Alexander the Great Topics


Military Matters

Traditionally the strength of the Macedonian army was in the cavalry, formed by the nobles who were the king’s hetairoi (companions). At some stage the duty of guarding the king in battle was given to a unit known as the ile basilike (royal squadron); at the beginning of Alexander’s Asiatic campaign the cavalry was a force of eight ilai , of which one was the ile basilike or agema ; there were also four ilai of prodromoi = sarissophoroi (‘forward - runners’ = sarissa - bearers), last mentioned as a separate category in 329 and after that probably incorporated in the companions. Philip was the first to organise an effective infantry force, armed with the formidable sarissa (cf. p. 337); at the beginning of Alexander’s campaign this was organised in six regiments known as taxeis , whose taxiarchs were important men. Anaximenes (FGrH 72 F 4) credits an Alexander with giving the names hetairoi to the cavalry and pezetairoi (foot -companions) to the infantry. Philip had pezetairoi by 349 (Dem. II. Ol. ii. 29), but according to Theopompus (FGrH115 F 348) they were an élite body. Perhaps we should infer from Anaximenes that Alexander the Great gave the nameshetairoi to the whole cavalry force (in the sources for Alexander that word can be used either of the cavalry or of the greater nobles who were more literally the king’s companions) and pezetairoi to the whole infantry force. In a number of places Arrian refers to some of the infantry asasthetairoi (first in II. 23. ii), a word which editors for many years emended out of existence. The meaning of the prefix is unknown; possible guesses are that the asthetairoi came from Upper Macedonia and the pezetairoi from Lower, or (since the number of taxeis given this name by Arrian seems to increase) that it was a title of honour which could be conferred on a taxis . In addition to the six taxeis , Alexander had an élite infantry body known as hypaspistai (‘s hield - bearers’): this was perhaps a new name for Philip’s pezetairoi ; they were organised in three chil-iarchies (literally, ‘commands of a thousand’), one being the royal chiliarchy oragema . There has been much argument as to whether they were armed in the same way as or more lightly than the main infantry force: probably they were armed in the same way for major battles involving large numbers but could be armed differently for special duties. The title somatophylakes (bodyguards) is used sometimes of the agema of the hypaspists, sometimes of a small number of men serving as Alexander’s personal aides, at first high - ranking but outside the general structure of the army, later usually cavalry commanders (Arr. VI. 28. iv lists seven existing and one new for 325).

Alexander inherited from Philip the use of a variety of forces in conjunction. His Greek allies in the League of Corinth provided him, in particular, with Thessalian cavalry, almost as good as the Macedonian, and with hoplites; he also had Greek mercenaries, light infantry from Thrace, especially Agrianian javelin - men, and engineers and bematistai (surveyors). Little is said about this in the sources, but the success of his campaign depended on considerable organisation for the conveyance of supplies and reinforcements, and for planning his advances into unfamiliar territory (there are glimpses at Arr. III. 6. viii, VI. 20. v, 27. i).

The force which he took to Asia in 334 probably comprised 4,500 or 5,100 cavalry and 32,000 infantry, of whom 2,700 (including the prodromoi) and 12,000 were Macedonians (Diod. Sic. XVII. 17. iii – iv, a detailed catalogue, cf. Arr. I. 11. iii); the higher figures of Anaximenes, 5,500 [or 6,100?] cavalry and 43,000 infantry (FGrH 72 F 29 ap. Plut. De Alex. Fort. i. 327 d – e), probably include the advance force of 336 (cf. Polyaenus Strat. V. 44. iv). Reinforcements reached Alexander on various occasions to 328/7, and again in India in 326 and in the centre of the empire in 324 – 323; but garrisons were left in various places, there were casualties in battle and from disease and other hazards, and for much of the time after 330 the army was divided and substantial parts of it were not with Alexander. The army which fought at Gaugamela in 331 is given by Arrian as 7,000 cavalry and 40,000 infantry (III. 12. v), and probably the force actually with Alexander was until 323 never afterwards as large. In 334 substantial forces were left with Antipater in Macedon, 1,500 cavalry and 12,000 infantry according to Diod. Sic. XVII. 17. v, and in 331 Antipater raised an army of 40,000 including loyal Greeks to fight against Agis (Diod. Sic. XVII. 63. i – but with difficulty, Aeschin. III. Ctesiphon 165). Some scholars have reckoned that by the end Macedon was seriously denuded of manpower; but others, taking seriously the fact that no Macedonian reinforcements are mentioned after 330, have resisted that conclusion.

On various occasions the nature and organisation of the army had to be changed. In 330, when he continued eastwards in pursuit of Darius, Alexander left substantial forces with Parmenio and with Harpalus, but Parmenio’s men rejoined him in 329 (Arr. III. 19. vii – viii, Curt. VII. iii. 4). After Darius’ death there was increasing need for the use of separate detachments and guerrilla fighting; in 330 (Curt. VI. vi. 15) or in 327 before entering India (Plut. 57. i, Polyaenus Strat. IV. 3. x) Alexander is said to have had the waggons and surplus baggage burned to produce a lighter army. Ships were built in 326 for the journey to the mouths of the Indus (Diod. Sic. XVII. 89. iv – v, Curt. IX. i. 3 – 4), and more ships, and dockyards, in 335 when he arrived there (Arr. VI. 18. ii – v, 20. i, v); but, except in the sieges of Miletus and of Tyre (p. 407), Alexander had no occasion for fighting on the water.

Originally the Macedonian cavalry were commanded by Parmenio’s son Philotas, and the individual ilarchs seem not to have been important men; in 331 after Gaugamela each ile was subdivided into two lochoi (Arr. III. 16. xi). After Philotas’ execution in 330 his command was divided between two hipp-archs, the experienced Clitus ‘the black’ and Alexander’s friend Hephaestion (Arr. III. 27. iv). Later the cavalry were reorganised in eight hipparchies, one being the agema , and the individual hipparchs (of whom Hephaestion was still one) were leading men as the ilarchs had not been (first mentioned in 329, Arr. III. 29. vii, but it may be that the first uses of the word are non - technical and the reorganisation followed the killing of Clitus in 328); for what was done in 324 see below. There was no comparable reorganisation of the infantry, except that by 327 there were at least seven taxeis (Arr. V. 11 – 12); before entering India in 326 the hypaspists were given silver shields and the title argyraspides (Just. XII. 7. v: earlier uses of the title by Diodorus and Curtius are anachronistic).

After Gaugamela Alexander started appointing oriental satraps (cf. p. 410), and later he started using oriental troops (first clear instance Arr. I V. 17. iii, in winter 328/7). At first these were organised in their own divisions and fought in their own manner, but a process of integration was begun at Susa in 324. There are problems with the text of Arr. VII. 6. iii – iv, where the manuscripts offer some outstanding orientals ‘incorporated in the companion cavalry’ , ‘a fifth hipparchy, not wholly barbarian’ , and the enlistment of barbarians in the enlargement of the whole cavalry force. Usually it is thought that after the losses in Gedrosia the eight Macedonian hipparchies had been reduced to four, a few orientals were designated hetairoi and were enrolled in these, and a fifth, largely oriental, hipparchy was added; but it has been suggested that the fifth hipp-archy, ‘not wholly barbarian’ , implies that four other hipparchies were created which were wholly barbarian, and that apart from the privileged few oriental hetairoi Arrian says nothing here about the Macedonian hipparchies. At any rate, there were now some orientals in the Macedonian hipparchies and one mixed hipparchy. As for infantry, in 327, 30,000 young orientals were set aside to be given a Macedonian training, and these epigonoi (‘s uccessors’) were paraded before Alexander in 324 (Arr. VII. 6. i, Diod. Sic. XVII. 108. i – iii, Plut. 71. i, cf. Curt. VIII. v. 1, Just. XII. 12. iii – iv). Alexander’s plan to send veterans home and rely on his new forces led to the mutiny at Opis (cf. pp. 418 – 19); at Babylon in 323 in a sixteen - rank phalanx orientals filled all ranks except the first three and the last (Arr. VII. 23. iii, cf. Diod. Sic. XVII. 110. i – ii).

In his three major battles against the Persians Alexander placed the six taxeis of the phalanx in the centre and the hypaspists immediately to their right; Parmenio as second - in - command was on the left wing with the Thessalian and other allied cavalry and some light - armed troops; Alexander commanded on the right wing with the Macedonian cavalry and other light - armed, and attacked from there (e.g. Granicus, Arr. I. 14. i – iii). Inspiring leadership was important, but essentially it was the better army which won these battles.

