Author Archives: M J Mann

Eurydice I of Macedon

I have just started reading Women and Monarchy in Macedonia by Elizabeth Donnelly Carney. The following quotation has made a big impression on me. For context, the Eurydice being talked about here is the mother of Alexander II, Perdiccas III, and Philip II – Alexander’s father.

Eurydice’s political career marks a turning point in Macedonian history; she is the first royal woman we know of who took political action and successfully exerted political action and successfully exerted political influence.

Elizabeth Donnelly Carney Women and Monarchy in Macedonia p.40

Carney goes on to note how active royal women were in Macedon for the rest of the fourth century until, early in the third century, their influence waned after the Antigonids came to power.

Categories: Macedonian History Before Alexander | Leave a comment

Arrian I.27.1-8

In This Chapter
Aspendus and Telmissus Rebel

When Alexander arrived at Aspendus, he found that its inhabitants had deserted the city and taken refuge in its acropolis. Alexander encamped in the empty houses to consider his next move. As it turned out, however, it was made for him. The Aspendians were spooked by the sight of the Macedonian king – ‘they had not expected’ (Arr. I.27.3) him to come in person – and brought Alexander’s deliberations to a halt by offering to surrender on the terms previously agreed.

Alexander could have been forgiven for accepting them for he did not have a strong hand; he ‘could see the defensive strength of the place, and had not come equipped for a long siege’ (Ibid) but on this occasion it did not suit him to grant the Aspendians their request. He demanded hostages as well as horses, a hundred talents instead of fifty, and told the city it would be put under the rule of a satrap and made liable for taxes. The city’s territorial expansion would also be scrutinised – no doubt with a view to reversing it. The Aspendians gave way, and Alexander went on his way.

Why did the Aspendians rebel? I think they were just chancing their arm. They thought that at worst a Macedonian general would march on them but that they would be able to resist him. When Alexander came, though — that was a different matter. Already in his young career he had done enough to make the power of his name sufficient to inflict psychological damage upon his enemies. In the case of the Aspendians that damage was enough to defeat them.

Alexander marched back to Perge. From there he set out for Phrygia. Telmissus lay ahead. He should have found the city open and friendly (See Arr. I.24.4) but before even getting there, he found the road closed to him with the entire Telmissian army standing guard over it.

Alexander made camp. But he didn’t intend to stay put. He guessed that as soon as the Telmissian army saw hat he was doing it would return home. And he was right. The larger part of the army left with only a detachment remaining behind. Alexander immediately raised his lighter armed men and marched on the guards. They quickly gave way, and fled. Alexander took his men through the guard post and camped close by Telmissus.

Chapter 27, then, is a tale of two cities, one of which could have been treated a lot worse but still risked destruction for the sake of its freedom, and the other that actually had Alexander’s friendship but for no obvious reason (according to Arrian), rejected it.

We have already looked at why Aspendus rebelled. I think in the case of Telmissus there must have been opposition to Alexander within the city and this won control prior to his march from Perge. This is the only scenario that makes much sense to me – Alexander had given no reason for any particular city to think that it could rebel against him and get away with it.

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.26.1-5

In This Chapter
From Phaselis to Syllium

With Alexander of Lyncestis now under guard, Alexander III left Phaselis. He split the Macedonian army into two. Part of it – presumably under Parmenion – was sent inland, to make its way to Perge via a specially built road. The rest of the army followed Alexander along the sea shore. A strong northerly wind was blowing and it kept the sea at bay enabling the Macedonians to keep walking. Had the wind been coming up from the south they would have had to turned back.

The army reunited at Perge. After leaving the city, Alexander met envoys from Aspendus who had been given the authority to surrender their city. They had a request, though: that Alexander not leave a garrison there. The king agreed. The city was not left completely alone, though; Alexander ordered it ‘to pay a fifty-talent contribution to his army’s wages and to hand over the horses which they bred as their tribute in kind to the King of Persia’ (Arr. I.26.3). The envoys accepted these demands and left. The word ‘contribution’ is doing an awful lot of work here.

