Darius III Codomannus

(  336 to 330 B.C. )

Codomannus, the last of the Persian kings, might with some reason have complained, like Plato, that nature had brought him in the world too late. Personally brave, as he proved himself into the Cadusian ( north-western Iran )war, and was a former satrap of Armenia .Tall and strikingly handsome, amiable in temper, capable of considerable exertion, and not altogether devoid of military capacity, he would have been a fairly good ruler in ordinary times, and might, had he fallen upon such times, have held an honorable place among the Persian monarchs. But he was unequal to the difficulties of such a position as that in which he found himself. Raised to the throne after the victory of Chaeroneia had placed Philip at the head of Greece, and when a portion of the Macedonian forces had already passed into Asia, he was called upon to grapple at once with a danger of the most formidable kind, and had but little time for preparation, soon after subduing a revolt in Egypt .


It is true that Philip's death soon after his own accession gave him a short breathing-space: but at the same time it threw him off his guard. The military talents of Alexander were untried, and of course unknown; the perils which he had to encounter were patent. Codomannus may be excused if for some months after Alexander's accession he slackened his preparations for defence, uncertain whether the new monarch would maintain himself, whether he would overpower the combinations which were formed against him in Greece, whether he would inherit his father's genius for war, or adopt his ambitious projects. It would have been wiser, no doubt, as the event proved, to have joined heart and soul with Alexander's European enemies, and to have carried the war at once to the other side of the Egean. But no great blame attaches to the Persian monarch for his brief inaction. As soon as the Macedonian prince had shown by his campaigns in Thrace, Illyria, and Boeotia that he was a person to be dreaded, Darius Codomannus renewed the preparations which he had discontinued, and pushed them forward with all the speed that was possible. A fleet was rapidly got ready: the satraps of Asia Minor were reinforced with troops of good quality from the interior of the Empire, and were ordered to raise a strong force of mercenaries; money was sent into Greece to the Lacedaemonians and others in order to induce them to create disturbances in Europe; above all, Memnon the Rhodian, a brother of Mentor, and a commander of approved skill, was sent to the Hellespont, at the head of a body of Greeks in Persian pay, with an authority co-ordinate to that of the satraps.

A certain amount of success at first attended these measures. Memnon was able to act on the offensive in North-Western Asia. He marched upon Cyzicus and was within a little of surprising it, obtaining from the lands and villas without the walls an immense booty. He forced Parmenio to raise the seige of Pitane; and when Callas, one of the Macedonian leaders, endeavored to improve the condition of things by meeting the Persian forces in the open field, he suffered a defeat and was compelled to throw himself into Rhoeteum.


Alexander crosses the Hellespont



 The true story of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire

These advantages, however, were detrimental rather than serviceable to the Persian cause; since they encouraged the Persian satraps to regard the Macedonians as an enemy no more formidable than the various tribes of Greeks with whom they had now carried on war in Asia Minor for considerably more than a century. The intended invasion of Alexander seemed to them a matter of no great moment?o be classed with expeditions like those of Thimbron and Agesilaus, not to need, as it really did, to be placed in a category of its own. Accordingly, they made no efforts to dispute the passage of the Hellespont, or to oppose the landing of the expedition on the Asiatic shore. Alexander was allowed to transport a force of 30,000 foot and 4000 or 5000 horse from the Chersonese to Mysia without the slightest interference on the part of the enemy, notwithstanding that his naval power was weak and that of the Persians very considerable. This is one of those pieces of remissness in the Persian conduct of military matters, whereof we have already had to note signal instances, and which constantly caused the failure of very elaborate and judicious preparations to meet a danger. Great efforts had been made to collect and equip a numerous fleet, and a few weeks later it was all-powerful in the Egean. But it was absent exactly at the time when it was wanted. Alexander's passage and landing were unopposed, and the Persians thus admitted within the Empire without a struggle the enemy who was fated to destroy it.


Campaign of Alexander  


When the Persian commanders heard that Alexander was in Asia, they were anxious to give him battle. One alone, the Rhodian Greek, Memnon, proposed and urged a wholly different plan of operations. Memnon advised that a general engagement should be avoided, that the entire country should be laid waste, and even the cities burnt, while the army should retire, cut off stragglers, and seek to bring the enemy into difficulties. At the same time he recommended that the fleet should be brought up, a strong land force embarked on board it, and an effort made to transfer the war into Europe. But Memnon's colleagues, the satraps and commandants of the north-western portion of Asia Minor, could not bring themselves to see that circumstances required a line of action which they regarded as ignominious. It is not necessary to attribute to them personal or selfish motives. They probably thought honestly that they were a match for Alexander with the troops at their disposal, and viewed retreat before an enemy numerically weaker than themselves as a disgrace not to be endured unless its necessity was palpable. Accordingly they determined to give the invader battle. Supposing that Alexander, having crossed into Asia at Abydos, would proceed to attack Dascyleium, the nearest satrapial capital, they took post on the Granicus, and prepared to dispute the further advance of the Macedonian army. They had collected a force of 20,000 cavalry of the best quality that the Empire afforded, and nearly the same number of infantry, who were chiefly, if not solely, Greek mercenaries. With these they determined to defend the passage of the small stream above mentioned?ne of the many which flow from the northern flank of Ida into the Propontis.


