Monthly Archives: March 2014

Nearchus’ Journey Down the Indus: Eastern or Western Arm?

 It is speculated that Nearchus, although senior to Alexander the Great, was educated alongside him. After being exiled by Alexander’s father, Nearchus was invited back to the court shortly after Alexander took the throne in 336.  He joined Alexander in the invasion of Asia in 334, fought with him in multiple battles, and was put in charge of several conquered areas, including Telmessus, where he crushed a revolt.  Alexander called him to join him in his conquest of India in 329. Despite successes, Alexander’s army eventually refused to travel further east. Alexander decided to return to Babylon and put Nearchus in charge of the construction of a large fleet, meant to voyage down the Indus River to meet the rest of the army at the ocean. It is generally believed that the voyage down the Indus lasted from Novemeber 326 to July 325. (Livius) Due to the monsoons and resisting native towns, the fleet had a series of delays traveling down the river. Eventually, Alexander and his men met up with what was left of the fleet and victoriously departed (Arrian).

However, the route Nearchus took on the river remains debated. Popular understanding dictates that Alexander took the eastern water route on the Indus back, but in his article entitled, “Some Passages in Arrian Concerning Alexander” N.G.L Hammond argues that the work has been mistranslated and thus has resulted in an inaccurate understanding of Nearchus’s route back to meet Alexander. He says, “If we translate the Greek correctly, there is no ambiguity. ‘The Indus outlet on this side’ is the western outlet, the nearest to the writer’s viewpoint” (Hammond).

Additionally, Hammond argues that his interpretation makes more sense with Alexander’s actions, “First, he went down the ‘right-hand’ river, i.e. to the western outlet…Next he returned to Pattala. From there he sailed down the other arm of the Indus to the other mouth, the eastern one. His aim was to learn which mouth gave easier access to the sea…As he went down the eastern arm, Alexander came to a great lake, something which did not exist on the western arm; he left his main force at the lake and went on himself to the outlet. He then rowed out to see. Thus he learnt that the mouth of the Indus on this side was the easier, i.e. the western outlet. The expedition of Nearchus, then, was to sail from the Western arm of the Indus” (Hammond). Thus, Hammond argues that Alexander only explored the Eastern route to check if it was an easier route. When Alexnader encountered rough waters, he surely must have sent word to Nearchus to take the western route, and thus, Nearchus sailed on the western route.

"Nearchus Map" . (Year image was created). Title of work [Marp], Retrieved March 10, 2014 from:

“Nearchus Map” . [Map], Retrieved March 10, 2014 from:

(The map above shows Alexander’s possible routes the Perisan sea).

However, scholar J.R. Hamilton in his article entitled, “The Start of Nearchus’ Voyage” explains his firm academic belief that there is no mistranslation, and Arrian meant to describe Alexander taking the eastern route, “it is clear from what follows in Arrian that he (Arrian) intends the reader to understand that it was the eastern arm that Alexander found easier to navigate.” Hamilton additionally argued that Alexander’s actions indicated he took the eastern route, “he relates that the king (Alexander) landed and with some of his Calvary explored the coastline to see what kind of country it was for the coasting voyage, and ordered wells to be dug to provide water for the fleet…If Alexander had in mind to sail down the western arm, what was the point of all this activity? Moreover, it seems clear from Arrian’s description of Alexander’s voyages down the two arms that the king found the eastern easier to navigate.”

Thus, the exact route of Nearchus while he traveled down the Indus River to meet with Alexander is still up for debate. Until any artifacts are found that can shed more light on the matter, it will probably maintain uncertain.






Goold, A. G. (1983). Arrian Indica. Cambridge: Harvard College.

Hamilton, J. R. (1994). The Start of Nearchus’ Voyage. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 501-504.

Hammond, N. G. (1980). Some Passages in Arrian concerning Alexander. The Classical Quarterly, 455-476.

Lendering, J. (2009, January 1). Nearchus. Retrieved from



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Battle of Issus

The battle of Issus was a decisive victory for Alexander the great in many ways. It was the first time a Persian army with the King present was defeated. Much of the success of this battle can be atrributed to the terrain of the area. It limited the size of the Persian army and gave Alexander the advantage. ”[Alexander] said the god was pursuing a better strategy on their behalf, having given Darius the idea of moving his army from an open space into a narrow one, where the terrain would be wide enough for the deployment of their own phalanx, but where the Persians would derive no advantage from superior numbers” (Arrian).


