MACEDONIA-ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
this view Alexander, whose judgment seems to have been cooled by the
tremendous stake at issue in the conflict, fully coincided, and a whole
day was accordingly spent in reconnoitering the field.
In the early morning of the seventh day, all the preliminaries having
been arranged, the two armies cautiously advanced towards each other,
and then grappled in a struggle which was to decide the fate of Asia.
The battle began with an action of the cavalry and chariots. Soon,
however, the lines of infantry became involved, and the fight raged
along the whole front of the field. Nor were the Greeks at first able to
drive the heavy masses of the enemy before them. On no previous field
had the Persians displayed so much bravery and steady discipline. The
Scythian cavalry had well-nigh proved a match for the famous horsemen of
Thessaly. In some parts of the field, under the tremendous pressure of
numbers, the allied forces actually wavered and lost some ground. But
the Macedonian phalanx, irresistible as hitherto, made its steady way,
like some huge engine of destruction, upon the heavy masses of the
enemy, and before its horrible forest of spears, the barbarians were
forced into flight. Darius himself-whether by his own will or by the
confused tides of the rout which swelled around him is not certainly
known-was borne away with the roaring mass of fugitives.
Discovering the flight of the king, and eager to possess himself of the
royal person, Alexander, with the cavalry, pressed forward with extreme
audacity, and the Macedonian left, under command of Parmenio, who was
charged with the protection of the camp, was almost fatally weakened.
It happened, moreover, that the Persian cavalry on the right, opposite
to Parmenio, was commanded by Mazaeus, one of the ablest of the Great
King's generals. This daring officer succeeded in breaking through the
Macedonian lines, and captured the camp. Messengers were hastily sent to
Alexander, who on the right was far in advance in pursuit of the king.
With the utmost speed the conqueror wheeled and came back to the support
of Parmenio. The battle on the left was renewed with desperate bravery
until the Persian horse was finally put to flight. (1)
The camp was regained, and Alexander again pressed forward in the hope
of capturing the fugitive king. On arriving at the river Lycus, he found
that Darius had already crossed to the other side. The pursuit was
therefore given over, and, after a brief rest, the conqueror turned
aside in the night, and before morning entered the town of Arbela
without opposition. Here he secured the rich treasures which the Persian
king, pending the battle, had there deposited. The chariot, shield, and
bow of Darius were found among the captured spoils.
Of the number slain in the battle of Arbela no authentic account can be
given. The credulous Arrian says that the Persians lost three hundred
thousand in killed and a still greater number in prisoners, while the
whole loss of the Greeks is stated at not more than a hundred. Such a
statement, however, is so glaringly improbable as to be entirely
unworthy of respect. In general it may be said that the old authorities
are of but little value in determining the numbers composing armies or
the losses in battle.
After his overthrow at Arbela, Darius attempted to make a stand in
Media. Around him here were gathered the scattered fragments of his
army. But Alexander, knowing that the king could never again offer him
any effectual resistance, now turned his course in the direction of
Babylon. No serious opposition, however, was to be anticipated from the
great cities of the Chaldaean plain. On arriving in the vicinity of the
great metropolis a vast procession of people with priests and nobles at
the head came out to surrender the city of Nebuchadnezzar to the son of
Philip. The gates were opened and the citadel and treasury given up
without the slightest attempt to save them from the clutch of the
conqueror. Within the Babylonian vaults and treasure houses, so vast a
wealth of stores and money was found as never before had greeted the
eyes of the Macedonian soldiery. Nor did Alexander lose the opportunity
to establish _______________________________ 1 For the true name of this
great battle see Book Sixth, p. 376.