Alexander the great is treated as one of the world’s most experienced war geniuses. He fought several battles in his lifetime which exhibited a great deal of expertise, ingenuity and tactical understanding in war (Ruth, 4).
In this paper, I will explore in detail two of his most remembered wars: his conquest over the Persian Empire which had posed a threat to his kingdom and the famous war with the Indian king, the wars that were his first and last big wars with a lot of expertise. The paper also analyses the source of expertise for this war lord who made progress without any fall back. Alexander the great was born in 356 BC to King Philip II his father. He spent most of his life taking classes of a royal youth where he was taught how to read, write, hunt and organize wars. During his thirteenth birthday, his father witnessed the first scenario which made him ascertained that his son had potential of expanding their territory or kingdom. In the scenario, he (Alexander) was given a horse which was untamed and after some time, he was able to tame it and tide it. His father kissed him and told him that he was much bigger for the small Macedon Empire (Ruth, 5). After the death of King Philip II, Alexander the great inherited a strong army with an ability to fight an experienced battle. He had acquired much more skills from hunting and other generals of his father’s army thus had a better point to start his conquest. The most remembered wars are his first war with the Persians which lasted more than two years and the last battle with the Indians who had trained even elephants which they used as heavy cavalries (Ruth, 6).
The defeat of Persia
This is one of the world’s most remembered wars which saw the war legend through with his most feared enemies, the Persians. The war began in the year 344BC with the Greek leader being only 22 years. The war which lasted approximately two years ended with the young general emerging victorious. Critically analyzing the battle, it took place in two phases: battle at Gaugamela and the battle in the Persian plains (Davis, 2).
Battle of Gaugamela
After securing Egypt, Alexander pushed into Mesopotamia. This was a tactic of inducing the king of Persia into a battle with him. This resulted in what the king had anticipated and the Persian army was ready to attack him. His spies and scouts reported to him that the Persian army was out in the plains and ready for battle. After learning of the presence of the Persian cavalry in the plains, he formed his battle line and advanced to meet the cavalry on the plains. He personally led one of the light infantry and horsemen and upon meeting with the Persian cavalry, his army scattered the Persian army and took several prisoners. He used the prisoners to get information about King Darius who was waiting for him in a small village called Gaugamela.
When he came to this village, Alexander halted his army to give him time to rearrange his men into a fortified battle formation. The distance between the two armies was approximately seven miles and each was not visible to the other due to some low ridges that lay between the two armies. At night fall, Alexander led his battle men to the top of the ridge where he would clearly see the Persian armies down the ridges (Davis, 4). Alexander took some of his horsemen and light infantry down the hill to survey the plains where he planned to counter the Persian army. His men asked him to attack at night but he refused due to the fact the Persian army had already speculated that and were in their battle formation. This was his first advantage which impacted positively on his success. This tactic made him win the battle since the Persian army was tired by the time he attacked.
Alexander had already learnt from the prisoners that the Persian army had leveled the battlefield and set up some traps for his men. This gave him another advantage since he knew how to defend himself from the Persian attack. With this knowledge, he was able to avert and stop his men from getting trapped. The actual battle began in the mid morning with his men descending down the hill. This made the Persian army and their leader react by advancing to meet their opponents. Alexander advised his men to advance at a slower pace so that they can meet at the foot of the mountains.
The battle formation of the Persian army was a straight line which stretched far beyond the stretch of the Macedon army. This was an inspiring feature for Alexander and his me. Surveying the whole formation which comprised mainly of cavalry, Alexander was ready to attack and dupe his opponent into pursuing him. With only about 40,000 men, Alexander charged at the Persian army which comprised of about 90,000 to 100000 soldiers and the famous battle of Gaugamela was off. Alexander and his men enjoyed some advantages which can be attributed to some armory of the Persians and their formation. The size of the main weapon used was ineffective due to the dense packing of the soldiers in the battlefield.
