Why Alexander The Great Never Conquered Rome & Italy – The Truth

Alexander the Great managed to conquer an empire that stretched from Greece all the way east to modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even parts of India. But one thing about Alexander`s conquests is quite interesting: All of Alexander’s conquests led him further east. But why did Alexander only march East? And why didn`t he conquer Italy and Rome in the West?

Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire between the years 334 and 324/323 BC. After he returned to Babylon in the winter of 324/323 BC he started to plan new conquests in the Western Mediterranean which would have also included Italy and Rome. Only his death on 10 June 323 BC prevented Alexander the Great from fulfilling his new plans and conquering Italy and Rome.

Here you can find out more about the death of Alexander the Great and the 3 suspects for causing his death.

But let`s now take a closer look at why Alexander the Great never turned west and why he never conquered Italy and Rome.

Alexander the Great did not only inherit the Kingdom of Macedon after the death of his father Philip II in 336 BC. He also inherited the war against the Persian Empire which Philip II had started in the spring of 336 BC. That inheritance made it necessary to continue and (ideally) win the war against the Persian Empire since the Persian king was not the type of guy who would have forgiven the Macedonian invasion.

So during the next 12 years, Alexander the Great not only defeated and conquered the Persian Empire, but he also marched further and further east. One reason why Alexander was so successful in his conquests was the army that had been professionalized by Philip II and had then been inherited by his son, Alexander the Great.

By the way, the cost of professionalizing and maintaining a standing army was one of the 3 reasons why Philip II attacked the Persian Empire in the first place.

Alexander`s march into the east was only halted at the Hyphasis river in late July of 326 BC when his exhausted soldiers mutinied and forced Alexander to turn around. Here you can find out more about the mutiny and where the river Hyphasis is situated. It would take Alexander until the winter of 324/323 BC to make it back to Babylon since he and the bulk of his army took a detour across the gedrosian desert, where Alexander lost a good part of his troops to the harsh weather conditions.

But even though Alexander had just returned from his campaigns in the East he was not satisfied yet.

As soon as Alexander the Great arrived in Babylon in the winter of 324/323 BC he immediately started to plan his next conquests and even reformed his army for that purpose. He now also fully integrated Persians into his army.

Simultaneously with planning the next war that would have led him and his army into the Arabian Peninsula, another event happened in Babylon in the winter of 324/323 BC.

The Roman historian and writer Arrian reports that an assembly of the different people of the Western Mediterranean (including Carthaginians, Etruscans, and Romans) took place in Babylon in the winter of 324/323 BC. The people of the Western Mediterranean had heard of Alexander’s return from the East and were now expecting him to turn west for further conquests. So it seems like they wanted to build good relations with Alexander.

Here* you can find out more about the life of Alexander the Great as it`s handed down by the Roman writer Arrian. It also gives you a quite interesting (Roman) point of view on the conquests of Alexander the Great*.

Speaking of Rome. While Alexander the Great was conquering the East, Rome was also busy. Rome turned itself from a small town on the banks of the Tiber river into a major player in Italy during these years.

Ok, so in the winter of 324/323 BC both Romans and Etruscans expected that Alexander the Great would sooner or later turn west and try to conquer Italy and Rome. And since neither Romans nor Etruscans were in any position to withstand the military might of Alexander’s huge empire, it seems like both peoples tried to build good relations with Alexander.

However, Alexander the Great`s conquest of the Western Mediterranean never happened since Alexander died in June of 323 BC only days before he wanted to leave for his conquest of the Arabian Peninsula. So only the death of Alexander the Great prevented him from eventually also conquering Rome and Italy.

After the death of Alexander the Great all plans for future conquests were scraped and his successors, his generals and closer friends, rather focused on fighting over who got to control which parts of Alexander`s Empire

So neither the already planned conquest of the Arabian Peninsula nor the future conquests of the Western Mediterranean including Rome and Italy ever happened.

Instead the Wars of the Diadochi ripped the Empire of Alexander the Great apart and eventually created the Hellenistic World that was then eventually conquered by the rising superpower Rome.

But that is a story for another time.

Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.

Until next time

Yours truly

Luke Reitzer


Peter Green, Eugene N. Borza: Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C.: A Historical Biography (2013).*

Arrian: Alexander the Great: The Anabasis and the Indica.*

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