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Alexander the Great

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Part 1: Greece
Part 2: Alexander the Great
Lesson 20
Part 1: Greece
Theme: The Decline of the City-states
Lesson 20
• Delian League, Marathon, Peloponnesian
War, Persian Wars, Thermopylae
Persian Wars
• Greek colonization brought the city states
in conflict with the Persian Empire
– Remember from Lesson 6
• Result was the Persian Wars (500-479
Ionian Rebellion
• As Persian emperors Cyrus
and Darius tightened their grip
on Anatolia, the Greek cities
on the Ionian coast became
increasingly restless
• In 500 B.C., they revolted and
expelled the Achaemenid
• Athens sent a fleet in support
of their fellow Greeks and
commercial partners
• In 493, Darius repressed the
Cyclades Islands
Persian Wars
• To punish the
Athenians and
discourage future
interference, Darius
attacked Athens in 490
• The Athenians repelled
the invasion
– Marathon
Battle of Marathon
• The Persians landed
at the Plains of
Marathon on
September 9, 490
• For eight days, the two
armies faced each
• On the ninth day, the
Persians started to
advance, forcing
Miltiades, the
commander in chief of
the Athenian army, to
deploy his army of
10,000 Athenians and
1,000 Plataeans for
Battle of Marathon
• The Athenians
surrounded the
Persians in a double
– Although the
Athenians were
outnumbered, their
spears were
superior to the
Persians’ bows and
short lances
• The Persians fled to
their ships
• Persians lost 6,400
men and seven ships
• Athenians lost 192
Battle of Marathon
• However, Miltiades realized that the
Persian fleet could sail and attack
the undefended city of Athens
• According to legend, he called upon
Phidippides to run to Athens to tell
them of the victory and warn them of
the approaching Persian ships
• Phidippides ran the 26 miles from
Marathon to Athens in about three
hours, successfully warning the
Athenians who repelled the Persian
• Phidippides was exhausted from the
fight at Marathon and the 26 mile run
and died upon announcing the
Olympic Marathons
• The marathon was part of
the 1896 Olympics
– The course was from
Marathon to Athens
(24.85 miles or 40 km)
• At the London Olympics in
1908, the Olympic
marathon course was set at
26 miles, 385 yards (42.195
km) to accommodate the
Royal Family’s viewing
• In 1921 the International
Amateur Athletic
Foundation made 42.195
km the official distance of a
• Darius’s
Xerxes tried to
avenge the
Persian losses
by launching
another attack in
– Thermopylae
• The Greeks sent an allied
army under the Spartan
king Leonidas to
Thermopylae, a narrow
mountain pass in
northeastern Greece
• The point was to stall the
Persians long enough that
the city states could
prepare for later major
battles after the Persians
broke through
Persians attempting to force
the pass at Thermopylae
• Twice the Greeks repelled the Persians
• Then Ephialtes, a local farmer, traitorously led
a force of Persian infantry through a mountain
passage and the next morning they appeared
behind the Greek lines
• Leonidas ordered the rest of the army to
withdraw and held the passage with just 300
• As true Spartans, they chose death over
– Remember Lesson 17
• All died but they did hold off the Persians long
enough to ensure the safe withdrawal of the
rest of the Greek army.
• “Stranger, go tell
the Spartans that
we lie here in
obedience to their
– (Inscription carved
on the tomb of
Leonidas’s Three
Leonidas at
Thermopylae by David
After Thermopylae
• The Persians
captured and
burned Athens but
were defeated by
the Athenian navy
at Salamis
• In 479 the
Persians were
defeated at
Plataea and forced
back to Anatolia
Delian League
• After the Persian threat subsided, the Greek poleis had
conflicts among themselves
• The poleis formed an alliance called the Delian League
– Athens supplied most of the military force and the other poleis
provided financial support
– Sparta did not join the league
– In the absence of the Persian threat, eventually the other poleis
came to resent financing Athens’s bureaucracy and construction
• The resulting tensions led to the Peloponnesian War
(431-404) in which the poleis divided up into two sides
led by Athens and Sparta
The Peloponnesian War
(431-404 B.C.)
