Posts Tagged With: Memnon of Rhodes

The Council at Zeleia

The Battle of the Granicus pt. 1
The Persian Commanders Meet
Arrian I.13

Alexander crossed into Asia Minor in May 334 BC. Later that month, or in early June, he fought his first great battle of the expedition against a Persian satrapal army at the Granicus River.

While the Macedonian king was busy claiming Arisbe and the other cities in the area, the local Persian commanders met in Zeleia, a city to the east of the Grancius.

There, they held a council. The one question on their lips was this: how was Alexander to be opposed? The commanders all advocated war.

Only one person, Memnon of Rhodes advised against this. We cannot fight him, Memnon said, for two factors are against us.
Firstly, the Macedonian infantry is significantly larger than ours.
Secondly, Alexander himself is riding at the head of his army, whereas Darius is absent from ours.

Instead of fighting, he said, we should destroy the land: force Alexander to return to Macedon on pain of starvation.

Memnon’s opinion carried weight. He was a military commander of proven ability having halted Parmenion’s advance into Asia Minor two years earlier*.

Despite this, the satraps refused to countenance his scorched earth policy. Arrian says that the Persians were suspicious of him. They thought he wanted to avoid a battle because he feared ‘losing the position he held from Darius, if fighing started too soon’.

The Notes to my Penguin Classics edition of Arrian’s Anabasis say that the satraps ‘were (perhaps) actuated partly by jealousy in rejecting his plan’. Jealousy, no doubt, because he was a successful military commander, and they weren’t.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the satraps were wrong to reject Memnon’s plan.

But of course, if we were peasants living in western Asia Minor at that time, peasants whose lives depended on our ability to till the land and sell its fruits in order to feed ourselves and our families, we would have breathed a great sigh of relief at the satraps’ decision. Even if we knew it wasn’t out of concern for us that they took it.

The peasantry were prisoners of their age, jailed by the nobility’s deafness to their voices. In a sense, the nobility were in a similar if not worse position. For while they had voices that could be heard, their very thoughts were defined by accepted modes of thinking that could only do harm rather than good.

I believe that these two modes are represented by Persian power politics and racism.

Persian power politics did not permit the satraps to agree with Memnon even if they thought he was right. For if his plan came off, it would be he rather than they who would gain in power thereby; and in a competitive court, that would be intolerable.

As for racism, the Persian nobility rejected sound advice from Greeks too often for it not to be a consideration. Other examples of them rejecting such advice may be found in their reaction to Charidemus’ advice (Diodorus XVII.30), which even led to his execution, and the rejection of the Greek mercenaries wise advice (Curtius III.8.2-7) which, if the nobility had their way, would have led to their massacre.

Thus, I call the satraps ‘jailed’.

All of this, of course, is a marked difference to Alexander who, even though he held very firm beliefs, still had a mind that was open to accepting new thinking if it could prove itself to him.

*Diodorus XVI.91 and Heckel Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great p. 190

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The man who had it all

The Nature of Curtius
Book Four Chapters 1 – 4
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter 1
The King Without a Crown
In the last post, we saw how Darius lost the Battle of Issus but was able to escape from the battlefield using horse relays. At the beginning of this chapter, Curtius makes the very poignant point that the Great King fled

through terrain which he had filled with armies almost beyond number but which was now deserted – to form one vast and solitary wilderness.

So, having lost the symbols of his kingship when he removed his royal insignia at the start of his flight it was now as if Darius had now lost his very kingdom. The earth had turned its back to him.

And I think that the earth could not have deserted (if you’ll excuse the pun) a more appropriate king. We know from the other Alexander historians that Memnon of Rhodes recommended a scorched earth policy prior to the Battle of the Granicus River, and that while the satraps had rejected his advice, as Alexander mentioned in his response to Darius’ letter, the Persians had form for carrying out such devastating actions*.

And, of course, there is Arsames – the satrap of Cilicia – who did indeed destroy his land upon Alexander’s approach.

Speaking of Alexander’s letter, it led to what must have been a very long journey for Thersippus who was given the responsibility of delivering it. If you have seen the film 300 you will know that messengers were not always treated very well (see the film clip below).

Admittedly, 300 is not your go-to film for an example of historical accuracy but if we jump forward to chapter 2 of Curtius’ book for a moment, what do we find happening to Alexander’s heralds after they entered Tyre to warn the Tyrians to make peace with the Macedonian king? They were killed and their bodies thrown over the city walls and into the sea. This. Is. Tyre!

In Sidon**, Alexander overthrew the king and gave the job of nominating a successor to Hephaestion. He offered the kingship to the two noblemen he was lodging with only for them to turn it down as they were not members of the royal family.

Impressed by their humility, Hephaestion invited them to chose the new king. They turned to a poor gardener named Abdalonymus who was ‘distantly related to the royal family’.

In what must be one of the nicest scenes in any biography of Alexander, the two noblemen visited Abdalonymus as he worked in his garden. There, they told him to take off his rags, clean himself up, and put on the royal clothing they had brought him.

