I wrote three poems about Alexander the Great’s battles against the Persian Empire and its King, Darius III and then combined them into Three Battles. Here is the original “Battle of Issus” – the second of the three battles – note: Darius is pronounced Da Ri us
Darius led his shining army west;
At Issus, would he Alexander test.
He took the town, the weak and wounded there,
And not a man among them did he spare.
For to the Persian King’s eternal shame
Did each and every stricken man he maim:
Struck off their hands so they could fight no more;
Thus settled, with his cruelty, a score.
So Alexander sent his spies to find
If the Great King perhaps had lost his mind;
Superior his numbers and his might;
Why would he choose for battle such a site?
But King Darius listened but to those
Who, thoughtfully, their words of wisdom chose,
For only sycophants would get his ear;
They told the King the words he wished to hear.
That he was strong, the Macedonians weak;
Upon them, would his army, havoc wreak.
So while his foe questioned his sanity,
In truth his weakness was his vanity.
So at this place he wrought his strategy,
And with the King did his satraps agree,
That here at Issus would he meet the foe,
And with his army strike a fatal blow.
So now his men on foot and those on horse,
At the Panaris lined the river’s course:
The cavalry in brightly coloured ranks,
The glinting pikes above the Greek phalanx.
And from his chariot the King could see
The Cardacies – his Persian infantry,
Spread like a swarm of locusts flank to flank:
A sea of spears along the river bank.
Then to the south the waiting Persians saw
The Macedonians march on to war,
And at their head did Alexander ride;
His brave Companions riding at his side.
Parmenion, his Thessalians led
To the left flank, as to the right now sped
On charging horse, the Macedonian King,
And there dismounted, faced the foe’s right wing.
And now the Persians struck an early blow
Against the warrior Parmenio.
Across the river came the charging hordes,
And in the sunlight flashed their shields and swords.
As the great general and his horsemen held,
The Hypaspists with Alexander felled
The Persian Cardacies, and beat them back,
Then launched straight at Darius an attack.
Now all around their King the Persians died,
As now the gaping breach had opened wide,
And men, to save themselves, now broke and ran,
As surged the might of Alexander’s van.
And so Darius, seeing all the dead,
Turned back his chariot and eastward fled,
As Alexander watched and let him go,
Then turned to help the brave Parmenio.
A horse he mounted, riding at their head,
His cavalry, to charge the Greeks, he led.
He turned their flank – bright swords and daggers slashed,
Until the mercenaries all were smashed.
Now was the rout complete, the victory sealed;
The Persian army fled the battlefield,
While Alexander and his horsemen chased,
Darius in his chariot now raced,
Until the way impassable, and King
Darius bade his guards a horse to bring,
He mounted, quickly spurred the horse to flight,
And so did King Darius flee the fight –
His mighty army shattered and laid low;
His chariot, his cloak and golden bow;
His treasure and his daughters and his wife,
All lost – now left with nothing but his life.
So to Persepolis Darius rushed,
With just the remnants of an army crushed.
To Alexander then he sent a plea
To set his wife and his two daughters free,
And offered up one half of his empire,
But Alexander’s eyes flashed bright with fire:
‘I am the King of Asia now!’ he said,
‘Your Empire and your glory now are dead.
Your wife and daughters have their liberty,
But as an equal, don’t dare address me.
I’ll not accept a grain of your design,
For all of Asia that you held is mine!’
As Alexander’s note Darius read,
A premonition filled his soul with dread:
He saw his Empire fall and turn to dust,
His men to corpses, and their swords to rust.
But with despair the Great King’s anger grew;
His army still was great, the foe – so few.
Might his Immortals and his cavalry,
Still from the ashes snatch a victory?
So once again would King Darius fight.
Once more to test Great Alexander’s might.
At Gaugamela would the two next meet,
And bitter would Darius taste defeat.