Historic Battles Series: Battle of Gaugamela – 331 BCE

This is part 8 of the Historic Battle Series. 


The Battle of Gaugamela was the mighty battle of Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. In 331 BCE, Alexander’s troops of the Hellenic League met the Persian command of Darius III near Gaugamela, adjacent to the present-day city of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. Though heavily outnumbered, Alexander came out triumphantly due to his army’s excellent tactics and expert employment of light infantry. It was a decisive conquest for the Hellenic League and led to the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire.

Why was The Battle of Gaugamela Fought?

In 333 BCE, Darius III was a loser in the Battle of Issus, following the abduction of his mother, his wife, and his two daughters, Stateira II and Drypetis. Darius had fled to Babylon, where he regrouped his surviving army. The success at Issus had given Alexander the power of South Asia. Following a triumph at the Siege of Tyre (332 BCE), which lasted from January to July – Alexander commanded the Levant. 

Negotiations between Alexander and Darius

Darius tried to deter Alexander from further attacks on his empire by tactful diplomacy. Ancient chroniclers present different accounts of his negotiations with Alexander, divided into three negotiation attempts.

  1. Some historians say that Darius wrote a letter to Alexander after the Battle of Issus. It necessitated that he withdraw from Asia and free his prisoners. The tone of the letter was rude. Alexander rejected his demands.
  2. A second mediation effort took place after the occupation of Tyre. Darius offered Alexander a marriage with his daughter Stateira II and all the area west of the Halys River. Again Alexander declined.
  3. Darius began preparing for another war after the flop second negotiation attempt. Even so, he made a third and ultimate effort to negotiate after Alexander departed from Egypt. Darius’ third offer was much more reasonable. He praised Alexander for the treatment of his mother, Sisygambis. He offered him all areas west of the Euphrates, co-rulership of the Achaemenid Empire, the hand of one of his daughters, and 30,000 gifts of silver. Alexander rejected the offer again. 

After three failed negotiation attempts, it became clear that Alexander wanted a war, and nothing else. 

The Battle

Persian Achaemenid Empire:  22,000 peltasts, 8,000 Immortals, 2,400 Greek hoplites, 900 Bactrians, and 40,000 cavalry, 240 scythed chariots, and 15 war elephants

Alexanders’ Macedonian army: 31,000 Heavy Infantry, 9,000 Light Infantry, and 700 Cavalry. 

Alexander’s well-trained army met Darius’ extensive battle line and prepared for the battle, attacking the left of the Persians’ line with javelin throwers, archers, and cavalry, while shielding against Darius’ cavalry with substitute flank guards. Macedonian lightly armed soldiers massacred a charge by Persian scythed chariots beamed at the center of Alexander’s forces. During the battle, so much of Darius’ cavalry on his left flank was pulled into the fight that they left the Persian infantry in the center of the battle line endangered. Alexander and his cavalry promptly wheeled half left and entered this gap and then wheeled again to attack the Persians’ side and back. Darius ran away at this and panic spread through his whole army, which began a precipitate flight while being cut down by the pursuing Greeks. Alexander Won.


Darius was later assassinated by one of his satraps and Alexander captured Babylon. The Macedonian victory ended the mighty Persian empire. 

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