History of the Macedonian People - Alexander III - The Greatest of the Great Conquerors

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 6 - Alexander III - The Greatest of the Great Conquerors

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

Alexander, son of Philip II and Polyxena (Olympias) was born in Pella on July 22nd, 356 BC. Alexander's father Philip was the son of the Macedonian king Amyntas III and of Eurydice, an Illyrian princess. His mother Polyxena, or Olympias as she became known in Macedonia, was the daughter of the Molossian king Neoptolemus.

Alexander was born into a dynamic world where violence was a way of life. He enjoyed war stories told around the palace and no doubt relished in his father's victories. Philip was very fond of his son and spent a great deal of time giving him affection and telling him stories.

Alexander's earliest education was entrusted to Leonidas, a relative of Olympias. But as Leonidas found out, Alexander was no ordinary student and his defiance could not be influenced by the usual methods. So in 343 BC, when Alexander was thirteen, Philip summoned Aristotle to tutor him. Aristotle, at the time, was not the famous man we know today but simply a teacher with a good reputation. Philip chose him on the recommendation of others.

Aristotle was born in Stagira (a city in Chalcidice, conquered by Philip) and was the son of Nicomachus (once physician to Amyntas III). At age 40 (or more), Aristotle left his newly opened school in Mylitine, Lesbos and went to Pella where he was given residence in the quiet little village of Mieza. There, near the sanctuary of the Nymphs, away from the hustle and bustle and constant disruptions of Pella, Aristotle spent the next three years, educating Alexander along with a few other children. One of those children was Hephastion, whom Alexander befriended for life.

Aristotle, in addition to teaching Alexander of life's wonders, inspired in him a passionate love for culture and intellect that profoundly affected his life and the way he viewed the world. But it was Homer's books that inspired Alexander the most. The Iliad, the best book ever written, and his two heroes Heracles and Achilles where the driving forces that championed Alexander's desires for conquest and seeking the unknown.

In addition to teaching him how to be king, Aristotle also inspired in Alexander a keen interest in the natural sciences.

In 340 BC at age sixteen, while his father Philip campaigned against Byzantium, Alexander was made regent of Pella. It was then that Alexander got a taste of what it was like to be in command, especially to command a battle and put down a rebellion. It was an insignificant rebellion instigated by the Thracian Maidoi but none-the-less it was a joy for the young prince to command. After defeating the enemy, Alexander took the town, resettled it with Macedonians and renamed it Alexandropolis after himself. This would be the first in a line of many cities to be named after the young conqueror.

Two years later in 338 BC, at age eighteen, Alexander had gained his father's confidence to be given command of the Macedonian cavalry during the most important battle of Philip's career. This was a pivotal battle that not only thrashed the allied Greeks but also ushered in a new age of warfare. Eighteen years old, Alexander was part of it in every respect.

Unfortunately, on that dreaded day in 337 BC when Philip decided to marry Cleopatra, the niece of general Attalus, Alexander's pleasant relation with his father came to an abrupt end. Some say that at the marriage feast Alexander exchanged bitter words with Attalus and then caused a scene with his own father. Be it as it may, Alexander's feelings were badly hurt.

Feeling let down by his own father, Alexander, along with his mother, left Macedonia for Epirus. After taking his mother home Alexander left and went to live with the Illyrians, with a Macedonian client king. There, through the work of a mediator, he reconciled his differences with his father and soon after returned home to Pella.

Even though his father forgave him, Alexander still felt insecure and his insecurity surfaced when Philip offered the marriage of the daughter of a Carian ruler to his illegitimate son Arrhidaeus, instead of to Alexander. The Carian ruler happened to be a vassal to the Great King of Persia. Philip felt it was unsuitable for his son Alexander, heir to the Macedonian throne, to marry the daughter of a Persian vassal.

Alexander, feeling insecure, unfortunately did not believe his father and listened to some bad advice given to him by his friends. Ignoring his father, Alexander secretly offered himself as the son-in-law to the Carian ruler. When Philip found out, one would expect him to be furious but he wasn't. He consoled his son and explained to him his real motives behind the marriage, then pardoned him for his misdeeds.

As for Alexander's advisors Nearchus, Harpalus and Ptolemy, they did not get off that easily. For their misdeeds and bad advice to the prince, Philip had them exiled from the Pelan court.

The next year in mid-summer 336 BC, Alexander's life was changed forever as tragedy struck and his father was assassinated. The incident took place in the theater of Aegae at the worst possible time for Alexander's sister Cleopatra. Expecting to be away on the Asian campaign, Philip took the opportunity to marry off his daughter Cleopatra to his protégé Alexander, king of Molossia. No one expected that during the procession, the crazed bodyguard Pausanius would lunge at Philip and stab him to death right in the middle of Cleopatra's wedding.

Fortunately for Alexander, Philip and Olympias had resolved their differences and Olympias was back in the Macedonian court at Philip's side when it happened so Alexander had his mother's support when he needed it the most.

Philip was forty-six years old, at the height of his power and fortune, when his life was taken. There were many rumors as to why he was assassinated but none were proven since his killer was also slain before he was interrogated. It was now up to Alexander to set things right.

When a king or head of state is assassinated, the state and its foreign relations are shaken to the very foundation. Macedonia, after Philip's death, was no exception. The question on everyone's mind, especially his enemies, was who would succeed him?

In Philip's case a group of Macedonian soldiers and ex-soldiers loyal to the king, mostly from the near vicinity, were quickly assembled in Aegae. Without hesitation they chose Alexander as Philip's successor, the new king to lead them. The following day, one by one, his soldiers took an oath of loyalty as was required by Macedonian custom.

Alexander chose his own bodyguards and was given his personal Royal Infantry Guard. His first task as king was to investigate his father's murder.