For the battle of the Granicus in 334 the sources offer two versions, which differ so much that, whichever is right, it is hard to see how the other can have come into existence. Arrian gives the Persians 20,000 cavalry and 20,000 Greek mercenary infantry (with no mention of Persian infantry), Diodorus 10,000 cavalry and 100,000 infantry. In one version the Persians were stationed on the right bank of the river, with the cavalry in front with no room to charge and the infantry behind. When Alexander arrived Parmenio advised waiting until the next morning but Alexander insisted on fighting immediately; the prodromoi attacked the Persians’ extreme left, and, when a gap appeared in their left centre, Alexander plunged in. There was a mêlée as the Macedonians fought their way across the river, until the Persians’ centre caved in and their wings fled; the mercenaries stood firm but were massacred (Arr. I. 13 – 16, cf. Plut. 16). In the other version the Persians were camped beyond the river; Alexander did wait until morning, and crossed the river unopposed; the battle followed, with the Persians’ cavalry in front and infantry behind as in the first version (Diod. Sic. XVII. 19 – 21, cf. Fragmentum Sabbaiticum FGrH 151 F 1. 1, Just. XI. 6. x – xiii, Polyaenus Strat. I V. 3. xvi). Most scholars have preferred Arrian’s version, though some have thought that it makes the Persians too incompetent and have preferred Diodorus’ ; it is an attractive suggestion that behind the two versions lies an initial failure, which the two versions suppress in different ways, that Alexander first fought to cross the river and was defeated, but the next morning succeeded in crossing and then fought successfully.

At Issus in 333 Darius had reached a narrow coastal plain in Alexander’s rear, which did not allow him to take advantage of his large numbers (but presumably not as large as alleged, from 310,000 by Curtius to 600,000 as hearsay by Arrian). Between the two armies the plain was crossed by the River Pinarus (which of three possible identifications is chosen does not greatly affect the general situation). Alexander had to fill the whole width of the plain, so as not to be outflanked. Darius commanded from the centre, where he placed his infantry; he massed his cavalry on the right, to try to force a gap between the enemy left and the sea; and he sent a detachment into the foothills to his left to try to outflank Alexander. Alexander sent some light - armed troops to deal with this detachment, and himself attacked the Cardaces, an élite infantry body, on the Persian left. In his phalanx a gap opened between the taxeis towards the right, moving forwards with him, and those towards the left, holding back with Parmenio, and Darius’ Greek mercenaries pressed into this breach; but they were less effective than Alexander, who wheeled to the centre when the Persian left had collapsed. Darius led the Persians in flight, and Alexander pursued until nightfall (Arr. II. 6 – 11, Diod. Sic. XVII. 33 – 4, Curt. III. viii – ix. 15, Just. XI. 9. i – x, Plut. 20. i – v, Polyb. XII. 17 – 23).

Ill. 31 The Alexander Sarcophagus (c. 320), showing Alexander attacking Persian horsemen. Istanbul Museum/photo Art Archive, Dagli Orti


At Gaugamela in 331 Darius chose his battlefield and made careful preparations: he arrived first, and levelled the ground for the sake of his cavalry and scythed chariots. Again the figures we are given are unbelievable: infantry from Curtius’ 200,000 to Arrian’s hearsay 1,000,000 (but they played no significant part in the battle), cavalry from Arrian’s hearsay 40,000 to Diodorus’ 200,000, but clearly more than the 7,000 given by Arrian for Alexander’s army, and the sources agree on 200 chariots. On reaching a ridge from which the enemy could be seen, Alexander took Parmenio’s advice and paused for reconnaissance, but rejecting the further advice to attack that night he then waited until morning. The Persians had cavalry on both wings, chariots and perhaps a few elephants in front of their line; Alexander, afraid of being outflanked, inclined both his wings backwards, and placed a reserve line of infantry behind the main phalanx. As he advanced, Alexander directed his whole army to the right, to put the Persians off balance and get away from their prepared ground. Bessus on the Persian left tried to outflank Alexander’s right, and Alexander fed troops against him; in Alexander’s centre the use of javelins and good discipline prevented serious harm from the chariots; on the other wing Mazaeus attacked Parmenio and sent a detachment to attack Alexander’s base camp (successfully, but without serious effect). As at Issus, a gap appeared in the centre of Alexander’s phalanx (some Persian cavalry broke through that, and perhaps through the reserve line too) and also between Darius’ left and centre; and, as at Issus, Alexander was more successful at exploiting the enemy’s gap. Again, Darius fled, and Alexander pursued until night. There are stories that Parmenio was in serious difficulty on the left and sent a plea for help to Alexander, who for that reason turned back from pursuing Darius; but in a mêlée of perhaps 200,000 men, with clouds of dust, it is unlikely that Parmenio could have got a message to Alexander, let alone that Alexander could have responded. The story helped to explain Darius’ escape, and was no doubt elaborated when Parmenio was in trouble later (cf. p. 412) (Arr. III. 9 – 15, Diod. Sic. XVII. 56 – 61, Curt. I V. xii – xvi, Just. XI. 13 – 14. iii, Plut. 32 – 3).

At the Hydaspes in 326 Alexander had to cross a wide and fast - flowing river, and then fight against the Indian prince Porus on the other side, and here he did have scope for tactical brilliance. Porus was waiting with an army which included chariots and elephants, blocking all the crossings, and expecting reinforcements. After a series of feints Alexander divided his army into three sections: Craterus was left opposite Porus with a substantial force; Alexander took his section several miles upstream, where there were islands in the middle of the channel; the third section was to use intermediate crossing - points. Alexander crossed under cover of rain and night, using boats and stuffed skins, and destroyed a force which Porus sent, too late, under his son; and the middle section crossed too. Porus left a small division opposite Craterus and faced Alexander with his main army, stationing infantry with elephants in front in the centre and cavalry with horses in front on the wings. Horses cannot face elephants unless trained, so Alexander had to deal with Porus’ cavalry before his infantry attacked Porus’ elephants and infantry. He advanced with most of his cavalry visible on the right wing but the rest, under Coenus, hidden in the rear; when he charged from the right wing, Porus brought his own right - wing cavalry, perhaps behind his main lines, to reinforce the attacked left; Coenus then emerged and took Porus’ right wing in the rear. After that Alexander’s infantry attacked, and Porus’ army was defeated with great slaughter; Craterus in the meantime crossed the river, and joined in the pursuit (Arr. V. 9 – 18, Curt. VIII. xiii – xiv; cf. Diod. Sic. 87 – 9, Just. XII. 8. i – vii, omitting the crossing of the river, also Polyaenus Strat. I V. 3. xxii).

Siege warfare was an area in which Alexander excelled (though he did also experience setbacks), taking advantage of technical developments which had begun under Philip and which continued under him (cf. p. 354). In 334 he attacked first Miletus and then Halicarnassus, the strongest walled city in Asia Minor, where Memnon was holding out. At Halicarnassus Alexander had towers, rams and catapults (this is the first mention of torsion - powered stone -throwers); the defenders had towers and arrow - firing catapults. At one point Alexander breached the wall, but the defenders had built a demi - lune , a semi -circular additional wall, inside; when some of his soldiers, the worse for drink, attacked that, the defence was so effective that Alexander had to make a truce to recover his dead. However, a three - wave attack on Alexander started well but ended badly; after that Memnon set fire to and abandoned the outer city, and Alexander moved on without capturing him or two citadels (Arr. I. 20. v – 23. vi; Diod. Sic. XVII. 23. iv – 27. vi, making Alexander’s difficulties clear as Arrian does not); the citadels fell only to Alexander’s commanders late in 333 (Arr. II. 5. vii).

In 332 most Phoenician cities submitted to Alexander (and their ships became available to him), but Tyre on its offshore island held out for seven months and hoped for help from Carthage. Under Diades of Thessaly Alexander’s army used the most impressive range of machinery yet seen. Using stone from the remains of Old Tyre on the mainland, Alexander built a mole out into the strait, at the end of which he erected towers carrying catapults. When the Tyrians set fire to an old ship and used that to destroy the towers, he rebuilt them. The Tyrians would not fight at sea, so he blockaded them in their harbours; he set up new machines on the mole, and he mounted rams on ships to attack other parts of the city wall which were less strong (a development foreshadowed by the Athenians’ mounting towers on a large ship at Syracuse in 413: Thuc. VII. 25. vi). However, the Tyrians fired missiles and dropped boulders in the sea to prevent the ships from coming close. When the Tyrians made a sortie from their northern harbour at siesta - time, Alexander was caught unprepared, but retrieved the situation. Ultimately the ram - ships made a breach in the wall on the seaward side while other ships fired missiles and attacked the harbours; Alexander’s men used boarding - bridges to enter the city from ships (Arr. II. 16 – 24, Diod. Sic. XVII. 40 – 6, Curt. IV. ii – iv. 18, Just. XI. 10. x – xiv, Plut. 24. ii – 25. ii).

Inland Gaza resisted too: it was on a mound surrounded by sand which caused problems for Alexander’s towers and machines; he built a ramp for these (but not all round the city, as Arrian claims), and the walls were overcome by a combination of bombardment and undermining (Arr. II. 25. iv – 27, Diod. Sic. XVII. 48. vii, Curt. I V. vi. 7 – 30, Plut. 25. iv – v).

Alexander’s tactical ingenuity is apparent in a number of smaller episodes. In his Balkan campaign of 335, when he was not accompanied by any of Philip’s experienced generals, he dealt with a waggon attack in Thrace by getting his men to open their ranks (to be done again at Gaugamela, above) or, where there was not room for that, to lie under the cover of their shields, and he stuffed skins used for tents to make rafts to cross the Danube (copied from Xen. Anab. I. v. 10; and to be done again at the Hydaspes, above). When dangerously trapped in a valley by the Illyrians, he frightened them off by a parade conducted in silence until it ended with a blood - curdling shout. He used portable catapults as field artillery (Arr. I. 1. vii – x, 3. vi, 5. xi – 6. iv, 6. viii).

