children with Cleopatra. Philip had angered Olympias who was not present at the feast, as one might expect, and as Alexander had a far more loving relationship with his mother, he was strongly against this marriage, morally and due to the strategic element of possibly losing his heirdom. At one point in the feast Attalos, the uncle of Cleopatra, made a speech in which he asked the guests to pray that Philip would have a legitimate successor to the throne. Alexander rose and shouted: “And what of me villain? Do you take me for a bastard?” At this Philip rose from his seat and advanced on Alexander, sword drawn. However, due to his drunkenness, he fell over one of the tables.
Alexander shouted: “Look men! Here is the man who is preparing to cross from Europe into Asia, and he can’t get from one couch to another without falling down!” Shortly after this event Alexander went into exile and his father was conveniently murdered by a former member of his guard. This story highlights Alexander’s rash but witty nature and the disregard he had for his father and his father had for him. Alexander was no fool, the murder of his father was most likely his doing and possibly inspired by the threat to his position as prince of Macedon. At the battle of Issus, a major battle in Alexander’s Persian conquest, Alexander was faced with an enemy on the opposite side of the river Granicus. Alexander’s army had marched since daybreak, faced, at the end of their march, with a Persian force led by the mercenary Memnon of Rhodes. Parmenion, Alexander’s second in command and the second in command of Philip the second’s forces, suggested waiting until the next day, at sunrise so as to enable their troops to attack with more of an element of surprise.
Alexander rejected the plan, suggesting that waiting would only improve Persian morale. Here we see a move that might be considered rash, attacking after a day’s march and against the wishes of the highly experienced generals he had as his advisers. As the battle commenced the Persians strengthened the part of their army directly opposite Alexander who is recorded to have been wearing bright armour, a steel helmet and two white plumes, making him both a source of morale for his troops and a source of fear for the Persians. He himself charged at the Persian cavalry containing the leaders of the army of a son-in-law of King Darius. He is recorded to have shouted: “Now follow, and play the man!” before charging over the river with his companion cavalry, the elite horse of the Macedonian army. Alexander’s spear broke during the hand-to-hand fighting with the Persians in which he himself is said to have killed Mithradates, the son-in-law of Darius.
Shortly after this event a Persian counter-charge saw Alexander struck on the crest of his helm by a battle axe. His helmet held and his assailant, supposedly Rhoisakes, the governor of Ionia at the time, was then killed by one of Alexander’s officers. Here we see an example of actions which may be considered reckless and which could also be argued were very precisely judged and deliberate. This charge into battle may well have been Alexander attempting to satisfy his fantasy of being the descendant of Achilles, or may have been a completely fictional account. The answer lies, in all probability, in between these two extremes. Alexander was known for his brave actions which endangered his life.
However it is highly unlikely that he was found in some of the situations that history books tell us of. One possibility is that the charge was carefully planned, Alexander using his presence as a boost to morale for the cavalry charging over one of the best defended areas of the riverbank. His charge may have been carefully calculated, putting him in a position to fight the lightly-armoured Persian cavalry but never placing him in a position of great danger. The story of the fights between the leaders of either army are most likely false and used as stories to boost the morale of the Macedonian force. Using the fact that Alexander ignored Parmenion (his second in command) one can infer that he was either reckless or felt that he was the better military strategist which is very likely. Alexander was, by all accounts, a military genius and it is hard to believe that someone in his position and of his young age would not allow his genius to influence his character in the sense of indulging arrogance and egoism.
Many stories show him to be a very good strategist (eg the manner in which he performed the attack on Memnon’s forces) and one can therefore suggest, from the events that occurred at the battle of Granicus, that Alexander came across as confident and almost delusional. Whether this was an act to inspire bravery in his troops or simply his delusional idea of glory will be analysed further by using more stories of his personality and character. After examination it is clear that both individuals possessed strong personalities at young ages but to have a strong personality and to also be arrogant, as both were in the cases above, is a combination which can be very unfavourable when leading men. These stories suggest to the reader that neither leader was born manipulative and strategic, but that both were born self-confident and uninhibited. This supports the hypothesis that leaders are born but there are certain aspects that must be analysed. They both received tutoring and studied the art of warfare and politics.
