History of the Macedonian People - Alexander III - To the Ends of the Earth, the Trek to India
History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present
Part 8 - Alexander III - To the Ends of the Earth, the Trek to India
by Risto Stefov email@example.com
By 328 BC, Alexander had conquered the entire Persian Empire, at least the empire that belonged to Darius III. The ancient authors gave no account as to why Alexander wanted to go beyond the Persian realm but as soon as he completed his conquests of eastern Iran, Alexander began preparations to invade India. I believe Alexander acted not so much on his desire for conquest but on his overwhelming curiosity to see what was beyond the eastern realm of the then known world. No doubt, while dealing with the mountain Indians of Eastern Iran, he had heard stories about India that did not fit with his previous knowledge of that part of the world.
Before leaving Bactra, Alexander parted with tradition and appointed Amyntas, a Macedonian, instead of a foreign satrap to secure the important satrapy of Bactria. Amyntas was left well armed with 10,000 infantry and 3,500 cavalry, more soldiers than what Alexander had started with seven years before.
In the spring of 327 BC, while his army stood at the Hindu Kush contemplating the sight of the eastern edge of the world, Alexander meticulously planned the next step of his campaign.
For the Indians, Alexander's approach through the Hindu Kush was a reminder of the long ago Aryan invasion. Nomadic Aryans invaded India around 1500 BC, destroyed the Indus valley civilization and exterminated the Indus inhabitants, thus ending the most brilliant civilization of the ancient world.
On his journey to India, Alexander brought with him his young queen Roxane, who a year later bore him a son. Unfortunately the child died soon after birth.
In early summer 327 BC, Alexander divided his army into two. The main column, commanded by Hephaestion and Perdiccas, went down the Kabul River and over the Khyber Pass to build bridges and prepare for the invasion. Alexander, meanwhile, with his lightly armed units took a different path along the Kunar Valley in east Afganistan and from there he crossed into northwestern Pakistan.
Along his journey Alexander encountered stiff opposition, which required severe fighting. The fearless Indian tribes along the mountainous terrain had numerous warriors and presented difficulties for Alexander's advance. The fighting was so severe that during the first contact both Alexander and Ptolemy were wounded.
After crossing the Swat River, Alexander encountered more formidable tribes and the fighting became even more intense. The Indians fought bravely but eventually relented. After losing Massaga, their chief fortress, the Indians left for Aornos (Pir-Sar), another fortress.
Situated at the bend of the Indus River, this 1,500-meter high fortress was impossible to scale. Sensing the limits of his army's capability, Alexander, for the time being, decided not to pursue the enemy any further. He turned his army around and marched southward down the Indus River.
Later, using different strategies, Alexander attempted to besiege the Aornos fortress several times without success. Alexander could not enter Punjab with Aornos intact. He had to break its resistance. If conventional means did not work then he had to invent new methods of attack. Of all the new methods attempted, the most successful proved to be the flooding of the ravines surrounding the fortress.
As soon as the water rose high enough in the ravine to bridge the army's position with the rock, Alexander's siege-engines moved in for the kill. The resistance soon broke and the army was able to rush in and subdue their opponents. Alexander was the first to reach the top, completing the conquest of Aornos. This was one of the most brilliant feats of strategy and tactics in his career.
With Aornos out of the way Alexander was now free to pursue his journey to Punjab. The downing of Aornos gave birth to the legend of the Macedonian supermen. The Indians regarded the fortress impregnable and believed that the god Heracles once tried to conquer it without success.
In March 326 BC, Alexander turned southward on a journey to catch up with Hephaestion and Perdiccas. When he reached them he gave his army a month of well-deserved rest. After crossing the Indus River, over the pontoon bridge previously built by Hephaestion's engineers, Alexander entered into the land of his ally Ambhi. Alexander, trusting no one, marched into Taxila battle ready but none materialized. Ambhi welcomed Alexander with many gifts and received him as his guest in the capital Taxila.
In Taxila the Macedonians, for the first time, encountered many wonders, strange manners and customs. To the scientists' delight they also discovered flora they had never seen before. It was here too that Alexander met those "naked philosophers" (Buddhist monks) and came in contact with the doctrine of Buddha.
For the next three days the Macedonians were treated royally with lavish gifts. Not to be outdone, Alexander reinstated Ambi as rajah of Taxila and showered him with gifts of his own, which included thirty horses and no less than 1,000 talents. This generosity was motivated by Alexander's wish to have Ambi on his side, as he was receiving intelligence reports of large concentrations of enemy troops ahead. In spite of making him rajah, Ambi was still a vassal king. A Macedonian military governor, with a strong garrison at his disposal actually governed Taxila.
Alexander invested a great deal of time and considerable effort negotiating peaceful terms with the other two Indian rajahs in that region but it seemed that peace was not possible before war. Porus, one of the rajahs negotiating with Alexander, made his terms very clear. If Alexander wanted his kingdom, he had to earn it in battle.
Porus's army was already amassing at the banks on the other side of the Jhelum River as more reinforcements began to arrive. Alexander could not afford to waste much time so he ordered his engineers to build a bridge. Since there were no building materials available in the vicinity, Alexander sent Coenus to dismantle the pontoon bridge from the Indus River, cut it into small sections and transport it over land on oxcarts. While Coenus was looking after the bridge, Alexander reinforced his army by adding elephants and Indian recruits to his infantry.
