The Battle of Issus (333 BCE)

Macedonian horseman, perhaps Perdiccas. Detail from the Alexander Sarcophagus (Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul).

Macedonian horseman, perhaps Perdiccas. Detail from the Alexander Sarcophagus (Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul).

During the Battle of Issus, on 5 or 6 November 333 BCE, the Macedonian king Alexander defeated the Persian king Darius III Codomannus. This defeat marked the end of the Achaemenid Empire. True, Darius was able to build a new army, but it consisted of recruits, who abandoned their king at the first possible occasion: during the battle of Gaugamela, after the most dreadful celestial omens (which are discussed here).

The Battle of Issus is known from various sources, which complement each other. Where Arrian tells the story from an officer’s point of view, Curtius Rufus tells what the soldiers did, and where Plutarch has a pro-Macedonian bias, Diodorus is interested in the Persian side of the story. Several works of art illustrate the battle: the Alexander Mosaic in Naples for example, and the Alexander Sarcophagus in Istanbul.

The river Payas.

The river Payas.

Even better, the ancient river Pinarus, where the fight took place, has been identified with the modern Payas. This allows something like a “face of battle” description, and I have attempted to give an impression of what it was to be there, on that fateful day. You can read it here.

Suggestions for improvement are welcome. I translated this from my own Dutch, and I know that my English will be a bit clumsy. Still, the story is sufficiently interesting to present it, and hope for stylistic advise.

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