ALEXANDER THE GREAT HALTS HIS MARCH OF CONQUEST AND HEADS DOWN THE INDUS TO THE ARABIAN SEA

ALEXANDER'S TROOPS MUTINY


Alexander quelling the Opis mutiny

But by this time however, the monsoons had set in and Alexander's men were wet to the bone, tired, homesick and mutinous and perhaps scared of facing off against the Nandas, their next foes, who were referred to in Greeks texts and possessing a formidable army and controlling the Mauryan Empire. Alexander biographer Lane Fox told Smithsonian magazine, “It was pelting with rain, the men were terrified, there snakes everywhere. They were lost and did not feel they could go on anymore." Historian Peter Green told National Geographic, Alexander was basically screwed by ignorance of geography. He had been telling his men, We'll just go over the hill, boys---and then suddenly he had the whole of the Ganges plain before him."

Arrian wrote: “It was reported that the country beyond the river Hyphasis was fertile, and that the men were good agriculturists, and gallant in war; and that they conducted their own political affairs in a regular and constitutional manner. For the multitude was ruled by the aristocracy, who governed in no respect contrary to the rules of moderation. It was also stated that the men of that district possessed a much greater number of elephants than the other Indians, and that those men were of very great stature, and excelled in valour. These reports excited in Alexander an ardent desire to advance farther; but the spirit of the Macedonians now began to flag, when they saw the king raising one labour after another, and incurring one danger after another. Conferences were held throughout the camp, in which those who were the most moderate bewailed their lot, while others resolutely declared that they would not follow Alexander any farther, even if he should lead the way. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

Plutarch wrote: “On the banks of the Hyphias (now Beas) River, Alexander ordered his men to head east, the men refused. Alexander was enraged and was little consoled by the words of one of his noble advisors, who told him, "A noble thing, O king, is to know when to stop." Alexander reacted by saying anyone who disobeyed him would be accused of desertion and went to his tent to sulk. After confining himself to his tent from three days, he consulted his omens and was conveniently told he trouble awaited him in India. On hearing the news his men shouted: "Alexander allowed us, but no others, to defeat him."Alexander then decided to head back home. In retrospect this may have been a hasty decision as a major Indian army had already been defeated and all of India was within their grasp. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]

“But this last combat with Porus took off the edge of the Macedonians’ courage, and stayed their further progress into India. For having found it hard enough to defeat an enemy who brought but twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse into the field, they thought they had reason to oppose Alexander’s design of leading them on to pass the Ganges too, which they were told was thirty-two furlongs broad and a hundred fathoms deep, and the banks on the further side covered with multitudes of enemies. For they were told that the kings of the Gandaritans and Præsians expected them there with eighty thousand horse, two hundred thousand foot, eight thousand armed chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. Nor was this a mere vain report, spread to discourage them. For Androcottus,* who not long after reigned in those parts, made a present of five hundred elephants at once to Seleucus, and with an army of six hundred thousand men subdued all India.

“Alexander at first was so grieved and enraged at his men’s reluctancy, that he shut himself up in his tent, and threw himself upon the ground, declaring, if they would not pass the Ganges, he owed them no thanks for any thing they had hitherto done, and that to retreat now, was plainly to confess himself vanquished. But at last the reasonable persuasions of his friends and the cries and lamentations of his soldiers, who in a suppliant manner crowded about the entrance of his tent, prevailed with him to think of returning. Yet he could not refrain from leaving behind him various deceptive memorials of his expedition, to impose upon after-times, and to exaggerate his glory with posterity, such as arms larger than were really worn, and mangers for horses, with bits of bridles above the usual size, which he set up, and distributed in several places. He erected altars, also, to the gods, which the kings of the Præsians even in our time do honor to when they pass the river, and offer sacrifice upon them after the Grecian manner. Androcottus, then a boy, saw Alexander there, and is said often afterwards to have been heard to say, that he missed but little of making himself master of those countries; their king, who then reigned, was so hated and despised for the viciousness of his life, and the meanness of his extraction.”

Alexander’s Speech to the Officers


Arrian wrote: “When he heard of this, before the disorder and pusillanimity of the soldiers should advance to a great degree, be called a council of the officers of the brigades and addressed them as follows:—“O Macedonians and Grecian allies, seeing that you no longer follow me into dangerous enterprises with a resolution equal to that which formerly animated you, I have collected you together into the same spot, so that I may either persuade you to march forward with me, or may be persuaded by you to return. If indeed the labours which you have already undergone up to our present position seem to you worthy of disapprobation, and if you do not approve of my leading you into them, there can be no advantage in my speaking any further. But, if as the result of these labours, you hold possession of Ionia, the Hellespont, both the Phrygias, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phoenicia, Egypt together with Grecian Libya, as well as part of Arabia, Hollow Syria, Syria between the rivers, Babylon, the nation of the Susians, Persia, Media, besides all the nations which the Persians and the Medes ruled, and many of those which they did not rule, the land beyond the Caspian Gates, the country beyond the Caucasus, the Tanais, as well as the land beyond that river, Bactria, Hyrcania, and the Hyrcanian Sea; if we have also subdued the Scythians as far as the desert; if, in addition to these, the river Indus flows through our territory, as do also the Hydaspes, the Acesines, and the Hydraotes, why do ye shrink from adding the Hyphasis also, and the nations beyond this river, to your empire of Macedonia? Do ye fear that your advance will be stopped in the future by any other barbarians? Of whom some submit to us of their own accord, and others are captured in the act of fleeing, while others, succeeding in their efforts to escape, hand over to us their deserted land, which we add to that of our allies, or to that of those who have voluntarily submitted to us.” [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“I, for my part, think, that to a brave man there is no end to labours except the labours themselves, provided they lead to glorious achievements. But if any one desires to hear what will be the end to the warfare itself, let him learn that the distance still remaining before we reach the river Ganges and the Eastern Sea is not great; and I inform you that the Hyrcanian Sea will be seen to be united with this, because the Great Sea encircles the whole earth. I will also demonstrate both to the Macedonians and to the Grecian allies, that the Indian Gulf is confluent with the Persian, and the Hyrcanian Sea with the Indian Gulf. From the Persian Gulf our expedition will sail round into Libya as far as the Pillars of Heracles. From the pillars all the interior of Libya becomes ours, and so the whole of Asia will belong to us, and the limits of our empire, in that direction, will be those which God has made also the limits of the earth. But, if we now return, many warlike nations are left unconquered beyond the Hyphasis as far as the Eastern Sea, and many besides between these and Hyrcania in the direction of the north wind, and not far from these the Scythian races. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Wherefore, if we go back, there is reason to fear that the races which are now held in subjection, not being firm in their allegiance, may be excited to revolt by those who are not yet subdued. Then our many labours will prove to have been in vain; or it will be necessary for us to incur over again fresh labours and dangers, as at the beginning. But, O Macedonians and Grecian allies, stand firm! Glorious are the deeds of those who undergo labour and run the risk of danger; and it is delightful to live a life of valour and to die leaving behind immortal glory. Do ye not know that our ancestor reached so great a height of glory as from being a man to become a god, or to seem to become one, not by remaining in Tiryns or Argos, or even in the Peloponnese or at Thebes? The labours of Dionysus were not few, and he was too exalted a deity to be compared with Heracles. But we, indeed, have penetrated into regions beyond Nysa; and the rock of Aornus, which Heracles was unable to capture, is in our possession. Do ye also add the parts of Asia still left unsubdued to those already acquired, the few to the many. But what great or glorious deed could we have performed, if, sitting at ease in Macedonia, we had thought it sufficient to preserve our own country without any labour, simply repelling the attacks of the nations on our frontiers, the Thracians, Illyrians, and Triballians, or even those Greeks who were unfriendly to our interests? If, indeed, without undergoing labour and being free from danger I were acting as your commander, while you were undergoing labour and incurring danger, not without reason would you be growing faint in spirit and resolution, because you alone would be sharing the labours, while procuring the rewards of them for others. But now the labours are common to you and me, we have an equal share of the dangers, and the rewards are open to the free competition of all. For the land is yours, and you act as its viceroys. The greater part also of the money now comes to you; and when we have traversed the whole of Asia, then, by Zeus, not merely having satisfied your expectations, but having even exceeded the advantages which each man hopes to receive, those of you who wish to return home I will send back to their own land, or I will myself lead them back; while those who remain here, I will make objects of envy to those who go back.”