Darius III was the king of Persia. His army was significantly larger than Alexander’s with an army that most scholar’s agree was around 108,000 troops (Warry) while Alexander had a much smaller army of around 30,000 to 40,000 troops (Delbruck). The terrain had it’s own benefits for both armies and it really came down to who could use the terrain the best. “The mountainous terrain presents a string of narrow passes; it was a natural place for the Persians to try to bottle up Alexander” (Sacks). Darius had a better advantage because he was in a defense position. He had passed by Alexander’s small army unnoticed and cut off Alexander’s lines of communication with the main part of his army under the direction of Parmenio, one of Alexander’s generals (Moerbeek). He was able to do this because the armies were separated by a small group of mountains. As soon as Alexander learned that Darius had cut off his communications, he began making preparations to attack and take back the city of Issus.  



From The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander


 Darius has his army spread out by the mouth of the Issos river and Alexander has to march out of the mountains in order to face Darius. He recognized that the mountains would give Persian archers a great advantage over his army. He made the decsion to keep his army moving at a steady pace until they were within range of the archers. They did this to help keep the phalanx together and at peak effectiveness, as running made it more difficult to keep the phalanx together and effective. As soon as they were within range of the archers they began to run to decrease the damage taken by the hailstorm of arrows, which had the byproduct of intimidating the Persian army. It also made it more difficult to keep the Macedonian phalanx together.      



From The Landmark Arrian: the Campaigns of Alexander

As the two armies engaged, the Persians broke through the Alexander’s phalanx. “Darius’ Greek mercenaries attacked the Macedonian phalanx when a gap appeared in the right wing; for when Alexander dashed zealously into the river coming to blows with the Persians posted there and driving them off, the Macedonians at the center did not apply themselves with equal zeal, and when they came to the banks, which were steep at many points, they could not keep their front line in proper order” (Arrian). At nearly the same time as the Greek mercenaries fighting with the Persians broke through the Macedonian phalanx, Alexander’s cavalry broke through the Persian lines near Darius and attacked the mercenaries from behind. Darius ended up fleeing the battle for fear of his life with the his army following him once they saw him leaving. Alexander won many decisive small victories that led to this successful battle at Issus.



Works Cited

Arrian, Pamela Mensch, and James S. Romm. “Issus.” The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander ; Anabasis Alexandrous: A New Translation. New York: Pantheon, 2010. 67-73. Print.

“Battle of Issus.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 July 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2014.

Delbrück, Hans. Warfare in Antiquity. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1990. Print.

Hammond, Nicholas G. L. “Alexander’s Charge at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.” Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte 41.4 (1992): 395-406. Jstor. Franz Steiner Verlag. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.

Moerbeek, Martijn. “The Battle of Issus.” Warfare in Hellas. N.p., 21 Jan. 1998. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. <;.

“” Major Battles. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2014. <;.

Sacks, David, Oswyn Murray, and Lisa R. Brody. “Alexander the Great.” Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World. New York: Facts on File, 1995. 23. Print.

Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World: War and the Ancient Civilizations of Greece and Rome. London: Salamander, 1998. Print.

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Alexanders Scouting Techniques

Alexander the Great is known for being one of the greatest army commanders of all time. There are many stories of the battles he won and how he won them.  Alexander was often on the move. He had thousands of men that he constantly needed to move at one time.  The terrain was often tough and dangerous, and he couldn’t afford to lose any men on the way to battle since he needed them to fight.These conditions often required a special kind of member of the army that is often overlooked in great armies. These members were scouts. Scouts were used for many reasons, all of which gave Alexander’s armies a great advantage over the enemy.  One of the main jobs of a scout was to go ahead and survey the terrain.  Quintus Curtius wrote,  “ Then, as the scouts that had been sent ahead reported that all was safe, he sent on a few of the cavalry, to try to ford the river.” Terrain really does play a much bigger role in battles than we give it credit for.  The river Curtius talks about easily could have swept away and killed  Alexander’s troops as fast the incoming Persian army.   Even now, there doesn’t seem to be that much written on the subject of Alexander’s scouts.  Scouts aren’t as interesting of a subject as something like Berserkers or a general of an army, but they were just as important.

