Alexander the Great summary




Alexander the Great summary


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Alexander the Great summary


Alexander the Great



Alexander the Great is regarded as one of the greatest military leaders ever.  His dominance over the entire world was well calculated and very precise.  As we will see Alexander the Great’s military accomplishments show his brilliance and persistence. 

            Alexander came to power in the summer of 336 bc after Phillip was assassinated.  He was named to the Macedonian throne and later he reestablished his position in Greece.  The first example of his military brilliance is the assembly of his army.  His army of 35,000 troups was well prepared and well balanced thus able to stand up to his rigorous demands and conquer the opposition.  His army contained several groups of men in which 13,000 were Macedonians, 12,000 were Greeks, and 7,000 barbarian allies that contained Macedonians, Thessalians, and Painoes and Odryians.  What is regarded as the most dominating division of his army were the Phalanx.  This was a division that contained about 9,000 men and was divided into 6 groups.  All of the men in this division were from the mountains and regarded as tough, sturdy and very loyal.  The greeks were another part of his Army and consisted of 5,000 mercinaries and 7,000 citizen troops.  Alexander contructed this division of his army with several factors in mind.  He knew that the support of the Greeks was essential in his dominance.  Although the Greeks were not regarded as great fighters he was able to use them as a way to communicate from military front to military front.  Other units that Alexander also felt would provide some importance were a group of Macedonians and Cretans.  Both were skilled archers and javelin wielding men.  He also created a unit that seemed to follow and shadow all of his movements.  This was a group of about 1,000 men called Agrianes.  According to A.R. Burn these men proved to be very loyal and very skilled in all aspects of war, as they never deserted Alexander or let him down.  The cavalry’s that were most important proved to be a Macedonian cavalry that consisted of 600 men and a Thessalian group that were hunters and slave owners.  These groups were mostly used as guards in and around the camps that Alexander set up and were intended as a way of warning Alexander that other army’s may be trying to intrude.  This well organized group of men proved to be reliable and powerful, as they were receptive to Alexander’s every order.  These orders however, had to be carried out by reliable leaders who would be completely loyal to Alexander.  Again, this was all perfectly calculated and in choosing his military generals Alexander made sure they were completely devoted to him.  All of his officers proved to be very close to Alexander and many were personal friends.  However as Burn so elequently puts, Alexander was his own military expert and made all of the decisions regarding strategy.  This incredible characteristic clearly shows that Alexander was truly a military genius capable of controlling and directing a large army that was spread out over a very large area. 

The first major military moves that were made by Alexander were in 334.  This was his declaration of war against Persia.  As his legendary army descended on the Persians the overwhelmed and undertrained Persians quickly showed that they were going to be defeated.  Lacking the military genius of Alexander, Persia fell killing only about 100 men in Alexander’s army in 333 BC.  As a result of this war all of the states in Asia minor surrendered to his rule.  Alexander continued to conquer as he made his way south where he encountered the army of Darius.  This was the Persian Army and contained many more men than his own with some numbers ranging around several hundred thousand.  However, Alexander quickly won and this sent Darius fleeing for his life leaving his family and all of his possessions.  Later on in the year 332 BC he decided to conquer a city named Tyre.  The result was a siege set up by Alexander as he surrounded the city.  Seven months later the city surrendered and without the loss of any men Alexander continued on in conquering the world.  As his army moved south he took Gaza and moved on into what is now known as modern day Egypt.  At this point in time all of the Mediterranean was his as he had conquered and implemented Greek values on the native peoples.  After founding the city of Alexandria he decided to take Babylon and in the year 331 BC he defeated Darius in a battle where Alexander completely devastated Darius’ forces.  This time however, Darius fled only to be killed by two of his generals.  Then in the spring of 330 BC to the spring of 327 BC Alexander proceeded to conquer the southern shores of the Caspian sea, including modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and northward into Bactria and Sogdiana.  Alexander also captured what is now modern western Turkistan,  or what is now known as Central Asia.  Then as if this were not enough Alexander crossed the Indus River and in 326 BC he invaded the Punjab region traveling along the river into Hyphasis.  Finally after years of conquering Alexander decided to head back to Babylon in the year 323 BC.  At this time Alexander controlled the majority of the world and it would be here that he retire from his military position.

In his wake Alexander left a world that was completely changed by him.  His accomplishments and influence throughout the world are unparalleled by any individual.  They include conquering the powerful Persian Empire, vastly extending the influence of Greek civilization, which prepared the way for kingdoms in the Hellenistic period, and leaving his empire the strongest in the world.  Alexander the Great’s legacy still lives on today.  Never before has a single person proceeded to conquer the world in the fashion that Alexander did!             




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Alexander the Great summary

Alexander and the Greeks


Historical Relationship


Greek City States

  • Shared characteristics: Citizenship, slavery, political exclusion of women
  • Athens Democracy
    • Power
      • Defeated Persians
      • Navy
    • Weaknesses
      • Relied on neighbours for infantry
  • Spartan Oligarchy
    • Infantry strength
      • Way of maintaining control over neighbouring conquered territory
      • Infantry training incorporated into everyday life
    • Weaknesses
      • Unable to compete in naval battles

By 365BC Greece was a nation of independent unallied Greek city states. Breakdown of Grecian unity and mistrust between Athens and Sparta left Greeks open to Macedonian Domination


The Relationship

  • Greek perception:
    • Demosthenes: Phillip a “barbarian” and his marshals “slaves”
    • Macedonians more interested in drinking, brawling, hunting than sophisticated appreciation of theatre and intellects. Greeks superior
  • Macedonian perception
    • Different and superior to Greek cousins
    • Begrudging respect borne of Athens and Sparta military prowess


Rise of Macedon


  • Attacks of neighbouring tribes
  • Hostility of Chalcidian League
  • Weakness of Internal Government


Philip’s Solutions:

  • Created 800 new Companions and Royal Pages – attach outlying cantons to central government
  • Developed unmatched army in Greece
  • Conquered Chalcidean League
  • Made use of natural resources


Turned attention to Greece

  • Expansion of territory:
    • Chalcidian Peninsula, Thrace, Byzantium, Perinthus, Scythians
  • Battle of Chaeroneia 338BC
  • By 338BC had most of mainland Greece except for contained Sparta
  • Hamilton – “Philip’s policy, it seems likely, was aimed primarily at securing the advancement of Macedon and for this he found Greeks to be useful, perhaps essential.”


League of Corinth

  • All Greek states forced to join the league.
  • States elected & sent representatives to council, in proportion to military strength.
  • Decisions made on a voting basis and were binding.
  • Under military leadership of Philip – Hegemon, made all military & foreign policy decisions. Also Strategos Autokrator in military matters. Constitutionally a servant, effectively a master.
  • Council also had judicial powers to try offenders & impose sentences.

Aims of the League

  • Invasion of Persia under Macedonian leadership - to avenge sacrilege of the Persians in 480BC.
  • Also to secure settlements of disputes between Greek states; forge unity


  • Didn’t join. Although they weren’t strong, didn’t submit to Philip, & weren’t invited to join L.O.C
  • Philip occupied surrounding territory, weakening them

Benefits to Alexander

  • Gave him control of mainland Greece & access to the Athenian fleet, more troops, political support, pro-Macedonian constitutions and unity.
  • Gave Alexander the security to go ahead with his invasion.


  • If the Greeks had free choice, most of them would not have stayed in the League – Hamilton.
  • Didn’t stop revolt of Agis; although Sparta wasn’t in the League, gained support within the L.O.C
  • Didn’t stop Greeks becoming Persian mercenaries, many exiled by Pro-Macedonian rulers

Machinery of the League:

  • Prohedrion: 5 councillors, offices in Corinth, day-to-day business of the League
  • Synhedrion: council, judicial powers
  • Hegemon: hereditary, complete control


Murder of Philip

What happened:

  • Philip attending daughter Cleopatra’s wedding to the King of Epirus, Olympias’ brother in Aegae
  • Elaborate games were arranged
  • Philip entered the theatre escorted by Alexander and his son-in-law
  • Pausanias stabbed him in the chest and escaped
  • However, his horse tripped and he was cut down by Alexander’s bodyguards
  • Account given by Diodorus, Plutarch, Justin and Aristotle

Pausanius’ Motive

  • Pausanias A was a Macedonian noble who was Philip’s bodyguard and ex-lover:
  • Pausanias B attracted king’s attention, so Pausanias A insulted him
  • Pausanias B then committed suicide
  • Pausanias B’s friend Attalus invited Pausanias A to party, drunk & given to grooms & raped
  • Pausanias A approached Philip for justice
  • Philip did not do anything, as Attalus was powerful and the uncle of his wife
  • Instead, he gave Pausanias A gifts and a promotion, but he was unsatisfied

Why is his motive doubtful?

  • Eight years between Pausanias’ ‘B’ death and Philip’s murder
  • May have been rekindled as Philip promoted Attalus and married his niece


Other Suspects:

Greeks Outside Macedonia:

  • Wanted to overthrow oppressor, had been defeated at Chaeroneia, wanted independence instead of oppression under L.O.C, and spurred on by Demosthenes.


  • Supplanted by Cleopatra as first wife. Hiding in Epirus trying to get her brother to avenge her insult. Philip had ridiculed her by marrying him with Cleopatra.


