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Battle at the Persian Gate

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January, 20, 330 B.C.:
Battle at the Persian Gate

By: Mir M.Hosseini


The Battle of the Persian Gate was a military conflict between the Achaemenid Empire and Macedonian Alexander at the Persian Gate. It's been narrated by Callisthenes who kept Alexander's diary that on this day, the army of Alexander that consisted of tens of thousands of soldiers could not proceed at a passage in Darband of Pars on Jan, 20, 330.
The Achaemenid army was a regimen of 1000-1200 Iranian soldiers leaded by Ario Borzin (Ariobarzanes) the satrap of Persis. He confronted Alexander's army. The same invincible army that had conquered Egypt, Babylon and Susa and had won 3 consequent battles against Dariush 3rd was stuck at the Persian Gate. Ariobarzanes led a last stand of the Persian forces against Alexander's forces.
The Persian Empire suffered a series of defeats against the Macedonian forces at Issus and Gaugamela, and by the end of 331 BC Alexander had advanced to Babylon and Susa. A Royal Road connected Susa with the more eastern capitals of Persepolis and Pasargadae in Persis, and was the natural venue for Alexander's continued campaign. Meanwhile, King Dariush 3rd was building a new army at Ecbatana. Ariobarzanes was charged with preventing the Macedonian advance into Persis, and to this effect he relied heavily on the terrain Alexander needed to pass through. There were only a few possible routes through the Zagros Mountains, all of which were made more hazardous by winter's onset.
After the conquest of Susa, Alexander split the Macedonian army into two parts. Alexander's general, Parmenion, took one half along the Royal Road, and Alexander himself took the route towards Persis. Passing into Persis required traversing the Persian Gates, a narrow mountain pass that lent itself easily to ambush.
During his advance, Alexander subdued the Uxians, a local hill-tribe which had demanded the same tribute from him they used to receive from the Persian kings for safe passage. As he passed into the Persian Gates he met with no resistance. Believing that he would not encounter any more enemy forces during his march, Alexander neglected to send scouts ahead of his vanguard, and thus walked into Ariobarzanes ambush.
The valley preceding the Persian Gate, called the Tang Meyran, is initially very wide, allowing the Macedonian army to enter the mountains at full march. Ariobarzanes occupied a position near the modern-day village of Cheshmeh Chenar. The road curves to the southeast and narrows considerably at that point, making the terrain particularly treacherous. Ariobarzanes had a force of 700 cavalry who faced a Macedonian force of over 10,000.
The Persian Gate was only a couple of meters wide at the point of ambush. Once the Macedonian army had advanced sufficiently into the narrow pass, the Persians rained down boulders on them from the northern slopes. From the southern slope, Persian archers launched their projectiles. Alexander's army initially suffered heavy casualties, losing entire platoons at a time. The Macedonians attempted to withdraw, but the terrain and their still-advancing rear guard made an orderly retreat impossible. Alexander was forced to leave his dead behind to save the rest of his army-a great mark of disgrace to the Greeks and Macedonians who valued highly the recovery and proper burial of their fallen.
Ariobarzanes had some reason to believe that success here could change the course of the war. Preventing Alexander's passage through the Persian Gates would force the Macedonian army to use other routes to invade Persia proper, all of which would allow Dariush more time to field another army, and possibly stop the Macedonian invasion altogether.
Ariobarzanes held the pass for a month, but Alexander found a path to the rear of the Persian army from the captured prisoners of war or a Persian shepherd. Alexander eventually succeeded in encircling the Persian army in a pincer attack with Philotas, and broke through the Persian defenses. Alexander and his elite contingent then attacked the force of Ariobarzanes from above in a surprise attack until the Persians could no longer block the pass.
Finally these brave Achaemenid patriots were defeated by an attack from top of the mountains. Ariobarzanes and his surviving companions were trapped, but rather than surrender, they charged straight into the Macedonian lines. Every single one of them was killed including Youtab, Ario's sister who fought shoulder to shoulder by his brother. Ariobarzanes was killed in the last charge.
The Battle of the Persian Gate is regarded as the most serious challenge to Alexander's conquest of Persia. This engagement cost Alexander his greatest losses during his campaign to conquer Persia.
Similarities between the battle fought at Thermopylae and the Persian Gates have been recognized by ancient and modern authors. The Persian Gates played the role Thermopylae and like Thermopylae it fell. The Battle of the Persian Gates served as a kind of reversal of the Battle of Thermopylae, fought in Greece in 480 BC in an attempt to hold off Xerxes forces.
The defeat of Ariobarzanes forces at the Persian Gate removed the last military obstacle between Alexander and Persepolis. The Achaemenid Empire relied so much on its military might that they did not build city walls around Perspolis, their magnificent capital. Upon his arrival at the city of Persepolis, Alexander appointed a general named Phrasaortes as successor of Ariobarzanes. Alexander plundered the treasury of Persepolis, which at the time held the largest concentration of wealth in the world, and guaranteed him financial independence from the Greek states
Four months later, Alexander allowed the troops to loot Persepolis, kill all its men and enslave all its women, as a final act of vengeance towards the Persians. This destruction of the city can be viewed as unusual as its inhabitants surrendered without a fight and Alexander had earlier left Persian cities he conquered, such as Susa, relatively untouched. In May of 330 BC, Alexander ordered the terrace of Persepolis, including its palaces and royal audience halls, to be burned before he left to find Dariush 3rd. Many attribute this crazy act as anger over not being recognized as the legitimate successor to Dariush 3. Alexander thus earned the title Gojastak in Persian literature.



KEY TERMS:Achaemenid , Achaemenid Empire , Ario Borzin , Ariobarzanes , Bab , Babylon , Callisthenes , Cheshmeh Chenar , Darband , Dariush , Dariush 3 , Ecbatana , Egypt , Gaugamela , Gojastak , Greece , Greek , Iran , Iranian , Issus , Macedon , Macedonia , Macedonian Alexander , Parmenion , Pasargadae , Persepolis , Persia , Persian , Persis , Perspolis , Susa , Tang Meyran , Thermopylae , Xerxes , Youtab , Zagros


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