Battle of Gaugamela

Battle of Gaugamela

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The Battle of Gaugamela (icon; ) took place in 331 BC
331 BC
Year 331 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Potitus and Marcellus...

 between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia
Darius III of Persia
Darius III , also known by his given name of Codomannus, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC....

. The battle, which is also called the Battle of Arbela, resulted in a massive victory for the ancient Macedonians and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

.

Location


Darius chose a flat, open plain where he could deploy his numerically superior forces, not wanting to be caught in a narrow battlefield as he had been at Issus two years earlier, where he was unable to properly deploy his huge army. Darius also had his soldiers flatten the terrain prior to the battle, so as to give his 200 war-chariots optimal conditions to operate in. On the ground were few hills and no bodies of water that Alexander could use for protection, and in the fall the weather was dry and mild. The most commonly accepted opinion about the location is (36.36°N 43.25°E), east of Mosul
Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

 in modern-day northern Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 – suggested by Sir Aurel Stein in 1938 (see his Limes Report, pp. 127–1)

Background


During the two years after the Battle of Issus
Battle of Issus
The Battle of Issus occurred in southern Anatolia, in November 333 BC. The invading troops, led by the young Alexander of Macedonia, defeated the army personally led by Darius III of Achaemenid Persia in the second great battle for primacy in Asia...

, Alexander proceeded to occupy the Mediterranean coast and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. He then advanced from Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 against the heart of the Persian empire. Alexander crossed both the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 and the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 rivers without any opposition. Darius was building up a massive army, drawing men from all parts of his empire. He gathered more than 100,000 soldiers (including more than 42,000 cavalry) against approximately 47,000 Macedonian soldiers (including around 8,000 cavalry). Just before the battle, Darius offered Alexander a generous peace agreement. Darius would cede half of the entire Persian Empire provided Alexander cease his invasion of Persia. When presented to Alexander, he declined the offer without any consideration at all. One of Alexander's generals, Parmenion, said that if he were Alexander, he would gladly accept the more-than-generous offer. Alexander replied, "And I would too, if I were Parmenion."

Time of attack


On the eve of battle Alexander's generals including Parmenion suggested that to counter the overwhelming number of Persians, a surprise night attack should be launched. Alexander dismissed this idea, proclaiming that he would not "steal his victory". As it turned out Alexander's dismissal of the night attack option was either a lucky move, or a stroke of genius. Darius, fearing a night attack, kept his army awake and on alert for the whole night, while Alexander's was allowed to sleep. The next morning, Alexander himself over-slept. When his concerned generals woke him, he stated matter-of-factly that the battle had already been won.

Modern estimates

Units Low Estimate High Estimate
Peltast
Peltast
A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Thrace who often served as skirmishers.-Description:Peltasts carried a crescent-shaped wicker shield called pelte as their main protection, hence their name. According to Aristotle the pelte was rimless and covered in goat or sheep skin...

s
10,000 30,000
Cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

12,000 40,000
Persian Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

10,000 10,000
Greek hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

s
8,000 10,000
Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

n Cavalry
1,000 2,000
Archers
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

1,500 1,500
Scythed chariot
Scythed chariot
The scythed chariot was a war chariot with scythe-like blades mounted on each side, employed in ancient times.-History:The scythed chariot was a modified war chariot. The blades extended horizontally for about to each side of the wheels...

s
200 200
War elephant
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

s
15 15
Total 52,930 93,930

Some ancient Greek historians suggest that the main Persian army numbered about between 200-300 thousand during the battle; however, some modern scholars suggest that Darius III's army was no larger than 50,000 because of the logistical difficulty of fielding more than 50,000 soldiers in battle at the time. However, it is possible that the Persia
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

n army could have numbered over 100,000 men. One estimate is that there were 25,000 peltast
Peltast
A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Thrace who often served as skirmishers.-Description:Peltasts carried a crescent-shaped wicker shield called pelte as their main protection, hence their name. According to Aristotle the pelte was rimless and covered in goat or sheep skin...

