Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Greek statues in blasting colors

We still find it difficult to imagine the buildings and statues in Greek and Roman cities in full blasting colors. In an earlier blog, Ancient Greece in full Technicolor, I marveled about the results achieved through spare reconstructions. 

In recent years, in-depth reconstruction work has been done by the team of Prof. Vinzenz Brinkman. For more than 15 years they analyzed the pigmentation of antique sculptures using digital methods whereby the originals were left untouched. New technical photographic techniques using UV-light and –reflectography enabled them to disclose the painted parts of the statues. Even those areas where no pigment had survived could be revealed thanks to the chemical and mechanical transformations on the surface which happened over the centuries. Based on those discoveries, they applied the matching colors on copies of existing statues. The results are absolutely mind-blowing.

The earliest examples were on display at the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt some 15 years ago, and the collection has travelled around the world ever since. Today, however, the artifacts have returned to Frankfurt where they are presented in a larger expanded exhibition. 

Since the first exhibition Bunte Götter in 2008, the number of colorized reconstructions has doubled and includes some antique bronzes with their color touches as well. Over 100 objects from international museum collections can be admired in their “original” colored version. Besides, another sixty artifacts from recent years have been added to the collection, including some pieces from the 19th century. A selection of 22 graphics completes the exhibition. It is a genuine and unique opportunity to submerge oneself in antiquity from an entirely different point of view. 

It is noteworthy that rather than merely coloring their sculptures, the Greeks and Romans managed to expand the formal and narrative structure of the objects. 

The exhibition Bunte Götter – Golden Edition. Die Farben der Antike will run until 30 August 2020 at the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt.

[Pictures from Liebieghaus Museum in Frankfurt]

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Flooded area of ancient Smyrna to become open-air museum

Dialogues between archaeologists and government officials are always difficult. That is nothing new, and the situation in Izmir is no exception.

After demolishing an old shopping center to construct a new one in 2016, historical remains were exposed requiring the attention of archaeologists. They discovered an ancient bath complex, a gymnasium, several shops and storage areas dating from the 2nd century AD. In fact, these buildings had been newly built after a major earthquake hit Smyrna in 177 AD.
The Greek orator and author, Publius Aelius Aristides Theodorus, in short Aristides had delivered a great speech just a year earlier that deeply impressed Emperor Marcus Aurelius who was visiting at the time. So, when Smyrna, as Izmir was known in antiquity was destroyed by the said earthquake, Aristides appealed to Marcus Aurelius. His plea was so impressive that enough imperial funds flowed into the reconstruction of the city. In thanks, the people of Smyrna erected a bronze statue of Aristides in the marketplace. It carried the worthy inscription “For his goodness and speeches”.

Thanks to Aristides, we have a perfect picture of Smyrna’s dazzling gymnasiums and many baths, its agoras, theaters, temple sanctuaries, and harbor area.

To save whatever remains of the ancient city, authorities agreed that the ruins should be preserved, but since 2018 the entire project is on hold because of a recurring problem with the groundwater.

As time passed, nothing was done to protect and secure the archaeological site. As a result, the groundwater kept rising, and excessive rainfall raised the water to an even higher level. It is clear that this water table causes physical, chemical and biological degradation of the exposed walls and floors. 

Instead of building a shopping mall, the construction company will now collaborate to protect the site and create an open-air archaeological area that should be completed in August 2020. Maybe we should put a question mark behind the date, I wonder?

Priority should be given to a drainage system to safeguard the site from any future flooding. The constructors have great ideas to cover the mosaic floors with glass panels and by doing so, to protect them from the weather conditions. Such glass panels can only be efficient as long as the groundwater problem is thoroughly solved. Let’s hope it will work out and that this part of Smyrna will soon be accessible for tourists.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Merv, Alexandria Margiana

The origins of Merv seem to go back to Cyrus the Great, who founded the city in the 6th century BC. As Margu it is mentioned in the Bisutun inscription (see: The Bisutun relief of King Darius I), meaning that it was one of the many satrapies ruled by the Achaemenids.

