History of the Macedonian People - Alexander III - Lord of Asia
History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present
Part 7 - Alexander III - Lord of Asia
by Risto Stefov firstname.lastname@example.org
The victory at Issus ushered in a new era for Macedonia. Alexander's thinking was no longer "if" but "when" was he going to become the new master and lord of Asia. He was tempted to go after Darius immediately to make it happen but it was too risky, especially with the Persian fleet still intact at his rear and in control of the Aegean waters.
Alexander possessed almost no ships and no navy to speak of, let alone a powerful one to subdue the Persian fleet. He wanted to win his battles so he always chose the terms of engagement. His thinking was that if he couldn't engage his enemy and win in the water then he would have to bring the fight to shore where he had the advantage. The only way to do that was by cutting off the Persian navy from its ports. His plan, therefore, was to eventually occupy all cities around the eastern Mediterranean coast to starve the Persian fleet of its supplies.
Soon after the battle of Issus, Alexander marched his Macedonians south in an effort to secure the coastline by occupying the various port cities. In the meantime Parmenio was dispatched to Damascus to seize the city and recover Darius's treasure, which had been sent there along with the Persian baggage train before the battle of Issus.
Parmenio seized the city with ease (some say by treachery) and took possession of the treasury. He also captured many Greek traitors including Greek ambassadors to Persia who had previously conspired against Macedonia.
With Darius's treasury in his possession, Alexander secured the finances he needed to pay his debts and continue with his campaign. In comparison to Alexander, Darius was a very rich man, rich enough to carry 2,600 talents of coins, 500 pounds of silver, 4,500 pounds of gold and 3,400 pounds of precious stones. This however was not all of Darius's money. Compared to his total wealth this was only pocket change, which he carried with him during his travels.
Alexander's journey into Syria took him to many port cities. One by one they all opened their gates to him, that is until he reached the Phoenician city of Tyre. Tyre was an independent city and the most powerful naval and commercial port in the region. Most of the sailors in the Persian fleet were either from Cyprus or Tyre. Being independent (not under Persian rule) the citizens of Tyre wished to remain neutral (neither under Persian nor Macedonian rule). This however was not an option for Alexander. He needed to control all ports, especially Tyre if he were to close off the Persian fleet. Being unable to negotiate a peaceful surrender Alexander declared war on Tyre and around January 332 BC began the siege.
Tyre stood on an island about a kilometer offshore. The city was fortified on all sides by high stone walls and defended by the powerful Tyrian fleet. At the time both Alexander and the Tyrians felt confident that they could outlast each other and neither was willing to relent. The Tyrians, trusting their city to be impregnable, found the very idea that Alexander would think of attempting a siege absurd. How could he seize an island when he didn't even have a fleet? Alexander, on the other hand, could not afford to allow the powerful Phoenician city to exist free behind his lines, especially since he was planning to venture deeper into Asia. He had no choice but to seize it by force. When the siege began, no one had any idea of the enormity of the task.
While Alexander's military strength lay on land, the city he wanted to besiege lay in water. The only way he could turn the situation to his advantage was by building a bridge and linking the island to the shore. His army could then rush in with its siege engines, knock down the walls and seize the city.
While the army drafted labour from the local vicinity and neighbouring towns to build the bridge, Alexander's craftsmen and engineers began the construction of the colossal siege towers. Building the bridge proved a lot more difficult than expected. Even though the water was shallow, the bottom was all mud and stakes had to be driven deep down, supported by stone before the sixty-meter wide road could be constructed. As the building of the causeway progressed, every stone found in the vicinity was carried and deposited into the water.
The Tyrians taunted and mocked the workers telling them that Alexander was wasting his time. But as the road began to materialize and approach the island the Tyrians panicked. Physical attacks and countermeasures replaced mocking and taunting. Initially Tyrian commandos were attacking Alexander's supply lines on land hoping to slow down the building effort. Then the fleet began its raids by sea, sending ships with archers, slingers and catapults to attack the workers. Alexander in the meantime took every precaution possible to protect his men and maintain his schedule.
When it become obvious that Alexander was not going to give up and his chances of actually besieging Tyre improved, many of the local cities, including Sidon a former enemy of Tyre, offered him assistance including ships. Alexander quickly assembled a strong enough sea force to bottle the Tyrian fleet in its own harbour and to repel Tyrian raids at the causeway.
There was one major incident that could have turned the tide on Alexander but his confidence in his army's abilities and his unwavering persistence paid off. The Tyrians put together a large floating craft, set it on fire and by using the wind managed to burn most of the causeway. Alexander was away at the time on an expedition to find more lumber. When he returned he was shocked to find that his road had been destroyed. Instead of giving up, Alexander built a new causeway north of the old one.
As the artificial harbour approached the island shore the Tyrians became desperate. They tried everything to stop it including pouring boiling sand on the soldiers. But, in spite of their gallant effort, nothing worked and the Macedonians eventually besieged the city.
Tyre fell in August 332 BC. It was a grueling seven-month effort on both sides but in the end the most determined won. The Tyrians, on several occasions, were given a chance to surrender. Unfortunately wisdom gave way to stubbornness and they fought bravely to the end. When it was over, about six to eight thousand were killed and about thirty thousand were taken prisoners and sold into slavery. The Tyrian leaders along with about two thousand of their fighting men were executed. The city itself was spared and resettled, continuing to function as an important naval and commercial port under Macedonian rule.
