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Diodorus Siculus: The Battle of Chaeronia

Diodorus Siculus: The Battle of Chaeronia

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In the following excerpt from his Library of History, Book XVI, chapter 14, the historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE) chronicles the famous Battle of Chaeronia of 338 BCE, in which Phillip II of Macedon, his son Alexander and their allies defeated the Greek forces of Athens and Thebes resulting in the unification of the Greek city-states under Macedonian rule. As Alexander's contribution to the battle (he is traditionally credited with breaking the Theban lines and winning the battle) has been disputed, it is of interest to read an earlier historian's account of the battle.

"In the year Charondas was first archon in Athens, Philip, King of Macedon, being already in alliance with many of the Greeks, made it his chief business to subdue the Athenians, and thereby with more ease control all Hellas. To this end he presently seized Elateia [a Phocian town commanding the mountain passes southward], in order to fall on the Athenians, imagining to overcome them with ease; since he conceived they were not at all ready for war, having so lately made peace with him. Upon the taking of Elateia, messengers hastened by night to Athens, informing the Athenians that the place was taken, and Philip was leading on his men in full force to invade Attica.

The Athenian magistrates in alarm had the trumpeters sound their warning all night, and the rumor spread with terrifying effect all through the city. At daybreak the people without waiting the usual call of the magistrate rushed to the assembly place. Thither came the officials with the messenger; and when they had announced their business, fear and silence filled the place, and none of the customary speakers had heart to say a word. Although the herald called on everybody "to declare their minds"—-as to what was to be done, yet none appeared; the people, therefore, in great terror cast their eyes on Demosthenes, who now arose, and bade them to be courageous, and forthwith to send envoys to Thebes to treat with the Boeotians to join in the defense of the common liberty; for there was no time (he said) to send an embassy for aid elsewhere, since Philip would probably invade Attica within two days, and seeing he must march through Boeotia, the only aid was to be looked for there.

The people approved of his advice, and a decree was voted that such an embassy should be sent. As the most eloquent man for the task, Demosthenes was pitched upon, and forthwith he hastened away [to Thebes. —-Despite past hostilities between Athens and Thebes, and the counter-arguments of Philip's envoys, Demosthenes persuaded Thebes and her Boeotian cities that their liberty as well as that of Athens was really at stake, and to join arms with the Athenians.] . .When Philip could not prevail on the Boeotians to join him, he resolved to fight them both. To this end, after waiting for reinforcements, he invaded Boeotia with about thirty thousand foot and two thousand horse. .

Both armies were now ready to engage; they were equal indeed in courage and personal valor, but in numbers and military experience a great advantage lay with the king. For he had fought many battles, gained most of them, and so learned much about war, but the best Athenian generals were now dead, and Chares—-the chief of them still remaining—-differed but little from a common hoplite in all that pertained to true generalship. About sunrise [at Chaeronea in Boeotia] the two armies arrayed themselves for battle. The king ordered his son Alexander, who had just become of age, yet already was giving clear signs of his martial spirit, to lead one wing, though joined to him were some of the best of his generals. Philip himself, with a picked corps, led the other wing, and arranged the various brigades at such posts as the occasion demanded. The Athenians drew up their army, leaving one part to the Boeotians, and leading the rest themselves.

At length the hosts engaged, and the battle was fierce and bloody. It continued long with fearful slaughter, but victory was uncertain, until Alexander, anxious to give his father proof of his valor—-and followed by a courageous band—-was the first to break through the main body of the enemy, directly opposing him, slaying many; and bore down all before him—-and his men, pressing on closely, cut to pieces the lines of the enemy; and after the ground had been piled with the dead, put the wing resisting him in flight. The king, too, at the head of his corps, fought with no less boldness and fury, that the glory of victory might not be attributed to his son. He forced the enemy resisting him also to give ground, and at length completely routed them, and so was the chief instrument of the victory.

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Over one thousand Athenians fell, and two thousand were made prisoners. A great number of Boeotians, too, perished, and many more were captured by the enemy. .

[After some boastful conduct by the king, thanks to the influence of Demades, an Athenian orator who had been captured], Philip sent ambassadors to Athens and renewed the peace with her [on very tolerable terms, leaving her most of her local liberties]. He also made peace with the Boeotians, but placed a garrison in Thebes. Having thus struck terror into the leading Greek states, he made it his chief effort to be chosen generalissimo of Greece. It being noised abroad that he would make war upon the Persians, on behalf of the Greeks, in order to avenge the impieties committed by them against the Greek gods, he presently won public favor over to his side throughout Greece. He was very liberal and courteous, also, to both private citizens and communities, and proclaimed to the cities that he wished to consult with them as to the common good.' Whereupon a general council [of the Greek cities] was convened at Corinth, where he declared his design of making war on the Persians, and the reasons he hoped for success; and therefore desired the Council to join him as allies in the war. At length he was created general of all Greece, with absolute power, and having made mighty preparations and assigned the contingents to be sent by each city, he returned to Macedonia where, soon after, he was murdered by Pausanius, a private enemy."

Diodorus Siculus

Diodorus Siculus ( / ˌ d aɪ ə ˈ d ɔː r ə s ˈ s ɪ k j ʊ l ə s / Koinē Greek: Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης Diodoros Sikeliotes fl. 1st century BC) or Diodorus of Sicily was an ancient Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history Bibliotheca historica, in forty books, fifteen of which survive intact, [1] between 60 and 30 BC. The history broke new ground in not being Hellenocentric, partly because of Stoic influences on his belief in the brotherhood of all men. [1]

The history is arranged in three parts. The first covers mythic history up to the destruction of Troy, arranged geographically, describing regions around the world from Egypt, India and Arabia to Europe. The second covers the time from the Trojan War to the death of Alexander the Great. The third covers the period to about 60 BC. Bibliotheca, meaning 'library', acknowledges that he was drawing on the work of many other authors.

The Battle of Chaeronea and Its Aftermath

The Story
Diodorus’ first substantive reference to Alexander comes at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 B.C.). His account of the battle itself is very brief but he does tell us that when the armies deployed, Alexander – ‘young in age but noted for his valour and swiftness of action’ – was positioned among Philip’s ‘most seasoned generals’, no doubt to learn from them as much as to fight himself.

The battle began at dawn and ‘was hotly contested for a long time’. Finally, however, the Macedonians prevailed. Unsurprisingly, the man whom Diodorus says made the difference was Alexander. Determined to show Philip ‘his prowess’, the eighteen year old prince broke through the Boeotian line and put the enemy to flight.

Seeing what his son had done, Philip now advanced himself. He was, Diodorus says, determined not to concede ‘credit for the victory even to Alexander’!

  • 1000+ Athenians killed
  • 2000+ Athenians captured
  • ‘Many’ Boeotians killed and ‘not a few’ captured

After the battle was over, Philip completed the day’s work by raising ‘a trophy of victory’, giving up the enemy dead so that they could be buried, sacrificing to the gods in thanksgiving for his win and rewarding those of his men who ‘had distinguished themselves’ during the battle.

That was Philip at his best. His worst, unfortunately, soon appeared. Diodorus explains that after drinking neat wine, Philip began mocking his prisoners. But they did not take it lying down one of them, however, an Athenian named Demades, chastised the Macedonian king. ‘O King,’ he said, ‘when Fortune has cast you in the rôle of Agamemnon, are you not ashamed to act the part of Thersites?’

