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Issus 333 BC
« on: September 09, 2021, 03:11:00 PM »
Battle of Issus, 333 BC

Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander
(Loeb edition, transl. P.A.Brunt)


1() For the moment, however, Alexander told his troops to take their meal, but he sent a few horsemen and archers on to reconnoitre the road that lay behind them; then at nightfall he himself marched with his whole force to seize the Gates again. (2) When about midnight he was in possession of the passes once more, he rested his army for the remainder of the night there on the crags, after carefully setting outposts. Just upon dawn he descended from the gates along the road; as long as the defile enclosed on every side remained narrow, he led the army in column, but when it grew broader, he deployed his column continuously into a phalanx, bringing up battalion [taxis] after battalion of hoplites, on the right up to the ridge, and on the left up to the sea. (3) His cavalry so far had been ranged behind the infantry, but when they moved forward into open ground, he at once drew up his army in battle order; on the right wing towards the mountain ridge he placed first of the infantry the agema and hypaspists under Nicanor son of Parmenio, next to them Coenus' battalion, and then that of Perdiccas. From right to left these regiments stretched to the centre of the hoplites. (4) On the left, Amyntas' battalion came first, then Ptolemaeus', and next Meleager's. Craterus had been put in command of the infantry on the left and Parmenio of the entire left wing, with orders not to edge away from the sea, for fear the barbarians should surround them, since with their great numbers they were likely to overlap them on all sides.
(5) When the approach of Alexander in battle order was reported to Darius, he sent about 30,000 of his cavalry across the river Pinarus with 20,000 light infantry, so that he might deploy the rest at his leisure. (6) He placed the Greek mercenaries, about 30,000, foremost of his hoplites facing the Macedonian phalanx; next on either side 60,000 of the so-called Cardaces, who were also hoplites; this was the number which the ground where they stood allowed to be posted in one line. (7) He also stationed about 20,000 men on the ridge on his left over against Alexander's right; some of these actually got to the rear of Alexander's force, since the mountain ridge where they were posted was deeply indented in one part and formed something like a bay as in the sea; then bending outwards again it brought those posted on the foothils to the rear of Alexander's right wing. (8 ) The general mass of his light and heavy troops, arranged by their nations in such depth that they were useless, was behind the Greek mercenaries and the barbarian force drawn up in phalanx formation. Darius' whole force was said to amount to some 600,000 fighting men.
(9) Alexander however finding the ground opening outwards a little as he went forward, brought into line his cavaley, the so-called Companions, the Thessalians, and the Macedonians, whom he posted with himself on the right wing while the Peloponnesians and other allies were sent to Parmenio on the left.
(10) His phalanx in due order, Darius recalled by signal the cavalry he had placed in front of the river to cover the deployment of the army and posted most of them opposite Parmenio on the right wing by the sea, because it was rather better ground for cavalry, though some were sent to the left wing near the hills. (11) But as they appeared useless there for want of space he ordered most of them too to ride round to their right wing. Darius himself held the centre of his whole host, the customary position for Persian kings; Xenophon son of Gryllus has recorded the purpose of this arrangement.

(1) At this Alexander, observing that nearly all the Persian cavalry had been tranferred to his left, resting on the sea, while he had only the Peloponnesians and the other allied horse on this side, despatched the Thessalian cavalry at full speed to the left, with orders not to ride in front of the line, so that their change of position might not be sighted by the enemy, but to pass unobserved behind the phalanx. (2) He posted the prodromoi under Protomachus' command in front of the cavalry on the right, with the Paeonians led by Ariston, and in front of his foot the archers commanded by Antiochus. The Agrianians under Attalus, with some of the cavalry and archers, he threw back at an angle with the heights in his rear, so that on his right wing his line forked into two parts, one facing Darius and the main body of Persians across the river, the other towards the force posted in the Macedonian rear in the heights. (3) On the left wing of the infantry the Cretan archers and the Thracians under Sitalces had been posted in front, with the cavalry of the left wing further in advance. The foreign mercenaries were drawn up in support of the whole line. But as his phalanx did not seem very solid on his right, and the Persians seemed likely to overlap them considerably there, he ordered two squadrons of Companions from the centre, that from Anthemus, comanded by Peroedes son of Menestheus, and that called the Leugaean, under Pantordanus son of Cleander, to transfer unobserved to the right wing. (4) He brought over the archers and some of the Agrianians and Greek mercenaries, to the front of his right and so extended his phalanx to outflank the Persian wing. For since the troops posted on the heights had not descended, but on a sally made by the Agrianians and a few archers at Alexander's order had ben easily dislodged from the foothills and had fled to the summit, Alexander decided that he could use those who had been posted to keep them in check to fill up his phalanx. To watch the hill troops he reckoned it enough to tell off three hundred horsemen.