If scouts weren’t utilized by Alexander, then the outcome of many battles would have been very different, such as the battle of Issus.  Quintus Curtius wrote a lot about Alexander and Darius. He wrote, “They could hardly be believed ; therefore Alexander ordered scouts, sent ahead by sea to those regions, to find out whether Darius was coming in person, or whether some one of his generals had made believe that the whole army was on its way.” This is a good example of another way  the scouts were utilized.  In this case the scouts had one job: to go as fast as they can to see what was heading towards them.  If the whole army was on its way, then Alexander would have to ready his army, but if Darius himself was coming, a more of a political discussion would take place.  When scouts are thought of, this is often the job we think of them having.  Getting military intel is something that is more valuable than any amount of men. Alexander knew this and that is why he used scouts so much.

These are the two main scouting techniques that we have evidence of Alexander using: terrain scouting, and military scouting.  Both of these scouting techniques probably saved the lives of countless soldiers in Alexander’s army.  In my opinion, scouts are a big part of why Alexander was so successful. He knew how valuable they were, and he understood that the information they could obtain was very valuable. Scouting is still and will always be a huge part of military action.  Alexander’s army contributed to the scouting ideas that we still use today.

Work Cited

“Alexander The Great.”

Bose,  Partha. Alexander the great the art of strategy.  Penguin Books India. May 1, 2004.

Curtius, Quintus.  History of Alexander with an English translation.  Ed. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1946.;view=1up;seq=157 Image

Lendering, Jona. ” Alexander the Great, The Good Sources.” Livius.  Web al/alexander/alexander_z1b.html

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The Battle of Halicarnassus


Ruins of the fortifications around the city; 4th c. BC; Bordrum, Turkey

The siege of Halicarnassus (located in modern Bodrum, Turkey) was fought between the Macedonians and the Persians. Alexander the Great was the leader of the Macedonians and Memnon of Rhodes was the leader of the Persian garrison. This event occurred in 334 BC. The wars of Alexander the Great started when his father, Philip II, was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguard. Because Alexander was the next in line to be an heir to the kingdom, he was proclaimed king. Many states were outraged about the news of Philip II’s death and began to revolt. Alexander gathered over 3,000 cavalry men and took control over them. He then set off to conquer Persia.

One of Alexander’s tactics was to siege all the cities on the way to Halicarnassus with the help of his 3,000 cavalrymen. “But Alexander, on entering Caria, in a short time got possession of all the cities between Miletus and Halicarnassus” (Quintus Curtius, 52). He was able to do this due to his existing relations with the Greeks in the cities. “Most of them were inhabited by Greeks, to whom he was accustomed to restore immunity and their own laws, declaring that he had come into Asia to free them” (Quintus Curtius, 53). After conquering Caria, Alexander left his cavalrymen behind and used alternate means of attacking Halicarnassus. “These troops were left in Caria as part of the provincial army” (Sekunda 22). Even though the Macedonian cavalry wasn’t used in the siege of Halicarnassus, they were a vital piece of capturing and keeping control of the cities nearby.  

Another reason Alexander didn’t take his cavalrymen to siege Halicarnassus was possibly due to the terrain. Halicarnassus’ citadel was located on an island, away from the acropolis and the rest of the city, which was not ideal for horsemen. In order to capture Halicarnassus, Alexander sent spies into the city to meet with dissidents. “When his spies arrived, however, the dissidents were nowhere to be found” (Wikipedia Contributors). A minute battle broke out, and Alexander’s army was able to get through the city walls. The Persians attacked by using their catapults, which held his army off. In the end, the Macedonians were able to capture the acropolis and the lower part of the city due to a path through the valley close by. Even with this small victory, Alexander was unable to capture the citadel; the Persians were able to keep the Macedonians at bay for over a year. Alexander, knowing that he had lost both time and men, moved on to fight his next battle. Many historians agree that “The most important reason for Alexander’s lack of success was the fact that the Macedonians did not have a navy” (Lendering).



Curtius, Quintus. Quintus Curtius: History of Alexander. 1. 1. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. 52-53. Print.

Jansoone, Georges. Ruins of the fortifications around the city; 4th c. BC; Bordrum, Turkey. 2007. Photograph. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 6 Mar 2014. <;.

