Alexander the Great on his horse Bucephalus

The following is a guest post by HJ from Alpha Traits. Alpha Traits dissects some of the greatest and most successful humans to ever live, discovering what traits elevated them above the rest.

That’s right. The brutal and madly ambitious Greek leader that conquered the majority of the known world loved books. They inspired him, taught him many valuable lessons, led him to deliver many great speeches and allowed him to relax every now and again.

Undoubtedly Aristotle, his tutor, played a hand in Alexander’s love of books and knowledge, but in the end the choice was his. If there was ever any proof that reading was a worthwhile investment, then that proof is in Alexander the Great.

The story goes that while defeating Darius III in 333, a fearsome Persian king, Alexander captured many treasures; gold, silver and luxuriously carved furniture among them. However, the greatest treasure of them all was a solid golden casket. Alexander said to his friends; “What is most worthy to put into it?”, a variety of responses were given back. Swords, shields and wines were suggested, but Alexander refused. After much debate, Alexander rose and a hush fell upon the group. He decided it was his most prized possession that deserved such an exquisite case; the book The Iliad.

So strong was Alexander’s love of books and reading that while on campaigns deep in Asia, where he could not get his hands on books, he ordered a friend to have some sent to him all the way from Greece. To Alexander, knowledge was power.

Reading has a variety of benefits. It’s well documented that reading makes your smarter and expands your vocabulary. But how did reading books making Alexander the Great so.. well, great?

Top 4 Reasons Reading Made Alexander the Great So Great:

1. New Ideas and Strategies

Books usually take months or even years to write, the time and effort that goes into writing a book is huge. Often the author empties all the knowledge, answers and thoughts they’ve had rattling about in their brains into their books. Yet, it only takes you a couple of hours to read them.

The sheer quantity of information and insights that can be gained from an author is frightening. Alexander regarded The Iliad as “the handbook of the great art of war” and took it with him everywhere on campaign to consult and learn from during battles. Books harbor a great deal of information; reading is the key that unlocks it.

2. Inspiration

Epic stories of heroes, gods and glory were the staple diet of any Greek and Alexander certainly devoured it. His favorite was Achilles from Homer’s The Iliad, a hero involved in the siege of Troy. Alexander was able to relate to him and emulate his actions, morals and traits that made Achilles such a great hero.

Some historians argue that without the books of Homer, Alexander wouldn’t have been inspired to battle and conquer the hundreds of territories he did.

3. Speeches

Alexander was admired for being able to deliver inspiring speeches on the spot. Throughout his lengthy campaigns his troops often wanted to turn back and return to glorious Greece. Yet, using charismatic speeches, he persuaded them all to stay and battle on to the ends of the Earth with him. A common consensus was that all of his troops would follow him to the death.

By reading a variety of books Alexander’s mind was always sharp, creative and ready to inspire. Have you ever been stuck for anything to stay? Awkward silences? Start reading and people won’t be able to shut you up!

4. Pleasure

Alexander was often away from home for several years while he was carving a bloody mess through Asia and the known world. With little to do apart from march and fight, he probably valued reading books as a way of relaxing and winding down.

If Alexander could use reading to distress, you certainly can too.

Being able to read is one of the most valuable skills you possess. Just 200 years ago 62% of people could not read. Yet many still take it for granted. Perhaps you can’t afford books?

Scattered across the world are thousands of buildings dedicated to providing free knowledge to anyone with a piece of plastic with “LIBRARY CARD” stamped on it. Some of the larger ones hold all the knowledge, information and insights the human race has managed to write down to date. Everything you could ever want to know or any problem you need the answer to, the solution can probably be found in books. Best of all, it’s all free.

Lessons Learned:

Read. It can be for fiction or self-fiction, for business or pleasure – it doesn’t matter. Aim to read one book a week, you will only need to set aside around 30-60 minutes per day to reach it. Simply reading 50 books a year can transform your life, it’s easy but extremely effective.

But, read only great books. We only have a limited amount of time on this Earth and an even smaller amount of that time can be dedicated to reading. Why waste your time with mediocre books?

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? …we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

Franz Kafka, Letter to Oskar Pollak, 27. January 1904

Have you ever read a book that had a new idea or concept you’ve never experienced before that flaws you and changes the way you view the world forever? Why not?

This blog has a whole host of reviews to help you separate the life changing from the not-worth-your-times. Use it.