By the time the Old Testament period ended, Persia had been the reigning power for about 100 years.
Then Persia's king Xerxes led an army across the Hellespont, the narrow strait joining the Aegean and the Marmara seas between Asia and Europe now called the Dardanelles.After he gained a foothold in Europe, Xerxes moved west to Thermopylae in 480 B.C. and defeated the Spartans and their allies. He then burned Athens and was about to take possession of all Greece when the Athenians, who had fled to the island of Salamis just east of their city, forced him into a naval battle. The Persian ships were defeated and most of Xerxes' army fled back into Asia.
One of the European countries that Xerxes crossed during his military campaigns was Macedon (also called Macedonia), the mountainous area north of Greece. Philip of Macedon had seized the throne in 359 B.C. and, during the next 20 years, brought the Greek states under his rule.
In 337 B.C., Philip was elected commander of the allied Greek forces gathered to invade Persia and seek vengeance for the crimes that Xerxes had committed. He was assassinated in 356 B.C., while preparing for the liberation of the Persian-held cities of Asia Minor.
Philip was succeeded by his 20-year-old son, who became known as Alexander the Great. In 334 B.C., Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Asia with some 30,000 foot soldiers and about 5,000 calvary for the first of many victories over Persian forces. In one of history's most decisive battles in 333 B.C., Alexander defeated Darius III at Issus in Syria, 75 miles east of Tarsus. He conquered Tyre and Jerusalem in 332 B.C.
The leading citizens of Jerusalem, headed by the temple high priest, sent representatives to Alexander, asking that their city be spared from destruction. Alexander, reportedly appreciating the intelligence, industriousness and steadiness of the Jewish people, granted the request and spared Jerusalem.
By the end of 332 B.C., Alexander controlled Syria, Judah and Egypt. He founded Alexandria in Egypt, which became a city of learning and culture. It was one of about a dozen cities that bore his name.
In 331 B.C., Alexander marched across Mesopotamia and defeated the remnants of Darius' forces. He occupied Babylon, Susa and Persepolis in 330 B.C., and in 326 B.C. invaded India to extend his empire to the Indus River. His conquests ended in 326 B.C., when his troops, who had completed an unprecedented 14,000-mile military expedition, refused to go further. In 323 B.C., while making plans for transporting his troops by sea around the Arabian peninsula, he contracted a fever and died in Babylon at the age of 32.