(1) His forces thus marshalled, Alexander led them on for some time with halts, so that their advance seemed quite a leisurely affair. Once the barbarians had taken up their first positions, Darius made no further advance; he remained on the river bank which was in many places precipitous, in some parts building up a stockade, where it appeared more accessible. This made it plain to Alexander and his staff that Darius was in spirit a beaten man. (2) When the two armies were close, Alexander rode all along his front and bade them be good men and true, calling aloud with all proper distinctions the names not only of generals but even of commanders of squadrons and companies, as well as any of the mercenaries who were conspicuous for rank or for any brave action. (3) He continued to lead on in line, at marching pace at first, though he now had Darius' force in view, to avoid any part of the phalanx fluctuating in a more rapid advance and so breaking apart. Once within missile range, Alexander himself and his entourage were the first, stationed on the right, to charge into the river, in order to strike panic into the Persians by the rapidity of the attack, and by coming more quickly to close quarters to reduce losses from the Persian archers. Everything happened as Alexander guessed. (4) The moment the battle was joined hand-to-hand, the Persian left gave way; and here Alexander and his followers won a brilliant success. But Darius' Greek mercenaries attacked the Macedonian phalanx, where a gap appeared as it broke formation on the right; (5) while Alexander plunged impetuously into the river, came to close quarters with the Persians posted there, and was pushing them back, the Macedonian centre did not set to with equal impetus, and finding the river banks precipitous in many places, were unable to maintain their front in unbroken line; and the Greeks attacked where they saw that the phalanx had been particularly torn apart. (6) There the action was severe, the Greeks tried to push off the Macedonians into the river and to restore victory to their own side who were already in flight, while the Macedonians sought to rival the sucess of Alexander, which was already apparent, and to preserve the reputation of the phalanx, whose sheer invincibility had hitherto been on everyone's lips. (7) There was also some emulation between antagonists of the Greek and Macedonian races. Here it was that Ptolemaeus son of Seleucus fell, after showing himself a brave man, and about a hundred and twenty Macedonians of note.

(1) At this point the battalions on the right wing, seeing that the Persians opposed to them were already routed, bent round towards Darius' foreign mercenaries, where their own centre was hard pressed, drove them from the river, and then overlapping the now broken part of the Persian army, attacked in the flank and in a trice were cutting down the mercenaries. (2) The Persian cavalry posted opposite to the Thessalians did not keep their ground behind the river, once the engagement had actually begun, but crossed manfully and charged the Thessalian squadrons, and here there was a desperate cavalry fight; the Persians did not give way till they realized that Darius had fled and till their mercenaries were cut off, mowed down by the phalanx. (3) But then the rout was patent and uiversal. The Persian horses suffered much in the retreat, with their riders heavily armoured, while the riders too, hurrying by narrow paths in a crowded horde in terror and disorder, suffered as heavy losses from being ridden over by one another as from the pursuit of their enemies. The Thessalians fell on them with vigour, and there was as much slaughter in the cavalry flight as in the infantry.
(4) As for Darius, the moment his left wing was panic stricken by Alexander and he saw it thus cut off from the rest of his army, he fled just as he was in his chariot, in the van of the fugitives. (5) So long as he found level ground in his flight, he was safe in his chariot; but when he came to gullies and other difficult patches, he left his chariot there, threw away his shield and mantle, left even his bow in the chariot, and fled on horseback; only night, speedily falling, saved him from becoming Alexander's captive, (6) since Alexander pursued with all his might as long as daylight held, but when it was growing dark and he could not see his way, turned back towards the camp, though he took Darius' chariot, and with it his shield, mantle and bow. (7) The fact is that his pursuit had become slower because he had wheeled back when the phalanx first boke formation and had not himself turned to pursue till he had seen the mercenaries and the Persian cavalry driven back from the river.
(8 ) The Persians killed included Arsames, Rheomithres and Atizyes who had been among the cavalry commanders on the Granicus, and also Savaces the satrap of Egypt and Bubaces among the Persian nobles; as for the rank and file, some 100,000 fell, including over 10,000 cavalry, so that Ptolemy son of Lagos,who was then with Alexander, says that the pursuers of Darius meeting a deep gully in the pursuit crossed it over the bodies of the dead.

