The battle of the river granicus

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The battle of the river granicus

  1. 1. The Battle of the River Granicus
  2. 2. After meeting up with Parmenio and his army again at the Hellespont, Alexander began searching for the enemy. He was anxious for a pitched battle against the Persian army • Alexander and his army set off towards the castle of the local Persian governor, or satrap. • They travelled along the coast of the Dardanelles straits, skirting Lampsacus and then moving inland south of Parium.
  3. 3. Though Alexander’s scouts were riding ahead of the main army looking for the Persians, Alexander remained unaware of where the Persian army was.
  4. 4. At the lakeside fortress of Dascylium, the Persian leaders were discussing tactics. • Memnon of Rhodes was a Greek who had served the Persian kings all his life. He advocated a “scorched earth” policy, whereby the Persians would destroy everything useful in Alexander’s path. When this policy was used a year later it was very successful, but despite his Persian wife and his long history of success as a Persian military leader, he was still a Greek advising Persians how to fight Greeks. In addition, the land he was suggesting they burn was highly productive agricultural land, but more than that it was land on which the Persians enjoyed their favourite sport of hunting. He was a foreigner talking about destroying others’ homes and estates, and the Persian satraps overruled him.
  5. 5. Instead, the Persian satraps decided to meet Alexander in an open battle – exactly what Alexander wanted. • The Persian army moved into the plain beside the River Granicus. Alexander’s army was still 30 miles away and still unaware of the Persians. • A day passed before his scouts came back with news that the Persians were waiting on the far banks of the river. After 6 days of searching Alexander was keen to fight.
  6. 6. • His generals were not so confident, however. It was mid-morning and Alexander’s army would not arrive at the river until late afternoon. • Also, it was the month of Daisios in which Macedonian kings would never fight. (This tradition probably dates from the time when every man had to be available to gather the harvest. Now Macedonia had enough slaves and workers to do the job without the army’s help.) • Alexander ordered that the calendar be altered and a new month be put in its place. By early afternoon Alexander’s army had reached the river.
  7. 7. • Later estimates exaggerated the numbers hugely, but there is no doubt that at the Granicus the Persian army was much smaller than Alexander’s, perhaps only 35,000 to the Macedonian 50,000. • It was led by satraps and governors of western Asia, some of them relations of the Persian king. No Persian army unit was present. • The cavalry were drawn from the rebellious mountain tribes of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia. They were heavily armoured and not very maneouvrable, armed with throwing spears. • The Persians had no archers, but Memnon had paid for 20,000 Greek mercenaries.
  8. 8. • The Persians tried to take maximum advantage of the river. • Though the sources disagree in their exact detail, all suggest that the Persians lined their cavalry up along the banks of the river, with the Greek mercenaries behind. • Had the battle begun at this point it would have been disastrous for the Persians. To be effective cavalry needs a charge to build up momentum yet here they would have had no room.
  9. 9. • Luckily for the Persians the battle did not begin at this point. • Alexander’s army had marched for 10 miles already that day and needed time to spread out into battle order. It would be late afternoon before Alexander’s army would be ready for battle. Alexander rode along the river bank observing the Persian army. • It was obvious that the river would cause difficulties.
  10. 10. The River Granicus • The river ran between the 2 armies and complicated the matter. The river ran fast and shallow (at that time of the year around 1 metre deep) between steep banks (perhaps 3-4 metres high) of muddy clay overgrown with vegetation, although in places banks of sand and gravel made the climb easier.
  11. 11. It is at this stage that the controversy begins. Two different accounts of the battle emerge.
  12. 12. Arrian and Plutarch’s Version • According to one of Alexander’s officers, writing after Alexander’s death, Parmenion came forward to Alexander and advised him to camp for the night, and cross before dawn when the Persian army would not be ready for them. He said that it would not be possible for the entire army to cross the river in daylight when the Persians were ready for them on the other side. • Alexander rejected the advice, saying that he would not allow the small Granicus to deter him, when the Hellespont had been so easy to cross. Besides, it would convince the Persians that they were a worthy enemy if he waited. Parmenion was sent to command the left wing of the army. Alexander moved down to the right, and then led his companions across the river, clearing a path for the foot companions and leading them to victory.
  13. 13. Alexander gathers his forces on the opposite side of the river to the Persian cavalry.
  14. 14. Ignoring Parmenion’s advice, Alexander begins a cavalry attack across the river. At first the Companions struggle, but they are able to use their momentum (which the Persian cavalry does not have) to break a gap in the Persian lines.
  15. 15. As the Companions push through the Persian ranks and the Persians begin to retreat, other Macedonian units are able to get across the river and the Battle of the River Granicus is won.
  16. 16. Diodorus’ Version • Diodorus wrote that his army did indeed camp on the river bank that night. There was no conversation with Parmenion and at dawn Alexander crossed the river unopposed, probably because the Persians had dropped back and camped on a hill a mile or so back from the river (it was not Persian practice to march before dawn). Having gained this advantage, Alexander fanned out his army and defended against a reckless charge by the Persian cavalry who, shocked at Alexander’s appearance on their side of the river, charged ahead of the infantry.
  17. 17. The Persian cavalry begins a reckless attack on Alexander’s army. This is defeated, and the Companion cavalry is able to attack the Persian lines, split them and then press through to attack the Greek mercenaries in the rear.
  18. 18. Which version is correct? Robin Lane Fox says: • Arrian’s account is probably fictitious. Parmenion appears often in some accounts as Alexander’s adviser, and often his caution is contrasted with Alexander’s boldness. • Parmenion was killed four years later by Alexander for his son’s part in a plot against Alexander, and if Callisthenes began the convention of criticising Parmenion – Ptolemy and Aristobulus continued it – Alexander must have approved of the blackening of his memory
  19. 19. OR • Peter Green’s hypothesis
  20. 20. The Legacy of the Battle • Memnon and several of the satraps escaped, but Alexander buried the dead Persian leaders (a gesture which would have distressed the recipients, as Persians did not bury their dead for religious reasons). • Alexander visited the Macedonian wounded, discussing their wounds with them and allowing them to boast of their exploits. • The 25 companion cavalry who had died in the battle were buried with honour, their families were exempted from taxes and duties of service, and bronze statues of them were put up in the M town of Dion.
  21. 21. • As the Persian cavalry had fled, Alexander’s army surged forward into the Persian camp. They surrounded the Greek mercenaries, who put up a fight and wounded Alexander’s horse. It was a massacre and only 2,000 survivors were taken prisoner. • Alexander could not afford to hire them himself, and he wanted to make an example of Greeks who fought against him. Those who survived were taken to Macedonia as slaves for hard labour to deter recruits from joining Persia in future.
  22. 22. • Alexander sent the surplus spoils back to Macedonia and to Olympias. 300 suits of Persian armour were sent to Athens for dedication to the city’s goddess Athena, with the dedication: “Alexander son of Philip and the Greeks, except the Spartans, from the barbarians who live in Asia”.
  23. 23. Callisthenes later calculated that the Battles of Troy and the River Granicus had fallen in the same month, exactly 1000 years apart. Alexander, the second Achilles, and his victory, Callisthenes implied, had brought about a new age.

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