(ALEXANDER the GREAT – continued)

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ALEXANDER the GREAT (3 of 6)

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Successes by the Aegean Sea

In the spring of 334, less than two years after the assassination of Philip, Alexander led an army eastward into Asia Minor. It was an army of nearly forty thousand Macedonians, Greeks and Balkan troops, accompanied by secretaries, scientists and philosophers. Security on the homefront was supplied by Greece's navy, and more than 12,000 foot soldiers and cavalry in Macedonia and Greece under the command of Alexander's most trusted general, the aging Antipater.

Alexander inherited an efficient military machine, and he had learned lessons in good military strategy and diplomacy. Moreover, among kings he was exceptional: he could plan like a master chess player, and in battle he was bold and quick in seeing sudden shifts in advantages and disadvantages. He was perhaps foolhardy about his own safety but not toward the safety of his troops, and, because of his care and tactics, his casualties would be lighter than his enemy's.

Alexander's opponent was Darius III, 46, in his second year as Persia's King of Kings. Darius underestimated Alexander's strength, but he sent against him a force three times as large, a force that included able horsemen and around 20,000 Greek mercenary infantrymen, largely men who had run from Greece following the defeat of their cities by Alexander's father, Philip II.

Alexander's army crossed into Asia Minor at Hellespont and found Darius' army waiting a few miles away, on the opposite side of the Granicus River. On horseback, Alexander led a charge across the river and was met by Darius' force, without Darius, who remained at home in Persepolis. Alexander emerged from the hand to hand combat victorious. Most of Darius' generals were killed. The disorderly ranks of the Persian infantry had been easy targets for the long spears and solid ranks of the Macedonians, who cut them to pieces. Darius' Greek mercenaries remained in formation and refused to surrender. Alexander's forces charged, and only around two thousand of the mercenaries survived, to be sent as slaves to work in Macedonia's mines.

Winning Hearts and Minds

Following his first victory against the Persians he honored the dead Persian troops as well as his own, and he paid a special honor to the Persian commander who had come close to killing.

The historian who accompanied Alexander, Callisthenes (nephew of the famous philosopher Aristotle), described Alexander's victory as the work of the Greek goddess of revenge, Nemesis – a revenge for Persia's misdeeds against the Greeks more than a century before.

News of Alexander's victory spread fast through the Mediterranean region, and Greek cities in Asia Minor began setting up democracies and opening their gates to Alexander. Awed by Alexander's success, various cities proclaimed Alexander a divinity.

But the Greek city of Miletus and a couple of other cities resisted, and Alexander overpowered them. Alexander was always ready to punish rebellion, as he had against Thebes, but he also wished to win hearts and minds. In the fighting at Miletus he offered a pardon to Greek mercenaries and citizens holding the inner city, and, respecting the courage of the Greek mercenaries there, he offered them service in his own army. In Asia Minor his forces limited their taking of spoils mainly to armor and weapons. They took no more captives to sell as slaves, and Alexander forbade reprisals against civilians.

By the end of the year 334, most of the Greek cities on the western coast of Asia Minor were declared free. Cities that had been ruled by Persian satraps were now garrisoned by Macedonians and their Greek allies. These cities were allowed to run their own local affairs, with Alexander unopposed to any inclinations they had toward democracy. Where local people were accustomed to a Persian system of administration, Alexander accepted the Persian system, and he improved it by dividing what had been the powers of the local Persian governor into three different offices: civil, military and financial.

Aristotle had advised Alexander to turn those non-Greek he defeated into slaves, but Alexander had begun a policy of winning respect and cooperation from the Persians. Alexander accepted a Persian soldier into his entourage and he happily let himself become the adopted son of a princess – soon to be queen – of the non-Greek royal house of Caria, in Asia Minor's southwest.


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