Alexander The Great
Posted by Admin on November 19 2012 06:05:00




Alexander of Macedon is the first in the order of time of those great Commanders whose achievements form such an essential part of the world's history that their names are ineffaceably impressed on the popular imagination.

His campaigns are still carefully studied by the greatest soldiers and military critics, as establishing most firmly and exhibiting most clearly the fundamental principles of the art of war. In his brief career-for he was cut off at the early age of thirty three he demonstrated the superiority of strategy and military skill over the Oriental reliance on the crushing force of huge masses of troops. He gave the empire of the world to that Greek culture of which he himself was a product, and which is still bearing fruit wherever man has risen above the savage state.

 Alexander was the third Macedonian king of that name, and was the son of King Philip and Olympias, who claimed descent from Achilles. He was born at Pella) 356 B. C. When he reached the age of fourteen, his father summoned the famous philosopher, Aristotle, to become preceptor of the young prince. While his mental powers were thus developed, he practiced also every manly and martial exercise. In horsemanship he especially excelled, and his famous exploit in mastering the steed Bucephalus after his father)s most expert grooms had failed, is familiar to all. At the early age of sixteen the precocious youth was permitted to act as regent at the capital while his father made an expedition to Byzantium. On hearing of Philip's victories, he exclaimed, "My father will leave me nothing to do." At eighteen his dashing valor was shown in the victory at Cheronea, which established Philip's supremacy in the affairs of Greece.

In 336 B. C. Philip of Macedon fell by the band of an assassin, and Alexander, not yet twenty years . old, became king. Some of the Grecian states deemed this a favorable opportunity to recover their independence, but the young king's astounding energy and promptitude disconcerted their plans. Again, while he was subduing some distant tribes in the north, report of his death was circulated, and '.thebes threw off the Macedouiall yoke.
But Alexander appeared before the gates, took the city by storm, and with his innate barbarian vehemence ordered all the

houses to be leveled to the ground. Yet the intellectual culture which he owed to Greece was singularly shown in his sparing the house in which the lyric poet Pindar had been born. The other cities of Greece, terrified by the ominous example of Thebes, hastened to submit to the Soil of Philip, already proved to be greater than his father. A general assembly was held at Corinth, in fulfillment of a plan which Philip had projected, and Alexander was chosen commander-in-chief of the expedition organized against the hereditary enemy, the king of Persia.

Alexander, therefore, as the Pan-Hellenic champion, crossed into Asia with an army of about 4°,000 men, of whom the cavalry formed one-eighth. the report of his visit to the tomb of his ancestor, Achilles, near ancient Troy, and his there celebrating magnificent funeral games, is in keeping with the story that he carried constantly with him the Iliad of Homer in a golden box. Sterner duties and more perilous conflicts awaited him. On the banks of the river Granicus stood arrayed the army of Mellman tIle Greek, to whom Darius, surnamed Codomannus, had entrusted the command of Asia Minor. But Alexander forced a passage, and thus released the Greek cities of the western coast from Persian rule, and secured their allegiance to a sovereign of their own race. A full year was spent by Darius in gathering from all parts of his vast empire a motley host to crush the bold invaders, reinforced by their Asiatic kinsmen. The two armies met at Issus in Cilicia, near the extreme northeastern point of the Mediterranean Sea. Though the Persian king, with no small skill, had carefully chosen the ground for the contest, he was utterly defeated, and Bed, leaving his baggage, his wife and his mother in the hands of his enemy. Alexander displayed the magnanimity which well became him, and treated the royal captives with the utmost respect.