In 331/0, when he was on his way to Persepolis, and his route through the Persian Gates was blocked, he learned of a mountain route from his prisoners and followed that with part of his force, so that the Persians were trapped between this contingent and Craterus with the remainder (Arr. III. 18. ii – ix, Diod. Sic. XVII. 68, Curt. V. iv, cf. Plut. 37. i – ii). In 328 – 326 there were several spectacular exploits. The Sogdian Rock/Rock of Arimazes was captured by’ winged mountaineers’ who used tent - pegs as pitons to climb above the fortress (Arr. I V. 18. iv – 19. iv, Curt. VII. xi, Polyaenus Strat. I V. 3. xxix). To reach the Rock of Chorienes/Rock of Sisimithres a ravine was bridged (Arr. IV. 21. i – ix, Curt. VIII. ii. 19 – 28, Plut. 58. iii – iv). At Aornus guides showed how light troops could reach the ridge from the north, and a mound was built into a ravine to bring Alexander’s catapults within range (Arr. I V. 28. vii – 30. iv, Diod. Sic. XVII. 85 – 86. i, Curt. VIII. xi. 1 – 25, Just. XII. 7. xii – xiii, Plut. 58. iii – v). In 326 at Sangala, between the Hydaspes and the Hyphasis, the Indians’ camp was protected by three lines of waggons in front of the city: a cavalry attack by Alexander failed to provoke a battle, and an infantry attack drove the Indians back into the city. Alexander built a stockade round the city and stopped two attempts at breaking out; finally he broke in by undermining the wall and using scaling - ladders, without needing the machines which Porus brought – but this was an expensive victory: Arrian reports 17,000 Indians killed, and on Alexander’s side under 100 killed but over 1,200 wounded (Arr. V. 22 – 24. v, Diod. Sic. XVII. 91. iv, Curt. IX. i. 14 – 25, Polyaenus Strat. IV. 3. xxx).

As a commander Alexander was never at a loss, never conceded the impossible. He remembered successful devices, from his reading and his own experience; he was successful in various kinds of fighting (but never had to master naval warfare). He drove his men hard and fast, frequently surprising the enemy by appearing sooner than they had thought possible; and he took a personal interest in his men and set a personal example (e.g. Arr. I. 16. v, VI. 26. i – iii) – sometimes, as at the town of the Malli in 326/5 (Arr. VI. 8. iv – 12, Diod. Sic. XVII. 93 – 95. ii, Curt. IX. ii – iii. 19, Just. XII. 8. x – xvii, Plut. 62), taking risks which even by the standards of ancient warfare a commander ought not to take.


The Greeks of Asia Minor had been subject to Persia since the Peace of Antalcidas, in 387/6, so they were now to be’ liberated’ (cf. Diod. Sic. XVI. 91. ii [Philip], XVII. 24. i): in 334 Alcimachus was ordered to replace oligarchies with democracies, restore laws and remit the tribute exacted by Persia (Arr. I. 17. ix – 18. ii). Alexander did not favour democracy as such, but inclined that way in Asia because the existing oligarchies had collaborated with the Persians. In various ways he claimed honours in the cities: in 333/2 Miletus appointed him stephanephoros (‘crown - wearer’ , the eponymous official of the year: Milet i . iii 122, excerpted SIG3 272, with editors’ date corrected); at Priene, following a precedent set by the Hecatomnids, he became the dedicator of the new temple of Athena (I. Priene 156 = R&O 86. A ~ Harding 105, cf. Mausolus and Idrieus at Labraunda,Labraunda iii 13 – 14 and 15 – 19), but Ephesus is said to have rejected his offer to pay for and dedicate its temple of Artemis (Str. 640 – 1. XIV. i. 22). Parmenio and Attalus had added the island states to the League of Corinth (e.g. Chios: Tod 192 = R&O 84. A ~ Harding 107. 10 – 15). Probably the Greeks of the mainland were not enrolled in the League but were made allies on such terms as Alexander chose, and since at first Alexander was in need of funds they paid a syntaxis (‘contribution’ , as in the Second Athenian League: cf. p. 268) to him instead of tribute to the Persians (e.g. Priene: I. Priene 1 = R&O 86. B ~ Harding 106. 13 – 15, probably modifying an original settlement in which a syntaxis had been required). The language was different, but in practice the Greeks were probably neither more free nor financially better off than they had been under the Persians.

Aspendus, perceived as Greek even if strictly it was not, was originally to provide money and horses, and after it revolted had to pay a larger sum and regular tribute to the satrap (Arr. I. 26. ii – 27. iv). There is a story that at the end of his reign Alexander offered the Athenian Phocion the revenues of a city in Asia, as the Persian King had bestowed cities on his favourites (Plut. Phoc. 18, vii – viii, Ael. V.H. I. 25; for the Persian practice cf. p. 39).

Otherwise Alexander retained existing practice. The barbarians’ territory was not to be ravaged, because it now belonged to the Macedonians (Just. XI. 6. i). Alexander began by appointing Macedonians as satraps in Dascylium and Sardis and claiming the tribute for himself. In Sardis he also appointed a garrison commander and a financial officer. This used to be seen as an innovation, but it is becoming increasingly clear that here too he was continuing a Persian practice: whatever the formal relationship between satrap, other officials and king, it was hoped that if one became disloyal the others would remain loyal. But for propaganda purposes the peoples of the western provinces could be’ liberated’ too:’ He granted to the Sardians and the other Lydians to use the ancient laws of the Lydians and made them free’ – which no doubt meant in practice that they too would be neither more nor less free than under the Persians (Arr. I. 17. i – vii). In Caria Ada, ousted by Pixodarus (cf. p. 363) but holding out in Alinda, submitted to Alexander and was reinstated; but after her death he appointed a Macedonian satrap (Arr. I. 23. vii – viii, VII. 23. i). Sabictas ?= Abistamenes, in Cappadocia, was perhaps another native ruler rewarded for submission (Arr. II. 4. ii, Curt. III. iv. 1).

Syria, liberated by the Persians from Babylon, remained pro - Persian until Gaugamela (Arr. III. 11. iv, cf. p. 395 on Samaria); but Egypt, in rebellion for much of the time since the mid fifth century, welcomed Alexander (Diod. Sic. XVII. 49. i, Curt. I V. vii. 1 – 5, cf. Arr. III. 1. ii). Egypt was given tactful treatment: over the province proper were to be two Egyptian nomarchs (but one declined so the other took the whole), ‘to govern their nomes as established since antiquity’ ; there were European army commanders, and two Egyptian Greeks were put in charge of the western and eastern frontiers; the one in the east, Cleomenes, was to receive the tribute from the nomarchs, and he eventually made himself satrap (Arr. III. 5. ii – vii, Curt. I V. viii. 5; Cleomenes as satrap [Arist.] Oec.II. 1352 a 16, Arr. Succ. FGrH 156 F 1. 5, Paus. I. 6. iii).

In 331 before leaving Tyre for Mesopotamia Alexander gave special appointments to two Macedonians: Coeranus was to collect tribute in Phoenicia, and Philoxenus in Asia’ this side’ (i.e. north - west) of the Taurus (Arr. III. 6. iv). Because in Harpalus’ absence (cf. p. 414) they had been in charge of Alexander’s treasury, some have seen their new appointments as powerful posts with authority over several provinces, but more probably they were to collect money from regions not subject to satraps in the usual way: the cities of the Phoenician coast, and perhaps Caria, still in the hands of Ada, but where Philoxenus himself subsequently became satrap.

The first oriental appointed as satrap was Mazaeus, satrap of Syria under Darius, who in 331 burned the crops in the Euphrates valley and then commanded Darius’ right wing at Gaugamela. After the battle he retired to Babylon, there submitted to Alexander and was made satrap, with a Greek garrison commander and a Macedonian financial officer (Arr. III. 16. iv, Curt. IV. xvi. 7, V. i. 17 – 18, viii. 12, cf. Diod. Sic. XVII. 64. v). He was the first of a series of Iranian satraps with European officers set beside them. Alexander could not claim to’ liberate’ the heart of the empire as he had’ liberated’ the western provinces; he was to represent himself as legitimate king (cf. p. 417), and to make his rule acceptable he needed the cooperation of the local aristocracy – but a Macedonian was appointed to the strategically important province of Arachosia, south of Bactria, centred on Kandahar (Arr. III. 28. i, Curt. VII. iii. 5). In fact, as Alexander moved further east, Iranian satraps and usurpers caused trouble, and they figured prominently in the purge of 324; most provinces were in European hands when Alexander died. In India Alexander reverted to appointing Macedonian satraps, but under them cooperative native rulers were retained and gained the territory of those who refused to cooperate. Porus is referred to as king and had no European troops stationed with him (Arr. VI. 2. i, cf. V. 29. iii; but called satrap Plut. 60. xv): after the abandonment of further eastward expansion, he was a vassal ruler on the edge of the empire.

