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
• They travelled along the coast of the
Dardanelles straits, skirting Lampsacus
and then moving inland south of Parium.
were riding ahead
of the main army
looking for the
of where the
Persian army was.
At the lakeside fortress of Dascylium,
the Persian leaders were discussing
• 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.
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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.
• 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.
• 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
• It was obvious that the river would cause
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.
It is at this stage that
the controversy begins.
Two different accounts of the battle emerge.
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.
Alexander gathers his forces on the opposite side of the river to
the Persian cavalry.
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.
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
• 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.
army. This is
cavalry is able
to attack the
split them and
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
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.
• 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
• 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.
• 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”.
Callisthenes later calculated that the
Battles of Troy and the River Granicus had
fallen in the same month, exactly 1000
Alexander, the second Achilles, and his
victory, Callisthenes implied, had brought
about a new age.