Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Battle of Chaeronea - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 12

The Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)
The Greek coalition was very much aware of Philip’s position and immediately realized they had to settle the fate of Greece once and for all in a serious confrontation. If Philip won, Greece was his; if the Greeks won, they expected to keep their freedom and autonomy. A matter of simple calculation. The scene was set later that summer of 338 BC on the plains of Chaeronea, the very heart of Greece with a carefully chosen topography.
[picture graciously shared by Jim]
I finally find myself on more familiar grounds here, since I can pick up the history of 18 years old Alexander serving under his father and already proving his insight and capability on the battlefield. This was not just any battle, but a decisive one that would determine the fate of Greece for many years to come.

The plain of Chaeronea was about three miles wide, bordered by rivers and mountains on the northern and southern sides. The Cephissus River and its marshy lands on the eastern edge limited the fighting space and seriously hampering the movement of Philip’s cavalry. For the opposition, it was in fact the ideal place to stop Philip on his road to Thebes and hence to Athens. Basically both sides more or less equaled in strength: Philip with 30,000 infantry including some allies like Thessaly and 2,000 cavalry; the allied troops commanded by Athens numbered around 30,000 infantry also and 3,800 cavalry, but they could count on extra forces from Boeotia (including the Sacred Band of Thebes), and other cities and islands. Because of their numbers, the allies were in a defensive position and none of them had ever faced the disciplinary trained Macedonian army.

It is interesting to take a closer look at the formation of both armies as they were facing each other. The Greeks stretched out in a long line over the entire width of the plain flanked by a river on each end. Their left wing was headed by the Athenians (with Demosthenes among the defenders of his city) and the right wing comprised of Boeotians including Thebes famous Sacred Band; the other sections assembled the other forces arranged by ethnic units. On the Macedonian side, the left flank was occupied by the cavalry commanded by Alexander (probably assisted by the veteran generals Parmenion and Antipater), facing the Sacred Band from across the marshy fields. King Philip himself commanded the right flank, opposite the Athenians.

We are used to hear how Alexander could judge his enemies’ strategy in a wink, but apparently he inherited this instinct from his father. Here at Chaeronea, Philip immediately understood that the Greeks intended to force his own line to stretch to the point of reducing the depth of his phalanx, which in turn would present less resistance to their attack. We should not forget that the Macedonians had been fighting almost every year and were superbly drilled. They were able to move like clockwork, and they did.

Philip started to move his line of men forward but not parallel the opposition. His right flank was closer to the enemy than his left. The Greeks didn’t budge until Philip’s right wing started to retreat moving slightly further to the right. To face this movement, the allies moved along towards their left, causing their entire line to stretch out thinner – in fact exactly what they had hoped to do to Philip’s army! Only the Theban Band stood put, probably realizing that Alexander was facing them. The disciplined Macedonian army kept their lines closed as the soldiers moved still further to the right till they had reached the Lykuressi stream. By this time a gap had opened in the enemy lines as the Thebans stood their ground. It was the signal Alexander had been waiting for and he charged for the opening in the allied lines while part of his cavalry contingents moved around the flank of the Theban Band which was immediately encircled. Alexander simply had to win this battle, for himself and for his father to prove that he was worth his trust – and so he did by annihilating the entire Theban Band. They fought to the last man, all three hundred of them. After that, Alexander turned to the other Boeotians, defeating them in another fierce battle. Meanwhile Philip had halted his feigned retreat and started a true onslaught as the enemy stood no chance against the long sarissas of his phalanx. He drove the Athenians back, killing one thousand of them, while about two thousand were taken prisoner. The battle was over. Demosthenes managed barely to escape and his glamorous orator carrier was over.

The Battle of Chaeronea totally changed Greece as the “Barbarian” king which Athens had not willingly faced as their equal in previous repeated peace negotiations had now become master of all the free states and city-states that so deeply had believed in their own freedom. Greece was now part of Macedonia and Macedonia ruled over all of Greece! How the tables had turned! I think Justin did Philip right by stating that “as far as he could, he conquered without making anyone feel that he was a conqueror” – again one of those phrases that would or could be used on Alexander later on…

Today we all know the Lion of Chaeronea, which according to the story was erected as a tribute to the bravery of the Sacred Band on the western edge of the battlefield. The original monument was destroyed during the Greek War of Independence and has now been restored. There is still the ongoing argument whether or not the Sacred Band was buried in this spot. Since all 300 men are said to have died in this battle, only 254 bodies were uncovered during the restoration, neatly arranged in seven rows.