• The war went back and
forth until 404 when the
Spartans and their allies
forced Athens to
• Conflicts continued
however and the world
of the poleis steadily lost
– Alexander the Great is
going to step into this
power vacuum (next
“Failure of the Nerve”
• Xenophon lamented that up to this point, “the
City-state, the Polis, had concentrated upon
itself all the loyalty and the aspiration of the
Greek mind. It gave security to life. It gave
meaning to religion.”
• Then, however, “it was not now ruled by the best
citizens. The best had turned away from
• Intellectual and imaginative life of 4th Century
Greece gave way to an atmosphere of defeat
– Gilbert Murray explains it as “a failure of nerve”
Part 2: Alexander the Great
Theme: Advances in Warfare
Lesson 20
• Alexander the Great, Darius, Gaugamela
(Arbela), phalanx, Philip, siege, Tyre
Philip II
• Ruled Macedonia from 359336 B.C. and transformed it
into a powerful military
• Moved into northern Greece
and met little resistance due
to residual effects of
Peloponnesian War
– By 338 he had Greece under
his control
Alexander the Great
• Philip intended to use Greece as a launching
pad to invade Persia, but he was assassinated
before he could begin his plan
• Instead the invasion of Persia would be left for
Philip’s son Alexander who was just 20 when
Philip was assassinated
– “Alexander inherited from his father the most perfectly
organized, trained, and equipped army of ancient
• J.F.C. Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great
Conquests of Alexander
Ionia and Anatolia
Syria, Palestine, Egypt
King of Persia
Returns to Susa
Dies (age 33)
Warfare in the Age of Alexander
• Phalanx: A formation of infantry carrying
overlapping shields and long spears, developed by
Philip II and used by Alexander the Great
Warfare in the Age of Alexander
• Hoplite
– The main melee
warrior of the
Macedonian army.
– Worked mainly in the
tight phalanx
formation, creating
impregnable lines that
often left the enemy
Hoplites in Action
Warfare in the Age of Alexander
• Companions
– Alexander’s elite cavalry,
the offensive arm of his
army, and his elite guard.
– They would be used in
conjunction with the
phalanx. The phalanx
would fix the enemy in
place and then the
companion cavalry would
attack on the flank.
– Alexander would lead the
charge with his cavalry,
normally in a wedge
– These troops would also
protect the flanks of the
Macedonian line during
Warfare in the Age of Alexander
• Sieges involved the
surrounding and
blockading of a town or
fortress by an army trying
to capture it.
• A variety of weapons
were built to hurl
projectiles over city walls,
scale or batter the walls,
and transport soldiers
over them.
• “… if Alexander deserves permanent
commemoration as a general, then it is
above all in his capacity as a besieger,
and of all his sieges Tyre was his
– Paul Cartledge, Alexander the Great, 147
• Old city on the mainland
was abandoned
• New city built on an
island two miles long and
separated from the coast
by a half mile channel
– Walls were 150 feet
• Had two harbors
(Sidonian and Egyptian)
• Alexander originally had
no ships so he built a
mole across the channel
• Mole was designed to be 200 feet
wide and was built by driving piles
into the bottom and filling in the
space with stones, earth, and wood
• Entire trees --- branches, leaves,
and all -– were thrown beside the
piles to serve as a breakwall
• Stone was hauled in from the old
• “A city and a forest were exhausted
to build this wonderful mole.”
– Theodore Dodge, Alexander, 330.
Alexander’s original
mole has grown
over the centuries
and is now a broad
landbridge with
roads and buildings
on it.
• Tyrians attacked the mole with missiles, ships,
and divers
• Alexander was forced to build two towers on the
end of the mole to fend off attacks
• Tyrians launched a fire ship carrying cauldrons
of sulfur, naphtha, and chemical oils to destroy
the towers
• Fire ship burned down the towers and cracked
the end of the mole so that it later was washed
away by waves
• The work of months was lost in an hour, but
Alexander began building another, better mole
Tyrian Fire Ship Burns the Towers
• Alexander collected a
fleet of over 200 ships
and maneuvered them
into moorings off the
Sidonian and Egyptian
• Blockaded the Tyrian fleet
in its harbors and now
was at liberty to use his
siege engines to reduce
the city’s walls
Composition of Alexander’s Fleet
No. of ships
Sidon, Aradus, and
Soli and Mallus
• Finally the engines
penetrated the wall on
the side toward Egypt
• The fleet had
captured the north
and south fronts of
the city
• Ladders were thrown
up against the walls
and the Macedonians
burst in
5th Century Greek Battering Ram
• After a seven month
siege, Tyre fell
• 8,000 Tyrians were
killed in the fighting
– 2,000 more were hung
• 400 Macedonians
were killed in the
siege and just 20 in
the assault
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• “Most agree that this was Alexander’s
greatest set-piece battle.”
