Arrian – Book III Discussion Questions
1. The Pilgrimage to the shrine of Ammon [3.3-3.4]
After Alexander enters Egypt, founds Alexandria, and solidifies his control of the Mediterranean Sea (i.e. 3.1-3.2), he decides to take a long detour to visit the shrine of Ammon. What are his reasons for doing this? What is Arrian’s commentary on this pilgrimage? How could this detour be seen as a wise move for Alexander? How could it be seen as a dangerous move for Alexander?
2. Preliminary moves at Gaugamela [3.7-3.10]
After Alexander sends his naval forces to help put down insurrection in the Peloponnese and appoints trustworthy administrators in Egypt (3.6), he continues to advance farther into Persia against Darius. Given the choice of a battleground removed further into Persia’s interior as well as the composition of Darius’ forces, what could Darius’ overall strategy be at this point? What danger does Alexander’s army face as they approach Darius’ army and advance deeper into enemy territory? As they close in on Darius, why does Alexander disregard Parmenion’s suggestion that the Macedonians attack at night?
3. The Battle of Gaugamela – Darius’ opening assault [3.11-3.13]
How does Darius’ position threaten the Macedonian army? In what ways can it succeed? Could Darius’ plan have worked? What advantages did the Persians have at this point in the battle? How were the Macedonians prepared to deal with Darius’ initial assault?
4. The Battle of Gaugamela – Alexander’s counter-attack [3.14-3.15]
How were Alexander’s plans formed in response to Darius’ initial deployment? What weakness did Alexander exploit in the Persian line? Was this planned beforehand? Was Alexander counting on this break? What was Alexander prepared to risk? How much luck was involved in Alexander’s plans to face Darius at Gaugamela?
5. Persian capital cities taken [3.16, 3.18.10-12]
Alexander’s spoils at Babylon and Susa are used by him both to honor and to help control the Greeks back home. How does this fact relate (if at all) to Alexander’s occupation of Persepolis? Did Alexander intentionally burn Persepolis? What would the advantages and disadvantages be for taking the credit for such a deed? How does this relate, for example, to the scandal associated with Alexander’s earlier sack of Thebes in Book I?
6. Alexander pursues Darius into Media [3.19-3.24]
Even after Alexander captures the Persian King’s palace, he relentlessly chases Darius out of Ecbatana and through Media. As he gets closer to his goal, Alexander symbolically “advanced to the edge of inhabited territory” (3.20.4). Likewise, he reaches the end of Darius’ trail and has to make decisions about what to do with the remnants of the Persian army. How did Alexander hope to finally confront Darius? How did he actually find Darius? How does Arrian portray Darius when summarizing his life? In what ways does Alexander take over Darius’ role as king of Persia? With Darius finally out of the way, why must Alexander continue his pursuit? Who still remains as a threat to Alexander? How must he handle them?
7. Uprisings and Conspiracies [3.25-3.27]
Far from inheriting a settled Persian empire, Alexander must still deal with disparate and rebellious pockets of resistance both without and within his inner circle. How does Satibarzanes take advantage of Alexander’s trust in him? What is Philotas’ crime and does it really merit such punishment? In the wake of such threats to his power, how does Alexander now view his Persian appointees? his own Macedonian officer corps? Who can Alexander still trust to support him?
8. Bessos and the last holdouts [3.28-3.30]
Just as Book III opened with Alexander founding his eponymous city in Egypt, it ends with another Alexandria being founded in the Indian Caucasus. Given this landscape, the season of the year, and the vastness of Central Asia, what was Bessos able to count on so that he might not be captured by Alexander? What are Alexander’s main goals at the point and what is he able to do in order to achieve them? What does the Macedonian army look like after having traversed across Central Asia? How has the army changed and why? In such different conditions from Europe, how is the Macedonian army still able to win against enemy tribes? What if anything can stand in Alexander’s way at this point? What part does loyalty and treason play in the latter half of Book III? What part have these issues played earlier in Books I and II leading up to this point in Arrian’s Anabasis?