Greeks fought Alexander – even after he was dead!
More Greeks fought against Alexander the Great than fought for him; and he killed more Greeks than he did Persians. The Greek city-states and even the Greeks Alexander hired or compelled to fight for him regularly rose up against the Macedonians – and continued to do so even after he died.
Thebes: War and Revolt
Thebes was among the first to fight against the Macedonian hegemony. The Thebans (along with Athenians and other Greeks) fought against Alexander and his father, Philip, at Chaeronea in 338 BC. They also rose up against Alexander three years later. That uprising was encouraged, supported and in part funded by Demosthenes of Athens, the famous orator and lifelong-foe of Philip and Alexander both. My novel, Throne of Darius: A Captain of Thebes, begins with that uprising – and the subsequent razing of the city by Alexander. The main character of my novel, Dimitrios, is a captain of Theben citizen-soldiers who, after the destruction of his city seeks to continue the fight as a mercenary in the service of Persia.
Greeks in Persian Service vs. Alexander
Thousands of Greeks fought for Persia. Over 8,000 of them were at the battle of the Granicus in 334 BC. After Alexander swept the Persians from that field, the Greek soldiers asked for honors of war. He not only refused, but surrounded and attacked them. The slaughter ended only after his own generals intervened and pleaded for mercy. The 2,000 who survived were sent to the mines and farms of Macedon as slaves. Three times delegations from Greek cities begged Alexander to free them – or at least accept a ransom. Each time he refused. (This battle and its aftermath feature prominently in Throne of Darius: A Captain of Thebes.)
An even larger force of Greeks fought for the Persians at the battle of the Issus a year later – they held the center of the line and three times repulsed the attacks of Alexander’s phalanxes. They held their ground even when their left flank was turned. A few thousand managed to fight their way out under their general, Amnytas. Thousands of others were slain – included their sick wounded whom Alexander’s forces came upon in their camp. (This will be featured in the next book in the series, which I am currently writing: Throne of Darius II: A Princess of Persia.)
The most famous of the Greeks to fight against Alexander was Memnon of Rhodes. A general of the Persian empire, he was also married to a royal princess, Barsine (she is the “Princess of Persia” in the second novel). He and Alexander had met while Memnon was in exile in Macedon. Memnon was in titular command of the Persian army at Grancius – but was overruled by the local satraps (governors), whose hubris and stupidity cost them that fight – and their lives. Memnon went on to defend the cities of Miletus and Halicarnasus against Alexander (both sieges are featured in the first novel), and led a campaign against the Macedonian-controlled islands of the Aegean until he died from a fever in 333 BC. (His death comes early in the second novel.)
This is Sparta!
Shortly before his death, Memnon met with King Agis III of Sparta to plan a two-pronged attack on Alexander’s Greek bases. Agis formed a coalition spearheaded by the vaunted Spartan army and attacked the Macedonian garrisons in mainland Greece. He died at the head of his troops in the battle of Megalopolis, in 331 BC, where his army was defeated by Alexander’s general, Antipater.
Greek Mutinies, Rebellions – and the Hellenic ( aka Lamian) War
Under the harsh terms imposed upon the Greek cities by Philip and, later, Alexander, thousands of Greek soldiers were forced to fight for Alexander. (Thousands of others did join up as mercenaries after the conquest of Persia.) It was the Greek soldiers who mutinied just prior to and again after Alexander’s invasion of India. He punished the ringleaders in both mutinies – and punished the soldiers (and his own who lent their voices in the demand he turn back home) with the death march in the Gedrosian desert in 325 BC. An estimated 12,000 men — one in three in the army — died in that needless, punitive exercise.
Upon Alexander’s death two years later, several thousand Greek soldiers in the garrisons in Bactria and northern Persia decided the time had come to go home. They began a march as epic as the Anabasis of Xenophon (when 10,000 Greek mercenaries on the losing side in a Persian civil war fought their way back to Greece). One of Alexander’s principal generals – Perdiccas – sent an army under Peithon, who had been one of Alexander’s Companions, to stop them. Perdiccas told him to show them no mercy. Peithon defeated them, but spared the lives of the survivors. Perdiccas, in an Alexander-like rage, had Peithon – and those he spared – put to death.
At the same time, back home, encouraged by Alexander’s death, Athens and the Aetolian League of cities fielded their armies and led most of Greece in a bid to throw off the Macedonian yoke. It is referred to both as the Hellenic War – for it was an uprising of the Hellenes – and as the Lamian War (for the war was decided at the city of Lamia in 321 BC). The army of 30,000 Greeks under Hyperides of Athens and General Leosthenes forced Antipater to retreat to the city of Lamia where they put him under siege. Leosthenes died (and is the subject of an epic funeral oration by Hyperides) and a relief army from Macedon arrived and defeated the Hellenes.
That was the last major uprising against Macedonian rule – although the Greek cities were caught up in the 200 years of war that Alexander’s successors and their heirs fought against one another.