Quintus Curtius 3.9-13
(Loeb edition, transl. J.C.Rolfe)

(27) In the beginning Darius had determined to take possession of the ridge of the mountain with a part of his forces, intending to surround the enemy in front and in the rear; and on the side also of the sea, by which his right wing was protected, he planned to throw forward others, in order to press hard on all sides at once. (28) Besides this, he had ordered twenty thousand, who had been sent ahead with a force of archers, to cross the Pinarus River, which flowed between the two armies, and to oppose themselves to the forces of the Macedonians; if they could not accomplish that, they were to withdraw to the mountains and secretly surround the hindmost of the enemy. (29) But Fortune, more powerful than any calculation, shattered this advantageous plan; (30) for because of fear some did not dare to carry out the order, others vainly tried to do so, because, when parts waver, the whole is upset.

(1) Now Darius' army was arranged as follows. Nabarzanes with the cavalry guarded the right wing, with the addition of about 20,000 slingers and archers. (2) On the same side was Thymondas, in command of theGreek mercenary infantry, 30,000 in number. This was beyond question the flower of the army, a force the equal of the Macedonian phalanx. (3) On the left wing Aristomedes, a Thessalian, had 20,000 barbarian foot-soldiers. Darius had placed in reserve the most warlike nations. He himself, intending to fight on the same wing, was followed by 3000 elite horsemen, his usual body-guard, and an infantry force of 40,000; (5) then were arrayed the Hyrcanian and Median cavalry, next to these that of the remaining nations, projecting beyond them on the right and on the left. This army, drawn up as has been said, was preceded by 6000 javelin-throwers and slingers. (6) Whatever room there was in that narrow space his forces had filled, and the wings rested on the one side on the mountains, on the other on the sea; they had placed the king's wife and mother, and the remaining throng of women, in the centre.

(7) Alexander had stationed the phalanx, the strongest part of any Macedonian army, in the van. Nicanor, son of Parmenion, guarded the right wing; next to him stood Coenus, Perdiccas, Meleager, Ptolemaeus, and Amyntas, each in command of his own troops. (8 ) On the left wing, which extended to the sea, were Craterus and Parmenion, but Craterus was ordered to obey Parmenion. The cavalry were stationed on both wings; the right was held by Macedonians, joined with Thessalians, the left by the Peloponnesians. (9) Before this battleline he had stationed a band of slingers mingled with bowmen. Thracians also and the Cretans were in the van; these too were in light armour. (10) But to those who, sent ahead by Darius , had taken their place on the ridge of the mountain he opposed the Agriani lately brought from Thrace. Moreover, he had directed Parmenion to extend his line as far as possible towards the sea, in order that his line of battle might be farther away from the mountains on which the barbarians were posted. (11) But they, having dared neither to oppose the Macedonians as they came up nor to surround them after they had gone past, had fled, especially alarmed by the sight of the slingers; and that action had made safe the flank of Alexander's army, which he had feared might be assailed from above. (12) The Macedonian army advanced in thirty-two ranks; for the narrow place did not allow the line to be extended more widely. Then the folds of the mountains began to widen and open a greater space, so that not only could the infantry take their usual order, but the cavalry could cover their flanks.

