Alexander The Great Essay Rubric

World History Content Standards

  • Describe the impact of Alexander of Macedonia's conquests on Greek, Egyptian, Persian, and South Asian cultures and the use of Hellenistic Culture. (

Social Studies Skills Content Standard

  • Make decisions and analyze decisions of individuals, groups, and institutions in other times and places, and evaluate the consequences. (

Engage the Students

Distribute and have students examine the resource sheet "Great Leaders." Ask students to define what "great" means to them and to identify characteristics of a "great" leader. Have students identify world leaders today that they consider to be "great" leaders.

Narrative: Read the narrative to the class stressing the focus question at the end.   Print Version

What makes a great leader? Throughout history, leaders around the world have been given the title of "great." Alexander III of Macedonia was one such ruler. He lived from 356-323 BCE and ruled from the age of twenty until his death at the age of thirty-three.

As a child, Alexander's father King Philip hired tutors to teach his son. Among these teachers was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who taught Alexander much about Greek literature, philosophy and science. His favorite Greek hero was Achilles, the warrior hero in the Iliad. Alexander vowed that one day he would visit the site of Troy, in Asia Minor, and lay a wreath on the tomb of his hero.

During his rule as King of Macedonia, Alexander conquered much of what was then the civilized world. He desired to create a world monarchy. First defeating the rebellious Greek city-states, Alexander then went on to invade the Persian Empire in Asia Minor and Egypt. His desire was to have the local culture in the regions he conquered co-exist with the Greek ideas and culture that he brought with him. In 323 BCE, while in Babylon, Alexander died of a fever. With his death came the collapse of his empire. It was divided into three kingdoms ruled by descendants of his commanders.

Based on his actions and his character, does Alexander III of Macedonia deserve the title of "the Great?" In this activity, you are going to read primary and secondary source documents to gather evidence that will help you answer this focus question. You will have a chance to work in a group to discuss your ideas. Then you will use your prior knowledge and details from the primary and secondary sources to summarize what you have learned from this historical investigation.

Focus Question: Based on his actions and his character, does Alexander III of Macedonia deserve the title of "the Great?"

Conduct the Investigation

In order to answer the focus question you will first examine several documents independently. Analyze each document and answer the following questions on your "Individual - Document Analysis" graphic organizer.

  1. How do I know this is reliable information?
  2. When was this document written? Who wrote it? What was its purpose?
  3. What is the author's point of view about Alexander III?
  4. How can this document help me answer the focus question?


Now that the documents have been analyzed you will have the opportunity to discuss the documents and the focus question with other students in a group. As you discuss your interpretations of the documents cite evidence for your views and opinions. Multiple interpretations can emerge and may or may not be accepted by all. Write your group responses in the appropriate section on your "Group - Document Analysis" graphic organizer.

Report the Findings

Once historians have completed their research they present a written summary of their findings. You will do the same. Your written summary should answer the focus question and be supported with details from the primary and secondary documents you have read.

Focus Question: Based on his actions and his character, does Alexander III of Macedonia deserve the title of "the Great?"

Primary Source Documents

Some "Great" Leaders in History – pages 1 and 2
Images of Alexander III
Map – The Campaigns & Empire of Alexander the Great (Note: alternatively, a map of Alexander's Empire can be found in Historical Atlases such as Rand McNally's Historical Atlas of the World, 1997, p.10-11.)
The Alexander mosaic

Ancient Text Sources:

Modern Text Sources:

Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Was Alexander Truly Great?

Chet Geering


Students will be able to process a variety of information on Alexander the Great in order to determine whether he was truly a great leader.


The student evaluates conflicting sources and materials in the interpretation of a historical event or episode.

The student understands significant aspects of the economic, political, and social systems of ancient Greece and the cultural contributions of that civilization.


-[World History: The Human Experience]. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2001 (or comparable world history text).
-Access to copy machine
-Rubric for essay question (See attached file)
-Dry erase board and markers
-Teacher notes (See attached file)


1. Read text Chapter 4 (or appropriate chapter). (See Materials.)
2. Look through the procedure listing and make sure you are familiar with the terms listed within.
3. Make copies of the handout Things Inherited by Alexander for students.
4. Make copies of the handout Things Accomplished by Alexander for students.
5. Since the handout of the inherited and accomplished things are on the same page, it will be necessary to cut this handout in half before class.
6. Make copies of rubric for students.


1. Have students read chapter 4 in the text (or comparable chapter from another history text) the night before the lesson.

2. Ask students: Who was the father of Alexander the Great? (Answer: Philip II.)

3. Ask students: What influence did Philip II have on Alexander? (Answer: He taught him the ways of war and how to govern.)

4. Ask students: What famous Greek teacher was the personal tutor for Alexander? (Answer: Aristotle.)

5. Explain to the students that Philip II was a successful general who had conquered the city-states of Greece. He created many inventions and innovations on the battlefield. His most significant accomplishment was the development of the Phalanx.

6. Explain to the class what a Phalanx is and how it works. (Answer: A phalanx is a group of soldiers who are all armed with spears up to fifteen feet in length. These soldiers will point their spears forward and march in unison.)

7. Explain to the students that Philip II kept the best of Greek culture and expanded its trade routes when the city-states were conquered.

8. Ask students: What parts of Greek culture did Philip keep? (Answer: Laws, gods, and customs.)

9. Ask students: Before the expansion of Alexander, what empire was the greatest in the world? (Answer: Darius I.)

10. Ask students: What happened to Philip II? Why didn't he attack the Persians? (Answer: He was assassinated.)

11. Pass out copies of Things That Alexander Inherited. (See attached file.)

12. Discuss the Things That Alexander Inherited.

13. Pass out copies of Alexander's Accomplishments. (See attached file.)

14. Discuss Alexander's Accomplishments with the students.

15. Assign the essay question: Was Alexander truly great, or did he simply inherit his father's legacy?

16. Pass out the rubric so that students will know what is expected of them in the essay. (See attached file.)

17. Teacher evaluates essay.


1. Students will be assessed on their answer to the essay question provided.
2. The teacher can also informally evaluate the students by encouraging class participation and discussion by as many students as possible.

Attached Files

1. Handout of Things Inherited by Alexander. 2. Handout of Things Accomplished by Alexander. 3. Handout of rubric for students. 4. Teacher notes.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.

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