  • Disaffected by Philip. The first to acclaim Alexander as king. Had been his adviser. Alienated by Philip’s divine status – built a shrine to himself at Olympias after Chaeroneia, stature of him carried with statues of 12 gods.

Lycestian Brothers

  • Blamed by Alexander. Their father had been exiled by Philip.

Persian King

  • Wary of planned invasion. Blamed by Alexander, claimed they claimed credit.


  • Happened at an opportune time – was on bad terms, main beneficiary, with Philip when murdered, his friends killed Pausanias.

Strained Relations:

  • His claim to the throne sidelined by his mother being supplanted as first wide
  • If Cleopatra had a son, he could have taken the throne – Alexander was only ½ Macedonian

At Wedding Feast:

  • Attalus called on guests to pray for a legitimate heir
  • Alexander threw a cup saying “am I a bastard, you villain?”
  • Philip tried to attack Alexander but drunkenly fell. Alexander than said “the man who is preparing to cross from Europe to Asia cant even cross from couch to couch”
  • He fled to Illyria, leaving him mother in Epirus. Later reconciled for a short time



Pixodarus Affair

  • Pixodarus tried to become more independent after death of Artaxerxes the Persian King. Offered his daugher’s hand in marriage to Alexander’s half brother
  • Alexander felt slighted and offered himself, which delighted Pixodarus
  • Philip was enraged, and called off the plan

Accession of Alexander

  • Easy succession – was the obvious choice
  • Put Amyntas to death as he was the son of the king before Philip
  • Attalus was put to death after he was accused of conspiring with Demosthenes
  • Cleopatra & her daughter executed in 335 BC


Alexander the New King


Threats faced as King

  • Amyntas his cousin had claim to the throne. Executed.
  • Attalus corresponding with Demosthenes
  • Northern peoples about to revolt
  • Demosthenes encouraging Greek states to revolt

Alexander’s Immediate Response

  • Sped south
  • Greeks unable to oppose him, resistance collapsed
  • Called meeting of League, confirmed as General

Reassertion of Macedonian influence

  • Campaigned in North, attacking barbarian tribes
  • Campaigns in Illyria
  • Showed Alexander’s ability as General

Greek Rebellion

  • Thebes revolts. Athens promising support, Peloponnesian army advancing
  • Persia had bribed Greeks, rumours Alexander dead
  • Thebes attacked Macedonian garrisons, put men to death
  • Council votes to throw off Macedonia

Alexander’s Response

  • Sped to stop Greek’s joining together
  • Waited 3 days for Theban action, offered amnesty
  • Alexander attacks. 3000 Theban dead

Punishment of Thebes

  • Treated as breach of league. Asked them to decide on punishment, knowing members would be harsh
  • League decides to raise Thebes.
  • Alexander carries out, all survivors sold into slavery


Maintaining Control over Greek City States


Scare tactics

Destruction of Thebes

  • “It was a calculated act of terrorism on Alexander’s part… he wanted to teach the other Greek States a lesson” – Hamilton
  • That lesson as to show that any attempt to cross Alexander would lead to harsh punishment
  • Knew that LoC delegates were enemies of Thebes and would treat them harshly
  • Could have saved Thebes if he wished – directed terms of punishment


  • “300 Complete suits of Persian armour” – Arrian
    • “From Alexander, son of Phillip, and the Greeks, except Sparta
  • “The Mention of the Spartans is deliberate, to emphasise their refusal to join the league, noteworthy too is the absence of any reference to the Macedonians who had borne the brunt of the fighting. Clearly the dedication was meant for the Greek consumption” – Hamilton
  • Shrewd propaganda. Designed to appease Athenians & remind them his of position as Hegemon

Hostage Taking

  • Hostages leveraged so Alexander could get what he wants - Athenian support or neutrality, Access to Athenian navy, Soldiers for army
  • “Greek prisoners in chains” - 2000 Athenians predominantly Athenian
  • “Contravened the resolutions of the Greeks” - Alexander was within his rights to take these prisoners as they had breached the League of Corinth
  • “Alexander did not think it safe to relax his intimidation of the Greeks”
  • Why? In 333BC:
    • Persians controlled the sea
    • Darius implementing a plan for war on Greece
    • Athens had sided with the Persians before
  • Alexander uses hostages as good behaviour bonds


  • Return of the hostages
    • Athenians asked for a return of the hostages a second time in 331BC
    • Granted Request
    • Agis III of Sparta leading a revolt against Macedon. Needed to ensure Athenian neutrality
    • Perhaps rewarding Athenian loyalty. Agis III had approached Athens & was rejected


Revolt of Agis III


Agis III of Sparta in 333 BC, First Revolt

  • Wanted to replace Macedonia as dominant power
  • Had naval and infantry support from Persia
  • Defeated Macedonian general Corrhagus at Corinth
  • Lost support same year after Macedonian victory at Issus
  • Surprised Anti-Macedonian factions, became intimidated by Alexander’s apparent power


Memnon in Thrace 333 BC

  • King of Thrace
  • Support by native population
  • Was dealt to by Antipater


Revolt of Agis III

  • Darius had ordered a strong naval offensive in the Aegean. The revolt of Agis could have been his foothold in Greece
  • “He received from him ships and money” - 10 ships and 30 talents
  • “Gained control of most of the cities” - Agis brother, Agesilaus helped him coerce support from some Greek States


Preparations for Revolt

  • Alexander, Antipater busy
  • Agis negotiates money and ships from Sparta
  • Enlists 8000 of Darius former mercenaries
  • Gains support from some city states, his brother in Crete


Battle of Megapolis

  • Agis besieging Megapolis in the Peloponese
  • Antipater gathers force of 40,000 crushes rebel army



  • Sparta made to join LoC


Military Force

  • Antipater left in charge as regent
  • Each Greek State (except Athens) had a Macedonian garrison in place



  • Alexander had a vested interest in maintaining a relationship with the member states
    • Money and troops for his expansive campaign
    • Needed loyalty to resist advancement of the Persians/Spartans
  • “many of the cities, viewing with suspicion the growing power of Macedon, decided to win their freedom while Persia still remained independent” – Diodorus
  • “If they stood by and watched the complete defeat of the Persians, the Greeks would be left alone and would never be able to contemplate the recovery of their freedom.” – Diodorus
  • “The Spartans were compelled by their defeat in this great battle to make approaches to Antipater… they decided after a lengthy discussion to refer the matter to Alexander for decision. Antipater took as hostages 50 of the most eminent Spartans, and the Spartans sent envoys to Asia asking pardon for their misdeeds.” – Diodorus

Exiles Decree

The Decree

  • “Forceful request” to Greek states to restore their exiles, except those who were convicted
  • Was in direct contradiction of the principles of the LoC
    • “I shall not subvert the constitutions which existed in several Greek states when they swore oaths concerning peace”
    • In other words… according to the LoC Alexander was not allowed to meddle in the internal affairs of a member state. The decree did just that.
  • “partly to win fame” – Diodorus.     Megalomania
    • Alexander egotistical and so this was a motive for the issuing of the decree
    • How do you win fame? By broadcasting to a large crowd
      • All the exiles had met at the festival, being more than 20,000 in number
  • Problems with exiles disrupting the peace in Asia Minor. Would help to solve the problem
  • “compel such cities”
    • Not optional (Fox disagrees)
    • Antipater was given powers to “forcibly compel” Athens and the Aetolians to accept the exiles back


The Relationship

  • Little to concern himself in relation to the Greeks. If he upset Athens, Antipater could sort it out.
  • Alexander was no longer dependent on the members of the League. He was self-sufficient.


Problems of Exiles

  • Pro-Macedonian Governments set up in Greek States post Chaeroneia
  • Opposition factors had been exiled. Some had become mercenaries and fighting for the Persians
  • With defeat of Persia, many returning to Greece


Alexander and Military Matters


Philip’s Legacy


A Professional Army

  • Soldiers paid, unlike Greek states who had territorials, Macedonians could train all year long
  • Very war-like race
  • Hamilton: “The army was Philip’s greatest legacy to his son”
  • Hamilton: “Not only did constant training and campaigning forge the disparate elements into a military machine unmatched in Greece, but its almost unbroken success must have assisted materially in creating a sense of unity and patriotism in Macedonia.”
  • Phalanx with cavalry and light troops on the flank. Was more mobile than other phalanxes. Used sarissas: long spikes, greater thrusting power & denser array of spears.
  • 16 ranks deep – not as deep as the Theban phalanx but deeper than most
  • Used heavy infantry known as Hypaspists
  • Companion Cavalry – heavy cavalry, armed with a sarissa, delivered the final blow
  • Developed a tactic when held hostage at Thebes – involved an oblique attack where one wing of the phalanx was weighted and used to deliver the main attack. Used the cavalry instead.


