Alexander's Campaign > Battle of Jaxartes

Battle of Jaxartes

Battle of Jaxartes

Part of the Persian Campaign

Alexander the Great - Jaxartes: Historical Atlas (1923)

Jaxartes - Historical Atlas (1923)

Date: October, 329 BC

Location: Syr Darya

Coordinates: 46°09′15″N 60°52′25″E

Aftermath: Macedonian victory

Territorial Changes: Alexander captures half of Persia including Persepolis the capital.

Next Battle: Battle of Gabai

Previous Battle: Siege of Cyropolis


The Battle of Jaxartes was a battle fought during the Persian Campaign of Alexander III the Great in 329 BCE against the Scythians at the Syr Darya Rver, also known as the modern River Jaxartes.

Battle of the Jaxartes (329 BCE)

The Battle of the Jaxartes (also known as the Battle of the Syr Darya) was a significant military engagement between Alexander the Great and the Scythians, a nomadic group known for their formidable horse archers. This battle took place in 329 BCE on the banks of the Jaxartes River, known today as the Syr Darya, in Central Asia.

Background and Context

  1. Campaign in Central Asia:

    • Expansion of Alexander’s Empire: After defeating the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great turned his attention to the regions of Bactria and Sogdiana (modern-day Afghanistan and Uzbekistan). His goal was to secure the northeastern borders of his empire against nomadic incursions.
    • Scythian Threat: The Scythians, known for their mobility and skill in mounted archery, posed a significant threat to Alexander’s campaign in Central Asia. They frequently raided settled territories and resisted attempts at subjugation.
  2. Strategic Importance:

    • Securing Borders: Controlling the Jaxartes River was crucial for securing the northern frontier of Alexander’s empire. It served as a natural barrier against the nomadic tribes of the steppe.
    • Establishing Dominance: Defeating the Scythians would demonstrate Alexander’s military superiority and deter future incursions by nomadic tribes.

The Battle

  1. Initial Confrontation:

    • Scythian Raids: The Scythians, led by their chieftains, began raiding the areas around the Jaxartes River. Alexander decided to confront them and put an end to their disruptions.
    • Construction of Alexandria Eschate: Before the battle, Alexander founded the city of Alexandria Eschate (“Alexandria the Furthest”) near the Jaxartes River. This city served as a military base and symbolized the farthest extent of his conquests.
  2. Deployment of Forces:

    • Macedonian Army: Alexander’s forces included his highly trained infantry (phalanx), Companion Cavalry, and light infantry (peltasts and archers). The total strength was significantly smaller than his forces used in larger battles but was well-equipped for the terrain and the enemy.
    • Scythian Tactics: The Scythians relied on their mobility, using swift hit-and-run tactics with their horse archers. They aimed to harass and wear down the Macedonian forces from a distance.
  3. Crossing the River:

    • Strategic Crossing: Alexander used his engineering skills to construct a bridge across the Jaxartes River. This bold move allowed his army to cross quickly and confront the Scythians directly.
    • Feigned Retreat: Upon crossing the river, Alexander feigned a retreat to lure the Scythians into a premature attack. The Scythians, believing they had the advantage, pursued the seemingly retreating Macedonian forces.
  4. Main Engagement:

    • Turning the Tables: As the Scythians closed in, Alexander’s forces suddenly turned and launched a counterattack. The Macedonian phalanx advanced, supported by archers and light infantry who targeted the Scythian horse archers.
    • Cavalry Charge: Alexander led a decisive cavalry charge with his Companion Cavalry, targeting the Scythian flanks and rear. This maneuver caused chaos among the Scythians, who were not accustomed to facing such coordinated and disciplined cavalry tactics.
  5. Decisive Victory:

    • Scythian Rout: The Scythians, unable to withstand the combined arms tactics of Alexander’s forces, were routed. Many were killed or captured, while the rest fled across the steppe.
    • Securing the Region: The victory allowed Alexander to secure the Jaxartes River and the surrounding territories, consolidating his control over the region.

Aftermath and Significance

  1. Strategic Consolidation:

    • Establishing Alexandria Eschate: The city of Alexandria Eschate served as a permanent military base and a symbol of Greek presence in the region. It helped secure the northeastern frontier of Alexander’s empire.
    • Deterrence: The defeat of the Scythians deterred other nomadic tribes from challenging Alexander’s authority, ensuring relative stability in the region.
  2. Military Tactics:

    • Combined Arms Warfare: The Battle of the Jaxartes showcased Alexander’s mastery of combined arms tactics, effectively using infantry, cavalry, and missile troops to counter the mobile and elusive Scythian horse archers.
    • Adaptability: The battle demonstrated Alexander’s ability to adapt his strategies to different types of enemies and terrains, further cementing his reputation as a brilliant military commander.
  3. Psychological Impact:

    • Boosting Morale: The victory boosted the morale of Alexander’s troops, who saw their leader’s ability to overcome diverse and formidable adversaries.
    • Reputation: The successful confrontation with the Scythians enhanced Alexander’s reputation as a conqueror capable of defeating not only established armies but also skilled and elusive nomadic warriors.


The Battle of the Jaxartes was a significant engagement in Alexander the Great’s campaign to secure the northeastern borders of his empire. By defeating the Scythians, Alexander demonstrated his tactical brilliance and adaptability, securing a key strategic region and deterring future threats from nomadic tribes. The battle highlighted his ability to integrate different military tactics and reinforced his position as one of history’s greatest military commanders. The establishment of Alexandria Eschate symbolized the extent of his conquests and his enduring impact on the regions he conquered.

Cyrus the Great, Achaemenid Empire StandardKingdom of MacedonScythians
Cyrus the Great, Achaemenid Empire StandardAlexander the GreatSatraces
Military Forces
160 Killed1,200
1,000 Wounded


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