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14 min
Conquests of Alexander the Great
336 BCE - 323 BCE

Conquests of Alexander the Great

Words: nono umasy


Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20.






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356 BCE Jan 1

Prologue

Pella, Greece


Prologue


When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted, and Philip ordered it away. Alexander, however, detecting the horse's fear of its own shadow, asked to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. Plutarch stated that Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son tearfully, declaring: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you", and bought the horse for him. Alexander named it Bucephalas, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalas carried Alexander as far as India. When the animal died (because of old age, according to Plutarch, at age thirty), Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala.


During his youth, Alexander was also acquainted with Persian exiles at the Macedonian court, who received the protection of Philip II for several years as they opposed Artaxerxes III. Among them were Artabazos II and his daughter Barsine, possible future mistress of Alexander, who resided at the Macedonian court from 352 to 342 BC, as well as Amminapes, future satrap of Alexander, or a Persian nobleman named Sisines. This gave the Macedonian court a good knowledge of Persian issues, and may even have influenced some of the innovations in the management of the Macedonian state.


336 BCE Jan 1

Safeguard the north

Balkan Mountains


Balkan Campaign | ©Kings and Generals
Safeguard the north


Before crossing to Asia, Alexander wanted to safeguard his northern borders. In the spring of 336 BC, he advanced to suppress several revolts. Starting from Amphipolis, he travelled east into the country of the "Independent Thracians"; and at Mount Haemus, the Macedonian army attacked and defeated the Thracian forces manning the heights.


336 BCE Feb 1

Battle against the Triballi

reka Rositza, Bulgaria


Battle against the Triballi
Triballi | ©Angus McBride


The Macedonians marched into the country of the Triballi, and defeated their army near the Lyginus river (a tributary of the Danube).


336 BCE Mar 1

Battle against the Getae

near Danube River, Balkans


Battle against the Getae


The Macedonians marched to the Danube River where they encountered the Getae tribe on the opposite shore. As Alexander's ships failed to enter the river, Alexander's army made rafts out of their leather tents. A force of 4,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry crossed the river, to the amazement of the Getae army of 14,000 men. The Getae army retreated after the first cavalry skirmish, leaving their town to the Macedonian army.


336 BCE Apr 1

Illyria

Illyria, Macedonia


Illyria


News then reached Alexander that Cleitus, King of Illyria, and King Glaukias of the Taulantii were in open revolt against his authority. Marching west into Illyria, Alexander defeated each in turn, forcing the two rulers to flee with their troops. With these victories, he secured his northern frontier.

335 BCE Dec 1

Battle of Thebes

Thebes, Greece


Battle of Thebes


While Alexander campaigned north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander immediately headed south. While the other cities again hesitated, Thebes decided to fight. The Battle of Thebes was a battle that took place between Alexander III of Macedon and the Greek city state of Thebes in 335 BC immediately outside of and in the city proper. After having been made Hegemon of the League of Corinth, Alexander had marched to the north to deal with revolts in Illyria and Thrace. The garrison in Macedonia was weakened and Thebes declared its independence. The Thebans refused to submit on merciful terms, and he assaulted the city, took it, and sold all the survivors into slavery. With the destruction of Thebes, mainland Greece again acquiesced in Alexander's rule. Alexander was now finally free to undertake the Persian campaign which had been planned for so long by his father.

335 BCE Dec 7

Alexander returned to Macedonia

Pella, Greece


Alexander returned to Macedonia


The end of Thebes cowed Athens, leaving all of Greece temporarily at peace.Alexander then set out on his Asian campaign, leaving Antipater as regent.

334 BCE Jan 1

Hellespont

Hellespont


Hellespont
Alexander crosses the Hellespont


Alexander's army crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC with approximately 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry and a fleet of 120 ships with crews numbering 38,000, drawn from Macedon and various Greek city-states, mercenaries, and feudally raised soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. He showed his intent to conquer the entirety of the Persian Empire by throwing a spear into Asian soil and saying he accepted Asia as a gift from the gods. This also showed Alexander's eagerness to fight, in contrast to his father's preference for diplomacy.

334 BCE May 1

Battle of the Granicus

Biga Çayı, Turkey


Battle of the Granicus | ©Kings and Generals
Battle of the GranicusBattle of the Granicus


The Battle of the Granicus River in May 334 BC was the first of three major battles fought between Alexander the Great and the Persian Empire. Fought in northwestern Asia Minor, near the site of Troy, it was here that Alexander defeated the forces of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor, including a large force of Greek mercenaries led by Memnon of Rhodes. The battle took place on the road from Abydos to Dascylium (near modern-day Ergili, Turkey), at the crossing of the Granicus River (modern-day Biga Çayı). After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis; he then proceeded along the Ionian coast, granting autonomy and democracy to the cities.


334 BCE Jul 1

Siege of Miletus

Miletus, Turkey


Siege of Miletus


The Siege of Miletus was Alexander the Great's first siege and naval encounter with the Achaemenid Empire. This siege was directed against Miletus, a city in southern Ionia, which is now located in the Aydın province of modern-day Turkey. During the battle, Parmenion's son Philotas would be key in preventing the Persian Navy from finding safe anchorage. It was captured by Parmenion's son, Nicanor in 334 BC.


334 BCE Sep 1

Siege of Halicarnassus

Halicarnassus, Turkey


Siege of Halicarnassus | ©King and Generals
Siege of Halicarnassus


Further south, at Halicarnassus, in Caria, Alexander successfully waged his first large-scale siege, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea. Alexander left the government of Caria to a member of the Hecatomnid dynasty, Ada, who adopted Alexander.


334 BCE Oct 1

Antalya

Antalya, Turkey


Antalya


From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities to deny the Persians naval bases.

334 BCE Nov 1

Taurus Mountains

Taurus Mountains, Turkey


Taurus Mountains


At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city.

333 BCE Nov 5

Battle of Issus

Issus, Turkey


Battle of Issus | ©BazBattles
Battle of IssusBattle of IssusBattle of Issus


In spring 333 BC, Alexander crossed the Taurus into Cilicia. After a long pause due to an illness, he marched on towards Syria. Though outmanoeuvered by Darius' significantly larger army, he marched back to Cilicia, where he defeated Darius at Issus. Darius fled the battle, causing his army to collapse, and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous treasure. He offered a peace treaty that included the lands he had already lost, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions.


332 BCE Jan 1

Siege of Tyre

Tyre, Lebanon


Siege of Tyre | ©Kings and Generals
Siege of Tyre


Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant. In the following Year, 332 BC, he was forced to attack Tyre, which he captured after a long and difficult siege. The men of military age were massacred and the women and children sold into slavery.


332 BCE Feb 1

Siege of Gaza

Gaza


Siege of Gaza | ©Kings and Generals


When Alexander destroyed Tyre, most of the towns on the route to Egypt quickly capitulated. However, Alexander met with resistance at Gaza. The stronghold was heavily fortified and built on a hill, requiring a siege. When "his engineers pointed out to him that because of the height of the mound it would be impossible... this encouraged Alexander all the more to make the attempt". After three unsuccessful assaults, the stronghold fell, but not before Alexander had received a serious shoulder wound. As in Tyre, men of military age were put to the sword and the women and children were sold into slavery.


332 BCE Mar 1

Siwa Oasis

Siwa Oasis, Egypt


Siwa Oasis


He was pronounced son of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. Henceforth, Alexander often referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father, and after his death, currency depicted him adorned with the horns of a ram as a symbol of his divinity.

332 BCE Apr 1

Alexandria

Alexandria, Egypt


Alexandria


During his stay in Egypt, he founded Alexandria-by-Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after his death.

331 BCE Oct 1

Battle of Gaugamela

Erbil, Iraq


Battle of Gaugamela | © Kings and Generals
Battle of GaugamelaBattle of GaugamelaBattle of GaugamelaBattle of Gaugamela


Leaving Egypt in 331 BC, Alexander marched eastward into Mesopotamia (now northern Iraq) and again defeated Darius, at the Battle of Gaugamela. Darius once more fled the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. Gaugamela would be the final and decisive encounter between the two.


331 BCE Oct 5

Babylon

Hillah, Iraq


Babylon


Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana (modern Hamedan), while Alexander captured Babylon.

331 BCE Nov 1

Susa

Shush, Iran


Susa


From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its treasury.


331 BCE Dec 1

Battle of the Uxian Defile

Shush, Khuzestan Province, Ira


Battle of the Uxian Defile


The Battle of Uxian Defile was fought by Alexander the Great against the Uxian tribe of the Persian Empire. The battle raged on the mountain range between the key Persian cities of Susa and Persepolis. Persepolis was the ancient capital of the Persian Empire and held a symbolic value among the native Persian population. They believed that if this city were to fall into enemy hands, then, in effect, the whole Persian Empire would fall into the hands of the enemy.


330 BCE Jan 20

Battle of the Persian Gate

Yasuj, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ah


Battle of the Persian Gate | ©BazBattles
Battle of the Persian Gate


The Battle of the Persian Gate was a military conflict between a Persian force, commanded by the satrap of Persis, Ariobarzanes, and the invading Hellenic League, commanded by Alexander the Great. In the winter of 330 BC, Ariobarzanes led a last stand of the outnumbered Persian forces at the Persian Gates near Persepolis, holding back the Macedonian army for a month. Alexander eventually found a path to the rear of the Persians from the captured prisoners of war or a local shepherd, defeating the Persians and capturing Persepolis.


330 BCE May 1

Persepolis

Marvdasht, Iran


Persepolis
Persepolis destroyed


Alexander sent the bulk of his army to the Persian ceremonial capital of Persepolis via the Persian Royal Road. Alexander himself took selected troops on the direct route to the city. He then stormed the pass of the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains) which had been blocked by a Persian army under Ariobarzanes and then hurried to Persepolis before its garrison could loot the treasury. On entering Persepolis, Alexander allowed his troops to loot the city for several days. Alexander stayed in Persepolis for five months. During his stay a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes I and spread to the rest of the city. Possible causes include a drunken accident or deliberate revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian War by Xerxes. Even as he watched the city burn, Alexander immediately began to regret his decision. Plutarch claims that he ordered his men to put out the fires, but that the flames had already spread to most of the city. Curtius claims that Alexander did not regret his decision until the next morning.


330 BCE Jun 1

Media

Media, Iran


Media


Alexander then chased Darius, first into Media, and then Parthia. The Persian king no longer controlled his own destiny, and was taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men fatally stab the Great King and then declared himself Darius' successor as Artaxerxes V, before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. Alexander buried Darius' remains next to his Achaemenid predecessors in a regal funeral. He claimed that, while dying, Darius had named him as his successor to the Achaemenid throne. The Achaemenid Empire is normally considered to have fallen with Darius.


330 BCE Sep 1

Central Asia

Afghanistan


Central Asia


Alexander viewed Bessus as a usurper and set out to defeat him. This campaign, initially against Bessus, turned into a grand tour of central Asia. Alexander founded a series of new cities, all called Alexandria, including modern Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Alexandria Eschate in modern Tajikistan. The campaign took Alexander through Media, Parthia, Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana, Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan), Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan), and Scythia.


329 BCE Jan 1

Siege of Cyropolis

Khujand, Tajikistan


Siege of Cyropolis
Siege of Cyropolis | ©Angus McBride


Cyropolis was the largest of seven towns in the region that Alexander the Great targeted for conquest in 329 BC. His goal was the conquest of Sogdiana. Alexander first sent Craterus to Cyropolis, the largest of the Sogdian towns holding out against Alexander's forces. Craterus' instructions were to "take up a position close to the town, surround it with a ditch and stockade, and then assemble such siege engines as might suit his purpose....".


Accounts of how the battle went differ among authors. Arrian cites;Ptolemy;as saying Cyropolis surrendered, and Arrian also states that according to;Aristobulus;the place was stormed and the town's inhabitants were massacred. Arrian also cites Ptolemy saying that he distributed the men among the army and ordered that they should be kept guarded in chains until he should depart from the country, so that none of those who had affected the revolt should be left behind.


329 BCE Oct 1

Battle of Jaxartes

Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan


Battle of Jaxartes
Battle of JaxartesBattle of JaxartesBattle of JaxartesBattle of Jaxartes


Spitamenes, who held an undefined position in the satrapy of Sogdiana, betrayed Bessus to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's trusted companions, and Bessus was executed. However, when, at some point later, Alexander was on the Jaxartes dealing with an incursion by a horse nomad army, Spitamenes raised Sogdiana in revolt. Alexander personally defeated the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes and immediately launched a campaign against Spitamenes, defeating him in the Battle of Gabai. After the defeat, Spitamenes was killed by his own men, who then sued for peace.


328 BCE Dec 1

Battle of Gabai

Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan


Battle of Gabai
| ©Angus McBride


Spitamenes was a Sogdian warlord and the leader of the uprising in Sogdiana and Bactria against Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, in 329 BC. He has been credited by modern historians as one of the most tenacious adversaries of Alexander.


Spitamenes was an ally of Bessus. In 329, Bessus stirred a revolt in the eastern satrapies, and the same year his allies began to be uncertain about supporting him. Alexander went with his army to Drapsaca, outflanked Bessus and sent him fleeing. Bessus was then removed from power by Spitamenes, and Ptolemy was sent to catch him. While Alexander was founding the new city of Alexandria Eschate on the Jaxartes river, news came that Spitamenes had roused Sogdiana against him and was besieging the Macedonian garrison in Maracanda.


Too occupied at that time to personally lead an army against Spitamenes, Alexander sent an army under the command of Pharnuches which was promptly annihilated with a loss of no less than 2000 infantry and 300 cavalry.


The uprising now posed a direct threat to his army, and Alexander moved personally to relieve Maracanda, only to learn that Spitamenes had left Sogdiana and was attacking Bactria, from where he was repulsed with great difficulty by the satrap of Bactria, Artabazos II (328 BC). The decisive point came in December 328 BC when Spitamenes was defeated by Alexander's general Coenus at the Battle of Gabai. Spitamenes was killed by some treacherous nomadic tribes' leaders and they sent his head to Alexander, suing for peace. Spitamenes had a daughter, Apama, who was married to one of Alexander's most important generals and an eventual Diadochi, Seleucus I Nicator (February 324 BC). The couple had a son, Antiochus I Soter, a future ruler of the Seleucid Empire.


327 BCE Jan 1

Siege of the Sogdian Rock

Obburdon, Tajikistan


Siege of the Sogdian Rock


The Sogdian Rock or Rock of Ariamazes, a fortress located north of Bactria in Sogdiana (near Samarkand), ruled by Arimazes, was captured by the forces of Alexander the Great in the early spring of 327 BC as part of his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire.


326 BCE May 1

Battle of the Hydaspes

Jhelum River, Pakistan


Battle of the Hydaspes | ©BazBattles
Battle of the HydaspesBattle of the HydaspesBattle of the Hydaspes


After Aornos, Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region lying between the Hydaspes and the Acesines (Chenab), in what is now the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC.


326 BCE Jun 1

Revolt of the Army

near Ganges River


Revolt of the Army


East of Porus' kingdom, near the Ganges River, was the Nanda Empire of Magadha, and further east, the Gangaridai Empire of Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander's army mutinied at the Hyphasis River (Beas), refusing to march farther east

325 BCE Nov 1

Mallian campaign

Multan, Pakistan


Mallian Campaig | ©BazBattles
Mallian campaignMallian campaignMallian campaignMallian campaignMallian campaign


The Mallian campaign was conducted by Alexander the Great from November 326 to February 325 BC, against the Malli of the Punjab. Alexander was defining the eastern limit of his power by marching down-river along the Hydaspes to the Acesines (now the Jhelum and Chenab), but the Malli and the Oxydraci combined to refuse passage through their territory. Alexander sought to prevent their forces meeting, and made a swift campaign against them which successfully pacified the region between the two rivers. Alexander was seriously injured during the course of the campaign, almost losing his life.


323 BCE Jun 10

Death

Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon, Iraq


Death


On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. There are two different versions of Alexander's death, and details of the death differ slightly in each. Plutarch's account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus and spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa. Alexander developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. The common soldiers, anxious about his health, were granted the right to file past him as he silently waved at them. In the second account, Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Heracles, followed by 11 days of weakness; he did not develop a fever, instead dying after some agony. Arrian also mentioned this as an alternative, but Plutarch specifically denied this claim.


323 BCE Dec 1

Epilogue

Pella, Greece


Epilogue


Alexander's legacy extended beyond his military conquests, and his reign marked a turning point in European and Asian history. His campaigns greatly increased contacts and trade between East and West, and vast areas to the east were significantly exposed to Greek civilization and influence.


Alexander's most immediate legacy was the introduction of Macedonian rule to huge new swathes of Asia. At the time of his death, Alexander's empire covered some 5,200,000 km2 (2,000,000 sq mi), and was the largest state of its time. Many of these areas remained in Macedonian hands or under Greek influence for the next 200–300 years. The successor states that emerged were, at least initially, dominant forces, and these 300 years are often referred to as the Hellenistic period.


The eastern borders of Alexander's empire began to collapse even during his lifetime. However, the power vacuum he left in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent directly gave rise to one of the most powerful Indian dynasties in history, the Maurya Empire.


Alexander and his exploits were admired by many Romans, especially generals, who wanted to associate themselves with his achievements. Polybius began his Histories by reminding Romans of Alexander's achievements, and thereafter Roman leaders saw him as a role model. Pompey the Great adopted the epithet "Magnus" and even Alexander's anastole-type haircut, and searched the conquered lands of the east for Alexander's 260-year-old cloak, which he then wore as a sign of greatness. Julius Caesar dedicated a Lysippean equestrian bronze statue but replaced Alexander's head with his own, while Octavian visited Alexander's tomb in Alexandria and temporarily changed his seal from a sphinx to Alexander's profile.





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