The choice of Abdalonymus as king did not meet with everyone’s approval. So, Alexander summoned him in order to assess his character. How did you endure your poverty? He asked him. Abdalonymus replied,

‘These hands of mine satisfied my needs. I had nothing, but lacked nothing.’

I don’t know anything about Abdalonymus’ later career except that the Alexander sarcophagus may have been made for him.

I wonder, though, if Curtius was telling us something about Abdalonymus’ future when, as the two noblemen greeted him, the king-to-be was described as pulling up weeds. Weeds today, corrupt officials tomorrow***?

* In his letter, Alexander referred to how Xerxes I ‘left Mardonius in Greece so that he could destroy our cities and burn our fields’
** Or Tyre according to Diodorus, who also called Abdalonymys ‘Ballonymus’ (see here)
*** I must also mention the fact that when the noblemen met Abdalonymus he had no idea that Alexander and Darius were contending with one another for control of the latter’s empire. He was wise, humble and aloof.

Chapter 2
Re-Maker of Worlds
In this post, we have seen nature used as a metaphor – for the loss of a kingdom and for wisdom. At the start of the second chapter, Alexander threatens the Tyrian envoys by using what appears to be hyperbole. You think you are safe, he tells them, because you live on an island,

‘… but I am soon going to show you that you are really on the mainland.’

As it happens, the envoys believed him. To its cost, however, the city did not.

Alexander’s prophecy came true in two ways. Firstly, when his mole finally reached the island. And secondly when, over the years, the mole caused the sea to silt up around it to the point where the old city and island city could be completely joined. For images of joined-up Tyre today, see this post.

Alexander’s ability to not only use the land but change it according to his wishes stand in stark contrast to the impotent figure of Darius as he rides through the lonely wilderness.

Alexander intended to build a mole (i.e a causeway) to carry his army to the gates of the city. He was opposed not only by the Tyrians, but also the weather.

For example, Curtius says that a gap of four stades (under half a mile) separated Tyre from the mainland. That gap was assaulted by a strong ‘south-westerly wind, which rolled rapid successions of waves on to the shore’.

Then there was the depth of the sea which, beyond the shoreline, fell into a ‘fathomless’ depth. Although this was an exaggeration, as it turned out, the sea was still deep enough to fill the Macedonian soldiers ‘with despair’ when they saw it.

But Alexander was stronger than their hopelessness, and he got his men to work. The mole soon began to rise out of the sea.

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A Passage to Cilicia

The Nature of Curtius
Book Three Chapters 4 – 6
For the other posts in this series, click here

Chapter Four
The Cilician Gates
As Darius moved north, Alexander marched south from Cappadocia. He stopped in an area known as ‘The Camp of Cyrus’. This was named after Cyrus the Great who ‘maintained a permanent camp’ there when he went to fight Croesus in Lydia. The camp was fifty stades (five miles) away from the Cilician Gates.

The ‘Gates’ were actually a rock formation in a narrow defile. Their name came from the fact that they looked like they were man-made, and they afforded the only means of entering Cilicia, which was bounded by the ‘rugged and precipitously steep’ Taurus mountain range.

The governor of Cilicia was a man named Arsames. He had it in him if not to defeat Alexander then at least to inflict upon him a critical defeat that could in turn have led to the undermining of the whole Macedonian campaign.

In order to achieve this, Arsames needed only to post a small force on the ridge overlooking the defile. Curtius says that the the defile ‘could barely accommodate four armed men [walking] abreast’. Picking them off, therefore, would have been easy.

However, Arsames chose instead to do what Memnon of Rhodes had recommended before the Battle of the Granicus River; namely, to lay waste to the country and starve Alexander into submission. He did so ‘with fire and the sword’. Destroying anything ‘that might be of use’ to his enemy.

Thus, Alexander – to his surprise and delight – found the Cilician Gates unguarded. He passed through them and marched on to Tarsus.

It would be inaccurate to say that Arsames totally ignored the Gates. Curtius tells us that he posted guards to the three mountain passes (of which, only the Cilician Gates provided entry into the country). However, after hearing that the satrap was destroying the countryside the guards deserted believing that they had been betrayed.

Curtius describes how the Cilician countryside ‘levels out’ as it approaches the sea. This flatness, he says, is ‘frequently interrupted by streams’ including two ‘famous rivers’ – the Pyramus and Cydnus.

Of the Pyramus he has nothing else to say, but the Cydnus now takes centre stage in Alexander’s story.

What was the river like? Well, it was neither a particularly deep nor violent one. In fact, it ran very gently ‘with no torrents breaking into its course’. Curtius doesn’t mention any mythological being associated with the Cydnus. Perhaps its gentility gave the impression that it was a rather boring river. Maybe it was, but if so, the Cydnus was a valuable one for it ran over ‘pure soil’. It contained no stories but it helped men live so that they could tell them.

