Alexander's Campaigns


Reasons for Alexander's Invasion

1.  Revenge for Xerxes's invasion of 480bc
2.  A re-enactment of the Greek conquest of Troy by his ancestor Achilles
3  Revenge for Darius's conspiracy to kill Philip II.
4. Loot - when he went to Asia, Alexander had only 70 talents of silver and 30 days' supply of food; it would appear that he intended to live off the land and pay for his expedition with plunder.  On the other hand, some historians regard Alexander throwing the spear into Asian soil as an indication that he intended to conquer Asia fro the very beginning.
5  As the campaign progressed, Alexander's aims and ambitions grew; when, after the battle of Issus, Darius offered him a peace treaty - offering him all the land west of the Euphrates - Alexander rejected it, stating that he would take what he wished.



The following websites will help you complete the task:

This document contains the relevant section of the set
OCR Textbook.

This wikipedia article gives a much more detailed description of Alexander's campaigns.



1.  Pella to Troy, Spring 334bc

*  Alexander marched to the Hellespont and crossed into Asia Minor; it took him three weeks.
*  He marched along the route Xerxes had taken, and crossed where Xerxes had crossed.
*  He had 30,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, 70 talents of silver and 30 days' food.
*  Crossing the Hellespont he took the helm.
*  He copied the action of the hero Protesilaus and was the first to jump ashore.
*  He threw a spear and claimed that Asia was 'spear-won lands'.
*  He went to Troy and - as the new Achilles - dedicated his invasion to Athena.



2.  Battle of the Granicus, 334bc

*  Alexander marched along the coast, but no places went over to him exept the small town of Priapus.
*  Even the Greek city of Lamsacus rejected his offer of freedom.
*  Running out of food and money, he needed to win a battle, and went in search of the Persian army.
*  The local Persian satraps had met at Zeleia; they rejected Memnon's advice to avoid battle and scorch the earth before Alexander, and decided instead to give battle.
*  Arrian claims that the Persians had 20,000 cavalry and 20,000 Greek mercenaries in addition to untold infantry - Diodorus puts their infantry at 100,000 ... these figures (and the impossibly low number of Greek casualties of 115) are undoubtedly inflated to make Alexander's victory look greater.  Modern historians think Alexander's army was probably larger than the Persian army.
*  There seem to be two traditions concerning the battle - one of an evening direct assault, with great difficulty, across the stream (Arrian), the other of a surprise crossing at dawn, followed by an easier pitched battle (Diodorus).  The historian Peter Green thinks Alexander tried a direct evening assault, failed, waited, and then crossed the river at dawn taking the Persian by surprise, and that his historians have simply conflated the two into one, omitting any mention of a defeat.
*  In Arrian Parmenio often appears, offering timid, over-cautious advice - as well as a foil to emphasise Alexander's flair and courage, Alexander's historians could thus disparage Parmenion because he was executed in the conspiracy of Pilotas (his son).
*  Arrian, Plutarch and Diodorus all mention that Cleitus saved Alexander's life, but they all tell slightly different stories (in Diodorus it is Rhoesaces whom Cleitus kills, not Spithridates).
*  War atrocity? Arrian records the killing of 18,000 Greek mercenaries (2,000 were sent into slavery) - he does not mention (as Plutarch does) that they tried to surrender.
*  Lane Fox thinks the inscription on the captured Persian armour (‘Alexander the son of Philip and the Greeks apart from the Lacedaemonians took these from the barbarians') a masterpiece of propaganda.



Read the following passages from Arrian, and write answers to the questions which follow:

Alexander sent Parmenio to take control of the left wing, while he went along with his forces to the right. He had already put in position a number of commanders. On the right there was Philotas, son of Parmenio, in charge of the companion cavalry, the archers and the Agrianian javelin men; next to him was Amyntas, son of Arrabaeus, who was in charge of the lancers, and the Paeonians and the squadron of Socrates; next were the royal guards, under the leadership of Nicanor, son of Parmenio; then the phalanx of Perdiccas, the son of Orontes, and next to that, the troops led by Coenus, son of Polemocrates, then those led by Amyntas, son of Andromenes, and finally on the right wing the phalanx led by Philip, son of Amyntas. On the left wing, the Thessalian cavalry were positioned first, under the leadership of Calas, son of Harpalus, and next to them the allied cavalry, commanded by Philip, the son of Menelaus; then Agatho led the Thracian contingent; beyond them were infantry battalions, the phalanx of Craterus, then those of Meleager and Philip, right up to the middle of the whole battle line.

