Battle of Gaugamela

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

The Battle of Gaugamela (today village Tel Gomel in north Iraq) was one of the biggest and most important battles in world history and took place 331 BC. Alexander the Great achieved a fantastic victory there over the Persians led by King Darius III.

Two years after the Battle of Issus Alexander dominated the entire eastern Mediterranean coast and Egypt. Then he went to the Persian Empire - Alexander's army crossed the river Euphrates and Tigris and on the plain near the village of Gaugamela, he stood in the way of the Persian army.

Battle preparations

Alexander commanded a total of about 40,000 infantrymen and 7,000 cavalrymen. Macedonian troops were not so numerous as the Persian, however, they exceeded the Persians by its organization, discipline, leadership flexibility and experience in numerous battles.

The core of the troops were heavy infantry organized in phalanx and equipped with a spear nearly 6 meters long. The elite infantry unit was represented by hypaspists (supporters) armed like Greek hoplites, but they were more mobile than hoplites. Macedonian heavy cavalry was made up of Macedonian nobles – the King’s companions. Riders had armour, helmet and spear, which was intended to shock rather than to throw.

The Persian army probably numbered around 150,000 men (some sources states 250,000 soldiers). Among others the army was made up of 20,000 Greek mercenaries, 12,000 heavy riders from Bactria and 200 chariots. Each chariot had sickles fixed to its wheels. Also 15 elephants were included in Persian army.

Darius’ army consisted of a large number of different tribes from Mesopotamia, Persia, Bactria and other eastern countries. Their only advantage was their large number – they lagged behind the soldiers of Alexander the Great significantly in all other aspects. Mostly they lacked motivation, training and valuable battle experience as well. Persian cavalry was composed of troops of central and eastern Iran, followed by Cappadocians and Armenians from Anatolia, as well as the warriors of the southern coast of the Caspian Sea and Central Asia.

Course of the battle of Gaugamela

Alexander used a tactical plan in this battle, which only was used a few times throughout the history. The plan lay in the fact that he decided to grab as many men from Persian cavalry as possible. The aim was to create a gap in Persian line to enable Alexander to strike against Darius personally, because Darius stood in the middle of the Persian army. For the plan to be successful it was necessary precise timing and cooperation of the whole Macedonian army.

Alexander ordered the wings to turn back at the angle of 45 degrees, so that they can capture the Persian cavalry’s attack more. Having thus arranged his men Alexander went to the right side slowly. Darius was alarmed by this manoeuvre and was forced to start the attack against his will (after the experience from the battle of Issus).

Darius started the battle with sending the battle chariots. But the Macedonians prepared a special tactics for the war chariots. The first line should step aside in front of the chariots and open a gap in the line. Horses refused to run against spears of the first line and walk into such a trap, so they can be stopped only with spears of the back line.

Alexander’s deciding attack

After the chariots attack Darius sent the first line of infantry and cavalry into the battle. But a gap occurred between Bessus wing and Darius centre because of a stroke of the Persians on the Macedonian right wing. That’s was exactly what was Alexander waiting for and prepared his heavy cavalry for the deciding attack on the centre of the Persian line. The cavalry in the shape of a giant wedge attacked the Persian centre and then the infantry moved ahead. This wedge was rammed into the weakened Persian centre then, which was formed of the Immortal and Greek mercenaries. Bessus lost connection with Darius and began to move backwards to prevent the encirclement. Darius himself was threatened with cutting off then.

But Alexander could not pursue Darius, because he had to help the troops of Parmenion on the left wing. Alexander's attack on the Persian centre had createda gap, in which Persian and Indian cavalry penetrated. But instead of attacking and encirclement the Parmenion’s phalanx, they set off to plunder the Macedonian encampment.

Consequences of the Battle of Gaugamela

Parmenion captured the whole Persian friction after the battle, while Alexander and his heavy cavalry tried to pursue Darius. Like after the victory at Issus the Macedonians gained immense booty about 4,000 talents and also Darius personal chariot and bow. All war elephants were captured as well.

Darius had managed to escape from the battle towards Ecbatana. Also Bessus and his cavalry caught up with Darius as well as part of the Immortals and about 2,000 Greek mercenaries. Darius wanted to take refuge on the east and gather there a new army for beating Alexander. But meanwhile Mazaeus opened the gates of Babylon to Macedonians and Darius was murdered by Bessus a short time after that.

Ptolemaic dynasty period

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

All rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty were named Ptolemy. There were descendants of Alexander the Great, who founded the capital Alexandria. The rulers had serial numbers from I (Ptolemy I. Soter – the founder of the dynasty) up to XV (Ptolemy XV. Caesarion – the son of Cleopatra VII. and Gaius Julius Caesar).