I want to mention at this point that Tyre was the Sister City to Carthage. Carthage is located on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea south of Rome and played a key role in Rome's development as a super power. Had Alexander sacked Carthage as he intended to, it would have been a different world today.
After his gallant struggle and long delay in Tyre, Alexander resumed his trek southward through Palestine, heading for Egypt. His voyage, expectedly, was interrupted as he ran into resistance at the city of Gaza. Gaza was well fortified and defended by Persian soldiers supplemented by a strong force of Arab mercenaries. Unable to break through the city's fortification by conventional means, Alexander employed his siege engines and within two months reduced Gaza's fortification to rubble. During the course of the siege Alexander received a wound to his shoulder, which put him out of action for a couple of weeks. Being physically fit, however, he recovered quickly and joined the final assault on the city. After breaking through the fortification a vicious struggle ensued spilling into the streets where Alexander was again wounded, this time in the leg. When the battle was over, ten thousand were killed and the civilian population was rounded up and sold into slavery. Gaza too was resettled with people from the local region, converted into a fortress and placed under Macedonian control.
From Gaza, Alexander's army marched along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and then turned south into Egypt where huge crowds greeted him as a liberator.
Having conquered all the port cities around the eastern Mediterranean coast, the threat from the Persian fleet was finally removed.
Before penetrating the interior of Asia, Alexander planned to occupy Egypt by force but it fell without a fight. The Egyptian people hailed Alexander as a liberator, giving him the citadel of Memphis along with its treasury amounting to 800 talents. Egypt was a strategic location for Alexander's Asian campaign and it was now secure.
Something else happened to Alexander in Egypt, something unexpected. Having defeated the Persian King who ruled in place of the Pharaoh of Egypt, in the eyes of the Egyptian priests, Alexander now became Egypt's new ruler but not a Pharaoh. For the priests, unfortunately, it was impossible to accept a foreigner as a true Pharaoh. If Alexander were to continue on his campaign deep into Asia he had to pacify Egypt and gain its loyalty. Egypt was a large, rich country with a huge population capable of supplying his army with all the necessities for the entire campaign. He had to do whatever was necessary to secure it, which meant that Alexander had to become Egypt's undisputed ruler. The only way to do that was by becoming an Egyptian Pharaoh. Unfortunately, a foreigner could only become a Pharaoh by divine intervention. Accepting this challenge Alexander took a trip to Siwa to visit the religious order. When he arrived at the temple of the oracle, the high priest greeted him as the "son of Zeus-Ammon and master of all lands". Why the priest greeted him this way is unknown, perhaps an error in translation? Alexander was delighted with the pronouncement and humbly accepted his proclamation as the "Son of God".
After returning to Memphis during the winter of 332-331BC, Alexander took a small division from his army and went down the Nile River. Just before reaching the Mediterranean coast he saw a perfect strip of land upon which to lay the foundation of a great city, which would bear his name, Alexandria of Egypt. Alexandria, in time, would bring about change in intellectual and economic life as never before experienced and for the next one thousand years would become the center of civilization
With the founding of Alexandria, a port city facing the Mediterranean, Alexander transformed his military efforts into business opportunities not just for the Macedonians but for the entire known world. Alexandria was to become the leading multinational, multicultural, commercial trade centre of the world.
The closing of the entire Eastern Mediterranean coast forced the Persian navy to move on and opened the way for the Macedonian fleet to dominate the waters.
After returning to Memphis, Alexander met the reinforcements sent to him by Antipater and ordered the army to prepare to march. Before leaving, however, he sent a scientific expedition up the Nile River on a discovery mission and also appointed a couple of native satraps and Macedonian overseers to govern Egypt. Alexander did not want to entrust the governing of such a large country to a single person.
In early spring of 331BC Alexander left Memphis and headed for Phoenicia. He stopped at Tyre for a while and made some changes to the government there before proceeding north towards Damascus.
The Great King Darius, in the meantime, having received Alexander's answer to his peace offer began to amass a great army. Darius offered Alexander the marriage of his daughter, 10,000 talents and the lands east of the Euphrates in exchange for peace. Parmenio and his older officers encouraged Alexander to accept the offer but Alexander declined wanting it all: Darius's lands, money and his crown. Having no alternative the Great King began preparations for another battle.
The Persian Empire was vast and Darius had no problem raising an army. Besides the Persians there were many other races that offered assistance. The Indians even sent him fifteen elephants. Besides raising a great army Darius was also careful to find open space for his choice of battleground, the kind that would give him an advantage over Alexander. This time Darius was determined to get things his way and made sure everything was done correctly.
While Darius was raising an army, Alexander was marching northward preparing to cross the Euphrates River. As expected during war, his advance force, which was sent to build a bridge over the mighty river, faced opposition from the satrap of Syria and Mesopotamia. But the moment Alexander arrived with his army the Satrap fled and the bridge was built with relative ease. Then as Alexander advanced towards the Tigris River the local spies led him to believe that Darius was on the other side waiting to prevent his passage. Assuming the reports were accurate, Alexander force-marched his army to catch up but Darius was nowhere to be found. Alexander's army crossed the Tigris on September 20th, 331 BC and marched on in a southeasterly direction until it reached the village of Guagamela. There he found Darius's army clearing and leveling the land to give his chariots advantage over the Macedonian phalanx.
In battle formation, Darius stood on his chariot at the center. By his sides stood the mounted guard and Persian infantry. To the right and to the left stood the Greek mercenaries. At both wings stood a combined force of cavalry and infantry. In front of the wings stood the allied cavalries and front and center stood fifteen elephants. In front of the battle line stood 200 Scythian chariots ready to roll along the cleared, smoothed out ground.