Like the Marsyas, the waters of the Cydnus were very clear. They were also very cold, for the river ran underneath the shade of its banks.

Lest we think that its clarity and clearness were all the Cydnus had to commend itself, Curtius adds that at its headwaters (i.e at the source of the river) there were ‘many monuments popularized in song’. He says ‘They were shown the sites of the cities of Lyrnesus and Thebes, the cave of Typhon, the grove of Corycus where saffron grows’.

By ‘they’, I assume Curtius means the Macedonians. Unfortunately, they did not see too much as the monuments and cities were but ruins or even just memories in the air with no earthly trace left. The cities had fallen, and nature reclaimed her land.

Chapters Five and Six
The Cydnus River
Alexander arrived in Tarsus in August. The weather was boiling hot. As it happened, the Cydnus passed through the city so he went to bathe in it.

Now, you might think this would be a thoroughly innocuous act. What happened next, however, made it a very significant, and nearly fatal, one. Alexander had barely taken a step into the water ‘when he suddenly felt his limbs shiver and stiffen’. He was rushed back to this tent, seemingly on the point of death.

As Alexander’s friends clear the way and carry their king to his bed, I would like to look very briefly at how he – Alexander – used the river as a propaganda tool. The main purpose of his visit was to bathe. However, in so doing, he considered ‘that it would also add to his prestige if he showed his men that he was satisfied with attention to his person which was plain and unelaborate’.

That’s Alexander. He could probably have found a way of making the act of picking the dirt from between his toes a heroic one. As it is, Alexander’s purpose has its origin in the days of his youth when he was taught by the austere Leonidas. It also reminds me of how he used his good treatment of women as a way of proving his superiority to the Persians (see here for more details).

After being taken to his tent, Alexander remained there until his physician, Philip of Arcanania, had cured him of his illness. This covers the rest of Chapter 5 and all of 6. If you would like to read more about what happened, see here and here.

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Darius Prepares for War as Alexander falls Ill

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 31 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Darius Musters Army in Babylon
Alexander Falls Ill
Philip of Arcarnania Saves King’s Life

The Story
Chapter 31 begins with Darius ‘summoning his forces from all directions and [ordering] them to muster in Babylon’.

According to Diodorus, the army’s strength would eventually come to ‘over four hundred thousand infantry and not less than one hundred thousand cavalry’.

While the soldiers made their way to Babylon, Darius organised his senior officers giving jobs to his Friends and Relatives according to their ability. Those who were not suited to holding a command joined Darius’ personal staff.

The Persian army heeded Darius’ summons promptly and it left Babylon on schedule. Darius marched for Cilicia in south-eastern Asia Minor. Diodorus reports that as well as his men, Darius also took his family with him: his wife, three children and mother.

Alexander, meanwhile, was very relieved to hear about the death of Memnon. The latter’s success in winning over Chios and the Lesbian cities as well as Mitylene had caused the Macedonian king ‘no little anxiety’. But things were about to take a sharp turn for the worse for him.

‘Shortly after’ hearing of Memnon’s death, Diodorus says that Alexander fell ‘seriously ill’. He does not say why. Alexander ‘sent for his physicians’ but they were hesitant to treat him. Only one dared to try – Philip of Arcarnania.

Philip’s treatment involved a ‘risky but quick-acting’ drug. Having heard that Darius was now on the move, Alexander ‘accepted [the drug] gladly’. It worked. Alexander made a quick recovery. Philip was rewarded with ‘magnificent gifts’ and given a place among Alexander’s Friends.

Comments
Firstly, numbers. The Footnotes say that Justin agrees with Diodorus that Darius’ army was 400,000 in strength. They also state that ‘[t]he unknown writer of the Alexander History P. Oxyrhynchus 1798 (Frag. 44, col. 2.2/3) and Arrian (2.8.8) give the Persian strength as 600,000.’ I had not heard of P. Oxyrhynchus before so that is news to me.

As for Darius, I don’t have much to say except that it is good that he was able to appoint people on the basis of their ability rather than for political reasons.

I referred above to Memnon’s ‘success in winning over Chios and the Lesbian cities’. Diodorus’ exact words were that he ‘won over’ the cities. This gives the impression that Memnon secured their loyalty by peaceful means rather than by force. This might be the case with Chios – in Chapter 29 Diodorus says that Memnon ‘secured’ the city and that word can be interpreted either way – but the Lesbian cities are described (in Ch. 29, again) as being ‘easily mastered’. This sounds to me like Memnon had to fight for them. Maybe the fight was easy but that would be besides the point.

Unlike Arrian, Plutarch and Curtius Diodorus does not mention the strange matter of Parmenion’s letter to Alexander. He wrote to the king warning him that Philip was in the pay of Darius and meant to kill him. Despite this, Alexander took Philip’s medicine, handing the doctor Parmenion’s letter as he did so.

Philip’s reaction depends on who you read. Curtius says that he was outraged by the accusation; Plutarch that Philip was alarmed; Arrian, for his part, says that Philip stayed cool.

