It was a fierce battle, as battles usually are, filled with blood, swords, clashes and the desire for victory. While Alexander the Great and his men fought for victory – they really fought for honor and their place in the Kingdom. The scene was near the famous site of Troy on the Granicus River. The fighters were Alexander the Great’s men against the forces of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor. The time was May of 334 B.C. and the impetus was the assassination of Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon. Perceived by many as weak after the murder of his father, Alexander the Great was determined to demonstrate his strength and claim his place as the rightful leader.
The Battle of the Granicus River was one of the greatest battles of the time period and secured Alexander the Great’s rule. It was the first of three major battles that he fought with the Persian Empire.
This first of Alexander’s battles had many moments of tension and fear. The most dramatic moment was undoubtedly when Alexander was stunned by an axe-blow from a Persian nobleman named Spithridates. Before he could murder Alexander, however, the nobleman was killed by Cleitus the Black and Alexander recovered. The battle took its toll with 300-400 casualties on the side of the Greeks and over 3000 infantry deaths on the side of the Persians. Showing no mercy, Alexander ordered that the Greek mercenaries, under the command of Memnon of Rhodes, be enslaved and 8000 were sent back to Macedon.
While few items remain today from the time period except in the minds of historians, antiques and replicas continue the history and the rich context of the time. The equestrian Alexander, for instance, sold by Phoenix Ancient Art, was inspired by the one that Lysippos created. Alexander the Great erected the original sculpture he commissioned from Lysippos in the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus at Dion near Mt. Olympos. This 49 cm bronze replica from the 2nd -3rd century B.C. is an echo of the great masterwork by Lysippos.
The figure was originally sitting astride a mount with his upper legs in place along the horse’s back and his lower legs spread outward and extended back. The cuirass shows the muscular torso of the heroic form and the anatomical perfection of the body. Interestingly, since the Greeks didn’t use stirrups, the rider’s unsupported feet point out and down to the sides. The perfect anatomy is also clearly indicted with the abdominal muscles, the pectoral muscles and the strong shoulder blades.
This is one of the many examples of pieces from the 1st and 2nd century surrounding the period of Alexander the Great and the Battle of the Granicus River. Understanding the context and the historical events surrounding such pieces can greatly enhance the appreciation one has for these priceless antiques.