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Alexander the Great vs. Julius Caesar

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating

Script written by Laura Keating

When it comes to legendary commanders, in the western world there are two names that invariably rise to the top of the list – but which one was truly the greatest? Welcome to and today we’ll be taking to the front lines as we compare Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great to determine who was truly the superior leader.

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Script written by Laura Keating

Alexander the Great vs. Julius Caesar

When it comes to legendary commanders, in the western world there are two names that invariably rise to the top of the list – but which one was truly the greatest? Welcome to and today we’ll be taking to the front lines as we compare Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great to determine who was truly the superior leader.

#5: Tactician

When Julius Caesar needed a job done, he got it done. Capable of making and executing quick and ruthless decisions with an energy described as “terrifying” by his political contemporary Cicero, if Caesar needed to stack the deck in his favor and the natural terrain did not suit him, he would remake the topography as necessary. Famously, in the Battle of Alesia against Vercingetorix, king of the Gaullic Arverni tribe, he built not one but two massive walls around the city to set siege. Meanwhile, he littered no man’s land with traps. Even when greatly outnumbered and with enemy reinforcements closing in, Caesar was not afraid to take to the field himself to rally his men and lead the cavalry, turning the tide of the battle. Caesar’s armies were well-oiled machines, and his ability to read his enemy was uncanny.

Alexander III of Macedon earned that “Great” moniker for a reason. Despite his young age, the art of war seemed to come naturally to him. He never lost a single battle, frequently overpowering armies far larger than his own. Supremely adaptable and supported bythe fierce loyalty of his men, he was also a prudent leader. In advance of the Battle of Gaugamela, when King Darius of Persia attempted to apply scorched earth tactics along the Euphrates river, Alexander chose another route and foiled the plan. In the battle proper, Alexander employed a unique frontline to better apply his smaller numbers, and baited the larger army to expose their center, winning the day. Not only did Julius Caesar himself admire and wish to emulate Alexander’s tactics, but the Macedonian’s strategies are studied in military academies all over the world to this day.

For setting the standard, and setting it high, the point here goes to The Great One.

WINNER: Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great 1 / Julius Caesar 0

#4: Legacy

To this day, when we think of capital “G” Great Civilizations, we think of Rome. In large part, this is due to Julius Caesar and his influence. After years of successful military campaigns, he retuned to Rome, started a civil war, led his hardened forces against his former allies, and after several decisive victories was appointed dictator. This established the line of Emperor’s, and the Roman Empire continued long after Caesar’s assassination. His influence was not just felt in his time but echoed out for years, shaping thewhole of the western world in ways both great and small. For example, the fact that the western calendar is 365 days longs, and that there are leap years, was all his doing. So much of the western world and how we organize ourselves is due to one man, and that’s pretty mind-boggling.

Alexander was, for his time, a unifier of nations, and inspired many leaders for years to come. However, his united conquests dissolved quickly after his untimely death. One of his greatest innovations was to bring cultures and customs together under one common banner, rather than force those cultures to assimilate; a mosaic rather than a melting pot. Many cities were named after him – most notably Alexandria in Egypt – and his influence helped spawn the Greek Hellenistic period. After his death, even though the empire he had devised was broken up by civil wars, many cultures remained blended, the syncretism of which caused many new off-shoot cultures and customs.

Alexander may have planted seeds, but it was Caesar who grew the oak.

WINNER: Julius Caesar
Alexander the Great 1 / Julius Caesar 1

#3: Success Rate

Like most great leaders, Julius Caesar had his ups and downs. Predominately ups. Not only was he able to out maneuver his political rivals (thwarting attempts to limit his rise in power, and having his governorship set for five years rather than the standard one) it is on the battlefield that he first made major waves. Raising armies, he met the forces of Gaul head on, either cutting them off before they could begin mustering, or steamrolling over them Roman-style. However, starting in the summer of 55 BC he attempted to take Britain and was repelled. He returned the following year, and while he gained some ground a multitude of elements made the exercise fruitless, so he left Britain for good.

This can’t be overstated: by most accounts, Alexander the Great never lost a battle. Okay, some think that the final battle in 326 BC was a tie, but a draw still isn’t a loss! Alexander came from impressive stock: he was the son of Philip II, king of Macedon, and he was tutored by none other than Aristotle from age 13 to 16 (at which point he took the throne as regent in his father’s absence). At 18, he won his first major military battle. This began his life of military campaigns and empire building, both of which continued until his untimely death at age 32. The battles were great and his empire expansive, but for those in the back, in case you missed it the first time: HE NEVER LOST A BATTLE.

Julius Caesar was no slouch, but when it comes to victories, Alexander batted a thousand.

WINNER: Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great 2 / Julius Caesar 1

#2: Ruler

Caesar was not only a brilliant general but a skilled politician as well – both within Rome and as a diplomat. He met with Cleopatra and helped to secure her place on the Egyptian throne before dissolving the Roman Republic and becoming a dictator. He established the line of Emperors of Rome and took his rule very seriously. Until he was, you know, stabbed to death for being a tyrant.He saw to not just military practices and the granting of lands to his veterans, but the myriad of elements that makes a nation/empire run. He closely regulated the price and purchase of grain and created a register for the same. He built temples and public works, created a police force, and overhauled the tax system.

Alexander, while the son of a king, was not assured his spot on the throne. Although his mother, Olympias of Epirus, was the favorite wife of his father, and his father had trained him and raised him to rule, he had great misgivings about his future ascension, and even briefly fled Macedon when he believed his position uncertain. He returned shortly afterwards, and after his father’s assassination, Alexander was proclaimed king and had his political rivals executed. He brutally protected his position, but no sooner was that position secure than he left and began his conquest. While he sought to expand his territory, and even did well by those he conquered, he always pursued and never really stopped to rule.

Sometimes you just have to appreciate what you have. Julius Caesar wins this one.

WINNER: Julius Caesar
Alexander the Great 2 / Julius Caesar 2

#1: Military Leader

During his time, basically no one could command an army and their loyalty like Julius Caesar. He publicly praised his men, going so far as to say of himself “No condemnation could be too severe if Caesar did not hold the lives of his soldiers dearer than his own.” In battle, he would join the fray when necessary, and even in his 40s and into his 50s was a notably skilled swordsman and horseman. Nearly 2000 years later, Napoleon Bonaparte was inspired by his feats. Furthermore, Caesar not only led armies but naval fleets, making him an all-terrain leader.

However, just as Napoleon looked up to Caesar, Caesar was in awe of Alexander the Great. Alexander had an early advantage, having the schooling and resources (such as a ready-made army) that he did. However, you can’t teach bravery. Despite the danger of making himself a clear target, in battle Alexander led from the front. Additionally, the well-being of his men was of great importance to him, and he took time to walk among them, talk and listen to them, and even dress like them. This combination of fearless and considerate leadership inspired tremendous loyalty and devotion in his men. He could lead just about anyone anywhere, and did so without faltering, winning right up until his death.

While it is close, given that he achieved all Caesar did at half the age, and inspired the Roman general in his ways, we’re giving this one to Alexander III of Macedon.

WINNER: Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great 3 / Julius Caesar 2

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