The fact that there were horses involved for Pausanius's getaway suggests that Philip's murder was premeditated and accomplices were involved. But who would have had the audacity to murder a powerful king and at his daughter's wedding at that? That, we will never know for sure! What is important, however, is to examine how Alexander used this tragedy to secure his own position in the Macedonian kingdom and rid himself of some undesirable elements.

For killing Pausanius before he could be interrogated, Alexander placed blame on the bodyguards and had them executed. For Pausanius's act as a traitor, his three sons were also executed. Many of the people present in the theater that day were suspects and found guilty of conspiring to murder both father and son. Of those found guilty, Alexander pardoned few while most he condemned to death. Later that same year new evidence came to light and general Attalus became a suspect. It was Alexander's belief that Attalus had something to do with Demosthenes's secret communication conspiring to prevent Alexander from becoming heir to the Macedonian throne. Alexander dispatched an officer to Asia to arrest Attalus or kill him if he resisted. As I mentioned earlier, Attalus along with Parmenio were leading an expeditionary force into Asia. As expected, Attalus resisted and was killed.

After his death an assembly of soldiers tried and found him guilty of treason and, in accordance with Macedonian custom, his relations were condemned to death. Among his relatives were his niece Cleopatra and Philip's newborn infant.

Over the course of the winter, Amyntas, son of Perdiccas III, was also found guilty and condemned to death. In fact, before contemplating crossing into Asia Alexander had killed all the male members of his family who could potentially threaten his position.

The news of Philip's murder attracted the attention of the whole world, especially the Greeks who rejoiced in knowing that he was gone. Alexander was quick to let them know that he expected from them the same loyalty as they had for his father. He reminded the Greeks that the treaty of the League of Corinth was perpetual and gave him a legal claim to be Hegemon, same as his father. But Alexander's words did not phase the Greeks in the least, for in Athens they were dancing in the streets with joy. Demosthenes, intoxicated with the prospect of liberty, appeared in council dressed in white with a wreath on his head making offerings to the gods for the joyful news. The call to freedom from Athens spread like wildfire to the rest of the Greeks. The Aetolians recalled all those exiled by Philip, the Ambraciots expelled the Macedonian garrison, the Thebans took up arms to liberate Cadmeia and there were signs of rebellions in Peloponnese, Argos, Elis and Arcadia.

When news was received that Alexander was to take Philip's place, Demosthenes became enraged, immediately sending a secret communication begging Parmenio and Attalus to intervene.

Fortunately, Attalus and Parmenio were loyal to their new king and allowed Alexander to be seated on the throne without interruption. So in the end, like his father before him, Alexander became Demosthenes's mortal foe and worst nightmare.

Failing to enlist help from Macedonians inside Alexander's circle, Demosthenes entered into strange relations with the Persian King and continued to work against Macedonia.

The revolts after Philip's death were not exclusive to the Greeks. Reports were also coming in from the north with claims that were disturbances and rebellions there too.

On hearing this Alexander moved quickly, put a strong force together and with lightning speed descended upon his enemies. The Greeks were first on his agenda to subdue as he force- marched his army in a surprise visit to Thessaly. Upon seeing Alexander, the Thessalians not only submitted but they showed an eager willingness to recognize him as their Hegemon. They even offered to help him punish Athens and the other Greeks for their misdeeds.

After subduing Thessaly, Alexander pushed southward overrunning all who stood in his way, including Thermopylae. After quelling Thermopylae, he summoned a meeting with the Amphictyonic Council who, without hesitation, also gave him recognition as Hegemon. He then quietly slipped out, marched to Boeotia and set up camp near Cadmeia. His sudden appearance in Thebes frightened the wits out of the Thebans and sent shock waves of chilling terror to Athens, especially after delivering an ultimatum demanding to be recognized as Hegemon or prepare for war. The Athenians, expecting the worst, were prepared for war but were relieved by the alternative. Through their ambassadors they asked for pardon for not having his hegemony recognized sooner.

At the conclusion of his campaign, Alexander summoned all members of the League of Corinth for a meeting. Here he asked the Greeks to give him recognition as Hegemon of the League in accordance with the agreement made with Philip. The Spartans, whose response was, "It was their custom to follow themselves and not others who wish to lead them." did not attend.

When his business with the Greeks was finished, Alexander turned his attention to the troublemakers in the north. First on his list were the Thracian Triballian tribe, living between the Balkans and the Danube, who Philip fought but did not subjugate. This was Alexander's first campaign carried out without the tactical brilliance of general Parmenio or the trusted help of friend and advisor general Antipater. The success of this particular campaign has to be attributed singularly to Alexander's own genius.

Before setting off to meet the Triballians, Alexander sent his war ships from Byzantium via the Black Sea into the Danube and ordered them to sail upriver and hold their position at a pre-designated location.

In the spring of 335 BC, Alexander marched his army northward until he found the Thracians. The Thracians had occupied the Shipka Pass and had secured their position atop a hill behind a fort made of wagons. Perched on top of this hill they waited until Alexander's army attempted the climb. Before they reached the top the Thracians released a barrage of wagons hoping to run the Macedonians down. Alexander, however, anticipated their plan and ordered his men at the top to form columns with alleys for the wagons to hurtle down and the men further down the hill to lie down in close formation with their shields over their heads.

As the wagons hurtled downhill, they were guided into the alleys by the formation and as they gained momentum, the wagons rode over a roof of shields without doing any damage to the men. With superb discipline exercised, not a single man was lost.

Alexander stormed the Shipka Pass and descended upon the northern plains in pursuit of the Triballian king who sought refuge on an island in the Danube. The Triballian army, which withdrew southwards, suffered an annihilating defeat.

