The Conquests of Alexander the GreatAlexander was the son of King Philip II of Macedonia born approximately on July20th in 356 BC.
His mother was Olympias, a young princess from Epirus. Alexander wasa remarkable person who loved to recite Homeric poetry. At age fourteen his father senthim to study science, mathematics, and philosophy with Aristotle of Stagira. Alexanderlooked up to Aristotle like a father, and it can later be seen that Aristotle gaveAlexander the knowledge it took to be one of the greatest rulers in history. Alexander wasa man of extremes and contradictions.
At times he would have intense spurts of energyand then long sulks. He showed extreme generosity and at the same time murderouscruelty against former friends. One would guess given common knowledge that hisinsecurities most likely were originated in his childhood; perhaps the relationship with hisAfter the assassination of his father, King Philip II, Alexander was in direct line totake over as ruler. Alexander was to go down in history as the father of the Hellenicworld, the unopposed leader of the Greek world, and last but not least the Great, atitle given for his numerous victories.The mobile elite was Alexanders Companion Cavalry consisting primarily of thecream of the Macedonian aristocracy.
The backbone of the army was the phalanx.2 Thephalanx was six infantry brigades, capable of fighting a compilation of different types ofwarfare, but specializing in set-piece battle in an eight-deep hedgehog formation with fiveand a half meter-long spears. The phalanx was the main weapon of warfare; yet, therewere also specialist units: skirmishers, archers, and light infantry with mountain training.
There were also units comprised of non-Macedonian Greeks whom, fighting forAlexander, helped justify Alexanders claim to be the General in Chief of the army ofAlexanders Army also had very important back-up units. These units carried asiege train consisting of mobile siege towers, stone-throwing catapults, and javelinthrowers. Also comprised in the back-up units were engineers, bridge-builders, sappers,and surveyors. To further insure a well developed army there needed to be non-combatantpersonnel as well. They comprised of doctors, scientists, botanists, astronomers,philosophers, seers, and an official historian record all of the conquests. With this unifiedand flawless army Alexander would be able to conquer many lands with great speed andIn the same aspect that most of our armies of today say prayers for a victory inbattle so was Alexanders belief that a homage must be paid to a god for good luck. In thebeginning of his journey, Alexander rode up to the city of Troy where he entered thearchaic temple of the goddess Athena. Here he made a promise that if successful, hewould return to little Ilion and build a gigantic temple to Trojan Athene in gratitude forher help.
This visit would give him the additional benefit of the spirits of the Ancients inAlexander and his army swiftly marched the plains along the Sea of Marmara. Atthe same time Darius, the King of Persia, was busily setting traps in plans to stop thepursuit of Alexanders army. Darius had a plan to stop them, he would station severalthousand Greek mercenaries near the Dardanelles. The Persian army had vast resourcesand great gold reserves to hire army after army to defeat Alexanders pursuit. The leaderof the Greek mercenaries, Memnon of Rhodes, decided to burn the countryside to cut offAlexanders supplies.
The Persian leaders decided against this idea and decided to fightAt dusk, Alexander approached the river in battle formation. On the opposite sidewere the Persians lining the bank ten thousand strong. The Persian plan was just to hold Alexander off and prevent him from crossing the river. Alexanders senior generalParmenio counseled Alexander that they should hold off until the time was right.Alexander refused and within minutes the blaring trumpets roared as they marched oninto battle. Alexander launched a small attack of fifteen-hundred men to make thePersians believe the real battle had started. They fell for it and soon the Persians had lostthe majority of their men along the banks. Alexander then proceeded in sending in hiselite cavalry squadrons down into the river and across into the face of his enemies.
Several of the Persian officers tried to kill Alexander himself, in the attempt eight werekilled, including Dariuss son-in-law. The Greek mercenaries, meanwhile, who were among the Persians best troopswatched the battle at the river Granicus. The Persian cavalry retreated and among themidst came Alexanders companion cavalry heading straight for them. The phalanx wasset up and war against the mercenaries ensued into the night. The mercenaries were cut inhalf before finally surrendering. They were then sent in chains to hard labor for life in thesilver mines of Thrace.
