Alexander Blog

It is useful, in an attempt to more fully understand the world-shaking conquest of Alexander the Great, to view the context of his campaign. In learning about the state of the territories that he was to invade, both physically and in other, more temporary aspects, such as the political and cultural status’ of these lands, we discover elements that help to explain some of Alexander’s exceptional military success during his short reign.

The State of Greece

Alexander III of Macedon rose to power in 336 BC, following the assassination of his father Philip II by a royal bodyguard. His father’s accomplishments include the founding of the League of Corinth, a federation of Greek States, formed for mutual defense, as well as with intentions of conquering Persia, though Philip II died before any such campaign could be undertaken. The extent of his control can be seen in this map, where all the marked territories excepting Sparta, Crete, and the Persian Empire (naturally) could be considered his, though parts of it were still, at least in name, “independent” (such as Thrace and Molossia).

thumb

Upon Philip’s assassination, Alexander was the heir apparent and laid claim to the throne, though Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the some of the Thracian tribes in the northern reaches of the kingdom attempted to rebel. This was something of a kick-start to Alexander’s conquest, however, as his magnificent success in reconquering these rebellious territories–including the total destruction of Thebes–helped secure his native kingdom and established him in the eyes of his army as a capable leader from the very beginning of his campaign. Hence, when he turned toward Persia in 334 BC, his base in the Greek peninsula was stable.

The State of the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Achaemenid [Converted]

Interestingly, Darius III of the Achaemenid Persian Empire ascended the throne as the Persian “King of Kings” in the same year Alexander did, also as the result of his predecessor’s assassination, though his reign was fated to end far sooner than that of his contemporary, Alexander.

The vizier of the Persian empire for some years before 336 BC was a eunuch named Bagoas. Notably, during his time in that office, he was effectively the ruler of the Empire. Those emperors who attempted to assert dominance during this time were poisoned and replaced. However, when he selected Darius III as the new emperor after poisoning most of the family of Artaxerxes IV (as well as the man himself, naturally), Darius showed himself immediately to be dominant and, being forewarned of Bagoas’ tactics, forced his adviser to drink the poison intended for Darius. However, it appears that Darius may have had a harder time establishing his control in his Empire, as Alexander would make quite an indentation in the Persian border before meeting any real opposition from the Emperor.

The Terrain of Alexander’s Route

MacedonEmpire

Alexander spent much of his early conquest of Persia trying to remain close to river banks and the ocean, typically only departing from this approach when it was necessary to conquer a strategic target.. This was a mixed bag for him: it was basically necessary, assuming he wanted supplies to be able to reach his army quickly, and as it allowed his forces to minimize the advantage the more numerous Persian armies that (eventually) opposed them had, but at the same time this left them open to harassment by the Persian navy (sadly, until he conquered enough of Persia’s ports, Alexander had little to no navy of his own). When he did move inland, much of his travel was through mountainous terrain, particularly as he progressed closer to Alexandria Eschate (lit. “the furthest), the final reach of his stretch into Persia.

“File:Map Macedonia 336 BC-en.svg.” Wikimedia Commons. January 28, 2017. Accessed September 30, 2018. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Macedonia_336_BC-en.svg.

The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. “Bagoas.” Encyclopædia Britannica. April 11, 2016. Accessed September 30,2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bagoas.

Kia, Mehrdad. The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2016.

“Wars of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia. September 24, 2018. Accessed on September 30, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wars_of_Alexander_the_Great.

“File:The Achaemenid Empire at its Greatest Extent.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons. August 19, 2017. Accessed on October 1, 2018. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Achaemenid_Empire_at_its_Greatest_Extent.jpg.

caltrop101

 

What kind of troops would be effective?

Assuming we have around 60,000 total troops, choosing which types to bring requires us to understand what the enemy has. In one battle described by Kaushik Roy, Alexander fought against chariot archers, lightly armed cavalry, and disorganized infantry (Roy, 2004). Around 45,000 heavily armored men in the phalanx won’t have much difficulty with the enemy’s infantry, and around 5,500 heavy cavalry (called the companion cavalry) can help against the enemy’s chariots and cavalry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaemenid_Empire.

The bigger issue is that India has lots of elephants. When one of the massive beasts charges the phalanx, the dense group of soldiers get trampled and impaled by the iron tipped trunks. A charging elephant can eliminate large groups of men very fast. To help combat this, the phalanx must split up. Instead of being in a big group, they can be divided into smaller groups that stay close enough together to prevent the enemy from surrounding them, but also providing enough room for them to spread out when an elephant charges. They can surround it and attempt to drive it back into the enemy infantry. If it doesn’t work quite so perfectly, it will at least help reduce losses.

