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Forum LockedThe Battle of Gaugamela

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    Posted: 30-Oct-2006 at 17:02
We know that the ancient peoples of the world liked to exagarrate a lot and sometimes just plain make things up. It is argued by some that at the Battle of Gaugamela Alexander the Great of Macedon defeated a Persan force of up to one million soldiers. I am unsure about how many cavalry units and infantry he was meant to have. But who needs details? Is it really possible for an ancient world state to muster an army that size. I argued before on another topic on this forum a few months ago that it was. And I was contradicted by a man who claimed it was not possible and the Macedonians just liked to brag. So I would like greatly to hear some opinions from people out there,


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Edited by rider - 20-Mar-2007 at 06:31
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Oct-2006 at 21:32
One million, no. Quite a few, yes. Gaugamela I think remains the biggest infantry battle in history in terms of combatants involved in a single day. I think it was 80,000 Macedonians et al vs. close to 300,000 Persians. I've also heard that there was half a million involved on both sides. Please someone provide more accurate numbers in case I'm off, thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dampier Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2006 at 11:11
Your numbers seem about right Konstantinus. Most of the sources were Macedonian and so had a propensity to inflate Persian numbers and lessen theirs.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2006 at 12:45

I say 15,000 Macedonians and 30,000 Persians would be more likely. How the hell did you expect to feed an army the size Konstantanius writes before the Napoleonic era (and canned food) in a desert no less is beyond me.

The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Patrinos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2006 at 19:12
30000 Persians???? A whole empire was judged in that battle.Darius had two yeas to prepare for the most important battle of the Persian Empire and he only gathered 30,000? Huge areas and populations were under his command to recruit hundrends of thousands.
Alexander started from Greece with 40.000 soldiers and with the reinforcements he may reached the 80.000.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Penelope Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2006 at 22:27

Alexander's army is said to have been 40,000 strong allthough it is more than likely that his army was much smaller than that. The Persian force could not have been more than 250,000 deep. 200,000 would be the closest figure.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ataman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 02:25

Does anybody know what was a population of Darius's Empire? It was rather typical in pre-modern period that a agricultural society didn't have an army bigger than about 1% of population. So if Persia had had for example 20 mln people, Persian army could have had about 200.000 soldiers.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BigL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 02:48
Yea but how do you feed an army of more than 100,000 men ?In medieval times the largest armies were usually no more than 100,000
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ataman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 03:03
Originally posted by BigL BigL wrote:

Yea but how do you feed an army of more than 100,000 men ?In medieval times the largest armies were usually no more than 100,000
 
But early modern armies were much bigger already (because population of countries were bigger than in Middle Ages). In the battle of Beresteczko 1651 (it was the battle of the civil war in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the Poles and Cossacks  supported by Tartars) were involved about 400.000 people (including about 200.000 soldiers) and much over 200 000 horses. Armies were supplied by food on wagons. Only Polish army had over 50 000 wagons.


Edited by ataman - 05-Nov-2006 at 03:13
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 05:26

If anyone can tell me how you could feed an army of more than 30,000 in that era in a desert, then I am all years, or in this case eyes.

The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ataman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 07:05
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

If anyone can tell me how you could feed an army of more than 30,000 in that era in a desert, then I am all years, or in this case eyes.

 
Sparten, can you tell me if Darius's army didn't know (didn't use) wagons? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 08:20
Probably not since I am not sure if they were invented yet.
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote nikodemos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 12:37
In Gaugamela perhaps  there were about 50.000 men on Alexander's side versus  250,000 men and 15 war elephants on Darius' side
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 12:54
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

If anyone can tell me how you could feed an army of more than 30,000 in that era in a desert, then I am all years, or in this case eyes.

