Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

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Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by amyntoros » Sun Aug 13, 2006 9:27 pm

Even though it was quite recent, I can't quite remember how I first learned about Cavalry Operations in the Ancient Greek World (2002) by Robert E. Gaebel. What did draw my attention to the book was a statement that Gaebel claims Alexander led infantry and not cavalry during the Battle of Chaeronea. I'm reproducing the relevant passages here - less than two pages of text in total out of a 345 page book, so no copyright problems. I think that some Pothosians should find this very interesting . . .
(Page 154) The battlefield lay to the east of Chaeronea between rising ground on the south and southwest and the river Cephissus, which flows to the southeast. (Page 155) Thus two natural barriers afforded protection to the flanks of the allied Greek line, especially on the right where the Theban Sacred Band was posted alongside the river. Philip commanded one wing facing the Athenians, apparently on the Macedonian right, while Alexander - assisted by Philip's most notable generals - opposed the Boeotians on the left. Since there was no place for cavalry on the flanks and no mention of them is made in the admittedly brief battle descriptions, their role is unknown and must consequently be conjectured or omitted. On the other wing Alexander is said to have been the first to attack the Sacred Band and to break through the continuity of the enemy formation. The three hundred men of the Sacred Band fought and died on the spot. After the battle Philip saw them lying where they had faced the sarissas of the Macedonians and admired their courage. These events on the allied right seem to be confirmed by the modern excavation of the Macedonian burial mound containing sarrissas in a location consistent with mention of it by Plutarch.

A more fundamental question about Chaeronea is whether Alexander was commanding cavalry or infantry. In spite of the absence of clear evidence from the ancient sources, the majority of modern historians is convinced that Alexander was leading cavalry during the battle, apparently basing their judgment on (Page 156) his later use of the mounted arm in Asia.(1) A satisfactory argument against cavalry, however, is provided by P. A. Rahe, who points out that "the inability of ordinary Greek cavalry to charge through the phalanx had nothing to do with any deficiency in equipment or tactics. The problem lay with the horse. A horseman can charge into a mob, but only if those in his path give way before him. If those in the crowd link arms and stand their ground, the horse will shy," and goes on to say that "the effect of shock cavalry is psychological not physical."(2) Buckler, apparently independently, reached the same conclusion, emphasizing the fact that no ancient source mentions cavalry at the battle.(3) Perhaps most telling is Plutarch's statement that the Sacred Band faced Macedonian sarissas, a weapon that the ancient sources never associate with the Macedonian regular cavalry.

These arguments should be sufficient to cast serious doubt on the claim that cavalry broke into the Sacred Band at Chaeronea. Indeed, precisely because this elite Theban unit of heavy infantry fought and died where it was posted in the battle line, it is more likely to have faced infantry rather than cavalry. The sarissa-bearing Macedonian phalanx would have presented a dense array of spearpoints that was essentially impenetrable, and when individuals fell wounded, others moved up from behind. The much looser formation of cavalry would have made it easier for the steadfast Thebans to parry lance thrusts as well as to injure horses but more difficult for that cavalry to inflict intense slaughter in a confined space. When cavalry kill large numbers of infantry, it is usually done against men in flight. In 326, even against Mallian infantry in India, Alexander was unwilling to bring his cavalry to close quarters until his own foot had arrived, at the sight of which the Mallians turned and fled.

(The following are just three of the most interesting footnotes to the above.)

(1) AG 16 is typical: "Alexander led the cavalry charge at Chaeronea." See also Markle (1978) 490-91. Bosworth, on the other hand, states that "in the plain of Chaeronea, the Macedonian phalanx proved its superiority over traditional hoplite forces." CE 16.
(2) Rahe (1981) 84-87, quote from 85-86. Rahe's argument rests largely on Keegan (1977) 153-59, whose sound observations have, I think, rescued the cavalry charge from the excesses of Hollywood film makers. Any horse that is not in an uncontrollable frenzy will respond to the instinct for self-preservation when it faces a barrier. If one or more horses could be forced to strike unyielding infantry, others might follow under the influence of the herd instinct, but the net destruction to one's cavalry force would be unacceptable.
(3) Buckler (1990) 75-80. In spite of the evidence the story of Alexander's cavalry charge at Chaeronea has taken on a life of its own, appearing in most general histories of Greece and most recently in the National Geographic. Alexander (2000) 48.
I must say that I've always accepted and indeed pictured Alexander leading cavalry during the battle, probably because that is what I've read in books by modern authors. Checking some of my books I find that John Maxwell O'Brien has Alexander in command of the Companion Cavalry on the left; Peter Green says, "The command of the heavy cavalry on the extreme left wing, opposite the Sacred Band, went to Alexander"; even earlier works such as that of Ulrich Wilcken indicates that "The offensive on the left wing and the command of the cavalry he entrusted to his son Alexander, then eighteen . . ."

