Alexander: The Making of a God (2024) s01e02 Episode Script

Death or Victory

[dramatic music playing]
How strange it is that such fury
should land on mere lines on a map.
Unless you're following
the path of heroes.
And so the young King Alexander
sets off on his epic adventure,
determined to take the fight
to the land of his bitter foe.
[crowd cheering]
[woman] One small kingdom
taking on the might of its vast oppressor.
But what lies in wait?
Is it glory
or is it insanity?
[music intensifies, fades]
So in the spring of 334 BCE,
having defeated
and put down all of the rebellions
and uprisings and threats in Greece,
Alexander and his army
march out of Macedonia
to begin their invasion
of the Persian Empire.
So Alexander marches east
from the Macedonian capital of Aegae,
and after a march of 22 days,
the army reaches the Hellespont,
a stretch of sea that marks
the division between Europe and Asia.
[heroic music playing]
He arrives in Asia Minor with his army
of 32,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry,
and, of course,
his retinue of close companions,
which include Ptolemy and Hephaestion.
[men shouting in background]
[horses neighing]
[man] All right, hurry.
[Salima] For Alexander,
how he was first received by his troops
was going to be critical,
because these people were going to
have to accept him and follow him
and be willing to die for him.
[dramatic music thunders, wanes]
Heaven cannot brook two suns.
Nor Earth two masters.
Asia shall be our gift from the gods.
Let the invasion begin.
[Ali] Alexander has to show
an early success
in order to convince his followers,
in a sense, that this entire venture,
which, you know,
from the start seems quite ludicrous,
actually has a chance of succeeding.
[Parmenion] Sir, the men are just tired
from marching for days.
From a defeat where almost half
their number was massacred.
Exactly. They need leadership.
[Parmenion] Let me assemble the lines
for your inspection.
They can meet you.
Brother, we need them with us.
We'll need more than them, Ptol.
We need the gods on our side.
Come on. The shrine isn't far from here.
This is the moment
Alexander needs to bond with his men.
Don't ask.
[Lloyd] The soldiers have been waiting
for him to come.
They've suffered defeat.
They need him to show himself
to be the leader that he claims to be.
But as ever with Alexander,
he behaves to the contrary.
He goes completely off script,
and he goes AWOL for quite a while.
[horse neighs]
[Lloyd] He goes on a sightseeing tour
to explore for himself
the world of his great hero Achilles.
[Memnon] My king.
Scouts report Alexander landing
his battalion at Hellespont, near Troy.
He's merged with Parmenion's army,
what's left of it.
Now they march south into Mysia.
They're savages, sir.
A pollution on our land.
And we will deal with them, Bessus.
This Alexander You knew him?
Back in Macedon
when I stayed at his father's court.
He was just a boy.
bright, endlessly curious.
I remember at just ten years old,
Philip sent him out
to meet with Persian diplomats.
Learned men.
He ran rings around all of them.
But this
This is reckless.
He's wildly out of his depth.
Then how do we exploit his foolishness?
He's a long way from home,
already overstretched.
Cut his supply lines. Burn the crops.
Yes. Scorch the earth and starve him out.
Beat them without a fight.
[Darius] No, Bessus.
Such a Macedonian tactic demeans us.
And it would starve our own people too.
But I ask you this.
What's wrong with a fight, anyway?
Let's make an example of this boy.
A lesson in Persian supremacy
for the world to see.
Memnon, you know his weaknesses.
Take whatever troops you need
and destroy him definitively.
Then, Bessus, spread the word
to those rebels in Egypt or India,
a warning.
Threaten Persia
and you won't live to try again.
Upon landing in Asia Minor,
Alexander's first act is not one of war
but rather one of pilgrimage
[dramatic music playing]
[Carolyn] as he takes himself and
Hephaestion to the famous site of Troy.
He had a great deal of respect
for the great heroes like Achilles.
So on the eve
of his great campaign against Persia,
which would be no simple task,
it makes sense that Alexander
would try to seek inspiration
from the great warriors
of Greek mythology like Achilles.
[Salima] That's what
makes Alexander very special,
because he wasn't just
an out-and-out military commander.
He was someone who
was thinking about things all the time,
and everything in his life had meaning.
[dramatic music intensifies]
[dramatic music ends]
[Salima] And so going to visit
the shrine of Achilles,
he would feel would change
the outcome of a battle.
[metal bowl clinks]
[Alexander] Ptolemy should be here praying
to the world's greatest warrior.
Remember how Homer described him?
"A lionheart
who mauls battalions wholesale."
- That's a lot to live up to.
- [Hephaestion scoffs]
Only if you make such comparisons, right?
Achilles was a demigod.
Alex, what is it?
Before we left,
my mother revealed to me a vision
of my true father.
Not Philip?
Apparently, I'm the son of Zeus.
And you believe this?
I mean [sighs]
There's a fire in me, Hephaestion.
You know that, and
[chuckles] You know, maybe it's a sign.
But if I'm descended from the gods,
I can't rely on dreams
or the winged words of my mother.
I need
[Salima] For the Greeks, there were gods,
and there were demigods,
and a god was someone who was
a being who was completely divine,
and they had been there
at the creation of the world,
whereas a demigod was
someone, as the name implies,
half-god, half-mortal.
And so, these were the people
who could even walk the Earth
amongst the mortals.
Know this.
As my king,
demigod, or just just my friend,
I will follow.
And if you trust in them,
your men will trust in you.
All they need is a hero.
[chuckles softly]
[dramatic music intensifies, fades]
[Salima] For Alexander going into battle,
in a way, he had an edge
that other warriors didn't
because he saw himself as semi-divine,
but, of course, the outcome of the battle
would be the proof of the pudding.
[Lloyd] Alexander leads his men throughout
what is, nowadays, modern Türkiye
to the River Granicus.
It probably took them about a month.
The Persians have
something of a standing army as it is,
but their genius is
always to use mercenaries,
and Darius is really,
really, really adapted
at getting the right people
at the right time
and putting them in the right place,
really quite remarkably so.
Uh, and so he gets
mercenary troops together,
uh, and loads them into Asia Minor.
So conflict becomes inevitable.
[Ptolemy] The scouts have confirmed it.
It is General Memnon leading them.
[Parmenion] The same commander
who forced our route at Magnesia.
Two of his divisions
are already in formation
on the opposite bank
of the Granicus River here.
Forty thousand men, the scout reports.
Five thousand of them
Greek mercenaries.
[sighs deeply] Traitorous rats.
Led by the biggest rat of them all.
Parmenion, how could this happen?
How could they intercept us so fast?
He's had spies watching all of us
since we left Macedon.
Ptolemy, tell the men to make camp.
Let's reassess. We go again tomorrow.
Or we attack now.
We catch them by surprise.
We're swifter, more maneuverable.
We've also been marching for four days.
The men are exhausted.
The men only care about victory.
[Ptolemy] I think the general
is right here, Alex.
Give the men the night. Attack at dawn.
And our current formation
leaves us entirely exposed.
Sir, I do have experience
of fighting Memnon.
[Alexander] I understand, General.
But that experience was of defeat,
was it not?
- [horse neighs]
- [men chattering]
You are the king now.
[dramatic music intensifies]
[Alexander] General, ready your troops.
You'll attack from the left
while I drive towards their center.
[dramatic music continues]
[assertively] Now, General.
[music wanes]
Sounded like an order to me.
[Carolyn] The main difference really seems
to come down to age and experience.
Parmenion is older. He has been a soldier.
He has been a general
for most of his life.
He knows all the potentials
that could happen on a battlefield,
and he wants to think things through
and make the right choice,
whereas Alexander has the bravery,
the impetuousness of youth.
Alexander's mindset seems to be,
"I know what I want.
We're just gonna do it. Let's go."
[softly] "Grant, O all-seeing Zeus,
that victory may go with him."
[horses neighing]
[Carolyn] And for the very first time
in Alexander's career,
the Macedonians have faced off
against the Persians
on either side of the Granicus River.
[spears rattling]
We have the Macedonians lined up
on one side of the river
with Alexander's standard formation.
On the opposite side,
the famous Persian cavalry
has drawn up
along the steep banks of the river
with the Greek mercenary infantry behind.
[weapons rattle]
[wind blowing]
[Lloyd] Darius's troops are prepared for
early morning battle the following day
Cavalry prepare!
[Lloyd] which is the standard way
in which ancient warfare took place.
Hold your line!
You take advantage of the dawn,
you fight throughout most of the day,
and then it's all over by suppertime.
But Alexander thinks differently.
He's not going to wait for tomorrow.
It's going to happen now.
[yelling] Charge!
- [horses neighing]
- [men shouting]
To arms!
[Jennifer] This is a really
important moment for Alexander
because this is the first time
that he can prove himself
as a competent military commander
at the head of his army as king.
And so he leads from the front
at the head of
his trusted companion cavalry.
Defensive flank positions!
[Jennifer] The Macedonian cavalry
is really the most important part
of their military machine.
Prepare to repel!
And Alexander uses this
to punch through the Persian line.
- [dramatic music playing]
- [horses neighing]
[Carolyn] It would've been
startling and shocking,
not just for the Persian soldiers
but their horses as well.
They had never really experienced
anything like this before,
and by the time
they sort of got their momentum back
or figured out what was going on,
it was too late.
- [horses neighing]
- [men shouting]
- [men grunting in effort]
- [swords clanging]
[man cries in pain]
[man shrieks]
Memnon must have been like,
"Oh my gosh! Like, what?"
"What's going on here?"
You know. "This is not a style of battle
that I have experienced before."
Left flank! Hold the line!
Memnon is completely thrown
by Alexander's bizarre tactic.
[man shrieks]
[Memnon grunts]
Fight, you damn cowards!
- [man grunts]
- [man cries in pain]
[shouting] Keep pushing!
[Jennifer] This is a very
fast-moving battle.
[man yells]
[Jennifer] Although the Persian army is
quite a bit larger than Alexander's,
the speed of his attack allows him
to overcome that disadvantage.
[shouting] Keep going!
We're pushing them back!
[man grunts, shrieks]
[swords clanking]
[man screams]
Alexander wants to be plunging headlong
right into the center of the action.
[Alexander] Spear!
- [grunts]
- [man yells]
- [grunts]
- [man cries in pain]
Alexander was not just active. I mean,
he was almost quite recklessly active.
[horse neighs]
[Ali] He put himself
right at the heart of the danger.
In this battle, Alexander is
actually wearing the armor of Achilles
that he had taken from the temple of Troy.
This makes him really conspicuous
and a very clear target for the Persians.
[man cries in pain]
[both grunting in effort]
[men shouting, grunting]
- [grunts]
- [man charges]
To the king!
Alex! No!
[men screaming]
[soldier shrieks]
[strains, pants]
[dramatic music increases over war sounds]
- [horse neighs]
- [man screams]
It's really only with the foresight
and the bravery
of a Macedonian officer called Cleitus
that Alexander's life is saved.
He could very well have died
on the battlefield at that moment.
[man screams]
So while this situation is occurring
on one side of the battlefield,
Parmenion and his heavy cavalry
[man screams]
[Jennifer] are gaining the upper hand
against the Persians.
- [man screams]
- [horse neighs]
Cavalry! Charge!
[soldiers shouting battle cries]
[Jennifer] And he causes their lines
to lose all discipline and break apart.
[shouts orders]
At which point the horses start to panic,
and the rider's like, "What's going on?"
and everything kind of
just falls into disarray.
[men shouting]
[Carolyn] That's the downside
of using horses on the battlefield,
that when everything starts to fall apart,
it can fall apart very quickly.
And their only choice is to flee.
I think it's Napoleon that said,
"Don't give me good generals.
Give me lucky ones."
Undoubtedly, there was
There are elements of luck there,
and there's no doubt about it.
But the the point, really,
about Alexander's army,
certainly at this stage,
is that it has the capacity, ability,
and mobility to seize these opportunities.
Can you believe it?
The entire Persian army vanquished.
Well, two divisions of it.
By a brilliant military tactician.
What's left of him, anyway.
[Hephaestion] Alex, ignore Ptol.
I mean, this
This is a victory for the ages, right?
[Alexander] Yes.
Yes, it is.
The Granicus was incredibly important
for Alexander.
Not only did he have to prove himself
to his own army,
he also had to prove himself
to those back in Greece,
who might be doubting his ability.
He also had to
prove himself to the Persians
to show that he was worthy
of being taken seriously
and that he was a very real threat.
Look around, Heph.
It wasn't only Persian blood
we spilled today.
There were Greeks within their ranks.
Greeks killing Greeks.
[Alexander] Tend to this man well.
He's a hero of Macedon.
Be assured, my friend.
I will deal with the enemy.
[Lloyd] The Persian army was always
comprised of Greek mercenaries.
So on that battlefield that day,
you know, when they've clashed,
Greek would've heard Greek.
Greek was fighting against Greek
and Macedonian against Macedonian.
And that's the way
way the world worked in antiquity.
There were probably, eh
more Greeks fighting in Darius's army
than there were in Alexander's army,
which is a a striking fact,
uh, in part, because
obviously they found service in the
Eh In Darius's army to be very lucrative
and very reliable employment.
[coins rattling]
[ominous tone reverberates]
[Alexander] So
[bird caws in distance]
[Alexander] This is all it took
to betray the land of your fathers
to slay your blood brothers
for the King of Persia.
[shouts] This
[softer] is all it took.
A few coins from Memnon's filthy grasp.
Would you?
I hope, for your sakes,
you saved enough to pay Hades himself.
[coins rattle]
[sword slashes]
[Carolyn] The majority of the mercenaries
are massacred in cold blood.
Alexander is creating
a clear, definitive message
that if you are Greek
and you fight for the Persians,
expect no mercy from me.
You have betrayed my cause.
If you're Greek, you fight for the Greeks.
[Memnon] We were taken by surprise, sir.
Not as surprised as I am right now.
What did we lose?
[sternly] What did we lose?
Over 5,000 of our Greek soldiers,
1,000 cavalry.
I hear the treasury at Sardis
has also been looted.
[Darius] Oh.
It gets better.
Reports say he's heading south
towards the coastal cities.
Well, you can't fault his ambition.
Even so, this needs to end here.
[Memnon] Then let me end it, sir.
On my honor, I will not only
defend the cities in your name,
but I will also crush this irritant
in the process.
[Darius] It would be a welcome redemption.
We are Persia.
And we do not wish to be surprised again.
[Lloyd] Alexander,
with his success now driving him forward,
he begins to work his way down
to the Greek-speaking cities
of Asia Minor.
He publicizes this
as a kind of campaign of liberation,
um, releasing these Greek city-states
from the oppression
of of the Persian overlords.
We need to remember
that there's a long history
of Greek-Persian interactions
on the coast of Asia Minor.
These Greeks have interacted
with the Persians
far longer than they have
with this new kid from Macedonia.
They don't know what to make of him.
So as Alexander is advancing down
the coast and taking the Greek cities,
one of these cities is Halicarnassus.
The defense of Halicarnassus
is headed up by Memnon,
and it basically turns into a stalemate.
This is a city that has really benefited
from Persian rule over the centuries,
and they are very loyal to Darius III,
and Alexander finds
at Halicarnassus his first blockade,
the first moment when he can't push past,
um, the city itself.
Right column, down this street.
Left column, with me.
[Lloyd] And so he lays siege to it.
Search this house.
- [women and children screaming]
- [man shouting] Out now!
[Lloyd] The city finally falls.
[soldier] Move!
[Lloyd] And Alexander's men rush in,
and they are under very strict orders
to find Memnon
and bring him to Alexander.
- [horses neighing]
- [people screaming]
[soldier] There he is!
- [man grunts]
- [sword swishes]
[flesh squelches]
[cries in pain]
[soldier] Move!
- Tie them up.
- [woman grunts]
[man] Please leave me. That's my wife!
[people screaming]
[dramatic music intensifies]
March these to the square. Go!
Do we have Memnon?
No. And he's ordered
the city be set on fire.
[Hephaestion] Alex, the city's ours.
Not yet, it isn't!
Let the fires burn.
Let it burn? Brother, these are
the very people we're meant to be saving.
But if they fail to rise up for Macedon,
what are they?
The enemy.
And enemies need to be purged.
[Salima] Alexander is often portrayed,
as this great warrior, fair-minded person,
just, an intellectual,
and, indeed, he was all of those things,
but there was a flip side to him.
He could be very brutal.
He could kill entire villages.
He put to death many Greek mercenaries
who were fighting for the Persians.
So, on one side,
you had the noble Alexander,
and on the other side,
you had the brutal Alexander,
and sometimes you'd never know
which one you were going to meet.
[man grunting nervously]
[whimpers loudly in fear]
- [screams]
- [sword slashes]
[dramatic music playing]
[music fades]
Memnon has fled
from the city of Halicarnassus,
and he makes his way to the coast
and to the safety of the Persian fleet,
uh, who are there. Um, and sadly,
on board one of the ships, he dies.
Now, the sources are various
in their interpretation.
Some say that he died of a fever,
others from his war wounds.
Um, we simply don't know,
um, but it was a very sad
and inglorious death
for this really remarkable general.
But, of course, for Alexander,
it was something of a of a coup.
This is a pivotal point for Alexander,
and it's one he could not have foreseen.
I mean, the death of Memnon is a stroke
of incredible good fortune for Alexander
because Memnon was such a skilled general.
Uh Darius was incredibly reliant on him,
and now he's gone.
[Mazaeus] It belonged to General Memnon.
He died on board his command ship.
Not how the Lion of Magnesia
would have wished to leave this earth.
Then we will remember him as he was.
We will celebrate him.
We will avenge him.
Sir, the general was
a true leader of the men.
We would be wise to name
his replacement immediately.
And, in time, a new commander
of the western satrapies too.
Without a stern hand,
Egypt may be tempted
Yes, but right now,
this boy king is out of ideas.
His army is exhausted.
We may have lost General Memnon, but
We can end this once and for all.
[sword swishes]
Governor Mazaeus.
It's time to prove
you're worthy of my daughter's hand.
Notify your city garrisons.
At dawn
we march west. All of us.
[Touraj] After the death of Memnon,
Darius has to now take charge himself
and pay specific
and personal attention to Alexander
as he is now going to move
towards the heartland of the empire.
[Carolyn] In the midst of this marching
and campaigning,
Alexander heads inland into,
basically, what is now central Türkiye,
to a site called Gordion,
which has another mythical past.
Not for war, not because Darius is there,
but because of a knot.
The Gordian Knot.
So there is a legend attached to this knot
that whoever manages to untie it
will become lord and master,
ruler of all Asia.
So you can see why this might be
kind of tempting for Alexander, right?
It has the potential to be a huge PR bonus
but also to be a PR nightmare.
I mean,
what if he can't actually untie the knot?
No one's told him
how he has to untie the knot.
There's no rules
about what constitutes untying,
and he pulls out his sword.
Boom. The knot is undone.
- [Ptolemy chuckles]
- [Hephaestion scoffs]
[Ptolemy] Nicely done.
[Carolyn] Though he believed it or not,
he knows that accomplishing this
would sort of add to his status,
add to his propaganda,
add to his influence in the region.
General Parmenion. Assemble the lines
and make preparations to leave.
At first light, we march east.
Away from the coast?
How will we resupply without our ships?
[Alexander] We'll plunder local towns.
They'll have all we need.
And we'll be nimbler, quicker for it.
This is our time to strike.
So this is, what? Your big gamble?
You know breaking our supply lines
will leave us totally exposed.
No one wins a war with starving soldiers.
Well, then it can be
another thing I'm first at.
And don't pretend
you're making us quicker or nimbler, sir.
Then what am I making us, General?
That's it, isn't it?
You know Darius himself is out for blood,
so you are going to wage a war
with the largest army
the world has ever seen.
And even if, what?
- It'd be suicide.
- Absolutely.
Because that is
the only way we're going to win.
[woman] No man or woman born,
coward or brave,
can shun their destiny
or avoid a path
they were always destined to follow.
[dramatic music playing]
[woman] A path where two men,
two sides of the same coin,
would face each other for the first time
at a battle whose echoes
would outlast even the gods they idolize.
And where the spoils of victory
are the world itself.
[dramatic music continues]
But this time
all of our pieces are in place.
Alexander, Darius,
and Stateira.
[music wanes]
[dramatic music playing]
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