Battle of River Granicus

Alexander the Great’s (356-323 BCE) first significant triumph was in the Battle of River Granicus over the armies of the Achaemenid Empire c in May 334 BCE. Alexander had arrived in Anatolia after he and his united Macedonian and Greek soldiers had crossed the Hellespont. He had a straightforward plan: to overthrow Darius III (r. 336-330 BCE) and take control of the huge Persian Empire. He got his first chance in May 334 BCE when he fought the Persians on the banks of the Granicus River. He would again face Darius in battle, first at the Battle of Issus and later at the Battle of Gaugamela, following this triumph over his satraps.

Preparation for Battle of River Granicus

Battle of River Granicus
Battle of River Granicus

Alexander turned his attention to the Persian Empire after the passing of his father, Phillip II of Macedon (r. 359–336 BCE), purportedly in retaliation for Darius I and Xerxes’ invasion of his country during the Persian Wars. After quelling the uprising in the several Greek city-states, Alexander crossed the Hellespont and made his way to the ancient Troy site along the northern coast of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). He did this by bypassing the mountain ranges in the northern uplands. The Persians knew very little about him, and King Darius had little to no desire to see him since he thought that his dependable commander, Memnon, and the regional governors (or satraps), could control the young upstart. In addition, the newly installed king worried more about potential uprisings and turmoil among the regional satraps.

The historian Plutarch wrote of Alexander’s visit to Troy, where he paid homage to Achilles, the hero of Homer, in The Life of Alexander the Great.

The Persians convened a meeting of the local satraps to discuss Alexander’s coming and potential countermeasures while he and his army were at Troy. High-ranking Greek mercenary Memnon, loyal to Darius, advised using a burned-earth strategy to destroy communities, farms, and harvests to deprive Alexander of all food sources. Since Memnon was a Greek, the local satraps partly opposed the notion because they did not want their territories to be destroyed. Of course, they thought Persian combat was better than Greek invasion strategies. The council decided to gather their united forces and wait for Alexander at the River Granicus to put the approaching Macedonians on the defensive. The Granicus was about 60 feet broad and had a swift river and steep embankments, giving them what they believed to be an edge.

Alexander moved towards the river after learning the Persians’ whereabouts from his spies; he had concluded that he must defeat the Persians to obtain the resources he needed to continue his mission to conquer Persia. One of Alexander’s most devoted generals, Parmenion, who was in charge of his left flank, advised Alexander to delay an attack until daybreak when the Macedonian forces drew near the river. According to Plutarch’s account of Alexander’s response, it would “disgrace the Hellespont should he fear the Granicus.” According to the historian Arrian, Alexander understood from this interaction that the Persians did not fear him because they did not know him. Alexander refused Parmenion’s request; the conflict started that afternoon but lasted only a short while. Although figures vary among the many ancient sources, contemporary estimates place the Persians’ cavalry at 10,000 and their infantry at 5,000. There were 13,000 infantrymen and 5,000 horsemen in Alexander’s army.

The Battle of River Granicus

The Persian cavalry was positioned on the banks of the Granicus, while the 5,000-strong Greek mercenary infantry was positioned behind them, creating an unusual and hazardous situation. This theory, according to some historians, cost the Persians the battle. Due to the position of the infantry and the river banks, the Persian cavalry could not advance or retreat. The Persians’ only distinctive weapon, the scythed chariot, was practically unusable along the muddy riverbed. Was this simply hubris or a tactical blunder? The war was over before it started due to a lack of leadership, save from Memnon.

Alexander at Battle of Granicus River
Alexander at Battle of Granicus River

Arrian and other authors claim that Alexander stood out greatly by the “brightness of his arms” and the “respectful countenance of his staff.” The huge white plume on his helmet made him highly recognizable as well. The Persians, whose main goal was to assassinate Alexander, were aware of his prominence.

Both troops crossed in quiet and stood there for a minute. On the western bank of the river, Alexander had positioned his forces; Parmenion held command of the left, and Alexander (together with his eight bodyguards), the cavalry forces of his Companions, and light infantry took up positions on the far right. Thessalian cavalry and extra light soldiers formed the typical phalanx in the middle. Alexander took the initiative and sent companion cavalry, lancers, and light troops first across the center. A storm of arrows and javelins was fired in retaliation by the Persians. They planned to attack the Macedonians in the water, where the terrain was slick and treacherous. Memnon himself directed the Persian center. Alexander came into disrepute as more Persians joined the assault on the Macedonian center. The Persian weapons, consisting of light javelins versus 15-foot lances, were ineffective against the Macedonians despite significantly damaging the attacking center.

Alexander and his troops dove into the water and diagonally climbed the opposing bank to the sound of trumpets.

The brawl changed to a hand-to-hand fight as it reached the other bank of the river. Alexander got the upper hand despite incurring numerous casualties, and many Persians started to flee. The Greek mercenary troops, however, stayed put and did not move during the entire battle.

Alexander observed Mithridates, Darius’s son-in-law, riding with a cavalry squadron while disengaging from the main Persian army as he emerged from the waters of the Granicus. Alexander charged and stabbed Mithridates in the face. Alexander was attacked by Mithridates when a Persian satrap commander named Rhoesaces saw it and raised his sword toward him, tearing off a portion of his plume and shattering his helmet. Alexander instantly went over him. Another Persian commander named Spithridates prepared to assault Alexander with his weapon, but Cleitus the Black stabbed Spithridates first and severed his arm, sparing Alexander’s life. The Persians lost a number of their leaders, which caused them to become disorganized and lose morale. As a result, they withdrew.

Instead of following the fleeing Persians, Alexander focused on the Greek mercenaries as they begged for forgiveness as the Persians retreated. The Thessalians were encircled to the left of the Greeks at Parmenion, and Alexander and his Companions were positioned to the right.


Only 2,000 of the 5,000 Greek mercenaries escaped; they were transported to Macedon to operate the mines. The other 4,000 were killed. Why did Alexander disregard the mercenaries’ cries? Some claim it was largely rage and the near-death experience that prompted him, while others say it was to make a point about their accepting Persian money.

Olympias, Alexander’s mother, received the war’s loot—gold and pricey fabric. Alexander buried Greeks and Persians to respect all those who had perished in combat (although the Persians normally burned their dead). According to updated modern reports, the Persians lost 10–20 percent of their army and two-thirds of their leaders. Several different sources discuss Alexander. There may be 120 Companions in total. In their homeland, sculptures in memory of the 25 slain Companions were erected in the Zeus sanctuary at Dium, close to Mount Olympus. To show the Greeks that Granicus was just the beginning of their war of retaliation against the Persians, 300 outfits of Persian armor were dispatched to Athens.

After Granicus, Alexander and his soldiers faced little opposition. But he will soon encounter the King of Persia personally. Alexander and Darius will clash at Issus in November of 333 BCE.

  1. We’re a group of volunteers and tarting a rand new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with…

  2. I very delighted to find this internet site on bing, just what I was searching for as well saved to…

, , ,

Leave a Comment