Lendering, Jona. “The Siege of Halicarnassus.” Livius.Org. N.p., 26 Jun 2008. Web. 6 Mar 2014. <>.

Sekunda, Nick. The Army of Alexander the Great. 1st ed. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2004. 22. Web. < at halicarnassus cavalry&source=bl&ots=gyoSnlNlw1&sig=X9i_z7KsRlp_LONoBSDyT28PjWQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rIMPU_rFMY2xoQS28oHwBA&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBA

Wikipedia Contributors. “Siege of Halicarnassus.”Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. N.p., 15 Feb 2014. Web. 6 Mar 2014. <;.


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Alexander’s Intelligence System

Over the millennia warfare has changed exponentially.  Weapons have been innovated innumerable times.  Tactics have evolved to fit the needs of the modern army just as weapons have.  One thing that has not changed though is the need for military intelligence.  Although methods for gathering information have changed, the need to understand one’s ones strategical position is still essentially the same.  Alexander the III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, understood this need.  During his conquest of the Persians, from 336-323 BC, he employed numerous tactics in order to gather information about the foreign lands and enemies around him.  Two of the most important positions in his army were scouts and guides.

Mounted scouts utilized by Alexander were most often called Prodromoi.  This is an apt name for them because the translation of this word, from ancient Greek, literally means “runners ahead” (“Prodromoi).  Their job exactly was to go ahead of the main body of the army to scout and perform reconnaissance.  These men would study the terrain in order to find the best places for the army to camp and march over.  The scouts also would interrogate the local population about weather, supplies, and enemy movements (Payne 283).  These tasks were vital to the survival of the army and were a major piece of the logistical puzzle of the Macedonian army.

Another aspect that could have spelled life or death for the Macedonian army was the work of guides.   Guides had to know the land most intimately so that they could guide the army over the path of least resistance. Alexander and his army needed to be led to traversable terrain and to places with fresh water and a source of food.  The escorts had to keep the troops out of geographical peril.  For these reasons, guides were most often people from the lands that Alexander had either conquered or had been surrendered.  Sometimes the native people willingly helped the Macedonians on their trek.  Other times these people would be angry about being subdued and would purposely lead soldiers astray.  Because of this, Alexander often held the family members of his guides hostage until they had gotten him to where he needed to go (Engles 331-332).  Regardless of the circumstance, Alexander always knew how to utilize his resources.

A time when Alexander most needed a source of information and intelligence was during his march through the Gedrosian Desert.  On his way back from India, through present day Pakistan and Afghanistan, he was forced to go through one of the deadliest deserts in the world (shown in the picture below).  The leader of the Macedonians knew that many other commanders had brought armies into the area before and had perished in the heat.  He knew that no man had ever been successful in bringing an army through the wasteland (Arrian 333).  Knowing this, he entrusted his scouts and guides to lead him through the desert.


(Botsford. “Map of empire of Alexander the Great shortly after acquiring the Persian Empire.” The Gedrosian Desert is located in the bottom right hand corner- Southeast corner- of the page.  Alexander was traveling from the border of the yellow to the capital city Gedrosia in Pura.)

In the beginning, Alexander tried to follow the coast to stay supplied by his fleet.  When nothing could be seen of the ships, he sent some of his Prodromoi ahead, on a reconnaissance mission.  This mission yielded no sighting of the ships or fresh water sources (Arrian 334). Having this important information from his scouts allowed Alexander to save his troops from thirst, for a time.

When the coastal route failed, the King of Macedon turned his army inland.  This turned out to be a bad decision.  The scorching heat and the less than abundant source of water led to the death of many of his men (Arrian 335).  Despite their hardship, his guides continued to lead the way.  After a time though, even they lost their way.  They were unable to find specific landmarks because the marks had been scrubbed away by sand (Arrian 335).  It seemed that all hope was lost, but the tide soon turned.

Once again Alexander’s intelligence gathering system saved the day.  A group of Prodromoi, led by the king himself, found a route back to the sea.  The discovery of fresh water, on the beach, by the scouting party literally saved the bodies and the morale of his men.  Soon after, the guides found their way back to the proper trail (Arrian 339).  Eventually Alexander the Great and his army made it out of the desert and into the less treacherous interior of Persia.