s, 10,000 Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

, 2,000 Greek hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

s, 1,000 Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

ns, and 40,000 cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

, 200 scythed chariot
Scythed chariot
The scythed chariot was a war chariot with scythe-like blades mounted on each side, employed in ancient times.-History:The scythed chariot was a modified war chariot. The blades extended horizontally for about to each side of the wheels...

s, and 15 war elephant
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

s. Hans Delbrück
Hans Delbrück
Hans Delbrück was a German historian. Delbrück was one of the first modern military historians, basing his method of research on the critical examination of ancient sources, the use of auxiliary disciplines, like demography and economics, to complete the analysis and the comparison between...

 however estimates the number of Persian cavalry at 12,000 because of management issues and Persian infantry (peltast) less than that of the Macedonian heavy infantry and the Greek mercenaries at 8,000.

Warry estimates a total size of 91,000. Welman estimates a total size of 90,000. Delbrück (1978) estimates a total size of 52,000. Engels (1920) and Green (1990) also estimate the total size of Darius' army to be no larger than 100,000 at Gaugamela.

Ancient sources


According to Arrian, Darius's force numbered 40,000 cavalry and 1,000,000 infantry,; Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

 put it at 200,000 cavalry and 800,000 infantry,; Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 put it at 1,000,000 troops (without a breakdown in composition), while according to Curtius Rufus
Curtius Rufus
Curtius Rufus was a Roman politician mentioned by Tacitus for actions during the reigns of the emperors Tiberius and Claudius. In all probability he is to be equated with the first century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus.-Early life:...

 it consisted of 45,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry. Furthermore according to Arrian, Diodorus, and Curtius, Darius had 200 chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

s while Arrian mentions 15 war elephants. Included in Darius's infantry were about 2,000 Greek mercenary hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

s.

While Darius had a significant advantage in numbers, most of his troops were of a lower quality than Alexander's. Alexander's pezhetairoi
Pezhetairoi
The pezhetairoi were the backbone of the Macedonian army and Diadochi kingdoms. They were literally "foot companions" .The Macedonian phalanxes were made up almost entirely of pezhetairoi...

 were armed with a six-meter spear, the sarissa
Sarissa
The sarissa or sarisa was a 4 to 7 meter long spear used in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic warfare. It was introduced by Philip II of Macedon and was used in the traditional Greek phalanx formation as a replacement for the earlier dory, which was considerably shorter. The phalanxes of Philip...

. The main Persian infantry was poorly trained and equipped in comparison to Alexander's pezhetairoi and hoplites. The only respectable infantry Darius had were his 10,000 Greek hoplites and his personal bodyguard, the 10,000 Persian Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

. The Greek mercenaries fought in a phalanx
Phalanx formation
The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar weapons...

, armed with a heavy shield but with spears no longer than three meters, while the spears of the Immortals were 2 meters long. Among the other Persian troops, the most heavily armed were the Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

ns who were armed the Greek way, and probably fought as a phalanx. The rest of Darius's contingents were much more lightly armed; the main weapon of the Achaemenid army historically was the bow and arrow, and javelin.

Modern estimates

Units Numbers
Heavy Infantry 31,000
Peltast
Peltast
A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Thrace who often served as skirmishers.-Description:Peltasts carried a crescent-shaped wicker shield called pelte as their main protection, hence their name. According to Aristotle the pelte was rimless and covered in goat or sheep skin...

s
9,000
Cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

7,000
Total 47,000


Alexander commanded a force from his kingdom of Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

, Thracian
Thracians
The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

 allies, and the Corinthian League that—according to Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

, the most reliable historian of Alexander (who is believed to be relying on the work of the eye-witness Ptolemy
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter I , also known as Ptolemy Lagides, c. 367 BC – c. 283 BC, was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt and founder of both the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Dynasty...