As for Alexander, he marched further along the coast to the city of Side. Here, Arrian pauses to tell a story about why the Sidians don’t speak Greek. He says – according to the people themselves – the first settlers lost all knowledge of their home language immediately after arriving in Asia Minor, and started speaking ‘a new and hitherto unknown dialect of their own’ (Arr. I.26.4). It’s an interesting story, anyway, even if not likely to be true. And if true it shows that the Sidians were an inquisitive people who asked questions about themselves and were interested in finding answers.

Side was not as lucky as Aspendus – Alexander left a garrison there before moving on to Syllium.

Syllium was strongly defended by a joint native and mercenary force. Alexander tried and failed to assault it. While he was still considering what to do next a messenger arrived with bad news: Aspendus had rebelled. Alexander immediately set out to deal with the city.

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.25.1-10

In This Chapter
Alexander Lyncestis’ Plot Against The King

Alexander Lyncestis was a man lucky to be alive. He and his two brothers, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus, had been implicated in the plot to kill Philip II but while they had been executed he had survived. Arrian says that Lyncestis had been,

… one of the first of [Alexander II’s] friends to rally round him after Philip’s death and had gone armed at his side when Alexander entered the palace.

Arrian I.25.2

The fact that he was married to Antipater’s daughter could only have helped him as well. Not that he relied on this important connection to save himself. The potentially chaotic aftermath of Philip’s assassination and return to the palace where more assassins may have been laying in wait to complete what Pausanias started were acutely dangerous moments. No wonder he did well for himself, afterwards:

[King] Alexander held [Lyncestis] in an honoured position in his entourage, sent him to be his general in Thrace, and appointed him to the command of the Thessalian cavalry…

Arrian I.25.2

Alexander the king certainly put a lot of trust in the man who for all his loyalty was still ‘implicated’ in Philip’s murder. It’s true that Alexander was far more prepared than we ever would be to take in men who had once been his enemies but I suspect that this implication was founded not on a suspicion of actual guilt but opportunism: Alexander Lyncestis was the son of Aëropus who was the cousin of Eurydice, Philip II’s mother; this gave him a claim to the Macedonian throne. The murder of Philip II gave Alexander an opportunity to eliminate potential rivals for that throne and escape criticism by claiming that the victims were involved in the plot to kill his father. Lyncestis must have known this, hence – whether or not he had anything to do with Philip’s murder – he went to great lengths to prove his loyalty.

So, Alexander Lyncestis had done well for himself, but now his career came to a sudden halt. In Arrian I.17 we read about Amyntas son of Antiochus who so disliked Alexander III he ran away from Macedon. He ended up in Ephesus only to be forced to flee again just before Alexander arrived there. Arrian says that Amyntas arrived at Darius’ court with a letter from Alexander Lyncestis. This inspired the Great King to send a man named Sisines to negotiate with him. Arrian doesn’t tell us what the letter said, but from what he does say we can infer that it contained an offer to kill the Alexander III because Sisines was authorised to inform that if he did so,

… Darius would install him as king of Macedonia and present him with a thousand talents of gold as well as the kingdom.

Arrian I.25.3

But Sisines was captured, and (under torture?) spilled the beans to Parmenion.

Parmenion was either on his way to, or in, Phrygia at the time so sent the Persian under guard to Alexander. Sisines repeated his story. Alexander summoned his friends and discussed what he should do next.

Rather amusingly, and a sign of the closeness of the friends to their king, they rebuked him for having trusted Lyncestis in the first place. They also turned their minds to an incident that had occurred during the Siege of Halicarnassus when a swallow had settled on Alexander’s head and kept singing until he was fully awake. Alexander had asked Aristander to interpret what happened. The seer told him that ‘it signified a plot by one of his friends’ (Arr. I.25.8).

So it had proved, and now the loyal friends recommended that Lyncestis be executed. But the matter was a very delicate one: if Alexander executed Lyncestis, Antipater was in a position to do him a great deal of harm, perhaps even overthrow him. For that reason, therefore, he decided that Lyncestis should not be executed but simply put under house arrest. It appears that he was with Parmenion’s detachment at this time because agents were sent in disguise to the general to inform him verbally what Alexander had decided. Lyncestis was duly arrested and would continue to travel with the expedition until being put to death in Drangiana in late 330 BC.