Answer of Coenus


Alexander's route through Pakistan and India to the Arabian Sea

Arrian wrote: “When Alexander had uttered these remarks, and others in the same strain, a long silence ensued, for the auditors neither had the audacity to speak in opposition to the king without constraint, nor did they wish to acquiesce in his proposal. Hereupon, he repeatedly urged any one who wished it, to speak, if he entertained different views from those which he had himself expressed. Nevertheless the silence still continued a long time; but at last, Coenus, son of Polemocrates, plucked up courage and spoke as follows:—“O king, inasmuch as thou dost not wish to rule Macedonians by compulsion, but sayest thou wilt lead them by persuasion, or yielding to their persuasion wilt not use violence towards them, I am going to make a speech, not on my own behalf and that of my colleagues here present, who are held in greater honour than the other soldiers, and most of us have already carried off the rewards of our labours, and from our preeminence are more zealous than the rest to serve thee in all things; but I am going to speak on behalf of the bulk of the army. On behalf of this army I am not going to say what may be gratifying to the men, but what I consider to be both advantageous to thee at present, and safest for the future. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“I feel it incumbent upon me not to conceal what I think the best course to pursue, both on account of my age, the honour paid to me by the rest of the army at thy behest, and the boldness which I have without any hesitation displayed up to the present time in incurring dangers and undergoing labours. The more numerous and the greater the exploits have been, which were achieved by thee as our commander, and by those who started from home with thee, the more advantageous does it seem to me that some end should be put to our labours and dangers. For thou thyself seest how many Macedonians and Greeks started with thee, and how few of us have been left. Of our number thou didst well in sending back home the Thessalians at once from Bactra, because thou didst perceive that they were no longer eager to undergo labours. Of the other Greeks, some have been settled as colonists in the cities which thou hast founded; where they remain not indeed all of them of their own free will. The Macedonian soldiers and the other Greeks who still continued to share our labours and dangers, have either perished in the battles, become unfit for war on account of their wounds, or been left behind in the different parts of Asia. The majority, however, have perished from disease, so that few are left out of many; and these few are no longer equally vigorous in body, while in spirit they are much more exhausted. All those whose parents still survive, feel a great yearning to see them once more; they feel a yearning after their wives and children, and a yearning for their native land itself; which it is surely pardonable for them to yearn to see again with the honour and dignity they have acquired from thee, returning as great men, whereas they departed small, and as rich men instead of being poor.

“Do not lead us now against our will; for thou wilt no longer find us the same men in regard to dangers, since free-will will be wanting to us in the contests. But, rather, if it seem good to thee, return to thy own land, see thy mother, regulate the affairs of the Greeks, and carry to the home of thy fathers these victories so many and great. Then start afresh on another expedition, if thou wishest, against these very tribes of Indians situated towards the east; or, if thou wishest, into the Euxine Sea; or else against Carchedon and the parts of Libya beyond the Carchedonians. It is now thy business to manage these matters; and the other Macedonians and Greeks will follow thee, young men in place of old, fresh men in place of exhausted ones, and men to whom warfare has no terrors, because up to the present time they have had no experience of it; and they will be eager to set out, from hope of future reward. The probability also is, that they will accompany thee with still more zeal on this account, when they see that those who in the earlier expedition shared thy labours and dangers have returned to their own abodes as rich men instead of being poor, and renowned instead of being obscure as they were before. Self-control in the midst of success is the noblest of all virtues, O king! For thou hast nothing to fear from enemies, while thou art commanding and leading such an army as this; but the visitations of the deity are unexpected, and consequently men can take no precautions against them.”

Alexander Resolves to Return

Arrian wrote: “When Coenus had concluded this speech, loud applause was given to his words by those who were present; and the fact that many even shed tears, made it still more evident that they were disinclined to incur further hazards, and that return would be delightful to them. Alexander then broke up the conference, being annoyed at the freedom of speech in which Coenus indulged, and the hesitation displayed by the other officers. But the next day he called the same men together again in wrath, and told them that he intended to advance farther, but would not force any Macedonian to accompany him against his will; that he would have those only who followed their king of their own accord; and that those who wished to return home were at liberty to return and carry back word to their relations that they were come back, having deserted their king in the midst of his enemies. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Having said this, he retired into his tent, and did not admit any of the Companions on that day, or until the third day from that, waiting to see if any change would occur in the minds of the Macedonians and Grecian allies, as is wont to happen, as a general rule among a crowd of soldiers, rendering them more disposed to obey. But on the contrary, when there was a profound silence throughout the camp, and the soldiers were evidently annoyed at his wrath, without being at all changed by it, Ptolemy, son of Lagus, says that he none the less offered sacrifice there for the passage of the river, but the victims were unfavourable to him when he sacrificed. Then indeed he collected the oldest of the Companions and especially those who were friendly to him, and as all things indicated the advisability of returning, he made known to the army that he had resolved to march back again.”

Alexander Recrosses the Hydraotes and Acesines


Arrian wrote: “Then they shouted as a mixed multitude would shout when rejoicing; and most of them shed tears of joy. Some of them even approached the royal tent, and prayed for many blessings upon Alexander; because by them alone he suffered himself to be conquered. Then he divided the army into brigades, and ordered twelve altars to be prepared, equal in height to very large towers, and in breadth much larger than towers, to serve as thank-offerings to the gods who had led him so far as a conqueror, and also to serve as monuments of his own labours. When the altars were completed, he offered sacrifice upon them according to his custom, and celebrated a gymnastic and equestrian contest. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“After adding the country as far as the river Hyphasis to the dominion of Porus, he marched back to the Hydraotes. Having crossed this river, he continued his return march to the Acesines, where he found the city which Hephaestion had been ordered to fortify, quite built. In this city be settled as many of the neighbouring people as volunteered to live in it, as well as those of the Grecian mercenaries who were now unfit for military service; and then began to make the necessary preparations for a voyage down the river into the Great Sea. At this time Arsaces, the ruler of the land bordering on that of Abisares, and the brother of the latter, with his other relations, came to Alexander, bringing the gifts which are reckoned most valuable among the Indians, including some elephants from Abisares, thirty in number.

“They declared that Abisares himself was unable to come on account of illness; and with these men the ambassadors sent by Alexander to Abisares agreed. Readily believing that such was the case, he granted that prince the privilege of ruling his own country as his viceroy, and placed Arsaces also under his power. After arranging what tribute they were to pay, he again offered sacrifice near the river Acesines. He then crossed that river again, and came to the Hydaspes, where he employed the army in repairing the damage caused to the cities of Nicaea and Bucephala by the rain, and put the other affairs of the country in order.”