As he was getting ready to meet Porus Alexander did not count on a monsoon. Perhaps unaware of the Indian climate in June, Alexander led his army during continuous, steaming, torrential rain. The skies had opened up and pounded the unknowing Macedonians for over two months without a break.
Alexander traveled over the Salt Range covering about 180 kilometers in a little over two days before reaching the Jhelum River. A great achievement under monsoon conditions.
Unfortunately, the Jhelum was so swollen from the monsoon rains that it was impossible to cross. Besides, even if crossing was possible, Porus was waiting on the other side with archers, chariots and elephants. To a casual observer it would have appeared that the opposing armies had reached a stalemate. Neither could act without severe consequences.
To reinforce the idea that he was going to wait for more favourable conditions before attacking, Alexander ordered continuous supplies to be delivered to his camp in full view of his enemy. While doing that he sent surveyors up and down the river in search of a good place to cross. In the meantime, the troops were kept on full alert with activities suggesting the possibility of an imminent attack.
When nothing happened for a long time, the enemy tired of Alexander's antics and began to ignore the distracting maneuvers. As luck would have it, the surveyors did find a good place to cross. It was on a large wooded island where the channels at both sides were narrow. The spot was located about 25 kilometers upstream from camp and was ideal since there was a ravine on the near side of the bank, a good place to hide troops.
To ensure a successful crossing, Alexander had to thoroughly confuse the enemy about his real intentions so he ordered his troops to light fires over a wide area every night. At the same time Ptolemy would take a large cavalry force and run up and down the riverbank making as much noise as possible while making false attempts to cross.
Initially, all these demonstrations were taken seriously and every move and maneuver was counteracted with opposing forces on the other side. After some time, however, when it became obvious that these were only tricks to agitate the opposing troops and lower their morale, Porus began to relax his vigilance. Porus must have thought that Alexander's real aim was to break his army's morale and attack him when he was at his weakest. Unfortunately for Porus, Alexander was much cleverer than that.
Alexander had to make his move in less that two days because the other rajah, Abisares of Kashmir, was about 80 kilometers to the north and coming his way.
Even though Porus was at ease with Alexander's exercises, his patrols kept constant watch. Any attempt at crossing, even undetected, would be overwhelmed by Porus's forces as soon as it was spotted. To maximize his chances, Alexander divided his army and directed simultaneous but separate attacks at different points on the river. Not knowing where the attack was going to come from, Porus too had to divide his forces in order to counter the Macedonians. In the meantime, the pontoon bridge was assembled in secrecy and ready to be deployed.
In the dark of night, Alexander, with a force of 10,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, slipped away up the banks to make the 25-kilometer trek to attempt the crossing at dawn. The baggage train and a large part of the army remained at the base camp. Alexander had given orders to openly start making preparations for an attack at the crack of dawn. He even had one of his men, an Alexander look alike, come out of his royal tent wearing the royal cloak, barking out orders.
A second group, consisting of three battalions of the phalanx, the mercenary cavalry and infantry, was dispatched from the main camp to the halfway point between the main camp and Alexander's crossing, with orders to wait and cross only after Alexander was engaged in battle.
Craterus, in command of the forces at the main camp, was also given orders to wait and not cross until Porus had moved from his current position in pursuit of Alexander.
This was indeed a brilliant plan and certainly posed a dilemma for Porus. What was Porus to do? Porus did what any skilled commander would have done. He dispatched a strong force to stop Alexander from crossing. Alexander, however, anticipating his move countered it by depending on his best Macedonian troops to make the crossing at lightning speed and put up a great fight on the other side; a move that to this day remains unparalleled.
Alexander did receive some help from his gods who provided him with deafening thunderclaps and torrential rain, which masked the noise of the embarkation.
Even though the crossing was made successfully, all was not well. It seemed that Alexander's surveyors had made an error. The bank Alexander landed on was not the expected shore, but another elongated island. It was a long and arduous struggle to get across the fast flowing torrents of the mighty Jhelum River. Exhausted and drenched in mud the Macedonians finally made it across. Porus still did not know where the main attack was going to take place. This exhausting and pointless exercise of Alexander's he suspected was another deception to lure his forces away from the main attack. After some hesitation, however, and to be on the safe side, Porus eventually did dispatch his son with 2,000 cavalry and 120 chariots, but by then it was too late. Most of Alexander's assault force had made it across and easily subdued the Indians.
After a brief clash the Indians fled leaving behind about four hundred dead, including Porus's son. While pursuing the fleeing Indians Alexander was joined by the second group of his army, which by now had also made it across. Alexander again divided up his forces and took command of the cavalry which ran ahead at galloping speed while the foot soldiers followed behind at a fast marching pace.
When Porus received news that his son was dead and that Alexander had crossed the river, he decided it was time to face him and marched his forces upstream to do battle. Only a small force, consisting mostly of elephants, was left behind to hold back Craterus.
It is estimated that Porus had at his disposal approximately 2,000 cavalry, 20,000 infantry, 130 elephants and 180 chariots. Porus chose a level, sandy plain for the battleground and positioned his infantry in a wide central front reinforced with elephants about 30 meters apart. At the wings he positioned his chariots and cavalry along with a flanking body of infantry.