This was Alexanders way of sending a grim message to any otherGreeks considering joining the Persians.5Memnon, now Dariuss commander-in-chief of Western operations, was settingup once again in anticipation of Alexanders arrival. With him were the Athenianmercenary commanders Ephialtes and Thrasybulos, two men who had been onAlexanders hit list for quite some time. This time they believed they had the bestdefenses to defeat Alexanders army. Their town was a fortress fortified by a huge wallwinding up into the hills above Boldrum.
It had two or three main gates and the lowground was protected by deep ditches; it also had forts above the harbor and out in thebay was a fleet of four hundred ships. This place was so fortified that it was almostimpossible to get in. Fortunately Alexander who had just about any type of weaponimaginable of this period used his siege-technology6 to gain entrance.Alexander attacked on the flat ground first on the east side of town. His armyattempted to get in through the wall but this soon failed. Alexander then used his siegetechnology to wage war and gain entrance. Memnon launched a massive raid at dawn toovertake Alexanders army. This was almost a stalemate until Alexanders reserve armycame in and inflicted heavy losses, and Ephialtes was killed.
Memnon realizing his defeatretreated and evacuated his forces by sea, setting fire to everything they could not takewith them on the ships. Alexander emerges victorious again. Although Alexanders troops had suffered severe losses they still pursued on.They marched on to Lycia and took over thirty cities here. They then moved along theAnatolian plateau for about a three weeks march until they reached the ancient city ofAlexander came here for strategic reasons. Gordion was not only the mainjunction to central Anatolia but also the place known for a weird legend. As legend has itGordion was originally the city of Midas whose father Gordius was believed to havemigrated from Macedonia to here in a wooden cart.
His arrival fulfilled a local prophecy,and Gordius became the king of this place. As a thanks offering Gordius left the cart inthe temple of Zeus with a leather knot on the end of it made of cornel bark with invisibleends on it. The legend of the Gordion Knot7 states that whoever undid the knot wouldbecome ruler of Asia. This of course was irresistible to Alexander who had based somany of his victories on the strengths of the Gods.
Alexander went up to the acropolis and stood silent trying to figure out how toundo the knot. As history tells us Alexander said It doesnt matter how the knot isloosened8 and at the same instance he drew his sword and hacked up the knot revealingthe ends inside. Alexander left believing that the legend had been fulfilled and that heThroughout all of Alexanders conquests the fear remained that Memnon mightattack Greece while Alexander was no where near to defend it. His fears became a realitywhen Memnons forces, traveling by sea after their retreat at the Battle at Bodrun, madeway to Greece and took the cities of Chios and Lesbos. Luckily, for not only Alexanderbut for the rest of the Macedonians, Memnon fell ill and died. Darius, after learning about Memnons death, proceeded to search for an equalreplacement but failed to do so.
Darius soon realized that he would have to fight his ownbattles. Darius the King of Persia was not only a war leader but a semi-divine being in theminds of the Persians. Divine being or not, Darius was about to get a reality check byAlexander had journeyed down from central Anatolia to Tarsus. At Tarsus he fellill from malaria and almost died. Alexander, a true fighter, recovered and moved downinto the narrow gap between the amanus mountains and the sea. He had hoped to lureDarius into his narrow battlefield yet Darius wasnt easily fooled. Darius sent troops tothe rear of Alexanders army and tried to defeat them like this.
Alexander, after learningof this, pursued Darius to the little town of Issus. The Battle of Issus9 took place inNovember 333 BC on the Payas river. Dariuss army was huge in comparison toAlexanders. This didnt stop Alexander before nor would it stop him now. Dariuss planwas to hold Alexander on the river-line and use his best cavalry on the right, along theseashore, to break through Alexanders left-wing army. Alexander assessed the situationfrom his standard position up on the right wing. He saw that Dariuss cavalry wereconcentrated on his left by the sea, and immediately switched his to the left to back up hisarmy.
