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Questions concerning the Phalanx performance in Gaugamela
#1
Hello people, I was reading about this battle, in original and non original sources, and noted that some questions were obscure:

1. Who did make up the rear Phalanx? Arrian looks to say that they were another macedonian phalanx, but some authors say that they were allied troops.

2. What happened with the gap of the Phalanx? What was exactly this gap? If we read Arrian looks like the gap was inside the phalanx, but authors generally say the gap was between the phalanx and Parmenion group.

3. How many tasks did the rear phalanx? Arrian say that they went to the campment to expel the cavalry who was sacking it, but Nick Secunda and John Warry in "Alexander the Great. His armies and campaigns" say that they did two tasks: to help the camp guards and to attack the cavalry in the left flank of Parmenion, who had entered there through the gap of the phalanx.
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#2
There is, I'd think, near universal agreement that the "rear" phalanx was comprised of the Greek "League" troops and mercenaries. Certainly - as with the other full scale pitched battles - the Macedonian national levies occupy the entire main (front) battle line of heavy armed or hoplites.

The phalanx line broke as, after moving forward and to the right, Alexander straightened and advanced (or "charged") directly at the Persian centre-left along with the hypaspists, Agrianes and Coenus' unit ("forming a wedge as it were of the Companion cavalry and of the part of the phalanx which was posted here"). The Macedonian left, at this time, had sustained a furious assault by the Persian commander on the right - Mazaeus. As the other phalanx units (those of Coenus, Perdiccas, Meleagher and Polyperchon) followed the hypapaspists, the brigades of Amyntas (commanded by Simmias in Arrian) and Craterus were rooted to the spot under the Persian assault. Simmias, aparrently, took the decision to stand and fight with the very much threatened Macedonian left.

The baggage park was then assaulted by Persian and Indian cavalry units that poured through the resultant gap. A prime opportunity to take the Macedonians in the internal flanks went begging. If we follow Arrian - as Curtius' account is horribly confused (even unto having Craterus as commander of the Peloponnesian cavalry!) and it is extremely unlikely that the cavalry of Menidas and Aretes were able to leave the fully engaged Macedonian right flank guard) - these units were pursued and dealt with by the reserve phalanx. For such to be the case the baggage park must have been near in contact with the army. I confess that there is no easy solution to this. One hardly imagines hoplites chasing down the cavalry or the baggage being so close as to make it a short march. Possibly this action took place as the Persians and Indians returned or as they broke through. There isn't any reason to assume that the reserve phalanx broke (as with the front line) and, given the assault on the Macedonian left, the danger of envelopement by the Perian right was extreme. It's a bit like the elephants Arrian has in the battle line that have absolutely no place in the battle narrative and are captured in the Persian baggage park after the battle.
Paralus|Michael Park

Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους

Wicked men, you are sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander!

Academia.edu
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#3
I have always found this part of the battle confusing, also. Thanks for the sensible explanation, Paralus. It would be interesting to see the results of some kind of simulation of the incident.
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Quinton Carr
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#4
I think that #2 cannot be answered. The site is one big sandy plain. People cannot see what happens during a battle on that plain. All sources written in Greek/Latin are ultimately derived from an official interpretation, written by a man who did not see anything, based on information from people who hadn't seen a thing either. This is why diametrically opposite interpretations of, for example, Darius' behavior can exist (he was the first to flee according to Arrian, or the last according to Diodorus). What applies to Darius, applies to the falanx: we cannot know what really happened.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#5
Quote:All sources written in Greek/Latin are ultimately derived from an official interpretation, written by a man who did not see anything, based on information from people who hadn't seen a thing either. This is why diametrically opposite interpretations of, for example, Darius' behavior can exist (he was the first to flee according to Arrian, or the last according to Diodorus). What applies to Darius, applies to the falanx: we cannot know what really happened.

I'd largely agree: information gleaned, necessarily, from one end of the line - Alexander's and an official version - can have had no knowledge of details invoving the other. The notion of a rider from Parmenio locating a chasing Alexander is not to be considered and the wretched description of just what the reserve phalanx did and when (cavalry squadrons of the right flank guard riding back simply cannot have ocurred) is also likely a result of this.

The tradition, though, is strong that a gap did appear in the left of the phalanx; if not a gap then it was outflanked by Mazaeus and the baggage park assaulted. The latter is attested through the remarks - supposedly of Alexander with respect to same - echoed by Eumenes some fifteen years later. On the whole, I'd lean towards the Macedonian left having been outflanked and Mazaeus having sent forces to secure the invader's baggage park. Mazaueus - and those commanding with him - cannot have have been so ill-informed on military matters as to ignore the exposed inner flanks of a phalanx broken open. The strong possibility of the royal family being in the baggage park might well have been a good enough reason for Mazaeus, seeing his overlap grow as the Macedonians crabbed to his left, to decide on that action which Antigonus would employ all those years later at Gabiene. The possibility exists that the Persian flanking forces also took the Macedonians in the rear and that some of the "light armed" returned to the baggage. This would explain the engagement of the rear phalanx. In the end we only have the source material - if not that then nothing.

On the notion of Darius, I'd agree with Jona (on his Livius site) that Darius was, in fact, deserted first by his troops.
Paralus|Michael Park

Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους

Wicked men, you are sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander!

Academia.edu
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