Sunday, 23 May 2010

Keats and Chapman: Great Military Victories, Part 94

Keats and Chapman once undertook a perigrinatory tour of Mesopotamia, travelling across much of the teritory which had once been conquered by Alexander the Great, prior to his death. The intrepid travellers had traversed the northern part of what had once been Assyria and were close to its ancient capital of Nineveh when they paused for the night, and sat and pondered as they watched the River Tigris flow past the site of ancient trade routes which had connected the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
"Of course," enunciated Keats, "You will recall that it was nearby that Alexander fought and destroyed the last army ever raised by an Achaemanian king, leading to the eventual destruction of the palace of Xerxes in Persepolis."
Chapman hoped his face was hidden in the darkness as he recognised the portents of another of Keats' expositions.
"There was a lunar eclipse, which enables us to date the battle as having taken place on 1 October 331 BC."
Chapman raised his eyebrows as Keats continued.
"Darius III had sent his General Mazaeus and his Bactrian cavalry to oppose the conquering Macedonian. But to no avail, as yer man Alexander was a crafty devil and no mistake. If you cast your eyes over in that direction you will see the location in the great plain of The Battle of Guagamela where Darius was put to flight, along with his camels and mercenaries."
Chapman inhaled as he realised that the great scholar was waiting for him to ask for an explanation of the the historical conflagration. He bit the bullet and ventured an interogatory remark. "So, how was it that Alexander overcame the Persian hordes?", he queried.
"With the utmost guile and originality, my friend. Alexander could see that Darius' forces although numerically stronger were concentrated in one body. So he deduced that a pincer movement would make short work of them. Coordination of the two arms of the pincer would be crucial, as I'm sure you would agree."
Keats jabbed the dozing Chapman in the ribs.
"Indeed, indeed" dribbled Chapman, who had unconcsciously begun to anticipate his night's rest after a long day in the company of The Great Man.
"Alexander summoned the two generals who were to command the pincer movements. He gave each of them a cloth rag and instructed them to bind these around their left wrist, and to take their troops under cover of night to opposing points on opposite sides of the plain and to wait till dawn. 'You will be out of sight of each other and of Mazaeus and his soldiers,' explained Alexander, 'but when the sun rises and shines on that cloth rag, which is currently coloured red, you will see that it changes colour to amber. This is a sign that you should prepare your troops to advance. After a short time, the sun's light will cause the cloth to turn green. This is the time to move. If you proceed at the speed for which I have trained you, your respective forces will arrive simultaneously on the necks of the accursed Persians, just as my central force attacks their vanguard.'"
Chapman was transfixed in rapt attention as he clung to Keats' every word. "And how did the the action proceed?"
"It was a tremendous success! The Persians were obliterated in a three-pronged assault, perfectly coordinated. And it was all thanks to Alexander's Rag Time-Band."
Chapman bade his friend good night and retreated into his sleeping bag.

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