See my next post for the ancient sources . . .

Best regards,
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Post by amyntoros » Sun Aug 13, 2006 9:31 pm

As an addendum to my post above I've gathered all the referenced ancient sources for the battle of Chaeronea. Now, if anyone is interested in this topic you won't have to search through your books to prove or disprove any of Gaebel's statements. The Plutarch excerpts are pulled from an online source so they aren't the best translations available, but should suffice for this.
Diodorus 16.85.5 GÇô 86.6
[5] So Philip failed to get the support of the Boeotians, but nevertheless decided to fight both of the allies together. He waited for the last of his laggard confederates to arrive, and then marched into Boeotia. His forces came to more than thirty thousand infantry and no less than two thousand cavalry. [6] Both sides were on edge for the battle, high-spirited and eager, and were well matched in courage, but the king had the advantage in numbers and in generalship. [7] He had fought many battles of different sorts and had been victorious in most cases, so that he had a wide experience in military operations. On the Athenian side, the best of their generals were dead--Iphicrates, Chabrias, and Timotheus too--and the best of those who were left, Chares, was no better than any average soldier in the energy and discretion required of a commander.

86 [1] The armies deployed at dawn, and the king stationed his son Alexander, young in age but noted for his valour and swiftness of action, on one wing, placing beside him his most seasoned generals, while he himself at the head of picked men exercised the command over the other; individual units were stationed where the occasion required. [2] On the other side, dividing the line according to nationality, the Athenians assigned one wing to the Boeotians and kept command of the other themselves. Once joined, the battle was hotly contested for a long time and many fell on both sides, so that for a while the struggle permitted hopes of victory to both. [3] Then Alexander, his heart set on showing his father his prowess and yielding to none in will to win, ably seconded by his men, first succeeded in rupturing the solid front of the enemy line and striking down many he bore heavily on the troops opposite him. [4] As the same success was won by his companions, gaps in the front were constantly opened. Corpses piled up, until finally Alexander forced his way through the line and put his opponents to flight. Then the king also in person advanced, well in front and not conceding credit for the victory even to Alexander; he first forced back the troops stationed before him and then by compelling them to flee became the man responsible for the victory. [5] More than a thousand Athenians fell in the battle and no less than two thousand were captured. [6] Likewise, many of the Boeotians were killed and not a few taken prisoners. After the battle Philip raised a trophy of victory, yielded the dead for burial, gave sacrifices to the gods for victory, and rewarded according to their deserts those of his men who had distinguished themselves.
Justin 9.3
. . . But as soon as he recovered from his wound, he made war upon the Athenians, of which he had long dissembled his intention. The Thebans espoused their cause, fearing that if the Athenians were conquered, the war, like a fire in the neighbourhood, would spread to them. An alliance being accordingly made between the two cities, which were just before3 at violent enmity with each other, they wearied Greece with embassies, stating that "they thought the common enemy should be repelled by their common strength, for that Philip would not rest, if his first attempts succeeded, until he had subjugated all Greece." Some of the cities were moved by these arguments, and joined themselves to the Athenians; but the dread of a war induced some to go over to Philip. A battle being brought on,4 though the Athenians were far superior in number of soldiers, they were conquered by the valour of the Macedonians, which was invigorated by constant service in the field. They were not, however, in defeat, unmindful of their ancient valour; for, falling with wounds in front, they all covered the places which they had been charged by their leaders to defend, with their dead bodies. This day put an end to the glorious sovereignty and ancient liberty of all Greece.
Plutarch, Alexander 9.2
He was also present at Chaeroneia and took part in the battle against the Greeks, and he is said to have been the first to break the ranks of the Sacred Band of the Thebans. And even down to our own day there was shown an ancient oak by the Cephisus, called Alexander's oak, near was at that time he pitched his tent; and the general sepulchre of the Macedonians is not far away.
Plutarch, Pelopidas 18.5
. . .It is likely, therefore, that this band was called sacred on this account; as Plato calls a lover a divine friend. It is stated that it was never beaten till the battle at Chaeronea: and when Philip, after the fight, took a view of the slain, and came to the place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together, he wondered, and understanding that it was the band of lovers, he shed tears and said, "Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base."
Plutarch, Demosthenes 19 GÇô 20.2
But there was, it would seem, some divinely ordered fortune, commissioned, in the revolution of things, to put a period at this time to the liberty of Greece, which opposed and thwarted all their actions, and by many signs foretold what should happen. Such were the sad predictions uttered by the Pythian priestess, and this old oracle cited out of the Sibyl's verses:-

