Alexander’s Psychological Warfare

Posted by billk on April 25, 2024 1:32 pm

Soon after Alexander the Great crossed the Hellespont into Asia Minor, and began conquering towns as part of his Persian Campaign. He ordered his restless men not to loot surrounding farms and villages since the land would soon be theirs and to avoid breeding excessive hostility against them.

But he told them to pay special attention that they don’t harm the lands of Persian general, Memnon of Rhodes. The reason for this was because Memnon was born in Greece and Alexander hoped that it would look suspicious to Darius and the Persian generals that Memnon’s land remained pristine even while surrounding towns were being taken by the Macedonians. He hoped they’d wonder if their Greek-born general had struck some sort of treasonous deal with Alexander, creating some mistrust within Persian ranks.

Coinage of Memnon of Rhodes, Mysia. Mid 4th century BC
Coinage of Memnon of Rhodes, Mysia. Mid 4th century BC

This bit of psychological warfare may have paid dividends soon after when the Persian generals were planning on how to confront Alexander. Memnon suggested they burn surrounding villages and crop fields to deny Macedonian men food and supplies as they traveled deeper into the Persian Empire.

Sound advice, but the Persian generals wanted no part of destroying their own land just to battle some upstart pretender to the throne. Of course we don’t know exactly what was said, but you can imagine the thoughts running through their minds as a Greek whose land was just spared by the Macedonians was telling them to destroy their land.

Alexander would go on to beat the Persians at Granicus and beyond, but we’ll never know if things would have been different if the Persians had listened to their Greek-born general with the pristine land.

Source: Freeman, Philip. (2011). Alexander the Great. Simon & Schuster. pp.76-77

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