Alexander The Great Essay, Research Paper
Alexander III, more commonly known as Alexander the Great, was one of the greatest military leaders in world history. He was born in Pella, Macedonia, then a Greek nation. The exact date of his birth is uncertain, but was probably either July 20 or 26, 356 B.C. Alexander was considered a child from his birth until 341 B.C. His princehood lasted from 340 to 336 B.C. In 336 B.C. Philip II, his father, was assassinated, thus making Alexander king.
Alexander became a military leader in 335, and remained one until his death in 323 B.C. He reigned from 336 B.C. until 323 B.C., when he died. His military campaign in Persia lasted from 334 to 329, and in 328 he began his campaign in India and Bactria, which lasted until 326. Alexander was only 20 years old when his father died in early 336 B.C. and he took over, ruling for 12 years and eight months.
Alexander was fair skinned and fair haired. He was not very tall, but had outstanding speed and stamina. He was a dedicated soldier, but didn?t care for sports. The only sport he really liked was hunting.
Alexander was the eldest son of Philip II and Olympias. Like Alexander, Philip II was a great general. Olympias and Philip, when Philip was not away on a campaign, constantly fought. His father was away often, and so much of his childhood influences came from his mother, although his father taught him many useful things about war. Because of his mother?s heritage, Alexander could truthfully claim relation to two Trojan War heroes, Achilles and, indirectly, Hector. Philip II taught him he was descended from Hercules, which was not true. The historian Callisthenes started an untrue rumor that Alexander was the son of Zeus.
Alexander had seven wives and a male lover. In 327 B.C. he married Roxanne, his main wife, so to speak. Roxanne was a Persian, and by the time he married her, Alexander had total control of Persia and was doing his campaigns in India and Bactria. Roxanne later became pregnant with a child, but when Alexander died it had not yet been born.
When Alexander was either 13 or 14(different sources gave different ages), Alexander became the pupil of the great philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle taught Alexander grammar, literature, especially Homer, politics, the natural sciences, and rhetoric(the art of using words well and effectively). Aristotle inspired Alexander with a love for literature. He came to know and like the Greek styles of living. Greece?s ideals of civilization impressed him, and took part in sports and daily exercises to develop a strong body.
Alexander had another teacher, Leonidas, whom was hired by Philip II to train and discipline Alexander?s body. Leonidas sent Alexander on frequent all night marches and rationed his food. Alexander?s schooling with his two teachers continued until he was 16 years old.
When Alexander was 16, his father went away to a military campaign. He left Alexander temporarily in charge of his kingdom. While Philip II was away, the people of Thrace started a rebellion. Alexander found out about this rebellion, and crushed it. This rather impressed Philip II, and he let Alexander settle his first town, Alexandropolis. This city, as is probably quite self-evident, was named for Alexander. In Greek, ?polis? means city, so this means ?Alexander city?. At this age, Alexander also had an interest in medicine. He even prescribed medicine to some of his friends.
The Story of Bucephales
When Alexander was either 11 or 12 or 14(there are differing accounts), he went with his father and his father?s company while they went to buy a horse. After a while, Philip saw a horse that he wanted. He soon saw that it was very mean and wild, so he decided against buying it.
When Alexander learned of this decision, he said to his father,”What a horse they are losing, and all because they do not know how to handle it, or dare not try.”
To this Philip II responded,”Are you finding fault with your elders because you think you know more than they do, or can manage a horse better?”
“At least I can manage this one better,”Alexander replied.
Alexander then decided to show the company he could calm this horse. He approached the horse and calmed it. Once the horse seemed to be calm enough, Alexander mounted it and galloped around the field. The company applauds, and Philip II weeps for joy.
When Alexander dismounted, Philip II kissed him. He told his son,”My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you.”
Alexander named this horse Bucephales, meaning”ox head” in Greek. He rode Bucephales throughout his youth and later in his campaigns in Persia. Finally, in the Battle of Jhelum, Bucephales suffered a wound. He later died from it.
Alexander’s Rise to Power
In early 336 B.C., Philip II was assassinated at his daughter’s wedding feast. The assassin was an aggrieved Macedonian nobleman, who was slain as he tried to escape. The official verdict on Philip’s assassination claimed the assassin had been bribed by Darius, the king of the Persian empire. However, Alexander and his mother were suspected by many because they had recently fallen from royal favor. This was not mentioned in the verdict, and it is still unknown which suspicion is correct.
When Philip II died, Alexander found his new empire in disorder. He had enemies all over, in home and abroad. Many people were dissatisfied and so they threatened rebellion.
To solve this problem, Alexander killed everyone posing a threat. This included his younger half-brother, but not his older one. Much was fixed, although perhaps not in a satisfactory way. In late summer that year, Alexander was confirmed as the Captain-General of the campaign in Persia as well as becoming the Captain-General of the League of Corinth. These two positions were good for Alexander because they provided him with many more soldiers for his campaign in Persia.
General Information on Alexander’s Army and Conquests
Athens versus Philip II in Elatea
Late one September evening, before the Battle of Chaeronea, an Athenian assembly heard that Philip II had occupied Elatea. They were rather nervous, and not without reason. Elatea was a key point on the road to Thebes and Attica, two of Athen’s allies. Because of this information, the Athenian army marched into Boeotia, which neighbored Elatea. Athen’s and Boeotia, two new allies, fortified the north-west passage into central Greece. 10,000 mercenaries were dispatched to cover the road to Amphissia. Despite its efforts, Athens was still defeated.
Basic Information on Alexander’s Army
Alexander had army men from every province under his control or allied with him. One of his generals was Ptolemy, who was one of the best generals in Alexander’s campaigns in Asia and India. He was believed to have been related to the royal family. Alexander was an expert at organizing his units for complex battle maneuvers, hiding his true numbers and true make-up of his army, and managing his army.
Alexander’s position as a military leader changed throughout his conquests. He started out as a crusader, trying to have revenge for the destruction of Greece’s precious buildings. He ended up with the goal of expanding his empire and the knowledge and practice of Hellenic culture throughout it.
Alexander’s army started out with army men from Macedonians, Thessalians, Thracians, Athenians, and those from just about every other Greek city-states. He already had these provinces in his realm, and this was what he brought into Persia. Unlike most rulers, Alexander joined his men in battle and led in attacks. Since he was the Captain-General of the League of Corinth he had many more soldiers than he would have had otherwise.
Some of Alexander’s Conquests in Short
In Autumn 337 B.C. there was a meeting of the League of Corinth. There Alexander’s crusade against Persia was ratified. This made Alexander’s campaign in Persia much easier than if the League had chosen otherwise.
When Alexander was 21 he marched into Thebes. He made the journey of about 240 miles in 13 days. There he defeated the Thracians in his first major battle. During this battle, 6,000 Thracians defending Thebes died. The remaining 30,000 were sold into slavery.