Another important group of units would be around 1,500 horse archers. Societies like the Scythians are excellent horse archers, recruit as many of them as possible to help with the not as excellent Macedonian mounted archers (Mounted Archery). Elephant riders would often carry poisoned spikes they could stab into the head of the elephant if it ever turned on its own troops. Archers could pick of the riders to leave the beast uncontrollable and aid in driving it back into the opposing infantry.

The remaining 8,000 troops could contribute to the phalanx or cavalry, but there are some other units that could be useful. Lighter infantry, possibly mercenaries, could make up a lighter infantry that can fight where the phalanx can’t. More archers can be beneficial, especially if they have high power bows that can pierce metal. War elephants can be good, but overall not many should be used because of their unpredictability. Elephants might be more useful as a pack animal, but still require a large amount of food and care.

How do we deal with our troops?

As conquering continues, cities will be established and provides an excellent opportunity to leave behind those who are severely wounded and those who have served their time and would like to stay.  To transport the sick and wounded, they can be carried in a wagon or slung over a pack animal in what is called a litter (Sternberg, 1999). New troops can be recruited from conquered regions and hired as mercenaries. It can be dangerous and expensive to do so, but will help maintain the number of troops. Winning battles will help keep mercenaries on our side.

 

Sources

Mounted Archery. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mounted_archery

Roy, K. (2004). India’s Historic Battles: From Alexander the Great to Kargil. Orient Blackswan.

Sternberg, Rachel Hall. “The Transport of Sick and Wounded Soldiers in Classical Greece.” Phoenix, vol. 53, no. 3/4, 1999, pp. 191–205. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1088983.

wingedhussar420

 

Alexander the Great Logistics

The first problem faced by any army is how to provide adequate food and water for a large number of soldiers. In the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate Alexander’s army would have marched through on their way to India, each soldier would require a minimum of 3,400 calories a day, including 70 grams of protein, and at least 9 quarts of water. With around 65,000 soldiers, the army would have to take along about 195,000 pounds of grain, 325,000 pounds of water, and about 375,000 additional pounds of grain to feed pack animals.

Another common problem was the issue of speed and flexibility. In the past, the ox-cart was the most common means of transport for armies traveling long distances. While it allowed more supplies to be moved, the carts only moved about two miles an hour for five hours. Ox-carts also required almost constant repair, necessitating the presence of repairmen, extra lumber, and tools, which added to the overall burden armies had to carry and slowed them even further. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the horse to military operations, allowing their armies greater speed and the ability to move over all types of terrain. While it took five horses to pull a load carried by one ox-cart, horses required almost half the amount of forage and were able to move the load at four miles an hour for eight hours. By the time of the Persians, the rapid growth of army size had created a logistical burden so large that speed and operational flexibility was becoming severely limited. The Persians’ use of horses as part of their military operations did a lot to remedy this issue, though they still relied heavily on the ox-cart. Phillip II and Alexander became the first to make horses a major part of their logistics train.

The mobility issue was further resolved by Phillip of Macedon, who was the first military commander to forbid the presence of camp followers in his armies. Before this, a typical army of 30,000 would bring with it almost the same number of attendants, wives, and various service providers. The logistics burden of his army was reduced by nearly 2/3 without the presence of these people, increasing the army’s combat power as well as the speed at which they were able to travel. Alexander’s army also maximized the speed at which it was able to travel by requiring each soldier to carry his own food and equipment. As a result, soldiers carried nearly 1/3 of the load normally hauled by horses and oxen and the army required almost 5,000 less pack animals.

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/le-brun/

Alexander the Great Logistics

The first problem faced by any army is how to provide adequate food and water for a large number of soldiers. In the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate Alexander’s army would have marched through on their way to India, each soldier would require a minimum of 3,400 calories a day, including 70 grams of protein, and at least 9 quarts of water. With around 65,000 soldiers, the army would have to take along about 195,000 pounds of grain, 325,000 pounds of water, and about 375,000 additional pounds of grain to feed pack animals.

Another common problem was the issue of speed and flexibility. In the past, the ox-cart was the most common means of transport for armies traveling long distances. While it allowed more supplies to be moved, the carts only moved about two miles an hour for five hours. Ox-carts also required almost constant repair, necessitating the presence of repairmen, extra lumber, and tools, which added to the overall burden armies had to carry and slowed them even further. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the horse to military operations, allowing their armies greater speed and the ability to move over all types of terrain. While it took five horses to pull a load carried by one ox-cart, horses required almost half the amount of forage and were able to move the load at four miles an hour for eight hours. By the time of the Persians, the rapid growth of army size had created a logistical burden so large that speed and operational flexibility was becoming severely limited. The Persians’ use of horses as part of their military operations did a lot to remedy this issue, though they still relied heavily on the ox-cart. Phillip II and Alexander became the first to make horses a major part of their logistics train.