Alexander’s Army


  • Carried 4.5m sarissa so first 5 ranks could fight. Well disciplined. Could form line, square, wedge


  • From Thrace – light arms, so very light. Could evade charge of heavily armed troops

Companion Cavalry

  • Led by Alexander, heavily armoured, 4m sarissa. Could assume any formation


  • Elite infantry, more mobile and highly trained, kept contact between phalanx and companions


Asia Minor


The Crossing

  • Left Pella 334BC
  • Philip had prepared an advance guard under Attalus, Alexander continued this with Parmenio
  • As he came ashore he symbolically threw his spear at the land, laying claim to Persian Empire
  • Visited Troy with small portion of army and completed various ceremonies


Battle of Granicus

  • Satraps of Lydia & Arsiles under Spithradates had joined Greek mercenaries under Memnon
  • Arrian – they had 40,000 troops with equal infantry & cavalry. Clearly overestimation.
  • Persians held council to discuss military response – Memnon wanted to wait for Darius’ army & burn crops to make area useless to Alexander & use naval superiority to invade Greece.
  • Persian nobles objected – didn’t want to be upstaged by Memnon or yield territory.
  • Advanced to Granicus River, set up cavalry at front of the bank. Usually would put infantry but were proud and wanted to lead from the front, not the Greek mercenaries.
  • Macedonians
  • Before battle Parmenio suggests should wait till morning (enemy would retire at night, allowing safe river crossing at dawn). Alexander wants to show might & attacks immediately
  • Adapts to battle conditions by using standard formation + a group of cavalry under Amyntas
  • Positions companions and himself to the left of the line, forcing Persians to change their plans
  • Orders Amyntas to charge diagonally to the right
  • Leads companions from front, forced way up river along bank, aimed for the weakened centre
  • Charge by Alexander puts Greek infantry on low hill surrounded by Macedonian infantry. Alexander saved by Cleitus the Black.
  • Greek mercenaries ask for terms, Alexander refuses and cuts them down to 2000. Survivors sent in chains to work in Macedonian mines



  • The governor of Miletus agreed to surrender
  • Changed his mind when realised could get support from the Persian fleet
  • Greek fleet arrived & blockaded the harbour, alienating the city thus making it an easy siege
  • 300 mercenaries escaped to the city’s citadel, and were apologised by Alexander
    • He instead employed them
    • Arrian: ‘he was moved to pity by their courage and loyalty’
    • Hamilton: he realised it would anger the Greeks if he killed them, especially in the light of the slaughter at the Granicus

Strengths at Miletus

  • Moved quickly to blockade harbour – naval awareness
  • Didn’t mind going against usual behaviour to take in 300 valuable recruits.
  • Diplomatic


Disbanding the Fleet

  • Parmenio had advised Alexander to fight at sea
  • However, Alexander rejected this advice, as by losing at sea he risked losing face and encouraging a Greek rebellion
  • He disbanded the fleet but for 20 Athenian ships, which were kept as hostage
    • Probably wasn’t because he was short of money although Arrian believes he was
    • More likely that he recognised the strength of the Persian fleet; there was no point risking a loss
    • Arrian: Believed that if he controlled the coast he would not need a fleet


  • Hamilton; a calculated risk that the Persian fleet would be inactive over winter
  • Was indeed a risk, as Memnon tried to carry the war into Greece an unopposed fleet could prove devastating
  • Could have been used to effect at Hallicarnassus, where Alexander was forced into a 12 month siege as the city was supplied by Persian ships
  • Alexander ordered a new fleet to be built in 333 BCE, possibly an admission of ineptitude
  • It was not until Issus that Persian naval activity ceased
  • Arrian: “Alexander decided to disband the fleet, since at no time he was short of money, he saw too that his fleet was no match for the Persian and he had no wish to risk defeat even with a portion of his force… by taking the coastal cities he would destroy the Persian fleet, for they would have nowhere to get fresh crews from an no port to put in at”


The Gordium Knot

  • A legend said that the first King of the Phrygians had arrived on a wagon
  • The wagon still existed, but was tied to a pole with a complex knot which no-one could undo
  • It was rumoured that whoever could untie the knot would rule Asia
  • Alexander failed, so according to Arrian he cut the knot
    • Plutarch says he took out the pin that was holding it
  • An example of Alexander’s propaganda
  • Were he to walk away from Gordium would effectively walk away from being King of Asia.
  • Gave his conquest a sense of being ordained by the gods
  • His men could put their faith in his ability to lead them through battle with the knowledge that he was meant to be the King of Asia.









Battle of Issus


The Prelude

  • Alexander’s reconnaissance failed
  • Poorly informed of Darius’ movements, & entered Phoenicia through the Cicilian Gates, taking part of his army to subdue the coast
  • Parmenio continued southwards towards the Syrian Gates
  • Darius came from the east through Amanic Gates, coming across the Macedonian sick & wounded and massacring them
  • Arrian: Upon hearing this, Alexander was so disbelieving he sent a boat to check
  • However, he turned this to his advantage, pinning Darius between the mountains and the sea so that he could not use his superior numbers



  • Darius wanted to hold Pinarus River, and placed his strong Greek mercenaries in the centre
  • Had a mass of Asiatic levies to the rear
  • A strong force of light troops on his left flank
  • Darius himself was to the rear in the centre
  • Most of the cavalry were on the right under Nabarzanes


  • Normal line with few exceptions
  • The Thessalian cavalry were moved to the left to combat the Persian cavalry
  • Parmenio was not to leave a gap between Macedonians & the sea so they weren’t outflanked
  • Mercenary infantry in the rear
  • A force of light troops were sent to the right to counteract the Persian light armed troops


      Alexander:                                                             Persians

      2100 Companions                                                     12000 Cavalry

      600 Prodomoi                                                         8000 Mercenary Hoplites

      2100 Thessalians                                                      20000 Heavy Infantry

      750 Greek Cavalry                                                    14000 Light Troops

      300 Paeonians                                                         50000 Levy

      12000 Phalanx

      7000 Greek infantry

      3000 Hypaspists

      6000 Thracian Peltasts

      5000 Mercenary Peltasts

      2000 Light troops


  • Darius deploys vast army behind a screen of cavalry & light troops between the sea & the hills.
  • As Alexander advances the screen retires to the flanks to reveal a line of Persian infantry (who are armed with hoplite weapons) and Greek mercenary Hoplites who held the centre.
  • As the foothills are unsuitable for horsemen, Darius switches bulk of his cavalry to the right wing.
  • Alexander moves his Thessalians to the left the counter this.
  • He also sends light troops into the foothills to oppose the Persians in the hills.


The Battle

  • Alexander moved forward with Companions across river, followed by first two battalions of phalanx
  • Remaining battalions couldn’t force way across the river, opening gap in Macedonian line
  • Darius’ mercenaries attacked the gap, and a fierce battle ensued
  • However, Darius fled as the Companions approached
  • Persian cavalry gained some success against Parmenio, til saw flight of Darius & broke ranks
  • Alexander swings left after Darius, and a bitter struggle ensues around his chariot.
  • Alexander is wounded in the thigh.
  • Darius, sensing that the Macedonians are gaining the upper hand, flees the field.
  • His Greek Mercenaries are giving the Phalanx a hard time, but the Companions wheel into them.
  • The Persian right, seeing Darius run, also breaks. Panic spreads and there is a wholesale rout.


The Aftermath

  • Darius’ tent, baggage train, treasure and royal family captured
  • 450 Macedonians killed, 4500 wounded
  • 10,000 Persian cavalry killed a 100,000 foot soldiers – obviously propaganda from Callisthenes
  • However, five Persian commanders were killed
  • Only 2000 mercenaries remained with Darius, 4000 deserted for Agis
  • It was the first time Alexander had faced Darius and, despite far smaller army, won
  • Stopped the Persian naval offensive
  • Quietened Macedon’s detractors in Greece, particularly Demosthenes
  • League of Corinth sent Alexander envoys of congratulations
  • Left Alexander free to subdue Phoenicia, particularly Tyre and Gaza




Siege of Tyre


Opposing forces:


  • Entire force if he needed it. Thessalian engineer. Inhabitants of neighbouring villagers. Timber resources of Old Tyre.


  • Fortified island complex. At least 30,000 citizens

Build Up

  • Alexander asked to sacrifice to Heracles. Only the Great King could do so. His was of asking for submission & recognition of authority.
  • Tyrians refused. Didn’t recognise Alexander’s authority. Riled Alexander and siege preparations began
  • Siege part of Alexander’s strategy to secure Asia Minor coast to halt supplies of Persian fleet.

Situation at Tyre

  • Island 800m off shore
  • Little or no land between water’s edge and walls – 150ft high in places
  • Tyrians able to access supplies via water so couldn’t be starved out.