A couple of things before I finish.

The notes to my copy of Arrian suggest that the story of the swallow may be apocryphal – Arrian tells it in ‘indirect speech’

Lastly, one can only wonder why – if Alexander Lyncestis was indeed guilty of plotting against Alexander III – he chose this moment to make his move. Alexander the king had just won his first major battle. He was extremely popular with his men. Anyone trying to overthrow him would have to contend with that afterwards. There’s a reason why the two other major plots against Alexander occurred in Bactria-Sogdia. I don’t know the answer to this question, but I would consider it more likely that either Lyncestis was set up or had indeed been plotting to kill Alexander in the future only for events unknown to force his hand so that he had to act now.

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Arrian I.24.1-6

In This Chapter
As the newly-weds return home, Alexander campaigns in Lycia

When was Alexander most popular with his troops? Apparently, it was now, in the winter of 334/3 BC.

By the time he had conquered Halicarnassus, it was late in the year, so Alexander took the decision to send home the men who had married just before the start of the expedition so that they could spend winter with their wives. ‘This one act ensured Alexander’s popularity among the Macedonians as much as any other’ (Arr.1.24.2).

Our leaders may drive forward great projects; the gifted among us may achieve wonders, but at the end of the day, what a man really appreciates most of all is time with his beloved. I doubt it is any different, today.

After the newly weds had returned to their homes, the officers-in-charge went on a recruiting drive both in Macedon and the Peloponnese. More Greeks had fought against Alexander than with him at the Granicus. Although he didn’t trust them to be frontline soldiers, it seems he still wanted them there, if only for propaganda purposes.

Back in Asia Minor, Parmenion was sent on to Phrygia via Sardia. Sardis lay to the north of Caria. Alexander himself went east, following the road to Lycia and Pamphylia ‘to gain control of the coast and so deny the enemy any use of their navy (Arr. I.24.3).

Along the way, he assaulted Hyparna, taking it easily; in line with his post-Granicus reconciliatory policy towards mercenaries, he gave the ones here safe passage out.

Entering the region of Lycia, Alexander ‘won over’ (Arr. I.24.4) Telmissus. This was the home city of his favourite seer, Aristander, and it’s hard not to imagine that the peaceful outcome was not for or thanks to him.

After Telmissus, Alexander received the surrender of a host of small towns, and some larger ones, including Xanthus, Patara, and Pinara.

‘By this stage it was already the depth of winter’ (Arr. I.24.5) but Alexander kept moving. He must have been very concerned about the possibility of the Persians returning to their port cities and establishing a bridgehead in south-eastern Asia Minor. At this point, though, he turned north, and entered the mountainous region of Milyas. While here, ‘envoys from Phaselis came to offer friendship and to crown Alexander with a golden crown’ (Arr. I.24.5).

They weren’t the only ones; Arrian says that envoys came from ‘most of the Lower Lycians’ (Ibid); that is to say, those who lived closest to Pisidia. And it was because of the Pisdians that they came. Arrian tells us that ‘[a] little later (Arr. I.24.6) Alexander visited Phaselis and there destroyed a fort that ‘had been built by Pisidians to threaten the district, and was used as a base from which the barbarians caused much damage to the Phaselite farmers.’ (Ibid). Phaselis was a coastal city so the whole region must have been under threat from the Pisidians. No doubt the Lower Lycians suffered most from the incursions of the enemy on account of their geographical closeness to them and so were the keenest to win Alexander’s favour – hence the gold crowns.

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.23.1-8

In This Chapter
Halicarnassus Falls to Alexander

Memnon of Rhodes and Orontobates surveyed the damage caused to the city walls by the Macedonians, the injuries the enemy had caused, and the number of men killed; they decided that ‘as things stood they could not hold out’ (Arr. I.23.1) for much longer. As I mentioned in my previous post, morale may also have been a problem after the men guarding the city gates panicked and closed them, locking many of their comrades outside the city, leaving them to be slaughtered by the Macedonians.

The decision was taken to flee the city. Houses of civilians were set ablaze to prevent the Macedonians from following them. But not only houses burned; a siege tower was set alight as well, as were the arsenals. Perhaps Memnon was concerned not to let his weapons fall into Alexander’s hands.