Three days later, when Alexander reached the Danube, he found his fleet waiting. He ordered his ships to pursue the Triballian king but the banks of the island were so steep that they couldn't land.

Although frustrated, Alexander was not about to give up and came up with a new plan, which at the time may have seemed irrational to his officers but they gave him their support anyway. Alexander's plan was to "frighten the king into submission". He figured that by a surprising demonstration of force he would break the enemy's inclination to resist him. The idea was to cross the Danube undetected and force the Getae, who lived on the opposite bank, into flight and by this demonstration, startle the king to surrender. An irrational plan indeed!

Having earned the loyalty and trust of his Macedonians, they did as he ordered and made silent preparations to cross the river. They collected as many local fishing boats as they could find, filled their canvas tents with hay and under the cloak of darkness put as many troops as possible across the river. Before dawn 1,500 cavalry and 4,000 infantry were on the opposite side of the bank. Before they could be seen the troops hid in the cornfields, which masked their approach. Then, like wild animals, the cavalry burst out and charged the Getae who were encamped in front of their town. Completely surprised, the Getae, far superior in numbers, rushed back into town, grabbed their wives and children and ran north to safety in the steppes. The town was taken and not a single man was lost.

Alexander's bluff not only worked with the Triballian king who made his submission to Alexander but, when word spread, neighbouring tribes send their envoys to pay Alexander homage. Even the Celts, who had ventured eastward from the Adriatic, asked Alexander for his friendship.

When his northern campaign was over, Alexander was preparing to return home when he received news of an Illyrian revolt.

Alexander marched his army at great speed to western Macedonia and, just beyond his frontier, found a very large Dardanian army assembled and waiting. A battle ensued and the Illyrians were driven back into a fortified town. Alexander set camp for the night intending to besiege the town the next day. Unfortunately, by morning another enemy army had arrived. A large Taulantian army had joined the Dardanians and cut off Alexander's retreat and supply line. The Macedonian army of some 25,000 men and 5,000 horses were quickly running out of supplies. Alexander had to do something and soon, but what? He was completely surrounded. Leave it to Alexander to come up with another uncanny plan. He ordered his men to put on a show. Ignoring the enemy, he ordered his phalanx into formation to quietly march back and forth as he motioned their maneuvers with his arm. The show attracted onlookers around his camp who not only were surprised but mesmerized by this action.

When the time was right, Alexander motioned and the soldiers, in unison, slapped their shields hard with their javelins. The sudden thundering roar, after the mesmerizing silence, startled the enemy causing some of the horses to bolt in fright. At lightening speed Alexander's best cavalry, supported by his archers, bolted through the pass, making an opening for the army to escape through. The army, with catapult, archers and cavalry support, then punched a hole right through the middle of the enemy forces and landed on home territory in the meadows around Lake Little Prespa. Not a single man was lost.

Three days later in a surprise attack at night Alexander led an assault force through the pass and inflicted a decisive defeat on his enemy. As the enemy bolted, the Macedonian cavalry pursued, chasing them for over one hundred kilometers, instilling fear and causing them severe damage. Both kings submitted to Alexander's will and instead of being punished for their misdeeds they were made client-kings with thrones of their own.

No sooner were the Illyrian revolts put down than Alexander received news of a dangerous uprising in Greece requiring his immediate intervention. It appears that the Thebans were in revolt and had killed Macedonian officers stationed in a local garrison.

Alexander quickly assembled his army and set out on a fast paced march, living off the land as he traversed south through the mountainous terrain. After crossing the Pass of Thermopylae he headed for Thebes. Alexander arrived just in time to prevent his garrison from being attacked so no serious damage was done. But to his surprise, it was not just Thebes that was causing trouble. Athens too had become involved when she entered into an alliance with Thebes and sent arms and her citizen army to support the Theban rebellion. Encouraged by Demosthenes and supported by Persian gold, other Greeks also joined the rebellion.

The whole thing was started by rumors, no doubt spread by Demoshenes himself, claiming that Alexander had been killed and his army defeated in Illyria.

But when Alexander arrived alive and well with an intact Macedonian army a chill must have run down their spines. Being the rightful Hegemon of the Greek League, Alexander asserted his rights and demanded that the rebels disband. In the presence of Alexander, some of the Greek armies obeyed and turned away. Some, like Athens, remained stationary and made no attempt to engage him. The Thebans decided to break away and fight, hoping that an engagement would draw others into the war. They relied mostly on their own forces and the strong fortifications of their city to defend them.

After hearing rumors of his supposed death, Alexander endeavoured to give the rebels a chance to end the impasse peacefully and gave them three days to surrender. Unfortunately, instead of submitting peacefully their cavalry charged his outposts.

The next day Alexander marched his army all around the city and stopped in front of the south gate. Angered by the reply of the previous day, Alexander ordered an attack. In no time the Theban defenses were breached and the Macedonian and League armies penetrated the city. The Thebans fought fiercely but were no match for the well trained, battle experienced Macedonian army. The battle turned tragically when League soldiers turned on the general population massacring everyone in sight.

After sacking it, Alexander left the final fate of Thebes to the League to decide. Those in the League who for many generations suffered under the supremacy of Thebes finally found an outlet to vent their anger. Without hesitation they found Thebes guilty of treason for their current misdeeds as well as those in the past. In a resolution backed by the entire League Alexander ordered the city to be leveled to the ground. Women and children were sold into slavery.

Alexander allowed the resolution to pass so that an example could be made to remind the rest that this kind of behavior would no longer be tolerated. As for the Athenians, the real instigators of the rebellions, Alexander left them unpunished. Alexander was careful not to drive them further into the Persian King's arms. But, as fate would have it, those who were unhappy with the League's resolution left for Persia anyway.