)--numbered 7,000 cavalry and 40,000 infantry. Most historians agree that the Macedonian army consisted of 31,000 heavy infantry, including the Greek hoplites in reserve, with an additional 9,000 light infantry consisting mainly of peltast
Peltast
A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Thrace who often served as skirmishers.-Description:Peltasts carried a crescent-shaped wicker shield called pelte as their main protection, hence their name. According to Aristotle the pelte was rimless and covered in goat or sheep skin...

s with some archer
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

s. The size of the Macedonian mounted arm was about 7,000.

Initial dispositions


The battle began with the Persians already present at the battlefield. Darius had recruited the finest cavalry from his Eastern satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

ies and from an allied Scythian tribe. Darius also deployed scythed chariot
Scythed chariot
The scythed chariot was a war chariot with scythe-like blades mounted on each side, employed in ancient times.-History:The scythed chariot was a modified war chariot. The blades extended horizontally for about to each side of the wheels...

s for which he had ordered bushes and vegetation removed from the battlefield to maximize their effectiveness. He also had 15 India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n elephants
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

 supported by Indian chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

s.

Darius placed himself in the center with his best infantry as was the tradition among Persian kings. He was surrounded by, on his right, the Carian cavalry, Greek mercenaries, and the Persian horse guards. In the right-center he placed the Persian foot guards (Apple Bearers/Immortals to the Greeks), the Indian Cavalry and his Mardian
Amard
The Amard people, or Amardis were a tribe living along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, including current day Amol, Iran. The name is also seen as Amardi, Amardian, Amardae, etc....

 archers.

On both flanks were the cavalry. Bessus
Bessus
Artaxerxes V, also known as Bessus was a prominent Persian nobleman and satrap of Bactria, and later self-proclaimed king of Persia...

 commanded the left flank with the Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

ns, Dahae
Dahae
The Dahae , or Dahaeans were a confederacy of three Ancient Iranian tribes who lived in the region to the immediate east of the Caspian Sea. They spoke an Eastern Iranian language.-Records:...

 cavalry, Arachosia
Arachosia
Arachosia is the Latinized form of the Greek name of an Achaemenid and Seleucid governorate in the eastern part of their respective empires, around modern-day southern Afghanistan. The Greek term "Arachosia" corresponds to the Iranian land of Harauti which was between Kandahar in Afghanistan and...

n cavalry, Persian cavalry, Susian
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

 cavalry, Cadusian
Cadusii
The Cadusii were an ancient Iranian people living in north-western Iran.-Geography:The Cadusii lived in a mountainous district of Media Atropatene on the south-west shores of the Caspian Sea, between the parallels of 39° and 37° North latitude, called for its inhabitants Cadusia...

 cavalry, and Scythians. Chariots were placed in front with a small group of Bactrians. Mazaeus
Mazaeus
Mazaeus was a Persian noble and governor of Babylon.He was the second to last satrap of Cilicia. Shortly aftwards, his successor was expelled by Alexander the Great....

 commanded the right flank with the Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n, Media
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

n, Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

n, Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n, Sacian, Tapurian, Hyrcania
Hyrcania
Hyrcania was the name of a satrapy located in the territories of present day Gilan, Golestan, Mazandaran and part of Turkmenistan, lands south of the Caspian Sea. To the Greeks, the Caspian Sea was the "Hyrcanian Sea".-Etymology:...

n, Caucasian Albania
Caucasian Albania
Albania is a name for the historical region of the eastern Caucasus, that existed on the territory of present-day republic of...

n, Sacesinian, Cappadocia
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

n, and Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n cavalry. The Cappadocians and Armenians were stationed in front of the other cavalry units, and led the attack. The Albanian and Sacesinian cavalry were sent around to flank the Macedonian left.

The Macedonians were divided into two, with the right side of the army falling under the direct command of Alexander, and the left to Parmenion
Parmenion
Parmenion was a Macedonian general in the service of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great, murdered on a suspected false charge of treason....

. Alexander fought with his Companion cavalry
Companion cavalry
The Companions were the elite cavalry of the Macedonian army from the time of king Philip II of Macedon and reached the most prestige under Alexander the Great, and have been regarded as the best cavalry in the ancient world and the first shock cavalry...

