Posts Tagged With: Aspendus

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

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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

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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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