(1) Already the two armies were in sight of each other, but not yet within spear-range, when the foremost Persians raised confused and savage shouts. (2) These were returned also by the Macedonians, making a sound too loud for their actual numbers, since they were echoed by the mountain heights and huge forests; for surrounding rocks and trees always send back with increased din whatever sound they have received. (3) Alexander went on ahead of his foremost standards, repeatedly checking his men by a gesture of his hand, in order that they might not in too eager excitement be out of breath when they entered the battle. (4) And as he rode past the ranks, he addressed the soldiers in different terms, such as were appropriate to the feelings of each.
[Alexander's speech]

(1) Now they had come within spear-throw, when the cavalry of the Persians made a fierce charge upon their enemies' left wing; for Darius chose to make it a contest of cavalry, in the belief that the phalanx was the main strength of the Macedonian army. And now he was beginning to encircle Alexander's right wing also. (2) When the Macedonian saw this, he ordered two squadrons of horsemen to remain on the ridge of the mountains and promptly shifted the rest to the main danger-point of the battle. (3) Then he detached the Thessalian horse from the line of battle, and ordered their commander secretly to pass around the rear of his men and join Parmenion, there to do vigorously whatever he should order. (4) And now, having plunged into the midst of the Persians, although surrounded on all sides, they were defending themselves valiantly; but being crowded together and, as it were, joined man to man, they were not able to poise their weapons, and as soon as these were hurled, they met one another and were entangled, so that a few fell upon the enemy with a light and ineffective stroke, but more dropped harmless to the ground. Forced therefore to join battle hand to hand, they promptly drew their swords. (5) Then truly there was great bloodshed; for the two armies were so close together that shield struck against shield, and they directed their sword-points at each other's faces. Not the weak, not the cowardly, might then give way; foot to foot they fought together like single champions, standing in the same spot until they could make room for themselves by victory. (6) Therefore they moved ahead only when they had struck down a foeman. But in their fatigue a fresh adversary engaged them, and the wounded could not, as they are wont to do at other times, leave the line of battle, since the enemy were pressing on in front and their own men pushed them back from behind. (7) Alexander performed the duties not more of a commander than of a soldier, seeking the rich renown of slaying the king; for Darius stood high in his chariot, a great incentive to his own men for protecting him and to the enemy for attack. (8 ) Therefore his brother Oxathres, when he saw Alexander rushing upon the king, interposed the cavalry which he commanded directly before the chariot of Darius. Towering high above the rest in arms and bodily strength, and notable in courage and loyalty among a very few, Oxathres, brilliant at any rate in that battle, struck down some, who pressed on recklessly, and turned others to flight. (9) But the Macedonians around their king — and they were encouraged by mutual exhortation — with Alexander himself broke into the band of horsemen. Then indeed men were laid low like a building fallen in pieces. Around the chariot of Darius lay his most distinguished leaders, slain by a noble death before the eyes of their king, all prone on their faces, just as they had fallen while fighting, after receiving wounds in front. (10) Among them were recognized Atizyes, Rheomithres and Sabaces, governor of Egypt, commanders of great armies; around these were heaped an obscurer throng of infantry and horsemen. Of the Macedonians also were slain, not many indeed, but yet very valiant men; among those wounded, Alexander himself was slightly grazed in the right thigh by a sword. (11) And already the horses of Darius' chariot, pierced with spears and frantic from pain, had begun to toss the yoke and shake the king from his place, when he, fearing lest he should come alive into the enemies' power, leaped down and mounted upon a horse which followed for that very purpose, shamefully casting aside the tokens of his rank, that they might not betray his flight. (12) Then indeed the rest were scattered in fear, and where each had a way of escape open, they burst out, throwing away the arms which a little before they had taken up to protect themselves; to such a degree does panic fear even its means of help. (13) The cavalry sent forth by Parmenion was pressing the fugitives hard, and, as it happened, their flight had taken them all away to that wing. But on the right the Persians were strongly attacking the Thessalian horsemen, (14) and already one squadron had been ridden down by their very onset, when the Thessalians, smartly wheeling their horses about, slipped aside and returning to the fray, with great slaughter overthrew the barbarians, whom confidence in their victory had scattered and thrown into disorder. (15) The horses and horsemen alike of the Persians, weighed down by the linked plates which covered them as far as the knees, were hard put to it to heave their column along; for it was one which depended above all on speed; for the Thessalians in wheeling their horses had far outstripped them. (16) When this very successful action was reported to Alexander, who before that had not ventured to pursue the barbarians , being now victor on both wings, he began to press after the fugitives. (17) Not more than a thousand horsemen followed the king when the enemies' huge army gave ground; but who in the hour of victory or of flight counts the troops? Therefore the Persians were driven like sheep by so few, and that same fear which forced them to flee now delayed them. (18) But the Greeks who had fought on Darius' side, led by Amyntas — he had been one of Alexander's generals, but was then a deserter, being separated from the rest, had escaped, not at 1all in the manner of runaways. (19) The barbarians had fled in widely differing directions: some where the direct road led to Persia, others made, by round about ways, for the rocks and hidden defiles of the mountains, a few for the camp of Darius.