After restoring peace in Greece, Alexander and his army returned to Macedonia. By the time he arrived it was already October (335 BC) and still much preparation was needed before he could depart for the Asian spring offensive. Alexander also needed time to secure the route to Asia and strengthen Macedonia's defenses. Being mistrustful of the Greeks, Alexander in his absence left Antipater, a competent soldier, a man of strong character and a trustworthy friend, in charge as regent of Macedonia. He gave Antipater special powers to represent him as deputy-Hegemon of the League of Corinth. To keep the peace, Antipater was given 12,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry from Alexander's best Macedonian troops.

During the winter of 335 BC, Alexander convened a meeting with his officers and advisors and discussed his plans and general strategy regarding the Asian campaign. In addition to his own troops, who formed the core of his army, it was decided that Alexander would appeal to the Greek League to supply him with infantry, cavalry and a fleet of ships and sailors. The League approved Alexander's request and supplied him with approximately 160 war ships and 29,000 crewmen, 7,000 infantry and 2,400 cavalry. Some believe that Alexander only took these men so that he could hold them hostage to prevent the Greeks from attacking Macedonia while he was campaigning in Asia. If we take into consideration that Alexander was always suspicious and never trusted the Greeks, and the fact that he relied solely on the Macedonian soldiers to do his fighting, then I would agree that the League forces were redundant and with no other purpose. By solving one problem Alexander created another. The Greek soldiers taken as hostages could possibly, in a moment of weakness, be a danger to him. Alexander trusted his Macedonians with his life and he knew that they would never intentionally let him down, however, there was always the possibility that they could be overwhelmed in battle. If that were to happen, Alexander was certain the Greeks would turn on him. So after crossing into Asia, Alexander separated his forces. He took an all Macedonian infantry and a mixed Macedonian Thessalian cavalry force and placed the League forces in Parmenio's command.

Even though Antipater was a trusted friend, Alexander was always cautious and well aware that in his prolonged absence anything could happen. To counterbalance Antipater's power, Alexander appointed his mother Olympias to be in charge of religious, ceremonial and financial matters in Pella.

Alexander selected and took with him the best and most battle hardened troops in his army consisting of 12,000 infantrymen and 2,700 cavalrymen. Philip himself had trained and campaigned with most of these men in all hazards of war.

While Alexander was preparing his Asian force, Parmenio's vanguard in Asia was struggling to regain control of the Hellespond. In 336 BC Parmenio had won control of the Dardanelles bridgehead but lost it again in 335 BC when he was driven back by Greek mercenaries commanded by general Memnon. The Greeks had taken control of an area near the crossing, killed off and expelled the Persian juntas, and had taken over the local cities. It didn't take long, however, before the pro-Persian factions rebelled. Parmenio sought his chance and again took control of the crossing. The Macedonians now controlled the waters of the Hellespond and held them until Alexander arrived.

In early spring of 334 BC, with the help of some 160 ships, the main body of the Macedonian expedition force was ferried across the strait. While the army was helped across, Alexander took a diversion to explore the various sacred sites of the Iliad. While visiting the Ilium he dedicated his armour to Athena and in exchange took back an old, sacred shield supposedly dating back to the Trojan War.

Soon after rejoining his army, Alexander set out to find the enemy. As I mentioned earlier, Alexander separated his forces and took with him only Macedonians and some Thessalians, leaving the Greeks behind with Parmenio. In all 13,000 infantry and 5,100 cavalry set off in search of the Persian army. Another reason for not taking the Greeks was that Alexander had no money for provisions. When he crossed the Hellespond he was almost broke. Some say he only had 70 talents in cash and that was hardly enough to feed his army for more than a couple of weeks. But that did not stop Alexander because he had confidence in his Macedonians to give him victories and then his enemies would be obliged to feed the army.

Besides his military, Alexander also enlisted the services of historians, philosophers, poets, engineers, surveyors, doctors, botanists and natural scientists to accompany him on his Asian expedition. His official historian was Callisthenes of Olynthus, nephew and pupil of Aristotle. The surveyors were there to measure distances traveled by the army as well as make notes of peculiarities in the terrain traversed. The engineers were engaged in building bridges, rafts, ladders, siege engines and equipment to scale steep slopes and cliffs. The botanists and natural scientists were there to investigate the flora, fauna and mineral wealth of the newly discovered lands. Right from the start the Asian expedition was not just a military campaign but a great research and discovery mission.

As luck would have it, on the third day of his search, Alexander's scouts spotted the Persian army holding its position on the far bank of the river Granicus. As Alexander made his advance, he noticed a much superior cavalry force holding its position on the level ground. Beyond the steep riverbank he could see a large, Greek mercenary infantry force holding the ridge behind the level ground. He estimated the enemy to be about 20,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry.

Alexander immediately formulated his battle plans and took the offensive. The Macedonian infantry phalanx took the center while the cavalry formed the wings with the archers posted on the extreme right. Alexander's battle line now matched the three-kilometer wide enemy line. According to Peter Green, Alexander badly needed a victory in order to secure booty to pay off his loans and to finance future campaigns. At the moment, Alexander was badly in debt.

Among the Persian commanders was general Memnon. Memnon was well aware of Alexander's financial predicament and wanted to starve him out. During an earlier meeting with the Persians, Memnon opposed a direct confrontation and proposed to deprive Alexander of all provisions. This would have required burning all the crops in the vicinity and withdrawing the Persian army. Having no provisions to sustain him, Alexander would have had to turn back and return to Macedonia. When he did, Memnon proposed to go after him by means of the huge Persian fleet. The Persians, however, due to their army's numerical superiority felt confident that a battle with Alexander would give them victory.

