History of Iran

Anabasis of Alexander: The Battle of Gaugamela (Book III, 7-16)
By: Arrian (Lucius Flavius Arrianus)
Translated By: E. J. Chinnock

7. Alexander arrived at Thapsacus in the month Hecatombaion,[1] in the archonship of Aristophanes at Athens; and he found that two bridges of boats had been constructed over the stream. But Mazaeus, to whom Darius had committed the duty of guarding the river, with about 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 of which were Grecian mercenaries, was up to that time keeping guard there at the river. For this reason the Macedonians had not constructed the bridge right across as far as the opposite bank, being afraid that Mazaeus might make an assault upon the bridge where it ended. But when he heard that Alexander was approaching, he went off in flight with all his army. As soon as he had fled, the bridges were completed as far as the further bank, and Alexander crossed upon them with his army. Thence he marched up into the interior through the land called Mesopotamia, having the river Euphrates and the mountains of Armenia on his left. When he started from the Euphrates he did not march to Babylon by the direct road; because by going the other route he found all things easier for the march of his army, and it was also possible to obtain fodder for the horses and provisions for the men from the country. Besides this, the heat was not so scorching on the indirect route. Some of the men from Darius's army, who had been dispersed for the purpose of scouting, were taken prisoners; and they reported that Darius was encamped near the river Tigris, having resolved to prevent Alexander from crossing that stream. They also said that he had a much larger army than that with which he fought in Cilicia. Hearing this, Alexander went with all speed towards the Tigris; but when he reached it he found neither Darius himself nor any guard which he had left. However he experienced great difficulty in crossing the stream, on account of the swiftness of the current, though no one tried to stop him. There he made his army rest, and while so doing, an eclipse of the moon nearly total occurred.[2] Alexander thereupon offered sacrifice to the moon, the sun and the earth, whose deed this was, according to common report. Aristander thought that this eclipse of the moon was a portent favourable to Alexander and the Macedonians; that there would be a battle that very month, and that victory for Alexander was signified by the sacrificial victims. Having therefore decamped from the Tigris, he went through the land of Aturia, having the mountains of the Gordyaeans on the left and the Tigris itself on the right; and on the fourth day after the passage of the river, his scouts brought word to him that the enemy's cavalry were visible there along the plain, but how many of them there were they could not guess. Accordingly he drew his army up in order and advanced prepared for battle. Other scouts again riding forward and taking more accurate observations told him that the cavalry did not seem to them to be more than I,000 in number.

8. Alexander therefore took the royal squadron of cavalry, and one squadron of the Companions, together with the Paeonian scouts, and marched with all speed, having ordered the rest of his army to follow at leisure. The Persian cavalry, seeing Alexander advancing quickly, began to flee with all their might. Though he pressed close upon them in pursuit, most of them escaped; but a few, whose horses were fatigued by the flight, were slain, others were taken prisoners, horses and all. From these they ascertained that Darius with a large force was not far off. For the Indians who were adjacent to the Bactrians, as also the Bactrians themselves and the Sogdianians had come to the aid of Darius, all being under the command of Bessus, the viceroy of the land of Bactria. They were followed by the Sacians, a Scythian tribe belonging to the Scythians who dwell in Asia. These were not subject to Bessus, but were in alliance with Darius. They were commanded by Mavaces, and were horse-bowmen. Barsaentes, the viceroy of Arachotia, led the Arachotians and the men who were called mountaineer Indians. Satibarzanes, the viceroy of Areia, led the Areians, as did Phrataphernes the Parthians, Hyrcanians, and Tapurians, all of whom were horsemen. Atropates commanded the Medes, with whom were arrayed the Cadusians, Albanians, and Sacesinians. The men who dwelt near the Red Sea[3] were marshalled by Ocondobates, Ariobarzanes, and Otanes. The Uxians and Susianians acknowledged Oxathres son of Aboulites as their leader, and the Babylonians were commanded by Boupares. The Carians who had been deported into central Asia and the Sitacenians had been placed in the same ranks as the Babylonians. The Armenians were commanded by Orontes and Mithraustes, and the Cappadocians by Ariaces. The Syrians from Coele-Syria and the men of Syria which lies between the rivers[4] were led by Mazaeus. The whole army of Darius was said to contain 40,000 cavalry, 1,000,000 infantry, and 200 scythe-bearing chariots. There were only a few elephants, about fifteen in number, belonging to the Indians who live this side of the Indus. With these forces Darius had encamped at Gaugamela, near the river Bumodus, about seventy miles from the city of Arbela, in a district everywhere level; for whatever ground thereabouts was unlevel and unfit for the evolutions of cavalry had long before been levelled by the Persians, and made fit for the easy rolling of chariots and for the galloping of horses. For there were some who persuaded Darius that he had got the worst of it in the battle fought at Issus from the narrowness of the battle-field; and this he was easily induced to believe.