Alexander's cavalry arrived first but stayed back and would not engage the enemy until the infantry arrived. Alexander had about 11,000 Macedonian infantrymen and 6,000 cavalrymen. While waiting, Alexander kept his forces out of sight and carried out detailed reconnaissance of Porus's dispositions. A frontal attack using his cavalry would be difficult, pitting horse against elephant. The phalanx might do the trick but not while Porus's cavalry was still active. The cavalry would have to be disabled first so that there was no chance that it would outflank the phalanx.
To knock out the Indian cavalry Alexander decided to attack Porus's left wing. The idea was to keep two cavalry divisions hidden from the enemy while carrying out the attack with his entire visible cavalry, which numbered a little less that the enemy's total mounted force. A force that size was sure to overwhelm Porus's left wing and he would have to draw reinforcements from his right wing. The commander of the hidden divisions was given specific orders to circle around Porus's right wing and stay out of sight until the left wing was engaged. If Porus transferred troops from the right wing to feed the engagement, he was to charge across behind the enemy lines and attack from the rear. Otherwise he would engage the enemy normally. The phalanx was ordered to delay engagement until there was evidence that the enemy was thrown into confusion.
The mounted archers attacked first and almost immediately disabled the chariots. Alexander's cavalry charged next and, as expected, Porus committed his right wing to deliver a striking blow. The two hidden divisions, under the command of Coenus and Demetrius, broke cover and engaged the Indians from the rear. Instead of striking a blow at Alexander, Porus's cavalry received a blow and the Indians fell back to the protection of the elephants.
With the enemy cavalry put out of action, the Macedonian phalanx and heavy infantry advanced on Porus's center. But attacking angry elephants was not an easy task. Each elephant had to be encircled, its driver picked off by the archers and while the elephant fought back it had to be speared and slashed until it was brought down. The infantrymen had to resort to slashing the elephant's trunk with swords and chop at its feet with axes before the animal could be brought down. Many of those doing the hacking and chopping did not fare well either since the elephants fought back smashing, impaling, stamping and crushing their tormentors to a bloody pulp.
As Porus's battle line was pressed back, the elephants squeezed together and began to trample their own troops causing further casualties. As Alexander drew his cavalry ring tighter around Porus's army, he ordered his phalanx to lock shields and move in for the kill. By now Craterus had crossed the river and was in pursuit of those who had broken through Alexander's ring. The Macedonians had just had a traumatic experience and were in no mood for forgiveness as the battle soon turned into a massacre.
The elephants became frantic and trampled more Indians than enemies. The Indians, including Porus, fought and resisted to the bitter end. Wounded by a javelin, Porus saw no point in resisting any further and rode off on his elephant. Alexander pursued him and with diplomacy convinced him to surrender. Alexander showed great admiration for Porus and gave him the respect a king deserved. This was the last great battle the Macedonians would fight and considering that it took place under monsoon conditions, something the Macedonians had never before experienced, this may have been the most difficult battle of their entire campaign.
When it was all over, Alexander appointed Porus king of his own dominions and later extended his kingdom to the Hyphasis. Porus in turn remained loyal to Alexander until he died. To secure his position in Punjab, Alexander commissioned two new cities, Necaea and Bucephala, to be built on the Jhelum. Necaea was built where Alexander crossed the mighty Jhelum River in honour of his success. Bucephala was built where the battle took place and was dedicated to Alexander's horse Bucephalus, which was said to have died of old age.
After a month long, well-deserved rest Alexander summoned his army and headed eastward. He crossed the Chenab River which was three kilometers wide due to excessive rain. By the Chenab he founded another city which of course he named Alexandria (Sohadra). Somewhere east of the Chenab, near a city called Sangala, the Macedonians ran into stiff resistance and a horrific battle ensued where 17,000 Indians were slaughtered and 70,000 more were taken captive.
Alexander continued his eastern journey traveling below the high mountain ranges and making his way through water drenched fields in stifling heat and dripping monsoon skies. Long lines of dirty, tattered Indian refugees followed as the Macedonian army snaked its way across the countryside. After crossing the Ravi and the Beas Rivers into modern Punjab, the army camped for a short rest only to be frustrated by Alexander's future campaign plans.
It must have been some time ago that Alexander had realized that his original assumption about the geography of this region was in error. He also must have found out from the Indians that the Indus River did not empty into the Nile, as he had earlier informed his troops. Why he kept this information a secret from his troops is unknown.
Alexander waited for an opportune time to inform his troops that his maps were in error and that they were nowhere near the end of the world. In fact he informed his troops that they had to march twelve more days in the desert and cross another great river, the Ganges, before they might reach the end of the world. This information was not well received by his troops.
It appears that Alexander wanted to continue his campaign eastward and venture towards the Ganges but his giant plan was met with refusal. His army was getting tired to the point of exhaustion and would no longer follow him. They had traveled 18,000 kilometers in eight and a half years and they were tired. The sweltering weather and continuous torrential rain, which they had endured for seventy days, did not help the situation. Alexander found the predicament he was in hard to accept. Even after making many speeches and doing much sulking, his men would not relent and stood their ground. Alexander was powerless to act. After spending three days in his tent contemplating his predicament, he came to the realization that his men were right, it was time to turn back.