The Battle of Granicus 334 B.C.



The Battle of the Granicus (334 B.C.E.)

The battle thus offered was eagerly accepted by the Macedonian. If he could not defeat with ease a Persian force not greatly exceeding his own, he had miscalculated the relative goodness of the soldiers on either side, and might as well desist from the expedition. Accordingly, he no sooner came to the bank of the river, and saw the enemy drawn up on the other side, than, rejecting the advice of Parmenio to wait till the next day, he gave orders that the whole army should enter the stream and advance across it. The Granicus was in most places fordable; but there were occasional deeper parts, which had to be avoided; and there was thus some difficulty in reaching the opposite bank in line. That bank itself was generally steep and precipitous, but offered also several gentle slopes where a landing was comparatively easy. The Persians had drawn up their cavalry along the line of the river close to the water's edge, and had placed their infantry in the rear. Alexander consequently attacked with his cavalry. The engagement began upon the right. Amytas and Ptolemy, who were the first to reach the opposite bank, met with a strenuous resistance and were driven back into the stream by the forces of Memnon and his sons. The battle, however, on this side was restored by Alexander himself, who gradually forced the Persians back after a long hand-to-hand fight, in which he received a slight wound, and slew with his own hand several noble Persians. Elsewhere the resistance was less determined. Parmenio crossed on the left with comparative ease, by his advance relieving Alexander. The Persians found the long spears of the Macedonians and their intermixture of light-armed foot with heavy-armed cavalry irresistible.


 Alexander Enters Babylon

The Macedonians seem to have received orders to strike at their adversaries' faces style of warfare which was as unpleasant to the Persians as it was to the soldiers of Pompey at Pharsalia. Their line was broken where it was opposed to Alexander and his immediate companions; but the contagion of disorder rapidly spread, and the whole body of the cavalry shortly quitted the field, after having lost a thousand of their number. Only the infantry now remained. Against these the Macedonian phalanx was brought up in front, while the cavalry made repeated charges on either flank with overwhelming effect. Deserted by their horse, vastly outnumbered, and attacked on all sides, the brave mercenaries stood firm, fought with desperation, and were mostly slaughtered where they stood. Two thousand out of the 20,000 probably wounded men were made prisoners. The rest perished, except a few who lay concealed among the heaps of slain.

The Persians lost by the battle 20,000 of their best footmen, and one or two thousand horse. Among their slain the proportion of men of rank was unusually large. The list included Spithridates, satrap of Lydia, Mithrobarzanes, governor of Cappadocia, Pharnaces, a brother-in-law, and Mithridates, a son-in-law of Darius, Arbupales, a grandson of Artaxerxes Mnemon, Omares, the commander of the mercenaries, Niphates, Petines, and Ehoesaces, generals. The Greek loss is said to have been exceedingly small. Aristobulus made the total number of the slain thirty-four; Arrian gives it as one hundred and fifteen, or a little over. It has been suspected that even the latter estimate is below the truth; but the analogy furnished by the other great victories of the Greeks over the Persians tends rather to confirm Arrian's statement.


Reasons for Alexander's Success



Why was Alexander's army so successful against the Persians ? The core of his army and calvary had the best training of the day and much experience in the wars of Greece . For the first time is history the Greek cavalry became a real striking force.  The heavily armed, highly mobile foot soldiers were organized in phalaxs and armed with long pikes 13-21 feet long (sarissa) It is said that Alexander's father used  them to conquer Greece. Alexander often used the oblique order of battle, where an army focuses it forces to attack a single enemy or flank . This allows armies with a smaller force to gain local superiority


The Greek Footsoldier or hoplite was protected by heavier defensive armour than the Persians, such as : helmet (kranos), cuirass (thorax), shield (aspis) and greaves or leg guards (knimis). The hoplite gets his name from his shield, the hoplon.This Greek phalanx was the ancient world's best heavy infantry, demonstrated by the Athenian victory at Marathon. The heavier armour of the Greeks could deflect most of the Persian arrows, the main Persian weapon, while Persian armour was lighter and many time the Persian soldiers head was only protected by a felt hat, while the Greeks had helmets .