Demades’ rebuke sobered Philip up. Realising his mistake, he not only freed Demades but made him one of ‘his own company’. But Demades hadn’t finished yet. He used his skill as an orator to persuade Philip to free all the Athenian prisoners.

Back in Athens, the Athenians dealt with their defeat by condemning the losing general, Lysicles, to death upon the accusation of Lycurgus. But what had Lysicles done beyond losing the battle? Had he acted negligently? Betrayed the alliance? No. Lycurgus’ accusation came simply out of anger that after losing the battle, and so many men, Lysicles had the temerity to show his face in Athens again. Rough justice.

In reading Diodorus’ account of the Battle of Chaeronea I was very struck by his insistence that Alexander did not defeat the Boeotians alone. Alexander, we are told, was ‘ably seconded by his men’ during the battle. As he broke through the line, ‘the same success was won by his companions’.

The way in which Philip ‘steals’ the victory made me smile wryly. That’s how men were, back then – very very competitive – and how they would be during the Wars of the Successors (323-281 B.C.).

Philip’s drunken antics inevitably reminds one of Cleopatra Eurydice’s wedding party latter that year, or in 337 B.C. when he tried to assault Alexander who had just insulted Attalus. Then, Philip’s drinking made him look an idiot as he fell off his couch. Here, it leads to his rejecting the ‘symbols of pride’ that he wore (e.g. his garland). This makes me think that he had an ulterior motive for listening to Demades though I can’t imagine what it would be.

According to Wikipedia, Thersites was an Achaean soldier during the Trojan War. He was an ugly man, bow legged and lame. Rather unwisely, he insulted Agamemnon. In revenge, Odysseus beat him – much to the amusement of the assembled Achaeans.

Obviously, Demades is telling Philip not to be ridiculous like Thersites, but the image I take away from the allusion is of Philip as Agamemnon. I don’t mean the Agamemnon who was king of all the Greeks rather, the Agamemnon who, when he returned home, was slain in his bath by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. I know that we have no proof that Olympias played the role of Clytemnestra but she had a certainly had a strong enough motive to kill him.

One more point about Demades – I don’t think I will ever get used to the way in which enemies could become trusted friends – so quickly – in those days. It seems incredible that Philip could even think about placing Demades in a position of responsibility and yet, he did so, giving the Athenian ‘every mark of honour’ as well. And all because Demades had a good way with words. Mind you, we elect our leaders today when they have not much more so perhaps I should not be surprised.

The Athenians’ treatment of Lysicles puts me in mind of Stalin’s purges in the thirties. Then, men were executed not because they were criminals who deserved the death sentence (assuming anyone ever does, which I do not believe) but because they had fallen out of favour with the Man of Steel. This is what happened to Lysicles. Yes, he had lost the battle but as I mentioned above not for reasons of negligence. This is proven by the nature of Lycurgus’ accusation. The Athenians may have been the world’s first democrats, but truly, only to a point sadly, it appears that Lysicles soon felt it.

Battle of Chaeronea

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Battle of Chaeronea, (August 338 bce ), battle in Boeotia, central Greece, in which Philip II of Macedonia defeated a coalition of Greek city-states led by Thebes and Athens. The victory, partly credited to Philip’s 18-year-old son Alexander the Great, cemented the Macedonian hegemony in Greece and ended effective military resistance to Philip in the region.

By 338 bce Philip was well into the second decade of his methodical conquest of Greece. The Athenian orator Demosthenes had perceived the threat posed by Macedonian ambitions at a relatively early date, but Philip used diplomacy and the threat of force to isolate Athens and play rival Greek city-states against each other. Thebes, previously a supporter of Philip, was won to the Athenian cause and dispatched troops to supplement the Athenian army and its allies in their efforts to check the Macedonian advance. The Greeks had placed a blocking force at the pass at Thermopylae, so Philip maneuvered his army south toward Boeotia, north of Thebes.

Philip led a force of about 30,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry. The combined Greek host numbered about 35,000 men. Philip placed Alexander on the left, opposite the Thebans and their elite Sacred Band. The Macedonian phalanx occupied the centre, facing the allied Greek infantry. Philip took positions on the right, across from the Athenians.

There are two dominating interpretations of the events at Chaeronea. The first, firmly established by historian Nicholas G. Hammond in the 1930s and supported by Ian Worthington in the early 21st century, relies on combining the various fragments of ancient texts to provide a complex set of maneuvers used by Philip to secure victory. In that account, Philip drew the inexperienced Athenian militia out of position with a feigned retreat. As the Athenians sought to exploit their perceived advantage, the troops at the Greek centre moved left in an attempt to preserve the line. That opened a gap between the Greek centre and the Thebans, and Alexander, at the head of Philip’s hetairoi (“companion”) cavalry, charged through. The Thebans and allied Greeks were taken from the rear, while the Macedonians routed the Athenians.

The second interpretation dismisses many of the later, often anecdotal, ancient texts and instead focuses on the account of Diodorus, which presents a traditional phalanx-on-phalanx battle. In that description, the veteran Macedonians simply overpowered the Greeks, in part because of the Macedonians’ use of the sarissa, a 13- to 21-foot (4- to 6.5-metre) spear that was roughly twice the length of the pikes used by the Greeks.

In both accounts of the battle, the superior discipline of the Sacred Band resulted in its annihilation. Surrounded and unwilling to surrender, the Sacred Band fought nobly, but they were cut down by the Macedonians. Archaeological excavations near the city of Chaeronea (now Khairónia) have uncovered a mound containing the ashes of Macedonian troops, clearly built as a monument to Philip’s victory. In addition, 254 skeletons found buried beneath a funerary marker are believed to be the remains of the Sacred Band, buried in pairs. The battle marked the end of effective military opposition to Philip in Greece and heralded the beginning of Macedonian domination in the region.

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History

Diodorus Siculus (c.90–c.20 BCE) was a Greek historian whose huge compilation The Library of History is based largely on the works of others, such as Posidonius. He probably never travelled to Celtic lands, even though he adds to Posidonius’ texts about the Celts.

The following is an adaptation of Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III – VIII), trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935.

§ 1.9. […] Now as to who were the first kings we are in no position to speak on our own authority, nor do we give assent to those historians who profess to know for it is impossible that the discovery of writing was of so early a date as to have been contemporary with the first kings. But if a man should concede even this last point, it still seems evident that writers of history are as a class a quite recent appearance in the life of mankind. Again, with respect to the antiquity of the human race, not only do Greeks put forth their claims but many of the barbarians as well, all holding that it is they who were indigenous and the first of all men to discover the things which are of use in life, and that it was the events in their own history which were the earliest to have been held worthy of record. So far as we are concerned, however, we shall not make the attempt to determine with precision the antiquity of each nation or what is the race whose nations are prior in point of time to the rest and by how many years, but we shall record summarily, keeping due proportion in our account, what each nation has to say concerning its antiquity and the early events in its history.

§ 4.19.1. Heracles, then, delivered over the kingdom of the Iberians to the noblest men among the natives and, on his part, took his army and passing into Celtica and traversing the length and breadth of it he put an end to the lawlessness and murdering of strangers to which the people had become addicted and since a great multitude of men from every nation flocked to his army of their own accord, he founded a great city which was named Alesia after the “wandering” (alê) on his campaign.