8a. In what ways does Arrian’s account of Alexander’s preparations for the battle help us understand the organisation of the Macedonian army? [14]


Where those with Amyntas and Socrates first reached the bank, the Persians assailed them with missiles from above; some threw javelins from their high position on the bank into the river, while others, where the ground was more level, went down to meet them as far as the water. There was a great thrusting of cavalry, some trying to get out of the river, while others tried to prevent them; there was a great shower of javelins from the Persians, while the Macedonians were fighting with their spears. But the Macedonians, as they were greatly outnumbered, began to struggle in the first assault, since they were defending themselves from the river on ground that was not firm and from a lower position, as the Persians held the high bank.

8a.  In what ways does Arrian’s account of the Macedonian attack help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing armies?   [14]




3.  Sardis to Gordium, 333bc

*  After the victory at the Granicus, Alexander's immediate problems went away.
*  He marched to the provincial capital at Sardis and took the treasury there = no money problems.
*  With Persian influence in the area ended, the Ionian cities now felt it safe to declare for Alexander.
*  When Orontobates, Satrap of Cilia, refused to surrender Halicarnus, Alexander beseiged it and drove Orontobates and Memnon out - handing the city over to Ada.
*  Ada had been Satrap, but had been deposed.  Meeting her, Alexander formed a strange friendship with her, calling her his 'mother' ... she, in turn, proclaimed him her heir when she died.  Some historians see in this a rejection of Olympias's motherhood (as he would reject Philip's fatherhood).
*  He went to Gordium, where he 'solved' the puzzle of the Gordian knot - some historians regard this as the moment when he decided to conquer Persia.




Read the following passage from Arrian, and write an answer to the question which follows:

In addition to this, there was a story about the wagon, that whoever undid the knot of the yoke of the wagon was destined to rule Asia. The knot was made of cornel bark and it was impossible to see where it began or ended. Alexander was not able to discover how to undo the knot, but he did not wish to leave it still fastened, in case this provoked some disturbance amongst the many people there. Some writers say that he struck the knot with his sword and cut through it and claimed that it was now undone; however Aristobulus says that Alexander took the peg from the pole, which was a bolt driven through the pole all the way, and which held the knot together; he then drew the yoke of the pole. I am not able to say for certain what exactly Alexander did about this knot, but he and his companions certainly returned from the wagon as if the oracle about the untying of the knot had been fulfilled. That very night there was thunder and lightning in the heavens; because of this on the next day Alexander offered sacrifice to the gods that had shown these omens and also how to untie the knot.

In what ways does Arrian’s account of the unloosing of the Gordian knot help us understand Alexander's aims and ambitions for his campaign?  [14]




4.  From Asia Minor to Issus, 333bc 

*  Alexander then marched towards Palestine.
*  He had a lucky escape at the narrow 'Cicilian Gates' where, instead of ambushing him, the local ruler retreated and burned the fields.
*  At Tarsus, Alexander heard that Darius was coming with a huge army to block his route into Palestine; he therefore advanced quickly into Palestine ... whereupon Darius moved north behind him and cut off his route of retreat.  Alexander had to turn and do battle.
*  Arrian puts the Persian army at 600,000, Diodorus at 400,000, Curtius at 250,000 and modern historians at between 25,000 and 100,000.  Alexander's army was perhaps 40,000.
*  Somehow (theories differ) they ended up fighting across a river (again!) on a narrow plain between the mountains and the sea, which prevented Darius benefiting from his huge numbers.
*  The Persian cavalry attacked the Macedonian left wing under Parmenio; although driven back, the Thessalians did not break.  Meanwhile Alexander, with his Companion Cavalry and Hypaspists, attacked the Persian right wing and broke through.  Alexander made a wild charge at Darius himself, who fled, leaving behind his wife, family, weapons, provisions and a huge treasure.
*  Plutarch and Diodorus claim that 100,000 Persians were killed; Curtius says only 450 Greeks died.
*  When Darius then sent Alexander a letter offering a truce, Alexander replied: 'whenever you send to me, send to me as the king of Asia, and do not address to me your wishes as to an equal .... For wherever you may be, I intend to march against you'.  Some historians regard this as the moment when Alexander decided to conquer the whole of the Persian Empire.




