Alexander The Great And The Tragedy Of The Marmares

At least two ancient biographers of Alexander the Great, Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE) and later Arrian (c. 86-160 CE), wrote that the Macedonian conqueror passed through a mountain known as Mount Climax during his campaign in southwestern Anatolia. The exact location of the mountain is disputed. Some point to the region of Marmaris in southern Turkey. More convincingly, others claim that Mount Climax is a part of the Antalya Mountains, to the east of Marmaris. Either way, this particular event occurred in the mountainous region of southern Anatolia.

Sometime between 334 and 333 BCE, Alexander the Great marched his army northward from the port city of Phaselis (in the modern Antalya region of Turkey) through a pass in the mountains, with his aim being to reach Pamphylia. While Alexander’s army traveled through the narrow paths in these steep mountains, the troops were likely pressed into unusually thin columns. According to Diodorus Siculus, it was in this rugged, mountainous terrain, while the invading troops were in a vulnerable formation, that a local tribe known as the Marmares made the unfortunate mistake of raiding Alexander’s army.

The raid carried out by the Marmares was a success. They overwhelmed the rear of Alexander’s column and made off with livestock, supplies and even captives. With loot in hand, the Marmares withdrew to their mountain fortress, known as the Rock—a fortification they perceived to be impregnable.

Regrettably for the Marmares, Alexander—who without the ambush may have let the tribe live in peace—now sought vengeance for the loss of life among his men and to save face for his damaged military renown. Unwilling to let the Marmares get away with what could be considered a victory over his forces, the great conqueror rallied his men for battle and laid siege to the tribal mountain fortress at the Rock. Apparently, it only took two day’s of Alexander’s relentless onslaught against the Rock’s walls for the Marmares to realize they had no hope of surviving the siege.

At this realization of impending doom, the elders in the fortress supposedly decided that the women and children that were sheltered in the fortress should be killed rather than left to be enslaved by Alexander’s army. As the story goes, the majority of the warriors in the tribe agreed with the decision and somberly went home to their respective dwellings to spend the remainder of their quickly-diminishing time with their families. Unfortunately for many of the women and children among the Marmares, the warriors apparently could not go through with what they had planned while staring into the eyes of their beloved families—these people decided to use a more detached method of killing. Therefore, some of the warriors were said to have cruelly locked their families in their homes and burned them alive.

After the deed was done, the warriors of the Marmares did not take their own lives. Instead, they somehow snuck out of the fortress and slipped by the besieging army, never to be heard from again.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.

Top picture attribution: (Alexander the Great, 100 B.C.E. – 100 C.E. marble, 3 1_2 x 2 x 1 1_2 in. (8.9 x 5.1 x 3.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 54.162, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

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