§ 4.19.2. But he also mingled among the citizens of the city many natives, and since these surpassed the others in multitude, it came to pass that the inhabitants as a whole were barbarized. The Celts up to the present time hold this city in honour, looking upon it as the heart and mother-city of all Celtica. And for the entire period from the days of Heracles this city remained free and was never sacked until our own time but at last Gaius Caesar, who had been pronounced a god because of the magnitude of his deeds, took it by storm and made it and the other Celts subjects of the Romans.

§ 4.19.3. [Heracles in the Alps] Heracles then made his way from Celtica to Italy, and as he traversed the mountain pass through the Alps he made a highway out of the route, which was rough and almost impassable, with the result that it can now be crossed by armies and baggage-trains.

§ 4.19.4. The barbarians who inhabited this mountain region had been accustomed to butcher and to plunder such armies as passed though when they came to the difficult portions of the way, but he subdued them all, slew those that were the leaders in lawlessness of this kind, and made the journey safe for succeeding generations. And after crossing the Alps he passed through the level plain of what is now called Galatia and made his way through Liguria.

§ 5.22. But we shall give a detailed account of the customs of Britain and of the other features which are peculiar to the island when we come to the campaign which Caesar undertook against it, and at this time we shall discuss the tin which the island produces. The inhabitants of Britain who dwell about the promontory known as Belerium [now Cornwall] are especially hospitable to strangers and have adopted a civilized manner of life because of their intercourse with merchants of other peoples. They are the ones who work the tin, treating the bed which bears it in an ingenious manner. This bed, being like rock, contains earthy seams and in them the workers quarry the ore, which they then melt down and cleanse of its impurities. Then they work the tin into pieces the size of knuckle-bones and convey it to an island which lies off Britain and is called Ictis [The Isle of Wight] for at the time of ebb-tide the space between this island and the mainland becomes dry and they can take the tin in large quantities over to the island on their wagons. (And a peculiar thing happens in the case of the neighbouring islands which lie between Europe and Britain, for at flood-tide the passages between them and the mainland run full and they have the appearance of islands, but at ebb-tide the sea recedes and leaves dry a large space, and at that time they look like peninsulas.) On the island of Ictis the merchants purchase the tin of the natives and carry it from there across the Strait to Galatia or Gaul and finally, making their way on foot through Gaul for some thirty days, they bring their wares on horseback to the mouth of the river Rhone.

§ 5.24. Since we have set forth the facts concerning the islands which lie in the western regions, we consider that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss briefly the nations of Europe which lie near them and which we failed to mention in our former Books. Now Celtica was ruled in ancient times, so we are told, by a renowned man who had a daughter who was of unusual stature and far excelled in beauty all the other maidens. But she, because of her strength of body and marvelous comeliness, was so haughty that she kept refusing every man who wooed her in marriage, since she believed that no one of her wooers was worthy of her. Now in the course of his campaign against the Geryones, Heracles visited Celtica and founded there the city of Alesia, and the maiden, on seeing Heracles, wondered at his prowess and his bodily superiority and accepted his embraces with all eagerness, her parents having given their consent. From this union she bore to Heracles a son named Galates, who far surpassed all the youths of the nation in quality of spirit and strength of body. And when he had attained to man’s estate and had succeeded to the throne of his fathers, he subdued a large part of the neighbouring territory and accomplished great feats in war. Becoming renowned for his bravery, he called his subjects Galatae or Gauls after himself, and these in turn gave their name to all of Galatia or Gaul.

§ 5.26. […] Since temperateness of climate is destroyed by the excessive cold, the land produces neither wine nor oil, and as a consequence those Gauls who are deprived of these fruits make a drink out of barley which they call zythos or beer, and they also drink the water with which they cleanse their honeycombs. The Gauls are exceedingly addicted to the use of wine and fill themselves with the wine which is brought into their country by merchants, drinking it unmixed, and since they partake of this drink without moderation by reason of their craving for it, when they are drunken they fall into a stupor or a state of madness. Consequently many of the Italian traders, induced by the love of money which characterizes them, believe that the love of wine of these Gauls is their own godsend. For these transport the wine on the navigable rivers by means of boats and through the level plain on wagons, and receive for it an incredible price for in exchange for a jar of wine they receive a slave, getting a servant in return for the drink.

§ 5.27. Throughout Gaul there is found practically no silver, but there is gold in great quantities, which Nature provides for the inhabitants without their having to mine for it or to undergo any hardship. For the rivers, as they course through the country, having as they do sharp bends which turn this way and that and dashing against the mountains which line their banks and bearing off great pieces of them, are full of gold-dust. This is collected by those who occupy themselves in this business, and these men grind or crush the lumps which hold the dust, and after washing out with water the earthy elements in it they give the gold-dust over to be melted in the furnaces. In this manner they amass a great amount of gold, which is used for ornament not only by the women but also by the men. For around their wrists and arms they wear bracelets, around their necks heavy necklaces [torcs] of solid gold, and huge rings they wear as well, and even corselets of gold. And a peculiar and striking practice is found among the upper Celts, in connection with the sacred precincts of the gods as for in the temples and precincts made consecrate in their land, a great amount of gold has been deposited as a dedication to the gods, and not a native of the country ever touches it because of religious scruple, although the Celts are an exceedingly covetous people.

§ 5.28. The Gauls are tall, with rippling muscles, and white of skin, and their hair is blond, and not only naturally so, but they also make it their practice by artificial means to increase the distinguishing colour which nature has given it. For they are always washing their hair in lime-water, and they pull it back from the forehead to the top of the head and back to the nape of the neck, with the result that their appearance is like that of Satyrs and Pans, since the treatment of their hair makes it so heavy and coarse that it differs in no respect from the mane of horses. Some of them shave the beard, but others let it grow a little and the nobles shave their cheeks, but they let the mustache grow until it covers the mouth. Consequently, when they are eating, their mustaches become entangled in the food, and when they are drinking, the beverage passes, as it were, through a kind of a strainer. When they dine they all sit, not upon chairs, but upon the ground, using for cushions the skins of wolves or of dogs. The service at the meals is performed by the youngest children, both male and female, who are of suitable age and near at hand are their fireplaces heaped with coals, and on them are cauldrons and spits holding whole pieces of meat. They reward brave warriors with the choicest portions of the meat, in the same manner as the poet introduces Ajax as honoured by the chiefs after he returned victorious from his single combat with Hector [in Illiad 7.321]: “To Ajax then were given of the backbone / Slices, full-length, unto his honour.”

They invite strangers to their feasts, and do not inquire until after the meal who they are and of what things they stand in need. And it is their custom, even during the course of the meal, to seize upon any trivial matter as an occasion for intense arguments and then to challenge one another to single combat, without any regard for their lives for the belief of Pythagoras prevails among them, that the souls of men are immortal and that after a prescribed number of years they commence upon a new life, the soul entering into another body. Consequently, we are told, at the funerals of their dead some cast letters upon the pyre which they have written to their deceased kinsmen, as if the dead would be able to read these letters.

§ 5.29. In their journeyings and when they go into battle the Gauls use chariots drawn by two horses, which carry the charioteer and the warrior and when they encounter cavalry in the fighting they first hurl their javelins at the enemy and then step down from their chariots and join battle with their swords. Certain of them despise death to such a degree that they enter the perils of battle without protective armour and with no more than a girdle about their loins. They bring along to war also their free men to serve them, choosing them out from among the poor, and these attendants they use in battle as charioteers and as shield-bearers.

