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Alexander the Great: Battle of Gaugamela

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Katherine Jones 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. ...read more.


The battle turned out better than it possibly could have for Alexander, as we can see his well thought out plan coincided with the actual events of the battle and all went as he had pre-determined. Alexander initially ordered his right wing cavalry to advance on an angle, as always, to the right. Consequently forcing the Persian cavalry further left to pursue them, thus moving away from the specially cleared area Darius had so carefully arranged for them. To counteract these actions Darius ordered his men to stop moving to the left and head directly forward to attack Alexander's right wing as intended. This arrangement worked well for Alexander as he postponed a rather dominant attack to his right wing and would have confused Darius' cavalry who needed to aim to break through Alexander's right wing and get behind his troops as to fight them from the back. Darius then launched the elephants and chariots against the phalanx but Alexander had foreseen this problem and all his men followed their detailed instructions. The Agrianians stopped the majority of the chariots and elephants before they even reached the phalanx. The rest caused many of the infantry to panic but because of their training and discipline they followed Alexander's orders and broke ranks at precisely the right moment allowing the elephants and chariots to pass through corridors made for them so the attack failed miserably as it caused very minimal damage. ...read more.


As Arrian states 'When the king received this information, he refrained from further pursuit' and Alexander alongside his companions quickly headed to help his left wing. But, on the way, they bumped into the Persian right wing, who in turn were trying to escape from the Macedonian camp. Here there was a terrible fight and many companions' lives were lost but nevertheless Alexander prevailed and rushed to the aid of Parmenio. Though, by this time, Parmenio and the left wing did not need his help any more. Mazaeus, after hearing of Darius' flight, hastily led his men away from the battle and was pursued by the Thessalians. Alexander showed remarkable leadership skills in this stage of the battle as he put aside his own wants for the needs of his men. Alexander considered the victory at Gaugamela to be one of significance in the fight over the Persian Empire, as Darius' army was crushed, Alexander now had control of the heart of Asia and so he proclaimed himself 'king of Asia'. This statement, before the whole Macedonian army, would have had huge propaganda worth to Alexander making him appear very impressive to his people. Throughout the battle Alexander proved himself to be worthy of his title; Alexander the Great. This particular battle illuminated Alexander's tactical brilliance, strength and genius because he won purely through intellectual strategies. Considering the size of Darius' army and the outcome of the battle Alexander shows that there is some truth to the saying that brains beat brawn. Katherine Jones ...read more.

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