After surveying the situation, Alexander noticed that the best Persian cavalry stood atop the steep, eight-foot riverbank. From that position a cavalry charge would have been difficult to execute. In spite of Parmenio's advice to retire for the evening and attack the next morning, Alexander exploited the situation and ordered a surprise attack.

The battle of Granicus started with a blare of trumpets and with the terrifying battle cry of Alexander and his Macedonians. His men quickly took their positions as Alexander's horsemen rushed across the swollen river and swooped up the steep bank violently engaging the Persian cavalry. His infantry phalanx, which by now was used to forming a battle line on the fly, maneuvered into an oblique battle-array and positioned itself to follow suit. As the army frontlines clashed, Alexander and his companions rode back and forth behind the lines looking for weaknesses and to confuse the enemy. Moments after the engagement started, most of the Persian cavalry was pinned down by the Macedonian phalanx as both armies desperately tried to push forward. The Persians were expecting Alexander to attack at the extreme left where the terrain was easiest to navigate. Memnon's most experienced mercenaries were placed there in thick columns in close proximity and ordered to lay in wait. But instead of doing what was expected Alexander took a defensive stand and attacked the position with a light force of infantry and some cavalry, with just enough men to hold the mercenaries back.

As the battle raged on Alexander himself became engaged and fought several Persian nobles, among them the son in law of Darius the Great King. While Alexander was dealing a deathblow to the King's son in law he nearly became a casualty himself. The world would not have been the same had it not been for Cleitus who came to his rescue.

As the phalanx succeeded in pushing back the Persian cavalry, Alexander's horsemen charged the center and punched a whole right through the enemy formation. The enemy took flight and the Macedonian cavalry went in pursuit leaving many dead in their wake.

No sooner had the Macedonians moved in for the kill than they were confronted from the rear by the Greek mercenaries who had lain in wait throughout the entire battle. Alexander turned his phalanx around and ordered a frontal attack while his cavalry took on the flanks. In a matter of minutes the elite Greek mercenary force was annihilated leaving only 2,000 survivors out of a force of 20,000. By sacrificing themselves, the Greek mercenaries saved the Persian cavalry.

Before the evening was over, in a few short hours on a bright day in May 334 BC, the Macedonians won a great victory.

The day after the battle all the dead, including the Persians, were buried with honour. Special attention and care was given to the wounded, each receiving a visit from Alexander himself.

Compared to the enemy Macedonian losses were insignificant, totaling about a couple hundred.

Soon after the battle of Granicus, Alexander organized an administration to manage his lands "won by his spear". Instead of incorporating these lands as part of a Greater Macedonian kingdom, Alexander did the unexpected and appointed a Macedonian "satrap". By that I mean Alexander left the old Persian government and way of governing intact. He only replaced the top Persian official (satrap) with a Macedonian. His only demands were that the Persians now pay him what was owed to the Great King. In addition to taking taxes, Alexander also took possession of the Great King's crown lands.

Alexander's idea of replacing the Great King with himself instead of incorporating the conquered lands into a "Greater Macedonia" had its merits. After seeing that no harm had come to their neighbours, other parts of Asia Minor began to surrender peacefully. When Alexander reached Sardis, the Lydian city, the people surrendered without a fight entrusting Alexander with the city's treasures, satrapy and citadel. In return, Alexander freed the Lydians from Persian rule and gave them back their old culture, laws and way of life. He also replaced the Persian satrap with a Macedonian. Here again Alexander demonstrated his respect for other cultures choosing to liberate instead of enslave.

After looking at the vastness of Asia, Alexander quickly realized that he could never hold a world that size with a spear. This foresight, along with the Macedonian values instilled in him (to respect people of all classes and cultures), Alexander became a liberator and a champion of the oppressed nations. His conquests became a mission of liberation not enslavement. He did NOT do this to spread Greek culture, as many authors claim, he did it to spread Macedonian values for the glory of Macedonia and the Macedonian people.

The Greeks are credited with being the fathers of democracy but in reality they were not democratic at all. Athens, the most democratic of all Greek states, was ruled by a small faction of wealthy men who employed slave labour to toil for them and amass their wealth. Athenian women had no rights and neither did the majority of the Athenian population. Ironically Athens is credited as being the cradle of democracy. In case you were wondering, The Oxford dictionary defines democracy as "government by all the people, direct or representative; State having this; form of society ignoring hereditary class distinctions and tolerating minority views". (Page 193, The Oxford Dictionary of Current English). Ironically our modern concept of democracy is nothing like the "brand" of democracy the ancient Greeks practiced. Modern democracy is more like the practices of the ancient Macedonians. Even though ancient Macedonia was a monarchy, in practice, it was more closely linked to the common man than the best Greek democracy could ever dream of being. Through Alexander's exploits we find that the Macedonians not only tolerated other cultures but also took great care to preserve them. The Greeks, on the other hand, loathed other cultures. The Macedonians saw the world as many states with various cultures, customs and languages. All we ever hear from the Greeks is that the world was populated by "Greeks and barbarians". Even though the Greeks called other cultures barbarian, the worst case of barbarism was demonstrated by the Greeks themselves in the way they treated one another.

This modern infatuation with the ancient Greek culture is nothing more than a lingering side effect of 19th century British and German "supremacist" romance with "a white intellectual male dominated society", run by a small minority of men in robes.

It is time to reveal the ancient Greeks for who they truly were and give the ancient Macedonians the credit they deserve.

The ancient Macedonians, as I mentioned earlier, were a tolerant people when it came to respecting other peoples' cultures, customs and languages but there was one thing they would not tolerate and that was Greek arrogance.

Here is another Dura-Europos inscription as translated by Anthony Ambrozic -- (pages 78-80, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany, a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms):



Inscription found on a separated block of stone dug up within the grounds of the temple of Artemis.