Alexander was initially planning to deploy the usual oblique formation with the offensive right wing commanded by himself and the defensive left wing commanded by Parmenio. Due to the overwhelming numerical superiority of his opponent, however, Alexander decided to add a second battle line capable of fighting a second front behind him, in case he was surrounded. In other words, if Alexander's forces were to be surrounded their formation would take the shape of a flexible square and push the enemy outwards on all four fronts.
Expecting to be immediately attacked, Darius ordered his battle line to form and waited. After sizing up the situation, Alexander decided not to attack and camped his troops about four kilometers away from Darius's camp. That evening Alexander ordered his men to rest for the night. Darius's men, expecting an attack at any time, stood ready all night.
The morning after, October 1st, 331 BC, Alexander, with a well-rested army, approached from the north but found his right wing too short to match the opponent's. To compensate he continued to stretch his line but his opponent continued to match his moves. Darius, however, feared that if he moved too far off the cleared ground he would compromise the mobility of his chariots and ordered the attack. The chariots rushed to outflank Alexander but Alexander's men were prepared. The archers struck first and took out most of the charioteers while Alexander's front line quickly formed into columns, allowing the rushing chariots to pass. Trapped by columns of men and unable to maneuver, the horses were overpowered by Alexander's grooms, effectively disabling the chariots. Now, as the two lines of battle were drawing close, Alexander noticed a gap in the Persian left and sought the opportunity to take the offensive. Leading his companions he swerved and rushed into the gap and began to roll towards the center. The phalanx also pushed hard towards the center squeezing the battle towards Darius. Frightened by this sudden fierce attack, Darius turned his chariot around and fled. His guards formed a protective circle around him and they too fled. In his absence, his troops in the center and left wings followed suit. It was Issus all over again. Darius left the battlefield before the battle was decided.
The rapid movement of the phalanx in the center of Alexander's formation caused a gap in the Macedonian line, which could have been exploited by the enemy. But instead of closing in on the line, the undisciplined Persians and their allies rushed in to plunder Alexander's camp. The moment the enemy disengaged, Alexander's second front line went into effect and chased the looters back.
In the meantime, Parmenio was having trouble and had sent for Alexander to help him. By now Alexander's companions had broken through the enemy lines and were just about to pursue Darius. As much as he wanted to catch him, Alexander could not leave the battle unattended. Disappointed as he was, he turned his companions around and made his way towards Parmenio, only to run into the fleeing looters. A bloody cavalry engagement ensued as the trapped enemy soldiers now desperately fought for their lives. By the time Alexander reached Parmenio, the battle was over. Parmenio had overwhelmed his attackers and was now free. Unfortunately, so was Darius. This was the second time Alexander was robbed of his chance at gaining a total victory, complete with the capture of Darius.
Even before the battle of Guagamela was over Alexander acted quickly and sent an advanced force to Susa to take possession of the treasury before it was looted.
With the battle won, Alexander went in search of Darius and rode through the night. Unable to find him, the next day he returned to Guagamela (Arbela) to harvest the fruits of his victory and bury his dead.
It is estimated that enemy losses were between fifty and sixty thousand while Macedonian losses were estimated at less than one thousand.
When the dust settled, Alexander's victory was celebrated with the burial of the fallen soldiers, with gift giving ceremonies and with Alexander's acclamation as King of Asia.
Confident that the Persian threat was over, to ease the tension back home, Alexander loosened his tight grip on the Greek cities by giving them autonomy. With the Persians defeated, Alexander no longer feared a Greek-Persian alliance but he could not completely discount the Spartan threats in the potentially explosive Peloponnesos.
Soon after his victory, Alexander left Arbela and continued to journey southwards to Babylon expecting to run into resistance from the surviving Persian army. To his surprise, however, the same Persian satrap who fiercely fought Parmenio in Guagamela now came out with his sons to peacefully greet Alexander and surrender the city. What was more surprising was that not only the city leaders but also the entire general population came out on mass to greet their new King. They decorated the streets with wreaths and flowers to welcome the Macedonians. Like the Egyptians, the Babylonians too saw Alexander not as a conqueror but as a liberator. Alexander was more than happy to accept sovereignty over Babylon when the Babylonians offered it to him. He even took a step further and made the great city into a separate kingdom with its own religion, traditions and civil government. As in Egypt, Alexander appointed a native satrap as the head of the civil government while military, financial and taxation responsibilities remained in the hands of the Macedonians.
The Babylon story unfortunately was not entirely a happy one. According to Michael Wood there are newly discovered Babylonian texts, which tell us that not everyone in Babylon was happy with Alexander and his plundering of their world.
After spending about a month in Babylon, on November 25th, 331 BC, Alexander set off for Susa. On his way there he received word that his advance force, previously sent to secure the city and take possession of the treasures, had successfully completed its mission.
Like Babylon, Susa surrendered without a fight with the great treasure depot of the Persian King intact. In spite of spending great sums of money to finance his campaigns, Darius still had enough treasure left to purchase a small country or as Michael Wood puts it, equivalent to the national income of the fifth century Athenian empire for 150 years. It is estimated that apart from the precious stones, 40,000 silver talents and 9,000 gold daries (coins) were also discovered and fell into Alexander's hands. Alexander was a happy man indeed.