Diodorus 17.33-34
(Loeb edition, transl. C. Bradford Welles)

33 (1) When his scouts reported that Dareius was only thirty stades away​ and advancing in alarming fashion with his forces drawn up for battle, a frightening spectacle, Alexander grasped that this was a god-given opportunity to destroy the Persian power in a single victory. He roused his soldiers with appropriate words for a decisive effort and marshalled the battalions of foot and the squadrons of horse appropriately to the location. He set the cavalry along the front of the whole army, and ordered the infantry phalanx to remain in reserve behind it. (2) He himself advanced at the head of the right wing to the encounter, having with him the best of the mounted troops. The Thessalian horse was on the left, and this was outstanding in bravery and skill. (3) When the armies were within missile range, the Persians launched at Alexander such a shower of missiles that they collided with one another in the air, so thickly did they fly, and weakened the force of their impact. (4) On both sides the trumpeters blew the signal of attack and then the Macedonians first raised an unearthly shout followed by the Persians answering, so that the whole hillside bordering the battlefield echoed back the sound, and this second roar in volume surpassed the Macedonian warcry as five hundred thousand men shouted with one voice.

(5) Alexander cast his glance in all directions in his anxiety to see Dareius, and as soon as he had identified him, he drove hard with his cavalry at the king himself, wanting not so much to defeat the Persians as to win the victory with his own hands. (6) By now the rest of the cavalry on both sides was engaged and many were killed as the battle raged indecisively because of the evenly matched fighting qualities of the two sides. The scales inclined now one way, now another, as the lines swayed alternately forward and backward. (7) No javelin cast or sword thrust lacked its effect as the crowded ranks offered a ready target. Many fell with wounds received as they faced the enemy and their fury held to the last breath, so that life failed them sooner than courage.

34 (1) The officers of each unit fought valiantly at the head of their men and by their example inspired courage in the ranks. One could see many forms of wounds inflicted, furious struggles of all sorts inspired by the will to win. (2) The Persian Oxathres was the brother of Dareius and a man highly praised for his fighting qualities; when he saw Alexander riding at Dareius and feared that he would not be checked, he was seized with the desire to share his brother's fate. (3) Ordering the best of the horsemen in his company to follow him, he threw himself with them against Alexander, thinking that this demonstration of brotherly love would bring him high renown among the Persians. He took up the fight directly in front of Dareius's chariot and there engaging the enemy skilfully and with a stout heart slew many of them. (4) The fighting qualities of Alexander's group were superior, however, and quickly many bodies lay piled high about the chariot. No Macedonian had any other thought than to strike the king, and in their intense rivalry to reach him took no thought for their lives.

