How good was Alexander the Great as a general?

Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#51
Battle against Uxians :
He now set out from Susa, and, crossing the river Pasitigris, invaded the country of the Uxians. Some of these people who inhabit the plains were under the rule of the viceroy of the Persians, and on this occasion surrendered to Alexander; but those who are called the mountaineers were not in subjection to the Persians, and at this time sent word to Alexander that they would not permit him to march with his forces into Persis, unless they received from him as much as they were in the habit of receiving from the king of the Persians for the passage through their mountains. He sent the messengers back with instructions to come to the defiles, the possession of which made them think that the passage into Persis was in their power, promising them that they should there receive from him the prescribed toll. He then took the royal body-guards, the shield-bearing infantry, and 8,000 men from the rest of his army, and, under the guidance of the Susians, marched by night along a different road from the frequented one. Advancing by a route rough and difficult, on the same day he fell upon the villages of the Uxians, where he captured much booty and killed many of the people while still in their beds; but others escaped into the mountains. He then made a forced march to the defiles, where the Uxians resolved to meet him in mass in order to receive the prescribed toll. But he had already previously despatched Craterus to seize the heights, to which he thought the Uxians would retire if they were repelled by force; and he himself went with great celerity, and got possession of the pass before their arrival. He then drew up his men in battle array, and led them from the higher and more commanding position against the barbarians. They, being alarmed at Alexander's celerity, and finding themselves deprived by stratagem of the position in which they had especially confided, took to flight without ever coming to close combat. Some of them were killed by Alexander's men in their flight, and many lost their lives by falling over the precipices along the road; but most of them fled up into the mountains for refuge, and falling in with Craterus, were destroyed by his men. Having received these gifts of honour from Alexander, they with difficulty, after much entreaty, procured from him the privilege of retaining possession of their own land on condition of paying him an annual tribute.
Battle of Persian Gates against Ariobarzanes :
He was informed by the prisoners that they could lead him round by another route, so that he might get to the other end of the pass; but when he ascertained that this road was rough and narrow, he left Craterus there at the camp with his own brigade and that of Meleager, as well as a few archers and 500 cavalry, with orders that when he perceived he had got right round and was approaching the camp of the Persians (which he could easily perceive, because the trumpets would give him the signal), he should then assault the wall. Alexander advanced by night, and travelling about 100 stades, he took the shield-bearing guards, the brigade of Perdiccas, the lightest armed of the archers, the Agrianians, the royal squadron of cavalry Companions, and one regiment of cavalry besides these, containing four companies; and wheeling round with these troops, he marched towards the pass in the direction the prisoners led him. He ordered Amyntas, Philotas, and Coenus to lead the rest of the army towards the plain, and to make a bridge over the river which one must cross to go into Persis. He himself went by a route difficult and rough, along which he nevertheless marched for the most part at full speed. Falling upon the first guard of the barbarians before daylight, he destroyed them, and so he did most of the second; but the majority of the third guard escaped, not indeed by fleeing into the camp of Ariobarzanes, but into the mountains as they were, being seized with a sudden panic. Consequently he fell upon the enemy's camp at the approach of dawn without being observed. At the very time he began to assault the trench, the trumpets gave the signal to Craterus, who at once attacked the advanced fortification. The enemy then, being in a state of confusion from being attacked on all sides, fled without coming to close conflict; but they were hemmed in on all hands, Alexander pressing upon them in one direction and the men of Craterus running up in another. Therefore most of them were compelled to wheel round and flee into the fortifications, which were already in the hands of the Macedonians. For Alexander, expecting the very thing which really occurred, had left Ptolemy there with three thousand infantry; so that most of the barbarians were cut to pieces by the Macedonians at close quarters. Others perished in the terrible flight which ensued, hurling themselves over the precipices; but Ariobarzanes himself, with a few horsemen, escaped into the mountains.
 
Likes: macon
Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#52
Which book would you recommend for Alexander the Great. I have Cantor’s rather short biography and am looking for an authoritative biography.
I would recommend to start with ,, Alexander of Macedon 356 - 323 B.C.: A Historical Biography '' by Peter Green.

Than there are works of such scholars as N.G.L Hammond, Bosworth, Heckel and etc. :
,, The Genius of Alexander the Great '' or ,, Alexander the Great : King, Commander and Statesman ". Both are works of N.G.L. Hammond
,, Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great '' by A.B. Bosworth
,, The Conquests of Alexander the Great '' by Waldemar Heckel
,, Alexander's Marshals : A Study of the Makedonian aristocracy and the Politics of Military Leadership '' also by Waldemar Heckel

You have studies that focus specifically on military aspect as well :
,, The Generalship of Alexander the Great '' by J.F.C. Fuller
,, Great Captains : Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Frederick and Napoleon '' by Theodore Dodge.

Delbruck and Liddell Hart also wrote or analyzed some of Alexander's campaigns.

There are plenty of articles and essays on Alexander the Great by famous scholar Ernst Badian.

Of course, you can read one of the main historical sources - ,, The Anabasis of Alexander '' by Arrian. Writings of Plutarch, Curtius Rufus, Diodorus and Justin are available as well.
 
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Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#54
It did help that he possessed battle hardened assets though. A spade is a spade.
Yeah, for sure. I would also say that Alexander's achievements in logistics are great and very impressive. Even though, he had serious failure at the end in Gedrosian desert. Alexander was certainly skilled at organizing and supplying all those campaigns. His strategic mind was also good, which he highlighted several times during his enterprises.
 