9. When Alexander had received all this information from the Persian scouts who had been captured, he remained four days in the place where he had received the news; and gave his army rest after the march. He meanwhile fortified his camp with a ditch and stockade, as he intended to leave behind the baggage and all the soldiers who were unfit for fighting, and to go into the contest accompanied by his warriors carrying with them nothing except their weapons. Accordingly he took his forces by night, and began the march about the second watch, in order to come into collision with the foreigners at break of day. As soon as Darius was informed of Alexander's approach, he at once drew out his army for battle; and Alexander led on his men drawn up in like manner. Though the armies were only seven miles from each other, they were not yet in sight of each other, for between the hostile forces some hills intervened. But when Alexander was only three and one-half miles from the enemy, and his army was already marching down from the hills just mentioned, catching sight of the foreigners, he caused his phalanx to halt there. Calling a council of the Companions, generals, cavalry officers, and leaders of the Grecian allies and mercenaries, he deliberated with them, whether he should at orlce lead on the phalanx without delay, as most of them urged him to do; or, whether, as Parmenio thought preferable, to encamp there for the present, to reconnoitre all the ground, in order to see if there was anything there to excite suspicion or to impede their progress, or if there were ditches or stakes firmly fixed in the earth out of sight, as well as to make a more accurate survey of the enemy's tactical arrangements. Parmenio's opinion prevailed, so they encamped there, drawn up in the order in which they intended to enter the battle. But Alexander took the light infantry and the cavalry Companions and went all round, reconnoitring the whole country where he was about to fight the battle. Having returned, he again called together the same leaders, and said that they did not require to be encouraged by him to enter the contest; for they had been long before encouraged by their own valour, and by the gallant deeds which they had already so often achieved. He thought it expedient that each of them individually should stir up his own men separately; each infantry captain the men of his own company, the cavalry captain his own squadron, the colonels their various regiments, and each of the leaders of the infantry the phalanx intrusted to him. He assured them that in this battle they were going to fight, not as before, either for Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, or Egypt, but for the whole of Asia. For he said this battle would decide who were to be the rulers of the continent. It was not necessary for him to stir them up to gallant deeds by many words, since they had this encouragement by nature; but they should see that each man took care, so far as in him lay, to preserve discipline in the critical moment of action, and to keep perfect silence when it was expedient to advance in silence. On the other hand, they should see that each man uttered a sonorous shout, where it would be advantageous to shout, and to raise as terrible a battle-cry as possible, when a suitable opportunity occurred of raising the battle-cry. He told them to take care to obey his orders quickly, and to transmit the orders they had received to the ranks with all rapidity, each man remembering that both as an individual and in the aggregate he was increasing the general danger if he was remiss in the discharge of his duty, and that he was assisting to gain a victory if he zealously put forth his utmost exertions.

10. With these words and others like them he briefly exhorted his officers, and in return was exhorted by them to feel confidence in their valour. He then ordered the soldiers to take dinner and to rest themselves. It is said that Parmenio came to him in his tent, and urged him to make a night attack on the Persians, saying that thus he would fall upon them unprepared and in a state of confusion, and at the same time more liable to a panic in the dark. But the reply which he made to him, as others were listening to their conversation, was, that it would be mean to steal a victory, and that Alexander ought to conquer in open daylight, and without any artifice. This vaunting did not appear any arrogance on his part, but rather to indicate self-confidence amid dangers. To me, at any rate, he seems to have used correct reasoning in such a matter. For in the night many accidents have occurred unexpectedly to those who were sufficiently prepared for battle as well as to those who were deficiently prepared, which have caused the superior party to fail in their plans, and have handed the victory over to the inferior party, contrary to the expectations of both sides. Though Alexander was generally fond of encountering danger in battle, the night appeared to him perilous; and, besides, if Darius were again defeated, a furtive and nocturnal attack on the part of the Macedonians would relieve him of the necessity of confessing that he was an inferior general and commanded inferior troops. Moreover, if any unexpected defeat befell his army, the circumjacent country was friendly to the enemy, and they were acquainted with the locality, whereas the Macedonians were un acquainted with it, and surrounded by nothing but foes, of whom the prisoners were no small party. These would be likely to assist in attacking them in the night, not only if they should meet with defeat, but even if they did not appear to be gaining a decisive victory. For this way of reasoning I commend Alexander; and I think him no less worthy of admiration for his excessive liking for open action.