– Paul Cartledge, Alexander the Great, 151.
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• At Issus, Alexander captured
Darius’s family and was
holding them hostage but
treating them well
• “Darius appeared to have
lost the character for
strength which he was
thought at one time to
possess. An excellent ruler
in peace, he was his own
worst enemy in war.”
– Theodore Dodge, Alexander
the Great, 360.
Seal of King Darius
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Darius had assembled a
huge army from all the
Persian nationalities
– Estimates range from
200,000 to a million infantry
and 45,000 to 100,000
– 200 scythed chariots
– 15 elephants
• Alexander had about
40,000 men
Darius III, King of Persia
336-330 B.C.
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Darius drew his army
up on a large plain near
• The ground was
carefully leveled,
obstacles removed,
and brush cut down to
allow free movement of
his chariots and horses
• Darius wanted to lure
Alexander into a
battlefield of his own
choosing so Darius
could employ his
Scythed chariot
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Alexander advanced and
camped within sight of
Darius’s army on Sept 30,
331 B.C.
• Darius feared a night attack
and kept his men alert all
• When Alexander did attack
the next day, Darius’s men
were tired
• In the opening moves, the
Persians tried to outflank
– Larger force had given
them this capability
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Alexander was able to
counter with his reserve
– Two flying columns behind
each wing which could
wheel outward to meet any
outflanking foe, to guard the
rear, or to reinforce the
phalanx in the center
– First such use of a reserve
in history
Oblique order
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Alexander attacked
on the right to avoid
Darius’s obstacles in
the center
• Darius countered with
his chariots and
cavalry, but Alexander
checked them with his
right flying column
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Alexander then advanced against
the Persian left center, exploiting a
gap that had been created when
Darius shifted to meet the earlier
threat to his right
• Alexander formed his men into a
wedge and struck the gap
• A column of Persian cavalry
exploited a gap of Alexander’s own
and attacked to Alexander’s rear,
but Alexander defeated them with
Wedge Formation
his left flying column
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• Darius now feared for his
own safety and fled the field
• The entire Persian center
and left also fled
• The Persian army was
• Alexander pursued for 70
miles to Arbela (modern day
Arbil) but couldn’t catch
• The Persians lost 40,000 to
• The Macedonians only 500
Gaugamela (Arbela)
• The military genius of
– “The Persians still
relied on multitudes.
Alexander was
introducing new
• Theodore Dodge,
Alexander the Great,
• Flying column reserves
• The wedge to penetrate
an opening
• Striking not merely with
mass but at the right
place and time
• All around security
• Discipline of troops
• Ability to determine the
enemy weakness and
seize opportunity rapidly
After Gaugamela
• Darius’s escape frustrated Alexander
because it prevented him from full claim to
being king of Persia
• Eventually Darius’s followers assassinated
• As Alexander became king of Persia and
continued to advance east, he took on an
increasingly Eastern attitude
The End of the Empire
• Alexander
– Married Roxanna and had his men
also intermarry
– Adopted Eastern dress and habits
– Publicly insisted upon his descent
from the gods
– Began giving key positions to
• The Macedonians were tired of
campaigning and resented the
changes in Alexander’s behavior
and become mutinous
• Alexander died in June 323,
perhaps as a result of poisoning
"The Marriage of
Alexander the Great
and Roxanna" by
Ishmail Parbury
After Alexander
• After Alexander died,
his generals jockeyed
for power and by 275
they had divided up his
kingdom into three large
– Antigonus took
Greece and
– Ptolemy took Egypt
– Seleuces took the
former Achaemenid
• The period of Alexander
and his successors is
called the Hellenistic
period to reflect the
broad influence of
Greek culture beyond
Greece’s borders
• Aztecs and Mongols
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