I have a suspicion that Parmenion’s letter represents a cack-handed attempt to initiate a coup. I wrote about that, and indeed the whole affair from a slightly different angle here.

Arcarnanian Apocatheries
We’ve got drugs to die for!
* Potions To Floor a king!
* Medicines Cheap of Price (Persia excepted)!
* Fantastic Deals: If You Die, Your Doctor Dies With You!

 

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Memnon takes the Battle to Greece

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 29, 30 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Memnon Appointed Supreme Commander of Persian Army
Memnon Sweeps Across Aegean: Chios & Lesbos Fall
Mitylene Taken After Fierce Struggle
Memnon Dies After Brief Illness
Darius To Take Command of Persian Army

The Story
Chapter 29 could be titled ‘The Deeds of Memnon’ as it focuses exclusively on his actions after the Siege of Halicarnassus (and in the year between July 333 – 332 B.C.).

The chapter begins with Darius appointing Memnon ‘commanding general of the whole war’ against Alexander. I have to admit, I thought that Darius had already appointed Memnon to this role (in Chapter 23). Perhaps Diodorus is just repeating himself.

Either way, Memnon now ‘gathered a force of mercenaries, manned three hundred ships, and pursued the conflict vigorously’. He ‘secured Chios’ and landed on Lesbos. There, he took the cities of Antissa, Methymna, Pyrrha and Eressus.

Memnon also laid siege to Mitylene. A few posts ago (here), we saw how he tried and failed to take Cyzicus. Perhaps siege warfare was not Memnon’s strong point. He eventually took Mitylene but only ‘with difficulty… after a siege of many days and with the loss of many of his soldiers’.

To the distress of her inhabitants, Memnon now prepared to sail for Euboea. Not all Greeks were so alarmed, however; Diodorus reports that those ‘who were friendly to Persia… began to have high hopes of a change in the political situation’.

Memnon did not use force alone to win the Greek cities to his side. Bribes were also liberally handed out. In the end, though, it all came to nothing. Memnon died suddenly and – as it seems to me – all Persian army activity stopped while Darius held ‘a session of his Council of Friends’ to decide what to do next.

It wasn’t so much Memnon’s death that made his activity in the Aegean a waste of time but Darius’ decision not to pursue the war in Greece. When he met his Friends, his two proposals were to either send a general to fight Alexander or lead the Persian army himself.

In the debate that followed, the Great King’s Friends were divided over the best course of action.

Among Darius’ Friends was an Athenian named Charidemus. According to the Footnotes, he was one of the ten Athenians whom Alexander demanded when he approached the city (see here). Diodorus says that Charidemus was ‘a man generally admired for his bravery and skill’ and ‘had been a comrade-in-arms of King Philip and had led or counselled all his successes’. The Footnotes dispute this.

Now, though, Charidemus advised Darius to send a general against Alexander. He had a good idea who that general should be, as well. You can probably guess that he meant himself.

Darius agreed with Charidemus. His other Friends, though, were less convinced. They even accused Charidemus of wanting to gain control of an army so that he could betray the Great King. Why would they condemn him in this way? I should think racism was certainly a factor. It certainly was in Charidemus’ response. He angrily accused the Persians of a ‘lack of manliness’.

Darius was insulted by Charidemus’ outburst and ordered him to be taken away and executed. Charidemus was dragged off, but not before ‘he shouted that the king would soon change his mind and… receive a prompt requital for this unjust punishment, becoming the witness of the overthrow of the kingdom’.

Diodorus says that Darius soon regretted his hasty decision. In the meantime, he searched for a general to take Memnon’s place. Finding none,  Darius made the fateful decision to lead his army into battle himself.

Comments
In this post I said that Black Cleitus saved the future of hellenism across the world. Given Memnon’s success in his Greek campaign I wonder if we can’t say that his death both robbed the Archaemenid empire of its future and proved to be final nail in the coffin of classical Greece. I am thinking that had he successfully turned Greece to Darius’ side and defeated Alexander in battle (a big if, I know) then that would have restored Greece and Persia to the political situation it was in before the rise of Macedonia.

I am guessing that the reason Darius did not pursue operations in Greece following Memnon’s death was because he knew or thought that the Greeks would only listen to another Greek. His decision not to continue what had been a very successful campaign is otherwise inexplicable to me.

The dispute between Charidemus and the other Friends is a moment of farce. With the former’s execution it becomes the blackest of black comedies. It tells us something interesting about Darius’ character, though; namely, that he was capable of being as impetuous as Alexander. I wonder how he reconciled this aspect of his character to being part of a social structure as strict as the Persian one?

I was talking to a friend a night or two ago about Formula 1. I love F1 racing, and have done for many years, but – as I was telling my friend, it really is the most venal sport in the world. Money rules all. Exchange money for personal interest and you have the most venal city states that I have ever met – those of ancient Greece. Diodorus names Sparta as being one of those who were friendly to Persia. It never ceases to amaze me how they were prepared to support their enemy in order to win one over their Greek enemies.

