THE BATTLE OF GAUGAMELA
 IT was now almost two years since the battle of Issus, and
Alexander determined once more to meet Darius, who had
again assembled a large army.
In the spring of 331 B.C. the king went back to Tyre,
and by August he had reached Thapsacus, a town on the
banks of the river Euphrates. He wished to go on to
Babylon, the capital of the Persian empire, but the
direct way to the city, which was down the Euphrates,
was guarded by Cyrus with a large army. So Alexander
struck off across the north of Mesopotamia, and
reaching the Tigris marched along the river on the
eastern side. Above Nineveh he crossed to the other
bank, and after marching southward for several days, he
heard that Darius was encamped on a plain near
Gaugamela, on the river Bumōdus.
Even to the brave Macedonian generals, the vast hosts
of the Persians looked formidable.
Parmenio looking at them begged the king to surprise
the enemy by a night attack rather than risk a battle
"I will not steal a victory," answered Alexander.
The night before the battle the king slept soundly, as
though nothing preyed upon his mind. In the morning
his generals found him still fast asleep, so without
disturbing him they themselves bade the soldiers have
At length Parmenio went to wake the king, and having
with difficulty roused him, he asked how it was
 could sleep so soundly when the most important battle
of his life had to be fought that day.
"You slept, sire, as though you were already
victorious," said the anxious general.
"Are we not so indeed," answered the king, "since we
are at last relieved from the trouble of wandering in
pursuit of Darius, through a wide and wasted country,
hoping in vain that he would fight us?"
Alexander, who was already dressed, now put on his
helmet, which was of iron, yet so polished was it that
it shone as silver. Great skill had been lavished on
the decoration of his belt, which was indeed the most
splendid part of his dress. He then ordered his army
to be drawn up in battle array, while he mounted
Bucephalus, who was old now, yet eager for battle.
Before the king gave the signal to attack, he stretched
out his right hand to heaven, and called upon the gods
to defend and strengthen the Greeks, if he indeed were
the son of Zeus.
By the side of Alexander rode a soothsayer, clad in a
white robe and wearing on his head a crown of gold. He
pointed to the sky, and the soldiers looking up saw an
eagle flying over the king's head and on toward the
Persian army. "It is a good omen," they cried, and
shouted to be led at once against the foe.
A moment later the order was given, and the Macedonians
rushed upon the great hosts of the enemy.
Darius thought that his war-chariots would cause deadly
havoc among his enemies, for scythes were fastened to
the wheels to mow down all who came within reach.
But the Macedonian archers drew their bows and sped
their arrows among the charioteers, while the strongest
seized the reins of the horses, and pulled the drivers
from their seats. Then the soldiers opened wide their
ranks so that those chariots that still had drivers
rattled harmlessly past them.
 Alexander was already attacking the centre of the
Persian army, where, as at the battle of Issus, Darius
sat in his chariot, looking on at the struggle.
All at once he saw Alexander with his chosen companions
drawing nearer and nearer, and once again his courage
failed. Fiercer and fiercer raged the battle, closer
and closer drew Alexander to the Persian king.
The horsemen grouped in front of Darius were driven
backward and fled, all save the bravest who never
flinched, but fell in a supreme effort to keep the
enemy from approaching any nearer to the king's
Even as they fell they still tried to keep back the
foe, clinging desperately to the legs of the horses as
they galloped over their wounded bodies.
Darius was in immediate danger of being captured. In
vain the driver tried to turn the royal chariot, the
bodies of the fallen soldiers would not allow the
wheels to move. The horses plunged and kicked in an
agony of fear, and the charioteer was helpless.
Then, as the king had done on the field of Issus, he
did now. He leaped from the chariot, mounted a horse
and fled from the battlefield.
Alexander followed the king in swift pursuit; it seemed
impossible that he could escape. But Parmenio, who was
commanding the left wing, was almost overpowered by the
enemy. He sent a messenger to overtake Alexander, and
beg him for help.
The king reluctantly gave up his pursuit of Darius, and
rode back with his companions to give his general the
help he had entreated. But by the time he reached the
left wing his aid was no longer needed. Parmenio had
wrestled victory from the foe.
So the king again set out in pursuit of Darius, but all
that he captured was the chariot, the shield and the
bow of the coward king.