11. Darius and his army remained drawn up during the night in the same order as that in which they had first arrayed themselves; because they had not surrounded themselves with a completely entrenched camp, and, moreover, they were afraid that the enemy would attack them in the night. The success of the Persians, on this occasion, was impeded especially by this long standing on watch with their arms, and by the fear which usually springs up before great dangers; which, however, was not then suddenly aroused by a momentary panic, but had been experienced for a long time, and had thoroughly cowed their spirits. The army of Darius was drawn up in the following manner, for, according to the statement of Aristobulus, the written scheme of arrangement drawn up by Darius was afterwards captured. His left wing was held by the Bactrian cavalry, in conjunction with the Daans and Arachotians; near these had been posted the Persians, horse and foot mixed together; next to these the Susians and then the Cadusians. This was the arrangement of the left wing as far as the middle of the whole phalanx. On the right had been posted the men from Coele-Syria and Mesopotamia. On the right again were the Medes; next to them the Parthians and Sacians; then the Tapurians and Hyrcanians, and last the Albanians and Sacesinians, extending as far as the middle of the whole phalanx. In the centre where King Darius was had been posted the king's kinsmen,[5] the Persian guards carrying spears with golden apples at the butt end, the Indians, the Carians who had been forcibly removed to Central Asia, and the Mardian archers. The Uxians, the Babylonians, the men who dwell near the Red Sea, and the Sitacenians had also been drawn up in deep column. On the left, opposite Alexander's right, had been posted the Scythian cavalry, about I,000 Bactrians and 100 scythe-bearing chariots. In front of Darius's royal squadron of cavalry stood the elephants and fifty chariots. In front of the right wing the Armenian and Cappadocian cavalry with fifty scythe-bearing chariots had been posted. The Greek mercenaries, as alone capable of coping with the Macedonians, were stationed right opposite their phalanx, in two divisions close beside Darius himself and his Persian attendants, one division on each side.

Alexander's army was marshalled as follows: The right wing was held by the cavalry Companions, in front of whom had been posted the royal squadron, commanded by Clitus, son of Dropidas. Near this was the squadron of Glaucias, next to it that of Aristo, then that of Sopolis, son of Hermodorus, then that of Heraclides, son of Antiochus. Near this was that of Demetrius, son of Althaemenes, then that of Meleager, and last one of the royal squadrons commanded by Hegelochus, son of Hippostratus. All the cavalry Companions were under the supreme command of Philotas, son of Parmenio. Of the phalanx of Macedonian infantry, nearest to the cavalry had been posted first the select corps of shield-bearing guards, and then the rest of the shield-bearing guards, under the command of Nicanor, son of Parmenio. Next to these was the brigade of Coenus, son of Polemocrates; after these that of Perdiccas, son of Orontes; then that of Meleager, son of Neoptolemus; then that of Polysperchon, son of Simmias; and last that of Amyntas, son of Andromenes, under the command of Simmias, because Amyntas had been despatched to Macedonia to levy an army. The brigade of Craterus, son of Alexander, held the left end of the Macedonian phalanx, and this general commanded the left wing of the infantry. Next to him was the allied Grecian cavalry under the command of Erigyius, son of Larichus. Next to these, towards the left wing of the army, were the Thessalian cavalry, under the command of Philip, son of Menelaus. But the whole left wing was led by Parmenio, son of Philotas, round whose person were ranged the Pharsalian horsemen, who were both the best and most numerous squadron of the Thessalian cavalry.