Alexander arrived in Susa on December 15th, 331 BC, and was greeted by the governor and a delegation of important people bearing rich gifts including a dozen Indian elephants.
Some of the money received was sent to Macedonia to finance Antipater's campaign against the Spartans. In the spring of 331 BC, the Spartans formed a Peloponnesian coalition and were preparing to fight Macedonia. Antipater unfortunately had his hands full putting down Thracian uprisings and was unable to immediately respond to this Spartan provocation. The Spartans took this as a sign of weakness and began to attack cities loyal to Macedonia. Antipater stepped up the pace finishing the northern campaign before quickly marching south. When he arrived he found the Spartans and their allies besieging the city of Megalopolis in Arcadia, which had remained loyal to Macedonia and would not surrender. There was a great battle and Antipater won a decisive victory. The mighty Spartans were vanquished and begged for peace. Antipater took most of the nobles as hostages and referred their fate to the League as Alexander had previously done with the Thebans. Unfortunately, the League of Corinth, seeing this as another blow to their freedom, did not have the stomach to pass judgement and left the fate of the captured undecided. It was now up to Alexander to determine their punishment.
When they arrived in Asia, Alexander held a trial where it was decided that the troublemakers would be executed and the rest freed. Sparta, however, was forced to join the League of Corinth.
With the defeat of Sparta, the legacy, culture and way of life of the ancient Greeks ended forever. From then forward, Macedonia ruled over Greece for centuries until the Roman wars.
After collecting his treasure, Alexander appointed a Persian satrap in charge of civil duties and two Macedonian commanders in charge of the troops and citadels. While still in Susa, he also received several thousand fresh Macedonian troops for his next campaign.
After a bit of rest and relaxation, Alexander was on the move again, this time headed for Parsa (Persepolis) but first he had to cross the land of the Uxii. While the people of the plains submitted without a fight, the highlanders, bound by old traditions, demanded tribute as payment for passage through their lands. Everyone had to pay, including the Persian King as many had done before him. Alexander unfortunately was not the sort who would easily yield to bandits and marauders. Instead of paying tribute he unleashed his army upon them. He sent a strong detachment behind their lines to cut off their retreat while his main army attacked from below. After a short battle the Uxians were overpowered and fled, only to be annihilated by the Macedonians waiting at their rear. It was now Alexander's turn to impose a penalty demanding annual tributes of 100 horses, 500 draught animals and 30,000 sheep.
At this point Alexander decided to split his army in two. Parmenio went with the allied forces to Parsa via the main southern road while Alexander with the second force took a shortcut to the Persian Gates through the treacherous mountains. After five days of forced march, Alexander arrived at the pass only to run into serious resistance. In anticipation, the Persians had built a wall across the pass. A sizable force was waiting for the Macedonians to arrive. Upon contact, Alexander initiated a direct siege but was unable to penetrate the barriers. The Persians had artillery and archers mounted above the wall. From there they rolled great boulders and rained arrows and javelins down upon the Macedonians below. Alexander suffered heavy casualties and had to retreat. Discouraged by the heavy losses, Alexander's officers were about to give up the siege claiming that it would be easier to go around than lose more men attempting the impossible. "Impossible? It is not impossible." Alexander exclaimed. "It is so simple that even that old shepherd over there can show you how it is done. Bring me the old man here and I will prove it to you." When the old man arrived, Alexander had him questioned about the local terrain. Being a shepherd all his life the old man was familiar with the local landscape, especially the passes that led through the treacherous terrain. With relative ease the old shepherd was able to lead Alexander's army behind the Persian position.
Alexander left a strong cavalry force and two battalions of the phalanx at the entrance to the gorge. To deceive the enemy about his numbers, Alexander ordered his men to burn the normal number of campfires at night. Then when the signal was given, they were to assault the wall. Alexander in the meantime took a commando force and assault troops through the long and winding twenty-kilometer path and after a day and two nights travel, reached his destination. He gave the signal to attack at dawn and after a bloody clash the Persian force was totally annihilated.
Victorious, Alexander resumed his journey towards Parsa only to be bogged down by heavy snowdrifts, ravines and watercourses.
Part way he received incentive to get moving again when a messenger arrived with news that Parsa was ready to surrender. If, however, Alexander didn't hurry to get there in good time the inhabitants would plunder its treasures.
Alexander acted at once ordering the infantry to follow as best as it could while the cavalry dashed all night at breakneck speeds until it reached the Araxes River at dawn. There was no bridge so his engineers hurriedly built one from timbers and stones in record time, allowing the cavalry to cross and ride on. Alexander arrived in time to marvel at the splendor of Persian culture and to secure his treasure. His gaze at the city's magnificence reinforced the reality that Persian rule was over. Alexander was now the new lord and master of Asia as he planted his feet in Parsa and sat himself at the throne of Xerxes.
Soon after taking control of the city, Alexander ordered his troops to burn down Xerxes's building as a symbolic act to show that he had now accomplished what he had set out to do. It was an act that he would later regret.
While in Parsa, Alexander received news of the final Macedonian victory over the Spartan coalition. Alexander must have been ecstatic at the knowledge that the once feared and mighty Spartans had folded not before him but before Antipater, a mere general. There was nothing that could stand in Alexander's way now. His army proved itself invincible against any foe and amply demonstrated its cunning and might in all kinds of battles and under all conceivable circumstances.
