On this day in 331 BC Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Gaugamela, the second and final battle they fought and considered to be the final blow to the Achaemenid Empire, resulting in its complete conquest by Alexander.
By the age of thirty, Alexander created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. Undefeated in battle during his lifetime, he is held up as one of history’s greatest military commanders. The son of Philip II of Macedon, Alexander was tutored by the philosopher Aristotle before succeeding his father after his death at just 20 in 336 BC. His early and mysterious death, perhaps from fever or poisoning in 323 BC, led to his empire’s break-up.
Also on this day in 1925 General Theodoros Pangalos disbanded the Greek parliament. He was strongly pro-Venizelist and anti-royalist, and was a leader of the September 1922 revolt that deposed King Constantine I after the Asia Minor Catastrophe. In June 1925 Pangalos led a bloodless coup, after which National Assembly named him Prime Minister. He ruled as a ‘constitutional dictator’ until his overthrow in August 1926.
On this day in 1974 Spyridon Marinatos, renowned Greek archaeologist, died at 72. He was born November 4, 1901 and his most notable discovery was Akrotiri, the site of an ancient port city on the island of Thera AKA Santorini. He was acquainted with Sir Arthur Evans, who became among other things famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on Crete. Marinatos gained his first excavation experiences in Crete as well. He became professor at the University of Athens, when he began increasing his interest in the Mycenaeans, regarding them as the first Greeks. The archaeologist excavated sites in the Peloponnese including a royal tomb. Also, Marinatos performed excavations at the famous battle sites at Thermopylae and Marathon.
Also on this day in 1957 actor Stelios Mainas was born in 1957 in Ermoupoli, Syros. He became widely known in Greece from the comedy series ‘Oi Men Kai Oi Den’ and the 1998 movie ‘Valkanisateur’. Mainas won the Best Actor Award in Hellenic Film Academy Awards for his role in film ‘Tetarti’.
Also on this day in 1985 Greek-American actor George Savalas (Kojak, Kelly’s Heroes), died of lukemia at 58.
On this day in 1988, Alec Issigonis, the Greek-British car designer and developer of the Mini Cooper, died at the age of 81. Born in Smyrna in 1906, Issigonis immigrated to London in 1922 during the Asia Minor Expedition. After studying engineering, he joined Morris Motors as a suspension designer. There, he developed the Morris Minor, which remained in production from 1948 to 1971. A reliable vehicle with excellent steering and cornering qualities, it was the first all-British car to pass the one million mark in sales (surviving models are still cherished by owners and collectors). In 1959, in response to the Suez energy crisis and the popularity of Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle, Issigonis introduced the Mini. The boxy, inexpensive, fuel-efficient Mini used a transverse engine to power its front wheels – a radical design at the time – and thus could seat four passengers despite being only 10 feet long.