Arrian on Alexander's Campaign (334bc)


This is your set-text on Alexander's invasion up to the battle of the Granicus. 
Text in black is the Board's set text.  Text in italics is the Board's optional extras.  
Mouse-over the emboldened words to read the glosses. 
Where words are blue and underlined, there is also a hyperlink to another site.
(you may be interested to compare Arrian's account below with that of Plutarch and/or Diodorus)
Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 1.11–16

When he had completed these things, he went back to Macedonia. He made the sacrifice to Olympian Zeus which still remained from the time of Archelaus and put on the Olympic Games at Aegae: others say that he held a contest for the Muses. Meanwhile, it was announced that the statue of Orpheus, son of Oeagrus the Thracian in Pieria had been sweating constantly. Different seers interpreted this in different ways, but Aristander of Telmissus, a seer, encouraged Alexander to be bold. He said that it was clear that there would be a lot of work for the poets of epic and choral songs and writers of odes in composing poetry and singing hymns about Alexander and the actions of Alexander.

At the beginning of spring, he marched to the Hellespont. He had given control of things in Macedonia and Greece to Antipater. He himself led the infanty with the lightly armed troops and the archers who were not much over 30,000 in number, and cavalry of over 5,000. His route was past Lake Cercinitis going towards Amphipolis and to the delta of the river Strymon. He crossed the Strymon and passed Mount Pangaeum. He then made his way to Abdera and Maronea, which were Greek cities that had been established by the sea. From there he went to the river Hebrus, and crossed this easily. Then he went through Paetica to the Black River. He crossed this and came to Sestus within twenty days in total after his departure from home. When he came to Elaeus he sacrificed to Protesilaus at his tomb, because Protesilaus seems to have been the first of the Greeks to disembark in Asia when they came to Ilium with Agamemnon. The reasoning behind the sacrifice was that he wanted his landing in Asia to be more fortunate than that of Protesilaus.

Parmenio was appointed to organise the transport of most of the infantry and the cavalry from Sestus to Abydus. They embarked on 160 triremes and many other cargo boats. The most common story holds that Alexander went from Elaeus to the Achaean harbour; he himself steered the admiral’s ship. When he was in the middle of the channel of the Hellespont, he sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and the Nereids, and poured a libation from a golden cup into the sea. They say that he was the first to disembark from the ship onto Asian soil in full armour. He set up altars to Zeus of Safe Landings, Athena and Heracles, both where he had started from in Europe and in the place where he disembarked in Asia. He then went on to Ilium and sacrificed to Trojan Athena, and dedicated his full suit of armour in the temple, and took down in their place some of the sacred weapons that were preserved from the Trojan war. They say that the royal guards carried these before him into battle. He then sacrificed to Priam as well on the altar of Zeus of Enclosures (as the story goes), asking that the anger of Priam should not be visited on the race of Neoptolemus, as Alexander himself was descended from him.

Menoetius the helmsman crowned Alexander with a golden wreath when he arrived at Troy. Then Chares the Athenian came from Sigeum, along with others both Greeks and locals…. Some say that Alexander placed a crown on the tomb of Achilles, while Hephaestion crowned the tomb of Patroclus. Alexander, as goes the story, declared Achilles happy because he had Homer to proclaim his fame to future generations.
However, Alexander might well have considered Achilles to be happy not least for this reason, because, setting on one side his good fortune in other respects, there was a significant gap here for Alexander, and his great deeds were not brought to a wider public in a manner worthy of his achievement, either in history or poetry. Alexander was not even celebrated in songs in the way that Hiero, Gelo and Thero were, and many others not worthy to be compared with him, so that Alexander’s achievements are less well-known than the very insignificant deeds of ancient times. For example, the expedition into Asia of the 10,000 with Cyrus against King Artaxerxes, the misfortunes of Clearchus and those who were captured with him, and their return to the coast under the leadership of Xenophon are far better known to mankind because of Xenophon’s account than Alexander and all that he achieved. Yet Alexander did not campaign in someone else’s army, nor did he flee a great king, and only defeat those who tried to prevent his return to the coast. No other single individual, either Greek or barbarian, has achieved such incredible success on so many occasions and to such an overwhelming extent. For that reason I have myself started writing this history, as I think I’m up to the task of bringing Alexander’s deeds to a wider audience. Whatever my abilities as a writer may be, I do not need to write my name here, for it is not unknown to my contemporaries, nor is my country nor my family, nor the successes that I’ve had in public life in my own country. But I do state this, that these stories are and have been from my youth my country and my family and my successes. It is for that reason that I consider myself worthy of the finest writers in the Greek language, since my subject, Alexander, was the finest of warriors.