Division and alphabetization:



"To all Athenians: See to it that your nose is a span's length, so that then the cock does not perish."

Looser Translation:

"To all Athenians: See to it that your nose is so keen as if it were a span's length, so that you do not end up losing your cock."


GOT - "whosoever, whoever, all" - GOD is an all-encompassing combinational form which in SC. joins with KO and TKO - "who" and STO - "what" to become "whosoever" and "whatsoever." - It seems that the Venetic does not join in this combinational discrimination between objects and persons.

ATHENOI - "Athenians" in Greek

LA - "make sure that" among others, depending on context and idiom - This is an archaism of the current LE.

LEJ - "see, see to" - second prs., sing., pres., imp. of GLEDATI - "to see, to watch, to see to" - The guttural G is abandoned for easier speech without any damage to recognizability of LEJ in rapid vernacular.

KOJ D' JE - "so that it is" - This idiom is a dialectal archaism of the current literal KO

DA JE, having the same meaning.

PID - "span: (measure of length) - PID is Cz. for the gsl. PED

JE - "is"

NOS - "nose"

TOJ - "your, yours"

DA - "that, so that"

NI - "no, not, is not"

POJ - "then, later, after" - This very dialectal form is somewhere between PO - "after" and PO-TEM - literally, "after this, after that" but invariably meaning "then."

GINA - "perishes, dies, disappears" - third prs., sing., pres. of GINITI - "to perish, to die, to disappear" - This is very dialectal form of the current literal GINE.

I - "and, also"

KOS - "piece, portion, cock" (depending on context) - see passage VIII supra

Words of wisdom for the Athenians, perhaps?

Again I want to remind the reader that this inscription was found in Dura-Europos, a city in the Syrian Desert founded by Alexander's lieutenant, Seleucus Nicator, of the post-Alexander Seleucid Empire. The script was written using Greek and Latin letters but the language is Slav or, as Ambrozic calls it, Venetic. The script predates the Roman invasion of that region and could only have been written by Macedonian soldiers stationed at a nearby garrison.

What is most curious is that the words are very similar (some are exactly the same) to those of the modern Macedonian language and NOT AT ALL like those of the ancient or modern Greek languages.

Some of Alexander's Macedonians resisted change and managed to preserve their language for many generations, as demonstrated by the Dura-Europos inscriptions. Alexander, however, encouraged change and believed that in order to win over the hearts of the conquered people one had to become one of them or at least act like them. He believed that, that was only possible with a clear understanding of language and custom. So in time, as Alexander moved deeper into Asia, to some he became a liberator, to some a ruler and yet to others a god.

If Alexander is to be judged for his deeds let it be for all his deeds and not just for his conquests and military genius. Alexander was a seasoned politician with a vision of uniting all the world's nations together as equals in a democratic system (in the modern sense). Besides his political qualities Alexander also had a great interest in culture and the natural sciences. Wherever he went he built cities, libraries, cultural centers, museums and many other wonders. He listened to poetry and comedy and took part in debates. He met many people with varying interests and the people whose accomplishments he admired most, he sent to Macedonia for the Macedonians to enjoy. He had his natural scientists study and document the flora, fauna and mineral wealth of this new world. Techniques and knowledge learned then still apply today. He adorned all the gardens of Macedonia, including those in Pella, with plants bearing the best fruits and flowers that Asia had to offer. Wherever he went, he taught the local people culture, artistic skills and natural medicine. As Michael Wood found out, "In the footsteps of Alexander the Great", these gifts that Alexander gave the Asian people are still remembered to this day.

As he proceeded to free the Asian people from Persian dominion, Alexander was greeted with enthusiasm and celebrated as a liberator.

With the victory of Granicus under his belt, Alexander turned southward encountering little or no resistance until he reached Miletus and Halicarnassus where Greek mercenaries were found in large numbers. The Persian commander in Miletus was ready to surrender his city but convinced that the Persian fleet was on its way he resisted. Before the Persian fleet has a chance to enter the bay, Alexander's navy intervened and closed off the mouth of the harbour. Without the help of the Persian fleet, the city defenses were no match for Alexander's siege engines. Alexander stormed the city but did not harm its population.

In an unexpected turn of events, after the battle of Miletus, Alexander disbanded his fleet. Even though his ships were of help to him during the battle, Alexander decide to disband them anyway, retaining only twenty Athenian ships as hostages. At that time there was no obvious reason given but, as we later learned, he did it to save them. He did not have the naval strength to take on the powerful Persian fleet and win, so why waste his ships? Also, he did not trust the Greek navies behind him for they too, in a moment of weakness, could have turned on him and cut off his retreat and supply lines. As for destroying the powerful Persian fleet, Alexander had a different plan.

At the city of Halicarnassus, the capital of Caria, Alexander met with his old adversary Memnon, who at the time was supreme commander of the Asian coast and of the Persian fleet. With a division of Persians ships guarding the waters, the fortified city gave Alexander much resistance but it could not hold out indefinitely and fell to his superior siege-craft. When it was over Alexander appointed an old woman, a princess named Ada of the Carian dynastic house, to the satrapy. Ada met Alexander earlier when he entered Caria. She offered him her city of Alinda and a proposal to adopt him as her son. Alexander was so impressed that he accepted her adoption proposal and gave her back her city. After that Alexander was known in Caria as the son of the ruler. Caria was liberated and free of foreign dominion and her satrapy granted to a native woman. Here for the first time Alexander separated civil from military responsibilities. Ada was given charge of civic functions while a Macedonian officer was responsible for the military.

