alexander battles

Battle of Chaeronea

Chaeronea was the site of two important ancient battles. The first Battle of Chaeronea was fought in August 338 B.C. Macedonia, led by Philip II and his 18-year-old son Alexander (soon to be Alexander the Great), defeated the Greek poleis of Athens and Thebes. When Macedonia won, they killed many Greeks and sold others into slavery, so Athens agreed to a treaty. Among the terms, Athens agreed to join Phillip's Hellenic union in exchange for the release of prisoners.

One ancient source on the Battle of Chaeronea is Diodorus Siculus 16.85.5-86.

Sulla won a later Battle of Chaeronea, in 86 B.C., defeating Mithridates of Pontus.

Battle of Granicus

Alexander the Great first defeated the Persians in May/June 334 B.C., at the Battle of the Granicus, As a result of this battle, Alexander gained a strong base in Asia Minor.

Setting out for Asia in 334 B.C., Alexander the Great commanded about 47,000 men, in combined infantry and cavalry units, part Macedonian and part levied from the Hellenic League. (See Diodorus for the composition.) They faced the Persian army for the first time, at the Granicus River, in Asia Minor, in May of 334. Alexander's second-in-command, Parmenio, commanded the infantry phalanx. The Persian army of about 24,000 was led by satraps: Alexander did not face the Persian king Darius III himself until Issus in the autumn of 333 B.C.

Macedonian forces attacked, drawing out the Persian forces on one side using a move described as a feint attack. Meanwhile, Alexander rode with the Companion Cavalry, on the other side, and broke the weakened line of Persians. In the ensuing melee when the two sides met, Alexander was stunned with an axe, by Rhoesaces. Black Clitus killed Spithridates, who came up from behind, before he could deliver Alexander's death blow. Alexander won the battle, took about 2000 prisoners, and executed thousands of Greek mercenaries. He "liberated" Greek cities of Asia Minor from Persian rule. No longer need they pay the Persians tribute; now they could support Alexander's army.

Battle of Tyre

In the 350s b.c. Philip I assumed the throne of Macedon, a relatively poor province north of Greece. He developed a first-class army and, taking advantage of the temporary weakness of Athens (Greece's dominant city-state) after the Social War (358-55), began conquering Athenian-dominated provinces on the Greco-Macedonian frontier. While the Greek polises continued their almost constant squabbling, Philip extended Macedonian control over areas to Macedon's north, then he attacked Greece itself. In 338 b.c. Philip's army defeated an Athenian-Theban alliance at Leuctra, giving him mastery of the Greek peninsula. He established the Hellenic League the following year, uniting almost all the Greek polises into an alliance aimed at defeating the Persian Empire. As the forces of the Hellenic League prepared to cross the Hellespont into Asia Minor in 336, Philip was assassinated and succeeded by his son Alexander.

In spite of the fact he was only twenty years old, Alexander won the immediate loyalty of his father's Macedonian army due to tutelage at his father's side and his valor at the battle of Leuctra. The rest of the League was not as true, however. While putting down rebellions in the north, Alexander learned that Athens had bolted the League, thinking him dead. He returned to Athens very much alive and reinforced his authority; he then turned to continue his father's plan of invading Persia. Educated by Aristotle, Alexander was both a brilliant scholar and a Greek "nationalist"; he aimed not only to defeat Persia and avenge the destruction they had inflicted on Greece in the invasion of Xerxes (480-79 b.c.) but to spread Greek culture and knowledge wherever he went.

He quickly established a reputation as a courageous and innovative general. In 333 b.c. he began his invasion of Asia Minor, defeating armies sent against him by local Persian governors or by the Persian Emperor Darius III. At Issus late in the year Alexander's 30,000 soundly defeated Darius' army three times that size while losing but 450 men. Alexander's strategy was to take control of the eastern Mediterranean coastline. He had no fleet while the Persian navy could roam at will, harassing his supply lines and provoking revolts in Greece. Denying the Persians their ports would force them to either abandon the eastern Mediterranean or defect to the Macedonian cause. His first conquest was simple. Sidon surrendered without a fight, for it had long suffered under Persian dominance. Its sister city Tyre, however, had profited from a Persian alliance and was determined to hold out against the invaders while Darius rallied another army inland.

Alexander's army marched to Tyre sometime in January 332. He spoke with the city elders, expressing a desire to worship their god Melkart, a Phoenician version of Heracles. When they suggested he worship in Old Tyre, where there was a better temple, he took it as an insult and prepared his attack.



Battle of Issus

After the recent Battle at the Granicus, Memnon was given command of all Persian forces in Asia Minor. Had the Persians followed his advice at Granicus, they might have won and stopped Alexander in time. In "Upset at Issus" Harry J. Maihafer says Memnon was not only astute militarily, but doled out bribes. A Greek, Memnon almost persuaded Sparta to back him. As Greeks, the Spartans should have been expected to support Alexander, but not all Greeks preferred rule by Alexander to rule by the king of Persia. Macedonia was still Greece's conqueror. Because of mixed Greek sympathies, Alexander hesitated to continue his eastward expansion, but then he sliced the Gordian Knot and took the omen as urging him on.