Before Alexander crossed the Hellespont he had seen that the opposite shore was held by his Macedonians. While the army landed he himself sailed to the "Harbour of the Achæans." Midway in the strait he took a golden dish in his hand, and flung from it an offering to Poseidon and to his hand, and flung from it an offering to Poseidon and to the Nereids. It is said that the king himself steered the ship in which he sailed to the Mysian shore.
Crossing the plain of Troy, the king climbed the hill of Ilion, and here in a forsaken little town he found a temple to Athene, to whom he offered sacrifice. He left his own armour in the temple, taking in its place an ancient suit that had once been hung upon the walls, a trophy of war.
On the tomb of his ancestor, Achilles, he laid a garland, while Hephæstion, his beloved friend, placed one on the grave of Patroclus. The old Greek stories had entered into the very fibre of the young king, and in this way he did honour, as he deemed, to his glorious ancestor. He felt ready now to do deeds as great as his hero had done.
When Alexander rejoined his army, it had advanced to the river Granicus, and there, on the opposite bank, was a great force under Darius, king of Persia. Alexander would have to conquer this great host before he could advance into Asia.
One of his officers, named Parmenio, begged the king to wait to cross the river until early the next morning, when the enemy would not be drawn up in battle array.
"I should be ashamed," answered the king, "having crossed the Hellespont to be detained by a miserable stream like the Granicus." He then ordered the army to advance, and himself dashed into the river, followed by his horseguards.
The Granicus was not a river to be despised, for the current was strong, and the horses kept their feet with difficulty.
A storm of arrows was poured upon the struggling horses and their riders, and it seemed as though the attempt to cross in the face of the foe would be useless. But the king refused to be daunted, and the soldiers followed their intrepid leader, until at length they reached the opposite bank.
But to clamber up the bank was no easy matter. The sides of the river were slippery, and the horses having no firm foothold, stumbled and fell. Only after great and repeated efforts did Alexander and those who followed him reach the top of the bank. Wet and exhausted, they had no time to form their ranks before the Persians dashed upon them. A desperate hand-to-hand fight was at once begun.
The enemy was quick to notice Alexander, for he wore a large plume of white feathers in his helmet, while his buckler was more splendid than that of any of his soldiers.
Two Persian officers, wishing to win the glory of having killed the king, attacked him together. One of them, riding close to Alexander, rose in his stirrups, and brought his battle-axe down with all his strength upon the helmet of the king. So fierce was the blow that the crest was torn away along with one of the plumes, while the axe cut its way through the helmet, until the edge touched Alexander's hair.
Again the officer raised his axe, but ere he could strike, Clitus, the foster-brother of Alexander, slew the officer with his sword and the king was saved.
The famous phalanx of the Macedonians now threw itself upon the enemy, and the Persians tried in vain to repel the fierceness of the attack. Soon the whole army was put to flight, all save a band of Greek soldiers who were fighting for Darius.
These withdrew to a height above the battlefield, and sent to Alexander to ask for quarter. But the king refused their request, and ordered his men to attack the little company.
The Greeks fought desperately, and Alexander lost more men in this struggle than he had lost in all the rest of the battle. His horse, which was not the famous Bucephalus, was killed on the field.
While in this great battle, fought in 334 b.c. on the banks of the Granicus, the Persians lost a great number of men, only thirty-four Macedonians, it is said, were slain.
The spoil was enormous, and Alexander determined that the Greeks should have a generous share. To Athens he sent three hundred Persian bucklers to be offered to Athene, with these words inscribed, "Alexander, son of Philip, and the Grecians, except the Lacedæmonians, won these from the barbarians who inhabit Asia."
Athens accepted the king's offering to their goddess, but they churlishly refused to send ships to help him to conquer the coast towns which he must now attack.
While dividing the spoil of the Granicus, Alexander did not forget his mother. To her he sent all the plate he had taken, as well as beautiful cloth of wonderful purple dye. For himself he kept but little.