While the Persian cavalry usually had larger horses than the Greeks, the Persian javelins and swords were no matchfor the lanceand broad swords of the Greeks .

After the Battle

The battle of the Granicus threw open to Alexander the whole of Asia Minor. There was no force left in the entire country that could venture to resist him, unless protected by walls. Accordingly, the Macedonian operations for the next twelve months, or during nearly the whole space that intervened between the battles of the Granicus and of Issus, consist of little more than a series of marches and sieges. The reader of Persian history will scarcely wish for an account of these operations in detail. Suffice it to say that Alexander rapidly overran Lydia, Ionia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Phrygia, besieged and took Miletus, Halicarnassus, Marmareis, and Sagalassus, and received the submission of Dascyleium, Sardis, Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, the Lycian Telmisseis, Pinara, Xanthus, Patara, Phaselis, Side, Aspendus, Celaenee, and Gordium. This last city was the capital of Phrygia; and there the conqueror for the first time since his landing gave himself and his army a few months' rest during the latter part of the winter.

With the first breath of spring his forces were again in motion. Hitherto anxious with respect to the state of things on the coast and in Greece, he had remained in the western half of Asia Minor, within call of his friends in Macedonia, at no time distant more than about 200 miles from the sea. Now intelligence reached him which made him feel at liberty to advance into the interior of Asia. Memnon the Rhodian fell sick and died in the early spring of B.C. 333. It is strange that so much should have depended on a single life; but it certainly seems that there was no one in the Persian service who, on Memnon's death, could replace him?o one fitted for the difficult task of uniting Greeks and Asiatics together, capable of influencing and managing the one while he preserved the confidence of the other. Memnon's death disconcerted all the plans of the Great King, who till it occurred had fully intended to carry the war into his enemy's country. It induced Darius even to give up the notion of maintaining a powerful fleet, and to transfer to the land service the most efficient of his naval forces. At the same time it set Alexander free to march wherever he liked, liberating him from the keen anxiety, which he had previously felt, as to the maintenance of the Macedonian power in Europe.

It now became the object of the Persian king to confront the daring invader of his Western provinces with an army worthy of the Persian name and proportionate to the vastness of the Empire. He had long been collecting troops from many of the most warlike nations, and had got together a force of several hundred thousand men. Forgetting the lessons of his country's previous history, he flattered himself that the host which he had brought together was irresistible, and became anxious to hurry on a general engagement. Starting from Babylon, probably about the time that Alexander left Gordium in Phrygia, he marched up the valley of the Euphrates, and took up a position at Sochi, which was situated in a large open plain, not far from the modern Lake of Antioch. On his arrival there he heard that Alexander was in Cilicia at no great distance; and the Greeks in his service assured him that it would not be long before the Macedonian monarch would seek him out and accept his offer of battle. But a severe attack of illness detained Alexander at Tarsus, and when he was a little recovered, troubles in Western Cilicia, threatening his communications with Greece, required his presence; so that Darius grew impatient, and, believing that his enemy had no intention of advancing further than Cilicia, resolved to seek him in that country. Quitting the open plain of Sochi, he marched northwards, having the range of Amanus on his left, almost as far as the thirty-seventh parallel, when turning sharply to the west, he crossed the chain, and descended upon Issus, in the inner recess of the gulf which bore the same name. Here he came upon Alexander's hospitals, and found himself to his surprise in the rear of his adversary, who, while Darius was proceeding northwards along the eastern flank of Amanus, had been marching southwards between the western flank of the same range and the sea. Alexander had crossed the Pylse, or narrowest portion of the pass, and had reached Myriandrus? little beyond Iskonderum?hen news reached him that Darius had occupied Issus in his rear, and had put to death all the sick and wounded Macedonians whom he had found in the town.

At first he could not credit the intelligence; but when it was confirmed by scouts, whom he sent out, he prepared instantly to retrace his steps, and to fight his first great battle with the Persian king under circumstances which he felt to be favorable beyond anything that he could have hoped. The tract of flat land between the base of the mountains and the sea on the borders of the Gulf of Issus was nowhere broader than about a mile and a half. The range of Amanus on the east rose up with rugged and broken hills, so that on this side the operations of cavalry were impracticable. It would be impossible to form a line of battle containing in the front rank more than about 4000 men,1048 and difficult for either party to bring into action as many as 30,000 of their soldiers. Thus the vast superiority of numbers on the Persian side became in such a position absolutely useless, and even Alexander had more troops than he could well employ. No wonder that the Macedonian should exclaim, that "God had declared Himself on the Grecian side by putting it into the heart of Darius to execute such a movement." It may be that Alexander's superior generalship would have made him victorious even on the open plain of Sochi; but in the defile of Issus success was certain, and generalship superfluous.


