THE BATTLE OF GAUGAMELA
After the combined Greek - Macedonian victory at Issus, Alexander's army continued down the Aegean coastline towards Egypt, where the Persian governor offered no resistance. With Egypt now occupied Alexander effectively secured the Greek mainland from Persian naval attack and could now move his army into the heart of the Persian empire.
Alexander's march would be checked however as another Persian army arrived blocking his advance on the plains of Gaugamela, near the city of Arbela ( now modern day Iraq).
Darius's army came from every province of the Persian empire still under his control. From every city, town and village, men were conscripted and trained on the march. Besides a few regular Persian army units and the tough Greek mercenaries to form the core of his army, for Gaugamela Darius had truly scraped the bottom of the manpower barrel.
As at Issus Darius once again had chosen the battle field, Gaugamela was a very wide and open plain. Darius however wanted no room for error and every advantage he could muster. Darius thus ordered his men to level the battle field as to resemble a massive parade ground so he could increase the speed and effectiveness of his chariots and cavalry.
As Alexander's army was approaching, Darius sent Alexander a very generous proposal. Darius offered all lands west of the Eufrate river and 10,000 talents of gold in exchange for a peace treaty and alliance between both empires.
Alexander's scouts had reported that a massive Persian army was waiting for them, perhaps five times as large as the Persian force at Issus. Alexander's Generals advised to accept Darius's proposal, but Alexander viewed this as the last act of a desperate man, as everything Darius had offered was already within his grasp.
Alexander marched his troops to within sight of the Persian's awaiting them at Gaugamela. The reports from Alexander's scouts would prove correct. Alexander's army of 47,000 men (40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry) would be matched against an immense Persian army of some 250,000 men (190,000 infantry and 40,000 cavalry). Also in Darius's arsenal were 200 scythe bearing chariots along with a contingent of Greek mercenaries some 20,000 strong.
For the upcoming battle Darius placed his chariots to the front of his army supported by archers and small units of cavalry. Behind these forces stood the bulk of the Persian infantry extended in line to both cavalry wings of 20,000 horseman each.
As Alexander arrived on the battle field he saw that the Persian army extended out beyond both his flanks. Because Alexander did not have the forces to match the enemy's entire line, he ordered his army to change direction as they drew closer to the Persian's.
The Macedonian right wing began to advance closer to the Persian left flank adopting a sloped formation, until the entire army came to rest on a thirty degree angle from the right to left flank.
Alexander placed his infantry phalanx's in the center and his cavalry supported by light infantry on both flanks. Since Alexander's right wing was closest to the Persian's, Alexander sent his best units to that part of the battle field.
Darius knew that in the Persian losses at Granicus and Issus it was Alexander who attacked first, with both assaults being directed against the Persian left wing. Darius thus placed what was left of the Empires best cavalry on that flank. Darius also wanted to use his superior numbers for attack and not defence and with Alexander's sloped battle line Darius saw an opportunity to swing his cavalry around the tip of the Macedonian right wing and attack them from the rear
Darius opened the battle by ordering his left wing cavalry commander, Bessos to attack. Thousands of Persian horseman charged first outward to the extreme left and then slowly coming around behind the Macedonians in an attempt to roll up Alexander's right flank.
Although heavily outnumbered the Macedonian right wing cavalry commander Ariston, led a desperate charge towards the oncoming Persian assault to prevent the enemy from turning the Macedonian right flank. Once engaged, Ariston had a difficult time holding the Persian attack until Alexander sent in units of the reserve infantry phalanx to stabilize the situation.
With the cavalry battle on the Persian left wing locked in a stalemate, Darius ordered his 200 chariots forward to attack the Macedonian phalanxes in the center. As the chariots drew closer to their foe the Macedonian infantry formations began to divide and separate, simply letting the chariots pass through their ranks, only to be later surrounded and destroyed. Darius's chariot attack achieved nothing and proved a dismal failure.
Bessos's cavalry attack on Alexander's right wing had created a dangerous gap between the Persian left flank and the cavalry, the Persian infantry therefore were forced to stretch out further to the left in order to maintain contact. Alexander noticed the Persian left wing infantry formations were beginning to thin out and ordered his companion cavalry and infantry phalanxes on his right wing forward, to attack between the Persian center and the cavalry battle.