Whether it was this study or their personalities that determined their later success is unknown, however, it is likely that the combination of skill and learning determined their success. One must however take note that these accounts are not fully reliable, coming from biased sources but yet providing an insight into their lives. Chapter 3: Political Conquest When looking at a leader, their political positions and their political actions are a major factor affecting their success. This chapter will expand on the hypothesis that political positions held by either leader were not due to a true belief in ideology but the advantages which came with this position. It will also analyse the question as to whether political actions do make a leader great.
This chapter will look purely at Caesar’s conquest as Alexander, being a prince from birth, did not have the same level of political struggle as Caesar. Caesar: Caesar, during his time in Rome, took part in a complex deconstruction of the Senate. His actions were by no measure motivated by a genuine hatred for the senate but were a reaction to the limited amount of power granted to the rich Roman families. Caesar made an alliance with two major politicians of the time: Pompey, a renowned general and a greatly respected member of society, and Marcus Licinius Crassus who was the richest man in Rome and remains the richest individual in history to this day. Caesar campaigned to have the Tribunes reinstated with the powers they had once been granted.
The Tribunes were the representatives of the people and, should they have been set against the senate, could do considerable damage. His plan was to use the Tribunes to create a divide between the rich and poor, the Tribunes representing the Plebiscite and the Senate the oligarchy. Caesar did not portray himself as the face of this campaign, instead, he and Pompey put forward Licinius Macer as a Tribune, a politician who proposed that the people refuse to fight in wars designed simply to benefit a few rich and powerful oligarchs. Caesar understood that, although this position was dangerous, it would help create a gap between the rich and poor behind which he could hide his own intentions. As the situation escalated, Caesar’s allies came into control of large numbers of troops, not officially but in all practicality.
Another political situation they created was one in which Caesar, Crassus and Pompey often portrayed themselves as enemies, when in fact they maintained a close alliance with one another and shared a common enemy, the senate. This situation divided Rome’s leaders into three factions, all of whom were set against the senate but were used by Pompey, Caesar and Crassus as one faction, not the three different sides which they thought themselves to be members of. This example of Caesar’s political life shows us a style of leadership designed to further Caesar’s ambition and position in society without making himself the supposed leader of the movement. This contrasts greatly with Alexander’s more self-promoting style of leadership, as discussed in the earlier and later chapters, in which he portrayed himself to be the leader of his empire and often credited himself with the ideas of others. Whether this was due to the fact that he was the monarch of Macedon or to his ego is debatable and the answer lies, in all probability, between these two extremes. Caesar was placed in a situation where being the face of the movement would have endangered him and his allies, therefore putting him into a situation where putting someone else in the dangerous position of Tribune was the best option.
We often see this tactic in modern politics where a leader is not the driving force behind his party of political movement. Another example of Caesar’s political strategy is a style of preemptive strike. In his first year as Praetor, a position in the Senate, he had been under great threat from the Senate who he predicted were going to subject him to a show trial, i.e. The senate themselves would be the judges. He therefore, on his first day of office in which Senate members were traditionally obliged to attend an inauguration ceremony at the Capitol, ignored the traditions of the Senate and spoke to his followers and supporters in the forum from the position from which he would, as Praetor, deal out justice in the future.
He spoke of dealing out justice to senators and statesmen who he considered enemies. He claimed that Catalus, one of his enemies in the senate, had used public money inefficiently, had inscribed his own name into a temple he was charged with building before it was complete and Caesar called for a trial against Catalus and the deletion of his name under the temple. This attack on the senator was motivated only by the fact that Catalus could pose a threat to Caesar. It was almost certain that he would have attempted to try Caesar however, to the people, this would have looked like an unjust attack on a senator, named by many as the “father of the fatherland.” Caesar performed this attack in a way that put forward reason for the aggressive nature of his allegations, the confident way in which he spoke also led people to believe that he had some hidden source of power and strength.
