Alexander the Great Begins His Campaign and Battles the Persians at Granicus

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Alexander charging at Granicus

Within two years after becoming king Alexander was ready to do battle with Persia, the most powerful kingdom the world had ever known up until that time. The Persian empire extended from present-day Turkey to Pakistan. Alexander's aim was to avenge the Persian invasion of Greece by Xerxes a century and a half before.

On Alexander’s forces at that time, Plutarch wrote: “His army, by their computation who make the smallest amount, consisted of thirty thousand foot and four thousand horse; and those who make the most of it, speak but of forty-three thousand foot and three thousand horse. Aristobulus says, he had not a fund of above seventy talents for their pay, nor had he more than thirty days' provision, if we may believe Duris; Onesicritus tells us he was two hundred talents in debt. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

“However narrow and disproportionable the beginnings of so vast an undertaking might seem to be, yet he would not embark his army until he had informed himself particularly what means his friends had to enable them to follow him, and supplied what they wanted, by giving good farms to some, a village to one, and the revenue of some hamlet or harbour-town to another. So that at last he had portioned out or engaged almost all the royal property; which giving Perdiccas an occasion to ask him what he would leave himself, he replied, his hopes. "Your soldiers," replied Perdiccas, "will be your partners in those," and refused to accept of the estate he had assigned him. Some others of his friends did the like, but to those who willingly received or desired assistance of him, he liberally granted it, as far as his patrimony in Macedonia would reach, the most part of which was spent in these donations.”

Websites on Ancient Greece: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks; Canadian Museum of History; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; ;; British Museum; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive ;; Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Ancient City of Athens; The Internet Classics Archive ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources; Ancient Greek Sites on the Web from Medea ; Greek History Course from Reed; Classics FAQ MIT; 11th Brittanica: History of Ancient Greece ;Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Alexander Crosses the Hellespont and Visits Achilles' Tomb in Troy

After sailing the three-mile distance across the Hellespont Alexander cast his spear into the sand and claimed Asia as his “spear-won prize." Alexander's first destination was Troy. There he paid homage to Achilles and Patrokolos at their tomb and offered sacrifices and anointed altars with oil and traded his armor for Achilles' sacred shield at the Temple of Athena.

Arrian wrote: “Having settled these affairs, he returned into Macedonia. He then offered to the Olympian Zeus the sacrifice which had been instituted by Archelaüs, and had been customary up to that time; and he celebrated the public contest of the Olympic games at Aegae. It is said that he also held a public contest in honour of the Muses. At this time it was reported that the statue of Orpheus, son of Oeagrus the Thracian, which was in Pieris, sweated incessantly. Various were the explanations of this prodigy given by the soothsayers; but Aristander, a man of Telmissus, a soothsayer, bade Alexander take courage; for he said it was evident from this that there would be much labour for the epic and lyric poets, and for the writers of odes, to compose and sing about Alexander and his achievements. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

Alexander the Great visiting the grave of Achilles as seen by the Dutch painter Aert Janz Marienhof

“At the beginning of the spring he marched towards the Hellespont, entrusting the affairs of Macedonia and Greece to Antipater. He led not much above , infantry together with light-armed troops and archers, and more than , cavalry. His march was past the lake Cercinitis, towards Amphipolis and the mouths of the river Strymon. Having crossed this river he passed by the Pangaean mountain, along the road leading to Abdera and Maronea, Grecian cities built on the coast. Thence he arrived at the river Hebrus, and easily crossed it. Thence he proceeded through Paetica to the river Melas, having crossed which he arrived at Sestus, in twenty days altogether from the time of his starting from home. When he came to Elaeūs he offered sacrifice to Protesilaus upon the tomb of that hero, both for other reasons and because Protesilaus seemed to have been the first of the Greeks who took part with Agamemnon in the expedition to Ilium to disembark in Asia. The design of this sacrifice was, that his disembarking in Asia might be more fortunate than that of Protesilaus had been. He then committed to Parmenio the duty of conveying the cavalry and the greater part of the infantry from Sestus to Abydus; and they were transported in triremes, besides many trading vessels.

