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)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Alexander’s Prison?

Walking through the narrow streets of Yazd (Iran), I was surprised to find a sign-post pointing towards Alexander’s Prison. What does it mean? Alexander never was in Yazd as far as I know but he may, of course, have sent one of his generals here with explicit orders; this would make the connection with Alexander plausible – but still.

The formal explanation I received from the local guide is that during the reign of Alexander a number of Persian nobles resisting his domination started a revolt in Rhagae, near modern Tehran. Alexander had them arrested and on his way to Yazd, he imprisoned them in this fortress with a deep well in its courtyard.

Who knows what really happened, but it is a strange story since Alexander marched from Persepolis past Isfahan to Ecbatana, and from there via Qazvin to Raghae. Yazd is, however, located some 300 km east of his route Persepolis-Isfahan, which contradicts the local story that he was on his way from Raghae (Tehran) to Yazd in the south. In any case, the so-called Prison of Alexander in Yazd is still standing and has been converted into a school.

The Lonely Planet relates a story similar to that of my guide but mentions that it might have emerged from a poem by Hafez, who, together with Saadi is one of the greatest poets Iran has ever known. Today Hafez is till the most popular poet in Iran and everyone can sing or recite one of his poems.

Whatever truth is hidden behind this tale, I never heard of this prison in Yazd or of its connection with Alexander, but then the same story or fable is told about Balkh in Afghanistan whose origin would also be a prison established by Alexander. One thing is certain, the King of Asia is still very much alive in those parts of the world. There are many other examples like the one about the Alexander Fort at Nurata, the ancient city of Nur, which he founded in 327 BC. Uzbek sources relate that Alexander instructed one of his generals, a certain Farhangi-Sarhang to build a fort that even he could not take, and he was successful at that! (see: Sogdian Rocks and Alexander’s Fort near Nurata). Another of those legends is about the Alexander River (Iskander Darya) that flows out of an Alexander Lake (Iskander Kül), also in Uzbekistan. It is believed that he built a golden dam to create the lake and that gold particles can still be panned further downstream. Another story tells how Alexander and his trusted horse Bucephalus rise from this lake every full moon to cross the sky (see: March to Maracanda).

These are all fascinating anecdotes that are being told over and over, keeping the name and the memory of Alexander the Great alive.

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