Battle of Gaugamela, 331 BC

Darius III versus Alexander the Great: A Persian army under Darius fails to intimidate a Macedonian army under Alexander. Will Darius’ massive cavalry force overcome Alexander’s flanks before he can overcome Darius’ center? Also known as the Battle of Arbela..

Significance
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This is considered Alexander’s masterpiece and with great reason. It is even more impressive that by winning this masterpiece, Alexander crushed a long-standing empire.
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Analysis
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Alexander was forced to achieve two separate, very diverse goals in this battle: hold the Persian wings in check and crush the Persian center. He held the two Persian cavalry envelopments in check with rudimentary combined arms defence including cavalry, light infantry and the phalanx of course. Alexander was then able to crush the Persian center by concentrating a strong portion of his phalanx and the elite Companions at Darius’ center of gravity: himself.
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Notes
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This is a battle I always intended to animate since I began this project (it was originally termed a PowerPoint Battle Database). Looking back, I am glad I did not try and animate this battle in the early developmental stages because it is too epic of a battle in all aspects to be animated shoddily. To say the least, I was very satisfied with the end product for this battle.
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While editing this animation I came across a major “plot hole” if you will in the animation sequence. The two enveloping wings of Persian cavalry appeared to severely outnumber the Macedonian wings which is fairly deceiving. In this case, I simply decreased the size of all cavalry units and increased the size of all infantry units. The reason for this original inaccuracy is the simple fact that two units, one cavalry and one infantry, are not equal in terms of quantity of soldiers. Instead each unit reflects the space it occupies; cavalry are obviously more spaced out than infantry but even this varies from era to era. I continually urge viewers to remember that this is the Art of Battle. The image is a powerful thing in modern society, and is why this method of presentation is so effective.
– Jonathan Webb
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Works Consulted
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Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
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Fuller, J.F.C. The Generalship of Alexander the Great. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958.
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Goodenough, Simon. Tactical Genius in Battle. Oxford: Phodian Press, 1979.
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Livesey, Anthony. Great Commanders and Their Battles. New York: Macmillian Publishing, 1987.
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United States Military Academy History Department. “Atlas for Ancient Warfare.” United States Military Academy. http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/atlases/AncientWarfare/index.htm (accessed Apr. 28, 2009).
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Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World. London: Salamander, 1980.

Images
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Alexander the Great: http://www.wpclipart.com/famous/political/
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Darius III: http://www.crystalinks.com/dynasty29.html
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Macedonian cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_36_figure_1.htm
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Macedonian heavy infantry: http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2007/05/21/the-macedonian-phalanx/
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Macedonian light infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_36_figure_1.htm
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Map of the Persian Empire: Sheppard, Ruth. Alexander the Great at War. Oxford: Osprey, 2008
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Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections
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Persian cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_33_figure_1.htm
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Persian heavy infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_33_figure_1.htm
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Persian light infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_33_figure_1.htm
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Persian scythed chariots: http://jyte.com/cl/id-like-to-spend-a-half-of-my-existence-dallying-about-to-suddenly-experience-a-flash-of-inexplicable-inspiration-that-motivates-me-to-establish-my-raison-detre-2
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Persian war elephant: http://pro.corbis.com/search/Enlargement.aspx?CID=isg&mediauid=%7B694F0FE7-A50F-4B6F-87FE-0D719F46E204%7D
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If you enjoyed the Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Hydaspes River 326 BC, another battle featuring Alexander the Great:

hydaspes river preview 1

Battle of Daras 530, another battle in which the Persians attempted an envelopment of both flanks:

daras preview 1

Battle of Thymbra 546 BC, another battle featuring Persians’ use of chariots:

thymbra preview 1Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.

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Readers Comments (14)

  1. I love you

  2. brenda von bargen May 20, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

    Alexander is the ultimate generalissimo. Very good tactics employed in opposition to a larger force. I wonder if Caesar, Napolean or Hannibal would have been successful.

  3. Look at Hannibals Victory at Cannae(216 BC) during the Second Punic Wars and you will understand that it was and remains one of the Masterpieces of Military Tactics ever wrought by a General and it is one of the most important Battles in history.
    The Double Envelopement Tactic used by Hannibal is considered a masterpiece and the cannae model is still taught at military schools across the world.

  4. very nice! thanks for all of your diagrams. they’re very entertaining and educational. i once tried an animation of gaugamela. you can find it at 1:38:35 here: http://video.google.com/videoplaydocid=7343618077473282887#
    thanks again!

  5. This is simply awesome. Thank you for what must have been a true labor, even if a labor of love. The craft can be taught, but you have captured the art of the thing.

    ps: reply to a previous post. the problem with cannae as a battle and as a work of shear genius, which it most certainly was, is that in the end it signified absolutely nothing. Eighty thousand Romans were dead and all Hannibal could do was walk around Italy. Even a great victory is not enough to make up for a flawed strategy.

  6. Please animate the Battle of Isos…You just can’t have Gaugamela without the first battle between Darius and Alexander. Isos is an example of great tractic used against a superior oponnent and…it’s a pretty famous battle, so there’s a lot of reasons to animate it. Sorry for spelling mistakes…English is not my native language…

  7. Thank you everyone for the compliments! It’s these epic battles which make this website so fulfilling.

    Mike: Issus is certainly an interesting battlIe but there are so many battles I wish to animate that it is on the long list right now as opposed to the short list which are battles planned for next season or two. I wouldn’t have noticed English wasn’t your native language.

  8. How come no one seems to point out things about Ghengis Khan? I never hear anyone ever bring up the fact that he had effectively created the first “Blitzkrieg” capable army, the first freedom of religion, the largest land empire in history, and the U.S. military still uses many of his army structures as well as every other military in the world. And yet we always hear about hannibal and napoleon. Im guessing maybe it has to do with the fact that they are asian and the education system here blunts our knowledge of any culture outside of our own being capable of victory. Although I am glad that we do have logic from the west, just wish our culture actually used it. Anyway thank you Alexander, militiades etc. for protecting the one great thing in the world which no one uses.. brains. By the way Aristotle was his teacher.
    Think about Temujin though, even if he does not have your skin color at least realize the military prowess of people like him. If Alexander would have had to fight him I’m almost sure that Alexander would immediately adapt his army as did everyone in europe who had to deal with steppe horse archers. Check battle of Hidespes river with Alexander and you will get an idea of how truly advanced the army of alexander became all of it caused by skirmish-types being thrown at him. Ghengis Khan with his ‘standard sweeps’ and feigned retreats vs Alexander’s adaptive style would have been beyond EPIC in battle.

  9. Thank you very much Sir. Such detailed graphical presentation truly makes it a lot easier to comprehend the actual battle tactics and ingenuity employed by the vastly outnumbered Alexander the great.

  10. Just noticed you have Mazaeus spelled wrong in the text on Slide 4. Great job BTW.

  11. Alot of people died what for? who living there now?

  12. if you dont know phalanx formation you dont understand preparly

  13. hi nice animation… was just thinking if darius had not fled would the nos of darius could have crushed alexander since his left flank was already in trouble….

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