Alexander's mirror

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, and student of Plato tutored the prince until sixteen. Following the assassination of his father Philip II in 336 BC, he took up the throne of the Macedon monarchy at the age of twenty.
(Image from Alejandro Magno campaign two battles of Alexander the Great.jpg)

Alexander's mirror

1. Crossing to Troy to punish the Persians


After securing his Kingdom, Alexander III planned to cross into Anatolia to invade the Achaemenid Empire and punish the Persians for invading Greece some 156 years earlier!

As I knew him, that was an irrational reason. His vision was to reach the ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea.  None of his key captains willingly realized such imagination or could relate history to mythology like him.

The youthful King organized his army for the campaign not far from Amphipolis's grand temple that he built. The army consisted chiefly of Macedonians, but with other allied Greeks. Nearchus and two other admirals supervised the fleet's assembly on the Strymon River near the Aegean Sea.

I was the King's Mesopotamian multilinguist when the expedition departed Amphipolis in April 334 BC. I joined his civilian elite of the campaign that included Anaxarchus (the philosopher who called to worship the King), his doctors Kritodemos and Glaucias, the architect Aristobulus, and Callisthenes, the historian nephew of Aristotle.


Alexander set out the quest to capture all coastal cities to diminish the vastly superior Achaemenid fleet's power.

Within a month, we were near Troy on the northwest coast of Anatolia.  Alexander engaged in the first battle with the Achaemenid army at the Granicus River, where he defeated them. Thanks to the Macedonian phalanx, armed with the sarissa, a spear 6 meters long. Alexander freed Troy and exempted it from taxes.

Before our departure, the King visited the temple of Athena. He asked me to announce, in Greek and Persian languages, his plan to rebuild the temple to be the largest in the world when he returns from the expedition. I had different thoughts about these idols but decided to talk it over at the right time, which never came.

In July, King Alexander laid a siege on Miletus city, the Ionian land center.  One of his commanders finished the task and captured the town in later months.

He then broke through the Halicarnassus city wall of Caria, surprising the Achaemenid Anatolian force. Its ruler set fire to it after realizing the city was lost and withdrew with his army. The winds destroyed much of the town.

When we arrived in Gordion, the small capital of Phrygia province, King Alexander united his separately operating armies. It is also there where he expressed his way of finding simple solutions to complex problems.

A Phrygian wagon stood on the city's acropolis, protected by the temple's priests up the mountain. The wagon was immobilized through an intricate knot that joined its pole and yoke.

The complicated knot was associated with King Gordian and mythically related to his rise to power. According to the myth, whoever could loosen the knot was destined to become the ruler of the world. Nobody could loosen it, including Alexander.

He concluded that it would make no difference how the knot is loosened, so he drew his sword and sliced it in half. By his rough cutting of the knot, he ended the Gordians exemption from his rule and conferred legitimacy to dynastic change in the Anatolian kingdoms.


After capturing Troy, Miletus, Halicarnassus, and Gordion, King Alexander led the army to south-central Anatolia, passing through Tarsus by the River Cydnus. He almost drowned there but was saved by his soldiers.

While he was in Tarsus, the Achaemenid King Darius III massed his army in Babylon and advanced into Syria.

Darius led the army by himself, setting the battle near the Pinarus River's mouth and Issus's town in southern Anatolia. In contrast, Alexander was at the head of his battalions.

When the two armies met on November 333 BC, Alexander led a direct assault against Darius and his bodyguards, causing them to retreat. That fast central attack shook the rest of the Achaemenid army. They thought they lost the fight, abandoned their positions, and fled in full collapse.

As Darius III retreated to the Caspian Gates to build a new army, the invading Macedonian troops captured his wife, two daughters, and mother. All of them had accompanied Darius on the campaign. Alexander treated the captured women with respect.

The Battle of Issus was the second immense encounter of Alexander's conquest.


The Persian King Darius III proposed peacetime and a truce. Still, Alexander refused and marched from Issus south into Phoenicia to isolate the Achaemenid fleet from its bases and destroy it as a significant fighting force. He captured the Phoenician cities with little or no resistance, including Damas, Byblos, Sidon, but not Tyre (Sur).