It is still uncertain whether Alexander took Merv in today’s Turkmenistan, although the area Margiana became part of his empire. When he was in Central Asia, he may or may not have conquered the city. According to some theories, it was Craterus, who founded the town. If this were the case, Alexandria Margiana would be the first and only “Alexandria” founded in Alexander’s absence. A questionable assumption. If Alexander went to Merv, the only plausible time would be while he was in Bactra, in modern Afghanistan. Pending confirmation and further excavations, this question remains unanswered (see: Alexander in Bukhara).

In any case, after the king’s death, Alexandria Margiana became the capital of Seleucus’ Empire. It was his son, Antiochus I Soter, who expanded the site and built the fortress of Gyaur Gala. He named it after himself, Antiochia Margiana.

The rulers of the later Graeco-Bactrian Empire, the Parthians, the Kushans and the Sassanids all recognized the importance of its strategic location. Before the arrival of Islam, Merv was renowned for its Buddhist monasteries and stupas.

Its defensive walls were almost eight kilometers long, fortified by sturdy towers. Through one of the four entrance gates, traders and other visitors would access the clean streets divided in quarters among the branches of the Murghab River and its canals. The principal buildings were the mosques and madrasas, libraries and bathhouses. The market place was centrally located and well-organized. Under the Seljuk sultans, Merv was enhanced with a palace and several administrative buildings.

As a significant stop-over on the prosperous Silk RoadMerv was a welcome oasis full of gardens and orchards surrounded by richly cultivated lands amidst the barren Karakum Desert. Some sources tell us that around 1150 AD, Merv was the largest city in the world. Merchants from as far as India, Iraq and China would have crowded the narrow streets and spent the night in one of the many caravanserais. Besides the trade of silk, Merv was also famous for the high-quality cotton that was grown in the nearby fields.

Unfortunately, Genghis Khan razed the city to the ground killing all its 700,000 inhabitants. The many dams and dykes that supported an efficient network of canals and reservoirs were forever destroyed. Genghis Khan and his Mongols annihilated this life-blood so thoroughly that Merv never truly recovered, in spite of the numerous attempts to rebuild and resettle the city over the centuries.

By 1888, Merv was entirely abandoned. George Curzon, who was Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, visited the remains at that time. He describes the city as “Very decrepit and sorrowful looked those wasting walls of sun-dried clay, these broken arches and tottering towers; but there is magnificence in their very extent and a voice in the sorrowful squalor of their ruin.”

Merv today exposes, in fact, four separate walled cities. The oldest settlement from Achaemenid times is Erkgala, whereas the Hellenistic and Sassanid capital Gyaur Gala is built around the Erkgala fort. The Abbasid/Seljuk city is Soltangala and the largest as it sits on the edge of Gyaur Gala. Just south lies the smallest town, Abdyllahangala, which was founded by the descendants of Tamerlane. 

The archaeologists are clearly facing a daunting task. A joint team from Turkmenistan and the UK worked here from 1992 to 2000. A year later, a new collaboration was started between Turkmen authorities and the University College London. It will be fascinating to learn if they ever retrieve some relics of Alexander’s short passage in the area.

[Pictures from The Guardian]

Monday, February 3, 2020

The hidden Temple of Artemis in Syracuse

Today’s visitor of Syracuse and more specifically to the island of Ortygia, will stare in awe at the Duomo with its Sicilian-Baroque façade rebuilt in 1728-1754 after several earthquakes had damaged the Norman entrance. The true treasure, however, is hidden inside as the entire church is built in and around the Doric columns of the Temple of Athena from the 5th century BC (see: Syracuse rivaled with Athens to be the most powerful city).

What few people know it that hidden underneath the adjacent Palazzo Senatorio or City Hall we can find the remains of an older temple dedicated to Artemis. While this Ionian temple was still under construction (no remains of the roof were ever found), it was destroyed after the Battle of Himera in 480 BC (see: The Battle of Himera, a major confrontation). This grand Artemision was only discovered in the 1960s when reinforcement works to the City Hall were carried out.



It appeared that the temple was inspired by the famous Temple of Artemis from Ephesus (see: Alexander’s presence in Ephesus). During the 15th century a church of San Sebastian arose on the spot and the remains of that church are now mixed with those of the Artemision together with relics from an early Greek Sacred area and from prehistoric and proto-historic times.

