• Fraser du Toit

Leaders of Civ 6 - Alexander the Great

Updated: Jul 25

Alexander the Great leads Macedonia in Sid Meier's Civilization VI. He was the first ruler to hold sway over an empire that stretched all the way from Europe to India. Civ 6 is a turn-based grand strategy game where you control a historic civilization. You can choose from one of several leaders, each bringing their own unique units and abilities to the game. But who was Alexander the Great?

Alexander meets Diogenes
Have you heard about me?

The Young Prince and The King of Nowhere - Laying a Foundation

Macedonia in 360 BCE was a backwater of the Greek world. They were constantly raided by their powerful neighbors, Thebes, Illyria, and Paeonia. Alexander the Soon-to-be-born's father, Philip II had spent part of his youth as a hostage in Thebes. There he learned from the greatest military leader of his time, Epaminondas, the man responsible for breaking the military dominance of the Spartans.

Philip II returned to Macedonia to serve his brother, Perdiccas. He was found worthy of military command, and soon thereafter would find himself king of about-to-be-conquered Macedonia. Turns out that Perdiccas was a bad commander. He died fighting the Illyrian invasion of 359 and left Philip to deal with the consequences. Adding to his problems, the Paeonians were raiding to the north and two other claimants to his throne were being supported by foreign powers. Philip had to think fast, or his son would never grow up to be the king of the world.

Philip bribed his enemies to lay off their invasion. He used the time he bought to create a military power that would soon redefine the Greek world. Starting with the Sarissa. Philip had long known how useful the spear was as a weapon of war. You could stab someone who was just out of stabbing reach. The problem was that Greeks loved spears. Enter the Sarissa, a slightly longer spear! Using this advanced technology the Macedonian soldier could do to the Greek soldier what the Greek soldier could do to sword-wielding barbarians. The innovations and tactics he trained his soldiers in, in this first year would prove pivotal in what was to come.

Philip invaded Paeonia in 358 BCE and crushed the Illyrians shortly thereafter. It was more than his longer spears, he was a masterful tactician. The next year, 357 BCE, he married Olympias, the Molossian princess of Epirus. This stabilized his Western frontier. Next, he retook Amphipolis, a city he ceded to Athens as a bribe to end the war he inherited from Perdiccas. This gave him access to Thrace, which he invaded for their newly discovered gold and silver deposits. Philip renamed the west Thracian Crenides to Philippi in the same year that Alexander was born. This habit of naming places after yourself was a hallmark of Alexander's reign, too.

Macedonia's neighbors didn't like what the backwater was doing. They formed a coalition to oppose Philip. It took them 10 years to admit that they couldn't defeat him and retake Amphipolis. Athens was a naval power and their soldiers were a bit wobbly on land it seems.

Philip conquered his way south, finally being halted at the gates of Thermopylae. The same pass held by the 300 Spartans (and some other Greeks) against the invading Persians so long ago. This time it was held by Athenians. Unlike mighty Xerxes, Philip didn't attack the pass in a show of strength. Instead, he opted to take it by negotiation.

The Thessalian League acknowledged Philip's leadership abilities and appointed him as their Archon around 352 BCE. Philip used this new position to aid in his brokering of peace with Athens. He would establish the League of Corinth in 337 BCE. This alliance was meant to ensure a general peace in Greece, and included all of the Greek city-states, except Sparta.

His mind was cast further afield. Persia beckoned.

The Boy and The Horse - Enter Bucephalus

According to Plutarch, Alexander tamed the untameable horse in 344 BCE. He was 13 or 14 years old at the time. The horse in question was a huge Thessalian stallion with blue eyes and a white star on its forehead. None had succeeded in taming the beast before. Its owner asked for 13 talents for the horse, but Philip had no interest in an untamable horse.

Alexander was entranced by the horse. He likely saw himself conquering the world from atop its mighty back. The young prince made a wager with his father, if he couldn't tame the horse himself he would pay the money back to his father.

Alexander approached the frantic beast with soothing words. He dropped his fluttering cloak so as to not spook it. Noticing the fear in the great horse's eyes, Alexander followed its gaze to the shadow it cast on the ground. The horse was scared of its own shadow. Alexander the Observant turned the horse to face the sun so that it no longer saw its shadow. A calm came over it, and the horse was tamed. Alexander named the horse Bucephalus, which means "Ox-Head". They would one day conquer most of the world together.

