Posts Tagged With: Alexander’s Army

300

Celebrating the hardest men ever to live – Alexander’s Macedonians
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You can find more acts of hardness here

via coolfunpics.com

via coolfunpics.com

Date Spring 327 BC Place The Rock of Sogdiana
Rock Hard
The Men Who Scaled the Sogdian Rock

The Deal
Tell me, AOS, tell me about the 300; no, not that 300 – I mean the three hundred Macedonians who scaled the Sogdian Rock, and captured an impregnable position with nothing more than tent-pegs and linen. Compared to that, defending Thermopylae was a playground exercise.
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Reader, you are wise beyond your years. it would be a pleasure to tell you about the hardest 300 who ever lived.
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In the Spring of 327, Alexander learnt that ‘a large number’ of Sogdians had taken refuge on top of the Rock of Sogdiana (AKA the Rock of Ariamazes). Among their number were the wife and daughters of the chieftain Oxyartes. Arrian tells us that the Rock was sheer on every side, that the refugees had stockpiled food in anticipation of a long siege, and that ‘deep snow on the summit’ meant that they had an unlimited supply of water.
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Alexander wanted to take the rock – it was the Sogdians last stronghold against him; if it fell, he knew that his enemies would have nowhere else to run. And yet… it was supposed to be impregnable and the Sogdians were well dug in… what to do?
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As it happens, Alexander’s first response was to offer the Sogdians the chance to surrender. Soft, I know, but he did it. Happily, they responded with contemptuous laughter and a challenge, Find soldiers with wings to capture the Rock for you! they cried. And guess, what; Alexander did.
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Alexander gathered his men together and told them that he would give twelve talents to the first man who scaled the Rock’s sheer cliff face, eleven to the second, ten to the third and so on. Three hundred experienced climbers in the army took up the challenge.
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Climbing Into History
The assault began. When picturing the 300 scaling the cliff you can forget about the modern day specialist equipment that makes rock climbing as safe as can be. These men had little more than tent pegs and flaxen lines. Up they went; foot by dangerous foot, up the ‘steepest part of the rock-face’. Admittedly, this was not because of their inveterate hardness, but because they knew that at the top it would be the least well guarded. In mitigation, however, it was night time.
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Night wore on and the three hundred men climbed higher and higher. Thirty died during the course of the ascent. Their bodies were never recovered. Given how tough they were in life, though, they probably took a perverse pleasure at this in death.
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Finally, as dawn broke, the 270 survivors began hauling themselves over the top of the cliff. Curtius tells us that the Sogdian Rock was 18,000 feet high. I say, ‘Sit down, Curtius, and consider what you’ve just said there; the Macedonians’ achievement was good enough without you exaggerating it’.
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Once at the top, the next step was to let Alexander know that the climb had been successful. The climbers waved pieces of linen cloth proudly at the army below.
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With all the pride of a new father, Alexander ordered a crier to tell the Sogdians what had happened. Their response was pretty much the ancient equivalent of WT Living F??? Arrian says that that the sight of the soldiers was a ‘severe shock to the natives’ (my emphasis) And not only because there were Macedonians with wings but also because they thought that a much larger force had climbed to the summit.
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And They Lived Happily…
Defeated by 270 of the hardest Macedonian souls and the apparent evidence of their eyes, the Sogdians promptly surrendered to Alexander.
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As the Sogdians made their way down from the Rock, one person among them stood out in spectacular fashion. Oxyartes’ daughter, Roxane. According to Arrian, the Macedonians regarded her as the most beautiful woman they had seen in all of Asia with only the exception of Darius III’s wife. Roxane caught Alexander’s eye as well, and in due course, they married. When Alexander died in 323, Roxane was pregnant with his only legitimate child – Alexander IV.
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But enough of women and pregnancies, this post is about the three hundred hard bastards who dared to scale the impossible rock and almost to a man did so. No safety + No hope = Maximum Hardness.
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Rating of Hard 9/10
Pro: They were climbing an unclimbable rock
Against: They did it for money, and as can be seen in the picture above that is a woman climbing; if a woman can rock climb, how hard can it actually be???