(5) Many of the noblest Persian princes perished in this struggle, among them Antizyes and Rheomithres and Tasiaces, the satrap of Egypt.​ Many of the Macedonians fell also, and Alexander himself was wounded​ in the thigh, for the enemy pressed about him. (6) The horses which were harnessed to the yoke of Dareius's chariot were covered with wounds and terrified by the piles of dead about them. They refused to answer to their bridles,​ and came close to carrying off Dareius into the midst of the enemy, but the king himself, in extreme peril, caught up the reins, being forced to throw away the dignity of his position and to violate the ancient custom of the Persian kings. (7) A second chariot was brought up by Dareius's attendants and in the confusion as he changed over to it in the face of constant attack he fell into a panic terror. Seeing their king in this state, the Persians with him turned to flee, and as each adjacent unit in turn did the same, the whole Persian cavalry was soon in full retreat. (8 ) As their route took them through narrow defiles and over rough country, they clashed and trampled on one another and many died without having received a blow from the enemy. For men lay piled up in confusion, some without armour, others in full battle panoply. Some with their swords still drawn killed those who spitted themselves upon them.​ Most of the cavalry, however, bursting out into the plain and driving their horses at full gallop succeeded in reaching the safety of the friendly cities. (9) Now the Macedonian phalanx and the Persian infantry were engaged only briefly, for the rout of the cavalry had been, as it were, a prelude of the whole victory. Soon all of the Persians were in retreat and so many tens of thousands were making their escape through narrow passes the whole countryside was soon covered with bodies.

Plutarch, Alexander 20
(Loeb edition, transl. Bernadotte Perrin)

And not only was the place for the battle a gift of Fortune to Alexander, but his generalship was better than the provisions of Fortune for his victory. For since he was so vastly inferior in numbers to the Barbarians, he gave them no opportunity to encircle him, but, leading his right wing in person, extended it past the enemy's left, got on their flank, and routed the Barbarians who were opposed to him, fighting among the foremost, so that he got a sword-wound in the thigh. Chares says this wound was given him by Dareius, with whom he had a hand-to-hand combat,

but Alexander, in a letter to Antipater about the battle, did not say who it was that gave him the wound; he wrote that he had been wounded in the thigh with a dagger, but that no serious harm resulted from the wound. Although he won a brilliant victory and destroyed more than a hundred and ten thousand of his enemies, he did not capture Dareius, who got a start of four or five furlongs in his flight; but he did take the king's chariot, and his bow, before he came back from the pursuit.

Polybius 12.17-22
(Loeb edition, transl. R.Paton)

17 (1) In order that I may not seem to insist arbitrarily on the acceptance of my criticism of such famous writers, I will take one battle and a very celebrated one, a battle which took place at no very distant date and, what is most important, one at which Callisthenes himself was present. (2) I mean Alexander's battle with Darius in Cilicia. Callisthenes tells us that Alexander had already passed the narrows and the so-called Cilician gates, while Darius had marched through the pass known as the Gates of Amanus and had descended with his army into Cilicia. (3) On learning from the natives that Alexander was advancing in the direction of Syria he followed him up, and when he approached the pass, encamped on the banks of the river Pinarus. (4) The distance, he says, from the sea to the foot of the hills is not more than fourteen stades, (5) the river running obliquely across this space, with gaps in its banks just where it issues from the mountains, but in its whole course through the plain as far as the sea passing between steep hills difficult to climb. (6) Having given this sketch of the country, he tells us that Darius and his generals, when Alexander turned and marched back to meet them, decided to draw up the whole phalanx in the camp itself in its original position, the river affording protection, as it ran close past the camp. (7) After this he says they drew up the cavalry along the sea-shore, the mercenaries next them at the brink of the river, and the peltasts next the mercenaries in a line reaching as far as the mountains.