It is also their custom, when they are formed for battle, to step out in front of the line and to challenge the most valiant men from among their opponents to single combat, brandishing their weapons in front of them to terrify their adversaries. And when any man accepts the challenge to battle, they then break forth into a song in praise of the valiant deeds of their ancestors and in boast of their own high achievements, reviling all the while and belittling their opponent, and trying, in a word, by such talk to strip him of his bold spirit before the combat. When their enemies fall they cut off their heads and fasten them about the necks of their horses and turning over to their attendants the arms of their opponents, all covered with blood, they carry them off as booty, singing a tribute over them and striking up a song of victory, and these first-fruits of battle they fasten by nails upon their houses, just as men do, in certain kinds of hunting, with the heads of wild beasts they have mastered. The heads of their most distinguished enemies they embalm in cedar oil and carefully preserve in a chest, and these they exhibit to strangers, gravely maintaining that in exchange for this head some one of their ancestors, or their father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a great sum of money. And some men among them, we are told, boast that they have not accepted an equal weight of gold for the head they show, displaying a barbarous sort of greatness of soul for not to sell that which constitutes a witness and proof of one’s valour is a noble thing, but to continue to fight against one of our own race, after he is dead, is to descend to the level of beasts.

§ 5.30. The clothing they wear is striking — shirts which have been dyed and embroidered in varied colours, and breeches, which they call in their tongue bracae and they wear striped coats, fastened by a fibula on the shoulder, heavy for winter wear and light for summer, in which are set checks, close together and of varied hues. For armour they use long shields, as high as a man, which are wrought in a manner peculiar to them, some of them even having the figures of animals embossed on them in bronze, and these are skillfully worked with an eye not only to beauty but also to protection. On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four-footed animals. Their trumpets are of peculiar nature and such as barbarians use, for when they are blown upon they give forth a harsh sound, appropriate to the tumult of war. Some of them have iron chain-mail, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them and go into battle naked. In place of the short sword they carry long broad-swords which are hung on chains of iron or bronze and are worn along the right flank. And some of them gather up their shirts with belts plated with gold or silver. The spears they brandish, which they call lanciae, have iron heads a cubit in length and even more, and a little under two palms in breadth for their swords are not shorter than the javelins of other peoples, and the heads of their javelins are larger than the swords of others. Some of these javelins come from the forge straight, others twist in and out in spiral shapes for their entire length, the purpose being that the thrust may not only cut the flesh, but mangle it as well, and that the withdrawal of the spear may lacerate the wound.

§ 5.31. The Gauls are terrifying in aspect and their voices are deep and altogether harsh when they meet together they converse with few words and in riddles, hinting darkly at things for the most part and using one word when they mean another and they like to talk in superlatives, to the end that they may extol themselves and depreciate all other men. They are also boasters and threateners and are fond of pompous language, and yet they have sharp wits and are not without cleverness at learning. Among them are also to be found lyric poets whom they call Bards. These men sing to the accompaniment of instruments which are like lyres, and their songs may be either of praise or of obloquy.
Philosophers, as we may call them, and men learned in religious affairs are unusually honoured among them and are called by them druids. The Gauls likewise make use of diviners, accounting them worthy of high approbation, and these men foretell the future by means of the flight or cries of birds and of the slaughter of sacred animals, and they have all the multitude subservient to them.

They also observe a custom which is especially astonishing and incredible, in case they are taking thought with respect to matters of great concern for in such cases they devote to death a human being and plunge a dagger into him in the region above the diaphragm, and when the stricken victim has fallen they read the future from the manner of his fall and from the twitching of his limbs, as well as from the gushing of the blood, having learned to place confidence in an ancient and long-continued practice of observing such matters. And it is a custom of theirs that no one should perform a sacrifice without a “philosopher” for thank-offerings should be rendered to the gods, they say, by the hands of men who are experienced in the nature of the divine, and who speak, as it were, the language of the gods, and it is also through the mediation of such men, they think, that blessings likewise should be sought. Nor is it only in the exigencies of peace, but in their wars as well, that they obey, before all others, these men and their chanting poets, and such obedience is observed not only by their friends but also by their enemies many times, for instance, when two armies approach each other in battle with swords drawn and spears thrust forward, these men step forth between them and cause them to cease, as though having cast a spell over certain kinds of wild beasts. In this way, even among the wildest barbarians, does passion give place before wisdom, and Ares stands in awe of the Muses.

§ 5.32. And now it will be useful to draw a distinction which is unknown to many: The peoples who dwell in the interior above Massalia, those on the slopes of the Alps, and those on this side the Pyrenees mountains are called Celts, whereas the peoples who are established above this land of Celtica in the parts which stretch to the north, both along the ocean and along the Hercynian Mountain, and all the peoples who come after these, as far as Scythia, are known as Gauls the Romans, however, include all these nations together under a single name, calling them one and all Gauls. The women of the Gauls are not only like the men in their great stature but they are a match for them in courage as well. Their children are usually born with grayish hair, but as they grow older the colour of their hair changes to that of their parents.

The most savage peoples among them are those who dwell beneath the Bears and on the borders of Scythia, and some of these, we are told, eat human beings, even as the Britons do who dwell on Iris [Ireland], as it is called. And since the valour of these peoples and their savage ways have been famed abroad, some men say that it was they who in ancient times overran all Asia and were called Cimmerians, time having slightly corrupted the word into the name of Cimbrians, as they are now called. For it has been their ambition from old to plunder, invading for this purpose the lands of others, and to regard all men with contempt. For they are the people who captured Rome, who plundered the sanctuary at Delphi, who levied tribute upon a large part of Europe and no small part of Asia, and settled themselves upon the lands of the peoples they had subdued in war, being called in time Greco-Gauls, because they became mixed with the Greeks, and who, as their last accomplishment, have destroyed many large Roman armies. And in pursuance of their savage ways they manifest an outlandish impiety also with respect to their sacrifices for their criminals they keep prisoner for five years and then impale in honour of the gods, dedicating them together with many other offerings of first-fruits and constructing pyres of great size. Captives also are used by them as victims for their sacrifices in honour of the gods. Certain of them likewise slay, together with the human beings, such animals as are taken in war, or burn them or do away with them in some other vengeful fashion.

Although their wives are comely, they have very little to do with them, but rage with lust, in outlandish fashion, for the embraces of males. It is their practice to sleep upon the ground on the skins of wild beasts and to tumble with a male lover on each side. And the most astonishing thing of all is that they feel no concern for their proper dignity, but prostitute to others without a qualm the flower of their bodies nor do they consider this a disgraceful thing to do, but rather when anyone of them is thus approached and refuses the favour offered him, this they consider an act of dishonour.

§ 5.33. Now that we have spoken at sufficient length about the Celts we shall turn our history to the Celtiberians who are their neighbours. In ancient times these two peoples, namely, the Iberians and the Celts, kept warring among themselves over the land, but when later they arranged their differences and settled upon the land altogether, and when they went further and agreed to intermarriage with each other, because of such intermixture the two peoples received the appellation given above. And since it was two powerful nations that united and the land of theirs was fertile, it came to pass that the Celtiberians advanced far in fame and were subdued by the Romans with difficulty and only after they had faced them in battle over a long period. And this people, it would appear, provide for warfare not only excellent cavalry but also foot-soldiers who excel in prowess and endurance. They wear rough black cloaks, the wool of which resembles the hair of goats.

