Battle of the Granicus

Battle of the Granicus

Infobox Military Conflict

caption=The Battle of the Granicus River
conflict=Battle of the Granicus
partof=the Wars of Alexander the Great
date=May, 334 BC
place=Granicus River (Modern day "Biga Çayı"), Turkey
result=Macedonian victory.
territory=Alexander attains half of Asia Minor.
Greek allies
combatant2=Achaemenid Empire,
Greek mercenaries
commander1=Alexander the Great
Clitus the Black
Memnon of Rhodes
unknown others
strength1=20,000 peltastsWelman estimates the Macedonian army to be 47,000 in total.Page number]
22,000 heavy infantryMoerbeek (1997).Page number]
5,000 cavalry
strength2=9,500 peltasts
5,000 Greek hoplites
10,000 cavalryWelman estimates the Persian army to be 25,000 in total, including 10,000 cavalry and 5,000 Greeks. Fuller (1960) estimates 15,000 in total. Delbrück (1920) estimates as low as 6,000 in total.]
casualties1=115 to 350Arrian in describing another battle considers that the proportion of twelve to one between wounded and killed is above what could have been expected v 24 8 Riiatow and Kbchly p 27 state that in modern battles the ordinary proportion of wounded to killed is from 8:1 to 10:1. A total number of 115 is given as killed and 10 times of that for the wounded. “A History of Greece From the Earliest Period to the Close of the Generation Contemporary with Alexander the Great” By George Grote]
1,150-1,380 to 3,500-4,200 woundedArrian in describing another battle considers that the proportion of twelve to one between wounded and killed is above what could have been expected v 24 8 Riiatow and Kbchly p 27 state that in modern battles the ordinary proportion of wounded to killed is from 8:1 to 10:1 “A History of Greece From the Earliest Period to the Close of the Generation Contemporary with Alexander the Great” By George Grote]
casualties2=3,000 infantry, [Arrian 1.16.45 - 50]
1,000 cavalry, [Arrian 1.16.45 - 50]
2,000 captured [Arrian 1.16.45 - 50]

The Battle of the Granicus River in May 334 BC was the first of three major battles fought between Alexander the Great and the Persian Empire. Fought in Northwestern Asia Minor, near the site of Troy, it was here where Alexander defeated the forces of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor, including a large force of Greek mercenaries led by Memnon of Rhodes.

The battle took place on the road from Abydos to Dascylium (near modern day Ergili, Turkey), at the crossing of the Granicus River (modern day "Biga Çayı").


Following the assassination of Alexander's father, Philip II of Macedon, and the subsequent consolidation of Alexander's Greek and Macedonian positions, he set out into Asia in 334 BC.

He crossed the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos, and advanced up the road to Dascylium, which was the capital of the Satrapy of Phrygia. The various satraps of the Persian empire gathered with their forces at the town of Zelea and offered battle on the banks of the Granicus River. Memnon suggested a scorched-earth policy of burning the grain and supplies and retreating in front of Alexander, but his suggestion was rejected by the commanding satraps.

Deployment of Persian Troops

Arrian, Diodorus, and Plutarch all mention the battle, with Arrian providing the most detail. The Persians placed their cavalry in front of their infantry, and drew up on the right (east) bank of the river. Historians differ significantly on the effectiveness of the Persian dispositions. Some consider it a tactical mistake on the Persian side, others feel it was an attempt to take advantage of their superior number of cavalry, while Sir William Tarn felt "the Persian leaders had in fact a very gallant plan; they meant if possible to strangle the war at birth by killing Alexander."

The battle

Alexander's army met the Persians on the third day of May from Abydos. Alexander's second-in-command, Parmenion suggested crossing the river upstream and attacking at dawn the next day, but Alexander attacked immediately. This tactic caught the Persians off guard. The Macedonian line was arrayed with the heavy Phalanxes in the middle, and cavalry on either side. Alexander was with the Companions on the right flank. The Persians expected the main assault to come from Alexander's position and moved units from their center to that flank.

The battle started with a cavalry and light infantry feint from the Macedonian left, from Parmenion's side of the battle line. The Persians heavily reinforced that side, and the feint was driven back, but at that point, Alexander led the horse companions in their classic wedge-shaped charge, and smashed into the center of the Persian line. The Persians countercharged with a squadron of nobles on horse, and accounts show that in the melee, several high-ranking Persian nobles were killed by Alexander himself or his bodyguards, although Alexander was stunned by an axe-blow from a Persian nobleman named Spithridates. Before the noble could deal a death-blow, however, he was himself killed by Clitus the Black. Alexander quickly recovered.

The Macedonian cavalry then turned left and started rolling up the Persian cavalry, which was engaged with the left side of the Macedonian line after a general advance. A hole opened in the recently vacated place in the battle line, and the Macedonian infantry charged through to engage the poor quality Persian infantry in the rear. At this, and with many of their leaders already dead, both flanks of the Persian cavalry retreated, seeing the collapse of the center. The infantry also routed, with many being cut down as they fled.

Total casualties for the Macedonians were between 300 and 400. The Persians had roughly 1,000 cavalry and 3,000 infantry killed, mostly in the rout. The Greek mercenaries, under the command of Memnon of Rhodes, who fought for the Persians were abandoned after the cavalry retreat. They attempted to broker a peace with Alexander but to no avail. As a result after the battle, Alexander ordered his infantry, who until this point had played no role in the battle, to slaughter the mercenaries to a man. 18,000 mercenaries were killed and 2,000 enslaved [Arrian 1.16.45 - 50] and sent back to Macedonia in chains for hard labour.

Historian Peter Green has a different theory of the battle. According to Green, the riverbank was guarded by infantry, not cavalry, and Alexander's forces were badly mauled and forced to retire. Alexander then grudgingly accepted Parmenion's advice, crossed the river during the night in an uncontested location, and fought the battle at dawn the next day. The Persian army hurried to the location of Alexander's crossing, with the cavalry reaching the scene of the battle first before the slower infantry, and then the battle continued largely as described by the ancient sources. Green accounts for the differences between his theory and all the ancient accounts by suggesting that Alexander later covered up his initial failed crossing.


Alexander came close to dying in the battle. Mithridates, Rhoesaces, Spithridates and several other Persian leaders were killed, while Arsites fled and shortly after committed suicide in his satrapy. The Greek cities in Asia Minor were liberated by Alexander, and a beachhead was established so that further campaigns against the Persian empire could be accomplished. Darius III continued to leave the responsibility of battling against Alexander to his satraps and gave Memnon a commanding role over the navy and coastal areas. Not until the Battle of Issus would Darius decide to confront the Macedonian conqueror in person.



*Delbrück, Hans (1920). "History of the Art of War". University of Nebraska Press. Reprint edition, 1990. Translated by Walter, J. Renfroe. 4 Volumes.
*Engels, Donald W. (1978). "Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army". Berkeley/Los Angeles/London.
*Fuller, John F. C. (1960). "The Generalship of Alexander the Great. New Jersey: De Capo Press".
*Green, Peter (1974). "Alexander of Macedon: A Historical Biography".
*Moerbeek, Martijn (1997). [ The battle of Granicus, 333 BC.] Universiteit Twente.
*Rogers, Guy (2004). "Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness. New York: Random House".
*Warry, J. (1998), "Warfare in the Classical World". ISBN 1-84065-004-4.
*Welman, Nick. [ Battles (Major)] and [ Army] . Fontys University.

ee also

*Battle of Issus

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