Alexander's Campaign > Alexander's Persian Campaign

Persian Campaign of Alexander the Great

Persian Campaign

Part of the Campaign of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great - Achaemenid Persian Empire (500 BC)

Achaemenid Empire: 500 BC - Historical Atlas (1923)

Dates: 334-327 BC

Location: Achaemenid Empire

Aftermath: Macedonia conquers the Achaemenid Empire

Next Battle: Battle of the Granicus

Previous Battle: Balkan Campaign


The Persian campaign of Alexander the Great, spanning from 334 to 330 BCE, was a series of military operations aimed at overthrowing the Persian Empire ruled by Darius III. This campaign marked the beginning of Alexander's conquests and led to the eventual fall of one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world.

Background and Preparation

  1. Succession and Consolidation:
    • Philip II's Legacy: Alexander inherited a well-trained and disciplined army from his father, Philip II of Macedon, who had laid the groundwork for Macedonian dominance in Greece and prepared for an invasion of Persia.
    • Securing Greece: Before embarking on his Persian campaign, Alexander secured his position in Greece by quelling the Theban revolt and ensuring the loyalty of the other Greek city-states.

Initial Invasion and Early Battles

  1. Crossing into Asia Minor:

    • Hellespont Crossing (334 BCE): Alexander began his campaign by crossing the Hellespont (modern-day Dardanelles) into Asia Minor with an army of approximately 40,000 men.
    • Battle of the Granicus River: Alexander's first major engagement with Persian forces occurred at the Granicus River, where he secured a decisive victory. This battle opened up Asia Minor to his control.
  2. Securing Asia Minor:

    • Siege of Halicarnassus: Following his victory at the Granicus, Alexander besieged and captured the fortified city of Halicarnassus, solidifying his hold over Asia Minor.
    • Phrygia and Gordium: Alexander marched inland to the city of Gordium, where he famously cut the Gordian Knot, a symbolic act that prophesied the ruler of Asia.

Major Battles and the Advance into Persia

  1. Battle of Issus (333 BCE):

    • Confrontation with Darius III: At Issus, Alexander faced the main Persian army led by Darius III. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Alexander's tactical brilliance led to a decisive victory. Darius fled the battlefield, leaving his family and treasure behind.
  2. Siege of Tyre (332 BCE):

    • Strategic Importance: The island city of Tyre was a crucial naval base for the Persians. Alexander besieged Tyre for seven months, eventually building a causeway to the island and capturing the city. This victory secured Alexander’s control over the eastern Mediterranean coast.
  3. Conquest of Egypt:

    • Welcomed as Liberator: Alexander marched into Egypt, where he was welcomed as a liberator from Persian rule. He founded the city of Alexandria, which would become a major center of Hellenistic culture.
    • Visit to the Oracle of Amun: Alexander visited the Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis, where he was declared the son of Amun, reinforcing his divine status in the eyes of his followers.

Decisive Engagements and the Fall of Persia

  1. Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE):

    • Final Confrontation with Darius III: The decisive battle of Gaugamela took place near modern-day Mosul in Iraq. Alexander employed superior tactics to defeat the numerically superior Persian forces. Darius III fled once again, marking the effective end of Persian resistance.
  2. Capture of Persian Capitals:

    • Babylon: After Gaugamela, Alexander captured Babylon without resistance, securing its wealth and strategic position.
    • Susa: Alexander moved on to Susa, another key Persian city, where he acquired enormous treasures.
    • Persepolis: The ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis, was captured and subsequently burned, symbolizing the end of Persian rule.

Pursuit and Death of Darius III

  1. Pursuit of Darius III:

    • Flight and Assassination: Darius III fled eastward, attempting to gather support. However, he was betrayed and killed by his own satraps, including Bessus, who declared himself king.
  2. Bessus and the Final Resistance:

    • Subjugation of Bessus: Alexander pursued Bessus into Central Asia, capturing him and dealing with remaining pockets of resistance. Bessus was executed, ending organized Persian resistance.

Consolidation of Power

  1. Administrative Reforms:
    • Integration of Persian Nobility: Alexander adopted elements of Persian dress and customs, married Persian nobles, and encouraged his officers to do the same to integrate the Macedonian and Persian elites.
    • Founding of Cities: Alexander founded numerous cities, many named Alexandria, to serve as administrative centers and spread Hellenistic culture.


Alexander the Great's Persian campaign was a monumental achievement that dismantled the Persian Empire and established Alexander as one of history's greatest military leaders. His conquests spread Greek culture and ideas throughout the known world, creating a new Hellenistic civilization that blended Greek and Eastern elements. This campaign not only transformed the political landscape but also had lasting cultural impacts that continued to influence the ancient world long after Alexander's death.

Battles of the Persian Campaign

Alexander landed safely on the shores of Anatolia but was faced with a geography problem. To the south of him was an area known as Mount Ida which had a river that snaked around it formed a natural boundary that prevented him for easily accessing the interior of the land. Alexander decided to cross the river with his massive army and all the supplies and send forward scouts known as prodromi to ensure the path was safe. After a while the scouts began reporting a gathering of Persian troops on the other side of the river that were going to make his crossing much harder.