Entering Syria, he captured without difficulty the city of Damascus, which contained all the treasures of the Great King, but was compelled to lay siege to Tyre, built on an
island, and then the commercial metropolis of the world. This siege detained him nine months, and though his genius prevailed over insuperable obstacles, his barbarian temper inflicted cruel vengeance on the citizens who had sought to defy him. According to a doubtful report, Alexander spared Jerusalem at the solemn entreaty of its high priest, Jaddua, and confessed that he recognized in the venerable intercessor one who had appeared to him in a vision before his crossing into Asia, and had assured him of success. Gaza, the capital of the Philistines, held out for two months, and a week was spent crossing the southern desert into Egypt, the ancient abode of a civilization which is attested by its sculptured records as well as its marvellous pyramids and temples. Here the conqueror, with keen eye for advantage of situation, marked the plan of the new city, Alexandria, which still preserves his name. Afterward, in various parts of Asia, he sought thus to stamp bis impress on the countries he brought under his sway. Crossing the Libyan desert to the oasis in which was the famous temple of Jupiter Ammon, he demanded to be called the son of that deity. His impetuous vehemence extorted from the frightened priestess the desperate cry, which he professed to consider oracular, My Son, thou art irresistible." The facts of his career confirmed the saying. In less than two years, after two battles and four sieges, the wealthy and populous countries of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt had submitted to his arms. But the Persian empire had not yet been destroyed. Dreading further encounter, Darius offered to divide with Alexander the sovereignty of Asia, but the Macedonian replied, "Heaven cannot support two suns, nor Asia two kings. "


In 331 8. c. Alexander returned to Syria, passed the Euphrates and Tigris, and on the field of Arbela again defeated Darius, now at the head of an army even stronger than
that which he had mustered at Issus. The ancient capital of Babylon opened her gates to the conqueror, and Darius, "fallen from his high estate," fled through Persia toward the wilds of Central Asia. After a year's wandering the king was slain by the traitor Bessus; but the assassin, instead of being rewarded by Alexander, as he had expected, was
delivered to the relatives of Darius to be tortured. Alexander, having completed the' conquest of Persia as far as the coast of the Caspian Sea, penetrated into Scythia. Again receiving 16,000 recruits from Macedonia, he resolved to add India to his empire. Crossing the Indus in the next year, he vanquished the valiant Porus in a pitched battle and took him prisoner.

The Greeks had now accomplished far more than the original declared purpose of the war, the overthrow of the Persian empire, and when their commander, with insatiable
love of conquest, called them to push on to the Ganges, the wearied troops peremptorily refused. Alexander, therefore, recognizing the necessity, if not the justice, of yielding to their wishes, prepared for their return to Greece by building eight hundred vessels, in which they sailed down the Indus.Arriving at the ocean, he sent Nearchus as admiral of a fleet to coast along the Persian Gulf and the mouth of the Euphrates. He himself took the overland route through a dreary desert, and visited again the most ancient cities of
Persia. At the close of one of those scenes of drunken revelry which too often disgraced his career, he set fire to the temple of Persepolis. And yet, perhaps to Will the allegiance of the people of the empire, he had already adopted the costume and manners of the Persian court. He also married Statira, the daughter of Darius.


In 324 B. c. Alexander marched again to the north to subdue rebellious tribes, and visited Ecbatana, the usual summer residence of the Persian kings. In the midst of festivities
at this place, Hephaestion, his favorite from his boyish days, was seized with a fever due to a drinking bout, and ill spite of the vigor of his constitution, died in a few days.
Alexander's grief for this loss was unbounded, and manifested itself in incredible excesses. He also caused a magnificent funeral pile to be erected at Babylon, and even sought to render his friend divine honors. At last the conqueror roused himself from the passionate grief which daily made his temper more irascible, and found consolation in subduing the mountain tribe Cossaei, who had defied the attacks of Persian kings. Pursuing them into almost impenetrable recesses of the rocks, he slew the entire male population.
During his leisurely return to Babylon the conqueror received envoys fr0m remote nations, not only from the East, but from Carthage, Ethiopia, Scythia, Gaul, Sicily, Sardinia, the cities of Soutbern Itally, and even, as some say, from Rome. Yet dark omens and prophecies are reported to have clouded his enjoyments, and the Chaldean priests warned him
to stay outside the gates of Babylon. After some hesitation he entered, attended to various affairs of state, and conducted the obsequies of his deceased friend. The feast which formed part or the funeral ceremonies was prolonged into boisterous revelry, in which A1exander wildly indulged. A fever ensued, during which he still directed all public affairs until his strength failed. Then be ordered all his generals and officers to remain in attendance near the hall. His last utterance is said to have been in reply to the question to whom he bequeathed his kingdom, "To the strongest." One of his last acts was to take the signet ring from his finger and give it to Perdiccas. He died in June, 323 B. C., after a life of thirty two years and eight months.