According to Plutarch Alexander’ established more than seventy cities among barbarian tribes, planted Asia with Greek magistracies, and mastered their uncivilised and beastly way of life’ (De Alex. Fort. i. 328 e – f). It has been generally acknowledged that the number is a great exaggeration, and the latest serious study is the most drastic, reducing the number of Alexandrias to six – in Egypt; in Aria (Herat); Alexandria Eschate (Khodjend); in Susiana, near the mouth of the Tigris; Bucephala, on the Hydaspes, where Alexander’s horse Bucephalas died; in Macarene = of the Oreitae, between the Indus and Gedrosia – though there were other places, not founded as cities, where Europeans were installed in garrisons. Except in Egypt the cities were on the sites of older settlements: their purpose was primarily strategic and administrative, to keep garrisons in vital places and to act as a focus for the government of non -urbanised regions. Some seem to have been intended as trading centres too, but Plutarch’s view of them as a means of spreading Greek civilisation is seriously mistaken: despite his own Greek education Alexander was not fond of the Greeks, and the settlements were in fact resented both by the native populations on whom they were inflicted and by the Europeans who were deposited in them. In 325, perhaps in response to a rumour that Alexander had been killed at the town of the Malli, 3,000 men left in Bactria set out for the Mediterranean (Diod. XVII. 99. v, Curt. IX. vii. 1 – 11); and after Alexander’s death more than 23,000 men, ‘thrown out in the remotest parts of the kingdom, longing for the Greek training and way of life’ , rose up in revolt, but were defeated and treacherously killed (Diod. Sic. XVIII. 4. viii, 7). But, although we should not attribute hellenising intentions or practices to Alexander, his conquests did in the end have a hellenising effect. Greeks and Macedonians became involved in government, and Greek became the language of government; the western and central provinces of the empire became part of a Greek/ eastern Mediterranean world; and Greek - type cities were founded later on a substantial scale by the Seleucids.

Alexander and his Subordinates

The commanders of Philip’s advance force in 336 included Parmenio, his best general (cf. Plut. Sayings of Kings and Commanders 177 c), and Attalus, the uncle of his new wife. Alexander succeeded to the throne with the support of Antipater; he had no reason to love Attalus, and Parmenio acquiesced in his killing (cf. pp. 360, 390). In 334 Antipater was left behind in charge of Macedon, and Alexander began the Asiatic campaign with an army consisting largely of men who had fought under Philip and with Parmenio and his family well entrenched in positions of command. Parmenio himself ranked next to Alexander, commanding the left wing in the major battles while Alexander commanded the right; his son Philotas commanded the Macedonian cavalry, another son, Nicanor, commanded the hypaspists, and Nicanor’s brother - in -law Coenus commanded ataxis of the phalanx (e.g. Arr. I. 14. i – ii). In addition to these, Asander, possibly but not certainly Parmenio’s brother, was made satrap of Sardis (Arr. I. 17. vii); and Coenus’ brother Cleander fetched reinforcements from Greece in 334 – 332 and commanded the’ old mercenaries’ at Gaugamela (Arr. I. 24. ii, II. 20. v, III. 12. ii; probably to be restored in III. 6. viii).

But before long Parmenio’s family was in trouble. In winter 332/1 his youngest son, Hector, died in an accident on the Nile (Curt. IV. viii. 7 – 9). Asander was replaced as satrap of Sardis in 331, and no more is heard of him except that in winter 329/8 he brought reinforcements to Alexander (Arr. III. 6. vii, IV. 7. ii). In 330, after Darius’ death, Nicanor died, and Philotas was left behind to attend to the funeral (Curt. VI. vi. 18 – 19, cf. Arr. III. 25. iv). Later that year, when Philotas had rejoined Alexander, there was a major crisis. A man called Dimnus formed a conspiracy, and his beloved Nicomachus asked Philotas to inform Alexander. Philotas did not do so, but the news reached Alexander by another route. Philotas’ arrest was arranged by six men who were to be important subsequently: Coenus and Craterus, commanders of taxeis of the phalanx, Hephaestion and the Greek Erigyius, childhood friends of Alexander, and Perdiccas and Leonnatus, two of the killers of Philip’s assassin (Diod. Sic. XVI. 94. iv). Philotas was arrogant and unpopular (cf. Diod. Sic. XVII. 66. vii, Plut. 40. i, 48), but here may have been guilty of no more than failing to pass on information which he did not take seriously. However, prompted by Craterus, Alexander demanded the death penalty, and the army voted it. Parmenio, with a substantial force and no longer with Alexander, might not be trustworthy after his son’s execution, so Cleander and others were given the job of killing him. Various other men were put on trial, and some were condemned but others acquitted. A number of the soldiers were disaffected, and were put together in a unit of ataktoi (‘unassigned’ , or perhaps’ undisciplined’) (Arr. III. 26 – 7, Diod. Sic. XVII. 79 – 80, Curt. VI. vii – VII. ii, Just. XII. 5. iii, Plut. 48 – 9).

There is a series of stories in which Alexander benefited from not following Parmenio’s advice: his advice to wait until morning at the Granicus (Arr. I. 13. ii – vii, Plut. 16. iii; but see p. 404); his advice to fight a naval battle when besieging Miletus (Arr. I. 18. vi); his warning against the doctor who treated Alexander in Cilicia in 333 (Arr. II. 4. ix – x, Curt. III. vi. 4 – 12, Just. XI. 8. v – ix, Plut. 13. v – viii); his willingness to accept Darius’ final offer of terms (Arr. II. 25. ii [misplaced], Diod. Sic. XVII. 54. iv – v, Curt. I V. xi. 11 – 15, Plut. 29. viii); at Gaugamela his advice to delay for reconnaissance was accepted but his further advice to attack at night was not (Arr. III. 9. iii – iv, 10, cf. Curt. I V. xii. 21); his advice not to destroy Persepolis (Arr. III. 18. xi – xii). In each of the major battles, Parmenio had been in a defensive position on the left, while Alexander had attacked on the right; at Gaugamela, it was said (improbably: cf. p. 406), Parmenio had to send a message to Alexander, who turned back from pursuing Darius to help him (Arr. III. 15, Diod. Sic. 60. vii – viii [the message did not reach Alexander], Curt. IV. xvi. 1 – 3, Plut. 32. v – vii [Alexander rejected the appeal]). It has been suggested that Alexander had been scheming for a long time to escape from the clutches of Parmenio, and that in 330 his plans finally bore fruit; but Alexander was a man who reacted impulsively to crises rather than a patient plotter. Parmenio would not have been left behind with a substantial force if he had not been trusted, and the hostile stories may as well have been circulated after the crisis, to suggest that Parmenio had not been such a great man after all, as in preparation for it.

Immediately Philotas’ cavalry command was divided between Clitus’ the black’ and Alexander’s friend Hephaestion. Coenus and Cleander backed Alexander and continued to prosper. But otherwise this crisis brought to the top a new group, men who were Alexander’s rather than Philip’s . Coenus, Craterus, Hephaestion and Perdiccas were all to be hipparchs when the cavalry were reorganised; Leonnatus held important commands (after as well as before the crisis over proskynesis , so if the mockery is to be attributed to a Leonnatus [Arr. IV. 12. ii] rather than Polyperchon [Curt. VIII. v. 22] it must be a different Leonnatus), as did Erigyius until his death in 327. Other childhood friends who had been exiled by Philip were to rise to prominence too (Arr. III. 6. iv – vi): Harpalus (cf. p. 414) had been treasurer from the beginning; Ptolemy held his first command in 330 and was now made a bodyguard (Arr. III. 18. ix, perhaps exaggerating; 27. v); the Greek Nearchus had been made satrap of Lycia in 333 and was later to command Alexander’s fleet; Erigyius’ brother Laomedon, being bilingual, was put in charge of the Persian prisoners. Meanwhile Antipater, who had backed Alexander as the new king in 336, was left in command in Macedon.

Further crises followed. In 328 Clitus’ the black’ , about to be left behind as satrap of Bactria, showed anger at Alexander’s growing oriental affectations and denigration of Philip, and was killed by Alexander in a drunken argument. Alexander kept to his tent for three days, until he was persuaded to continue by the argument that the king’s acts are by definition just or, according to Curtius, by the army’s voting to condemn Clitus (Arr. IV. 8 – 9, Curt. VIII. i. 19 – ii. 12, Just. XII. 6, Plut. 51).

In 327, when Alexander tried to introduce the custom of proskynesis to his European followers, the opposition was led by Aristotle’s nephew Callisthenes (cf. pp. 421 – 3). As well as being the official historian of the campaign, Callisthenes seems to have had some responsibility for the pages, the sons of leading Macedonians who were attached to the court to attend on Alexander. Led by one whom Alexander had had flogged, some of them, allegedly worried by Alexander’s orientalism and his elimination of opponents, formed a plot, and news of it reached Alexander. They were tortured and executed, and Callisthenes was blamed, but Curtius maintains he was innocent, and Arrian says that although Ptolemy and Aristobulus considered him guilty most writers claimed that Alexander had already come to hate him and was ready to believe the worst of him. Disagreement about how Callisthenes died suggests something other than a public condemnation: the opportunity to remove him was no doubt convenient for Alexander but need not have been manufactured by him (Arr. I V. 13 – 14, Curt. VIII. vi – viii, Plut. 55, cf. Just. X V. 3. ii – vi).

