An analysis of the battles of Issus and Gauagemela

Essay by flames1823High School, 12th gradeA-, October 2008

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Darius vs. Alexander -Were they equally matched or was one grossly lacking?The infamous battles of Issus and Gaugamela reverberate throughout the classical world as fearsome encounters of momentous importance; the epitome of strategic brilliance and planning on the behalf of Alexander. Successful victories at both of these epic battles undergirded Alexander’s Persian campaign and are widely attributed as the keystones for his overall success in subduing the Asiatic empire. Alexander’s visage of brilliance is repeatedly reflected upon and thrust into the limelight, with often little being said of his opponent, King Darius III. This spurs us to consider; were they equally matched or was one sorely lacking in the skills to fight the other?The obliteration of Darius’ forces at the Battle of Issus (November 333 BC) can be directly attributed to his incompetent, capricious and ultimately useless general ship. Even before conflict was incipient, Darius made numerous fatal blunders.

Darius was “encouraged by the many months of apparent inactivity which Alexander had spent in Cilicia, for he imagined that this was due to cowardice” [1]. This indulgent theory was posited on assumption, the real reason for Alexander’s inactivity being that he was convalescing after illness. This buoyed confidence captures the essence of Darius’ mind set and helps foreshadow his rash future actions detailing strategic blunders, overt cruelty, neglect and downright stupidity. Moreover, the time delay that was associated with Alexander’s illness seemed to cause Darius to become complacent, and asaforementioned this complacency pervaded many aspects of his general ship all of which symptomised his defeat. It is also interesting to note that Darius had at his command an army “some 600,000 strong” [2] whilst the force employed by Alexander was allegedly 20 times smaller. If Arians estimation is to be taken as correct, this paints a pretty accurate picture...