In This Chapter
The Siege of Halicarnassus Continues
An Alcohol Fuelled Attack
If you know anything about Alexander and his Macedonians, you will know that they liked to drink. One night, two men in Perdiccas’ brigade got drunk and decided that the way to prove how brave they were was by attacking Halicarnassus by themselves. They picked up their weapons and headed for the city wall facing Mysala.
To be fair, Arrian notes that the men did not intend ‘to provoke a dangerous clash with the enemy’ (Arr. I.21.1) – they just wanted to show how tough they were to the other man – but unsurprisingly, a dangerous clash is exactly what happened.
For the Persians and mercenaries, the appearance of two Macedonians boasting about their toughness right in front of them was a provocation that had to be answered: their boasts, after all, were a dismissal of their enemy and that could not be allowed to stand.
The Persians and mercenaries had the advantage in their attack: they were sober and were on higher ground. Despite this, the two Macedonians killed anyone who got close to them. The survivors, despite superior numbers and still being on higher ground, hung back in fright.
Matters went from bad to worse for the Persians and mercenaries when ‘more of Perdiccas’ men ran out to join the fray’ (Arr. I.21.3). More men came from inside the city but the Macedonians managed not just to push them back but back past the city gates.
The Macedonian attack was so strong they came close to breaking into Halicarnassus. At some point, though, they were either forced back or were recalled – Arrian is not clear on this point.
The Siege Resumes (Properly)
The next day, Alexander set his siege engines to work against a wall that had been built in haste to replace a section of wall that had been undermined. The defenders made another attempt to set the siege engines alight; thanks to Philotas son of Parmenion and an officer named Hellanicus, and their men, however, the damage was limited. The fighting continued until Alexander himself appeared whereupon the Persians and mercenaries retreated back into the city.
At the end of this chapter, Arrian notes how – despite their retreat – the defenders still held an advantage over the Macedonians. As well as being on higher ground, they could shoot at their enemy from towers that stood on either side of the wall that Alexander was attacking. In addition, the curve of the city meant that they held positions on the wall that were almost to the rear of the Macedonian attack.
And yet, despite these advantages, the Persians and mercenaries were not able to inflict serious damage on the Macedonians let alone defeat them. This calls into question the quality of the fighting, and their officers. Conversely, it highlights the quality of the Macedonian soldiers.