Philip is said to have been so impressed by his son's achievement that he said to him:

"O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee."

Bucephalus would die at the Battle of Hydaspes. This would be Alexander's last great battle, too.

Aristotle and Alexander - Philosophers and Barrels

Alexander had the benefit of learning from one of the greatest thinkers of his time, Aristotle. He studied under him from the age of 13-16. Aristotle taught him about philosophy, medicine, and scientific investigation. Alexander's reasoning ability would serve him all throughout his short life, as it had during the taming of Bucephalus.

One aspect of Aristotle's tutelage that Alexander would later reject was the philosopher's ideas about non-Greeks. Aristotle held that non-Greek people should be treated as slaves. Alexander would spread his empire to encompass so many different cultural groups that he came to the conclusion that it was neither possible nor moral to do as he had been taught. He was, in this way, more like the Persian emperors whose lineage he would supersede.

This wouldn't be Alexander's last interaction with a famous philosopher. Years later, when Alexander the King made his way through Greece, he came across Diogenes in Corinth. Diogenes was living in a wooden barrel at the time, likely because philosophy has never been a particularly profitable career. Alexander came to him clad in fine armor and rich fabrics. The king asked Diogenes:

"Ask of me what thou wilt and thou shalt have it"

To which Diogenes replied:

"Stand out of my light"

The King is Dead, Long Live the King - Assassination of Philip II

Alexander the Teen had grown into a formidable leader himself. He defeated the Maedi from Thrace in 340 BCE. Philip had gone to conquer Byzantium and left his 16-year-old son in charge. The Maedi saw this as an invitation and attacked the capital.

Soon Alexander was given command of some soldiers in the battle of Chaeronea. This is the battle where Philip defeated the united Greek city-states. Alexander proved himself by breaking the Sacred Band of Thebes. This Sacred Band was a famous cavalry group made up of 150 pairs of lovers. Their defeat would mark the first time that Alexander broke a legendary enemy in combat, and it wouldn't be the last.

Philip II decided, one year later, that his Molossian bride, Olympias, wasn't Greek enough for the king of Greece. He separated from Alexander's mother and married Cleopatra, not that one, the Macedonian in 338 BCE. There was some kind of curfuffle at the wedding. Olympias and Alexander were exiled to Epirus, and they would later travel to Illyria. Philip and Alexander would reconcile their differences soon enough though. Unfortunately for Alexander, the new queen had given birth to a son. This development put Alexander's inheritance in jeopardy. Nothing like a baby stealing your inheritance to foster a strong familial bond.

Alexander the Second-Class Son wouldn't have to wait long for the fates to set things right. At his sister's wedding in 336 BCE, he would witness his father's assassination. Speculation about Alexander's complicity abounded. He was wise to kill the assassins immediately.

Philip II arranged for his daughter, another Cleopatra that isn't the one you are thinking of, to marry his brother-in-law. This sort of thing was of course quite normal back in the day before people knew about the repercussions of inbreeding.

The king was killed by a man named Pausanias. He was a young Macedonian noble who held a grudge against Philip's young wife's uncle, Attalus. The grudge clearly extended to King Philip II, as he was the one who denied Pausanias the right to exact his own justice upon Attalus. Naturally, the suspicion fell on Alexander the Next-in-Line and his mother Olympias.

Due to Alexander the Pretty Good's reputation with the army, he was able to succeed Philip II without much opposition. Well, almost none, and no opposition that didn't find a swift death.

New King, Who Dis? - Proving Himself at Home

Alexander the Prince became king after his father, Phillip II, was assassinated by people who totally did not work for Alexander. The assassin was killed as soon as the deed was done, and with him, he took his secrets to the grave. Whether it was a plot by disgruntled nobles or a scheme concocted by Olympias and Alexander, the outcome remains the same.

Many of the territories previously conquered by Philip took this opportunity to revolt, as you do. They saw the 20-year-old king as potentially weak. This would turn out to be a mistake. His enemies and allies alike would soon learn that to stand against Alexander was to confront destiny itself.

First, he struck down the princes of Lyncestis who were allegedly behind the plot to assassinate his father. This accusation came from Alexander, so take it with a pinch of salt. Next, he had all of his political rivals put to the sword along with all of their supporters. Notice a pattern yet? Yeah, folks are going to die. Kind of like his dad did...