As for their arms, certain of the Celtiberians, carry light shields like those of the Gauls, and certain carry circular wicker shields as large as an aspis [Greek shield], and about their shins and calves they wind greaves made of hair and on their heads they wear bronze helmets adorned with purple crests. The swords they wear are two-edged and wrought of excellent iron, and they also have dirks a span in length which they use in fighting at close quarters. And a peculiar practice is followed by them in the fashioning of their weapons for they bury plates of iron in the ground and leave them there until in the course of time the rust has eaten out what is weak in the iron and what is left is only the most unyielding, and of this they then fashion excellent swords and such other objects as pertain to war. The weapon which has been fashioned in the manner described cuts through anything which gets in its way, for no shield or helmet or bone can withstand a blow from it, because of the exceptional quality of the iron. Able as they are to fight in two styles, they first carry on the contest on horseback, and when they have defeated the cavalry they dismount, and assuming the rôle of foot-soldiers they put up marvellous battles. And a peculiar and strange custom obtains among them: Careful and cleanly as they are in their ways of living, they nevertheless observe one practice which is low and partakes of great uncleanness for they consistently use urine to bathe the body and wash their teeth with it, thinking that in this practice is constituted the care and healing of the body.

§ 5.34. As for the customs they follow toward malefactors and enemies the Celtiberians are cruel, but toward strangers they are honourable and humane. Strangers, for instance, who come among them they one and all entreat to stop at their homes and they are rivals one of another in their hospitality, and any among them who are attended by strangers are spoken of with approval and regarded as beloved of the gods. For their food they use meats of every description, of which they enjoy an abundance, since the country supplies them with a great quantity of honey, although the wine they purchase from merchants who sail over the seas to them. Of the nations neighbouring upon the Celtiberians the most advanced is the people of the Vaccaei, as they are called for this people each year divides among its members the land which it tills and making the fruits the property of all they measure out his portion to each man, and for any cultivators who have appropriated some part for themselves they have set the penalty as death. The most valiant among the Iberians are those who are known as Lusitanians, who carry in war very small shields which are interwoven with cords of sinew and are able to protect the body unusually well, because they are so tough and shifting this shield easily as they do in their fighting, now here, now there, they cleverly ward off from their person every blow which comes at them. They also use barbed javelins made entirely of iron, and wear helmets and swords very much like those of the Celtiberians. They hurl the javelin with good effect, even over a long distance, and, in fine, are doughty in dealing their blows. Since they are nimble and wear light arms, they are swift both in flight and in pursuit, but when it comes to enduring the hardships of a stiff fight they are far inferior to the Celtiberians.

In time of peace they practise a kind of dance which requires great nimbleness of limb, and in their wars they march into battle with even step and raise a battle-song as they charge upon the foe. And a peculiar practice obtains among the Iberians and particularly among the Lusitanians for when their young men come to the bloom of their physical strength, those who are the very poorest among them in worldly goods and yet excel in vigour of body and daring equip themselves with no more than valour and arms and gather in the mountain fastnesses, where they form into bands of considerable size and then descend upon Iberia and collect wealth from their pillaging. And this brigandage they continually practise in a spirit of complete disdain for using as they do light arms and being altogether nimble and swift, they are a most difficult people for other men to subdue. And, speaking generally, they consider the fastnesses and crags of the mountains to be their native land and to these places, which large and heavily equipped armies find hard to traverse, they flee for refuge. Consequently, although the Romans in their frequent campaigns against the Lusitanians rid them of their great spirit of disdain, they were nevertheless unable, often as they eagerly set about it, to put a complete end to their plundering.

§ 5.35. Since we have set forth the facts concerning the Iberians, we think that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss the silver mines of the land for this land possesses, we may venture to say, the most abundant and most excellent known sources of silver, and to the workers of this silver it returns great revenues. […] Now the natives were ignorant of the use of the silver, and the Phoenicians, as they pursued their commercial enterprises and learned of what had taken place, purchased the silver in exchange for other wares of little if any worth. And this was the reason why the Phoenicians, as they transported this silver to Greece and Asia and to all other peoples, acquired great wealth.

§ 5.38. […] Tin also occurs in many regions of Iberia, not found, however, on the surface of the earth, as certain writers continually repeat in their histories, but dug out of the ground and smelted in the same manner as silver and gold. For there are many mines of tin in the country above Lusitania and on the islets which lie off Iberia out in the ocean and are called because of that fact the Cassiterides [modern Scilly Isles]. And tin is brought in large quantities also from the island of Britain to the opposite Gaul, where it is taken by merchants on horses through the interior of Celtica both to the Massalians and to the city of Narbo, as it is called. This city is a colony of the Romans, and because of its convenient situation it possesses the finest market to be found in those regions.

§ 14.113. [c. 387 BC] At the time that Dionysius was besieging Rhegium, the Celts who had their homes in the regions beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Apennine mountains and the Alps, expelling the Tyrrhenians who dwelt there. These, according to some, were colonists from the twelve cities of Tyrrhenia but others state that before the Trojan War Pelasgians fled from Thessaly to escape the flood of Deucalion’s time and settled in this region. Now it happened, when the Celts divided up the territory by nations, that those known as the Sennones received the area which lay farthest from the mountains and along the sea. But since this region was scorching hot, they were distressed and eager to move hence they armed their younger men and sent them out to seek a territory where they might settle. Now they invaded Tyrrhenia, and being in number some thirty thousand they sacked the territory of the Clusini. At this very time the Roman people sent messengers into Tyrrhenia to spy out the army of the Celts. The ambassadors arrived at Clusium, and when they saw that a battle had been joined, with more valour than wisdom they joined the men of Clusium against their besiegers, and one of the messengers was successful in killing a rather important commander. When the Celts learned of this, they dispatched messengers to Rome to demand the person of the envoy who had thus commenced an unjust war. The senate at first sought to persuade the envoys of the Celts to accept money in satisfaction of the injury, but when they would not consider this, it voted to surrender the accused. But the father of the man to be surrendered, who was also one of the military tribunes with consular power, appealed the judgement to the people, and since he was a man of influence among the masses, he persuaded them to void the decision of the senate. Now in the times previous to this the people had followed the senate in all matters with this occasion they first began to rescind decisions of that body.

§ 14.114. The ambassadors of the Celts returned to their camp and reported the reply of the Romans. At this they were greatly angered and, adding troops from their fellow tribesmen, they marched swiftly upon Rome itself, numbering more than seventy thousand men. The military tribunes of the Romans, exercising their special power, when they heard of the advance of the Celts, armed all the men of military age. They then marched out in full force and, crossing the Tiber, led their troops for eighty stades along the river and at news of the approach of the Galatians they drew up the army for battle. Their best troops, to the number of twenty-four thousand, they set in a line from the river as far as the hills and on the highest hills they stationed the weakest. The Celts deployed their troops in a long line and, whether by fortune or design, stationed their choicest troops on the hills. The trumpets on both sides sounded the charge at the same time and the armies joined in battle with great clamour. The élite troops of the Celts, who were opposed to the weakest soldiers of the Romans, easily drove them from the hills. Consequently, as these fled in masses to the Romans on the plain, the ranks were thrown into confusion and fled in dismay before the attack of the Celts. Since the bulk of the Romans fled along the river and impeded one another by reason of their disorder, the Celts were not behind-hand in slaying again and again those who were last in line. Hence the entire plain was strewn with dead. Of the men who fled to the river the bravest attempted to swim across with their arms, prizing their armour as highly as their lives but since the stream ran strong, some of them were borne down to their death by the weight of the arms, and some, after being carried along for some distance, finally and after great effort got off safe. But since the enemy pressed them hard and was making a great slaughter along the river, most of the survivors threw away their arms and swam across the Tiber.