Although many of his men had perished, his force was the largest that had ever made it through the Gedrosian.  While part of this feat can be attributed to Alexander’s true grit, he would have never made it through without his intelligence gatherers.  His scouts and native guides were the true pathfinders through the desert as well as for all of his campaigns.  The combination of these two made the Macedonian information gathering system and army as a whole the most powerful military force of Alexander’s time.

Works Cited

Arrian. The Campaigns of Alexander. Trans. Aubrey De Selincourt. London: Penguin, 1958. Print

Engles, Donald. “Alexander’s Intelligence System.” The Classical Quarterly XXX.1 (1980): 327-340. Print.

Payne, Kathryn. “Information collection and transmission in Classical Greece.” Libri 43.4. (1993): 271-288. Print.

“Prodromoi.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 3 March 2014.

Botsford, George Willis. “Map of empire of Alexander the Great shortly after acquiring the Persian Empire.” Photograph.                Wikipedia. Wikipedia, n.d. Web 3 March 2014.

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The Battle of Issus

The battle of Issus was a major conflict between Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, and Darius III Codomannus, the king of Persia. Macedonia had been preparing to invade Persia for several years prior to the battle, but these plans had been hampered by the death of then-king Philip. The ascension of his son Alexander to the throne allowed the invasion to continue, though the delay allowed Persia to overcome its own problems and better prepare to face the Macedonian forces (Lendering, Issus, 2014).

The battle itself took place in the year 333 BCE. During his invasion of Cilicia, Alexander passed through Issus once without incident. At the time, his army was split with Alexander in control of one section and his right hand man Parmenion in control of the other. Though he believed the Persian’s to be to the east, Alexander understood that his split army was vulnerable at the time. To amend that, he marched south around the coast to meet with Parmenion’s section. To speed the march, he left the sick and wounded behind in Issus. The plan was sound, though Alexander discovered too late that his information was flawed. While he was joining with Parmenion, the Persians had marched north and used a mountain pass to descend on Issus sooner than had been anticipated. They attacked the wounded Macedonians and killed most of them. Their methods were quite messy, and included such lovely methods as “slicing off hands and burning the stumps” (Curtius, 1998). The few survivors fled south to join with Alexander, who started moving back north after news of the massacre reached him. He moved slowly, as the terrain forced his army to reorganize frequently.

With the ocean to the west and mountains to the east, Alexander only had a narrow area to march through. The Persians, however, occupied a much more open plane, which offered their cavalry a distinct advantage. Though cavalry charges couldn’t be repeated for hours and hours, they were brutally effective (Sidnell, 2006). Heavily armored horses tired regrettably quickly, so most cavalry in use was lightly armored (Worley, 1994). In an attempt to mitigate this advantage, Alexander kept his hoplites in two lines, hoping that it would allow his troops time to advance to a more open area. He also kept his companions to the right, planning to use them to destabilize the Persian left wing.

 Blog 2 image

(Lendering, Map of the Battle of Issus, 2014)

The battle itself was bloody. Alexander’s hoplites were the main targets of the Persians. The Macedonian right wing was also in danger, though Alexander managed to turn the tide of the battle with a single, brilliant maneuver. During the initial charge, the Macedonian forces were fired upon by Persian archers, who then retreated as the attacking phalanx grew closer. However, in order for them to do so, the Persian lines had to open for a brief moment. It was then that Alexander and his companions struck in a devastating cavalry charge. By destroying the right flank of the Persian army, Alexander was able to flank the center and support his phalanx. At that moment, the Battle of Issus turned into the Massacre of Issus. The Persians in the front were pushed forward by their forces in the rear, and were quickly crushed by the combined force of the cavalry and the phalanx.

This battle cemented Alexander’s fame. None could mistake that he had led the charge that won the battle, which solidified his reputation for bravery. It also destroyed the bulk of the Persian forces and led to Alexander gaining Phoenicia and Egypt from the Persians.


Curtius, Q. (1998). History of Alexander. London: Harvard University Press.

Lendering, J. (2014, February 1). Issus. Retrieved from

Lendering, J. (2014, January 23). Map of the Battle of Issus. Retrieved from

Sidnell, P. (2006). Warhorse. New York: Continuum.

Worley, L. (1994). Hippeis. Boulder: Westview Press.



