How good was Alexander the Great as a general?

Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#61
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.
I agree, that decommissioning navy was a mistake. Memnon didn't almost succeed though. Plan wasn't really abandoned after Memnon's death. The only source that tells us about that is Diodorus in one passage. However, Arrian and Curtius Rufus claim that operations continued. Darius took back mercenaries, but ordered Pharnabazus and Autophradates to continue with operations in Aegean Sea. As Arrian writes : ,, After accomplishing this, Pharnabazus sailed to Lycia, taking with him the Grecian mercenaries; but Autophradates sailed to the other islands. Meantime Darius sent Thymondas, son of Mentor, down to the maritime districts, to take over the Grecian auxiliaries from Pharnabazus and to lead them up to him; and to tell Pharnabazus that he was to be the ruler of all that Memnon had ruled. So Pharnabazus handed over to him the Grecian auxiliaries and then sailed to join Autophradates and the fleet. When they met, they despatched Datames, a Persian, with ten ships to the islands called Cyclades, whilst they with 100 sailed to Tenedus. Having sailed into the harbour of Tenedus which is called Boreus, they sent a message to the inhabitants, commanding them to demolish the pillars on which the treaty made by them with Alexander and the Greeks was inscribed, and to observe in regard to Darius the terms of the peace which they had ratified with the king of Persia in the time of Antalcidas. The Tenedians preferred to be on terms of amity with Alexander and the Greeks; but in the present crisis it seemed impossible to save themselves except by yielding to the Persians, since Hegelochus, who had been commissioned by Alexander to collect another naval force, had not yet gathered so large a fleet as to warrant them in expecting any speedy succour from him. Accordingly Pharnabazus made the Tenedians comply with his demands rather from fear than good-will.

Meantime Proteas, son of Andronicus, by command of Antipater, succeeded in collecting ships of war from Euboea and the Peloponnese, so that there might be some protection both for the islands and for Greece itself, if the foreigners attacked them by sea, as it was reported they intended to do. Learning that Datames with ten ships was moored near Siphnus, Proteas set out by night with fifteen from Chalcis on the Euripus, and approaching the island of Cythnus at dawn, he spent the day there in order to get more certain information of the movements of the ten ships, resolving at the same time to fall upon the Phoenicians by night, when he would be likely to strike them with greater terror. Having discovered with certainty that Datames was moored with his ships at Siphnus, he sailed thither while it was still dark, and just at the very dawn fell upon them when they least expected it, and captured eight of the ships, men and all. But Datames, with the other two triremes, escaped by stealth at the beginning of the attack made by the ships with Proteas, and reached the rest of the Persian fleet in safety.

Curtius Rufus writes : ,, He confided to Pharnabazus the extensive command and powers, which Memnon had exercised. ''

Curtius about Alexander's actions : ,, Alexander resolved to anticipate Darius in commencing the attack, wherever the latter might be posted ; and, in order to provide for the security of the places in his rear, constituted Amphoterus commander of the fleet, and Hegelochus general of the land-frces, on the coast of the Hellespont. These officers he ordered to expel the Persian garrisons from Lesbos, Chios and Chos; confiding to their expenditure five hundred talents. To Antipater, and the superintendants of the Greek cities, he transmitted 600 hundred talents. The Greeks, as his allies, he required to guard the Hellespont by a fleet, conformably to treaty.''

Arrian writes about how news of defeat Issus affected Persian fleet : ,, Meantime Pharnabazus and Autophradates were staying near Chios; then having established a garrison in this island they despatched some of their ships to Cos and Halicarnassus, and with 100 of their best sailing vessels they put to sea themselves and landed at Siphnus. And Agis, king of the Lacedaemonians, came to them with one trireme, both to ask for money to carry on the war, and also to urge them to send with him into the Peloponnese as large a force both naval and military as they could. At that very time news reached them of the battle which had been fought at Issus; and being alarmed at the report, Pharnabazus started off to Chios with twelve triremes and 1,500 Grecian mercenaries, for fear that the Chians might attempt to effect a revolution when they received the news of the Persian defeat. Agis, having received from Autophradates thirty talents of silver and ten triremes, despatched Hippias to lead these ships to his brother Agesilaus at Taenarum, ordering him also to instruct Agesilaus to give full pay to the sailors and then to sail as quickly as possible to Crete, in order to set things in order there. For a time he himself remained there among the islands, but afterwards joined Autophradates at Halicarnassus. ''