Study this detail from the Alexander sarcophagus, sculpted soon after the battle of Issus, and thought to be the tomb of the Persian commander Mazaeus:

7c.  How reliable do you think this this scultpure on the Alexander sarcophagus is as a representation of the Battle of Issus?  [5]


Now study this mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii, showing Darius and Alexander at Issus:

7c.  How accurate do you think this mosaic will be about the events of the Battle of Issus?  [5]




5.  The Siege of Tyre, Feb-Aug 332bc

*  After the victory at Issus, most of the Phoenician cities, except Tyre, came over to Alexander.
*  Alexander was obliged to capture Tyre, whose god (Melquart) the Greeks identified as Heracles (Alexander's ancestor); Alexander derported that he had had a dream in which Heracles was beckoning him to come and take the city.
*  The siege took 7 months; Diodorus claimed that, at one point, Alexander considered giving up.
*  Alexander:
     1st tried building a causeway, which the Tyrians destroyed
     2nd gathered a navy to protect the building of the causeway
     3rd blockaded the harbours to try to starve them into surrender
     4th set siege engines to batter down the walls
     5th tried a direct assault (which failed) on a small breach in the wall
     6th widened the breach and tried a multiple assault on the breach and both harbours
... only then did Tyre fall.
*  Alexander slaughtered the inhabitants - Arrian justifies it by inventing a story that the Tyrians had murdered some Greek ambassadors.




Read Arrian’s account of the siege of Tyre (2. 18-24):
*  What can we learn from this account about Alexander’s character and leadership?
*  What aspects of this event demonstrate Alexander’s resourcefulness and innovation on campaign?
*  What does this account suggest about the impact of Alexander’s successes on both his own troops and the enemy?



6.  Egypt, Alexandria and Ammon Siwah, 331bc

*  After the victory at Tyre, Alexander captured Jerusalem, where he was shown the Book of Daniel (which prophecied that a Greek king would conquer the Persian Empire).
*  He captured Gaza after a sharp siege.
*  He was welcomed by the Egyptians as a liberator.
*  At the Oracle of Ammon in Siwah, he was hailed as 'Master of the Universe' and son of Zeus-Ammon - some historians think this was the moment when he came to believe in his own divinity.
*  He founded the city of Alexandria, as a centre of Hellenic culture in Egypt, and a port - it later became famous for its amazing library.
*  The OCR textbook says that it was at Egypt that Alexander first began to adopt non-Greek customs, and that it was the first time there was tension between him and his troops over his divinity; however, it must be pointed out that Arrian reports that Alexander received delegations from the Greeks and that 'no one' went away dissatisfied.



7.  Gaugamela

The weaknesses and contradictions between the sources mean that we will never know exactly what happened. Most accounts of the battle – such as Arrian’s, but also modern ones like those by Lane Fox and the Wikipedia author – try to compile an account of the battle by synthesising/conglomerating all the different accounts. However, it is just as essential to decide what we might leave out – i.e. we need to take account of the reliability of the sources as we build our putative narrative of the battle. The result is, not a ‘this-is-what-happened’ account, but an account which suggests that some events seem very likely to have happened, and that other things may have happened.

This list is based on the much longer and detailed argument in the blog-post: What Really Happened At the Battle of Gaugamela?


* The battle took place, certainly, at Gaugamela, probably in October 331bc.
* Darius had the initial advantage – he had chosen and prepared the ground, and Alexander’s army was greatly inferior numerically (although perhaps not in fighting strength).
* Arrian’s story of a night attack is highly improbable.
* The Macedonians were VERY frightened; Alexander, also, was undisguisably anxious. There seems to have been a furious argument about tactics, notably between Alexander and Parmenio.
* The battle opened when Darius released his scythe-bearing chariots; depending on who you believe, they did extensive (Curtius) or limited (Arrian) damage.
* At the same time, the cavalry on the Persian left wing, under Mazaeus, attacked the Macedonian Left under Parmenio – although they failed to break the Macedonian cavalry, they outflanked them. It is most likely that they at the same time sacked the Macedonian baggage train; Parmenio may have sent a message to Alexander at this time, but even if he did, we cannot be sure what it said.
* On the Macedonian Right, Alexander was delaying; he may have used a clever tactic to stretch the Persian left wing and open up a gap – so when the Persian cavalry, under Bessus, attacked the Macedonian Right, Alexander drove through gap directly at Darius.
* Darius ran away, allegedly before, probably as, his army turned and fled.
* Alexander was unable to capture Darius; there is a strong tradition that Parmenio’s request for help forced Alexander to abandon the chase … though one suspects that the clouds of dust and nightfall had required this already, and that Parmenio was a convenient excuse.
* The recorded losses on both sides are hopelessly exaggerated, although it is possible that the Persian flight turned into a massacre.