Thessaly was the first to be put in their place. Alexander the Intolerant crushed their resistance. Soon thereafter he was appointed as Generalissimo by an assembly of the Greek League of Corinth, who were likely terrified of him. The plan to invade Persia was still to go ahead. Alexander would be at the head of the greatest army Greece had ever produced. They placed their faith in this scary yuppy, and he would carry it to their enemies.

On his way back up to Macedon, Alexander stopped at Delphi to consult the Oracle. She did the sensible thing and told the twenty-year-old he was invincible. Alexander the Invincible liked the way that sounded. His faith in the Oracle's prophecy would see him charging recklessly into the hairiest whirlpools of violence during battle.

Alexander's first move as Generalissimo was to secure Thrace. Thracians had been more than a thorn in the side of Macedonia for ages. The army of united Greece forced its way through the Shipka Pass and beat the Triballi into submission. Next, they crossed the Danube river and defeated the Getae. While he was bringing Thrace to heel, the Illyrians saw their opportunity to sneak in from the west. Alexander the Getting the Hang of This War Thing turned his army back to Macedon to correct the Illyrians. They had formed a coalition against him, but he swept their army aside with ease. Spending the earliest part of his rule waging war on his ancestral enemies and allies alike taught Alexander how to use his army, and taught the army to trust their young leader.

Thebes was the next to revolt. Someone spread a rumor of Alexander's death, which naturally destabilized the young king's rule. The Thebans declared independence and petitioned Athens for support. Demosthenes, an Athenian statesman, championed their cause, and the vote to help them was passed. The other Greek states liked Thebes and viewed them as an icon of Greek-ness. Thebes was the hottest thing on the block.

Alexander the Offended marched his army down to Thebes and demanded their surrender. The Thebans refused. What followed would put an end to any thought of Greek rebellion against Alexander, for a while. His Macedonian army razed the city. The only things left standing were the temples and a poet, Pindar's, house. Little Alexander liked Pindar. Arrian, and Diodorus both state that the decision to raze Thebes and sell the population into slavery was made by Alexander's greek allies.

Alexander, in a practically Assyrian move, sold the entire population into slavery. Athens apologized. Greece mourned the loss of Thebes. They would no longer oppose Alexander. Probably because he was quickly escalating his brutality in his haste to get at Persia.

Alexander's Army - Pointier than the Rest

The army that Philip II had created and that his son would wield was formidable. Here we see an example of the power of combined arms. They weren't the first to mix horses, long sticks, short sticks, and throwing sticks. Phillip had drilled his army into an efficient machine of war. They did well against fellow Greeks, and even better against the Persians.

Alexander's army consisted of 40,000 soldiers. 9000 Phalangites formed the center, 3000 Hypaspists on their flanks, 7000 Greek Hoplites as backup, 8000 skirmishers armed with javelins and bows, 900 mounted Thracian scouts, 1700 allied cavalry, and finally the famous companion cavalry of Macedon.

The main bulk of the army was made up of a Phalanx wielding the 18ft Sarissa. They wore very little body armor and had a small shield strapped to their left arm. One might assume they were vulnerable as the core of an army, but remember that the Sarissa was twice the length of the spears used by other armies. Getting close enough to hurt them was near impossible. This Macedonian Phalanx was vulnerable to being flanked due to the difficulty in maneuvring the Sarissa.

The Hypaspists, or Shield Bearers, will be familiar to players of Sid Meier's Civilization 6. They protected the phalanx's flanks. Armed with a Dory, short spear, xiphos or kopis sword, and a heavier shield called aspis. They wore a hoplite's helmet, linothorax armor, and greaves. Heavier armor and shorter weapons enabled them to get into position with greater ease and fend off attackers hoping to get at the phalanx's juicy sides.

Alexander himself led a group of the formidable companion cavalry or Hetairoi. These elite cavalry troops are the second unique Macedonian unit seen in Civilization 6. The name, Hetairoi, is derived from "those close to the king" in Greek. They were given the best horses to ride, and the shiniest armor to wear. Each cavalryman was equipped with a Xyston, a long thrusting spear, and wore either a muscle-cuirass or linothorax with shoulder guards and a Beotian helmet. The Hetairoi would prove themselves time and time again as they stuck close to Alexander on his near-suicidal charges.

Skirmishers carried javelins and bows. Essentially anything that could stab someone from far away. These stick-chuckers would be put to great use during the battle of Gaugamela at the height of the war with Persia. Their job was usually to thin out the enemy before they got to the phalanx.