As the wind spread the fire throughout the city, the Persians and mercenaries retreated either to Halicarnassus’ citadel or to an offshore island (actually a peninsula) named Zephyria.

Deserters alerted Alexander to what was going on. He entered the city and gave two orders: to kill anyone caught starting a fire and to spare any Halicarnassan found in their home.

The next morning, Alexander went to see the citadel and Zephyria on the western and eastern points respectively of the harbour exit.

He decided against besieging them, thinking that he would waste much time on them because of the nature of the ground, and that there was no great point now that he had taken the whole city.

Arrian I.23.5

Arrian tells us that Alexander ‘razed the city to the ground’ (Arr. I.23.6). He left enough of it, however, for a garrison to live in so that the Persians and mercenaries would not be able to break out. Two officers, Ptolemy (not the son of Lagus) and Asander were left in charge. The following year, just before Alexander fought Darius at Issus, they would finally defeat Orontobates in battle and end the sieges (Arr. II.5.7).

Back in the present, Alexander also buried the (enemy) dead before leaving for Phrygia. Around this time, he appointed Ada satrap of Caria. For her, the wheel of fortune had now turned full circle: In 344/3, Ada’s father, Hidrieus, had appointed her his successor. In 340/39, however, her brother, Pixodarus, usurped her. Since then, Ada had lived in a fort at Alinda. By the time of Alexander’s arrival in Caria, Ada’s situation had not improved. Pixodarus was now dead but Orontobates – to whom Ada had been married – now ruled instead. Alexander’s victory at Halicarnassus ended that. Ada, who had gone to meet Alexander upon his entry into Caria and offer him Alinda and adoption as her son, was now given Caria to rule just as before. She would continue to do so until no later than 324.

So in the end, Halicarnassus kind of fell with a bit of a whimper. Memnon and Orontobates saw the writing on the wall and ran. Arrian does not (unsurprisingly?) give the impression that they ran Alexander close but it is clear from his text that they had some good ideas – the surprise attack from the Tripylon gate being an example. In the end, though, they weren’t able to translate those ideas into performance. Why? Partly because of the strength of the Macedonian army but also, I think, they just didn’t have the numbers to oppose Alexander’s men. Their attacks were, of necessity, hit-and-run, and that was never going to be enough, with or without the men panicking. In this light, the defenders needed Halicarnassus to be strong enough to save them, and as it turned out, it wasn’t.

Texts Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)
Heckel, Waldemar Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great (Oxford Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.22.1-7

In This Chapter
The Siege of Halicarnassus Continues

A few days later, Alexander renewed his assault on the replacement wall. As a sign of his determination to see it destroyed, he oversaw the attack himself.

Perhaps knowing that their wall was in danger of being destroyed, the Persians and mercenaries launched ‘a sally from the city in full force’ (Arr. I.22.1).

The priority of the defenders was two fold; first, to attack the Macedonians; secondly, to destroy the Macedonian siege engines.

To fulfil the first objective, they not only did the obvious and attack the Macedonians out of the gate nearest the siege engines, but also came out of the Tripylon gate. This must have been some distance away from where the Macedonians and siege engines were located as Arrian tells us they weren’t expecting an attack from that direction.

The Tripylon attack undoubtedly gave the defenders the element of surprise that they needed to attempt their second objective. However, they were only partially successful in this. The siege engines were set alight but the Persians and mercenaries were repulsed by ‘a vigorous counter-attack’ (Arr. 1.22.2) from the Macedonians.

The defenders were forced back into the city. Many were lost en route. Those who came through the gate nearest the replacement wall were hampered by the narrowness of the path back and difficulty of climbing over bricks from the collapsed outer wall. Those who came through the Tripylon gate were obliged to pass over a moat built by the Macedonians. Too many tried to do so at once and it collapsed. Those who fell were either trampled underfoot by their own people or shot down in a turkey shoot by the Macedonians.

Panic not only lead to many deaths in the moat but also at the gates. Terrified that the Macedonians might break into the city (as they had nearly done a few days earlier during the drunk attack), the defenders quickly closed the gates trapping many of their own side outside.