Arbela, the city which has furnished its name to the decisive battle which gave Asia to Alexander, lies more than twenty miles from the actual scene of conflict. A little village, then named GaugameJa, is close to the spot where the armies met, in one of the wide plains that lie between the Tigris and the mountains of Kurdistan. A few undulating hillocks diversify the surface of this sandy tract; but the ground is generally level, and admirably qualified for the evolutions of cavalry, and also calculated to give the
larger of two armies the full advantage of numerical superiority. The Persian king (who, before he came to the throne, had proved his personal valor as a soldier and his skill as a general) had wisely selected this region for the third and decisive encounter between his forces and the invader. The previous defeats of his troops, however severe they had been, were not looked on as irreparable. The Granicus had been fought by his generals rashly and without mutual concert; and, though Darius himself had commanded and been beaten at Issus, that defeat might be attributed to the disadvantageous nature of the ground, where, cooped up between the mountains, the river, and the sea, the numbers of the Persians confused and clogged alike the general's skill and the soldiers' prowess, and their very strength had been made their weakness. Here, on the broad plains of Kurdistan, there was scope for Asia's largest host to array its lines, to wheel, to skirmish, to condense or expand its squadrons, to manceuver, and to charge at will. Should Alexander and bis scanty band dare to plunge into that living sea of war, their destruction seemed inevitable.


A little before the end of August, Alexander crossed the
Euphrates at Thapsacus, a small corps of Persian cavalry under Mazaeus retiring before him. Alexander was too prudent to march down through the Mesopotamian deserts, and
continued to advance eastward with the intention of passing the Tigris, and then, if he was unable to find Darius and bring him to action, of marching southward on the left side
of that river along the skirts of a mountainous district where his men would suffer less from heat and thirst, and where provisions would be more abundant.


On learning that Darius was with a large army on the left of the Tigris, Alexander hurried forward and crossed that river without opposition. He was at first unable to procure any certain intelligence of the precise position of the enemy, and after giving his army a short interval of rest, he marched for four days down the left bank of the river.


On the fourth day Alexander's advance guard reported that a body of the enemy's cavalry was in sight. He instantly formed his army in order for battle, and directing them to advance steadily, he rode forward at the head of some squadrons of cavalry, and charged the Persian horse, whom he found before him. This was a mere reconnoitering party, and they broke and Bed immediately; but the Macedonians made some prisoners, and from them Alexander found that Darius was posted only a few miles off, and learned the strength of the army that he had with him. On receiving this news Alexander halted, and gave his men repose for four days, so that they should go into action fresh and vigorous. He also fortified his camp and deposited ill it all his military stores, and all his sick and disabled soldiers, intending to advance up.on the enemy with the serviceable part of his army perfectly unencumbered. After this halt, he moved forward, while it was yet dark, with the intention of reaching the enemy, and attacking them at break of day. About halfway between the camps there were some undulations of the ground, which concealed the two armies from each other's view.


Alexander halted his army on the heights, and, taking with him some light.armed infantry and some cavalry, he passed part of the day in reconnoitering the enemy, and observing the nature of the ground on which he had to fight. Darius wisely refrained from moving from his position to attack the Macedonians on the eminences which they occupied, and the two armies remained until night without molesting each other.


The Persians expected, and were prepared to meet, a night attack. Such was the apprehension that Darius entertained of it, that he formed his troops at evening in order of battle, and kept them under arms all night. The morning of the first of October, 331 B.C., dawned slowly to their wearied watching, and they could hear the note of the Macedonian trumpet sounding to anus, and could see King Alexander'sforces descend from their tents on the heights, and form in order of battle on the plain.


There was deep need of skill, as well as of valor, on Alexander's side; and few battle-fields have witnessed more consummate generalship than was now displayed by the Macedonian king. There were 110 natural barriers by which he could protect his flanks; and not only was he certain to be overlapped on either wing by the vast lines of the Persian army, but there was imminent risk of their circling round. him, and charging him in the rear, while he advanced against their centre. He formed, therefore, a second or reserve line, which was to wheel round, if required, or to detach troops to either flank, as the enemy's movements might necessitate; and thus, with their whole army ready at any moment to be thrown into one vast hollow square, the Macedonian advanced in two lines against the enemy, Alexander himself leading on the right wing, and the renowned phalanx forming the centre, while Parmenio commanded on the left.


