Gallimard in his book, Alexander the Great, Man of Action, Man of Spirit, points out that the Persians placed their cavalry on the sloping banks of the Granicus River hoping this tactic would lure in Alexander’s troops. Unfortunately for the Persians, this tactic hindered their ability to maneuver and charge. Combine this fatal mistake along with Alexander’s superior tactics, oblique battle array, and you have a severe defeat experienced by the Persians.
Alexander Immediately Attacks the Vulnerable Persian Army at the Granicus
When Alexander reached the Granicus with his troops, he recognized the Persian army’s weakness. The Persians were positioned too close to the bank of the river and unable to charge. Subsequently, Alexander attacked the Persians employing the Oblique Battle-Array strategy which he learned from his father, Philip.
The basic idea of the oblique battle-array was to penetrate the enemy’s left wing by a heavy cavalry charge and then to turn left and roll up the enemy’s flank. The battle of Granicus was unique as far as the application of the oblique battle-array. Alexander did not charge the left wing of the enemy, which would have been the standard procedure. Instead, he ordered his light troops of foot and horse that had a squadron of heavy cavalry, to attack and hold the enemy. Alexander with his Hetairoi attacked towards the center at the left of the Persian formation.
The ferocity and skill of Alexander and his Hetairoi proved too much for the Persian army which commenced a hasty retreat. Alexander then came upon an army of Greek mercenaries who were fighting for the Persians. These Greek troops were totally destroyed, except for 2000 survivors who were placed into forced labor in Macedonia’s mines.
On May 334, Alexander Wins a Great Victory
The main reason for the victory at Granicus was credited to Alexander’s superior military strategies. Additionally, credit should be given to the weapons of his army. The Macedonian thrusting lance was far superior to the Persian throwing-spear. Furthermore, Alexander wisely instructed his Macedonians to aim at the faces of the enemy, which proved devastating to the Persian army.
Alexander’s Macedonians experienced relatively small loses. However, his highly valued Hetairoi did lose 25 soldiers. Alexander honored his brave Hetairoi by having the sculptor Lysippus make statues of those 25 Hetairoi which were displayed at Dion in Macedonia. Additionally, their families were given exemption from taxation.
Alexander Demonstrates a Humane Side of His Nature
After the battle of Granicus, Alexander gave a solemn burial to his fellow soldiers and to the dead Persians. He also gave attention to his wounded troops. Urick Wilken in his book Alexander the Great specifies that, “He made them individually display to him their wounds and relate how they had got them, and gave them a kindly ear, even when they were somewhat vainglorious.” This shows how Alexander earned the enthusiastic undying loyalty and devotion of his men.
Alexander’s victory at Granicus showed the world and particularly the powerful Persian ruling class that the Macedonian threat was something to be taken very seriously. A strategic blunder by the Persian army was their formation at the Granicus river bank which left their troops immobile and unable to charge. Most telling, Alexander’s use of the versatile Battle Array tactic totally collapsed the hopes of a Persian victory.
- Alexander the Great, Man of Action, Man of Spirit by Gallimard and Harry N. Abrams Inc.
- Alexander the Great by Ulrich Wilcken