“The prevailing account is, that Alexander started from Elaeūs and put into the Port of Achaeans, that with his own hand he steered the general’s ship across, and that when he was about the middle of the channel of the Hellespont he sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and the Nereids, and poured forth a libation to them into the sea from a golden goblet. They say also that he was the first man to step out of the ship in full armour on the land of Asia, and that he erected altars to Zeus, the protector of people landing, to Athena, and to Heracles, at the place in Europe whence he started, and at the place in Asia where he disembarked. It is also said that he went up to Ilium and offered sacrifice to the Trojan Athena; that he set up his own panoply in the temple as a votive offering, and in exchange for it took away some of the consecrated arms which had been preserved from the time of the Trojan war. These arms were said to have been carried in front of him into the battles by the shield-bearing guards. A report also prevails that he offered sacrifice to Priam upon the altar of Zeus the household god, deprecating the wrath of Priam against the progeny of Neoptolemus, from whom Alexander himself derived his origin.”

“When he went up to Ilium, Menoetius the pilot crowned him with a golden crown; after him Chares the Athenian, coming from Sigeum, as well as certain others, both Greeks and natives, did the same. Alexander then encircled the tomb of Achilles with a garland; and it is said that Hephaestion decorated that of Patroclus in the same way. There is indeed a report that Alexander pronounced Achilles fortunate in getting Homer as the herald of his fame to posterity. And in truth it was meet that Alexander should deem Achilles fortunate for this reason especially; for to Alexander himself this privilege was wanting, a thing which was not in accordance with the rest of his good fortune. His achievements have, therefore, not been related to mankind in a manner worthy of the hero.”

Plutarch wrote: “With such vigorous resolutions, and his mind thus disposed, he passed the Hellespont, and at Troy sacrificed to Minerva, and honoured the memory of the heroes who were buried there, with solemn libations; especially Achilles, whose gravestone he anointed, and with his friends, as the ancient custom is, ran naked about his sepulchre, and crowned it with garlands, declaring how happy he esteemed him, in having while he lived so faithful a friend, and when he was dead, so famous a poet to proclaim his actions. While he was viewing the rest of the antiquities and curiosities of the place, being told he might see Paris's harp, if he pleased, he said he thought it not worth looking on, but he should be glad to see that of Achilles, to which he used to sing the glories and great actions of brave men. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

Darius — Alexander’s Flawed Persian Rival

Darius III

Darius III Codommanus (335-331 B.C.) reconquered Egypt but was unable to withstand the tremendous military power of the new Greek-Macedonian forces led by Alexander the Great. Under him, the Hellenization of the Near East, already well under way, was to be greatly accelerated.

Arrian wrote: ““This king was a man pre-eminently effeminate and lacking in self-reliance in military enterprises; but as to civil matters he never exhibited any disposition to indulge in arbitrary conduct; nor indeed was it in his power to exhibit it. For it happened that he was involved in a war with the Macedonians and Greeks at the very time he succeeded to the regal power; and consequently it was no longer possible for him to act the tyrant towards his subjects, even if he had been so inclined, standing as he did in greater danger than they. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“As long as he lived, one misfortune after another was accumulated upon him; nor did he experience any cessation of calamity from the time when he first succeeded to the rule. At the beginning of his reign the cavalry defeat was sustained by his viceroys at the Granicus, and forthwith Ionia Aeolis, both the Phrygias, Lydia, and all Caria except Halicarnassus were occupied by his foe; soon after, Halicarnassus also was captured, as well as all the littoral as far as Cilicia. Then came his own discomfiture at Issus, where he saw his mother, wife, and children taken prisoners.

“Upon this Phoenicia and the whole of Egypt were lost; and then at Arbela he himself fled disgracefully among the first, and lost a very vast army composed of all the nations of his empire. After this, wandering as an exile from his own dominions, he died after being betrayed by his personal attendants to the worst treatment possible, being at the same time king and a prisoner ignominiously led in chains; and at last he perished through a conspiracy formed of those most intimately acquainted with him. Such were the misfortunes that befell Darius in his lifetime; but after his death he received a royal burial; his children received from Alexander a princely rearing and education, just as if their father had still been king; and Alexander himself became his son-in-law. When he died he was about fifty years of age.”