Alexander continued the march of his men and called his generals together to formulate a strategy. One of his generals named Parmenio suggested that they should not try and cross the river right away because the Achaemenid forces generally consisted of cavalry and this could be beat another way. Parmenio came up with the strategy that the horses and men are separated at night and if their army was to storm the camp at night they would be able to overwhelm the men before they could mount a defense. Alexander did not agree with this plan however, and was confident his army could handle anything the Persians threw at them along the way. Alexander was also going for an early sort of shock and awe policy that if he continued marching and building momentum his reputation would precede him and he may avoid many battles in the future if he crushed the first opposition with such ferocity.

Battle of the Granicus (334 BC)

See Battle of the Granicus (334 BC)

What ensued was known as the Battle of the Granicus (334 BC) and is one of Alexander's most famous exploits against the Persian Empire. During this engagement Alexander was able to cross the Granicus river with his cavalry and soldiers and against all odds break through the Persian line.

Alexander the Great - Crossing the Granicus (1909)

Crossing the Granicus - August Petrtyl (1909)

This caused the Persians to scatter in all directions and despite sustaining possible heavy losses, Alexander had won and established a massive foothold in Anatolia. His following campaign through Anatolia would see the peaceful surrender of nearly all the city-states, with some inner-conflicts as the Persian and Greek factions all competed in the power vacuum created by Alexander's victory.

Alexander the Great - Cavalry Charge at the Granicus

Cavalry Charge at the Granicus - Andre Castaigne (1898-1899)

Winter of 334 BC

See Winter of 334 BC

Gordian Knot: In the winter of 334 BC, Alexander arrived in Gordium, the capital of Phrygia. There, he encountered the legendary Gordian Knot, which he famously "untied" by slicing through it with his sword, fulfilling the prophecy that whoever untied the Gordian Knot would rule Asia.

Siege of Miletus (344 BC)

See Siege of Miletus (344 BC)

Siege of Miletus: After the Battle of the Granicus River in May 334 BC, Alexander moved south and laid siege to Miletus. The city fell to Alexander after a short siege, demonstrating his strategic capabilities and his navy's importance in securing coastal cities.

Siege of Halicarnassus (334–333 BC)

See Siege of Halicarnassus (334–333 BC)

Siege of Halicarnassus: Later in 334 BC, Alexander besieged Halicarnassus, a heavily fortified city on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor. The siege lasted several months and ended with the city's capture, solidifying Alexander's control over the region.

Battle of Issus (333 BC)

See Battle of Issus (333 BC)

Battle of Issus: In November 333 BC, Alexander faced the Persian King Darius III at the Battle of Issus in southern Anatolia. Alexander achieved a decisive victory, capturing Darius' family and demonstrating his superiority over the Persian army. Despite being outnumbered, Alexander's strategic use of the terrain and his phalanx formation led to a crushing victory. Darius fled the battlefield, leaving behind his family and a large amount of treasure. This victory greatly enhanced Alexander's reputation and morale among his troops.

Siege of Tyre (332 BC)

See Siege of Tyre (332 BC)

Siege of Tyre: From January to July 332 BC, Alexander laid siege to the island city of Tyre, one of the most formidable fortresses of the Persian Empire. After a prolonged and challenging siege, Alexander captured the city, securing his control over the eastern Mediterranean coast.

Siege of Gaza (332 BC)

See Siege of Gaza (332 BC)

Siege of Gaza: In the autumn of 332 BC, Alexander besieged Gaza, another heavily fortified city. The siege lasted for two months, and Alexander's forces eventually breached the city's defenses, allowing him to continue his march into Egypt.

Battle of Guagamela

See Battle of Guagamela

Near Gaugamela in modern-day Iraq, also known as the Battle of Arbela, this was the decisive battle of Alexander's campaign. Despite Darius assembling a massive and diverse army, Alexander's tactical ingenuity, including the use of a phalanx and companion cavalry, resulted in a resounding victory. Darius fled once again, and the battle effectively marked the end of the Persian Empire.

Battle of the Uxian Defile (331 BC)

See Battle of the Uxian Defile (331 BC)

Battle of the Uxian Defile (331 BC): In early 331 BC, during his march to Mesopotamia, Alexander encountered the Uxians, a tribe that demanded tribute for safe passage through their territory. Alexander refused and launched a surprise attack on their stronghold, securing his passage.

Battle of the Persian Gate (330 BC)

See Battle of the Persian Gate (330 BC)

Battle of the Persian Gate: In January 330 BC, Alexander faced a determined defense by Persian forces under Ariobarzanes at the Persian Gate, a narrow mountain pass. After several days of fierce fighting, Alexander outflanked the Persians and secured a critical victory, opening the way to Persepolis. Near the Persian Gate in the Zagros Mountains, this battle was fought during Alexander's pursuit of Darius III into the heart of Persia. The Persian defenders utilized the narrow pass to inflict heavy casualties on the Macedonians initially. However, Alexander managed to outflank the Persian forces, leading to a decisive victory. This battle opened the way to Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of Persia, which Alexander subsequently captured and partially destroyed.