In the battlefield, Alexander led the right flank of his army which advanced towards the left flank of the Persian army. The left Persian flank was commanded to watch the Macedonian right flank. Alexander arranged his men in a diagonal formation with respect to the Persian army and battle line. Alexander attacked the left flank of the Persian army in which he fought some of the best soldiers of the time. The counter attack from the Persian army caused both sides to lose many soldiers. Alexander applied a tactical retreat in which he ordered his men to flee into the ridges. This was due to the outnumbering which had occurred during the crash. This was also a tactic aimed at duping the Persian army into pursing the Macedonian army into the ridges, a trap they fell into without their knowledge. (Davis, 6-10)
Battle in the plains
In the battle, the Persian army detected some weakness in their left flank and ordered its reinforcement. In the process, Darius created a weakness in his center leading to a weakness in his initial formation. This gave Alexander’s left flank an advantage to attack the Persian army. After the Persian trial to contain and surround Alexander and his men, Alexander reacted by charging through the spaces in the Persian army aiming for Darius himself. This resulted in a heavy crash between the two forces which saw many people lose their lives. In the process, Darius fled from the battlefield after detecting of the weakness he had created in his formation by ordering his men to move in support for the left flank. The Persian army killed the Macedonian prisoners but after learning of Darius flee and Alexander’s pursuit for him, they reacted by withdrawing. After a night long pursuit, Alexander and 500 of his light infantry stopped to rest and water their horses. They later found some treasures of king Darius who survived but went underground allowing Alexander to expand his territory. Though Darius was murdered by his own man, Alexander didn’t like it thus he pursued the murderer and presented him in a Persian court where he was sentenced to death. This was a unique tactic employed by this commander in dealing with his captives which made his captives feel free and protected (Davis, 12).
After this battle, Alexander and his men started to advance into the former Persian Empire where he set up his administrative laws. The tactic of conquering and making friends with the conquered made this commander very effective in achieving his set goals.
Aftermath of the war
Immediately after the victory, this Macedonian leader made changes in the mode of administration in the . He replaced all other former governors and instilled a democratic rule indirectly to all his subjects. He changed all the army leaders in the region making breaking any formation that would have resulted in consolidation of the initial formation to counter his moves and attacking formula. This gave him more control over the region compared to the initial formation which would have easily resulted in revolt of the people causing his empire to be less concrete (Davis, 16).
Battle in eastern India
After his conquest over the Persian Empire, Alexander set out in a campaign against the Indian empires. This made him well known to emperors who either reacted by confronting him in a battle field or reacted by making treaties with him. Alexander advanced east towards India with his main quest being to conquer of Indian empire the whole east. In his way he crossed several empires where he either conquered or made peace with. In his army, it was estimated that he had 35000 men and few hundreds of light infantry. The main kingdom that he was interested in conquering was Indian empire led by king Porus. He went up to the shores of river Hydaspecs where the actual battle took place. This was a step in his quest to subdue the east since the Indian forces were the main drawback to his conquest. (Fuller, 12)
Alexander the great had arrived in the region from the northern part through Taxilla where he came across king Ambhi. This king was not ready to counter Alexander and his forces thus decided to assist him in his quest. He added some of his soldiers to Alexander’s forces but the main thing that Alexander wanted was food supplies. Upon reaching the shores of Hydaspecs, he came face to face with king Porus who was on the other side of the bank ready for war. He (Alexander) attempted his style of conquest by diplomacy but Porus was not ready to simply give away his kingdom to Alexander. This is what led to the historic battle of Hydaspecs. Like any other battle, Alexander was ready to engage in a war with the Indian army but had a shocking sight when he came to learn that the Indians had one battle machine that he and his men had never encountered before, two hundred well trained battle elephants. All in all, Alexander and his men were ready to take any possible advantage to win the battle (Fuller, 18).
It was in the late spring thus Alexander ordered food supplies from Taxilla. This played two important roles that helped him dupe his opponents who were on the other bank. The first role was to convince the opponents that Alexander was not going to cross the Hydaspecs River which was many yards wide and deep and second to make the opponents be ready for a cross river attack. Alexander took another step of asking his men to light fires on the shores of the river and make noise to attract the attention of the opponents across the river. This attracted the attention of Indians as anticipated and Alexander had some free time to move his men up and down the Hydaspecs River looking for a suitable spot to cross the river. The noise acted as a pinning force to Porus army which was trying to learn the moves of the Macedonian army. At the actual night of crossing the river, Alexander moved about 17000 of his soldiers up the Hydaspecs river bank, 17 miles to a suitable spot for crossing the fast flowing swollen river. About midpoint between the pinning force and the crossing point, Alexander had spotted another suitable crossing point where he placed about half of his soldiers (8000) with light infantry to as reinforcement in case the battle occurred at the neighborhood.
