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Battle of the Granicus (Alexandros)

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Battle of the Granicus
Part of Macedonian Invasion of Asia
Charles Le Brun, Le Passage du Granique, 1665
The Battle of the Granicus River would mark the end of Macedonian invasion in Anatolia.
Date May, 334 BC
Location Granicus River, Anatolia
Result Decisive Persian victory
Belligerents
Vergina sun Kingdom of Macedon
League of Corinth
Standard of Cyrus the Great (White) Achaemenid Empire
Commanders and leaders
Vergina sun Alexander III
Vergina sun Parmenion
Vergina sun Cleitus the Black
Vergina sun Hephaestion
Vergina sun Calas
Standard of Cyrus the Great (White) Arsames
Standard of Cyrus the Great (White) Spithridates
Memnon of Rhodes


The Battle of the Granicus was the only major battle during the Macedonian Invasion of Asia, which saw the confrontation of the Macedonian and Greek invasion force, under the command of Alexander III, against the forces of the Achaemenid Empire. The battle would result in a decisive Persian victory, following the slaying of King Alexander at the hands of the Persian satrap Spitridates. With Alexander dead, the invasion force routed, and unable to continue on, the Macedonian-Greek forces were forced to return home, ending the expedition with failure. With the death of a young Alexander, leaving no heir, the leaders of the Macedonian invasion force bickered on who should lead Macedon following the death of their king.

Background

With Greece and the Balkans secured under the rule of Alexander, he set out on an expedition into Anatolia, the result of years of planning, first begun by his father Philip II. Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Anatolia, with the army of Macedon being transported by over one hundred triremes. This movement was initially ignored by the Persians, who were hesitant to act. For the first three months of Alexander's invasion he was not taken seriously by the Persians, and Darius refused to mount a serious offensive against him. Scorched earth tactics were proposed by Memnon of Rhodes, a Greek mercenary aligned with the Persians, advocating for the destruction of Persian lands in front of Alexander, so that his army would starve and he would be forced to retreat back to Greece, a Scorched earth policy. But the noble satraps of Anatolia refused to pillage their own land. Alexander continued to advance into Persian territory, and eventually Darius appointed Memnon the head of an army to meet Alexander on the battlefield, hoping that a confrontation would lead to his defeat.

Alexander had advanced up the road to the capital of the satrapy of Phrygia, causing the various satraps of Anatolia to gather their forces for battle near the town of Zeleia, which would allow them to use the banks of the Granicus River as cover against Alexander's attack. Instead Alexander sought to use the river banks to minimize the effectiveness of the Persian numbers, and to limit the ability of their deadly chariots, which were far less effective in cramped, muddy river banks.

Deployment

At the beginning of the battle the Persians positioned their cavalry in front of their infantry, assembling on the east bank of the river. The Macedonian line consisted of heavy phalanxes in their center, with cavalry on either side. Expecting the main Macedonian attack to originate from Alexander's position, the Persians moved a large amount of their forces from their center to their flank facing Alexander, to defend against his inevitable attack.

The Battle

Despite advice to cross the river upstream and attack the Persians at dawn the next day, Alexander attacked the Persians immediately, catching the Persians off guard. The Macedonians began the attack with an assault of cavalry and light infantry from the Macedonian left, causing the Persians to respond by heavily fortifying that section of their lines. With the Persian forces now concentrated to one side, Alexander led a charge of the horse companions in a classic wedge-shape, and smashed into the center of the Persian line. Initially this attack was successful, and Alexander and his bodyguards were able to cut down a large number of Persian officers and soldiers, but ultimately their charge would leave them cut off from the rest of the Macedonian army.

Death of Alexander III

In this moment of isolation from the main line, Alexander was struck by a Persian nobleman named Spithridates, leaving him temporarily disoriented and susceptible to attack. Alexander's officer Cletius realized this and dashed to Alexander's aid, but he was too late. On Spithridates' second swing he would successfully kill Alexander. Cleitus, in rage, struck down Spithridates as well. The death of Alexander caused the Macedonian cavalry to rout with heavy casualties. The Persian cavalry charged into battle, attacking many of the fleeing Macedonians, ultimately causing the entire Macedonian army to rout once the infantry had found out what happened to their cavalry and Alexander. The battle would prove a decisive Persian victory, with the remaining Macedonian forces fleeing back to Greece, and starting the Macedonian Succession Crisis.

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