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 Drangiana/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 Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 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)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Kalash, a lost tribe of Alexander the Great?

A far searched statement? Maybe. Maybe not.


"Long, long ago, before the days of Islam, Sikander e Aazem came to India. The Two Horned one whom you British people call Alexander the Great. He conquered the world, and was a very great man, brave and dauntless and generous to his followers. When he left to go back to Greece, some of his men did not wish to go back with him but preferred to stay here. Their leader was a general called Shalakash (i.e.: Seleucus). With some of his officers and men, he came to these valleys and they settled here and took local women, and here they stayed.
We, the Kalash, the Black Kafir of the Hindu Kush, are the descendants of their children. Still some of our words are the same as theirs, our music and our dances, too; we worship the same gods. This is why we believe the Greeks are our first ancestors."

This is what Kazi Khushnawaz, a Kalash himself, is telling today. What a family tree to claim!

The Kalash are living in a remote area of northwestern Pakistan on the steep slopes of mighty Hindu Kush. It seems they have a great deal of similarities with the Greeks from Alexander’s time, such as their religion, their culture and their language – or is this more wishful thinking than anything else?

The story goes that they believe in many gods and more specifically in the twelve gods of ancient Greece including Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite. Shrines in their honor can be found in every Kalash village – a reminder of the sanctuaries we would expect in ancient Greece. Oracles, believe it or not, still play an important role in their social structure where every question or prayer to the gods usually includes an animal sacrifice.

And then there is their ritual “Day of the Transfiguration” which is celebrated on August 6th when the grapes are ripe and offered to Dionysus asking his blessing for a plentiful harvest. In ancient Greece Dionysus was the god of wine and fertility, but what is he doing here in Pakistan, an Islamic country prohibiting the use of alcohol? The Kalash are certainly an exception as they produce and consume wine.

They also feast with songs and dances and in their dance, the Kalash move in circles and shout cries of “i-a” and “i-o” which would be inspired by the battle-cry of the Macedonian soldiers.

Another oddity in the Kalash’s lifestyle can be found in their furniture. They are the only ones in the East to decorate their chairs with drawings such as the ram’s horns which can be traced back to Alexander’s helmet and even battle scenes depicting Greek soldiers, not at all unlike those discovered in Vergina, Greece.

The British explorer George Robertson concluded in 1896 that half of the Kalash’s language derived from ancient Greek and there is the story about a tablet found in one of the villages carrying some hieroglyphics, which when translated read “Alexander the Great lives forever”. Lots of things to think about …

Many have been puzzled by the Kalash’s “European” looks due to their unusual number of light haired and skinned people as well as by their green eyes. Although Pashtuns and Persians have been known for their blond hair or green eyes, that may not be conclusive, especially since extensive genetic testing has shown no connection… According to in-depth studies, their blue and green eyes may simply be the result of isolated recessive genes due to isolated genetic parentage or even inbreeding and mutation.

According to the Kalash’s own myths however, their founder was a “horned-god” and an equestrian conqueror with devilish horns – yes, a picture that matches that of Alexander the Great with his horned helmet. Yet, there is no smoke without fire. Their claim as descendants of Alexander the Great may simply refer to the political and economic legacy of Alexander’s Empire. After all, he left his marks on all the lands he conquered, not the least the Hellenistic influence that continued for a number of centuries. Besides, the tale of the “two-horned Iskander" is told everywhere in Asia.

It is difficult to know what to believe or not. Of course, the Kalash’s Greek origins may simply be the inevitable blend of the Greco-Kushan tradition spiced with Buddhist influence and left-overs from Zoroastrian origins. The Kalash were surely part of Alexander’s conquest and legacy, meaning that the tale of the “two-horned Iskander” may simply have been passed down the generations. Like other disparate and unique tribes as the Pamirs and the Kush found throughout Central Asia, they may have settled in the area after Alexander’s campaigns but as proved by recent studies published in the European Journal of Human Genetics they almost certainly are not Greek.

Well, so much for all the Alexander believers who like to find his offsprings at the end of the world and for the everlasting optimists who see Alexander everywhere. Each of us will have to draw his or her own conclusions …

13 comments:

  1. I hope I'm not tiring you with all these comments, but I couldn't resist here. :)

    I've heard of the Kalash several times from my parents, who both hailed from Pakistan. Their unique culture, as well as their amazing founding myth has brought them trouble with the Taliban, and there have been attempts by several in Pakistan to convert them to Islam, which horrifies me as the loss of this wonderful culture would be tragic.

    While they are definitely not Greek, the similarities of culture, religion and language are confounding! I hope to visit these wonderful people someday and hear their stories and watch their dances.