The Battle of Issus 333 B.C.

Famous mosiac of the Battle of Issus from Pompei


Darius had started from Issus in pursuit of his adversary, and had reached the banks of the Pinarus, a small stream flowing westward from Amanus into the Mediterranean, when he heard that Alexander had hastened to retrace his stops, and was coming to meet him. Immediately he prepared for battle. Passing a force of horse and foot across the stream in his front, to keep his adversary in check if he advanced too rapidly, he drew up his best troops along the line of the river in a continuous solid mass, the ranks of which must have been at least twenty deep. Thirty thousand Greek mercenaries formed the centre of the line, while on either side of them were an equal number of Asiatic "braves" kicked probably from the mass of the army. Twenty thousand troops of a lighter and inferior class were placed upon the rough hills on the left, the outskirts of the Amanian range, where the nature of the ground allowed them to encircle the Macedonian right, which, to preserve its ranks unbroken, kept the plain. The cavalry, to the number of 30,000, was massed upon the other wing, near the sea.

Short animation covering details of one of the greates victories of Alexander the Great. Near the ancient town of Issus Macedonian army encountered forces led by Darius III Codomannus, the King of Persian Empire. Thanks to this victory, Alexander was able to expand his Kingdom eastwards and cross into Syria.

The battle began by certain movements of Alexander against the flank force which menaced his right. These troops, assailed by the Macedonian light-armed, retreated at once to higher ground, and by their manifest cowardice freed Alexander from all anxiety on their account. Leaving 300 horse to keep the 20,000 in check, he moved on his whole line at a slow pace towards the Pinarus till it came within bow-shot of the enemy, when he gave the order to proceed at a run. The line advanced as commanded; but before it could reach the river, the Persian horse on the extreme right, unable to restrain themselves any longer, dashed across the shallow stream, and assailed Alexander's left, where they engaged in a fierce battle with the Thessalian cavalry, in which neither attained any decided advantage. The infantry, meanwhile, came into conflict along the rest of the line. Alexander himself, with the right and the right-centre, charged the Asiatic troops on Darius's left, who, like their brethren at Cunaxa, instantly broke and fled. Parmenio, with the left-centre, was less successful. The north bank of the Pinarus was in this part steep and defended by stakes in places; the Greek mercenaries were as brave as the Macedonians, and fought valiantly. It was not till the troops which had routed the Persian right began, to act against their centre, assailing it upon the flank, while it was at the same time engaged in front, that the mercenaries were overpowered and gave way. Seeing their defeat, the horse likewise fled, and thus the rout became general.

It is not quite clear what part Darius took in the battle, or how far he was answerable for its untoward result. According to Arrian, he was struck with a sudden panic on beholding the flight of his left wing, and gave orders to his charioteer instantly to quit the field. But Curtius and Diodorus represent him as engaged in a long struggle against Alexander himself, and as only flying when he was in imminent danger of falling into the enemy's hands. Justin goes further, and states that he was actually wounded. The character gained by Darius in his earlier years makes it improbable that he would under any circumstances have exhibited personal cowardice. On the whole it would seem to be most probable that the flight of the Persian monarch occurred, not when the left wing fled, but when the Greek mercenaries among whom he had placed himself began to give way before the irresistible phalanx and the impetuous charges of Alexander. Darius, not unwisely, accepted the defeat of his best troops as the loss of the battle, and hastily retired across Amanus by the pass which had brought him to Issus, whence he hurried on through Sochi to the Euphrates, anxious to place that obstacle between himself and his victorious enemy. His multitudinous host, entangled in the defiles of the mountains, suffered by its own weight and size, the stronger fugitives treading down the weaker, while at the same time it was ruthlessly slaughtered by the pursuing enemy, so long as the waning light allowed. As many as 100,000,000 foot and 10,000 horse are said to have fallen. The ravines were in places choked with the dead bodies, and Ptolemy the son of Lagus related that in one instance he and Alexander crossed a gully on a bridge of this kind. Among the slain were Sabaces, satrap of Egypt, Bubaces, a noble of high rank, and Arsames, Rheomithres, and Atizyes, three of the commanders at the Granicus. Forty thousand prisoners were made. The whole of the Persian camp and camp-equipage fell into the enemy's hands, who found in the royal pavilion the mother, wife, and sister of the king, an infant son, two daughters, and a number of female attendants, wives of noblemen. The treasure captured amounted to 3000 silver talents. Among the trophies of victory were the chariot, bow, shield, and robe of the king, which he had abandoned in his hurried flight.