The mobility issue was further resolved by Phillip of Macedon, who was the first military commander to forbid the presence of camp followers in his armies. Before this, a typical army of 30,000 would bring with it almost the same number of attendants, wives, and various service providers. The logistics burden of his army was reduced by nearly 2/3 without the presence of these people, increasing the army’s combat power as well as the speed at which they were able to travel. Alexander’s army also maximized the speed at which it was able to travel by requiring each soldier to carry his own food and equipment. As a result, soldiers carried nearly 1/3 of the load normally hauled by horses and oxen and the army required almost 5,000 less pack animals.

Sources Cited:

Kast, Bernahrd. “The Logistics of Alexander the Great.” Military History Visualized. April 19, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018. http://militaryhistoryvisualized.com/logistics_alexander_the_great/.

“Alexander the Great Needed Great Supply Chains.” SCM Globe. March 17, 2014. Accessed September 23, 2018. https://www.scmglobe.com/alexander-the-great-needed-great-supply-chains/.

“Ancient Macedonian Army.” Wikipedia. August 31, 2018. Accessed September 23, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Macedonian_army.

“Military Supply Chain Management.” Wikipedia. March 9, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_supply_chain_management.

artemisia189

 

Navigation in Ancient Times

Being able to get from place to place was important, not only for regular citizens, but especially for military campaigns.  Alexander would have used every possible tool at his disposal in his conquest of Persia and Asia. Basic maps would have been had among the military, but the real information about the terrain would have come from the native populations.

Alexander was known for using guides from the newly conquered people in order to move to the next place.  These guides often gave accurate information, but sometimes used their position of trust to deceive and mislead.  Treachery of this sort was swiftly dealt with, as the cost in time, supplies and even lives mattered a great deal.  (Engels, 331) Either the guides themselves acted as hostages for their own good performance, or else family members of the guides were taken to insure proper intelligence gathering. (Engels, 331-332)

Another tactic was to use social connections to be introduced in new places.  These friends or kinsmen led the way to the new location and made introductions with the locals in charge. (Stark, 107)  Having the personal connection made it much easier to overtake cities.

It is also important to note that trade routes and roads were used on some of the campaigns.  (Stark, 110) These roads were important not only for the movement of troops, but also for communication sent via horseback.Trekking_the_Old_Roman_Road

By Davidbena [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

For naval use, the employment of sounding weights would have given navigators information about the depth of the water and general topography of the seafloor.  The weight was usually dropped to measure the depth of the water near the shore, but also in times of inclement weather. (Oleson, 119-120)

Interesting Tidbits from the Research

As I was researching this topic, I came across several references to Zoroastrianism in Persia. Alexander got in quite a bit of trouble for going counter to their traditions.  In one instance, Alexander ordered the crucifixion of Bessus, and for the soldiers to keep the vultures away from the body. This upset the Zoroastrians, who believed that it was important for the dead to be devoured by birds and wild beasts. (Livius, 2.12)

People during this time were highly superstitious, and armies often had magicians and soothsayers as part of their advisors.  The final battle between Alexander and Darius III was foretold to spell doom for Darius because of a lunar eclipse. In fact, the omen was so widely known for its negative prediction that many in Darius’ army deserted before the battle began.  (Livius, Alexander the Great)

http://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/

http://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/alexander-2.12/

Engels, Donald. “Alexander’s Intelligence System.” The Classical Quarterly 30, no. 2 (1980): 327-40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/638503.

Oleson, John Peter. “Testing the Waters: The Role of Sounding Weights in Ancient Mediterranean Navigation.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes 6 (2008): 119-76. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40379301.

Stark, Freya. “Alexander’s March from Miletus to Phrygia.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 78 (1958): 102-20. doi:10.2307/628929.

iamcamalot

 

Punjab and Indus Valley, Approx. 327 BCE.

A well-planned and executed baggage train is essential for any successful military march, or at least for any march in the 4th century BCE. Alexander the Great’s cavalcade was no exception. The efficiency of a baggage train was generally rooted to the ability of its animals in terms of speed, survivability, and strength.

Before addressing the animals, it’s important to know what the “baggage” of a baggage train is. This is all of the army’s provisions: food, equipment, tents, medicine, firewood, etc. It’s also important to note that the followers in this march were not solely comprised of soldiers. In fact, the numbers were greatly bolstered by non-military individuals, as listed by Donald W. Engels:

Traveling with the Macedonians were bodyguards, older Macedonians exempt from combat duty, hostages, servants, seers, physicians, sophists, poets, a historian, a tutor, secretaries, surveyors, the transport guard, Egyptian and Babylonian soothsayers, Phoenician traders, courtesans, a harpist, a siege train, engineers, and as the expedition advanced further into Asia, women and children. (Engels 11)

Alexander was conscious of the size of his following, and took measures to downsize when appropriate. One method was to burn excess baggage and unnecessary carts (Engels 13). It goes without saying that limiting the number of wagons and carts and their respective beasts of burden would speed the march up.

