Alexander the Great and the Battle of Gaugamela

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King Alexander at only 25 years old, his reputation already one of greatness had led his men into Asia. To his soldiers, their invasion of Persia was to fight back after half a century of devastation brought onto Greece during the Persian wars between 499 and 448 BC. Alexander’s private desire, however, was to cast a shadow on the large Persian empire by winning all its lands and bringing it under his rule. Gaugamela, named after the village it was fought by, was the decisive battle in the struggle between Alexander III and Darius II for the Persian Empire. The battle occurred in 331 BC, this battle was one of importance as it shows a significant amount of Alexander’s tactical and military genius while including examples of his great leadership skills with his men.

Mesopotamia was an abundant region between the rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, dominated by Darius more than a century earlier. The major city in this region was Babylon and was located south where Darius anticipated Alexander would lead his troops. Instead Alexander headed north in the direction of the Tigris River basically there was more food for the horses, the heat was less intense and it would also tempt Darius away from the widespread plains surrounding Babylon. Darius needed vast, flat, obstacle free areas for his chariots and cavalry to be allowed to fight effectively. Alexander knew this, hence the reason he wanted to force Darius northward where the ground would be less favourable to him. This was just one instance that shows a factor that contributed to Alexander’s triumph in the battle.

Therefore Darius moved north and encamped near the village of Gaugamela while Alexander camped a few kilometers away. Alexander managed to capture some Persian soldiers and discovered where Darius’ location was so he could observe the activities of his rival. Unlike previous battles, Darius had found a suitable battlefield and was unwilling to give this one up. The ground here was flat, perfect for chariots. Darius made it even flatter by ordering the terrain plowed, leveled, removed stones, shrubs and filled in potholes so the area would be ideal for chariots and cavalry. Alexander in turn had also prepared himself for the battle. From his captured and interrogated Persian soldiers he had gathered information that helped him reconstruct the Persian army allowing him to work his movements against Darius’.

After seeing that Alexander’s Army was outnumbered five Persians to every one Macedonian Parmenio advised against an instant attack. Alexander approved this suggestion as he was anxious about the superior Persian cavalry and wanted more time to think of how to outmaneuver Darius and the Persians. Alexander permitted his men a decent meal and sleep, while only a few kilometers away Darius kept his men on standby all night long. This, Arrian believed to be a major mistake, ultimately causing Darius’ defeat since the next day Alexander’s men were well rested whereas Darius’ were exhausted. Giving his men rest and food also shows how Alexander was a responsible leader and furthermore he would have respect from his men for doing so. Not rushing into a battle unprepared also shows this excellent leadership and by planning carefully would have allowed more men be spared from death.

Alexander knew that the only way to triumph over the gigantic Persian army was through clever strategies so he thought about the difficult conditions over night while his men rested, he came up with a series of orders for his men. He ordered the Agrianians near his cavalry and specifically told them to bring the chariots and elephants to a halt, the chariots may be made of tough material but the drivers were only human just like the elephants were only animals, they could still be injured and stopped. In the centre were the phalanx and the Greek cavalry. A second line of infantry was following them, Alexander ordered them all to turn around and fight the enemy if they became...
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