Click here to read the full story about Philip II from the beginning

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Philip’s campaigns east and the Fourth Sacred War - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 11

Philip’s campaigns east (342 BC) and the Fourth Sacred War (339 BC)
In spite of his manipulations and conniving, one can only admire Philip’s achievements as King of Macedonia. It certainly was no small affair to keep control over all these full-blooded and hot-tempered men, while managing at the same time to structure his empire, boost the economy, and stay alerted of all that was happening in Greece and across his borders. This was also the time when he decided that his son Alexander, now aged fourteen needed a proper tutor. He had kept in close contact with Aristotle whose father had been a physician at the Macedonian court and he invited him for the job. Aristotle accepted, and Alexander together with a group of select friends moved to Mieza on the slopes of Mount Vermion, some 30 miles away from Pella. For the next three years, Alexander I’m sure learned all he could about geography, zoology, medicine, geometry, but no doubt also philosophy and rhetoric. Philip must have been quite a visionary to do this.

By now the king of Thrace once again stirred up the dust by subduing the Thracian cities along the Hellespont, a sensitive area demanding Philip’s full commitment. So he did. That summer, he marched his army eastwards to settle this matter, leaving Antipater as his deputy in Pella since this was not a small campaign as it covered today’s European Turkey, the Hebrus valley (today’s Maritza valley in Bulgaria) and the northern Balkan Range. Diodorus is the only historian to report this expedition and spends no more than one paragraph on the subject. But in the end, the campaign paid off and Philip gained control of the inland route from Bisanthe (today’s Tekirdag in European Turkey) to Macedonia. Later that year, he turned northwards against the people living between Thrace and the Danube valley. Their king was quick to surrender and even gave his daughter, Meda, in marriage to Philip (his sixth wife). This is the time when he founded the town of Philippopolis, today’s Plovdiv in Bulgaria. He then returned to Pella, having secured his northern borders, much to Athens’ unhappiness as they saw their corn route threatened once again.
A year later Philip was called to intervene in the Chersonese’s conflict with neighboring Cardia, one of his allies. He sent only a small force to their assistance but wrote many letters of complaint to Athens as that city-state had violated their mutual peace treaty attacking Philip’s allies and pirating the Macedonian merchant ships. Demosthenes, as can be expected, took it personally and his speeches On the Chersonese and his next set of Philippics were wildly applauded and very successful in Athens. They even went so far as to request support from the Persian King, who gave the ambassadors large sums of money, some of which eventually found its way to Demosthenes. We can imagine how relieved Philip must have been that Artaxerxes did not join Athens in an open alliance for how could he have faced such manpower with his limited army? In the end, all Philip could do was to march personally back to Cardia, which equaled to an open declaration of war against Athens. Thanks to Demosthenes probably, they didn’t realize it till Philip seized their corn fleet. In spite of this happening, Demosthenes was crowned for his services at the Theatre of Dionysos during the festival of 340 BC.

It is about this time that Philip ordered his 16 years old son Alexander, who was still studying with Aristotle in Mieza, to head back to Pella in order to take over the regency of Macedonia while he set off to Perinthus. That tells a great deal about how serious the situation was. Philip’s two devoted generals, Antipater, and Parmenion, also stayed in Pella and not without reason for soon a revolt on the upper Strymon River broke out and Alexander crushed the enemy, founding his first city. There were three other Thracian revolts which were met by Antipater and Parmenion, although one may question how much say Philip had is these maneuvers. The Macedonians now held the territory from the upper Strymon and Hebrus rivers all the way to the Black Sea, further isolating the still independent cities of Perinthus, Selymbria, and Byzantium – probably one of Philip’s clever outmaneuvering.
Since the King was now openly at war with Athens, he seized the moment to lay siege on Perinthus. But this city was not that easy to take for it was built on many uphill terraces, meaning that each time Philip managed to breach a wall the inhabitants moved up one step higher. Even with his new torsion catapults (which he used here for the first time), the city walls were soon out of reach. One may wonder why Philip, as brilliant a general as we have ever seen, kept such a long siege going for Perinthus that was supplied by sea from Athens, as was neighboring Byzantium which Philip attacked as well. He probably only wanted to coax Athens to further action, and pouring more oil on the fire, he seized their corn fleet as “prize of war”.  The fleet counted probably 230 vessels, 180 of which were Athenian ships that he kept for himself, sending the remaining ships on to their homeland. He sold the corn for the huge sum of 700 talents, i.e. about the year’s income for the Athenians. That must have hurt them in their bones! In the end, peace was made with Byzantium, Perinthus and their allies in 329 BC and Philip left the area with his head high, stronger than ever before. His influence now reached all the way to the Hellespont, meaning it also included the Back Sea.