Alexander went from Troy to Arisbe, where his whole army had set up camp after crossing the Hellespont. The next day he travelled to Percote, and after that he went past Lampsacus and set up camp by the river Practius, which flows from the Idaean mountains down to the coast between the Hellespont and the Black Sea. From there he came to Hermotus, having gone past the city of Colonae.
He sent scouts ahead of his forces under the leadership of Amyntas the son of Arrabaeus, who brought with him the squadron of companions from Apollonia (Socrates son of Sathon was in charge of this squadron) and also for squadrons of the so-called advanced guard. As he went by, the citizens of Priapus surrendered their city to him and he sent a force to take control of it under Panegorus, son of Lycagorus, one of his companions.

The Persian commanders were Arsames, Rheomithres, Petenes, Niphates and also Spithridates, the satrap of Lydia and Ionia, together with Arsites who was satrap of Phrygia towards the Hellespont. These men had set up their camp city of Zeleia with the barbarian cavalry and with the Greek mercenaries. They held a council to discuss what to do, when it was reported that Alexander had crossed to Asia; Memnon of Rhodes advised them not to take any risks against the Macedonian forces, as they were far more powerful in infantry, and Alexander himself was present, whereas Darius had not yet joined them; they should go on, destroying the fodder by trampling it with the cavalry and burning the crops in the fields, sparing not even the cities themselves; for Alexander would not stay in the country because of the lack of provisions. But it is said that Arsites declared in the Council of the Persians that he would not allow one house to be burned that belonged to any man subject to him. The other Persians supported Arsites, because they suspected that Memnon was deliberately introducing delays to the campaign because of the honour he held from the king.

In the meantime Alexander marched forward to the river Granicus with his army in battle order; he had drawn up his phalanx of hoplites in two lines, with the cavalry on the wings and the baggage animals following behind. Hegelochus led the force given the task of finding out what the enemy were doing, which consisted of some lancers on horseback and about 500 light armed troops. When Alexander was not far from the river Granicus, some scouts quickly rode up to him and told him that the Persians were drawn up for battle on the far side of the Granicus.
At this point, Alexander began to organise his whole army for battle, but Parmenio came up to him and said, “In my opinion, O king, it would be good in this situation to set up camp on the riverbank just as we are. I do not believe that the enemy will dare bivouac near us as we outnumber them in infantry, and by doing this we will ensure that the army can easily cross the river at dawn; for we will be able to do this before they can get ready for battle. But as things are, I think it would be dangerous to make the attempt, because it is not possible to lead the army through the river in a broad line of battle. You see how there are many deep stretches in the river, and the banks are very high and extremely steep in places; the enemy cavalry drawn up in battle order will be upon us as we come out of the river in marching formation and in no proper order, which puts us in a very weak position. The first defeat would be difficult in the present situation and damaging for the outcome of the whole campaign.” Alexander said, “I understand what you say, Parmenio. I would be ashamed, if I crossed the Hellespont easily, and then this little stream (he disparaged the Granicus by describing it like this) prevented us from crossing just as we are. I feel not making an immediate assault is not worthy of the glory of the Macedonians nor my own cleverness in dealing with dangers. I think the Persians would be encouraged to believe they were worthy opponents of the Macedonians because they have not suffered any thing straightaway to cause them fear.”
Once he had said this, Alexander sent Parmenio to take control of the left wing, while he went along his forces to the right. He had already put in position number of commanders. On the right there was Philotas, son of Parmenio, in charge of the companion cavalry, the archers and the Agrianian javelin men; next to him was Amyntas, son of Arrabaeus, who was in charge of the lancers, and the Paeonians and the squadron of Socrates; next were the royal guards, under the leadership of Nicanor, son of Parmenio; then the phalanx of Perdiccas, the son of Orontes, and next to that, the troops led by Coenus, son of Polemocrates, then those led by Amyntas, son of Andromenes, and finally on the right wing the phalanx led by Philip, son of Amyntas. On the left wing, the Thessalian cavalry were positioned first, under the leadership of Calas, son of Harpalus, and next to them the allied cavalry, commanded by Philip, the son of Menelaus; then Agatho led the Thracian contingent; beyond them were infantry battalions, the phalanx of Craterus, than those of Meleager and Philip, right up to the middle of the whole battle line.