After killing the trapped defenders, Alexander called off the attack. Arrian says that ‘he still hoped to save Halicarnassus if the inhabitants would make some positive move to surrender’ (Arr. I.22.7). This reflects his stated attitude towards Thebes (Arr. I.7.7; 10). It would be tempting to call it a humanitarian gesture except that Alexander was more interested in winning glory, and that is hard to come by if there is no one left alive to tell you how great you are.

What might we say about this phase of the Siege of Halicarnassus?

The Tripylon Offensive shows that whoever planned the counter-strike – presumably Memnon and Orontobates (see Arr. I.23.1) – still had their wits about them. The only reason it didn’t work is because the defenders came up against an army that was sufficiently well trained and disciplined enough to, first, soak up the pressure of a surprise attack and, second, launch its own counter-attack.

Speaking of being well trained and disciplined, this is, of course, where the Persians and mercenaries failed. Their morale as they listened to the screams and curses of the men they had trapped outside after they closed the gates must have plummeted. No wonder Memnon and Orontobates straight after decided that they would not be able to resist the Macedonians for too much longer. It wasn’t just the walls that were collapsing.

Finally, not for the first time, and not for the last, we see the fatal effects of panicking. Thus far, the Macedonians have benefitted from causing panic in others. In time, however, even they will be caught cold.

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.21.1-6

In This Chapter
The Siege of Halicarnassus Continues

An Alcohol Fuelled Attack
If you know anything about Alexander and his Macedonians, you will know that they liked to drink. One night, two men in Perdiccas’ brigade got drunk and decided that the way to prove how brave they were was by attacking Halicarnassus by themselves. They picked up their weapons and headed for the city wall facing Mysala.

To be fair, Arrian notes that the men did not intend ‘to provoke a dangerous clash with the enemy’ (Arr. I.21.1) – they just wanted to show how tough they were to the other man – but unsurprisingly, a dangerous clash is exactly what happened.

For the Persians and mercenaries, the appearance of two Macedonians boasting about their toughness right in front of them was a provocation that had to be answered: their boasts, after all, were a dismissal of their enemy and that could not be allowed to stand.

The Persians and mercenaries had the advantage in their attack: they were sober and were on higher ground. Despite this, the two Macedonians killed anyone who got close to them. The survivors, despite superior numbers and still being on higher ground, hung back in fright.

Matters went from bad to worse for the Persians and mercenaries when ‘more of Perdiccas’ men ran out to join the fray’ (Arr. I.21.3). More men came from inside the city but the Macedonians managed not just to push them back but back past the city gates.

The Macedonian attack was so strong they came close to breaking into Halicarnassus. At some point, though, they were either forced back or were recalled – Arrian is not clear on this point.

The Siege Resumes (Properly)
The next day, Alexander set his siege engines to work against a wall that had been built in haste to replace a section of wall that had been undermined. The defenders made another attempt to set the siege engines alight; thanks to Philotas son of Parmenion and an officer named Hellanicus, and their men, however, the damage was limited. The fighting continued until Alexander himself appeared whereupon the Persians and mercenaries retreated back into the city.

At the end of this chapter, Arrian notes how – despite their retreat – the defenders still held an advantage over the Macedonians. As well as being on higher ground, they could shoot at their enemy from towers that stood on either side of the wall that Alexander was attacking. In addition, the curve of the city meant that they held positions on the wall that were almost to the rear of the Macedonian attack.

And yet, despite these advantages, the Persians and mercenaries were not able to inflict serious damage on the Macedonians let alone defeat them. This calls into question the quality of the fighting, and their officers. Conversely, it highlights the quality of the Macedonian soldiers.

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Arrian I.20.1-10

In This Chapter
The Siege of Halicarnassus Begins

Alexander Disbands His Navy
After the fall of Miletus, Alexander disbanded his navy. According to Arrian, he did so for the following reasons,

  1. Not enough money to maintain it
  2. The Macedonian navy was not as skilled as the Persians’
  3. He could defeat the Persian navy by continuing to take control of coastal cities (thus depriving them of places to recruit men and replenish supplies) vid. the eagle omen

The second and third reasons above came up in Alexander’s response to Parmenion (Arr. I.18.7-9) but the first is new. What was Alexander’s financial status at this time? Arrian doesn’t refer to it until much later, during the Opis mutiny (Arr. VII.8.1-11.7).