12. In this way had Alexander marshalled his army in front; but he also posted a second array, so that his phalanx might be a double one. Directions had been given to the commanders of these men posted in the rear to wheel round and receive the attack of the foreigners, if they should see their own comrades surrounded by the Persian army. Next to the royal squadron on the right wing, half of the Agrianians, under the command of Attalus, in conjunction with the Macedonian archers under Briso's command, were posted angular-wise in case they should be seized anyhow by the necessity of deepening the phalanx, or of closing up the ranks. Next to the archers were the men called the veteran mercenaries, whose commander was Cleander. In front of the Agrianians and archers were posted the light cavalry used for skirmishing, and the Paeonians, under the command of Aretes and Aristo. In front of all had been posted the Grecian mercenary cavalry under the direction of Menidas; and in front of the royal squadron of cavalry and the other Companions had been posted half of the Agrianians and archers, and the javelin-men of Balacrus who had been ranged opposite the scythe-bearing chariots. Instructions had been given to Menidas and the troops under him to wheel round and attack the enemy in flank, if they should ride round their wing. Thus had Alexander arranged matters on the right wing. On the left the Thracians under the command of Sitalces had been posted angular-wise, and near them the cavalry of the Grecian allies, under the direction of Coeranus. Next stood the Odrysian cavalry, under the command of Agatho, son of Tyrimmas. In this part, in front of all, were posted the auxiliary cavalry of the Grecian mercenaries, under the direction of Andromachus, son of Hiero. Near the baggage the infantry from Thrace were posted as a guard. The whole of Alexander's army numbered 7,000 cavalry and about 40,000 infantry.

13. When the armies drew near each other, Darius and the men around him were observed: the apple-bearing Persians, the Indians, the Albanians, the Carians who had been forcibly transported into Central Asia, the Mardian archers ranged opposite Alexander himself and the royal squadron of cavalry. Alexander led his own army more towards the right, and the Persians marched along parallel with him, far outflanking him upon their left. Then the Scythian cavalry rode along the line, and came into conflict with the front men of Alexander's array; but he nevertheless still continued to march towards the right, and almost entirely got beyond the ground which had been cleared and levelled by the Persians. Then Darius, fearing that his chariots would become useless, if the Macedonians advanced into the uneven ground, ordered the front ranks of his left wing to ride round the right wing of the Macedonians, where Alexander was commanding, to prevent him from marching his wing any further. This being done, Alexander ordered the cavalry of the Grecian mercenaries under the command of Menidas to attack them. But the Scythian cavalry and the Bactrians, who had been drawn up with them, sallied forth against them, and being much more numerous they put the small body of Greeks to rout. Alexander then ordered Aristo at the head of the Paeonians and Grecian auxiliaries to attack the Scythians; and the barbarians gave way. But the rest of the Bactrians, drawing near to the Paeonians and Grecian auxiliaries, caused their own comrades who were already in flight to turn and renew the battle; and thus they brought about a general cavalry engagement, in which more of Alexander's men fell, not only being overwhelmed by the multitude of the barbarians, but also because the Scythians themselves and their horses were much more completely protected with ar mour for guarding their bodies. Notwithstanding this, the Macedonians sustained their assaults, and assailing them violently squadron by squadron, they succeeded in pushing them out of rank. Meantime the foreigners launched their scythe-bearing chariots against Alexander himself, for the purpose of throwing his phalanx into confusion; but in this they were grievously deceived. For as soon as they approached, the Agrianians and the javelin-men with Balacrus, who had been posted in front of the Companion cavalry, hurled their javelins at some of the horses; others they seized by the reins and pulled the drivers off, and standing round the horses killed them. Yet some got right through the ranks; for the men stood apart and opened their ranks, as they had been instructed, in the places where the chariots assaulted them. In this way it generally happened that the chariots passed through safely, and the men by whom they were driven were uninjured. But these also were afterwards overpowered by the grooms of Alexander's army and by the royal shield-bearing guards.

14. As soon as Darius began to set his whole phalanx in motion, Alexander ordered Aretes to attack those who were riding completely round his right wing; and up to that time he was himself leading his men in column. But when the Persians had made a break in the front line of their army, in consequence of the cavalry sallying forth to assist those who were surrounding the right wing, Alexander wheeled round towards the gap, and forming a wedge as it were of the Companion cavalry and of the part of the phalanx which was posted here, he led them with a quick charge and loud battle-cry straight towards Darius himself. For a short time there ensued a hand-to-hand fight; but when the Macedonian cavalry, commanded by Alexander himself, pressed on vigorously, thrusting themselves against the Persians and striking their faces with their spears, and when the Macedonian phalanx in dense array and bristling with long pikes had also made an attack upon them, all things together appeared full of terror to Darius, who had already long been in a state of fear, so that he was the first to turn and flee. The Persians also who were riding round the wing were seized with alarm when Aretes made a vigorous attack upon them. In this quarter indeed the Persians took to speedy flight; and the Macedonians followed up the fugitives and slaughtered them. Simmias and his brigade were not yet able to start with Alexander in pursuit, but causing the phalanx to halt there, he took part in the struggle, because the left wing of the Macedonians was reported to be hard pressed. In this part of the field, their line being broken, some of the Indians and of the Persian cavalry burst through the gap towards the baggage of the Macedonians; and there the action became desperate. For the Persians fell boldly on the men, who were most of them unarmed, and never expected that any men would cut through the double phalanx and break through upon them. When the Persians made this attack, the foreign prisoners also assisted them by falling upon the Macedonians in the midst of the action. But the commanders of the men who had been posted as a reserve to the first phalanx, learning what was taking place, quickly moved from the position which they had been ordered to take, and coming upon the Persians in the rear, killed many of them there collected round the baggage. But the rest of them gave way and fled. The Persians on the right wing, who had not yet become aware of the flight of Darius, rode round Alexander's left wing and attacked Parmenio in flank.

