THE BATTLE OF GRANICUS

 

ALEXANDER

 

 

 

After the assassination of his father King Philip II in 336 BC, Alexander ascended to the throne of Macedon. He also inherited the loyalty of the professional army which his father had created at a time when Macedonia had just come to dominating most of Greece. 

After destroying the rebellious forces of Thrace and Thebes, Alexander had succeeded in crushing the last opposition to his kingship, effectively becoming sole ruler of Greece. Alexander now set his sights on fulfilling his father’s dream of conquering the vast and powerful Persian Empire to the east.

In 334 BC, Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Persia with 40,000 men. His first goal was to secure the Aegean coastline thus denying the Persian naval fleet basses with which they could sail against Greece in his absence.

As the Macedonian - Greek army continued south, it came across Persian forces blocking their advance at the river Granicus. Jetting inland from the Aegean sea, the river was extremely shallow for that time of year and would later prove not much of a barrier for either side to cross.

The Persian forces were commanded not by one man, but lead by a coalition of more than forty high ranking Generals, Princes and other Persian aristocrats with little or no battle field experience. The one exception being Memnon, commander of the Greek mercenary forces. Memnon was a highly decorated and experienced battle field General who had fought with distinction in the Greek wars. 

For the upcoming  battle Alexander's army of 40,000 men (35,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry), would face a Persian army numbering 33,000 men (15,000 cavalry, 10,000 infantry and 8,000 Greek mercenaries).

The Persians deployed all their cavalry in line stretching the entire length of the battle field. The Persian infantry and Greek mercenaries were positioned in one line to the rear of the cavalry. 

Alexander positioned his Greek infantry phalanxes opposite the Persian cavalry along the bank of the river then splitting his cavalry force into two groups, placing  3,000 horsemen (which included the 1,000 strong elite companions) on his right wing and the remaining 2,000 on his left. Alexander's army was then divided into two independent forces, the right wing under Alexander's direct command while the  left, would be entrusted to Parmenion.

 Battle of Granicus Map

BATTLE FORMATIONS

 

 

 

 

Alexander began the battle himself, personally leading 1500 cavalry towards the Persian left flank. The Persian’s responded by launching their left wing cavalry to meet the Macedonians head on. As the two forces collided, it became very apparent the Macedonian’s had a telling advantage over their enemy. The European’s were fitted with body armor and heavy weapons, were as their Persian foe were lightly clad and armed.

After stubborn resistance the Persian horse slowly began to give ground and were pushed back towards their center. Alexander now gave the signal for the remaining Macedonian right wing cavalry including the elite companions, to cross the river and join the attack. 

Charging out towards the extreme right of the two cavalry forces already engaged, the Macedonian horseman easily outflanked the Persian left wing. The remaining Persian cavalry positioned along the river began to pull units back in an attempt to form a defensive line to halt the oncoming Macedonian cavalry.

This manoeuvre opened a large gap in the Persian lines just right of their center. Sensing the opportunity Parmenion ordered the entire Greek army to lower their pikes and advance across the river in a general advance

Alexander's horsemen easily smashed through the thin Persian defensive lines and were now bearing down on the Persian center. This along with the Greek infantry advancing  on a wide front created complete panic amongst the Persian ranks, which quickly began to disintegrate and flee in all directions.

The Greek mercenaries watched in utter disbelief as the entire Persian army ran for their lives, abandoning them to fight on alone. Alexander now ordered the Greek mercenaries to be surrounded.

 

Battle of Granicus Map

THE GREEK BREAKTHROUGH

 

 

 

 

Although they asked the great king for mercy, Alexander would not listen, he felt personally betrayed by these fellow countrymen who had taken up arms against him. He thus gave the order for their complete destruction.

The Greek Phalanx's advanced on the mercenaries head on as the Macedonian cavalry attacked them from the rear. After a savage and bitter defence, only 1,000 of the 8,000 mercenaries were spared and sent back as slaves to work in the silver mines of Greece. 

The battle of Granicus was now over, Persian losses also numbered 4,000 cavalry and 1,000 infantry. Alexander's casualties were non existent, with losses of 200 cavalry and 100 infantry. 

Alexander's victory at Granicus shattered the myth of Persian invincibility and launched the persona of Alexander as one of history's great commanders.    

 

 

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