Arrian writes about how capture of Phoenician cities by Alexander forced large potion of the Persian fleet to switch sides and abandon it : ,, About this time Gerostratus, King of Aradus, and Enylus, King of Byblus, ascertaining that their cities were in the possession of Alexander, deserted Autophradates and the fleet under his command, and came to Alexander with their naval force, accompanied by the Sidonian triremes; so that about eighty Phoenician ships joined him. About the same time triremes also came to him from Rhodes, both the one called Peripolus, and with it nine others. From Soli and Mallus also came three, and from Lycia ten; from Macedonia also a ship with fifty oars, in which sailed Proteas, son of Andronicus. Not long after, too, the kings of Cyprus put into Sidon with about one hundred and twenty ships, when they heard of the defeat of Darius at Issus, and were terrified, because the whole of Phoenicia was already in the possession of Alexander. To all of these Alexander granted indemnity for their previous conduct, because they seemed to have joined the Persian fleet rather by necessity than by their own choice. ''

Curtius Rufus about following actions at the sea : ,, At the same time, the Macedonian fleet was summoned from the harbours of Greece, to fall upon the ships which Darius sent out under Aristomenes, to retake the Hellespontian coast; and none of these escaped being captured or sunk. On the other hand, Pharnabazus, admiral of the chief Persian fleet, which comprized a hundred vessels, exacted a contribution in money from the Miletians; them sailing to the islands, Chios, Andros and Syphnus, he intoduced garrisons into each, and punished the inhabitants of each by a pecuniary mulct.
Amphoterus and Hegelochus, with a fleet of 160 vessels, brought the islands between the Grecian coast and Asia under Alexander's government : - Having accepted the submission of Tenedos - invited by the inhabitants of Chios, they expected to occupy it with the same facility : but Pharnabazus, the admiral of Darius, having seized the principals of Macedonian faction, restores Apollonides and Athenagoras, who were in the Persian interest, to power in the city, leaving with them a small garrison. The lieutenants of Alexander persevered in their enterprize, relying less on the amount of their forces, than on the disposition of the besieged. Nor did this expectation fail ; for violent dissention Apollonides and the commanders of the military, allowed the besiegers an opportunity to break into the town. When a regiment of Macedonians had forced one of the gates, a party of inhabitants, acting by a plan concerted for the surrender of the place, joined Amphoterus and Hegelochus. The Persian garrison slain, - Pharnabazus, with Apollonides and Athenagoras, are delivered up as prisoners.

Hence Macedonians sailed to Mitylene, which Chares the Athenian, who had lately debarked there, defended with a garrison of 2000 Persians : by finding himself unable to hold out, he surrendered the city, on condition that he might retire unmolested. ''
 
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Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#62
Continuing my previous post

Arrian about Hegelochus bringing news of complete victory to Alexander in Egypt : ,, At this time Hegelochus sailed to Egypt and informed Alexander that the Tenedians had revolted from the Persians and attached themselves to him; because they had gone over to the Persians against their own wish. He also said that the democracy of Chios were introducing Alexander's adherents in spite of those who held the city, being established in it by Autophradates and Pharnabazus. The latter commander had been caught there and kept as a prisoner, as was also the despot Aristonicus, a Methymnaean, who sailed into the harbour of Chios with five piratical vessels, fitted with one and a half banks of oars, not knowing that the harbour was in the hands of Alexander's adherents, but being misled by those who kept the bars of the harbour, because forsooth the fleet of Pharnabazus was moored in it. All the pirates were there massacred by the Chians; and Hegelochus brought to Alexander, as prisoners Aristonicus, Apollonides the Chian, Phisinus, Megareus, and all the others who had taken part in the revolt of Chios to the Persians, and who at that time were holding the government of the island by force. He also announced that he had deprived Chares of the possession of Mitylene, that he had brought over the other cities in Lesbos by a voluntary agreement, and that he had sent Amphoterus to Cos with sixty ships, for the Coans themselves invited him to their island. He said that he himself had sailed to Cos and found it already in the hands of Amphoterus. Hegelochus brought all the prisoners with him except Pharnabazus, who had eluded his guards at Cos and got away by stealth. ''

So, I wouldn't so sure of Memnon's success even if he lived. I wouldn't call him being even close to success before his death.

Also, Darius wasn't planning on outmaneuvering Alexander at Issus. He wasn't expecting Alexander to be where he was. He was advancing to have a battle and wasn't planning at all, to get into his rear.

At Gaugamela, Alexander would be outflanked no matter what. That was because of the terrain. It really favored bigger army, especially if it had larger cavalry. Alexander understood that. Alexander knew that he would be inevitably outflanked. That is why he devised that battle formation for Gaugamela. He came up with the way to counter inevitable outflanking that would happen. So, I don't understand how you can hold that against him. Have you really studied his campaigns ?

Also, someone like Liddell-Hart himself questioned effectiveness of Memnon's ,, Scorched earth '' plan.
 

Mangekyou

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
7,942
UK
#63
I agree, that decommissioning navy was a mistake. Memnon didn't almost succeed though. Plan wasn't really abandoned after Memnon's death'
Sorry to truncate. I have read the sources so I am aware of that particular commentary.