Alexander's first encounter with the Persians was at Granicus, 100 kilometers northeast of Troy. At that time the Persians controlled the Greek cities along the eastern Aegean. There Alexander faced an advance Persian force of 15,000 cavalry and 16,000 infantry, a third of them Greek mercenaries. Alexander showed great leadership. The Persian army were spread out over a vast area so Alexander's forces were able to break through the Persian infantry lines and surrounded the mercenaries of the Persian king.

Alexander's cavalry fords the Granicus

Arrian wrote: “From Ilium Alexander came to Arisbe, where his entire force had encamped after crossing the Hellespont; and on the following day he came to Percote. On the next, passing by Lampsacus, he encamped near the river Practius, which flows from the Idaean mountains and discharges itself into the sea between the Hellespont and the Euxine Sea. Thence passing by the city of Colonae, he arrived at Hermotus. He now sent scouts before the army under the command of Amyntas, son of Arrhabaeus, who had the squadron of the Companion cavalry which came from Apollonia, under the captain Socrates, son of Sathon, and four squadrons of what were called Prodromi (runners forward). In the march he despatched Panegorus, son of Lycagoras, one of the Companions, to take possession of the city of Priapus, which was surrendered by the inhabitants. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

Plutarch wrote:“In the meantime, Darius's captains, having collected large forces, were encamped on the further bank of the river Granicus, and it was necessary to fight, as it were, in the gate of Asia for an entrance into it. The depth of the river, with the unevenness and difficult ascent of the opposite bank, which was to be gained by main force, was apprehended by most, and some pronounced it an improper time to engage, because it was unusual for the kings of Macedonia to march with their forces in the month called Daesius. But Alexander broke through these scruples, telling them they should call it a second Artemisius. And when Parmenio advised him not to attempt anything that day, because it was late, he told him that he should disgrace the Hellespont should he fear the Granicus. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

According to Arrian: “The Persian generals were Arsames, Rheomithres, Petines, Niphates, and with them Spithridates, viceroy of Lydia and Ionia, and Arsites, governor of the Phrygia near the Hellespont. These had encamped near the city of Zeleia with the Persian cavalry and the Grecian mercenaries. When they were holding a council about the state of affairs, it was reported to them that Alexander had crossed (the Hellespont). Memnon, the Rhodian, advised them not to risk a conflict with the Macedonians, since they were far superior to them in infantry, and Alexander was there in person; whereas Darius was not with them. He advised them to advance and destroy the fodder, by trampling it down under their horses’ hoofs, to burn the crops of the country, and not even to spare the very cities. “For then Alexander,” said he, “will not be able to stay in the land from lack of provisions.” It is said that in the Persian conference Arsites asserted that he would not allow a single house belonging to the people placed under his rule to be burned, and that the other Persians agreed with Arsites, because they had a suspicion that Memnon was deliberately contriving to protract the war for the purpose of obtaining honour from the king.”

Greeks and Persians Face Off at Granicus

Arrian wrote: “Meantime Alexander was advancing to the river Granicus, with his army arranged for battle, having drawn up his heavy-armed troops in a double phalanx, leading the cavalry on the wings, and having ordered that the baggage should follow in the rear. And Hegelochus at the head of the cavalry, who were armed with the long pike, and about of the light-armed troops, was sent by him to reconnoitre the proceedings of the enemy. When Alexander was not far from the river Granicus, some of his scouts rode up to him at full speed and announced that the Persians had taken up their position on the other side of the Granicus, drawn up ready for battle. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Thereupon Alexander arranged all his army with the intention of fighting. Then Parmenio approached him and spoke as follows: “I think, O king, that it is advisable for the present to pitch our camp on the bank of the river as we are. For I think that the enemy, being, as they are, much inferior to us in infantry, will not dare to pass the night near us, and therefore they will permit the army to cross the ford with ease at daybreak. For we shall then pass over before they can put themselves in order of battle; whereas, I do not think that we can now attempt the operation without evident risk, because it is not possible to lead the army through the river with its front extended. Besides, it is clear that many parts of the stream are deep, and you see that these banks are steep and in some places abrupt. Therefore the enemy’s cavalry, being formed into a dense square, will attack us as we emerge from the water in broken ranks and in column, in the place where we are weakest. At the present juncture the first repulse would be difficult to retrieve, as well as perilous for the issue of the whole war.”