To commemorate his great advances and honour the gods who gave him to his victories, Alexander ordered the construction of twelve tower altars on the east side of the Beas River, one for each Macedonian god. He had his army construct the towers from square stones, which stood seventeen meters square and twenty-five meters high.
With a heavy heart Alexander turned his army around and sometime in mid September 326 BC started his march back towards his newly founded city near the Jhelum River. The next major task he would undertake would be to build a fleet of ships that would carry his army down the Indus River and into the ocean to the south.
Approximately 800 vessels were constructed to transport horses, grain, men and cargo. About 80 thirty-oar warships were built for defense. Alexander did not intend to command the fleet so he appointed Nearchus, his intimate friend from youth, as admiral.
In November 326 BC Alexander divided his army into two columns, boarded the ships and began his voyage down the Jhelum River. A blast of trumpets gave the signal to start rowing as each column took its position at opposite banks. Craterus commanded the column on the right and Hephaestion commanded the one on the left.
There was a great commotion as the pilots called out rowing commands and the oars splashed in unison, attracting onlookers who came to see the spectacle and serenade the soldiers on their voyage. Unfortunately, all was not well and before the fleet reached the Chenab, Alexander received information that a couple of tribes, the largest and most warlike, were preparing to do battle with him down river. Alexander, at the time, was not certain where the battle was going to take place so he hastened his pace down the Jhelum in hopes of passing the junction of turbulent waters where the Jhelum met the Chenab.
As it turned out, there was no sign of the enemy at the river junction but the turbulence did cause a great deal of damage and many ships were in need of repair. While repairs were made the army set camp near the banks, giving Alexander time to formulate a battle plan. The enemy territory was located between the Chenab and Ravi Rivers and a waterless desert protected their settlements. The most logical and efficient method to reach them was by water up the Chenab River. Alexander expected that the enemy too would think along the same lines so his plan included a bit of a surprise.
After his repairs were completed Alexander divided his army into three columns. He took the first column by land through the desert into the heart of enemy territory. The second column, commanded by Hephaestion, was sent up the Chenab River. The third column, commanded by Craterus, was ordered to hold the territory near the mouth of the Ravi River.
Alexander's land column encountered much resistance and a bloody battle ensued when he stormed and took several towns. Many attempted to escape but were intercepted by Hephaestion and Craterus. During the storming of one of the towns Alexander was wounded. While climbing a castle wall he fell victim to an enemy arrow which penetrated his chest. Believing him to be slain, his troops vented their fury on the enemy who fought back with equal ferocity.
Alexander was laid on his sacred shield and carried out on a stretcher to his ship. News of his alleged demise traveled like wildfire bringing grief to his troops. But Alexander was not dead and quickly regained consciousness after the arrow was extracted. In spite of all assurances, however, his men were not convinced until he himself rose to his feet, walked out of his tent and mounted a horse so that everyone could see him from the distance. Seeing their king alive brought joy to the troops whose shouts echoed throughout the land. His soldiers, from all sides, came to gaze upon him, shake his hand and show their affection. But most surprising of all was his enemy's reaction. Alexander's sudden rise from the dead spread terror and panic among the enemy ranks, causing mass surrenders. Even the enemy tribal kings voluntarily and humbly submitted themselves to Alexander's will.
After Alexander recovered from his wound, the fleet resumed its course down river until it reached the Indus where Alexander founded another city, which he named Alexandria (at the confluence).
By now it was February 325 BC and Alexander had reached the halfway point of his river voyage.
The second part of the voyage was just as turbulent as the first and even more fighting was needed before the region was conquered. Fortunately, Alexander had developed a reputation as a fierce fighter and many tribes were reluctant to fight him and acquiesced. There were others further south, however, who were influenced by the Brahmins and fought back fiercely.
After achieving victory, Alexander severely punished the Brahmins by having some of them hung for inciting riots and influencing the population to take up arms against him.
It was July 325 BC, when Alexander arrived at the Indus delta and camped for a rest at the city of Patala. Here Alexander reflected on the journey that took him from Kashmir through the entire Punjab down to the Indian Ocean. India was a great, rich and fruitful country and now she belonged to Macedonia.
While Alexander was busy conquering new land, his scientists and explorers were busy examining the country's exotic plants and animals, studying the Indian political and religious systems and cataloging the mineral wealth of this vast territory. Besides learning about India, much knowledge was imparted the other way. Being more advanced in metallurgy, the Macedonians taught the Indians how to smelt their silver and gold. The Macedonians also shared their knowledge of medicine and art, especially sculpting. Having been mislead before by geography, Alexander was determined to correct that problem as well.
During his rest at Patala Alexander and his advisors busied themselves looking for a sea passage from the Indus into the Tigris and the Euphrates. Alexander sent expeditions to explore the western and eastern branches of the Indus River delta in hopes of finding a safe passage.
It was during these expeditions that the Macedonians experienced, for the first time, the sudden and frightening ebb tide of the ocean.
After determining that the eastern branch of the Indus delta was easiest to navigate, Alexander dug wells and set up grain depots for his fleet all along the coast before returning to Patala.
By now it was nearing the end of August 325 BC and Alexander was anxious to get going. While admiral Nearchus and the fleet were ordered to wait until the end of the monsoon season, Alexander left Patala to make preparations for provisioning the fleet along the way.
On his way, Alexander ran into resistance again and had to subdue more tribes before turning westward. After appointing a Macedonian satrap to keep the region secure, Alexander left Hephaestion behind with orders to build another Alexandria city. At the coast before turning westward, Alexander left Leonnatus behind with orders to wait for the fleet and to build a second Alexandria city.
To further secure a supply line for his fleet, Alexander and his army turned westward into the Gedrosian Desert. This may have been one of the most difficult journeys Alexander and his army had ever encountered. There were no enemies to speak of only the scorching sun. Provisions, especially water, were in short supply and the army suffered immensely. Discipline, however, did not break down because the officers and Alexander himself suffered along with the men. Alexander even refused to drink water if there was not enough for everyone. His soldiers respected that and would not let him down. They traveled by night because it was too hot during the day and many perished from exhaustion, dehydration and starvation. They resorted to slaughtering their animals, including their horses, to survive. The desert was completely barren and dry and the local population subsisted strictly on seafood, consisting mostly of mussels.
It took Alexander sixty days to cross the desert before reaching Pura, the capital of Gedrosia. He marched on foot with his soldiers and shared with them his provisions as well as his courage and perseverance. He showed great respect for his men and treated them not like common soldiers but as comrades. This is the kind of man Alexander was. He always came through for his men, even in the worst of circumstances, which exemplified his true character as a person and his feelings for his Macedonians.
It is unknown how many of Alexander's people the desert took, but according to ancient sources (Arrian) a great many were lost. Even at times such as these, Alexander's scientists paused to observe and note the desert plant life.
Pura was like heaven for the survivors who, with plenty of food and drink, quickly recovered from their ordeal.
By the conquest of Gedrosia, Alexander's full subjection of Asia was complete.
It was now the beginning of December 325 BC, and Alexander was on the move again headed westward to Carmania where he had made prior arrangements to meet with Craterus. Before its departure the army was split and Craterus was sent via a different route to Carmania where he was expected to rendezvous with the main army. Craterus took the north road via the Bolan Pass and turned westward past Kandahar (Alexandria in Arachosia) where he did some fighting, before turning to Carmania. Here the field armies were again recombined and supplied with animals and provisions by the local satrap. Before leaving, Alexander held a festival of thanksgiving for his successes in India and for his passage through the deserts of Gedrosia. Here too, Alexander received news that the fleet had to depart a month earlier than expected due to the change in mood of the Indian population which had started to become hostile after Alexander's departure. According to reports, the sea voyage seemed to have had more success than the land trek with no crew losses except for some suffering due to bad food and water. With the exception of one minor skirmish, the sailors faced no armed resistance.
Like Alexander, Admiral Nearchus never bypassed an opportunity to have the scientists study the local flora and fauna, as well as record the customs of the native Indian coast dwellers. It was here too that the Macedonians saw whales for the first time. The sea voyage unfortunately was no pleasure cruise and the prolonged exposure to the hazards of the sea and lack of proper diet took its toll on the men. When they finally landed on shore and met their comrades, they were weakened, scruffy and unrecognizable. Nearchus and a few others came ahead of the fleet to report their arrival. When Alexander met them, even before a single word was exchanged, he was gripped by despair and devastated at the sight of their condition. Thinking that they were the only survivors of the fleet he wept uncontrollably. When finally Alexander gained his composure and Nearchus informed him that the fleet was safe, Alexander wept even more with joy and held a festival with offerings of thanks for its safe return.
Soon afterwards, Nearchus joined the fleet for its final voyage to Susa. Hephastion was sent by the south road to Persia to acquire provisions while Alexander, with the light troops, took the north road on a direct course to Pasargadae.
It was January 324 BC and this would be Alexander's second visit to Pasargadae. More than five years had elapsed since he had last visited this city but to Alexander it seemed like an eternity. The last time he entered Pasargadae he was a mere Macedonian general but this time he was a Great King who had outdone not just mere mortals but legendary gods. Unfortunately his accomplishments alone could not keep the peace in his empire. His prolonged absence gave the impression that he was either dead or not going to return. Thinking along the same line many of his Persian satraps, in his absence, became rebellious attacking Macedonian garrisons, plundering Macedonian temples and generally mistreating Alexander's subjects.
Alexander was now back and needed to make an example of those who had turned against him. By stern punishment he hoped to warn all others that such behavior would not be tolerated.
In one instance he executed a satrap along with his followers for usurping the title of Great King. In another, he tortured the priests in charge of a tomb that was plundered. At Persepolis Alexander had a man hanged for usurping the satrapy of a previously appointed satrap who had since died. Peucestas, a Macedonian who was comfortable with Persian customs and had learned to speak the Persian language, replaced the hanged Persian satrap.
According to Arrian, upon his return to Persepolis Alexander was saddened to tears after he gazed at the destruction he had caused the last time he was there. He was stricken with grief as he realized the symbolic value of the age-old buildings and temples that he had torched, now lost forever. He had done this for the sake of the Greeks to take vengeance for the crimes of Xerxes. Seeing the rubble and charred remains of what was once a great civilization and realizing that he had done this made him feel great remorse. The Greeks were now but a distant thought for which he cared not at all. In the last years he spent in Asia Alexander had come to the realization that here too many rich civilizations existed far beyond what he had previously imagined. The Greek idea that Asia was populated with uncultured and unworthy barbarians was only a narrow Greek concept that reflected more on the Greeks than on the Asians. The effects of his conquests did not change Alexander's character as many have claimed. What had changed was Alexander's perception of the new worlds, which he came to understand and respect.
About February 324 BC, Alexander left Persepolis and went to Susa where he was reunited with Nearchus and the fleet. Here too he had to deal with unruly satraps. Alexander had appointed Harpalus, his boyhood friend, as treasurer of Ecbatana in 330 BC. Harpalus escaped with much of Alexander's treasure and squandered it away on his own extravagant lifestyle.
During his stay in Susa, which lasted the spring and summer of 324 BC, Alexander encouraged the idea of mixed marriages. To show that he was sincere he married Stateira, Darius's daughter. He convinced some of his officers and soldiers to marry foreigners and rewarded them with gifts and dowries.
During this time Alexander also amnestied all exiles (about 20,000) in his empire, except those who were criminals, and allowed them to return to their homes. This order was begrudgingly obeyed by the Greek states. Athens especially disliked it since the majority of the 20,000 were political exiles and displaced persons from that region.
During the summer of 324 BC, Alexander left Susa for Ecbatana. He sent the bulk of his army ahead with Hephaestion on a march to the Tigris River while he and his light armed units sailed down the Eulaeus River to the Persian Gulf. After observing the scenery and satisfying his longing to sail, Alexander went up the Tigris and joined Hephaestion at Opis. Just before reaching Opis near Babylon, Alexander decided to reveal his future plans for his army's reorganization. One of his objectives, which became a bone of contention with the Macedonians, called for the retirement of the old Macedonian veterans who Alexander believed could no longer fight because of old age or debilitating wounds. His army did not take the news well, especially the idea of losing its respected veterans, and Alexander had a mutiny on his hands. Alexander's intentions may have been noble but his men did not see it that way. To some it appeared that Alexander was phasing out the conservative Macedonians only to replace them with foreigners. For some time now Alexander had been building his army with foreign recruits, mostly from Persia. The Macedonians had fought them in the past and were not happy having them among their ranks. To the conservative Macedonians it appeared that Alexander wanted to make the Persians partners and equals and that did not sit well with them.
During the mutiny harsh words were exchanged. Alexander was infuriated to the point of rounding up thirteen of the ringleaders and executing them immediately. He then dismissed the entire Macedonian army and stormed away shutting himself in his royal castle for three days, entertaining only Persians and refusing to speak to any Macedonian. On the third day some Macedonians requested an audience with him. After pleading for his time they were granted permission to see him. It was an emotional reconciliation as Alexander greeted his comrades speechless and in tears. When it was over, Alexander threw a great festival in honour of this reconciliation. As it turned out, it was not reconciliation between himself and his troops but, in the interest of the empire, it was reconciliation between the Macedonians and Persians.
At the great festival, Alexander had his Macedonians sit next to him and next to them sat the Persians and other nationalities from the empire. It was said that in all about 9,000 people of various nationalities attended. Religious ceremonies were conducted in both the Macedonian and Persian traditions without incident. This reinforces the idea that even then, as today, many cultures could live together in peace and harmony.
Alexander knew that without peace and harmony between the various people he had little or no hope of holding on to such a vast empire for any reasonable length of time. Peace and harmony however, could only be achieved through freedom and the equality of all races. This feast was a great moment for Alexander, not only because he attempted to bring reconciliation between the races but more importantly because he gave birth to multiculturalism, a concept that was well ahead of its time.
Following the festival, Alexander went ahead with his original plans and dismissed about 10,000 of his veteran soldiers. Each man, in addition to his due pay, also received an extra talent. The task of leading the veterans back to Macedonia, was given to Craterus. Upon arriving in Macedonia he was also instructed to replace Antipater. Antipater in turn was to be given orders to lead fresh troops back to Alexander.
Alexander felt that Antipater and Olympias could use a break away from each other and he himself could also use a break from their incessant complaining and bickering.
When the great festival was over, Alexander left Opis and resumed his trip to Ecbatana. After spending a few months there, he went to Babylon where he began to unfold his grand plans for the future.
From a commercial aspect Alexander revealed, via the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, a connection between the Indus, the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers. This connection, in the future, could be exploited for trade for the benefit of the empire. Alexander was also curious as to what was on the opposite side of the Persian Gulf, in Arabia. To find out he began to organize an exploratory expedition. He was also interested in finding a quick route through Arabia to Egypt. Another curiosity of Alexander's, that had its roots back at school in Pella, was whether the Caspian Sea was an island sea or the gulf of another sea. Now that he had the means he wanted that verified as well and began to organize another discovery expedition. Yet another plan in the works was the building of 1,000 warships to be constructed in Phoenicia, Syria, Cicilia and Cyprus for future campaigns against the Carthaginians and other coastal people of the western Mediterranean. Carthage, at that time, was the most important naval and commercial power in the west. Had Alexander lived long enough to carry out his campaigns against her, the world would be a different place today.
Alexander's campaign plans against the west were based on intelligence information he had obtained beforehand about the strength of the various states and their political ties to one another. Besides military plans, Alexander had made plans for scientific exploration, constructing geographical maps, plotting ocean routes between Alexandria and Susa and developing trade routes between the various regions of his empire. Planning for world conquest was never too far from his mind but that plan Alexander only shared with his most trusted companions like Hephaestion. Unfortunately he was no longer alive. Not too long ago, while at Ecbasana during a festival, he had contracted a fatal fever and died. It was a terrible loss for Alexander and for the Macedonians. Alexander took the loss with great difficulty and mourned him for days without food or drink. Hephaestion's corpse was taken to Babylon where a great monument was erected in his honour. Also, to preserve his memory, he was never replaced as second in command next to the king. That position, forever remained vacant.
As I mentioned earlier, Alexander left Ecbatana and went to Babylon. On his way, in the middle of the winter on Mt. Zagros, he ran into resistance from a warlike tribe known as the Cossaeans who preferred to fight for their independence rather than give it up. It took Alexander forty days to subdue them and they too became part of his empire.
When it was over, he marched to Babylon and on his way he was met by Libyans, Ethiopians, Carthaginians, Lucanians, Etruscans, Romans, Iberians, Celts, dignitaries and ambassadors from all over the world. It seemed that the entire world was impressed with Alexander's achievements and wanted his friendship. Little did they know of Alexander's plans for world conquest, especially the Carthaginians who had already suffered the loss of their sister city Tyre. I still can't help but wonder what the world would have been like today had Alexander lived long enough to conquer the west.
After arriving in Babylon, Alexander's first priority was to prepare an expedition to explore Arabia. For the time being his interests in Arabia were to explore the region and gain information. He had no intention of invading the mainland. He only wanted the coastline and islands, which offered good harbours for his trading ships. As I mentioned earlier, Alexander's greatest ambition was to establish a connection by sea between Alexandria and Babylon. He was so certain his dream would become reality that he ordered the excavation of a huge harbour at Babylon. It was large enough to hold over 1,000 ships, which included his entire Asian navy and all the merchant ships in the region.
After initiating that project, Alexander became involved in the building of canals to regulate the flow of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Alexander wanted the region to prosper so he made arrangements to settle the north coast of the Persian Gulf. To promote trade on the Gulf between the mouths of the Tigris and the Euphrates he founded Alexandria Charax, a town suited by its geographical position to become a great harbour for Babylon.
While stationed at Babylon, Alexander received new recruits from various regions of his Asian Empire as well as cavalry reinforcements from Macedonia. Here for the first time Alexander started to reorganize his army to include mixed nationalities among his ranks, entrusting command positions to Macedonians. Unfortunately, Alexander's attempts to reorganize his army, along with his many other plans would not come to fruition. It has been said that on June 2, 323 BC, after participating in several festivities that lasted through the night, Alexander began to show symptoms of a fever. Some say that he may have contracted malaria, which is common during the hot summer months in the marshy areas of Babylon. Alexander was physically fit but his personal involvement in so many activities and the stress he subjected himself to during the planning and preparation of the various expeditions had weakened his strength to resist the disease. Alexander himself believed that he would recover because on June 3rd he ordered his generals to make plans to set sail on June 7th.
On the evening of June 3rd, Alexander was taken to the royal gardens on the west bank of the Euphrates for some fresh air and a speedy recovery. The next day he was feeling better and sent word for his generals to come and meet with him on June 5th. That night unfortunately his fever came back and did not leave him. On June 7th when the fleet was ready to move he ordered it to stand by, hoping that he would soon be well and able to join it. Instead of getting better he became sicker as the day progressed and by the next day he was so ill he could hardly speak.
On June 9th he called for his generals to assemble overnight in the court. The other officers waited outside in front of the gates. The next day his condition worsened and he was moved back into the palace. When his generals came to him he could recognize them but was so weak he was not able to speak a word to them. During the night and the next day his fever worsened and he was no longer able to see visitors. His troops, fearing the worst, demanded an audience with their king but the officers would not allow it. However, by threats they forced the doors open and filed past his bed in a long procession only to witness his weakened condition. Alexander with difficulty could only nod slightly and greet his companions in arms with his eyes as they filed past him in silence and deep emotion.
During the evening of June 13th, 323 BC, Alexander passed away. He was not yet thirty-three when his life was snatched away, not in a glorious battle by the enemy's sword, but by malaria, a mere microscopic parasite, a terrible way for the greatest conqueror of conquerors to die.
No one expected Alexander would die, let alone this quickly. With Hephaestion dead, there was no single leader who could step in and take charge of the empire. The leaders of the army at Babylon were suddenly faced with difficult problems. The only one who now had any authority to act was Perdiccas to whom the dying Alexander had handed his signet ring. Once more the assembly of the Macedonian army was summoned to the forefront to do its duty and elect a new king. Unfortunately, new problems arose as old traditions clashed with new ones. The wishes of the infantry, in whom the old Macedonian spirit was entrenched, could not reconcile its differences with the wishes of the more modern cavalry which was loyal to Alexander's modern ideas. Arguments came to blows before an uneasy compromise was reached where Arrhidaeus, the candidate of the infantry, was to conjointly rule with the cavalry's choice, the unborn son of Alexander and Roxane. These were indeed unfortunate choices since Arrhidaeus, Philip II's son was epileptic and dimwitted, and Alexander's child had not yet been born. Additionally, it was decided that each general was to assume responsibility for designated satrapies in accordance with the decisions reached in Babylon. Ptolemy of Lagus went to Egypt, Lysimachus went to Thrace, Antigonus went to Greater Phrygia, and Perdiccas remained in Babylon. There was one more issue placed before the assembly and that was what to do about Alexander's latest plans. Not surprisingly, the assembly unanimously decided to cancel them.
