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Ancient Greece: Famous Battles

Alexander & Macedonian Conquests 338 - 322 BC Philip II ruled Macedonia from 359 to 336 bc. During this time he battled and subdued the Greeks (the major victory was at Chaeroea in 338.) After his assassination in 336 bc his son Alexander at the age 20 became King of Macedonia. In 334 Alexander began his invasion of Persia in order to fulfill his father's plan to punish Persia for its dominance of Greece. Alexanders campaigns took him through Persia, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and finally India. In 323 he died while preparing a campaign to the Arabian peninsula.

Ancient Greek Warfare After the Dark Ages in ancient Greece, a new system of warfare evolved; weaponry, tactics, ideas and formations changed. Modified by Philip II and mainly by Alexander the Great after the Macedonians conquered Greece, this new age of warfare lasted until the rise of the Roman Empire, when new tactics and the legion formation became the general methods of battle. The new "breakthrough" in military affairs was due largely to a new type of formation of infantry men, or hoplites. This formation was called the phalanx. The hoplite was heavily armed; he was equipped with a round shield, a breastplate of metal and leather, a helmet, and metal shin protection called greaves. His two weapons were a double-bladed sword and an eight foot pike for thrusting. These men were much faster and more maneuverable then the old system of disorganized fighting, where heavily armed soldiers individually fought one-on-one with others (the leaders of opposing sides would search for the men with reputations to fight). The phalanx was held in solid ranks, and divided only by a center line and two flanking sections. The soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder in files about eight ranks deep. The men in the front line held their shield strapped to the left arm and the sword in their right hand, thus protecting the man on their left while being protected by the man on their right. [Greece] [Warfare]

Battle At Thermopylae Despite their defeat by the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, the Persians were not finished with their determination to conquer mainland Greece. For the Persians, Marathon barely registered; the Persians after all controlled almost the entire world: Asia Minor, Lydia, Judah, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The loss at Marathon was no more than an irritation to the Persians. Darius was unable to respond immediately to his defeat because of rebellions on the other end of his empire. While he was quelling these, he was killed in battle. King Xerxes, son of Darius, ascended to the throne of Persia after his father's death in 486 BC. After securing his throne, Xerxes began to muster forces to once again invade Greece. He was determined to avenge his father's defeat. By 480 BC, Xerxes had built up an enormous army of some one hundred fifty thousand men and a navy of six hundred ships. Peoples from many little-known nations in the vast empire of Xerxes joined in the army of the Great King to invade little Greece. [Famous Battles] [Ancient Greece]

Battle of Chaeronea Philip II defeated the allied force of Thebes and Athens. Fought August B.C. 338 between the Macedonians under Philip, and the Athenians and Thebans under Chares and Theagenes respectively. Philip had 30,000 foot and 2,000 horse, the latter led by Alexander, then a lad of eighteen ; the allies were slightly fewer in number. Philip reinforced his right wing, which was opposed by the Athenians, and sent his heavy cavalry against the Thebans, on the allied right. Their charge brokethe Theban ranks, and they then attacked the Athenians in flank and rear. A hopeless rout ensued, the Theban " Sacred Band " dying where they stood. The Athenians lost 6,000 killed and 2,000 prisoners. The Thebans were almost annihilated.

Battle of Gaugamela About 47,000 Macedonians led by Alexander defeated 120,000 Persians led by Darius. Fought October 31, 331 B. C., between 47,000 Macedonians under Alexander the Great, and the Persian army, three or four times as numerous, under Darius Codomannus. Alexander, who led the Macedonian right wing, forced a passage between the Persian left and centre, and attacked the centre on the flank. After a stubborn resistance, and though meanwhile the Macedonian left had been hard pressed, the Persians gave way, and Darius taking to flight, the whole army fled in confusion, and was routed with enormous loss, especially at the passage of the Lycas, which barred their retreat. This victory made Alexander master of Asia. [Al Mawsil, Iraq]

Battle of Granicus First major victory of Alexander over the Persians. Fought May, 334 B.C., between 35,000 Macedonians, under Alexander the Great, and 40,000 Persians and Greek mercenaries, under Memnon of Rhodes, and various Persian satraps. Alexander crossed the Granicus in the face of the Persian army, leading the way himself at the head of the heavy cavalry, and having dispersed the Persian light horse, he brought up the phalanx, which fell upon and routed the Greek mercenaries. The Persians lost heavily, while the Macedonians' loss was very slight. {Granicus River, Near the Dardanelles]

Battle of Hydaspes Fought B.C. 326, between 65,000 Macedonians and 70,000 Asiatics, under Alexander the Great, and the army of the Indian king Porus, numbering 30,000 infantry, with 200 elephants and 300 war chariots. Alexander crossed the river- a few miles above Porus' entrenchments, and utterly routed him, with a loss of 12,000 killed and 9,000 prisoners, including Porus himself. The Macedonians lost 1,000 only. [India]

Battle of Issus Alexander defeated the Persian army with many times more men at the ancient city of Issus about 50 miles west of modern day Adana. While Darius, King of Persia, fled after the battle, Alexander captured Darius family. [Adana, Turkey] 333 B.C.

