Posts Tagged With: Google Map

The Gordian Knot

  • Following in Alexander’s footsteps thanks to Google Maps!
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In antiquity Gordium was the capital of Phrygia. Now, it is is the village of Yassıhüyük in Turkey

In antiquity Gordium was the capital of Phrygia. Now, it is is the village of Yassıhüyük in Turkey

Gordium is in Hellespontine Phrygia; the town stands on the river Sangarius, which rises in Phrygia and runs through Bithynian Thrace into the Black Sea.
(Arrian I. 29)

Upon reaching this place [Alexander] was irresistibly impelled to visit the palace of Gordius and his son Midas high up on the acropolis, in order to inspect the famous Wagon of Gordius and the Knot with which its yoke was fixed.
(Arrian II. 3)



[According to tradition] the man who undid the knot which fixed its yoke was destined to be the lord of Asia.

The cord was made from the bark of the cornel tree, and so cunningly was the knot tied that no one could see where it began or where it ended.
(Arrian II. 3)



For Alexander, then, how to undo it was indeed a puzzle, though he was none the less unwilling to leave it as it was, as his failure might possibly lead to public disturbances. Accounts of what followed differ: some say that Alexander cut the knot with a stroke of his sword and exclaimed, ‘I have undone it!’, but Aristobulus thinks that he took out the pin – a sort of wooden peg which was driven right through the shaft of the wagon and held the knot together – and thus pulled the yoke away from the shaft… In any case, when he and his attendants left the place where the wagon stood, the general feeling was that the oracle about the untying of the knot had been fulfilled.

Categories: Mapping Alexander | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Alexander’s Visit to Troy

Following in Alexander’s footsteps thanks to Google Maps!

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Troy is located just 'under' the Propontis (Sea of Marmara) on this map

Troy is located just ‘under’ the Propontis (Sea of Marmara) on this map

Alexander advanced with his army to the Hellespont and transported it from Europe to Asia. He personally sailed with sixty fighting ships to the Troad, where he flung his spear from the ship and fixed it in the ground, and then leapt ashore himself the first of the Macedonians, signifying that he received Asia from the gods as a spear-won prize.
(Diodorus XVII. 17)

Troy on the east coast of Asia Minor (Turkey)

Troy on the east coast of Asia Minor (Turkey)

[Alexander] travelled inland to Troy and offered sacrifice to Athena, patron goddess of the city; here he made a gift of his armour to the temple, and took in exchange, from where they hung on the temple walls, some weapons which were still preserved from the Trojan war. These are supposed to have been carried before him by his bodyguard when he went into battle.
(Arrian I. 11)

Troy is a ruin today but, as you can see, is still popular with photographers

Troy is a ruin today but, as you can see, it is still popular with photographers

He is also said to have offered sacrifice to Priam on the altar of Zeus Herceius, to avert his anger against the family of Neoptolemus, whose blood still ran in his own veins.

At Troy his sailing master, Menoetius, crowned him with gold, as did Chares the Athenian, who came from Sigeium with a number of others, either Greeks or natives.

One account says that Hephaestion laid a wreath on  the tomb of Patroclus; another that Alexander laid one on the tomb of Achilles, calling him a lucky man, in that he had Homer to proclaim his deeds and preserve his memory.
(Arrian I. 11 – 12)

Troy, the city that fell for a woman's beauty

Troy, the city that fell for a woman’s beauty

Once arrived in Asia, [Alexander] went up to Troy, sacrificed to Athena and poured libations to the heroes of the Greek army. He smeared himself with oil and ran a race naked with his companions, as the custom is, and then crowned with a wreath the column which marks the grave of Achilles; he also remarked that Achilles was happy in having found a faithful friend while he lived and a great poet to sing of his deeds after his death.

While he was walking about the city and looking at its ancient remains, somebody asked him whether he wished to see the lyre which had once belonged to Alexander [Paris] of Troy. He answered that he cared nothing for that lyre but asked for the lyre which Achilles played when he sang of the glorious deeds of brave men.
(Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 15)

Categories: Mapping Alexander | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The Siege of Tyre

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According to Quintus Curtius Rufus (and with the help of Google Earth)

IV. 2. 7-8
“… the Tyrians had sufficient confidence in their position to… withstand a siege. The strait separating the city from the main land had a width of four stades*. It was particularly exposed to the south-westerly wind, which rolled rapid successions of waves on to the shore from the open sea, and nothing represented a greater obstacle to a siege-work – which the Macedonians were contemplating, to join island and mainland – the this wind.
IV. 2. 12
“The people of Tyre… deployed their artillery along the walls and turrets, distributed weapons to the younger men, and allocated the city’s generous resources of craftsmen to workshops.
* ‘Less than half a mile’ according to Heckel who compiled the Notes for the Penguin Classics edition of the work that I am using for these posts

IV. 2. 21, 23
“Little by little the mole now began to rise above the surface and the mound’s width increased as it approached the city… Alexander… had hides and sheets of canvas stretched before the workmen to screen them from Tyrian missiles, and he erected two turrets on the top of the mole from which weapons could be directed at approaching boats.
IV. 3. 2-3
“Meanwhile the Tyrians took an enormous ship, loaded its stern with rocks and sand so that its prow stood high out of the water, and daubed it with bitumen and sulphur. Then they rowed out the ship which, after its sails caught a strong wind, quickly came up to the mole. At this point the oarsmen fired the prow and then jumped into boats that had followed the ship expressly for this purpose. The vessel flared up and began to spread the blaze over a large area. Before help could be bought it engulfed the towers and other structures built on the top of the mole.
Tyre2IV. 3. 8
“The king set to work on a fresh mole, but now he aimed it directly into the head-wind, instead of side-on to it, so that the front offered protection to the rest of the work which, as it were, sheltered behind it. Alexander also added breadth to the mound so that towers could be raised in the middle out of range of the enemy’s missiles.
IV. 3. 23
“Some [Tyrians] advocated the revival of a religious rite which had been discontinued for many generations and which I certainly would not have thought to be at all acceptable to the gods – namely the sacrifice of a free-born male child to Saturn… Had it not been vetoed by the elders, whose judgement carried weight in all matters, cruel superstition would have triumphed over civilized behaviour.”
Tyre3IV. 4. 10 – 12
“The king himself climbed the highest siege-tower. His courage was great, but the danger greater for, conspicuous in his royal insignia and flashing armour, he was the prime target of enemy missiles. And his actions in the engagement were certainly spectacular. He transfixed with his spear many of the defenders on the walls, and some he threw headlong after striking them in hand-to-hand combat with his sword or shield, for the tower from which he fought practically abutted the enemy walls. By now the repeated battering of the rams had loosened the joints in the stones and the defensive walls had fallen; the fleet had entered the port; and some Macedonians had made their way on to the towers the enemy had abandoned.
IV. 4. 13. 16-17
“Alexander ordered all but those who had fled to the temples to be put to death and the buildings to be set on fire… 6,000 fighting-men were slaughtered within the city’s fortifications. It was a sad spectacle that the furious king then provided for the victors: 2,000 Tyrians who had survived the rage of the tiring Macedonians, now hung nailed to crosses all along the huge expanse of the beach.
Nota Bene
As can be seen above, the island city of Tyre is now joined to the mainland. This was caused by the stretch of water between the island city and mainland silting up over the course of years – perhaps as a result of Alexander’s causeway? In his biography of Alexander, Robin Lane Fox states that Tyre had two ports. The south-east one has now vanished as a result of the silting; the northern port, though, is still in use and can be seen in the above image.

Categories: Mapping Alexander | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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