Alexander battles Porus on the Jhelum

The last great battle of Alexander's campaign took place at Jhelum (Hydaspes) on the Jhelum (Hydaspes) River not far from the Indus River (110 kilometers southeast of present-day Islamabad, Pakistan) against King Porus, a massive leader who it is said to have stood nearly seven feet tall and presided over a kingdom that covered much of the Punjab in present-day India and Pakistan. The battle resulted in a complete Greek victory and the annexation of the Punjab, located beyond the far easternmost boundaries of the already absorbed Persian Empire, into Alexander’s Empire.

The battle against Porus was the biggest event of Alexander's campaign in Pakistan and India. Porus was one of the most powerful Indian leaders. When Alexander reached the Jhelum River he may have hoped that Poros would submit him as other leaders had but instead found a large army eager for a fight. Alexander's army crossed the heavily defended river in dramatic fashion during a violent thunderstorm to meet Porus' forces. The Indians were defeated in a fierce battle, even though they fought with elephants, which the Macedonians had little experience fighting

In the spring of 326 B.C., Alexander's army engaged King Porus' force of 35,000 infantrymen, 10,000 cavalry and 200 battle-trained elephants. Curtius wrote, “Porus himself rode an elephant which towered above the other beasts. His armor, with its gold and silver inlay, lent distinction to his unusually large physique." The two forces were opposite each other on different sides of the river and Alexander lead his attack in the night during a thunderstorm so the Indian army wouldn't hear or see him coming. Alexander then concealed part of his cavalry and released the remainder of his army in an attack. Porus committed most army to the Alexander's charging force and left himself vulnerable to an attack from the concealed cavalry.

Plutarch wrote: “Alexander, in his own letters, has given us an account of his war with Porus. He says the two armies were separated by the river Hydaspes, on whose opposite bank Porus continually kept his elephants in order of battle, with their heads towards their enemies, to guard the passage; that he, on the other hand, made every day a great noise and clamor in his camp, to dissipate the apprehensions of the barbarians; that one stormy dark night he passed the river, at a distance from the place where the enemy lay, into a little island, with part of his foot, and the best of his horse. Here there fell a most violent storm of rain, accompanied with lightning and whirlwinds, and seeing some of his men burnt and dying with the lightning, he nevertheless quitted the island and made over to the other side. The Hydaspes, he says, now after the storm, was so swollen and grown so rapid, as to have made a breach in the bank, and a part of the river was now pouring in here, so that when he came across, it was with difficulty he got a footing on the land, which was slippery and unsteady, and exposed to the force of the currents on both sides. This is the occasion when he is related to have said, “O ye Athenians, will ye believe what dangers I incur to merit your praise?” This, however, is Onesicritus’s story. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

“Alexander says, here the men left their boats, and passed the breach in their armor, up to the breast in water, and that then he advanced with his horse about twenty furlongs before his foot, concluding that if the enemy charged him with their cavalry, he should be too strong for them; if with their foot, his own would come up time enough to his assistance. Nor did he judge amiss; for being charged by a thousand horse, and sixty armed chariots, which advanced before their main body, he took all the chariots, and killed four hundred horse upon the place. Porus, by this time guessing that Alexander himself had crossed over, came on with his whole army, except a party which he left behind, to hold the rest of the Macedonians in play, if they [237] should attempt to pass the river. But he, apprehending the multitude of the enemy, and to avoid the shock of their elephants, dividing his forces, attacked their left wing himself, and commanded Cœnus to fall upon the right, which was performed with good success. For by this means both wings being broken, the enemies fell back in their retreat upon the centre, and crowded in upon their elephants. There rallying, they fought a hand to hand battle, and it was the eighth hour of the day before they were entirely defeated. This description the conqueror himself has left us in his own epistles.


Porus-Alexander coin

Plutarch wrote: “Almost all the historians agree in relating that Porus was four cubits and a span high, and that when he was upon his elephant, which was of the largest size, his stature and bulk were so answerable, that he appeared to be proportionably mounted, as a horseman on his horse. This elephant, during the whole battle, gave many singular proofs of sagacity and of particular care of the king, whom as long as he was strong and in a condition to fight, he defended with great courage, repelling those who set upon him; and as soon as he perceived him overpowered with his numerous wounds and the multitude of darts that were thrown at him, to prevent his falling off, he softly knelt down and began to draw out the darts with his proboscis. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

“When Porus was taken prisoner, and Alexander asked him how he expected to be used, he answered, “As a king.” For that expression, he said, when the same question was put to him a second time, comprehended every thing. And Alexander, accordingly, not only suffered him to govern his own kingdom as satrap under himself, but gave him also the additional territory of various independent tribes whom he subdued, a district which, it is said, contained fifteen several nations, and five thousand considerable towns, besides abundance of villages. To another government, three times as large as this, he appointed Philip, one of his friends.

Porus Obstructs Alexander’s Passage

Arrian wrote: “Alexander encamped on the bank of the Hydaspes [Jhelum River in northwestern India and eastern Pakistan], and Porus was seen with all his army and his large troop of elephants lining the opposite bank. He remained to guard the passage at the place where he saw Alexander had encamped; and sent guards to all the other parts of the river which were easily fordable, placing officers over each detachment, being resolved to obstruct the passage of the Macedonians. When Alexander saw this, he thought it advisable to move his army in various directions, to distract the attention of Porus, and render him uncertain what to do. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Dividing his army into many parts, he led some of his troops now in one direction and now in another, at one time ravaging the enemy’s country, at another looking out for a place where the river might appear easier for him to ford it. The rest of his troops he entrusted to his different generals, and sent them about in many directions. He also conveyed corn from all quarters into his camp from the land on this side the Hydaspes, so that it might be evident to Porus that he had resolved to remain quiet near the bank until the water of the river subsided in the winter, and afforded him a passage in many places.

“As his vessels were sailing up and down the river, and skins were being filled with hay, and the whole bank appeared to be covered in one place with cavalry and in another with infantry, Porus was not allowed to keep at rest, or to bring his preparations together from all sides to any one point if he selected this as suitable for the defence of the passage. Besides at this season all the Indian rivers were flowing with swollen and turbid waters and with rapid currents; for it was the time of year when the sun is wont to turn towards the summer solstice. At this season incessant and heavy rain falls in India; and the snows on the Caucasus, whence most of the rivers have their sources, melt and swell their streams to a great degree. But in the winter they again subside, become small and clear, and are fordable in certain places, with the exception of the Indus, Ganges, and perhaps one or two others. At any rate the Hydaspes becomes fordable.”

“Alexander therefore spread a report that he would wait for that season of the year, if his passage was obstructed at the present time; but yet all the time be was waiting in ambush to see whether by rapidity of movement he could steal a passage anywhere without being observed. But he perceived that it was impossible for him to cross at the place where Porus himself had encamped near the bank of the Hydaspes, not only on account of the multitude of his elephants, but also because his large army, arranged in order of battle and splendidly accoutred, was ready to attack his men as they emerged from the water. Moreover he thought that his horses would not be willing to mount the opposite bank, because the elephants would at once fall upon them and frighten them both by their aspect and trumpeting; nor even before that would they remain upon the inflated hides during the passage of the river; but when they looked across and saw the elephants they would become frantic and leap into the water.

“He therefore resolved to steal a crossing by the following manœuvre:—In the night he led most of his cavalry along the bank in various directions, making a clamour and raising the battle-cry in honour of Enyalius. Every kind of noise was raised, as if they were making all the preparations necessary for crossing the river. Porus also marched along the river at the head of his elephants opposite the places where the clamour was heard, and Alexander thus gradually got him into the habit of leading his men along opposite the noise. But when this occurred frequently, and there was merely a clamour and a raising of the battle-cry, Porus no longer continued to move about to meet the expected advance of the cavalry; but perceiving that his fear had been groundless, he kept his position in the camp. However he posted his scouts at many places along the bank. When Alexander had brought it about that the mind of Porus no longer entertained any fear of his nocturnal attempts, he devised the following stratagem.”

Alexander's conquests in India

Alexander Crosses the Hydaspes

Alexander had a difficult time crossing the Hydaspes (Jhelum) River and ultimately decided “to steal a passage” (Arrian), which he did with about 11,000 of his picked men near a sharp bend several miles up the river from his camp in the dead of night when a severe storm accompanied with rain and thunder had abated the vigilance of Poros. Further, Alexander camouflaged his intentions and movements by leaving a strong force under Krateros in his camp and another with Meleager midway between it and the place where the river was crossed. Detecting that he had been foiled in his attempt to prevent Alexander from landing his troops on the eastern side of the Hydaspes, Poros despatched his son “at the head of 2,000 men and 120 chariots” to obstruct the advance of his audacious adversary. The young Poros was, however, easily routed and killed by Alexander.