The Tyrians resisted, holding out for seven months before surrender. Alexander destroyed half the city because he was so enraged at the Tyrians' defense and his men's loss. 

The naval blockade set by Admiral Nearchus for the Achaemenid fleet threatening the Aegean Sea successfully aided Alexander's conquest of Phoenicia and Egypt soon after.

Alexander was shown the Book of Daniel when he entered Jerusalem, which described a mighty Greek king who would conquer the Persian Empire. Such prophecy was a reason for sparing the city.

Alexander advanced south and reached Gaza that was conquered by the Philistines in the 13th century BC. The city defenders resisted him for two months, refusing to surrender and inflicting a severe shoulder wound in one of the raids. Alexander put many of the male population to death for that.

When he advanced to Egypt, Egyptians welcomed him as their savior, and the Achaemenid satrap surrendered peacefully. At Memphis, he sacrificed to the sacred Egyptian bull and assured the safety of the priests. They inaugurate him as King with the traditional double crown of the Pharaohs. He employed Egyptian governors but kept the army under the Macedonian command.

King Alexander was in total control of Egypt in 332 BC. He founded the port city Alexandria and made a journey into the western desert to the Siwa ­Oasis, where Egypt's priests proclaimed him the son of their deity Amun.


In spring 331 BC, Alexander returned to Tyre and prepared to advance into northern Mesopotamia along the upper Euphrates. He wanted to conquest Babylon, which was one of the Achaemenid main capitals at that time.

As I am a Mesopotamian, I had a mixed feeling about it. We detested the Persian rule for their brutality. When they enrage at a displeased person or an enemy, they inflict harsh punishment up to what they call triple death. They ensure the brutal torture, such as the nose and ear cutting or head crushing, is on display.  

Mazaeus was the satrap of Babylonia and had to guard Darius' back during the Battle of Issus. He was one of the most noteworthy governors in the Achaemenid empire.

Mazaeus commanded a small cavalry army near Thapsacus town on the Syrian Euphrates' western bank that obstructed Alexander's way to Babylon and made the invader take the road through the north Mesopotamia. Such action forced Alexander to go to Assyria, where King Darius III was ready with a large army. The decisive battle took place at Gaugamela on a plain between Ninevah and Arbela, north of Mesopotamia, on October 331 BC.

 Alexander's army had the upper hand. Again, Darius III took flight, and panic spread through his entire army, which began a retreat. The Macedonians pursued them till Arbela town, whereas Darius escaped to Bactria in the Medes land.

I told the victorious King that the Mesopotamians believed that he was the curse on Darius, and he liked it.

He moved south and entered Sippar on the Euphrates river's east bank, north of Babylon, where he ordered me to announce that the Macedonians would not plunder Babylon.

Mazaeus surrendered himself, and Alexander was pleased with his coming, for besieging so well-fortified city would have been a challenging task. Still, he ordered to advance into the town as if they were going into a battle.

King Alexander entered the city on a chariot and went into the palace to receive Darius' assets on October 22, 331 BC. Some Babylonians greeted the invading King, including Bagophanes, who was in charge of the citadel and royal treasury.

The new Conqueror sacrificed to the city deity Marduk and promised to preserve its Esagila temple. He was impressed by the great walls, gates, temples, and the Hanging Gardens, built by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II three centuries earlier. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. With its beauty and antiquity, the city itself commanded the King and all the Macedonians' attention.

Alexander kept Mazaeus as the satrap of Babylonia to convince his compatriots that it was better to join than fighting the invaders.

To be continued

Submitted: December 13, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Ali Al-Zaak. All rights reserved.

Check out Ali Al-Zaak's Book

Are You Brown Name in a Black List? Mesopotamian Memoir-Paperback

Ali Hakeem was born near the Tower of Babel. For him and for all Mesopotamians, the morning of the 9th of April, 2003 was horrific, as their capital was invaded, occupied, and consequently looted. He was destined in this lifetime to experience the tumultu

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