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Alexander’s Navy and the Siege of Tyre:


The Siege of Tyre was headed by Alexander the Great of Macedon in 332 BCE during his campaign against the Persians. This 7 month siege proved unique as Tyre was located on an island off of Phoenicia with no way to effectively invade it by land. Alexander began preparing to attack after having a dream of an invasion on Tyre that included a great struggle, but an ultimate victory in his favor. With his enthusiasm and appreciation of good behavior, Alexander managed to arouse support of his men even though the invasion seemed tactically improbable. They immediately began building a mole or causeway, essentially a bridge, from the mainland into the island using brick and wood in order to effectively invade the Tyrians (this passage would later bridge the island to the mainland through silt). This development immediately introduced new problems.

As a means of defense, The Tyrians had surrounded the city with thick fortified walls that they used to shoot the incoming Macedonians from as the mole approached the island. This forced Alexander to counter attack by constructing two defense towers to hold back the incoming fire. At this point, naval attacks seemed to be the only way to alleviate the building pressure between the two. The mole was at a standstill.

In response to the towers, The Tyrians “Fill(ed) a cavalry transport ship with dry vine twigs and other kindling… the greatest possible quantity of debris and firewood, and on top of that they put pitch, sulfur, and every other substance that stokes up a blaze…” (Arrian, II, 19), and successfully destroyed the defense structures. Alexander’s success now depended on a strong navy to further the development of the mole. Realizing this, he immediately began exploring new directions.

While seeking greater fortification to advance the mole, Alexander was informed of a large naval fleet that he could use with cooperation of Cyprus. The resulting naval assistance from Cyprus of 120 ships was given to Alexander with granted diplomatic Amnesty for their help. Alexander was also given additional naval assistance from Byblus, Aradus, Rhodes, Lycia, Cilicia and Macedon. Now with his fleet of approximately 220 ships consisting of quinquiremes, quadriremes, and triremes (polyremes), Alexander began to blockade Tyre. Alexander’s influence in the area had proven beneficial in assembling a navy. Obviously, these developements did not come without any adversity from the Tyrians.


Map of the Siege of Tyre

The Tyrians continued to launch small naval attacks against the Macedonians with minimal success as they were outnumbered. However, by submerging boulders about the border of the wall, The Tyrians managed to slow down the incoming naval fleet by making the crews anchor and extract stone. This gave them the ability to shoot at the Macedonians as their stalled warships approached. While the ships were anchored, the Tyrians also sent out divers to cut anchor cords.  Again, Alexander’s tactical mind countered this by replacing the cord with chain.

As the surrounding Navy grew in numbers and efficiency, the mole progressed forward; the end of the siege was inevitable. Other Naval groups under Alexander’s command also overtook major Tyrian harbors. This growth of control around the perimeter allowed Alexander to focus on and eventually breach the wall. He, himself, helped lead men into Tyre with a successful overtaking. “Nearly eight thousand Tyrians Perished…. About four hundred Macedonians died.”(Arrian, II, 24)

The success of this invasion for Alexander relied completely on tactical innovation and numbers, especially regarding the navy. Evaluating the geography, it is clear that the Tyrians had a major advantage, being surrounded by water and heavy fortification. However, by effectively recalling and implementing a navy gathered through Alexander’s overarching power at the time, it is apparent that such an overtaking was possible. The Tyrians did not have the numbers necessary to hold back such an invasion as the one they were faced with. Although they did demonstrate effective defensive tactics, such as bouldering and other tactics to prolong the process. In the end, the tactical blockading, engineering, and constructing along Tyre’s perimeter, along with sufficient resources being available, resulted in the inevitable victory for Alexander.


33°16′15″N 35°11′46″E. “Ancient Tyre” via Google Earth.

Arrian. The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander. Trans. James Romm. Anchor, 2012. Book. 28 February 2014.

C. Snell, D. 2012. Tyre. The Encyclopedia of Ancient History.

Chad M. Schaffer. (2011). Military Field Engineering in the Ancient World. Retrieved from

Gabrielsen, V. 2012. Navies, Greek. The Encyclopedia of Ancient History.

Grant. “Alexander’s Siege of Tyre, 332 BC.” 2011 August 2011. Web. 28 February 2014. <;.

Lendering, Jona. “Alexander Takes Tyre.” n.d. 5 February 2014.

