Posts Tagged With: Socrates son of Sathon

Arrian I.15.1-8

In This Chapter
How The Battle of the Granicus River Unfolded

On the far right of the Macedonian line…
Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus and Socrates son of Sathon led their men across the river.

As they approached the far bank, the Persians attacked them from the bank side with a volley of javelins.

That wasn’t all. Persian cavalrymen had also come down to the water’s edge to create an extra line of defence and attack. As the Macedonians tried to get out of the river, therefore, they did their best to push them back into it.

As well as being in a disadvantageous position, Amyntas and Socrates and their men were outnumbered; in consequence, they suffered many injuries at the Persians’ hands.

Alexander joins the battle
It’s worth asking why Alexander sent Amyntas and Socrates ahead first. I wonder if he wanted to use the far right attack to draw as many Persian cavalry as possible into the river to make fighting them a little bit easier. If so, it kind of worked, albeit at a high cost.

Whatever his reasoning, Alexander did not wait long to join the fight. He charged forward at the head of the Macedonian cavalry right wing and crashed into the Persian horse.

Arrian isn’t clear as to when Alexander managed to complete his crossing of the river. From what he says, though, it looks like he engaged the Persians after reaching the bank side rather than while in the water. Arrian writes,

The fighting was from horseback, but in some respects it was more like an infantry battle, a tangled mass of horse against horse and man against man, as each side struggled to achieve its aim – the Macedonians to drive the Persians once and for all away from the bank and force them onto open ground, and the Persians to block their exit and push them back into the river… [my emphasis]

Arrian I.15.4

Given how Amyntas and Socrates had received a mauling, Alexander must have first engaged, and wiped out or pushed back, the Persians on the water’s edge. This is because by the time he engaged the Persian cavalry on the bank side, the Macedonian infantry were able to cross the river without meeting any resistance.

Alexander’s Advantage
Arrian states that once Alexander engaged the Persians on terra firma, the Macedonians had the advantage. He gives two reasons for this: 1. The Macedonians’ superior ‘strength and experience’ and 2. their superior weapons – their lances were made of cornel-wood; tougher than whatever wood the Persian light javelin was made of.

A Close Shave
Alexander and his men had fought hard to take the advantage back from the Persian army but almost lost it when the satrap of Lydia, Rhoesaces, brought his scimitar down on Alexander’s head. The sword ‘sheared’ his helmet but also turned the blow away. Alexander must have been shocked by the force of it but still managed to throw Rhoesaces off his horse and kill him. As he was doing so, however, Rhoesaces’ brother, Spithridates, came up to the Macedonian king and prepared to deliver a killing blow. But just as he raised his scimitar, a Macedonian officer named Black Cleitus swung his sword and cut Spithridates’ arm off at the shoulder.

As all this was going on, the Macedonian phalanx continued to scramble out of the water to join the fight.

Thoughts
In this chapter we don’t hear anything about the Persian centre and right wing, although both were present. NB The centre did not comprise of the Greek mercenaries mentioned yesterday. As we shall tomorrow, they were further back.

Arrian says that, during the fight on the far bank, Alexander saw a Persian officer named Mithridates ride ahead ‘of the others’. Who were the others? I presume that the non-mercenary infantry were right behind the cavalry at the bank side. If so, these others must have been the Greek mercenaries? Or is Arrian just talking about other cavalry?

It is, perhaps, not a surprise that Arrian represents the turning of the tide at precisely when Alexander joins the fray.

Texts Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)
Romm, James (ed.) The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander (New York, Pantheon, 2010)

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Arrian I.14.1.17

In This Chapter
The two armies come face-to-face

Once Alexander had finished speaking to Parmenion, he sent his deputy to take up his command of the Macedonian left wing. He himself rode to take command of the right.

Arrian now gives a brief outline of who stood where in the Macedonian battle line.

From right to centre:

  • Philotas son of Parmenion
    with Philotas, the Companion Cavalry, archers, & Agrianians (javelineers)
  • Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus
    with Amyntas, the lancer cavalry, Paeonians, & Socrates son of Sathon and Apollonian Companions
  • Nicanor son of Parmenion
    with Nicanor, the Companion Foot Guards
  • Perdiccas son of Orontes
    with Perdiccas, the brigade under his control
  • Coenus son of Polemocrates
  • Amyntas son of Andromenes
  • Philip son of Amyntas

From left to centre:

  • Calas son of Harpalus
    under Calas, the Thessalian Cavalry
  • Philip son of Menelaus
    under Philip, the Allied Cavalry
  • Agathon [son of Tyrimmas]
    under Agathon, Thracians
  • Craterus [son of Alexander]
    under Craterus, his infantry brigade
  • Meleager
    under Meleager, his infantry brigade
  • Philip
    under Philip, his infantry brigade

Arrian records that the Persian army had 20,000 cavalry and just under that number in infantry (Alexander crossed the Hellespont with 30,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry (Arr.I.11.3)). Remember that yesterday Parmenion told Alexander if the Macedonians camp by the river, the Persians would move back due to having fewer infantrymen? I wonder: why would they feel the need to do so since they had such a dominant cavalry advantage?

