National Geographic : 1968 Jan
Egyptian deity whom the Greeks equated with Zeus. The priest addressed Alexander as the "Son of Ammon" and led him to the Oracle. The king received, according to Arrian, "the answer his soul desired." Though he never disclosed that answer, word spread that he had been told he would rule all lands.* Alexander returned to Tyre, rested his troops, and then marched swiftly northeast to where Darius awaited him with a reinforced army. We, too, left Egypt and, once again in our Land Rover, took up his trail. The Macedonian moved across the rich, roll ing wheatland that today makes Syria one of the few Arab countries capable of feeding them selves. It was a fertile land then, too. But Alex ander found it burned black by the Persians in an unsuccessful effort to delay his troops. The Iraqi Army was more successful in de laying us. Barely inside Iraq, near Mosul, we were stopped by a roadblock. Soldiers swarmed around us, guns ready, and began to search the Land-Rover. Suddenly everyone snapped to attention as an officer drove up. "My men have orders to search every car for arms," he explained. "This is Kurdish country, restricted territory. Mind you, there's no prob lem any more. We've promised the Kurds new schools, better representation in government. Still, we have to be careful." He escorted us to Mosul, where we were given a pass and-to assure that we would have no trouble with the "pacified" Kurds-an armed escort to Faysh Khabur, where Alexander crossed the Tigris to face Darius (map, page 11). Simple Trick Foils a Fearsome Weapon Darius's hope of stopping the seemingly irre sistible Macedonian infantry lay in his scythed chariots. To give them every chance, he had leveled the plain near Gaugamela, east of Mosul. But when they attacked, curved blades flashing on their wheels, Alexander ordered his ranks to part. The chariots, unable to turn quickly, raced through, and the Macedonians dragged horses and drivers to the ground. Quickly forming the Companions into a wedge, Alexander charged directly at Darius. The Persian king, abandoning his chariot and weapons, escaped on horseback. Elsewhere, the battle was going badly for the Macedonians. Outflanking some units, overrun ning others, the Persians seemed to be winning the day-until they learned that Darius had deserted them. As at Issus, Persian resistance collapsed. (Continued on page 27) *See "Fresh Treasures from Egypt's Ancient Sands," by Jefferson Caffery, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November, 1955. 22 Braving enemy javelins, Alexander, left, gallops toward Darius III on the Plain of Issus in his first encounter with the Persian king. Darius panics and flees in his chariot, abandon ing family, harem, and treasures. His troops follow, retreating east to Gaugamela, where Darius prepared for a final battle with the Westerners. The rout at Issus in 333 B.C. so impressed a later Roman that he decorated his Pompeii home with this mosaic. Strategic route, now followed by a Turkish highway and railway, led to the battle on the dis tant Plain of Issus beside the sea. Darius's forces poured south through this gap to cut off Alex ander from the rear; defeated, the Persians fled by the same opening. United States Air Force F-100's, patrolling out of Incirlik Air Base, fly over a hilltop fortress where 12th-century Armenians guarded the gateway to the plain.