As previously stated, a baggage train is only as good as its animals. Mules, horses, and camels would have been Alexander’s primary “motive power.” Between these three animals, Alexander’s march would be able to transport its cargo with relative speed and efficiency. Mules and horses were effective at weathering down a path for the army to follow (Hammond 28). Camels were capable in the same terrains as mules and horses, but were more strongly suited for desert terrain(Hammond 28). Donkeys and oxen were not used as they were too slow and unfit for long journeys (Hammond 14-15). These animals, though able to be loaded with packs, would have hindered the march.

camel

Having inherited his army from Philip, Alexander would have maintained most of the practices previously in place, including the general unfriendliness towards the usage of carts. Only carts carrying essential battle equipment of medical supplies were allowed (Engels 15). Among whatever other reasoning exists for this decision. It was thought that the usage of carts might encourage individuals to try and bring along cargo that was unimportant and a waste of space (Engels 16). As a general rule, personnel were to carry their own smaller possessions— weapons, armor, utensils, etc.— rather than take up valuable space in wagons or carts (Engels 12). The smaller the train was in both size and weight the easier it would be to traverse and troublesome terrain. According to Livius, the march would have ran into trouble when the Himalayan snows melted and filled rivers in the surrounding valleys. In cases such as these, smaller was better.

alexander-the-great-refusing-water-in-the-desert

As far as amounts go, Engels asserts that, “About 800 pack animals were required by each legion to carry its noncomestible supplies, or about one animal per seven combatants” (17), and notes the increase of Alexander’s army as time went on as he continues, “After crossing the Hellespont, there were about 48,000 soldiers in Alexander’s army and about 6,100 cavalry horses… 1,300 baggage animals would be required” (18).

Bibliography

“Alexander 2.13.” Livius, Last modified January 16, 2017. http://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/alexander-2.13/.

Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

Hammond, N. G. L. Army Transport in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries. Cambridge: Clare College, 1982.

Loaded CamelKisspng. Accessed September 30, 2018. https://www.kisspng.com/png-dromedary-bactrian-camel-baby-camels-clip-art-came-1464809/.

Lovell, Tom. “ Alexander The Great Refusing Water In The Desert.” . American Gallery. Accessed September 30, 2018. https://americangallery.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/tom-lovell-1909-1997/alexander-the-great-refusing-water-in-the-desert/.

aganippe

 

How do we know these things?

Using primary and secondary sources, historians and researchers have been able to piece together most of the information.  Some things have to be inferred based on other historical evidence not related to this particular campaign, but similar in both time period and other methodology.  Additionally, sources are useful for what they spell out, but they are equally useful for what they do not expressly tell. Depending on the audience intended for the original documents, certain information would have been left out based on social norms or the expectation that the intended audience would have already had some of the information.  

iamcamalot

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

From India to Persia. Alexander The Great’s Return.

  1. Place your blog in time and space: – medievallyme

Alexander the Great achieved many things throughout his life, a life that stretched from 356 BC to 323 BC, by most estimates. His reign ran from 336 BC to 323 BC, and much of that was spent on campaigns to conquer the world as Alexander knew it, even though his maps were incorrect about the world’s edge (“Indian campaign of Alexander the Great” 2018.) After Alexander had conquered Persia in 326 BC, he set his sights on India. The Conquest of India began in 327 BC and ended with Alexander returning home without conquering India after the battle of the Hydaspes River and the mutiny of his troops. After allowing himself to be persuaded by his troops and the signs that the gods were forcing him to turn back, such as an eclipsed moon which was a bad omen at the time, Alexander had to make a plan of how to return. If he returned through what was likely the easier route, through the kingdom of Porus, Pauravas, to Taxila and Gandara, he would be able to easily reach Alexandria in the Caucasus. But he risked looking like he had failed if he took that route. Therefore, he decided, in the end, to go to the ocean and utilize his ships to get back to Persia and Babylonia. This path would take them west, back to the Hydaspes river, with Alexander founding cities on the way. Once enough ships had been built, Alexander and his men could finally leave, with the fleet being escorted by two armies who marched on the west and east banks, but all did not go according to plan. They lost many ships and many more lives during the attempt. The Indus river which Alexander followed was populated by many people, who, unlike most, resisted Alexander’s control and conquest. Those who resisted met with a destructive, merciless genocide and found themselves under control of Alexander in the end. Those who were left, quickly surrendered and Alexander continued his journey home. Alexander continued southward, attacking and conquering all who were unlucky enough to end up in his path. However, he wanted to continue his journey up to the nearby sea when revolts prevented him. He continued his journey home. “One of the armies that was sent out to suppress the rebellions was commanded by Craterus, and was under orders to continue to the west, through the Bolan pass to Carmania and Persis. He commanded about a third of the army, including the war elephants; this means that Alexander did not want to expose all his men to the dangers that were ahead. After all, a large part of them would have to march through the Gedrosian desert, others were to sail along the almost unknown shores of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf(Lendering 2017).” His troops suffered greatly in the desert, but the natives of the desert suffered more so. However, they made it through and Alexander returned to Babylon where he resided for his final days.

