I've had a real resistance to exposing the secrets of Alexander as only a foolish commander ever shares his battle techniques.

However, it's been a long time since armies battled with swords so some of the secrets which cannot be transferred to use in modern warfare can be explained. I have not had any battle experience in this life by the way. All this is from a 2300 year old memory.

I'll start with bows and arrows. People are mistaken when they think that there was one classification or use of bow and arrow in the battles which Alexanders army participated. There were many classifications.

There were 'birders'. These were men who grew up hunting birds and could hit a small object at 50'. They used a light fast arrow and a bow with light pull. These men stood and face approaching columns of men in formation. When ever one of the enemy peeked over his shield they would shoot at his eyes. Otherwise they would shoot at their legs and that too would often bring them down. Most important it kept them from seeing what we were about to do to them.

There were the strong bowmen. They were very rare and very powerful men who charged an arm and a leg for their services. They got special foods and I recall sending three men hundreds of miles to get somekind of food for one of them. They would shoot a few arrows and take lots of breaks. They shoot over the heads of both armies and into the enemy camp. They used arrows with very small points (or arrows with no points) because if the enemy is in their rear you don't care if they take five hours or five seconds to die. It is only in battle that you need an arrow with a broad head to bring down a charging enemy before he gets to you. So these arrows were like inch rods that were metal (I think silver) for about the first four inches. The arrow then smoothly turned into wood and it was of a very light material at the backend. It spiraled so they had no need for feathers and that was important. The enemy stationed men with the very sharpest eyes in their rear camp to watch for arrows. But these arrows came in so fast and were so thin that they were virtually invisible. Nobody could see the arrows and the lookouts lost their heads (literally) because of it. I recall one battle that we were set up for. The opposing army's leader had a very favorite horse that was in most the statues of this leader and the horse was about as famous as the leader was. Well the horse got killed by one of these arrows on the first day and the leader panicked. It took little more to get them to flee from the field of battle. So these men got what they wanted to eat even if I had to send three men hundred of miles to get sheep balls or whatever it was they wanted. I'm sorry that I can't recall the specific food but it was 2300 years ago.

Then there were the field archers. They were deer hunters by training and I had the best one in the world. I watched him take out an opposing commander on a horse in full gallop at 110 meters. It was standard procedure and nothing unusual for him it seemed (I watched him and not the target). Imagine almost a football field and a quarter away a horse going at full speed across the horizon and him hitting the man in the saddle. I recall afterwards asking him why it looked so easy for him and he said it was an easy shot! He said with deer they bound up and down since they actually jump from point to point. Besides knowing how much to lead a deer when you shoot you have to take into account the fact that they are going up and down at least four feet. They only have about one foot of vulnerable chest cavity to hit so his timing had to be absolutely perfect. It's best to hit the man right before his horse pushes off on a leap since that is when they are moving the slowest. A man on horse back is only going horizontal not vertically like a deer does so he called a target moving at 30 mph 110 meters away an easy target.

I would assign 30 men to guard him when moved close to the front. These were excellent swordsmen who would also carry bows so the enemy would not know who the good archer was.

That brings us to the regular troops all of which could operate a bow and arrow at least to hit a man at about 30 meters. Most of these men were also in the next group and could perform both jobs.

These were the tactical archers who operated as a unit, often of around 400 men. These were strong and able to time their shots. Being calm was far more important than being accurate. The most important battle tactic they used was this one. They would start to fire on the enemy when he got ~220 yards away. They would use a heavy blunt arrow and at the signal shoot it straight up almost so it would take about ten seconds or beats of a drum to arch and then come straight down on the enemy. After shooting that arrow they would quickly pick up a regular arrow and pull back on the bow. At the double drum beat they would fire the arrow straight at the enemy. If the signal man timed it right both arrows would hit at the same second. The enemy had to chose whether to put their shield over their head to stop the first arrow or hold it in front of them to stop the second arrow.