"The battle on Thermodon that shall be
Safe at a distance I desire to see,
Far, like an eagle, watching in the air,
Conquered shall weep, and conqueror perish there."

This Thermodon, they say, is a little rivulet here in our country in Chaeronea, running into the Cephisus. But we know of none that is so called at the present time, and can only conjecture that the streamlet which is now called Haemon, and runs by the Temple of Hercules, where the Grecians were encamped, might perhaps in those days be called Thermodon, and after the fight, being filled with blood and dead bodies, upon this occasion, as we guess, might change its old name for that which it now bears. Yet Duris says that this Thermodon was no river, but that some of the soldiers, as they were pitching their tents and digging trenches about them, found a small stone statue, which, by the inscription, appeared to be the figure of Thermodon, carrying a wounded Amazon in his arms; and that there was another oracle current about it, as follows:-

"The battle on Thermodon that shall be,
Fail not, black raven, to attend and see;
The flesh of men shall there abound for thee."

In fine, it is not easy to determine what is the truth. But of Demosthenes it is said that he had such great confidence in the Grecian forces, and was so excited by the sight of the courage and resolution of so many brave men ready to engage the enemy, that he would by no means endure they should give any heed to oracles, or hearken to prophecies, but gave out that he suspected even the prophetess herself, as if she had been tampered with to speak in favour of Philip. The Thebans he put in mind of Epaminondas, the Athenians of Pericles, who always took their own measures and governed their actions by reason, looking upon things of this kind as mere pretexts for cowardice. Thus far, therefore, Demosthenes acquitted himself like a brave man. But in the fight he did nothing honourable, nor was his performance answerable to his speeches. For he fled, deserting his place disgracefully, and throwing away his arms, not ashamed, as Pytheas observed, to belie the inscription written on his shield, in letters of gold, "With good fortune."
Frontinus, Stratagems 2.1.9 On Choosing the Time for Battle
(9) At Chaeronea, Philip purposely prolonged the engagement, mindful that his own soldiers were seasoned by long experience, while the Athenians were ardent but untrained, and impetuous only in the charge. Then, as the Athenians began to grow weary, Philip attacked more furiously and cut them down.

Polyaenus, Stratagems of War 4.2.2
(2) Engaging the Athenians at Chaeronea, Philip made a sham retreat: when Stratocles, the Athenian general, ordered his men to push forwards, crying out, "We will pursue them to the heart of Macedon." Philip coolly observed, "The Athenians know not how to conquer:" and ordered his phalanx to keep close and firm, and to retreat slowly, covering themselves with their shields from the attacks of the enemy. As soon as he had by the manoeuvre drawn them from their advantageous ground, and gained an eminence, he halted; and encouraging his troops to a vigorous attack, made such an impression on the enemy, as soon determined a brilliant victory in his favour.
Polyaenus, Stratagems of War 4.2.7(7) Philip, at Chaeronea, knowing the Athenians were hot [2] and inexperienced, and the Macedonians inured to fatigues and exercise, contrived to prolong the action: and reserving his principal attack to the latter end of the engagement, the enemy weak and exhausted were unable to sustain the charge.
[2] The word which I have translated 'hot,' implies in this place, 'active and impressive in the attack.'
Best regards,
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How fascinating!

Post by Paralus » Mon Aug 14, 2006 2:15 am

G'day Amyntoros.

Most thought provoking. I must admit to wondering how a cavalry charge annihilated the Sacred Band. The oft wrought version is of Alexander and "the Companions" first spotting a crack in the line, driving through and taking the Sacred in the flank and the rear. It all sounds plausible. The idea of a brigade of the phalanx and the "Foot Companions" does, though, make more sense.