With the Spartan threat out of the way, the last bastion of Greek resistance was over and Alexander no longer needed to hold the Greek armies hostage. With much fanfare, gift giving and bonus pay he dismissed the entire League troops from their duty. The Thessalian cavalry, which proved itself worthy in battle, he rewarded handsomely and sent home. Those who preferred to stay in Alexander's commission were accepted as paid mercenaries, not as allied soldiers. With the fall of Sparta the so-called "alliance" also ended and Alexander's campaigns from here on forward were waged by Macedonians only.
And now I would like to take you on a short diversion to a different time, to a different place where a later generation of Macedonians proudly displayed their mark.
This is another inscription of Dura-Europos as translated by Anthony Ambrozic.
NOTE: the letter "Š" is pronounced as "SH"
The Beggar's Magnanimity
This graffiti appears in the temple of Artemis, at the entrance to the odeon, on the east side of the door, at the foot of the stairway leading to the upper tier.
Division and Alphabetization:
AB DADOŠ MEM JE ON BARGAŠ.
AB DAŠ JE MENI KOS
SJOTER ROJ MAŠ.
"If you add to him, he is a rich man. If you also give to me only a portion, you shall tomorrow have paradise."
"If you add to what he already has, he will be a rich man. If you also give to me but a portion, you shall tomorrow have paradise.
AB -"will it?, would it?, were it to: - This is a very dialectal, shorter form of the literal ALI BI or a more colloquial A K'.
DADOŠ -"you add" - second prs. sing. pres. of DODATI - "to add" - DADOŠ still very much resonates in the current literal DODAŠ. In English, one does not add to a person but rather to his possessions or wealth. As a result, the initial translation seems strained.
MEM - "to him, him" - This is a disused, archaic, dialectal form of NJEM' or the literal NJEMU.
JE - "is"
ON - "he"
BARGAŠ - "rich man" - Today's usage is BOGATAŠ. - BARG for BOG is a vernacular variation, but very archaic.
AB - see supra
DAŠ - "you give" - second prs. sing. of DATI - "to give"
JE - "and, also" - JE here is a shortened JER which corresponds to the current literal TER which is slowly being undercut into erosive archaity, especially in speech.
MENI - "me, to me" - This is still the current literal usage.
KOS - "share, portion, piece"
SJOTER - "tomorrow" - This disused form still carries its antique sparkle whether one seeks its DNA in the Sln. JUTRI or the SC. SUTRA,
ROJ - "paradise" - RAJ is the current usage.
MAŠ - "you have" - second prs., sing. of IMETI - "to have" - The literal form would be IMAŠ, but MAŠ is the colloquial equivalent.
Please note the upper extension of the letter C. Another example of the Venetic mode of communication by any means whatsoever! The C is here meant to have the added Š value and not merely the S sound of an ordinary C. Giving the C a forehead was an imaginative way this could be accomplished before the age of diacritics.] (Pages 83-85, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms).
A reminder to the reader that these inscriptions were made by the descendents of Alexander's soldiers centuries after Alexander's time and the words are similar to (and some are the same as) the words of the modern Macedonian language of today.
And now back to Alexander's story.
Alexander and his army took a long deserved rest during the winter months before setting out to occupy Ecbatana, the last of the Persian capitals.
The treasures Alexander found in Parsa were even greater than those found in Susa. It is estimated that he collected 120,000 Persian talents from Parsa alone and another 6,000 talents from Pasargadae, a nearby town that also surrendered without a fight.
In May 330 BC, after about four months of rest, Alexander left Parsa and headed northwards. It seemed unusual that Alexander would remain still for this long but Peter Green believes that he was waiting for the Persian New Year festival to commence so that he could participate in it. That unfortunately did not happen and Alexander left for Ecbatana to again look for Darius. Darius, in the meantime, hoped that Alexander would be so intoxicated by the overwhelming treasures and the decadent life in Parsa that he would retire in the luxurious quarters of the western palaces and forget about pursuing him. Just to be on the safe side, however, Darius began to amass a new army in case Alexander dared to attack. Darius would then quickly escape into Bactria destroying the countryside and leaving nothing behind.
When Alexander found out that Darius was in Ecbatana he went after him. Anticipating Alexander's move Darius quickly sent his baggage train and harem to the Caspian Gates while he prepared a trap for Alexander in Ecbatana. Counting on the assistance of his allies, the Scythians and Cadusians to provide him with massive reinforcements, Darius challenged Alexander to a battle. When Alexander heard of Darius's challenge, he instructed his baggage train to follow behind while he force-marched his Macedonians in pursuit. But before reaching Ecbatana, Alexander learned that Darius had not received the reinforcements he expected and had resolved to flee. When Alexander arrived at Ecbatana he was a week too late. His 500-kilometer break neck march was for nothing. Darius had cleared the city treasury of its 7,000 talents and had slipped away eastwards with 6,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry troops.
This was a great disappointment for Alexander, which made him even more determined to hunt Darius down.
Before leaving on his journey deep into Asia, Alexander built a treasury house at the citadel of Ecbana to safeguard the 180,000 or so talents that he had amassed from Susa and Parsa. Parmenio was put in charge of guarding it. After dismissing the allied forces, his loyal Macedonian general Parmenio, having no army to command, was reduced in rank to military area commander. He was then placed in charge of guarding Alexander's treasury house at Ecbana and securing his communication lines to the rear. Parmenio was seventy years old when Alexander diplomatically coaxed him into retiring from the front lines.
With his treasury secured and Parmenio in charge of local affairs in Persia proper, Alexander was free to pursue Darius in present day Iran, by way of the Caspian Gates.