The loss on the side of the Macedonians was trivial. The highest estimate places it at 450 killed, the lowest at 182. Besides these, 504 were wounded. Thus Alexander had less than 1000 men placed hors de combat. He himself received a slight wound in the thigh from a sword, which, used a little more resolutely, might have changed the fortunes of the world.

The defeat of the Persians at Issus seems to have been due simply to the fact that, practically, the two adversaries engaged with almost equal numbers, and that the troops of Alexander were of vastly superior quality to those of Darhis. The Asiatic infantry?otwithstanding their proud title of "braves" proved to be worthless; the Greek mercenaries were personally courageous, but their inferior arms and training rendered them incapable of coping with the Macedonian phalanx. The cavalry was the only arm in which the Persians were not greatly at a disadvantage; and cavalry alone cannot gain, or even save a battle. When Darius put himself into a position where he lost all the advantages derivable from superiority of numbers, he made his own defeat and his adversary's triumph certain.

It remained, therefore, before the Empire could be considered as entirely lost, that this error should be corrected, this false step retrieved. All hope for Persia was not gone, so long as her full force had not been met and defeated in a fair and open field. When Darius fled from Issus, it was not simply to preserve for a few months longer his own wretched life; it was to make an effort to redeem the past?o give his country that last chance of maintaining her independence which she had a right to claim at his hands to try what the award of battle would be under the circumstances which he had fair grounds for regarding as the most favorable possible to his own side and the most disadvantageous to his adversary. Before the heart of the Empire could be reached from the West, the wide Mesopotamian plain had to be traversed?here, in those vast flats, across which the enemy must come, a position might be chosen where there would be room for the largest numbers that even his enormous Empire could furnish?here cavalry and even chariots would be everywhere free to act?here consequently he might engage the puny force of his antagonist to the greatest advantage, outflank it, envelop it, and perhaps destroy it. Darius would have been inexcusable had he given up the contest without trying this last chance the chance of a battle in the open field with the full collected force of Persia.


Alexander's army in Egypt


His adversary gave him ample time to prepare for this final struggle. The battle of Issus was fought in November, B.C. 333. It was not till the summer of B.C. 331, twenty months later that the Macedonian forces were set in motion towards the interior of the Empire. More than a year and a half was consumed in the reduction of Phoenicia, the siege of Gaza, and the occupation of Egypt. Alexander, apparently, was confident of defeating Darius in a pitched battle, whenever and under whatever circumstances they should again meet; and regarded as the only serious dangers which threatened him, a possible interruption of his communications with Greece, and the employment of Persian gold and Persian naval force in the raising of troubles on the European side of the Egean. He was therefore determined, before he plunged into the depth of the Asiatic continent, to isolate Persia from Greece, to destroy her naval power, and to cripple her pecuniary resources.

The event showed that his decision was a wise one. By detaching from Persia and bringing under his own sway the important countries of Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, Idumsea, and Egypt, he wholly deprived Persia of her navy, and transferred to himself the complete supremacy of the sea, he greatly increased his own resources while he diminished those of the enemy, and he shut out Persia altogether from communication with Greece, excepting through his territories. He could therefore commence his march into the interior with a feeling of entire security as to his communications and his rear. No foe was left on the coast capable of causing him a moment's uneasiness. Athens and Sparta might chafe and even intrigue; but without the Persian "archers," it was impossible that any force should be raised which could in the slightest degree imperil his European dominions.

From Babylon, whither Darius proceeded straight from Issus, he appears to have made two ineffectual attempts at negotiating with his enemy. The first embassy was dispatched soon after his arrival, and, according to Arrian, was instructed merely to make proposals for peace, and to request the restitution of the Queen, the Queen-mother, Sisygambis, the infant prince, and the two princesses, captured by Alexander. To this Alexander replied, in haughty and contemptuous terms, that if Darius would acknowledge him as Lord of Asia, and deliver himself into his power, he should receive back his relatives: if he intended still to dispute the sovereignty, he ought to come and fight out the contest, and not run away.

The second embassy was sent six or eight months later, while Alexander was engaged in the siege of Tyre. Darius now offered, as a ransom for the members of his family held in captivity by Alexander, the large sum of ten thousand talents (L240,000.), and was willing to purchase peace by the cession of all the provinces lying west of the Euphrates, several of which were not yet in Alexander's possession. At the same time he proposed that Alexander should marry his daughter, Statira, in order that the cession of territory might be represented as the bestowal of a dowry. The reply of Alexander was, if possible, ruder and haughtier than before. "What did Darius mean by offering money and territory? All his treasure and all his territory were Alexander's already. As for the proposed marriage, if he (Alexander) liked to marry a daughter of Darius, he should of course do so, whether her father consented or not. If Darius wanted merciful treatment, he had better come and deliver himself up at once."