The Persian cavalry numbered about 20,000, and there were about the same number of foreign mercenary infantry; they were all drawn up for battle stretched out along the banks of the river, the infantry behind the cavalry. The land beyond the riverbank provided a commanding position. Whenever they got a clear sight of Alexander aiming at their left flank (he stood out because of the splendour of his armour and the excited reaction of the men around him), they drew up the squadrons and cavalry in close formation at that point on the bank.

For some time both armies stood on the edge of the river and kept quiet because of their worries about what would soon happen, and there was a profound silence on both sides. The Persians were waiting for the Macedonians to enter the channel, so that they might attack them when they came out.

Then Alexander leapt up onto his horse and told those in his entourage to be brave and follow him; he ordered the advanced guard of cavalry and the Paeonians to go first into the river, under the leadership of Amyntas, son of Arrabaeus, together with one contingent of infantry and before them the squadron of Socrates under Ptolemy, son of Philip, which happened to be the leading contingent of the whole cavalry on that particular day. Alexander himself led the right wing when the trumpet sounded, and led his men chanting the battle cry to the God of Battle into the river, continually stretching out his battle line at an angle as the current pulled on them, to ensure both that the Persians did not attack him in his flank as he came out, and that he might engage with them, as far as possible, in proper formation.

This 1672 etching by Charles le Brun follows Arrian's account of the battle, and shows the moment when Cleitus the Black, axe raised, saves Alexander's life. 
●  Arrian's account of the battle is generally consistent and quite clear - the Greeks crossed the river and fought their way onto the opposing riverbank; the Persian cavalry were lined up along the riverbank trying to stop them. ●  This is essentially the account given also by Plutarch.
●  Diodorus's account, however, is very different - he describes a surprise dawn attack, and a conventional battle on the plain above the river. 
●  Modern accounts of the battle (e.g. in wikipedia) get into terrible confusion trying to reconcile the contradictory accounts of Arrian and Diodorus; it is much easier to accept that they are irreconcilable.


Where those with Amyntas and Socrates first reached the bank, the Persians assailed them with missiles from above; some threw javelins from their high position on the bank into the river, while others, where the ground was more level, went down to meet them as far as the water. There was a great thrusting of cavalry, some trying to get out of the river, while others tried to prevent them; there was a great shower of javelins from the Persians, while the Macedonians were fighting with their spears. But the Macedonians, as they were greatly outnumbered, began to struggle in the first assault, since they were defending themselves from the river on ground that was not firm and from a lower position, as the Persians held the high bank. A further significant problem was that the most powerful part of the Persian cavalry had been drawn up at this spot, and the sons of Memnon, and Memnon himself, threw themselves into danger with them. The first of the Macedonians who engaged with the Persians were cut down by them, though they were brave men, apart from those of them who were driven back towards Alexander as he approached. Alexander was already near, bringing with him the right wing, and he led the attack against the Persians where the whole mass of cavalry and the leaders of the Persians were stationed. Around him a fierce battle was waged; and in the meantime, wave after wave of Macedonian battalions crossed the river, by now with much less difficulty. The battle was fought on horseback, but it seemed much more like an infantry battle. Horse struggled with horse and man with man; the Macedonians strove to thrust back the Persians completely from the bank and force them into the plain, while the Persians tried to prevent the Macedonians leaving the river and thrust them back into it. Alexander’s men were already beginning to get the upper hand partly through their strength and experience, but particularly because they were fighting with the cornel-wood spears against lighter and shorter weapons.