Yet there was still the area ruled by the Scythians, stretching from south of the Danube to the Sea of Azov. In order to secure his eastern front, Philip thought it would be a good idea to teach these fierce riders and fighters a good lesson. One battle apparently was enough and Philip came home with not only a booty of some twenty thousand thoroughbred horses but also a large number of women and children to be used as slaves. But en route he was attacked by the Triballi, an independent Thracian tribe, who eyed this booty. Surprisingly enough, Philip turned out to be the loser in this conflict, maybe solely due to the fact that he was badly hurt by a sarissa that went through his upper leg. Abandoning their rich booty, his men had to carry him to safety and he arrived in Pella in late summer 339 BC.

Now I better understand why it was so important for Alexander to conquer those tribes between Macedonia and the Danube early in his kingship.

[photo by the gracious courtesy of Jim]

While Philip was campaigning against the Scythians, The Amphictyonic Council  at Delphi declared the Fourth Sacred War, this time against Amphissa which had illegally occupied holy lands. As hegemon, it was up to Philip to settle this war, which obviously worried the Athenians a great deal. But before he could intervene, Thebes seized Nicaea at the entrance of the Pass of Thermopylae, a city which Philip had given to Thessaly, and expelled the Macedonian garrison he had left behind. This meant that he now had to face Thebes besides Athens and Amphissa. Once again, Philip tried diplomacy and sent two Thessalian tetrarchs to persuade the Thebans to continue their alliance with him (meaning: not with Athens). At about the same time, Athens was facing a similar situation while Philip was only a two-days’ march away, and meant a very serious threat; but if Philip managed to win the Thebans over to his side, Athens’ situation would be far worse. Here Demosthenes was clever enough to put his differences with Thebes aside and convince the Athenians to join him in an alliance against Philip. It was one of his greatest diplomatic triumphs, although it came at a great cost for there were a number of demands that Thebes required in exchange.

The other Greek city-states now had to choose which side they would rally to, but none was keen to do so. Philip called to arms to support the Amphictyonic Council  against Amphissa, meaning in fact against Athens and Thebes, without success. Although he was hegemon of this Council, it did not mean that the members would follow him in battle. In the spring of 338 BC he decided to act and to attain his purpose he used one of his tricks, i.e. a letter his opponents would intercept, leading them to relax their guard on his march to Amphissa. It worked out as he planned and one dark night Parmenion blasted through the pass and took Amphissa within three hours. Thus ended the Fourth Sacred War. Officially Philip had acted according to the Amphictyonic Council  against Amphissa, but the truth was that his presence in Amphissa  gave him a serious foothold in central Greece.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Get involved with Oxyrhynchus

Roll up your sleeves! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help archeologists to decipher the texts of ancient papyri from Oxyrhynchus, even if you have no training or if you can’t read any Greek.

You may have heard of Oxyrhynchus for the first time when I commented on Peter Parson’s book, City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish, Greek Papyri Beneath the Egyptian Sand Reveal a Long-Lost World. Oxyrhynchus has made the headlines at the end of the 19th century when Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt from Queen's College, Oxford, discovered a dumpsite outside today’s el-Bahnasa in Egypt where hundreds of thousands of papyri were uncovered. The precious finds have been blotted inside newspapers and piled up in metal boxes, still stored in the vault of Oxford. Only a few percent of this colossal amount of papyri has been translated so far. Any help is more than welcome for after translation, the texts still need to be matched to other existing texts or pieces of literature that is known but hasn’t come down to us.

As it turns out, Chris Lintott, project manager of the Imaging Papyri Project working together with papyrologists from Oxford University and the Egypt Exploration Society, have scanned these papyri and put them on a newly created website called Ancient Lives. Each visitor of this website will receive a picture of a papyrus fragment. His task will be to click a letter on the papyrus followed by a click on the corresponding letter shown on the keyboard below. The purpose is to make each fragment just a little more “readable”. Later on, the experts will collect these bits and pieces and try to make sense of the texts.

So, if you are in for a challenge and some excitement go to Ancient Lives and contribute to history by deciphering your own piece of papyrus! Don’t worry, you are not alone for only two days after starting the project, volunteers had decoded and transcribed more than 100,000 characters already. Have fun doing something useful!