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The Battle of the Granicus River

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 19-21 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Macedonians and Persians Clash
Black Cleitus Saves Alexander’s Life
Persian Cavalry Routed
Undefended, Persian Infantry Crumble
Alexander Wins First Major Battle of Reign

The Story
Learning of the satrapal army’s approach, Alexander ‘advanced rapidly’ to the Granicus River where he set up his camp on the opposite bank to the Persians. At this point, the satraps had the advantage: Alexander would not only have to cross the river to meet them but climb up the bank on the opposite side before doing so. This would be sure to put the Macedonian phalanx into disorder and make Alexander’s men easy pickings.

Or so you would have thought. At dawn the next day, Alexander lead his men across the river and not only managed to scramble up the bank but was able to deploy it ‘in good order’ before [the Persians] could stop him’.

Now faced with an organised Macedonian army, the satraps deployed their cavalry at the front of their own line. Here is how satrapal army lined up:

Left Wing (flank to centre)

  • Memnon and Arsamenes – each in command of his own cavalry
  • Arsites – in command of the Paphlagonian cavalry
  • Spithrobates – in command of the Hyrcanian cavalry

Right Wing

  • Median cavalry – 1,000 in number / commanded by ?
  • Rheomithres – with 2,000 horse / in command of ?
  • Bactrian cavalry – 2,000 in number / commanded by ?

Centre

  • Various ‘national contingents’

Numbers

  • Cavalry 10,000+
  • Infantry ‘not fewer than’ 100,000

NB The question marks regarding the right wing commanders reflects the fact that I am not clear about what Diodorus is saying here. It may be that Rheomithres was in charge of the Medes and Bactrians but that isn’t the impression I get when I read his text (see below).

We come now to the battle itself. I have broken it down into the following parts to make writing, and – hopefully – reading about, it easier. Do feel free to let me know if you find this arrangement useful or not.

One The Persian and Macedonian cavalry ‘joined battle spiritedly’. Diodorus singles out the Thessalian cavalry for praise. Under the command of Parmenion, it ‘gallantly met the attack of the troops posted opposite’.

Two Alexander, leading ‘the finest of the riders on the right wing’ charged at the Persians and inflicted ‘substantial losses upon them’.

Three The satrapal army ‘resisted [the Macedonian attack] bravely. Spithrobates, Darius’ son-in-law, threw himself at the Macedonians ‘with a large body of cavalry, and… forty companions, all Royal Relatives of outstanding valour’.

Four Seeing the success of Spithrobates’ attack, Alexander turned to meet him.

Five Spithrobates saw Alexander coming and saw an opportunity to end the menace of the Macedonian king once-and-for-all. He threw his javelin at him. It pierced Alexander’s shield and ‘right epomis’ and ‘drove through [his] breastplate’. This sounds serious. The Footnotes tell us, however, that according to Plutarch, Alexander wasn’t injured. Alexander shook the javelin off and drove his spear into Spithrobates’ chest. This movement caused both armies to cry out ‘at [his] superlative display of prowess’.

Six The movement was not a complete success, though. The point of the spear broke and the length recoiled in Alexander’s hand. Spithrobates ‘drew his sword and drove at Alexander. Fatally for him, he was not quick enough. Alexander ‘recovered his grip’ upon the spear and thrust it into Spithrobates’ face.

Seven Spithrobates fell to the ground. Just then, Spithrobates’ brother, Rhosaces, rode up behind Alexander and brought his sword down on the king’s head with such force that ‘it split his helmet’. Despite this, Alexander’s only physical wound was ‘a slight scalp wound’. Before Rhosaces could strike him again, Cleitus the Black ‘dashed up on his horse and cut off the Persian’s arm’.

Eight Diodorus now reports that Spithrobates’ companions, the Royal Relatives, threw their javelins at Alexander. Somehow, he managed to survive this deadly shower and the Relatives next, close-up, attack. Not without harm, though, Diodorus says Alexander suffered – ‘two blows on the breastplate, one on the helmet, and three on the shield’ it being the shield he had taken from Athena’s sanctuary. Back then, things were clearly made to last!

Nine Diodorus now lists some of the Persian commanders who died during the battle. They included Atizyes, Pharnaces (Stateira I’s brother), and Mithrobuzanes who commanded the Cappadocian cavalry contingent.

Ten With ‘many of their commanders’ dead and ‘all the Persian squadrons… worsted’ the Royal Relatives fled from Alexander. Seeing them retreat, other cavalry officers followed them. From what Diodorus says it seems that the flight of the Relatives allowed Alexander to claim the credit for being the ‘chief author of the victory’ in the whole battle (Do you remember how – in Book XVI Ch. 86 – we saw Philip II claim the victory at the Battle of Chaeronea after he put the Athenian-Boeotian soldiers to flight, despite the fact that the real damage had already been done by Alexander?). Diodorus also singles out the Thessalian cavalry again for praise.