  • When harassed by Tyrians, built the highest siege towers in antiquity
  • Used siege engines on ships that were supplied by Phoenician navy


  • Until now it has been pitch battles, now he has to change warfare method – does so with considerable ease and ingenuity
  • When Tyrians tried to burn siege towers, he covered in war hide to nullify flames
  • When they tried to destroy the tower from the sea, he had the mole widened to compensate


  • Patience and Persistence – 7 months with many difficulties
  • Compassionate – understood his men & allowed them to massacre 8000 Tyrians
  • Wisdom – realised Tyrians withholding could encourage others – similar to treatment of Thebes


  • Underestimated the determination of the Tyrians
  • Allowed Darius time to regroup
  • Disbanding the fleet cost them 7 months


Second Embassy from Darius

Darius offered to

  • Pay a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family
  • Give Alexander all his territory west of the Euphrates
  • Give Alexander his daughter’s hand in marriage

However, this was rejected by Alexander                                         

  • The countries west of the Euphrates and their treasures were already his for the taking
  • He would marry Darius’ daughter with or without permission

Callisthenes: when Parmenio advised Alexander should accept the offer, Alexander replied ‘if I were Parmenio I would also accept it’

  • Could possibly be a later attempt by the ‘official’ to blacken Parmenio’s name and justify his eventual murder





Conquest of Egypt

  • Alexander continues down coast of Egypt, faced second siege at Gaza along the way
  • Egypt conquered without fight, Alexander crowned Pharoah (was seen as a liberator)
  • Troops rewarded with games


Egypt under the Persians

  • The Persians had controlled Egypt for 200 years since it was occupied by Cambyses
  • The Egyptians had successfully rebelled in 400BCE, but in 343BCE they were defeated
  • The Persians had desecrated Egyptian temples, and roasted the sacred Bull of Apis


Alexander’s Reception

  • Alexander was therefore welcomed with open arms
  • The Egyptian governor surrendered immediately
  • He was crowned Pharaoh at Memphis, becoming a living god and son of Ammon
  • He treated the Egyptian religion with respect and tolerance, and made sacrifices to Egyptian gods



  • Visited the west of the Nile delta, accompanied by a group of guards and the Royal Squadron
  • He laid out plans for a huge city
    • Not a fort
    • Replace Tyre as the regional centre of commerce
    • Arrian: could also be used as a base for a future invasion of the Black Sea
  • The Rhodian architect Deinocrates laid out the city
    • Wide streets
    • Rectangular houses
    • Well selected harbour, it was sheltered by the Pharos Island and unlikely to be silted up


Leaving Egypt

  • Alexander held games in Memphis, with athletics and literary competitions
  • Famous Greek athletes took part
  • Was a reward for the hard work of Alexander’s men
  • Cleomenes was left in charge of the Egyptian treasury
  • Alexander returned to Tyre, where he was told of the rebellions in Greece and agreed to release the prisoners from the Granicus



Darius’ Preparations

  • Had assembled a massive army, made up of troops of many different nations
    • Scythed chariots, elephants and camels
    • Indians, Scythians, Bactrians
    • Immortals
    • Greek Mercenaries (far less than at Issus)
    • Asiatic levies
  • Levelled the ground, making it easier for his chariots
  • Wanted to wait for Alexander to move first
  • His men stayed up all night before the battle in case of a night attack
    • The Persians had to wait a nervous night while the Macedonians slept
    • Arrian; this was the main reason for Alexander’s victory

Persian Battle Line

  • Stretched out across the plain of Gaugamela
  • Hoped to use his numbers to outflank Alexander


Alexander’s Preparations

  • Had made painstaking reconnaissance
  • Interrogated prisoners, giving him the order of the Persian battle line
  • Alexander personally led a cavalry reconnaissance
    • Confirmed there were no cavalry traps
    • Discovered that Darius had flattened the ground
  • Alexander made sacrifices, praying for help as the son of Ammon
    • Great propaganda value; increased the faith of his troops’ in him
  • Ordered his men to rest


Alexander’s Battle Line

  • Was concerned at being outflanked by the superior Persian numbers
  • Placed a Greek phalanx to protect the rear
  • Placed Allied cavalry to protect the flanks


Alexander                                                        Persians

2100 Companions                                                          2000 Royal guard infantry

600 Prodomoi                                                   2000 Mardi light troops

2100 Thessalians                                                50000 Levy

750 Greek Cavalry                                              35000 Cavalry

300 Paeonian Cavalry                                          200 Chariots

500 Thracian Cavalry                                          15 Elephants

300 Asian Cavalry

400 Mercenary Cavalry

12000 Phalanx

3000 Hypaspists

7000 Greek Phalanx

8000 Mercenary Infantry

6000 Thracian Peltasts

1000 Illyricum Light Troops

1000 Agrianians

1000 Cretans



  • Darius clears a battlefield for his cavalry
  • Alexander takes up his oblique formation and edges diagonally right off the cleared area
  • Bessus tries to outflank him
  • Macedonian right is pushed back by heavy cavalry
  • Darius realises he is moving off cleared ground & orders left to attack, sends chariots forward
  • This is disrupted by light troops, some chariots pass through the phalanx but destroyed behind


  • Companions charge the weak spot created by Bessus stretching leftwards
  • Darius flees
  • Phalanx charges frontally and the centre crumbles
  • Mazaues launches his cavalry at Parmenio & 2 units of the phalanx become detached and some Persians ride through to the baggage train
  • Killed by the Greek reserves
  • Alexander finally wheels left to help Parmenio
  • Collided with retreating Persian cavalry, who fought bitterly
  • 60 companions are killed
  • Alexander and Parmenio emerge victorious

After the Battle

  • Instead of heading north to pursue Darius, headed south into the economic heartland of Persia
  • He declared himself ‘King of Asia’
  • He made for the cities of Babylon, Susa and Persepolis












The Persian Heartland



  • Mazaues, who had fought at Gaugamela, was the satrap of Babylon
  • When Alexander approached, Mazaues surrendered the city, possibly realising what had happened at Thebes and Tyre. The Babylonians had also been insulted by the Persians, who had committed sacrilege at the Temple of Marduk
  • Alexander treated Babylon well. He rebuilt the Temple of Marduk, gained respect and popularity
  • Mazaues was reappointed Satrap of Babylon. Represented policy of fusion.
  • Reappointing satraps became common
  • His power was limited, as he still collected taxes & governed as normal but had no military power


Susa and Persepolis

  • Susa also surrendered
  • Alexander took 50,000 talents from its treasury
  • At Persepolis, Alexander found 120,000 talents, putting him in a very strong economic position
  • Troops were paid, and money was sent to Antipater to assist him against Agis III


The Burning of Persepolis

  • When arrived in Persepolis, let his awestruck & war-weary men loot the city – little choice
  • Persepolis was a complex of palaces, treasuries & theatres, Persian capital in 480BCE - Xerxes
  • Because original purpose of expedition was to punish Persians for 480BCE invasion, made sense to treat Persepolis harshly
  • After three months in Persepolis, Alexander set fire to the palace
  • The Official Version (published by Callisthenes and Ptolemy)
    • It was to punish the Persians for the sacrilege committed in Greece
    • Propaganda to show that the campaign to punish the Persians had been successful
    • The symbolism would have pleased the Greeks
      • But…
    • Persepolis was effectively Alexander’s own palace
    • Intended to rule the empire under policy of fusion, had already started to implement
    • If he intended to burn Persepolis, why do it three months after his invasion?
  • The Vulgate Version (published by Cleitarchus, Plutarch and Diodorus)
    • The fire came at the end of a drinking party
    • A Greek prostitute, the mistress of Ptolemy named Thais was present
    • Gave a speech encouraging Alexander to burn it as punishment for Persian invasion
    • Said that as a woman she would start the fire to show that women could perpetrate greater revenge on Persia than all the Greek generals
    • Alexander and his companions raced through the palace, setting fire to everything
    • Plutarch says Alexander changed his mind and ordered the blaze to be extinguished


Bactria and Sogdia



  • Creating concept of “winged soldiers” to take Sogdian Rock


  • Changes army to fit new type of Guerilla warfare

Clever Strategist

  • Strategy to take Sogdian Rock
  • Recognised strategic necessity of taking Rock of Aornus – threatened communication lines

Positives of leadership

  • Ability to come up with solutions
  • Determined to succeed
  • Looks after welfare of troops
  • Winged soldiers volunteers, not forced


  • Doesn’t understand the harshness of Winter – troops suffer. Army saved by local tribes
  • Could have been defeated if Sogdians realised how few troops there were.



New Strategy

New Strategy

  • Capture of Persepolis was the end of the War of Revenge
  • Now it was a War of Conquest to establish his own empire
  • Greeks who accompanied him under the L.O.C could return home or continue as mercenaries


The Murder of Darius

  • Alexander pursued Darius northwards after leaving Persepolis
  • Received news that Darius had been arrested by Bessus, covered 250 miles in less than a week
  • However, only 60 Companions were able to keep up with him
  • As they saw Alexander approach, Nabarzanes and Barsaentes stabbed Darius and fled
  • Darius was buried with honours befitting a king, and announced himself Darius’ heir
  • Bessus and Barsaentes were punished for regicide
    • Part of Alexander’s policy of fusion; punishing the murderers of his predecessor


New Terrain

Failure to Understand

  • Didn’t appreciate the severe nature of the northern winter
  • He crossed a mountain pass from Arachosia to Paropamisos in 329 BCE
    • His men suffered from cold, frostbite and snow-blindness
    • Many animals died or were eaten for food
    • Could have been far worse if not for the help of local tribes
Changes to the Army
  • Alexander crossed into Sogdia in 328 BCE
  • He reorganised his army into five smaller columns
  • There was no longer the fighting against large opponents
  • They were fighting a guerrilla style war against tribes with superior local knowledge, often in impregnable hill forts
  • The phalanx was no longer of any use, and the sarissa was abandoned
  • Each column acted independently
  • Alexander still pushed ahead
  • The army travelled through deep snow, and much of the land had been laid to waste by the retreating Bessus
  • Bessus was captured in 328 BCE, and tried and executed in Persian fashion
  • Alexander’s main foe was Spitamenes
  • Coenus’ column defeated him, and local tribe, decapitated him and sent his head to Alexander