Preparations for a Voyage down the Indus

Plutarch wrote: “Alexander was now eager to see the ocean. To which purpose he caused a great many row-boats and rafts to be built, in which he fell gently down the rivers at his leisure, yet so that his navigation was neither unprofitable nor inactive. For by several descents upon the banks, he made himself master of the fortified towns, and consequently of the country on both sides.[Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]

Arrian wrote: “Alexander now resolved to sail down the Hydaspes to the Great Sea, after he had prepared on the banks of that river many thirty-oared galleys and others with one and a half bank of oars, as well as a number of vessels for conveying horses, and all the other things requisite for the easy conveyance of an army on a river. At first he thought he had discovered the origin of the Nile, when he saw crocodiles in the river Indus, which he had seen in no other river except the Nile, as well as beans growing near the banks of the Acesines of the same kind as those which the Egyptian land produces. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“This conjecture was confirmed when he heard that the Acesines falls into the Indus. He thought the Nile rises somewhere or other in India, and after flowing through an extensive tract of desert country loses the name of Indus there; but afterwards when it begins to flow again through the inhabited land, it is called Nile both by the Aethiopians of that district and by the Egyptians, and finally empties itself into the Inner Sea. In like manner Homer made the river Egypt give its name to the country of Egypt. Accordingly when he wrote to Olympias about the country of India, after mentioning other things, he said that he thought he had discovered the sources of the Nile, forming his conclusions about things so great from such small and trivial premisses. However, when he had made a more careful inquiry into the facts relating to the river Indus, he learned the following details from the natives:—That the Hydaspes unites its water with the Acesines, as the latter does with the Indus, and that they both yield up their names to the Indus; that the last-named river has two mouths, through which it discharges itself into the Great Sea; but that it has no connection with the Egyptian country. He then removed from the letter to his mother the part he had written about the Nile. Planning a voyage down the rivers as far as the Great Sea, he ordered ships for this purpose to be prepared for him. The crews of his ships were fully supplied from the Phoenicians, Cyprians, Carians, and Egyptians who accompanied the army.”


Indus River and it Tributaries, including Hydraotes (Ravi), Acesines (Chenab) and Hydaspes (Jhelum)


Voyage down the Hydaspes

Arrian wrote: “At this time Coenus, who was one of Alexander’s most faithful Companions, fell ill and died, and the king buried him with as much magnificence as circumstances allowed. Then collecting the Companions and the Indian envoys who had come to him, he appointed Porus king of the part of India which had already been conquered, seven nations in all, containing more than , cities. After this he made the following distribution of his army. With himself he placed on board the ships all the shield-bearing guards, the archers, the Agrianians, and the body-guard of cavalry. Craterus led a part of the infantry and cavalry along the right bank of the Hydaspes, while along the other bank Hephaestion advanced at the head of the most numerous and efficient part of the army, including the elephants, which now numbered about . [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“These generals were ordered to march as quickly as possible to the place where the palace of Sopeithes was situated, and Philip, the viceroy of the country beyond the Indus extending to Bactria, was ordered to follow them with his forces after an interval of three days. He sent the Nysaean cavalry back to Nysa. The whole of the naval force was under the command of Nearchus; but the pilot of Alexander’s ship was Onesicritus, who, in the narrative which he composed of Alexander’s campaigns, falsely asserted that he was admiral, while in reality he was only a pilot. According to Ptolemy, son of Lagus, whose statements I chiefly follow, the entire number of the ships was about eighty thirty-oared galleys; but the whole number of vessels, including the horse transports and boats, and all the other river craft, both those previously plying on the rivers and those built at that time, fell not far short of ,.”

“When he had made all the necessary preparations the army began to embark at the approach of the dawn; while according to custom he offered sacrifice to the gods and to the river Hydaspes, as the prophets directed. When he had embarked he poured a libation into the river from the prow of the ship out of a golden goblet, invoking the Acesines as well as the Hydaspes, because he had ascertained that it is the largest of all the rivers which unite with the Hydaspes, and that their confluence was not far off. He also invoked the Indus, into which the Acesines flows after its junction with the Hydaspes. Moreover he poured out libations to his forefather Heracles, to Ammon, and the other gods to whom he was in the habit of sacrificing, and then he ordered the signal for starting seawards to be given with the trumpet. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]


bridge over the Chenan (Acesines) river

“As soon as the signal was given they commenced the voyage in regular order; for directions had been given at what distance apart it was necessary for the baggage vessels to be arranged, as also for the vessels conveying the horses and for the ships of war; so that they might not fall foul of each other by sailing down the channel at random. He did not allow even the fast-sailing ships to get out of rank by outstripping the rest. The noise of the rowing was never equalled on any other occasion, inasmuch as it proceeded from so many ships rowed at the same time; also the shouting of the boatswains giving the time for beginning and stopping the stroke of the oars, and the clamour of the rowers, when keeping time all together with the dashing of the oars, made a noise like a battle-cry. The banks of the river also, being in many places higher than the ships, and collecting the sound into a narrow space, sent back to each other an echo which was very much increased by its very compression. In some parts too the groves of trees on each side of the river helped to swell the sound, both from the solitude and the reverberation of the noise. The horses which were visible on the decks of the transports struck the barbarians who saw them with such surprise that those of them who were present at the starting of the fleet accompanied it a long way from the place of embarkation. For horses had never before been seen on board ships in the country of India; and the natives did not call to mind that the expedition of Dionysus into India was a naval one. The shouting of the rowers and the noise of the rowing were heard by the Indians who had already submitted to Alexander, and these came running down to the river’s bank and accompanied him singing their native songs. For the Indians have been eminently fond of singing and dancing since the time of Dionysus and those who under his bacchic inspiration traversed the land of the Indians with him.”

Voyage down the Hydaspes and Acesines

Arrian wrote: “Sailing thus, he stopped on the third day at the spot where he had instructed Hephaestion and Craterus to encamp on opposite banks of the river at the same place. Here he remained two days, until Philip with the rest of the army came up with him. He then sent this general with the men he brought with him to the river Acesines, with orders to march along the bank of that river. He also sent Craterus and Hephaestion off again with instructions how they were to conduct the march. But he himself continued his voyage down the river Hydaspes, the channel of which is nowhere less than twenty stades broad. Mooring his vessels near the banks wherever he could, he received some of the Indians dwelling near into allegiance by their voluntary surrender, while he reduced by force those who came into a trial of strength with him. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]


Hydaspes (Jhelum) river

“Then be sailed rapidly towards the country of the Mallians and Oxydracians, having ascertained that these tribes were the most numerous and the most warlike of the Indians in that region; and having been informed that they had put their wives and children for safety into their strongest cities, with the resolution of fighting a battle with him, be made the voyage with the greater speed with the express design of attacking them before they had arranged their plans, and while there was still lack of preparation and a state of confusion among them. Thence he made his second start, and on the fifth day reached the junction of the Hydaspes and Acesines. Where these rivers unite, one very narrow river is formed out of the two; and on account of its narrowness the current is swift. There are also prodigious eddies in the whirling stream, and the water rises in waves and plashes exceedingly, so that the noise of the swell of waters is distinctly heard by people while they are still far off. These things had previously been reported to Alexander by the natives, and be had told his soldiers; and yet, when his army approached the junction of the rivers, the noise made by the stream produced so great an impression upon them that the sailors stopped rowing, not from any word of command, but because the very boatswains who gave the time to the rowers became silent from astonishment and stood aghast at the noise.”

“When they came near the junction of the rivers, the pilots passed on the order that the men should row as hard as possible to get out of the narrows, so that the ships might not fall into the eddies and be overturned by them, but might by the vigorous rowing overcome the whirlings of the water. Being of a round form, the merchant vessels which happened to be whirled round by the current received no damage from the eddy, but the men who were on board were thrown into disorder and fright. For being kept upright by the force of the stream itself, these vessels settled again into the onward course.

“But the ships of war, being long, did not emerge so scatheless from the whirling current, not being raised aloft in the same way as the others upon the plashing swell of water. These ships had two ranks of oars on each side, the lower oars being only a little out of the water. These vessels getting athwart in the eddies, their oars could not be raised aloft in proper time and were consequently caught by the water and came into collision with each other. Thus many of the ships were damaged; two indeed fell foul of each other and were destroyed, and many of those sailing in them perished. But when the river widened out, there the current was no longer so rapid, and the eddies did not whirl round with so much violence. Alexander therefore moored his fleet on the right bank, where there was a protection from the force of the stream and a roadstead for the ships. A certain promontory also in the river jutted out conveniently for collecting the wrecks. He preserved the lives of the men who were still being conveyed upon them; and when he had repaired the damaged ships, he ordered Nearchus to sail down the river until he reached the confines of the nation called Mallians.

