On the 20th
September 331 BC,
Alexander’s scouts reported seeing
Darius’ army on the march.
• This information turned out to be wrong,
as Alexander discovered when he
questioned captured Persians.
Alexander’s army stopped, pitched
camp, and waited for orders.
• This camp was 7 miles away from Darius’
army, and Alexander waited there for 4
Shortly before midnight on the
ordered his army to move.
• As he came within sight of Darius’ army
Alexander called a halt and gathered his
generals together for an emergency
council of war. Something in his battle
plans seems to have been troubling him.
Most of Alexander’s generals urged
him to attack immediately, but
Parmenio suggested Alexander
wait for morning.
• For once, Alexander took Parmenio’s
advice. Perhaps he had seen that Darius’
army was lined up ready for battle (the
Persians knew he was coming), or
perhaps he was overwhelmed by the
numbers of Persian soldiers.
If Darius knew Alexander was
coming, Alexander would keep
• At least the timing of the battle could be on
On the 30th
surveyed the battlefield.
• He noticed that the Persians had laid
snares and stakes on the ground to hold
up his cavalry, while elsewhere they had
levelled the ground for their chariots.
• Alexander also saw the 200 scythed
chariots made ready for the battle.
Alexander’s army waited, and on
the night of the 30th
made a human sacrifice to the god
• His generals told him to attack in the dark.
• Alexander is said to have replied:
Alexander stayed up late that night.
• The next morning he slept in – late.
• His generals got so worried that Parmenio
gave the order for the army to prepare for
battle, and then went to wake Alexander.
“How can you sleep as if you had the battle
already won?” they asked him.
“What? Do you not think that this battle is
already won, now that we have been
spared from pursuing a Darius who burns
his land and fights by retreating?”
Alexander’s army numbered 47,000
Darius’ army is reported to have
been around 250,000 men.
• The big danger for Alexander was the
prospect of being encircled – Darius had
30,000 cavalry against Alexander’s 7,000.
Darius had revised his tactics since
Issus, and his men now had
different weapons more suited to
• His cavalry had been strengthened, and
Darius’ only obvious weakness was his
infantry, but Darius did not expect the
battle to be won on foot.
• Points to note:
• Darius’ position and the measures taken to defend him
• Alexander’s positioning of his light infantry
• The details of the terrain and Alexander’s responses to it
Alexander rode out in front of his
• Alexander called upon his men, in the
name of Zeus, to fight hard to strengthen
• He saw an eagle circling the battlefield
and heading towards the Persians. How
could his men fail to see the omen which
this sight presented?
When Alexander’s men came
within a mile of the Persians
they began advancing obliquely.
• The Macedonian left, commanded by
Parmenio, was at risk from encirclement,
but Alexander’s Companions were riding
away from the area of worst danger
Darius sent his cavalry left to track
Alexander’s movements, and they
stopped him before he could move
too far to the right
In the centre, the scythed chariots
began their attack
• First, Alexander’s archers and javelin throwers
moved forward. Their aim was good, but some
• Then, as they galloped past, some Macedonians
slashed at the horses with blades longer than
the scythes on the chariots.
• Those charioteers which reached the phalanx
were amazed as gaps opened up in the phalanx
and then closed again as the chariots charged
through. The chariots careered into the
baggage, but did little damage there, and when
they finally slowed, the drivers were killed by the
A gap had opened up in the
Persian lines, between the cavalry
on the left as it tried to outflank the
Macedonians, and the cavalry and
elephants in the centre.
• Alexander took the opportunity.
Alexander led the wedge-shaped
Companion cavalry charge through
the gap and straight for Darius’s
• Again he threw his spear at the Great
King, and again he missed!
• Alexander had got too close for comfort
and Darius escaped.
At first, Alexander’s only concern
was to finish the defeat
• He ignored Darius’ escape and turned to
surround and slaughter the Persians in the
• Once victory was certain Alexander set off
in pursuit of Darius.
Alexander did not catch up with
• Some versions say that Parmenio was
being battered so severely on the left that
Alexander received a message and went
to relieve him
• More probably, however, Darius simply
had too much of a head-start and
Alexander could not see through the dust
Alexander had again beaten Darius
• People now began to call him the King of
Asia, though he could not legitimately
claim this title.
• Darius had again escaped and Alexander
had to capture him