. With it were the Paionia
Paionia
In ancient geography, Paeonia or Paionia was the land of the Paeonians . The exact original boundaries of Paeonia, like the early history of its inhabitants, are very obscure, but it is believed that they lay in the region of Thrace...

n, and Macedonian light cavalry. The mercenary cavalry was divided into two groups, with the veterans being stationed on the flank of the right, and the rest being put in front of the Agrians and Macedonian archers which were stationed next to the phalanx. Parmenion was stationed on the left with the Thessalian, Greek mercenary, and Thracia
Thracia
Thracia is a Web-Based computer game created and developed by an exclusively Romanian team, part of Infotrend Consulting, and launched in 2009. At the time, it was the first endeavor of its kind. All browser games were text based, made up mostly of static content...

n cavalry units. There they were to pull off a holding maneuver while Alexander landed the decisive blow from the right.

On the right-center of the formation were Cretan mercenaries. Behind them was a group of Thessalian cavalry under Phillip, and Achaean
Achaea (ancient region)
Geographically, Achaea was the northernmost region of the Peloponnese, occupying the coastal strip north of Arcadia. Its approximate boundaries were to the south the mountain range of Erymanthus, to the south-east the range of Cyllene, to the east Sicyon, and to the west the Larissos river...

 mercenaries. To their right was another part of the allied Greek cavalry. From there came the phalanx, which was placed into a double-line. Outnumbered over 5:1 in cavalry, with their line surpassed by over a mile, it seemed inevitable that the Macedonians would be flanked by the Persians. The second line were given orders to deal with any flanking units should the situation arise. This second line consisted of mostly mercenaries.

Beginning of the battle


Alexander began by ordering his infantry to march in phalanx formation towards the center of the enemy line. The Macedonians advanced with the wings echeloned back at 45 degree angles to lure the Persian cavalry to attack. While the phalanxes battled the Persian infantry, Darius sent a large part of his cavalry and some of his regular infantry to attack Parmenion's forces on the left.

During the battle Alexander used an unusual strategy which has been duplicated only a few times throughout history. While the infantry battled the Persian troops in the center, Alexander began to ride all the way to the edge of the right flank, accompanied by his Companion Cavalry. His plan was to draw as much of the Persian cavalry as possible to the flanks. The purpose of this was to create a gap within the enemy line where a decisive blow could then be struck at Darius in the center. This required almost perfect timing and maneuvering, and Alexander himself to act first. Alexander would force Darius to attack (as they would soon move off the prepared ground) though Darius did not want to be the first to attack after seeing what happened at Issus against a similar formation. In the end Darius's hand was forced, and he attacked.

Darius now launched his chariots, some of which were intercepted by the Agrianians
Agrianes
The Agrianians a Paeonian-Thracian tribe, who chiefly inhabited the area of present-day Northeastern statistical region of Republic Of Macedonia and Pčinja District of southern Serbia, north of the Thracian Maedi tribe, who were situated in what is now the Greek region of Macedonia and Western...

 (javelin throwers). It is said that the Macedonian army had trained for a new tactic to counter these devastating chariots if they ran into their ranks: The first lines would step aside, opening a gap. The horse would refuse to run into the spears of the front ranks, and enter the "mouse trap", only to be stopped by the spears of the rear ranks. The charioteers and their horses could then be killed at leisure. This rendered the Persian chariots useless. Never again, except by Boudica
Boudica
Boudica , also known as Boadicea and known in Welsh as "Buddug" was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire....

, would the chariot be used as a significant weapon of war.

