Text #1797"Battle of Gaugamela", in .
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The Battle of Gaugamela, also called the Battle of Arbela, was the decisive battle of Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. In 331 BC Alexander’s army of the Hellenic League met the Persian army of Darius III near Gaugamela, close to the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. Even though heavily outnumbered, Alexander emerged victorious due to his superior tactics and army. It was a decisive victory for the Hellenic League and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.
In November 333 BC, Darius III had lost the Battle of Issus resulting in the capture of his wife, his mother, and his two daughters, Stateira II and Drypetis. Darius had retreated to Babylon, where he regrouped the remaining army from the previous battle. The victory at Issus had given Alexander control of southern Asia Minor. Following a victory at the Siege of Tyre (332 BC) which lasted from January to July, Alexander controlled the Levant. After his victory at Gaza, Persian troop counts were low and the Persian satrap of Egypt, Mazaces, peacefully surrendered to Alexander.
Darius tried to dissuade Alexander from further attacks on his empire by diplomacy. Ancient historians provide different accounts of his negotiations with Alexander, which can be separated in three negotiation attempts. … With the failure of diplomacy, Darius decided to prepare for another battle with Alexander. …
According to Arrian, Darius’s force numbered 40,000 cavalry and 1,000,000 infantry, Diodorus Siculus put it at 200,000 cavalry and 800,000 infantry, Plutarch put it at 1,000,000 troops (without a breakdown in composition), while according to Curtius Rufus it consisted of 45,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry. Furthermore, according to Arrian, Diodorus, and Curtius, Darius had 200 chariots while Arrian mentions 15 war elephants. Included in Darius’s infantry were about 2,000 Greek mercenary hoplites. …
After the battle, Parmenion rounded up the Persian baggage train while Alexander and his bodyguard pursued Darius. As at Issus, substantial loot was gained, with 4,000 talents captured, the King’s personal chariot and bow, and the war elephants. It was a disastrous defeat for the Persians and one of Alexander’s finest victories.
Darius managed to escape with a small corps of his forces remaining intact. The Bactrian cavalry and Bessus caught up with him, as did some of the survivors of the Royal Guard and 2,000 Greek mercenaries.
At this point, the Persian Empire was divided into two halves–East and West. On his escape, Darius gave a speech to what remained of his army. He planned to head further east and raise another army to face Alexander, assuming that the Greeks would head towards Babylon. At the same time, he dispatched letters to his eastern satraps asking them to remain loyal.
The satraps, however, had other intentions. Bessus murdered Darius before fleeing eastwards. When Alexander discovered Darius murdered, he was saddened to see an enemy he respected killed in such a fashion, and gave Darius a full burial ceremony at Persepolis, the former ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire, before angrily pursuing Bessus, capturing and executing him the following year. The majority of the remaining satraps gave their loyalty to Alexander and were allowed to keep their positions. The Persian Empire is traditionally considered to have ended with the death of Darius.
Arrian (1893). Chinnock, E. J., ed. Anabasis Alexandri.
Diodorus Siculus (1963). Welles, C. Bradford, ed. Library of History 8. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Plutarch (1936). “On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander”. In Babbitt, Frank Cole. Moralia 4. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 379‑487.
Plutarch (1919). “Life of Alexander”. In Perrin, Bernadotte. Lives 7. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 707‑741.
Justin (1853). Watson, John Selby, ed. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. London: Henry G. Bohn.
Quintus Curtius Rufus (1880). Vogel, Theodor, ed. Histories of Alexander the Great. London.