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Thereafter Alexander marched on in the direction of Persis and on the fifth day1 came to the so-called Susian Rocks.2 Here the passage was held by Ariobarzanes with a force of twenty-five thousand infantry and three hundred cavalry.3 [2] The king first thought to force his way through and advanced to the pass through narrow defiles in rough country, but without opposition. The Persians allowed him to proceed along the pass for some distance, but when he was about half-way through the hard part, they suddenly attacked him and rolled down from above huge boulders, which falling suddenly upon the massed ranks of the Macedonians killed many of them. Many of the enemy threw javelins down from the cliffs into the crowd, and did not miss their mark. Still others coming to close quarters flung stones at the Macedonians who pressed on. The Persians had a tremendous advantage because of the difficulty of the country, killed many and injured not a few. [3]

Alexander was quite helpless to avert the sufferings of his men and seeing that no one of the enemy was killed or even wounded, while of his own force many were slain and practically all the attacking force were disabled, he recalled the soldiers from the battle with a trumpet signal. [4] Withdrawing from the pass for a distance of three hundred furlongs,4 he pitched camp and from the natives sought to learn whether there was any other route through the hills. All insisted that there was no other way through, although it was possible to go around them at the cost of several days' travel. It seemed to Alexander, however, discreditable to abandon his dead and unseemly to ask for them, since this carried with it the acknowledgement of defeat, so he ordered all his captives to be brought up. [5] Among these came hopefully a man who was bilingual,5 and knew the Persian language.

He said that he was a Lycian, had been brought there as a captive, and had pastured goats in these mountains for a number of years. He had come to know the country well and could lead a force of men over a path concealed by bushes6 and bring them to the rear of the Persians guarding the pass. [6] The king promised that he would load him with gifts,7 and under his direction Alexander did make his way over the mountain at night struggling through deep snow.8 The route crossed a very broken country, seamed by deep ravines and many gorges. [7] Coming into sight of the enemy outposts, he cut down their first line and captured those who were stationed in the second position, then routed the third line and won the pass, and killed most of the troops of Ariobarzanes.9

1 Curtius 5.3.17.

2 Arrian's account (Arrian 3.18) explains that Alexander had sent on his main body of troops toward Persis along the royal road, and only undertook this pass with a flying column.

3 Curtius 5.3.17 (25,000 infantry); Arrian. 3.18.2 (40,000 infantry and 700 cavalry).

4 Curtius 5.3.17-23, more reasonably, says thirty furlongs.

5 Strictly speaking, that is, he knew Persian and Lycian (Plut. Alexander 37.1), but Curtius 5.4.4 adds more relevantly that he also knew Greek.

6 This is a somewhat unexpected term which editors have viewed with suspicion, but a path which follows folds in the mountains is often marked by vegetation. Curtius 5.4.24 locates these bushes in a great ravine.

7 Curtius 5.7.12, states that he did actually receive thirty talents.

8 Curtius 5.4.18. Arrian. 3.18.5 states that this force included five squadrons of heavy cavalry and 4500 Macedonian hoplites.

9 For the whole story, Curtius 5.4; Plut. Alexander 37; Arrian. 3.18.1-9.

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