However his strength came from the confidence his followers had in him, a vicious circle of power and trust. His other move against the senate was to propose that he was a supporter of Pompey and that Catalus’ position as superintendent of the construction of the temple of Jupiter should be given to Pompey. By portraying himself as a supporter of Pompey he could gain the support of members of society, strongly against the senate (as Pompey was now the image of reform) and the support of those who wished to see Pompey in power. As soon as Catalus heard of Caesar’s speech, he left the ceremonies at the Capitol and went to the Forum to confront Caesar. When he ordered Caesar to give him a hearing, Caesar told him, contrary to the procedure of when being addressed by a superior member of the Senate, to speak of his case from the street-level, like a member of the Plebiscite.
This insult was not only a deliberate humiliation of the Senator, but also a show of strength and a message that if Caesar was attacked, he was more than capable and ready to defend himself. We see here that Caesar adopts a rather aggressive attitude towards those who he believes might, in the future, prove to be threats. In this situation it would be easy for the plebiscite to see through Caesar’s deliberate and arguably unprovoked attack on Catalus. However the manner in which Caesar slanders Catalus is such that the listener is not tempted into analysing the motive for this attack or the possible benefits that Caesar may have gained through his speech but is angered by the supposed corruption of an official which, to them, is a great enough crime to evoke strong feelings of anger and a sense of betrayal. The way in which Caesar puts forward ideas and supports certain individuals with strong ideological beliefs shows that he used the tactic of manipulation to further his power. This supports the hypothesis that good leaders do not truly hold the beliefs they supposedly support.
Without these actions it is almost certain that Caesar would never have been in a position to later gain full control of Rome. Returning to the question as to whether leaders are born or not, it is not possible to determine whether one is born with the ability to manipulate or not however there is strong evidence, when it comes to Caesar, that he had a strong personality from a very young age and was not easily impressionable as a young man. Chapter 4: Machiavellian Principles and Ideas Exemplified by Alexander and Julius Caesar “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” Niccolo Machiavelli. When discussing the subject of leadership it should not surprise the reader if references are made to Machiavelli’s letter to the Medici family; “The Prince”. This letter is regarded by some as the definitive work on leadership, providing practical advice and examples to assist leaders in their conquests, military and political life.
Throughout the book Alexander and Caesar are used as examples and ideals. Alexander is mentioned in full, in the chapter: “Why the kingdom of Darius conquered by Alexander did not rebel against his successors after his death.”Although Machiavelli attributes the stable nature of the region to the composition, geography and structure of the Persian empire, Alexander’s use of governors and regional division is, according to Machiavelli, a major factor in the aforementioned stability. Alexander may appear to have been headstrong due to his fast expansion and his rapid movement, however behind this speedy conquest lies a highly intricate system of regional governors, suppression of locals and destruction of previous leaders and symbolic figureheads. One of the main Machiavellian principles that is exemplified by Caesar is the difficulty of creating a new principality as discussed in the chapter: “The constitutional principality”.
In this chapter Machiavelli states that a “Prince” who has gained his position purely through the will of nobles cannot rule successfully as they will believe themselves to be his equal. However when a Prince gains his position through his own merit or that of the people he will always have nobles who will oppose his principles and policies purely on the grounds of “The Prince” being a threat to their positions of power. Caesar would have faced this problem on a much larger scale had he not killed or exiled some of the main members of the senate and other important political figures such as Pompey. By doing this he could ensure the support of other important political figures, due to their fear of losing power and the lack of courage or ability to rise up against Caesar. He would display to the people that he had eradicated those who wished to suppress them which, as Machiavelli states, is the main fear of the general public. Caesar was, however, killed by powerful members of Roman society and thus supports Machiavelli’s hypothesis that a Prince will enjoy a happy reign should he remove those who are envious of his abilities and in high social positions.
