Δευτέρα 1 Απριλίου 2024

Alexander the Great crosses the Hellespont, April 1 334 b.c.

Alexander the Great is counted among the personalities of world history who, with their ideas and works, stigmatized an era. In the thirteen years or so of his reign, he managed to lay the foundations for the formation of a new world, a key element of which was Greek culture. Although he died at the age of only thirty-three, the Macedonian king left behind a huge body of work.

Various rumors were spread in the cities of the southern Greeks, that Alexander lost his life during his campaigns against the Illyrians and the Triballos. Voices began to be heard proclaiming that the Greeks of the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula should revolt against the Macedonians. Similar voices had succeeded in revolting the Greek cities in the past, causing the conflict in Chaeronea. Hoping that he would shake off the Macedonian power, in 335 BC. Thebes declared her rebellion.
Alexander did not delay and soon moved against it, in order to prevent the transmission of the message of the revolution to the rest of the Greek cities. Although a war with Thebes was not his primary goal, he was forced to clash with the Theban army, which he defeated. The Macedonians entered the city and plundered it. Much of the population was massacred or displaced, while few managed to escape. Alexander's actions in Thebes prevented the rest of the Greek cities from revolting. His message was clear.

In the spring of 334 BC, he began his campaign propagating the idea of pan-Hellenic unity for the liberation of the Greeks of Asia Minor from Persian rule. "But if the prince marches to the Hellespont, let Antipater and the Greeks go to Macedonia, and he will bring foot soldiers with you and archers, not much more than a trillion, and horsemen more than five thousand," he wrote at the beginning of his of a great pan-Hellenic campaign by Arrian to Alexandrou Anavasin (1.11.3).

Within twenty days, after crossing the Strymonas River, he passed the coastal towns of Abdira and Maroneia and the Evros River and arrived at Sestos, on the European coast of the Hellespont. Arrian states that he proceeded to Elounds and sacrificed to the tomb of Protesilaus, who was slain there, when the first of the Achaeans, who took part in the Trojan war, had come out into the territory of Asia Minor. Meanwhile, Parmenion was ordered to transport the entire expeditionary force from Sesto to Abydos with 160 triremes. Alexander, himself leading the flagship, sailed from Eliaudas and reaching the middle of the passage, sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and the Nereids and made a libation with a golden flask in the sea. They say, adds Arrian, that he was the first to get out of the ship, and also that he set up altars in honor of Zeus the Baptist at the place from which he sailed from Europe, and in honor of Athena and Heracles at the place where he landed in Asia.

Tradition also states that, before Alexander landed in Asia, he threw his spear on land, thus symbolically declaring possession of the land he was about to tread. Then he went up to Ilium, where he sacrificed to Athena in the Iliad and entrusted his armor to her temple, instead he took some sacred weapons that were said to have been preserved from the Trojan War. It is reported that he armed his supporters with these weapons. Finally, he also sacrificed to Priam on the altar of Hercules Zeus, in order to appease his anger at the race of Neoptolemus, from which Alexander believed himself to be descended.

On Ilio, he was crowned with a golden crown by the governor Menoitios and the Athenian exiled Charis, once his enemy, who came for this purpose from Sigium, together with other local Greeks. Tradition states that Alexander crowned the tomb of Achilles, blessing the hero who luck gave him during his life a loyal friend Patroklos and when he died a Homer herald of his exploits. At the same time, Hephaistion crowned the tomb of Patroklos, thus underlining his great friendship with Alexander. They even add that the young king organized a race in honor of the hero, in which he even took part together with his partners.

According to Strabo's information, Ilio, around the middle of the 4th century BC, was nothing more than a small town. Alexander declared the city autonomous, restored democracy, and exempted the inhabitants from the tax they were obliged to pay to the Persian Empire. Later, after the overthrow of the Persian state, he sent a letter to the city and promised to make it great and to build a great temple in honor of Athena and to establish sacred games. But his promises will be fulfilled much later, after the death of Alexander, by Lysimachus.

From Ilio, Alexander proceeded to Arisvi, where the army had encamped after crossing the Hellespont. There, it seems, he inspected the expeditionary force that would accompany him on his daring venture.
The expeditionary force with which Alexander set out was excellently organized and exceedingly strong, though numerically far inferior to the armies he was about to face. The numbers given by ancient writers vary between 34,000 (30,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry) and 48,500 (43,000 infantry and 5500 cavalry). The Macedonian phalanx of 9,000 foot soldiers as well as 3,000 auxiliaries constituted the main infantry force flanked by allied bodies of Greeks, Thracians and mercenaries. The strongest cavalry units were the 8 iles of 1800 Macedonian partners and the 1800 Thessalian horsemen. At the same time, the technical and other services were organized in an admirable way for the time and contributed substantially to the success of the campaign. The navy, consisting of allied ships, played a secondary role in military operations, Alexander's Staff with bodyguards (Partners) and the Royal Guard assisted the king in carrying out his plans and decisions. An independent Diplomatic service was also gradually organized. Finally, a fairly large number of scientists followed Alexander in his campaign, carrying out a remarkable scientific work, as well as a number of artists.

In the following days, Alexander led his army to the Granicus River, where the Persian forces, led by the local satraps and Memnon the Rhodian, were waiting to give battle. The battle of Granicus, which took place in May 334 BC. it declared Alexander victorious and was his first decisive victory and the first step towards the conquest of Asia.