Eleven Despite the route of the cavalry, the battle was not over yet. It soon would be, though, for the Persian soldiers were no match for the Macedonian phalanx. As Diodorus notes, they were also rattled by the cavalry’s retreat.

Twelve By the time that the Persian infantry was put to flight, the satrapal army had lost ‘more than ten thousand’ men. ‘[N]ot less than two thousand’ cavalry officers were killed, and 20,000 prisoners taken.

Thirteen Following the battle, Alexander ‘gave magnificent obsequies to the dead, for he thought it important by this sort of honour to create in his men greater enthusiasm to face the hazards of battle’.

Fourteen From the Granicus River, Alexander then marched through Lydia, taking over Sardis. Perhaps having heard of the Macedonians’ success at the Granicus River, Lydia’s satrap, Mithrines, gave up the city, its citadels and their treasuries without a fight.

Comments
If you are familiar with the other Alexander historians, specifically Arrian, you might have noticed that Diodorus gives a different time for Alexander’s crossing of the Granicus. He has it happening at daybreak on the day after the Macedonian army’s arrival at the river; Arrian, on the other hand,  places it in the late afternoon on the day of their arrival.

Diodorus doesn’t explain how on earth the Persians allowed the Macedonians not only to make a successful crossing of the river but make their way up the bank and form up, afterwards. Either he is incorrect regarding what happened or the Persians were negligent. The former is more likely the case as Arrian describes the Persians attacking the Macedonians from the get-go, and his source was someone who was there.

Regarding my uncertainty over who was in charge of the cavalry divisions on the Persian right wing, here are Diodorus’ own words, ‘The right wing was held by a thousand Medes and two thousand horse with Rheomithres as well as Bactrians of like number’.

In the last post we saw that there was rough agreement between our sources over the size of the Macedonian army. This is not the case in regards its Persian opposite. Here are the figures quoted by the Footnotes:

  • Justin 600,000
  • Arrian 20,000 foot, 20,000 horse

There is surely an extra zero or two in Justin’s figure.

During the course of his career Alexander sustained numerous injuries but never came as close to death on the battlefield as he did at the Granicus River. As for Black Cleitus – his timely arrival would not only have implications for Alexander’s life but the spread of Hellenism across the world. If we were compiling a top ten of historically influential Macedonian commanders his intervention here would surely be Number One. In my opinion, the only other officer to come close to him is Ptolemy, for his building of the Museum of Alexandria and the role of the Library (e.g. in the translation of the Septuagint and its patronage of great scientists and writers), but if Rhosaces had landed his blow and killed the Alexander, Ptolemy would never have become king of Egypt in the first place.

Diodorus omits to mention how many Macedonian soldiers died in the battle. The Footnotes give us the other historians say.

  • Justin 9 foot, 120 horse
  • Plutarch 9 foot, 25 horse
  • Arrian 20 foot, 60 horse

Well. All I can say is if Macedonian casualties were really that low then the army was in inspired form that day. Staying at the bottom of the page, the Footnores also give the other historians’ figures for Persian casualties.

  • Plutarch 20,000 foot, 2,500 horse
  • Arrian 1,000 horse + ‘most of the Greek phalanx’ minus 200 who were captured

I’m a little surprised by how quickly Diodorus moves on from the battle. In one line, Alexander is performing his ‘magnificent obsequies’ the next he is on the way through Lydia. If Alexander took the Persian camp maybe Diodorus omitted that on the grounds of repetition – Alexander would do the same to greater effect after Issus (which we will come to in Ch. 35)

Classifieds
Wanted – Darius. Dead or Alive.
Wanted – A new army. Contact Babylon ASAP
For Sale –  Persian Hopes. Going Cheap

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Alexander Crosses The Hellespont

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 17, 18 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Crosses The Hellespont: War Inevitable
Macedonian Army: Is It Strong Enough?
Alexander Pays Homage to Achilles
Satrapal Commanders Debate Tactics
Scorched Earth Policy and Invasion of Greece Rejected

The Story
With Chapter 17, Alexander’s war of revenge begins. As Philip II had intended to do, he crossed the Hellespont at the head of a fleet of ‘sixty fighting ships’. Upon reaching the Troad, the Macedonian king threw his spear into the beach and leapt into the surf – the first of the invaders to do so. The spear throw was a ritualistic gesture which signified that Alexander ‘received Asia from the gods as a spear-won prize’.

After wading ashore, Alexander and his army marched to ‘the tombs of the heroes Achilles, Ajax, and the rest’ making offerings ‘and other appropriate marks of respect’ to the Achaians.