Conspicuous by the brilliancy of his armor, and by the chosen band of officers who were round his person, Alexander took his station at the head of his cavalry; and when all the arrangements for the battle were complete, and his generals were fully instructed how to act in each probable emergency, he began to lead his men toward the enemy. It was ever his custom to expose his life freely in battle, and to emulate the personal prowess of his great ancestor, Achilles. Great reliance had been placed by the Persian king on the effects of the scythe-bearing chariots. It was designed to launch these against the Macedonian phalanx, and to follow them up by a heavy charge of cavalry, which, it was hoped, would find tile ranks of the spearmen disordered by the rushof the chariots, and easily destroy this most formidable part of Alexander's force. In front, therefore, of the Persian centre, where Darius took his station, and which it was supposed that the phalanx would attack, the ground had been carefully levelled and smoothed, so as to allow the chariots to charge over it with their full sweep and speed. As the Macedonian army approached the Persian, Alexander found that the front of his whole line barely equalled the front of the Persian centre, so that he was outflanked on his right by the entire left wing of the enemy, and by their entire right wing on his left:. His tactics were to assail some one point of the hostile army, and gain a decided advantage, while he refused, as far as possible, the encounter along the rest of the line. He therefore inclined his order of march to the right, so as to enable his right wing and centre to come into collision with the enemy on as favorable terms as possible, although the manceuver might in some respect compromise his left.


The effect of this oblique movement was to bring the phalanx and his own wing nearly beyond the limits of the ground which the Persians had prepared for the operations of the chariots; and Darius, fearing to lose the benefit of this arm against the most important parts of the Macedonian force, ordered the Scythian and Bactrian cavalry, who were drawn up in front of his extreme left, to charge round upon Alexander's right wing, and check its further lateral progress. Against these assailants Alexander sent from his second line Menidas' cavalry. As these proved too few to make head against the enemy, he ordered Ariston also from the second line with his right horse, and Cleander with his foot, in support of Menidas. The Bactrians and Scythians now began to give way; but Darius reinforced them by the mass of Bactrian cavalry from his main line, and an obstinate cavalry fight now took place. The Bactrians and Scythians were numerous, and were better armed than the horsemen under Menidas and Ariston; and the loss at first. was heaviest on the Macedonian side. But still the European cavalry stood the charge of the Asiatics, and at last, by their superior discipline, and by acting in squadrons that supported each other, instead of fighting in a confused mass like the barbarians, the Macedonians broke their adversaries, and drove them off the field.


Darius now directed the scythe-armed chariots to be driven against Alexander's horse guards and the phalanx, and these formidable vehicles were accordingly sent rattling across the plain) against the Macedonian line. But the Asiatic chariots were rendered ineffective by the light-armed troops, whom Alexander had specially appointed for the service, and who, wounding the horses and drivers with their missile weapons, and running alongside so as to cut the traces or seize the reins, marred the intended charge; and the few chariots that reached the phalanx passed harmlessly through the intervals which the spearmen opened for them, and were easily captured in the rear.


A mass of Asiatic cavalry was now, for the second time, collected against Alexander's extreme right, and moved round it, with the view of gaining the Bank of his army. At the
critical moment, when their own flanks were exposed by this evolution, Aretes dashed on the Persian squadrons with his horsemen from Alexander's second line. While Alexander thus met and baffled all the flanking attacks of the enemy with troops brought up from his second line, he kept his own horse-guards and the rest of the front line of his wing fresh, and ready to take advantage of the first opportunity for striking a decisive blow. This soon came. A large body of horse, who were posted on the Persian left wing nearest to the centre, quitted their station, and rode off to help their comrades in the cavalry fight, that still was going on at the extreme right of Alexander's wing against the detachments from his second line. This made a huge gap in the Persian array. and into this space Alexander instantly charged with his guard and all the cavalry of his wing i and then pressing toward his left, he soon began to make havoc in the left flank of the Persian centre. The shield-bearing infantry now charged also among the reeling masses of the Asiatics; and five of the brigades of the phalanx, with the irresistible might of their long pikes, bore down the Greek mercenaries of Darius, and dug their way through the Persian centre. In the early part of the battle Darius had showed skill and energy; and he now, for some time, encouraged his men, by voice and example, to keep firm. But the lances of Alexander's cavalry and the pikes of the phalanx pressed nearer and nearer to him. His charioteer was struck down by a javelin at his side; and at last Darius' nerve failed him, and,descending from his chariot, he mounted on a fleet horse and galloped from the plain, regardless of the state of the battle in other parts of the field, where matters were going on much more favorably for bis cause, and where his presence might have done much toward gaining a victory.