18 (1) It is difficult to understand how they posted all these troops in front of the phalanx, considering that the river ran close past the camp, especially in view of their numbers, for, as Callisthenes himself says, there were thirty thousand cavalry and thirty thousand mercenaries, and it is easy to calculate how much space was required to hold them. (3) For to be really useful cavalry should not be drawn up more than eight deep, and between each troop there must be a space equal in length to the front of a troop so that there may be no difficulty in wheeling and facing round. (4) Thus a stade will hold eight hundred horse, ten stades eight thousand, and four stades three thousand two hundred, so that eleven thousand two hundred horse would fill a space of fourteen stades. (5) If the whole force of thirty thousand were drawn up the cavalry alone would very nearly suffice to form three such bodies, one placed close behind the other. (6) Where, then, were the mercenaries posted, unless indeed they were drawn up behind the cavalry? This he tells us was not so, as they were the first to meet the  Macedonian attack. (7) We must, then, of necessity, understand that the cavalry occupied that half of the space which was nearest the sea and the mercenaries the half nearest the hills, (8 ) and from this it is easy to reckon which was the depth of the cavalry and how far away from the camp the river must have been. (9) After this he tells us that on the approach of the enemy, Darius, who was half way down the line, called the mercenaries himself from the wing to come to him. It is difficult to see what he means by this. (10) For the mercenaries and cavalry must have been in touch just in the middle of the field, so that how, why, and where could Darius, who was actually among the mercenaries, call them to come to him? (11) Lastly, he says that the cavalry from the right wing advanced and attacked Alexander's cavalry, who received their charge bravely and delivering a counter charge fought stubbornly. (12) He forgets that there was a river between them and such a river as he has just described.

19 (1) Very similar are his statements about Alexander. He says that when he crossed to Asia he had forty thousand foot and four thousand five hundred horse, (2) and that when he was on the point of invading Cilicia he was joined by a further force of five thousand foot and eight hundred horse. (3) Suppose we deduct from this total three thousand foot and three hundred horse, a liberal allowance for those absent on special service, there still remain forty-two thousand foot and five thousand horse. (4) Assuming these numbers, he tells us that when Alexander heard the news of Darius's arrival in Cilicia he was a hundred stades away and had already traversed the pass. (5) In consequence he turned and marched back through the pass with the phalanx in front, followed by the cavalry, and last of all the baggage-train. (6) Immediately on issuing into the open country he re-formed his order, passing to all the word of command to form into phalanx, making it at first thirty-two deep, changing this subsequently to sixteen deep, and finally as he approached the enemy to eight deep. (7) These statements are even more absurd than his former ones. For with the proper intervals for marching order a stade, when the men are sixteen deep, will hold sixteen hundred, each man being at a distance of six feet from the next. (8 ) It is evident, then, that ten stades will hold sixteen thousand men and twenty stades twice as many. (9) From all this it is quite plain that when Alexander made his army sixteen deep the line necessarily extended for twenty stades, and this left all the cavalry and ten thousand of the infantry over.

20 (1) After this he says that Alexander led on his army in an extended line, being then at a distance of about forty stades from the enemy. (2) It is difficult to conceive anything more absurd than this. Where, especially in Cilicia, could one find an extent of ground where a phalanx with its long spears could advance for forty stades in a line twenty stades long? (3) The obstacles indeed to such a formation and such a movement are so many that it would  be difficult to enumerate them all, a single one mentioned by Callisthenes himself being sufficient to convince us of its impossibility. (4) For he tells us that the torrents descending the mountains have formed so many clefts in the plain that most of the Persians in their flight perished in such fissures. (5) But, it may be said, Alexander wished to be prepared for the appearance of the enemy. (6) And what can be less prepared than a phalanx advancing in line but broken and disunited? How much easier indeed it would have been to develop from proper marching-order into order of battle than to straighten out and prepare for action on thickly wooded and fissured ground a broken line with numerous gaps in it. (7) It would, therefore, have been considerably better to form a proper double or quadruple phalanx, for which it was not impossible to find marching room and which it would have been quite easy to get into order of battle expeditiously enough, as he was enabled through his scouts to receive in good time warning of the approach of the enemy. (8 ) But, other things apart, Alexander did not even, according to Callisthenes, send his cavalry on in front when advancing in line over flat ground, but apparently placed them alongside the infantry.