They were joined by the classic Greek hoplites. These citizen-soldiers were heavily armed and armored. They fought in close formation, standing together in a phalanx. Hoplites wore heavy bronze armor including helmets, breastplates, and greaves. Here was the pinnacle of ancient battle prowess. Hoplite mercenaries were in high demand. The Spartans under Leonidas I had seen to that when they opposed the Achaemenid Persian Empire the first time at Thermopylae.

Everyone had to have Greek hoplites, including the Persians. They were very cash money at the time.

Into Persia! Helmets and Disarming - Battle of the Granicus

Alexander the King of the Greeks moved his army east. Destiny was at hand. Revenge for the Greeks who fell so long ago to Persian aggression would come soon. One can imagine the chatter among the soldiers. They must have been thinking of Marathon and Thermopylae. Persia was likely used to scare small children into behaving. Now they would strike back at the boogeyman.

The first obstacle was the river Granicus and the three Persian Satraps who controlled the opposite side. Memnon of Rhodes, a Greek general working for the Persians, advised the Persians to retreat from Alexander's invasion. They should burn the crops and flee inland to starve the Greeks out, he advised. This strategy was rejected by the Persians, but would later become a hallmark of Imperial Russian defensive strategy. Retreat far into your near-infinite country and let nature kill your enemies.

The Persians massed on their side of the Granicus, a shallow river with steep banks on either side. They formed a solid wall of formidable cavalry, 10,000 strong. Warhorses snorted in anticipation. Riders were eager for blood. There were Greek mercenaries too, but they were kept in reserve because the Persians were unsure if they could trust them to fight their countrymen. The Satraps thought that this Greek incursion would be put down with ease.

Both armies stood facing each other across the river. They awaited orders to advance. Alexander led the left flank of his army, consisting of the hetairoi, hypaspists, and skirmishers in a mad charge across the river. The rest of his forces made their way across at a much slower pace, they were as surprised as the Persians were. Alexander the Bold called on his soldiers to be brave, they would need it too. Wherever Alexander went would become an inferno of carnage. Although his headlong charge seemed foolish, it worked.

He was among the first to charge up the steep bank on the far side of the Granicus and to clash with the Persian cavalry. The Persians attempted to subdue the incoming Hetairoi with projectiles, but the Macedonian cavalry made it across in great numbers. Arrows and javelins rained down around them and glanced off of their armor.

Alexander worked his way into the thickest fighting, as was his wont. He was soon surrounded and fighting Persians on all sides. While the Macedonian phalanx slowly made its way across the river, desperately trying to join their leader in battle. Alexander and his companions fought for their lives against the sea of blades around them.

Two Persian Satraps, Rhoesaces and Spithradates charged Alexander. Rhoesaces struck Alexander on the head, splitting his helmet. The armor was destroyed but it had served its purpose. Alexander killed Rhoesaces before his opponent could land another blow as his shattered helmet fell away. Spithradates took the opportunity to strike at Alexander's exposed head, a blow that would have cut short any dreams of empire. Cleitus the Black swung his sword at Spithradates' arm just as the latter swung his own sword. The blow cut the arm clean off and saved Alexander's life. One can imagine the look of shocked surprise on Spithradates' face as he was literally disarmed. He had seconds to appreciate his predicament as his lifeblood gushed away.

This act of heroism would later cost Cleitus his life. He was known to habitually pester Alexander about having saved him. That is until one drunken night when Alexander had had enough and impaled Cleitus with his spear. Alexander was notorious for his short temper and love of booze.

The Persians fled the battle, leaving their Greek mercenaries to fend for themselves. Alexander the Bloodcrazed denied their pleas for mercy and had them slaughtered.

He had kicked open the doors of Persia.

The Gordian Knot and The Fate of Asia - Lateral Logic

Alexander had a long history of denying naval forces a fair fight. He had no intention of breaking this streak while facing the Persian navy.

The Persian fleet posed a threat to Alexander's lines of communication by sea. Striking them from land meant that he had to attack the Greek cities, Miletus and Halicarnassus. These same Greeks, once known as Ionians, had been the impetus for the original Greek-Persian conflict. Their call for aid is what had driven the Spartan king Leonidas to threaten Emperor Xerxes. Ionia was now fully Persian though, and loyal too. They fought hard against their invading cousins. The unified Greek army took both cities despite strong resistance.