Likes: macon
Sep 2018
24
michigan
#55
I would also recommend Stephen English's books on Alexander's sieges and battles. He is critical of some sources, and meshes together the narrative he sees as most plausible, but his analysis is very compelling, and is a must to learn about Alexander's tactics.
 
Likes: candy321wolf

Mangekyou

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
7,942
UK
#56
Yeah, for sure. I would also say that Alexander's achievements in logistics are great and very impressive. Even though, he had serious failure at the end in Gedrosian desert. Alexander was certainly skilled at organizing and supplying all those campaigns. His strategic mind was also good, which he highlighted several times during his enterprises.

He had a good strategic mind, yes. Logistically he wasn't a genius though. He made some decisions that could've cost him heavily. His supply lines were well protected by Antigonus.
 
Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#57
He made some decisions that could've cost him heavily. His supply lines were well protected by Antigonus.
I fail to see, how succeeding at enterprise of such magnitude is not at least impressive in terms of logistics. Antigonus was left as governor of Phrygia. He repelled some attacks of Persians, yes. However, Antigonus wasn't that important after Alexander left Egypt and went straight for Darius. War didn't end with conquest of Syria and Egypt. So, your point about Antigonus protecting supply lines is not really solid. Since it was for a limited amount of time and we don't really know much about it. Hell, those 3 battles against Persian forces are just mentioned in one passage and that's it.

Darius also used scorched earth tactics prior to Gaugamela and Alexander had to adjust to it by using different route, where he could supply his army.

There were mistakes, of course. Even best of the best make them. But it is no surprise, considering the scale of Asian conquest and something like that being unprecedented for Greek world.

I wouldn't say that Alexander was ,, Genius '' logistically. However, he was still impressive in that regard.
 
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Likes: macon
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#58
I fail to see, how succeeding at enterprise of such magnitude is not at least impressive in terms of logistics. Antigonus was left as governor of Phrygia. He repelled some attacks of Persians, yes. However, Antigonus wasn't that important after Alexander left Egypt and went straight for Darius. War didn't end with conquest of Syria and Egypt. So, your point about Antigonus protecting supply lines is not really solid. Since it was for a limited amount of time and we don't really know much about it. Hell, those 3 battles against Persian forces are just mentioned in one passage and that's it.

Darius also used scorched earth tactics prior to Gaugamela and Alexander had to adjust to it by using different route, where he could supply his army.

There were mistakes, of course. Even best of the best make them. But it is no surprise, considering the scale of Asian conquest and something like that being unprecedented for Greek world.

I wouldn't say that Alexander was ,, Genius '' logistically. However, he was still impressive in that regard.
You'll never get your membership badge of the 'Alexander was he all that?' club!!

The whole debate, every time we have it (which is lots) , is mostly insane to be fair

He was GREAT
 

Mangekyou

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
7,942
UK
#59
I fail to see, how succeeding at enterprise of such magnitude is not at least impressive in terms of logistics. Antigonus was left as governor of Phrygia. He repelled some attacks of Persians, yes. However, Antigonus wasn't that important after Alexander left Egypt and went straight for Darius. War didn't end with conquest of Syria and Egypt. So, your point about Antigonus protecting supply lines is not really solid. Since it was for a limited amount of time and we don't really know much about it. Hell, those 3 battles against Persian forces are just mentioned in one passage and that's it.

Darius also used scorched earth tactics prior to Gaugamela and Alexander had to adjust to it by using different route, where he could supply his army.

There were mistakes, of course. Even best of the best make them. But it is no surprise, considering the scale of Asian conquest and something like that being unprecedented for Greek world.

I wouldn't say that Alexander was ,, Genius '' logistically. However, he was still impressive in that regard.
He was good at logistics, better than Napoleon. I'm saying he wasn't a super genius like some people portray him. He made mistakes, because he was human, like you rightly point out. His logistical base was solid, don't get me wrong, and he used a lot of common sense tactics, that many other commanders don't/never used, like securing the river routes, securing naval bases so he wouldn't have to fight against a weakness of his, aka the Persian navy, and living off the land at times so that his troops could travel quicker. These were sometimes countered, like with Scorched earth policies (which was only taken up when Alexander had an established foothold in persia, and not at the start like Memnon advocated).

One of the mistakes he did make, was decommissioning his navy, a fact which Memnon took advantage of and almost succeeded. Darius gets called crap, but he outmaneouvred Alexander at Issus and outflanked him at Gaugemala. Alexander recovered from these, but the point is he left himself open.


In regards to the logisitcs. However good alexander was, the deeper he went into enemy territory, the longer his supply lines would get. He had to have people he could trust like, like Antigonus, who could help keep his supply lines open, and people like Antipater, who could keep supplying him with troops and fresh resources from the home states. Alexander managed the Supply lines overall very effectively, but it was impossible to it all on his own, especially as he led from the front.

The one thing I do give him a lot of credit for, is the fact he tended to consolidate his gains and not just continue gung-go. That was vital.

So even though my initial post may have seem like I was brushing him off, I'm actually giving him credit, but just pointing out that wasn't his strongest ability, where he could control it all himself. It also depended upon how loyal and good his subordinates were. this should really be the same with any army campaigning deep into enemy territory.[/QUOTE]
 

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