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 in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in 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)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jaxartes River and the Iron Gates (Central Asia 6)

[5 - Alexander moved to the end of the Persian Empire on the Jaxartes River (modern Syr Darya) through the Iron Gates (the only road east out of Maracanda), over Jizzak and Uratube.]

On my travel across Uzbekistan, I happen to drive on the road from Samarkand to Tashkent, which inevitably passes through the Gates of Tamerlane or Iron Gates, i.e. the only way to go east from Samarkand – now as it was in antiquity. This narrow passage is just wide enough to let the Sanzar River run through, flanked by a railroad and our main road. The lush grasses along the river offer good grazing grounds for a handful of cows and goats – a timeless picture, no doubt. In short, this pass is worth of Thermopylae, an easy place to defend.

It is obvious that history has been written here over the centuries and Alexander was no exception. Spirits from the past still seem to haunt the present carried by the winds squeezed at increasing speed between these steep rocky walls. On either side of the pass, these same walls once carried two Persian inscriptions; one telling about Ulugbek’s campaigns (the grandson of Tamerlane); the other about the brutal murder of Abdullah Khan, son of Iskandar Khan. Luckily both panels have been removed and placed in the care of the museum because the walls are desperately defaced with horrible screaming graffiti. Isn’t there a law against this? There is, but nobody seems to reinforce it. A dreadful sight for such a historic location!

It should be noted that there are two places in Uzbekistan labeled as “Iron Gates”. There is this one, on the road out of Central Asia to the east and there is a place south of Samarkand near Derbent which I mentioned above when Ptolemy went in pursuit of Bessus (I have not seen it for myself). Useless to mention that this adds to the confusing in locating Alexander’s path through Bactria and Sogdiana.

We drive on through Jizzak, an uneventful place. Further north we unexpectedly have to take a detour because of the intricate jigsaw puzzle borderline with Kazakhstan. The main road runs right through that foreign enclave, a complicated situation with customs and passport control we rather avoid by driving around it. We loose precious time, as far as I’m concerned for when we finally reach the Jaxartes River, of which I had such high hopes, it is pitch dark. The beams of the bridge flash by against a black void where the Jaxartes is said to run. What a disappointment that is.

This is one of the places of which we know for sure that Alexander was here and now I can’t see it! In the summer of 329 BC, he entered Maracanda, but not for long as he badly needed to secure the borders of his newly acquired empire which the Persians had set along the Jaxartes River (Syr Darya). On this occasion, he must have passed through these very same Iron Gates and the city of Jizzak to reach the Jaxartes which I didn’t see. So much for tracing Alexander in this corner of Uzbekistan!

[Click here to see all my pictures of the Iron Gates]
Click here to read Episode 7 of Central Asia .


  1. I like this concept. I visited your blog for the first time and just been your fan. Keep posting as I am gonna come to read it everyday!!

  2. Thank you. What is your field of interest? Is it Alexander the Great or the countries he visited?