The news of Alexander's death traveled like wildfire throughout the empire but hardly caused a stir in Asia. In Greece, on the other hand, it was welcome news causing an explosion of emotions that resulted in the dissolution of the Corinthian League. Athens was the first to rise and summon the Greeks to fight against Macedonia. A new League, headed by Athens, was formed and rose up against Macedonia in what was called the "Lamian War". The Greeks could not contain their hatred for Macedonia and unleashed their fury with all their might. Unfortunately, the entire Greek might was not strong enough to overwhelm Antipater's Macedonians. Victorious, Antipater stripped Athens of her position as a power at sea and restored Samos to the Samians. He then forced a change of constitution on the Athenians, stripping them of their democratic powers. Additionally, a Macedonian garrison was installed on Athenian soil to remind the Athenians of who was in control. Antipater made peace with the rest of the insurgent states individually and dissolved their newly formed League.
Unlike Greece, with the exception of a few minor disturbances, caused mostly by disgruntled Greeks, Asia remained peaceful for a relatively long period. Unfortunately without Alexander's persuasive politics, peace slowly gave way to conflict. Even though our ancient sources fail to reveal the real motive for the conflict, I suspect it was greed for wealth and the desire to rule.
Initially it was the more ambitious satraps in Asia who fought each other for a bigger piece of their empire. Later it involved Alexander's generals who each ruled a piece of his empire but were not content with what they had and wanted more. The most powerful of these successors were Antigonus and his son Demetrius who gradually acquired most of Asia. Against them were a coalition of Ptolemy of Egypt, Seleucus of Babylon, Lysimachus of Thrace and Cassander, son of Antipater, of Macedonia.
About six years after Alexander's death, in 317 BC, a chain of events took place in Macedonia that would forever change its course in history. It began when Olympias murdered King Philip Arrhidaeus, which gave Cassander reason to vanquish her. Without Olympias's protection Cassander murdered the unhappy Roxane and young Alexander. With Alexander's family dead and no king to rule, the fate of the empire remained in the hands of his generals who were now fighting each other.
And now here is the last inscription of Dura-Europos as translated by Anthony Ambrozic.
NOTE: the letter "Š" is pronounced as "SH"
Inscription on a small pedestal to the left of the entrance to the atticum of the temple of Artemis, ornamented by projecting mouldings at the upper end.
Division and Alphabetization:
GOT JE I CINIC JE ŠELE
I KOJ ŠELE I KOJ D' JEST
RAT JE GOT GYNAIKOS
"Whoever is also a cynic is yet to be, and whosoever is yet to be and whoever already is both like to be on top of a woman."
GOT - "whoever, whosoever" - see GOD in passage XXXXVI supra
JE - "is"
I - "and, also"
CINIK - "cynic"
JE - "is"
ŠELE - "only then, not before"
I - "and, also"
KOJ -"who is" - KOJ is a dialectal contraction of KOJE
ŠELE - see ŠELE supra
I - "and, also"
KOJ - "who, whoever" - This KOJ is a dialectal version of the current SC. KOJI.
D' - "that, so that" - Here the dialectal D' (for the literal DA) serves as an emphasis to JEST.
JEST - "is, exists" - an archaic dialectal third prs., sing., pres. of BITI - "to be" - With D' serving to emphasize an existence that already is, JEST offers a reality counterpoint to the cynic's embryonic ŠELE.
RAT JE - "likes" - This is an idiom composed of the adv. RAD and JE to show a preference. We have seen the Venetic preference of utilizing a harder T for a softer D in several instances, the latest having been in GOT for GOD at the beginning of this and last passage.
GOJ - "on, on top of" - As in passage XVIII (GOJREJ), GOJ is the Venetic form for the gsl. GOR - "on, on top of, above."
GYNAIKOS - "woman" in Greek.
] (Pages 80-81, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany, a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms).
To be continued...
And now I leave you with this ...
It appears that the Greeks are finding the Dura-Europos inscriptions difficult to explain and continue to insist that the Ancient Macedonian language was Greek. In spite of physical evidence to the contrary, they insist that the Ancient Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect.
Past Greek governments and institutions have invested considerable resources and effort in archeological and linguistic research and have yet to produce a single shred of evidence that identifies that elusive "Greek dialect" which the Ancient Macedonians allegedly spoke. How is it that Macedonia rose to power, conquered the entire known world, produced brilliant generals like Philip II and Alexander III and yet did not manage to leave a single trace of its language for us to find?
It is time for the Greeks to either produce physical evidence of this illusive dialect or confess that there is no such "Greek dialect" and that the Ancient Macedonian language is the root of the Modern Macedonian language like the Dura-Europos inscriptions have revealed.
Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany.
Michael A. Dimitri, The Daughter of Neoptolemus, 1993, Alexandra Publishing.
Michael A. Dimitri, The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia, 1992.
Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks.
Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C., A Historical Biography, 1991, University of California Press.
Michael Wood, In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great, A Journey from Greece to Asia, University of California, 1997.
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