Memnon almost succeeded in opening to second front Darius wanted from him. He had Chios and most of the Cyclades idlands under his control and was starting to fortify them. Altohugh Alexander wasn't stopped in his tracks by this news he was alarmed, as was Antipater. Alexander did have the navy restructured to try and liberate the islands and control the Hellespont.

Even though things continued after his death, it was desultory and fractured by command.
 

Mangekyou

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
7,942
UK
#64
So, I wouldn't so sure of Memnon's success even if he lived. I wouldn't call him being even close to success before his death.
There is no guarantee of anything, but the likelihood is that he would've caused Alexander major problems at some point.

Also, Darius wasn't planning on outmaneuvering Alexander at Issus. He wasn't expecting Alexander to be where he was. He was advancing to have a battle and wasn't planning at all, to get into his rear.
Before the battle, Darius outmaneouvered Alexander through disinformation. He made Alexander think he was going through the Cilician plain through teh Assyrian gates and Alexander marched to meet him there (Arr. Anab. II 6, 1-2).

Instead he went further north thorugh the Amanic gates and behind Alexander (Arr. Anab. II 7, 1)

Alexander was not expecting that, hence the intelligence he received at that point was not good or reliable.


At Gaugamela, Alexander would be outflanked no matter what. That was because of the terrain. It really favored bigger army, especially if it had larger cavalry. Alexander understood that. Alexander knew that he would be inevitably outflanked. That is why he devised that battle formation for Gaugamela. He came up with the way to counter inevitable outflanking that would happen. So, I don't understand how you can hold that against him. Have you really studied his campaigns ?
I never stated otherwise. I said he was outflanked, which he was, and his line almost crumbled. Even with the echeloned Phalanx' he left in the rear as a precaution, the battle was almost lost. That is not really me syaing he was bad, that is me saying he almost lost.

Also, someone like Liddell-Hart himself questioned effectiveness of Memnon's ,, Scorched earth '' plan.

Liddell- Hart needs to be taken with a pinch of salt at times.


According to Engels, his troops had enough food and resources for two weeks after he landed. His initial supplies would've nearly exhausted, so scorched earth may have stopped Alexander in his tracks for a while.
 
Sep 2016
1,215
Georgia
#65
Before the battle, Darius outmaneouvered Alexander through disinformation. He made Alexander think he was going through the Cilician plain through teh Assyrian gates and Alexander marched to meet him there (Arr. Anab. II 6, 1-2).

Instead he went further north thorugh the Amanic gates and behind Alexander (Arr. Anab. II 7, 1)

Alexander was not expecting that, hence the intelligence he received at that point was not good or reliable.
Arrian : ,, He was also not unwilling to be led to form whatever decision was most agreeable to his own wishes; and being influenced by those who gave him the advice which they thought would be pleasant to him, without consideration of its utility (for kings will always have associates to give them bad advice), he came to the conclusion that Alexander was no longer desirous of advancing further, but was shrinking from an encounter on learning that Darius himself was marching against him. On all sides they were urging him on, asserting that he would trample down the army of the Macedonians with his cavalry. Nevertheless, Amyntas, at any rate, confidently affirmed that Alexander would certainly come to any place where he heard Darius might be; and he exhorted him by all means to stay where he was. But the worse advice, because at the immediate time it was more pleasant to hear, prevailed ''

So, Darius didn't plan to fall on Alexander's rear. He thought, that Alexander was shrinking in fear and stayed in one place. Don't even know where you got whole ,, disinformation '' thing. That is certainly not what Arrian writes about. My point stands.
 
Likes: macon
Aug 2019
37
tilted towers
#66
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.
What book about the military aspect of Alexander's life would you recommend? Arrian or a modern scholar/historian?
 
Sep 2018
24
michigan
#67
What book about the military aspect of Alexander's life would you recommend? Arrian or a modern scholar/historian?
N.G.L Hammond has a few good books on Alexander that discuss some of his statesmanship, but at times seems to be romanticized but still worth a read.
I highly recommend Stephen English's books on Alexander's sieges, battles, and army for a good deep analysis of some of his major battles.
If you want to know about his Bactrian campaign then the best book is Into the Land of Bones but be warned you will have to slog through unnecessary and at times confusing attempts by the author to talk about the modern war in Afghanistan.
Waldemar Heckel also has some good books like his study of Alexanders marshals.

happy reading :)
 
Aug 2019
37
tilted towers
#68
N.G.L Hammond has a few good books on Alexander that discuss some of his statesmanship, but at times seems to be romanticized but still worth a read.
I highly recommend Stephen English's books on Alexander's sieges, battles, and army for a good deep analysis of some of his major battles.
If you want to know about his Bactrian campaign then the best book is Into the Land of Bones but be warned you will have to slog through unnecessary and at times confusing attempts by the author to talk about the modern war in Afghanistan.
Waldemar Heckel also has some good books like his study of Alexanders marshals.

happy reading :)
Thanks!
 

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