§ 14.115. The Celts, though they had slain great numbers on the bank of the river, nevertheless did not desist from the zest for glory but showered javelins upon the swimmers and since many missiles were hurled and men were massed in the river, those who threw did not miss their mark. So it was that some died at once from mortal blows, and others, who were wounded only, were carried off unconscious because of loss of blood and the swift current. When such disaster befell, the greater part of the Romans who escaped occupied the city of Veii, which had lately been razed by them, fortified the place as well as they could, and received the survivors of the rout. A few of those who had swum the river fled without their arms to Rome and reported that the whole army had perished. When word of such misfortunes as we have described was brought to those who had been left behind in the city, everyone fell into despair for they saw no possibility of resistance, now that all their youth had perished, and to flee with their children and wives was fraught with the greatest danger since the enemy were close at hand. Now many private citizens fled with their households to neighbouring cities, but the city magistrates, encouraging the populace, issued orders for them to bring speedily to the Capitoline grain and every other necessity.

When this had been done, both the acropolis and the Capitoline were stored not only with supplies of food but with silver and gold and the costliest raiment, since the precious possessions had been gathered from over the whole city into one place. They gathered such valuables as they could and fortified the place we have mentioned during a respite of three days. For the Celts spent the first day cutting off, according to their custom, the heads of the dead. And for two days they lay encamped before the city, for when they saw the walls deserted and yet heard the noise made by those who were transferring their most useful possessions to the acropolis, they suspected that the Romans were planning a trap for them. But on the fourth day, after they had learned the true state of affairs, they broke down the gates and pillaged the city except for a few dwellings on the Palatine. After this they delivered daily assaults on strong positions, without, however, inflicting any serious hurt upon their opponents and with the loss of many of their own troops. Nevertheless, they did not relax their ardour, expecting that, even if they did not conquer by force, they would wear down the enemy in the course of time, when the necessities of life had entirely given out.

§ 14.116. While the Romans were suffering from such difficulties, the neighbouring Tyrrhenians advanced and made a raid with a strong army on the territory of the Romans, capturing many prisoners and not a small amount of booty. But the Romans who had fled to Veii, falling unexpectedly upon the Tyrrhenians, put them to flight, took back the booty, and captured their camp. Having got possession of arms in abundance, they distributed them among the unarmed, and they also gathered men from the countryside and armed them, since they intended to relieve the siege of the soldiers who had taken refuge on the Capitoline. While they were at a loss how they might reveal their plans to the besieged, since the Celts had surrounded them with strong forces, a certain Cominius Pontius undertook to get the cheerful news to the men on the Capitoline. Starting out alone and swimming the river by night, he got unseen to a cliff of the Capitoline that was hard to climb and, hauling himself up it with difficulty, told the soldiers on the Capitoline about the troops that had been collected in Veii and how they were watching for an opportunity and would attack the Celts. Then, descending by the way he had mounted and swimming the Tiber, he returned to Veii. The Celts, when they observed the tracks of one who had recently climbed up, made plans to ascend at night by the same cliff. Consequently about the middle of the night, while the guards were neglectful of their watch because of the strength of the place, some Celts started an ascent of the cliff. They escaped detection by the guards, but the sacred geese of Hera, which were kept there, noticed the climbers and set up a cackling. The guards rushed to the place and the Celts deterred did not dare proceed farther. A certain Marcus Mallius, a man held in high esteem, rushing to the defense of the place, cut off the hand of the climber with his sword and, striking him on the breast with his shield, rolled him from the cliff. In like manner the second climber met his death, whereupon the rest all quickly turned in flight. But since the cliff was precipitous they were all hurled headlong and perished. As a result of this, when the Romans sent ambassadors to negotiate a peace, they were persuaded, upon receipt of one thousand pounds of gold, to leave the city and to withdraw from Roman territory.

§ 22.3. […] King Ptolemy [aka Ptolemaios Keraunos] was killed [in 279 BCE] and the whole Macedonian army was cut to pieces and destroyed by the Gauls.

§ 22.4. During this period the Gauls attacked Macedonia and harassed it, since there were many claimants to the kingship, who occupied it only briefly and then were driven out. […]

§ 22.5. This same Apollodorus recruited some Gauls and supplied them with weapons. He conferred gifts upon them and found them to be loyal guardsmen and convenient tools because of their cruelty to execute his punishments. By confiscating the property of the wealthy he amassed great wealth. Then, by an increase in the pay of his soldiers, and by sharing his riches with the poor, he made himself master of a formidable force.

§ 22.9. Brennus, the king of the Gauls, invaded Macedonia with one hundred and fifty thousand infantry armed with long shields, ten thousand cavalry, a horde of camp followers, large numbers of traders, and two thousand wagons. Having in this conflict lost many men [text missing] as lacking sufficient strength [text missing] when later he advanced into Greece and to the oracle at Delphi, which he wished to plunder. In the mighty battle fought there he lost tens of thousands of his fellow soldiers, and Brennus himself suffered three wounds. Weighed down and close to death, he assembled his host there and spoke to the Gauls. He advised them to kill him and all the wounded, to burn their wagons, and to return home free of burdens he advised them also to make Akichorios king. Then, after drinking deeply of undiluted wine, Brennus slew himself. After Akichorios buried him, he killed the wounded and those who were victims of cold and starvation, about twenty thousand people and so he began the journey homeward with the rest by the same route. In difficult terrain the Greeks would attack and cut off those in the rear, and carried off all their belongings. On the way to Thermopylae, food being scarce there, they abandoned twenty thousand more men. All the rest perished as they were going through the country of the Dardani, and not a single man was left to return home.

Brennus, the king of the Gauls, found no dedications of gold or silver when he entered a temple. All that he found were images of stone and wood he laughed at them to think that men, believing that gods have human form, should set up their images in wood and stone.
At the time of the Gaulish invasion the inhabitants of Delphi, seeing that danger was at hand, asked the god if they should remove the treasures, the children, and the women from the shrine to the most strongly fortified of the neighbouring cities. The Pythia replied to the Delphians that the god commanded them to leave in place in the shrine the dedications and whatever else pertained to the adornment of the gods for the god, and with him the White Maidens, would protect all. As there were in the sacred precinct two temples of extreme antiquity, one of Athena Pronaia and one of Artemis, they assumed that these goddesses were the “White Maidens” named by the oracle.

§ 22.11. Pyrrhus, having won a famous victory, dedicated the long shields of the Gauls and the most valuable of the other spoils in the shrine of Athena Itonis with the following inscription: “Pyrrhus the Molossian hung these shields, taken from the brave Gauls, here as a gift to Athena Itonis, after he destroyed Antigonus’ entire army. This is not surprising: the sons of Aeacus are warriors now even as they were before.” […]

§ 22.12. After Pyrrhus had sacked Aegeae, the seat of the Macedonian royal family, he left his Gaulish troops there. The Gauls, learning from certain informants that in accordance with a certain ancient custom much wealth was buried with the dead at royal funerals, dug up and broke into all the graves, divided up the treasure, and scattered the bones of the dead. Pyrrhus was disgusted by of this, but he did not punish the barbarians since he needed them for his wars.

Diodorus Siculus , Library of History, Volume VIII

For some reason, the consuls of 345 b.c. are placed three years earlier than in other lists.