“But to this Alexander replied: “I recognise the force of these arguments, O Parmenio; but I should feel it a disgrace, if, after crossing the Hellespont so easily, this brook (for with such an appellation he made light of the Granicus) should bar our passage for a moment. I consider that this would be in accordance neither with the fame of the Macedonians nor with my own eagerness for encountering danger. Moreover, I think that the Persians will regain courage, as being a match in war for Macedonians, since up to the present time they have suffered no defeat from me to warrant the fear they entertain.”

Arrangement of the Greek and Persian Armies at Granicus

Arrian wrote: “Having spoken thus, he sent Parmenio to command upon the left wing, while he led in person on the right. And at the head of the right wing he placed the following officers:—Philotas, son of Parmenio, with the cavalry Companions, the archers, and the Agrianian javelin-men; and Amyntas, son of Arrhabaeus, with the cavalry carrying the long pike, the Paeonians, and the squadron of Socrates, was posted near Philotas. Close to these were posted the Companions who were shield-bearing infantry under the command of Nicanor, son of Parmenio. Next to these the brigade of Perdiccas, son of Orontes, then that of Coenus, son of Polemocrates; then that of Craterus, son of Alexander, and that of Amyntas, son of Andromenes; finally, the men commanded by Philip, son of Amyntas. The first on the left wing were the Thessalian cavalry, commanded by Calas, son of Harpalus; next to these, the cavalry of the Grecian allies, commanded by Philip, son of Menelaüs; next to these the Thracians, commanded by Agatho. Close to these were the infantry, the brigades of Craterus, Meleager, and Philip, reaching as far as the centre of the entire line. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“The Persian cavalry were about , in number, and their infantry, consisting of Grecian mercenaries, fell a little short of the same number. They had extended their horse along the bank of the river in a long phalanx, and had posted the infantry behind the cavalry, for the ground above the bank was steep and commanding. They also marshalled dense squadrons of cavalry upon that part of the bank where they observed Alexander himself advancing against their left wing; for he was conspicuous both by the brightness of his arms and by the respectful service of his attendants. Both armies stood a long time at the margin of the river, keeping quiet from dread of the result; and profound silence was observed on both sides. For the Persians were waiting till the Macedonians should step into the water, with the intention of attacking them as they emerged.

“Alexander leaped upon his steed, ordering those about him to follow, and exhorting them to show themselves valiant men. He then commanded Amyntas, son of Arrhabaeus, to make the first rush into the river at the head of the skirmishing cavalry, the Paeonians, and one regiment of infantry; and in front of these he had placed Ptolemy, son of Philip, in command of the squadron of Socrates, which body of men indeed on that day happened to have the lead of all the cavalry force. He himself led the right wing with sounding of trumpets, and the men raising the war-cry to Enyalius. He entered the ford, keeping his line always extended obliquely in the direction in which the stream flowed, in order that the Persians might not fall upon him on the flank as he was emerging from the water, but that he might, as far as practicable, encounter them with his phalanx.”

Alexander the Great Fights from the River at Granicus

Plutarch wrote: “And so, without more saying, he immediately took the river with thirteen troops of horse, and advanced against whole showers of darts thrown from the steep opposite side, which was covered with armed multitudes of the enemy's horse and foot, notwithstanding the disadvantage of the ground and the rapidity of the stream; so that the action seemed to have more frenzy and desperation in it, than of prudent conduct. However, he persisted obstinately to gain the passage, and at last with much ado making his way up the banks, which were extremely muddy and slippery, he had instantly to join in a mere confused hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, before he could draw up his men, who were still passing over, into any order. For the enemy pressed upon him with loud and warlike outcries; and charging horse against horse, with their lances, after they had broken and spent these, they fell to it with their swords. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

