Alexander (III) The Great

Introduction

A brilliant, indefatigable, invincible marshal, Alexander, third in the dynasty of Argeades, has justly been nominated Great. History reserved a glorious destiny for him. He was tasked with conveying the glory of Hellenic thought and Hellenic civilisation to the depths of the East and, furthermore, to establish new cities with Greek character.

 Alexander became King of Macedonia at age 20, after the assassination of his father, King Philip, in 336 BC. From the very start of his reign, the new King had to confront his father’s enemies. The members of the Corinthian Alliance as well as the Thracians and the Illirians considered the death of the mighty Macedonian King to be an ideal opportunity to break off from the rule of the Macedonians. However, Alexander, a worthy heir to his father, after being declared ruler of Thessaly, directed his campaign to the Peloponnese, having a very specific plan of action in mind. During the Corinth Assembly, in which all Greek city-states but Sparta participated, he succeeded in becoming Leader of the Alliance and at the same time “Emperor-Marshal” in the war against the Persians. As recorded by Plutarch, Alexander, when returning from Corinth, went to Delfi to ask for the oracles of Gods. However, his arrival there coincided with the period of ‘evil’ days, during which oracles were not given. Alexander dragged the priestess to the altar by force and demanded to be given the oracle. The answer of the Priestess was “Invincible thou shall be, oh child!” Satisfied with the oracle, Alexander said he did not wish another and let the Priestess go.

In the spring of 335 BC, Alexander campaigned from Amfipolis against the Truballians and the Illirians who, after King Philip’s death, had shown a rebellious attitude. Later, he marched through Thrace, passed mount Aemos and defeated the Truballians and the Thracians. He then crossed Istros (Danube) river using long ships from Byzantium and dug-out canoes, with 1,500 horsemen and 4,000 foot soldiers.

The ease with which the Macedonians crossed Istros river had a great impact on the Getes, who lived in the north bank of the river: they withdrew without battle. Afterwards, Alexander turned to Boeotia in order to seize Thebes that had seceded. The conquest of Thebes was followed by slaughter of its citizens, mainly by Phokians, Plataeans and other Boeotians. The destruction of Thebes was attributed to two factors: the wrath of Gods who wanted to punish the Thebans for their treason during the Persian wars, and the hatred of the Plataeans who had suffered destruction from the Thebans in times of peace. The fall of Thebes marked the end of Alexander’s operations on European soil. These operations were enough to build Alexander’s reputation as a general, despite the fact that they lasted only one year.

After his successful operations, the young King returned to Macedonia in order to offer a sacrifice to Olympian Zeus and to organise the Olympian Contest at Aeges. In the winter of 335 BC, Alexander dealt with the organisation of his kingdom, since he planned to leave for Asia for a long period of time. Initially his intention was to conquer Persia, dethrone Darius and declare himself King of the Persians. In this way he wanted to take revenge on Xerxes who, in the past, had tried to enslave all the Greeks. His primary plan comprised three stages: first, the conquest of Asia minor, then of Syria and Egypt, which he would use as a base for the operations of the last stage, which was the conquest of the kingdom of Persia.

The weakness of the Macedonians was the lack of a fleet, necessary for facing the Persian one, which numbered 400 warships. However, Alexander did not want to ask his Allies to provide him with ships.For precautionary reasons, the young Macedonian King left half of his military forces in Macedonia and entrusted the government of the country to Antipatros, his faithful and experienced general.

Darius had risen to the throne of Persia in 335 BC. In comparison to Alexander, he had a very large army. Furthermore, while the treasury of Pella was already empty long before Alexander’s expeditions, Darius had fabulous riches at his disposal. His treasury at Soussa was full and astronomical amounts of gold had been amassed in the royal Palace of Persepolis. In addition, he had a large fleet which controlled the coasts of Asia minor, Syria, and Egypt, and was able to deny access to any enemy who did not have equal naval forces.

In those times there was no social unrest in any part of the Persian Kingdom which might affect the defence of the country against an attacking enemy. However, there certainly were some ambitious satraps. On the other hand, Persia lacked of the modern evolutions in the field of warfare whereas a lot of remarkable progress had been made on the Greek part. The conscription of Greek mercenaries on the part of the Persians was not enough to cover the weaknesses and fill the voids of the Persian army, which had also no officers capable of planning an improvised or counter attack. Their abilities were limited to facing the enemy on the basis of numerical superiority, personal bravery in the battlefield and their chariots with equipped with scythes.

Alexander’s army consisted of 30,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 horsemen. The basic organisation of the army, as had been established by King Philip, comprised the Phalanx, light cavalry, adjutants and heavy cavalry. Alexander, during his expedition to Asia, had six groups of the Macedonian Phalanx, which formed the main body of his army. The phalanx was reinforced by Greek soldiers, who were either allies or mercenaries. Antigonos was the commander of the Allies, and Menandros the commander of the mercenaries.

 

 

Crossing of Hellespont (Dardanelles)

 

In 335 BC, Alexander sent Parmenion to Asia in order to secure bases on Propontis. Subsequently, Darius ordered Memnon from Rhodes to confront Parmenion’s manoeuvres. Memnon’s efforts were fruitless and the coasts of the Hellespont fell into the hands of the Macedonian general.

In the spring of 334 BC, Alexander started his great expedition from Pella. This expedition proved to be a brilliant epopee. When he arrived at Sestos on the European coast of the Hellespont, he moved to Eleounda in order to offer sacrifice on the grave of Protesilaos who, in the days of the Trojan war, was the first to set foot on the shore and the first to be killed. From Eleounda, Alexander came to the harbour of the Achaeans on the Asian coast. The Macedonian King was the first to disembark from the ship and threw his spear into the shore thus symbolising the conquest of the land he was standing on. Then he went to Ilium and dedicated his armour to Ilian Athena. Meanwhile, the Macedonian general Parmenion led the army from Sestos to Abydos with the help of 160 triremes and many transport ships.

