Alexander’s Invasion of Persia Part 1
About 2,300 years ago, there were two superpowers in the world. In Asia, the Achaemenid Empire of Iran was dominant, which stretched from present-day Baluchistan to Türkiye. It also included Syria and Egypt. The second superpower was the Macedonian Empire of Europe. This empire was made a great power by Emperor Philip II. It included Bulgaria, northern Macedonia, Albania, Greece, and many Mediterranean islands. Only Sparta and Crete were not part of it. King Philip was eager to attack and conquer the neighboring Iranian empire.
Alexander’s Invasion of Persia Part 1
He had gathered a great army. Its soldiers were equipped with long spears. Thus they could easily advance through the enemy ranks. However, in 336 BCE, Emperor Philip was murdered by one of his guards. His 21-year-old son, Alexander III, became ruler of Macedonia. He is known in history as Alexander the Great.Alexander the Great wanted to fulfill his father’s dream by conquering Iran. But he needed a prediction of victory.
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Such a prediction could provide a necessary psychological support. There was a temple in ancient Greece called the Temple of Delphi (Apollo). It was headed by a female called “Oracle of Delphi”. The Greeks believed that the Oracle spoke directly to the god Apollo and foretold the future. Therefore, this woman was very important in this Greek society. It customary for the Greece rulers to seek Oracle’s favors before a major military campaign.
Thus they could know the results beforehand. They made their decisions in the light of those predicictions. Alexander the Great also went to Delphi before the campaign. But at this time of the year the Oracle wouldn’t go out of the temple. She would make no prophecies either. She also refused to see Alexander. But Alexander wouldn’t accept the refusal. He entered the temple, took the Oracle by the arm and dragged her out.
She panicked and said, “Alexander! You are invincible! No one can beat you!.” At this comment, Alexander let her go. He said, “This is enough, I don’t need any other prediction now.” He came out of the temple, gathered his army and left to invade Iran. His destination was the part of the Iranian Empire that is now known as Turkey. According to the famous Greek historian, Plutarch, Alexander initially had 47,000 troops.
This included 4,000 cavalry. It was the year 334 BCE. Darius III was on the throne of Iran then. He was aware of arrival of the Greek army but he did not send any army to confront it. He ordered his local Turkish governors to fight the invaders. The Greeks crossed the Dardanelles and entered the Asian region of modern-day Turkey. Soon they fought their first battle against the local Iranian forces. This Iranian army was led by two commanders.
In May 334 BCE, the first battle was fought on the banks of the River Granicus. That’s why it is known as the Battle of the Granicus. The Iranian army was standing on one side of the river and the Greek army was on the other side. On the Iranian side the banks of the river were steeep and slippery. Climbing them was difficult for the Greek army. But Alexander jumped into the river with some of his cavalry.
The enemy rained down arrows at them but they defended them with their shields. They crossed the river and started pushing back the Iranian forces from its banks. Alexander’s remaining forces were now free to cross the river because of his bravery. The Iranian forces were totally distracted and focused only on Alexander. the Greek and his companions who were crossing the river. Therefore, the entire army crossed the river with ease and attacked the enemy with full force.
During the battle came a moment that could prove disastrous for King Alexander. He was fighting with one of the two Iranian commanders. The 2nd commander approached him from behind. He hit Iskandar on the head with an axe. The axe cut through his helmet and reached the hair but the head remained safe. The commander drew back his axe and raised it for a 2nd a time. But one of the King’s companions killed the assailant.
Thus, Alexander survived. He killed the other senior Iranian commander whom he was fighting with. After the death of the two commanders, the Iranians lost heart and fled the battlefield. Now the path was clear for Alexander. He had won his first victory against the Iranians. Now, Alexander advanced towards Syria and Iraq, conquering the coastal cities of Turkey along the way. He also conquered Gordian, the capital of the ancient state of Phrygia.
This city was located about 80 km to the southwest of Ankara, the capital of Turkey. The ruins of this city still exist today. Alexander saw an old chariot standing in the city. This chariot was tied to a pillar by a rope. This rope was so skillfully tied that its ends were not visible. That’s why it was impossible to untie it. The legend said that the chariot belonged to the first ruler of the city. Whoever untied the rope would become the king of Asia. Hearing this, Alexander the Great took pulled out his dagger.