Alexander the Great (356- 323 BC), a Macedonian king, conquered most of the known world of that time – the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, the Middle East, and parts of Asia – in a remarkably short period of time. His empire ushered in significant cultural changes in the lands he conquered and changed the course of the region’s history, and the world’s. It is said that when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer. He was only 32 years old when he died. Although being the king of ancient Macedonia for less than 13 years, he changed the course of history. He is one of the greatest military generals in history and was taught by one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Aristotle. He was an extraordinary man and he never lost a single battle in his entire life. After conquering hundreds of kingdoms, Alexander was heading back home. On his way back, it is said that he fell seriously ill. While lying on his deathbed, he realized that nothing was worth it even after living a successful life conquering most of the known world.
The final days of Alexander on his deathbed offer a moral lesson for all of us. He wanted to go home and meet his mother but he knew he would not live that long. So he called up his loyal generals and told them that he was going to die soon and told them his final three wishes and ordered that they carry them out without fail. It is said that his three wishes included: that his physicians alone must carry his coffin; that the path leading to his grave to be strewn with gold, silver, and precious stones from his treasury; and that his hands be kept dangling out of his coffin. When his generals asked him the reasons, Alexander said that he wanted everybody to learn the three lessons he had learned in his life. That, no doctor can save you from the clutches of death; that, material wealth acquired on earth, stays on earth; and, that, we came to this world empty-handed and we will go empty-handed. It is said that Alexander the Great said – before closing his eyes and letting death conquer him – that the man who won the whole world had nothing in his hand while dying.
Many great thinkers have come and gone after Alexander the Great. There are plenty of teachings by a great many spiritual leaders about the fleeting nature of life, of how real wealth is never about money and material things. To agree with the American civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez, real wealth is never measured by money, power or status – real wealth is measured in the legacy we leave behind for people we love and inspire. For most people in our society today, money or material possession is the first thing, or the only thing, that measures one’s success in life.