Read the following passage from Arrian, and write an answer to the questions which follow:

When he returned, he summoned again the same leaders, and told them they needed no encouragement from him for the battle ahead; for a long time they had received their encouragement from their acts of bravery and the noble deeds so often accomplished already. However he thought that they should rouse up the men under their command, each man his own company or squadron, since in the coming battle they would not be fighting over Hollow Syria or Phoenicia or Egypt, as before, but the decision was to be made at that very time about who would control the whole of Asia. There was no necessity for long speeches to encourage towards noble deeds men who possessed the right qualities, but they should urge each man to consider in time of danger his own place in the great scheme of battle; they should be completely silent, when that was called for in the advance, and again should make a great shout, when shouting was called for, and they should make their battle cry as fearful as possible, when the time came for the charge and the battle cry; the leaders should obey orders sharply when they received them, and deliver those orders sharply to their squadrons; and every one of them should remember that the whole enterprise was at risk if they did not attend to their duties, but if they put all their energy into what they were doing, they would together achieve success.

In what ways does Arrian’s account of Alexander's speech before Gaugamela help us understand Alexander's style of leadership?  [14]

Choose ONE account of the battle of Gaugamela (e.g. Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus or Curtius).  To what extent does it give a clear and convincing account of the battle?

Write an essay: What does the Battle of Gaugamela show us about Alexander’s abilities as a military leader? 



8.   Later Campaigns

1.  Mazaeus fled to Babylon, but then surrendered the city to Alexander; Alexander appointed him satrap, but also installed a Macedonian garrison in the city. Alexander marched then to Susa, where Abulites was similarly rewarded for surrendering the city.
2.  Persepolis was surrendered by Tiridates, but here the Macedonians pillaged and set fire to the palace.
3.  In autumn of 330bc, the so-called ‘conspiracy of Philotas’ came to light; Philotas was executed and Parmenio killed.  Philotas's crime was that he had been informed of a plot against Alexander's life, but did nothing about it; relations between Parmenio and Alexander had been deteriorating for some time.
4.  In July 330bc, Bessus deserted Darius, first placing him in golden chains, and then killing him. Alexander vowed to avenge his predecessor, thus declaring himself the rightful successor to Darius.
5.  Bessus declared himself king Artaxerxes V, and retreated to his satrapy of Bactria-and-Sogdiana in the north. He was, however, betrayed and sent to Alexander, who had him executed.
6.  It took two years of campaigning (329-327 BC) before it was possible to use an arranged marriage with Roxane, daughter of Oxyartes, to bring the fighting to an end. During this campaign he won an impossible victory at the Sogdian Rock fortress, sending 300 expert rock-climbers at night to scale the Rock which the defenders had thought impregnable.
7.  As Alexander advanced, he founded perhaps 70 cities called Alexandria; they served as garrison towns, administrauve centres, but most of all as outposts of Hellenistic culture across Alexander's new empire.
8.  It was during this period that the death of Cleitus occurred (328bc), during a drinking bout in Maracanda (modern Samarkand).
9.  Soon after this the so-called ‘Pages’ Conspiracy’ occurred (327bc); although the given motive was a whipping that one of them had received for killing a boar before Alexander had a chance to do so, they were all sons of recently demoted or disgraced officers.  Callisthenes, who was tutor to the king’s pages, was put to death.
10. In 326bc, Alexander invaded India, defeating the ruler Porus at the River Hydaspes (July 326bc) – although he then confirmed Porus in his position. (The campaign in India almost cost Alexander his life during one attack, when he was seriously wounded.)
11. He established the cities of Bucephala and Nicaea.
12. At the River Hyphasis (Beas), his men refused to go any further – Alexander tried to bribe them, shame them, and finally even retreated to his tent for 2 days, but in the end he was forced to give way.
13. He sent Nearchus on with the fleet, sent the Macedonian veterans home by an easy route, but himself marched the army through the Gedrosian (Makran) desert, during which perhaps 25,000 of his soldiers died.




Hypaspists - elite warriors in Alexander's army.


Hydaspes - the river in India where Alexander, with difficulty, defeated Porus


Hyphasis - the river where Alxander's men mutinied and refused to go any further


This coin of Ptolemy, from c 320bc, is a piece of propaganda designed to associate him with the cult of Alexander.  It shows Alexander wearing an elephant scalp, but also the ram's horns of Ammon, the headband and snakes of Dionysius, and the cloak of Zeus. :

8a.  What can an historian learn from the representation of Alexander on this coin?  [14]