THE BATTLE OF ISSUS

 

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

 

 

 

 

After the Persian  defeat at Granicus, Darius now believed that his throne was at stake and decided  to personally command the powerful Persian army himself. After some tactical  moves in which Darius outmanoeuvred and got the better of Alexander, the  Persian's positioned themselves between the Macedonian army and the Hellspont. 

To find the  Persian army not to his front but positioned behind him was a serious threat to  Alexander's supply lines and would have to be dealt with immediately. Thus  Alexander ordered his army to about face and march north towards the Persian  threat.

Because the  Persians were in the position to await their foe, it was Darius who choose the  battle field. The ground Darius had chosen was very similar to that of Granicus  with mountains to the east and the gulf of Issus to the west with the shallow  river Pinaros dissecting through the battle field. 

Darius knew that  he was being watched by Macedonian scouts and set about deceptively forming up  his army as a rous knowing that his positions would be reported back to  Alexander. When Alexander received the news that it was not a General in command  but the Persian king himself Alexander was for a moment briefly humbled.

Now aware that  Darius was personally in command Alexander saw the opportunity to end the campaign in one swift stroke, by killing Darius in the upcoming battle. Alexander knew that without the leadership of the great king Persian resistance to his invasion would cease and the entire Persian empire would fall to him.

When Alexander reached the battle field Darius put his true battle plan into effect. The Persian left wing cavalry suddenly left their positions and raced across the entire battle field to the opposite right flank and joined Persian cavalry units already in position along the shoreline.

Persian infantry concealed from Alexander's scouts now came up from the rear to occupy the positions along side the infantry and the mountains which were vacated by the  Persian cavalry.

The two armies now began to size up one another. Alexander would not have the luxury of almost  equal numbers as he did at Granicus. Darius had assembled a large army and the  Macedonian's would find themselves outnumbered by as much as three to one.  Alexander's forces numbering 41,000 men (35,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry)  would be matched against a Persian army of 120,000 men (110,000 infantry and  10,000 cavalry).

The Persian army formed up in two staggered lines stretching from the gulf to the mountains, Darius placed himself along with the empire's crack troops his elite Royal body guard in the center, flanking these were the tough Greek mercenaries 30,000 strong. 

The remainder of  the Persian forces extended outward from Darius's central position and comprised  the highly mobile Persian light infantry with the entire Persian cavalry force occupying the right flank. 

As Alexander began organizing his forces reports began to reach him that Persian troops were taking up positions in the mountains and were now actually behind the Macedonian right flank. Alexander  could not afford to be outflanked at such an early stage and sent a small force  into the mountains to contain the Persian infantry. 

Once completed, the Greek army stretched the entire length of the river from the mountains to  the edge of the Persian Right Flank. Leaving a force of 1,000 cavalry on his right wing Alexander positioned his remaining 5,000 cavalry along the shoreline  opposite the Persian cavalry 10,000 strong.

 

 

BATTLE FORMATIONS

 

 

 

 

The battle began in the mountains when Greek forces engaged the Persian infantry advancing down  on Alexander's right flank. Despite their numerical superiority the lightly clad Persians were no match for the heavily armed Greek hoplites and were easily pushed back down the mountain range behind the Persian left flank. 

With the mountains now occupied by Macedonian forces, Alexander personally took command of the elite companion cavalry and launched an attack on the Persian left flank  nearest the mountains. At the same moment Darius ordered the Persian cavalry by the sea to commence with their assault against Alexander's left wing cavalry.

As the two cavalry forces collide it quickly becomes apparent that neither force can gain an immediate advantage over the other and both forces become locked in a vicious stalemate. 

Alexander's second in command Parmenio, now orders the Macedonian phalanxes to lower their  pikes and march forward in a general advance choosing to leave only a small  infantry reserve behind. 

The dry river  banks were a serious obstacle for Parmenio to overcome as their depth slowed the  army's progress and hindered its steady advance. The Persian archers took full advantage of this opportunity unleashing volley's of arrows into the ranks of  the slow moving Greek's.

As Parmenio's  advance slowly continued onward his right wing infantry phalanxes began to veer  to far to the right and they began to loose contact with the center of the  Macedonian line. The Greek mercenaries fighting on the Persian side quickly  attempted to exploit the situation by advancing into the gap forming between  Alexander's center and right wing. 

As these events were unfolding the situation on the Macedonian left wing was becoming critical.  After being subjected to continuous onslaughts by superior number's of Persian cavalry, Alexander's horseman finally began to waiver and the entire wing neared collapse. Only when Parmenio orders the last of the reserve infantry in for support does the situation though desperate, stabilize for the moment.

At this stage of  the battle both armies were now totally committed and heavily engaged, in the center the Greek mercenaries continued extending the gap between the Macedonians and their right wing, further splitting Alexander's army in half. 

The situation for  the Macedonians was now becoming desperate but it is at this crucial moment in  the battle that Alexander's cavalry charge finally breaks through the Persian left wing. 

At this same moment the Macedonian infantry finally appear from the mountains behind the Persian left flank. This combined with Alexander's breakthrough inspires the hard pressed Macedonian army to gain renewed vigour for the fight and press forward.

The left wing infantry phalanx's push across the river routing  the Persian infantry before  them, they then swing around towards the gulf and attack the Persian cavalry from the rear.

 

 

THE BREAKTHROUGH

 

 

 

 

With the aid of the fresh infantry units coming down from the mountains Alexander smashes the  Persian left flank and turns inward towards Darius himself. The Persian infantry begin to panic and scatter in all directions before Alexander's charge, only Darius's royal body guard stand their ground and continue on fighting.

Darius is forced to watch in horror as his entire left wing disintegrates before him. With Alexander now bearing down on his position Darius decides to leave his army to  it fate and save himself by fleeing the battle field.

Upon hearing of  Darius's retreat panic immediately spread throughout the Persian ranks as the  remainder of the Persian army quickly choose to follow their kings example. The withdrawal soon turns into a rout as thousands of Persian infantry are trampled under foot by their fellow countrymen in their bid for escape or simply cut down by the Macedonians in bloody pursuit. 

As at Granicus the Greek mercenaries held their positions to the last refusing to surrender nor  retreat. This in addition to Darius's royal body guard fighting to the last man  forced Alexander to call off his pursuit of Darius and deal with these tough  experienced troops.

The defeat at  Issus was a devastating blow to Persian arms, Darius had assembled the best troops from within his vast empire and had lead them to utter disaster. 

Persian losses  were a staggering 70,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry. Again the Greek mercenaries  suffered for their valour yielding an additional 20,000 men to the Persian total  with the remaining 10,000 being sold into slavery. Macedonian losses numbered a  mere 3,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry.      

 

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