The Anabasis of Alexander/Book I/Chapter XIX

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CHAPTER XIX.

Siege and Capture of Miletus.

At this time Glaucippus, one of the most notable men in Miletus, was sent out to Alexander by the people and the Grecian mercenaries, to whom rather than to the citizens the town had been entrusted, to tell him that the Milesians were willing to make their walls and harbours[1] free to him and the Persians in common; and on these terms to demand that he should raise the siege. But Alexander ordered Glaucippus to depart without delay into the city, and tell the citizens to prepare for a battle at daybreak. He then stationed bis military engines near the wall, and having in a short time partly broken and partly shaken down a large piece of it, he led his army near, that the men might enter wherever the wall had been thrown down or shaken. The Persians from Mycale were following close[2] upon them and could almost see their friends and allies being besieged. In the meantime, Nicanor, observing from Lade Alexander's commencement of the attack, began to sail into the harbour of Miletus, rowing along the shore; and mooring his triremes as close as possible together, with their prows facing the enemy, across the narrowest part of the mouth of the harbour, he shut off the Persian fleet from the port and made it impossible for the Persians to give succour to the Milesians. Then the Macedonians from all sides pressed close upon the citizens and the Grecian mercenaries, who took to flight; some of them, casting themselves into the sea, floated along upon their shields with the hollow upwards to an unnamed islet which lies near the city; others getting into their skiffs and hastening to get the start of the Macedonian triremes, were captured by them at the mouth of the harbour. But the majority of them were slain in the city itself. As soon as Alexander had got possession of the city, he sailed against those who had fled for refuge into the island; ordering the men to carry ladders upon the prows of the triremes, with the intention of effecting a landing along the cliffs of the island, as one would mount a wall. But when he saw that the men on the island were resolved to run every risk, he was moved with pity for them, because they appeared to him both brave and loyal; wherefore he made a truce with them on the condition that they would serve as his soldiers. These Grecian mercenaries were about 300 in number. He likewise pardoned all the citizens of Miletus who had escaped death in the capture of the city, and he granted them their freedom.

The foreigners used to start from Mycale every day and sail up to the Grecian fleet, hoping to induce them to accept the challenge and come forth to a battle; but during the night they used to moor their vessels near Mycale, which was an inconvenient station, because they were under the necessity of fetching water from the mouth of the river Maeander, a great way off.[3] Alexander guarded the harbour of Miletus with his ships, in order to prevent the foreigners from forcing an entrance; and at the same time he sent Philotas to Mycale in command of the cavalry and three regiments of infantry, with instructions to prevent the men in the ships from landing. Accordingly, they, being through the scarcity of fresh water and of the other necessaries of life as good as besieged in their ships, sailed away to Samos; where furnishing themselves with food, they sailed back again to Miletus. They then drew up most of their ships in front of the harbour on the deep sea, with the hope that they might in some way or other induce the Macedonians to come out into the open sea. Five of their ships sailed into the roadstead which lay between the island of Lade and the camp, expecting to surprise Alexander’s ships while empty of their crews; for they had ascertained that the sailors for the most part were dispersed from the ships, some to gather fuel, others to collect provisions, and others being arranged in foraging parties.[4] And indeed it happened that a number of the sailors were absent; but as soon as Alexander observed the five Persian ships sailing towards him, he manned ten ships with the sailors who happened to be at hand, and sent them with all speed against them with orders to attack prow to prow. No sooner did the men in the five Persian ships see the Macedonians bearing up against them, contrary to their expectation, than they immediately tacked about, though far off, and fled to the rest of their fleet. However, the ship of the Iassians,[5] not being a fast sailer, was captured in the flight, men and all; but the other four succeeded in escaping to their own triremes. After this the Persians sailed away from Miletus without effecting anything.

  1. Strabo (xiv. 1) says that Miletus had four harbours.
  2. ὲφομαρτούντων. This word is rare in prose. See Homer (Iliad, viii. 191); Apollonius Rhodius, i. 201.
  3. Miletus lay nearly ten miles south of the mouth of the Maeander.
  4. A similar stratagem was used by Lysander at Aegospotami, B.C. 405. See Xenophon (Hellenics, ii. 1).
  5. Iassus was a city in Caria on the Iassian Gulf, founded by the Argives and further colonized by the Milesians.