The Opis Mutiny
The mutiny so-called – because as Arrian portrays it, no orders were disobeyed – started when Alexander announced that he was discharging those who were unfit for service. A number of his men sarcastically replied ‘that he might as well discharge the whole lot of them’ (Arr. VII.8.3); they believed he meant to replace the Macedonians soldiers with his oriental subjects. Alexander took grave offence at this and after having those who had spoken out arrested, remonstrated with his men. During his speech, he said,

From my father I inherited a few gold and silver cups, less than sixty talents in the treasury, and Philip’s accumulated debts of some five hundred talents.

Arrian VII.9.6

If this is true, and bearing in mind that up till now on the expedition Alexander has not looted any cities, then it is no surprise that he was short of cash. He presumably got some from the satrapal army’s camp but maybe not so much as he had hoped.

One final point on what happened at Opis – Arrian says that the men were ‘stunned’ (Arr. VII.8.3) when Alexander had ‘the most conspicuous troublemakers’ (Ibid) arrested and sent away for execution. This suggests to me that they did not intend to mutiny, only to vent their frustration at what they saw as Alexander’s medising. They were wholly taken aback, therefore, by his out-of-proportion response.

Arrian says that by this stage of his life, Alexander,

‘had become more quick to anger, and the oriental obsequiousness which now surrounded him had lost him his old easy relationship with the Macedonians’

(Ibid)

Arrian is not afraid to mention Alexander’s faults but doesn’t, like Curtius, attempt to show that his success corrupted him. When he shows corruption, therefore, we have to take it seriously as an indication of what Alexander was really like.

Halicarnassus
With Miletus captured, Alexander set out for Halicarnassus, which still exists today under the name of Bodrum, and which is also famous for being the home of the immortal Herodotus. Along the way he captured a number of other cities.

Halicarnassus was well protected by its walls. Inside, a Persian and mercenary army protected it under the command of Memnon of Rhodes. The city’s harbour was under the control of Persian naval forces. Alexander’s fleet, had it still been available, would have been of little use to him here.

Day One
Alexander approached the Mysala Gate (i.e. the gate which led to the city of Mysala). The defenders came out of the city and attacked the Macedonians but were repulsed.

A Few Days Later
Alexander took a substantial number of men to Halicarnassus’ western wall to see how strong it was. He also wanted to raid the city of Myndus ten miles away.

Myndus
Alexander wasn’t interested in raiding Myndus just because it was there – he believed its location would help in the siege of Halicarnassus. Arrian tells us that the city had promised to surrender if Alexander came at night.

He did so, but the Myndians had changed their minds, and the city gates remained closed. Alexander had not brought any siege equipment with him but did have his phalanx. He set his men to work undermining the walls. They succeeded in bringing down a tower but nothing else before reinforcements sent from Halicarnassus forced him to retreat.

Why would capturing Myndus have been beneficial to Alexander? The notes to my copy of Arrian tell me that in 360 BC, Mausolus, satrap of Caria in which the city lay, made Myndus his capital. There would, therefore, have been propaganda value in taking it.

I imagine, though, that his main reason would have been in order to win control of the surrounding countryside as well, making it more difficult for anyone to come to Halicarnassus’ aid by land. However, as the city’s harbour was still open, control of the land only had limited value, making Alexander’s decision to withdraw an easy one.

Back at Halicarnassus
Alexander had his siege towers moved into place. Seeing the danger, the Persian and mercenary soldiers came out at night time to try and set the towers alight. They were pushed back, however, before they could do so. The night action was a costly one for Memnon’s men – 170 of them were killed against 16 of Alexander’s. The defenders had come out of the city very suddenly and many of the Macedonians who took part in the action went into battle without wearing their armour. As a result, 300 were injured.

Miletus vs Halicarnassus
Memnon pursued a much more aggressive strategy than Hegesistratus. Whereas the latter had abandoned the outer city and let Alexander come on to him, the former twice sent men out to attack the Macedonians.

