Is Alexander the Great actually as bad as some people say he is?

Nov 2011
1,046
The Bluff
So I think we should get back to the topic... was Alexander as bad of a commander as some people make him out to be regarding his army, his luck, and the state of Persia at the time? Why or why not?
Of what "luck" do we speak and what is the presumed "state of Persia at the time?"

The army has been well dealt with and that army evolved over time to suit the challenges faced. The battle of the Jaxartes should have been required reading for later Roman commanders.
 
Aug 2019
37
tilted towers
Of what "luck" do we speak and what is the presumed "state of Persia at the time?"

The army has been well dealt with and that army evolved over time to suit the challenges faced. The battle of the Jaxartes should have been required reading for later Roman commanders.
I don’t know about luck exactly, but a lot of people say it was a deciding factor and that Persia was weak.
 
Nov 2008
1,391
England
I don’t know about luck exactly, but a lot of people say it was a deciding factor and that Persia was weak.
I do not know where this idea that the Persian Empire was weak comes from, not when Darius, the Persian king, was able to amass two armies with which to confront Alexander, and the second one at Gaugamela consisted of upwards of 100,000 men. Furthermore, Darius had at his disposal vast wealth stored at Susa and Persepolis. It wasn`t luck that Alexander possessed: it was military genius.
 
Aug 2019
37
tilted towers
I do not know where this idea that the Persian Empire was weak comes from, not when Darius, the Persian king, was able to amass two armies with which to confront Alexander, and the second one at Gaugamela consisted of upwards of 100,000 men. Furthermore, Darius had at his disposal vast wealth stored at Susa and Persepolis. It wasn`t luck that Alexander possessed: it was military genius.
some people think that the Persian army was soo much worse and the Macedonian one was soo much better and that Darius was incompetent, neither of which seem to me like the reason Alex won. Sure the Macedonian army was better, but it wasn't so much better that it could just walk over its opposition, and it did struggle a few times. And idk why people think Darius was so incompetent.
 
Sep 2019
13
'Merica
Alexander merely followed suit and the standout example would be the massacre of the Indians of Poros.

If the Romans had utilised modern assault rifles they'd have massacred entire armies because they'd the means and could. They did not just as their world - and Alexander's - did not have the moral milieu of our times.
What an utter joke. Alexander barely made it out of his scraps on the borderlands of India alive. In fact his battle with a petty warlord, Puru was his bloodiest. That's how much his "combined arms" approach helped him! He ran away when confronted with somebody his own size : the Nanda dynasty.
 
Nov 2011
1,046
The Bluff
What an utter joke. Alexander barely made it out of his scraps on the borderlands of India alive. In fact his battle with a petty warlord, Puru was his bloodiest. That's how much his "combined arms" approach helped him! He ran away when confronted with somebody his own size : the Nanda dynasty.
Not necessarily speaking for others, but I believe it would be nice for all if this rubbish were not to contaminate yet another thread. There are plenty of other threads (mostly locked I'd imagine) for this stuff.

Thanks in advance.
 
Jul 2014
678
Messinia
He is the most overrated general in history. Far from being chivalrous or even noble, he was an angry, spoiled, genocidal, war-mongering megalomaniac and mamma's boy with the worst daddy problems in history. Honestly, If there was ever a historical figure deserving to be cast aside and thrown into the ash heap of history and forgotten forever this guy definitely scores close to first place. Destroyed much and created little. Only redeeming quality was his physical courage and insane luck.
How dare you.
 
