Alexander the Nice Half 1

published on July 2, 2020

In 334 BC, Alexander, King of Macedonia, began
one of the greatest military campaigns in

history – against the superpower of the
age – the Persian Empire

Just 20 years-old, his brilliant and fearless
leadership won him battle after battle

And in an astonishing 10 year campaign that
took him to the edge of the known world, he

carved out one of the largest empires ever

Few men have had such a massive impact on
the course of history

To the Persians, he was Alexander the Accursed,
but to the west, he was immortalised as

Alexander the Great

Ancient Greece

From around 500 BC, this rugged land was the
scene of remarkable developments in art, philosophy,

and warfare

Its two greatest city-states were Athens,
a naval power, where democracy, art, drama

and philosophy flourished; and Sparta, an
austere, militaristic society, famed for its

formidable army

In 480 BC, these two city-states had joined
forces to fight an invasion by the mighty

Persian Empire

At the narrow pass of Thermopylae, a small
Greek force, led by 300 Spartans, held up

the enormous Persian army for three days,
before they were finally encircled and killed

Then, in the straits of Salamis, the Greek
fleet defeated the Persian navy

But they couldn't prevent the Persians burning
the sacred temples of the Athenian acropolis

The next year, at Plataea, the Greeks won
a decisive land battle against the Persians,

and forced them to abandon their invasion

The next fifty years were the golden age of
classical Greece

But rising tension between Athens and Sparta,
and their allies, eventually led to war, dragging

the Greek world into decades of destructive

Wars between the Greek city-states continued
for almost a century, leaving them exhausted

and vulnerable to a new, rising power to the

For centuries, sophisticated Greeks had viewed
the mountainous kingdom of Macedonia as a

backwater, hicksville – barely Greek at all

But under King Philip II, Macedonia emerged
as a formidable military force

His most famous reform: the introduction of
the sarissa, an 18 foot pike, twice the length

of a normal Greek spear, and wielded by trained
infantry fighting in close formation, known

as a phalanx

In 338 BC, at the Battle of Chaeronea, Philip's
army crushed the joint forces of Thebes and


Through alliance and conquest, Philip had
already gained control over most of his neighbours

Now, following this victory, he united all
Greece in an alliance known as the Hellenic

League, or League of Corinth, with Philip
as hegemon – or supreme commander

Only Sparta stood aside

Philip began to plan a great campaign – a
Panhellenic, or all-Greek, war against the

Persian Empire Their old foe was now an ailing
superpower, its great riches ripe for the


But on the eve of launching his war, Philip
was assassinated by his own bodyguard – victim

of Macedonia's brutal court rivalries

He was succeeded by his 20 year-old son Alexander:
brilliant, restless, tutored by the great

philosopher Aristotle, and already an experienced
military commander

Alexander inherited his father's grand plan
to invade Persia, but first he had to secure

his own position as king:

At home, he had potential rivals executed,
then crushed rebellions in Illyria, Thessaly,

and central Greece

He made a special example of Thebes – completely
destroying the ancient city, and selling its

people into slavery

In the spring of 334 BC, now ready to launch
his war against the Persian Empire, Alexander

led his army across the Hellespont into Asia

It was the start of one of the greatest military
campaigns in history

Alexander's army was about 40,000 strong,
drawn from all parts of Greece

The infantry were commanded by the veteran
Macedonian general Parmenion

In the front rank, 9,000 Macedonian phalangites,
armed with the 18-foot sarissa

These were professional soldiers, well-trained
and drilled, who formed up for battle in the

phalanx, 16 ranks deep

This packed formation presented a solid wall
of iron spear-tips, and was virtually unstoppable

But it was also difficult to manoeuvre, and
highly vulnerable to attacks on its flanks

or rear

So 3,000 elite infantry, the hypaspists, or
'shield-bearers', armed with shorter spears,

guarded its flanks They were commanded by
Parmenion's son, Nikanor

The second line of Alexander's army was made
up of 7,000 Greek allies and 5,000 mercenaries,

armed as hoplites They took their name from
the hoplon, their large round shield, and

carried, shorter, 8 foot spears

A hoplite phalanx was not as effective as
the Macedonian phalangites, but still well-armed

and heavily armoured for the time

The Agrianes were the army's elite skirmishers,
expert javelin-throwers from what's now southern


Other skirmishers from Thrace, and Illyria,
were armed with javelins, slings and bows