There was, it seems, a lack of communication between the Persian commanders in Miletus – look at how Hegesistratus left the city’s harbour exposed compared to how Memnon made sure Halicarnassus’ was occupied by his ships. We can only guess at the reason for the communication failure. Or maybe the Persian naval forces refused to take orders from him.

Myndus’ failure to open its gates is the second time (after Miletus) that Alexander was promised one thing by an enemy who then decided to renege on his offer.

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.19.1-11

In This Chapter
The Siege of Miletus

The Milesians’ Offer
When the Milesians saw the Persian fleet back off they knew they were between a rock and a hard place. Their response was to send one of their leading men to Alexander with an offer: ‘equal access to their walls and harbours’ (Arrian I.19.1) along with the Persians. Alexander refused to accept it, and told the Milesians to prepare for a siege.

Alexander’s refusal to share the city gives an insight into the uncompromising side of his nature. Yes, he could be pragmatic, but not in all things, small or large. Diodorus records that Alexander refused to share the Persian empire with Darius III telling the Great King’s envoys that ‘… the earth could not preserve its plan and order if there were two suns’ (Dio.XVII.54).

The Siege of Miletus
The next day, Alexander oversaw the undermining of the Milesian walls. He was watched, no doubt, by the Miletians but also by the Persian naval force, which had anchored off Mycale, as well as Nicanor, who was anchored at the island of Lade.

Seeing the siege begin, Nicanor ordered the anchors to be lifted. He led the fleet into Miletus’ harbour so that the Persians would not be able to sail past him to help the city.

Nicanor’s arrival lead some Milesians and mercenaries from the city’s garrison to give up hope of resisting Alexander; they jumped into the harbour and swam towards an islet just outside it. Others attempted a break out in boats; many of them were caught and killed.

The siege didn’t last long. In fact, it looks like from Arrian that it was over in a day, perhaps just a few hours. When it ended, Alexander had won.

The Islet
Once he had taken the city, Alexander turned his attention to those on the islet. Arrian tells us that,

When [Alexander] saw that the men on the island were prepared to fight to the death, he was moved to pity for these evidently courageous and loyal soldiers…

(Arr. I.19.6)

and offered them their lives in return for serving in his army (The Milesians present were simply sent back home).

Alexander’s clemency towards his defeated noble enemy is an established part of his character in the sources (see how he treats Timoclea, Cleophis and Porus*) but I suspect that more than just pity informed his actions at Miletus. For one, the mercenaries on the islet were protected by its cliffs. Alexander had ladders to scale them but he would have known that before ever his soldiers made it to the top, many would be killed by the mercenaries. Secondly, just days or weeks after the event, he also surely knew that he had gone too far in slaughtering the Greek mercenaries at the Granicus. Doing so caused an even deeper breach between himself and Greece – not conducive to maintaining control of the city-states – and he needed mercenaries in his army.

The Persian Naval Force
Despite being unable to stop Alexander take Miletus, the Persian naval force did not fully retreat. Instead, it sallied forth hoping to provoke a battle with the Macedonian fleet. In response, Alexander sent a detachment to Mycale, where the Persians were based, to stop them from disembarking their ships and collecting fresh water from the Maeander river.

With their ability to replenish their water supplies removed, the Persians were forced to sail further away to Samos. Once they had done this, however, they returned. When they did so, they conducted a daring operation. Five ships sailed into the Milesian harbour,

… hoping to catch Alexander’s ships unmanned, as they had discovered that most of the crews were away from their ships, out and about on details to collect firewood, provisions, or fodder.

Arrian I.19.9

Some sailers had indeed left their ships, but others remained. Seeing the Persian ships approach, Alexander sent his men after them. Four made it back to the fleet; one vessel, however, proved to be too slow and was captured. Following this defeat, the Persian naval force retired for good.

* See:
Timoclea – Plutarch Life of Alexander 12
Cleophis – Curtius VIII.10.35
Porus – Arrian V.19.1-3

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)
Bradford Welles C. (tr) Diodorus of Sicily The Library of History Bk XVII (Harvard University Press 1963)

See previous posts in this series here

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: