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متن انگلیسی فصل
Face to Face with Darius
While Alexander was at Gordium, the Persians started to make more plans to defeat him. The Macedonians had no warships; the Persians had 300. It was time for the Persians to take advantage of their power at sea.
Led by General Memnon, they took back the Greek islands of Chios and Lesbos. They planned to continue by sea towards central Greece, and they hoped that Sparta would soon lead a Greek independence movement against the Macedonians. If the Persians created enough problems in Greece, Alexander would have to go home.
They also decided, finally, to burn all the fields before Alexander reached them, so his army would have nothing to eat. Marching south, Alexander found burning fields everywhere. Then, when he got to the city of Tarsus (in present-day southern Turkey), he became ill with a high fever, perhaps because of a swim in an icy river. His doctors feared for his life. But a Greek doctor called Philip, who had looked after Alexander as a boy, suggested a treatment that might help. As the doctor went to prepare the medicine, Alexander was given a letter from General Parmenion, his second-in-command; it said that Philip had been paid by the Persian king to kill Alexander. But when Philip returned with the medicine, Alexander drank it immediately without questioning his doctor’s loyalty, and after several weeks he got better. In Alexander’s world, death by poison was not uncommon and the ability to know friend from enemy was very useful.
Memnon was not as lucky as Alexander. While fighting on Lesbos, he suddenly became ill and died. This was a serious problem for the Persians. Without Memnon and his knowledge of Greece, they did not feel confident that they could fight a war successfully against the Macedonians in Europe. Although Memnon’s plan had worked very well until then, they decided to change it completely.
The Great King of Persia, Darius III, took personal control of the situation. We know little about this king. Although he had royal blood, he was not a close relative of the Persian kings that had ruled before him. He had been the governor of Armenia and fought bravely in battles there; he had then become king of Persia after many members of the royal family were poisoned by a power-hungry politician called Bagoas.
Persia itself was in present-day Iran, but the Great King controlled all the lands from Egypt to Pakistan, and from Uzbekistan to the Arabian Sea. His riches were legendary, and he received the treatment of a god. He was protected by a bodyguard of 10,000 soldiers; they were called the Immortals because when one man died or became ill, his position was immediately filled by another man.
The Great King gave land to the men that served him well. The land-owning Persians had a very comfortable way of life that was often a subject of wonder among the Greeks. They had soft carpets on their floors and beautiful gardens full of flowers; they ate the finest food, and hundreds of servants looked after all their needs. But with one word, the all-powerful king could take away their good fortune for ever.
Wide, well-built roads connected the Great King’s most important cities, Babylon, Susa and Persepolis, with the far corners of his empire. The best of these roads was the Royal Road, which led 2,300 kilometres from Susa, in the heart of the empire, to Sardis, on the Mediterranean coast. Every twenty-five kilometres along the route, there was a place to buy food and stay the night.
Only the Greek cities in the west of the Persian Empire paid tax in the form of money. Everywhere else, tax to the Great King was paid in food; in silver and gold; and in horses, war chariots and fighting men. King Darius now put together an enormous army. Only the lands on the eastern borders of the empire did not send men; they were too far away to be useful.
The Persian army’s strength lay in its well-trained archers and horsemen, because riding and archery were the traditional hobbies of the Persian landowners. Tens of thousands of these men joined their king, but foot soldiers were less easy to find. Darius’s army included a large number of teenage boys with no experience of battle. To help them, the King also called for the hired Greek soldiers who had been fighting with Memnon at sea; he needed them now for a great land battle.
Historians at the time wrote that he had between 300,000 and 600,000 men in his army, but not all of them were soldiers. Each Persian horseman, for example, had twelve servants. And when the king commanded the army, his politicians, his wives and his children came with him.
The Macedonians, whose army only numbered about 50,000 men, received reports that the enemy had camped near the Syrian border with Cilicia (southern Turkey). They marched along the Mediterranean coast towards the Persian camp, covering the distance in half the usual time.
Unknown to Alexander, the Persians had left their camp and were also marching. While the Macedonians followed the coast road south, the Persians followed the inland road north. Although they were only a few kilometres away from each other, neither army knew where the other one was. Such confusion is hard to imagine today, in a world where cameras in space can be used to spy on every movement that an army makes.
The Macedonians realized first that the two armies had passed each other by mistake. They had already had several days of hard marching. Now Alexander asked his soldiers to turn round and march again.
After an evening meal, they marched north in the dark, had a short sleep, then marched again at first light. Around midday they came to a river near the town of Issus. On the far side of the river stood the Persian army, on a flat piece of land about two kilometres wide. To the west there was beach and the Mediterranean Sea; to the east there were mountains. The fighting area was too narrow for Darius to take advantage of his greater numbers of soldiers. It was a good battlefield for the Macedonians.
Alexander, riding Bucephalas, led a charge of horsemen across the river towards the enemy. The Persian horsemen rode to meet them, and the battle began. In the centre of the battlefield were the Macedonian foot soldiers, who fought with six-metre-long spears.
Although they were difficult to defeat on flat ground, the Macedonians were having problems on the steep river banks. They were close to defeat at the hands of the hired Greek soldiers who fought for the Persians.
But just in time, Alexander’s horsemen broke through the Persian line and came to help the foot soldiers. Soon the Macedonians were winning the battle.
King Darius was watching the fighting from his chariot. As Alexander and his Macedonian horsemen moved towards him from two sides, the eyes of the two kings met for a moment. Then Darius, realizing that the battle was lost, turned his chariot and quickly retreated.
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