Once he realized that there was a weak Persian formation of inexperienced archersagainst the foothills, Alexander was sure that Darius did not have enough confidence inhis infantry to hold the line on its own. Realizing Dariuss weakness, Alexander led anattack himself down the river on the right. The Persian archers failed to protect the landfrom Alexanders pursuit. Alexanders Companion Cavalry marched down across theriver and annihilated the Persian infantry line. Now the path was cleared to reach thePersian center comprised mainly of Greek mercenaries. The mercenaries held their ownfor a short while against Alexanders phalanx, but soon they would realize they werebeing surrounded. The mercenaries realized they lost and retreated.
Alexanders mainThe main goal of the Battle of Issus was to capture or kill Darius. Alexander gotvery close to Darius yet not close enough. Alexanders army got close enough to whereDariuss kinsmen were fighting hand-to-hand in order to protect their king. Dariussforces were being wounded quickly left and right. His only option was to stay alive, so hisbodyguard took him and fled.
Darius left his leaderless army at this point to fend forthemselves. Once again Alexander emerges victorious yet without his goal – Darius.Through the years Alexander swept the Persians away from the coast of Phoeniciaand in 332 drove them out of Egypt, a land they had held for two centuries. The Egyptianswelcomed him as a liberator and recognized him as their pharaoh.
Alexander and hisarmy marched on to Tyre and met great opposition. The Tyrians fought off Alexandersarmy as long as they could but soon enough they too would surrender their city toAlexander. One year later Alexander and Darius would meet again.
On October 1st 331 BC , Alexanders troops pursue Darius into the town ofGaugamela. The Battle of Gaugamela10 would later be called one of the most decisive inhistory. Alexander once again showed great war-skills by luring the Persians into apremature assault to weaken the backbone of their army. At the same time the Persiansattacked Alexanders right and made a gap in the phalanx. Through this gap the Persiansswept around Alexanders army and had a chance at victory.
Alexander made quickdecisions and reformed his phalanx and charged at the gap at the Persian front. Dariusonce again was exposed and his army was retreating. The battle was lost and with it thedestiny of the Persian monarchy; the greatest empire which had yet existed in history.The victory at Gaugamela wore out Alexanders troops so Alexander led them toBabylon. Here at Babylon, Alexander was greeted with gifts and given the city. His armyrested and recuperated. Alexanders army marched on Susa on November 25th. His armywas replenished and reinforced to 70,000 strong.
Susa had been a war zone since thebeginning of history yet the governor of Susa met Alexander by the Tigris river bearinggifts. The governor gave Susa to Alexander with no opposition. From here Alexandermarched on to the ancient city of Xerxes and Darius about a month later.
On Alexanders journey through the outskirts of Susa he met up with natives of theAfghan-hills. These natives demanded tolls for Alexander to pass like they had done toprevious kings before him. Alexander was not the sort of person to stand for this so hehad them killed. Alexander had his eyes set on a bigger goal – Persopolis.11Persopolis was the huge Persian palace with royal tombs and shrines. It was theheart of the Persian empire. This was a trophy to acquire in Alexanders eyes.
He led hisreinforced army of now 80,000 right to the gates of Persopolis. The gates were closed andthere seemed to be no easy way of gaining entrance. Alexander interrogated prisoners inhopes of finding a way in; this was of no help. A local shepherd told Alexander of analternative route to gain entrance through the rear of Persopolis. This route was the onlyone known and it was through rocky terrain. Alexander proceeded with 15,000 of his men through the long valley of Mulla Susan to the back of the pass.