During the winter of 334 BC, before heading south, Alexander sent his newly wed soldiers home on leave to visit their families and wives. Parmenio, who earlier was given command of the League troops was dispatched to occupy Phrygia. Alexander, with the Macedonian army, spent late fall securing the western coast of Asia Minor before heading for Gordius.

Alexander's plan, as I mentioned earlier, was to paralyze the enemy fleet by occupying all the ports of the western Asia Minor seaboard.

Alexander's coastal trek was mostly trouble free except when he passed through Pisidia. There he encountered stiff resistance and severe fighting from the mountain men whom he subdued. After his victory, Alexander went to Gordium, the Phrygian capital, to spend the winter.

While Alexander was making his way to Gordium, Memnon, his old adversary, was convincing his Persian lords to allow him to resurrect the old idea of bringing the war to Europe. Using the Persian fleet he began to invade the Aegean islands one by one starting with Chios then Lesbos, hoping to get Alexander turned around. News of this brought excitement to the Greeks who had hoped that Memnon's intervention would turn the tide of the war in their favour. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm was cut short when suddenly Memnon fell ill and died. I can't say that Alexander was not relieved.

Next spring, the soldiers on leave and some reinforcements arrived from Macedonia and joined Alexander at Gordium as he prepared for departure.

In April 333 BC, Alexander came across the famous Gordian Knot which many tried but failed to untie. Legend has it that he who untied the knot would become King of Asia. Alexander tried his luck but found the tangle too complicated and impossible to untie. But Alexander was not about to give up so he did the next best thing; he drew his sword and hacked it to pieces. The end result was the same, the knot was removed and the yoke-pole of King Gordius's chariot was now bare. That night thunder and lightning followed which was interpreted as a good sign and that the gods were pleased.

With his army ready to march, Alexander passed by Ancyra before turning south to continue to occupy more Persian ports. His intention was to quickly march south through Cappadocia and occupy the passes of the Taurus mountain range on the southern coast of Cilicia. Having no time to conquer all of Cappadocia, he appointed a native satrap, instead of a Macedonian.

When Alexander arrived in Cilicia he took the Persian garrison by surprise when his men climbed up the strongholds in the night. Surprised by the sudden appearance of Macedonians in their midst, the guards ran off and left the pass unguarded. The pass was taken without a fight.

Alexander then marched down the mountain to seize the city of Tarsus but at the mere sight of the approaching Macedonian cavalry, its defenders also ran off.

His victory at Tarsus was bittersweet as Alexander contracted an illness from swimming in icy cold waters. He would have died had he not been so physically fit. His recovery unfortunately was long and arduous.

As soon as he was well enough, Alexander and his troops were on the move. To recover lost time, he divided his army and sent Parmenio east to secure the Cilicia to Syria pass. Alexander, meanwhile, went west to secure the western coastline as well as reinforce his supply line. On his way back he took time off near Tarsus to rest and celebrate his eventual victory at Halicarnassus. As I mentioned earlier, Alexander conquered the city of Halicarnassus but not all the citadels. After he left, a couple of citadels were still intact so he left that job to his officers to finish.

Soon after departing Tarsus, Alexander got word from Parmenio that the Great King Darius, with a large army, was encamped on the plains of Northern Syria, about two days journey from the pass that Parmenio was now holding.

After finding out what Alexander did to his army at Granicus, the Great King was furious with him and wanted to squash him like a bug. Who was this insolent man who dared challenge the Great King and prance in his backyard?

After finding out that Alexander was in Cilicia in the fall of 333 BC with plans to head south, the Great King amassed a great army and prepared a trap. Expecting Alexander to come after him, Darius picked a suitable place with battle advantage and lay in wait. Because of his numerical superiority, Darius was convinced he could crush Alexander's little army in battle.

When Alexander didn't show up as expected, the Great King became anxious. Thinking Alexander was afraid to face him, Darius decided it was time to pursue him instead. Alexander did not show up because he had fallen ill. But now that he learned Darius was out there, he mustered his forces and went after him. Unfortunately, as Alexander moved south quickly through the Cilician Gates along the Syrian coast, Darius moved north towards Cilicia on the opposite side of the same mountain range.

Unbeknownst to Alexander, Darius had broken camp. Alexander left his sick and wounded at Issus and continued to travel south, hugging the coastline. Camped overnight and weathering a storm, Alexander expected to do battle the next day, but to his surprise he learned that Darius had already broken camp and was now after him.

Without any knowledge of each other's positions the two armies passed one another over the mountain range of Amanus. Darius was first to learn of this from Alexander's wounded at Issus.

It has been said that Darius was so frustrated that he took his anger out on Alexander's sick and wounded by ordering his soldiers to cut off their hands so that could they never fight again.

By cutting off his retreat and supply lines, Darius was now resolved to follow Alexander into the plains of Syria and trample him and his little army to death with his cavalry. Unfortunately for Darius, Alexander had different ideas. On finding out that Darius was behind him and pursuing him, Alexander expediently turned his army around. Determined to meet Darius on his (Alexander's) terms, Alexander ordered a battle plan for the next day. After allowing his troops to have a quick meal, he mobilized the entire army and marched through the night until he arrived at the battlefield of his choice. The battle was going to take place not in the broad open plain of Syria, but in the narrow plain of Pinarus, encircled by the mountains and sea.

Hidden from view, Alexander's army spent the rest of the night laying in wait. At the crack of dawn, Alexander ordered their descent to the plain, infantry first in long narrow columns followed by the cavalry. In the face of a large enemy, Alexander formed the battle lines with ease as if performing a routine exercise. The Macedonian troops displayed great discipline and courage as they took their positions, knowing that they were about to face the largest army they have ever seen.