It's not much of a choice is it? The enemy did not think so either. The enemy often made the mistake of thinking their helmets would save them from the ones that came straight down. Half the time they went through the helmets and half the time they just bounced off after shattering the man's skull in an average of about six pieces. They would live for awhile but the description of what happened is gross. Sometimes it came down on their shoulders and broke their clavicle.

That tactic accounted for 12,000 enemy dead in one battle before it even began and 8,000 in another battle. They would pull back and regroup after this and it was before we had taken any losses.

It's unfair to leave you hanging. When the arrows bounced off the enemy's helmets and shattered their skulls they would often think they had a headache but were otherwise alright. While the enemy was trying to regroup the injuries to these men would often cause the water to build up in their brain cavities to the point where it would push the eyes out of their sockets. Then the pressure would cause the brain to short circuit and they would go insane. These men would suddenly break rank and go running insanely around often with swords flailing uselessly at the air. These men would have to be killed by one of their own before they hurt someone. Just one of these men running around mad with his eyes popping out would make about a thousand of the enemy want to leave and go home.

Every culture has the two wing whirligigs that children play with. They are like little helicopters that take a long time to land. We adapted that toy to the arrows that we shot almost straight up. We put feathers on the arrows. The speed of the arrow forced the feathers flat against the shaft and created almost no air resistance. It had a mechanism also. Once the arrows slowed the feathers deployed and the arrows started spinning. I think that as they spun faster the feathers went horizontal and then the downward speed increased and the feathers again flattened against the arrows. They came plunging down starting at about 30 seconds after the other ones did but not quite as fast.

When we were ready to charge the Babylonians we mixed 10-20% of those arrows in with the regular arrows. Then we shot the last volley, dropped our bows and charged with our swords. The normal arrows hit and then the enemy would ready themselves by facing us and suddenly the whirligig arrows dropped from the skies. They did not know where to look and what to do. All they could figure was that the Gods were on our side and were suddenly shooting arrows at them. They all ran away and went home refusing to fight both us and the Gods.

There are a few dozen pages I could write on Greek general archery tactics but that will have to wait for more time when I can write a book.

We often got gifts from those we defeated and most gifts were both valuable and frivolous. There were lots of women and we usually sent them right on to Greece but I would try to meet with them first. One beautiful and ethereal Nubian girl at first demurred and looked away when I look at her and then changed to meet my gaze straight on. I had to find out what she was about. Months later when a battle was looming it was necessary to send her with the rest of the women on to Greece and I had a very difficult time doing so. It was good relationship. She was so gentle and exuded such love that not one soldier who came to my tent listened to a word I ever said.

And you thought I was gay. That was disinformation. It allowed us to keep the army separate from the civilian population more easily. It's been said that our men had to leave wives and girlfriends to go back to the garrisons at night just to be with their male lovers. These were city states and if twenty enemy ships appeared on the horizon you had less than twenty minutes to organize before they landed. Men had to be garrisoned at night. If you had men strewn all over a twenty mile area and some of them drunk you were in big trouble.

If a woman got involved with one of the men they 'knew' ahead of time they were getting involved with a man who already had a male lover so they had to accept him on those term. A woman can accept and appreciate faithfulness for a lover sooner than faithfulness for a job or even for a kingdom because one day it might be her he would be declaring his faithfulness for. Otherwise, she would almost inevitably resent the army or his leaders. The same thing often happens today with the wives of career soldiers.

If you think you have been mislead to your detriment then listen to this. One king on his way to the front to face Alexander with an army of over 300,000 tried to use our techniques and ordered about 100,000 of best men to have sex with each other. He bent both ways himself so he did not think it was an outlandish order but the men had other thoughts on the matter.
These were professional soldiers and could leave when they wanted so there were only about 220,000 troops by the time they got to the front and the king was in fear of loosing his life at the hands of his own men. In a half an hour it turned into a huge rout.

Once we got a gift of 40 black male dwarfs who reminded us of the dwarf acrobats and jugglers we had in Greece for entertainment. We had no idea what to do with them! There was no interpreter and they came from a town in the middle of the Sahara desert that just consisted of dwarf. The biologists made studies of them to see if they would grow and stuff if they ate more because that is all we could figure out what to do with them. And they ate everything we could find. Then they would exercise the food off for three or four hours a day and put us soldiers all to shame by comparison. They had really strong backs and we thought they would perform acts for us any day but they never would.
With their short arms and strong backs they could lift one of our men over their heads and still effortlessly eat and drink with the other hand until our man asked them to put him down.

