Today on May 22, 334 BCE, Alexander the Great wins the Battle of Granicus, delivering his first crushing defeat to the Persian Empire.
The Battle of Granicus occurred on banks of the Granicus River near the ancient city of Troy. It marked Alexander the Great’s first major victory during his invasion of Persia. Alexander ruled as King of the Hellenic League, a large federation of Greek city-states and Macedonia. His father, King Philip II of Macedonia, recently subdued the various Greek Kingdoms under one banner. In 336 BCE, Alexander suddenly ascended the throne after his father’s untimely assassination. He immediately announced his intention to conquer the Persian Empire as retribution for their invasion of Greece over a century earlier. Alexander amassed a formidable army of Macedonian and allied Greek warriors.
In early 334 BCE, he caught his enemy off guard by crossing into Asia minor well before the traditional campaigning season. Their march into the outskirts of the vast Persian Empire was long and slow. Under the command of Arsames, the Persian forces initially avoided confronting the invading army. Their strategy was to starve the Macedonians into retreating home. However, Alexander decided to risk everything by enticing them into fighting near the Granicus River. Known for leading from the front, Alexander led a charge of his elite companion cavalry against the Persian left flank but was quickly surrounded by a counter-attack. Alexander found himself disarmed and in grave danger before his companions rescued him.
After hours of intense fighting, the Macedonian heavy cavalry finally broke through the Persian center. The phalanx infantry units quickly followed through the gaps. The Persian soldiers folded and retreated from the battlefield. The Battle of Granicus proved to be a critical victory, as Alexander’s army had been running dangerously low on food. At the time, most of the local crops were entering into the harvest season, so the Macedonians were able to resupply without enemy harassment. The Persian Empire was subsequently left wide open for the Macedonian invasion to continue. Alexander went to achieve decisive victories at the Battles of Issus, Tyre, Gaza, and Gaugamela.