The terms of this reply rendered further negotiation impossible. Darius had probably not hoped much from his pacific overtures, and was therefore not greatly concerned at their rejection. He knew that the members of his family were honorably and even kindly treated by their captor, and that, so far at any rate, Alexander had proved himself a magnanimous conqueror. He can scarcely have thought that a lasting peace was possible between himself and his young antagonist, who had only just fleshed his maiden sword, and was naturally eager to pursue his career of conquest. Indeed, he seems from the moment of his defeat at Issus to have looked forward to another battle as inevitable, and to have been unremitting in his efforts to collect and arm a force which might contend, with a good hope of victory, against the Macedonians. He replaced the panoplies lost at Issus with fresh ones; he armed his forces anew with swords and spears longer than the Persians had been previously accustomed to employ, on account of the great length of the Macedonian weapons; he caused to be constructed 200 scythed chariots; he prepared spiked balls to use against his enemy's cavalry; above all, he laid under contribution for the supply of troops all the provinces, even the most remote, of his extensive Empire, and asked and obtained important aid from allies situated beyond his borders. The forces which he collected for the final struggle comprised besides Persians, Medes, Babylonians, and Susianians from the centre of the Empire Lyrians from the banks of the Orontes, Armenians from the neighborhood of Ararat, Cappadocians and Albanians from the regions bordering on the Euxine, Cadusians from the Caspian, Bactrians from the Upper Oxus, Sogdians from the Jaxartes, Arachosians from Cabul, Arians from Herat, Indians from Punjab, and even Sacse from the country about Kashgar and Yarkand, on the borders of the Great Desert of Gobi. Twenty-five nations followed the standard of the Great King, and swelled the ranks of his vast army, which amounted (according to the best authorities) to above a million of men. Every available resource that the Empire possessed was brought into play. Besides the three arms of cavalry, infantry, and chariots, elephants were, for perhaps the first time in the history of military science, marshalled in the battle-field, to which they added an unwonted element of grotesqueness and savagery.

The field of battle was likewise selected with great care, and artificially prepared for the encounter. Darius, it would seem, had at last become convinced that his enemy would seek him out wherever he might happen to be, and that consequently the choice of ground rested wholly with himself. Leaving, therefore, the direct road to Babylon by the line of the Euphrates undefended, he selected a position which possessed all the advantages of the Mesopotamian plain, being open, level, fertile, and well supplied with water, while its vicinity to the eastern and northern provinces, made it convenient for a rendezvous. This position was on the left or east bank of the Tigris, in the heart of the ancient Assyria, not more than thirty miles from the site of Nineveh. Here, in the region called by the Greeks Adiabene, extended between the Tigris and the river Zab or Lycus, a vast plain broken by scarcely any elevations, and wholly bare of both shrubs and trees. The few natural inequalities which presented themselves were levelled by order of Darius, who made the entire plain in his front practicable not only for cavalry but for chariots. At the same time he planted, in the places where Alexander's cavalry was likely to charge, spiked balls to damage the feet of the horses.

Meanwhile, Alexander had quitted Egypt, and after delaying some months in Syria while his preparations were being completed, had crossed the Euphrates at Thapsacus and marched through northern Mesopotamia along the southern flank of the Mons Masius, a district in which provisions, water, and forage were abundant, to the Tigris, which he must have reached in about lat. 36' 30', thirty or forty miles above the site of Nineveh. No resistance was made to his advance; even the passage of the great rivers was unopposed. Arrived on the east bank of the Tigris, Alexander found himself in Assyria Proper, with the stream upon his right and the mountains of Gordyene Kurdistan at no great distance upon his left. But the plain widened as he advanced, and became, as he drew near the position of his enemy, a vast level, nowhere less than thirty miles in breadth, between the outlying ranges of hills and the great river. Darius, whose headquarters had been at Arbela, south of the Zab, on learning Alexander's approach, had crossed that stream and taken post on the prepared ground to the north, in the neighborhood of a small town or village called Gaugamela. Here he drew up his forces in the order which he thought best, placing the scythed chariots in front, with supports of horse Scythian, Bactrian, Armenian, and Cappadocian near to them; then, the main line of battle, divided into a centre and two wings, and composed of horse and foot intermixed; and finally a reserve of Babylonians. Sitaceni, and others, massed in heavy column in the rear. His own post was, according to invariable Persian custom, in the centre; and about him were grouped the best troops?he Household brigade, the Melophori or Persian foot-guards, the Mardian archers, some Albanians and Carians, the entire body of Greek mercenaries, and the Indians with their elephants.