Alexander's decisive attack


As the Persians advanced farther and farther to the Macedonian flanks in their attack, Alexander slowly filtered in his rear-guard. Alexander disengaged his Companions, and prepared for the decisive attack on the Persians. Leading the way, he formed his units into a giant wedge, with him leading the charge. Behind them were the guards brigade along with any phalanx battalions he could withdraw from the battle. These were follow-up light troops. Alexander took most of his cavalry and moved parallel to Darius's front lines, heading off of the prepared battlefield. In response, Darius ordered his cavalry in the front lines to block Alexander's force. Unbeknownst to Darius, Alexander hid a force of peltasts (light infantry armed with slings, javelins, and shortbows) behind his horsemen and Alexander slowly sent his force into an angle, heading toward the Persian host, until finally a gap opened between Bessus's left and Darius's center and Alexander sent in his cavalry force to drive down the gap in the Persian line in a wedge formation. At the same time, the peltasts engaged the cavalry, in order to keep them from riding back to engage Alexander's charging cavalry. The Persian infantry at the center were still fighting the phalanxes, hindering any attempts to counter Alexander's charge.


This large wedge then smashed right into the weakened Persian center, taking out Darius's royal guard, and the Greek mercenaries. Bessus on the left, now cut off from Darius, and fearing he would be struck with this wedge, began to pull back his forces. Darius was in danger of himself being cut off, and the widely held modern view is that he now broke and ran, with the rest of his army following him. This is based on Arrian's account (Anabasis 3.14):
"For a short time there ensued a hand-to-hand fight; but when the Macedonian cavalry, commanded by Alexander himself, pressed on vigorously, thrusting themselves against the Persians and striking their faces with their spears, and when the Macedonian phalanx in dense array and bristling with long pikes had also made an attack upon them, all things together appeared full of terror to Darius, who had already long been in a state of fear, so that he was the first to turn and flee."


A less common view is that Darius's army was already broken when Darius ran, and is supported by an astronomical diary from Babylon written within days of the battle:
The twenty-fourth [day of the lunar month], in the morning, the king of the world [i.e., Alexander] [erected his] standard [lacuna]. Opposite each other they fought and a heavy defeat of the troops [of the king he inflicted]. The king [i.e., Darius], his troops deserted him and to their cities [they went]. They fled to the land of the Guti.

The left flank


Alexander could have pursued Darius at this point. However, he received desperate messages from Parmenion (an event which would later be used by Callisthenes
Callisthenes
Callisthenes of Olynthus was a Greek historian. He was the son of Hero and Proxenus of Atarneus, which made him the great nephew of Aristotle by his sister Arimneste. They first met when Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great...

 and others to discredit Parmenion) on the left. Alexander was faced with the choice of pursuing Darius and having the chance of possibly killing him, ending the war in one stroke, but risk losing his army, or going back to the left flank to aid Parmenion and preserve his forces, letting Darius escape to the surrounding mountains. In the end, he made the decision to help Parmenion, and follow Darius later.

While holding on the left, a gap had also opened up between the left and center of the Macedonian line. The Persian and Indian cavalry units stationed in the center with Darius broke through. Instead of taking the phalanx or Parmenion in the rear, however, they continued on towards the camp to loot. They also tried to rescue the Queen Mother Sisygambis
Sisygambis
Sisygambis was the daughter of king Artaxerxes II Memnon, who married Arsames of Ostanes and was the mother of Darius III of Persia, whose reign was ended during the wars of Alexander the Great....

 but she refused to go with them.

Meanwhile, as the center and Darius broke, Mazaeus also began to pull his forces back as Bessus had. However, unlike on the left with Bessus, the Persians soon fell into disorder as the Thessalians and other cavalry units charged forward at their fleeing enemy.

Aftermath


After the battle, Parmenion rounded up the Persian baggage train while Alexander and his own bodyguard pursued Darius. As at Issus
Battle of Issus
The Battle of Issus occurred in southern Anatolia, in November 333 BC. The invading troops, led by the young Alexander of Macedonia, defeated the army personally led by Darius III of Achaemenid Persia in the second great battle for primacy in Asia...

, substantial amounts of loot were gained following the battle, with 4,000 talents
Attic talent
The Attic talent , also known as the Athenian talent or Greek talent, is an ancient unit of mass equal to 26 kg, as well as a unit of value equal to this amount of pure silver. A talent was originally intended to be the mass of water required to fill an amphora . At the 2009 price of $414/kg, a...

 captured, as well as the King's personal chariot and bow. The war elephant
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

s were also captured. In all, it was a disastrous defeat for the Persians and one of Alexander's finest victories.