15. At this juncture, the Macedonians being at first in a state of confusion from being attacked on all sides, Parmenio sent a messenger to Alexander in haste, to tell him that their side was in a critical position and that he must send him aid. When this news was brought to Alex ander, he turned back again from further pursuit, and wheeling round with the Companion cavalry, led them with great speed against the right wing of the foreigners. In the first place he assaulted the fleeing cavalry of the enemy, the Parthians, some of the Indians, and the most numer ous and the bravest division of the Persians. Then ensued the most obstinately contested cavalry fight in the whole engagement. For being drawn up by squadrons, the foreigners wheeled round in deep columns, and falling on Alexander's men face to face, they no longer relied on the hurling of javelins or the dexterous deploying of horses, as is the common practice in cavalry battles, but every one of his own account strove eagerly to break through what stood in his way, as their only means of safety. They struck and were struck without quarter, as they were no longer struggling to secure the victory for another, but were contending for their own personal safety. Here about sixty of Alexander's Companions fell; and Hephaestion himself, as well as Coenus and Menidas, was wounded. But these troops also were overcome by Alex ander; and as many of them as could force their way through his ranks fled with all their might. And now Alexander had nearly come into conflict with the enemy's right wing; but in the meantime the Thessalian cavalry in a splendid struggle, were not falling short of Alexander's suc cess in the engagement. For the foreigners on the right wing were already beginning to fly when he came on the scene of conflict; so that he wheeled round again and started off in pursuit of Darius once more, keeping up the chase as long as there was daylight. Parmenio's brigade also followed in pursuit of those who were opposed to them. But Alexander crossed the river Lycus and pitched his camp there, to give his men and horses a little rest; while Parmenio seized the Persian camp with their baggage, elephants, and camels. After giving his horsemen rest until midnight, Alexander again advanced by a forced march to wards Arbela, with the hope of seizing Darius there, together with his money and the rest of his royal property. He reached Arbela the next day, having pursued altogether about seventy miles from the battle field. But as Darius went on fleeing without taking any rest, he did not find him at Arbela. However the money and all the other property were captured, as was also the chariot of Darius a second time. His spear and bow were likewise taken, as had been the case after the battle of Issus. Of Alexander's men-about 100 were killed, and more than 1,000 of his horses were lost either from wounds or from fatigue in the pursuit, nearly half of them belonging to the Companion cavalry. Of the for eigners there were said to have been about 300,000 slain, and far more were taken prisoners than were killed. The elephants and all the chariots which had not been destroyed in the battle were also captured. Such was the result of this battle, which was fought in the archonship of Aristophanes at Athens, in the month Pyanepsion;[6] and thus Aristan der's prediction was accomplished, that Alexander would both fight a battle and gain a victory in the same month in which the moon was seen to be eclipsed

16. Immediately after the battle, Darius marched through the mountains of Armenia towards Media, accompanied in his flight by the Bactrian cavalry, as they had then been posted with him in the battle; also by those Persians who were called the king's kinsmen, and by a few of the men called apple-bearers. About 2,000 of his Grecian mercenaries also accompanied him in his flight, under the command of Paron the Phocian, and Glaucus the Aetolian. He fled towards Media for this rea son, because he thought Alexander would take the road to Susa and Babylon immediately after the battle, inasmuch as the whole of that country was inhabited and the road was not difficult for the transit of baggage; and besides Babylon and Susa appeared to be the prizes of the war; whereas the road t.owards Media was by no means easy for the march of a large army. In this conjecture Darius was not mistaken...

  1. July-August, 331 BCE.
  2. This eclipse occurred September 20, 331 BCE.
  3. The Red Sea was the name originally given to the whole expanse of sea to the west of India as far as Africa.
  4. The Greeks called this country Mesopotamia because it lies between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris.
  5. A title of honour. Curtius says that they numbered 15,000.
  6. September 331 BCE.