In early spring 335 B.C. Alexander went north to deal with political problems in Thrace and Illyria. That year he also crushed the revolt of Thebes. The next year, 334 B.C., he put under siege and later captured Miletus. He then put Halicarnassus under siege, which is put in more detail later. Next, Alexander got through Lycia and Pamphylia. That year he also attacked and conquered the Greek occupied
In 333 B.C., first he and his army, marching in columns, went north to Celaenae and then marched to Ancyra. He then moved south to the Cilician Gates. While he was doing this, Darius went westward from Babylon. Then Alexander reaches Taurus, where there is a halt because he then fell ill. Once his ailment was cured, Alexander advanced with his army southward through Phoenicia. In this year, Memnon died, the Persian forces in Babylon were mustered, and Alexander reached Gordium where he sliced the Gordian Knot. This is put in more detail later.
In January 332 B.C., Byblos and Sidon submitted themselves to Alexander’s rule. In September or October that same year, he reached Thapsacus on the Euphrates. During this, Darius moved his main forces from Babylon. On September 18, 331 B.C., he crossed the Tigris.
In early June 330 B.C. Alexander set out for Ecbatana. Darius then renewed his march toward Bactria that had been halted temporarily. Soon after Darius did this, Alexander reached Ecbatana and dismissed the Greek allies and left Parmenio behind. He made Harpalus Treasurer of Ecbatana. Then he began his march to Hyrcania, and marched through Arachosia to Parpamisidae.
In 330 B.C., Alexander also renewed his pursuit of Darius via the Caspian Gates. In July, he found Darius murdered near Hecatomplyus, where he was apparently murdered by his own men. When he found out about this, Bessus declared himself king of the Persian Empire, or “Great King”.
In 329 B.C., Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush via the Khawak Pass. During April and May that year, he advanced to Bactria. That year, Bessus retreated across the Oxus. He then reached and crossed it in June, and from there he advanced to Maracande. This was also the year in which Alexander finished conquering Persia. When he had accomplished this, Alexander has been reported to have said,”So this is what it is like to be an emperor.”
In 328 B.C., Alexander had his campaign against Spitamenes. Then Cletus the Black was murdered. Later that year, he defeated and killed Spitamenes. The following year, he reached Nysa and captured the Soghdian rock. This year Alexander’s conquests of India ended. The year after that, 326 B.C., Alexander was badly wounded during his campaign against the Brahman cities(high-caste Indian cities). That year he also conquered most of the remaining part of Pakistan, India, and Iran. The end of his conquests were coming near.
In 325 B.C. Alexander’s army suffered the loss of 3,000 mercenaries. In Bactria, the people revolted against him and it was necessary for Alexander to intervene unless he wanted to loose Bactria. After that, Alexander returned to Persepolis and then moved to Susa, where there was a long halt. He renewed his march in September, going through the Gedrostan Desert. In January 324 B.C., Nearchus and his fleet went to Susa. They then moved to Ecbatana.
Alexander conquered many countries. Some of the cities he had to conquer (they did not submit themselves to Alexander’s rule peacefully and/or were not acquired by Alexander because another city was) in the Asia Minor were(in order):Halicarnassus, Syria, Tyre, Gaza, Egypt, Guagamela, Babylon, Susa, Persepolis, Media, Arachosia, Bactria, and Sogdiana.
Alexander had a huge empire. In the Mediterranean, Alexander had parts if not all of Bulgaria, Greece, and Macedonia. In the Middle East, he had parts or all of Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, and Lebanon. In Asia Minor, Alexander held parts or all of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Armenia. In Asia, he ruled parts or all of India and Pakistan. He also ruled small parts of Albania, Libya, and Russia.
Darius made three peace deals with Alexander throughout Alexander’s campaign in Persia. The first was in 333 B.C., the second in June 332 B.C., and the third in 331 B.C. The third was offered shortly after Alexander had conquered Tyre. In this offer, Darius offered Alexander a daughter in marriage, 10,000 talents worth of gold, and all of his territory west of the Euphrates. Today, 10,000 talents of gold is worth about three-hundred million dollars. The amount of territory Alexander was offered was about one-third of Darius’ empire. It required, however, that Alexander leave Persia at peace and ally with Darius. Alexander’s general Paremonian advised Alexander to agree to this. Alexander, however, was in no mood to cancel his campaign in Persia. To Paremonian’s suggestion he replied,”I would accept them, but only if I were Paremonian.”
The Battle of Chaeronea
Background on the Battle
The battle of Chaeronea was the first major battle Alexander fought in. It took place on August 4, 338 B.C., during Philip II’s rule. Philip and his army was fighting against the allied Thebes, Athens, Megara, Corinth, and Achaia, in the city of Piraeus. The most important of the five Allies were Athens and Thebes. The Allies made sure that their mercenaries and part of the regular army blocked both possible lines of attack.
The allied right flank was comprised of mainly Thebans. They were 12,000 strong. They were led by the Sacred Band, the Theban king’s best soldiers, at 300 strong. The left side was made up of mostly Athenians, who were, at that time, 10,000 strong. Everyone else was in the center.
Philip II commanded the Macedonian right flank. The right flank slightly outflanked the Allies’ right.Their left flank, which had heavy cavalry, was commanded by Alexander, at this time only 18 years old. This was an extraordinary responsibility for someone his age because he was the one that had to deliver the knock-out blow that would determine whether the Macedonians won this battle or lost it. Philip’s center and left were back at an angle from the Allied line.
What Happened in the Battle
At the beginning of the battle, Philip and his guards brigade engaged the Athenians, while the rest of the Macedonian army advanced. At this time, the Athenians launched a wildly enthusiastic charge. Their general lost his head, not literally yet, and said,”Come on, let’s drive them back to Macedonia!” Such amount of enthusiasm usually makes the warriors reckless, and it is difficult to win the battle with it.
The Greek center soon began to spread out perilously, and there became many gaps between the army men. Upon seeing this, the Macedonians backed up onto the bank of a small stream, which made a gap between the center and right open.
Then Alexander, at the head of Macedonia’s best cavalry, drove a wedge into the heart of the Theban ranks. While he did this, a second brigade attacked the Sacred Band. The attack did its job, and soon the Thebans were surrounded.
During this, Philip remained on the right. He halted his retreat up the river bank and launched a down-hill counter-charge. His phalanx finished what Alexander’s cavalry had started by pouring through the broken lines, and engaged the allied Greek center at the front and flank simultaneously. The two sides had a severe struggle, after which the entire army of the Allies broke and fled except for the Sacred Band, who planned to and did fight until the end. But Philip II came out of the battle victorious.
After the Battle
After Philip’s victory, 46 members of the 300 strong Sacred Band were taken alive. The other 254 died. The dead were buried around where they had died, in seven soldierly rows, near where Zion of Chaeronea was soon to be put.
When he had won the battle, Philip called off the cavalry pursuit of the Allies. He then raised a victory trophy and made sacrifices to the gods. A number of men were decorated for conspicuous gallantry.