    Alexander's appearance as a founding myth is not unique to the Kalash, but also the Barusho and the Pathans. The Kalash and Barusho are not genetically Greek, but the Pathans, who have legends that they are variously the descendents of the Macedonian army or the lost tribes of Israel, appear to have a small admixture of haplotype E3b1, which is heavily concentrated in the Balkans, Macedonia and Bulgaria in particular. It appears Pathans and Pashto speakers have mingled with Macedonian blood at some point in their genetic history-the question is whether it was by Greek slaves, Macedonian colony/Army, or Hellenistic trade routes.

    Either way, I think this interest in Alexander from these tribes, and by Pakistani and Indian people in general, is a tribute to Alexander's legacy. His stay in India was short, but long enough to entrench his magnetic persona into the cultural memory of the region, which has surfaced in the most intriguing ways.

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    1. Hello Sheri,
      I wrote an answer on August 21, but it has disappeared it seems. So I'm resending it again.

      I still owe you an answer to this comment of yours. It took me a moment for I was not familiar with the Pathans your are mentioning till I found out that they are also known as Pashtu, so now I am back on track – thank you!

      Basically I think it is inevitable that some Macedonian blood is running through the veins of many peoples of Persia, Central Asia, Pakistan or India. You will remember that Alexander “legalized” his veterans’ marriages with Asian wives at Susa, bestowing a royal gift on every 10,000 of them. To those figures you have to add those veterans no longer fit for service that were left behind in the many fortresses or cities he founded during his march and definitely the countless intimate contacts his soldiers had along the way... It must amount to quite an impressive quantity of intimate exchanges!

      I like your remark about Alexander’s “magnetic persona” leaving an everlasting imprint on many tribes in Pakistan and India. It seems to be more than what is being remembered of him in our Western memories, don’t you think so?

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  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoiGhRGCHtQ

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  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BEcoyTUsFk

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  4. Thanks for bringing these 2 YouTube compilations to my attention. In my opinion however these have been made to polish the national pride of the Albanians. They are, of course, the descendants of the ancient Illyrians but to state that the Illyrians are the ancient Macedonians and that Alexander the Great was Illyrian is pushing things too far! Illyria was conquered by Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander's father, and became part of Macedonia under Philip and under Alexander.
    As described in my article, nothing is certain about Macedonian legacy among the Kalash people, hence there is even less certainty about any Illyrians legacy. None is conclusive.

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  5. Look's like it's just a legend.
    But why do the researches assume the Macedon army only carried the Clade E lineages?

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    1. Yes, it looks like a legend, but when we are tracing history back some 2,500 years it becomes very difficult to judge where reality stops and myth takes over. Alexander was a legend in his lifetime and his hallow has not diminished since. So it is up to everyone of us to draw the line between legend and truth. A fact remains, however, that the memory of Alexander is still alive after so many centuries and that by itself is a great legacy, don't you think so?
      As to the genetic question, I'll have to leave that to the researchers in their own field ...

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  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M99ze151HvA

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  7. My dear friend Argyraspid probably you understand the Greek language better than me. These things are illustrated by the Greek historians. -not by Albanians.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this look into the recent history of Greece.

      Like history of all peoples in all countries, our world is not as black and white as it may seem. Besides, looking at our past is different from what is was, let’s say 50 or 100 years ago, and will again be different in another 50 or 100 years from now.

      Sticking to Alexander, he was seen differently by the Macedonians than by the Greeks or the Persians for that matter. His army had a different opinion from that of his historians. Even today, Greece, FYROM, Albania or the Balkans, all have their own picture of Alexander, and even in the Middle or Far East he appears as a totally different person.

      So where lies the truth? Hard to tell. I have decided to make up may own mind – after all that’s what all historians and authors do …

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  8. Alexander the great was a macedonian king, our macedonian ancestors called him Alexander Macedonian as we do but because we lost the war with the Romans from the East ,after his death, the they have strategically deleted the last name macedonian and added "great" so that they admire his accomplishments, but do a favore to their fellow Greeks with whom they have been in an alliance against Macedonia and Carthage at the time.
    - Written from a macedonian that lives on the Balkan
    PS: The only thing my grandfather told me about our neighbours - the Greeks is that they can never be thrusted because they lie all the time to everyone.

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  9. I am Indian - from India and the southern part that is, which Alexander never came near!
    It is interesting that even today, a great warrior is still described as a veritable "Sikander" in India!

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    1. Yes, isn't that amazing? Time and again I am confronted with legends about Alexander that have settled into today's normal daily life.
      If Alexander wanted indeed to be remembered in posterity, he certainly achieved his goal and much and much more!
      Thank you for your thoughts!

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