Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Alexander Does It His Way

Alexander the Great is one of my favourite historical figures. I admire his determination, his leadership and his ability to act quickly. I've read many books on Alexander and his campaigns and I find him a fascinating character. I have plans for re-fighting some of his major battles using the DBA miniatures rules. I have enough 15mm miniatures for an Alexandrian Macedonian army and also a Later Persian army that I'll get around to painting one day.

Here is an example of Alexander's sheer force of will to attain what he desired from The Generalship of Alexander the Great - J.F.C. Fuller 1960.

The Persepolis Campaign

Persepolis lay some forty-five miles north-east of Shiraz, near the present town of Kinareh, a few miles east of the Palvar river, an affluent of the Kur, and some 370 miles to the south-east of Susa. To reach it Alexander decided to pass through the land of the Uxians, a pre-Aryan people who inhabited both the plains and the mountains. The plainsmen were ruled by a Persian governor, but the hill tribesmen had never been subdued; they lived by brigandage, and hitherto rather than subject them, the Persians had found it more convenient to pay them a toll for free passage through their mountains, much as centuries later the British at times paid the tribesmen of the North-West Frontier of India.

When Alexander set out from Susa, he first crossed the river Pasitigris (Karun) and then entered the land of the Uxians. Those who lived on the plains at once submitted to him; those in the mountains, who expected that he would follow the Persian custom, demanded the customary toll. In reply he sent a messenger to them to meet him at a certain pass to receive it; then with the royal body-guards, the hypaspists and 8,000 other troops he made a night march by an unfrequented track, fell upon the Uxian villages, and slew many while still in their beds. He then advanced swiftly to the pass at which the Uxians had gathered in force to exact the toll.

While still at the villages, he must have questioned the captured headmen on the nature of the pass and its vicinity, because on his way to it he sent Craterus ahead to seize certain heights that commanded the probable line of retreat the Uxians would take when he had dislodged them. He pressed on with utmost speed and occupied the pass before the Uxians could man it, drew his men up in battle order, and led them from a commanding position against the Uxians, who were ‘astonished at Alexander’s swiftness’ (Arrian, III, xvii, 3) and fled in panic to seek refuge on the heights which, unknown to them, Craterus had occupied. Some were killed by Alexander in his pursuit, many, we are told, lost their lives by falling over the precipices, and many more were destroyed by Craterus.

In twenty-four hours Alexander settled a problem which for two centuries the Persians had feared to tackle. The Uxians were permitted to inhabit their territories in peace on payment of a yearly tribute of 100 horses, 500 oxen and 30,000 sheep. These, we read, ‘were the “gifts” they received from Alexander (Arrian, III, xvii, 6).

I had to laugh when I read this. The Uxian hill tribesman had expected Alexander to continue paying them a toll as the Persians had done for 200 years. However, he turned the tables on them. Not only did Alexander force them to allow him free use of the mountain pass, but they had to pay him a yearly tribute for the privilege of doing so! Classic Alexander.


Friendless said...

Having played BattleLore with you, that mercilessness sure is familiar.

Ozvortex said...

My philosophy is to crush my enemies, see them driven before me and hear the lamentations of their women. ;-)