Alexander and his fearlessarmy were ready to conquer. At daybreak, Alexanders army captured the Persians in asurprise attack from the rear. The Persians put up a good fight but it was not enough tosave them. This victory has been called one of the most hazardous, audacious, andcertainly the most profitable of mountain campaigns in the annals of history.Alexander achieved his goal and captured the great city of Persopolis yet he wasnot yet satisfied. He still wanted Darius dead or alive.
In July Alexander pursued in aquest to find Darius. He marched on in the sweltering heat across the Great Salt Deserttowards Afghanistan. Finally after a long an arduous journey, Alexander reached a placecalled Thara in which he learned that Darius had been overthrown by his owncommanders the night before. Eager to still pursue Darius, Alexander pressed on throughthe Ahuran pass. By the time Alexander caught up with the Persian leaders, they werealready fleeing. At the same time they stabbed Darius and left him there for dead.
One ofAlexanders soldiers met up with him and gave him some water. Darius conveyed amessage to Alexander thanking him for his honorable treatment of his mother and familythroughout all this. Darius was dead by the time Alexander got there.
Alexander coveredthe body with his cloak and was shocked by the premature death of the King of theAlexander would go on through many different cities conquering anything in hisway for the next three years. In the spring of 327 BC Alexander and his troops invadedIndia.12 They first went to Taxila and met some opposition; but in a few minutes KingAmbi of Taxila welcomed Alexander to his new conquest. Alexander stayed here shortlyand then pressed on to the Battle on the Jhelum River. The opposition was the Indianarmy led by Rajah Porus consisting of 30,000 men. Alexanders army pressed on acrossthe river Jhelum and soon through a tough battle defeated Poruss army. The mostpersonal loss of this war was Alexanders beloved horse Bucephalus who died fromwounds in battle.
It was here that Alexander named the town after his war-horse. The majority of Alexanders army, tired from battles and homesick, decided theywould not push any further into the rest of India or in their time the ends of the Earth asthey knew it. Alexander, after giving the idea serious thought, decided that he needed totake over the rest of India before heading home to Macedonia. The army agreed and theymoved out plowing through city by city until they made their way back to Susa in 324BC. In the journey from Susa to Babylon Alexander met with some Chaldean wise menwho told him that their god Bel had told them that for the king to enter the city at thistime would be fatal to him.
They urged him not to go westward now but to go eastwardinstead. Alexander bypassed Babylon for a while but the sceptic Anaxagoras told the kingto disregard the curse and press through in despite the curse. Anaxagoras was soon put todeath after Alexander learned of his plot to get him to enter Babylon and be killed. Whilein Babylon, Alexander developed a strong distrust with his friends and he started drinkingvery heavily. Alexander drank to forget himself for two days and then he developed araging fever. With this fever he became delirious and thirsty, so he drank more. In the endhe died from this ravaging fever on June 10th 323 BC at the age of thirty-two. The fevermost likely was brought about by strychnine poisoning in the unmixed wine or possiblyby liver failure due to extreme drinking.
Nevertheless a great man had died and with hima legacy for all the world to remember: Alexander the Great – King of the World.13Bibliography:Bamm, Peter. Alexander the Great: Power as DestinyNew York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968Chambers, Mortimer. The Western ExperienceNew York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1974Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt. The Military Life of Alexander the Great of MacedonNew York: Franklin Watts, Inc.
, 1969Fox, Robin Lane. Alexander the GreatPenguin Publishing, USA., 1994Green, Peter. Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical BiographyUniversity of California Press, 1992Hammond, N.
G.L. The Genius of Alexander the GreatUniversity of North Carolina Press, 1997Higgins, Andrew.
To Buoy Itself Up, Besieged Macedonia Is Grasping at HistoryWall Street Journal: Friday, April 9, 1999; front pageMercer, Charles. Alexander the GreatNew York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1962Rice, E. E.
Alexander the GreatSutton Publishing, Inc., 1997Wood, Michael. In The Footsteps of Alexander the GreatBerkeley: University of California Press, 1997