So far Alexander had had problems with high - ranking individuals, but the army had supported him. In 326, however, the army mutinied at the Hyphasis, and Alexander had to abandon his plans to continue farther east. Coenus, who was connected with Parmenio’s family but had backed Alexander against Philotas, and who could be described as’ among those most loyal to Alexander’ (Arr. VI. 2. i), acted as the army’s spokesman (Arr. V. 25 – 29. iii, Diod. Sic. XVII. 93. ii – 95. ii, Curt. IX. ii – iii. 19, Just. XII. 8. x – xvii, Plut. 62). In the journey to the coast Alexander had to work hard to recover the army’s loyalty, taking unnecessary personal risks until in the attack on the town of the Malli he was seriously wounded. In the course of that journey Coenus died, of an illness, as our sources agree (Arr. VI. 2. i, Curt. IX. ii. 20); and while this too may have been convenient for Alexander, we are not justified in suspecting foul play.

Neither are we justified in seeing the march through the desert of Gedrosia as an act of expiation imposed on the army. Alexander wanted to explore, and to support Nearchus and the fleet; stories that Semiramis and Cyrus had had difficulties there constituted a challenge, but he did send Craterus and the veterans by an easier route (Arr. VI. 24. i – iii). The difficulties were genuine; on reaching Pura Alexander blamed the satrap Apollophanes for failing to forward supplies, but we have to turn to Arrian’s Indike to discover that Apollophanes had been unable to do that because he had been killed in a battle (Arr. VI. 20. v, 27. i, Ind. 23. v).

In his final years Alexander conducted a purge, particularly of Persian satraps and usurpers; but Cleander and his accomplices in killing Parmenio, who had remained in Media, were summoned and executed also, while Atropates, the Persian satrap of Media, had remained loyal to Alexander and survived, and Cleomenes, who in Egypt had enlarged his position and had offended the Egyptians but had done nothing to worry Alexander, had his misdeeds condoned (Arr. VI. 27. i – iv, 29 – 30, VII. 4. iii, 23. vi – viii, Diod. Sic. XVII. 106. ii – iii, Curt. IX. x. 20 – 1, X. i. 1 – 9, 30 – 42, Plut. 68. iii – vii). We need not be surprised that various men had assumed that Alexander would not return alive and had misbehaved accordingly (Arr. VII. 4. ii, Diod. Sic. XVII. 108. iv, Curt. X. i. 7). As always Alexander reacted impulsively to news of trouble, but we need not suppose that he imagined trouble where there was none, or had become neurotically afraid of anyone who might not be totally obedient: since we tend to hear only about men in high positions, we need not assume that those promoted to fill gaps were safe nonentities.

One man who expected punishment and did not wait for it was Harpalus, one of Alexander’s childhood friends who was unfit for fighting and so made treasurer. He was said to have fled to Megara, in Greece, in 333 before the battle of Issus, but to have been persuaded to return to that position in 331 when Alexander advanced to Mesopotamia (Arr. III. 6. iv – vii). For Alexander to forgive and reinstate a man who had offended him would be unparalleled, and it is an attractive suggestion that Harpalus’ flight was a cover for his going as a spy to investigate the trouble brewing in Greece. In 330 Harpalus was left in charge of the central treasuries when Alexander continued in pursuit of Darius (Arr. III. 19. vii); but he took to enjoying women and a notoriously luxurious life, in Babylon and in Tarsus (Cilicia). In 325/4 he fled, with as many mercenaries and as much money as he could take, and sought refuge in Athens, whose favour he had been cultivating; what happened after that we have studied in an Athenian context (Diod. Sic. XVII. 108. iv – viii, Curt. X. lacuna – ii. 1 – 3, cf. Just. XIII. 5. ix, Plut. 41. viii, and see p. 383).

It was Alexander’s intention that when Craterus, who was ill, had returned to Macedon with the veterans, he would succeed Antipater there and Antipater would take reinforcements to Alexander. Some including Curtius have thought that Antipater was now facing trouble, but Arrian denies that. A possible explanation lies in the fact that Antipater and Alexander’s mother Olympias had quarrelled. Not later than 331 she had gone to Molossis, where her daughter Cleopatra had been ruling in the absence of her husband Alexander (who went to fight in Italy in 334 and died there: cf. p. 330), but Cleopatra had not welcomed Olympias, and had herself returned to Macedon to get away from Olympias. After that, Olympias and Antipater each denounced the other to Alexander. We cannot tell whether in planning to remove Antipater from Macedon Alexander believed Olympias and had therefore become distrustful of Antipater, or merely wanted to increase the distance between Olympias and Antipater. In fact Alexander’s intentions were not carried out. At the time of Alexander’s death Craterus had not gone further than Cilicia, while Antipater, who had perhaps recently been in contact on his own account with the Aetolians, had not himself left Macedon but had sent his son Cassander; and after Alexander had died Craterus and Antipater joined forces to defeat the rebellious Greeks in the Lamian War (Arr. VII. 12. iv – lacuna, Diod. Sic. XVII. 118. i, XVIII. 4. i, 12. i, 49. iv, Curt. X. vii. 9, x. 14 – 15, Just. XII. 14. iii, Plut. 49. xiv – xv, 68. iv – v, 74. ii – vii, Livy VIII. 24. xvii).

Diodorus links with Alexander’s punishment of disobedient officials an order to the satraps to disband their mercenary armies (as Artaxerxes had ordered in 359/8: cf. pp. 259, 361). The intention cannot have been to remove all troops from the provinces; there is a suggestion that Alexander may have wanted to recruit the men into his own army; but the order created a flood of unemployed soldiers, many of whom found their way to Taenarum in Laconia (Diod. Sic. XVII. 106. ii – iii, 111. i, cf. Paus. I. 25. v, VIII. 52. v: see pp. 383 – 4). Another order issued in 324 was that the Greek cities were to take back their exiles (Diod. Sic. XVII. 109. i, XVIII. 8. ii – vii, Curt. X. ii. 4 – 7, Just. XIII. 5. ii – v): exile was one factor which led men to take up mercenary service, and the order may have been intended to weaken the force taken by Harpalus and/or the force building up at Taenarum (which Harpalus’ men joined). Athens was worried, because it had occupied Samos since 365 (cf. pp. 258, 272 , and see IG xii . vi 17 = R&O 90. B ~ Harding 127); probably the order was a breach of the principle of stability underlying the League of Corinth (thus Curtius: cf. pp. 357 – 8), and probably Alexander had long since ceased to care about the League’s rules. Of inscriptions concerning the return of exiles, R&O 85 (B =IG xii . ii 6 ~ Harding 113), from Mytilene, is better associated with local arrangements in the 330’s , but Tod 202 = R&O 101 ~ Harding 122, concerning Tegea, is rightly dated to 324 – 323.

Hephaestion, joint hipparch with Clitus and then one of the many hipparchs, but apparently not a particularly good military commander, was the man closest to Alexander (Curt. III. xii. 16). Probably they were lovers: at Troy in 334 he played Patroclus to Alexander’s Achilles (Arr. I. 12. i); after Issus Darius’ mother is said to have mistaken him for Alexander (Arr. II. 12. vi – viii, Diod. Sic. XVII. 37. v – vi, Curt. III. xii. 16 – 17). In 324 he became second in command, being described as’ chiliarch [the term used by Greeks for the Persians’ grand vizier: cf. Diod. Sic. XVIII. 48. iv] in charge of the companion cavalry’ ; his hipparchy was called his chiliarchy, and it was still named after him after his death (Arr. VII. 14. x). No one really succeeded him, but technically his position was taken by Perdiccas (Diod. Sic. XVII. 110. viii, XVIII. 3. iv, Plut. Eum. 1. v, Arr. Succ. FGrH 156 F 1. 3). Hephaestion was on bad terms with the other leading men: as a supporter of Alexander’s orientalising tendencies he clashed with those who disapproved, Craterus (Plut. 47. ix – xii, cf. Diod. Sic. XVII. 114. i) and Callisthenes (cf. Plut. 53. i); he quarrelled also with Eumenes (Plut. Eum. 2, cf. Arr. VII. 13. i, 14. ix).

Eumenes, a Greek from Cardia, had been Philip’s secretary and became Alexander’s (Nep. XVIII. Eum. 1. v – vi, 13. i, Plut. Eum. 1. iv, Arr. V. 24. vi, VII. 4. vi); after Hephaestion’s death he was assiduous in proposing honours (Arr. VII. 14. ix), and when Perdiccas was promoted he took over Perdiccas’ hipparchy (Nep. XVIII. Eum. 1. vi, Plut. Eum. 1. v). Eumenes may well be the compiler of the diary whose purpose was to stress the court’s heavy drinking and the responsibility of that for the deaths of Hephaestion and Alexander (cf. pp. 389 – 90, 399).