Even after Philip II’s victory, the Athenian armed slaves and residents were ready to defend their city to their death. Philip remained victorious, though. The Athenian naval fleet remained intact, but offered little resistance after learning of Philip’s victory.
Philip gained things other than territory from his victory in Piraeus. He controlled the Athenian naval fleet if the need for it ever arose. He also got the harbor and arsenals of Piraeus.
To some in his newly acquired territory, Philip II was reasonably kind to. He let Piraeus’ inhabitants maintain supplies and communication by sea indefinitely if they decided to. He also let the Thebans raise a great monument near where the Sacred Band’s soldiers were buried in memory of them called the Zion of Chaeronea. Philip let them do this because, being a soldier himself, he appreciated truly valorous opponents. He refrained from imposing garrisons on most of the leading Greek cities. Philip would give up the Athenian dead. He had 2,000 Athenian prisoners, who would all be released without ransom. He guaranteed not to send troops into Attica or warships to Piraeus. Athens would remain the governmental nucleus of the Aegan islands, included Delos and Samos.
However, Philip could be harsh at times, too. He gave told the Athenians that they had to do two things for Macedonia. One of these was to help Macedonia with all other territorial claims. The other was it must dissolve the Athenian Maritime League. Athens’ government accepted these conditions en bloc(meaning altogether). They were not in a position to object to these;any privilege Philip II gave him then were just an arbitrary favor, which was reversible if Philip wanted to.
Philip was cruel to others, too. He abolished the Boeotian League. This was the embryo of the Theban empire. Philip was kind to these cities, however, when he gave all the cities belonging to the Boeotian League their independance back, which was shrewd diplomacy for him. He also forced the Thebans to recall all political exiles, and then set up a puppet government, with Macedonians watching over it from the Cadnea. Unlike their Athenian counterparts, the Theban prisoners had to be ransomed at a good price. If they were not, they would be sold as slaves.
The Battle of Granicus
Background Information on the Battle
Granicus was the first major battle during Alexander’s rule. It was also the first battle in Persia. It took place in May 334 B.C. Alexander lead his troops while the Persians were lead by Arsites, one of Darius’ generals. Darius was the king of the Persian empire.
Alexander only slightly outnumbered the Persians at the time of this battle. His ground forces overwhelmingly outnumbered the Persians’;the Persians had 30,000 overall ground force while Alexander had 43,000 infantry alone. However, the Persians had 15,000-16,000 cavalry, where as Alexander only had 6,000-7,000. It also must be taken into account that Darius’ navy, which was Phoenician, was nearly three times larger than Alexander’s and much more efficient.
Before the Battle
During a site-seeing trip on the way to Granicus, Alexander was asked if he would like to inspect Paris’ lyre. Alexander refused curtly. He said that all Paris played on the instrument were,”adulterous ditties to captivate and bewitch the hearts of women”. He then added,”But I would gladly see that of Achilles, to which he used to sing the glorious deeds of brave men.”
In this battle, Alexander’s position had similarities to that of two other military men. He was in a way like Achilles, sailing again for battle. But he also was like the Captain-General of the Hellenes, trying to get vegenance on Xerxe’s invasion of Greece(he was mad at the Persians for burning many of Greece’s great cities a long time ago).
An important thing on the way to the site of this battle was to cross the Narrows. He crossed them at the same point as the Athenians had in the Trojan War. The Persians offered no opposition when he did this. He then made the 300 mile march to Sestos in 20 days, a remarkably short time for an entire army. Next, with 6,000 men, he went over land to Elaeum, which is at the southern tip of the Galipoli Peninsula. There he sacrificed before the tomb of Protesilaus. Protesilaus was the first Greek in Agememnon’s army to step ashore at Troy. In the tomb he prayed that his landing on Asiatic soil would be better than Protesilaus’. This prayer was not without reason;Protesilaus had been killed almost immediately, and like Protesilaus, Alexander planned to be the first on shore. After making this prayer, he built an altar at the tomb and invoked the gods for victory.
Once this was done, Alexander crossed the Darndelles in the 60 vessels Parmenio had sent down from Sestos. Alexander steered the Admiral’s flagship. When the ships were halfway across the river the squadrons sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and made libation with a golden vessel, just as Xerxes had done when he crossed it. He landed on the “Achen Harbor”. This is possibly present-day Rhoeteum. There he set up an alter to Athena, Hercules, and Zeus, in thanks for a safe landing. Here he prayed that”these territories might accept me as king of their own free will, without constraint”.
Once he had done this, Alexander set off for Ilium. Once at Ilium, he was welcomed by a committee of local Greeks who presented him with a ceremonial gold wreath. He then offered a sacrifice at the tomb of Ajax and Achilles. Next he made an offering at the sacred hearth of Zeus of Enclosures. Legend has it that it was here that Alexander’s ancestor Neoptolemus had slain Priam.
From Ilium Alexander moved north again and rejoined his army at Arisbe, a little out of the city of Abyos. From there he and his army marched north-east, following the road to Dascylium, where the Phyrgian satrap(sort of a Persian governor)had his seat of government.
The first city Alexander and his army reached was Pericte, a city in Macedonia’s control. But they soon reached Lampsacus. This was controlled by Memnon like a lot of other cities in Asia Minor. There the philosopher Anaxenes, who was acting as Lampsacus’ official envoy, persuaded Alexander to bypass Lampsacus.
Alexander had an extreme shortage of money, with only enough pay to last a fortnight and food to last a month. Considering these conditions, it is most likely that Anaxenes bribed Alexander with a large sum of money. Because of these conditions, Alexander’s only hope was to tempt the Persians into a set battle and inflict a crushing defeat.
Arsites, the governor of Hellespontine Phyrga, sent out an appeal for help from his fellow governors. He wanted to meet with Arsamenes of Cilician and Spithridates of Lydia and Ionia. The three governors set up their base camp at Zeleia, east of the River Granicus. Here they summoned their commanders to a council of war to decide what strategy to use against Alexander.
Memnon of Rhodes, a mercenary, put forth the best suggestion. He proposed a scorched-earth policy–destroy all crops, strip the countryside, if they had to, burn down towns and villages. When he proposed this plan, Memnon made it clear that it would force the Macedonians to withdraw for lack of provisions. While this was happening, the Persians would assemble a large fleet and carry the war into Macedonia while the Macedonian army was still divided over what to do.
This was great advise, but since it came from a mercenary, whose brilliance and plain speaking was not respected by his Persian colleagues, it was not paid due attention. However, a little more tact still might have gotten Memnon all he wanted. But he went on to say that they should avoid fighting a pitched battle because the Macedonian infantry was very superior to Persia’s. This hurt the Persians’ dignity, and so they rejected Memnon’s plan.
