On Alexander

22. Gordium

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘When Alexander arrived at Gordium he was taken with a keen desire to go up to the acropolis, where there was the palace of Gordius and his son Midas, and to see for himself Gordius’ wagon and the knot on its yoke.’
(Arrian II.3.1)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Alexander cuts the Gordian knot

Credit Where It’s Due
Alexander cutting the Gordian knot: History

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21. Calaenae

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Four days later [Alexander] reached Celaenae, where the acropolis, rising steep on all sides, was held under the satrap of Phrygia by a garrison of a thousand Carians and a hundred Greek mercenaries. They sent envoys to Alexander assuring him that they would surrender…’
(Arrian I.29.1-2)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

… but only if Darius didn’t send reinforcements by a certain date. Alexander regarded the acropolis as ‘completely unassailable’ (Arr. I.29.2) and so agreed. He left a detachment behind and set off for Gordium.

For the second day in a row we see Alexander recognising his limits and acting accordingly. Of course, the two cases are sightly different. From what Arrian says, it seems that Alexander believed he could take Telmissus but not quickly enough so decided to leave it. As above, Celaenae looked too strong to take in the first place. 

What happened between Celaenae and Tyre? How could he ever have thought that the former was impervious to attack and the latter wasn’t? I suspect here that Alexander was swayed by the Celaenians offer to surrender. The acropolis looked hard, really hard; I could stay, but… they are offering to surrender; let’s call it impossible and move on to a better target.

A medieval picture of Alexander taking Calaenae

Credit Where It’s Due
Alexander takes Celaenae: Wikipedia

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20. Sagalassus

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘[Alexander] set off for Sagalassus. This too was no small city, populated likewise by Pisidians, who were reputed to be the most warlike of this generally warlike race. They were waiting for him now…’
(Arrian I.28.2)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Yesterday, I mentioned that after leaving Aspendus, Alexander set off for Telmissus. According to Arrian, however, he never took or entered the city – the home of his favourite seer, Aristander. Why? Well, after arriving outside it Alexander saw that it was too strong to be taken quickly. 

Why was he so impatient to move on? Arrian doesn’t tell us but I suspect Alexander’s appetite for glory had a lot to do with it: he wanted to attack his enemies NOW; win glory NOW rather than next week or after. 

Against this view, Alexander had to work hard to take Miletus and Halicarnassus. Perhaps Aspendus just wasn’t important enough a target to spend time on?

A Nymphaeum in Sagalassus

Credit Where It’s Due
Sagalassian Nymphaeum: Flikr

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19. Aspendus

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘… Alexander marched for Aspendus. Most of Aspendus is built on a strong acropolis which rises sheer, with the river Eurymedon running past it.’
(Arrian I.26.5 – 27.1)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

The Aspendians were lucky not to be killed and their city razed. Previously, they had met Alexander on the road* and surrendered the city to him with a request that no Macedonian garrison be placed there. Alexander agreed. 

Now, as Alexander left Syllium, Aspendus reneged on the deal. Confident of its protection, the Aspendians took refuge in their acropolis. They thought that Alexander would send one of his generals who, naturally, would fail to dislodge them. 

However, Alexander himself came. When they saw him, the Aspendians panicked and tried to negotiate their surrender on the same terms as before. Because he was not equipped to lay siege to the acropolis, the Macedonian king accepted their surrender. But only on harsher terms. Wisely, the Aspendians accepted.

Upon leaving Aspendus, Alexander returned to Perge and from there made his way to Telmissus in Phrygia.

*Just after he left Perge – No. 16 in this series

Map of Asia Minor

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of Asia Minor: Turkey Trex

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18. Syllium

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Leaving a garrison in Side Alexander advanced against Syllium, a strong position with a garrison of foreign mercenaries as well as the local barbarians themselves.’
(Arrian I.26.5)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Map of western Asia Minor (The location of Syllium can be seen just to the left of the horizontal stroke of the ‘L’ in ‘Pamphylia’)

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of western Asia Minor: Travelogues

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17. Side

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Alexander proceeded towards Side…’
(Arrian I.26.4)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Map of Asia Minor (Side can be seen just below the notice for Pamphylia)

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of Asia Minor: Wikipedia

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16. Perge

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Alexander now set out from Phaselis, sending part of his army through the mountains towards Perge on the road built for him by the Thracians… He himself led his own section along the coastal path by the sea-shore….’
(Arrian I.26.1)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

While Alexander was in Phaselis, he received word of the first plot against his life. According to a Persian agent named Sisines, whom Parmenion had captured in Phrygia, a Companion named Alexander Lyncestis had contacted Darius and offered to assassinate the Macedonian king. Sisines was on his way to give Alexander Lyncestis Darius’ terms: Alexander the king’s life in return for money and the Macedonian throne.

Parmenion sent Sisines to Alexander the king. After discussing the matter with his counsellors, Alexander decided to arrest Alexander Lyncestis. He sent Craterus’ brother, Amphoterus, to Parmenion’s camp in Phrygia, to seize the traitor.

On his way to Perge, Alexander marched along the coastline. He followed a path that, had the wind been blowing from the south, would have been impassable. Fortunately, the wind blew from the north as Alexander passed by.

Konyaalti beach, near Antalya, not far from where Perge was located

Credit Where It’s Due
Konyaaltı beach: The Daily Telegraph

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15. Sardis and Phaselis

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Sardis (Parmenion)
  • Phaselis (Alexander)

‘[Alexander] came in person to Phaselis and helped the inhabitants to destroy a strong fort which 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’.
(Arrian I.24.6)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

After settling affairs in Caria, Alexander ordered Parmenion to go to Sardis and hence to Phrygia. Sardis had already surrendered (see Arr. I.17.3) so it looks like Parmenion was meant only to use it as a staging post.

As for Alexander, he himself marched for Phaselis. Before arriving there, he assaulted and took ‘the fortress of Hyparna (Arr. I.24.4). He then entered the region of Lycia, where he ‘won over the people of Telmissus by agreement’ (Ibid) and received the submission of the following: Pinara, Xanthus, and Patara, as well as ‘about thirty smaller towns’ (Ibid).

The main road at Phaselis

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Phaselis: Wikipedia

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14. Halicarnassus – Myndus

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘… [Alexander] made camp against Halicarnassus about half a mile from the city [and] prepared for a long siege…’
(Arrian I.20.2)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

During the siege of Halicarnassus, Alexander investigated ‘the possibility of a sudden quick raid to capture Myndus’ (Arr. I.20.5) as he realised that controlling it would help with the siege. The Myndians, however, told Alexander that if he could approach the city without being seen, he would be allowed in. At midnight, Alexander came up to the city but the gates remained closed. Despite not having brought his siege engines with him, Alexander attacked the city. The Myndians resisted and he was forced to withdraw.

One of the wonders of the ancient world – the mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Credit Where It’s Due
The Mausoleum: Britannica

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13. Mycale and Miletus-Halicarnassus

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Mycale (Philotas)
  • Miletus-Halicarnassus (Alexander)

‘… Alexander sent Philotas to Mycale with the cavalry and three brigades of infantry, with instructions to prevent the Persians leaving their ships…’
(Arrian I.19.8)

‘… Alexander set out for Caria, on reports that a substantial force of barbarians and foreign mercenaries was concentrated in Halicarnassus [Bodrum]. He captured the cities between Miletus and Halicarnassus…’
(Arrian I.20.2)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Map of Asia Minor

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of Asia Minor: ResearchGate

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