indus_valley_map

(Lendering 2017)

Gedrosia-Map-Route-of-Alexander-1823-Lucas.png

Yeager, J. Alexandri Magni Itinera. Public Domain, 1823. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gedrosia-Map-Route-of-Alexander-1823-Lucas.png

  1. Army – sombodycallixii – 2.1 Sections of the army – beholdaman – 2.2 numbers and make up of the army

Before exploring the conquests of Alexander the Great it is important to know how the Macedonian army functioned. There were two main sectors of this army the infantry and the cavalry. The infantry would have made up the bulk of the army, they were the foot soldiers, known as pezhetarios in Greek. The sarissa was the primary weapon of the heavy infantry, it was essentially a long pike. It had a sharp blade of iron on the offensive and and a spike on the opposite so that it could be braced on the ground during an attack. The spike also acted as a counterbalance for the sarissa, as the weapon was several meters long (English 16). Because of the weapon’s length it was purely an offensive weapon, and was ineffective for defense. The effectiveness of this weapon was vital to the formation of the troops that wielded it.  They fought in an improved phalanx formation, every member of the phalanx would have had a sarissa of the same length, allowing for the formation to create an impenetrable wall of spears. Should a break occur in the wall of spears they lost nearly all effectiveness (English 7). The infantry troops that traveled with Alexander were highly trained on how to fight and move on any terrain, something that was a weakness in for less trained soldiers fighting in similar fashion. While traveling it is likely that the weapons were carried by the baggage train, as marching with the lengthy weapons would have been impractical, if an attack was suspected the weapons would have been carried vertically by the infantrymen. In situations were the sarissa would have been an impractical weapon a hoplite spear or javelin would have been used. The infantry wore very little armor to increase mobility. They wore only a small shield that attached to their arm and shoulder, so their could wield their weapons with both hands (English 25).

Much was asked of the infantry and by the time they reached India they were exhausted from the fighting and travel. When they reached the Hyphasis river they revolted against Alexander and his desire to reach the ocean. They refused to march forward and as a result Alexander eventually agreed to turn back, claiming that he had received a message from the gods that continuing the campaign would be unfavorable. He still insisted that they still sail down the Indus to the Southern Ocean and return home from there (Worthington 251-253).

Alexander’s cavalry was instrumental in his success during his campaign. The cavalry was the main strike force of the army. They were divided into two sections. The first were known as the prodromoi, they were the lighter cavalry, they were typically used as scouts and surveyors. The other section consisted of the Companion cavalry, they were used more directly in battle (Wasson). The cavalry were armed with a shorter version of the sarissa, called a xyston, that would have been easier to wield while riding, though it was stated to be no less than 8 cubits long, or about 3.5 meters. This weapon had a spear point on each end, so that if it were to break, the rider could turn it around and still have a weapon, it was light enough to be thrown as a javelin (English 56). In addition to the xyston they also carried a sword for close combat. A sizable portion of the cavalry during the campaign to India would have been comprised of previously Persian cavalry. It is likely that they were incorporated into the cavalry from early on, and did not have separate ranks. Part of what made Alexander’s cavalry so successful is that members of each section were able to perform the tasks of the other without much trouble, this allowed for exchange of riders to perform whichever task was needed. The versatility and training of Alexander the Great’s army is what lead to his great success throughout his campaign.

 

Alexander the great took approximately 120,000 foot soldiers and 15,000 cavalry into India and returned with barely a fourth of them (Plutarch). Alexander disband the expensive and unruly mercenary armies hired while in Asia and replaced with native soldiers (Bosworth, 148). These new armies were tasked with maintaining newly conquered lands in Alexander’s name and did not make the return trip. This left 48,000 men marching toward the coast. After the mutiny at Opis, which forced Alexander to cease expanding his empire east, he was bitter toward his men and commanders. This showed in his treatment and choices in moving his army back to Persia and eventually Macedonia. He chose a meandering path that separated him from many of his commanding officers. Veterans were dismissed and given land in Asia as reward, with very little hope of returning home (Bosworth, 3,5).