Since Memnon’s plan was rejected, the Persians had to choose a new strategy. They decided to take a defensive strategy. This was probably second only to Memnon’s plan because if the Macedonians could be lured into attacking a strongly held position over dangerous ground where the cavalry would have trouble charging and the phalanx couldn’t hold formation, the invasion would end quickly.
The Persians’ rejection of Memnon’s plan was good for Alexander, but the Persians still had an advantage over Alexander. This was that the Persians had a choice of terrain. Once the Persians realized how badly needed battle they realized they could bring him to battle wherever and whenever they pleased.
The Persians collected all available reinforcements to prepare for the coming battle. Then they advanced to the River Granicus on the eastern bank, which had the best conditions for the Persian strategy. This spot on the river was good for the Persians because the Macedonian army would have to cross it to get to Dascylium(a spot on the river Alexander would need to get to to continue his conquests). It would be hard for him to cross the River because of its speed and depth. The Macedonians would have to cross in columns, and while the Macedonians were struggling on the bank in general disorder, they’d be highly vulnerable, and the Persians could force an engagement. Once they were at the River Granicus, the Persians drew up forces and waited.
You might remember that the Persians had far less ground forces than Alexander. Because of this, Arsites had to avoid exposing his interior infantry to open ground. For Arsites to win, he had to have a skillful use of cavalry and mercenaries.
When he they reached the River Granicus, Alexander wanted to fight. But Parmenio knew the Persians had set up a death trap. Parmenio did his best to reason with Alexander, and Alexander had to agree. So, under the cover of darkness, he and his army marched downstream until they found a suitable place to ford. Here they bivouacked, and began crossing at dawn.
What Happened in the Battle
When they found out that the Macedonians were fording, Arsites’ scouts sounded the alarm. Several regiments of cavalry galloped down, trying to catch the Macedonians at a disadvantage. But by the time they got to the place Alexander had chosen to ford, there were not many Macedonians left on the western bank.
When they saw Arsites’ scouts, the Macedonian phalanx formed to cover their comrades still in the river. Meanwhile, Alexander led his cavalry in a swift, outflanking charge. The Persians wisely retreated. Once they had, Alexander got the rest of his columns across, and then deployed them in battle formation.
The terrain was rich, rolling land, which was perfect for cavalry. This was good for the Persians because they had so much more cavalry than Alexander. Arsites put all of his cavalry regiments into front line, on as wide a front as possible. His entire infantry was held in reserve. He then advanced to Alexander’s position.
Alexander was clad in magnificent armor he had taken from the Temple of Athena at Ilium. His shield was blazoned splendidly, and wore an extraordinary helmet with two great wings or plumes. A crowd of pages and staff officers thronged around him.
Alexander took the battle on the right flank. When they saw this, the Persians transferred some of their best troops to the center. This was just what Alexander wanted. With trumpets blowing and echoes of the “Alalalalai”battle cry, Alexander charged, leading his cavalry in wedge formation. He feinted at the enemy’s left, where Memnon and Arsames were waiting. Then he suddenly swung his wedge inwards, diving at the new weakened Persian center. On the first onslaught, Alexander’s spear broke, so the old Demaratus of Corinth gave him his.
While this was happening, Parmenio always was on the Persian left. He was fighting a holding action against the Medes and Bactrians on Alexander’s right.
Alexander made a classic “pivot”attack, using his left flank as his axis. So what he did was, keeping his left flank stationary, he swung his right and center around it, so that now the center remained the center, but the left was the right and the right was the left.
Mathrilas, Darius’ son-in-law, counter-charged at the head of his own Iranian cavalry division with 40 high ranking Persian nobles. He began to drive a similar wedge into the Macedonian center.
After this, the Persian general Mithridates hurled a javelin at Alexander. He threw it with such force that it didn’t just blow through Alexander’s shield but hit the cuiraso behind it. Alexander then plucked it out and sent spurs to his horse. He then drove his own spear far into Mithridates’ breastplate. But Mithridates’ breastplate did not break, and Alexander’s spear broke of short.
Mithridates then drew out his sword for hand-to-hand fighting. Alexander, however, was not about to do that. Alexander retrieved his broken spear and jabbed it into Mithridates’ face, hurling him to the ground.
As this happened, Rhosaces(a Persian) came at him from behind. He rode at Alexander from a flank with his saber with such force that it went through Alexander’s helmet to the bone of his scalp. Alexander, swaying and dizzy, managed to kill Rhosaces.
Meanwhile, Spithridates, the governor of Lydia and Ionia, moved in behind Alexander. He was about to kill him when Cletus, Alexander’s nurse’s brother, severed Spithridates’ arm at his shoulder. After this, Alexander, probably from his scalp injury, half-fainted.
While Alexander was in the half-faint, his phalanx poured through a gap in the Persian center, and had started to get rid of Arsites’ native infantry. Alexander managed to struggle back onto his horse, and his companions rallied around him. During this, the enemy center began to cave in, leaving their flanks exposed.
Then Parmenio’s Thessalian cavalry charged on the left. In a moment, the entire Persian line broke and fled. Their infantry, except the mercenaries, offered little resistance. The only part of the Persian army that was left was Memnon and his men. The Macedonians focused on destroying them. While the Macedonian phalanx delivered a frontal assault, his cavalry hemmed them from all sides to prevent a massive breakout. Somehow, however, Memnon managed to escape. This ended the battle.
The Persians suffered far greater casualties than the Macedonians. The Persians lost 2,500 men total, some 1,000 of them Iranians. There were different amounts of casualties reported for Alexander. The maximum for the infantry was 30, and the minimum nine. For the cavalry, the maximum was 120 and the minimum 60.
After the Battle
25 Macedonians fell”in the first charge. Alexander had a statue made of each of them. He then erected each statue somewhere near Granicus. He also erected a statue of himself, although he did not even die, let alone in first charge. This was a strange gesture that would never be repeated again.
2,000 of Memnon’s mercenaries survived. After the battle they were chained like lions and sent back to forced labor, probably in the mines. This was not a very placatory gesture by Alexander. The reason he gave for it was that “they had violated Greek public opinion by fighting with the Orientals against the Greeks.”
After his victory, Alexander went across the rocky, volcanic islands of Cappadocia. His victory was the start of a long campaign in Persia. It opened Asia-Minor to Alexander.
The Battle of Issus
The Battle of Issus was, like Granicus, a battle against Persia. It took place in September or October 333 B.C. Alexander, as in about all of his major battles, led his troops. I am not sure who led the Persians, although Darius was there. This battle was important because it was the only way for Alexander to get to the coastal plain of Asia. The numbers for both sides at this time are uncertain.
Before the Battle
Alexander was separated from the coastal plain of Asia by the Tarsus Mountains, and the only pass through these mountains was a deep twisting canyon. There were gates to this canyon, and Alexander anticipated trouble there, but there was no other feasible route.
