The Size Of The Alexandrian Empire.

by Daniel Russ on January 17, 2011

Alexander's Empire

By the time his father, Philip II, died in 336 BC, Alexander was already a blooded soldier and an experienced commander. His first battle portended well when he showed a certain gleeful and will-full aggression leading cavalry at Chaeronea. His first manned expedition of course headed east into Persia, the land of the classic enemy of the Greeks. In almost every way a people could be different, the Greeks and Persians were different. The shared no common language, religion, foods, land or inclination. The Greeks, while mostly clannish, had invented new forms of government where the least among them could have a say so in government. The Persians were long into blood loyalty and rode into battle for their namesakes, their monarchs and of course, their prophet Zarathustra. The Greeks were impervious in land warfare and the Persians ruled the seas. The Greeks fought mostly in infantry regiments and the Persians fought mostly on horseback. Historically, the Persian empire clashed with whatever civilization was in full bloom in the Mediterranean. The Greeks and the Romans were the foremost enemy of the Persian Empire. Both fought bitter battles in and around Anatolia, the gateway to Central Asia. All told, at its high point Greece under Alexander added up to about 2.2 million square miles.

After defeating a Persian statrap at Granicus in 334 BC, Alexander led a series of attacks on Darius and Xerxes forces. Following Granicus there were Greek victories at Miletus, Halicarnasus, Issus in 333 BC, Tyre in 332 BC, Gaza in 332 BC, Gaugamela in 331 BC, Persian Gate in 330 BC and Sogdian Rock in 327 BC. Often the forces they faced were comprised of Greek mercenaries. At Gaugamela he faced Greeks, Persians, Scythians, and Indians with their war elephants. Gaugamela was his greatest battle in my opinion. He was outnumbered three to one. The army he faced was experienced. Darius took the battlefield first and Alexander had to play catch up.  On October 1, 331 BC at Gaugamela, totally outnumbered and almost surrounded, Alexander launched an infantry attack with a swift, ballsy thrust up the middle across the river where Darius was encamped. Darius thought he was being wise to stage his army across a river. He didn’t realize that cavalry have no mobility in a river and so his numerical superiority had been neutralized by preparing the battlefield this way. Not only that, Darius was in his war headquarters just across the river from Alexander. He was literally within a few moments on a horse from the main center phalanx. In my opinion, Alexander made a gamble: forget the size of this army – if he can cut off the head, the body will die. He decided to attack Darius himself. The attack worked. When Darius fled, so did the rest of the Persian Army.

Alexander also annexed much of what is now Egypt, the northern Sinai desert, Israel, Syrian, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Parts of the Balkans, Slovenia, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Slovenia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Azherbaijan, Georgia,and Uzbekistan. The total Greek Empire after two decades of Alexander stretched over 2 million square miles across at the time the most fertile land in the western world.

When you think about this young man, it’s hard to forget that he was barely ever in Greece. Alexander was so busy invading and conquering that he hardly enjoyed his life and may in fact have been assassinated in 323, right near his own 33 birthday. He was in Babylon and most likely just wore himself down and died of some disease he contracted on the way.

His enemies could be said to be all the empires thatexisted in Europe or Central Asia: The Achaemenidian Persian Empire, Bactrians, Punjab, Anatolians, Mesopotamians, Carthaginian, Egyptian, Syrian, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Judeans, Gazans, and Greeks organized into the League of Cornith.

It wasn’t all warfare for Alexander though it was so mostly. He married Roxanne, a Bactrian Princess and for a while wore a Persian robe to help disguise his own assimilation into the lead role of the various people he had purview over. The Alexandrians were not the oppressive governors that the Romans were. They allowed people to worship as they pleased and do commerce as well so long as they paid tribute to the Greeks and offered armies in service of the Empire. Alexander often found himself involved in long, drawn our siege warfare. He was very good at that in particular. He took Tyre and Nineveh through siege and no one would every take a Tyre fortress by siege again until the Crusaders marched into the Mediterranean coastline in the 13ths century.


Alexander himself must have been quite the brute. He led from the front of his lines and killed with alacrity. He was also an extremely nimble military commander who had good command and control of his forces. He would change direction in the middle of a battle in an instant and turn what looked like a defeat into what ended up being a rout. He made friends with his enemies many of whom decided it would be better to fight with him, than against him. One of those forces were the Persians themselves. He inherited the Persian Navy that showed up in time for him to lay siege to Tyre for example.

Alexander was a great combat engineer and would have boats, pontoons, bridges and siege weapons constructed on the spot. He was a brutal battle commander that took few prisoners. He sold tens of thousands of prisoner/soldiers into slavery and killed tens of thousands of resistors with no compunction, men women and children. Alexander had those who put up a fight often horribly tortured and made as examples. It worked many times as enemies capitulated often very soon after the Young Greek conquered them or began to lay siege engines. Few combat commanders fought as often as Alexander. Few fought against as many types of armies as Alexander and few won as often as he did. His campaign out of southern Persia cost him thousands of his own troops, and perhaps his own life, as he died suddenly on campaign. But historians brush off his losses and emphasize his wins, as they still stand up today as being worthy of note.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor Rutherford January 28, 2015 at 11:04 am

What was the size of the Greek Empire in square kl when it was at its largest?

Victor Rutherford February 2, 2015 at 10:17 am

What was the size of the Greek conquests at their largest?

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