At this point in the battle Alexander’s spear was broken; he asked Aretas, a groom in the royal entourage, for another spear, but his spear was also broken, and he was struggling in the battle, fighting bravely with one half of his broken spear. He showed this to Alexander and told him to ask someone else; the Corinthian Demaratus, one of his companions, gave him his own spear. Alexander took it, and seeing Mithridates, the son-in-law of Darius, riding far in front of the rest at the head of a wedge shaped formation of cavalry, he rode out ahead of his own line and struck Mithridates in the face with his spear and brought him down. In the meantime, Rhoesaces charged at Alexander and struck Alexander’s head with his sword; he broke off part of the helmet, but the helmet deflected the blow. Alexander struck him in turn, thrusting his lance through his cuirass into his chest. Spithridates had already raised his sword to strike Alexander from behind, but Cleitus, the son of Dropides, struck him first on the shoulder, and cut off Spithridates’ arm together with the sword he was holding. Meanwhile those of the cavalry who managed to get out of the river bed kept coming to join those around Alexander.

The Persians were now being struck in their faces by lances from all sides, both men and horses, and they were being pushed back by the cavalry; they were also suffering a great deal at the hands of light armed troops, who had mingled with the cavalry, and they first began to give way at that point where Alexander was thrusting himself into danger in the front line. But when the Persians’ centre had given way, then also both wings of the cavalry were broken, and there was at that point the general flight from the battlefield. About 1000 Persian cavalryman perished. There was not a lengthy pursuit, because Alexander turned against the foreign mercenaries; the great mass of these remained where they had first been drawn up, more through surprise at the unexpected turn of events than through a sure reckoning of the reality of the situation. Alexander led his phalanx against them and told the cavalry to fall upon them from all sides, and soon there was a general massacre, not a man escaping unless he hid amongst the dead; about 2000 were taken prisoner.
Many Persian commanders were killed during the battle: Niphates, Petenes, and Spithridates, satrap of Lydia, together with Mithrobuzanes, ruler of the Cappadocians, and Mithridates, the son-in-law of Darius; also Arbupales, son of Darius, son of Artaxerxes, and Pharnaces, who was the brother of the wife of Darius, and also Omares, the commander of the mercenary forces. Arsites fled from the battle to Phrygia, and there he died by his own hand, as the story goes, because the responsibility for the present disaster was judged by the Persians to be his.

As for the Macedonian dead, about 25 of the companions fell in the first attack; there are bronze statues of these men set up at Dium, created by Lysippus on Alexander’s instruction, because he was the only sculptor Alexander judged worthy of portraying himself. Of the rest of the cavalry about 60 died, and about 30 of the infantry. Alexander buried these men on the next day with their weapons and other equipment; to their parents and children he gave remission of land tax and all other taxes either on personal possessions or services. He showed great consideration for those who were wounded, and went around all of them himself, looking at their wounds and asking how they received them; he gave them the opportunity to say what they had done and to boast about their achievements to him. He also buried the leaders of the Persians and the mercenary Greeks who had marched with the enemy and died; he bound in chains all those mercenaries he had taken prisoner and sent them to Macedonia to work as slaves, because, although they were Greek, they had fought for barbarians against Greeks, contrary to the general agreement amongst Greeks. He also sent to Athens 300 Persian panoplies as a dedication to Athena on the Acropolis and he ordered this inscription to be placed on them: ‘Alexander the son of Philip and the Greeks apart from the Lacedaemonians took these from the barbarians who live in Asia and set them up here.’