Aims and Ideals

Alexander was a Macedonian given a Greek education. His mother Olympias claimed to be descended from Achilles (Diod. Sic. XVII. 1. v, Plut. 2. i, cf. Arr. I. 11. viii); Lysimachus, one of his tutors, taught him to think of himself as Achilles (Plut. 5. viii); he read the Iliad with Aristotle, and treasured that copy of the text (Plut. 8. ii, 26. i – ii); he and Hephaestion were compared with Achilles and Patroclus (cf. above) – and in 335 Demosthenes called him Margites, the simpleton of a Greek epic (Aesch. III. Ctesiphon 160, Marsyas FGrH 135 F 3). For the Macedonians the war against Persia was a war of conquest, but Philip had already for the sake of the League of Corinth adopted the motif of a war of revenge for Persia’s fifth - century invasion of Greece (cf. Polyb. III. 6. ix – xiv: see p. 359). Like Agesilaus before him (cf. p. 243), Alexander represented the enmity of Greece and Persia as a continuation of that between Greece and Troy, and he emphasised this in his sacrifices at the crossing of the Hellespont and in his visit to Troy. It was good propaganda, and he probably believed it himself.

But by 330 the object of the Greek war of revenge had been achieved: Darius had been defeated, and Alexander controlled the centre of the empire; Persepolis had been destroyed – whether as a deliberate act of policy, opposed by Parmenio (Arr. III. 18. xi – xii), or as the culmination of a drunken revel, incited by Ptolemy’s future mistress Thais and afterwards regretted (Diod. Sic. XVII. 72, Curt. V. vii. 3 – 11, Plut. 38; and regretted later in Arr. VI. 30. i). The Greeks who had come as allies were discharged (at Ecbatana, Arr. III. 19. v; after Darius’ death, Diod. Sic. XVII. 74. iii, Curt. VI. ii. 7). What was Alexander to do after that? The pursuit of Darius supplied an immediate aim as long as he lived; the pursuit of Bessus after that. And then – by the time he reached the Indus Alexander is unlikely to have believed that the eastern ocean was as near as is claimed in Arr. V. 26. i, Diod. Sic. XVII. 89. v, Curt. IX. i. 3, ii. 26 – 8, Just. XII. 7. iv; but he may well have believed that it was within reach and that he could conquer the whole of Asia. Our sources represent him as a man for whom beyond each challenge there arose another, a man driven by powerful impulses to see what others had not seen, to outdo the exploits of previous heroes and men. The expression, ‘A strong desire (pothos , in Latincupido) seized him’ , used frequently of Alexander (e.g. Arr. I. 3. v, II. 3. i, Curt. III. i. 16, Just. XI. 7. iv), is applied often enough to others too in classical literature, and there is no reason to think that this particular expression originated with him or referred to any particular drive which affected him distinctively, but it certainly appears true to the picture of his character which we are given.

From 330 onwards Alexander increasingly represented himself as a legitimate king – though as’ King of Asia’ (Plut. 34. i, cf. earlier Diod. Sic. XVII. 17. ii, Arr. II. 14. viii – ix) he was not directly the continuator of the Persian Kingdom and its titles but the creator of something new. He was appointing Persians as satraps of the central provinces, and was to enlist oriental troops, at first in separate units and eventually in the same units as Europeans; he gave Darius a royal funeral (Arr. III. 22. vi, Plut. 43. vii), and punished Bessus for killing the King (Arr. III. 30. iv – v, I V. 7. iii – iv, Diod. Sic. XVII. 83. ix, Curt. VII. v. 36 – 43, x. 10, Just. XII. 5. x – xi, Plut. 43. vi). Worryingly for the Greeks and Macedonians, he adopted elements of Persian costume and customs, though not the precise dress and ceremonies of the Great King; he tried to extend the practice ofproskynesis to his European followers (cf. pp. 421 – 3); he married Roxana in 327, and he and his courtiers took Persian wives in 324; he showed a particular respect for the man who had made Persia great, Cyrus II (e.g. Arr. VI. 29. iv – xi, Curt. X. i. 30 – 5, Plut. 69. iii – v). To the disgust of his traditionally minded followers, Alexander was becoming an oriental monarch (Arr. IV. 7. iv, 9. ix, Diod. Sic. XVII. 77. iv – vii, Curt. VI. vi. 1 – 11, Just. XII. 3. viii – xii, Plut. 45. i – iv). On the other hand, he was far from gaining the approval of the Persians: he did not observe the cult of Ahura Mazda and the other ceremonies of the Achaemenid Kings or use their titles; the great capital cities were simply places to be garrisoned and/or looted; Iranian satraps with European officers set beside them are as likely to have felt humiliated as honoured.

How did Alexander perceive the various peoples who became subject to him in his kingdom of Asia? There are four texts on the basis of which it has been claimed that Alexander was the first person to conceive of the unity of mankind, but the claim does not appear justified. Plut. 27. x – xi (cf. his Sayings of Kings and Commanders 180 d) ends a chapter on Alexander’s visit to the oracle of Ammon (cf. p. 421) with a conversation between Alexander and the suspiciously named and otherwise unattested philosopher Psammon: Alexander was pleased’ that all men are under the kingship of God’ , but more pleased’ that God is the common father of all men but makes the best particularly his own’ (see box). This is surely non - egalitarian: what it stresses is that Alexander thought some of God’s sons are more equal than others. Non - egalitarian again is Arrian’s account of the banquet of reconciliation at Opis in 324, after Alexander had quelled the mutiny of the veterans (VII. 11. viii – ix: see box): there was a great feast, attended by some 9,000 men seated according to merit, and Alexander’ prayed for various benefits including concord and partnership in rule for the Macedonians and Persians’ . We may compare Xerxes’ council of war at Salamis in 480 (Hdt. VIII. 67. ii). This is hierarchical; it does not make a rigid distinction between Greeks/Macedonians and barbarians; but otherwise the most that can be said is that it recognises two master races rather than one (cf. Alexander’s Macedonian and Persian bodyguard: Phylarchus FGrH 81 F 4, Polyaenus Strat.IV. 3. xxiv, Ael. V.H. IX. 3).

Alexander’s Greek education will have taught him to make a rigid distinction between Greeks and barbarians. Isocrates claimed that the Athenians were superior to other Greeks as Greeks to barbarians and human beings to animals (XV. Antid. 293), and advised Philip to benefit the Greeks, be king of the Macedonians and rule over the barbarians (V. Philip 154). Aristotle regarded barbarians as innately inferior to Greeks and fit to be slaves (Pol. I. 1252 a 24 – b 27; III. 1285 a 14 – 22 , VII. 1327 b 18 – 38 distinguishes between the spirited barbarians of Europe and the submissive barbarians of Asia). In De Alex. Fort. i, after a chapter on Alexander’s (doubtful: cf. pp. 410 – 11) achievement in giving the crude barbarians the benefits of Greek civilisation, Plutarch continues (329 a – d: see box): Zeno [active from the end of the fourth century, founder of the Stoic school] sketched the dream of the unity of mankind, but Alexander’ provided the fact for the theory’ , by not distinguishing between superior Greeks and inferior barbarians as Aristotle had advised but thinking’ he had come from God as a common uniter and reconciler of them all’ . A slightly different slant is found in Strabo. 66. I. iv. 9 (see box), stating that Alexander rejected the advice to treat Greeks as friends and barbarians as enemies. Experience will indeed have shown Alexander that many of the Greeks were bad and many of the barbarians were civilised, and he no doubt came to appreciate aspects of Persian court life. He needed the cooperation of the Persian aristocracy, and there were advantages to be gained from intermarriage (no European women were married to Asiatic men; of the European men, only Peucestas, made satrap of Persis in 324, took to Persian ways with enthusiasm [Arr. VI. 30. ii – iii], and only Seleucus made a successful and lasting marriage [to Spitamenes’ daughter Apame: Arr. VII. 4. vi]). Alexander’s empire provided a context in which doctrines of the brotherhood of man could develop, as the world of the Greek states did not, but there is no evidence that Alexander believed in a mixed culture or that he philosophised about what he was doing. Plutarch made the essential point when he said in De Alex. Fort. i that Alexander provided the fact for the [later] theory.

It is said that he listened to the philosopher Psammon in Egypt, and was greatly pleased at what was said, that all men are under the kingship of God, for what rules and holds sway in each man is divine; but even more Psammon expressed a more philosophical view about this, saying that God is the common father of all men but makes the best particularly his own. (Plutarch, Alexander , 27. x - xi)

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[At Opis] he was seated and they were all seated, around him the Macedonians, next in order to them the Persians; after them those of the other peoples who had precedence in rank or for any other quality; and he and those around him [presumably only those nearest to him] drank from the same bowl and made the same libations, with the Greek soothsayers and the Magi beginning the ceremony. And he prayed for various benefits including concord and partnership in rule for the Macedonians and the Persians. The story is that those who took part in the feast were nine thousand, and all of these made the same libation and shouted the paean over it. (Arrian, Anabasis , VII. 11. viii - ix)

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This [one ideal state of which all people are fellow - members] Zeno wrote of, sketching as it were a dream or image of a philosophically well - ordered constitution, but Alexander provided the fact for the theory: for he did not, as Aristotle had advised him, behave as a leader to the Greeks and a master to the barbarians, caring for the Greeks as his friends and kindred but bearing down on the barbarians as animals and plants [there is no confirmation that Aristotle went that far] … but thought he had come from God as a common uniter and reconciler of them all … bringing together from all sides as if he were mixing in a loving - cup their lives, their customs, their marriages and their ways of life. He instructed them all to consider the inhabited world their fatherland, the camp their acropolis and garrison, and good men as kin and bad men as alien: Greeks and barbarians should not be distinguished by cloak and shield or by sword and tunic, but Greeks should be indicated by goodness and barbarians by badness. (Plutarch, On Alexander the Great s Good Qualities , i. 329 A-D)