According to Diodorus, it was once he had worshipped Achilles et al that Alexander took a count of his armed forces:

      • Macedonian Infantry 12,000
      • Allied Infantry 7,000
      • Mercenaries 5,000 (under Parmenion’s command)
      • Odrysian, Triballian, Illyrian soldiers 7,000
      • Agrianian/other arches 1,000
      • Total 32,000
      • Macedonian cavalry 1,800 (under Philotas’ command)
      • Thessalian cavalry 1,800 (under Calas’ command)
      • Allied Greek cavalry 600 (under Erygius’ command)
      • Thracian/Paeonian Scouts 900 (under Cassander’s command)
      • Total 4,500

Diodorus states that Alexander left 12,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry behind in Macedon.

We are now told that upon leaving the Troad, Alexander marched to Ilium where he stopped at the sanctuary of Athena. A ‘sacrificant’, also named Alexander, noticed a statue of ‘a former satrap of Phrygia’ named Ariobarzanes lying on the ground. There were other ‘favourable omens’ too and so, no doubt with a glad heart, the seer went to his royal namesake and interpreted them thus – Alexander ‘would be victor in a great cavalry battle’ especially if he fought it ‘within the confines of Phrygia’. Alexander the seer added that the king would ‘with his own hands… slay in battle a distinguished general of the enemy’.

By way of clarification, Phrygia was in west-central Asia Minor. Contrary to what Diodorus says, Alexander was still in the Troad when he received the prophecy. Here is a map of Asia Minor on Wikipedia that you may find helpful (Unfortunately, the file type won’t let me save it and post it here).

Alexander the seer gave special credit for the good omens to Athena who, he said, would help Alexander the king achieve his victory. Chapter 18 begins, therefore, with the king making ‘a splendid sacrifice’, and dedicating his armour to, her – taking in return ‘the finest of the panoplies [i.e. a complete suit of armour]’ from her sanctuary.

Diodorus says that Alexander wore this armour ‘in his first battle’ (i.e. at the Granicus River). It would still be with him nine years and many thousands of miles later when Alexander got impatient with his men and stormed the Mallian fortress by himself.

It is at this point that Diodorus takes his leave of Alexander and takes us to the Persian camp. Having failed to stop the Macedonians entering Asia Minor they were discussing how to stop his advance through the Great King’s territory.

Memnon of Rhodes proposed the same scorched earth policy that we saw him put in place after failing in his siege of Cyzicus. As I mentioned in that post, however, the Persian satraps in charge of the effort to stop Alexander refused to countenance destroying their crops.

For his part, Memnon not only proposed laying waste to the land but invading Greece, thus forcing Alexander to return home lest he not only fail in his war of revenge but also be deprived of his throne. This idea was also rejected by the Persians – they regarded Memnon’s twin-pronged approach as being below their dignity, if you please.

The satraps determined ‘to fight it out’ and duly assembled their army. They advanced west, across Hellespontine Phrygia, and pitched camp by the river Granicus, using the bed of the river as a line of defence’.

We’ll see tomorrow how Diodorus covered the first major battle of Alexander’s kingship.

Comments
After throwing his spear into the sand, Alexander’s decision to be the first Macedonian ashore was a tremendous act of faith. He was, after all, following in the footsteps of Protesilaos who was not only the first Archaian to jump ashore after the arrival of the Hellenic force outside Troy but also the first to die. What Diodorus doesn’t tell us is that before leaving Europe, Alexander sacrificed to the gods at Protesilaos’ tomb ‘to ensure’ Arrian says ‘better luck for himself than Protesilaus had’. His prayer was heard and then some.

According to the Footnotes, Diodorus ‘is our only source for the detailed [Macedonian] troop list’ at the start of the expedition. Here (according to the Footnotes) are the figures given by the other Alexander historians:

  • Justin ‘gives simply’ 32,000 foot and 4,500 horse
  • Plutarch: the Macedonians were 30,000 – 40,000 foot and 4,000 – 5,000 horse
  • Arrian – there were “not much more than” 30,000 foot and 5,000 horse

Quoting Plutarch, the Footnotes give Aristobulos as saying there were 30,000 foot and 4,000 horse; Ptolemy: 30,000 foot and 5,000 horse; Anaximenes 43,000 foot and 5,500 horse

Further to Alexander’s nine day party, which we read about in the last post, the Footnotes (again quoting Plutarch) say that – according to Aristobulos – the king arrived in Asia Minor with just 70 talents and – according to Duris – 30 days’ worth of provisions. On the other hand, Onesicritus claims that he was actually 200 talents in debt.

The Footnotes are also helpful in highlighting Diodorus’ inaccuracies.

  • Erygius did not command the allied cavalry until winter 334/3
  • Cassander (if by Cassander is meant the son of Antipater) ‘is a mistake’ – he did not join Alexander until his return to Babylon in 324. The scouts commander ‘at the Granicus and later’ was a man named Ariston
  • Diodorus says there were 4,500 cavalry but his figures add up to 5,100

My first thought after reading these figures is that why did Alexander wait until he had crossed into Asia Minor before assessing the size of his fighting force? Wouldn’t it be wiser to get something like that done before heading into enemy territory? Perhaps there is a literary reason why Diodorus made the change. I can’t see it, though. Maybe it really did just happen like that.

