Ancient Worlds - BBC Two
Episode 4 “Return of the King”
The Battle of Gaugamela (Battle of Arbela) took place in 331 BC between the forces of Alexander the Great of Macedon and the Persians led by Darius III. It was a decisive victory for the Hellenic League that led to the fall of the Persian Empire.
Many Persian soldiers lost their lives, so many that the enemy ensured that Darius would never again raise an imperial army. Some classical sources proclaim that one of the determinant factors in the Persian’s defeat against the Macedonians was king Darius: he realised that victory was hopeless, panicked and fled the battle before any victor had been decided. Another source accounts that Darius was abandoned by his men and not -as Macedonian propaganda would say- that he let his men down.
In 330 BC Alexander the Great reached Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid empire. The troops looted its treasures and a fire broke out, burned to the ground the Palace of Xerxes and spread to the rest of the city, destroying it. It is not clear if the fire was an accident or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Second Persian invasion of Greece. Persepolis, one of the wealthiest cities under the sun, would be known for generations only as `the palace of the forty columns’ (Chehel Minar), for the remaining palace columns left standing in the sand. When Alexander returned several years later and saw the ruins, he regretted his act.
Nearly one year after his escape, Bessus, Darius’ cousin and Satrap of Bactria, betrayed and kill him. Alexander gave Darius a magnificent funeral. He was buried, like all his royal predecessors, in the royal tombs. Alexander eventually married Darius’ daughter Stateira at the Susa weddings in 324 BC.
Pictures n. 1, 2, 3: Persepolis, Iran
Pictures n. 4, 5: The Battle of Gaugamela, ivory relief (anonymous artist), National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid, Spain