The Battle at Granikos

Alexander and his army initially marched northeast and then eastwards till they came to the west bank of the river Granikos, which flows from south to north into the Propontis. The Persians had already taken positions for battle on the eastern bank of the river. Granikos is a mountain river which flows forcefully in spring. Its bed had a width of 20 to 40 meters. At that time, it had abundant water but was shallow. The eastern bank where the Persians were was steep and difficult for Alexander’s attacking army.

Of the total force of 35,000 men at his disposal, Alexander used 5,000 horsemen and 15,000 foot soldiers along the western bank of Granikos river. The foot soldiers were deployed in the centre and the horsemen at the two ends. Alexander was commander at the right wing and Parmenion at the left.

The Persians had 20,000 horsemen and 20,000 Greek mercenary foot soldiers. They had deployed the horsemen in the front line, close to the riverbank, and the foot soldiers behind them. The Persians, seeing Alexander on their left, reinforced their left wing with more cavalry squadrons, believing that the main weight of the battle would fall on the soldiers of the Macedonians’ right wing.

However, Alexander studied the enemy’s movements and decided to attack the right wing opposite Parmenion. In order to complete this manoeuvre, Alexander put himself at the head of the cavalry and, entering the river, moved to the left by marching through the riverbed. By means of this tactics Alexander managed to attack the right wing of the enemy, which had weakened, and, after fighting hard, he drove the Persians away. In the second stage of the battle, Alexander attacked the front with the Macedonian phalanx against the body of mercenaries, while his cavalry attacked the flanks and their back lines. Most of Darius’ Greek mercenaries were killed and only 2,000 were taken as war prisoners.

Diodorus of Sicily mentions that in this battle Alexander:

“Considered himself to be the factor of the victory” .

 
The Conquest of Asia Minor After this decisive battle, Alexander conquered Sardis and Ephessos without a fight. In the town of the goddess Artemis he issued an order allowing all citizens in exile to return to their homes. He also abolished oligarchy and brought democracy back. The Macedonian King offered a sacrifice to the goddess and organised a procession with the participation of his entire army. The next day he left for Militus which he conquered with the co-operation of his fleet. In this operation, the Persian fleet could not help the citizens of Militus because the Greek fleet had isolated the harbour of the town. The Persians had anchored in the bay of Mycali and tried to force the Greek fleet, which was smaller in strength, to give a naval battle. However, the lack of provisions and water, soon forced the Persian Navy consisting of 400 ships to sail to Samos for re-supply. After a few days, the Persian fleet appeared again, off the coast of Militus, and five of their ships sailed into the harbour hoping to find Alexander’s ships without crews. However, they were noticed and Alexander’s sailors manned 10 ships immediately, sailed after the Persian ones and captured one. This fact disappointed the Persians who, having lost all hope, sailed off to Alikarnassos.

In Militus, Alexander made a mistake. He abolished his Navy, believing that having conquered the coast of Asia Minor with his Macedonian infantry was enough to confront the Persian fleet. He also believed that the enemy ships would no longer be able to sail into the harbours to re-supply.

Soon, Alexander left Militus and continued to Alikarnassos which he besieged also using war machines. On their part, when they realised that they would not be able to keep the town for long, the Persians set fire to it and sailed away to the island of Kos.

In the winter of 334-335 BC Alexander decided to march southeast along the coast of Asia Minor and conquer the coastal towns of Lycia. After conquering Termissos, Xanthos and Fassilis, he marched eastwards and liberated Pergi and Sidi.

  

To Cilycia

Because the road to Sidi was difficult, Alexander turned to Frygia, towards the interior of the country, and marched to the ancient town of Gordius near Sangarius river. The royal palace was in the citadel of Gordius, in which the chariot of the King of the same name, father of mythical Midas, could be found. The chariot was tied with a dogwood knot to a pole. According to tradition, the person who would untie the knot would become the conqueror of Asia. Alexander, without resisting the temptation, untied the knot by cutting it with his sword.

In the spring of 333 BC, the Macedonian king headed to the east and, after conquering the town of Ankara, continued to Kapadocia seizing all territory surrounded by the Alys river. Soon, he arrived at the gates of Cicylia, southeast of the Taurus mountain range, and in one night only, with a sudden attack, seized the area and marched to Tarsos, where he camped. Alexander remained there for a period of time, because his health had suffered from extreme fatigue.

In October of 333 BC, after he had recovered, Alexander sent his general Parmenion to conquer and guard the passages between Cilycia and Syria.In the meantime, Darius gathered his forces in Babylon and came to Cilycia. He camped east of mountain Amanos, at Sochi, Assyria. Alexander’s long stay in Cilycia, because of his illness, gave Darius and his staff the impression that Alexander feared combat and was avoiding to give battle.

Alexander was informed of the arrival of Darius at Sochi, and immediately marched along the coast of Cilycia, crossing “The Cilycian Gates” at the heart of the gulf of Issos, and seized the town. The next day, he went southwards, crossed the “gates of Syria and Cilycia” and came to Myriandros with the intention of crossing the “Syrian gates” and attack Darius who, as he believed, was still at Sochi.

However, Darius, instead of waiting for Alexander in the Valley of Assyria, which was suitable for the movements of the large Persian cavalry, regained courage and decided to move against the Macedonians. He headed west, crossed Amanos mountain and came to the rear of Alexander’s forces without being noticed. Then he conquered Issos, tortured and killed all the Macedonians who were ill and had remained in the city, and the next day he went south to river Pinaros.

