Battle of the Granicus

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

The battle of the Granicus River took place in May 334 BC and it was the first great victory of Alexander the Great during his campaign against the Persian Empire. Alexander defeated the army of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor complemented by a large troop of Greek mercenaries on this place near the mythical Troy.

Battle preparations

Alexander the Great put 30,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalrymen in this battle. Persians gathered a total of 10,000 Persian infantrymen, 8,000 Greek mercenaries and 15,000 Persian cavalrymen. Various sources report different numbers, but they usually agree in number about 30-35,000 men on the Alexander’s side and 25-33,000 men on the Persian’s side.

The Granicus River (modern day the Biga River) was only 20 meters wide on the battlefield. Persians deployed their troops on the west bank of the river on the hill. This position was very advantageous because of very marshy ground and steep rise of the bank. It should make the supposed Macedonian attack blunt. In addition, the nearness of the sea should prevent Alexander from circumvention of this Persian position.

Course of the battle of the Granicus

Alexander is said to come across the Persians during his movement from Abydos (Abdju). It is hard to say, how exactly the battle took place, because various ancient sources contradict each other. Persian cavalry is said to be deployed on unsuitable terrain on the river bank, while the infantry together with Greek hoplites were placed in reserves.

Alexander seems to have immediately noticed the enemy’s irrational battlefield arrangement. There are different opinions of the further course of the conflict. According to them Alexander either attacked the enemy immediately or he at first crossed the river upstream at night and didn’t attacked Persians till the dawn the next day (as suggested by Alexander's general Parmenion).

The battle began with a deceptive attack of Macedonian cavalry and light infantry on the left wing that was led by Parmenion. The Persians responded immediately and moved the reserves on that side of their line. Macedonians were forced back. At the same time Alexander and his crew in a classic wedge-shaped formation penetrated into the centre of the Persian order.

Macedonian cavalry turned left then and began to slowly push the Persians, who were still busy with the left side of the Macedonian line. The Macedonian infantry used this to attack the less quality Persian infantry standing in the rear of the Persian line. The collapse of the middle battle line caused panic in the lines of the Persian cavalry that fled from the battlefield then. Abandoned Persian infantry turned to flee then, but many Persian soldiers were killed.

Battle of the Granicus - Alexander x Dareios III.

Battle of the Granicus - Alexander x Dareios III.

Marcus Antonius and Octavian Augustus

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Gaius Octavius Augustus, a grand-nephew and adoptive son of Gaius Julius Caesar, gained the reign over the western part of the Roman Empire within the purview of the second triumvirate in October of 40 BC. Lepidus gained the reign over Africa and Marcus Antonius over the eastern part of the Roman Empire. This triumvirate was renewed for another five years in 37 BC. But ... Octavian seized Sicily and Africa the following year and so Marcus Antonius was the last obstacle for him in his way to absolute power.

The wedding of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra caused a war

Marcus Antonius married Cleopatra according to Egyptian rituals in October 37 BC. But he was already married with Octavian’s sister Octavia the Younger in Rome. He married her after the death of his first wife Fulvia. So Cleopatra concentrated great power into her hands.

Octavian wasn’t going to tolerate that and he regarded the Egyptian squandering money and the marriage of Antonius and Cleopatra as a personal offence and a call to fight. Antonius tried to avoid an armed conflict and sent a report of the administration of Empire’s eastern part to Roman Senate at the end of 33 BC. But Octavian put this report to a tough critique.

As well as Caesar before, Marcus Antonius wanted to divide the eastern Mediterranean into several provinces subordinate directly to Rome. These provinces shouldn’t be so large, but their territory should be strongly controlled and their border should be easy to defend. The provinces would have been protected by a zone of allied kingdoms, which would have been ruled by domestic dynasties with a direct support and supervision of Rome.

Antonius and Cleopatra concentrated large naval and ground forces in Ephesus on the western coast of Asia Minor in spring of 32 BC. But two Antonius’ fellow fighters (Plancus and Titius) defected to the enemy at the beginning of the summer. They told Octavian that Antonius made a will, in which he recognized Caesarion as a son of Caesar, left a great property to Cleopatra’s children and demanded to be buried alongside Cleopatra in Alexandria. Octavian skilfully presented this last part of the will to the Romans, who were very outraged. Octavian mobilized the Roman armies in October 32 BC and declared the war on Cleopatra.