Alexander's operations with his right and centre had exposed bis left to an immensely preponderating force of the enemy. Parmenio kept out of action as long as possible; but Mazaeus, who commanded the Persian right wing, advanced against him, completely outflanked him, and pressed him severely with reiterated charges by superior numbers. Seeing the distress of Parmenio's wing, Simmias, who commanded the sixth brigade of the phalanx, which was next to the left wing, did not advance with the other brigades in the great charge upon the Persian centre, but kept back to cover Parmenio's troops on their right flank, as otherwise they wouldhave been completely surrounded and cut off from the rest of the Macedonian army. By so doing, Simmias had unavoidably opened a gap in the Macedonian left centre; and a large column of Indian and Persian horse, from the Persian rightcentre, had galloped forward through this interval, and right through the troops of the Macedonian second line. Instead of then wheeling round upon Parmenio, or upon the rear ofAlexander's conquering wing, the Indian and Persian cavalry rode straight on to the Macedonian camp, overpowered the Thracians who were left in charge of it, and began to plunder. This was stopped by the phalangite troops of the second line, who, after the enemy's horsemen had rushed by them, faced about, countermarched upon the camp, killed many of the Indians and Persians in the act of plundering, and forced the rest to ride off again. Just at this crisis, Alexander had been
recalled from his pursuit of Darius by tidings of the distress of Parmenio and of his inability to bear up any longer against the hot attacks of Mazxn5. Taking his horse-guards with him, Alexander rode toward the part of the field where his left wing was fighting; but on his way thither he encountered the Persian and Indian cavalry, on their return from his camp.

These men now saw that their only chance of safety was to cut their way through, and in one huge column they charged desperately upon the Macedonian regiments. There was here a close hand-to-hand fight, which lasted some time, and sixty of the royal horse-guards fell, and three generals, who fought close to Alexander's side, were wounded. At length the Macedonian discipline and valor again prevailed, and a large number of the Persian and Indian horsemen were cut down, some few only succeeding in breaking through and riding away. Relieved of these obstinate enemies, Alexander again formed his regiments of horse-guards, and led them toward Parmenio; but by this time that general also was victorious. Probably the news of Darius' flight had reached Mazaeus, and had damped the ardor of the Persian right wing, while the tidings of their comrades' success must have proportionally encouraged the Macedonian forces under Parmenio. His Thessalian cavalry particularly distinguished themselves by their gallantry and persevering good conduct; and by the time that Alexander had ridden up to Parmenio, the whole Persian army was ill full flight from the field.


It was of the deepest importance to Alexander to secure the person of Darius, and he now urged ou the pursuit. The River Lycus was between the field of battle and the city of Arbela, whither the fugitives directed their course, and the passage of this river was even more destructive to the Persians than the swords and spears of the Macedonians had been in the engagement. The narrow bridge was soon choked up by the flying thousands who rushed toward it, and vast numbers of the Persians threw themselves, or were hurried by others, into the rapid stream, and perished in its waters. Darius had crossed it, and had ridden on through Arbela without halting. Alexander reached the city on the next day, and made himself master of all the Persian king's treasure and stores. Darius, unfortunately for himself, had fled too fast for his conqueror, but had only escaped to perish by the treachery of his Bactrian satrap, Bessus. A few days after the battle Alexander entered Babylon, "the oldest seat of earthly empire)) then in existence, as its acknowledged lord
and master.-SIR E. S. CREASY •