Siege of Cyropolis (329 BC)

See Siege of Cyropolis (329 BC)

Siege of Cyropolis: In the spring of 329 BC, Alexander campaigned in Sogdiana (modern Uzbekistan) and besieged the city of Cyropolis. The city was heavily fortified, but Alexander's forces managed to breach the walls and capture it.

Battle of Jaxartes (329 BC)

See Battle of Jaxartes (329 BC)

Battle of Jaxartes: In the summer of 329 BC, Alexander fought the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes near the Syr Darya River. Using innovative tactics, Alexander achieved a decisive victory, solidifying his control over the region.

Battle of Gabai (328 BC)

See Battle of Gabai (328 BC)

Battle of Gabai: This battle took place in 328 BC against the Bactrian rebels led by Spitamenes. Although not much is detailed about this battle, it was part of Alexander's efforts to quell revolts in the eastern provinces of his empire.

Siege of Sogdian Rock (327 BC)

See Siege of Sogdian Rock (327 BC)

Siege of the Sogdian Rock: In 327 BC, Alexander besieged the Sogdian Rock, a seemingly impregnable fortress. Using daring tactics, including scaling the cliffs at night, Alexander's forces managed to capture the fortress. This event is famous for the surrender of the rock's defenders, including the capture of Roxana, whom Alexander later married.

Here's a comprehensive table of the major battles of Alexander the Great's campaign, including details such as location, outcome, victor, loser, and territorial changes. These battles were pivotal in Alexander's campaign to conquer the Persian Empire and extend his influence across Asia. They highlight his military prowess, strategic acumen, and the relentless drive that characterized his conquests.

BattleLatitudeLongitudeOutcomeYearLocationDescriptionVictorLoserTerritorial Changes
Battle of Granicus40.231927.3806Macedonian victory334 BCENear modern-day Biga, TurkeyAlexander's first major battle against the Persian satraps in Asia Minor.MacedonAchaemenid PersiaSecured a foothold in Asia Minor
Siege of Miletus37.530027.2700Macedonian victory334 BCEMiletus, TurkeyAlexander besieged and captured the city of Miletus.MacedonAchaemenid PersiaControl over western Asia Minor
Siege of Halicarnassus37.037927.4241Macedonian victory334 BCEHalicarnassus, TurkeyAlexander's siege resulted in the capture of this fortified city.MacedonAchaemenid PersiaFurther consolidation in Asia Minor
Battle of Issus36.888236.1344Decisive Macedonian victory333 BCENear modern-day İskenderun, TurkeyAlexander defeated Darius III in a decisive battle.MacedonAchaemenid PersiaControl over the eastern Mediterranean coast
Siege of Tyre33.270835.2033Macedonian victory332 BCETyre, LebanonA seven-month siege where Alexander captured the island city of Tyre.MacedonTyriansControl over the eastern Mediterranean
Siege of Gaza31.501734.4666Macedonian victory332 BCEGaza, PalestineAlexander besieged and captured the fortified city of Gaza.MacedonPersian garrisonControl over the Levant
Battle of Gaugamela36.365643.1189Decisive Macedonian victory331 BCENear modern-day Mosul, IraqAlexander defeated Darius III in a decisive battle that led to the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire.MacedonAchaemenid PersiaFall of the Persian Empire, control over Mesopotamia
Battle of Uxian Defile32.110048.8600Macedonian victory331 BCENear modern-day Khuzestan, IranAlexander's forces defeated the Uxians who tried to block his passage.MacedonUxian tribesSafe passage to Persepolis
Battle of the Persian Gate30.879651.5705Macedonian victory330 BCENear Persepolis, IranAlexander's forces overcame a strong Persian defensive position.MacedonAchaemenid PersiaOpened route to Persepolis
Siege of Cyropolis40.283369.6167Macedonian victory329 BCECyropolis, UzbekistanAlexander captured one of the last major Sogdian strongholds.MacedonSogdian tribesConsolidation of control over Sogdia
Battle of the Jaxartes40.750069.5500Macedonian victory329 BCENear the Jaxartes River, KazakhstanAlexander defeated the Scythians in a key river battle.MacedonScythiansExtended Macedonian control into Central Asia
Siege of Gabai37.700068.8333Macedonian victory328 BCEGabai, AfghanistanAlexander's forces captured the city.MacedonLocal rebelsFurther consolidation of control over Bactria
Siege of Sogdian Rock39.916767.0000Macedonian victory327 BCENear modern-day Samarkand, UzbekistanAlexander captured the seemingly impregnable fortress.MacedonSogdian tribesSecured control over Sogdia

Persian Campaign Chronology

See Persian Campaign Chronology


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