* * *

Eratosthenes [head of the library at Alexandria at the end of the third century] did not approve of those who divided the whole mass of men into Greeks and barbarians, and those who advised Alexander to treat the Greeks as friends and the barbarians as enemies. He said it was better to base the distinction on goodness and badness; for many of the Greeks are bad and many of the barbarians are civilised. … So Alexander, ignoring the advice, was able to accept and benefit as many men as were reputable. (Strabo, 66. I. iv. 9)

At the end of his reign the Greeks were voting divine honours to Alexander. For a while it was believed by modern scholars that the Greeks made clear - cut distinctions between gods, heroes and human beings, and that if Alexander was indeed worshipped as a god in his lifetime that was startlingly new; but it is now coming to be seen that Alexander’s deification was the natural culmination of a century or more of development. Descent from a god or hero was often claimed by kings and aristocrats (Alexander as a Temenid was descended from Heracles, and through Olympias was descended from Achilles), and comparison with a god of those who had outstanding achievements was a common literary conceit. Isocrates writing to Philip referred to those who had been judged demigods for their campaigns against the barbarians (V. Philip 137), and in the Second Letter to Philip said that if he conquered the barbarians nothing would be left for him but to become a god (Ep. III. Phil. ii. 5: authenticity disputed). Aristotle thought that in an imperfect world a plurality of men was better than one, but if one man really did surpass the others he would be like a god among men and would deserve total obedience (Pol. III. 1284 a 3 - 11, 1288 a 8 - 9, cf. VII. 1332 b 16 - 22). Callisthenes, who was to refuse to perform literal proskynesis to Alexander (cf. p. 421), was happy to write of him as son of Zeus, and of the waves of the sea as performing proskynesisto him (FGrH 124 FF 14, 31 - echoing Xen. Anab . I. iv. 18, of Cyrus in 401).

But there is more to it than that. While it was common for founders and benefactors of cities to be venerated as heroes after their death, as Brasidas was by Amphipolis after 422, it appears that before then the original founder, Hagnon, had been venerated during his lifetime (Thuc. V. 11. i: cf. p. 75). Outside that context, a hero cult is already attested for the boxer Euthymus of Locri in the mid fifth century (Pliny H.N. VII. 152, Paus. VI. 6. iv - xi, cf. Strabo 255. VI. i. 5, Ael. V.H. VIII. 18). Lysander, who won the Peloponnesian War for Sparta, was shown being crowned by Poseidon in the’ navarchs dedication’ at Delphi, and at Samos there were games named after him and other honours normally reserved for gods - while Agesilaus is said to have refused divine honours in Thasos (cf. pp. 159, 240 - 1). In Sicily Dion, when he had at last got control of all of Syracuse from Dionysius II and his forces, is said to have been voted a hero’s honours (cf. p. 326); and at the other end of the Greek world Clearchus, tyrant of Heraclea Pontica (on the south coast of the Black Sea) from 364/3 to 353/2, to have received proskynesis and’ the honours of the Olympians’ (Suda K 1714 Kkeap%oq). The most relevant precedents are provided by Philip, who if he did not quite become a god came very near to it. Early in his reign Crenides was named Philippi after him, and an inscription attests temene of Philip there, a word which could denote either’ properties’ of Philip or’s anctuaries’ dedicated to him (SEG xxxviii 658 with xlviii 708, xlix 768; cf. p. 338). After Chaeronea the Philippeum at Olympia was built, to house statues of himself and his family (Paus. V 20. ix). At Ephesus there was a statue of Philip in the temple of Artemis (Arr. I. 17. xi); the people of Eresus on Lesbos had a cult of Zeus Philippios (IG xii. 2 526 = R&O 83. y. front = Harding 112. B. 4 - 5). As part of the celebration of his daughter Cleopatra’s wedding in 336 a statue of Philip was paraded with the statues of the twelve Olympian gods (Diod. Sic. XVI. 92. v, cf. 95. i).

What of Alexander? When Olympias had fallen out with Philip, it suited her to claim that Alexander’s true father was not Philip but Zeus (Plut. 2 – 3. iv). It was reported by Callisthenes (so well before the end of Alexander’s life) that the sanctuary of Branchidae (Didyma) near Miletus, sacked by the Persians after the Ionian Revolt at the beginning of the fifth century, resumed operation and sent oracles to Alexander in Egypt about his birth from Zeus (FGrH 124 F 14. a), and Arrian states that Alexander went to the oracle of Ammon (identi-fied by the Greeks with Zeus) to find out about his dual paternity (Zeus and Philip, as Heracles was son of Zeus and of Amphitryon) (III. 3. i – ii, cf. VII. 29. iii). So before Alexander went to the oracle, he was already beginning to think that he had a divine father. As pharaoh of Egypt he had become a descendant (but not son) of Ammon ex officio; if the priest did greet him as son of Ammon/Zeus (pai Dios , but Plutarch suggests that this might have been a misinterpretation of paidion , ‘boy’), he may have meant no more than that. The consultation was private; Alexander was said to be pleased; and he said he would tell Olympias when he next saw her, which he never did. Later, at the mouth of the Indus, he was to make sacrifices said to be ordered by Ammon (Arr. VI. 19. iv, cf. Ind. 18. xi); the claim of Curtius and Justin that his followers were told to pay him divine honours looks like later embroidery (Arr. III. 3 – 4, Diod. Sic. XVII. 49 – 51, Curt. I V. vii. 5 – 30, Just. XI. 11. ii – xii, Plut. 26. x – 27. ix).

In 327 Alexander tried to extend the Persian practice of proskynesis – technically blowing a kiss (cf. ill. 32), which might be accompanied by a bow or full prostration – to his European followers. It was a Persian social custom to offer proskynesis to a superior and to kiss an equal, as those who had read Herodotus would have known (I. 134. i, combining proskynesis with prospipton , ‘falling down’); Aristotle regarded it as a barbarian form of honour (Rhet. I. 1361 a 24 – 7). The Persian King was not regarded as a god, and those who performed proskynesis did not regard the objects of it as gods. Nevertheless some Greeks may have interpreted it in this way (cf. Isoc. I V. Paneg. 151); they certainly thought it a gesture appropriate only to gods and degrading if performed to human beings (Xen. An. III. ii. 13). There are two accounts of Alexander and proskynesis . One involves a debate among the intellectuals, in which Callisthenes expressed opposition, the Macedonians applauded him and Alexander agreed to abandon the idea (Arr. IV. 10. v – 12. i, Curt. VIII. v. 5 – 21). The other is a story of a drinking party at which the guests performed proskynesis and Alexander responded with a kiss, but Callisthenes while Alexander was not watching refused to perform, and Alexander when told of it refused him his kiss (Arr. I V. 12. ii – v, Just. XII. 7. i – iii, Plut. 54. iv – vi from the chamberlain Chares). It is unlikely that both are true, and the experiment is more probable than the debate. Curtius, at least, thought that Alexander was claiming divine honours; some modern scholars have supposed that he merely wanted to unify court ceremonial and, since he was in Asia, to follow the Asiatic model. It is not

Ill. 32 Treasury relief at Persepolis, showing the King receiving proskynesis. © The Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago


credible that Alexander thought those who performed proskynesis were worshipping him as a god; but he was increasingly seeing himself as somebody special and as the son of Zeus; probably the east was going to his head and he liked being reverenced in that way, and to that extent the revulsion of the Macedonians and Greeks was justified.

In 323 the oracle of Ammon pronounced that the dead Hephaestion was to be venerated as a hero (Arr. VII. 23. vi, cf. 14. vii, Plut. 72. iii; worshipped as a god Diod. Sic. XVII. 115. vi, Just. XII. 12. xii, cf. Lucian Calumny 17); and’ at this point embassies came from Greece, and their envoys were crowned themselves and came up to Alexander and crowned him with gold crowns, indeed like sacred envoys coming to honour a god’ (Arr. VII. 23. ii). Decisions are attributed to various Greek states: to Sparta, laconically,’s ince Alexander wants to be a god, let him be a god’ (Plut.Spartan Sayings 219 e , Ael. V.H. II. 19, the only suggestion that the initiative was Alexander’s). In Athens Demades proposed the recognition of Alexander as a thirteenth god; Demosthenes and Lycurgus are both said to have opposed it, but in 324/3 Demosthenes, perhaps sarcastically, granted that’ Alexander could be the son of Zeus and of Poseidon too if he liked’ (Ael. V.H. V. 12; Timaeus ap. Polyb. XII. 12b. iii, [Plut.] X Orat. 842 D; Hyp. V. Demosthenes col. 31, cf. Din. I. Demosthenes 94); Hyperides in his Funeral Oration of 323/ 2 complained in general terms of divine and heroic honours paid to men (VI. Epitaph. 20 - 1). But Curt. X. v. 11 says the Macedonians refused, and the Suda’s entry on Antipater says that he was opposed (Suda a 2703 AvTiJiorcpcx;).