Whatever the reason, it could not have been because the satraps had no confidence in their army. The Persian cavalry and Greek mercenaries were the best in the world.

The Persians lined up along the far bank, cavalry in front of infantry. This meant that it would not be able to charge at the Macedonians. A strategic error borne of a desire for Persian soldiers to fight and win the battle before the Greek mercenaries got involved? Arrian notes that the Persian cavalry concentrated in particularly on the Persian left wing; this put it opposite Alexander. They not only wanted Persians to win the battle but to do so by killing the Macedonian king.

Arrian states that the two armies faced each other in silence for some time before Alexander lead his cavalry on the right wing forward. Alexander ordered Socrates of Sathon’s squadron (which we now find was actually being led by Ptolemy son of Philip) on the far right of the Macedonian line to go ahead of him, and instructed Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus to follow Ptolemy, taking ‘the advance horse guards, the Paeonians, and one brigade of the infantry’ with him. Alexander led the rest of the right wing into the water behind them. To stop the army from crossing in a weak column, Alexander crossed it at an oblique angle ‘in the direction of the pull of the current’, making a friend of the river rather than enemy.

Thoughts
You can certainly see from the Macedonian battle line how important Parmenion was in Alexander’s court – he and his sons held key positions in the army, with Philotas being on the far right with Alexander himself.

The battle line brings a few previously mentioned Macedonians back into the limelight.

Philotas is first mentioned in connection with the Battle of the Lyginus River against the Triballians during the Thracian Campaign (Arr.I.2.5).

Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus was Alexander’s ‘M’: one of his senior scouts. Socrates son of Sathon was one of his officers (Arr.I.12.7).

Perdiccas, of course, lead the unauthorised attack on Thebes (Arr.1.8.1-2) where he was backed up by Amyntas son of Andromenes (Arr.I.8.2).

According to Waldemar Heckel, Philip son of Amyntas may actually be the son of Balacrus. If so, we met him during the Thracian campaign when Alexander crossed the Danube and ordered him to take the spoils back south (Arr.I.4.5). You may remember that Philip was not given sole responsibility for that job: Meleager, who we now see on the left wing, was ordered to go with him.

Mentioned here for the first time are Nicanor*, Coenus, Calas, Philip son of Menelaus, Agathon son of Tyrimmas, Craterus and a third Philip. Of these men, Craterus will become a central figure in Alexander’s army, taking over the command of the left wing after Parmenion’s demise and becoming one of the leading figures in the Macedonian traditionalist movement.

*A Nicanor is mentioned in connection with the attack on the city of the Getae (Arr.I.4.2) but we cannot say for sure if this is Parmenion’s son

By the way, you’ll notice that from right to centre, I have referred to the captain and the regiments that were ‘with’ him, whereas from left to centre, the reference is to the captain and the regiments that were ‘under’ him. I have no doubt that Philotas et al were commanding their various units but as my translation of Arrian uses the with/under formulation I have used those terms as well.

As the Macedonian army crosses the Granicus river at an oblique angle, we can add an ability to use the terrain to his best advantage to Alexander’s strengths. Here, this simply means that he nullified the threat that it posed to his army. The Granicus could have been a third army in the battle; now, it played a more neutral role.

I am writing this blog post on Remembrance Sunday. In light of that, reading about how the two armies faced each other in silence cannot but have an extra impact. Both sides were silent because they were waiting (‘in dread of what was to come’). By being the first to have his men sound the trumpets and raise their battle-cry, Alexander surely stole a psychological march on the Persians.

***

The next post in this series will be published on Friday 15th November. Over the next few days, I am going keep reading Arrian a chapter at a time and writing a blog post for each one but I would like to pause publishing them so as to give myself extra time to consider what happens in each chapter. Up till now, I have greatly enjoyed reading-writing-publishing in one go but this does restrict my ‘thinking time’ greatly. Hopefully, this pause will allow me to gain extra insights into Arrian’s narrative and improve the quality of the blog posts.

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