The Sacred Band were the best hoplite force in Greece. Although, by this time, not the individuals who decimated the Spartans at Leuctra, the reputation and esprit de corps of the elite band will have ensured its position as the brigade par excellence. As such, when facing encirclement, it can be expected to have formed a square of spears. It is doubtful that a horse will have charged such a wall. It is less doubtful that the "Foot Companions" will have pressed home the distinct advantage of the reach of their sarissas.

The question becomes, was Alexander GÇô if indeed mounted GÇô "reduced" to corralling and harassing tactics to force the band onto the rows of the Macedonian sarissas? It seems likely. The fact is that sort of action, and the mopping up those retreating, is not something that fits the mould of the prodigious military genius who won the day at Chaeronea by dint of his valour and brilliance.

Were he, though, in command of the left foot, things look entirely different. There is no doubt that Philip was in charge, and on foot, on the right. The entire picture (rightly or wrongly) that I've had of the battle was one almost entirely fought and won by the infantry. Indeed, I've always held to the view that it was very Greek, that is, cavalry was secondary. One thinks of Philip's ablest generals (Parmenio, Antipater, etc) with Alexander and also on foot. The picture GÇô again in my mind GÇô is of the Greek allied infantry filling the plain and there being little room for cavalry manoeuvres.

Had Alexander commanded on foot, the whole scene makes more appeal. Wedging the out the break in the allied line created by Philip's staged and measured "retreat" and the precipitate rush of the inexperienced Athenians, then isolating and annihilating the Allied right. I can only really see the cavalry performing its stock role in Greek battle: protecting the flanks of the advancing and, possibly turning, Macedonian phalanx as it severed and isolated the allied left and mopping up those in retreat.

If Alexander did indeed command the cavalry on the left, I am left with the impression that its role GÇô or his command of it GÇô has been the subject of later attention to detail GÇô reflecting its role to come on the much more suitable battlefields of Asia?
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Post by amyntoros » Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:18 pm

What's most remarkable to me is that although I've read all the excerpts before (but never collectively) I hadn't realized that there is no mention of cavalry deployment at Chaeronea; that it is nowhere stated that Alexander commanded the cavalry; and that Plutarch, Pelopidas 18.5 states quite definitively that the Sacred band were defeated by "Philip's phalanx" - all of the phalanx being technically Philip's as it was his army to command.

Unless there is some other mention of the battle in the ancient sources that I've missed, or (more unlikely) that Gaebel missed, it seems that most modern authors either assume that Alexander was in charge of the cavalry, or they are perhaps following a common source. J.R. Hamilton has a most descriptive piece with Alexander charging the cavalry through a gap caused by Philip's fake retreat - this being the oft-wrought version that you mentioned. It does make strategic sense and this is the image of the battle that I've retained all these years, but it's not how it's described in the sources - Diodorus clearly has Alexander himself "rupturing the solid front of the enemy line" with nary a mention of cavalry.

I looked further at some modern publications: along with Hamilton there's Renault, Lindsay-Adams, Cummings, John Keegan, N.G.L. Hammond, and Fildes/Fletcher who all say that Alexander was in command of the Companion cavalry. Add to these Wilcken, Green, and Maxwell O'Brien, already mentioned. However, as stated by Gaebel, Bosworth does not - nor do R.D. Milns, Maclean Rogers, and Ian Worthington.

You're in curiously mixed company, Paralus, in that you've always pictured the battle being almost entirely fought and won by infantry. On reflection though, I do believe you are right. :)

Best regards,

Amyntoros

PS Do you know what Borza says about Chaeronea? I thought I had at least one of his books, but if I did it's fallen into that household abyss wherein all the pens also disappear. Anyway, Borza wrote a foreward to Laura Foreman's book a couple of years ago and she also has Alexander charging with the Companion cavalry. If Borza doesn't agree with this, he didn't correct her.
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Can't help with Borza...yet. Hammond though?