There were many more battles on the way back to Macedonia. During one, known as the siege of Malli, Alexander had received his reinforcements of 30,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry (Worthington, 253). With his numbers replenished with men from Greece, Thrace and Babylon, he laid siege to Malli. 6,500 foot and 2,000 calvary went north with Alexander, including mounted archers, the rest were divided between Craterus, Philip, Hephastion, and Nearchus to attack the city from all directions (Worthington, 254).  During battle Alexander was shot in the chest and out through the neck and his men, upon seeing their king lying prone in his own blood, went into a rage winning the battle by genocide (Plutarch). At various stages of his recovery, Alexander bolstered his mens’ courage by riding and walking among them, some were moved to tears and cheering (Worthington, 256).

Upon reaching the coast the army was divided, 18,000 were to return by boat under the command of Admiral Nearchus (Bosworth, 145) while Alexander lead the remaining 30,000 by a southerly route (Bosworth, 142). This division was to keep Nearchus, and other high ranking officials, from further influencing soldiers against Alexander (Plutarch). However, he didn’t have to worry about maintaining support from his men. Despite their insistence on abandoning the campaign, they remained notoriously loyal.

Alexander allegedly lead his portion of the army through the Gedrosian desert to establish his historical dominance over “previous rulers, such as Semiramis, Queen of Assyria, and Cyrus the Great, who had lost almost all of their men” (Worthington, 261) trying to cross. This decision is widely cited as the biggest military blunder of Alexander’s reign (worthington, 261).  During the difficult journey through Gedrosia the wounded and ill were left behind to either die or recover and follow to army later (Plutarch). At this point, while still engaging in battles, these was very little recruitment happening while still in Asia. The army would have consisted of primarily macedonians and persians trained like them, with a few native soldiers to aid with terrain and field medicine specific to the area (Bosworth, 5,7). The home army of Macedonia had been ordered to meet the returning army in Persia to help squash a forming rebellion (Bosworth, 148).

 

  1. Supplies – Cassandra57

An army is only as good as it’s soldiers, and soldiers need food, water, and armor. With an army of 30,000 men, there had to be plenty of supplies in order for Alexander the Great’s campaign to be successful. On the way back from India, Alexander decided to cross the Gedrosian desert. This came with many hardships having to do with food, water, and other supplies.

It is helpful to note that the Macedonian soldiers were required to provide their own armor, which was often passed down through generations. However, this was not always a possibility. Alexander accounted for this and ordered 25,000 pieces of armor to be delivered to India for the soldiers (MILHISVIS). This should have provided for the clothing needs of the army for the conquest of India and the return home.

Alexander the Great’s return from India was met with many hardships while crossing the Gedrosian Desert. According to Plutarch, when Alexander’s army first came to Gerdosia, “[They] found great plenty of all things, which the neighboring kings and governors of provinces, hearing of his approach, had taken care to provide. When he had here refreshed his army…” (44). This would have given the army rest before crossing the desert and supplied them for the journey. However, water and food rations were scarce, and many soldiers and pack animals died from dehydration and sun exposure during the crossing of the desert.

Water was especially a concern while marching across the dry sand dunes. Alexander tried to stay close to the coast, but there was never a guarantee of when they would find drinkable water. Once they found a water source, Alexander would often make his camp a few miles from it. He did this because the soldiers were so thirsty that they would drink too much or fling themselves into the pool or stream and end up drowning themselves which contaminated the water for everyone else (Nicomedia). Alexander, however,  was not oblivious to the struggles of his army. One famous story relates how scouts who were sent ahead to search for water came back and put some of the water they brought back into a helmet. As soon as Alexander received the helmet of water, he poured it onto the sand in front of all his troops because if they couldn’t drink, neither would he. This was said to have rallied his army enough that it was as if they had all drunk from the helmet (Mensch 262).

Food was another concern while crossing the Gedrosian desert. At one time Alexander and his army came across a place in Gedrosia that had a lot of grain. Alexander sealed as much as he could of this to send to his other troops. However, the soldiers, being so overcome with hunger, disregarded Alexander’s wishes and ate the grain themselves. Instead of punishing them, Alexander pardoned them and requested that more grain be ground so that the soldiers could purchase it (Mensch 259-260). It was also common that soldiers would kill one of the pack animals once the supplies it was carrying ran out and claim that it died from exhaustion or dehydration so that they could eat it (Nicomedia).

Crossing the desert was a long and difficult journey. Soldiers often became desperate and acted purely out of extreme hunger and thirst. Through Alexander’s leadership and understanding of the hardships he was putting his army though, his troops made it across Gedrosia despite the lack of proper provisions.