Nov 2011
1,046
The Bluff
I do not know where this idea that the Persian Empire was weak comes from, not when Darius, the Persian king, was able to amass two armies with which to confront Alexander, and the second one at Gaugamela consisted of upwards of 100,000 men. Furthermore, Darius had at his disposal vast wealth stored at Susa and Persepolis. It wasn`t luck that Alexander possessed: it was military genius.
It's a notion that is difficult to substantiate. The Great King essentially ran Greek politics from 411/10 until Philip II established himself as the sole power in the Balkans. For all of the Greek sources' bluster, Persia brought the Greek powers to heel and the King dictated the terms of the peace accords (koine eirene) which, notionally, settled Greek affairs. Sparta dutifully traveled to Sardis to arrange a new alliance post Knidos. Athens was forced to the table in 388. Thebes enforced Persia's terms in 366 and, not long after, Athens removed her forces from the Hellespont and hauled her ships up after a direct order from Persepolis. Philip II was forced to abandon his siege of Perinthos when the King threatened to come to its aid should he persist. Whatever else the Greeks might have pretended, their actions speak far louder than words.

The next leg of this notion is that Egypt (and other areas) had been in revolt - thus the empire was weak. Putting aside the rebellion of Kyros the younger, The most serious revolt was the "satraps' revolt" under Artaxerxes II in the 360s. A revolt ruthlessly put down. As for the revolt and temporary independence of Egypt, that was a regular occurrence at near every accession of a new King going back to the early fifth century and it was not alone: Artaxerxes I had to put down Bactria before Egypt. Apparently, the Persian's weakness is demonstrated by their laboured (and occasionally unsuccessful) expeditions to recover the province. Let's not mention Perdikkas' abject failure of 321 nor that of Antigonos in 306. Egypt was notoriously difficult for ancient armies and remained so as can be seen.

Lastly, the Greek sources will tell us that provinces such as Egypt were only won back because of the valour of Greek mercenaries and the nouse of their commanders. Whatever those sources wish to say of a Pammenes or Mentor, Persians commanded these armies, not the hirelings or their commanders. Let's not dwell on the utter destruction of the Greek forces supporting Inaros by Megabyzus and Artabazus in 460/59. This notion of Greeks being the mainstay of Persian armies and, when clearly not, their commanders being the only ones possessed of the requisite skill and knowledge, comes against the backdrop of much disliked Persian control and influence in Greek affairs. Isokrates, for example, would rail against the Persians as effete and weakened by luxury whose only recourse was to press Asiatic slaves into service. This finds its military expression in the nonsense of fellow pan-Hellenists such as Xenophon whose description of Cunaxa beggars military belief. Had Abrocomas arrived, Xenophon will have faced 1,200,000 men. That Kyros, with his piddling army, would ever think of marching on empire knowing that would be what he faced is not worth a moment's consideration. Thus we get to one Greek being the equivalent of at least ten Asiatics and Persians. Something Arrian still bought into with his 1,000,000 at Guagamela and which Livy would resurrect to dismiss Alexander as a defeater of women and a commander whose army of eastern Asiatic slaves would be decimated by Rome had he come west.

Dareios had all the advantages of Empire behind him - including secure internal supply and communications lines - and the battles with Alexander were far nearer run matters that the Greco-Macedonian sources would dare tell. There is no doubt that Persian casualties are exaggerated and Macedonian minimised. The need of Alexander for his national reinforcements speaks to this. These battles were hard fought and Arrian's description of the close fighting at Guagamela is instructive. Focusing on the ever brave Macedonian king, the story must have an incompetent and incontinent opposite: Dareios. That Dareios left the field at Issos is painted as cowardly rather than the commander in chief retreating to regather for the next confrontation. Those who buy into this then relate he did similar at Guagamela but it is more than instructive that the Astronomical Diaries actually state that Dareiso' troops deserted him at Guagamela.

Those who would claim the Macedonian defeated a weak, effete and decaying empire are, like Livy who'd likely never been out of Italy to check, dismissing what they do not understand.
 
Last edited:
Nov 2011
4,767
Ohio, USA
Still not sure how historians substantiate Darius' ability to field an army 100,000 strong logistically.
Probably just judging by the formations involved, and that it is mentioned that the Persian army was large enough to out-lap the Macedonians on both wings, consequently leading to Alexander's 'flying wing' reserves. All of this could hardly have been the case if the Persian army was barely larger than the Macedonian army.
 

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