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The Macedonian Empire

The Macedonian Empire

The legendary ruler and military leader, Alexander the Great, established a vast empire.



Macedonian Empire, Macedonian, Alexander the Great, Alexander III, Hellenistic successor states, Philip II, Gordion, empire, Darius, Hellenistic period, antiquity, Greek, war, conquest, Earth, country, countries, military campaign, history, soldier, India, capital city, Earth globe, map, blank map, map knowledge, border, phalanx, siege tower, battle

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The rise of Macedonia took place in the 4th century BC, thanks mainly to its excellent army. Its heyday was during the reign of Philip II and his son, Alexander III (Alexander the Great). The latter established a large empire by military conquest.

The empire stretched from the lower Danube to the Indus, from the Peloponnese to India. Its area at its greatest territorial extent was more than 5 million km² (1,930,511 sq mi).

  • - Alexander the Great died here in 323 BC. He wanted to make Babylon the center of his empire.
  • - This city, which Alexander the Great named after himself, was one of his favorites.

After the Battle of Chaeronea, King Philip II established the League of Corinth (or Hellenic League) against the Persians. In 337 BC, the League declared war on the Persian Empire, which at that time had many problems. However, Philip II of Macedon was assassinated a year later, therefore his son, Alexander III became head of the army and continued the war against the Persians.

The army of Alexander III, which consisted mostly of Macedonians and Greeks, crossed the Hellespont in 334 BC and invaded Asia Minor. The first battle was fought near the Granicus River, where they defeated the Persian forces and liberated the Ionian cities. As a result, Alexander gained control over the west coast of Asia Minor.

Although the initial objective of the campaign was achieved, Alexander decided to continue the war. His army was reorganized into two, which then took the inner territories of Asia Minor. The two armies then united at Gordium. Legend has it that here, Alexander solved the problem of the Gordian knot about which the oracle held that the one who untied it would become the ruler of Asia.

In 333 BC, Alexander's troops clashed again with the army of Darius III, King of Persia. The Battle of Issus ended with the glorious victory of the Macedonians, and Darius III fled the battlefield.

After the battle, Alexander conquered Phoenicia and Palestine. He encountered resistance only in Tyre, which he had kept under siege for months before capturing it. After that the Persians presented no threat from the sea.

The Macedonian army moved further south. After the surrender of Egypt, Alexander became pharaoh and took the name "Son of Amun". In 331 BC, he founded the city of Alexandria, which later became the capital and cultural center of the country. He also visited the famous Oracle of Amun in the Siwa Oasis.

After leaving Egypt, he once again marched into Phoenicia and Palestine and then continued his campaign towards the east. His goal was now to invade the entire Persian Empire.

He reached the rivers Tigris and Euphrates with his army, and clashed with the Persian forces again at Gaugamela. The battle ended with Macedonian victory and Darius fled again. The Macedonian army then headed to Babylon, where Alexander proclaimed himself "king of Asia". At the beginning of 330 BC, Alexander and his army took Persepolis, the Persian capital. They looted the city and burned down the royal palace.

Although Alexander had already been regarded as the ruler of Persia, he continued the pursuit of the fleeing Darius. He headed to Bactria where a local governor (satrap) had been holding the Persian king captive. But after the satrap had Darius killed, Alexander gave his enemy a royal burial in Persepolis. With the death of the Persian king, Alexander became the successor of the Achaemenid dynasty.

During the next few years, Alexander's campaigns were directed towards Sogdia and Bactria, invading the eastern territories of the former Persian Empire. After this, his attention shifted to India, as he wanted to increase the size of his already huge empire by expanding it eastward.

He crossed the Indus river with his army, and his first major battle took place against King Porus on the bank of the Hydaspes River in 326 BC. The battle ended with the victory of the Macedonian army, but Alexander suffered a great loss: his beloved horse, Bucephalus died in the battle. Alexander founded a city in memory of the horse and named it Alexandria Bucephalus.

The forces of Alexander then moved further into the interior of India. However, due to the long campaign and the weather, the surviving soldiers were so exhausted that they refused to continue the campaign once they had reached the Hyphasis River. Alexander was forced to turn back and abandon his plans about conquering India. The army then headed south and reached the Indian Ocean at the mouth of the Indus River in 325 BC.

Here Alexander split up his army into two: about a quarter of the soldiers embarked on ships, while the majority, led by Alexander himself, marched back to Persia on foot. This part of the army suffered huge losses due to the harsh conditions on the way. The two sections of the army united in Susa in 324 BC, where Alexander held a celebration. He also held a mass wedding (the Susa weddings) in an attempt to symbolically unite Persian and Macedonian aristocracy.

In January 323 BC, Alexander returned to Babylon and formulated a plan to conquer Arabia. However, this plan could not be carried out because he died in June, at the age of 32. His death was probably caused by extraordinary physical stress and excessive alcohol consumption.

  • - A spear of about 4–6 m (13.12–19.69 ft) in length.

The primary weapon used by Macedonian hoplites, that is, heavy infantry soldiers, was a 4-6 meters (13.12-19.69 feet) long spear, called sarissa, held in the right hand. Their swords were longer than those of Greek hoplites. Each hoplite carried a light shield in his left hand, protecting the side of his body and the soldier on his left. Hoplites also wore body armor and helmets.

Phalanx is a word of Greek origin, meaning group or community. As a military term, the word stands for ranks and files of heavy infantry in square formation. While some scholars believe that the phalanx was a Greek invention, certain historical sources suggest that it had already been employed by other nations prior to the Classical Greek Period. What is certain is that the Greeks mastered phalanx warfare.

The primary weapon used by hoplites, Greek heavy infantry soldiers, was a 2-3 meters (6.562-9.843 feet) long spear, called doru, held in the right hand. In addition, they used a short sword as well. Each hoplite carried a shield in his left hand, protecting the side of his body and the soldier on his left. Hoplites also wore body armor and helmets.

The breadth and depth of the phalanx varied depending on the number of soldiers and terrain conditions; but phalanx formations were typically eight ranks deep. It was due to this military formation that the Greek army won numerous legendary battles.

King Philip II of Macedon was the first to introduce the phalanx in the Macedonian army. The Macedonian phalanx consisted of the former heavy infantry. Its basic unit was the syntagma, which comprised 16 ranks with 16 soldiers in each rank.

The 256 soldiers were armed with spears, called sarrisas, which were much longer than those used by the Greek hoplites: they were 4-6 meters (13.12-19.69 feet) long.

In the first rows, sarissas were held horizontally. From the sixth row backwards, the soldiers held their spears upright.

Important cities had already been surrounded by defensive walls in Ancient times. Anyone who wanted to attack such fortifications needed new devices, called siege engines, to break or circumvent the walls. Catapults were effective when attacking from a distance, but for the ultimate success, soldiers had to get close to the walls. Scaling ladders, battering rams and siege towers were used for this purpose. The first recorded users of siege towers were the Assyrians, later other nations, including the Macedonians, also deployed these in sieges.

The function of siege towers is to transportation soldiers safely to the besieged site and then provide an effective means of attacking the walls. Siege towers were tall structures, consisting of several levels. They were usually built on chassis with wheels. Soldiers used internal ladders to climb the tower, then a drawbridge was dropped onto the wall. Troops could then rush onto the walls and into the castle or city. In order to protect the soldiers, siege towers were protected by walls on at least three sides.

Their main building material was wood, so the defenders of the besieged sites often tried to set the attacking siege towers on fire with flaming arrows or incendiary projectiles. Therefore siege towers were usually covered with fireproof materials, for example, wet animal hides.

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