Sogdian Rock

  • Sogdian Lord Oxyartes took refuge in a hilltop fort, with sheer rock on all sides
  • It was well provisioned with food and water and could therefore withstand a siege
  • The Sogdians mocked Alexander, saying he would need ‘winged soldiers’ to capture them
  • Spurred on Alexander, who called on 300 troops to climb to fort, 30 of whom died on the way
  • Alexander called on the fort defenders to look up and see the soldiers
  • Unaware of how few soldiers there were, the Sogdians surrendered
  • Alexander entered the fort and married the daughter of Oxyartes, Roxane
    • Apparently fell in love at first sight
    • Also politically motivated


Massacre at Massaga

      • There was a massacre of 7000 Indian mercenaries who had been fighting against Alexander
      • The Official Version (told by Arrian):
    • The Mercenaries had agreed to join Alexander but were planning to desert
    • Alexander therefore had grounds for their execution
      • The Vulgate Version (told by Diodorus):
    • When local tribes defeated, Alexander gave permission for the mercenaries to leave
    • However, Alexander had tricked them, and then surrounded them and massacred them




Rock of Aornus

  • A hill fort that commanded the Indus River
  • Threatened Alexander’s communication lines
  • Legend that Herakles had failed to conquer the fort; Saw this as an opportunity to outdo him
  • It was on a large, flat topped ridge, with the only access being cross a deep ravine
  • Constructed a causeway to cross it in three days, while archers & slingers kept the enemy at bay
  • On the completion of the causeway, Alexander took the fort


Battle of Hydaspes



  • Alexander arrived at the river, but it was swollen due to the monsoon
  • It was too deep to cross on horseback, and Porus’ 200 elephants was scaring the cavalry


Alexander’s Strategy

  • He lulled Porus into a complacent mood
    • Feinted attempts at crossing
    • Each time, the Indians came out to meet him
    • Porus became tired and instead waited in his camp for a messenger
  • He then crossed the river upstream without Porus knowing
    • Planned to leave a small portion of his army behind under Craterus
    • Those left behind would pretend to be whole army - light campfires, make lots of noise


The Crossing

  • Alexander waited for a stormy night, so that lightning and thunder would conceal his crossing
  • He dropped Meleagar partway up the river with a small force at a ford
  • He then continued upstream so that he could cross while concealed by an island
  • However, they landed on an island in the middle of the river
  • Fortunately, they found a ford but had to cross neck-deep


The Battle


Alexander:                                                                   Porus:

2100 Companions                                                                      30000 Infantry

600 Prodomoi                                                               4000 Cavalry

2100 Thessalians                                                            300 Chariots

750 Greek Cavalry                                                          90 Elephants

300 Paeonian

500 Thracian Cavalry

300 Asian Cavalry

400 Mercenary Cavalry

14,000 Phalanx

3000 Hypaspists

9000 Greek Mercenaries

6000 Light troops, including mounted archers


The Beginning

  • Porus’ scouts spotted Alexander, but Porus’ thought it only a small detachment
  • He therefore only sent a small army of chariots under his son
  • The chariots were stuck in the mud, and Alexander easily won the skirmish.
  • Alexander reaches the Hydaspes to find Porus blocking the ford.
  • After many feints he decides to cross behind an island.
  • He moves by night during a storm leaving Craterus & a force of 2000 cavalry & 9000 infantry at the ford, and dropping off Meleagar with 1000 cavalry and 16000 infantry en route.
  • Embarks with remainder, accidentally lands on an island & struggles ashore across the swollen river, while boats pick up the phalanx.
  • Cavalry, with screen of mounted archers, moves off while Porus sends his son to intercept them.
  • Alexander realises Porus isn’t following them, & cavalry overwhelms Indian chariots stuck in mud.
  • Porus’ son is skilled here.
  • Porus moves his army to confront Alexander whose cavalry manoeuvres in front of his infantry giving them time to form up.
The Main Battle
  • Porus’ infantry is screened by elephants.
  • Alexander’s cavalry moves to the right, while Coenus makes a circling move to the left.
  • When the Macedonian horse hits the Indian left, Porus switches his right wing to support.
  • Coenus chases them; Alexander charges and they take refuge among the elephants.
  • Greek light troops hurry them and the remaining Indian cavalry is pushed by Alexander when they try and wheel on the light troops.
  • Reunited, Alexander’s cavalry attacks the infantry as the Phalanx moves in.
  • The elephants run amok; the cavalry is crushed and surrounded by Craterus’ force which has now crossed the river.
  • Porus is defeated and his losses are catastrophic.
  • Arrian: the Indians lost 20,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry while Alexander lost 80 infantry, 10 archers, 20 companions and 200 cavalry
  • Diodorus: the Indians lost 12,000 while Alexander lost 700 infantry and 280 cavalry

The Aftermath

  • Alexander sent Taxiles to pursue Porus, who almost killed him
  • Eventually Porus was captured
  • Alexander asked him what Porus thought he should do with him, and Porus replied he should be treated as a king
  • Alexander restored Porus as satrap and added to his territory
  • Two cities were founded on the site of the battle




The Malli


Mutiny at the Beas

  • Alexander’s men refused to go any further
  • Following the mutiny Alexander travelled south down the Indus
  • He constructed a fleet of 800 boats commanded by Nearchus
  • Craterus travelled along west bank of Indus, Hephaestion along east, subdued opposition as went
  • It was a very fierce campaign


The Mallian Town

  • This was the hardest fought battle of the campaign
  • The defenders were easily pushed back from the wall, and took refuge in the citadel
  • Alexander’s men were hesitant in going up the scaling ladder, demonstrating a moral decline
  • Alexander put his army to shame by scaling it himself, accompanied by only three others
  • The ladder broke under the weight of his troops as they scrambled up behind him
  • Alexander and only three others reached the wall, one died immediately
  • Alexander was shot through the lung and almost died until his army reached him
  • A massacre ensued


Positive Attributes

  • Men not wanting to climb ladder so…
    • Alexander climbs first, leading from front, doesn’t expect men to do something he would not do
  • Ensured Macedonian victory, Army morale
  • Encouraged others to ask for peace


Negative Attributes

  • Put self in harms way – real chance of death (almost died!) – would possibly end Macedonan dominance









The Gedrosian Desert


Why did he cross the desert?

  • To set up supply depots for the fleet
  • Outdo King Cyrus and Queen Semiramis, who had failed to cross before
  • Restore his aura of invincibility after the Beas
  • Conquer the desert and defeat the local Oreitae
  • Explore the desert
  • Suggested by Justin that he did so to punish his men, but this is unlikely



  • Shortage of food – even had to eat horses. Soldiers broke the royal seal and distributed food – it was so desperate that Alexander didn’t punish them
  • Excessive heat – many died from exhaustion
  • Lack of water – Arrian: some men found some water and gave it to the king. He poured it out in front of them, declaring that if he men were thirsty he would be too
  • Flooding – one night a flash flood carried away many men and animals
  • Sandstorms
  • Poisonous snakes and plants
  • Difficult terrain – carts got bogged down, animals died due to overexertion
  • Lack of geographical knowledge – guides lost their way, planned to stay on the coast but a mountain range forced them to trek inland


Alexander’s Return

Alexander’s Return

  • Celebrated with athletic and artistic games
  • Diodorus; he celebrated a weeklong Dionysia
    • Travelled in a cart with his companions, laden with wine
    • His drunken soldiers followed, playing flutes and lyres. This may be an exaggeration


Misconduct by Officials



  • Alexander reached Carmania after escaping from Gedrosia
  • He had been away from Persepolis for over five years
  • A revolt had started in Dragania
  • Satraps had been acting independently, enlisting their own armies, abusing their subjects and plundering temples
  • Had dropped their guard in the absence of Alexander
  • Was mainly Alexander’s Median generals, namely Heracon, Agathon, Sitacles and Cleander, Coenus’ brother
  • The generals and 6000 of their troops were arrested
  • Cleander and Sitacles were put to death
  • Arrian: this was to set an example
  • Heracon was acquitted but later killed for plundering the temple at Susa
  • 600 followers were also killed
  • All satraps were ordered to disband their mercenary armies
Why so harsh?
  • Alexander was fearful of plots against him
  • Was concerned at the overall loyalty of these men
  • Hamilton: They had carried out the murder of Parmenio, making Alexander feel guilty
  • Questioned Alexander’s invincibility
  • Went against Alexander’s desire to see a policy of fusion; these generals were treating Persians as second class citizens



Harpalus and Cleomenes

  • Was the treasurer in Babylon
  • Had seriously overspent
  • On Alexander’s return, Harpalus, despite being a boyhood friend of Alexander, fled after seeing the treatment of the Median generals
    • Took 6000 men and 5000 talents
  • Was given Athenian citizenship as he helped them through a famine
  • However, the Athenians stripped him of his force and arrested him, taking 700 talents from him
  • He escaped to Crete with his army but was murdered by his own men
  • Was a Greek who had usurped the Egyptian satrap of Egypt
  • Had been an oppressive ruler
  • However, Alexander pardoned him, so long as he built shrines to the dead Hephaestion


Alexander and the Macedonians

When Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Asia Minor he could do no wrong. He was the golden boy of the army. Totally infallible. That was in 334 BC. For the next four years he conquered Asia Minor, the Phoenician Coast, Egypt and finally the Persian heartland.