“He himself made an inroad into the territories of the barbarians who would not yield to him, and after preventing them from succouring the Mallians, he again formed a junction with the naval armament. Hephaestion, Craterus, and Philip had already united their forces here. Alexander then transported the elephants, the brigade of Polysperchon, the horse-archers, and Philip with his army, across the river Hydaspes, and instructed Craterus to lead them. He sent Nearchus with the fleet with orders to set sail three days before the army started. He divided the rest of his army into three parts, and ordered Hephaestion to go five days in advance, so that if any should flee before the men under his own command and go rapidly forward they might fall in with Hephaestion’s brigade and thus be captured. He also gave a part of the army to Ptolemy, son of Lagus, with orders to follow him after the lapse of three days, so that all those who fled from him and turned back again might fall in with Ptolemy’s brigade. He ordered those in advance to wait, when they arrived at the confluence of the rivers Acesines and Hydraotes, until he himself came up; and he instructed Craterus and Ptolemy also to form a junction with him at the same place.”



Campaign against the Mallians

Arrian wrote: “He then took the shield-bearing guards, the bowmen, the Agrianians, Peithon’s brigade of men, who were called foot Companions, all the horse bowmen and half the cavalry Companions, and marched through a tract of country destitute of water against the Mallians, a tribe of the independent Indians. On the first day he encamped near a small piece of water which was about stades distant from the river Acesines. Having dined there and caused his army to rest a short time, he ordered every man to fill whatever vessel he had with water. After travelling the remaining part of that day and all the ensuing night a distance of about stades, he at daybreak reached the city into which many of the Mallians had fled for refuge. Most of them were outside the city and unarmed, supposing that Alexander would never come against them through the waterless country. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“It was evident that he led his army by this route for this very reason, because it was difficult to lead an army this way, and consequently it appeared incredible to the enemy that he would lead his forces in this direction. He therefore fell upon them unexpectedly, and killed most of them without their even turning to defend themselves, since they were unarmed. He cooped the rest up in the city, and posted his cavalry all round the wall, because the phalanx of infantry had not yet come up with him. He thus made use of his cavalry in place of a stockade. As soon as the infantry arrived, he sent Perdiccas with his own cavalry regiment and that of Clitus, as well as the Agrianians, against another city of the Mallians, whither many of the Indians of that region had fled for refuge. He ordered Perdiccas to blockade the men in the city, but not to commence the action until he himself should arrive, so that none might escape from this city and carry news to the rest of the barbarians that Alexander was already approaching. He then began to assault the wall; but the barbarians abandoned it, finding that they were no longer able to defend it, since many had been killed in the capture, and others had been rendered unfit for fighting on account of their wounds. Fleeing for refuge into the citadel, they defended themselves for some time from a position commanding from its height and difficult of access. But as the Macedonians pressed on vigorously from all sides, and Alexander himself appeared now in this part of the action and now in that, the citadel was taken by storm, and all the men who had fled into it for refuge were killed, to the number of ,. Perdiccas also reached the city to which he had been despatched and found it deserted; but learning that the inhabitants had fled from it not long before, he made a forced march on the track of the fugitives. The light-armed troops followed him as quickly as they could on foot, so that he took and massacred as many of the fugitives as could not outstrip him and flee for safety into the river-marshes.”



“After dining and causing his men to rest until the first watch of the night, Alexander marched forward; and travelling a great distance through the night, he arrived at the river Hydraotes at daybreak. There he ascertained that most of the Mallians had already crossed the river; but coming upon those who were still in the act of crossing, he slew many of them in their passage. Having crossed with them in pursuit without any delay by the same ford, he kept close up with those who had outstripped him in their retreat.

“Many also of these he slew; some he took prisoners; but the majority of them escaped into a place strong by nature and made more so by fortifications. When the infantry reached him, Alexander despatched Peithon against the men in the fortress, giving him the command of his own brigade of infantry and two regiments of cavalry. These, attacking the place, took it at the first assault, and made slaves of all those who had fled thither for safety, at least as many of them as had not perished in the attack. After accomplishing this, Peithon returned again to the camp. Alexander in person led his forces against a certain city of the Brachmans, because he ascertained that some of the Mallians had fled for refuge into it. When he reached it, he led his phalanx in serried ranks close up to the wall on all sides. The enemy seeing that their walls were being undermined, and being themselves repulsed by the missiles, abandoned the walls, and having fled for safety into the citadel, began to defend themselves from thence. A few Macedonians having rushed in with them, turning round and drawing together into a close body, drove some of them back and killed five-and-twenty of them in their retreat. Hereupon Alexander ordered the scaling-ladders to be placed against the citadel on all sides, and the wall to be undermined; and when one of the towers, being undermined, fell down, and a part of the wall between two towers was breached, and thus rendered the citadel more accessible to assault in this quarter, he was seen to be the first man to scale the wall and get hold of it. The other Macedonians seeing him were ashamed of themselves and mounted the ladders in various places. The citadel was soon in their possession. Some of the Indians began to set fire to the houses, and being caught in them were killed; but most of them were slain fighting. About , in all were killed; and on account of their valour, only a few were taken prisoners.”



Defeat of the Mallians at the River Hydraotes

Arrian wrote: “Having remained there one day to give his army rest, he advanced on the morrow against the other Mallians. He found the cities abandoned, and ascertained that the men had fled into the desert. There he again gave the army one day’s rest, and on the next day sent Peithon and Demetrius the cavalry general back to the river, in command of their own troops, giving them in addition as many battalions of the light-armed infantry as were sufficient for the enterprise. Their instructions were to go along the bank of the river, and if they met any of those who had fled for safety into the woods, of which there were many near the river’s bank, to kill all who refused to surrender. Peithon and Demetrius captured many of these in the woods and killed them. He himself led his forces against the largest city of the Mallians, whither he was informed many from the other cities had taken refuge. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“But this also the Indians abandoned when they heard that Alexander was marching against it. Crossing the river Hydraotes, they remained with their forces drawn up upon its bank, because it was high, and they thought they could obstruct Alexander’s passage. When he heard this, he took all the cavalry which he had with him, and went to the part of the river where he was informed that the Mallians had drawn themselves up for battle; and the infantry was ordered to follow. When he reached the river and beheld the enemy drawn up on the opposite bank, he made no delay, but instantly plunged into the ford with the cavalry alone. When they saw that he was now in the middle of the river, though they were drawn up ready for battle, they withdrew from the bank with all speed; and Alexander followed them with his cavalry alone. But when the Indians perceived only cavalry, they wheeled round and fought with desperate valour, being about , in number. When Alexander perceived that their phalanx was densely compact, and that his own infantry was absent, he rode right round their army and made charges upon them, but did not come to close fighting with them. Meanwhile the archers, the Agrianians and the other battalions of light-armed infantry, being picked men whom he was leading with him, arrived, and his phalanx of infantry was seen not far off. As all kinds of danger were threatening them at once, the Indians now wheeled round again and began to flee with headlong speed into the strongest of their adjacent cities; but Alexander followed them and slew many, while those who escaped into the city were cooped up within it. At first indeed he surrounded the city with the horse-soldiers as they came up from the march; but when the infantry arrived, he encamped all round the wall for this day, because not much of it was left for making the assault, and his army had been exhausted, the infantry by the long march, and the cavalry by the uninterrupted pursuit, and especially by the passage of the river.”



