Darius Iii - Analysis of Battles

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Classical studies 3.4

Darius III

Darius III was the last King of Persia and he began his rule in 336 BC after he was installed to the position by the vizier Bogoas upon the assassination of Artaxerxes III and his sons. When he came to power, Darius found that he was now in control of a vast and sprawling empire which was unstable. Darius rose to power though being the last surviving male heir to the Persian throne and as a result, had little to no experience of ruling. This put him in a bad position in terms of dealing with the instability and turmoil that the Persian Empire embodied. As a subsequent result, when Alexander the Great of Macedonia invaded in 334 BC, Persian resistance was weak and the Persians found themselves being defeated at both the battles of Issus and Guagamela. With the Persian Empire his, Alexander began his pursuit of Darius which resulted in Darius being forced to Bactria where he was betrayed by one of his Satraps, Bessus, who murdered him and took his title for himself. At discovering Darius’s fate, Alexander sent his body back to Persepolis, the Persian Capital, and gave him a fitting royal funeral which saw him buried alongside his predecessors in the royal tombs. With the old king defeated and given a proper burial, Alexander’s rule of Persia became official and he went on to conquer many new lands and found new cities. As a result of his actions leading up to and during Alexander’s invasion, Darius is regarded by many historians as an incompetent ruler who was cowardly and inefficient and that under his rule, the entirety of the Persian Empire fell into the hands of the Greeks, the historical enemy of the Persians. However some historians regard Darius as not being incompetent but rather someone who was an inexperienced king and a feeble commander in comparison to Alexander the Great, possibly the greatest military strategist the world has seen. This report will analyse the actions of Darius III before, during and after both the Battles of Issus and Guagamela. The Battle of Issus

The Battle of Issus was the second time that a Persian Host confronted Alexander’s Macedonian army and it was the first time that Darius himself was present. The battle was fought near the town of Issus which is in the south of present-day Turkey in 333 B.C. This battle was the springboard which Alexander used to put Darius on the back-foot and subsequently conquer Persia. *Note: Actions not in Chronological order

1st Action
One detrimental action that Darius did was positioning his army opposite Alexander’s in the narrow pass to the west of the Amanus ranges by the Pinaurus River. This was tactically ludicrous as it restricted the use of his vast numbers and inhibited their ability to manoeuver. As a result of this error made by Darius, the Persians lost their strength in numbers and thus their inferior troops fought the might of the Macedonian Phalanx on even terms numerically speaking. This was much in Alexander’s favour as it meant his better equipped hoplites crushed the meagre Persians, who in some cases were equipped with fire hardened sticks. This decision by Darius created a snowball effect of consequences as it ultimately led to the defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Issus. Charidamus, a very experienced Greek general, advised Darius to split his forces which would allow for greater mobility in battle which would in turn help defeat Alexander’s Macedonian army. However, Darius ignored this advice in an egotistic attempt to gain prestige and respect amongst his subjects and peers. 2nd Action

Darius was prone to adapting his formation depending on what his opposition was doing. As Alexander was approaching him at Issus, Darius entirely changed his formation because he knew that Alexander had sent scouts ahead. He believed that as a result of this, Alexander would position his army to more efficiently counter the...
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