Post by Paralus » Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:48 pm

Diod.16.86 [2] On the other side, dividing the line according to nationality, the Athenians assigned one wing to the Boeotians and kept command of the other themselves. Once joined, the battle was hotly contested for a long time and many fell on both sides, so that for a while the struggle permitted hopes of victory to both. [3] Then Alexander, his heart set on showing his father his prowess and yielding to none in will to win, ably seconded by his men, first succeeded in rupturing the solid front of the enemy line and striking down many he bore heavily on the troops opposite him. [4] As the same success was won by his companions, gaps in the front were constantly opened. Corpses piled up, until finally Alexander forced his way through the line and put his opponents to flight. Then the king also in person advanced, well in front and not conceding credit for the victory even to Alexander; he first forced back the troops stationed before him and then by compelling them to flee became the man responsible for the victory. .
Hammond, in his "Philip of Macedon", quoting only the above as source material, describes thusly:
"...the Thebans refused to move leftwards, because by so doing they would expose their left flank to the Companion Cavalry. It was into this gap that Alexander charged at the head of the companion Cavalry (Diod 18.6.3); some of his squadrons swung right to attack the rear of the allied phalanxand break it into parts (bibd. 4), while other squadrons, including Alexander in command of the Royal Squadron swung left and enclosed the Theban right and in particular the Sacred Band.
To bastardise Churchill: Never has so much been made from so little. There must - given the rather emphatic description by Hammond - be something said somewhere with respect to Alexander's command. I do not know where though. I can only assume, as I wrote earlier, that the tradition is a later interpolation presaging events in Asia.

Even Hammond's description of the battle (untill the above) is one entirely devoted to infantry. His rendition of the infantry tactics is designed, in the end, to allow for Alexander to "charge through" the gap. I'm not so certain that one can equate "bore heavily on the troops oppsite him" with charging through a gap.

As well, it is instructive to recall the distinct lack of horse involved in General Pickett's fatefull charge some twenty-two hundred years later.
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Post by smittysmitty » Tue Aug 15, 2006 2:01 pm

I have always doubted the role played by Alexander (if any) at Chaeronea, and agree totally in the notion of the Theban Band being destroyed by Philips phalanx lead by seasoned generals. The whole story of Alexander's involvement - upstaging his father etc. all makes for good latter day press.

On the subject of Macedonians use of purple - I am of the opinion such use probaly made its way to Macedon as early as the fifth century from the time of Darius' invasion.

The establishment of a body guard consisting of a thousand men to protect Eumenes day and night were bestowed with purple hats and cloaks. This was considered among the Macedonians as one of the greatest honours the king can give. [Plutarch: Eumenes 9.7]

My understanding of this passage suggests the giving of such gifts was tradition in use well before Alexanders time.

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Re: Can't help with Borza...yet. Hammond though?

Post by alejandro » Tue Aug 15, 2006 8:31 pm

Diod.16.86 [3] Then Alexander, his heart set on showing his father his prowess and yielding to none in will to win, ably seconded by his men, first succeeded in rupturing the solid front of the enemy line and striking down many he bore heavily on the troops opposite him. [4] As the same success was won by his companions, gaps in the front were constantly opened.
Hi there,


I would just want to highlight the fact that one could say that cavalry may have been implied by Diodorus, if one wants to read the "companions" mentioned as "the Companion cavalry". Though it could also be interpreted as "Foot Companions", I think the first interpretation is more likely. What is the pattern followed by Diodorus in other paragraphs? Does he consistently distinguish Companion cavalry from Foot Companions? It could be a good indication about the likelihood of my hypothesis.

Also, and playing devil's advocate (ie, supporter of the "mounted Alexander" claim :) ), I would like to know if Plutarch's use of the term "phalanx" refers ONLY to infantry soldiers, or is also used as a synonymous of "army". In the latter case, the argument for an infantry-only battle, though still possible, is much less appealing.

But, as mentioned before, it is quite striking that there is no clear reference to cavalry operations, and I have to admit that my idea of the battle went along the lines suggested by Hammond (I blame Renault! :wink: ).

There is certainly room for ex-post embellishment, but at the same time, if it was the case, it is at least surprising that Diodorus mentions that Alexander was surrounded by some of Philip's most seasoned generals, as if implying he was not "actually" in charge of the left wing, though he was nominally. A rather unlikely remark if you are an author willing to praise Alexander's prowess! :shock:

All the best,
Alejandro

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Diodorus does not distinguish

Post by Paralus » Tue Aug 15, 2006 11:18 pm

alejandro wrote:I would just want to highlight the fact that one could say that cavalry may have been implied by Diodorus, if one wants to read the "companions" mentioned as "the Companion cavalry". Though it could also be interpreted as "Foot Companions", I think the first interpretation is more likely. What is the pattern followed by Diodorus in other paragraphs? Does he consistently distinguish Companion cavalry from Foot Companions?
Yes, implication by Diodorus is possible. Generally, though, he is clear when Alexander is mounted and when he is not. That is not a strong enough hook upon which to hang this coat though. Diodorus, for example does not expressly state that Philip was on foot just "in command of the right at the head of picked men". Those men might just as easily be implied to be mounted. The tradition GÇô with which I do not disagree GÇô is that he was on foot and led the infantry in its feigned retreat and advance.