Storming of the Mallian Stronghold

Arrian wrote: “On the following day, dividing the army into two parts, he himself assaulted the wall at the head of one, and Perdiccas led on the other. Upon this the Indians did not wait to receive the attack of the Macedonians, but abandoned the walls of the city and fled for safety into the citadel. Alexander and his troops therefore split open a small gate, and got within the city long before the others; for those who had been put under Perdiccas were behind time, having experienced difficulty in scaling the walls, as most of them did not bring ladders, thinking that the city had been captured, when they observed that the walls were deserted by the defenders. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“But when the citadel was seen to be still in the possession of the enemy, and many of them were observed drawn up in front of it to repel attacks, some of the Macedonians tried to force an entry by undermining the wall, and others by placing scaling ladders against it, wherever it was practicable to do so. Alexander, thinking that the men who carried the ladders were too slow, snatched one from a man who was carrying it, placed it against the wall, and began to mount it, crouching under his shield. After him mounted Peucestas, the man who carried the sacred shield which Alexander took from the temple of the Trojan Athena and used to keep with him, and have it carried before him in all his battles. After Peucestas, by the same ladder ascended Leonnatus the confidential body-guard; and up another ladder went Abreas, one of the soldiers who received double pay for distinguished services. The king was now near the battlement of the wall, and leaning his shield against it was pushing some of the Indians within the fort, and had cleared that part of the wall, by killing others with his sword. The shield-bearing guards becoming very anxious for the king’s safety, pushed each other with ardour up the same ladder and broke it; so that those who were already mounting fell down and made the ascent impracticable for the rest. Alexander then, standing upon the wall, was being assailed all round from the adjacent towers; for none of the Indians dared approach him. He was also being assailed by the men in the city, who were throwing darts at him from no great distance; for a mound of earth happened to have been heaped up there opposite the wall.

“Alexander was conspicuous both by the brightness of his weapons and by his extraordinary display of audacity. He therefore perceived that if he remained where he was, he would be incurring danger without being able to perform anything at all worthy of consideration; but if he leaped down within the fort he might perhaps by this very act strike the Indians with terror, and if he did not, but should only thereby be incurring danger, at any rate he would die not ignobly after performing great deeds of valour worthy of recollection by men of after times. Forming this resolution, he leaped down from the wall into the citadel; where, supporting himself against the wall, he struck with his sword and killed some of the Indians who came to close quarters with him, including their leader, who rushed upon him too boldly. Another man who approached him he kept in check by hurling a stone at him, and a third in like manner. Those who advanced nearer to him he again kept off with his sword; so that the barbarians were no longer willing to approach him, but standing round him cast at him from all sides whatever any one happened to have or could get hold of at the time.”

Alexander Dangerously Wounded


the ladder breaks stranding Alexander and some companions within the Mallian town

Plutarch wrote: “At a siege of a town of the Mallians, who have the repute of being the bravest people of India, he ran in great danger of his life. For having beaten off the defendants with showers of arrows, he was the first man that mounted the wall by a scaling ladder, which, as soon as he was up, broke and left him almost alone, exposed to the darts which the barbarians threw at him in great numbers from below. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]

“In this distress, turning himself as well as he could, he leaped down in the midst of his enemies, and had the good fortune to light upon his feet. The brightness and clattering of his armor when he came to the ground, made the barbarians think they saw rays of light, or some bright phantom playing before his body, which frightened them so at first, that they ran away and dispersed. Till seeing him seconded but by two of his guards, they fell upon him hand to hand, and some, while he bravely defended himself, tried to wound him through his armor with their swords and spears. And one who stood further off, drew a bow with such just strength, that the arrow finding its way through his cuirass, stuck in his ribs under the breast. This stroke was so violent, that it made him give back, and set one knee to the ground, upon which the man ran up with his drawn scimitar, thinking to despatch him, and had done it, if Peucestes and Limnæus had not interposed, who were both wounded, Limnæus mortally, but Peucestes stood his ground, while Alexander killed the barbarian. But this did not free him from danger; for besides many other wounds, at last he received so weighty a stroke of a club upon his neck, that he was forced to lean his body against the wall, still, however, facing the enemy. At this extremity, the Macedonians made their way in and gathered round him.”

On the same Arrian wrote: “Peucestas and Abreas, the soldier entitled to double pay, and after them Leonnatus, being the only men who happened to have scaled the wall before the ladders were broken, had leaped down and were fighting in front of the king. Abreas, the man entitled to double pay, fell there, being shot with an arrow in the forehead. Alexander himself also was wounded with an arrow under the breast through his breastplate into the chest, so that Ptolemy says air was breathed out from the wound together with the blood. But although he was faint with exhaustion, he defended himself, as long as his blood was still warm. But the blood streaming out copiously and without ceasing at every expiration of breath, he was seized with a dizziness and swooning, and bending over fell upon his shield. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“After he had fallen Peucestas defended him, holding over him in front the sacred shield brought from Troy; and on the other side he was defended by Leonnatus. But both these men were themselves wounded, and Alexander was now nearly fainting away from loss of blood. For the Macedonians had experienced great difficulty in the assault also on this account, because those who saw Alexander being shot at upon the wall and then leaping down into the citadel within, in their ardour arising from fear lest their king should meet with any mishap by recklessly exposing himself to danger, broke the ladders.

“Then some began to devise one plan and others another to mount upon the wall, as well as they could in their state of embarrassment, some fixing pegs into the wall, which was made of earth, and suspending themselves from these hoisted themselves up with difficulty by their means; others got up by mounting one upon the other. The first man who got up threw himself down from the wall into the city, and so on in succession; and when they saw the king lying there on the ground they all raised a loud lamentation and howl of grief. Now ensued a desperate conflict around his fallen body, one Macedonian after another holding his shield in front of him. In the meantime some of the soldiers having shivered in pieces the bar by which the gate in the space of wall between the towers was secured, entered the city a few at the time; while others, inasmuch as a gap had been made in the gate, put their shoulders under it and forced it into the space inside the wall, and thus laid the citadel open in that quarter.”

“Hereupon some of them began to kill the Indians, all of whom they slew, sparing not even a woman or child...Many other things concerning this catastrophe have been recorded by the historians; and Rumour having received the statements as they were given by the first falsifiers of the facts, still preserves them even to our times, nor will she desist from handing the falsehoods on to others also in regular succession, unless a stop is put to it by this history. For example, the common account is, that this calamity befell Alexander among the Oxydracians; whereas, it really occurred among the Mallians, an independent tribe of Indians; the city belonged to the Mallians, and the men who wounded him were Mallians. These people, indeed, had resolved to join their forces with the Oxydracians and then to make a desperate struggle; but he forestalled them by marching against them through the waterless country, before any aid could reach them from the Oxydracians, or they could render any help to the latter.

Alexander Recovers While His Soldiers Worry


Wounded Alexander passing through his fleet in India

Arrian wrote: Others carried off the king, who was lying in a faint condition, upon his shield; and they could not yet tell whether he was likely to survive. Some authors have stated that Critodemus, a physician of Cos, an Asclepiad by birth, made an incision into the injured part and drew the weapon out of the wound. Other authors say that as there was no physician present at the critical moment, Perdiccas, the confidential body-guard, at Alexander’s bidding, made an incision with his sword into the wounded part and removed the weapon. On its removal there was such a copious effusion of blood that Alexander swooned again; and the effect of the swoon was, that the effusion of blood was stanched. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

Plutarch wrote: “They took him up, just as he was fainting away, having lost all sense of what was done near him, and conveyed him to his tent, upon which it was presently reported all over the camp that he was dead. But when they had with great difficulty and pains sawed off the shaft of the arrow, which was of wood, and so with much trouble got] off his cuirass, they came to cut out the head of it, which was three fingers broad and four long, and stuck fast in the bone. During the operation, he was taken with almost mortal swoonings, but when it was out he came to himself again. Yet though all danger was past, he continued very weak, and confined himself a great while to a regular diet and the method of his cure, till one day hearing the Macedonians clamoring outside in their eagerness to see him, he took his cloak and went out. And having sacrificed to the gods, without more delay he went on board again, and as he coasted along, subdued a great deal of the country on both sides, and several considerable cities.[Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]

Arian wrote: “While Alexander was remaining in this place until his wound was cured, the first news which reached the camp from which he had set out to attack the Mallians was that he had died of the wound; and at first there arose a sound of lamentation from the entire army, as one man handed the rumour on to another. When they ceased their lamentation, they became spiritless, and felt perplexed as to the man who was to become the leader of the army; for many of the officers seemed to have stood in equal rank and merit, both in the opinion of Alexander and in that of the Macedonians.