  

The Battle at Issos

Darius’ move from the open plain of Sochi, towards the narrow strip of land on the coast south of Issos, gave Alexander a great advantage, since by this decision a great part of Darius’ large army was condemned to remain inactive. On the other hand, in order to safeguard his rear line, Alexander had to conquer the Southern gates which led to the coastal strip of land. So, after a war council, Alexander ordered a body of archers and another of horsemen to go ahead to trace the road, while at the same time he and his army marched south of Amanos, towards “The Syrian Gates”, that he conquered at midnight. Then, the Macedonian army marched to the north, to meet the Persian army where they had camped, north of Pinaros river. This river was not very deep and not difficult for the cavalry to cross, while the width of the flat land between the foot of the mountain and the sea ranged to no more than 2,700 meters. According to Arrian, Darius’ army consisted of 600,000 men, including 30,000 horsemen and 30,000 Greek mercenaries. Although there is doubt about these numbers today, certainly Darius had a great army, which offered him the possibility of taking the risk of a battle, despite his disadvantageous position.

Darius’ forces deployed from the mountain range to the sea, i.e. from left to right, as follows: 30,000 Kardacian soldiers 30,000 mercenaries next to them, another 30,000 Kardacians further to the right and finally 30,000 horsemen at the right, towards the sea. The rest of his forces consisted of lightly armed Asians and they deployed behind the mercenaries.

When Alexander noticed the way in which the enemy forces were positioned, he decided to deploy his forces from right to left in the following way: on the right, towards the mountain, he had his horsemen carrying the Sarissa spears, and on the left his Paeonian horsemen, the Macedonian archers, the cavalry of the “Heteroi” , the Macedonian Phalanx, the Cretan archers and the Thessalian and Allied horsemen close to the sea. Moreover, towards the side of the mountain, he deployed some soldiers with spears, some archers and a few horsemen, in case he had to face an advanced Persian detachment. The Greek mercenaries deployed in a second line.

The battle of Issos began in the afternoon hours, on one of the first days of November, in 333 BC. Alexander began to march against the enemy at a slow pace. But as soon as he came to within range of the enemy arrows, he launched a sudden attack with the cavalry of the Heteroi, the light cavalry and the squadrons of the right flank against the Kardacians, who where on the left flank of the Barbarians. Soon, they dispersed and took to their feet. However, the Macedonian phalanx, which was in the centre, could not follow the cavalry of the right flank at the same speed. As a result a gap was created, and the Greek mercenaries of the Persian army ran to take advantage of it and started an attack at that point. Alexander, however, after the disorderly retreat of the Kardacians, turned to the left and attacked the mercenaries forcing them to retreat. Then, Darius got afraid of being taken a prisoner or killed, and, grabbing the reins of his chariot, started alone without waiting for his charioteer. He soon abandoned his chariot and his mantle, bow and shield, and tried to escape on horseback.

In the meantime, the Persian cavalry, after passing through Pinaros river, attacked the section of cavalry which it found in its way with vehemence. The battle wasn’t equal due to the fact that 30,000 Persian cavalry were confronted by just 2,500 of Alexander’s cavalry. However, when the Persian cavalry established that the Greek mercenaries were retreating and Darius had abandoned the battle, they also fled. The Persians lost 100,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 cavalry in the the battle, while the losses of Macedonians were only 300 foot soldiers and 150 cavalry.

Darius, in his dramatic flight, left behind his wife, his mother, and his three children. Although Alexander had been injured on his thigh, he didn’t forget to visit the wounded and also to take care of the dignified burial of the fallen, arraying all the forces of his army. The Issos victory was sealed with the founding of Alexandria which bears his name, Alexandretta, to this day.

 

 The Conquest of Phoenicia and Egypt

While Darius was heading for the town of Thapsakos which is situated on the west bank of the Euphrates, Alexander continued his march towards Phoenicia and camped at Marathos, a Phoenician town near the sea. When informed that the money which Darius had sent to Damascus had fallen into the hands of Parmenion, he ordered his general to return to Damascus and keep it there safely.

Afterwards, Alexander marched southwards and conquered Byblos and Sidon. When he arrived at Tyros he wanted to offer a sacrifice at the temple of Hercules. However, the inhabitants of Tyros informed him that he was “persona non grata” in their town.

Then Alexander decided to conquer Tyros which was built on a small island 700 meters offshore. The town was surrounded by a fortress with high walls and had two ports in which its strong fleet was anchored. In order to conquer the town Alexander decided to make an artificial hill on one side of the coast. Between the island and the shore, in the shallow part of the sea near the coast some swamps had formed, while the depth of the sea near the island was greater, about 3 fathoms.

In order to find the materials for making the hill, several buildings of the old town of Tyros which was on the shore were demolished, while in order to cover their needs in wood they cut down the forests of Lebanon. Apart from army men, residents of the area were also used to carry the materials and to construct the hill. When the construction of the hill had advanced, Alexander ordered his men to build two wooden towers each as high as 20 floors and put them on each end of the hill. These towers were equipped with big war machines which would be used against the walls of Tyros. However, the Tyrians used an incendiary ship which they led to the front part of the towers and managed to destroy them. Then Alexander decided to widen the hill and to put more towers and more war machines on it.

In the meantime the kings of Arados, Byblos and Sidon put the Phoenician fleet, which had already left the Persians, at Alexander’s disposal. Soon, kings of Cyprus came to Sidon with 120 ships which they put at Alexander’s disposal. In addition, ships from Rhodes and Lycia came to Sidon so the total number of ships under Alexander’s command was 224.

The Tyrians realized that Alexander had acquired a bigger fleet than theirs and after securing their fleet inside the two ports of the island they closed the entries with triremes and threw huge rocks into the sea so as to stop the enemy ships from approaching the walls of the town. In turn Alexander put some war machines on his ships and sailed from the shore in order to attack the defenses of Tyros. He also planned to recover the huge rocks which the Tyrians had thrown into the bottom of the sea. When the Tyrians realized what Alexander had in mind they sent divers to cut the ropes from the anchors of the ships hoping that the water currents would carry away the enemy ships. Then Alexander managed to outwit the divers by using chains instead of ropes.