 

  1. How do you find your way in an era without GPS and with only rudimentary maps? – medievallyme

        The people of today often take for granted how much easier things have become for them because of the rise of technology. Even now, computers, smartphones, and the Internet allows for almost instant knowledge of whatever suits their fancy. And often, that information is correct, and people can discover why it is correct with just a twitch of the wrist. However, in older times, this was not the case. For seafaring folk, the secret was staying in sight of the land, where they could line up landmarks to the distant shore to figure out where they were going (Tyson 1998.) But that could only get people so far. Those who wanted to travel would have to rely on other things, such as celestial navigation, which utilizes the stars at night and the sun in the daytime (Whitaker 2012). This was a relatively easy navigation due to the fact that required very simple knowledge of the skies above. Ironically, in this day and age, celestial navigation would be all but impossible for those without extremely good vision or tools, due to light pollution. And these techniques were enhanced by the development of charts, and tools to track and record the observations of the heavens, even when they were out of their depth. They developed the mariner’s compass, which utilizes magnetism to work. However, these were often incorrect due to the lack of understanding of magnetic variation (Wells 2016.) Therefore, the variety of options gave those who wanted to travel some ability to do so, but they were only as good as the tools and knowledge that created them.

 

  1. Baggage Train and how it affected the march of the troops – scaleydragon

Alexander the Great’s baggage train consisted of either two-wheelers, four-wheelers, or six-wheeler carts with horses, camels, and “under-the-yoke” animals (also known as oxen carriages) (Hammond, 2011).
Alexander the Great acquired many treasures during his way to India. On his way back, he tamed Indian Elephants with the help of Indian Elephant Hunters to add to his treasures and baggage train (Kimmich 300). Although two elephants were killed in this hunt, the rest were added to Alexander the Great’s treasure. These elephants numbered to at least 30 (Kimmich 300).

fasf.307367

Anonymous. Untitled (two elephants in combat). circa 1700. Artstor, library.artstor.org/asset/AMICO_SAN_FRANCISCO_103847271

He had his troops create ships from wood that numbered to be a fleet. The fleets had to be enough to carry up to 3000 sacrificial animals, 10,000 sheep, the 30 acquired war elephants, 200 talents of silver, 700 Indian Riders, and the rest of his troops (ranging from 13,000-14,000 infantry and 3,000-5,000 cavalry) (Kimmich 300, 470, 471). During Alexander the Great’s conquest from India and going back to Persia, it was known that he would leave some spoils of war in cities or areas where he was dubbed royalty or was defeated (Gogiashvili 199). This decreased how much his troops had to carry back to Persia but not by a lot since he was known to still carry a lot of his spoils. He would also celebrate each victory and use his sacrificial animals for the occasions (usually when he won battles or dubbed of royalty) (Kimmich 300).
Alexander the Great was known to have a large army, but a lot of the troops died from storms and harsh weather (Kimmich 332). This affected how much his supplies needed to be tossed to maintain the pace of the army. However, his army and supplies would always be replenished via gifts, foreign recruits, and spoils of war (Kimmich 331). So his baggage train always fluctuates depending on the location, weather, and where his troops stand in inhabited areas.
With the deaths of many troops, losses of battles and skirmishes, and daunting trails and roads, Alexander the Great’s baggage train formation was fantastic at keeping his troops’ morale high enough to push through the negativity. Each calvary was restricted to once calvary to one groom to move wagons of their loot and it was reported that high officers would bring lute girls to raise morale and relief stress from the long marches in full heat and equipment (Kimmich 32). It was also noted he would leave some baggage trains behind or hidden for days during battles and skirmishes (Kimmich 30).
Alexander the Great would abandon some baggage trains in larger battles. He would say to his troops that if they don’t overcome the enemy by any means necessary, their baggage train would mean nothing to them if they were dead. But if they succeed, they wouldn’t need their baggage trains anymore since they would have their enemy’s supplies and baggage (Kimmich 497). For battles, Alexander the Great’s enemies would always be up against veteran troops under the direction of a military genius who is in a do-or-die situation and is willing to do anything to win. This always set up Alexander the Great to rise in almost all situations.

In general, Alexander would have strict, quick marches, blitzkrieg battles, and tossing/abandoning of baggage trains during his trip from India to Persia. The delays to his trip back were definitely weather, troops dying, and terrain such as desert hills (Hammond, 2011). The pace was quick but had a lot of setbacks.

 

  1. How do we know this information? – scaleydragon

A lot of our sources were historians or historians/translators sourcing histories. Johann Gustav Droysen is a notable German historian who studies Alexander the Great’s conquest from Persia to India with Flora Kimmich translating his works. Kimmich also translated other novels such as Wallenstein and Fiesco at Genoa.
Plutarch, a notable Greek-Roman biographer and Arrian of Nicomedia, a notable Greek historian both studied Alexander the Great and are both hailed as some of the best sources for Alexander the Great’s biography and life.
Some of our other sources are organizations or bloggers are professionals in the history field or is citing sources who are experts in the field. Military History Visualized is run by an Austrian who has a Master of Arts in History from the University of Salzburg (Austria) (MilHisVis FAQ).

