Posts Tagged With: Timoclea of Thebes

Chaeronea: Philip Confirms His Domination Over Greece

The Battle of Chaeronea

Source Diodorus Siculus XVI.86
Date 2nd August 338 BC
In his book The Generalship of Alexander the Great (Da Capo Press, 1960), J.F.C. Fuller also suggests 1st September as a possible date of the battle; the Notes to the Loeb (1963) translation of Dio. XVI.86 also suggest 4th August
Combatants: Macedonian Army under Philip II vs A Greek Alliance comprising principally of Athenian and Theban soldiers
Location West of Thebes on the map below

Source: Wikipedia

The Battle

  • The two armies ‘deployed at dawn’
  • Philip II stationed Alexander, then 18 years old, ‘on one wing’. In the Loeb translation, Diodorus does not specify which wing it was but scholars believe it to have been the left (NB In his translation of Diodorus XVI, Robin Waterfield also does not specify which wing Alexander was on)
  • Philip put ‘his most seasoned generals’ with Alexander. The prince had already seen combat (e.g. against the Maedians in 340) but obviously still had much to learn
  • Philip directed the battle from ‘the other’ wing – presumably the right (see Notes below)
  • Diodorus says that ‘the Athenians assigned one wing to the Boetians (i.e. Thebans) and kept command of the other themselves. So, according to Diodorus, the Athenians were in charge of the alliance.
  • Once the battle started, it was ‘hotly contested for a long time’. There were many casualties on both sides
  • Finally, however, Alexander managed to break through the front line of the enemy right wing
  • Diodorus adds that Alexander was fired by a desire to show ‘his father his prowess’ and utter determination to win
  • Once Alexander broke through the enemy front line, the enemy soldiers fled for their lives
  • After Alexander had broken through the enemy front line, Philip advanced. Whether it was on foot or on horseback, Diodorus appears to suggest that Philip led his men from the front
  • Philip forced the enemy back. Overwhelmed, they began to flee

Notes

  • The Notes in Loeb say that ‘It seems certain that Philip, on the Macedonian right, did not engage the Athenians until the Thebans on the allied right, had been shattered by Alexander’
  • As you can see above, the Notes clarifies that the Thebans were Alexander’s opponents and the Athenians, Philip’s
  • The Notes assume Philip was on the Macedonian right because that is where Alexander usually fought during the battles of his war against the Persian empire (the right wing being the ‘traditional position of the Macedonian king’)
  • Among the Allied soldiers who fell in battle was a Theban general named Theagenes. In 335, his sister Timoclea was raped by the leader of some Thracian soldiers during the Macedonian attack on Thebes. After the assault, the leader demanded to know where her valuables were. Timoclea told him she had thrown them into a well. He went to look. As he did so, she pushed him in and then stoned him to death. The leader’s men brought her to Alexander. Although tied up, Timoclea approached and spoke to Alexander proudly and with dignity. Impressed by her, he gave orders for Timoclea and her children to be set free. This incident is recorded by Plutarch in his Life of Alexander 12
Categories: Diodorus Siculus, On Alexander, Plutarch | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.19.1-11

In This Chapter
The Siege of Miletus

The Milesians’ Offer
When the Milesians saw the Persian fleet back off they knew they were between a rock and a hard place. Their response was to send one of their leading men to Alexander with an offer: ‘equal access to their walls and harbours’ (Arrian I.19.1) along with the Persians. Alexander refused to accept it, and told the Milesians to prepare for a siege.

Alexander’s refusal to share the city gives an insight into the uncompromising side of his nature. Yes, he could be pragmatic, but not in all things, small or large. Diodorus records that Alexander refused to share the Persian empire with Darius III telling the Great King’s envoys that ‘… the earth could not preserve its plan and order if there were two suns’ (Dio.XVII.54).

The Siege of Miletus
The next day, Alexander oversaw the undermining of the Milesian walls. He was watched, no doubt, by the Miletians but also by the Persian naval force, which had anchored off Mycale, as well as Nicanor, who was anchored at the island of Lade.

Seeing the siege begin, Nicanor ordered the anchors to be lifted. He led the fleet into Miletus’ harbour so that the Persians would not be able to sail past him to help the city.

Nicanor’s arrival lead some Milesians and mercenaries from the city’s garrison to give up hope of resisting Alexander; they jumped into the harbour and swam towards an islet just outside it. Others attempted a break out in boats; many of them were caught and killed.

The siege didn’t last long. In fact, it looks like from Arrian that it was over in a day, perhaps just a few hours. When it ended, Alexander had won.

The Islet
Once he had taken the city, Alexander turned his attention to those on the islet. Arrian tells us that,

When [Alexander] saw that the men on the island were prepared to fight to the death, he was moved to pity for these evidently courageous and loyal soldiers…

(Arr. I.19.6)

and offered them their lives in return for serving in his army (The Milesians present were simply sent back home).

Alexander’s clemency towards his defeated noble enemy is an established part of his character in the sources (see how he treats Timoclea, Cleophis and Porus*) but I suspect that more than just pity informed his actions at Miletus. For one, the mercenaries on the islet were protected by its cliffs. Alexander had ladders to scale them but he would have known that before ever his soldiers made it to the top, many would be killed by the mercenaries. Secondly, just days or weeks after the event, he also surely knew that he had gone too far in slaughtering the Greek mercenaries at the Granicus. Doing so caused an even deeper breach between himself and Greece – not conducive to maintaining control of the city-states – and he needed mercenaries in his army.

The Persian Naval Force
Despite being unable to stop Alexander take Miletus, the Persian naval force did not fully retreat. Instead, it sallied forth hoping to provoke a battle with the Macedonian fleet. In response, Alexander sent a detachment to Mycale, where the Persians were based, to stop them from disembarking their ships and collecting fresh water from the Maeander river.

With their ability to replenish their water supplies removed, the Persians were forced to sail further away to Samos. Once they had done this, however, they returned. When they did so, they conducted a daring operation. Five ships sailed into the Milesian harbour,

… hoping to catch Alexander’s ships unmanned, as they had discovered that most of the crews were away from their ships, out and about on details to collect firewood, provisions, or fodder.

Arrian I.19.9

Some sailers had indeed left their ships, but others remained. Seeing the Persian ships approach, Alexander sent his men after them. Four made it back to the fleet; one vessel, however, proved to be too slow and was captured. Following this defeat, the Persian naval force retired for good.

* See:
Timoclea – Plutarch Life of Alexander 12
Cleophis – Curtius VIII.10.35
Porus – Arrian V.19.1-3

Text Used
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)
Bradford Welles C. (tr) Diodorus of Sicily The Library of History Bk XVII (Harvard University Press 1963)

See previous posts in this series here

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