The problems of the calendar year employed by Diodorus to date events in the Alexander story has recently been investigated by M. J. Fontana, Kokalos , 2. 1 (1956), 37–49. His conclusion that Diodorus here follows the Macedonian year which began in the autumn, but identified it by the names of the archon and the consuls who took office up to eight or nine months later, seems well founded. In the later years of Alexander’s life, Diodorus’s chronology becomes quite confused. 1

Earlier, in Book 16, on the other hand, the assignment of the battle of Chaeronea to 338/7 b.c. (chaps. 84–87) shows that Diodorus was there not following the Macedonian calendar. His choice in each case was presumably made for him in his source. His assignment of the sieges of Perinthus and Byzantium to 341/0 b.c. (chaps. 74–76), while they were narrated by Philochorus under 340/39 b.c. (F. Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker , no. 328, F 54), is explained by the fact that the events occurred in the spring and summer of 340 b.c.

Sources and Character of the Narrative, Book XVI

Unlike Book 17, which only rarely interrupts the story of Alexander’s career to mention events elsewhere,

the second half of Book 16 contains two principal narratives, interspersed by two literary references (chaps. 71. 3 76. 5–6) and a number of notes referring to other matters, chiefly of a chronological interest: the Moiossians (chap. 72. 1), Caria (chap. 74. 2), Tarentum (chap. 88. 3–4), Heracleia Pontica (chap. 88. 5), Cius (chap. 90. 2) and Rome (chaps. 69. 1 90. 2). There are two references to Athenian activities (chaps. 74. 1 88. 1–2). Otherwise the stories of Timoleon and of Philip are interwoven on a chronological basis (Timoleon: chaps. 66–69. 6 70. 1–6 72. 2–73. 3 77. 4–83 90. 1 Philip: chaps. 69. 7–8 71. 1–2 74. 2–76. 4 77. 2–3 84. 1–87. 3 89 91–95). The source or sources of all this have been much discussed, and certainty is impossible.

In one chapter (83), it is reasonable to suppose that Diodorus, the Siciliote, is writing from his own observation, as he expressly does of Alexandria in Book 17. 52. 6. Otherwise the problem of Diodorus’s sources is complicated by the fact that we have very few specific fragments of earlier historians whom he may have used in this period. Since we have so little, for example, of Ephorus, Theopompus, Diyllus, Timaeus and the rest, and since J. Palm has shown how drastically Diodorus not only abridged and even distorted his sources but also rephrased them ( Über Sprache und Stil des Diodorus von Sizilien , 1955), all analyses based on style are unrewarding. On the other hand, there are certain indications which may be mentioned.

In the latter part of Book 16, Diodorus quotes Demosthenes (chaps. 84–85) and Lycurgus (chap. 88), possibly also Demades (chap. 87), and these quotations may or may not have been direct. On one occasion he uses a word which may be traced back to

Diodorus Siculus

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Diodorus Siculus, (flourished 1st century bc , Agyrium, Sicily), Greek historian, the author of a universal history, Bibliothēkē (“Library” known in Latin as Bibliotheca historica), that ranged from the age of mythology to 60 bc .

Diodorus lived in the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus, and his own statements make it clear that he traveled in Egypt during 60–57 bc and spent several years in Rome. The latest event mentioned by him belongs to the year 21 bc . His history consisted of 40 books, of which 1–5 and 11–20 survive, and was divided into three parts. He outlined his plan in Book 1: Books 1–6 treat the mythic history of the non-Hellenic and Hellenic tribes to the destruction of Troy Books 7–17 end with Alexander’s death and Books 18–40 continue the history as far as the beginning of Caesar’s Gallic Wars. The extant Books 11–20, from the second and third parts, cover the years 480–302 bc .

The Bibliothēkē, invaluable where no other continuous historical source has survived, remedies to some extent the loss of the works of earlier authors, from which it was compiled. Diodorus does not always quote his authorities, but in the books that have survived his most important sources for Greek history were certainly Ephorus (for 480–340 bc ) and Hieronymus of Cardia (for 323–302) for Roman history he was heavily dependent on Polybius (to 146) and Posidonius.

The Battle of the Granicus River

The Story
Learning of the satrapal army’s approach, Alexander ‘advanced rapidly’ to the Granicus River where he set up his camp on the opposite bank to the Persians. At this point, the satraps had the advantage: Alexander would not only have to cross the river to meet them but climb up the bank on the opposite side before doing so. This would be sure to put the Macedonian phalanx into disorder and make Alexander’s men easy pickings.

Or so you would have thought. At dawn the next day, Alexander lead his men across the river and not only managed to scramble up the bank but was able to deploy it ‘in good order’ before [the Persians] could stop him’.

Now faced with an organised Macedonian army, the satraps deployed their cavalry at the front of their own line. Here is how satrapal army lined up:

Left Wing (flank to centre)

  • Memnon and Arsamenes – each in command of his own cavalry
  • Arsites – in command of the Paphlagonian cavalry
  • Spithrobates – in command of the Hyrcanian cavalry
  • Median cavalry – 1,000 in number / commanded by ?
  • Rheomithres – with 2,000 horse / in command of ?
  • Bactrian cavalry – 2,000 in number / commanded by ?

NB The question marks regarding the right wing commanders reflects the fact that I am not clear about what Diodorus is saying here. It may be that Rheomithres was in charge of the Medes and Bactrians but that isn’t the impression I get when I read his text (see below).

We come now to the battle itself. I have broken it down into the following parts to make writing, and – hopefully – reading about, it easier. Do feel free to let me know if you find this arrangement useful or not.

One The Persian and Macedonian cavalry ‘joined battle spiritedly’. Diodorus singles out the Thessalian cavalry for praise. Under the command of Parmenion, it ‘gallantly met the attack of the troops posted opposite’.

Two Alexander, leading ‘the finest of the riders on the right wing’ charged at the Persians and inflicted ‘substantial losses upon them’.

Three The satrapal army ‘resisted [the Macedonian attack] bravely. Spithrobates, Darius’ son-in-law, threw himself at the Macedonians ‘with a large body of cavalry, and… forty companions, all Royal Relatives of outstanding valour’.

Four Seeing the success of Spithrobates’ attack, Alexander turned to meet him.

Five Spithrobates saw Alexander coming and saw an opportunity to end the menace of the Macedonian king once-and-for-all. He threw his javelin at him. It pierced Alexander’s shield and ‘right epomis’ and ‘drove through [his] breastplate’. This sounds serious. The Footnotes tell us, however, that according to Plutarch, Alexander wasn’t injured. Alexander shook the javelin off and drove his spear into Spithrobates’ chest. This movement caused both armies to cry out ‘at [his] superlative display of prowess’.

Six The movement was not a complete success, though. The point of the spear broke and the length recoiled in Alexander’s hand. Spithrobates ‘drew his sword and drove at Alexander. Fatally for him, he was not quick enough. Alexander ‘recovered his grip’ upon the spear and thrust it into Spithrobates’ face.

Seven Spithrobates fell to the ground. Just then, Spithrobates’ brother, Rhosaces, rode up behind Alexander and brought his sword down on the king’s head with such force that ‘it split his helmet’. Despite this, Alexander’s only physical wound was ‘a slight scalp wound’. Before Rhosaces could strike him again, Cleitus the Black ‘dashed up on his horse and cut off the Persian’s arm’.

