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Battle of Gaugamela

History -- Military history -- List of battles -- Macedonia -- History of Persia

In the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC Alexander the Great of Macedonia defeated Darius III of Persia.

Table of contents

Combatants

  • Macedonians under Alexander, 7000 cavalry and 40000 infantry. (According to Arrian)
  • Persians under Darius, with maybe 40000 cavalry, 200000 infantry and 6000 greek mercenaries. (Arrian gives an exaggerated number of 1000000 infantry)

Location

Darius chose a flat plain where he could deploy his numerically superior cavalry forces. The exact location of the battle is unknown.

Prelude

During the two years after the Battle of Issus Alexander proceeded to occupy the mediterranean coast and Egypt. He then advanced from Syria against the heart of the Persian empire. Alexander crossed both the Euphrate and the Tigris rivers without any opposition.

The battle

The battle began with the Persians already present at the battlefield.

Darius had recruited the finest cavalry from his satrapies and from an allied scythian tribe. Darius also deployed schyted chariots[?] for which he had prepared cleared terrain in front of his troops. He also had 50 Indian elephants supported by Indian chariots.

Darius had placed himself in the center with his best infantry (the greek mercenaries and his guard infantry the "Apple Bearers"). On both flanks were the cavalry. Bessus commanded the left flank with the Bactrians and Scythians and Mazaeus[?] commanded the right flank with the Syrian and Median cavalry.

Alexander commanded the Macedonian right flank himself, with the Companion cavalry[?] and the Hypaspists[?], and Parmenio[?] the left flank, with the Thessalian and greek allied cavalry. Both flanks were protected by lightly armed troops, such as the Agrianians[?] on the right. In the middle stood the phalanx infantry in two lines, forming a "double phalanx". The second line was to turn around if out-flanked by the Persians.

The Macedonians advanced, as if entering the trap laid before them. Suddenly the whole army changed direction and started to move to the right, taking them away from the prepared ground. Darius now launched his chariots, some of which were intercepted by the Agrianians.

Darius ordered his left wing cavalry to encircle the Macedonian right and stop their rightward movement. This was countered by Alexanders greek mercenary cavalry. As more Persian cavalry tried to encircle the Macedonian right flank, Alexander committed his last cavalry reserves to charge the point where the main Persian line joined the flanking cavalry. This caused a gap in the Persian line. Alexander turned his line and charged this gap with a wedge consisting of the Companion cavalry and the Hypaspists. It then advanced directly at Darius himself.

Darius now saw his left flank crumbling and the Macedonians advancing, in order to kill or capture him. The turned around his chariot and fled from the battlefield. The cavalry on the left followed him in his flight.

Aftermath

The Persians lost maybe 40000 men. Darius fled with his guard and some bactrian cavalry. Alexander pursued him all the way to Arbela[?] about 120 km from the battlefield. Darius managed to escape to Media, but was later killed by Bessus.

Later Alexander was crowned "King of Asia" in a magnificent ceremony in Arbela.



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