Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On this day in history, Alexander pulls a Mortal Kombat move on Mithridates of Persia

Today we mark the Battle of the Granicus on this day in the history of Europe. For me the battle shapes up like Mortal Kombat in the arcade version, the one where you fight the guy until you finish him off and then another one flashes into the screen with a high kick behind you. Then you have to fight him, doing the same up right low block high kick moves you did to defeat the first opponent, but this time in reverse order.

The Battle of the Granicus was fought on May 22 (give or take, but that's the day most ancient historians give), 334 BC at what was near the even more ancient site of Troy in Northwest Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Back then the river where the battle was fought was called the Granicus, and hence the named battle. Today the place is called Biga Çayı or without the fancy Turkish symbols, the Biga River. One one side was the eventual victors, Alexander and his Ancient Macedonian army and his allies the League of Corinth against the Achaemenid Empire and its many satraps and mercenaries. The reason it feels like a mid-90's installment of Mortal Kombat is because in spite of Alexander's superior numbers, he had to deal with a much larger contingency of Persian leaders. So when his army would smite one branch of the Persians, another would pop in to take on the fight and continue. Had Alexander lost even one of these minor battles he would have had to put in another two tokens to continue. But luckily, he took them all out, and when it was time to finish him, he didn't do a friendship move to turn them all into snowmen.

The Macedonians and Corinthian League had superior numbers, but the Persians had the stronger cavalry at the battle. The Persians lined up on the east bank of the Granicus but Alexander made a swift crossing and engaged the smaller force immediately. The plan worked initially, but a plethora of Persian satraps pushed back. Spithridates, the satrap of Ionia and Lydia knocked Alexander off his horse and as he was winding up for the death blow and the quick end to Alexander's wars in the east his arm was hacked off by the Macedonian Cletius the Black. After losing his arm he was no match for Cletius and was quickly killed. Alexander hopped back on a horse and led a reinvigorated charge that decimated the middle of the Persian defense. Had Spithridates not been blocked, so much of history would have been different. The Hellenization of the Mediterranean would have halted and it is possible that the nascent Roman Empire would have been crushed by Persian advancement in the west. But, history wasn't altered and Alexander's second charge smashed and killed many of the best Persian generals and allies leaving their army in total disarray.

This is probably similar to what Mithridates' death looked
like. However, considering it happened in 334 BC, the
graphics were probably not Sega's 16 bit, but a 2 bit analog
that would've made Atari's pong look cutting edge.
The befuddled Persians then faced the wrath of a massive infantry force from the Macedonians. The Persian ranks broke and in the retreat most of the Persian forces were killed or captured. A branch of the Persian army, Greek mercenaries led by Memnon of Rhodes were encircled. Memnon tried to broker a peace deal, but Alexander would have none of it. All of the mercenaries were slaughtered. Memnon would escape and retain control of the battle against Alexander until Darius III finally decided that his presence was necessary in the war. In the ensuing slaughters Alexander took out Mithridates, the son-in-law of the aforementioned Darius. It appears that Alexander pinned down the unfortunate Mithridates and then put a spear through his face, a precursor to Scorpion's "get over here" move in the MK games. Mithridates got over there, but there was no counter punch to be had. He, like many of the Persians died en route to Alexander claiming dominance over the Greek cities along the coast of Asia Minor. From this position, Alexander was able to advance troops into Asia without confrontation. Having this ease of access to Asia allowed for a major conquest that stretched all the way into modern day India. In short, the battle was vitally important, because it allowed for so many Macedonian and Greek troops to enter Asia with ease and an eagerness to swallow up all of Persia and her control.

No comments:

Post a Comment