Hellenistic Warfare > Alexander's Military Tactics

Alexander's Military Tactics

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration


Alexander the Great's military tactics were renowned for their innovation, flexibility, and effectiveness, contributing significantly to his success in creating one of the largest empires in history. Here is an overview of the key tactics and strategies employed by Alexander:

1. Combined Arms Warfare

2. Hammer and Anvil Tactic

3. Use of Terrain and Geography

4. Psychological Warfare

5. Flexibility and Adaptation

6. Rapid Mobility and Logistics

Key Battles Demonstrating Alexander’s Tactics

  1. Battle of Granicus (334 BCE)

    • Tactics Used: Alexander’s use of the Companion Cavalry to directly assault the Persian satraps' positions demonstrated his aggressive and decisive approach. The phalanx held the enemy center while the cavalry attacked the flanks.
  2. Battle of Issus (333 BCE)

    • Tactics Used: Facing a numerically superior Persian force led by Darius III, Alexander utilized the narrow battlefield to neutralize the enemy’s advantage. His phalanx pinned the Persians, while he led a decisive cavalry charge that targeted Darius directly, causing panic and a rout.
  3. Siege of Tyre (332 BCE)

    • Tactics Used: Alexander’s ingenuity in building a causeway to reach the island city of Tyre and employing siege towers and battering rams showcased his ability to adapt and innovate in siege warfare.
  4. Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE)

    • Tactics Used: Alexander’s strategic placement of his forces and use of the hammer and anvil tactic were crucial. He created gaps in the Persian lines using his cavalry, allowing his infantry to advance and break through. His decision to attack Darius directly again led to a decisive victory.
  5. Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BCE)

    • Tactics Used: Alexander’s clever use of feints and diversionary tactics allowed him to cross the river under challenging conditions. He divided his forces to mislead King Porus and then concentrated his attack, using the phalanx to engage the Indian infantry and his cavalry to outflank and counter the war elephants.

Innovations and Techniques

  1. Sarissa Phalanx:

    • Extended Reach: The sarissa gave the Macedonian phalanx a significant reach advantage, allowing them to engage enemies before the enemy could get close enough to strike.
  2. Companion Cavalry:

    • Elite Shock Troops: The Companion Cavalry were heavily armored and highly trained, capable of executing complex maneuvers and delivering powerful charges that could shatter enemy lines.
  3. Siege Warfare:

    • Advanced Techniques: Alexander’s use of siege towers, battering rams, and other siege engines enabled him to capture heavily fortified cities that were previously thought impregnable.
  4. Scouting and Intelligence:

    • Informed Decisions: Alexander employed scouts and spies to gather intelligence about enemy movements and terrain, allowing him to make informed strategic decisions and anticipate enemy actions.


Alexander the Great’s military tactics were characterized by their innovative integration of different types of troops, strategic use of terrain, psychological warfare, and remarkable flexibility and adaptability. His ability to combine the strengths of his phalanx, cavalry, and specialized units in a coordinated and effective manner allowed him to achieve numerous decisive victories and build one of the largest empires in history. His military strategies and tactics continue to be studied and admired for their brilliance and effectiveness.


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