preparing to ford the Granicus

“And Alexander, being easily known by his buckler, and a large plume of white feathers on each side of his helmet, was attacked on all sides, yet escaped wounding, though his cuirass was pierced by a javelin in one of the joinings. And Rhoesaces and Spithridates, two Persian commanders, falling upon him at once, he avoided one of them, and struck at Rhoesaces, who had a good cuirass on, with such force that, his spear breaking in his hand, he was glad to betake himself to his dagger. While they were thus engaged, Spithridates came up on one side of him, and raising himself upon his horse, gave him such a blow with his battle-axe on the helmet that he cut off the crest of it, with one of his plumes, and the helmet was only just so far strong enough to save him, that the edge of the weapon touched the hair of his head.

“But as he was about to repeat his stroke, Clitus, called the black Clitus, prevented him, by running him through the body with his spear. At the same time Alexander despatched Rhoesaces with his sword. While the horse were thus dangerously engaged, the Macedonian phalanx passed the river, and the foot on each side advanced to fight. But the enemy hardly sustaining the first onset soon gave ground and fled, all but the mercenary Greeks, who, making a stand upon a rising ground, desired quarter, which Alexander, guided rather by passion than judgment, refused to grant, and charging them himself first, had his horse (not Bucephalus, but another) killed under him. And this obstinacy of his to cut off these experienced desperate men cost him the lives of more of his own soldiers than all the battle before, besides those who were wounded.”

Battle of the Granicus

Arrian wrote: “The Persians began the contest by hurling missiles from above in the direction where the men of Amyntas and Socrates were the first to reach the bank; some of them casting javelins into the river from their commanding position on the bank, and others stepping down along the flatter parts of it to the very edge of the water. Then ensued a violent struggle on the part of the cavalry, on the one side to emerge from the river, and on the other to prevent the landing. From the Persians there was a terrible discharge of darts; but the Macedonians fought with spears. The Macedonians, being far inferior in number, suffered severely at the first onset, because they were obliged to defend themselves in the river, where their footing was unsteady, and where they were below the level of their assailants; whereas the Persians were fighting from the top of the bank, which gave them an advantage, especially as the best of the Persian horse had been posted there. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Memnon himself, as well as his sons, were running every risk with these; and the Macedonians who first came into conflict with the Persians, though they showed great valour, were cut down, except those who retreated to Alexander, who was now approaching. For the king was already near, leading with him the right wing. He made his first assault upon the Persians at the place where the whole mass of their horse and the leaders themselves were posted; and around him a desperate conflict raged, during which one rank of the Macedonians after another easily kept on crossing the river. Though they fought on horseback, it seemed more like an infantry than a cavalry battle; for they struggled for the mastery, horses being jammed with horses and men with men, the Macedonians striving to drive the Persians entirely away from the bank and to force them into the plain, and the Persians striving to obstruct their landing and to push them back again into the river. At last Alexander’s men began to gain the advantage, both through their superior strength and military discipline, and because they fought with spear-shafts made of cornel-wood, whereas the Persians used only darts.

“Then indeed, Alexander’s spear being broken to shivers in the conflict, he asked Aretis, one of the royal guards, whose duty it was to assist the king to mount his horse, for another spear. But this man’s spear had also been shivered whilst he was in the thickest of the struggle, and he was conspicuous fighting with the half of his broken spear. Showing this to Alexander, he bade him ask some one else for one. Then Demaratus, a man of Corinth, one of his personal Companions, gave him his own spear; which he had no sooner taken than seeing Mithridates, the son-in-law of Darius, riding far in front of the others, and leading with him a body of cavalry arranged like a wedge, he rode on in front of the others, and hitting at the face of Mithridates with his spear, struck him to the ground. But hereupon, Rhoesaces rode up to Alexander and hit him on the head with his scimitar, breaking off a piece of his helmet. But the helmet broke the force of the blow. This man also Alexander struck to the ground, hitting him in the chest through the breastplate with his lance. And now Spithridates from behind had already raised aloft his scimitar against the king, when Clitus, son of Dropidas, anticipated his blow, and hitting him on the arm, cut it off, scimitar and all. Meantime the horsemen, as many as were able, kept on securing a landing all down the river, and were joining Alexander’s forces.”