As for the figures themselves – the historians are in rough agreement regarding how many men crossed the Hellespont. It’s a real shame that the beginning of Curtius’ history has been lost so that we can’t see how many many men his chief source, Cleitarchus, said were in the army at this time.

The numbers are all very impressive but I have to admit I am more taken by a couple of the names attached to them, especially Anaximenes and Duris. They are not familiar to me so I shall be sure to look them up later to see if I can learn more about them.

One final point. Looking back, it is easy to condemn the Persian satraps for not listening to Memnon. At the time, however, given that no one knew how good a general Alexander would be, and how much destroying their crops would cost, deciding to fight him must have seemed the only sensible decision. In a way I feel quite sorry for them.

Noted

  • Diodorus makes no mention of Alexander and Hephaestion running round the tombs of Achilles and Patroclus. Is this due to Roman reservations regarding their relationship? For the matter of that, who was Diodorus’ audience? I better stop before the questions start to flood out!
Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Darius Prepares for War

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 7 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

Headlines
Darius Misjudges Alexander
Memnon Fails to Take Cyzicus
Parmenion and Calas Put To Flight

The Story
Before his death, Philip II sent Parmenion and Attalus to Asia Minor to prepare the way for his invasion. Diodorus covers this in the 91st chapter of Book XVI. Darius’ response was to prepare his own army to fight the Macedonians. Philip’s death, however, seemed to make this unnecessary; Darius did not rate Alexander. In fact, Diodorus says that the Great King ‘despised’ Alexander’s youth.

Things changed after Alexander’s rapid advance through Greece won the submission of the city-states and for himself the leadership of the Greeks in the war of revenge against the Persian Empire. Thereafter, Darius built up his navy and gathered his armies together. Very wisely, he also chose ‘his best commanders’ to lead his soldiers. One of the former was Memnon of Rhodes.

Darius ordered Memnon to take the city of Cyzicus in north-western Asia Minor. To get there, Memnon marched his men – five thousand mercenaries – across Mount Ida. The crossing was carried out successfully, and Memnon assaulted Cyzicus. But he failed to take it.

Unable to break Cyzicus’ resistance, Memnon ‘wasted its territory and collected much booty’. As he was doing this, Parmenion – presumably now in sole charge of the advance guard of the Macedonian army following the assassination of Attalus – conquered the (nearby – ?) city of Grynium. The inhabitants were sold into slavery and the Macedonians moved onto Pitane.

Parmenion put Pitane under siege but had not yet broken into the city when Memnon appeared on the horizon. Parmenion did not fancy putting his army to the test against Memnon’s mercenaries and retreated.

Diodorus ends Chapter 7 by telling us that later on a commander named Callas ‘with a mixed force of Macedonians and mercenaries joined battle in the Troad against a much larger force of Persians’. The Persians got the better of Callas on that day and he retreated to Rhoeteium. The Footnotes say that Calas (‘as the name is properly spelled’) was ‘of a family prominent in the Elimiotis’, which is in Upper Macedonia, and commanded the Thessalian cavalry in Alexander’s army until the king made him satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia.

Comments
Credit has to go to Darius for revising his opinion of Alexander once he learnt about the latter’s success in Greece. A lesser man would have been blinded by his arrogance into believing that no matter what the young king did he was still a mere youth and therefore inferior to one’s self.

As for Memnon, his arrival in the narrative brings to mind one of my favourite What Ifs: What if Memnon had lived? What would this have meant for Alexander’s invasion? Actually, I don’t suppose it would have made much of a difference to it at all. Alexander met Memnon at the Battle of the Granicus River and defeated him and all the Persian commanders. If he could do it once I am sure he could have done it again – just as he did twice with Darius.

Diodorus states that Memnon was ‘outstanding in courage and in strategic grasp’. Memnon demonstrated the latter when he advocated pursuing a scorched earth policy to wear Alexander’s army down. The Persian commanders refused to accept it, though; and, no wonder. They obviously thought that burning your house down in order to stop a thief from entering it seemed a rather self-defeating exercise. However, the harm done would have been temporary and it could have meant a weakened Macedonian army being defeated in battle or being forced to retreat home both empty handed and with empty stomachs. So maybe I should say my favourite What If is What if the Persians had burnt their crops? Would that have been enough to defeat Alexander? We’ll never know.

Regular readers of this blog might recognise Mount Ida. Is this the mountain that General Kreipe saw in the distance when he started to recite Horace’s IX Ode? No, it isn’t. That Ida is in Crete. For more about that famous moment during World War II, click here.

After digressing to explain an astronomical phenomena that one can see from the top of Anatolian Ida, Diodorus gives an example of Memnon pursuing his scorched earth policy. I guess on this occasion his aim was to defeat Cyzicus by reducing her people to a state of starvation. The booty, no doubt, was for his hard worked men.

Songs of the Age
Watch the World Burn b side Aggressive Expansion

 

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