Arsames, who was the Persian governor of Cilicia, unintentionally saved Alexander a lot of trouble. Arsames was bent on immitating Memnon’s scorched earth policy-strategy and avoiding a head-on collision. Because of this, he only left a small force at the Gates and spent much time and energy destroying the Cilician plain. Because of this, the entire Macedonian army could and did go through the defile, four abreast, and down into the plains.
Alexander crossed into the plain, and then learned that Arsames, in accordance to his plan, intended to loot the city of Tarsus of its treasure and then burn it. Because of this information, he sent Parmenio ahead with cavalry and lightly armed troops. When Arsames learned Alexander’s troops were coming, they fled in haste. The city and its treasures were left intact.
Alexander entered Tarsus on September 3, 333 B.C. He was sweating, hot, and exhausted after the rapid forced march from the foothills of Tarsus. The River Cydnus ran through Tarsus, and Alexander plunged into it almost immediately after getting there. He almost immediately had an attack of such a severe cramp that those watching took it as a convulsion. When his aids saw what had happened, they rushed into the water and pulled Alexander out.
Alexander was ashy white and chilled to the bones. Before he had gone into the water it seemed he had some kind of bronchial infection, which, because of the water, quickly turned into acute pneumonia. For days Alexander lay helpless with a raging fever. His physicians were so pessimistic about his recovery they withheld their services for fear that they would be accused of neglegance or, even worse, murder if Alexander died under their care.
The only physician willing to treat Alexander was Philip of Acarmenia, Alexander’s confidential physician. Philip told Alexander that there were certain quick-acting drugs but they involved an element of risk. Alexander had no objection to these drugs because he was worried about Darius’ advancements. These drugs worked, but they had side effects. Alexander lost his voice, began to have a difficulty breathing, and soon lapsed into a semi-coma.
When the semi-coma began, Philip massaged Alexander and put hot substances on him. Finally, Alexander got out of his semi-coma. Three days after his recovery Alexander was well enough to show himself to his anxious troops.
Once he had seen his troops, Alexander sent Parmenio, his allied infantry, Greek mercenaries, and Thracian and Thessalian cavalry to report on Darius’ movements and to block passes that Darius could go through. While they were doing this, Alexander took over a major mint. He used it to strike his own coins, which was a very significant innovation.
When Parmenio came back, he brought encouraging news. Because of this, Alexander visited Anchilles, one day’s march west of Tarsus. He then visited the nearby city of Soli, and then returned to Tarsus. The reason he made this visits were probably to gain the favor of the inhabitants of these cities.
Alexander then sent his General Philotas and some cavalry as far as to the Pyramus River, on the west side of the Gulf of Alexandretta. Alexander, his Royal Squadron, and infantry followed. Less than two days after he sends Philotas away Alexander arrived in Castabala.
Parmenio was in Castabala at that time, and gives Alexander the latest news on Darius and his army. He told Alexander that Darius had pitched camp at Sochi, somewhere east of the Syrian Gates. Parmenio wanted Alexander to marshal his forces at Issus and wait there for Darius. Issus was a good place for Alexander because there was a narrow space and thus less danger of being outflanked. Alexander could also anticipate Darius from any place.
Alexander, however, paid little heed to this advice. He was convinced that if Darius moved at all it would be through the Syrian Gates. So instead of waiting at Issus, Alexander took the rest of his army southwest through the Pillar of Jonah to Myriandus. He pitched camp opposite the pass and waited for an enemy that never came.
While the Macedonians were there, going to the Myrian Irus and held up by violent thunderstorms, Darius set out north on a dash for the Amanic gates. He got through them unopposed, and then went down from Castabala on the River Issus. Here he captured nearly all of the Macedonian hospital cases.
Darius cut of the hospital cases’ hands and seared them with a pitch. He then took them on a tour of the Persian army. Then he turned them loose and told them to report what they had seen to Alexander. This was probably to terrorize the Macedonian army and make them reluctant to face the Persians in battle.
Once he had done this, Darius advanced to the Pinarus River and took a defensive position on the northern bank, thus in Alexander’s rear and squarely across Alexander’s lines of communication. His position forced the Macedonians to fight a reversed-front engagement and make a frontal assault. They also had to fight in highly unfavorable circumstances.
At dawn the Macedonian army began their descent toward Issus. It took three miles to get clear of the Jonah pass, and nine more to get to the Pinarus River. They began the march in column of route, and as the ground opened out they deployed battalion after battalion of infantry into a line, keeping the left flank close to shore and pushing the right flank up to the foothills.
Once all the infantry regiments had been brought up Alexander began to feed in the cavalry squadrons. Most of them, including the Thessalians, went into the right flank, which Alexander commanded. Parmenio commanded the Greek Allies.
What Happened in the Battle
In the center of the Persian center Darius put his Royal Bodyguard, a crack of Iranian corps 2,000 strong whose spear butts were decorated with golden quinces. He stationed himself directly behind the Royal Bodyguard in his great ornamental chariot. Flanking his Royal Bodyguard on either side were Darius’ Greek mercenaries, about 30,000 strong. Darius’ Asiatic levies were worse than useless so they were put in the rear. On both wings were two divisions of lightly armed infantry, called Cardaces. “Cardaces” appeared to be Iranian youth who were or had just finished their training. By the time Darius had moved all of his infantry into this formation, the Macedonians were getting uncomfortably close.
Alexander led his troops to Issus at a leisurely pace. They stopped frequently to check their dressing and observe enemy movements. At first while Alexander and his troops were marching, Darius’ intentions were not clear. But then the Persian cavalry squadrons that had been acting as the screen were signaled back across the river and dispatched to the final battle stations, and it became clear to Alexander. He realized that instead of massing the Iranian cavalry opposite the Macedonian right, where Alexander had expected it, Darius was going to move all of his best squadrons down to shore, against Parmenio.
When this realization was made, Alexander reorganized his troops. He put the Thessalians across to their left as reinforcements, and ordered them to ride behind the phalanx so that the phalanx’s movements would remain unobserved. Then reports came in that the Persians up on the ridge of the mountain had occupied a projecting spur of it, and were now actually behind the Macedonian right flank. When he heard this, Alexander sent mixed force of lightly armed troops to deal with them. He then pushed forward his cavalry, and brought two squadrons across from the center to strengthen the right flank. He then left 300 cavalry to watch the Persians’ movements.
Then the Macedonian army, deployed on a three mile front, continued to advance. Once they were just beyond the Persian bow range they halted, hoping the Persians would charge. Unfortunately for Alexander, they didn’t. After a final check on his troops, Alexander led them until they came into the range of the Persian archers. It was late afternoon.
The Persian archers immediately sent a volley of arrows. There were so many of them that some collided in flight. Then a trumpet rang out, and the Macedonian army, led by Alexander, charged across the river. They scattered Darius’ archers and drove them back among the light infantry. This strategy worked very well. The battle on the right flank was won in the first few moments.