Caesar does not, however always display principles or perform actions approved of by Machiavelli which result in a negative outcome. The best example of such an action is the manner in which Caesar gained the love of his troops. Machiavelli states that men give their love to others whereas fear is provided by a singular person and cannot be cast aside, as love might, in an attempt of self-preservation, i.e; a man will not run from overwhelming forces if he fears what is behind him more than the enemy in front but a man will run from battle if he does not fear his own side but fears the enemy. Despite the fact that Caesar’s troops loved him, they did not run from battles in which the enemy provided a valid cause of fear.
The counterargument to this point is that Caesar may have put himself into a position where his troops never feared the enemy to such an extent that their morale may have faltered. This then would suggest that the combination of the love of one’s troops with military ingenuity is an effective one. This hypothesis can, however, be countered by the fact that Caesar often executed treacherous troops, (however, not in an extreme manner) and the fact that he was in no position to provide a great level of fear being a smaller force than his enemies on multiple occasions. Another manner of countering this hypothesis is by analysing some of Alexander’s actions. Alexander is renowned for putting his armies into situations where they were greatly outnumbered. However his troops are not on record as ever having mass-routed.
Alexander’s military genius is almost undebatable however one could argue that putting so much faith into your abilities is arrogant and reckless. Whether Alexander was fortunate or such an expert in military tactics that he could succeed over seemingly insurmountable odds is, as is the case with many questions such as this, debatable. However it draws one to make one of either two conclusions: either that, in both cases, Alexander and Caesar used their armies in such a way that their troops never felt themselves to be in great danger, or that Alexander and Caesar were simply so charismatic and such great leaders that to die for them was an action that their troops would have taken. Throughout history we often hear of these great leaders; Nelson, Napoleon, Alexander etc..
and should we take the second of the aforementioned conclusions to be correct we must also conclude that men who are born leaders and that those who are will have a great advantage over those who lead men on account of their cunning and strategy. This conclusion would suggest that those wishing to become leaders should keep in mind that if one is not born a leader or if one does not evoke feelings of love in his followers that he should take the more Machiavellian approach to this subject and treat his men so as to inspire fear but not hatred. It can therefore be suggested that Machiavelli, despite using these great leaders as examples, wrote “The Prince” with a less gifted leader in mind and that if a leader cannot make men face overwhelming odds for them, that trying to inspire love is a dangerous and eventually devastating action. Another aspect of Machiavellian principles that is followed by both leaders is his theory on generosity. Machiavelli states that a ruler should not attempt to seem generous as people will abuse this generosity and, should the ruler take back their gifts or stop being generous, they seem to be ungenerous. He states that a ruler should simply give only when required and never attempt to portray a particular image with his people when discussing the subject of money.
Neither Caesar or Alexander is considered particularly generous or miserly. One only hears of gifts being given to those who truly deserved it and never of the forced return of gifts. Machiavelli emphasises the importance of fortune in a leader’s life and how without fortune, leaders cannot further their positions. The definition of fortune given in “The Prince” is an opposite to what would normally be considered fortunate. He gives the examples in which a figure finds himself in a situation of unrest or one in which there is an ongoing conflict.
In these situations the leader either uses the revolution as a means by which to further their own position, or causes a revolt themselves and by leading this revolt secures himself a position of power. The question now arises; how greatly are the successes of leaders dependent on fortune? This connects to the overlying question of whether leaders gain their traits due to events in their life and a level of mental agility enabling them to adapt their personalities to suit their needs, or whether these leaders are born with these traits. Machiavelli’s work suggests that one is not born a leader and that one must have the aforementioned mental agility to succeed.However, the examples given of actions that Caesar and Alexander performed which clash with Machiavellian principles yet benefited them suggest that they were born leaders. Conclusion Through the analysis of events in the leaders’ life, one can come to a supported conclusion.This can be divided into two sections: How did the styles of leadership of Alexander the Great and Caesar affect aspects of their reign? This question can be answered by analysing the type of tactics used by either leader.
