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.
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.
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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