It did not go so well, however, in the center and left flank. In the center, the Macedonian phalanx had great difficulty in getting across the river. For a while, neither the Macedonians nor the Persians could advance more then a few feet. Then a dangerous gap formed in the right flank of the Macedonian phalanx, and the Persian mercenaries tried to fill it.
While this was happening, Alexander, who had rolled up the Persian left flank, swung his wedge of cavalry inward against the rear files of the mercenaries and the Royal Bodyguard. From this moment on he and his men strained every nerve to kill Darius, because if he died the Persian cause would be crippled.
The moment Alexander sighted Darius’ chariot he charged for it. Orxathres, Darius’ brother, who led the Royal Household Cavalry, tried to protect his brother. Alexander was wounded in his thigh. Then a new chariot, lighter than Darius’ original one, was somehow found and Darius jumped into it and fled. His rout of escape, it seems, was through the mountains to Dortyol and Hassa.
By this time Alexander’s center and left were both seriously threatened. Because of this, Alexander had to postpone his pursuit of Darius. Instead, he swung his entire right flank around in a wedge against the mercenaries’ flanks, and got them out of the river, killing many of them. This was basically the end of the battle.
After the Battle
When the Macedonian Nabarzanes’ heavy cavalry saw the Persian center being cut up, and heard of Darius’ fleeing, they wheeled their horses around. They followed Darius’ rout, trying to capture him, but they had a half-mile start ahead of them. They went on 25 miles. Alexander only turned back when it was completely dark.
While he was trying to capture Darius, Alexander found several things. He found Darius’ royal mantel, some insignia by which he might be recognized, Darius’ shield and bow, and his chariot. Alexander kept these as trophies.
Just after Alexander returned from his attempt to capture Darius, at about midnight, there came a sound of wailing from a nearby tent. Alexander realized it came from Darius’ mother, wife, and children. Upon seeing Darius’ things that Alexander found they thought Darius was dead. To comfort and reassure Darius’ family, Alexander told them that Darius was alive. He also told them that Alexander had not fought against Darius out of personal enemy but”had made legitimate battle for the sovereign of Asia”. He granted them to keep all titles, ceremonial and insignia befitting their status as a royal family, and that they would receive any allowances granted by Darius. Despite this placatory gesture, Alexander took Darius’ family hostage, including his mother, wife, two daughters, and six year old son.
Alexander’s victory in Issus brought good and bad. A good thing about it was that it enabled Alexander to get out of a very dangerous position and brought welcome spoils. It also could be good propaganda. However, 1,000 Greek mercenaries from the Persian army got away, in good order, to form the heart of another Persian army. Another problem was that Eastern provinces such as Bactria were left intact, and as long as Darius was around and in power there was no question that the war would go on.
The Battle of Guagamela
Like the previous two battles, this battle was in Persia. It was the last major battle in Persia, although there may have been a few minor skirmishes in Persia after it. The exact location of this battle was the Persian village of Guagamela. It was perhaps the most famous and important of Alexander’s battles. It took place on September 30, 331 B.C. Part of it may have happened on October 1, 331 B.C. Alexander led the Macedonians. The Persians were led by Mazaeus.
The Persians outnumbered the Macedonians overwhelmingly. Alexander’s army was quite large, at 47,000 troops, with 1,100 of them cavalry. The Persians, however, had an even larger army, somewhere around 235,000 troops total. They outnumbered the Macedonians five to one. Because of these numbers, it would be hard for the Macedonians to achieve victory.
Before the Battle
In early summer 331 B.C., Alexander took his entire army north-east through Syria, reaching the Thapsacus on the Euphrates no early than July 10. His objective was to take Babylon, and Darius knew it. He could tell because Babylon was the economic center of the Persian empire and it had a strategic bastion protecting Susa, Persepolis, and the eastern provinces.
Darius was pretty sure about how Alexander was planning to take Babylon, too. He thought that Alexander would go straight down the eastern bank of the Euphrates, just as Cyrus did. Darius hoped to defeat him at Cunaxa, a city near the bank of the Euphrates. He thought that Alexander would go this way because he knew Alexander stuck hard, fast, and with maximum economy.
Darius planned to repeat the battle of Cunaxa in detail. Alexander’s troops, he assumed, would reach Cunaxa hot and exhausted. Darius would order the general Mazaeus advancing force simply retreat before the invader, and burn all of the crops and fodder as he went. Between this scorched earth policy and the blazing Mesepotamian sun, the Macedonians would be easily defeated, just like what happened to Cyrus and Cunaxa.
But instead of marching downstream like Darius had expected, Alexander went in a north-east direction across the Mesepotamian plain. Mazaeus watched, horror struck. He then rode the 440 miles back to Babylon with the news. All hope of a second Cunaxa was shattered.
When Darius heard this news he decided to try to hold Alexander at the Tigris. This was a very bold and risky plan because no one could be sure where Alexander might turn up. The entire plan depended on perfect coordination between Mazaeus, his scouts, and the command headquarters. After he had made this plan, Darius got his forces to Arbela and prepared to go to Mosul.
While the Persians prepared for this new strategy, Alexander captured a few of Darius’ men. Under interrogation they told the entire Persian plan and the size and composition of Persia’s army. When he found out this information, Alexander turned into the direction of Abu Wajnam, 40 miles to the north.
The Macedonians reached Abu Wajnam on September 18 without opposition. A few scouts fled to tell Darius, who was across the Greater Zab and approaching Mosul. When Darius learned that the Tigris was no longer separated his army and Alexander’s he once again changed his plans. He decided to have the battle at the village of Guagamela between the Khazir River and the ruins of Nineveh. It was a good place for cavalry and chariot maneuvers, Darius’ strongest unit. The cavalry sector outflanked Alexander’s left flank.
Darius brought his troops to Guagamela and sent sappers to clear the plain. He did not, however, occupy the low hills some three miles to the north-west. This was a big mistake on Darius’ part because from these hills Alexander’s scouts could observe everything the Persians did.
After he had crossed the Tigris, Alexander made contact with a regiment of Mazaeus’ camp. Mounted soldiers under the command of Paeoniar were sent to deal with the Persian fleet. The Persian Ariston speared a Macedonian colonels head and presented it to Darius.
Four days after this, Ariston’s cavalry was spotted again. Alexander made a quick cavalry raid on the Persians, getting a few prisoners. Alexander interrogated them and received the information he needed.
After this, he gave his troops another four days to rest because he wanted them to be fresh for the coming battle. There camp was guarded by sentries, ditches, and a palisade(a fence of pickets). While the troops were resting, Darius’ agents tried to sneak in notes telling the troops that they would do well to kill Alexander. These notes were intercepted and destroyed.
Alexander spent most of the daytime in September 29 331 B.C. around Darius’ lines with a huge cavalry escort examining Darius’ forces. The Persian’s let him do this unopposed. That night, while his men ate and slept, Alexander stayed in his tent drawing up tactic after tactic. He finally drew up a master plan and went to bed. The next morning, Alexander kept on sleeping. He slept through breakfast. Finally, after breakfast, someone woke him. When this man inquired why Alexander had slept so late, Alexander merely said that he had been tired.