Eight Diodorus now reports that Spithrobates’ companions, the Royal Relatives, threw their javelins at Alexander. Somehow, he managed to survive this deadly shower and the Relatives next, close-up, attack. Not without harm, though, Diodorus says Alexander suffered – ‘two blows on the breastplate, one on the helmet, and three on the shield’ it being the shield he had taken from Athena’s sanctuary. Back then, things were clearly made to last!

Nine Diodorus now lists some of the Persian commanders who died during the battle. They included Atizyes, Pharnaces (Stateira I’s brother), and Mithrobuzanes who commanded the Cappadocian cavalry contingent.

Ten With ‘many of their commanders’ dead and ‘all the Persian squadrons… worsted’ the Royal Relatives fled from Alexander. Seeing them retreat, other cavalry officers followed them. From what Diodorus says it seems that the flight of the Relatives allowed Alexander to claim the credit for being the ‘chief author of the victory’ in the whole battle (Do you remember how – in Book XVI Ch. 86 – we saw Philip II claim the victory at the Battle of Chaeronea after he put the Athenian-Boeotian soldiers to flight, despite the fact that the real damage had already been done by Alexander?). Diodorus also singles out the Thessalian cavalry again for praise.

Eleven Despite the route of the cavalry, the battle was not over yet. It soon would be, though, for the Persian soldiers were no match for the Macedonian phalanx. As Diodorus notes, they were also rattled by the cavalry’s retreat.

Twelve By the time that the Persian infantry was put to flight, the satrapal army had lost ‘more than ten thousand’ men. ‘[N]ot less than two thousand’ cavalry officers were killed, and 20,000 prisoners taken.

Thirteen Following the battle, Alexander ‘gave magnificent obsequies to the dead, for he thought it important by this sort of honour to create in his men greater enthusiasm to face the hazards of battle’.

Fourteen From the Granicus River, Alexander then marched through Lydia, taking over Sardis. Perhaps having heard of the Macedonians’ success at the Granicus River, Lydia’s satrap, Mithrines, gave up the city, its citadels and their treasuries without a fight.

If you are familiar with the other Alexander historians, specifically Arrian, you might have noticed that Diodorus gives a different time for Alexander’s crossing of the Granicus. He has it happening at daybreak on the day after the Macedonian army’s arrival at the river Arrian, on the other hand, places it in the late afternoon on the day of their arrival.

Diodorus doesn’t explain how on earth the Persians allowed the Macedonians not only to make a successful crossing of the river but make their way up the bank and form up, afterwards. Either he is incorrect regarding what happened or the Persians were negligent. The former is more likely the case as Arrian describes the Persians attacking the Macedonians from the get-go, and his source was someone who was there.

Regarding my uncertainty over who was in charge of the cavalry divisions on the Persian right wing, here are Diodorus’ own words, ‘The right wing was held by a thousand Medes and two thousand horse with Rheomithres as well as Bactrians of like number’.

In the last post we saw that there was rough agreement between our sources over the size of the Macedonian army. This is not the case in regards its Persian opposite. Here are the figures quoted by the Footnotes:

  • Justin 600,000
  • Arrian 20,000 foot, 20,000 horse

There is surely an extra zero or two in Justin’s figure.

During the course of his career Alexander sustained numerous injuries but never came as close to death on the battlefield as he did at the Granicus River. As for Black Cleitus – his timely arrival would not only have implications for Alexander’s life but the spread of Hellenism across the world. If we were compiling a top ten of historically influential Macedonian commanders his intervention here would surely be Number One. In my opinion, the only other officer to come close to him is Ptolemy, for his building of the Museum of Alexandria and the role of the Library (e.g. in the translation of the Septuagint and its patronage of great scientists and writers), but if Rhosaces had landed his blow and killed the Alexander, Ptolemy would never have become king of Egypt in the first place.

Diodorus omits to mention how many Macedonian soldiers died in the battle. The Footnotes give us the other historians say.

  • Justin 9 foot, 120 horse
  • Plutarch 9 foot, 25 horse
  • Arrian 20 foot, 60 horse

Well. All I can say is if Macedonian casualties were really that low then the army was in inspired form that day. Staying at the bottom of the page, the Footnores also give the other historians’ figures for Persian casualties.

  • Plutarch 20,000 foot, 2,500 horse
  • Arrian 1,000 horse + ‘most of the Greek phalanx’ minus 200 who were captured

I’m a little surprised by how quickly Diodorus moves on from the battle. In one line, Alexander is performing his ‘magnificent obsequies’ the next he is on the way through Lydia. If Alexander took the Persian camp maybe Diodorus omitted that on the grounds of repetition – Alexander would do the same to greater effect after Issus (which we will come to in Ch. 35)

Wanted – Darius. Dead or Alive.
Wanted – A new army. Contact Babylon ASAP
For Sale – Persian Hopes. Going Cheap

Contents of the Eighteenth Book

About Eumenes, and the strange changes of fortune that befell him (chap. 42).

How Ptolemy added Phoenicia and Coelê Syria to his domains (chap. 43).

How Antigonus defeated Alcetas in a noteworthy engagement (chaps. 44–47).

The death of Antipater, and the taking over of the royal army by Polyperchon (chaps. 48–49).

How Antigonus, encouraged by the death of Antipater and by his own accomplishments, became a competitor for the throne (chaps. 50–52).

How Eumenes unexpectedly gained in power and took over both the guardianship of the kings and the command of the Macedonian army (chap. 53).

The rise of Cassander and his war against Polyperchon, the guardian of the kings, and his cooperation with Antigonus (chaps. 54–57).

How Eumenes took over the Silver Shields in Cilicia, retired to the upper satrapies, and made ready for himself a considerable army (chaps. 58–59).

About the shrewdness and generalship of Eumenes, and about his deeds up to his death (chaps. 60–63).

What happened in Attica in regard to Cassander and Nicanor, commander of the garrison at Munychia (chaps. 64–65, 68–69).

The death of Phocion, called the Good (chaps. 66–67).

How Polyperchon besieged the people of Megalopolis, and, after many losses and successes, withdrew without accomplishing anything (chaps. 69–72).

How Cleitus, the admiral of Polyperchon, defeated Nicanor, the admiral of Cassander, in a naval battle (chap. 72).

Book XV

Lucius and Postumius. During their term of office 381/0 b.c . the Lacedaemonians appointed as general Agesipolis their king, gave him an adequate army, and voted to make war on the Olynthians. 1 On his arrival in Olynthian territory, he took under his command the soldiers previously encamped there and continued the war against the inhabitants. The Olynthians, however, engaged in no important battle this year, but to the end fought only by exchanges of missiles and short engagements, being in awe of the strength of the king’s army.

23. At the close of the year Pythias was archon 380/79 b.c . at Athens, and at Rome six military tribunes with consular power were elected, Titus Quinctius, Lucius Servilius, Lucius Julius, Aquilius, Lucius Lucretius, and Servius Sulpicius and in this year the Eleians celebrated the hundredth Olympiad, at which Dionysodorus of Tarentum won the stadium race. During their term of office Agesipolis, king of the Lacedaemonians, died of illness 2 after a reign of fourteen years Cleombrotus his brother succeeded to the throne and reigned for nine years. 3 The Lacedaemonians appointed Polybiadas general and sent him to the war against the Olynthians. He took over the forces, and, prosecuting the war vigorously and with able generalship, was often superior. With ever-increasing success, after several victories, he reduced

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