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, Afghanistan) - 329 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)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Alexander’s army crossing Mount Climax

“Alexander now left Phaselis. Part of his forces he dispatched over the mountains towards Perga, along tracks made for him by the Thracians to facilitate what was otherwise a long and difficult journey. He himself marched with picked troops along the coast, a route which is practicable only in northerly winds – during southerlies the beach is impassable. It had been blowing hard from the south before he started; but (by the grace of God, as both he and his staff felt) the wind went round into the north and made the passage quick and easy.”  This is what Arrian tells us. Plutarch, however, only mentions a “heaven-sent stroke of fortune”. 

Well, whatever the case, I have been on the lookout for this mountain path taken by the bulk of Alexander’s army. The coastal road north from Phaselis to today’s Antalya is winding around the flanks of the mountains offering very few openings to the hinterland. Each year more and more tunnels are being built for the comfort of the many tourists driving west from Antalya to the many resorts and hotels that fill the narrow stretch of land at the foot of Tahtali Mountains. Somehow I had the feeling that if I looked close enough I would spot the army’s access road. 

Freya Stark (see: Alexander’s Path) did an excellent job crisscrossing these mountains over and over, exploring every single pass till she found a plausible route Alexander's army could have followed through eastern Lycia during the winter of 334/333 BC. She carefully studied all the possibilities and found his tracks all the way to Phaselis. From here, to reach Perge, Alexander chose the shorter passage along the seashore that turned out to be as difficult had not the winds and the gods played in his favor. Most of the army, however, as told by Arrian marched over the Tahtali Mountains following the tracks cleared by the Thracian engineers. 

This is fascinating territory as far as I’m concerned as for centuries the Tahtali Mountains served as separation-line where Greece occupancy ended and Persian rule started. The highest snow-capped peak was obviously claimed by the Greeks and appropriately named Mount Olympos – what else? With its 2,366 meters it is also known as Mount Climax and it still commands the scenery. 

One day in early January, I find myself at the embouchure of a half-dried up Kesme River looking inland at the ever changing moods of these mountains. The way upstream is lost behind a modern bridge at a tiny village with a minaret pointing to the mosque at the foot of the abrupt rising rock-wall. In the ever changing light I even discover odd rounded rocky knobs rising straight up from the valley floor. They remind me of the sugarloaf mountains around Rio de Janeiro. That is where Lycia begins. Clouds throw threatening shadows over the landscape giving the sun a chance to highlight details otherwise shrouded in the low hanging clouds or blending in with the overall view. 

Standing here on the banks of the river mirroring the mysterious snow-capped giants, my thoughts drift off to Alexander who had to march his troops over this rough chain of mountains while he himself would be wading through the water somewhere further north from here. The gods are said to have bowed to him, nothing less. I have seen that very shore from the gulet sailing from Phaselis to Antalya, and that left a deep impression as I in turn bowed to Alexander’s courage and determination!

It was nothing more than a gut-feeling that I thought this was the place where the Macedonians started their perilous climb, but afterwards I learnt I was right. I should have gone upstream to investigate the possible roads and paths for myself. The end of the Kesme Valley is still luring - maybe I’ll drive up there one day soon!

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