No lack of lands to conquer - Chapter I Philip II of Macedon was not a poor strategist by any standards, but his decision to go to war with the vast Achaemenid Empire was to be his downfall. Even less was he a poor soldier, yet the brief campaign shattered his reputation, and indeed nearly toppled the state which he had done so much to transform. Macedonia had changed from a modestly sized Balkan backwater to a strong, militaristic and expansionist kingdom under Philip's rule. Having come to power in 359 BC after the untimely deaths of his brothers, he held on to it through wise but bold leadership. He worked hard to improve military standards, using combat experience with neighbouring nations and tribes to tune the Macedonian army into a powerful instrument. Notably, the Macedonian cavalry had played a key role in many of his successes, although his disciplined infantry phalanxes also outmatched their opponents. These victories over his minor neighbours had been eclipsed, however, by his defeat of the Greek states to the south at the ferocious battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. No longer would Macedonia be treated like a poor relation of the 'true Greeks' of Athens, Sparta, Thebes and the others, but rather as their effective ruler. From 337 BC, preparations were underway to form a united Greek army to invade the Persian Empire. For so long, it had been the lot of the Greeks to be on the receiving end of Persian invasions, and each time the various states had in desperation joined forces and narrowly beaten them off. But while Thermopylae, Salamis and Marathon were unforgettable names in Greek history, they had spent far more time fighting each other than they had the Persians. Any attempts which had been made had invariably met with little success, suffering from poor organisation, a lack of numbers and most significantly, disunity and rivalry among both the men and their leaders. Now, though, Philip was master of most of Greece, with the notable exception of Sparta, whose grim reputation had perhaps dissuaded him from trying to bring them into his 'League of Corinth'. The great invasion took place in the early summer of the following year, with Philip leading an army of over 40,000 troops against the uncounted armies of the Achaemenid Empire. It was his boldest decision yet, but it had the potential to destroy Greece's old enemy, and success would also bring Philip renown, and hopefully loyalty, from his subjects. The endeavour got off to a poor start, with unusually bad weather causing trouble on the sea crossing to Asia, with more than one ship running aground on the rocky coast of their destination. Philip's own ship almost became a victim of the storm, barely avoiding a collision with the ship alongside it. Once the majority of his army was finally ashore, Philip could begin to focus on the campaign itself. The most pressing question was that of secure supply lines, without which he would be restricted to campaigning along the coast, being supplied by sea, where the Greeks had superiority. Fortunately, a number of the cities in the area were at least nominally Greek, so there was a strong chance of receiving material support from them. From his landing site at the Troad, Philip's army moved south-east into Anatolia, passing several of these Ionian cities, but only a small number were able to assist him in a meaningful way. None were openly hostile, but they feared retribution from the Persians, whom they believed to be fast approaching to wipe out this Greek force with a much larger army. This was in fact misinformation spread by the Persians, which found ready listeners among those Ionians who were less than pleased by the arrival of the Macedonians, being reasonably content with their current situation. The Macedonians persisted with their advance, but they were by now coming into frequent contact with Persian skirmishing forces, who raided Macedonian camps at night, and occasionally clashed with Macedonian scouting parties. A minor battle took place near Smyrna when Persian forces tried to block the path to the city, in which the Macedonians came off better, easily pushing through. On the other hand, they failed to follow up the pursuit, allowing the Persians to retreat without taking heavy losses. The bulk of the Persian forces were by now heading for the area, but relatively slowly, under the new Persian king, Darius III. He was pursuing a cautious strategy, building up his forces and ensuring they were fit to fight before he engaged the invaders. In fact, he had assembled a force of over 80,000 men, before he felt confident enough to give battle, although even this was only a fraction of the Persians' total strength. This battle finally took place at the end of 336 BC, after several months of preparation on both sides. The location was slightly to the east of Sardis, a significant regional capital which had fallen to Philip's forces a month earlier, in the valley of the Pactolus River. As at Chaeronea, Philip's son Alexander was in command of the Macedonian cavalry, while other officers included the veterans Parmenion and Antigonus. The battle commenced when Persian light infantry made a feint attack towards the Macedonian centre-right, hoping to draw out the less experienced Illyrian troops situated there. This was thwarted by the discipline of these soldiers, who despite not being of the same quality in a pitched battle as most of the Greek contingents, were flanked by steadier Macedonian units. Philip's response was to send Alexander and his cavalry, also situated on the right, to attack the Persian line as the light infantry fell back. With his customary bravado Alexander led the way, although the charge was assailed by previously unseen Persian archers, who were mostly able to escape after delivering a deadly volley towards the approaching cavalry. Fearlessly, Alexander's cavalry pressed on, causing havoc among the recently recruited infantry on the Persian left flank, but suffering heavy casualties in the process. Among those killed at this point was Philotas, son of Parmenion, while Alexander himself was lightly wounded. After breaking through the enemy line, they found themselves slowed by the rougher ground to the rear. Fortunately the Persian archers were no longer firing on them, and they were able to extricate themselves and head for the Persian baggage train. This move was observed by Darius, who immediately ordered an attack by his own reserve cavalry, but it was countermanded by one of his officers, who wisely recognised that the longer Alexander's horsemen stayed out of the field, the better.