The Department of History, United States Military Academy. Siege of Tyre. N.d. Map. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <;.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Alexander the Great.” 2014 March 1. Web. 28 Gebruary 2014. <;.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Siege of Tyre (332 BC).” 15 February 2014. Web. 28 February 2014. <;.

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The Battle of Gaugamela

The Battle of Gaugamela was a prime example of how the terrain was important in battle. This battle took place in 331 BC between Alexander the Great, from Macedon, and Darius III, leader of the Persians. Alexander led his army to victory. The battle was fought in the plains of Macedonia in Gaugamela, which is a small village near modern-day Iraq because Darius wanted to stop Alexander from encroaching even more on the Persian empire  (Britannica).

Darius specifically picked out this place to have the battle. It was an “empty plain suitable for cavalry; not even shrubs and short bushes hide the ground, and an unobstructed view is allowed even to objects which are far away” (Curtius 247). Also, “if there was any eminence in the plains, [Darius] gave orders that it should be levelled and the whole rising made flat” (Curtius 247). Darius wanted to ensure a level playing field for the battle (no pun intended).

Alexander had a strong cavalry called the Campanian, or Companion, Cavalry. Since they were heavy cavalry, they wore armor, usually consisting of a metal helmet and breastplate (Worley 156). Their weapon was called a sarissa, “a light, cornel-wood spear” which was about nine feet long. The length, weight, and shape provided easy throwing, smooth riding, and multiple attacking maneuvers (Worley 156).

Darius decided to make his cavalry his strong point, especially since Alexander led such a fine cavalry. It was also advantageous that the land was flat and convenient for cavalry. Darius’ formation included a very strong left wing, with approximately twenty thousand cavalry, which would compete with Alexander’s seven thousand (Sidnell 108-109). Alexander was able to view Darius’ formation from some hills. He noted that “even if he massed all his cavalry on that wing they would be outnumbered three to one, and of course his other flank would be left unprotected” (Sidnell 109).


Darius flees during the Battle of Gaugamela (Anonymous).

Darius flees during the Battle of Gaugamela (Anonymous).

Works Cited

Anonymous. The Battle of Gaugamela. National Archeological Museum of Spain.

“Battle of Gaugamela.” Britannica, Encyclopaedia. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. n.d. 28 February 2014.

Curtius, Quintus. History of Alexander: Books I-V. Trans. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1946.

Sidnell, Philip. Warhorse. New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2006.

Worley, Leslie J. Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

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Alexander the Great and the Battle of Granicus River

Alexander the Great was the ruler of Macedonia in the year 336, following the assassination of his father, King Philip II. Before then, he was put in command over the left wing of the Macedonian army at the battle of Chaeronea two years before his father died. He was a great military leader, and his father saw him a trustworthy heir to the throne because of his loyalty and skill (Oxford).

When Alexander did finally become ruler of Macedonia, he began to conquer the East, and continued to do so until his death. His empire stretched over 3,000 miles from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River (Sacks).To conquer the other lands, Alexander led major campaigns across the continent. These campaigns were very successful. In this post, I would like to focus on one such battle, called the Battle of Granicus River.

Alexander the Great began to conquer the Persian Empire, and his first battle against the, was at the River Granicus. In summary, Alexander was up against a slightly smaller Persian army commanded by local Persian govenors. The majority of the battle was fought on horse with cavalry and on foot with soldiers, and took course over a few attempts by Alexander to cross the river, which led to his eventual victory. To delve further into this battle, I will first discuss the terrain of the river and its surrounding areas and how the two armies were set up.

Battle of Granicus River

Alexander the Great during the Battle of the Granicus River

First of all, the Persian armies were already posted on one side of the river, having their cavalry take the front line and line up along the whole side of the river. Being on higher elevation, the Persians had an advantage over anyone who would try to cross the river due to a high bank. The Persians were in number some 20,000 cavalrymen, along with a force of foreign mercenary infantry (Hammond).

Alexander’s forces were more numerous in size than the Persian army, but were at a disadvantage due to the river and elevation difference. Alexander was in command of the cavalry in the right wing of the army, Parmenion was in charge of the cavalry in the left wing, and the phalanx was in the center in the center, which consisted of two rows.

Alexander was urged by some of his close advisors not to charge across the river when they arrived, and was encouraged to wait at the foot of it until the next day and charge the enemy before they could get into formation. Alexander disregarded the instruction and said that is would be unworthy of the Macedonians if they did not do battle that day(Romm and Strassler).