Next, they worked their way through Lycia and Phrygia, where Alexander found himself in the city of Gordium, the capital of Phrygia. Here we see Alexander participating in one of his favorite activities, making prophecies about himself. There was a legendary knot in Gordium, called the Gordian Knot.

Legend held that the founder of Gordium, a man named Gordius, was nothing more than a peasant before he was a king. He made his way into a public square with his wife riding on their ox-cart and likely smelling like manure. As luck would have it an oracle had prophesied that the citizens of this city would see their next king arrive by wagon. Without checking his credentials, much like we still do today, the people raised Gordius up as their king. Gordius was so thankful to the gods for blessing him with such stupendously gullible people to lead, that he dedicated the ox-cart to Zeus. He tied the cart using an incredibly intricate knot, the Gordian knot. Which was in itself a mathematical wonder.

This was seen as another great opportunity for prophecy by the oracle who proclaimed that whoever could untie this knot would become the king of all of Asia. Alexander had heard of this prophecy. You can likely guess what happened next.

Alexander the Probably-Prophesied stepped up to the Gordian Knot and really thought about it, for a hot minute. He drew forth his sword and sliced through the knot. Proclaiming himself the victor, and therefore destined to rule all of Asia.

When you look at the whole story it becomes hard to dispute the prophecies.

The Fight for Asia - Battle of Issus

Alexander the So Far So Good led his army towards Syria. He made to cross the Nur Mountains to plunge deeper into Persian territory. Soon he would receive word that the Persian army had appeared to the north of his position. His army was now trapped between the Persians and the mountains. This time the Persians were led by their King of Kings, Darius III.

Darius had twice the number of soldiers that Alexander commanded. He moved to the plains of Issus to block Alexander's retreat. He thought that his victory was simply a formality, as had his Satraps before him. These plains were only six miles wide from coast to mountains. They would force Alexander to fight, but would also stop Darius from utilizing his numerical advantage. The King of Kings felt confident that he could crush the upstart Macedonian. After all, hadn't Persia already whupped Greece?

Darius' army was made up of Immortals - elite royal guards, his strongest cavalry took the right flank, Greek mercenary hoplites made up the bulk of his force, and the Persian infantry was arrayed to the left. The king himself rode in a chariot right in the middle of his army.

If you remember Philip II's earlier wars of expansion, you will recall that Greek hoplites do not fare well against the Macedonian phalanx. Something about not being particularly maneuverable and having shorter spears. Being pressed forward by the eight ranks of dudes behind you all packed in tight formation.

Alexander the Confident charged the Persian army and his Companion Cavalry smashed into the Persian infantry. The Macedonian phalanx struggled to keep up, breaking ranks just enough for the enemy hoplites to gain the upper hand by moving slightly to the side.

Alexander led his Companions around to strike the hoplites from their flank and bought his phalanx the time to regroup and press on. Together they encroached on Darius' position, and seeing the ferocity of Alexander - Darius fled the field.

His army soon realized that their leader had turned tail and they attempted to flee themselves. The United Greeks slaughtered the remaining Persians. Victory belonged to Alexander at the Battle of Issus.

So eager had King Darius III been to escape, he had left behind his wife, mother, and three children. Apparently, he had brought them out to witness his greatness. Alexander took them as hostages and treated them like royalty. They were fairly comfortable as his prisoners, by all accounts.

According to an anecdote by Plutarch, when Alexander reached the royal tent of Darius III after the battle he was taken aback by the level of luxury within. The great golden baths and unimaginable treasures welcomed him. Things that he, despite being a king himself and accustomed to luxury, had never dreamed of. Plutarch quotes Alexander as having remarked to his friends:

"This, as it would seem, is to be a king."

Unchecked Expansion - More than Mortal

Alexander moved south the next year. He made his way through Syria and into Phonecia. The Phonecian cities capitulated to him, which effectively ended the Persian naval threat. This was the second time that Alexander had defeated a naval power without going near the water.

The only city that opposed him was the island city of Tyre. They were on an island with 46-meter-high walls all around the perimeter. Their navy was strong. Alexander stood no chance of constructing an impromptu navy to threaten them. The citizens of Tyre felt confident that they could hold out. All logic points to a Macedonian failure, right?

Alexander the Wily looked at this problem and decided that he didn't like the sea being in his way. He had his army construct a causeway connecting the mainland to Tyre. It took 7 months, but the walls were breached and the city fell, because of course it did.

