Alexander the Great’s Brush with Death at Granicus
Alexander the Great‘s brush with death at the Battle of the Granicus River is a particularly memorable episode from his early conquests against the Persian Empire. This event underscores not just the dangers of ancient warfare but also the personal risks Alexander was willing to take as a leader on the front lines.
During the heat of the battle at the Granicus River in 334 BC, Alexander led his Companion Cavalry in a charge against the Persian left flank.
As the Macedonians clashed with the Persian cavalry on the river’s banks, Alexander found himself in a particularly perilous situation.
He faced a Persian noble named Rhoesaces, who threw a javelin at Alexander, striking him on the helmet but not penetrating deeply enough to cause a severe injury.
As Alexander grappled with Rhoesaces, another Persian nobleman, Spithridates, approached Alexander from behind with the intent to deliver a fatal blow.
Just as Spithridates raised his weapon, however, Cleitus the Black, one of Alexander’s trusted companions, intervened. Cleitus sliced off Spithridates’ arm, saving Alexander from what might have been a fatal blow.
This close encounter highlighted several aspects of Alexander’s character and leadership:
Alexander was not just a military strategist directing from the rear; he was an active combatant, leading his troops from the front. This brought him admiration from his soldiers but also put him in personal danger, as evidenced by the Granicus incident.
While Alexander was undoubtedly a military genius, the incident shows that his successes were also due to the loyalty, bravery, and quick actions of his close companions and soldiers.
Events like these, where Alexander faced death and emerged unscathed, contributed to the growing aura around him. They added to his larger-than-life image and the perception of his divine favor and invincibility, which would be a valuable psychological tool against future enemies.
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The Macedonian warrior-king opted for a bold and direct assault across the river, despite the Persians holding the high ground. This tactical decision was risky and showcased his aggressive approach to warfare.
The act of saving Alexander at Granicus led to a unique bond between Cleitus and Alexander. However, their relationship had its ups and downs, culminating in a tragic incident years later during a banquet in Maracanda (Samarkand), where Alexander, in a fit of rage and possibly under the influence of alcohol, killed Cleitus.
In summary, Alexander’s brush with death at Granicus offers a snapshot into the dangers of ancient warfare, the valor of the Macedonian king, and the unyielding loyalty of his followers. It’s one of the many episodes that contribute to the legend of Alexander the Great.
Also, the conqueror’s near-death experience at Granicus underscores his daring nature. Had he been killed at the outset of his Persian campaign, the course of history might have been vastly different.