Source Diodorus Siculus XVI.86 Date 2nd August 338 BC In his book The Generalship of Alexander the Great (Da Capo Press, 1960), J.F.C. Fuller also suggests 1st September as a possible date of the battle; the Notes to the Loeb (1963) translation of Dio. XVI.86 also suggest 4th August Combatants: Macedonian Army under Philip II vsA Greek Alliance comprising principally of Athenian and Theban soldiers Location West of Thebes on the map below
The two armies ‘deployed at dawn’
Philip II stationed Alexander, then 18 years old, ‘on one wing’. In the Loeb translation, Diodorus does not specify which wing it was but scholars believe it to have been the left (NB In his translation of Diodorus XVI, Robin Waterfield also does not specify which wing Alexander was on)
Philip put ‘his most seasoned generals’ with Alexander. The prince had already seen combat (e.g. against the Maedians in 340) but obviously still had much to learn
Philip directed the battle from ‘the other’ wing – presumably the right (see Notes below)
Diodorus says that ‘the Athenians assigned one wing to the Boetians (i.e. Thebans) and kept command of the other themselves. So, according to Diodorus, the Athenians were in charge of the alliance.
Once the battle started, it was ‘hotly contested for a long time’. There were many casualties on both sides
Finally, however, Alexander managed to break through the front line of the enemy right wing
Diodorus adds that Alexander was fired by a desire to show ‘his father his prowess’ and utter determination to win
Once Alexander broke through the enemy front line, the enemy soldiers fled for their lives
After Alexander had broken through the enemy front line, Philip advanced. Whether it was on foot or on horseback, Diodorus appears to suggest that Philip led his men from the front
Philip forced the enemy back. Overwhelmed, they began to flee
The Notes in Loeb say that ‘It seems certain that Philip, on the Macedonian right, did not engage the Athenians until the Thebans on the allied right, had been shattered by Alexander’
As you can see above, the Notes clarifies that the Thebans were Alexander’s opponents and the Athenians, Philip’s
The Notes assume Philip was on the Macedonian right because that is where Alexander usually fought during the battles of his war against the Persian empire (the right wing being the ‘traditional position of the Macedonian king’)
Among the Allied soldiers who fell in battle was a Theban general named Theagenes. In 335, his sister Timoclea was raped by the leader of some Thracian soldiers during the Macedonian attack on Thebes. After the assault, the leader demanded to know where her valuables were. Timoclea told him she had thrown them into a well. He went to look. As he did so, she pushed him in and then stoned him to death. The leader’s men brought her to Alexander. Although tied up, Timoclea approached and spoke to Alexander proudly and with dignity. Impressed by her, he gave orders for Timoclea and her children to be set free. This incident is recorded by Plutarch in his Life of Alexander12
‘… about one hundred thousand [Persian soldiers] were killed (including more than ten thousand cavalry), such large numbers that Ptolemy the son of Lagus, who was with Alexander at the time, says that when the party in pursuit of Darius met a ravine in their path they could cross it over the bodies of the dead.’ (Arrian II.11.8)
Following his victory at Issus, Alexander left Asia Minor once and for all and entered Phoenicia. I end my series of posts on Alexander in Asia Minor with an image of his route through the region, the famous Naples mosaic, a painting of Sisygambis’ equally famous mistake, and a bust of Ptolemy – one of Arrian’s main sources for his account of Alexander’s expedition. I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts!
‘… at nightfall [Alexander] took his whole army and marched to secure the [Syrian] Gates once more. By about midnight he had re-established control of the pass, and for what remained of the night he rested his army on the rocky outcrop above it, with guard-posts at the critical points.’ (Arrian II.8.1-2)
With Myriandrus we actually leave Asia Minor and enter Phoenicia. As you can see from the map, Alexander had to march north towards the border of the two regions after realising that Darius was actually behind him.
In the event, Soli paid Alexander 150 talents of silver. Perhaps because he was flush with victory after the Battle of Issus, Alexander waived the final fifty. At the same time, he sent the Solian hostages that he had taken from the city back home (Arr. II.12.2).
Credit Where It’s Due The Ruins of Soli: Wikipedia
‘It was [at Tarsus] that Alexander fell ill. Aristobulus’ account attributes it to exhaustion, but others say that Alexander, sweaty and overcome by the heat, had wanted a bathe and had dived into the river Cydnus for a swim (the Cydnus runs right through the city of Tarsus, and with its springs in the Taurus mountains and a course through open country its water is cold and clear). The result was an attack of cramp, violent fever, and persistent inability to sleep.” (Arrian II.4.7-8)