Battle of Issus

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Battle of Issus
Part of: Alexanderzug
Battle plan
Battle plan
date November 333 BC Chr.
place Issus ( Cilicia )
output Macedonian victory
Parties to the conflict

Macedonians and vassals

Persians, vassals and mercenaries


Alexander the Great

Dareios III.

Troop strength
approx. 30,000 Unknown, according to Delbrück no stronger than the Macedonians. The numbers are controversial.

about 2,000 - 4,000 wounded


The Battle of Issus by Jan Brueghel the Elder , in the Louvre

The Battle of Issus (also Issus ) in November 333 BC. Chr. Was the first direct meeting between the warlords of Alexander the Great on Macedonian and Darius III. on the Persian side. The Greeks / Macedonians wanted - according to the official war goal - to avenge themselves with their campaign for the destruction that the Persians had caused in Greece (especially in Athens ) almost 150 years earlier . But Alexander also obviously sought fame and conquest.

The following motto has become established for the event: "three-three-three, at Issos brawl".

Starting position

In the previous battle on Granikos ( 334 BC ), Persian forces, led by the satraps from Asia Minor and their mercenaries, were inferior to the attacking Macedonians. The army of Alexander moved over the western coastal towns deeper into Persian dominated area. After taking Miletus , Alexander disbanded the fleet, which was a hindrance to his further advance , as it would have had no chance against the superior Persian sea units anyway. He wanted to advance by land to his destination Persepolis , the capital of the Persian Empire, whose Great King Dareios III. was.

Course of the battle

Movement of armies to the battlefield
Initial formation of the two armies

Alexander sent Parmenion , his general of the foot troops and the Peloponnesian cavalry, ahead. He and his 15,000 soldiers were supposed to reach the Syrian border passes before the Persians, block them and join them again.

Alexander himself moved his army first to Issus and then on the coastal road. Here he expected to meet the enemy at some point. Darius, in turn, had also decided to stand up to the advancing army of Alexander on the plain near Issus, which seemed favorable to him. Both generals wanted to lure the enemy into this unfavorable terrain. With his large army, which he could not permanently supply in one place, Darius then finally marched on a road to the east to the city of Issus and thus left the Syrian plain that was favorable for him. Without knowing it, the two armies passed each other, only separated by a mountain range.

When Darius heard from enemy soldiers left behind in Issus that his opponent had taken the coastal road, he pursued him with his troops. Alexander, for his part, ordered his army back to Issus in forced marches after he learned that the enemy was behind him. Topographically, the battlefield was bounded on one side by the mountains and on the other by the Mediterranean Sea. The Persian superiority of people was therefore disadvantaged in its effect, so the terrain played into Alexander's hands.

Alexander posted the bulk of his cavalry on the right wing and joined her. In the middle was the Macedonian phalanx . On the left wing toward the sea, horsemen and infantry moved forward under Parmenion. As usual, the Macedonian foot troops were to bind the enemy until there was an opportunity for an equestrian attack on the Persian center.

Dareios set up his strong cavalry on the right, facing the sea. The flat terrain there was ideal for horseback attacks. The center of the front was armed with heavily armed Greek mercenaries. The Persian infantry, traditionally only lightly armed, should act on the left. The king and his guard waited behind the center of the front for the course of events.

Alexander ordered the units to attack; and a gap really did open up on the Persian front. His daring forward thrust was exemplary for the cavalrymen and therefore led to success. The Persian infantry fell back, but defended themselves doggedly. Alexander fought his way through the enemy to the vicinity of Darius III. by. This noticed the threatening danger and fled.

Alexander's phalanx meanwhile had to cross the river Pinaros with its strong current, which tore gaps in the ranks of the Greeks. Greek mercenaries in the service of Darius took advantage of this and inflicted losses on the attackers. On the side facing the sea, too, the Persian cavalry attacked the Greek infantry and the Thessalian horsemen. By swinging his cavalry in a sickle shape, Alexander helped the oppressed Greeks in their critical situation. Then he went to attack the flanks of the opposing center.

The Persian units, however, had become discouraged by the flight of their commander, which did not go unnoticed. Despite a situation that was by no means hopeless, the Persians and their auxiliaries withdrew and let the Macedonians win. Alexander caused a bloodbath among the retreating enemies.

The escaping Dareios was not caught. The Macedonian general Parmenion advanced after the battle as far as Damascus .


The Macedonians captured or captured:

  • the king's mother, wife and three children (one son and two daughters)
  • Persian nobles, including Barsine that Alexander later his morganatic wife made
  • Chariot, royal cloak , shield and bow of Darius
  • 3000 talents cash (according to Arrian ) and the entire Reich treasury in Damascus, which was enough to pay off all of Alexander's and the army’s old wages for another six months.


As a result of the victory, the Macedonians actually took over the entire western part of the Persian Empire, even if in places it still met bitter Persian resistance. Alexander's position of power as the “ruler of Asia” (see also Gordian knot ) was established. His reputation among the Greeks and Macedonians rose rapidly.

Alexander brusquely refused an offer from Darius III to allow Alexander to rule over the areas up to Halys in return for the release of his family members and to conclude an alliance with him. He later reacted in a similar way to the great king's suggestion that even all land up to the Euphrates should be preserved.

The defeat of the Persian great king allowed Alexander to continue his campaign through Syria , Phenicia and Palestine to Egypt , while Darius retreated east to prepare for the decisive battle ( Battle of Gaugamela ).

Art and film adaptation

Alexander sarcophagus, figure of Alexander the great at the battle of Issus (333 BC)

A picture of the Battle of Issus can be found on the Alexander sarcophagus discovered in 1887 . The sarcophagus is dated 325 BC. Dated.

Depiction on the Alexander mosaic in Pompeii

The fame of Alexander's battles was so great in ancient times that centuries later a mosaic picture (the Alexander mosaic ) was made in Roman Pompeii , which recreates a battle scene between the young Macedonian king and the great Persian king.

Fantasy representation of the Battle of Alexander von Altdorfer , 1529

One of the most famous works by the German painter Albrecht Altdorfer shows the fantasy of the battle.

Alexander's career came to cinemas in 2004 under the title Alexander with a star cast. However, it is not the battle of Issus but the battle of Gaugamela that is particularly emphasized there.


  • Arthur Janke : The Battle of Issus . In: Klio Vol. 10 (1910), pp. 137-177.
  • Hans Delbrück : Antiquity. From the Persian Wars to Caesar (History of the Art of War; Vol. 1). Edition Nicol, Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-937872-41-4 (reprint of the Berlin 1921 edition).

Web links

See also

Web links

Commons : Battle of Issus  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Delbrück , History of the Art of War in the Framework of Political History , Volume 1: Das Altertum, 3. Book, Chapter 3. Online

Coordinates: 36 ° 51 ′ 53 ″  N , 36 ° 13 ′ 10 ″  E