Pharaoh Reign Reign era
Ptolemaic dynasty – the dynasty of last Pharaohs of the ancient Egypt
Ptolemy I. Soter 21 years 305 – 284 BC
Berenice I.    
Ptolemy II. Philadelphus 38 years 284 – 246 BC
Arsinoe I.    
Arsinoe II.    
Ptolemy III. Euergetes 24 years 246 – 222 BC
Berenice II.    
Ptolemy IV. Philopator 17 years 222 – 205 BC
Arsinoe III.    
Ptolemy V. Epiphanes 25 years 205 – 180 BC
Cleopatra I.    
Ptolemy VI. Philometor 35 years 180 – 145 BC
Cleopatra II.    
Ptolemy VII. Neos Philopator 1 year 145 – 144 BC
Ptolemy VIII. Euergetes II. 29 years 144 – 116 BC
Cleopatra III.    
Ptolemy IX. Soter II. 9 years 116 – 107 BC
Cleopatra IV.    
Selene (so-called Cleopatra V.)    
Ptolemy X. Alexander I. 19 years 107 – 88 BC
Berenice III.    
Ptolemy XI. Alexander II. 19 days 80 BC
Ptolemy XII. Neos Dionysos 29 years 80 – 51 BC
Cleopatra VI.    
Berenice IV.    
Cleopatra VII. 20 years 51 – 31 BC
Ptolemy XIII. 5 years 51 – 47 BC
Ptolemy XIV. Philometor 3 years 47 – 44 BC
Ptolemy XV. Caesarion 14 years 44 – 30 BC

Ptolemaic dynasty

Ptolemaic dynasty

Berenice II.

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Berenice II.Berenice II. was born around 267 BC. She was a daughter of the King Magas and the Queen Arsinoe. First she married Demetrius the Fair and later Ptolemy III Euergetes, with whom she had these children - Berenice, Arsinoe III, Ptolemy (later Ptolemy IV Philometor), Alexander and Magas.

Berenice II. ruled together with her second husband Ptolemy III. in 246 - 222 BC. She was declared a Goddess, when she still lived. She died in 221 BC (she was probably poisoned).

Berenice II.

Berenice II.

Cleopatra VII. and Marcus Antonius

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Cleopatra came to Caesar to Rome in 46 BC together with Caesarion and her thirteen-year old half brother, who stayed alive and with whom she officially shared the reign. The formal purpose of her visit was to confirm the agreement of her father about the alliance and friendship between Egypt and Rome. Cleopatra stayed in Rome until the end of Caesar's life then. The Venus’ sanctuary was being built at the time of her arrival (gens Iulia derived its origin from Venus) and next to it stood Cleopatra’s gold-plated bronze statue.

The influence of Cleopatra (and her country at all) could be traced in some of Caesar’s acts from that time. For example, Caesar’s plan of a great public library founding was based on the famous Ptolemaic Library at Musaeum, Scientific Institute in Alexandria. Also his spectacular, but unrealized plans to cut a canal between Pontine marshes southward of Rome and Isthmus of Corinth surely had its model in Egypt, which was greatly experienced in building these structures. Even the Caesar’s modification of the calendar was controlled by an Alexandrian astronomer.

Caesar was appointed a dictator and censor for life in February 44 BC. He was about to assume the royal title on 15th March 44 BC, but his life was ended by the Marcus Junius Brutus’ dagger. Caesarion wasn’t mentioned in Caesar’s testament and Cleopatra was confused and upset. She definitely left Rome in April and returned to Alexandria.

Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius

Cleopatra’s main concern then was to preserve the sovereignty of Egypt. But against her own will she found herself in the middle of a conflict of Caesar’s heirs – general Marcus Antonius and Caesar’s adoptive son Octavian. Cleopatra had no reason to worry - Antonius was a master of Rome and as a Caesar’s fellow fighter he was a loyal friend of Cleopatra. So Cleopatra believed she was safe, which proved to be a big mistake. She had no idea that Egypt would be the bone of contention between Antonius and Octavian.

CaesarionMarcus Antonius needed Egyptian grain to deal with Octavian. For political reasons, he decided to stand up for Caesarion and sailed to Alexandria. The brave soldier succumbed to the beauty and intelligence of the young Queen as well as Caesar before him. Cleopatra was able to suppress intrigues plotted by the followers of Octavian, the later Emperor Augustus.

Cleopatra broke the traditions of he predecessors, who administered Egypt from a distance from Alexandria and only used the rest of the country as a bottomless fount. An „Egyptian Queen“ came to the throne after „Alexandrian Kings“. Cleopatra learnt to speak Egyptian language and she tried to find support in particular regions. She dusted off the traditions and rituals in the religious sphere, which were almost forgotten under her predecessors rule.

This return to tradition became evident especially after Caesarion’s birth. Cleopatra insisted on recognizing her son born in Rome as an Egyptian. He ruled together with his mother as Ptolemy XV Caesarion. But the political situation slowly tended to the end of happy days of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius – it headed towards the Battle of Actium.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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