Although much of the Artemision was used as construction material for the Temple of Athena, enough was still standing in 70 BC when Cicero visited the place and left us an interesting description of this temple.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Phaselis by Nihal Tüner Önen

Phaselis, Ancient city of Lycian Civilization by Nihal Tüner Önen (ISBN 978-975-17-3775-5) is a hard cover, pocket size guide to the site of Phaselis.
The format allows the visitor to carry this booklet is his pocket or backpack, and the bookmarker helps to keep track of your whereabouts.
After a short geographical overview and the historical background, the guide treats the different parts of Phaselis and its main buildings. The booklet is richly illustrated with beautiful color photographs, which truly reflect the unique atmosphere that reigns among these impressive ruins.
It should be said, however, that the English text is not always very clear and understandable but with some effort, we can overcome that flaw.
All in all, it is a recommendable guide for those who truly wish to understand the lay-out of this ancient city.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Alexander’s battle outfit

Except for the famous mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii, now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Naples (see: The Alexander mosaic), we have no picture of Alexander’s outfit. Although this mosaic gives only a partial view and is made two centuries after his death, it is the closest we can get to visualize the details.

True, there are a few equestrian bronzes of Alexander that were copied from one and the same original that once stood in the sanctuary of Dion. The Alexander figure belonged to a group of at least 25 Companion cavalry who died during the Battle of the Granicus in 334 BC. This memorial in honor of the dead was erected upon the king’s instruction and occupied a place of honor for some four hundred years. In 148 BC, when Macedonia was reduced to become a mere Roman province, Consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus moved the group to Rome. It has been argued that the monument was part of Alexander’s propaganda campaign and was recognized as such by the Romans.

Plutarch is about the only author from antiquity to give us a detailed description of Alexander’s outfit. He speaks of the king wearing a coat of Sicilian make. Over that coat he wore a tight girth and a corselet of thickly quilted linen. On the mosaic, Alexander seems to wear a long sleeved garment underneath his breastplate but the image is too garbled to make out. David Karunanithy (see: The Macedonian War Machine) states that the tunic, which now appears as faded purple-grey, was once deep purple. This is very credible since the king reportedly wore purple for everyday use. By extension, a purple tunic does not look out of place.

The mosaic also shows Alexander wearing a cloak that is held in place by a round gold fibula. This cloak has been recognized as a long antique epiporpoma.  It was made by a certain Helicon and given to him by the citizens of Rhodes as a mark of their respect. The belt Alexander wore in all engagements was from the same origin. It showed much richer craftsmanship than the rest of his outfit and was probably adorned with precious stones.

[Picture from the movie Alexander by Oliver Stone]

The linen corselet apparently was taken as war booty after the Battle of Issus, but Plutarch does not tell us who the original owner was. This linothorax carries strong Greek features meaning that it may have belonged to someone fighting with the Allied Greek army or it may have been taken from one of the Greek mercenaries in Persian service. The face of the Gorgon as depicted on Alexander’s corselet on the mosaic is rather cute and animated. It seems to take part in the attack with his eyes turned towards the action.

Alexander’s helmet, which is totally absent from the mosaic, was another eye catcher. His entire army as well as his enemies knew exactly where he was because of his ostentatious headgear. It is very probable that the king had more than one conspicuous helmet, but in all cases Alexander had to be seen from afar. At least one of his helmets was created by Theophilus, clearly an expert maker otherwise unknown. It was made of iron so thoroughly polished that it looked like silver. It was fitted to a gorget made of the same material, set with precious stones.

On the battlefield, Alexander was recognizable by this characteristic helmet that had large plumes of white feathers attached on either side of the crest. We’ll remember how during the Battle of the Granicus, Spithridates hit the king’s helmet with his battle-axe, cutting off the crest and one of the plumes. The blow barely missed his scalp. It is obvious that under these circumstances, Alexander needed another helmet. It had to be consistent with the image he had projected so far. The two distinctive white plumes that set him apart from other commanders and generals in the field were a must.

On the mosaic, Alexander is handling a spear and his sword is still sheathed. Plutarch described the sword as exceptionally light and well-tempered. It was a masterpiece given to him by the King of Citium on the island of Cyprus. By the 4th century BC, Cyprus had a long established history for talented armorers.

The Macedonians basically used two forms of swords. The straight sword with double-edged blade was most popular. On average it was about 60-70 cm long and had a cruciform hilt, usually made of bone or wood. Some fine specimens had ivory handles enhanced with gold or silver decorations. The blade was exceptionally efficient because of the swelling toward the sword’s tip. It added weight and momentum to each blow. It was particularly indicated to hit the enemy with downward strokes, causing more severe injuries. Another advantage of the straight sword was that it could be used by cavalry and infantry alike as it functioned as well for hacking as stabbing.

The kopis or saber shaped sword with the crooked hilt was less common. The blade was 40-60 cm long and only the curved inside had a cutting edge. Xenophon tells us that the kopis was more effective for fights on horseback since the rider could deliver a heavy blow from above.

During his life-time, Alexander has added several foreign or Asian features to his outfit and battledresses as he moved further east.

Over the centuries, artists and movie-makers have fitted Alexander according to their inspiration influenced by the fashion of their own time. Modern archaeology, especially from grave finds, has revealed many pictures of Macedonian soldiers and commanders. Nowadays it is easier to recreate a more faithful image of Alexander’s outfit, although the entire picture will always elude us.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The road to the Stadium of Laodicea

In a previous blog (see: Laodicea, an update on the works in progress), I have listed the many buildings and features of Laodicea that are awaiting excavations.

The site is being labeled as being the largest in Anatolia after Ephesos. Additional archaeological digs have exposed the sacred agora as wells as a church and one of the two theaters.
The latest excavations are carried out in and around the Stadium. This huge construction was built in 79 AD and measured 285m x 70m. It could seat as many as 25,000 to 30,000 people. According to the recently found inscriptions, this Stadium hosted Olympic-scale events and the customary Roman gladiator fights in which men fought against each other and against wild animals.

As always, the Stadium was situated outside the city walls and presently the street linking it to the center of Laodicea has been cleared. Old pavements, especially roads, are always an exciting feature. Modern visitors will now be allowed to walk over such a precious testimony of the past.

Closer study of the area around the Stadium has revealed the presence of a huge Bath Complex covering some 12,000 m2. Nearby, the remains of an Assembly Hall and a state guest house have been found.

It seems that in time, Laodicea will be one of the many favorite travel destinations Turkey has to offer.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

An exceptional Alexander Frieze

Honestly, I am not too keen on statues, paintings or other depictions of Alexander other than those from the Greek and Hellenistic era. I obviously have to include the Roman copies because more often than not, the Greek originals no longer exist.

Over the centuries, Alexander enjoyed many admirers. Scores of sculptors and painters have tried their best to produce a portrait of Alexander befitting the great king, placing him in their own historical context. It is precisely that kind of setting that I often find awkward.

Paintings by Charles le Brun (Entry into BabylonAlexander and Porus, the Battle of Arbela, etc.), Peter-Paul Rubens (Roxane), Paolo Veronese (The family of Darius before Alexander), Jacques-Louis David and Tieopolo (Alexander and Campaspe in the studio of Apelles) are all beautiful representations. Still, for me, those pictures don’t take me back to the very days of Alexander. The same happens with most of the stone and marble renditions of the conqueror by great artists like Verrocchio or Andrea della Robbia, as well as the portraits on cameos and medallions.

Today, I am, however, making an exception for this Alexander frieze displayed on the walls of the cafeteria at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, UK. It is a plaster copy of a work by the Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen. 

The name Thorvaldsen probably doesn’t ring a bell with most of us, but in the 19th century, he was one of the highly successful artists. After his studies at the Copenhagen Academy, he went to Rome, where his enthusiasm for classical sculpture fired his imagination. 

Just like the copy we find in Preston, the original Alexander Frieze was also made of plaster. It was actually commissioned in 1812 to celebrate Napoleon’s entry into Rome. It took Thorvaldsen three months to accomplish this masterpiece. Yet, Napoleon never showed up in Rome, and the frieze remained at the Palazzo Quirinale. 

However, the scene was so inspiring that two other versions were created in marble. One for Count Sommariva, who lived near Lake Como in Italy, and one for the Palace of Christianborg in Copenhagen. Several plaster casts were made during Thorvaldsen’s lifetime and also afterwards. The Preston copy arrived in England in 1862 to celebrate Danish art at the International Exhibition in London. The Victoria and Albert Museum offered this piece of art to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston in 1987.


The scene of the frieze loosely interprets the triumphant entry of Alexander the Great into Babylon in 331 BC. Basically, the frieze starts from two sides. One is showing the army led by Alexander in a chariot, and the other the citizens of Babylon led by the goddess of peace holding an olive branch. 

The frieze is a magnificent piece of art, and I feel it deserves a better setting than a cafeteria, even if it fits the neo-classical style of the building! Thorvaldsen truly understood the essence of Greek art, or rather Hellenistic art, at its apotheosis. It is not surprising to learn that the piece has been copied so many times. Napoleon clearly did not realize what he missed...

The frieze closely reflects the frieze of the Parthenon with its successive figures on horseback and their cloaks bulging in the wind. I love the lively details the artist managed to incorporate. There is this cute looking elephant carrying the trophies of war taken from the Persians. Or the Babylonian flower girls and musicians, and the chained lions. I am staring in awe at the knelt figure dragging an altar because it reminds me of a similar artifact I encountered at the Museum of Morgantina in Sicily. That specific altar from the 3rd century BC was made of silver and was found at the House of the wealthy Eupolemos, as part of an extraordinary hoard of silverware (see: Haggling over the silver hoard of Morgantina). 

I secretly wonder whether Alexander carried a similar altar with him on his campaigns. We may never know for sure, but it certainly is not impossible.

[Pictures are reproduced with the courtesy of Jim Cleary]

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

New technologies to map hidden ancient Gerasa

Archaeology is evolving fast forward, thanks to the constant flow of new technology. One of the latest techniques in that field is using laser pulses from an aircraft to create an exact 3D map. This is called LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging.

This revolutionary procedure is particularly useful to quickly map large areas with a high degree of accuracy. At present, Jerash, the ancient city of Gerasa (see: Alexander, founder of Gerasa), has been scrutinized. Until now, all we had to go by were old archival data and historical aerial photographs going back as far as the First World War. 

Results of the mapping process, showing newly identified features and previously mapped structures. The results demonstrate that a substantial number of archaeological features can be identified. These are complex to interpret, but the outline of a probable road network (Inset), and urban subdivisions are visible, along with a large number of subrectangular features likely indicative of building foundations.
[Picture from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America]

Urban development, here as elsewhere, has considerably changed the picture. Modern Jerash is a booming town and unfortunately for the archaeologists, at least 50% is built on top of old Gerasa.

Thanks to this new technology, researchers and archaeologists can see all those hidden remains, down to the most subtle and most difficult discernable features. Maps are lovely tools to study the past and looking at the 3D LiDAR map reveals so many details hitherto unknown. Much has been destroyed, but much is still there to be discovered and to be preserved for the future.

A good example is, for instance, the water management in ancient Gerasa that become apparent on the 3D maps (see: Water management in antiquity). A complex and sophisticated series of aqueducts and irrigation channels transported the essential water from nearby rivers and springs. 

I am convinced that there are many other clues about the organization and administration of ancient Gerasa waiting to be revealed. It will be wonderful to follow up on what is being exposed in Jerash and how this technology will be applied to other vestiges from antiquity.

The full article about this LiDAR technology is available in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, co-written by David Stott, Søren Much Kristiansen, Achim Lichtenberger and Rubina Raja.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Alexander caring for the wounded and the dead

Battlefields always revolve around numbers and tactical moves. The human aspect is generally left out, simply because it is an inevitable by-product of war. Modern warfare is far more clinical, and statistics of the number of dead and wounded are kept pretty accurately.

In antiquity, the situation was entirely different. A person’s life was of little value. Men died in battle, women died in childbirth, and if they managed to escape that fate, they could fall victim to raids from a neighboring town and finally die as a slave. Not the happiest prospect for any being, unless you belonged to the upper class of society. But still.

The Greeks considered that dying on the battlefield was an honorable death, but they were not ready to sacrifice their lives to that sole purpose.

When I watched Oliver Stone’s picture of the aftermaths of the Battle of Gaugamela with hundreds and thousands of corpses spread over the battlefield, I remembered a similar shot of Atlanta in the movie Gone with the Wind. In both scenarios, I wondered about the smell of these decaying bodies of men and beasts, the puddles of blood and excrement, the buzzing of the flies, and the vultures uttering their guttural screams. There is nothing glorious left on a battlefield after the victory is claimed by one party.

Following Alexander on his major confrontations at the Granicus, at Issus, at Gaugamela and on the Hydaspes, our sources from antiquity wind up producing the strangest figures when it comes to counting the dead. Numbers on either side have been distorted. They were either to make the losses on the enemy’s side much higher than they were or to reduce the casualties on Alexander’s side to a questionable minimum. It is impossible to verify any of the information that has reached us through Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, Curtius or Justin, more so because it was penned down centuries after the facts.

As to the wounded, it seems they were not accounted for, or only in exceptional cases. Counting the dead on a battlefield did not equate the ultimate number of casualties. Many of the wounded were bound to die afterwards. 

Hygiene is a foreign word in antiquity, and if there was any basic knowledge, it was a far cry from our modern concept. We should remember, however, that Alexander had a great interest in medicine and learned from Aristotle everything he could. Healing illnesses with plants and specific concoctions was one aspect but stitching the soldiers’ cuts back together and cleaning their wounds was another.

If we consider the many cases of trepanation that were successfully carried out since the Neolithic, we must admit that the knowledge available in antiquity is far beyond what we might think. PhilipAlexander’s father, lost an eye and survived the operation quite well. So did Antigonus-the-One-Eyed. Speaking of eyes, it is known that cataract surgeries were performed as early as 4,000 BC by the Egyptians. The list of medical wonders is probably endless, but the point I am trying to make is that the physicians in Alexander’s army were far more knowledgeable than we may believe. Cleanliness certainly was one of the main requirements. 

Early last century, for instance, it was essential to wash a bleeding wound with water and soap. This has been done for centuries and may well have been applied by the caretakers in antiquity. In my own youth, when a wound was infected, it was to be soaked repeatedly in hot water and soda. The ancients may well have used something similar to soda. The technique of cauterization was known long before the early trappers in the American West, and that knowledge was inherited from earlier generations. A hot knife, dagger or even a sword would seal the wound and kill the bacteria at the same time.

It has been reported that Alexander visited the wounded after the battle. Going from one soldier to the next, he listened to their report, how they had been injured, acknowledged their courage and showed them respect. I am sure that the king checked their wounds and how they were treated. The caretakers and physicians were watched closely by Alexander because he, himself, had considerable knowledge of healthcare and medicine. In the end, he gave his soldiers and the caretakers a huge boost in morale. There cannot have been a better medicine than that. In the end, this may well be the secret for the low rates of mortality among the Macedonian troops.

What about the wounded enemies, one might wonder? Well, I don’t think that the Macedonians were inclined to show much pity, if any, to their adversaries. They were not in for half measures, just as Alexander wasn’t. For them, the enemy had to be eliminated. I would doubt if any of the wounded were left behind with some breath in their lungs. 

When the enemy, however, asked to retrieve their dead to give them a proper burial, Alexander did not refuse. We’ll remember how he even sent the body of Darius III back to his mother to accomplish the funeral according to the Persian customs. On an earlier occasion, at Issus, the king had also given the Queen Mother permission to bury the Persians from the battlefield. The recovery of wounded enemy soldiers is never mentioned.

The soldiers who died in Alexander’s service always received an appropriate burial with full honors. After the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander instructed Lysippos to create a bronze memorial for the 25 cavalrymen who had fallen on the battlefield. For several centuries, it stood in Dion, the sanctuary of Macedonia.

The list of lavish and expensive burials is a long one. I relied on Frank Holt’s account, as mentioned in his book “The Treasures of Alexander the Great”. For the soldiers as a group, there was a burial at Issus in 333 BC, Ecbatana in 330 BC, on the Polytimetus River in 329 BC, and Sangala in 326 BC. Personal and more elaborated funerals took place in honor of his generals/companions, Hector in Egypt in 331 BC, Nicanor in Alexandria Ariana in 330 BC, Philip and Erigyius in Sogdiana in 327 BC, Demaratus in 327 BC, and Coenus on the Hydaspes River in 326 BC. Also to be mentioned is the gymnosophist and sophist Calanus from Taxila, who self-immolated himself in Susa in 324 BC. Last but certainly not least was the expensive funeral pyre which Alexander had built for his dearest Hephaistion who died in Ecbatana in 324 BC.

Clearly, nothing was too good for the dead.

[The picture of the battlefield is from Oliver Stones' movie Alexander]