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The Attack on the Persian Empire

Alexander cast a spear into the earth of Anatolia1 when in 334 B.C. he crossed the Hellespont strait from Europe to Asia (in what is today part of northwestern Turkey), thereby claiming the Asian continent for himself in Homeric fashion as “territory won by the spear.” The first battle of the campaign, at the River Granicus2 in western Anatolia, proved the worth of Alexander's Macedonian and Greek cavalry, which charged across the river and up the bank to rout the opposing Persians. Alexander visited the legendary king Midas's old capital of Gordion in Phrygia, where an oracle had promised the lordship of Asia to whoever could loose a seemingly impenetrable knot of rope tying the yoke of an ancient chariot preserved in the city. The young Macedonian, so the story goes, cut the Gordion knot with his sword. In 333 B.C. the Persian king, Darius, finally faced Alexander in battle at Issus3, near the southeastern corner of Anatolia. Alexander's army defeated its more numerous opponents with a characteristically bold strike of cavalry through the left side of the Persian lines followed by a flanking maneuver against the king's position in the center. Darius had to flee from the field to avoid capture, leaving behind his wives and daughters, who had accompanied his campaign in keeping with royal Persian tradition. Alexander's scrupulously chivalrous treatment of the Persian royal women4 after their capture at Issus reportedly boosted his reputation among the peoples of the king's empire.

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