 
Well Sparten, you might want to ask yourself the question of how far the army was from productive lands? Gaugamela is very close to Arbela, which today is a city of almost 1 million people, and about 80km from Mosul, which has 2 million today. And we should take into account that during Alexander's time, the Middle East was less environmentally devatsated than today, so Gaugamela could well have been even closer to the cultivated zone than it is today. So the surrounding region could have fed a large army. A soldier can easily carry a couple of days rations in a desert, can't he? Just because we have this image of Gaugamela being somewhere in the middle of a desert, doesn't mean that it was in the middle of nowhere.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 12:58
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

Probably not since I am not sure if they were invented yet.


Wagons were definetly invented. ALready around 1500 BC, people were making war on chariots and chariots=0.8*wagon so not much to go...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 18:46
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

I say 15,000 Macedonians and 30,000 Persians would be more likely. How the hell did you expect to feed an army the size Konstantanius writes before the Napoleonic era (and canned food) in a desert no less is beyond me.



Alexander started out from Macedonia with definetely more than 15,000. Large armies had operated in the area before Alexander, i.e. Hittites, Assyrian Empire, NK Egyptian, Achaemenid Persian.
The area in question is fertile and dotted with cities. A large army would exhaust the resources in one area if it stayed too long but, the key here being mobility, a large army on the move would be able to forage indefinetely. Also, key was naval support as long as the army paralled the coast-line. The fact that Alexander besieged Tyre for 8 months would've been impossible without total sea supreamacy. Ships could provide fresh horses and supplies, evacuate the wounded, etc. The times the Macedonians suffered  from terrain they were away from flat, riverine plains or the coast, i.e the mountains of Kush and the Great Salt Desert in the middle of Iran (Dasht i Kavir?).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2006 at 23:14

Arabela was pretty inland. And Decebal, the question is not just of what you can carry, but of supply. Now your argument would hold water if it was a Marathon like situation, whereby most of the soldiers were of one nearby city. In this case the soldiers were from as far away as Sindh! Now you are telling me that Darius in an era before canned food, was able to amass 250,000 men from different parts of the empire, transport them (which means feed them on the way), link up and then move a nother distance away to face Alexander. I have great difficulty beleiving it. WHen I was in the NCC (National cadet Corps), the main limitator of mobility was food stuff. And from my own experience, (albeit on a much smaller scale) what you are suggesting is impossible.

The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Nov-2006 at 18:09
Yes, it has happened: in the era before canned food (chic) large armies were repeatedly assembled and put into the field for prolonged amounts of time. Whether you want to believe it or not is a different story.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Nov-2006 at 23:08
And the they would have died very quickly of hunger. The Romans were the only ones who repeately put large armies in the field but they had a whole system of forward bases to support the armies, on the Euphrates. And the main limitor of Roman campiagns over 800 years in the same areas was;  food. Both Trajen and Severus defeated the Parthians but could not defeat the elements. This dspite having the almost all of Syria as a base.
 
Now Alexander was on an expedition. In that area. ANd Darius had lost his richest satrapies by then, and would have been hard pressed to find food for his army (the PUnjab no longer being part of Persia).. So tell me how could he have had an army of the numbers you claim.
 
Mere statemenst, unsupportwed by evidence and facts such as the one you made are not only unintelligent and ignorant, but they do not do justice to this forum.
 
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Nov-2006 at 04:08
At Gaugamela Darius was still the King of Kings. The Persians had suffered two previous serious defeats at Granicus and Issus but each time Darius got away, retreated, and put a new army in the field. At the time of Gaugamela Darius still had the resources of 2/3 of the Achaemenid domain to his disposal thus could field a considerable army. It is after the third loss at Gaugamela that his nobility will turn against him and he will become a hunted man. More importantly the loss at Gaugamela opened up the road to Ctesiphon, Persepolis, and Darius' treasure that will fall almost in its entirety in Alexander's hands. Without his gold and with his best nobles against him, Darius' resistance efforts were doomed.
Anyway, these are the numbers the Greek historians that accompanied Alexander inform us about. If you have others, please present them ; it's very possible that there might  entries in Persian and/or Indian chronicles about the incident. Alexander carved quite a myth in the area and there must be stories about Gaugamela in the folklore.


Edited by konstantinius - 07-Nov-2006 at 04:18
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