Alexander led the first charge against the Persians with his unit of cavalry. They attempted to cross the river, but were unsuccessful. The other wing of the Macedonian army also began to cross the river, but also met resistance. Meanwhile, the main units of the Macedonian phalanx began to successfully cross the river with ease, and eventually gained the upper hand.

The Persians began to retreat, but no severe chase was given. Instead, Alexander turned his attention towards the foreign mercenaries that were still in formation. He ordered the phalanx to attack the front while he circled around back with his cavalry. They killed most of the mercenaries, but took around 2,000 alive as prisoners (Romm and Strassler).

And thus the Battle of the Granicus River was won. Although Alexander faced a disadvantage due to the landscape, he still was able to gain the upper hand and win a very decisive first victory against the Persian Empire.


Works Cited

Hammond, N. G. L. “The Battle of the Granicus River.” Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 100.Centennary Issue (1980): 73-88. Document.

Le Brun, Charles. Battle of the Granicus. Paris. Oil on canvas.

Oxford. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Micheal Gagarin. Vol. I. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Romm, James and Robert B. Strassler. The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. Print.

Sacks, David. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World: Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, 2005. Print.


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Blog post two: The Siege of Tyre

File:A naval action during the siege of Tyre by Andre Castaigne (1898-1899).jpg

(source: Wikimedia common) Andre Castaigne’s depiction of Alexander the Great’s siege of Tyre in 332 BC.

Siege engines have been used since antiquity to break down walls and gain access to walled or fortified cities.

Both Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II, used siege warfare as part of their military strategies.  In particular, Alexander the Great laid siege to the ancient island city of Tyre, Phoenicia, present day Lebanon, in 332 BC.

After Alexander’s success at the battle of Issus, he wanted to sacrifice to Heracles at Tyre.  Seeing this as a ploy to occupy the city, take the last Persian harbor, and increase his navy,  the Tyrians refused Alexander’s request, suggesting that he could still sacrifice to Heracles at old Tyre on the main land, but not at new Tyre.

Still intent on visiting and worshiping at the new temple of Melqart, a Phoenician God that would have been roughly equivalent to Heracles, Alexander sent representatives to try to negotiate with Tyre. However, the representatives were killed and their bodies were thrown over the walls of the city into the Mediterranean Sea. Alexander saw this as an act of defiance and declared war upon Tyre.

Women and children were evacuated from Tyre to Carthage.  As well as providing refuge to the Tyrians, they also promised aid in the form of ships to the Tyrians.

Tyre presented more than one tactical problem to Alexander due to the terrain; new Tyre was built on an island about a half mile out from shore.  Alexander did not have much of a navy at the time, nor did he have much of a way to be able to access the walled, island city. To address this, Alexander began the process of building a causeway out to Tyre so he could transport siege engines and begin breaking down the walls of the city.

Building the causeway was not terribly difficult for a while, the sea was shallow and Alexander’s men were able to fend off artillery attacks from Tyre.  However, the closer Alexander and his men got Tyre, the more intense the artillery fire became. The sea floor also took a dramatic, cliff-like drop about half way between the shore and Tyre. The siege weapons had to be covered in wet rawhide so they would not catch fire from the flaming arrows that Tyre shot at them.  Despite Alexander’s best efforts to keep his men safe, about 400 were killed in the process of building the causeway, breaking down the city walls and entering the city of Tyre.

After seven long months of fighting and blockades, Tyre fell to Alexander’s forces.  Of the original population of Tyre, 30,000 were sold into slavery, 2,000 were crucified on the beach and 6,000 were killed during the attack.  Alexander did worship Heracles at the temple of Melqart before moving on to subdue Gaza and Egypt.

Works Cited:

“A naval action during the siege of Tyre.” by Andre Castaigne. 1898-1899. 

“Alexander’s Siege of Tyre, 332 BC” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Web. 4 March 2014.

“Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia. Web. 4 March 2014

Bose, Partha. “Alexander The Great’s Art of Strategy.” India: Penguin Books, 1 May 2004. Web.

The Landmark Arrian: the campaigns of Alexander. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. Print.

“The Siege of Tyre.” Wikipedia. Web. 4 March 2014.

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