Battle of Megalopolis Fought B.C. 331, in the attempt of the Spartans, aided by the Arcadians, Achieans and Eleians, to shake off the Macedonian yoke, during Alexander's absence in Asia. The allies, under Agis, King of Sparta, were besieging Megalopolis, which had declined to join the league, when they were attacked by the Macedonians, under Antipater, and completely routed, Agis falling in the battle. [Megalopolis, Greece]

Battle of Plataea and Mycale In the spring of 479, the navy of 110 ships is at Egina. The Ionian Greeks are asking the Spartans and the navy to help them, but the Greeks are worried about sailing east of Delos, so they can't help the Ionian Greeks who have revolted. Next Mardonius consults the Greek oracles on his fortunes. Next he sends the Macedonian king Alexander to Athens to offer terms. From a military standpoint, they are quite fair, but the Athenians make it clear that they will never surrender to the Persians, which relieves the Spartan ambassadors. King Alexander leaves and the Spartans go home to begin to prepare for war. In Thessaly Mardonius isn't too impressed. He mobilizes and marches his army towards Athens. The Athenians evacuate, mostly to Salamis. The Persians enter a deserted Athens about July 5, 479. [Greek Wars and Military History]

Battle of Thebes This city was captured by the Macedonians, under Alexander the Great, in September, 335 B.C. The Thebans were blockading the Macedonian garrison, which held the citadel, and the Cadmea ; Perdiccas, one of Alexander's captains, without orders, broke through the earthworks outside the city. Before the Thebans could shut the gates, Perdiccas effected an entrance into the city, and being joined by the garrison of the Cadmea, soon overcame the resistance of the Thebans. Six thousand of the inhabitants were massacred, and the city was razed to the ground.

Siege of Gaza This city, defended by a Persian garrison, under Batis, was besieged by Alexander the Great October, 332 B. C. Utilizing the engines he had employed against Tyre, he succeeded, after some weeks, in breaching the walls, and, after three unsuccessful assaults, carried the city by storm, the garrison being put to the sword.

Siege of Tyre This strongly fortified city, built on an island separated from the mainland by a channel 1,000 yards wide, was besieged by the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, B.C., 332. Alexander at once commenced the construction of a mole across the channel but was much hampered by the Phoenician galleys, which issued from the two fortified harbours, and destroyed his military engines. He therefore collected in Sidon a fleet of 250 ships from the captured Phoenician cities, and holding the Tyrian galleys in check, completed his mole. It was some time, however, before a breach could be effected, but in August, 332, an assault was delivered, headed by Alexander in person, and the city was stormed and taken. Eight thousand Tyrians fell in the storm, and about 30,000 were sold into slavery.

The Battles of Salamis and Plataea King Xerxes, upon seeing his great defeat at Salamis, headed back to Persia with what was left of his navy and part of his army. [Famous Battles] [Ancient Greece]

Warfare in Ancient Greece As the economic resources of Greek city-states and individuals increased during the seventh century B.C., armies of foot soldiers were formed within the wealthier city-states. Known as hoplites, these soldiers were characteristically equipped with about seventy pounds of armor, most of which was made of bronze. The typical panoply included an eight- to ten-foot thrusting spear with an iron tip and butt, and bronze armor consisting of a helmet, cuirass (chest armor), greaves (shin guards), and a large shield about thirty inches in diameter. The heavy bronze shield, which was secured on the left arm and hand by a metal band on its inner rim, was the most important part of a hoplite's panoply, as it was his chief defense. [Military history of Greece and Rome]. [Met Museum]

Xerxes Plans To Conquer Greece King Xerxes` gathering of an army, and his march to conquer Greece. King Xerxes, son of Darius, ascended to the throne of Persia after his father's death in 486 BC. After securing the throne, Xerxes began to muster forces to invade Greece. By 480 BC, the army he assembled had approximately 100,000 to 180,000 men and a fleet of nearly 600 ships, quite a large army by Greek standards. This time, instead of an invasion by sea, this massive army would cross the Hellespont, and march around the Aegean sea and conquer Greece by land. An army this size would be too hard to ferry across the sea, anyway. Crossing the Hellespont proved to be troublesome to Xerxes and his army. They tried to cross the Hellespont with a bridge of boats, but alas, the sea became rough and the bridge broke apart. When King Xerxes heard of this, he was furious, and gave orders that the sea should receive 300 lashes with whips. The sea did calm down and the second attempt to build a bridge was successful. The Greeks heard of Xerxes' army amassing and were better prepared for the invasion than in the first Persian War. Athenians and Spartans combined with about 29 other city-states, under the leadership of Sparta to oppose this powerful army, and the Athenians contributed a fleet of 200 triremes for their navy. Themistocles, an Athenian general, urged the army to stop the invasion as far north as they could. Finally, a place was chosen for the first defence of Greece. This place was Thermopylae, a pass where it was only 60 feet wide! This is only wide enough so that a single chariot could fit though the pass. The Persian army arrived at Thermopylae and the Greeks were there waiting. This battle is known as The Battle at Thermopylae. [Famous Battles] [Ancient Greece]

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