crossing the Granicus

“The Persians themselves, as well as their horses, were now being struck on their faces with the lances from all sides, and were being repulsed by the cavalry. They also received much damage from the light-armed troops who were mingled with the cavalry. They first began to give way where Alexander himself was braving danger in the front. When their centre had given way, the horse on both wings were also naturally broken through, and took to speedy flight. Of the Persian cavalry only about , were killed; for Alexander did not pursue them far, but turned aside to attack the Greek mercenaries, the main body of whom was still remaining where it was posted at first. This they did rather from amazement at the unexpected result of the struggle than from any steady resolution.

“Leading the phalanx against these, and ordering the cavalry to fall upon them from all sides in the midst, he soon cut them up, so that none of them escaped except such as might have concealed themselves among the dead bodies. About , were taken prisoners. The following leaders of the Persians also fell in the battle: Niphates, Petines, Spithridates, viceroy of Lydia, Mithrobuzanes, governor of Cappadocia, Mithridates, the son-in-law of Darius, Arbupales, son of Darius the son of Artaxerxes, Pharnaces, brother of the wife of Darius, and Onares, commander of the auxiliaries. Arsites fled from the battle into Phrygia, where he is reported to have committed suicide, because he was deemed by the Persians the cause of their defeat on that occasion.”

Persians Suffer Heavy Losses at Granicus

Alexander the Great and the Greeks defeated the Persians in the battle Granicus but it was not a decisive victory even though the Persian death toll was much higher than that of the Greeks. Plutarch wrote, no doubt exaggerating: “The Persians lost in this battle twenty thousand foot and two thousand five hundred horse. On Alexander's side, Aristobulus says there were not wanting above four-and-thirty, of whom nine were foot-soldiers; and in memory of them he caused so many statues of brass, of Lysippus's making, to be erected. And that the Grecians might participate in the honour of his victory he sent a portion of the spoils home to them particularly to the Athenians three hundred bucklers, and upon all the rest he ordered this inscription to be set: "Alexander the son of Philip, and the Grecians, except the Lacedaemonians, won these from the barbarians who inhabit Asia." All the plate and purple garments, and other things of the same kind that he took from the Persians, except a very small quantity which he reserved for himself, he sent as a present to his mother.” [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ] Arrian wrote: Of the Macedonians, about twenty-five of the Companions were killed at the first onset; brazen statues of whom were erected at Dium, executed by Lysippus, at Alexander’s order. The same statuary also executed a statue of Alexander himself, being chosen by him for the work in preference to all other artists. Of the other cavalry over sixty were slain, and of the infantry, about thirty. These were buried by Alexander the next day, together with their arms and other decorations.

“To their parents and children he granted exemption from imposts on agricultural produce, and he relieved them from all personal services and taxes upon property. He also exhibited great solicitude in regard to the wounded, for he himself visited each man, looked at their wounds, and inquired how and in the performance of what duty they had received them, allowing them both to speak and brag of their own deeds. He also buried the Persian commanders and the Greek mercenaries who were killed fighting on the side of the enemy. But as many of them as he took prisoners he bound in fetters and sent them away to Macedonia to till the soil, because, though they were Greeks, they were fighting against Greece on behalf of the foreigners in opposition to the decrees which the Greeks had made in their federal council. To Athens also he sent suits of Persian armour to be hung up in the Acropolis as a votive offering to Athena, and ordered this inscription to be fixed over them: “Alexander, son of Philip, and all the Greeks except the Lacedaemonians, present this offering from the spoils taken from the foreigners inhabiting Asia.”

Capture of Mitylene by the Persians, Death of Memnon

After Granicus, Arrian wrote: “Soon after this, Memnon, whom King Darius had appointed commander of the whole fleet and of the entire sea-coast, with the design of moving the seat of war into Macedonia and Greece, acquired possession of Chios, which was surrendered to him by treachery. Thence he sailed to Lesbos and brought over to his side all the cities of the island, except Mitylene, the inhabitants of which did not submit to him. When he had gained these cities over, he turned his attention to Mitylene; and walling off the city from the rest of the island by constructing a double stockade from sea to sea, he easily got the mastery on the land side by building five camps. A part of his fleet guarded their harbour, and, intercepting the ships passing by, he kept the rest of his fleet as a guard off Sigrium, the headland of Lesbos, where is the best landing-place for trading vessels from Chios, Geraestus, and Malea. By this means he deprived the Mitylenaeans of all hope of succour by sea. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“But meantime he himself fell ill and died, and his death at that crisis was exceedingly injurious to the king’s interests. Nevertheless Autophradates, and Pharnabazus, son of Artabazus, prosecuted the siege with vigour. To the latter indeed, Memnon, when dying, had entrusted his command, as he was his sister’s son, till Darius should come to some decision on the matter. The Mitylenaeans, therefore, being excluded from the land, and being blockaded on the sea by many ships lying at anchor, sent to Pharnabazus and came to the following agreement:—That the auxiliary troops which had come to their aid from Alexander should depart, that the citizens should demolish the pillars on which the treaty made by them with Alexander was inscribed, that they should become allies of Darius on the terms of the peace which was made with King Darius in the time of Antalcidas, and that their exiles should return from banishment on condition of receiving back half the property which they possessed when they were banished. Upon these terms the compact was made between the Mitylenaeans and the Persians. But as soon as Pharnabazus and Autophradates once got within the city, they introduced a garrison with Lycomedes, a Rhodian, as its commandant. They also appointed Diogenes, one of the exiles, to be despot of the city, and exacted money from the Mitylenaeans, taking part of it by violence for themselves from the wealthy citizens, and laying the rest as a tax upon the community.”

Persians Capture Tenedus.—They are Defeated at Sea

Arrian wrote: “After accomplishing this, Pharnabazus sailed to Lycia, taking with him the Grecian mercenaries; but Autophradates sailed to the other islands. Meantime Darius sent Thymondas, son of Mentor, down to the maritime districts, to take over the Grecian auxiliaries from Pharnabazus and to lead them up to him; and to tell Pharnabazus that he was to be the ruler of all that Memnon had ruled. So Pharnabazus handed over to him the Grecian auxiliaries and then sailed to join Autophradates and the fleet. When they met, they despatched Datames, a Persian, with ten ships to the islands called Cyclades, whilst they with sailed to Tenedus. Having sailed into the harbour of Tenedus which is called Borēus, they sent a message to the inhabitants, commanding them to demolish the pillars on which the treaty made by them with Alexander and the Greeks was inscribed, and to observe in regard to Darius the terms of the peace which they had ratified with the king of Persia in the time of Antalcidas. The Tenedians preferred to be on terms of amity with Alexander and the Greeks; but in the present crisis it seemed impossible to save themselves except by yielding to the Persians, since Hegelochus, who had been commissioned by Alexander to collect another naval force, had not yet gathered so large a fleet as to warrant them in expecting any speedy succour from him. Accordingly Pharnabazus made the Tenedians comply with his demands rather from fear than good-will. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Meantime Proteas, son of Andronicus, by command of Antipater, succeeded in collecting ships of war from Euboea and the Peloponnese, so that there might be some protection both for the islands and for Greece itself, if the foreigners attacked them by sea, as it was reported they intended to do. Learning that Datames with ten ships was moored near Siphnus, Proteas set out by night with fifteen from Chalcis on the Euripus, and approaching the island of Cythnus at dawn, he spent the day there in order to get more certain information of the movements of the ten ships, resolving at the same time to fall upon the Phoenicians by night, when he would be likely to strike them with greater terror. Having discovered with certainty that Datames was moored with his ships at Siphnus, he sailed thither while it was still dark, and just at the very dawn fell upon them when they least expected it, and captured eight of the ships, men and all. But Datames, with the other two triremes, escaped by stealth at the beginning of the attack made by the ships with Proteas, and reached the rest of the Persian fleet in safety.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks ; Canadian Museum of History ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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