It is not hard to see how, with such success, his men would follow him with such obedience. However, after 330 BC things changed. By 326 BC, just 4 years later and thousands of kilometres to the east, we get a very different impression. The feeling of the men toward Alexander is no longer blind belief, but they stand up to him. Two years down the track, in 324 BC at Opis, they are openly hostile towards him. So what happened over the time that changed their hearts so greatly?


Factors leading to deterioration of relationship

Policy of Fusion

  • Didn’t destroy Persian rule, but replaced it with his own
  • Fused two kingships by:
    • Using Persian satraps as his governors
    • Introduced Persians into the army, a whole army of Persians trained as Macedonians
    • Enjoyed the luxury of Persian royalty
    • Married foreign wives
    • Persian lords brought into Companions
    • Showed respect for Persian kings e.g. rebuilding the tomb of Cyrus
    • Punished Bessus for regicide
    • Adopted Persian dress: diadem, robe and sash
    • Adopted Persian customs, e.g. Proskynesis
  • Some believed as a defeated people, Persians shouldn’t be treated like this
  • Believed as Macedonians they were a superior race & offended by Alexander’s actions
  • Alexander employed these customs sparingly, and for the most part kept to his existing practice, fearing to offend the Macedonians. - Diodorus


Nature of Kingship

The Macedonian King

  • First among equals
  • Nobles could joke, laugh and argue with him, join him for drinking parties
  • They wore the same clothes
  • Nobles gave support and loyalty; in return he asked advice

The Persian King

  • Had an exalted status
  • Not divine but God’s representative on earth
  • His court embodied luxury and splendour. Attended to by ushers, bodyguards, eunuchs & a harem
  • King travelled in luxury, even on campaign
  • Access to the King controlled by the Vizier


Son of Ammon

  • After his visit to Siwah, strongly held the belief he was the son of Zeus-Ammon
  • May have had a propaganda motive
  • Alienated him amongst his men, especially those who had fought under Philip
  • He was no longer first among equals


War Weariness

  • The campaigns before Persepolis had included great battles and magnificent booty
  • The following 4 years had been a weary grind
  • The war had turned from a war of revenge to one of conquest so Alexander could satisfy his own ambitions – not necessarily shared by his men


Philotas and Parmenio


What happened?

  • Macedonian Dimnus invited lover Nicomachus to join a plot to kill the king, but instead told his brother Cebalinus
  • Cebalinus and Nichomachus tried to warn Philotas of the plot, but he told them the king was too busy to hear them
  • Cebalinus eventually told Alexander, who killed Dimnus and tortured Philotas
  • Philotas confessed under torture and was stoned to death

Was he guilty?

  • Only proof of guilt was failing to arrange a meeting
  • Claimed he hadn’t taken the plot seriously and Cebalinus was being over-cautious
  • Alexander possibly wanted to be rid of Philotas and Permenio
  • Ptolemy – Philotas had plotted against Alexander before but was forgiven
  • Philotas had become very boastful and excessive, conflict with Hephaestion, Coenus and Craterus
  • Had objected to policy of fusion, boasted that his father was greater than Alexander
  • However, Alexander probably believed in Philotas’ guilt
  • Increasingly suspicious of plots on his life, possibly reminiscent of Philip’s treatment of him
  • Increased by unfavourable reception of policy of fusion
  • Plutarch – Alexander’s belief had been exacerbated by Craterus, Hephaestion and Coenus


  • Had been left at Ecbatana to secure communication with a sizeable force
  • Dangerous to leave him in this position: Popular with troops, Might have decided to avenge sons death, Had opposed Alexander’s policy of fusion
  • Alexander sent orders for murder before he learnt of sons death
  • Philotas himself had admitted that he had heard of some kind of plot being prepared against Alexander, but had been convicted of keeping silent about this to Alexander, although he visited Alexander’s ten twice a day.  Philotas was shot down by the Macedonians’ javelins together with his fellow conspirators. – Arrian

Shows Alexander is:

Ruthless – not afraid of killing some of his once most trusting generals

Brutal – Violence is his first solution to dealing with Parmenio

Suspicious – fearful of plots


Murder of Cleitus

Murder of Cleitus

What happened?

  • Alexander invited Cleitus to eat with him. Cleitus was in the middle of a sacrifice, but left
  • Alexander ordered for a sacrifice to be made for Cleitus – none made
  • Drinking party later took place. A song sung that mocked Macedonians’ defeated by local tribe
  • Older members insulted but Alexander and his friends enjoyed it
  • Triggered an argument between Cleitus and Alexander: Alexander threw an apple, Cleitus reached for a dagger but it had been removed by a bodyguard. Alexander declared an emergency, Cleitus ushered out of the tent. Cleitus returned, quoting Euripides, lamenting the power of the king. Alexander snatched a spear from one of his guards & ran Cleitus through. Almost killed himself, but was stopped by his bodyguard

Why was Cleitus angry?

  • Vented complaints bottled up for 3 years
  • Shows the resentment of the older generation
  • Angry the fallen Macedonians being mocked by ‘natives and enemies’. Persians and Bactrians at the court – some did not consider them as equals
  • Claims of divinity – no longer ‘first among equals’
  • The older generation felt their achievements overshadowed
  • It was not right, he shouted, for Macedonians who were much superior to those who mocked them, even if they had met with misfortune, to be insulted before natives and enemies. - Plutarch

Reaction – Alexander

  • Remorseful – tried to kill himself. Refused to eat/drink for 3 days
  • Had thought highly of Cleitus – had saved Alexander at the battle of Granicus, sister had been Alexander’s nanny, had been appointed satrap of Bactria
  • Was still determined to go ahead with policy of fusion

Reaction – others

  • Many Macedonians showed no resentment to Alexander.
  • Some condemned Cleitus, wanted to deny him a burial
  • Plutarch – Cleitus had been unpopular








  • A traditional Persian practice for those who entered the presence of the Great King. Prostration
  • PERSIANS: a sign of respect and acknowledgement he was superior. Not a sign of worship
  • GREEKS: proskynesis associated with religious cults. Degrading, barbaric and abhorrent to prostrate before a human
  • Proskynesis furthered Alexander’s policy of fusion
  • Wanted a uniform court procedure when Macedonian/Greeks & Persians met on formal occasions
  • He couldn’t forbid Persians to use proskynesis – they wouldn’t think he was a real king
  • Tried to convince Macedonians/Greeks the ceremony did not involve worship & expected Macedonians/Greeks to practice Proskynesis only when Persians were present
  • However, it would have appealed to his megalomania

What happened

  • Alexander had previously instructed Hephaestion to train some of his court officials, Callisthenes and others had agreed
  • One evening after dinner each member of the party made a libation with wine at the altar, drank from the cup and prostrated themselves before Alexander who kissed them in Persian fashion
  • Callisthenes objected, as it was alien to him
  • He was the only one who refused & Alexander refused to kiss him
  • Later, Callisthenes fell into a trap where he was challenged to criticise Macedonians & he did, enraging them.
  • Indeed, he was the only person to voice openly his disapproval of what all the best and oldest of the Macedonians resented in their hearts.  By preventing the introduction of this practice, he save the Greeks from great disgrace and Alexander from a greater; but he brought about his own downfall, being thought to have forced the King to abandon it rather than to have persuaded him. - Plutarch


Pages’ Conspiracy

Conspiracy of the Pages

What happened

  • Alexander had been on a long hunt with his pages
  • Hermolaus (page) killed a boar before Alexander
    • This was an insult & Hermolaus was whipped and deprived of his horse
  • Hermolaus conspired with the other pages to kill the king
  • The conspiracy was discovered and all pages put to death
  • Motives
  • Hermolaus’ motives couldn’t have been purely personal – punishment wasn’t excessive
  • Readily found support amongst other pages to kill Alexander
  • During the trial, they claimed Alexander’s policies were intolerable
    • Policy of fusion
    • Claim of divinity

Callisthenes’ involvement

  • Ptolemy and Aristobulus say Callisthenes had spurred the boys on
  • Relations between Alexander and Callisthenes already strained after Proskynesis
  • Plutarch – Callisthenes had become arrogant & was acting as “if he had put down a dictatorship”
  • Upon the discovery of the plot, many accusations were put down against Callisthenes
  • Accusations were made that Callisthenes had answered the boys in asking “how can one become famous” that they should kill someone who is famous
  • His guilt is questionable
  • Even under torture the pages do not implicate him
  • And yet not one of the conspirators, even under the cruellest tortures incriminated Callisthenes. – Plutarch
  • However, Callisthenes is arrested
  • It is likely his previous behaviour was too much
  • Ptolemy – he was hanged
  • Chares – he was carried for 7 months ands died from being overweight
  • The Greeks world reacted with anger, however the army seemed unperturbed – many disliked Callisthenes for his notorious arrogance
  • Events surrounding the plots against Alexander and the deaths of leading Macedonians and Greeks highlight the extent of the opposition to the policy of fusion, the determination of Alexander to proceed with his policies and to suppress opposition, and his ruthlessness and megalomania.

Mutiny at Beas

Mutiny at the Beas/Hyphasis 326BC

What happened?