It is a shame that such great effort was expended in the pursuit of a single man in such a reckless manner during July in the heat of the desert.
Alexander force-marched his army northward and covered 320 kilometers in eleven days, moving relentlessly in an attempt to overtake the Persians before they crossed the Caspian Gates. When they reached Rhagae, about eighty kilometers from the Caspian Gates, Alexander discovered that Darius had already passed through. Alexander at that point decided to stop the pursuit and allowed his army rest for five days before continuing on through the Gates.
When they crossed the Gates, Alexander was informed that Darius had been deposed by his own satraps and was now their prisoner. Alexander quickly deployed his fastest cavalry on an all night pursuit and in the morning when they reached Darius's camp they discovered that Darius had been arrested and taken away.
Alexander continued his search and when his Macedonians finally caught up to him they found Darius in chains and weakened from stab wounds. After a wild all night chase, the next day Alexander's men discovered Darius mortally stabbed by javelins. Darius's own satraps murdered him to prevent him from falling into Alexander's hands, alive. Darius was around fifty years old when he met his tragic end in July of 330 BC.
After learning of the agonizing circumstances under which Darius had died, Alexander took his body back to Parsa and gave him a kingly burial in one of the Archaemenid royal cemeteries. Alexander, to the surprise of his Macedonians and especially the Greeks, did something unusual by declaring his desire to avenge the murdered Darius. He declared that the rebels who had murdered their royal master would be punished severely while those faithful to him would be held in high honour.
With the death of Darius, the impression was that the war was over. A rumour was started around the camp that the crusade might be over and everyone would soon be allowed to go home. After all, the allied forces had been dismissed and Darius was dead, what other purpose would there be to go on? This was obvious to everyone of course except to Alexander who now wanted to avenge Darius's death by going after his murderers. It was obvious that Alexander had motives different from his Macedonians. Alexander was not out to avenge anyone but rather to continue the conquests that would satisfy his own desires. His loyal soldiers, unfortunately, were becoming weary and wondered when, if ever, they would be able to go home to enjoy their hard-earned earnings in peace?
Alexander convened a meeting of his officers and soldiers and put an end to the rumours about going home and then ordered the army to prepare to move again. Even though Alexander got his way (again), this time unfortunately a rift began to develop between his own desires and those of his men. Alexander was well aware of the problems he was about to face and began to look at non-Macedonians as possible candidates for his civil as well as military administration. To lessen their loneliness, he even encouraged his men to take wives from the captive women and bring them along on the campaign. As he was moving away from Macedonia, Alexander knew all too well that receiving new recruits and maintaining a long distance communication link with home would become more and more difficult, especially since he was planning to make "conquering" a way of life.
After a few days rest the army was on the move again and headed east towards Hyrcania. On his way through Iraq, Alexander encountered wild tribes that had never before been conquered and fierce battles broke out. After subduing some he made them pay tributes of horses and livestock. Some, especially the very skilled horsemen and archers he drafted into his service.
While crossing Iran, Alexander found a new enemy with different fighting skills that offered him no great battles. It was an enemy in small numbers that hid during the day and attacked at night. It appeared in the rear and hit at several places simultaneously and quickly disappeared. When Alexander went in pursuit, it entrenched itself in inaccessible terrain or dispersed itself and vanished into the woodlands. Alexander, in response to these terror attacks, reorganized his army into small mixed units that could fight many independent battles simultaneously or come together as one large unit if necessary. Alexander also, for the first time, employed riding archers and javelin throwers who could attack on the move. With the new fighting methods and the conscription of foreigners into his military, Alexander's army was no longer the same army as when he had started out.
After spending two weeks of summer in Hyrcania, Alexander moved eastward to the northern side of Areia. There he received news that Bessus, one of Darius's satraps who was also a suspect in Darius's murder, had been recognized in the province of Bactria as King of Asia. Alexander was about to set out for Bactra, the capital city of Bactria, in pursuit of Bessus when he received news that the satrap of Areia was in support of Bessus's recognition and himself was planning an insurrection in Areia. Without losing any time, Alexander, with part of his army in a fast paced two days march, showed up unexpectedly in Artacoana, the capital of Areia. His presence brought great fear among the rebels and the insurrection collapsed.
Unfortunately, during the forced march Alexander lost Nicator, Parmenio's son and commander of his Guards Brigade. Nicator fell ill and died on his way to Artacaona. Alexander was too much in a hurry to honour him as a fallen soldier so he left that task to Philotus, Nicator's brother. Alexander was determined to put down Bessus as soon as possible and after arriving in Artacoana, went on the move again. He had learned that Bessus was raising a large army recruiting from Bactria and from the wild nomadic tribes from beyond the Oxus.
Alexander was now entering uncharted territory and did not know what to expect. To avoid further trouble he founded a Macedonian settlement, which he named Alexandria -of-the- Areians, the first of many military garrisons positioned at strategic points throughout the eastern provinces.
For some reason Alexander abandoned his haste to reach Bactra by direct route and decided to travel south, perhaps to tame the rest of the provinces before heading north for the Hindu Kush. He secured these regions too by founding several new Macedonian settlements such as Alexandria-in-Arachosia, present-day Kandahar and Alexandria-at-the-Caucasus. To build his cities, Alexander's army laboured all through the winter without rest.
In the spring of 329 BC, after a short rest, Alexander led his army over the snowy Hindu Kush. Despite the opposition Bessus offered him Alexander emerged victorious and entered Bactria. Bessus fled and disappeared in Sogdiana. Alexander occupied Bactria including the capital Bactra and then advanced northward across the Oxus River. It has been said that there was no wood to build a bridge so it took the army five days to cross the Oxus River. They swam across the river using inflated leather skins, which had been sewn together from their tent coverings.
No sooner had Alexander entered Sogdiana than Bessus fell out of favour with his supporters for not putting up a fight and gradually even his own troops deserted him. Bessus's fall from grace did not mean that the rebellion was over. In time a new and much more dangerous antagonist would take his place and carry on the national resistance.
After capturing Bessus, Alexander continued his trek northward past Maracanda until he came upon the Jaxartes River where he reached the extreme northeast limit of the Persian Empire. Beyond there, in the broad steppes, lived nomads who were always a danger to the empire. To defend against attack and keep watch on the river, Alexander founded a frontier Macedonian settlement and named it Alexandria-Eschate or Khojend.
While Alexander was occupied with the preparations for the founding of his new city, the Persian rebellion was festering until it erupted into a violent revolt in a number of localities. Alexander did not waste time before unleashing his army and crushing the insurrection with much bloodshed. All the towns that participated were destroyed and their inhabitants were executed. But instead of crushing their spirits, Alexander's actions inflamed the rebels and soon afterwards even more uprisings took place and on a greater scale. At one point the rebels managed to defeat the Macedonian expeditionary force and besiege Maracanda. Their action however, angered Alexander to a point where he himself took a contingent of light troops and force-marched 300 kilometers in three days in pursuit of the rebels until they were subdued and severely punished. When he was finished, he headed south into Bactra where he spent the winter of 329-328 BC resting.
During the following spring, Alexander split his army in two and left Craterus behind in Bactria to protect the city while he moved north into Sogdiana to put down more rebellions. While Alexander was rounding up rebels, he instructed Hephaestion to plan out several cities in Sogdiana. A new city named Alexandria-the-furthermost emerged which was later populated by Macedonian immigrants.
Victorious over the rebels, Alexander gave command of Sogdina to Coenus while he and his army moved on to Nautaca to spend the winter.
Of all the rebellions that erupted between 329 and 327 BC, only one remained undefeated. The rebels here were perched high upon an inaccessible rocky citadel in the mountains of Sogdiana.
In the spring of 327 BC, Alexander marched his army from the wintering grounds of Nautaca to the high fortress of Sogdiana and summoned the rebels to surrender. Unfortunately, the only answer he received was laughter and ridicule. They said that the only way they would surrender was if Alexander's soldiers suddenly developed wings.
Alexander turned to his men and asked for volunteers, offering high rewards to those who would scale the highest peak. As it turned out, among the Macedonian soldiers were mountain climbers and some 300 of the bravest and bold volunteered. They undertook the climb in the dark of night using ropes and iron tent pegs for spikes, which they drove into the icy cold rock. Thirty of them fell to their death during the climb but the rest made it to the top. Then early the next morning, in the dawn of first light, the rebels saw, to their astonishment, these Macedonian supermen high above them and immediately capitulated, surrendering their fortress. Among the rebels captured was the Bactrian prince, Oxyartes, who had with him his beautiful daughter Roxane. In the judgement of Alexander's companions, Roxane was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen, second only to Stateira, the wife of Darius. Alexander fell passionately in love with her and soon afterwards made her his wife.
Soon after this campaign was over, Alexander marched eastwards towards Paraetacene to put down another citadel of resistance. Here too Alexander found the fortress perched high on a steep rock surrounded by deep ravines and very rough terrain. It seemed that the more impregnable the fortress looked the more Alexander was determined to penetrate it. He loved challenges and so did his Macedonians because they too seemed eager to do the impossible.
With a bit of Macedonian ingenuity, a lot of determination and with whatever nature had to offer, the Macedonian engineers constructed long ladders from the surrounding tall pine trees descending into the ravines. From the bottom they raised a causeway over the ravine to the citadel walls. They then built a penthouse above the causeway to protect the soldiers from falling artillery and began to bombard the citadel walls. It did not take too long before the shaken rebels offered to surrender.
This being the last bastion of resistance, Alexander had put down all resistance in the Far East and was free to return to Bactra. Alexander was hesitant to leave Sogdia unresolved before continuing on his trek to India. Here he met a fighting people with great determination much like his own. He needed to pacify them but not by just defeating them in battle. He needed to show them that he had earned their respect but not just by employing them into his services. He needed to make them partners the old fashioned way, by marrying one of their kind, the way Philip would have done.
Before returning to Bactra Alexander married Roxane at the top of the citadel in the castle he had just conquered. His marriage to Roxane was a symbol of reconciliation with his former enemies and was meant to have great political importance. The marriage ceremony was conducted according to Iranian customs, which was meant to flatter the Iranian national pride. Unfortunately, what was good for the Persians and non-Macedonians was certainly viewed with contempt by some Macedonians, so we are told.
A great deal of this information comes to us from Greek sources and personally I believe it is biased. There may have been differences of opinion between Alexander and his officers but not to the extent emphasized. As I mentioned earlier, Alexander showed interest in foreign cultures because he knew that he could benefit from their diversity. Alexander also knew that he could not rule a vast empire such as this by spear alone. He needed to elevate the feeling of belonging among all people. What better example than for Alexander himself to show everyone that even a king was not beneath participating in other peoples' customs. There was bound to be some friction between his more conservative officers and himself but I don't believe it was mutinous. Philotas may have had good reason to despise Alexander's fraternization with the enemy. His brother died for Alexander and yet Alexander was too busy to give him a proper burial. There were also those who were tired of fighting a war without end and who were bound to complain. What good is wealth if one can't enjoy it?
History should judge the Macedonians not by what other people, especially the Greeks, have said but by what the Macedonians did. Despite the negative comments from ancient authors, there is one overriding truth that can't be denied. The Macedonian army remained loyal to Alexander to the end. No army can remain intact or win battles the way the Macedonians did if there is dissension between its leaders. Alexander was unquestionably loyal to the Macedonians and the Macedonians were in turn unquestionably loyal to Alexander, the rest is nothing but rumours. Outside of these rumours, no ancient author has left any record of a real mutiny or conspiracy that may have allegedly taken place within the Macedonian army. There is not a single record of one Macedonian raising arms against another Macedonian. By this I am referring to Philotas's trial and Parmenio's execution. There are claims that Philotas was aware of a conspiracy to murder Alexander and Parmenio may have been part of the same conspiracy. It seems to me that in their preoccupation with their tabloid style denigration of Alexander, the ancient authors "simply forgot" to mention his more important accomplishments. They simply forgot to mention Alexander's desire to unite all cultures of the world as equals, which has been a Macedonian quality passed on from generation to generation and has survived in the hearts of many Macedonian revolutionaries.
Those who had contempt for Alexander have left us with the impression that Alexander and his officers were disgusting drunkards and petty, suspicious little men spying and exacting revenge on one other. Is this the making of a great army? Are we to believe that Alexander and his officers who, at all odds, won every single battle they fought and made possible out of the impossible because they were a bunch of drunk paranoid megalomaniacs?
It is truly a shame that we know practically nothing of Alexander's vision of a future world. His desire to create a truly democratic and pluralistic society has been clouded and coloured by the dwelling of those too small to see beyond themselves and their own prejudices.
Alexander's vision, be it out of necessity or by design, was so far ahead of its time that we today are grasping to comprehend it. Alexander may have conquered the world by force but there is no doubt that he had desires to turn it into a modern "United Nations".
To be continued.
And now I leave you with this:
Prior to the partition of Macedonia in 1912-1913, or lets say prior to the formation of the Greek State and the institutionalization of educational systems in the Balkans NO ONE in Macedonia spoke Greek. Conversely, in every corner, in every remote village, in every isolated place in Macedonia, everyone spoke Macedonian. Outside of some Latin speaking Vlahs, there was no other language spoken by the common Macedonians. From traditions and folklore passed on from generation to generation and from people that were not educated or polluted by propaganda, we learn that Macedonians have always lived where they live today, in Macedonia and have spoken the same Macedonian language they speak today. There is no record of Slav invasions or of mass Slav migrations. In fact, the only memory that the word "Slav" conjures up in the minds of these wonderful record keepers is of Christianity and of religious celebration. Da slava is to celebrate. Pravoslavi is the old name for the Christian Orthodox of today. There was no Christian Orthodox prior to the 19th century there was only Pravoslavi.
The Modern Greek language was introduced in Macedonia through the Greek Church and by inviting young Macedonians to be educated in Greek schools. But instead of receiving an education, their heads were filled with Greek propaganda and became the first Greek agents to spawn Hellenism in Macedonia.
As to whether the ancient Macedonians spoke Greek or Macedonian, the answer to this question becomes obvious when you separate the nobles from the commoners. While the nobles spoke the international language of commerce, the common folk including the soldiers in Alexander's army spoke Macedonian, a root language of today's modern Macedonian.
The educated Macedonians spoke and wrote in koine while the common Macedonians spoke Macedonian and wrote Macedonian words using Greek, Latin and Venetic script as demonstrated by the Dura-Europos inscriptions.
If the ancient Macedonians spoke Greek as the modern Greeks claim, then wouldn't there be some remnants of the ancient Greek language still being spoken in some remote parts of Macedonia? Yes there would be! But in fact there is NONE.
There are some of you who, dispute the evidence presented by the Dura-Europos inscriptions, offer your own counter arguments such as "if there was a Macedonian language spoken by Alexander's soldiers in Dura-Europos, how come then there are no inscriptions found inside the boundaries of modern Greece?" The answer to this question is unfortunately obvious. Any artifacts or inscriptions found in the Greek occupied territory that do not aid the Greek cause or agree with Greek policies towards Macedonia are simply hidden from the public or destroyed. If you don't believe me ask yourselves this question. After 1400 years of Slav culture why is there not a single inscription or artifact found in Greece that bears the Macedonian language? The Greeks admit to the existence of the brothers Kiril and Methodi and yet have removed everything that is representative of them. They have destroyed all books and have erased all inscriptions including those from the gravestones in Macedonian cemeteries in order to eradicate everything that is Macedonian. That being said, then why should I trust the Greeks to tell the truth about discoveries of ancient inscriptions that bear the Macedonian language, when they lie about the existence of more modern Macedonian inscriptions that I clearly know exist?
Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany.
Anthony Ambrozic, Gordian Knot Unbound.
Anthony Ambrozic, Journey Back to the Garumna.
Michael A. Dimitri, The Daughter of Neoptolemus, 1993, Alexandra Publishing.
Michael A. Dimitri, The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia, 1992.
Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks.
Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C., A Historical Biography, 1991, University of California Press.
Michael Wood, In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great, A Journey from Greece to Asia, University of California, 1997.
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