 Marcus Antonius and Octavian Augustus

Marcus Antonius and Octavian Augustus

Battle of Actium, the end of independence of Egypt

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Octavius and Antonius as well pitches their camps on Cape Actium in Ambracian Gulf (today’s Gulf of Arta) of Ionian Sea in the southern part of Greek region Epirus. First skirmishes came to pass in spring of 31 BC. Agrippa, the commander of Octavius, seized all the islands in the coastal zone and set up his tent on island Kérkyra (today’s Corfu). Antonio’s ships remained cut off from supplies. Also the Kings of Thrace and Paphlagonia took Octavius’ sides and what was even worse – even Dellius, former loyal fellow fighter of Antonius, deserted to him with a battle plan.

Antonius and Kleopatra had to try to break the blockade with smaller fleet. So they burned Egyptian heavy cargo ships that were too slow to escape the enemy and the war treasure was embarked on Antonia – the admiral ship of Cleopatra. Antonius could put 4 squadrons, which means 240 ships against Octavian’s 400 ships.

The ruse of Agrippa decided the battle of Actium

A breeze began to blow after a four-day storm on 2nd September of 31 BC and the ships of Antonius and Cleopatra left the anchorage in a tight formation. The heavy Egyptian ships deflected the attacks of light Roman trireme easily. But Agrippa made a manoeuvre after a six-hour battle, which changed the whole situation.

He pretended to surrender and Publicola, who commanded the right wing of Antonius’ fleet, took his bait and began to chase him. But this way he disrupted the first line of Antonius’ army. Agrippa skilfully used it and attacked the split fleet. Cleopatra watched everything from a distance and slipped through a constricting trap and began to retreat. Antonius jumped into a fast rowboat and followed her. Only one hundred ships were saved.

Antonius and Cleopatra fled

The battle raged long into the night. The Roman victory at the battle of Actium was overwhelming, but Antonius and Cleopatra rescued themselves and were free. Proud Cleopatra refused to admit the defeat and sailed into Alexandria with full sails and decorated with garlands. The last ruler of Ptolemy dynasty knew well that Octavian couldn’t be discouraged so easily. Octavian let build the city of Nicopolis near of today’s Preveza (Greece) to celebrate his victory and continued to Egypt.

Cleopatra wasn’t able to bear the defeat of her country and humiliated by Rome she rather chose the death. According to a legend she let bite herself by a venomous snake in her tomb in the company of two of her most loyal servants.

Battle of Actium

Battle of Actium

Cleopatra VII.

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Cleopatra VII.

Ptolemy XII made both of his children his successors - Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra VII. This decision proved to be unfortunate, because it led to fighting between the two descendants. Ptolemy XIII forced his sister and wife to flee from Egypt to Palestine, where Cleopatra prepared for her return to Egypt.

Cleopatra entered the scene again after Pompey fled to Egypt because of lost battle with Caesar. But Pompey was assassinated by the Egyptians before he entered the country. This murder should be a proof that Egypt distanced itself from Caesar’s enemy and it should prevent Caesar from disembarkment in Egypt. However, Caesar entered the country without hesitation and affected the internal problems of Egypt.

It was a ruthless struggle for royal power, which should have been divided between Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra VII, children of Ptolemy XII. But the courtiers around the young king achieved that Cleopatra had to leave Alexandria and renounce her share of power. Ptolemy XIII was a plaything in the hands of his advisers – the major role played eunuch Pothenios.

Cleopatra and Caesar

When Caesar learned about the murder of Pompey, he hurried to Egypt, where he landed in 48 BC. In Egypt he realised that there is famine there and the land is on the brink of civil war. However, Cleopatra came into play at that moment. Her courage seemed to force Caesar to change his original opinion about annexing Egypt to Rome as a province. He made a trip round Egypt, during which he became closer with Cleopatra. This journey convinced him that the annexation of Egypt was not the right move at that moment. Although he needed Egyptian grain, he realized at the same time what a threat it would be a powerful province in hands of an ambitious leader, who could gather his loyal and starve Rome out.

Cleopatra accomplished her goal - Caesar affirmed her position of Egyptian queen, but he left three Roman legions in Egypt. Even though Cleopatra was able to maintain the independence of her country, keep the crown for her and become the mistress of a man, who was the most powerful personality of the ancient world. Cleopatra even gave birth to Caesar’s son – Ptolemy XV Caesar, who was given the name Caesarion – Little Caesar by the people of Alexandria.

Cleopatra surrounded Caesar with all the beauty of her empire and Caesar succumbed gladly, because he always inclined to oriental luxury. Caesar saw himself resembling Alexander the Great and Cleopatra won the first man of Rome for her vision of ruling over the world under common leadership. Caesar invited Cleopatra to Rome.

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.

Here could be your ad