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,
- Not enough money to maintain it
- The Macedonian navy was not as skilled as the Persians’
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)
See previous posts in this series here