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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s