Posts Tagged With: Sardis

Arrian I.17.1-12

In This Chapter
Alexander takes Sardis and Ephesus

In the days following his victory at the Battle of the Granicus River, Alexander turned to the now changed political situation in the region. With the death of Arsites, the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia was now vacant. He appointed an officer named Calas to the role.

Alexander’s Political Methodology
A consistent feature of Alexander’s kingship is how he dealt with conquered territories on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, as in the case of Phrygia, he appointed a Macedonian governor. On other occasions, he appointed a Persian to the role, or else let the previous governor remain in office. As we shall see with King Porus, Alexander was also content to allow kings to remain in situ – as long as, of course, they were loyal.

In light of this, we can say that Alexander did not have a philosophy of power. He was, in one sense at least, a pragmatist. Could this be the reason why he refused to change Phrygia’s tax level? After Calas was appointed satrap, Alexander confirmed that the province would be required to keep paying the same taxes as it had under Darius III.

Zeleia and Dascylium
With Phrygia taken care of, Alexander turned to Zeleia and Dascylium.

Zeleians had fought in the satrapal army. After its defeat, the city’s inhabitants fled into the mountains to escape Macedonian reprisals. Now, however, they came back down to surrender themselves. For his part, Alexander told them to go home and absolved them from blame for fighting against him – ‘he recognized that they had been forced to fight on the barbarian side’ (Arr. I.17.2). The way Arrian writes it, it looks like the Zeleians decided to surrender themselves and were then absolved. I suspect, however, that Alexander sent messengers to tell them that they were in no danger. It doesn’t make sense that they would flee and then return without any guarantee of avoiding the fate that they had tried to run away from.

Alexander’s last action before moving on from the Granicus region was to send Parmenion to Dascylium. Its Persian garrison had left the city so taking it was a formality.

Alexander marched on Sardis from the Granicus River. When he was still eight miles from it, Mithrenes, ‘commander of the citadel garrison’ (Arr. I.17.3) and the city’s civilian leaders came out to meet him. ‘Mithrenes surrendered the citadel and treasury’ (Arr. I.17.4), and the civilian leaders surrendered the city.

Alexander marched to within two miles of Sardis before sending Amyntas son of Andromenes into it to take control of the citadel. As a reward for surrendering, Alexander ‘kept Mithrenes with him in a position of honour’. He also let the Sardians – and Lydians at large – keep their traditional institutions and independence.

It is interesting to compare Alexander’s response to Sardis and Phrygia. You might have thought that being a glory seeker, he would value those who made a noble stand against him rather than those who simply gave way. Sometimes – as in the case of Porus – he did but as we see here, not always.

Why might this have been so? To paraphrase the writer, there’s a time for fighting, and a time for making peace. Alexander was a glory seeker but he was not a war monger. If he could get his way through peaceful means then he would do it. So, why was it a time for making peace rather than war? At a guess, I would say that Alexander did not want to fight again so soon after the Granicus battle; his men needed time to recover.

Once Amyntas had taken the city, Alexander entered it. He went to the citadel and was impressed by its strength. The idea of building a temple there occurred to him but while he was searching for a suitable building site, a thunder storm struck. Arrian says that the downpour took place ‘exactly where the Lydian royal palace stood’ (Arr. I.17.6). Alexander saw the will of the gods in this and acquiesced: he gave orders for the temple to be built on the site of the palace.

A Tripartite Government
Macedonian rule over Sardis was split between Pausanias (citadel) and Nicias (assessment & collection of tribute). Asander son of Philotas was given the satrapy of Lydia.

Sardis represents the first occasion in Arrian that we see Alexander splitting authority in one place between more than one person. The most famous example of this happening is in Egypt. The likely reason he did so there is because Egypt was too big and too powerful (in terms of wealth and defence capabilities) to be given to one person. Perhaps Sardis was the same: as we saw above, Alexander recognised the strength of the citadel.

Further Orders
Arrian notes that Alexander sent Calas, the new satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, and Alexander son of Aëropus to ‘Memnon’s territory’ (Arr. I.17.8) with a number of troops. Alexander son of Aëropus was a man lucky to be alive: ‘[h]is brothers, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus, were both executed for their alleged complicity in the ‘plot’ to assassinate Philip II’ (Heckel, p.19). Following Philip’s death, the son of Aëropus (who we also call Alexander Lyncestis) was the first to declare Alexander III ‘king’. This probably saved his life. Unfortunately, he subsequently either turned against Alexander or was set up. Either way, he was arrested, and after being held under arrest for some time, executed in the aftermath of the Philotas affair.

Upon hearing the result of the Battle of the Granicus River, the Persian garrison in Ephesus – which was comprised of mercenary troops – fled. With them went Amyntas son of Antiochus. He was a man used to being on the run, having fled Macedon in order to get away from Alexander. Why? Arrian tells us that Alexander hadn’t hurt him but that Amyntas simply disliked or hated the king and ‘thought it would be an indignity to meet with any unpleasant reprisal from him’ (Arr. I.17.9).

Alexander hurried towards Ephesus, reaching it after three days. The city immediately fell into his hands. Alexander allowed those Ephesians who had been forced into exile for supporting him to return. He abolished the city’s oligarchy, instituted a democracy, and ordered that taxes should now be paid to the temple of Artemis.

The oligarchs had ruled Ephesus badly. Arrian records that as well as inviting the Persian army into the city, they had,

… plundered the sanctuary of Artemis… pulled down the statue of Philip [of Macedon] in the sanctuary and dug up the grave of Heropythus, the liberator of the city…

Arrian I.17.11

Retribution against the oligarchs was swift and bloody. It got so bad that Alexander had to step in to prevent further bloodshed – especially against the innocent. Arrian concludes this chapter by saying,

No other action won Alexander as much credit as his handling of Ephesus at this time.

Arrian 1.17.12)

Read previous posts in this series here

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15. Sardis and Phaselis

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Sardis (Parmenion)
  • Phaselis (Alexander)

‘[Alexander] came in person to Phaselis and helped the inhabitants to destroy a strong fort which had been built by Pisidians to threaten the district, and was used as a base from which the barbarians caused much damage to the Phaselite farmers’.
(Arrian I.24.6)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

After settling affairs in Caria, Alexander ordered Parmenion to go to Sardis and hence to Phrygia. Sardis had already surrendered (see Arr. I.17.3) so it looks like Parmenion was meant only to use it as a staging post.

As for Alexander, he himself marched for Phaselis. Before arriving there, he assaulted and took ‘the fortress of Hyparna (Arr. I.24.4). He then entered the region of Lycia, where he ‘won over the people of Telmissus by agreement’ (Ibid) and received the submission of the following: Pinara, Xanthus, and Patara, as well as ‘about thirty smaller towns’ (Ibid).

The main road at Phaselis

Credit Where It’s Due
Phaselis: Wikipedia

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10. Dascylium and Sardis

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Dascylium (Parmenion)
  • Sardis (Alexander)

‘[Alexander] sent Parmenion to take Dascylium… He himself marched on towards Sardis. When he was about eight miles away from the city he was met by Mithrenes, the commander of the citadel garrison, and the leading men of Sardis: they surrendered the city to him… Alexander himself camped by the river Hermus…’
(Arrian I.17.2-4)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Map showing the location of Dascylium and Sardis

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of Asia Minor: Wikipedia

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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 ?


  • Various ‘national contingents’


  • 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.

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)

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

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