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.
“Alexander The Great.” LibertyReferences.com. http://www.libertyreferences.com/alexander-the-great.shtml
Bose, Partha. Alexander the great the art of strategy. Penguin Books India. May 1, 2004. http://books.google.com/books?id=KZI18k24niIC&pg=PA50&dq=alexander+the+great+intelligence+gathering&hl=en&sa=X&ei=0n4PU-XYC8z6oAT_7YD4BA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=alexander%20the%20great%20intelligence%20gathering&f=false
Curtius, Quintus. History of Alexander with an English translation. Ed. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1946. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015008158415;view=1up;seq=157
Lendering, Jona. ” Alexander the Great, The Good Sources.” Livius. Web http://www.livius.org/aj- al/alexander/alexander_z1b.html