They were mean little buggers too. The head of the group was the meanest. With his big beard and small body he would angry over something no idea about. Apparently he had sized me as a fair man within the first hour so he knew what he could get away with. He would spit in front of me which was not a fighting challenge though spitting on a person was one. Then he start kicking dirt at me which also was not a fighting offense. But then he would kick that the spit on me and that would just burn me up because I knew what he was doing and he knew and he knew I knew but nobody else and they thought it was just harmless and funny. But it pissed me off so I rarely dealt with them after that which was nice for them and that is wanted anyway.

We couldn't send them to Greece or they would mess the place up and get a whole bunch of the women pregnant. It did not seem they were not against raping the girls either so we kept them with us. Then one of the girls remarked how cute they were. They had the habit of removing their clothes whenever they got hot and they got hot a lot in the desert. The girls seemed to be the first ones to notice that dwarfism doesn't affect most parts of the body. So rape would not be a problem wherever they went. Many girls came from Greece as camp followers and we sent them back when they got pregnant. With half the eligible men away for ten years or more the population of Greece would have gone down if this policy was not in effect and we would have had mass desertions. I had to explain to the girls that if they got pregnant by one of them they might be killed with their child. Not because of the color but because the short limbs and dark color were nearly identical to one of the mythological demons. She would likely be killed for consorting with a demon or be considered one herself.

They were really grateful for the food and must have been used to starving to death. As the weeks went by and they just kept eating everything around and building up huge muscles which looked funny on their small bodies.
When we got near the first battle they started to get angry and demanding. Finally we figured out they wanted bows and arrows. We had finally gotten to the point where we realized they were not cannibals that would kill and eat us but to give them bows and put them out where the enemy could see them was out of the question. The enemy would have laughed us off the field of battle.

The strong bowmen I told you about earlier hung out with the dwarfs and exercised with them. The dwarf leader made one of his men grab a bow from one of the strong bowmen and in short order they affixed straps to the bow. They put their feet where a man normally holds a bow and then he laid down. One dwarf propped him upside down so the arrow pointed upward and the little man pulled the string back and let the arrow fly. When he did it with a second arrow and pulled back the string using only one hand I got the idea.
These men were gifts from the Egyptians we had conquered who hated the Babylonians even more than us so they gave us a great gift and we did not know it. We made 40 huge bows with four times the pull of the bows used by our strongest men and long four foot arrows.

One time the enemy was camped out about a half a mile away on the other side of a 1,000 foot high mountain. Each of these little guys sent 10 arrows a minute over that mountain and into the enemy's camp. At 400 arrows a minute and a five percent hit rate they were killing 20 men a minute. Imagine being camped safe behind a mountain and suddenly hundreds of four foot long arrows start killing your men. They bailed in all directions and left everything behind including their armor.

When the Babylonians saw the four foot arrows they knew we had a whole army of Goliath warriors that had to be eight feet tall and they wanted no part of the eight foot tall Greek warriors. So we hid the little guys behind tents with open tops from which they shot those four foot arrows a half a mile and kept those rumors of giant Greeks alive for a long time.

[There were many Gods and when some of them mated with mortals they often produced offspring that were called giants. These were attributed with varying amounts of super human qualities. To know of these giants and be preparing for battle when all of a sudden four foot long arrows rained down on you from the open air must have been the proof you needed to know you were not on the right side in this battle and you should get away as fast as possible.]

You are right. I didn't tell you how we killed 50,000 of the enemy in four minutes time which was probably some kind of perverse record until Hiroshima and the atomic bomb.

Actually I don't think that those bombs killed as many people as we did in four minutes and certainly not that many combatants. I guess that battle still stands as some kind of record. It stopped invasions from the Middle East for a very long time.


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2003 John Pinil