Alexander and the Gordian Knot – A Violent Solution

One of the best known stories of the Macedonian King Alexander’s reign, is the tale of the striking of the Gordian knot, a tightly twisted and bound bundle of rope connected to a wagon. Not only is it a nice story, it is also a possibly example of Alexander’s mentality and attitude towards solving problems, which plays largely into his Persian invasion.

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An Outstanding Victory – Battle of Gaugamela, 331BC

With no defeats in his campaign, Alexander was prepared to turn his army and march to Babylon, where he hoped he could take over the city and be crowned King of the Persian Empire. But before he could do so, Darius III sent a letter asking for his wife and children to be given back. Additionally, he attempted to form a treaty with the Macedonian king, allowing him to control half of the Persian lands whilst Darius controlled the other half. Unfortunately for the Persians, Alexander did not want shared leadership. He wanted it all, and absolutely all of it.

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How did Alexander the Great overcome Tyre?

It was necessary that Alexander and his army eliminate all Persian naval threats in the Aegean and Levant before continuing inland on their campaign. If the Persian leaders realised that Greece was only defended by 13,000 men, there would be a large risk of invasion. Tyre, on the Levantine coast, was expertly defended, well garrisoned and almost impregnable. Additionally, it was a crucial trading port of the Mediterranean and controlled access to India, Carthage, Rome and other great nations across the sea. Alexander, of course, did not want to lead his army into this military headache, but the capture of Tyre was paramount and necessary to the continuation of the invasion.

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First Defeat of Darius – Battle of Issus, 333BC

With Memnon of Rhodes’ forces destroyed at the first major battle of the Persian invasion by the Macedonians, Alexander led his blood-thirsty army – which had little need for any recovery time – along Anatolia’s Aegean Coast, bribing, frightening and besieging the ports into submission. Consequently, he had diminished Persian naval dominance around the Greek homelands, but had not gained full control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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First Clash – Battle at the Granicus, 334 BC

After crossing the Hellespont from homeland Greece to Asia Minor – the Western half of the mighty Persian Empire – with an army of approximately forty-thousand men, Alexander gathered his men and headed for the Aegean coast and Persian naval bases. It was extremely important that he captured or took out these coastal cities otherwise he ran the risk of the Persians attacking Greece by sea whilst he was on campaign.

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Why was Alexander “the Great”?

Upon inheriting his father, Philip II’s, armies, Alexander aided the unification of the petty Greek states that had for so long warred against each other to fight a common enemy – Persia – and led his men, as a general, into an invasion of Asia. Not only was Alexander titled “great” by modern historians, but by the writers of Ancient Times, such as Arrian, Curtis and Diodorius. Born in 356 BC, Pella, Greece, “Alexander, being then about twenty years of age, marched into Peloponnesus, as soon as he had secured the regal power”.

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Five (More) Commonly Asked History Questions

1. Did the Romans really control a quarter of the world?

No, they didn’t. They conquered the majority of Europe, a slice along the North of Africa and mostly dominated the east. This map shows the extent of the Roman Empire in the year 117AD, at around the height of its landmass and power. It is true that at one point a quarter of living humanity were Romans, but they had not conquered a quarter of the world.

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