Arrian wrote: “There was in the bank of the Hydaspes, a projecting headland, where the river makes a remarkable bend. It was densely covered by a grove, containing all sorts of trees; and over against it in the river was an island full of trees and without a foot-track, on account of its being uninhabited. Perceiving that this island was right in front of the headland, and that both the spots were woody and adapted to conceal his attempt to cross the river, he resolved to convey his army over at this place. The headland and island were stades distant from his great camp. Along the whole of the bank, he posted sentries, separated as far as was consistent with keeping each other in sight, and easily hearing when any order should be sent along from any quarter. From all sides also during many nights clamours were raised and fires were burnt. But when he had made up his mind to undertake the passage of the river, he openly prepared his measures for crossing opposite the camp. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Craterus had been left behind at the camp with his own division of cavalry, and the horsemen from the Arachotians and Parapamisadians, as well as the brigades of Alcetas and Polysperchon from the phalanx of the Macedonian infantry, together with the chiefs of the Indians dwelling this side of the Hyphasis, who had with them , men. He gave Craterus orders not to cross the river before Porus moved off with his forces against them, or before be ascertained that Porus was in flight and that they were victorious. “If however,” said he, “Porus should take only a part of his army and march against me, and leave the other part with the elephants in his camp, in that case do thou also remain in thy present position. But if he leads all his elephants with him against me, and a part of the rest of his army is left behind in the camp, then do thou cross the river with all speed. For it is the elephants alone,” said he, “which render it impossible for the horses to land on the other bank. The rest of the army can easily cross.”

“Such were the injunctions laid upon Craterus. Between the island and the great camp where Alexander had left this general, he posted Meleager, Attalus, and Gorgias, with the Grecian mercenaries, cavalry and infantry, giving them instructions to cross in detachments, breaking up the army as soon as they saw the Indians already involved in battle. He then picked the select body-guard called the Companions, as well as the cavalry regiments of Hephaestion, Perdiccas, and Demetrius, the cavalry from Bactria, Sogdiana, and Scythia, and the Daan horse-archers; and from the phalanx of infantry the shield-bearing guards, the brigades of Clitus and Coenus, with the archers and Agrianians, and made a secret march, keeping far away from the bank of the river, in order not to be seen marching towards the island and headland, from which he had determined to cross. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“There the skins were filled in the night with the hay which had been procured long before, and they were tightly stitched up. In the night a furious storm of rain occurred, by which his preparations and attempt to cross were rendered still more unobserved, since the noise of the thunder and the storm drowned with its din the clatter of the weapons and the noise which arose from the orders given by the officers. Most of the vessels, the thirty-oared galleys included with the rest, had been cut in pieces by his order and conveyed to this place, where they had been fixed together again and hidden in the wood. At the approach of daylight, both the wind and the rain calmed down; and the rest of the army went over opposite the island, the cavalry mounting upon the skins, and as many of the foot soldiers as the boats would receive getting into them. They went so secretly that they were not observed by the sentinels posted by Porus, before they had already got beyond the island and were only a little way from the other bank.”

at the Hydaspes

“Alexander himself embarked in a thirty-oared galley and went over, accompanied by Perdiccas, Lysimachus, the confidential body-guards, Seleucus, one of the Companions, who was afterwards king, and half of the shield-bearing guards; the rest of these troops being conveyed in other galleys of the same size. When the soldiers got beyond the island, they openly directed their course to the bank; and when the sentinels perceived that they had started, they at once rode off to Porus as fast as each man’s horse could gallop. Alexander himself was the first to land, and he at once took the cavalry as they kept on landing from his own and the other thirty-oared galleys, and drew them up in proper order. For the cavalry had received orders to land first; and at the head of these in regular array he advanced.

“But through ignorance of the locality he had effected a landing on ground which was not a part of the mainland, but an island, a large one indeed and where from the fact that it was an island, he more easily escaped notice. It was cut off from the rest of the land by a part of the river where the water was shallow. However, the furious storm of rain, which lasted the greater part of the night, had swelled the water so much that his cavalry could not find out the ford; and he was afraid that he would have to undergo another labour in crossing as great as the first. But when at last the ford was found, he led his men through it with much difficulty; for where the water was deepest, it reached higher than the breasts of the infantry; and of the horses only the heads rose above the river. When he had also crossed this piece of water, he selected the choice guard of cavalry, and the best men from the other cavalry regiments, and brought them up from column into line on the right wing. In front of all the cavalry he posted the horse-archers, and placed next to the cavalry in front of the other infantry the royal shield-bearing guards under the command of Seleucus. Near these he placed the royal foot-guard, and next to these the other shield-bearing guards, as each happened at the time to have the right of precedence. On each side, at the extremities of the phalanx, his archers, Agrianians and javelin-throwers were posted.”

Battle at the Hydaspes

Poros opposed Alexander with 50,000 foot, 3,000 horse, above 1,000 chariots, and 130 elephants. In the centre, the elephants formed a sort of front wall, and behind them stood the foot-soldiers. The cavalry protected the flanks and in front of the horsemen were the chariots. As Alexander viewed the equipment of Indian forces and their disposition in the Karri plain, he was constrained to remark : “I see at last a danger that matches my courage. It is at once with wild beasts and men of uncommon mettle that the contest now lies.” In the engagement which opened with the furious charges of Macedonian horsemen, Indians fought with great vigour, and, as Plutarch says, “obstinately maintained” their ground till the eighth hour of the day, but eventually the fates turned against them. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The main strength of Poros lay in the chariots, each of which was drawn by four horses and carried six men, of whom two were shield-bearers, two, archers posted on each side of the chariot, and the other two, charioteers, as well as men-at-arms, for when the fighting was at close quarters they dropped the reins and hurled dart after dart against the enemy.” On this particular day, however, these chariots were of no use at all, for the violent storm of rain “had made the ground slippery, and unfit for horses to ride over, while the chariots kept sticking in the muddy sloughs formed by the rain, and proved almost immovable from their great weight.” 6 Besides, owing to the slippery condition of the ground it became difficult for the archers to rest their long and heavy bows on it and discharge arrows quickly and with effect.

Arrian wrote: “Having thus arranged his army, he ordered the infantry to follow at a slow pace and in regular order, numbering as it did not much under , men; and because he thought he was superior in cavalry, he took only his horse-soldiers, who were , in number, and led them forward with speed. He also instructed Tauron, the commander of the archers, to lead them on also with speed to back up the cavalry. He had come to the conclusion that if Porus should engage him with all his forces, he would easily be able to overcome him by attacking with his cavalry, or to stand on the defensive until his infantry arrived in the course of the action; but if the Indians should be alarmed at his extraordinary audacity in making the passage of the river and take to flight, he would be able to keep close to them in their flight, so that the slaughter of them in the retreat being greater, there would be only a slight work left for him. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

Battle at the Hydaspes

“Aristobulus says that the son of Porus arrived with about sixty chariots, before Alexander made his later passage from the large island, and that he could have hindered Alexander’s crossing (for he made the passage with difficulty even when no one opposed him); if the Indians had leaped down from their chariots and assaulted those who first emerged from the water. But he passed by with the chariots and thus made the passage quite safe for Alexander; who on reaching the bank discharged his horse-archers against the Indians in the chariots, and these were easily put to rout, many of them being wounded.

“Other writers say that a battle took place between the Indians who came with the son of Porus and Alexander at the head of his cavalry, that the son of Porus came with a greater force, that Alexander himself was wounded by him, and that his horse Bucephalas, of which he was exceedingly fond, was killed, being wounded, like his master by the son of Porus. But Ptolemy, son of Lagus, with whom I agree, gives a different account. This author also says that Porus despatched his son, but not at the head of merely sixty chariots; nor is it indeed likely that Porus hearing from his scouts that either Alexander himself or at any rate a part of his army had effected the passage of the Hydaspes, would despatch his son against him with only sixty chariots. These indeed were too many to be sent out as a reconnoitring party, and not adapted for speedy retreat; but they were by no means a sufficient force to keep back those of the enemy who had not yet got across, as well as to attack those who had already landed. Ptolemy says that the son of Porus arrived at the head of cavalry and chariots; but that Alexander had already made even the last passage from the island before he appeared.”

Porus’s Tactics in the Battle at the Hydaspes

Arrian wrote: “Ptolemy also says that Alexander in the first place sent the horse-archers against these, and led the cavalry himself, thinking that Porus was approaching with all his forces, and that this body of cavalry was marching in front of the rest of his army, being drawn up by him as the vanguard. But as soon as he had ascertained with accuracy the number of the Indians, he immediately made a rapid charge upon them with the cavalry around him. When they perceived that Alexander himself and the body of cavalry around him had made the assault, not in line of battle regularly formed, but by squadrons, they gave way; and of their cavalry, including the son of Porus, fell in the contest. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“The chariots also were captured, horses and all, being heavy and slow in the retreat, and useless in the action itself on account of the clayey ground. When the horsemen who had escaped from this rout brought news to Porus that Alexander himself had crossed the river with the strongest part of his army, and that his son had been slain in the battle, he nevertheless could not make up his mind what course to take, because the men who had been left behind under Craterus were seen to be attempting to cross the river from the great camp which was directly opposite his position. However, at last he preferred to march against Alexander himself with all his army, and to come into a decisive conflict with the strongest division of the Macedonians, commanded by the king in person. But nevertheless he left a few of the elephants together with a small army there at the camp to frighten the cavalry under Craterus from the bank of the river. He then took all his cavalry to the number of , men, all his chariots to the number of , with of his elephants and , choice infantry, and marched against Alexander.

“When he found a place where he saw there was no clay, but that on account of the sand the ground was all level and hard, and thus fit for the advance and retreat of horses, he there drew up his army. First he placed the elephants in the front, each animal being not less than a plethrum apart, so that they might be extended in the front before the whole of the phalanx of infantry, and produce terror everywhere among Alexander’s cavalry. Besides he thought that none of the enemy would have the audacity to push themselves into the spaces between the elephants, the cavalry being deterred by the fright of their horses; and still less would the infantry do so, it being likely they would be kept off in front by the heavy-armed soldiers falling upon them, and trampled down by the elephants wheeling round against them. Near these he had posted the infantry, not occupying a line on a level with the beasts, but in a second line behind them, only so far distant that the companies of foot might be pushed forward a short distance into the spaces between them. He had also bodies of infantry standing beyond the elephants on the wings; and on both sides of the infantry he had posted the cavalry, in front of which were placed the chariots on both wings of his army.”

Alexander’s Tactics in the Battle at the Hydaspes

Arrian wrote: “Such was the arrangement which Porus made of his forces. As soon as Alexander observed that the Indians were drawn up in order of battle, he stopped his cavalry from advancing farther, so that he might take up the infantry as it kept on arriving; and even when the phalanx in quick march had effected a junction with the cavalry, he did not at once draw it out and lead it to the attack, not wishing to hand over his men exhausted with fatigue and out of breath, to the barbarians who were fresh and untired. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“On the contrary, he caused his infantry to rest until their strength was recruited, riding along round the lines to inspect them. When he had surveyed the arrangement of the Indians, he resolved not to advance against the centre, in front of which the elephants had been posted, and in the gaps between them a dense phalanx of men; for he was alarmed at the very arrangements which Porus had made here with that express design. But as he was superior in the number of his cavalry, he took the greater part of that force, and marched along against the left wing of the enemy for the purpose of making an attack in this direction. Against the right wing he sent Coenus with his own regiment of cavalry and that of Demetrius, with instructions to keep close behind the barbarians when they, seeing the dense mass of cavalry opposed to them, should ride out to fight them. Seleucus, Antigenes, and Tauron were ordered to lead the phalanx of infantry, but not to engage in the action until they observed the enemy’s cavalry and phalanx of infantry thrown into disorder by the cavalry under his own command. But when they came within range of missiles, he launched the horse-archers, in number, against the left wing of the Indians, in order to throw those of the enemy who were posted there into confusion by the incessant storm of arrows and by the charge of the horses. He himself with the Companion cavalry marched along rapidly against the left wing of the barbarians, being eager to attack them in flank while still in a state of disorder, before their cavalry could be deployed.”

Battle Elephants and Archers

Elephants served as armor in ancient battles in Asia. Some regard them as the prototype of tanks. To the sound of drums, warrior with spears advanced on the backs of the elephants while soldiers with swords guarded the animals legs. War elephants sometimes wore heavy armor. They could be force in fighting and take out large numbers of enemy troops by simply crushing them under their feet but they also could become unmanageable if wounded.

There were many military purposes for which elephants could be used. In battle, war elephants were usually deployed in the centre of the line, where they could be useful to prevent a charge or to conduct one of their own. Their sheer size and their terrifying appearance made them valued heavy cavalry. Off the battlefield, they could carry heavy materiel and provided a useful means of transport. [Source: Wikipedia]

An elephant charge could reach about 30 km/h (20 mph), and unlike horse cavalry, could not be easily stopped by an infantry line setting spears. Such a charge was based on pure force: elephants crashing into an enemy line, trampling and swinging their tusks. Those men who were not crushed were at least knocked aside or forced back. Moreover, elephants could inspire terror in an enemy unused to fighting them - even the very disciplined Romans - and could cause the enemy to break and flee. Horses unaccustomed to the smell of elephants also panicked easily. The elephants' thick hide gave them considerable protection, while their height and mass offered considerable protection for their riders. Many generals preferred to base themselves atop elephants so as to get a better view of the battlefield. [Ibid]

In addition to charging, the elephants could provide a safe and stable platform for archers to fire arrows in the middle of the battlefield, from which more targets could be seen and engaged. The archery evolved into more advanced weapons, and several Khmer and Indian kings used giant crossbow platforms (similar to the ballista) to fire long armor-piercing shafts to kill other enemy war elephants and cavalry. The late 16th century AD also saw the use of culverin and jingals on elephants, an adaptation to the gunpowder age that ultimately drove elephants from the battlefield. [Ibid]

In Asia large numbers of men were carried, with the senior commander either utilising the howdah or leading from his seat on the elephant's neck. The driver, called a mahout, was responsible for controlling the animal. In many armies, the mahout also carried a chisel-blade and a hammer to cut through the spinal cord and kill the animal if the elephant went berserk.

Elephants were further enhanced with their own weaponry and armour. In India and Sri Lanka, heavy iron chains with steel balls at the end were tied to the trunks of war elephants, which the animals were trained to swirl menacingly and with great skill. Numerous cultures designed elephant Armour, aiming to protect the body and legs of the animal while leaving his trunk free to attack the enemy. Larger animals could also carry a protective tower on their backs, called a howdah. [Ibid]

War elephants had tactical weaknesses, however, that enemy forces often learnt to exploit. Elephants had a tendency to panic themselves: after sustaining painful wounds or when their driver was killed they would run amok, indiscriminately causing casualties as they sought escape. Their panicked retreat could inflict heavy losses on either side. One famous historical method for disrupting elephant units was the war pig. Ancient writers believed that "elephants are scared by the smallest squeal of a pig", and the vulnerability was exploited. At the Megara siege during the Diadochi wars, for example, the Megarians reportedly poured oil on a herd of pigs, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy's massed war elephants. The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming squealing pigs. [Ibid]

Classical civilizations, notably the Persians, Parthians, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese fielded large numbers of archers in their armies. Arrows were destructive against massed formations, and the use of archers often proved decisive. The Sanskrit term for archery, dhanurveda, came to refer to martial arts in general. Arrian said the Indian bow “is made of equal length with the man who bears it. This they rest upon the ground, and pressing against it with their left foot thus discharge the arrow.”

Elephants in the Battle at the Hydaspes

Curtius wrote: “The sight, both of the Elephants, and Porus himself, astonied the Macedons, and caused them a while to make a stand; for the beasts being set in order amongst the armed men, shewed afar off like high Towers; and Porus himself exceeding the stature of most men, the Elephant whereupon he did ride was an addition unto his height, which excelled so much all the other Elephants, as he himself excelled the rest of men: So that Alexander beholding both Porus and his power, said, That at length he had found a Jewel equal unto his heart; for we have to do (quoth he) both with terrible Beasts, and with notable Men of War: And thereupon he looked towards Cenon, and said unto him: When I with Ptolomy, Perdicas, and Ephestion, shall set upon the left Battel of our Enemies, and you shall see us in the heat of fight, do you then set forwards my right Battel, and freshly assail them when you see them begin to fall out of order. Antigonus, Leonatus, andTauron, do you bend against their Main Battel, and set upon the Front: Our Pikes are long and strong, and cannot serve to any better use, then against the Elephants, wherewith they may be thrust through, and such overthrown as are carried upon their backs: The Elephants are but an uncertain force, which use to do most harm unto their own part — - for as they use to go against their Enemies so long as they are at command; so when they are once put in fear, they turn against their own men, and shew most rage towards them. [Source: Curtius Rufus, “Quintus, The life and death of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon,” translated by Robert Codrington (1601-1665), University of Michigan, Oxfored University, 2007-10]

“He had not so soon spoken these words, but he put Spurs to his Horse, advancing against his Enemies — and when, according to his appointment, he had given the Charge, Cenon with a great Force brake upon the left Battel; and the Phalanx, at the same instant, brake in amongst the midst of their Enemies. When Porus saw the Horsemen give the Charge, he put forwards his Elephants to encounter them; but they being slow Beasts, and not apt suddenly to move, were prevented by the swiftness of the Horses: and their Bows stood them not in any great stead, for by reason their Arrows were so long and heavy, they could not nock them on their Bows, except they first staid their Bows upon the ground; and the ground was so slippery, that they could not have any perfect footing; and while they were preparing themselves to shoot, their Enemies were come amongst them.