7. Interesting Information – scaleydragon

Alexander the Great rode Bucephalus, a “horse with fire-breathing nostrils”  (Gogiashvili 204).

8. Works Cited/References – scaleydragon, medievallyme, Cassandra57, sombodycallixii, beholdaman

Anonymous. “Untitled (two elephants in combat).” circa 1700. Artstor, library.artstor.org/asset/AMICO_SAN_FRANCISCO_103847271

Bosworth, A. B. “Alexander the Great and the Decline of Macedon.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 106, 1986, pp. 1–12. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/629639.

English, Stephen. The Army of Alexander the Great. Pen and Sword, 2009. EBSCOhost, hal.weber.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e025xna&AN=462608&site=ehost-live.

Gogiashvili, Elene. “Alexander of Macedon in Georgian Folktales.” Folklore, vol. 127, no. 2, Aug. 2016, pp. 196-209. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/0015587X.2016.1147221.

Hagerman, Christopher. “In the Footsteps of the ‘Macedonian Conqueror’: Alexander the Great and British India.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition, vol. 16, no. 3/4, Dec. 2009, pp. 344-392. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12138-009-0130-6.

Hammond, N. G. L. (2011). Army transport in the fifth and fourth centuries. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 24(1), 27-31.

“Indian Campaign of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_campaign_of_Alexander_the_Great#Aftermath.

Kimmich, Flora, et al. “Johann Gustav Droysen: HISTORY OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 102, no. 3, 2012, pp. I-605. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24395532.

Lendering, Jona. “Alexander 2.13-2.16.” Livius, 16 Jan. 2017, http://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/alexander-2.13/.

Lendering, Jona. “Map of Alexander’s Indian Campaign.” Livius, 16 Jan. 2017, http://www.livius.org/pictures/a/maps/map-of-alexanders-indian-campaign/.

MilHisVis. “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).” Military History Visualized – Offical Homepage for the YouTube Channel, Miltary History Visualized, 30 Mar. 2018, militaryhistoryvisualized.com/faq/.

MilHisVis. “The Logistics of Alexander the Great.” Military History Visualized – Offical Homepage for the YouTube Channel, Miltary History Visualized, 22 May 2016, militaryhistoryvisualized.com/logistics_alexander_the_great/.

Nicomedia, Arrian of. “Alexander in the Gedrosian Desert.” Pliny the Younger – Livius, Livius, 28 Aug. 2016, http://www.livius.org/sources/content/arrian/anabasis/alexander-in-the-gedrosian-desert/.

Ptsinari. “Alexander the Great: a Very Competent Expert in Finances.” Archaeology Wiki, Archaeology & Arts, 30 Nov. 2012, http://www.archaeology.wiki/blog/opinion/alexander-the-great-a-very-competent-expert-in-finances/.

Yeager, J. Alexandri Magni Itinera. Public Domain, 1823. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gedrosia-Map-Route-of-Alexander-1823-Lucas.png

Leave a comment

Filed under Class Stuff

Username

Hello all!  I chose the username iamcamalot as a play on words.  I love the story of King Arthur, along with the musical Camelot, and it works because of the nickname I get called sometimes.  I am not as well versed in Ancient and Medieval history as I’d like, and I thought that this class might give me some more insights into that time period.  Plus, who doesn’t like learning about ancient smackdowns?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Username

Hello class. My name is Jacob Sandgathe, and I chose the name “Isaac, son of Abrahm.” I chose this name because my full name is Jacob Isaac Sandgathe. 2/3rds of my name is biblical so I figured I would associate it with the Bible. I’ve never identified myself as Isaac before, but I figured here would be a good start.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Username Backstory

I chose the username Beholdaman because it is a reference to one of my favorite interactions between Greek philosophers. Plato defined humans as “featherless bipeds” to which his philosophical rival, Diogenes, brought a plucked chicken to the steps of Plato’s academy proclaiming “Behold, a man!” Learning about this helped me to see how history, especially ancient history, is romanticized. For me at least, the philosophers were peaceable old men quietly teaching and discussing great moral questions. All with a side of subtle social commentary. I now know that they disagreed and often fought. It has helped me to view historical figures as human.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Username

whaddup y’all

I picked my username because Artemisia of Caria was a queen, navy general, and military strategist who fought in the Persian War and I thought she was really cool. The 18 is for my birthday, and the 9 is completely random because everything else was taken.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Username

My username codexromana99 is based off of my favorite book series the Codex Alera. It’s about a land settled by the missing Legio IX Hispana (A Roman legion that went missing) which got transported to a different world, so the books are based on Roman culture which I am really interested in. 99 is my birth year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized