The Latymer School History Magazine - page 33

“Alexander fighting king
Darius III of Persia", Alexander
Mosaic, Naples National
Archaeological Museum.
having killed his first man at
14 and won his first battle at
16, as well as founding his
first city, Alexandropolis.
When Julius Caeser,
probably the most famous
Roman Emperor,
encountered a statue of
Alexander in Rome, aged
thirty, he became depressed
in the knowledge that when
Alexander was his age, he
already had the world at his
feet. Aside from Caeser,
Alexander also inspired
Napoleon Bonaparte, the
famous French military
commander who declared
himself Emperor after the
French Revolution. It is clear
where he drew his inspiration
when one observes his
accomplishments including,
among other things, a
campaign to conquer most
of a single continent, in this
case Europe. For all his
complexities, Alexander’s
greatest achievements were
to come on the battlefield,
where he would never lose a
single battle in his 12 years
of campaigning. In order to
successfully invade Asia
Minor, as his father had
planned to do before he was
killed, Alexander had to
remove a vast obstacle:
Darius III, King of Persia. At
this point in time, Persia was
the wealthiest and largest
Empire in history, containing
approximately 44% of the
world’s population at its
peak, which is more than any
one Nation or Empire in
history. Darius’ many armies
amounted to over 100,000
men, made up of archers,
chariot riders, Camel and
Horse mounted cavalry units,
foot soldiers and sling
throwers. In contrast, at the
point of his passing across
the Hellespont, from Europe
into Asia, Alexander’s army
contained around 30,000
foot soldiers and about
6,000 mounted cavalry.
These foot soldiers, like
many Greek armies of the
time, included a Phalanx – a
unit of men who were
equipped with 30 foot long
pikes, or
sarissas
, used in an
initial charge to thin out the
enemies ranks. The Phalanx
was a deadly tool which,
when used correctly was
particularly useful in
disposing of horses as well
as onrushing soldiers. During
his conquest against the
Persians, Alexander was able
to defeat his enemy on
several occasions, most
notably the Battle of the
River Granikos. As all
Macedonian Kings before
him, Alexander commanded
the right-wing of the army’s
cavalry, whilst his second-in-
command, Parmenion, held
the left. Knowing Darius
would attack the
Macedonian right, Alexander
took his cavalry on an
offensive behind Parmenion
to the left, forcing the bulk of
the Persian centre to shift
across, leaving their King
dangerously exposed. After
seeing his men fall for this
trap, Darius turned and fled
the battlefield, leaving his
men to die or find their own
escape. Alexander lost 400
men. Darius lost 22,000,
including some 17,000
Greek Mercenaries. With this
simple tactic, executed to
perfection, Alexander defied
the odds and defeated an
army which outnumbered his
own by more than three to
one without even deploying
his infantry units.
Although he won his fame
through military success, he
continued to defy
conventions off the
battlefield throughout his
short life. Since his
childhood, he had always
had a very close relationship
with his mother, which was
frowned upon at the time,
especially in Macedonian
culture. Young men were
supposed to learn
everything from their fathers,
from the art of war to
retaining a household.
However much he loved his
mother, there was one
person whom he regarded
higher than her, and that was
his life-long friend, and as
29
Did you
know…
Alexander
loved his
horse
Boukephalas
so much, that
when he
died, in
battle, in
India,
Alexander
named a city
after him,
Boukephala
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