“Then every man fled from the order that Porus had given, as it chanceth oftentimes amongst troubled minds, where Fear beareth more rule then the Captains appointment; for in so many parts as their Army was divided, so many Generals became among them. Some would joyn all their Battels in one, others would have them divided; some willed to stay, and others to go forwards, and inclose their Enemies about; there was no general consultation amongst them. Porus notwithstanding, accompanied with a few, with whom shame prevailed more then fear, assembled such of his Forces together as were dispersed abroad, and advanced against his Enemies, setting his Elephants in the front of the Battel. They put the Macedons in fear, troubling, with their unwonted cry, not only the Horse that naturally do fear them, but also amazed the men, and disturbed their order; insomuch, that they who a little before thought themselves Victors, looked about which way to fly and save themselves: which when Alexander perceived, he sent against the Elephants the Agrians and Thracians, who were men light armed, and more apt to skirmish afar off, then to fight hand to hand. They bravely assaulted the Elephants and their Governours, and sore afflicted them with the multitude of their Darts and Arrows that they bestowed amongst them; and the Phalanx came constantly forwards against them who were already in fear; but such as pressed over-forward in fighting with the Elephants, procured their manifest destruction; and being trampled to death with their feet, they were an example to others, not to be over-hasty in adventuring themselves: The most terrible sight was, when the Elephants with their long Trunks, called Proboscis, took the Macedons in their Armour from the ground, and delivered them up to their Governours.

“The Battle was prolonged doubtfully till the day was far spent, the Souldiers sometimes flying from the Elephants, and sometimes pursuing after them, until that with a certain kinde of crooked weapons, called Copidae (prepared for the purpose) they cut the Elephants upon the legs: These the Macedons had right aptly divided; for not only the fear of death, but also the fear of a new kinde of torment in death, caused them to leave nothing unattempted. Finally, the Elephants wearied with wounds, with their violent strugling, did cast their Governours to the earth, and did tear them in pieces; for they were put in such fear, that they were no more hurtful to their Enemies, but driven out of the Battel like sheep.”

Defeat of Porus in the Battle at the Hydaspes

The Indian army was far too unwieldy to withstand the masterful manoeuvres of the mobile Macedonian cavalry, or the attacks of the disciplined phalanxes. And lastly, the elephants, on whom % Poros had placed so much reliance, got frightened when the Macedonians began to hack their feet and trunks with axes and choppers. Thus the beasts fled from the field of battle “like a flock of sheep” and they “spread havoc among their own ranks and threw their drivers to the ground, who were then trampled to death.” Whatever may have been the causes of this disaster, Poros, a magnificent giant of over six feet in height, did not shrink from the stress of battle, or abandon the field like Darius III Kodomannos of Persia, but true to the injunction of Manu (VII, 88) he stuck to his post in spite of the “nine wounds” he had received, and continued hurling darts at the enemy with dogged tenacity, perhaps thinking within himself : “With fame, though I die, I am content. Let fame be mine, though life be spent.” [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

In the battle the elephants "kept colliding with friends and foes alike," according to Arrian. And after several hours the Indians retreated in wild confusion and Porus was captured. Alexander admired Porus's courage and let him keep his kingdom on the condition he remained loyal to Alexander. Alexander the Great was said to have been rescued from certain death from a charging elephant by a greyhound. Arrian wrote: “Meantime the Indians had collected their cavalry from all parts, and were riding along, advancing out of their position to meet Alexander’s charge. Coenus also appeared with his men in their rear, according to his instructions. The Indians, observing this, were compelled to make the line of their cavalry face both ways; the largest and best part against Alexander, while the rest wheeled round against Coenus and his forces. This therefore at once threw the ranks as well as the decisions of the Indians into confusion. Alexander, seeing his opportunity, at the very moment the cavalry was wheeling round in the other direction, made an attack on those opposed to him with such vigour that the Indians could not sustain the charge of his cavalry, but were scattered and driven to the elephants, as to a friendly wall, for refuge. Upon this, the drivers of the elephants urged forward the beasts against the cavalry; but now the phalanx itself of the Macedonians was advancing against the elephants, the men casting darts at the riders and also striking the beasts themselves, standing round them on all sides. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“The action was unlike any of the previous contests; for wherever the beasts could wheel round, they rushed forth against the ranks of infantry and demolished the phalanx of the Macedonians, dense as it was. The Indian cavalry also, seeing that the infantry were engaged in the action, rallied again and advanced against the Macedonian cavalry. But when Alexander’s men, who far excelled both in strength and military discipline, got the mastery over them the second time, they were again repulsed towards the elephants and cooped up among them. By this time the whole of Alexander’s cavalry had collected into one squadron, not by any command of his, but having settled into this arrangement by the mere effect of the struggle itself; and wherever it fell upon the ranks of the Indians they were broken up with great slaughter. The beasts being now cooped up into a narrow space, their friends were no less injured by them than their foes, being trampled down in their wheeling and pushing about.

“Accordingly there ensued a great slaughter of the cavalry, cooped up as it was in a narrow space around the elephants. Most of the keepers of the elephants had been killed by the javelins, and some of the elephants themselves had been wounded, while others no longer kept apart in the battle on account of their sufferings or from being destitute of keepers. But, as if frantic with pain, rushing forward at friends and foes alike, they pushed about, trampled down and killed them in every kind of way. However, the Macedonians retired whenever they were assailed, for they rushed at the beasts in a more open space, and in accordance with their own plan; and when they wheeled round to return, they followed them closely and hurled javelins at them; whereas the Indians retreating among them were now receiving greater injury from them. But when the beasts were tired out, and they were no longer able to charge with any vigour, they began to retire, facing the foe like ships backing water, merely uttering a shrill piping sound. Alexander himself surrounded the whole line with his cavalry, and gave the signal that the infantry should link their shields together so as to form a very densely closed body, and thus advance in phalanx. By this means the Indian cavalry, with the exception of a few men, was quite cut up in the action; as was also the infantry, since the Macedonians were now pressing upon them from all sides. Upon this, all who could do so turned to flight through the spaces which intervened between the parts of Alexander’s cavalry.” “At the same time Craterus and the other officers of Alexander’s army who had been left behind on the bank of the Hydaspes crossed the river, when they perceived that Alexander was winning a brilliant victory. These men, being fresh, followed up the pursuit instead of Alexander’s exhausted troops, and made no less a slaughter of the Indians in their retreat. Of the Indians little short of , infantry and , cavalry were killed in this battle. All their chariots were broken to pieces; and two sons of Porus were slain, as were also Spitaces, the governor of the Indians of that district, the managers of the elephants and of the chariots, and all the cavalry officers and generals of Porus’s army.”

Porus Surrenders From His Wounded Elephant

Porus on his war elephant

Arrian wrote: “All the elephants which were not killed there, were captured. Of Alexander’s forces, about of the , foot-soldiers who were engaged in the first attack, were killed; of the horse-archers, who were also the first to engage in the action; about of the Companion cavalry, and about of the other horsemen fell. When Porus, who exhibited great talent in the battle, performing the deeds not only of a general but also of a valiant soldier, observed the slaughter of his cavalry, and some of his elephants lying dead, others destitute of keepers straying about in a forlorn condition, while most of his infantry had perished, he did not depart as Darius the Great King did, setting an example of flight to his men; but as long as any body of Indians remained compact in the battle, he kept up the struggle. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“But at last, having received a wound on the right shoulder, which part of his body alone was unprotected during the battle, he wheeled round. His coat of mail warded off the missiles from the rest of his body, being extraordinary both for its strength and the close fitting of its joints, as it was afterwards possible for those who saw him to observe. Then indeed he turned his elephant round and began to retire. Alexander, having seen that he was a great man and valiant in the battle, was very desirous of saving his life. He accordingly sent first to him Taxiles the Indian; who rode up as near to the elephant which was carrying Porus as seemed to him safe, and bade him stop the beast, assuring him that it was no longer possible for him to flee, and bidding him listen to Alexander’s message.

Curtius wrote: “Porus being forsaken of the greater part of his men, ceased not to cast Darts, whereof he had plenty prepared upon his Elephant, amongst them that surrounded him, whereby he wounded many; and by reason he lay open to every mans blow, he was laid at on all parts, till he received nine wounds behinde and before; through which he bled so much, that he had no power to cast any more Darts, but for feebleness, they fell out of his hands. The Elephant also which he did ride upon, pricked forwards with fury, made a great disturbance amongst the Macedons, until that his Governour seeing the King so faint, that he let fall his Darts, and to be almost past his remembrance, stirred the Beast to fly away, whom Alexander followed with all the speed he could: But his Horse being thrust through with many wounds, fell down dead under him; wherefore while he was about to change, and take another, he was cast far behinde. [Source: Curtius Rufus, “Quintus, The life and death of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon,” translated by Robert Codrington (1601-1665), University of Michigan, Oxfored University, 2007-10]

“In the mean season, the Brother of Taxiles that was sent by Alexander unto Porus, began to exhort him that he should not be so obstinate to prove the extremity, but rather yield himself unto the Conquerour: But he, notwithstanding that his strength was almost decayed, and his bloud failed; yet stirred up at a known voice, he said, That he knew him to be the Brother of Taxiles, a Traytor to his King and his Country; and with that word took a Dart, which by chance was not fallen from him, and threw it so at Taxiles Brother, that it passed through the midst of his Breast into his Back; and having shewed this last proof of his Manhood, he fled again more fast then before: But when the Elephant, through many wounds that he had received, fainted in like sort, then he stayed, and turned his Footmen towards his Enemies that pursued him.

“By that time Alexander was come near unto him; who understanding the obstinacy of Porus, willed none to be spared that made resistance: whereupon every man threw their Darts against Porus, and the Footmen that stood in his defence, insomuch that at length he was so oppressed, that he began to fall from his Elephant. Then the Indian who was his Governour, thinking that Porus desired to have alighted, caused the Beast, after his accustomed manner, to b•nd towards the earth, who submitting himself, all the rest, as they were taught, bowed down their bodies likewise; which was the cause of Porus taking, and of the rest.

Alexander Meets Porus

When Poros was ultimately captured and brought before Alexander, he was not at all “broken and abashed in spirit” but boldly met him as one brave man would meet another brave man after a trial of strength, and made the proud demand: “Treat me, O Alexander ! as befits a king.”

Alexander accepts Porus's surrender

Arrian wrote: ““But when he saw his old foe Taxiles, he wheeled round and was preparing to strike him with a javelin; and he would probably have killed him, if he had not quickly driven his horse forward out of the reach of Porus before he could strike him. But not even on this account was Alexander angry with Porus; but he kept on sending others in succession; and last of all Meroës an Indian, because he ascertained that he was an old friend of Porus. As soon as the latter heard the message brought to him by Meroës, being at the same time overcome by thirst, he stopped his elephant and dismounted from it. After he had drunk some water and felt refreshed, he ordered Meroës to lead him without delay to Alexander; and Meroës led him thither.[Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“When Alexander heard that Meroës was bringing Porus to him, he rode in front of the line with a few of the Companions to meet Porus; and stopping his horse, he admired his handsome figure and his stature, which reached somewhat above five cubits. He was also surprised that he did not seem to be cowed in spirit, but advanced to meet him as one brave man would meet another brave man, after having gallantly struggled in defence of his own kingdom against another king.

“Then indeed Alexander was the first to speak, bidding him say what treatment he would like to receive. The report goes that Porus replied: “Treat me, O Alexander, in a kingly way!” Alexander being pleased at the expression, said: “For my own sake, O Porus, thou shalt be thus treated; but for thy own sake do thou demand what is pleasing to thee!” But Porus said that everything was included in that. Alexander, being still more pleased at this remark, not only granted him the rule over his own Indians, but also added another country to that which he had before, of larger extent than the former. Thus he treated the brave man in a kingly way, and from that time found him faithful in all things. Such was the result of Alexander’s battle with Porus and the Indians living beyond the river Hydaspes, which was fought in the archonship of Hegemon at Athens, in the month Munychion ( April to May, B.C.).

According to to Curtius: “When Alexander saw Porus on the ground, he caused him to be spoiled, thinking he had been dead, and divers ran about him to pull off his Armour and his Vesture; which thing when the Elephant saw, he began to defend his Master, running upon the Spoilers, and endeavoured to lift him up again upon his back: whereupon, they all setting upon the Elephant, slew him, and laid Porus in a Cart; whom when Alexander did behold to lift up his eyes, he being moved with no hatred, but with compassion, said unto him: ‘What fury possest thee, hearing the Fame of mine Acts, to hazard the Battel with me and my Power, seeing Taxilis was so near an example of the Clemency that I use to such as submit themselves?’ To whom he made this answer: ‘Forasmuch as I am demanded a Question, I will answer as freely as I am spoken unto: Knowing mine own strength, and not having proved thine, I thought no man of greater Power then my self; but now the success of this Battel hath declared thee to be the Mightier: and yet therein I do impute to my self no little felicity, that I have won the second place, and am next unto thee.’” [Source: Curtius Rufus, “Quintus, The life and death of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon,” translated by Robert Codrington (1601-1665), University of Michigan, Oxfored University, 2007-10]

Bucephalas Dies

One tragic note about this battle is that Alexander's horse, Bucephalus died. Alexander had ridden Bucephalus into every one of his battles in Greece and Asia, so when it died, he was grief-stricken. Alexander paused briefly to found a city named Bucephal in honor his horse.The animals died perhaps from old age, perhaps from war wounds. Otherwise Alexander was ready to press on and make further conquests.

Alexander and Bucephalas in happier times

Plutarch wrote: “Some little time after the battle with Porus, Bucephalas died, as most of the authorities state, under cure of his wounds, or as Onesicritus says, of fatigue and age, being thirty years old. Alexander was no less concerned at his death, than if he had lost an old companion or an intimate friend, and built a city, which he named Bucephalia, in memory of him, on the bank of the river Hydaspes. He also, we are told, built another city, and called it after the name of a favorite dog, Peritas, which he had brought up himself. So Sotion assures us he was informed by Potamon of Lesbos.” [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

Arrian wrote: “Alexander founded two cities, one where the battle took place, and the other on the spot whence he started to cross the river Hydaspes; the former he named Nicaea, after his victory over the Indians, and the latter Bucephala in memory of his horse Bucephalas, which died there, not from having been wounded by any one, but from the effects of toil and old age; for he was about thirty years old, and quite worn out with toil. This Bucephalas had shared many hardships and incurred many dangers with Alexander during many years, being ridden by none but the king, because he rejected all other riders. He was both of unusual size and generous in mettle. The head of an ox had been engraved upon him as a distinguishing mark, and according to some this was the reason why he bore that name; but others say, that though he was black he had a white mark upon his head which bore a great resemblance to the head of an ox. In the land of the Uxians this horse vanished from Alexander, who thereupon sent a proclamation throughout the country that he would kill all the inhabitants, unless they brought the horse back to him. As a result of this proclamation it was immediately brought back. So great was Alexander’s attachment to the horse, and so great was the fear of Alexander entertained by the barbarians. Let so much honour be paid by me to this Bucephalas for the sake of his master.” [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

Alexander the Great Allows Poros to Continue Ruling

Like the other local rulers he had defeated, Alexander allowed Porus to continue to govern his territory. Alexander even subdued an independent province and granted it to Porus as a gift.

Justin informs us that Alexander “out of respect for his valour restored him (Poros) in safety to his sovereignty.” Perhaps the chivalrous instincts of Alexander were to some extent responsible for the generous treatment he accorded to Poros, but there must have been stronger reasons as well, for politics hardly knows of any such magnanimity. In the first place, the stout resistance of Poros, which is further apparent from the high casualty list, must have conveyed its own lesson to Alexander. The latter also knew that as he was hailing from distant Greece it was impossible for him in the very nature of things to compel all the conquered lands to continue rendering him obedience without enlisting local loyalty, assistance and co-operation. Then, again, his ambition to found a permanent empire in the east largely remained unfulfilled, and it was, therefore, necessary for him to pursue a policy of conciliation, to adopt, so to say, the method of capturing wild elephants by means of tame ones.

Accordingly, Alexander extended to Poros the olive branch of peace and friendship by reinstating him in his dignity and sovereignty. Arid in doing so, Alexander was not only acting in consonance with the dictates of diplomacy and statecraft, but, strangely enough, he was also following the traditional policy of Hindu conquerors, advocated by Manu 1 and Kautilya, viz., the policy of placing either the vanquished monarch or some scion of his family upon the throne instead of resorting to direct annexation. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942] Conquest of the Glausians and Crossing of the Acesines

After the battle with Porus Alexander founded two towns. One was called Boukephala after the name of his horse which died in India. The other, Nikaia, meant to commemorate his victory, arose on the site of the battle with Poros. Alexander marched into the territory of a nation called the Glausai or Glaukanikai, taking thirty-seven of their cities “the smallest of which contained not fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, while many contained upwards of 10,000”, At this stage Alexander heard of revolts against him; After the arrival of Thracian reinforcements and the renewed submission of the ruler of Abhisara, Alexander crossed the Akesines (Skt. Asiknl or Chenab) and subdued the younger Poros, nephew of the great Poros. His territory, known as Gandaris, as also that of the Glausai, was added by Alexander to the kingdom of his quondam enemy — the senior Poros (Paurava).[Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Magnanimity of Alexander towards Porus

After defeating Porus, Alexander’s army advanced towards the Acesines: the Chenab River, a major river that flows in India and Pakistan, and is one of the 5 major rivers of the Punjab region. Arrian wrote: “When Alexander had paid all due honours to those who had been killed in the battle, he offered the customary sacrifices to the gods in gratitude for his victory, and celebrated a gymnastic and horse contest upon the bank of the Hydaspes at the place where he first crossed with his army. He then left Craterus behind with a part of the army, to erect and fortify the cities which he was founding there; but he himself marched against the Indians conterminous with the dominion of Porus. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“According to Aristobulus the name of this nation was Glauganicians; but Ptolemy calls them Glausians. I am quite indifferent which name it bore. Alexander traversed their land with half the Companion cavalry, the picked men from each phalanx of the infantry, all the horse-bowmen, the Agrianians, and the archers. All the inhabitants came over to him on terms of capitulation; and he thus took thirty-seven cities, the inhabitants of which, where they were fewest, amounted to no less than ,, and those of many numbered above ,. He also took many villages, which were no less populous than the cities. This land also he granted to Porus to rule; and sent Taxiles back to his own abode after affecting a reconciliation between him and Porus. At this time arrived envoys from Abisares, who told him that their king was ready to surrender himself and the land which he ruled. And yet before the battle which was fought between Alexander and Porus, Abisares intended to join his forces with those of the latter. On this occasion he sent his brother with the other envoys to Alexander, taking with them money and forty elephants as a gift. Envoys also arrived from the independent Indians, and from a certain other Indian ruler named Porus. Alexander ordered Abisares to come to him as soon as possible, threatening that unless he came he would see him arrive with his army at a place where he would not rejoice to see him. At this time Phrataphernes, viceroy of Parthia and Hyrcania, came to Alexander at the head of the Thracians who had been left with him. Messengers also came from Sisicottus, viceroy of the Assacenians, to inform him that those people had slain their governor and revolted from Alexander. Against these he despatched Philip and Tyriaspes with an army, to arrange and set in order the affairs of their land.

“He himself advanced towards the river Acesines. Ptolemy, son of Lagus, has described the size of this river alone of those in India, stating that where Alexander crossed it with his army upon boats and skins, the stream was rapid and the channel was full of large and sharp rocks, over which the water being violently carried seethed and dashed. He says also that its breadth amounted to fifteen stades; that those who went over upon skins had an easy passage; but that not a few of those who crossed in the boats perished there in the water, many of the boats being wrecked upon the rocks and dashed to pieces. From this description then it would be possible for one to come to a conclusion by comparison, that the size of the river Indus has been stated not far from the fact by those who think that its mean breadth is forty stades, but that it contracts to fifteen stades where it is narrowest and therefore deepest; and that this is the width of the Indus in many places. I come then to the conclusion that Alexander chose a part of the Acesines where the passage was widest, so that he might find the stream slower than elsewhere.”

Advance Beyond the Hydraotes

By the fall of 326 B.C., the Macedonian arms penetrated beyond the Hydroates (Parusni or Iravati i.e., modern Ravi), and Alexander won fresh laurels by capturing Pimprama belonging to the Adraistai (Aristas of Panini).[Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The last major river that Alexander crossed in Pakistan-India region was the Hydraotes: The Ravi, a transboundary river crossing northwestern India and eastern Pakistan and one of six rivers of the Indus System in Punjab region. Arrian wrote: “After crossing the river [Acesines], he left Coenus with his own brigade there upon the bank, with instructions to superintend the passage of the part of the army which had been left behind for the purpose of collecting corn and other supplies from the country of the Indians which was already subject to him. He now sent Porus away to his own abode, commanding him to select the most warlike of the Indians and take all the elephants he had and come to him. He resolved to pursue the other Porus, the bad one, with the lightest troops in his army, because he was informed that he had left the land which he ruled and had fled. For this Porus, while hostilities subsisted between Alexander and the other Porus, sent envoys to Alexander offering to surrender both himself and the land subject to him, rather out of enmity to Porus than from friendship to Alexander. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“But when he ascertained that the former had been released, and that he was ruling over another large country in addition to his own, then, fearing not so much Alexander as the other Porus, his namesake, he fled from his own land, taking with him as many of his warriors as he could persuade to share his flight. Against this man Alexander marched, and arrived at the Hydraotes, which is another Indian river, not less than the Acesines in breadth, but less in swiftness of current. He traversed the whole country as far as the Hydraotes, leaving garrisons in the most suitable places, in order that Craterus and Coenus might advance with safety, scouring most of the land for forage. Then he despatched Hephaestion into the land of the Porus who had revolted, giving him a part of the army, comprising two brigades of infantry, his own regiment of cavalry with that of Demetrius and half of the archers, with instructions to hand the country over to the other Porus, to subdue any independent tribes of Indians which dwelt near the banks of the river Hydraotes, and to give them also into the hands of Porus to rule. He himself then crossed the river Hydraotes, not with difficulty, as he had crossed the Acesines. As he was advancing into the country beyond the Hydraotes, it happened that most of the people yielded themselves up on terms of capitulation; but some came to meet him with arms, while others who tried to escape he captured and forcibly reduced to obedience.”

Porus and Alexander

Invasion of the Land of the Cathaeans

Soon afterwards Alexander invested Sangala, the stronghold of the Cathaeans (Kathaians) who “enjoyed the highest reputation for courage and skill in the art of war.” Strabo, quoting Onesikritos, informs us that among the Cathaeans beauty was highly valued and “the handsomest man was chosen as king.” Every child was examined by public authority two months after its birth to determine “whether it has the beauty of form prescribed by law and whether it deserves to live or not.” [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Men and women among them chose their own partners, and the women burnt themselves along with their deceased husbands. These Cathaeans fought with great dash and stubbornness, so much so that even Poros had to come to the aid of Alexander with “a force of 5,000 Indians”. At last, when the fortress fell, no less than 17,000 of the defenders gave up their lives and more than 70,000 were captured together with 300 waggons and 500 horsemen. This resolute resistance of the Cathaeans incensed Alexander to such an extent that he razed Sangala to the ground. Then with a view to guarding the rear he sent Greek garrisons to the conquered cities, and himself marched towards the Hyphasis (Beas) to realise his cherished dream of planting the Hellenic standards in the easternmost ends of India.

Arrian wrote: “Meantime he received information that the tribe called Cathaeans and some other tribes of the independent Indians were preparing for battle, if he approached their land; and that they were summoning to the enterprise all the tribes conterminous with them who were in like manner independent. He was also informed that the city, Sangala by name, near which they were thinking of having the struggle, was a strong one. The Cathaeans themselves were considered very daring and skilful in war; and two other tribes of Indians, the Oxydracians and Mallians, were in the same temper as the Cathaeans. For a short time before it happened that Porus and Abisares had marched against them with their own forces and had roused many other tribes of the independent Indians to arms, but were forced to retreat without effecting anything worthy of the preparations they had made. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“When Alexander was informed of this, he made a forced march against the Cathaeans, and on the second day after starting from the river Hydraotes he arrived at a city called Pimprama, inhabited by a tribe of Indians named Adraistaeans, who yielded to him on terms of capitulation. Giving his army a rest the next day, he advanced on the third day to Sangala, where the Cathaeans and the other neighbouring tribes had assembled and marshalled themselves in front of the city upon a hill which was not precipitous on all sides. They had posted their waggons all round this hill and were encamping within them in such a way that they were surrounded by a triple palisade of waggons. When Alexander perceived the great number of the barbarians and the nature of their position, he drew up his forces in the order which seemed to him especially adapted to his present circumstances, and sent his horse-archers at once without any delay against them, ordering them to ride along and shoot at them from a distance; so that the Indians might not be able to make any sortie, before his army was in proper array, and that even before the battle commenced they might be wounded within their stronghold. Upon the right wing he posted the guard of cavalry and the cavalry regiment of Clitus; next to these the shield-bearing guards, and then the Agrianians. Towards the left he had stationed Perdiccas with his own regiment of cavalry, and the battalions of foot Companions. The archers he divided into two parts and placed them on each wing. While he was marshalling his army, the infantry and cavalry of the rear-guard came up. Of these, he divided the cavalry into two parts and led them to the wings, and with the infantry which came up he made the ranks of the phalanx more dense and compact. He then took the cavalry which had been drawn up on the right, and led it towards the waggons on the left wing of the Indians; for here their position seemed to him more easy to assail, and the waggons had not been placed together so densely.”

Assault upon Sangala

Sangala — Sagala or Sakala — was the last conquest of Alexander’s army in their drive eastward. It was the ancient predecessor of Sialkot, in Pakistan's northern Punjab province and was razed by Alexander the Great in 326 B.C.. Sangala was made capital of the Indo-Greek kingdom by Menander I. Menander embraced Buddhism after extensive debating with a Buddhist monk, and Sangala became a major centre for Buddhism.

another take on Porus and Alexander

Arrian wrote: “As the Indians did not run out from behind the waggons against the advancing cavalry, but mounted upon them and began to shoot from the top of them, Alexander, perceiving that it was not the work for cavalry, leaped down from his horse, and on foot led the phalanx of infantry against them. The Macedonians without difficulty forced the Indians from the first row of waggons; but then the Indians, taking their stand in front of the second row, more easily repulsed the attack, because they were posted in denser array in a smaller circle. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Moreover the Macedonians were attacking them likewise in a confined space, while the Indians were secretly creeping under the front row of waggons, and without regard to discipline were assaulting their enemy through the gaps left between the waggons as each man found a chance. But nevertheless even from these the Indians were forcibly driven by the phalanx of infantry. They no longer made a stand at the third row, but fled as fast as possible into the city and shut themselves up in it. During that day Alexander with his infantry encamped round the city, as much of it, at least, as his phalanx could surround; for he could not with his camp completely encircle the wall, so extensive was it. Opposite the part unenclosed by his camp, near which also was a lake, he posted the cavalry, placing them all round the lake, which he discovered to be shallow. Moreover, he conjectured that the Indians, being terrified at their previous defeat, would abandon the city in the night; and it turned out just as he had conjectured; for about the second watch of the night most of them dropped down from the wall, but fell in with the sentinels of cavalry.

“The foremost of them were cut to pieces by these; but the men behind them perceiving that the lake was guarded all round, withdrew into the city again. Alexander now surrounded the city with a double stockade, except in the part where the lake shut it in, and round the lake he posted more perfect guards. He also resolved to bring military engines up to the wall, to batter it down. But some of the men in the city deserted to him, and told him that the Indians intended that very night to steal out of the city and escape by the lake, where the gap in the stockade existed. He accordingly stationed Ptolemy, son of Lagus, there, giving him three regiments of the shield-bearing guards, all the Agrianians, and one line of archers, pointing out to him the place where he especially conjectured the barbarians would try to force their way. “When thou perceivest the barbarians forcing their way here,” said he, “do thou, with the army obstruct their advance, and order the bugler to give the signal. And do you, O officers, as soon as the signal has been given, each being arrayed in battle order with your own men, advance towards the noise, wherever the bugle summons you. Nor will I myself withdraw from the action.”

Capture of Sangala

Arrian wrote: “Such were the orders he gave; and Ptolemy collected there as many waggons as he could from those which had been left behind in the first flight, and placed them athwart, so that there might seem to the fugitives in the night to be many difficulties in their way; and as the stockade had been knocked down, or had not been firmly fixed in the ground, he ordered his men to heap up a mound of earth in various places between the lake and the wall. This his soldiers effected in the night. When it was about the fourth watch, the barbarians, just as Alexander had been informed, opened the gates towards the lake, and made a run in that direction. However they did not escape the notice of the guards there, nor that of Ptolemy, who had been placed behind them to render aid. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

and yet another view of Porus and Alexander

“But at this moment the buglers gave him the signal, and he advanced against the barbarians with his army fully equipped and drawn up in battle array. Moreover the waggons and the stockade which had been placed in the intervening space, were an obstruction to them. When the bugle sounded and Ptolemy attacked them, killing the men as they kept on stealing out through the waggons, then indeed they were driven back again into the city; and in their retreat of them were killed. In the meanwhile Porus arrived, bringing with him the elephants that were left to him, and , Indians. Alexander had constructed his military engines and they were being led up to the wall; but before any of it was battered down, the Macedonians took the city by storm, digging under the wall, which was made of brick, and placing scaling ladders against it all round. In the capture , of the Indians were killed, and above , were captured, besides chariots and cavalry. In the whole siege a little less than of Alexander’s army were killed; but the number of the wounded was greater than the proportion of the slain, being more than ,, among whom were Lysimachus, the confidential body-guard, and other officers. After burying the dead according to his custom, Alexander sent Eumenes, the secretary, with cavalry to the two cities which had joined Sangala in revolt, to tell those who held them about the capture of Sangala, and to inform them that they would receive no harsh treatment from Alexander if they stayed there and received him as a friend; for no harm had happened to any of the other independent Indians who had surrendered to him of their own accord.

“But they had become frightened, and had abandoned the cities and were fleeing; for the news had already reached them that Alexander had taken Sangala by storm. When Alexander was informed of their flight he pursued them with speed; but most of them were too quick for him, and effected their escape, because the pursuit began from a distant starting-place. But all those who were left behind in the retreat from weakness, were seized by the army and killed, to the number of about . Then, giving up the design of pursuing the fugitives any further, he returned to Sangala, and razed the city to the ground. He added the land to that of the Indians who had formerly been independent, but who had then voluntarily submitted to him. He then sent Porus with his forces to the cities which had submitted to him, to introduce garrisons into them; whilst he himself, with his army, advanced to the river Hyphasis, to subjugate the Indians beyond it. Nor did there seem to him any end of the war, so long as anything hostile to him remained.”

Alexander Reaches His Limit in India as His Troops Refuse to Advance

Alexander's next goal was to reach the Ganges River, which was actually 400 kilometers away, a considerable distance, because he thought that it flowed into the outer Ocean. His troops, however, had heard tales of the powerful Indian tribes that lived on the Ganges and remembered the difficulty of the battle with Porus, so they refused to go any farther east. Alexander was extremely disappointed, but he accepted their decision and persuaded them to travel south down the rivers Hydaspes and Indus so that they might reach the Ocean on the southern edge of the world. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

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,]

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, ]

Administration Left by Alexander the Great in India

It is said that with a view to marking the extreme point of his advance eastward Alexander gave directions for the construction of twelve colossal stone altars, dedicated to the chief Greek gods. When these massive monuments were completed, Alexander offered sacrifices, accompanied with appropriate ceremonies, for a safe return home.[Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Alexander placed his new ally, Poros, in charge of all the tract between the Hydaspes and the Hyphasis, and Omphis or Ambhi of Taxila was given full jurisdiction over the Indus-Hydaspes Doab. Likewise, the ruler of Abhisara had his authority extended over Kashmir with Arsakes of Urasa (Hazara district) as his vassal. And as a counterpoise to the rule of these Indian princes, Alexander stationed adequate Greek garrisons in cities founded by himself on Indian soil. These Greek settlers were meant to be the sentinels or guar dians of his overlordship, so that no enterprising Indian monarch may be able to rise in revolt in order to shake off the alien yoke.

During his time in India, Alexander the Great mostly busy fighting, and he could not, therefore, get time enough to consolidate his conquests. But the steps he took clearly indicate that he intended to annex the Indian provinces permanently to his empire. He posted Greek garrisons at strategic centres; appointed governors, like Philip over the region above Sind up to the lower Kabul valley, and Peithon in Sind, to exercise control over the native princes; conciliated [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942] India After Alexander the Great

Although Indian accounts to a large extent ignored Alexander the Great's Indus campaign in 326 B.C., Greek writers recorded their impressions of the general conditions prevailing in South Asia during this period. Thus, the year 326 B.C. provides the first clear and historically verifiable date in Indian history. A two-way cultural fusion between several Indo-Greek elements — especially in art, architecture, and coinage — occurred in the next several hundred years. [Source: Library of Congress]

After Alexander went back to Babylon in 324 B.C., a man named Chandragupta was able to overthrow the old Aryan kingdom of Nanda under the powerful Nanda king Magdha in 323 - 322 B.C. He formed a big new empire over all of northern India and into Afghanistan. When people asked him how he had done it, he said (according to Greek historians) that he got the idea from Alexander. Chandragupta conquered the Indus valley back from the Greeks and as part of the peace treaty he married the daughter of Seleucus, who had succeeded Alexander. [Source: Glorious India ]

Alexander left behind agents in order to control the territories that he had overrun and to maintain the alliance with Poros who quickly abused their authority. With the treaty broken thus, Poros joined the cause of Chandragupta (Sandrakottos) Maurya. Together they overthrew the remaining Macedonians and lay the foundation for what would become one of the largest empires to ever exist in India. By the time Seleukos I Nikator made his own attempt to annex India in 305 B.C., the Mauryan Empire of Chandragupta encompassed most of modern Pakistan and India north of the Vindhya mountain range.

Chandragupta met Seleukos in battle somewhere in Gandhara and defeated the forces of the successor king. A treaty was made between the two rulers in which Seleukos ceded authority over the eastern satrapies of Aria, Arachosia, Gedrosia and the Paropanisadai and Chandragupta gave Seleukos a gift of 500 war elephants. These animals were instrumental in the defeat of Antigonos Monophthalmos in 301 B.C. Chandragupta also recieved the hand of a daughter of Seleukos. The kings parted on good terms with Seleukos maintaining an ambassador named Megasthanes at the Mauryan court in Pataliputra.

Impact of Alexander the Great on India

One of the important effects of Alexander’s invasion was the establishment of a number of Greek settlements in India. The army of occupation, of course, did not long survive his departure, but the cities founded by him continued to flourish. Another indirect result of this expedition was that it discredited the small state system of the Punjab, and thus helped the cause of Indian unity. It also demonstrated to Indians that there was something inherently wrong with their military organisation and strategy, and that a drilled and disciplined army, though small, could accomplish wonders in the face of odds. Lastly, it brought India into direct touch with the European world. This not only gave an impetus to trade and commerce, but also mutually influenced the development of art, thought, and literature. Some of the tangible relics of Alexander’s invasion of India are.imitation Athenian “owl” coins and silver drachms of Attic weight. One remarkable silver decadrachm is supposed by Barclay Head to represent Alexander on the reverse and on the obverse Poros mounted on a retreating elephant, which is being pursued by a horseman. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Alexander the Great spread knowledge of the world to India (and Pakistan). Greek chroniclers described widow burning and the selling of daughters by their parents at local market places and oxen that were so string Alexander order 200,000 of them to be sent back to Greece. But despite al this there are no references to the Greeks in Indian texts.

Alexander the Great incursion opened up new trade routes between Europe and the East. A number of settlements were established, including Boukephala on the Jhelum and Alexandria in Sind, but survived for that ling. From the 2nd century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. Gandhara, produced wonderful art that combined East and West. Sculptures had “togalike robes and halos modeled after statuary of the Greek gods, yet typically possessed the serene expression of devotion traditionally found in South Asian religious artworks.

India After Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great successors were absorbed by the new Maurya dynasty (c.321–c.184 B.C.); under Chandragupta (r. c.321–c.297 B.C.), from his capital at Pataliputra (now Patna), the Mauryans subdued most of northern India and what is now Bangladesh. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

According to PBS: “Alexander's invasion itself left no long lasting impression on India (though he may have influenced the young Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire), but his campaigns cemented his reputation as one of the great conquerors of the ancient world. Later Greek leaders however conquered much of northwest India; the most famous, Menander (ruled c. 155-130 B.C.), struck down the Ganges as far as Patna and according to legend later became a Buddhist. [Source: PBS, The Story of India,]

When the Macedonian empire was partitioned for the second time in 321 B.C. at Triparadeisos, Peithon had already retired to the west of the Indus, and Greek authority had all but disappeared in the Punjab and Sind, although Eudamos succeeded in holding his charge until 317 B.C. his mighty opponent, Poros; constructed docks and harbours at Pattalene (Indus delta); and tried to explore the easiest and quickest route between India and Greece. All his arrangements and aspirations, however, came to nought when Alexander prematurely died in Babylon in June 323 B.C.


Sirkap, meaning “Severed head,” was built during the Greek era. It features a fortification wall, over five kilometers long and up to six meters thick, and an impressive main street once lined with mansions and gold shops. The foundation of the Apsidal Temple are raised on a platform and cover an area almost the size of a football field. Its central location and the way houses seem to feed off it suggests to archaeologists it may have been a sun temple. Located in a small courtyard, the Shrine of the Double Headed Eagle boasts weathered base-reliefs of structures that look like dog houses and columns adorned with double headed eagles, hence the name.

Sirkap was a fortified city founded during the mid-2nd century BC. Taxila was the capital of a kingdom called Hinduš (Indus country) and consisted of the western half of the Punjab. It was added to the Achaemenid empire under Darius I the Great, but the Persian occupation did not last long. The many private houses, stupas and temples are laid out on the Hellenistic grid system and show the strong Western classical influence on local architecture. The city was destroyed in the 1st century AD by the Kushans of central Asia.

To the north, excavations of the ruins of the Kushan city of Sirsukh have brought to light an irregular rectangle of walls in ashlar masonry with rounded bastions. This wall attests to the early influence of Central Asian architectural forms on those of the subcontinent. The city of Sirkap, chronologically the second major city of Taxila, is to be found spreading down the Hathial Spur and on to the plains of the Taxila valley. It is bounded by the Tamra stream and to the north and south by the Gau stream, which today has been almost completely obliterated by a modern road and water channel. The present layout of the city was established by the Bactrian Greeks sometime around 180 BC and takes the form of a wide and open grid system. In general, the city presents a better planned architecture than Bhir Mound. The city is encompassed by a mighty wall over 5 km long and up to 6 m thick. There may well have been an entrance on each of the four sides originally, but today the only one evident is the northern wall and it is through here that visitors normally enter the city. A number of temples and monasteries can be found here: Apsidal Temple, Sun Temple, Shrine of the Double Headed Eagle, Kunala Monastery and Ghai Monastery.

The major attraction in this city is the Great Stupa, one of the largest and most impressive throughout Pakistan, located just 2 km east of Bhir Mound and Sirkap. The chapels and chambers around the Great Stupa were built at various times from the 1st century BC to the post-Kushan period. These structures display a wide range of designs and probably were donated by pilgrims, possibly representing various schools of Buddhism.

Other sites of interest include the city of Sirsukh which is believed to belong to the Kushan period. To the north of Sirkap are four temples, all standing on earlier mounds and overlooking the city. They are all in the style of Greek temples. The best to visit is probably the one at Jandial, 1.5 km north of Sirkap.

Impact of Greek Contacts on India

An Indian revolt, following closely upon Alexander the Great’s premature death in 323 B.C., soon obliterated all traces of Greek conquest. Then came Seleucus Nicator about 306 B.C., but he got no chance to disseminate the seeds of Greek culture on Indian soil. His arms were effectively checked on the frontiers by Chandragupta Maurya, who is said to have wrested from his adversary four important satrapies corresponding to modem Baluchistan and southern Afghanistan. Neither Megasthenes nor Kautilya bears out that there were any Hellenic signs in the Maurya court. For the next one hundred years India enjoyed immunity from Greek incursions. In 206 B.C. Antiochos III appeared on her border-lands, but he, too, had to hurry back home after receiving the homage of a prince named Sophagasenos (Subhagascna). The later expeditions of Demetrios, Eukratides, and Menander, which covered with intervals a period of about four decades (c. 190-155 B.C.), penetrated far into the interior of the country. These were not wholly transitory raids, for in the Punjab and adjacent territories they led to the establishment of Greek rule, which lasted over a century and a half. It is, however, surprising that traces of Hellenism are even here very scanty. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

It appears that in the matter of coinage Indians learnt much from the Greeks. Prior to their advent rude punch-marked coins were current in India, but they introduced the practice of using regular coins, properly shaped and stamped. The Greek word Drachma was even adopted by Indians as Dramma. Further, the Greek language on coins is supposed to indicate that it was understood in the Indo-Greek.dominions, but this view is not borne out by the evidence available. The introduction of the Indian legends and the use of the Kharosthl on coins would, on the other hand, prove that the masses in general did not know the Greek language at all. That this was the case is also clear from the fact that no Greek inscription has so far been discovered in India.

Turning to literature, it is alleged by St. Chrysostom (A.D. 1 7) that “the poetry of Homer is sung by the Indians, who had translated it into their own language and modes of expression.” This is further corroborated by Plutarch and./Elian, but there is hardly any basis for such assertions except some superficial similarities between the legends or Greece and those of India. For instance, the main theme of the R atnayana curiously offers a parallel to the story of the Iliad. Similarly, although Greek plays may have been staged in places like Sakala and other centres of Greek power, we have really no evidence to warrant the assumption that Indian drama owes much to the Greek. The term Yavanikd merely denoted a curtain of Greek fabric, and other resemblances also are doubtless mostly fortuitous.

In the realm of astronomy Indians were certainly indebted to the Greeks. Thus says the Gdrgi-Samhita : ‘‘The Yavanas are barbarians yet the science of astronomy originated with them, and for this they must be reverenced like gods.” Indian astronomy preserves a number of Greek terms; and, of course, the Romaka and Vaults a Siddhantas bear obvious traces of Greek influences. As to astrology, Indians had some knowledge of it, but they are said to have borrowed from Babylon the art of divining the future by means of the stars.

It is difficult to say how far these Indo-Greeks affected the development of Indian art and architecture. Not one notable piece of sculpture belonging to the period of Demetrios and Menander has so far been unearthed, but the later Gandhara school, depicting on stone scenes from the life of the Buddha, is beyond doubt inspired by Hellenic ideals. Similarly, no Greek building in India has come to light, save the unembellished walls of some houses and a temple at Taxila with Ionic pillars and classical mouldings, dating from about the first quarter of the first century B.C. The Hellenic style preponderated in the decorative arts for a long time. It was then modified by the addition of Indian motifs.

The contact of diverse civilisations gave an impetus to trade and commerce, and there began a constant flow of ideas, which produced far-reaching results in different directions. Such instances as the conversion of Heliodorus to Vaisnavism, and of Menander or of Theodoros of the Swat Vase inscription to Buddhism, show that the Greeks were gradually succumbing to the subtle influence of Indian faiths. Thus, when “the legions had thundered past,” India “plunged in thought again” in a manner which slowly converted her military conquerors into her moral and spiritual captives. The Indianisation of the Greeks must have been, to some extent, brought about by mixed marriages also.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks ; Canadian Museum of History ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; 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 September 2020

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