Old king Amyntas was a conservative obliged to carry on his traditional local policy and consumed with fear of a new Persian onslaught. While he was alive, his heir Alexander spent his youth more or less in the background. But from the time when he ascended the throne on his father's death he was not slow in showing his deep felt convictions and opening up Greek horizons to Macedonia for the first time by means of direct contact with the Hellenes. The erstwhile youth who had slain the Persian nobles was still apparently alive in him and his heart had not ceased responding to the lure of legends and poetic traditions from his Hellenic schooling as a boy. Despite the fact that his sister lived at the Persian court as wife of a powerful Persian grandee, he felt himself a Greek to the core and was burning with desire to bring Macedonia actively into the orbit of Hellenic life and even more so, to exhibit his pan-Hellenic schoiling. The ambition to visit Olympia and take part in the games is also explained by his family traditions. As a Heracleid he would go on a pilgrimage to the all-Greek sanctuary which, according to the belief of all Greece, Heracles himself had founded. By gaining victories there and receiving a branch of the sacred olive his illustrious ancestor had planted, he would be acclaimed by all the Hellenes and show himself a worthy scion of the legendary hero.
Herodotus says that Alexander ran the furlong race in the stadium. This was the first contest and the Games at Olympia always began with it as we can discover from all ancient sources.27 Besides, it was the simplest of the races over a distance limited to between the extreme west and the extreme east of the stadium. After it came the double and long courses, races over two and more circuits. It is reasonable to suppose that Alexander took part in these three first races at least. Herodotus clearly states "competing in the furlong" and does not relate his taking part in any other contests. On the other hand, his winning the race was also relative, as he "tied" for the first place ("ran a dead heat for the first place"). If he had happened to run in the other two races, he cannot have won because otherwise it would have bien mentioned. But the probabilities are that his taking part in the Olympic games, in a purely honorary capacity due to his position, was limited by special dispensation of the Judges to the first race in the Olympiad, the furlong, which provided him with the proud satisfaction, greatly sought after throughout the Greek world, of being a winner at Olympia. Undoubtedly, his name would not have been carved on the columns of Olympic victors, because to attain this it was not enough to win a dead heat, but to win a series of victories in a number of events. In this sense, Alexander was not "an Olympic victor" but winner of an Olympic event. But even as a winner of that sort he was sure to have gained applause from the pan-Hellenic crowd watching the games and perhaps he was also privileged in an honorary capacity to have that inexpressible pleasure of receiving from the hands of the judges the "cotinos," or branch of the sacred olive, planted according to tradition by his ancestor Heracles.
We will now confine ourselves to the concrete facts presented by Herodotus. He does not say that the Greeks gathered at Olympia or that the chief judges appointed by them questioned Alexander's right to enter the games, looking on him as a barbarian and not a Greek. Only that certain athletes taking part in the furlong race and interested in debarring any competitor likely to contest the victory seriously with them made these complaints. It was only natural, as we have already said, that among athletes and celebrants of every social class and every educational level of Greeks from the farthest confines of the known world, there should have been some who did not know anything about Macedonians cut off beyond Olympus and Pindus, and not yet in any political or other contact with the rest of Hellas. The fact that the chief judges had already accepted Alexander's entry into the lists, since he had already fulfilled the necessary conditions, especially the oath, means that they who followed and knew what was going on in Greece better than anyone raised no objection, knowing in advance that Alexander was Greek, Alexander's preferring to speak, explaining his Argead tradition, instead of relying on their judgement shows not his need of supporting his Hellenic identity but his pride in proclaiming his descent from Zeus and Heracles before the assembled company.