The Alexandrian Wars

By Malmack

The Alexandrian Wars were one of the great conflicts of the ancient world, featuring Alexander III of Macedon (Alexander the Great) and various other great powers at the time including the Greek cities, the Persian empire as well as cities in modern day India and Pakistan.

The Beginning of a Legend

Alexander III was born on 356 B.C.E to Phillip II Of Macedon and Princess Olympias. Even in birth Alexander was thought to have linage to Zeus (The Greek god of the sky and thunder) and to Achilles (the legendary warrior In Homer's The Illad). At the age of 20 his father was assassinated by poison (possibly by a former lover of a king Philip had killed in battle). Alexander and his mother were thought to have been involved somewhere in the death of his father but recent research claims this to be a highly dubious claim. After the death of Philip Alexander was named king and head of the Macedonian army. Once he was appointed king various Greek cities claimed independence from Macedonian rule fearing a massive uprising. Alexander went on a lightning campaign to solidify his control of Macedon and the Greek Cities. Destroying several cities in his wake Alexander had solidfied Macedonian rule of Greece and was now ready to go on to what would consume the rest of his life: the conquest of the East.

Conquest of the Persian Empire

Alexander had amassed an army of about 40,000 and crossed the Hellespont (a narrow strait that connects Greece to modern day Turkey) and after an intial victory at the battle of Granicus Alexander's army was able to form a beach for the rest of his army to deploy from and another effect of this first battle against the Persian empire was that it freed various Greek cities from Persian control so that safe supply lines could be set up. After the conquest of Asia Minor (Turkey) Alexander proceeded through the Cilician Gates where he would meet one of Persia's main armies under the command of Darius III in a small town in south east Turkey called Issus. Alexander won by using a combination of his phalanx to punch a hole trough the Persian line and then deliver the finishing blow with his elite Companion Cavalry (also his Personal Bodyguards). After the battle Darius fled across the Euphrates to regroup, as a result of this battle Alexander managed to destroy a large portion of the Persian army in the immeditiate area and continued his march to Egypt. On his way he conquered many cities including Tyre (a strategic coastal city). It took him several months to conquer the city. Alexander was so enraged by the resistance posed by Tyre that he ordered the slaughter or sale of the population (about 30,000). When Alexander reached Egypt he was welcomed as a liberator and was pronounced Son of Zeus by Egyptian priests, In Egypt he founded the Great Sea port of Alexandria which would be the capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty after his death.

Leaving Egypt, Alexander now decided to march eastward into the Persian province of Assyria (modern day Iran / Iraq border) where he met Darius at the battle of Gaugmela. Alexander had about 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavarly while Darius had about 250,000 infantry and 40,000 cavalry, the battle started with the Persians already present in a massive infantry line with Darius in the centre and cavalry covering the flanks. Alexander was set out in the fashion with two infantry lines; the first the great Royal Pike Phalanx and the second line would be his reserve hoplites. Alexander used the his newly invented tactic of "refusing a flank" in which he bent about a third of his infantry line to the left to join with his hoplite reserve line with all his companion cavalry positioned on his right under his command. The battle began with Alexander advancing his cavalry and the unbent phalanx, once in range the phalanx made a quick charge against the Persian left fixing a large portion of the Persian left. At the same time Alexander and his companions started to attack (in wedge formation) on the Persian left flank and the companions started rolling up the persian infantry line but at this point Darius and his cavalry commander Bessus ordered the cavalry and chariots to charge into the gap left between his straight infantry line and his staggered infantary line. At this point the reserve infantry line moved to cover any further exploitation of the gap and Alexander came charging around the Persian front with his companions to help the reserve section of the army finish off the remaining cavalry and chariots. By this point Darius had already fled only to be killed in the following days by Bessus.

After the battle the Macedonians killed 40,000 routing Persians, and the Persian army was turned into nothing more than a mob, Alexander managed to conquer all of the Persian empire and marched into the Persian capital of Babylon where he was crowned "King of Asia", but Alexander was not finished.

The Final Conquest and Immortality

Alexander had managed to conquer the great Persian Empire but was ready for more conquests. By this time he started to allow Persian satraps (governors / princes of individual provinces into his Companion Cavalry and he also let Persian peoples join the main bulk of his army (much to the disdain of his army). He also got into a drunken quarrel with one of his friends (Philotas) and ended up killing him. His army was starting not to trust Alexander as much as they once did, a lot of this was most probably due to boredom and waiting around for their master to begin his next conquest. In 326 B.C.E Alexander was finally able to turn his attention to India, continuing eastwards. He faced his final and probably greatest battle, against Porus king of the Kekaya at the battle of the Hydaspes River (Modern day Pakistan, near the Hindu Kush). Alexander had about the same number of men (40,000) as when he fought at Gaugmela but a few more cavalry and phalanx units due to his recruiting of Persian levies and princes. Porus had about 200 war elephants (the largest amount ever fielded), 30,000 infantry and about 6,000 cavalry.

The battle began with Alexander and Porus on the left side of the river with Porus set to repel any crossing, so Alexander waited for several days with marches and counter marches to set up a routine. Alexander also used "information warfare" by informing local peasants and merchants so that Porus would become complacent. One night Alexander crossed the Hydaspes with a small force 17 miles upstream, Porus still seeing the main body in front of him. When the battle actually started, the main Macedonian body was set up in the usual manner of two lines with the Royal phalanx in the first line and the Hoplites as his second line and calvalry on its flanks, Porus was set out much like Alexander's main army with cavalry covering the flanks of his infantry but the elephants were positioned directly in front (as a screening force) of the main infantry line. Alexander started the battle by his customary tactic by hitting the enemy on his right flank with usual results. The Indian left began to buckle under the the strain of the attack. Porus then reinforced his left with more cavalry from his right flank. This left a detachment of cavalry which let Alexander freely attack the rear of the Indian army. Meanwhile the Macedonian phalanx moved forward to engage the charge of the war elephants which was stopped with heavy casulties. Evetually the Macedonian army managed to completely surround the Indian army. After massive casulties Porus, who was wounded in the fighting, surrendered. This battle was the most bloody of the Alexandrian wars with the Indian army completely destroyed, and the Macedonian infantry and cavalry having suffered heavy losses, Alexander also lost his legendary horse Bucephalus which he rode with from a very young age and in all of his battles.

After the battle Alexander spared Porus's life and was allowed to rule Hydaspes in his name. From this point on Alexander's army mutinied refusing to go any further after seeing the first real use of war elephants and the carnage during the battle so as a result Alexander decided to return to Babylon. Alexander's death is still shrouded in mystery. Some believe that he died from fever (possibly Malria), but it is also a possibility that one of his lieutenants poisoned him. Alexander died on June 10, 323 B.C.E. While on his death bed his lieutenants asked him who was to take control of the empire. Alexander (now in a confused fever) said "to the strongest" which led to the Diadochi (In Greek this means successors). Alexander's generals divided the empire between themselves, which would become the Seleucid Empire, the Antigonid Kingdom (Greece and Macedon), the kingdom of Pergamum and the Ptolemaic Kingdom (Egypt). It would only take a few years for these empires to begin fighting over succesion of the entire Alexandrian empire. Eventually the generals of the late Roman repubilc would come to conquer all of the western provinces of the four respective kingdoms, and the Seleucid empire would finally be destroyed by the expanding Parthian Empire. Alexander's empire only lasted for about ten years but he had conquered over 2 million square miles and brought western civilization to Asia and changed the course of history and will always be remembered as one of the greatest military leaders in history.