Posts Tagged With: Syrian Gates

31. The Syrian Gates

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘… at nightfall [Alexander] took his whole army and marched to secure the [Syrian] Gates once more. By about midnight he had re-established control of the pass, and for what remained of the night he rested his army on the rocky outcrop above it, with guard-posts at the critical points.’
(Arrian II.8.1-2)

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

The Syrian Gates

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The Syrian Gates: Flikr

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Alexander and Darius Draw Close to One Another

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 32 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander of Lyncestis Arrested
Darius Strips Down Army to Fighting Corps
Royal Family to Arrive In Damascus Presently
Alexander Occupies Issus

The Story
Around the time that Alexander fell ill, or just after, he received a letter from his mother ‘warning him to be on his guard against the Lyncestian Alexander’.

Diodorus does not give the reason for Olympias’ warning, though he probably doesn’t need to. As the Footnotes say, Alexander of Lyncestis belonged to the ruling family of his region. This made him ‘a possible rival for the throne of Macedonia’.

I am rather surprised, though, that news of Lyncestian Alexander’s threat travelled out of Alexander’s camp and all the way to Olympias’ ear in Macedon rather than out of Lyncestian Alexander’s tent and straight into King Alexander’s close by.

As Alexander of Lyncestis sat down to contemplate a very uncertain future, King Alexander learnt ‘that Dareius was only a few days march away’. He gave Parmenion orders to seize the Syrian Gates, which the general did.

Meanwhile, Darius had decided to ‘make his army mobile’. Given that it was on the march from Babylon, I thought it already was. I think Diodorus means ‘faster’ as he says that the Great King ‘diverted his baggage train and the non-combatants to Damascus in Syria’. Among those to leave were the Royal Family. They would not see their lord again.

Not long later, Darius discovered that Alexander now held the Syrian Gates and set off to confront him.

As he marched, Darius was met by villagers of the country through which he travelled. Previously loyal to Alexander, the villagers were impressed by the ‘great size’ of the Persian army versus ‘the small numbers of the Macedonians’. They bought with them gifts of ‘food and other materials’.

The chapter concludes with a reference to Alexander taking the city of Issus ‘which was terrified into submission’.

Could Alexander of Lyncestis really have been plotting against King Alexander? Diodorus says that there ‘were many other plausible circumstances joining to support the charge’ so he and his sources certainly believed so.

If he was, he certainly deserved to get caught for being so reckless in how he conducted his conspiracy. By way of a contrast, if Antipater really did assassinate Alexander, he didn’t communicate his wishes to Iollas who was already with the king but sent Cassander with the poison. I know it is a big if, though, and I admit it is not one I believe happened.

On the other hand, Olympias is the woman who unnecessarily killed Cleopatra Euridike and her infant daughter no doubt to make her son’s accession absolutely and utterly secure. I am quite sure she would have been quite happy to condemn Alexander of Lyncestis at the drop of a Phrygian cap.

Incidentally, Arrian reports the affair a little differently. He says that Alexander of Lyncestis went over to Darius’ side. The Great King then offered him 1,000 gold talents and the Macedonian throne if he would assassinate King Alexander. The plot was exposed, however, when Darius’ go-between, a man named Sisines, was captured by Parmenion. I have not found any reference to the matter in Plutarch. Curtius may have discussed it in his missing books.

Diodorus informs us that the reason Darius set off for the Syrian Gates is because he thought that Alexander ‘would never dare to fight in the plain’. According to Plutarch, ‘a Macedonian exile named Amyntas, who was acquainted with Alexander’s character’ tried to persuade Darius that he ‘”… need have no fear”‘ that Alexander would fight in the plain. Unfortunately for Darius, he never took this man’s advice. Arrian tells the same story slightly differently. According to him, Amyntas ‘urged’ Darius not to move from an Assyrian plain, which would suit his large army. Whenever Alexander failed to appear, he did, eventually fighting the Macedonian king on land that offered him no ‘little advantage’.

I was surprised when I read that Parmenion took the city of Issus. I have always been used to thinking of it as a river. I will need to double check now to make sure I have not got it wrong all this time.

New Comic-Book Series Out Now
BAM! See Demosthenes choke on his values and accept Persian gold
WHACK! Gasp as Memnon conquers the Aegean before a heart attack conks him
THUD! Marvel at how fast Alexander of Lyncestis’ goes from being a HERO to ZERO

Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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