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Module 7: The Hellenistic World

DuringthelastweekofMay,wehadtheopportunitytoresearchandlearnaboutthe
HellenisticWorld,madefamousbyKingPhilipIIandmostimportantlyAlexandertheGreat.
DuringKingPhilipIIsreign,hewasabletounifyagroupofpeoplewhowereneverunified
before.ThemightykingfromMacedoniaestablishedapowerfularmy,whichwasableto
conquerenemiesandsetthestageforAlexandertheGreat.AsAlexandertheGreatcameinto
power,heinheritedthispowerfularmyfromhisfather,andabletoconquermorelandsthanwhat
beforewasunimaginable.ThekeysandsecretstoAlexandertheGreatssuccessonthe
battlefieldwerenotsolelyduetoinheritingapowerfularmy.AlexandertheGreatsmilitaristic
mindgavehimacompetitiveadvantageoverhisenemies,manyofwhicharestilltaughttothis
day.Inthispieceofwork,readmoreofhowAlexandertheGreatwasabletoconquerenemies,
andwhyitisstillimportanttoteachhistacticsinaneverchangingworld.

BillBalent
AncientHistory134
5/27/16

Module7TheHellenisticWorld:AlexandertheGreatsBattleTacticsStillTaughtToday

WhentryingtounderstandAlexandertheGreatsbattletactics,itisimportanttofirst
understandwhomAlexandertheGreatwas.BeingbornofKingPhilipIIofMacedonia,
Alexanderwasdestinedforgreatness.DuringKingPhilipIIreignoverMacedonia,hemanaged
tounifyGreeceanddevelopedanimpressivemilitarythatAlexanderwouldonedayinherit.
Beingthesonofsuchapowerfulman,Alexanderwassetouttooneuphisfather,anddefeatthe
Persiansashisfatherwasneversuccessfulindoingso.Fromayoungage,Alexanderwastrained
tofight,andhadtheopportunitytohaveAristotleashisteacher.Thisbackgroundmolded
AlexandertheGreatintooneofthegreatestleaders,andsomeofhismilitarytacticsarestill
beingtaughtaroundtheworldtoday.(1)
ThebackboneoftheMacedonianarmywasthePhalanx.HavingbeencreatedbyPhilip
II,AlexandertheGreatadoptedthistacticandusedittoconquertheancientworldhavingnever
lostabattle.ThePhalanxwasusuallyinarectangleshape,consistingof256menthatwere16
rowsdeep.Unlikepreviouswartactics,thephalanxwaswelltrainedandmaneuveredbetterthan
anarmycouldatitstime.ThisgaveAlexandersarmyanupperhandbeingabletomovequickly
andadapttodifferentelementsofabattle.Mobilityisanimportantpartofanarmyandisstill

reliedonheavilytoday.Manytimesthearmywithmoremobilityusesthistotheiradvantageand
crushestheiropponent.Weseethistoday,asarmiesareasmobileaseverbefore,havingtanks,
ships,helicopters,andplanes.Beingabletomovewitheaseinquicknessisstilltaughttoday.
AlexandertheGreatalsoutilizedhiscavalrytoflankhisopponents.Thehorseswerefasterthan
soldiersonfoot,allowinghimtosurroundhisopponentanddrivethemback.Todayweno
longerseehorsesusedinbattle,buttheaforementionedtanks,ships,planes,andothervehicles
canstillusethisstrategy.Beingmobiledoesnotcomeeasythough,andconstantdrillingand
obedienceisrequired.ThisisyetanothertacticofAlexandertheGreatsbattletacticsthatare
stilltaughttoday.(2)(3)(4)
Inordertobeastrongmilitaryforceittakesrepetitionofdrillsandobedience.
RememberupontheconductofeachdependsthefateofallAlexandertheGreat
(http://www.ancient.eu/article/676/).AlexandertheGreatstressedthisandhadhis
militaryforcesrunninglikeawelloiledmachine.Beingconstantlytrained,soldierswerebetter
equippedwithtechniqueandtacticswhenenteringintobattle.Thefarsuperiorfightingbythe
Macedonianarmyoverwhelmedtheiropponents,oftentimesforcingthemtoretreatas
AlexandersawmultipletimeswithDarius.Theideaofconstantdrillingandobedience
revolutionizedwarfareandisstillinusetoday.Allofthemajorcountriesintheworldhavefull
timearmiesthattrainyearround.IntheUnitedStatesmilitary,thosewhoenlistaresubjectto
basictrainingtostart,andthenconstanttrainingatacommandfortbeforedeployingonany
engagement.Evenwhentroopsaredeployedinhostileareas,drillsandrunthroughsarea
commonpracticetohelpkeepsoldiersmentallyandphysicallyengaged.AlexandertheGreat
alsoimposedpunishmentforthosewhodisobeyedhim.Hismenfollowedhimandrespected