Categories: Muscular Macedonians | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Perdiccas Storms Thebes

Celebrating the tough deeds of the tough men who once ruled the world.
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You can read about more acts of hardness here

Even without arms this Spartan could stab you to death

Even without arms this Spartan could take you down

Date 335 BC Place Thebes
The One Man Phalanx
PERDICCAS

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The Background
Alexander was now king of Macedon. Next on his list was to be elected Hegemon of Greece. Persuaded by his campaign promises (AKA The Macedonian army) the Greeks duly voted him to the leadership of both the League of Corinth and the Amphictyonic League.
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With the poleis dealt with, Alexander went north to pacify the troublesome tribes on his northern border. He was still in Thrace when he heard that Thebes had, rather stupidly, revolted. A fast march to the Boeotian city followed.
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Alexander of Macedon is one of the hardest men who ever lived. If there was ever a fight to be had, he was there to have it. We must give him his due, though; when he arrived at Thebes he didn’t get stuck into the Thebans straight away. No, he parked his army outside the city and the cadmeia (a citadel, where a Macedonian garrison was trapped behind two palisades and sundry Theban soldiers), and tried to reach a peaceful settlement with them first.
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Don’t mistake this for softness; Alexander wanted to save his men for the bigger and better fight-to-come agains the Persian army.
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Unfortunately for the Thebans, their leaders refused to surrender. What kind of idiots were they? Anti-Alexandrian ones, that’s what. But enough of them, it’s time to turn to Perdiccas and his act of conspicuous hardness.

Alexander on horseback

Alexander on horseback

Army? Where I come from, I don’t need an army
While Alexander was still deciding what to do next, Perdiccas decided he had had enough of waiting for the action to begin. He walked out of his tent, and took a good long look at the palisades ahead of him.
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It couldn’t have been nice to see the sharpened stakes rising claw-like out of the ground, and the gleaming armour behind them; well, if Perdiccas had given a fig, that is, but he was Macedonian. Where you and I would see impossibility, he saw a challenge; so he considered his options. Would he,

  • Lure the troops out from behind their stakes where his battalion could more easily fight them on open ground?
  • Soften the Thebans up with a volley of missiles before marching forward?
  • Simply strap on his armour, grasp his spear and shield, and charge forward himself?

Guess what, he took the third.
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Without waiting to ask Alexander’s permission for his attack, because that would have been far too sensible, Perdiccas called his men together and charged forward. What a sight it must have been for the Thebans, seeing several hundred Macedonian soldiers bear down on them. But surely the palisade will stop these lunatics long enough for us to cut them down with sword, spear and arrow?
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Er, no.
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Perdiccas and his men ran into the palisade and forced their way through it before falling on the defenders. Behind him, Amyntas son of Andromenes saw what was happening and decided that he wanted some of the action, so he came up behind Perdiccas with his own men to give additional support. I daresay Perdiccas would have told him to bugger off had he been able to, but he was too busy liberating limbs from bodies and dealing death to any Theban stupid enough to come close to him.
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By now, Alexander had been alerted to what was going on. Determined not to let Perdiccas get trapped behind the Thebans’ lines he ordered his archers and Agrianes forward. Meanwhile, Perdiccas had successfully slashed and stabbed his way to the second palisade; it was here that he got himself so seriously injured that after he was brought back to the Macedonian camp it was touch-and-go as to whether the doctors would be able to save him.
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But not only did Perdiccas survive his one man assault of Thebes, he survived the whole of Alexander’s expedition. Indeed, when he was finally killed, it wasn’t an enemy sword or spear that got him but traitors in his own camp. Bastards.
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Devil’s Advocate
My main source for this post is Arrian; and his principle source was Ptolemy who, in the wars following Alexander’s death, would be Perdiccas’ implacable enemy. He may even had a hand in Perdiccas’ assassination. Either way, he certainly had no interest in portraying Perdiccas in a positive light* but as an impetuous, arrogant and maverick general whose actions compromised as much as helped Alexander.
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Also, Diodorus says that Perdiccas attacked the Theban palisade on Alexander’s orders which, if true, reduces the manliness of his action substantially as it introduces elements of organisation, planning, and sensible behaviour into the equation.
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Rating of Hard: 8/10
Pro: Acting without orders, high chance of failure, survived serious injury
Contra: Had back-up, wore armour, withdrew from field due to injury
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J. R. Hamilton, in his introduction to my edition of Arrian (Penguin Classics, 1971), refers to Ptolemy’s ‘apparent systematic denigration of Perdiccas

Categories: Muscular Macedonians | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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