Eric Niderost It was nighttime, and a great battle was soon to be fought at Gaugamela, in the dusty plains and rolling hills of modern-day northern Iraq. The fight would begin the next day, October 1, 331 B.C., and would pit the Macedonian army of King Alexander III, who is better known to history as Alexander the Great, against a mighty host assembled by Great King Darius III of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The night before a battle, soldiers are often alone in their own thoughts, wondering if this is the last evening of their lives. The Macedonians, who themselves were seasoned soldiers, knew they were facing an enemy that heavily outnumbered them. The odds were enough to give the most experienced veteran pause. The Macedonians were bivouacked on a series of low hills, about four miles from the main Persian camp, and some of these hills shielded Alexander’s troops from enemy sight. Possessing the high ground, the Macedonians could easily see the Persian camp, a sight that could chill the blood from the sheer spectacle. Thousands upon thousands of campfires spread over the plain: tiny pinpricks of light that seemed to match the twinkling canopy of stars that dotted the sky above. That sight was awesome enough, but the Macedonians heard a “tumultuous sound of voices arose from [the Persian] camp as if from a vast ocean,” wrote the Greek historian Plutarch. And a vast ocean it was, a sea of humanity that seemed impossible to defeat. Parmenio, one of Alexander’s se


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