What Happened in the Battle
Because of Guagamela’s geographic conditions and the numeric difference between his army and Darius’, Alexander made sure to protect his rear and flanks and make his cavalry look weaker than it really was. Alexander stationed a powerful force of mercenaries on the right flank and masked them with cavalry squadrons. He pushed his left flank 45? from his main battle line. His lead infantry and remaining Greek mercenaries were stationed to cover the rear.
To reduce the odds against him and make an opening for his charge, Alexander planned to get as much of Darius’ cavalry away from the center and into his flank guards. When the flanks were committed he would strike the center. This was an excellent plan and would be used centuries later by another great conqueror, Napoleon.
The Persians’ left outflanked Alexander’s so much that the Persian cavalry was almost opposite the Persian headquarters post. Because of the Persians’ numerical superiority, this would be a hard battle.
Neither side wanted to act first, but Darius finally did. Trying to halt the drift of his left to dangerous ground he ordered an attack on Alexander’s right flank. The Macedonians advanced with their left flank back, trying to get the Persian right into a premature flank engagement.
Soon after the Persians had attacked, Alexander added some rangers to the battle. Just then, he saw a gap in Darius’ center. Because of this, he gathered his forces in a wedge formation and charged. In two or three minutes, the whole course of the battle was changed.
While this was happening, Bessus, still completely engaged with Alexander’s right, found his flank dangerously exposed by Alexander’s charge. By then Bessus had completely lost contact with Darius and was afraid that at any moment Alexander’s wedge could come to his right side and take his rear guard. Because of this fear, he sounded retreat and began to withdraw.
To stop this increasing pressure, Darius’ cavalry commander brought up more men to roll up Alexander’s right flank. He was probably still unaware of the 6,000 Macedonian mercenaries behind the cavalry. This was just the move Alexander was waiting for, and once the Persian cavalry was engaged Alexander fed in further units from his flank guard. Around this time, Alexander’s cavalry, which, as was stated earlier, was about 1,100 strong, held nearly ten times its own strength.
While this was happening, Darius launched his chariots. They were highly ineffective. Alexander’s screen of lightly armored troops in front of the main line slaughtered the horses with javelins and stabbed the drivers as they rode past. The well drilled ranks of Alexander’s rear phalanx opened, and the survivors of the chariot slaughter were rounded up.
By the time this slaughter was done, almost all of the Persian army was engaged in the battle. Parmenio was fighting a defensive against Mazaeus on the left while on the right Alexander had just added more rangers to hold Bessus. Then Bessus and the rest of the army began to withdraw. Darius, as he often did, fled. He was barely able to before he was sucked further into the battle, and rushed toward Arbela, dust clouds swirling behind his chariot. Mazaeus, on the Persian right, saw him and broke off. Bessus was already withdrawing, and the entire Persian line was chopped to bits.
After the Battle
After his defeat in this battle, Darius made a few attempts to reorganize and rearm his troops. He also sent a few nervous notes to his governors and generals in Bactria urging them to remain loyal. After Guagamela, though, Darius lost his nerve and never recovered it.
While Parmenio rounded the Persian luggage up with its animals and supplies, Alexander rode on, hoping to overtake Darius’ party. He rested an hour or two, and resumed the chase at midnight. When he reached Arbela at dawn he found Darius gone after they had gone some 75 miles during the night’s chase.
Alexander managed to figure out how Darius had managed to escape from Guagamela. He and his followers fled headlong into Arbela, not even bothering to break river bridges as they went. At Arbela they were joined by Bessus, a few survivors from the Royal Guard, the Bactrian cavalry, and 2,000 Greek mercenaries. Soon after midnight he set out, taking the eastern road through the Armenian mountains. They eventually hit Ecbatana from the north. They stopped here for a while.
After fleeing from the battle, Darius left behind his chariot, bow, and about 4,000 talents in coined money. This was a substantial amount of money, equal to about 7.5 million dollars today.
After Alexander’s victory, the entire Persian empire was split in two. The ruler’s authority was ripped to shreds. The people of the empire were no longer united behind the Persian cause. Because of this, Alexander could proclaim himself the king of the empire in place of Darius, and no one could stop him. From Arbela, Alexander went to Babylon, which was acquired because of his victory in the battle of Guagamela.
The Battle of Jhelum
Background on the Battle
The battle of Jhelum was one of the major battles in Alexander’s campaign in India and Bactria. It took place at the River Jhelum. It took place in 326 B.C. Alexander, as usual, led his troops. The Indians were led by Porus, the monarch in Paurava who’s domain stretched as far as beyond the Hydaspes River and a great military leader.
India, the site of this battle, was not well known about by foreigners in this time. All the foreigners were ignorant about it and had misconceptions. To the Greeks, the land across the Indus was a shallow peninsula, bound on the north by the Hindu Kush and on the east by a great world. There was a stream, which was actually the ocean, that ran at no great distance beyond the Sind Desert. They knew nothing about the India sub-continent. In general, Alexander stayed pretty ignorant about India. His entire strategy was based on false assumptions, and when enlightenment came it was to late. The Great Ganges Plain, about which Alexander made one of the most lethal assumptions of all, shattered Alexander’s dream more effectively than any army every would or could.
It was almost impossible to even estimate the size of Alexander’s army at the time of this battle. He had no more than 15,000 Macedonians in his army, of which 2,000 were cavalry. The total amount of cavalry has been estimated to be anywhere between 6,500 and 15,000. The total amount of infantry is even more uncertain, with estimates varying from 20,000 to 120,000. Intelligence reports gave more certain amounts of men for Porus’ army. They said that Porus had 3,000-4,000 cavalry, up to 50,000 infantry, 200 elephants, and 300 war chariots. They also expected reinforcements from Abisares in this battle.
Before the Battle
The passage to Jhelum was very rough. Most of the walled towns attacked by Alexander gave violent resistance. For retaliation, when the cities fell Alexander butchered the inhabitants wholesale. One example of this slaughter was at Masaga. Here he massacred 7,000 Indian mercenaries along with their wives and children.
In March 325 B.C., Alexander gave his troops one month to rest. He ended this break with athletic contests. Then Alexander gave sacrifices, crossed the Indus, and went toward Taxila. Alexander, jumpy after his campaign, thought there was a dangerous plot in Taxila.
On his way to Taxila, he passed through Clitorial. Here he ordered his patrols to interrogate the natives and get information about elephants, of which Alexander had none. Most of the elephants, he found out, had fled across the river. Alexander rounded up 13 abandoned elephants and attached them to the column. He built a raft and they all went downstream.
When Alexander was near Taxila the rajah’s army was five miles away. Alexander, with only a small cavalry, went to Taxila. The rajah there guessed Alexander’s cause and surrendered. Alexander became Taxila’s new rajah for a while until he found a suitable person to govern it.