While Alexander's army lay siege to Tyre, Darius sent a messenger carrying a deal. The King of Kings, Darius III, would pay 10,000 talents for the return of his family. He would cede nearly half of the Persian empire, everything west of the Euphrates, to Alexander. The leader of united Greece took council from Parmenio, who had served Alexander's father before him. Parmenio is reported to have said:

"I would accept, were I Alexander."

Alexander replied:

"I too were I Parmenio."

Alexander treated the people of Tyre as he had those of Thebes. Slaughter or slavery were their only two options. The punishment for resisting Alexander's destiny was severe. Gaza resisted as well, and they fell just the same. Only much later in his short career would he learn to be merciful.

Moving further south Alexander came upon Pelusium, the Persian capital of Egypt. The local Satrap surrendered to Alexander and the whole African territory came under his control. Alexander liked this, and he treated the Satrap and the people he ruled well.

He went to Memphis next, where the priests welcomed him as their liberator and crowned him the Pharoah of Egypt. From there he traveled north to the mouth of the Nile river and founded one of the most famous and tragic cities of history, Alexandria.

Alexander the Conqueror traveled into the southernmost reach of his empire to a place called Siwa. There was an oracle here that declared him to be the son of Amun, king of the gods. This must have done wonders for his ego.

Trouble at Home - Megalopolis Meltdown

Alexander went back to Tyre, where he received word of rebellion brewing in Greece. The Thracians were revolting in the north and in the south the Spartans were gearing up to invade Greece. He could do little to crush the rebels as he was already half a world away. He would have to trust in the people he had left behind to rule in his stead.

Alexander's commander in Greece, Antipater, quickly dealt with the Thracian rebellion by brokering peace before turning to face the Spartan menace. In 331 BCE the Spartan king, Agis III led his legendary army to face the Macedonians at Megalopolis. He had grown his rebellion on Persian bribes and had convinced several Greek cities to join his revolt. Things were looking bad.

Antipater maneuvered his army south in record time to face the rebels. The Spartans who in the past had been considered the mightiest of Greek warriors clashed with the Macedonians. Their battle was difficult and despite their reputation, the Spartans were absolutely crushed. Agis himself lay dead at the end of the battle. With the trouble at home at an end, Alexander pressed ahead.

You can imagine Alexander receiving messages from Antipater as things progressed. If he was ever anxious about the outcome of the situation he never showed it. This casual approach to adversity is part of what made Alexander so great. He was truly unflappable.

The Fall of Persia - Battle of Gaugamela

Alexander received another letter from Darius. The Persian King of Kings offered half his empire, a fortune in gold, and his daughter's hand in marriage in exchange for peace. Alexander the Son of Amun, the Conqueror, and the Invincible rejected the offer. He was far from being done. Besides, he could marry whoever he wanted once he became king of the world.

Darius and his army were reportedly massing at the plains of Gaugamela. Alexander was eager to be rid of this Persian king. He marched his army deep into the heart of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. The time had come for a reckoning. Hetairoi, the Hypaspists, and the phalanx would square up to the forces of Persia. Warriors drawn from all the exotic corners of the empire to defend Darius III.

Alexander had to contend with the Persian Satrap Mazaeus on his way to the plain of Gaugamela. This man would prove his worth to Alexander eventually, but first, he proved a capable enemy. Mazaeus led a group of cavalry with orders to keep an eye on the Greeks. They clashed several times, but the Persian delaying tactics had an unforeseen consequence.

Several of Mazaeus' scouts were captured by Alexander's army. From what they divulged to their captors, Alexander learned much about Darius' movements and plans. He learned of the massive force gathering to oppose his advance. The only problem was that his captives couldn't quite agree on where the Persian force was massing.

Darius III was no fool. He had learned from his defeat at Issus. This time he chose a wide-open plain as the battleground so that his superior numbers could work to his advantage. His soldiers worked hard to flatten the ground to make the Persian chariots more effective. These chariots were supposed to be a wonder weapon of the time. Long blades protruded from the wheels, perfect for cutting the legs out from under the greek phalanx.

Darius had also drawn together forces from all over his empire, around 80,000 troops answered his call. There was Syrian and Babylonian infantry. Armenian, Scythian, Indian, and Bactrian cavalry were backed up by 200 of the scythed chariots. He even had war elephants on the field that day. Logic dictates that he was at an extreme advantage. The chances of failure were slim to none.