With Bessos's assault locked in stalemate and Alexander's right wing heavily engaged against the Persian left flank, Darius now orders Mazaeus and his entire right wing cavalry force of 20,000 horsemen to attack the Macedonian left wing.
Mazaeus's charge slammed hard into the Macedonian positions under Alexander's second in command Parmenio. The sheer weight of the Persian advance forced the Greek line to buckle and fall back. Meanwhile the Macedonian center prematurely marched out towards Alexander's assault against the Persian left flank. As a result the Macedonian - Greek army soon began to loose contact with one another as a large break developed in their center separating the army in two.
With Alexander's center wide open and unprotected, Darius immediately ordered his reserve heavy cavalry forward to occupy and extend the gap. But the Persian chargers advanced to far through the enemy center and deep into the rear areas of the Greek-Macedonian army.
The attack soon began to trickle away as the Persian horseman content themselves with looting and destroying Alexander's supply train. It is with ease that the Persians are forced to scatter when Alexander's reserve infantry phalanxes arrive on the scene.
Although the Persian threat to the Macedonian rear area's had now been dismissed, the serious breach in Alexander's center still existed. On the Macedonian left flank Parmenio, with his reserves exhausted was just barely holding the line against Mazaeus's cavalry assault. While On the extreme right, Ariston and Bessos were still grid locked with neither commander gaining an advantage over the other.
Darius now gave the command for his Greek mercenaries to advance and occupy Alexander's decimated center.It is at this critical moment in the battle that Alexander's cavalry charge against the Persian infantry holding the area between the Persian center and left flank, finally breaks through into open country. The Persian infantry are routed and attempt to flee, but are cut down mercilessly by Alexander's charge.
With Alexander's cavalry now behind the Persian left wing he orders them to turn inward towards the Persian center. In response Darius sounds the recall to the Greek mercenaries, but they have advanced to far and will not return in time to offer any assistance.
Then the situation on the Macedonian left flank suddenly changes, the initial weight and power of Mazaeus's cavalry charge is finally checked and begins to stall, allowing Parmenio to re shuffle his forces and stabilize the front.
In desperation, Darius now orders what is left of the infantry formations on his left wing to fall back and form a new defensive line, but they respond to slow. Alexander's cavalry simply outflank the Persian's to their left.
With the Persian left wing crumbling and no reserves left to throw in and stop Alexander's coming charge, as at the battle of Issus, Darius chooses to save himself and deserts his army to its fate.
DARIUS ABANDONES’ HIS ARMY
As word of Darius's retreat spreads throughout the Persian ranks, confusion and panic quickly follow. The entire Persian army soon disintegrates, fleeing in all directions, leaving the Greek mercenaries to fend for themselves.
Alexander now orders his cavalry to envelope the mercenaries still occupying the center of the battle field to prevent their escape, while Parmenio brings up the re formed infantry phalanxes to complete the trap.
In Alexander's mind these Greek mercenaries are traitors and must be destroyed without mercy. Alexander thus orders his entire army to attack and destroy their fellow countrymen. To the Greeks trapped in this pocket of death, they know it is a fight to the very end and give a good account of themselves by putting up a stubborn and determined resistance.
Facing fierce cavalry charges and repeated infantry attacks from all sides, resistance within the pocket soon collapses as the mercenaries are overwhelmed by superior numbers. Only when Alexander is satisfied that every man has been slain, does he give the order to halt the slaughter.
Alexander's victory at Gaugamela completely destroyed the Persian army as a fighting force. The Persian’s suffered 50,000 dead and an equal number taken prisoner along with the 20,000 Greek mercenaries. Within the Macedonian-Greek army casualties numbered a mere 3,000 men.
Darius was now to become a fugitive in the Empire he once ruled, only to be later murdered by his own officers. Alexander now declared himself ruler of Persia, but this final victory over Persian arms would not halt Alexander's thirst for conquest. He would continue to lead his army through the vast depths of Persia where more conquest and glory awaited him in the far off eastern lands of India.
ALEXANDER GAZES UPON THE BODY OF DARIUS
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