In This Chapter
More cities come over to Alexander; Miletus resists
Magnesia and Tralles
While Alexander was still in Ephesus, embassies from Magnesia and Tralles came to surrender their cities. Alexander sent Parmenion to take possession of both, assigning him no less than 5,000 men and 200 horse for the mission.
The Aeolian and Ionian Cities
At the same time, he sent Alcimachus son of Agathocles ‘to the Aeolian cities and those in Ionia still under barbarian control’ (Arr. I.18.1).
Arrian records Alcimachus’ orders as being,
… to overthrow the oligarchies and install democracies throughout, to restore [the cities] local legislation… and to remit the tribute they had been paying to the barbarians.Arrian I.18.2
Alexander gave Alcimachus a detachment similar in size to Parmenion’s. This means that nearly a third of his army had now left the main camp. When you consider that Alexander left 10,000 men in Macedon to protect the country and keep Greece subjugated, the 10,000 that he sent to take the various cities shows that despite his early success(es), he took nothing for granted. Alexander had won a battle but he knew that didn’t mean he had won Asia Minor. Having seen Persian rule fall, any of the cities might make a bid for full independence. They had to know that the Macedonians were in control now – by force if necessary.
The example of Miletus shows that Alexander was right to be cautious.
Initially, its garrison commander, Hegesistratus, had offered to surrender the city but when he found out that a Persian naval force was approaching he backed out and the city gates remained closed.
Upon reaching Miletus, Alexander took the outer city with ease – it had been abandoned. The loss of the outer city was of no consequence to Hegesistratus – he knew he would be able to endure a siege as long as the Persian navy could reach him.
However, Alexander still had his fleet, and it reached Miletus before the Persians. Upon seeing it, the Persian naval force backed off.
Alexander vs Parmenion
At this point, Parmenion – now returned from Magnesia and Tralles – tried to persuade Alexander to wage a naval battle. Arrian tells us that he gave several reasons for this; the one Arrian focuses on, though, was the fact that an eagle ‘had been seen perching on the beach astern of Alexander’s ships’ (Arr. I.18.6). For Parmenion, a naval battle was a win-win opportunity: if we win, the whole campaign is given a great boost; if we lose, so what; ‘the Persians… simply retain their present domination of the sea’ (Ibid).
But Alexander was having none of it:-
- The Persian naval force was much larger than the Macedonian. It made no sense to challenge it on those grounds
- The Macedonian sailers were not as experienced as the Persians’ (who came from sea faring nations such as Cyprus and Phoenicia)
- A defeat would, in fact, damage their reputation and encourage their enemies in Greece
- The fact that the eagle was seen ‘perching on land suggested to [Alexander] that it meant he would defeat the Persian fleet from the land’ (Arr. I.18.9)
In short, Alexander was ‘not prepared to expose Macedonian expertise and daring to the barbarians on an element where there could be no guarantee of success’ (Arr. I.18.8)