In Taxila Alexander and his army spent two or three months resting. This was a fatal mistake for Alexander because when they resumed their march it was June, the beginning of the monsoon season. During the monsoons, Alexander wanted to negotiate accommodations with Porus and Abisares, the rajahs of Kashmir. Once the ambassadors from Abisares returned Alexander sent his own envoy to Porus. By doing this, Alexander lost no time.
The Macedonians then went over the Kushan Pass to Alexandria-of-the- Caucasus in ten days. While he was still in Bactria, Alexander was joined by an Indian rajah, Sasigupta, who warned Alexander about dangers in the Khyber pass. After hearing about this, Alexander sent envoys to see Alexander’s Persian rajah at Taxila, the Indian Ambhi, and some Indians west of the Indus river. He asked them to meet with him, at their convenience, in the Kabul Valley.
Finally Ambhi and other Indian princes arrived bearing gifts of welcome and 25 elephants. Alexander’s eyes caught the elephants, and eventually Ambhi made a gift of them. Ambhi had good reason to side with the Macedonians. The reason was that Ambhi wanted the Macedonian army’s support in defeating his arch-enemy, Porus, who you might remember ruled past the Hydaspes River.
Some days after the meeting, Porus requested to see Alexander at the River Jhelum and to pay tribute in a token of vesselage. Alexander knew Porus would go there with a full military force, ready to use it.
Alexander, at the River Jhelum, desperately needed a transport flotilla. Unfortunately, it would take to long to build the ships and Taxila was miles from the nearest navigable river. Because of this problem, Alexander sent Coenus back to Inudes with orders to dismantle Alexander’s pontoon bridge, cut up boats, and load them onto carts. Then they would be carried over land for reassembling at the Jhelum.
About at the beginning of June in 336 B.C. a monsoon broke and a few days later Alexander lead his army southward to meet Porus through streaming, torrential rains that continued for two months. He got to the place he was to meet Porus at by going through Chakaval and Ava, both in the Salt Range, went through the Madana Pass, turned south-west and reached Jhelum Haranpur, having marched 110 miles since Taxila. He went to Haranpur because he knew it was one of the few places he could ford.
But when he reached Haranpur he found the opposite bank held by a large force with archers, chariots, and 85 elephants. The elephants kept guard, stamping and trumpeting to and fro. The river itself was swollen by the monsoons, a good one-third of a mile wide. It would not be an easy crossing.
At Jhelum, with the two opposing forces at opposite sides of the river bank, it looked like a stalemate. Alexander encouraged this impression by having endless wagon loads of corn and other stuff brought to his camp in full site of Porus and his army. The reason for this was to convince Porus that the Macedonians would wait until the river was fordable. At the same time Macedonian troop activities continued, to signal the possibility of an immediate attack. But as time passed, Porus became less and less distracted by the possibility of an attack by Alexander. This was just what Alexander wanted.
When Porus was paying little attention, the Macedonian cavalry was discreetly exploring higher reaches of the Jhelum and going as far as to the city of Jalapur. Here they found just what Alexander wanted:A large wooded island, now called Admana, with only a narrow channel going between it and the sides of it. It also had a nullah, or a deep gully, where Alexander’s army could hide.
Alexander decided to ford the Jhelum by night. He spent most of his time and ingenuity trying to confuse Porus. Every night fires were lit, with lots of noise and bustle. Porus took these seriously at first, but soon they were looked upon with disregard.
For his assault at Jhelum, Alexander planned to have a larger part of his army stay at the base camps near the place in Haranpur where he was planning to ford. The king’s pavilion would be pitched in a conspicuous position near the bank of the Jhelum. A certain officer would wear Alexander’s cloak in order to, to quote Alexander,”give an impression that the King himself was encamped on that part of the bank”.
But Alexander would really already be on his way to Jalapur. His force in Taxila, numbering 5,000 horse and at least 10,000 foot, would cross the river before dawn and advance to the southern bank on Porus’ position.
Alexander had divided his army into two groups. Hephadestion, Demetrius, and Perdiccas, with more than half of the cavalry and three battalions of the phalanx, were to go down the Khyber to the Indus. They were ordered to take over all the places in their way be force or agreement. This group would also make the conditions right for crossing once they were at the Indus.
The second group consisted of three battalions of phalanx and some mercenary cavalry and infantry. It was to have the position between Haranpur and the Admana Island opposite the main ford, and only would cross when the Porus had attacked Alexander’s army, and only then if no elephants were left behind. If he did not cross then, he could wait until he was sure that Porus was in retreat and Alexander victorious. Alexander would lead this group, and Cratereus would be second in command.
While the first group was doing what it was supposed to do, the second group planned to take a mobile column up the Chouskes River, to march through the hill country of Bajur and swat to reduce any enemy stronghold en route. It would also give cover to the left flank. The two forces would rendezvous and the Indus.
What Happened in the Battle
In this battle, Alexander made sure that whichever way he moved, Porus would be open for attack from the rear from either Alexander or Cratereus. His only possible defense would be to detach a strong but limited force that could destroy Alexander’s assault group before it established a bridgehead. This would leave Porus in charge of Haranpur, making it nearly impossible for the Macedonians to ford there.
Alexander built up a turning force from the units of the Royal Squadron of the Companions and the cavalry divisions under Hephestion, Perdiccas, and Demetrius, the Guards Brigade, two phalanx battalions, who were commanded by Coenus and Cletus the White, archers, cavalry from Bactria and Turkestan, and a special force of Scythan horse archers. This force was 15,000-16,000 strong.
Alexander brought this turning force to the crossing point and went on the boats and rafts by about 3:00 a.m. on the assault morning. When dawn broke and the wind and rain was less violent, the turning force’s flotilla was already sailing down the northern channel, still hidden by the woods of Admana. But when they passed beyond the western tip of Admana, Porus’ scouts saw them and sounded the alarm. Messengers rode away at full speed to tell Porus.
When the messenger was away, Alexander came into shore and disembarked all of his forces, with his cavalry leading, and got clear of Admana. But then he realized that what he’d thought to be a river bank was really another long, narrow island. Alexander finally managed to find a fording spot, but it took several hours, and by then Porus knew all about it.
When Alexander finally got ashore Porus detached a force of 2,000 cavalry and 120 chariots, under the command of his own son, with orders to ride east with all possible speed and, if possible, to destroy the assault group before it was clear of the river. This attempt failed because it was too late. Porus was heavily outnumbered, and his son was no match for Alexander. After a brief skirmish, the Indians fled. They suffered 400 casualties, including Porus’ son.
Finally, after the skirmish, Alexander’s army engaged in a real battle with Porus. Porus sent the rest of his army, consisting of about 20,000 infantry, 2,000 horse cavalry, 130 elephant cavalry, and 180 chariots. For this battle, Porus chose a level, sandy plain, with no mud, where elephants and cavalry would have plenty of room.
Porus drew up his i