Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 65, 66 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here
Fresh Troops Reach Macedonian Army
Alexander Enters Susa
EXPOSED: Darius’ Secret Order
POLL Should Alexander Have Used Darius’ Table?
Leaving Babylon, Alexander started marching east towards the royal city of Susa. He was still in Babylonia when fresh troops from Macedon arrived at the camp. Here are their numbers as Diodorus gives them.
- Cavalry 500
- Infantry 6,000
- Cavalry 600
- [infantry?] 3,500
- Cavalry ‘little less than’ 1,000
- Infantry 4,000
Along with the soldiers ‘came fifty sons of the king’s Friends sent by their fathers to serve as bodyguards’. The fact that these men are identified as their fathers’ sons makes me wonder if they weren’t actually pages come to serve Alexander and be hostages to their fathers’ good behaviour.
Six days after leaving Babylon, Alexander entered Sittacene, which lay between Babylonia and Susiana. The country was a rich one ‘abounding in provisions of all sorts’ so Alexander let his men rest for a few days to allow them to recover from the excursions of their march.
While his men caught their breath, Alexander set about reviewing his army’s organisation. ‘He wanted to advance some officers and to strengthen the forces by the number and the ability of the commanders’. Officers who had proven their worth were promoted. He also made changes to the ‘situation of… individual soldiers’ in order to improve their lot.
Diodorus tells us that Alexander’s promotions and improvements increased his army’s devotion and obedience to himself. No doubt that was an intention of the reform, but the Footnotes suggest that he may also have been adapting the army for ‘impending mountain and steppe warfare’, a type of fighting that the traditional phalanx was not suited for.
Upon resuming its march, the Macedonian army made its way through Sittacene and into Susiana and hence to the capital, Susa, which he took ‘without opposition’. Indeed, Diodorus says that Abuleutes (Footnotes: Abulites according to Arrian and Curtius) the satrap had been told by a Darius to let Alexander take the city. Why? Darius thought Alexander would be distracted by Susa’s wealth and glamour thus allowing him more time to raise his third army.
Susa had no shortage of wealth. It gave Alexander’s coffers 40,000 ‘talents of gold and silver bullion’ and 9,000 ‘talents of minted gold in the form of darics’.
During his tour of the royal palace, Alexander lifted himself onto the Great King’s royal throne. The dais upon which it stood was so high off the ground that Alexander’s feet were unable to reach the footstool and were left dangling.
A quick-thinking page placed a nearby table under his feet. Alexander approved of this solution. One of a Darius’ eunuchs, however, started to cry. When asked what was wrong, he explained that he was ‘grieved’ to see an object that was so highly regarded by Darius be used in such a base manner by Alexander.
Alexander sympathised. Believing that he had acted arrogantly he ordered the page to take the table away. At this point, Philotas interjected. You did not act arrogantly, he told the king, for your action ‘”… occurred through the providence and design of a good spirit.’”
Who would Alexander side with – the eunuch or Philotas? He chose the latter, justifying his decision by regarding Philotas’ words as an omen, and the table stayed where it was.
The new Macedonian and allied cavalry and infantry were brought by Amyntas son of Andromenes, who we saw leave for home in Chapter 49 (here).
When I read Chapter 65, I found myself wondering who the Trallians were. The Footnotes helpfully state that they were a Thracian tribe.
If the Footnotes are right that Alexander’s re-organisation of his army was carried out in order to adapt to the new forms of warfare that lay ahead then we can take it as an example of his genius as a general, able to not only adapt to new conditions but develop new forms of military organisation as well.
Diodorus’ anecdote regarding the satrap of Susa’s orders are not, the Footnotes say, mentioned by any other Alexander historian. The idea that Darius thought the Macedonians would be distracted by Susa’s wealth made me smile, though, as it presumably means that he thought the Greeks were decadent in the same way that the latter thought the Persians were. I had not considered this before.
The story of the throne reminds me of Curtius’ account of Orsines’ downfall at the hands of Bagoas. I have my doubts regarding the truth of that story (certainly as Curtius writes it) because it portrays Alexander in far too simplistic a manner: Bagoas has a word in his ear, the next thing you know, Orsines is dead. The same happens here: Alexander sits on the throne, the eunuch complains so he pacifies him, then Philotas has a word so Alexander does what he says. It’s all too neat (rather like the two Gordian knot traditions, which I wrote about here)
The Crying Eunuch would make a great name for a pub
“We deliver service with a smile… unless you move the tables, in which case the resident eunuch will start to bawl”