With only about 16,000 Macedonian infantry and 5,600 cavalry troops, Alexander was facing a huge Persian cavalry force of 450,000, a Greek mercenary infantry force of 30,000, a light infantry force of 20,000 and 60,000 Persians armed as hoplites.

The Persian battle line (this time) had the Greek mercenaries placed front and center, while right and left of them stood the hoplites with the bulk of the cavalry stationed to the right of the Greek mercenaries. The remaining troops stood behind the lines in column formations. Darius, sitting on his magnificent chariot, stood in the center behind the Greek mercenaries.

Before the battle started, Alexander secretly rearranged his cavalry formation moving some of it behind and to the left of the frontline. Alexander was in command of the right wing while Parmenio was in command of the left wing with strict orders not to break contact with the sea.

Alexander charged first in an oblique formation, the right wing cavalry followed closely by the phalanx. As (bad) luck would have it, soon after the charge, Alexander received a leg wound. At the same time the phalanx had become dislocated and had broken line while attempting to climb the steep bank of the river. While Alexander seemed to have regained his composure, the Greek mercenaries sought the opportunity and entered the gap in the open phalanx formation. The Greeks fought like demons displaying their hatred for the Macedonians. But soon after overwhelming the enemy's left wing Alexander turned inward and attacked the center. The moment Darius saw Alexander coming for him, he turned his chariot around and fled. Choosing not to pursue him, Alexander first turned on the Greek mercenaries and then on the numerically superior cavalry which had engaged Parmenio in a fierce battle across the Pinarus River.

Darius's flight left his army in disarray and confusion, running in all directions. As soon as the Persians began fleeing the Macedonians gave chase. Alexander, hoping to catch up to Darius, went after him. Anticipating a chase, Darius gave up his chariot for a horse and was nowhere to be found. The pursuit inflicted catastrophic losses on the Persian army especially since it had to exit through a narrow pass. The pursuit finally ended when darkness fell.

When it was over, only 8,000 of the Greek mercenary force was left intact. It is unclear how many Persians died but according to Ptolemy, who was there at the time, the pursuit at the narrow pass alone yielded a ravine full of enemy corpses.

So before the year 333 BC was over the Great King's army was beaten and the Great King himself became a fugitive, leaving his royal family and great wealth to Alexander.

After the long pursuit, Alexander returned to the Pinarus and took a stroll through Darius's camp to find Darius's mother, wife and three children weeping for him. They presumed he was dead and were worried about their own fate. Here too Alexander showed compassion by not harming the royal family and treating them with utmost respect. He informed them that Darius was still alive.

Alexander's victory at Issus was welcome news in Macedonia and a crushing disappointment for Persia and her Greek allies. I can just imagine the thoughts that went through the minds of the various Greek members of the Corinthian League at the 332 BC, Isthmian Games when it was suggested that a golden wreath be sent to Alexander to congratulate him on his victory.

The worst disappointment, however, goes to the Persian admirals in the Aegean who by now were fed up with the poor performance of the so called "superior Greek fighting skills" and opted out of their strange partnerships.

After his victory at Issues, Alexander became confident that he could win over all of Asia but there was still the matter of the Persian fleet in the Aegean and the Spartans were starting to make noise.

To be continued.

And now I will leave you with this:

This is for my tireless neo-Greek, brainwashed Internet critics who incessantly hurl vitriolic e-mail messages at me for bringing the truth out in the open, never failing to end their comments with a knife twist.

I would like once again to remind you that Macedonia was NEVER Greek and neither was Philip or Alexander. You will see that for yourselves should you choose to peel off "the veil of deception" that has been placed before your eyes by your Greek propagandists.

The word "Greek" is a Roman invention concocted during the Roman era to represent the coastal people of the peninsula south of Mount Olympus. This was done centuries after Philip and Alexander were long dead and gone. The Romans knew the Macedonians well, called them by their name and respected them as Macedonians.

I would also like to remind you that modern Greece too is a concoction, of the 19th century kind, forged in 1929 AD by Western greed and nationalistic zeal. So, other than your artificially imposed and somewhat "bastardized" common language there is nothing common between you and the ancient people south of Olympus. If you are still not convinced take a good look at how Greeks are made. In 1829 the raw material were Albanians, Vlachs, Peloponnesian Slavs and Turks. In 1912 the raw material was beaten down Macedonians. In 1922 the raw material was Pontic Christian Turks. Since then and up to this day the raw materials have been Macedonians, Albanians, Bulgarians, Russians or anyone who would willingly change their name and accept being called Greek. Even the Roma (Gypsies), against their will, have been Christianized and Hellenized and added to the Greek fold.

So you tell me "WHAT IS GREEK"? It's time for an overhaul.

As for me, I too am guilty of propagating the "Greek fallacy" by erroneously using the word "Greek" in my articles.

One more thing: there is a solution to the Macedonian-Greek name dispute but it will require a compromise on both sides. If the Republic of Macedonia is expected to accept the reference FYROM then Greece must also accept to be called FOPOT (Former Ottoman Province of Turkey). Fair is fair. If, as the Greeks claim, the modern Macedonians have nothing to do with the ancient Macedonians then we the Macedonians claim (with proof) that the modern Greeks have even less to do with the ancient people south of Olympus.


R. E. Allen, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of Current English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany.

Anthony Ambrozic, Gordian Knot Unbound.

Anthony Ambrozic, Journey Back to the Garumna.

Eugene N. Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus, The Emergence of Macedon.

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. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Nickolas G. L. Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia, Sidwig and Jackson, London 1991.

George Nakratzas M.D., The Close Racial Kinship Between the Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks, Macedonia and Thrace.

Jozko Šavli, Matej Bor, Ivan Tomazic, VENETI: First Builders of European Community.

John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation. McFarland

Michael Wood, In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great, A Journey from Greece to Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com