Alexander the Great is portrayed as a legendary conqueror and military leader in Greek-influenced Western history books but his legacy looks very different from a Persian perspective.
Any visitor of the spectacular ruins of Persepolis – the site of the ceremonial capital of the ancient Persian Achaemenid empire, will be told three facts: it was built by Darius the Great, embellished by his son Xerxes, and destroyed by that man, Alexander.
That man Alexander, would be the Alexander the Great, feted in Western culture as the conqueror of the Persian Empire and one of the great military geniuses of history. Indeed, reading some Western history books one might be forgiven for thinking that the Persians existed to be conquered by Alexander.
A more inquisitive mind might discover that the Persians had twice before been defeated by the Greeks during two ill-fated invasions, by Darius the Great in 490BC and then his son, Xerxes, in 480BC – for which Alexander’s assault was a justified retaliation.
But seen through Persian eyes, Alexander is far from “Great”. He razed Persepolis to the ground following a night of drunken excess at the goading of a Greek courtesan, ostensibly in revenge for the burning of the Acropolis by the Persian ruler Xerxes. Persians also condemn him for the widespread destruction he is thought to have encouraged to cultural and religious sites throughout the empire.