“They were also in a state of perplexity how to get back in safety to their own country, being quite enclosed by so many warlike nations, some of whom had not yet submitted, and who they conjectured would fight stoutly for their freedom; while others would no doubt revolt as soon as they were relieved of their fear of Alexander. Besides, they seemed at that time to be in the midst of impassable rivers, and all things appeared to them uncertain and impracticable now that they were bereft of Alexander. But when at length the news came that he was still alive, they with difficulty acquiesced in it; and did not yet believe that he was likely to survive. Even when a letter came from the king, saying that he was coming down to the camp in a short time, this did not appear to most of them worthy of credit, on account of their excessive fear; for they conjectured that the letter was concocted by his confidential body-guards and generals.”

Joy of the Soldiers at Alexander’s Recovery


Arrian wrote: “When Alexander became acquainted with this, for fear some attempt at a revolution might be made in the army, he had himself conveyed, as soon as it could be done with safety, to the bank of the river Hydraotes, and placed in a boat to sail down the river. For the camp was at the confluence of the Hydraotes and Acesines, where Hephaestion was at the head of the army, and Nearchus of the fleet. When the ship bearing the king approached the camp, he ordered the tent covering to be removed from the stern, that he might be visible to all. But they were still incredulous, thinking, forsooth, that Alexander’s corpse was being conveyed on the vessel; until at length he stretched out his hand to the multitude, when the ship was nearing the bank. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Then the men raised a cheer, lifting their hands, some towards the sky and others to the king himself. Many even shed involuntary tears at the unexpected sight. Some of the shield-bearing guards brought a litter for him when he was conveyed out of the ship; but he ordered them to fetch his horse. When he was seen again mounting his horse, the whole army re-echoed with loud clapping of hands, so that the banks of the river and the groves near them reverberated with the sound. On approaching his tent he dismounted from his horse, so that he might be seen walking. Then the men came near, some on one side, others on the other, some touching his hands, others his knees, others only his clothes. Some only came close to get a sight of him, and went away having chanted his praise, while others threw garlands upon him, or the flowers which the country of India supplied at that season of the year.

“Nearchus says that some of his friends incurred his displeasure, reproaching him for exposing himself to danger in the front of the army in battle; which they said was the duty of a private soldier, and not that of the general. It seems to me that Alexander was offended at these remarks, because be knew that they were correct, and that he deserved the censure. However, like those who are mastered by any other pleasure, he had not sufficient self-control to keep aloof from danger, through his impetuosity in battle and his passion for glory. Nearchus also says that a certain old Boeotian, whose name he does not mention, perceiving that Alexander was offended at the censures of his friends and was looking sullenly at them, came near him, and speaking in the Boeotian dialect, said: “O Alexander, it is the part of heroes to perform great deeds!” and repeated a certain Iambic verse, the purport of which is, that the man who performs anything great is destined also to suffer. This man was not only acceptable to Alexander at the time, but was afterwards received into his more intimate acquaintance.”

Voyage down the Hydraotes and Acesines into the Indus


Indus River

Arrian wrote: “At this time arrived envoys from the Mallians who still survived, offering the submission of the nation; also from the Oxydracians came both the leaders of the cities and the governors of the provinces, accompanied by the other most notable men, with full powers to make a treaty, bringing the gifts which are considered most valuable among the Indians, and also, like the Mallians, offering the submission of their nation. They said that their error in not having sent an embassy to him before was pardonable, because they excelled other races in the desire to be free and independent, and their freedom had been secure from the time Dionysus came into India until Alexander came; but if it seemed good to him, inasmuch as there was a general report that he also was sprung from gods, they were willing to receive whatever viceroy he might appoint, pay the tribute decreed by him, and give him as many hostages as he might demand. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“He therefore demanded the thousand best men of the nation, whom he might hold as hostages, if he pleased; and if not, that he might keep them as soldiers in his army, until he had finished the war which he was waging against the other Indians. They accordingly selected the thousand best and tallest men of their number, and sent them to him, together with chariots and charioteers, though these were not demanded. Alexander appointed Philip viceroy over these people and the Mallians who were still surviving. He sent back the hostages to them, but retained the chariots. When he had satisfactorily arranged these matters, since many vessels had been built during the delay arising from his being wounded, he embarked , of the cavalry Companions, as many of the light-armed troops as before, and , infantry, and sailed a short distance down the river Hydraotes. But when that river mingled its waters with the Acesines, the latter giving its name to the united stream, he continued his voyage down the Acesines, until he reached its junction with the Indus. For these four large rivers, which are all navigable, discharge their water into the river Indus, though each does not retain its distinct name. For the Hydaspes discharges itself into the Acesines, and after the junction the whole stream forms what is called the Acesines. Again this same river unites with the Hydraotes, and after absorbing this river, still retains its own name. After this the Acesines takes in the Hyphasis, and finally flows into the Indus under its own name; but after the junction it yields its name to the Indus. From this point I have no doubt that the Indus proceeds stades, and perhaps more, before it is divided so as to form the Delta; and there it spreads out more like a lake than a river.”

Voyage down the Indus to the Land of Musicanus


Arrian wrote: “There, at the confluence of the Acesines and Indus, he waited until Perdiccas with the army arrived, after having routed on his way the independent tribe of the Abastanians. Meantime, he was joined by other thirty-oared galleys and trading vessels which had been built for him among the Xathrians, another independent tribe of Indians who had yielded to him. From the Ossadians, who were also an independent tribe of Indians, came envoys to offer the submission of their nation. Having fixed the confluence of the Acesines and Indus as the limit of Philip’s viceroyalty, he left with him all the Thracians and as many men from the infantry regiments as appeared to him sufficient to provide for the security of the country. He then ordered a city to be founded there at the very junction of the two rivers, expecting that it would become large and famous among men. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“He also ordered a dockyard to be made there. At this time the Bactrian Oxyartes, father of his wife Roxana, came to him, to whom he gave the viceroyalty over the Parapamisadians, after dismissing the former viceroy, Tiryaspes, because he was reported to be exercising his authority improperly. Then he transported Craterus with the main body of the army and the elephants to the left bank of the river Indus, both because it seemed easier for a heavy-armed force to march along that side of the river, and the tribes dwelling near were not quite friendly. He himself sailed down to the capital of the Sogdians; where he fortified another city, made another dockyard, and repaired his shattered vessels. He appointed Oxyartes viceroy, and Peithon general of the land extending from the confluence of the Indus and Acesines as far as the sea, together with all the coastland of India. He then again despatched Craterus with his army through the country of the Arachotians and Drangians; and himself sailed down the river into the dominions of Musicanus, which was reported to be the most prosperous part of India.

“He advanced against this king because he had not yet come to meet him to offer the submission of himself and his land, nor had he sent envoys to seek his alliance. He had not even sent him the gifts which were suitable for a great king, or asked any favour from him. He accelerated his voyage down the river to such a degree that he succeeded in reaching the confines of the land of Musicanus before he had even heard that Alexander had started against him. Musicanus was so greatly alarmed that he went as fast as he could to meet him, bringing with him the gifts valued most highly among the Indians, and taking all his elephants. He offered to surrender both his nation and himself, at the same time acknowledging his error, which was the most effectual way with Alexander for any one to get what he requested. Accordingly for these considerations Alexander granted him an indemnity for his offences. He also granted him the privilege of ruling the city and country, both of which Alexander admired. Craterus was directed to fortify the citadel in the capital; which was done while Alexander was still present. A garrison was also placed in it, because he thought the place suitable for keeping the circumjacent tribes in subjection.”

Indian Philosophers

Plutarch wrote: “In this voyage, he took ten of the Indian philosophers prisoners, who had been most active in persuading Sabbas to revolt, and had caused the Macedonians a great deal of trouble. These men, called Gymnosophists, were reputed to be extremely ready and succinct in their answers, which he made trial of, by putting difficult questions to them, letting them know that those whose answers were not pertinent, should be put to death, of which he made the eldest of them judge. The first being asked which he thought most numerous, the dead or the living, answered, “The living, because those who are dead are not at all.” Of the second, he desired to know whether the earth or the sea produced the largest beast; who told him, “The earth, for the sea is but a part of it.” His question to the third was, Which is the cunningest of beasts? “That,” said he, “which men have not yet found out.” He bade the fourth tell him what argument he used to Sabbas to persuade him to revolt. “No other,” said he, “than that he should either live or die nobly.” Of the fifth he asked, Which was eldest, night or day? The philosopher replied, “Day was eldest, by one day at least.” [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]


“But perceiving Alexander not well satisfied with that account, he added, that he ought not to wonder if strange questions had as strange answers made to them. Then he went on and inquired of the next, what a man should do to be exceedingly beloved. “He must be very powerful,” said he, “without making himself too much feared.” The answer of the seventh to his question, how a man might become a god, was, “By doing that which was impossible for men to do.” The eighth told him, “Life is stronger than death, because it supports so many miseries.” And the last being asked, how long he thought it decent for a man to live, said, “Till death appeared more desirable than life.” Then Alexander turned to him whom he had made judge, and commanded him to give sentence. “All that I can determine,” said he, “is, that they have every one answered worse than another.” “Nay,” said the king, “then you shall die first, for giving such a sentence.” “Not so, O king,” replied the gymnosophist, “unless you said falsely that he should die first who made the worst answer.” In conclusion he gave them presents and dismissed them.

“But to those who were in greatest reputation among them, and lived a private quiet life, he sent Onesicritus, one of Diogenes the Cynic’s disciples, desiring them to come to him. Calanus, it is said, very arrogantly and roughly commanded him to strip himself, and hear what he said, naked, otherwise he would not speak a word to him, though he came from Jupiter himself. But Dandamis received him with more civility, and hearing him discourse of Socrates, Pythagoras, and Diogenes, told him he thought them men of great parts, and to have erred in nothing so much, as in having too great respect for the laws and customs of their country. Others say, Dandamis only asked him the reason why Alexander undertook so long a journey to come into those parts. Taxiles, however, persuaded Calanus to wait upon Alexander. [243] His proper name was Sphines, but because he was wont to say Cale, which in the Indian tongue is a form of salutation, to those he met with anywhere, the Greeks called him Calanus. He is said to have shown Alexander an instructive emblem of government, which was this. He threw a dry shrivelled hide upon the ground, and trod upon the edges of it. The skin when it was pressed in one place, still rose up in another, wheresoever he trod round about it, till he set his foot in the middle, which made all the parts lie even and quiet. The meaning of this similitude being that he ought to reside most in the middle of his empire, and not spend too much time on the borders of it.”

Campaign against Oxycanus and Sambus

Arrian wrote: “Then he took the archers, Agrianians, and cavalry sailing with him, and marched against the governor of that country, whose name was Oxycanus, because he neither came himself nor did envoys come from him, to offer the surrender of himself and his land. At the very first assault he took by storm the two largest cities under the rule of Oxycanus; in the second of which that prince himself was captured. The booty he gave to his army, but the elephants he led with himself. The other cities in the same land surrendered to him as he advanced, nor did any one turn to resist him; so cowed in spirit had all the Indians now become at the thought of Alexander and his fortune. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“He then marched back against Sambus, whom he had appointed viceroy of the mountaineer Indians and who was reported to have fled, because he learned that Musicanus had been pardoned by Alexander and was ruling over his own land. For he was at war with Musicanus. But when Alexander approached the city which the country of Sambus held as its metropolis, the name of which was Sindimana, the gates were thrown open to him at his approach, and the relations of Sambus reckoned up his money and went out to meet him, taking with them the elephants also. They assured him that Sambus had fled, not from any hostile feeling towards Alexander, but fearing on account of the pardon of Musicanus. He also captured another city which had revolted at this time, and slew as many of the Brachmans as had been instigators of this revolt. These men are the philosophers of the Indians, of whose philosophy, if such it may be called, I shall give an account in my book descriptive of India.”

Musicanus Executed, Capture of Patala


Opulence of the Indian kings

Arrian wrote: “Meantime he was informed that Musicanus had revolted. He despatched the viceroy, Peithon, son of Agenor, with a sufficient army against him, while he himself marched against the cities which had been put under the rule of Musicanus. Some of these he razed to the ground, reducing the inhabitants to slavery; and into others he introduced garrisons and fortified the citadels. After accomplishing this, be returned to the camp and fleet. By this time Musicanus had been captured by Peithon, who was bringing him to Alexander. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“The king ordered him to be hanged in his own country, and with him as many of the Brachmans as had instigated him to the revolt. Then came to him the ruler of the land of the Patalians, who said that the Delta formed by the river Indus was still larger than the Egyptian Delta. This man surrendered to him the whole of his own land and entrusted both himself and his property to him. Alexander sent him away again in possession of his own dominions, with instructions to provide whatever was needful for the reception of the army. He then sent Craterus into Carmania with the brigades of Attalus, Meleager, and Antigenes, some of the archers, and as many of the Companions and other Macedonians as, being now unfit for military service, he was despatching to Macedonia by the route through the lands of the Arachotians and Zarangians. To Craterus he also gave the duty of leading the elephants; but the rest of the army, except the part of it which was sailing with himself down to the sea, he put under the command of Hephaestion. He transported Peithon with the cavalry-lancers and Agrianians to the opposite bank of the Indus, not the one along which Hephaestion was about to lead the army.

“Peithon was ordered to collect men to colonize the cities which had just been fortified, and to form a junction with the king at Patala, after having settled the affairs of the Indians of that region, if they attempted any revolutionary proceedings. On the third day of his voyage, Alexander was informed that the governor of the Patalians had collected most of his subjects and was going away by stealth, having left his land deserted. For this reason Alexander sailed down the river with greater speed than before; and when he arrived at Patala, he found both the country and the city deserted by the inhabitants and tillers of the soil. He however despatched the lightest troops in his army in pursuit of the fugitives; and when some of them were captured, he sent them away to the rest, bidding them be of good courage and return, for they might inhabit the city and till the country as before. Most of them accordingly returned.”

Voyage down the Indus

Arrian wrote: “After instructing Hephaestion to fortify the citadel in Patala, he sent men into the adjacent country, which was waterless, to dig wells and to render the land fit for habitation. Certain of the native barbarians attacked these men, and falling upon them unawares slew some of them; but having lost many of their own men, they fled into the desert. The work was therefore accomplished by those who had been sent out, another army having joined them, which Alexander had despatched to take part in the work, when he heard of the attack of the barbarians. Near Patala the water of the Indus is divided into two large rivers, both of which retain the name of Indus as far as the sea. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Here Alexander constructed a harbour and dockyard; and when his works had advanced towards completion he resolved to sail down as far as the mouth of the right branch of the river. He gave Leonnatus the command of , cavalry and , heavy and light-armed infantry, and sent him to march through the island of Patala opposite the naval expedition; while he himself took the fastest sailing vessels, having one and a half bank of oars, all the thirty-oared galleys, and some of the boats, and began to sail down the right branch of the river. The Indians of that region had fled, and consequently he could get no pilot for the voyage, and the navigation of the river was very difficult. On the day after the start a storm arose, and the wind blowing right against the stream made the river hollow and shattered the hulls of the vessels violently, so that most of his ships were injured, and some of the thirty-oared galleys were entirely broken up. But they succeeded in running them aground before they quite fell to pieces in the water; and others were therefore constructed. He then sent the quickest of the light-armed troops into the land beyond the river’s bank and captured some Indians, who from this time piloted him down the channel. But when they arrived at the place where the river expands, so that where it was widest it extended stades, a strong wind blew from the outer sea, and the oars could hardly be raised in the swell; they therefore took refuge again in a canal into which his pilots conducted them.”

Voyage down the Indus into the Sea


Indus River Delta

Arrian wrote: “While their vessels were moored here, the phenomenon of the ebb and flow of the tide in the great sea occurred, so that their ships were left upon dry ground. This caused Alexander and his companions no small alarm, inasmuch as they were previously quite unacquainted with it. But they were much more alarmed when, the time coming round again, the water approached and the hulls of the vessels were raised aloft. The ships which it caught settled in the mud were raised aloft without any damage, and floated again without receiving any injury; but those that had been left on the drier land and had not a firm settlement, when an immense compact wave advanced, either fell foul of each other or were dashed against the land and thus shattered to pieces. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“When Alexander had repaired these vessels as well as his circumstances permitted, he sent some men on in advance down the river in two boats to explore the island at which the natives said he must moor his vessels in his voyage to the sea. They told him that the name of the island was Cilluta. As he was informed that there were harbours in this island, that it was a large one and had plenty of water in it, he made the rest of his fleet put in there; but he himself with the best sailing ships advanced beyond, to see if the mouth of the river afforded an easy voyage out into the open sea. After advancing about stades from the first island, they descried another which was quite out in the sea. Then indeed they returned to the island in the river; and having moored his vessels near the extremity of it, Alexander offered sacrifice to those gods to whom he said he had been directed by Ammon to sacrifice. On the following day he sailed down to the other island which was in the deep sea; and having come to shore here also, he offered other sacrifices to other gods and in another manner. These sacrifices he also offered according to the oracular instructions of Ammon. Then having gone beyond the mouths of the river Indus, he sailed out into the open sea, as he said, to discover if any land lay anywhere near in the sea; but in my opinion, chiefly that he might be able to say that he had navigated the great outer sea of India. There he sacrificed some bulls to Poseidon and cast them into the sea; and having poured out a libation after the sacrifice, he threw the goblet and bowls, which were golden, into the deep as thank-offerings, praying the god to escort safely for him the fleet, which he intended to despatch to the Persian Gulf and the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigres.”

Exploration of the Mouths of the Indus

Arrian wrote: “Returning to Patala, he found that the citadel had been fortified and that Peithon had arrived with his army, having accomplished everything for which he was despatched. He ordered Hephaestion to prepare what was needful for the fortification of a naval station and the construction of dockyards; for he resolved to leave behind here a fleet of many ships near the city of Patala, where the river Indus divides itself into two streams. He himself sailed down again into the Great Sea by the other mouth of the Indus, to ascertain which branch of the river is easier to navigate. The mouths of the river Indus are about stades distant from each other. In the voyage down he arrived at a large lake in the mouth of the river, which the river makes by spreading itself out; or perhaps the waters of the surrounding district draining into it make it large, so that it very much resembles a gulf of the sea. For in it were seen fish like those in the sea, larger indeed than those in our sea. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Having moored his ships then in this lake, where the pilots directed, he left there most of the soldiers and all the boats with Leonnatus; but he himself with the thirty-oared galleys and the vessels with one and a half row of oars passed beyond the mouth of the Indus, and advancing into the sea also this way, ascertained that the outlet of the river on this side (i.e. the west) was easier to navigate than the other. He moored his ships near the shore, and taking with him some of the cavalry went along the sea-coast three days’ journey, exploring what kind of country it was for a coasting voyage, and ordering wells to be dug, so that the sailors might have water to drink. He then returned to the ships and sailed back to Patala; but he sent a part of his army along the sea-coast to effect the same thing, instructing them to return to Patala when they had dug the wells. Sailing again down to the lake, he there constructed another harbour and dockyard; and leaving a garrison for the place, he collected sufficient food to supply the army for four months, as well as whatever else he could procure for the coasting voyage.”

Campaign against the Oritians


One last battle in India

Arrian wrote: “The season of the year was then unfit for voyaging; for the periodical winds prevailed, which at that season do not blow there from the north, as with us, but from the Great Sea, in the direction of the south wind. Moreover it was reported that there the sea was fit for navigation after the beginning of winter, from the setting of the Pleiades until the winter solstice; for at that season mild breezes usually blow from the land, drenched as it has been with great rains; and these winds are convenient on a coasting voyage both for oars and sails. Nearchus, who had been placed in command of the fleet, waited for the coasting season; but Alexander, starting from Patala, advanced with all his army as far as the river Arabius. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“He then took half of the shield-bearing guards and archers, the infantry regiments called foot Companions, the guard of the Companion cavalry, a squadron of each of the other cavalry regiments, and all the horse-bowmen, and turned away thence on the left towards the sea to dig wells, so that there might be abundance of them for the fleet sailing along on the coasting voyage; and at the same time to make an unexpected attack upon the Oritians, a tribe of the Indians in this region, which had long been independent. This he meditated doing because they had performed no friendly act either to himself or his army. He placed Hephaestion in command of the forces left behind. The Arabitians, another independent tribe dwelling near the river Arabius, thinking that they could not cope with Alexander in battle, and yet being unwilling to submit to him, fled into the desert when they heard that he was approaching. But crossing the river Arabius, which was both narrow and shallow, and travelling by night through the greater part of the desert, he came near the inhabited country at daybreak. Then ordering the infantry to follow him in regular line, he took the cavalry with him, dividing it into squadrons, that it might occupy a very large part of the plain, and thus marched into the land of the Oritians. All those who turned to defend themselves were cut to pieces by the cavalry, and many of the others were taken prisoners. He then encamped near a small piece of water; but when Hephaestion formed a junction with him, he advanced farther. Arriving at the largest village of the tribe of the Oritians, which was called Rhambacia, he commended the place and thought that if he colonized a city there it would become great and prosperous. He therefore left Hephaestion behind to carry out this project.”

Alexander the Great Reaches the Arabian Sea

Plutarch wrote: “His voyage down the rivers took up seven months’ time, and when he came to the sea, he sailed to an island which he himself called Scillustis, others Psiltucis, where going ashore, he sacrificed, and made what observations he could as to the nature of the sea and the sea-coast. Then having besought the gods that no other man might ever go beyond the bounds of this expedition, he ordered his fleet, of which he made Nearchus admiral, and Onesicritus pilot, to sail round about, keeping the Indian shore on the right hand, and returned himself by land through the country of the Orites, where he was reduced to great straits for want of provisions, and lost a vast number of men, so that of an army of one hundred and twenty thousand foot and fifteen thousand horse, he scarcely brought back above a fourth part out of India, they were so diminished by diseases, ill diet, and the scorching heats, but most by famine. For their march was through an uncultivated country whose inhabitants fared hardly, possessing only a few sheep, and those of a wretched kind, whose flesh was rank and unsavory, by their continual feeding upon sea-fish. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]

“After sixty days march he came into Gedrosia, where [244] he found great plenty of all things, which the neighboring kings and governors of provinces, hearing of his approach, had taken care to provide. When he had here refreshed his army, he continued his march through Carmania, feasting all the way for seven days together. He with his most intimate friends banqueted and revelled night and day upon a platform erected on a lofty, conspicuous scaffold, which was slowly drawn by eight horses. This was followed by a great many chariots, some covered with purple and embroidered canopies, and some with green boughs, which were continually supplied afresh, and in them the rest of his friends and commanders drinking, and crowned with garlands of flowers. Here was now no target or helmet or spear to be seen; instead of armor, the soldiers handled nothing but cups and goblets and Thericlean drinking vessels, which, along the whole way, they dipped into large bowls and jars, and drank healths to one another, some seating themselves to it, others as they went along.

All places resounded with music of pipes and flutes, with harping and singing, and women dancing as in the rites of Bacchus. For this disorderly, wandering march, besides the drinking part of it, was accompanied with all the sportiveness and insolence of bacchanals, as much as if the god himself had been there to countenance and lead the procession. As soon as he came to the royal palace of Gedrosia, he again refreshed and feasted his army; and one day after he had drunk pretty hard, it is said, he went to see a prize of dancing contended for, in which his favorite Bagoas, having gained the victory, crossed the theatre in his dancing habit, and sat down close by him, which so pleased the Macedonians, that they made loud acclamations for him to kiss Bagoas, and never stopped clapping their hands and shouting till Alexander put his arms round him and kissed him.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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