With both, we see a trend towards more calculating and Machiavellian strategies. When analysing their lives we often see the manipulation of others, the use of force and trickery. As discussed in chapter four, the leaders often can be found to be following Machiavellian rules and principles. However there are exceptions. We see Alexander as often being vain, delusional and reckless, breaking many Machiavellian principles and yet succeeding.
This leads to the question of whether these actions were as they seem, reckless and dangerous, or whether they were merely performed so as to portray Alexander as being god-like. Alexander is used as an example in Machiavelli’s work, suggesting that he did follow Machiavellian principles and that his actions were calculated, or more precisely that Machiavellian principles are based on his actions. Another alternative and, through analysis, the most likely, is that Alexander’s actions were regulated by his officers, allowing for his spontaneous acts of reckless courage and acts inspired by emotion. A factor suggesting that this is the case is the over-expansion of Alexander’s empire which eventually led to his downfall. This over-expansion was advised against by his officers however he continued to conquer beyond the comfort of his troops.
This strongly suggests that he was reckless. When a wiser ruler would have listened to more experienced soldiers, Alexander ignored them. When Machiavelli mentions Alexander, he mentions the structure of regions he conquered, suggesting that they were easy to hold due to their management and the former structure implemented by the Persians. The management of his empire was an aspect that Alexander was not directly responsible for and that his officers often performed for him. Despite his lack of political and non-military strategic knowledge, Alexander inspired his men to perform great feats of human strength and skill, implying his charisma and amiability. From this, one can come to the conclusion that Alexander was a man who inspired great deeds and courage from his men, but was lost when it came to managing his empire without the aid of his officers.
Caesar shows himself to be the ideal Machiavellian ruler, only straying from Machiavellian principles in extreme circumstances, and in which the principles Machiavelli puts forward are debatable, such as his hypothesis that one should not be loved by one’s men. Caesar often put his personal feelings aside so as to improve his position, a prime example of this being his hanging of the pirates before their crucifixion, showing that he did not wish to inflict unnecessary pain but still wished to portray a certain image of himself. This summary brings one to the conclusion that, although the benefit of some of Machiavelli’s principles are debatable, there is a type of politician, like Caesar or Alexander’s advisors and officers, who are not always considered leaders but are the more successful, are the type of men who bring success to themselves or their superiors. It is whether these men are subordinates, such as Alexander’s officers, or superiors, such as Caesar, that determines their fame and place in history. Are leaders born or does one attain the traits considered vital for leadership through practice and exercise? This question is the more difficult of the two to answer but is directly connected to the answer of the first. When looking at leaders we have now identified two types, the more tactical leaders, and those who can inspire men to follow them.
By looking at the case of Alexander one can come to the conclusion that he was charismatic from a young age, as shown by the story of his taming the horse. We see that he never stopped being a charismatic leader. Caesar on the other hand is shown to have grown as a leader, his skills developing as he grew older, as exemplified by the period of his life upon which he later reflected, coming to the conclusion that he had made mistakes in his late youth. There were men like Caesar in Alexander’s retinue and it is a just assumption that they shared many traits and qualities with Caesar, suggesting that they too learned the skills of leadership. Another period of Caesar’s life which proves his growth as a leader is his term in office in which he verbally attacked Catalus. His show of power and aggressive action show that he could manipulate a crowd and use his oratory skills to his advantage.
This act of recklessness contrasts greatly with his incredulous approach to his relative, Marius. The later is a direct release of Caesar’s cynicism, one that may be considered to have been unwise. We see a distinct change in Caesar as he learns to control his feelings and beliefs, a change that Alexander never underwent. A fact that supports the hypothesis that Caesar controlled his emotions was his hanging of the pirates before their crucifixion, a scenario in which he went to great lengths to portray a certain image of himself and his putting aside of his emotions. In summary, this piece brings us to the conclusion that leaders like Caesar, calculating and tactical leaders, gain their skills through learning and practice whereas leaders like Alexander, more emotion-driven, charismatic leaders, are born, but require the assistance of leaders like Caesar to rule effectively. Reduced to a slogan: “Charismatic leaders may be born but calculating leaders must be made.”