From Gaza to Alexandria 60 7. Decision at Gaugamela 68 8. To the Victor Go the Spoils 81 9. Last Stand at Persian Gate 89 From Persepolis to the Caspian Gates 96 The King of Asia The Crossroads at Syr Darya On the Frontier Men Fly over Sogdian Rock Into the Headwaters of the Indus Siege at Aornos Triumph at Hydaspes Ever Eastward The End of the Road A Macedonian against the Malhi From Great Rivers to Waterless Wilderness Back to Persis Final Days in Babylon For the first time ever all these golden materials are available to the general public.
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It was at the wedding banquet that Philip was knifed by one of his own personal bodyguards, a youth named Pausanias of Orestis. There are various theories as to motive. Although both had their motives, most historians agree that Alexander was not among the conspirators, and that Olympias was probably not involved in plotting the assassination either. Aristotle, in a contemporary account, says that followers of Attalus, the uncle of Cleopatra, had offended Pausanias.
Young Alexander also made quick work of any and all who were said to have aided or abetted Pausanias and his scheme. As a king, he was more inclined to display in war, than in entertainments; and his greatest riches were means for military operations. Each of the two had a different mode of conquering; the one prosecuted his wars with open force, the other with subtlety. Philip was more staid in his words, Alexander in his actions. The son felt readier and nobler impulses to spare the conquered; the father showed no mercy even to his allies.
The father was more inclined to frugality, the son to luxury. By the same course by which the father laid the foundations of the empire of the world, the son consummated the glory of conquering the whole world. They were encouraged by rumors that Alexander had been killed by the Triballi during operations in the north, and that the Macedonian command structure was in disarray.
One can imagine their surprise when Alexander himself arrived at Thebes leading an intact and disciplined army. Rather than simply engaging and defeating the Theban army—as he and Philip had done at Chaeronea in August —Alexander also destroyed the city, obliterating what had been one of the most powerful of all the Greek cities. He spared only the temples and the former home of the poet Pindar. The Theban death toll was in the thousands, and the survivors were sold as slaves.
This devastation, with its take-no-prisoners doctrine, both shocked and awed the Athenians, who sensed that their city was next. Athens capitulated immediately, groveling for mercy, congratulating Alexander on his victories since becoming king, and promising to silence and reprimand those Athenians who had spoken against him. Just a fortnight earlier, Athenians had rejoiced at the unfounded rumor that Alexander was dead. His empire under control, Alexander now prepared to continue what Philip had barely started: to take the long-simmering cold war decisively to the Achaemenid Persian Empire, now ruled by Darius III, the year-old great-grandson of Darius II, who had come to the throne the year before.
To rule Greece as regent in his absence, Alexander chose Antipater, or Antipatros, a year-old Macedonian general and diplomat, whose loyalty to both Philip and Alexander was well established. He made sacrifices to the gods in accordance with custom, and he went to Delphi.
Here, as interpreted by the Pythian priestess, the oracle told him that he was invincible. That was all he needed to hear. It was here that Xerxes had crossed in the opposite direction when he invaded Greece in BC. Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to him with their congratulations. They included troops, especially Thessalians, who would fight under Macedonian command because Alexander was seen as the avenger of all Greece who would lead them to exact the long-desired vengeance against the hated Persians—who nearly everyone agreed were the enemy.
The Agrianians were a Thracian people from the area that is now southern Serbia. Alexander would use them consistently in his upcoming operations in Asia, frequently attaching them to units that he led into battle personally. Justinus reports 32, infantry, and 4, cavalry.
Alexander the Great: Lessons from History's Undefeated General by Bill Yenne
Citing various ancient sources, Plutarch gives a range of between 30, and 43, infantry, and between 4, and 5, cavalry. The trireme, so named for its having three rows of oars on each side, was the standard Mediterranean warship of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Though triremes were the most common warship of the day, larger vessels called quadriremes and quinqueremes were also used by various navies during this period. While Alexander emphasized land power over naval power in his military doctrine, he occasionally deployed a fleet comprised mainly of allied naval forces, and all three types of vessels were included.
No one was made an officer who was not 60 years of age; so that he who saw the captains assembled at headquarters, would have declared that he saw the senate of some ancient republic. None, on the field of battle, thought of flight, but every one of victory; none trusted in his feet, but every one in his arms. For Darius, this was a major missed opportunity. As the Allies discovered at nearby Gallipoli in —, troops engaged in such operations are extremely vulnerable.
Troops crossing a waterway are nearly always dangerously exposed. In the case of amphibious operations on a river or a sea, they are at the mercy of currents, crashing waves and underwater obstacles. In short, in ether case, they are sitting ducks for a well-entrenched defender.