Darius had managed to escape the battle with a small core of his forces remaining intact. The Bactrian cavalry and Bessus managed to catch up with him, as did some of the survivors of the Royal Guard and 2,000 Greek mercenaries.

At this point, the Persian Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 was divided into two halves–East and West. On his escape, Darius gave a speech to what remained of his army. He planned to head further east and raise another army to face Alexander, assuming that the Macedonians would head towards Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

. At the same time, he dispatched letters to his eastern satraps asking them to remain loyal.

The satraps, however, had other intentions. Bessus murdered Darius before fleeing eastwards. When Alexander discovered Darius murdered, he was saddened to see an enemy he respected killed in such a fashion, and gave Darius full burial and ceremony at Persepolis, the once ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire, before angrily pursuing Bessus, eventually capturing and executing him the following year. The majority of the remaining satraps gave their loyalty to Alexander and were allowed to keep their positions. The Persian Empire is traditionally considered to have ended with the death of Darius.

Ancient sources


Modern sources

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  • Dodge, Theodore Ayrault
    Theodore Ayrault Dodge
    Theodore Ayrault Dodge was an American officer and military historian. He fought as a Union officer in the American Civil War; as a writer, he was devoted to both the Civil War and the great generals of ancient and European history....

     (1890–1907). History of the Art of War: Alexander
  • Engels, Donald W. (1978). Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London.
  • Fox, Robin Lane
    Robin Lane Fox
    Robin Lane Fox is an English historian, currently a Fellow of New College, Oxford and University of Oxford Reader in Ancient History.-Life:Lane Fox was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford....

     (1973). Alexander the Great. London: Allen Lane.
  • Fuller, J. F. C. A Military History of the Western World. Three Volumes. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1987 and 1988.
    • v. 1. From the earliest times to the Battle of Lepanto; ISBN 0-306-80304-6: pp. 87 to 114 (Alexander the Great).
  • Green, Peter. Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.
  • Green, Peter (1990). Alexander to Actium; The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age. Berkeley/Los Angeles.
  • Hanson, Victor Davis
    Victor Davis Hanson
    Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, political essayist and former classics professor, notable as a scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a commentator on modern warfare and contemporary politics for National Review and other media outlets...

     (2001). Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. New York: Doubleday.
  • History of the Greek Nation volume Δ, Ekdotiki Athinon, Athens 1973
  • Moerbeek, Martijn (1997). The battle of Gaugamela, 331 BC. Universiteit Twente
    Universiteit Twente
    University of Twente is a university located in Enschede, Netherlands. It offers research and degree programmes in the social and behavioral sciences and in engineering. In keeping with its entrepreneurial spirit, the University is committed to making economic and social contribution to the region...

    .
  • De Santis, Marc G. “At The Crossroads of Conquest.” Military Heritage
    Military Heritage
    Military Heritage is an American glossy, bi-monthly military history magazine that was first published in August 1999 by Sovereign Media. It was founded by Carl A. Gnam, Jr., who also serves as the editorial director...

    . December 2001. Volume 3, No. 3: 46-55, 97 (Alexander the Great, his military, his strategy at the Battle of Gaugamela and his defeat of Darius making Alexander the King of Kings).
  • Van der Spek, R.J.
    R. J. van der Spek
    Robartus Johannes van der Spek is a Dutch ancient historian, specializing in the Seleucid Empire. He is professor at VU University Amsterdam, and is currently working on the Babylonian Chronicles of the Hellenistic Age .Van der Spek studied history at Leiden...

     "Darius III, Alexander the Great and Babylonian Scholarship." in: W. Henkelman, A. Kuhrt eds., A Persian Perspective. Essays in Memory of Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg. Achaemenid History XIII (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2003) 289-342.
  • Warry, J. (1998). Warfare in the Classical World. ISBN 1-84065-004-4.
  • Welman, Nick. Battles (Major) and Army. Fontys University.

External links