After crossing the river, Alexander led his remaining force of about 9000 men with 6000 light infantry south on the opposite bank to meet Porus forces. Some of Porus scouts reported to him that part of Alexander’s force had crossed the river and was matching south to meet his forces. Porus and his forces underestimated the size of the incoming force thus sent a small force to counter and smash the force. He was duped into thinking that the larger proportion of Alexander’s force was still on the opposite bank (Fuller, 28).
When the small Porus force met with Alexander’s force, the light infantry was deployed killing most of Porus men including his son. On hearing this, Porus took more than three quarters of his remaining army and matched north to meet with Alexander’s forces. He left the quarter proportion to counter any attack across the river. Alexander matched further south and the two forces came into contact in a mountainous terrain. With his army outnumbered and tired, Alexander had to device a mechanism of holding up any attack until the reinforcement forces arrived. He therefore ordered his horsemen to fire arrows at the opponents so as to hold them back as the rest of the forces arrive. The force left halfway across the river crossed the river and reinforced the force from the north. Half of the force left as the pinning force matched north and crossed the river to join with the rest of the force. All this time, Porus and his army stood still as they waited for Alexander to arrange his men in the battlefield.
In the battlefield, Alexander arranged light infantry in front of the heavy cavalry and the battle was off. Alexander had an advantage over his opponent since the night before it had rained heavily. This made it difficult for heavy cavalry to move around the battlefield and this was the main asset for the Indian army. The bows which fired killer arrows and required anchoring on the ground also were rendered ineffective. This made the Indian army depend only on horses and foot soldiers to win the war (Fuller, 32). In the actual organization of the battle in the field, Alexander ordered his men in the right flank to advance towards the left flank of the Indian army. He also ordered his mid left flank to move round the Indian army and attack the left flank from behind, encompassing and crashing the flank. Thinking that the left flank was weak, Porus ordered his right flank to reinforce the left flank, an opportunity that Alexander seized and exploited. Alexander’s men on the left flank attacked the helpless right flank of the Indian army and the battle began. The Indian left flank was heavily slaughtered and the only asset remaining for the Indian army was the war elephants and heavy cavalry.
The battle was fierce and saw both sides of the forces lose many soldiers. The wet ground and the rugged terrain gave Alexander and his men an advantage since they had trained to fight in such areas. It was almost impossible for the elephants to move in the battlefield. Armed with only machetes, the soldiers struck at one another. The Macedonians learnt of the weak points in the war elephants, eyes. They aimed at the eyes of these animals injuring most of them. They all went wild throwing all men aboard their backs to the ground. Towards the end of the battle, the Indians started to flee but the Macedonians pursued them slaughtering hundreds of them. Most of the Indian generals were killed but Porus was still alive (Fuller, 36). Sensing defeat, Porus continued to fight regardless of the certain loss. Alexander admired his courage thus called him for a negotiation. He respected King Porus thus didn’t throw him out of power. Instead, he made him a governor of the Indian district of Alexander’s empire. His men requested him to return home making him halt his quest to conquer the whole of the northern world. However, he had the largest empire in history which extended from the current Asian continent, African continent and the European continent. He ruled his empire for only 8 years in which he conquered the largest and most feared empires of the time. Alexander died on his journey back home and it is believed that his body was buried in Egypt (Fuller, 54).
Conclusions from the battles
Closely looking at the battles and their organization, Alexander didn’t win any battle due to the heavy infantry or cavalry that he owned. Instead, he had well trained courageous army which was able to fight in any terrain. The main factor that made Alexander win in any battle was his strategic planning. Analyzing the first battle, Alexander used information and battle line formation to win over the Persian army. He was able to manipulate the situation to his favor though he also lost some soldiers (Rogers, 112).
His categorical approach and duping of the Persian army made him win the battle though he was heavily outnumbered. In the second battle, this war legend showed his expertise when he was able to take his army across the swollen river and fight the Indian army. He used pinning force to attract the attention of the opponents. This is what he maintains all through the battle (Rogers, 118).
The only unique thing about this leader was the way he dealt with brave conquered soldiers or leaders. He was ready to make treaties with them and not kill them as expected by many. This makes him a unique war legend whose traits should be closely followed and applied in some situations.
Davis, W, Readings in Ancient: Alexander the Great, retrieved from