21 (1) But here is the greatest of all his mistakes. He tells us that Alexander, on approaching the enemy, made his line eight deep. (2) It is evident then that now the total length of the line must have been forty stades. (3) And even if they closed up so that, as described by Homer, they actually jostled each other, still the front must have extended over twenty stades. (4) But he tells us that there was only a space of less than fourteen stades, and as half of the cavalry were on the left near the sea and half on the right, the room available for the infantry is still further reduced. Add to this that the whole line must have kept at a considerable distance from the mountains so as not to be exposed to attack by those of the enemy who held the foot-hills. (6) We know that he did as a fact draw up part of his force in a crescent formation to oppose this latter. I omit to reckon here also​ the ten thousand infantry more than his purpose required. (7) So the consequence is that the length of the line must have been, according to Callisthenes himself, eleven stades at the most, and in this space thirty-two thousand men must have stood closely packed and thirty deep, whereas he tells us that in the battle they were eight deep. (8 ) Now for such mistakes we can admit no excuse. (9) For when the actual facts show a thing to be impossible we are instantly convinced that it is so. (10) Thus when a writer gives definitely, as in this case, the distance from man to man, the total area of the ground, and the number of men, he is perfectly inexcusable in making false statements.

22 (1) It would be too long a story to mention all the other absurdities of his narrative, and it will suffice to point out a few. (2) He tells us that Alexander in drawing up his army was most anxious to be opposed to Darius in person, and that Darius also at first entertained the same wish, but afterwards changed his mind. (3) But he tells us absolutely nothing as to how they intimated to each other at what point in their own line they were stationed, or where Darius finally went on changing his position. (4) And how, we ask, did a phalanx of heavy-armed men manage to mount the bank of the river which was steep and overgrown with brambles? (5) This, too, is inexplicable. Such an absurdity cannot be attributed to Alexander, as it is universally acknowledged that from his childhood he was well versed and trained in the art of war. (6) We should rather attribute it to the writer, who is so ignorant as to be unable to distinguish the possible from the impossible in such matters. (7) Let this suffice for Ephorus and Callisthenes.

Justin(us), Epitome
(transl. J.S.Watson)


(1) Meantime Darius advanced to battle with four hundred thousand foot and a hundred thousand horse. (2) So vast a multitude of enemies caused some distrust in Alexander, when he contemplated the smallness of his own army; but he called to mind, at the same time, how much he had already done, and how powerful people he had overthrown, with that very moderate force. (3) His hopes, therefore, prevailing over his apprehensions, and thinking it more hazardous to defer the contest, lest dismay should fall upon his men, he rode round among his troops, and addressed those of each nation in an appropriate speech. (4) He excited the Illyrians and Thracians by describing the enemy's wealth and treasures, and the Greeks by putting them in mind of their wars of old, and their deadly hatred towards the Persians. (5) He reminded the Macedonians at one time of their conquests in Europe, and at another of their desire to subdue Asia, boasting that no troops in the world had been found a match for them, (6) and assuring them that this battle would put an end to their labours and crown their glory. (7) In the course of these proceedings he caused the army occasionally to halt, that they might, by such stoppages, accustom themselves to endure the sight of so great a multitude. (8 ) Nor was Darius less active in drawing up his forces. Rejecting the services of his officers, he rode himself through the whole army, encouraged the several divisions, and put them in mind of the ancient glory of the Persians, and the perpetual possession of empire vouchsafed them by the immortal gods. (9) Soon after a battle was fought with great spirit. Both kings were wounded in it. The result remained doubtful until Darius fled, (10) when there ensued a great slaughter of the Persians, of whom there fell sixty-one thousand infantry and ten thousand horse, and forty thousand were taken prisoners. On the side of the Macedonians were killed a hundred and thirty foot and a hundred and fifty horse.