him,buthewouldnottolerateanydisobedience.Muchisstillthesametoday,asanarmyneeds
tobeobedienttotheirsuperiors.Eachrankreportstotherankabovethem,andifany
wrongdoingtakesplace,thewrongdoerispunishedwithphysicaltrainingorputintoamilitary
prison.(1)
HavingtheupperhandofmobilityandwelltrainedsoldiersdidnotguaranteeAlexander
theGreattohavesuccessonthebattlefield,butthepreparationthatAlexanderundertookpriorto
thebattlewassuperiortoanygeneralofhistime.AlexandertheGreatwouldscoutthelandof
wherethebattlewastotakeplacepriortothetroopsarriving.ThiswouldallowAlexanderto
visualizethebattleandthinkofdifferentscenariosbeforethemayhemwouldstart.Althoughthe
Phalanxwasaforcethatmanythoughttobeunbreakable,Alexanderrealizedtherewere
weaknessestoit.Thedisadvantageofthephalanxisthatitworkedbestonflat,unbroken
country.Oncountrywithuneventerrain,thephalanxwasnotinadvantage.Asmentioned,
Alexanderalwayspositionedhisarmyinthesameway
(http://www.documentarytube.com/articles/alexander-the-great-militarystrategy--how-alexander-never-lost-a-battle-in-15-years). Todayweseethisstill
beingtaughttohelpstrategizeforbattles.Itisimportantforanarmytoknowtheirterrainand
whatispossiblepriortothebattletobetterpreparefortheunexpected.Battlefieldsandmapped
outandthencommanderstodaydiscusswhatpossibleactionsshouldbetaken.Alexanderthe
Greatwasamastermindwhenitcametopreparingforbattlesandstrategizing.
NotonlydidAlexandertheGreatscouttheterraintobettermaximizehisadvantageover
hisopponent,buthealsoanticipatedthestrategyoftheopposingarmy.Indoingso,Alexander
theGreatwasabletoadapthistroopsinamannerthatwouldbetterhischancesofvictoryin

battle.AlexandertheGreatwouldlurehisopponentsintotheterrainofhischoosingthathehad
previouslyscoutedandwhichwouldbeagreateradvantagetohistroops.Today,generalsare
taskedwithtryingtounderstandwhattheirenemyistryingtoaccomplish.Thisskillof
strategizingispasseddowntothelowerrankssothattheymaybeabletoonedayleadagroup
ofsoldiersorbeabletoactquicklyinhostilesituations.
Trying to understand Alexander the Greats battle tactics that are still
being taught today was difficult. The weaponry, landscape, vehicles, and
technology have drastically changed over the past 2400 years. Wars are not
fought in the same fashion as they were in antiquity. The real comparisons
that are still taught today are those of discipline and thought process. Being
a powerful army requires discipline, which is taught today from the moment
a person enlists. The thinking process and strategy of battles is still relevant
today, as the main goal is to limit as many casualties as possible. The idea of
limiting casualties requires well thought out plans and even backup plans as
a battlefield is always changing shapes.

Sources
http://www.ancient.eu/article/676/
http://www.documentarytube.com/articles/alexander-the-great-militarystrategy--how-alexander-never-lost-a-battle-in-15-years

Annotations
(1) http://www.ancient.eu/article/676/ - Refer to website to further investigate
the training and strategizing techniques of Alexander the Great. I chose this
source because it comes from a credible website. Throughout the course we
have read articles from www.ancient.eu to learn about different periods in
history. This source was helpful to better understand what the power of the
military led by Alexander the Great was to the Hellenistic world.
(2) https://europeanhistory.boisestate.edu/westciv/alexander/04.shtml - For a
better understanding of the Macedonian Phalanx, refer to this website. This
website portrays a credible source as it is from Boise State University. Much
of the strength of the Macedonian army came from the Phalanx. This website
bettered my opinion on what the Macedonian Phalanx could accomplish as
Alexander the Great conquered more enemies.
(3) http://www.documentarytube.com/articles/alexander-the-great-militarystrategy--how-alexander-never-lost-a-battle-in-15-years - For more insight
view this website on how Alexander the Great had a mobile army and
scouted the terrain of battlefields. This credible source allowed me to grasp
the idea that scouting and strategy was such an important part of how
Alexander the Great never lost a battle. Still today we see strategy playing

an integral part in what is taught to Commanders and Generals throughout


the world today.
(4) http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/eight-surprising-facts-aboutalexander-the-great - Point 2 of this article expresses how Alexander the
Great never lost a battle. When I think of credibility about history, I think of
the history channel. I find myself researching their website and watching
their television station daily, as much of what I have learned have come
through History Channels documentaries. In this great article about
Alexander the Great, relive some of his greatest militaristic exploits and what
it was to be Alexander the Great.