Alexander the great is an endless source of fascination. I’ve been reading up on him again, as I am still wanting to do my long-put off book on him. But I have several side books I want to do based among his satellite of generals and lovers and specific events. For instance, one novel, as I have mentioned elsewhere several times, is based on his great Afghan lover, a princess he married in one of his alliances of conquest.
But today I wanted to mention another one which is a much more straight forward tale of war. But what a war!
In 333 BCE, Alexander had already invaded modern day Turkey and defeated the Persians generals and satraps in battle. The King of Kings, Darius III, was naturally angry and personally took command of his massive army. He marched in behind Alexander’s forces on the coast near Issus and cut his supply lines home. In a terror campaign, Darius also infamously attacked the wounded and sick Greek soldiers from the precious battles who were waiting to sail back home to Greece, chopped off their hands, and sent them to Alexander.
Alexander was on enemy soil, terribly outnumbered, and now cut off without supplies. His own men were exhausted and in a storm at the time. However, Alexander had learned the great technique of Blizkrieg which only Genghis Khan would use more effectively and only Hitler would use more infamously.
Darius assumed he would hide and wait, attempting to rebuild his forces, either by living off the land, or attempt to flee back to Greece and raise a new army. Either way, Darius new he had this weaker Greek invader by the throat, and a war of time and attrition would only favor himself.
Alexander would have none of that. Angered by the brutality shown his wounded men and knowing he could not wait to be hunted down by the massive Persian host, he did the only thing a brilliant tactician would do. He forced marched his men overnight through the storm and surprised Darius’ slumbering host in the morning on the plain near Issus.
Despite being vastly outnumbered (the Greeks numbered less than 40,000, whereas the Persians were recorded to be over 600,000 strong), Alexander’s tactic worked flawlessly and the armies of Persia were caught fully unaware with their guard down. What followed was a brutal overrun. Alexander showed no mercy and his smaller forces destroyed the Persians. It is recorded that the Greeks killed 110,000 Persians in that single afternoon. If the ancient records are accurate, this is the greatest single-day combat losses in recorded history until the first day of The Battle of the Somme.
Detail of Le Bataille D’Issus, by Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Darius the III survived this tremendous battle with a large portion of his forces who all fled in terror. He regrouped in Iran and later attempted to stop Alexander’s complete conquest of the Persian Empire, but it was actually over at this battle. This was the first time the Greeks had ever exhibited total domination over the world’s current reigning superpower, the Persians. The Persians never fully recovered from this psychological and physical defeat. Tiny Greece was fully ascendant.
I want to one day write a book on this battle and show how great a strategist Alexander truly was by turning sure defeat into astounding victory. I believe any other general, as was proven over and over through the centuries of Persian domination, would have failed when Darius cut his supplies and fielded such a massive army.
Furthermore, as always, I find very intriguing side characters in these tales. For instance, in victory Alexander looted the Imperial tents, which Darius was forced to leave behind. Beyond the usual treasures he also captured the Queen of Persia and a Persian noblewoman of 30 years of age, who was most fascinating. She had already been captured twice before in the past by Greeks in other battles, and then twice recovered by the Persians. Alexander was so taken with her that he took her as his mistress for the next five years. Now that is one hell of a woman! I want to explore her as well.