There is enough smoke for us to infer a fire: that the Greeks paid divine honours to Alexander at the end of his reign is likely. But it is less likely that they did so at his request - and we should reject the suggestion that, since he wanted to order the Greek states to take back their exiles but had no right to do so (cf. p. 415), he decided to become a god so that Alexander the god would order what Alexander the man could not: he was past caring about his legal rights, and although Greek states consulted oracles they did not receive and obey divine commands. There is no suggestion that any orientals, for most of whom it would indeed have been blasphemous, were called on to worship him as a god or did so, beyond the claim that since the (not yet conquered) Arabs had only two gods Alexander thought they should recognise him as a third (Arr. VII. 20. i, Strabo 741. XVI. i. 11). In a Greek context, after what had gone before, admiration or flattery would suggest that divine honours were a fitting tribute to the man who had so spectacularly surpassed the achievements of his predecessors, and it is likely that Alexander enjoyed this tribute to his achievements without any sense of blasphemy. Divine honours for rulers were to become standard in the hellenistic period, first attested for Antigonus at Scepsis (OGIS 6).

Alexander died in 323, shortly before his 33rd birthday. What might he have done if he had not died then? Arrian credits him in Bactria with intending to make an expedition from the Bosporus into the Black Sea, and at the Hyphasis with intending to circumnavigate Africa (IV. 15. v - vi; V. 26. i - ii, cf. Plut. 68. i [later context]). In 323 he ordered an exploration of the Caspian, and he began preparations for an expedition to Arabia, to which he had already sent explorers (VII. 16. i – iv; VII. 19. iii – 20. x, Strabo 766. XVI. iii. 3, 778. XVI. iv. 19). There are other, less reliable, hints of further territorial ambitions (Arr. IV. 7. v, VII. 1. i – iv; Curt. X. i. 17 – 19 [the western plan to be mentioned below]). The Roman historian Livy (IX. 17 – 19) wondered what would have happened if Alexander had fought against Rome, and judged that he might have won a battle but not the war.

After his death, at a conference in Babylon Perdiccas produced plans said to have been found among Alexander’s papers, and persuaded the army to disavow all except the completion of Hephaestion’s funeral monument, as’ over -ambitious and hard to achieve’ . Diodorus gives as the chief of these: to build 1,000 ships larger than triremes, and to conquer the west by travelling along the north African coast via Carthage to the Straits of Gibraltar, crossing into Spain and returning through Europe, building harbours as he went; to build six temples costing 1,000 talents each; to arrange mass transportations of population between Europe and Asia, producing intermarriage and concord; to build a great pyramid to Philip (XVII. 4. i – vi). Alexander is no more likely than Lysander (cf. p. 240) to have made written notes of his plans for the future, but, whether authentic or not, with the possible exception of large - scale intermarriage and concord the plans are in character and credible as plans. But it is important that they were produced in order to be rejected, as after Julius Caesar’s death it was decided – but not adhered to – that no decree of his should be published (Cic. Phil. i . 3, cf. Phil. ii. 91, Dio Cass. XLIV. 53. iv, cf. XLV. 23. vii): none of Alexander’s generals was to be able to steal a march on the others by claiming, ‘We must do X because Alexander told me that he intended to do X’ .

At any rate, it seems that when Alexander thought of the future he thought in terms of further conquests and magnificent monuments. Yet large parts of the empire he had already conquered were still unpacified, and Greece was on the point of rebellion: his existing empire needed years of consolidation and careful administration, as according to Plutarch the Roman emperor Augustus had remarked (Roman Sayings 207 d). There is no indication that Alexander intended to turn to that, or that he had given any thought to a world which no longer contained himself.

Alexander had conquered the Persian empire; he had created a new kingship, and in his army he had done something to mingle Europeans and Asiatics; but he had not to a significant extent had either a policy of fusion or a policy of spreading Greek civilisation, and so it is hard to accept the picture of Alexander the dreamer painted by W. W. Tarn in the first half of the twentieth century. He had provoked, by his sympathetic reception of oriental ways, and had dealt with opposition from leading Macedonians and Greeks, but on the whole he had reacted impulsively as crises occurred, and it is equally hard to accept the picture of Alexander the schemer painted by E. Badian in the second half of the twentieth century. He was a military genius, clever in adapting to circumstances and inspiring as a leader of his own men, as military historians have long recognised; but (although on a smaller scale Greeks had been equally drastic in their treatment of defeated enemies) his military successes involved killing enemies on a scale not normally encountered in Greek and Macedonian warfare, as A. B. Bosworth has recently emphasised. He was a pragmatic administrator but not a patient organiser. Personally, he was a man who was eager to be up and doing, to discover new places and outdo the achievements of others; hard - living, like all the Macedonian nobility; impulsive rather than deliberate; and, especially towards the end, something of a fanatic. And in June 323 he died, with no obvious heir.


For general books on Alexander see the note at the end of chapter 26 . A list of studies of particular episodes and problems would be enormous, and I limit myself largely to the more widely ranging works and to works which I follow on controversial matters.

Fuller , The Generalship of Alexander the Great , is a study by a professional soldier. Engels , Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army , addresses important questions but is vitiated by the assumption that Alexander would not have used waggons. On military matters see also A. R. Burn, ‘The Generalship of Alexander’ , G & R 2 xii 1965, 140 - 54; B. S. Strauss, ‘Alexander: The Military Campaign’ , in Roisman (ed.), Brill’s Companion to Alexander the Great , ch. 5. Asthetairoi are seen as the men from Upper Macedonia by A. B. Bosworth, ‘CT08Taipo’ , CQ2 xxiii 1973, 245 - 53; as distinguished regiments by [Hammond and] Griffith , History of Macedonia , ii. 709 - 13. The view of the battle of the Granicus taken here was advanced by Green , Alexander of Macedon , 489 - 512 - but withdrawn in the 1991 reissue of the book, p. xiv, commenting only that recent studies had convinced him that it was’ flat wrong’ . Darius’s trategy for resisting Alexander is discussed by E. E. Garvin, ‘Darius III and Homeland Defense’ , in Heckel and Tritle (eds.), Crossroads of History: The Age of Alexander , ch. 5.

On administration see E. Badian, ‘The Administration of the Empire’ , G & R 2 xii 1965, 166 - 82, and’ Alexander the Great and the Greeks of Asia’ , in Ancient Society and InstitutionsV. Ehrenberg , 37 - 69; W. E. Higgins, ‘Aspects of Alexander’s Imperial Administration’ , Ath. 2 lviii 1980, 129 - 52. An authoritatively minimalising view of Alexander’s foundations of cities is given by Fraser , Cities of Alexander the Great .

Berve , Das Alexanderreich , vol. ii, and more recently Heckel , Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great , collect and discuss all the evidence for Alexander’s subordinates; the most important are treated also by Heckel , The Marshals of Alexander’s Empire ;and see also W. Heckel, ‘King and “ Companions ” : Observations on the Nature of Power in the Reign of Alexander’ , in Brill’s Companion to Alexander the Great (above), ch. 8. The view, here rejected, of Alexander as neurotically seeking to escape from the clutches of men who might be too powerful for him was advanced by E. Badian in several detailed studies and in his’ Alexander the Great and the Loneliness of Power’ , AUMLA xvii May 1962, 80 - 91 = his Studies in Greek and Roman History , 192 - 205; he has returned to the theme in’ Conspiracies’ , in Bosworth and Baynham (eds.), Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction , ch. 3. That Harpalus’ ‘first exile’ was a cover for a mission to spy on the Greeks was suggested by Lane Fox , Alexander the Great , 164 with 519, 411 with 542; Green , Alexander of Macedon (1974 Penguin edition), 222 - 3 with 538 n. 55, 281.

On Alexander as King of Asia see E. Fredericksmeyer, ‘Alexander the Great and the Kingship of Asia’ , in Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction (above), ch. 5; M. Brosius, ‘Alexander and the Persians’ , in Brill’s Companion to Alexander the Great (above), ch. 7. That Alexander believed in the’ brotherhood of man’ was claimed by W. W. T a r n , ‘Alexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind’ , PBA xix 1933, 123 – 66 = Griffith (ed.), Alexander the Great: The Main Problems , ch. 12, and his Alexander the Great , ii. 399 – 499 app. 25; and rebutted by E. Badian, ‘Alexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind’ , Hist. vii 1958, 425 – 44 = Alexander the Great: The Main Problems , ch. 13.

A minimalising view of Alexander’s deification was taken by J. P. V. D. Balsdon, ‘The “ Divinity ” of Alexander’ , Hist. i 1950, 363 – 88 = Alexander the Great: The Main Problems (above), ch. 9; his divinity is taken more seriously by E. Fredericksmeyer, ‘Alexander’s Religion and Divinity’ , in Brill’s Companion to Alexander the Great (above), ch. 10. On Euthymus of Locri see B. Currie, ‘Euthymos of Locri: A Case Study in Heroization in the Classical Period’ , JHS cxxii 2002, 24 – 44.

That Alexander’s posthumous plans were produced in order to be rejected is stressed by E. Badian, ‘A King’s Notebooks’ , HSCP lxxii 1967, 183 – 204.

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