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Darius, who reportedly had a 20,man cavalry force in Asia Minor, forfeited the easiest opportunity that he would ever have to defeat Alexander. He offered sacrifices to the gods, asking that the lands he encountered would willingly accept him as their king. Agesilaus of Sparta had captured the city in , but less than a decade later it had been recaptured by the Persians. Alexander probably saw it as the essential first objective in any Asia Minor campaign. In , it was the capital of the Persian province of Phrygia. Like that small stream in Virginia known as Bull Run, the Granicus appears inconsequential if one bothers to notice it at all.
However, like Bull Run, the Granicus would give its name to a momentous battle that was the opening salvo in several years of warfare that would alter the course of history. One does not cross the Hellespont with an army of nearly 50, without its being noticed, and the news had reached Darius quickly. The Persian emperor assumed that decimating the upstart Macedonian and his army would be a routine matter for his Persian legions. Two of the principal Persian field commanders were Spithridates, the Persian satrap of Lydia and Ionia, and Mithridates, the son-in-law of Darius.
The Persian force also included a substantial number of Greek mercenaries. At the Granicus, they were led by Memnon of Rhodes, reportedly a favorite of Darius. The battle lines were drawn on opposite sides of the river, with Alexander to the north and west, and the Persians to the south and east.
This being early May, BC, the river was running high, and the Persians probably saw it as a decisive natural barrier. A military leader himself, he had a good understanding of the tactical situation. According to Arrian, Parmenio proposed a flanking maneuver early the next day, but Alexander countered that they should not wait, but attack immediately. His rationale was that this would take the Persians off guard and give the Greco-Macedonian troops the instant gratification of getting into the fight straight away.
The old fortune teller, who had once told Philip II that his son would be bold as a lion, now predicted a victory for that son. The opening gambit was a fake attack by Parmenio on the left, against the Persian right.
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As the Persians moved their forces to cover this possible attempt to ford the Granicus, Alexander struck the true opening blow. He went wide to his right, taking the Companion Cavalry across the Granicus and circling behind the Persian left flank. Here he engaged the cavalry led by Mithridates and Spithridates, who were apparently stunned to find Macedonians outflanking them from their rear so early in the battle.
For the enemy pressed upon them with loud shouts, and matching horse with horse, plied their lances, and their swords when their lances were shattered.
But although a javelin pierced the joint of his breastplate, he was not wounded. He also lost the horse that he was riding that day—he had chosen for some reason not to use Bucephalas—to a Persian spear.
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Once joined on the other side, the battle must have been vicious, but the Persians with their shorter spears would have been no match for the men with the foot sarissa, the fearsome Macedonian spear. As the Greco-Macedonian spearmen sliced through the Persian phalanx, they threatened the rear of the Persian cavalry that had turned degrees to face Alexander and the Companion Cavalry. By this time, Parmenio, having faked the earlier attack on the Persian right, actually did cross the Granicus. As for Alexander himself, he soon found himself facing the Persian cavalry commanders man to man.
Mithridates, also leading from the front, was well ahead of his troops, presenting Alexander with an opportunity. At this point, Spithridates and his brother Rhoesaces turned to attack Alexander. They too, were finally defeated, although Memnon himself got away. Those mercenaries captured were considered Greek traitors and were sent back to Greece in chains.
Perhaps their anticipation of such a fate was what kept them in the fight until the bitter end. The actual casualty figures are unknown, but were probably lopsided in favor of Alexander—although it is likely that the historians exaggerated them. Plutarch repeats the story he was told that the Persians lost 20, infantry and 2, cavalry.
Alexander the Great: Lessons from History's Undefeated General
Continuing to reference Aristobulus, Arrian adds that Alexander ordered bronze equestrian statues to be cast by the sculptor Lysippus, who did a great deal of work for Alexander though the years, including statues of the young king himself. Justinus reports that Alexander lost nine infantrymen and cavalry, while Arrian is somewhat more realistic, estimating losses at around for the Greco-Macedonian army and ten times that number for the Persians. The first- and second-century writers upon whom we rely for most of our information about Alexander depended in turn on contemporary Greek sources, who likely repeated data that was deliberately skewed to let the folks back home believe Alexander was winning great battles against immense opposition, and that he was doing so with minimal losses.
It is too bad that more accurate figures were not recorded, for Alexander truly was winning major victories against a great foe. Granicus really was a serious defeat for the Persians in Asia Minor. Like the battle that occurred in on that other small river, Bull Run of Virginia, the contest that took place on the Granicus did not have the outcome that the defender assumed. Beauregard, the Persians had all confidence that they would decimate the Greeks. Had the assumptions been correct, both battles would have been anomalous incidents, not the opening events of campaigns that would change history.