The shock troops of Alexander's army were
the Companion Cavalry, 1,800 elite horsemen

armed with spear and sword, commanded by Philotas,
another son of Parmenion

Alexander led the royal squadron in person

There were also 1,800 cavalry from Thessaly,
commanded by Kallas, 600 from other parts

of Greece, led by Erigyius, and 900 mounted
scouts from Thrace and Paeonia, under Kassander

The great Persian Empire was divided into
provinces, called satrapies

Each satrapy was ruled by a governor, or satrap

Those in Asia Minor now threatened by Alexander's
invasion met to discuss strategy

Memnon of Rhodes, a skilled Greek general
in Persian service, urged them to avoid battle

with Alexander Instead, he advised them to
use a 'scorched earth' strategy – to burn

villages and crops, and withdraw to the interior
– Alexander's army, he promised, would quickly


It was good advice But the satraps were unwilling
to lay waste to their own provinces without

a fight

So they decided to face Alexander's army at
the River Granicus

The Persian army formed up behind the river,
which was shallow, but 60 feet wide with steep


Their front line was a wall of cavalry, about
10,000 horsemen from across the empire – Medes

and Hyrcanians from modern Iran, Bactrians
from Afghanistan, and Paphlagonians from Turkey's

Black Sea coast

Behind, in reserve, were the infantry – several
thousand Greek mercenaries, a common sight

in Persian armies at this time These men
fought for Persian gold, and were armed with

the round shield and short spear of hoplites

The Persians may have been unsure if they
could trust these men in combat against fellow

Greeks, and so placed them at the rear

Alexander, determined to attack and destroy
this Persian force before it could retreat,

raced to the Granicus with his best troops

On his left wing, he posted Thessalian, Greek
and Thracian cavalry, under Parmenion's command

In the centre, were the massed spears of the
phalanx, its six divisions commanded by Perdikkas,

Koinos, Amyntas, Philip, Meleager, and Krateros

On the right, Alexander himself, with the
Companion Cavalry under Philotas, as well

as the elite hypaspists, the Agrianes javelin-throwers,
and the archers

Alexander, with 13,000 infantry, and 5,000
cavalry in all, was probably slightly outnumbered

But ignoring advice to wait until dawn to
cross the river, he ordered an immediate assault

He sent a squadron of Companion cavalry to
ford the river, followed by a regiment of

hypaspists and the Paeonian light cavalry

Alexander, calling on his men to show their
courage, then led his right wing across the


As they reached the middle of the river, the
Greeks came under a hail of javelins, darts

and arrows from the Persian line Those that
made it to the far bank were immediately charged

by the Persian cavalry

Alexander was in the thick of the fighting

“He attacked where the whole mass of their
cavalry and leaders were stationed Around

him a desperate conflict raged horses were
jammed against horses and men against men,

the Macedonians striving to drive the Persians
away from the river bank, the Persians determined

to prevent them crossing and to push them
back into the river”

Alexander's attack seemed reckless, but he
was buying time for the rest of his army to

cross the river, including the irresistible
Macedonian phalanx

Then suddenly Alexander was fighting for his
life, charged by two Persian nobles

“Rhoesaces rode up to Alexander and struck
him on the head with his sword, breaking off

a piece of his helmet But the helmet broke
the force of the blow, and Alexander struck

him down with his lance Then, from behind,
Spithridates raised his sword against the

king, but Black Cleitus, son of Dropidas,
anticipated his blow, struck his arm, and

cut it off, sword and all”

Now the Greek army was across the river, and
the Persian cavalry faced a wall of Macedonian

spears Most turned and fled

The speed and shock of Alexander's attack
meant Persia's Greek mercenaries hadn't even

had time to join the battle

Alexander, in a blood-rage, or possibly regarding
these Greeks as traitors, ignored their appeals

for mercy The mercenaries were surrounded
on all sides, and massacred

Alexander had won a great victory

Asia Minor now lay at his mercy

But the Persian Empire was still a land of
immense wealth and power Already it was mobilising

its vast resources to face him

If Alexander was to conquer this empire and
take his place in history, he'd next have

to face Darius, King of Kings, himself

Research and artwork for this video comes
from Osprey Publishing's extensive range of

books on ancient history
Every Osprey book examines a particular battle,

campaign or combat unit in authoritative,
meticulous detail And with more than 3,000

titles, they cover everything from ancient
warfare to modern conflict Visit their website

to see their online catalogue

Huge thanks to the YouTube channel 'Invicta'
for their help in making this series You

can find out more about the remarkable life
of Alexander the Great in their 'Moments in

History' series

If you'd like to help us make more history
videos, please visit our Patreon page

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