Alexander's army had never faced a greater challenge. Some estimates have it that they were outnumbered two to one. They marched up from the south, hidden in the hills near the plain of Gaugamela. Darius hadn't secured these hills but had rather opted to send Mazaeus and his cavalry in. Mazaeus was sent scampering away again. He would report back to Darius, who took the opportunity to hunker down where he was.

The prisoners taken during these clashes leaked even more information to Alexander. They now knew about the location of the Persian army and the ground-leveling project. Alexander realized that Darius wasn't likely to move from his flattened field. He ordered the army to make camp and rest while he considered his options. Alexander the Chill had all the time in the world.

During the night the Persians sent infiltrators into the Greek camp. They promised gold in return for turning on Alexander. Parmenio suppressed the letters carried by the infiltrators, believing that greed could make the most loyal soldier turn. Alexander considered reading the letter to his assembled army, but for once Parmenio managed to convince him otherwise.

While his generals fortified the camp, Alexander assembled his companion cavalry and set out to scout the Persian army for himself. He returned from his scouting trip to formulate his battle plan. Alexander fine-tuned his strategy late into the night.

According to the Greek historian, Arrian, Parmenio went to see Alexander during the night. He proposed a night attack while the Persians were resting. Alexander scoffed at the notion:

"I would not demean victory by stealing victory like a thief."

Arrian thought that this response was just a distraction. He assumed that Alexander was opposed to the idea for tactical reasons.

As it was, a night attack would have been disastrous. Darius III had kept his army at the ready all night long. They anticipated a night attack and waited in battle formation. Armor and weapons grew heavier with each passing hour. Nerves shrieking at every sound from the hills.

Because of Alexander's decision to stick to a pitched battle, he drained the Persian forces of vigor and morale. When the time came, they would have gone without sleep or rest. His own soldiers on the other hand had enjoyed a peaceful night of rest.

When the sun rose on the fateful day of the battle, Alexander was sleeping soundly. His soldiers readied themselves for battle on no-ones orders because there had been no orders. They woke up leisurely, ate a hearty breakfast, and essentially grew bored of waiting and got dressed for war.

Parmenio found Alexander asleep in the late morning. He woke the king when it was time to hear his plan, surely the men needed their orders. Parmenio asked him how he could be so relaxed when the mighty Persian army waited just over the hills? Alexander reportedly said that he had been more concerned when the Persians were fleeing. Waiting for him on the plains was exactly what Alexander had wanted all along.

Soon after this interaction, the Greeks marched onto the field. The time of reckoning had come. Well-rested Greeks marched out from the hills to face their weary Persian foes.

Alexander led his cavalry off to the right in an attempt to distract the Persian cavalry. The Greek army would advance obliquely to the left before swinging right. This move was designed to overcome the fact that the Persian army extended far to either side of the Greek line. They wanted to move the battle off of the flattened plain and into the rocky hills where the chariots could not follow.

Bessus, the Satrap in charge of the flank opposing Alexander, charged his own cavalry at the Hetairoi. This was what Alexander had been hoping for, and he engaged Bessus with glee. Macedonian Companion cavalry crossed swords with some of the fiercest folk to ever mount a horse. They would prove their worth this day.

Far to their left, Mazaeus took the opportunity to engage Parmenio's own cavalry. Parmenio was outnumbered as usual, but he held out against the odds.

The fearsome scythed chariots rushed at the phalanx. Darius had hoped that these vehicles of carnage would undo the wall of Sarissa-wielding Greeks. Canny as always, the Greeks opened lines for the chariots to ride into while the skirmishers fired upon their drivers from afar. The Persian super-weapon failed to inflict the damage they were intended for. Not even the elephants could dislodge the stalwart phalanx.

Bessus' focus on staying on the outer flank of Alexander's Hetairoi had left the center of the Persian army open. Darius himself was stationed there. His flank was made up of weaker infantry just asking to be crushed by cavalry. The king of kings failed to see the weakness in his line, and he would pay dearly.

Alexander led a portion of his phalanx along with half of his hypaspists and a small number of his companion cavalry to engage the Persian center. The Greek army crushed the Persian center. Hetairoi swept in from the side, breaking the enemy's cohesion and sowing chaos. The phalanx pressed from the front and the hypaspists took care of the stragglers.