The Battle of Gaugamela 331 B.C.

Persian scythe chariots

The Battle of Gaugamela, also called the Battle of Arbela, was the decisive battle of Alexander the Great's invasion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. 

The battle of Guagamela 331 B.C.

Alexander captured Tyre in 332 B.C. eliminating the threat of the Persian navy and conquered Egypt without a fight in 332 B.C. Next, Alexander set out to destroy Darius III once and for all. Alexander's forces:40,000 foot and 7,000 cavalry. Darius : 45,000 calvary and 200,000 foot. While Darius' army was much larger, Alexanders was better armed and trained. The Persians could still not cope with the sarissas of Alexander'sfoot soldiers. The Persians places their hopes on scythe-bearing chariots and war elephants, neither of which were of much use .

Alexander, on his side, determined to leave nothing to chance. Advancing leisurely, resting his troops at intervals, carefully feeling his way by means of scouts, and gradually learning from the prisoners whom he took, and the deserters who came over to him, all the dispositions and preparations of the enemy, he arrived opposite the position of Darius on the ninth day after his passage of the Tigris. His officers were eager to attack at once; but with great judgment he restrained them, gave his troops a night's rest, and obtained time to reconnoiter completely the whole position of the enemy and the arrangement which he had made of his forces. He then formed his own dispositions. The army with which he was to attack above a million of men consisted of 40,300 foot and 7000 horse. Alexander drew them up in three lines:

The first consisted of light-armed troops, horse and foot, of good quality, which were especially intended to act against the enemy's chariots. The next was the main line of battle, and contained the phalanx with the rest of the heavy infantry in the centre, the heavy cavalry upon the two wings. The third line consisted of light troops, chiefly horse, and was instructed to act against such of the Persians as should outflank the Macedonian main line and so threaten their rear. As at Issus, Alexander took the command of the right wing himself, and assigned the left to Parmenio.

As the two armies drew near, Alexander, who found himself greatly outflanked on both wings, and saw in front of him smooth ground carefully prepared for the operations of chariots and cavalry, began a diagonal movement towards the right, which tended at once to place him beyond the levelled ground, and to bring him in contact with his enemy's left wing rather than with his direct front. The movement greatly disconcerted his adversary, who sought to prevent it by extending and advancing his own left, which was soon engaged with Alexander's right in a fierce hand-to-hand conflict. Alexander still pressed his slanting movement, and in resisting it Darius's left became separated from his centre, while at the same time he was forced to give the signal for launching the chariots against the foe sooner than he had intended, and under circumstances that were not favorable. The effect of the operation was much the same as at Cunaxa. Received by the Macedonian light-armed, the chariots were mostly disabled before the enemy's main line was reached; the drivers were dragged from the chariot-boards; and the horses were cut to pieces. Such as escaped this fate and charged the Macedonian line, were allowed to pass through the ranks, which opened to receive them, and were then dealt with by grooms and others in the rear of the army.

No sooner had the chariot attack failed, and the space between the two lines of battle become clear, than Alexander, with the quick eye of a true general, saw his opportunity: to resist his flank movement, the Bactrians and Sacae with the greater part of the left wing had broken off from the main Persian line, and in pressing towards the left had made a gap between their ranks and the centre. Into this gap the Macedonian king, at the head of the "Companion" cavalry and a portion of the phalanx, plunged. Here he found himself in the near neighborhood of Darius, whereupon he redoubled the vigor of his assault, knowing the great importance of any success gained in this quarter. The Companions rushed on with loud cries, pressing with all their weight, and thrusting their spears into the faces of their antagonists?he phalanx, bristling with its thick array of lances, bore them down. Alexander found himself sufficiently near Darius to hurl a spear at him, which transfixed his charioteer. The cry arose that the king had fallen, and the ranks at once grew unsteady. The more timid instantly began to break and fly; the contagion of fear spread; and Darius was in a little while almost denuded of protection on one side. Seeing this, and regarding the battle as lost, since his line was broken, his centre and left wing defeated, while only his right wing remained firm, the Persian monarch yielded to his alarm, and hastily quitting the field, made his way to Arbela.

The centre and left fled with him. The right, which was under the command of the Syrian satrap, Mazseus, made a firmer stand. On this side the chariots had done some damage, and the horse was more than a match for the Thessalian cavalry. Parmenio found himself in difficulties about the time when the Persian king fled. His messengers detained a part of the phalanx, which was about to engage in the pursuit, and even recalled Alexander, who was hastening upon the track of Darius. The careful prince turned back, but before he could make his way through the crowd of fugitives to the side of his lieutenant, victory had declared in favor of the Macedonians in this part of the field also. Mazseus and his troops, learning that the king was fled, regarded further resistance as useless, and quitted the field. The Persian army hurriedly recrossed the Zab, pursued by the remorseless conquerors, who slew the unresisting fugitives till they were weary of slaughter. Arrian says that 300,000 fell, while a still larger number were taken prisoners. Other writers make the loss considerably less. All, however, agree that the army was completely routed and dispersed, that it made no attempt to rally, and gave no further trouble to the conqueror.