Subsequently, the besieged people attempted to attack the ships of the Cypriots which were anchored in the port facing Sidon. For this reason they manned three quintremes, three quadremes and seven triremes and came close to the Cypriot ships by rowing and then rammed them. But Alexander quickly manned one quintreme and five triremes and sailed against them. He managed to destroy some of the enemy ships and to drive the rest of them away. Three days later Alexander launched a new attack on the island with his ships and managed to cause damage to the wall with his war machines. He then sent two ships equipped with bridging planks to the breached side and ordered his triremes to attack the two ports of the island. When the bridges on the bridges on the ships were set upon the walls, Alexander’s shield-carrying soldiers ran and took the wall, with Alexander and the Hetairoi who made for the palace of the city. In the meantime, the Phoenicians and the Cypriots forced open the gates to the two ports and began to ram the enemy ships which where inside. Then the inhabitants of Tyros abandoned the wall which had been conquered by Alexander, gathered at Agenorion and attacked the Macedonians, but were soon defeated.

Tyros fell in July of 332 BC after a seven month siege. The conquest of this invincible city became Alexander’s new war trophy and established his fame as an unbeatable war general. After the conquest of Tyros, Alexander decided to march towards Egypt, since all the cities of Phoenicia and Palestine had succumbed to him. The only exception was Gaza which was on the road leading to the south. The city of Gaza was built on a hill and protected by high walls. The conquest of the city became possible after building an earthwork around its walls and by using the war machines which were carried from Tyros. After Gaza and a seven days’ march, Alexander came to Peluzion in Egypt which is situated on the Nile delta, while his fleet sailed close along the coast. There, the Persian governor of Egypt gave him a friendly welcome and allowed the Macedonian garrison to camp in the town. The fleet continued sailing until it came to Memphis. Alexander offered a sacrifice to the Gods and continued in the opposite direction of the Nile where he built Alexandria. Then he marched on to the Siba oasis to make sacrificial offerings at the temple of Ammon. There, he admired the area, received an oracle from the priest of the temple and went back to Egypt.

Afterwards, moving to the north, Alexander went to Tyros followed by his fleet. There he offered a sacrifice to Hercules and organized athletic and dramatic games. At that time the trireme Paralos came from Athens with two Athenian delegates who managed to free Darius’ Athenian mercenaries who had been taken prisoners at the battle of Granikos.

 

 The Battle at Gaugamela

Alexander left Tyros in the summer of 331 BC at the head of 40,000 foot soldiers and 7,000 cavalrymen bound for Thapsakos, a Syrian town on the banks of the Euphrates. In august 331 BC the Macedonian king crossed the river with his entire army, using two bridges which Parmenion had built. From there, he marched northwards to the Tiger river with the planning to conquer Babylon. After crossing the river with difficulty he marched towards Gaugamela, a village in Assyria near the Voumilos river forty kilometers away from the town of Arbela.

According to information that had been collected, Darius had camped in a valley near Gaugamela, with an army consisting of 1,000,000 foot soldiers, 40,000 cavalrymen, 200 chariots equipped with scythes and some elephants. Alexander camped before Gaugamela for four days in order to let his army rest. Then, leaving those unable to fight behind in the camp, he marched when night fell in order to give battle with Darius’ army at daybreak. First, accompanied by his lightly armed soldiers and the cavalry of the Hetairoi, he examined the location where he aimed to give the battle and afterwards ordered his army to dine and rest. In the meantime, Darius kept his entire army in formation as he had not stockaded his camp and was afraid of a night attack by the Macedonians.

Darius’ army was arrayed as follows: The cavalry from Bactria, Arachosia and the Daeans were on the left flank towards the center, then there was a mixed number of Persian cavalry and foot soldiers and some Soussian and Kadoussian cavalry. From the end of the right flank towards the center were cavalry from Syria and Mesopotamia as well as cavalry from Media and Parthia. There were also some Socans, Topeirians, Hyrcanians, Albanians and Sacenians. Darius was in the center with the Persian cavalry of his guard and his escort, some Indian cavalry, Karians, Mordian archers and Greek mercenaries on either side of Darius. Behind the main formation was another line while, in front of this and to the left were Scythian cavalry, 1000 Bactrian cavalry and 100 chariots equipped with scythes. On the right were Armenian and Kapadokkian cavalry and fifty Scythian chariots. Finally, in the center there were fifteen elephants and another fifty Scythian chariots.

Alexander’s army was arrayed, from the right to the left, as follows: The Hetairoi cavalry and the adjutants were on the right, the phalanges in the center and the Allied and Thessalian cavalry were on the left. There was a second line behind the phalanges which, together with the front line, formed a double-headed phalanx which could fight on both sides. The left rear lateral guard was manned with Agrians, Macedonian archers and in front of these some scouts and mercenary cavalry. Centrally, in front of the Hetairoi were the remaining Agrians, some archers and some spear-men. On the right rear lateral guard consisted of Greek mercenary cavalry, Paeonian cavalry as well as Agrians, Macedonian archers and mercenaries.

When the battle began, Alexander noticed that the right wing of his army was opposite the center of the Persians and there was danger that it might be outflanked, so he moved to the right side while the Persians where attempting to move in the opposite direction. Then the Scythian cavalry who were on the left side of the Persians launched an attack on the right wing which was under Alexander’s command. They were driven back, however, by the cavalry under Menidas’ command. A fight between the cavalries resulted. At the same time the Barbarians sent their scythe-bearing chariots forward hoping to confuse the phalanx. However, the spear-men who had been arrayed in front of the Hetairoi cavalry fought back with their spears. While the main Persian line advanced, Alexander waited for the right moment to start the attack with his cavalry. The chance arose when a gap formed between the center and the cavalry of the Persians who had moved quickly to surround Alexander’s right wing. He then surged forward with the Hetairoi cavalry and the phalanx aiming for Darius. It was not long before the Persian king fled, as he had done at Issos, followed by the left wing cavalry. However, while the center and the left wing of the Persians had taken to their heels, some Indian and Persian cavalrymen took advantage of the gap between Alexander’s center and his left wing and attacked the Macedonian supply trains. Then, the me in the second line turned around and exterminated the barbarians. At the same time, the Persian right wing cavalry, who had not realized that Darius had fled, attacked the Macedonian left wing which was under the command of Parmenion, and was pressing hard until Alexander gave up the chase of Darius and rushed back with the Hetairoi cavalry to face the barbarians’ right wing. Those amongst the enemy who managed to save themselves ran away as quickly as they could while Parmenion conquered the enemy camp, the supply trains, the elephants and the camels. Alexander and his riders rested until midnight, when they marched to Arbela and took possession of Darius’ baggage, his chariot, his shield and his bow. In this way, the battle at Gaugamela ended on the 1st of October 331 BC, in which the enemies lost over 300,000 souls.

  

The Conquest of Persepolis

While Darius was escaping with his cavalry and his relatives towards Armenia, Alexander marched on to Babylon. There he was welcomed by the people, the priests and the lords who surrendered the city to him. From Babylon Alexander went on to Soussa which was Darius’ summer residence. Soussa had already been conquered by Philoxenos who had gone there hastily with a few men. Philoxenos sent Alexander a message saying that the royal treasure was untouched and that the Satrap was ready to hand over the town. At Soussa Alexander received 50,000 silver talants as well as a lot of loot which the Persians had taken from Greece during their campaign against it.

 
In January 330BC Alexander left Soussa bound for Persis. Soon, he crossed Positigris river and entered the country of the Ouxians. When he captured the passes controlled by the Ouxians, he sent the heavily armed men with Parmenion, towards Persia along the carriageway, while he himself, with the infantry and the Heteroi cavalry, took a mountain road going to the Persis gates. When he arrived there, he met Ariovarjanis with 40,000 foot soldiers and 700 horsemen, who had built a wall among the narrow passes, making Alexander’s pass impossible. The Macedonian King left his forces in front of the walls, chose a few warriors and guided them though a path shown to him by prisoners. When the enemies found out that they had been surrounded by the Macedonians, they left their positions and fled. Alexander, having seized the straits, made his way towards Persepolis to prevent the guard from taking Darius’ treasure. Since he took control of Persepolis, he sent a few soldiers to Pasargades, to obtain the treasure-house of Cyrus the 1st as well.

Soon after, Alexander headed to Media, where Darius had sought refuge. When he arrived at Ekvatana, he headed with the allied cavalry, the mercenaries and the Macedonian phalanx towards Caspian Sea, trying to approach Darius. Near the Caspian gates, he was informed that Darius had been arrested and the Satrap of Vaktria, Vissos had assumed authority. Alexander continued his advance, broke up the rebels, but did not manage to arrest Darius alive, as he had been assassinated by the barbarians. Then, Alexander sent Darius’ corpse to Persepolis, to be buried in the royal tombs, according to the local rituals.

 

 The East Satrapies Conquest

Darius’ death sets a clear mark to the unprecedented campaign of Alexander the Great. After the Persian King’s death, Alexander was presented as his legal successor. This new aspect transformed the aims as well as the character of the expedition. The advance to the east sealed the official occupation of the total of the Persian territory. Furthermore, being the legal successor of Darius, Alexander was obliged to punish the assassins of the Persian King. The completion of the conquest of the Asian continent became Alexander’s new vision for global domination and his deification.

The expedition to the east satrapies, from Irkania to the Indian Caucasus, Iaxartis and the Indus river, gives the character of a mission of discovery to Alexander’s course of conquest, where geographic discoveries were as glorious as military successes. The King of Macedonia was the only European army commander, who led a European army from the west to the conquest of the east.

Alexander’s object for the first military operations was to expurgate Irkania from rebels, some of which were Greek mercenaries. Alexander divided his army into three parts which cleansed the area and finally met in Zadrakarta, the capital of Irkania. The Greek mercenaries who had taken refuge in the Tabouro (Elbourz) mountains, appeared in his camp. Alexander set some of them free and enlisted the rest. After a short relaxation period in Zadrakarta, Alexander passed by the north edges of Parthia and arrived at the Aria boundaries. In the town of Sussia, Alexander let Satirvarzanis, who had accepted Alexander’s domination, to keep his satrapy. While he was there, Alexander had been informed that fugitive Vissos, who had taken refuge in Vaktria, had donned the symbols of authority, assumed the name Artaxerxis, and declared himself “King of Asia”.
As Alexander had all his army with him, he went ahead to Vaktria. But when he received the information that Satirvarzanis had seceded and was arming the Arians, assembling them in the capital Artakoana, he decided to turn round there with a small part of his army. When he arrived in the city after two days he discover that Satirvazanis had escaped accompanied by a few cavalrymen. In the end of this unexpected but brief operation, Alexander set off again for Vaktria, and took hold of the country of Zarragaians and Ariaspians on his way.
In the winter of 330 BC he arrived near the Indian Caucasus (Hindu Kush), where he founded a new town named Alexandria (Bagram) that lies across the Kabul river. During the winter, due to the heavy snow, he didn’t campaign but continued to keep himself informed on Vissos’ movements who, with 7,000 soldiers, was stripping the slopes of Caucasus in order to hold up the Macedonian advance. But Vissos, afraid that Alexander would attempt to arrest him in the spring, passed the Oxos river using boats that he burned afterwards, and then ran off to Naftaca in Sogdiani. Alexander followed Vissos to Sogdiani, that lies between Oxos and Iaxartis, and then sent Ptolemy, son of Lagos, with three Hetairoi cavalry battalions, mounted spear-men, infantry and archers against him. When Ptolemy arrested him, he sent him to Alexander naked and bound from the neck.

After the Vissos’ conviction, Alexander went ahead towards Marakanda (Samarkandi), capital of Sogdiani and after taking seven fortresses he arrived at the Iaxartis river which was the Northeastern boundary of the Persian state. There he founded the city of Alexandria Eschati.

  

The Indian Expedition

Alexander, in the spring of 327 BC, after having established his place in Vaktria and Sogdiani, decides to turn to the East to conquer India. Before the expedition, he went about its preparation assiduously. The plan of the expedition was to march towards the Kabul river valley up to Indus river, to cross the Indus with local conflicts and massive battles in this area and then to continue the advance to the east up to the “eoan sea”. The Macedonian King, after leaving Amintas in Vaktria with 10,000 foot soldiers and 3,500 cavalrymen, headed towards the Indian Caucasus and arrived in Alexandria, that had been built by himself when he had passed for first time from there. Afterwards he came up to Nicaia, where he offered sacrifice to Athena and then went ahead towards the Kabul river. There he divided his army, sending Ifestionas and Perdikas to the country of Pefkelaotis that lay between the rivers Kabul and Indus, so that they could make preparations for his passage. Alexander and the rest of the army made for the country of the Aspians, the Gouraians and the Assakinians along the Hoos river. There he spent the winter fighting with the mountain people of these regions.

In the spring of 326 BC, when Alexander reached the Indus river, he found the bridge he had ordered of Ifestionas ready as were many small ships and two triakondors. The bridge of Ifestionas, which became the Indus crossing, consisted of some boats that had been placed in parallel and had been tied up to each other. Apart from this, wicker meshes had been placed in the boat’s bow, full of stones. At the ends of the bridge inclined planes had been placed and wooden planks and boards were mounted onto the boats. After crossing the Indus, Alexander, followed by his army, reached Taxila in three days, where he was greeted by Taxilis, the vice regent of ther city.

Alexander held athletic and riding games and appointed a satrap as well as a Macedonian garrison made up of weak soldiers, and subsequently resumed his course towards the Idaspis (Jelum) river. According to the sources of information, the Indian ruler Poros along with all of his army, lay beyond the river with the intention of preventing Alexander from crossing it. The Macedonian king then sent soldiers back to the Indus, to disassemble the ships that had been used for its crossing, and to transport them piece by piece to the banks of the Idaspis. He himself, along with all his forces plus 5,000 Indians that Taxilis had put at his disposal, headed for the Idaspis river.

 

 The Battle at the Idaspis River

When Alexander reached the right bank of the river, he spied Poros with his army and his elephants. When the latter became aware of the Macedonians he set up guards at many points along the river. Alexander did likewise, placing various units at many points along the bank so as to mislead Poros as regards his intentions, while his ships were sailing scattered near the banks. The river was high at that time of the year from all the rainfall and the snow that had melted. Alexander, realising that it would be difficult to cross the river because of the elephants which would prevent the horses from reaching the opposite shore, told his riders to shout loudly at night-time, in order to give the impression that they were preparing to cross the river. These noises forced Poros to keep moving his men and his elephants between the possible crossing points. However, since the Macedonians simply kept shouting and calling, Poros finally ignored all the noise that was being made.

The bed of the Idaspos river, which flows from north to south, formed a curve at a distance of 16 km. from Alexander’s camp. Opposite from the curve was an island full of woods, as were the shores of the river at that location. During a rainy night, Alexander decided to cross the river at that point. He moved there with a part of his force while keeping a distance from the banks in order to remain unnoticed. The boats had been moved to that point of the river and were kept, after being put back together, in the forest. In the morning of the next day the cavalry and a part of the infantry that had boarded onto the vessels proceeded to the island. After boarding a triakontor, Alexander along with some Hetairoi and shield-bearers, moved to the other side of the river, followed by some other triakontors. However, during the operation, the Macedonians were spotted by the guards who hastened to inform Poros.

Alexander landed and advanced along with his assembled cavalry. He soon realised that he hadn’t disembarked onto the other side of the river but onto a different island which was a short distance from the shore. Fortunately, though, he found a place from where all the army could pass, so the infantry and the cavalry overcame the obstacle. Alexander’s forces that were assembled on the other side of the river numbered 6,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 cavalrymen. Without wasting time Alexander confronted the enemy with the cavalry only. Soon he encountered Poros’ cavalry that quickly fled. In this battle one of Poros’ sons was killed. Then Poros decided to attack Alexander. His force consisted of approximately 4,000 cavalrymen, 300 chariots, 200 elephants and 30,000 foot soldiers. 

After a short way, Poros lined up his army in an area without mud. He put the elephants in the front line, leaving a distance of 30 m. The infantry was in the second line in the spaces between the elephants. Left and right of the infantry the Indian cavalrymen were deployed and in front of them the chariots. This battle plan had a defensive character. On approaching the enemy, Alexander observed the arrangement of the armed forces and considered wise to wait for the arrival of his infantry. Alexander’s plan involved making a cavalry assault against the Indian cavalry and harassment of the infantry.

The battle took place in July, 326 BC with the Macedonian infantry as the leading force against the elephants. Alexander commenced the great battle at the edge of the Idaspos river by leading his cavalry to the left side of the enemy’s array, while the infantry stayed further back and was moving to the right side. Before advancing, Alexander had sent Kinos with the rest of the cavalry to the enemy’s right side in order to monitor the movements of the cavalry that had deployed there. At first he used the archers against the enemy’s left flank and then he himself attacked the Barbarians’ left. Then the Indians, in their attempt to face Alexander, made the big mistake of bringing all their cavalry to the left, opposite Alexander. Kinos who was there attacked the rear of the enemy’s cavalry which in turned formed two different fronts in order fend off both Alexander’s and Kinos’ cavalry at the same time. Because of their inability to deal with Alexander’s assaults, they ran into the empty spaces, between the elephants. When the elephants’ riders moved the wild animals against Alexander’s cavalry, they faced an attack from the infantry which started hitting the elephants’ riders ,as well as the wild animals, with spears and arrows.  

That was the most brutal phase of the battle. The elephants turned against Alexander’s infantry some of which were trampled on while others were thrown brutally to the ground by the elephants’ trunks. The Macedonians were fighting in a dense column, striking the Indians who were between the elephants with their long sarissa spears. Seeing that that the battle was being held between the infantrymen, Poros’ cavalry attempted a new assault which was unsuccessful. Thus the Indian cavalry was completely neutralized. The battle was relentless. Alexander’s cavalry formed a unified company and was killing the enemy with many continuous assaults, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indian army. The battle was taking place in ever-tighter areas and was becoming more confused, since in the turmoil, the elephants trampled on Indians and Macedonians indiscriminately. Poros tried to overturn the situation making a counter-attack with warriors and forty elephants. Although its outcome was initially successful, it soon lost momentum after Alexander’s attack with archers and Agrians against the elephants. At the same time the column attacked the injured and scared animals more efficiently.

Moreover, as the battle went on, the elephants’ assaults were becoming weaker; conversely, the Macedonians were neutralizing the animals with greater easier, striking their feet with axes and their curved swords, the “kopides”. Then Alexander attacked the enemies from all sides and vanquished them, while the phalanx was reinforced with the fresh men who had just crossed the river and were jumping into the fray. So the great battle of Idaspos which lasted all day, ended in a triumphant victory for Alexander.

 

 The Decision For Return

Alexander stayed near the Idaspos river for 30 days in order to let his men rest. He ordered two cities to be built, one in the battlefield and the other at the point where he had crossed. He called the first ”Nikea” and the second ”Voukefala”, in memory of his horse which died there. Subsequently, after leaving Krateros with the responsibility of building these two cities, he moved towards the interior where he conquered 37 other cities.

The king of Macedonia advanced to the Akensis river. After crossing the river with boats, he advanced towards to the Idraotis river. Then, he turned to the city of Sagala, where neighbouring nations had gathered in order to stop his advance. Alexander, initially by using his cavalry and then his phalanx, managed to break the lines of the enemy who had placed chariots in front of the city walls and had entrenched himself in them. After his victory at Sagala, he advanced to the Ifasis (Beas) river after which the immense desert stretched out. Alexander was possessed by a desire to go ahead but he came up against the Macedonians’ opposition who had tired, watching their king take on battle after battle and risk after risk. For this reason they gathered in the camp where some wept for their fate, while others shouted that they wouldn’t follow Alexander if he chose to continue his onward course. When Alexander was informed of the situation, he tried to calm things down and persuade the reactionaries to change their minds. Then Kinos, gathering his courage, stated the reasons for which the veterans who had survived after a large number of battles wished finally to return to their own country and their wives and children. After three days, Alexander offered a sacrifice for the safe passage of the Ifasis river during which the signs were ominous. Then, after summoning the eldest of the Hetairoi, he informed them of the decision he had made for return. After that decision a climate of happiness pervaded and everyone went to his tent, and wished him many graces for granting their request and for letting his men have their way over his.

After dividing his army into classes, Alexander ordered twelve altars to be built upon which offered sacrifice and then held athletic and riding games. Then he headed towards the Idaspos river. There he proceeded with rebuilding the cities of Nikea and Voukefala which had been damaged because of the torrential rain. He also made some improvements in the system of administrative organisation of the area. Afterwards, significant infantry and cavalry reinforcements arrived from Greece. After being briefed on geography of the area, Alexander decided to sail across the Idaspos river and then Indus river in order to reach the sea.

 

 Sailing The Indus River

The fleet that was built for this reason consisted of eighty triakontors, cavalry ships, transport ships and small craft. Alexander boarded with a part of the army composed of adjutants, archers, Agrians and a cavalry detachment. Krateros with a part of the army marched along the right bank, while Ifestionas with the largest part of the army and 200 elephants advanced on the left one. The bugle for the departure of the fleet sounded in the beginning of November 326 BC. After a few days at the sea all came up to a point where, according to some accounts, the warlike people of Mallos, who had decided to confront Alexander with weapons, would be assembled. The battle between Alexander’s army and the numerous Mallians brought about heavy casualties and nearly cost Alexander’s life, who was wounded in the chest.

After the end of the battle, which ended victoriously for Alexander, and while he was recovering from his injury, many new boats were built for the onward journey of the army. After 1,700 cavalrymen, and 10,000 infantrymen, archers and Agrians boarded onto the boats, the fleet sailed off to the confluence of the Akensis and Indus rivers. When they arrived there, while waiting for the arrival of the infantry which was marching along the bank, they built some more vessels but also a new city named Alexandria and some shipyard. Subsequently the fleet sailed along the Indus river and arrived in Pattala city, which had been abandoned by its residents. Alexander ordered the fortification of the city, the excavation of wells and the building of a naval station and shipyards.

 

  The Return to Persia

In the summer of 325 BC – after the completion of various reconnaissance missions – it was decided the return to Persia. The troops were divided into three sections. The first one was led by Krateros and included the elephants set of for Alexandria of Arahosia (Kadahar), passed through the valley of the river Etimandros went on to Karmania where it camped to wait for Alexander. Nearhos took charge of the navy and sailed along the coast of Persia making for the gulf. The third section under the leadership of Alexander set off from Pattala in the end of August 324 BC, with the aim of going through the desert of Gedrosia (Balouhistan) and going along the Persian coast in an effort to participate in the feeding of the fleet. In the first part of the march no difficulties were encountered. The Arabite residents of the region between rivers Indus and Arabis didn’t put up any resistance. Afterwards Alexander made for Rambakia (Bela). There he gave the order for the construction of a new city. After the country of the Orans Alexander proceeded to Gedrosia, the biggest part of which was desert.

In the beginning the Macedonians found water and trees. Later on, the march became much more difficult due to the heat and the lack of water. From Ora they arrived at Poura, the capital of Gedrosia, in 60 days. The hardships that the troops went through in this region are incomparable. The great heat and the lack of water, killed the largest part of the army, in particular the package animals. A lot of animals were slaughtered for food for the starving soldiers. Furthermore, when the army camped near a stream, heavy rain caused flooding which led to some women and children following the procession being swept away as well as inflicting damage to the royal luggage and the animals. In any case, whenever the soldiers approached a spring, they drank water insatiably, so that some died because of the excessive amount of water. After the resting in Poura, Alexander went to Karmania where he met Krateros who had already arrived with the rest of the men and the elephants.

In the meantime, after sailing all around the countries of the Orans, the Gedrosians and the Ichthiofagans, Nearhos sailed to the coasts of Karmania and went to Alexander to relate his experiences in detail. After had paying attention to his words, Alexander sent him back to the coast to continue the patrol of the country up to the banks of the river Tiger. After taking the fastest soldiers of the infantry, the Hetairoi cavalry and some archers with him, Alexander set off for Pasargades. There he was informed that the tomb of Cyrus, which was situated in the royal gardens, had been pillaged. After Pasargades, Alexander the Great went to Persepolis where he made the bodyguard Pefkestas, a man who had saved him from certain death in the battle against the Mallians, the satrap of Persia. On becoming satrap, Pefkestas donned the midean uniform and learned to speak the Persian language fluently. He adopted the Persian way of life and he became popular with the inhabitants.

 

 Before The End

In the spring of 324 BC, the completion of the occupation of the Persian nation was celebrated in Soussa with the marriages of Macedonians to Persian women. Alexander the Great, despite having recently married Roxanne, also married Statira, the daughter of Darius. Also, as he wished to satisfy the Macedonian soldiers, he paid their debts, gave presents and paid tributes to the brave.

At this time, the satraps of the territory came to Soussa and gave 30,000 teenagers whom Alexander named the “Epigonoi”. They bore Macedonian arms and were trained in the Macedonian way of fighting. A basic characteristic of Alexander’s personality was his endless desire for new plans. In the summer of 324 BC he sent Ifestionas to the coast of the Persian Gulf while he himself and his adjutants and elite units boarded onto ships and following the current of the river Efleos headed for the sea. When he reached the banks of the river Tiger, he sailed in order to meet Ifestionas. He ordered the destruction of the dams which had been constructed by the Persians. When he arrived at Opi, he announced the return of the old and the wounded to their homes. But the soldiers weren’t satisfied by this announcement and asked for the release of all the army as well as telling Alexander to continue the expedition by himself or with his father Ammon. Then Alexander mentioned everything he and his father had done for them and invited them to leave and abandon him in the hands of the vanquished barbarians. Afterwards he invited the prominent people of Persia and gave them the most important posts and declared some of them as his relatives.

This attitude forced the Macedonians to go to the palace and throw their weapons in front of the gates, as a gesture of entreaty. When Alexander came out to meet them, a Macedonian asked him why he had declared the Persians as his relatives, to which he answered that he considered all Macedonians as his relatives. Thus, the misunderstanding was cleared and they were reconciled. Alexander returned to Babylon which he wanted to make the capital of his dominion. Not long after this, he was visited by delegates from neighboring countries who wanted to crown him as the king of Asia. There, Alexander dived into the organisation of his future plans which included making the round trip of the Arabian peninsula, the exploration of the coasts of North Africa up to the pillars of Hercules. It was natural for Alexander, after having conquered the Orient, to desire the expansion of the Greek civilization all over the world.

  

The Death of Alexander

On the second of June 323 BC before his campaign to Arabia, Alexander made the proper sacrifices and then he entertained himself at a symposium. During the symposium he recited the lyrics of a scene from ”Andromeda” by Euripides. At dawn, his friend Midios suggested that they continue their entertainment. Indeed, according to the royal newspapers on the nights of the 2nd and the 3rd of June the symposium took place. That night was the first time the King developed fever. He had a bath and went to his bed. Later, he met his generals and despite the continuing fever, announced as the date of departure for Arabia the 22nd and 23rd of the month Desios, ignoring the fact that the Macedonians considered this month as unfavorable for the onset of campaigns. In the night Alexander, burning with fever asked that his bed be transferred to the banks of the river. There he washed his hair and rested.

 The next day, after his bath, he made the usual sacrifice and spent the rest of his day conversing with Midias. After calling his generals to a meeting the next morning, he dined. In the night he developed a high temperature. The next day, after washing his hair and making a sacrifice, he gave the order to Nearhos to depart in three days. The next day, despite the fever, he washed his hair, offered a sacrifice and ordered his generals to have everything ready for the departure of the fleet. In the night, he washed his hair but his condition was critical by that time. The next day, due to the fever he asked that he be transferred to the swimming tank. He felt better and held a discussion with his generals. In the 24th of June he again developed a high fever, he made his daily sacrifice, but he went to the altar supported by his men. He asked of them to wait in the yard, and ordered his generals to wait in front of the gates. In the palace, where he was transferred to, he met his generals but he couldn’t speak to them despite recognising them. His fever lasted for two more days. In the meanwhile rumours had been spreading all over that he was already dead. However most people went to see him for the last time. So, all the soldiers passed in front of him with tears in their eyes. Alexander couldn’t speak to them, but was greeted them by nodding his head and blinking his eyes.

The royal newspapers wrote that, of his companions, Pithon, Attalos, Dimofon, Pefkestas, Kleomenis, Menidas and Selefkos, after sleeping in the temple of Serapis, asked God if it would preferable to transfer Alexander to God’s temple so that he could pray to him and receive healing. The answer was negative, so they announced this to Alexander. After a while, Alexander the Great died. A few moments before his death he was asked to whom he would hand over his kingdom; he answered “to the most mighty” and added that he would continue his work from beyond the grave.

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