  • Came late in Alexander’s reign
  • After 4 years of harsh campaigning in Bactria and Sogdia
  • After his victory at the Hydaspes, Alexander continued east
  • The weather was bad and the fighting was fierce
  • At the river Beas/Hyphasis his  men refused to go any further
  • Alexander saw that his troops were worn out with their constant fighting.  They had spent almost eight years among hardships and danger. - Diodorus


  • They had travelled a long way. Had been 8 years from home.
  • Had to endure the Bactrian campaign
  • Just experienced the horror of Porus’ elephants
  • Had to undergo the burning heat and monsoon rains
  • Were homesick
  • Macedonian clothes gone – had to wear Indian clothes
  • Hooves of horses had worn out
  • Rumours of even greater armies beyond the Ganges
  • War of revenge was long over
  • Didn’t know how far they were going and doubted if even Alexander knew

Alexander’s Reaction

  • Gave a long speech, promising wealth across the river
  • Coenus pleaded to return home and so did many of his officers
  • Alexander was furious and like Achilles shut himself up in his tent for 3 days
  • Men did not change their mind
  • Made a sacrifice to the Gods but the omens to cross were unfavourable
  • Alexander therefore decided to turn back to great delight
  • At first Alexander, depressed and angry, shut himself up in his tent and lay there, not at all grateful for what the Macedonians had achieved if they did not cross the Ganges, but construing turning back as an admission of defeat. – Plutarch


  • Sailed down the river to the Indian ocean
  • Plutarch – left a number of very large pieces of armour on the side of the river to ward off invading armies
  • Erected 12 towers for the Olympians
  • Assigned the territory around the river to Porus
  • Built the city of Buchephela in honour of his horse
  • Built a fleet of 800 ships
  • Coenus died and Alexander staged a massive funeral for him


Susa Weddings

The Susa Weddings

  • Then he held weddings at Susa, both his own and for his Companions. – Arrian
  • After his return from the east, Alexander was free to continue his policy of fusion
  • Held a mass wedding at Susa
  • Fusing Macedonians and Persians into one race
  • Hamilton – this was the culmination of the policy of fusion
  • The ceremonies lasted 5 days, with entertainers from all over the Greek world
  • They were held in a luxurious tent – 0.5 mile radius
  • Alexander, Hephaestion and 90 leading Macedonians and Greeks married in Persian fashion into noble Persian and Median families
  • Alexander married Darius’ daughter and Artaxerxes’ daughter
  • Hephaestion married Darius’ younger daughter so their children could be cousins
  • Craterus, Perdiccas, Ptolemy, Eumenes, and Seleuccus also married
  • Alexander gave the Persian women dowries & wedding gifts to the 10,000 Macedonian grooms
  • Signalled the transfer of power
  • Alexander was now Great King of Persia and Greece
  • However, many of the Susa husbands later divorced their wives (except Seleuccus)


Mutiny at Opis


What happened

  • 30,000 young Persians recruited and trained as Macedonians
  • Arrived in Susa wearing Macedonian clothes, with Macedonian equipment and speaking Greek
  • They performed an impressive display of skills and discipline for the Macedonian soldiers
  • Part of Alexander’s policy of fusion, but also the necessity for more soldiers
  • At Opis, Alexander summoned his troops and announced those too old or disabled would be released from service with a great booty
  • At this announcement his men mutinied
  • At Opis Alexander summoned [a meeting of] his Macedonians and announced that he was releasing from the army those who, because of old age or disablement, were no longer fit for service, and was sending them home. – Arrian


  • They were convinced Alexander was trying to get rid of him
  • Alexander’s adoption of Persian dress offended them
  • They taunted him to dismiss them all and carry on with the support of his ‘father’, Zeus Ammon
  • They had been annoyed, indeed, throughout the whole campaign by many other actions of Alexander; he had offended them by his adoption of Persian dress, by equipping his Oriental “Successors” in the Macedonian fashion, and by including foreign cavalry in the ranks of the Companions. – Arrian

Alexander’s Reaction

  • Ordered his officers to execute 13 ringleaders
  • Reprimanded his troops for their ingratitude
  • Reminded them he had outshone his father, they had gained wealth and glory because of him, he had suffered with them, he had cared for their dead and families fittingly
  • Shut himself away for 2 days
  • On the 3rd, threatened to allow Persians into the C.C, only kiss his Persian ‘kinsmen’
  • This produced the desired effect – Macedonians rushed to the palace, begged Alexander’s forgiveness
  • Accepted their apologies, called them all his kinsmen and feasted with Persians and Macedonians


  • Craterus led the veterans home
  • Meant Hephaestion could be appointed Grand Vizier without the opposition of Craterus, who had opposed the policy of fusion
  • Men given the gift of one talent
  • Craterus replaced Antipater and Antipater joined Alexander in Persia

Alexander and Religion


Bosworth Summary

  • Prior to Alexander, mortal men had rarely been proclaimed as Gods
  • 3 Levels of Alexander’s belief in his divinity
    • Aware of his heroic ancestors
    • In some sense the son of Zeus Ammon
    • God among men
  • Had been clear separation of God and Man – mortality/immortaility
  • After deaths, heroes may have had “Hero Cult”, honouring their achievements by offerings
  • Pindar suggests man could come close to the divine through “greatness of mind or nature”
  • Suggestion tyrants may raise their position to the divine
  • Aristotle suggests hypothetical situation where a man could appear to as a God among men
  • Lysander, after battle of Aegospotami appears to be honoured as a God while he was alive
  • By time of Phillip, climate of thought that an outstanding ruler was a God among men
    • Evidence Phillip received divine honours
  • Alexander deeply believed in heroic ancestors & wanted to surpass their feats
  • Early in his reign, Alexander came to believe he was the son of Zeus – stories that he sprung from a thunderbolt/snake – only after he came to power did these stories come about as it was important to be Phillip’s son to ascend.


  • “Hero could acquire divinity through his achievements & be translated to heaven, avoiding death”


  • Reconciliation of ideas (Herakles/Melcarth the same)


  • Arrian + Curtius: Suggest introduction was based on divine honours – surpassed his ancestors and deserved to be treated as a God
    • Callisthenes voiced opposition “received with open approval” and the concept was dropped


Alexander’s Attitude to Religion


Attitude to the Gods

  • Pious, makes sacrifices to Gods often
  • But knew the value of good propaganda


Attitude to Religious customs


  • Asked to enter city to sacrifice to Melcarth
  • BUT political move to get them to accept him as Great King


  • Persians had desecrated temples
  • Alexander favourable to local Gods, sacrificed to Apis Bull


  • Temples desecrated
  • Alexander ordered temples to be rebuilt


  • Renamed Shiwa to Nysa (Dionysus’ nurse) because region had ivy leaves
  • People allowed to remain autonomous
  • Met gymnosiphists – naked wise men, fascinated with wisdom, one returned with him to the West
  • Before departing, sacrificed to the Gods of the Indus River






Visit to Troy

  • Visited in 334BC
  • Re-enacted the landing of Troy – approached from the same spot as the Greeks had landed. Jumped in the water & threw his spear into the soil – Asia was “spear won land”.
  • Sacrificed at tomb of Protesailus (1st Greek soldier to land)
  • Visited because Illiad was favourite book, rivalry with Achilles, and propaganda for the expedition
  • Made sacrifices to Athena – Goddess of war, Troy and Athens
  • Given an ancient shield supposed to be from the Trojan War
  • Placed a wreath on Achilles’ grave, Hephaestion a wreath on Patroclus’ grave
  • Sacrificed to Priam to avert his anger as a descendent of Achilles
  • Set up altars to Zeus, Athena and Heracles
  • Sacrificed to Poseidon in the middle of the stream
  • “Congratulated Achilles for having found a trusty friend in life and a great poet to proclaim in death” - Plutarch


Oracle at Siwah

  • Greek God identified with Ammon was Zeus
  • Visited the Oracle in 331BC
  • Two experiences on the way to Siwah:

Callisthenes interpreted these as divine assistance

 Gods sent them rain
    • Birds guided them
  • Reasons Alexander went to Siwah
    • Pothos to consult the oracle
    • Imitating Heracles and Perseus who had consulted the oracle
    • Wanted to learn about his relationship with Zeus
    • Wanted divine approval for building Alexandria
  • Divine status confirmed when he was crowned Pharaoh and greeted as son of Ammon
  • Knew the propaganda value of being validated as ‘the son of the god’


 “Alexander was seized by a passionate desire” – Arrian

“said to be infallible because it had been consulted by Perseus and Heracles” – Arrian

“and the snakes led them to the oracle and back again” – Arrian

“not to use such language, since no mortal was his father” - Plutarch


Death of Hephaestion

  • Identified with Achilles as a descendent and considered himself as equal if not better.
  • Relationship mirrored Achilles and Patroclus
  • Hephaestion was Grand Vizier, second in command & commander of Companions
  • Alexander mourned Hephaestion’s death:
    • Hanged his doctor
    • Razed Asclepius (God of Medicine and Healing)’s temple to the ground
    • Lay for 3 days without food or water
    • Decreed a mourning throughout the empire
    • Cut his hair to emulate Achillies
    • Sacred fires extinguished throughout the empire
      • Only done at the death of the king
    • Erected memorial at Babylon
    • Cult of Hephaestion
    • Funeral Games (3000 competitors)


Request for Deification

  • Why would he request?
  • Believed he had transcended mortality by his actions and his divine power
  • Propaganda – increased support for future expeditions
  • Maybe as a king of such a large empire he felt he warranted it
  • Maybe felt that he had outdone Heracles and deserved it
  • Maybe thought as the son of Zeus-Ammon he deserved it
  • Did he request?
  • Hamilton suggests he did because Greek envoys came from many Greek states; unity between them is not strong. Difficult to see them come together with a mutual decision to honour him.