It is interesting that in the description of the command of both wings GÇô and their disposition GÇô no distinction is made:
The armies deployed at dawn, and the king stationed his son Alexander, young in age but noted for his valour and swiftness of action, on one wing, placing beside him his most seasoned generals, while he himself at the head of picked men exercised the command over the otherGǪ
If it is agreed that Philip is on foot (and his mobilising of his infantry will have necessitated it) then so, by implication and the total lack of differentiation in language above, must be Alexander? It is always possible that Diodorus has corrupted his source here but, the description of both leaders of both wings absolutely omits any reference to cavalry.

The word "companions" too is misleading. One might readily assume that Philip's "picked men" were some of his "companions" as well as some of those well experienced phalangites that would likely go on to be monikered "Silver Shields". There are in Macedonian armies more Philips, Amynatases and Attaluses than one can poke the proverbial stick at. And, when discussing Macedonian armies and royalty, the word companion is served up like so much companion cacciatore in an Italian restaurant. As Alejandro has written, we might easily be speaking of Companion Cavalry (though it is instructively left out) or the Foot Companions. One other obtrudes: Alexander's companions. Neither cavalry nor foot, just his "companions" who will likely have been stationed with him. You don't necessarily rise to infantry command having (at least in the ancient world) not ever fought in it.

I think the cavalry assumption rests much upon the word "companion" and Diodorus' "GǪsucceeded in rupturing the solid front of the enemy line and striking down many he bore heavily on the troops opposite himGǪ" . I cannot see a horse bearing down heavily on the serried spears of the Theban phalanx "opposite" it. I can, though, see a phalanx led by Alexander and Philip's most experienced generals, bearing twelve to fifteen foot sarisae, doing just that.

I'm in Smitty's camp unless something definitive exists elsewhere.
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Post by beausefaless » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:37 am

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Post by Efstathios » Wed Aug 16, 2006 6:26 am

During the Persian campaign Alexander and his officers were mounted.They had cavalry.I dont find a reason why not having cavalry in Chaeronia too.Would the Macedonian army go to Chaeronia without cavalry?

As for Alexander not defeating the Sacred Band himself,i would say that this assumption is far fetched.It is Alexander that we are talking about.The same Alexander that 2 years later defeated the northen tribes.Why not the Sacred Band?

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Post by Paralus » Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:18 pm

beausefaless wrote: Philip commanded the right wing of Macedonian horse while placed his eighteen year old son, Alexander, in command of the Thessalian cavalry (Dodge 128).
You might please demonstrate where the sources indicate this?
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Post by Paralus » Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:24 pm

Efstathios wrote:It is Alexander that we are talking about.The same Alexander that 2 years later defeated the northen tribes.Why not the Sacred Band?
Exactly Efstathios. Refer "Smittysmitty" above.

I must say, though, as an historical method, your's is brilliant. Hey: It's Alexander!
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Efstathios
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Post by Efstathios » Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:18 pm

Hey: It's Alexander!
But he is :D

I am trying to approach the matter with logic.The logic says that Alexander who took Macedonia in his hands when he was 20 years old and made victories ever since against all opponents, it wouldnt be that difficult to have defeated the Sacred Band 2 years ago when he was 18.He had already the strategical and perceptive mind and that battle was his first big battle to show it.

Of course there is also the Badian-Borza logic, and someone can say that it was pure luck, or that the sources just exaggerate.Well all the sources cant exagerrate about all Alexander's battles.All the sources and for all the battles.No.And if you take it by logic again, all the sources agree that Alexander never lost a battle and showed great strategical mind in most of them, so that must be true.So if that is true then his victory over the Sacred Band must be also true.

Again lets not forget that these people that wrote these books lived at an era that these events were near, and people knew.For example the Thebeans knew who had defeated the Sacred Band.So the sources dont lie about matters like that.There are oral traditions also except from written ones.Meaning that people werent only relying to books to learn some things.The defeat of the Sacred Band by Alexander must have been in oral traditions and sayings too.

