Thursday, 5 June 2014

Cycling to Persia – The Hellespont

Today I'll just write up a brief background to the starting point of the Cycling to Persia route. For those who missed the initial post, I've decided to 'shadow' Alexander's route into Persia, adding together the miles I cycle on the old exercise bike and then posting when I reach certain milestones. The figures used are from the back of Theodore Ayrault Dodge's excellent biography/military history, simply entitled 'Alexander' and which I heartily recommend (NB be careful you get the full version as some are abridged).

It's just a quick rundown of how Alexander found himself at the Hellespont, so I'll be going from memory.

When Alexander's father, Philip, came to the throne Macedon was a pretty weak, rather rubbish kingdom. Philip, however, was a military genius. He utterly reformed the Macedonian army and made it the foremost military machine in the world. The lengthy sarissa spear was the backbone of the pezetaeri heavy infantry, the Companion and Thessalian cavalry were remarkable, and the hypaspists (the foot soldier equivalent of Companions) were a match for anyone in the world.

Philip first stabilised Macedon then set about showing his neighbours the formerly rubbish kingdom was now a force to be reckoned with. He achieved hegemony over Greece (destroying Thebes, his former ally, after they forsook the alliance) after the Battle of Chaeronea. Alexander, then 17, fought at this battle, commanding the cavalry and annihilating the Sacred Band, an elite force of 300 Theban soldiers.

A couple of years later, just as he was contemplating a march east to teach the Persians a lesson, Philip suddenly died. Some said Alexander, then 19, had a hand in it. His rivals also ended up dead rather promptly, but the Greeks and others saw this as an opportunity to throw off their Macedonian shackles. His initial campaigns were spent bringing Macedon's neighbours back into line, and teaching them that opposing Alexander the Great was not terribly clever.

Alexander left Antipater in charge of Macedon and marched east with his army, the army modelled on Philip's ingenious design. As well as the core of Macedonian infantry and cavalry there were numerous contingents of allied soldiers.

At the Hellespont, he crossed from Europe into Asia Minor.

Current position = 16/50 miles from the Hellespont to the Granicus.

Asia Minor
Hellespont to the Granicus 50
The Granicus to Sardis 180
Sardis to Smyrna and back again 100
Sardis to Ephesus 50
Ephesus to Miletus 60
Miletus to Halicarnassus 60
Halicarnassus to Telmessus 160
Telmessus to Phaselis 160
Phaselis to Side 85
Side to Termessus 85
Termessus to Sagalassus 70
Sagalassus to Celaenae 60
Celaenae to Gordium 170
Gordium to Ancyra 80
Ancyra to Tarsus 320
Tarsus to Rugged Cilicia and back again 160
Tarsus to Myriandrus 100
Myriandrus to Issus 25
Total = 1,955


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