Battle of the Granicus River May-June 334 BC:

Arrian 1.13-15; Plut. 16; Diod. 17.19.1-3


Description: Description: Description: B_of_granicus1


Macedonian forces: 32000 infantry, 5100 cavalry, plus navy and allied forces = 90000 total. Persian forces 20000 cavalry and approximately the same number of infantry. His siege train also included haulers, engineers, surveyors, camp planners, a secretariat, court officials, medical staff, grooms for the cavalry and muleteers for the baggage. Some 182 war ships and supply vessels supported his force, 160 allied warships. Alexander arrived in Bithynia with 70 talents in bullion and sufficient supplies for 30 days’ campaign. Memnon, a Greek mercenary commander serving with the Persians, recommended a strategy of calculated retreat with scorched earth, but Persian commanders, many closely related to King Darius III, insisted on a confrontation and chose the Granicus River. Alexander left 12000 infantry, 1500 horse with Antipater in Macedonia.

Recorded force components: 12000 Macedonian Pezhetairoi; 7000 allied infantry; 5000 mercenary infantry all under Parmenio; Odrysians Triballians, Illyrians = 7000; archers and Agrianians 1000 = 3200; cavalry 1800 hetairoi under Philotas; 1800 Thessalians, under Callas son of Harpalus; 600 Greek cavalry under Erigyius; 900 Thracians and Paeaonian scouts under Cassander, equaling a sum total of 5100 cavalry. Parmenio recommended a delayed night crossing down river, but Alexander overruled him. He ordered a direct assault on the Persian formation arranged on the opposite bank of the river.


Plut: Alexander immediately plunged down the bank and into the water with 13 squadrons into swiftly flowing water that surged about them and swept men off their feet. Despite this he pressed forward and with a tremendous effort attained the opposite bank which was a wet treacherous slope covered with mud. There he was immediately forced to engage the enemy in a confused hand to hand struggle, before the troops who were crossing behind him could be organized into any formation. The moment his men set foot on land the enemy attacked them with loud shouts matching horse against horse, thrusting with their lances and fighting with the sword when their lances broke. Many of them charged against Alexander himself, for he was easily recognizable by his shield and by the tall white plume which was fixed on either side of his helmet. His breast plate was pierced by a javelin. Spithradates (a Persian noble) rode at him, and hit him on head with a battle axe, splitting the crest of his helmet. Cleitus the Black, the brother of Alexander’s wet nurse, ran him through and saved Alexander’s life. While Alexander’s cavalry was engaged in this furious and dangerous action, the Macedonian phalanx crossed the river and the infantry of both sides joined the battle. The Persians offered little resistance but quickly broke and fled, and it was only the Greek mercenaries who held their ground. The latter fought to the death.  The Persians lost 20000 infantry and 2500 horse; Alexander lost 34 cavalry, 9 in the infantry.  Captured shields were sent to Athens to decorate the Parthenon.


Arrian 1.13-15: the cavalry charged in a wedged formation. [The Persian cavalry was arranged in a line 16 deep; the Macedonian phalanx was arranged 8 deep; Alexander’s cavalry unit was arranged 10 deep.] Alexander led the cavalry in an oblique attack across the water so that the army would not get flanked: oblique to the current. This enabled him to prevent a flank attack as he emerged from the water and to engage the enemy with a front as solid as he could make it. The Persians were arranged with mounted troops in front and infantry to the rear…it was a cavalry battle with, as it were, infantry tactics: horse against horse, man against man, locked together. The Macedonians did their utmost to thrust the enemy once and for all back from the river bank and to force him into open ground; whereas, the Persians fought to prevent the landings or to hurl their opponents back into the water.


The Greek mercenaries fight to the death because of Philip II’s warning that all Greeks who supported the Persians would be executed. Some 2000 were enslaved and sent to Macedonia.


Alexander in Asia Minor:


Greek cities paid taxes to him as their “liberator”; non Greek peoples paid tribute. He freed Lydia (taxes).


He suppressed internal conflicts in cities and won the respect of native peoples. He was adopted by Ada, the widow of Mausolus of Caria. He employed the Persian system of administration but improved it by dividing civil, military and financial authority into separate satrapies. In Caria, Ada was civil satrap, a Macedonian general was strategos, and a third person was financial administrator – all dependent on Alexander.


The Strategic Threat: Persian army could invade from the Anatolian Plateau; the Persian Navy from along the coast. Alexander’s solution, to seize the “rail heads” of the interior (Dascylium, Sardis) and to deny the Persian fleet any coastal safe harbors.


Siege of Miletus, he brought his fleet of 160 warships to Lade, 3 days later a Persian fleet of 400 arrived. Alexander avoided a sea battle and concentrated on a siege of the city with his fleet blocking the harbor. The Persian garrison surrendered. Alexander now had Persian granaries to feed his army, so he dismissed his fleet (he could not afford to keep it in any event; though he kept 20 Athenian triremes for good behavior). Tribute and contributions now arrived from various parties. The Persian fleet were left with no port facilities in the Aegean.


Halicarnassos, walls 150ft high, Alexander assaulted the defenses with siege weaponry and 20 Athenian triremes. He was able to take the lower city but not the acropolis which guarded the harbor (Memnon was commanding the resistance; he was now in command of the Persian fleet and lower Asia Minor), so Alexander isolated the garrison and moved on. He sent newly married Macedonian troops home for the winter with Coenus and Meleager in an effort to recruit fresh troops.


Parmenio was dispatched into the plateau from Sardis with the siege train in Spring 333; Winter 334 Alexander marched along the south coast to seize Pamphylia to prevent Persian forces from landing there. Hard fighting in Lycia, he by-passed Cnidus and Caunus (isolated harbors), and appointed Nearchus satrap of Lycia. The cities of Xanthus and Phaselis surrendered. In Pamphylia Perge, Aspendos, and Side surrendered, but Syllium and Termessos resisted (Aristander of Termessos, Alexander’s seer). From Pamphylia he turned north through the mountains to link with Parmenio at Gordium. He marched past Sagalassos and Celenae to Gordium. New levies of troops arrived. Antigonus was made satrap of Phrygia. Alexander quickly overran the plateau (Cappadocia in April 333) and moved down to the Cilician Gates. Had Darius taken the field sooner he might have blocked Alexander’s passage through the gates, but as it was the pass was left abandoned by Arsames, the local Persian satrap. Alexander becomes ill, his doctor Philip of Acarnania. Parmenio seized the Syrian Gates; Alexander moves toward Syria; at this time he learned of the victory of Ptolemy and Asander over Orontobatos at Halicarnassos.


During the winter 334/3 Persian agent Sisenes was arrested by Parmenio with a plan to kill Alexander, while communicating with Alexander the Lyncestrian and Amyntas. Alexander had Parmenio arrest the Lyncestrian (who was then commanding the Thessalian cavalry); Amyntas was executed. Olympias had written Alexander warning of this plot. Parmenio was in Phrygia; Alexander at Phaselis at the time.


Winter 334/3 Memnon sailed with 700 warships from Phoenicia to Chios and Lesbos. Alexander ordered the securing of the Hellespont. The Greek League dispatched a fleet there. In the fighting Memnon died. Darius III sent Pharnabazas to continue the operations in the Aegean. Antipater was compelled to send a small naval force to neutralize their successes.