“As Alexander wants to be a God, let him be a God” – Plutarch records response of Spartans

Alexander and the Heroes



  • His tutor Lysimachus encouraged this relationship
  • Descended through Olympias’ side
  • Propaganda value
  • Illiad was his favourite book
  • Emulated:
    • Relationship between Achilles and Patroclus
    • Bravery in battle was equal



  • Descendent through Philip
  • Emulated:
    • Went to Siwah
    • Heracles was the mortal who achieved immortality through suffering
    • Heracles failed to capture the Rock of Aornus, Alexander did



  • Descendent through Philip
  • Emulated:
    • Trip to Siwah



  • Dionysus advanced through the East, Alexander wanted to go further
  • Olympias the devotee of the Dionysus cult
  • Aristobulus explains the invasion of Arabia motivated by their refusal to worship Alexander as a 3rd god alongside Uranus and Dionysus
  • Vulgate – celebrated escape from Gedrosia with a week long Bacchanalia, imitating Dionysus


Cyrus and Semiramus

  • Cyrus was the founder of the Achaemid dynasty – Alexander founder of new dynasty in Persia
  • Wanted to outdo them by leading a large army through Gedrosia


Gordium Knot

  • Legend said whoever untied the knot would be the ruler of Asia
  • Either drew his sword and cut the knot or withdrew the pin holding the know



  • Dionysus advanced through the East, Alexander wanted to go further
  • Olympias devotee of Dionysus cult
  • Aristobulus explains the invasion of Arabia motivated by their refusal to worship Alexander as a 3rd God along side Uranus and Dionysus
  • Vulgate: Celebrated escape from Gedrosia with a week long Bacchanalia, imitating Dionysus


“if there had been no other competition, he would have competed against himself” – Arrian



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Alexander the Great summary

Alexander Primary Sources Quotations


Alexander’s Relationship with the Greeks


League of Corinth

Diodorus: Philip

“undertake a war against the Persians on behalf of Greece and to punish them for the sacrilege they had committed against Greek temples”

“He treated them all kindly both in public and private matters”

“won the support of the delegates and finally they chose him as commander-in-chief of the Greek forces”


Alexander: “he requested the leadership of the Persian expedition”


Tod Greek Historical Inscription:

“I shall abide by the peace”

“Shall not subvert … the constitutions” ie. Remain free and independent


Murder of Philip and Alexander’s Ascension:


“stabbed him through the ribs and left him dead on the grounds”

“on the death of Philip in 336BC Alexander succeeded to the throne of Macedon”


Alexander and Athens:


“[After the Granicus battle] Alexander sent the Greek prisoners in chains to hard labour in Macedonia because they had contravened the resolutions of the Greeks”

“He sent to Athens 300 complete suits of Persian armour as an offering to Athena”

“Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks, except the Spartans, dedicate these spoils taken from the Persians living in Asia.”

The dedication was a shrewd piece of propaganda. It was designed to appease the Athenians and to remind them of his position as Hegemon.


“To Gordium came an embassy from Athens, begging Alexander to release the Athenian prisoners”

“With the war against Persia still in being” “he told the envoys that when circumstances improved they might approach him again on the matter.”


At Tyre:

“Alexander returned to the Athenians all the prisoners taken at the Granicus”


Revolt of King Agis III:


“Agis king of Sparta hired 8,000 of the mercenaries who had escaped from the battle of Issus and made preparations to bring about a revolution in favour of Darius”


“Antipater had to muster his entire force and advancing through Macedonia to Thrace was engaged in hostilities with Memnon.”

“While Antipater was occupied in this way, the Spartans, conceiving that this was the moment to prepare for war”

“In the decisive battle Agis fell fighting”


The Exiles Decree:


“Shortly before his death, Alexander decided to restore all those banished from Greek cities”

“wishing to have in each city many individuals who bore him goodwill in order to counter revolutionary movements and revolts”

Nicanor of Stagira said: “We are not the cause of your exile, but we shall be responsible for your restoration to your native cities”

“All the exiles had met at the festival, being more than 20,000 in number.”


Military Matters:


Alexander’s Army:


“so that the total of infantry was 32,000”

“making a total of 4,500 cavalry”


Strategic Decisions:

Disbanding Fleet:


“Alexander decided to disband his fleet, since at that time he was short of money; he saw too that his fleet was no match for the Persian and he had no wish to risk defeat”

“by taking the coastal cities he would destroy the Persian fleet”


Issus Mistake:


“advancing towards Issus got in Alexander’s rear without being noticed”

“he cruelly tortured and killed all the Macedonians who had been left behind there because of illness”

“Alexander heard that Darius was in his rear but did not believe the report”


Speech at Tyre:


“if Tyre were destroyed the whole of Phoenicia would be in our hands and the Phoenician fleet … would in all probability come over to us.”

“our expedition to Egypt will thus be an easy matter”


Why Gedrosia:

“but because he had heard that no one had previously crossed this desert with an army”

“Alexander seek to outdo Cyrus and Semiramis”


Battle of Gaugamela


“On the right rode the Companion cavalry”

“he posted a second line so that his phalanx could face both front and rear.”

“Alexander still continued to advance towards the right and was nearly at the edge of the area that had been levelled by the Persians”

“deliberately made gaps in their lines through which the chariots passed”

“news had come in that the Macedonian left was in difficulties.”

“attacking Parmenio and his troops in the flank”

“Alexander wheeled round and started off again in pursuit of Darius”


Gedrosian Desert:

“mention one of Alexander’s noblest actions”

“Alexander himself was tortured by thirst but continued (though with greatest difficulty) to march along at the head of his troops”

“they poured the water into a helmet and carried it to the king”

“Alexander took it, praised the men who had brought it, and tipped it out onto the ground in full view of everyone”



Alexander’s Attitude to Religion:




“wanted to consult the oracle because it was said to be infallible and because it had been consulted by Perseus and Heracles”


“Alexander put his question in another way and asked if all the murderers of Philip had been punished, then he enquired about his empire; did Ammon, he asked, grant that he should rule over all men?  The god replied that this would be granted to him and that Philip had been completely avenged”


Attitude to Greeks:


but towards the Greeks he behaved more moderately and only occasionally acted as if he were more than human”


Death of Hephaestion/Achilles link:


“That Alexander cut his hair in mourning for Hephaestion … so as to emulate Achilles”


Request for Deification:


“Embassies… approached Alexander and crowned him with golden crowns … to honour a god.  And yet Alexander’s end was not far off”


“The Spartan Damis said, “As Alexander wants to be a god, let him be one.””


Alexander and the Persian Empire:


Arrangements for Asia Minor:


“ordering the inhabitants to pay the same taxes they had paid to Darius”

“Alexander reached Ephesus … overthrowing the oligarchy, established a democracy”

“oligarchies everywhere to be overthrown and democracies to be established”


The Burning of Persepolis:


“She [Thais] remarked … it would be even better to end the party by setting fire to the palace of Xerxes who had burnt down Athens”

“leaping to his feet, he led the way, a wreath on his head and a torch in his hand”

But all agree that he quickly changed his mind and gave orders for the fire to be extinguished.”


Adoption of Persian Customs:


“Alexander began to adopt Persian Luxury”

“dressed himself in the pure white robe and the Persian sash”

“He dressed his Companions in purple cloaks”


Alexander’s Treatment of Misconduct by Officials:


“charges against Cleander and Sitalces of having plundered temples, robbed ancient tombs, and carried out other wicked and unjust acts again the inhabitants”

“Alexander did not permit any subjects in his empire to be oppressed by his officials”



Alexander and the Macedonians:


Philotas and Parmenio:


“Alexander could not believe that when Philotas was plotting against him Parmenio had not been a party to the plot”
“it was now dangerous that he should survive his son’s execution”


Murder of Cleitus:


“it was not done intentionally but by some misfortune of the king”

“he rang him through”




“he was the only person to voice openly his disapproval of what all the best and oldest of the Macedonians resented in their hearts”


The Conspiracy of the Pages:


“not one of the conspirators, even under the cruellest tortures incriminated Callisthenes”

“some authorities say that Callisthenes was hanged on Alexander’s orders”


 Mutiny at the River Hyphasis (Beas)


“The battleagainst Porus had made the Macedonians less eager, and had discouraged them from advancing further into India”

“vigorously opposed Alexander”

“Alexander, depressed and angry, shut himself up in his tent”


The Susa Weddings:


“both his own and for his Companions”

“The weddings were solemnized in the Persian fashion”


The Mutiny at Opis:


“releasing from the army those who, because of old age or disablement, were no longer fit for service, and was sending them home”

“shouted to him to dismiss every man of them”

“commands were being assigned to Persians”

“Standing in front of the gates, they shouted, begging to be let in”

“All of you without exception I regard as my kinsmen”


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