P.S I have started collecting sayings and stories about Alexander throughout Greece.Many of them have their roots in the ancient years.I will post some of them here.If i find enough of them i may publish them.

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alejandro
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Post by alejandro » Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:07 pm

Efstathios wrote: Of course there is also the Badian-Borza logic, and someone can say that it was pure luck, or that the sources just exaggerate.Well all the sources cant exagerrate about all Alexander's battles.All the sources and for all the battles.No.And if you take it by logic again, all the sources agree that Alexander never lost a battle and showed great strategical mind in most of them, so that must be true.So if that is true then his victory over the Sacred Band must be also true.
Hi Efstathios,

I may be a bit cheeky here, but this is not sound (or at least "Popperian") science: The fact that all the swans you've ever seen were white does not mean that all swans are white, while seeing just one other-than-white swan is enough to say that not all swans are white.

If Alexander showed great tactical mind in all his battles after Chaeronaia it does not follow that he also did it at Chaironaia. Though I agree that it is very likely! :)

All the best, and excuse again the cheekiness (blame Renault: yesterday I read the chapter in which Aristotle teaches Alex and co to spot a fallacy :? )
Alejandro

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amyntoros
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Post by amyntoros » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:18 pm

Hi Efstathios
Efstathios wrote:As for Alexander not defeating the Sacred Band himself, i would say that this assumption is far fetched.
Except it's not exactly an assumption, is it? The details are in the sources - the same sources that you tell us lived in an era that these events were near, and the same sources that don't lie about matters like that. Again from Diordorus 86.1 "The armies deployed at dawn, and the king stationed his son Alexander, young in age but noted for his valour and swiftness of action, on one wing, placing beside him his most seasoned generals . . ." Also, at 86.3-4 "Then Alexander, his heart set on showing his father his prowess and yielding to none in will to win, ably seconded by his men, first succeeded in rupturing the solid front of the enemy line and striking down many he bore heavily on the troops opposite him. [4] As the same success was won by his companions, gaps in the front were constantly opened." Even the oft-praising Plutarch (Alexander 9.2) says that Alexander " . . . took part in the battle against the Greeks, and he is said to have been the first to break the ranks of the Sacred Band of the Thebans." The important words used here are "the first" not "the only". And, before you say it; yes, Plutarch's use of the word companion could mean Alexander's friends (and his later Companions), but it would be an outrageous assumption to think that Philip's own seasoned generals hung back and took no part in this fight.

Notwithstanding the above, the success, the victory over the Sacred Band, was Alexander's to claim and no one is denying this. However, it is equally undeniable that he had help in this battle from some of Philip's best generals. Has anyone ever considered who they may be? Parmenion, perhaps? Antipater? Or maybe even Attalus? - a man whose name first appears at Philip's wedding but who was obviously of great importance to Philip. He had to have had a battle history as well as prominent social connections.
During the Persian campaign Alexander and his officers were mounted. They had cavalry. I dont find a reason why not having cavalry in Chaeronia too. Would the Macedonian army go to Chaeronia without cavalry?
Philip DID take cavalry to Chaeronea - two thousand, according to Diordorus - but that doesn't mean that they were deployed under Alexander, or that they played a major role in this battle. As Gaebel says, "Since there was no place for cavalry on the flanks and no mention of them is made in the admittedly brief battle descriptions, their role is unknown and must consequently be conjectured or omitted." Philip was also a brilliant general, you know, and would have employed the best tactics necessary to defeat the Greeks in the battle. I realize that today most people view Alexander's undefeated record as overshadowing Philip's achievements, but the man is vastly underrated in my opinion. He obviously knew what he was doing and won the battle accordingly. Do you think there would have been no victory unless Alexander was on a horse? Frankly, I think that particular train of thought diminishes Alexander somewhat. It's as if to say that he couldn't have won any battle that didn't involve him leading a frontline deployment of cavalry.

Alexander wasn't born on a horse - he didn't fly out of the womb on a mount and slash the umbilical cord with his sword! He had to learn, just like anyone else, and if the battle of Chaeronea wasn't his first major experience leading the cavalry, that doesn't take anything away from his genius and his later victories.
I have started collecting sayings and stories about Alexander throughout Greece. Many of them have their roots in the ancient years. I will post some of them here. If i find enough of them i may publish them.
That would be wonderful and I'd love to hear these stories. Folklore is always fascinating. :)

Best regards,
Last edited by amyntoros on Mon Oct 15, 2007 1:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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