The conduct of Darius in this the crisis of his fate cannot be approved; but it admits of palliation, and does not compel us to withdraw from him that respectful compassion which we commonly accord to great misfortunes. After Issus, it was his duty to make at least one more effort against the invader. To this object he addressed himself with earnestness and diligence. The number and quality of the troops collected at Arbela attests at once the zeal and success of his endeavors. His choice and careful preparation of the field of battle are commendable; in his disposition of his forces there is nothing with which to find fault. Every arm of the service had full room to act; all were brought into play; if Alexander conquered, it was because he was a consummate general, while at the same time he commanded the best troops in the world. Arbela was not, like Issus, won by mere fighting. It was the leader's victory, rather than the soldiers. Alexander's diagonal advance, the confusion which it caused, the break in the Persian line, and its prompt occupation by some of the best cavalry and a portion of the phalanx, are the turning-points of the engagement.

All the rest followed as a matter of course. Far too much importance has been assigned to Darius's flight, which was the effect rather than the cause of victory. When the centre of an Asiatic army is so deeply penetrated that the person of the monarch is exposed and his near attendants begin to fall, the battle is won. Darius did not?ndeed he could not?quot;set the example of flight." Hemmed in by vast masses of troops, it was not until their falling away from him on his left flank at once exposed him to the enemy and gave him room to escape, that he could extricate himself from the melee.

No doubt it would have been nobler, finer, more heroic, had the Persian monarch, seeing that all was lost, and that the Empire of the Persians was over, resolved not to outlive the independence of his country. Had he died in the thick of the fight, a halo of glory would have surrounded him. But, because he lacked, in common with many other great kings and commanders, the quality of heroism, we are not justified in affixing to his memory the stigma of personal cowardice. Like Pompey, like Napoleon, he yielded in the crisis of his fate to the instinct of self-preservation. He fled from the field where he had lost his crown, not to organize a new army, not to renew the contest, but to prolong for a few weeks a life which had ceased to have any public value.

Alexander gave Darius a magnificent funeral and eventually married his daughter Statira at Opis in 324 BC .

Alexander beside the body of Darius III, last

emperor of the Persian Empire


It is needless to pursue further the dissolution of the Empire. The fatal blow was struck at Guagamela?ll the rest was but the long death-agony. At Guagamela the crown of Cyrus passed to the Macedonian; the Persian Empire came to an end. Alexander tried to unite the Perain and Greek culture together and adopted the Persian system of adminstration .


In some ways the Achaemenid Empire can be viewed a a transition from the despotic ancient empires of Assyria and the fertile and served as a model in some ways for the following Roman Empire as a way to administer areas of different language, cultures and peoples . The stability the Achaemenid Empire gave allowed new ideas to flourish and grow and allowed scientific ideas from the cradel of civilization, the fertile cresent ,be transmitted to the Greeks . The Persians have been made out to be all purpose bad villans in history, mainly because most of our information about them comes from their enemies the Greeks . Like the Carthagians, they are not able to defend their point of view out of the past .However, for their time they were much more tolerant than preceeding empires. In fact, many of the Greek city states in Asia Minor, after replacing Greek rule for Persian ended up paying more in tribute to their Greek overlords. While the Greeks boast they fought so well because they were 'free men ' against the Persian ' slave 'soldier , the Greeks as the Romans after them relied on slave labor to run their economy .

Despite its vast resources, the empire started to stagnate, due in part to the absence of competition that drove the Greek city states to colonize and seek advances , much as the relativly small nation states of Europe were able to colonize the world in the following centuries . It is amazing that the Greeks were able to time and again to defeat such large forces the Persians were able to throw against them because of the superior armour and battle tactics . Why were the Persians so unable to modernize and better equip their forces ? The Romans were able to defeat the Macedonian phalanx with their long sarissa in the battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 B.C.. by outflanking, why couldn't the Persians ? While the administration of the Persians was for the most part tolerant, it still was a top heavy despotic system in many ways did not advance much from the Assyrian system, and suffered from court intrigues in its decline . Only Persian and Medes could hope to rise far in the Persian satrapy system . In many ways the Persian empire is one of the least known of the ancient empires of western Asia, but its legacy to world history is great .




 Artaxerxes IV