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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The battle of the Hydaspes and the genius of Alexander


This battle is by far the greatest battle Alexander ever fought, yet it also is the one generally overlooked by historians and truly dwarfed by all previous similar confrontations. The Granicus was Alexander’s first test against the Persians who had underestimated their adversary. At Issus, Darius appeared in person on the battlefield but this was not the terrain he had chosen; listening to bad advice he moved his army to find himself cornered in a far too small area for his massive number of men. Darius fled to save his bare life, meaning that he had to challenge Alexander in another fight. This time, at Gaugamela the terrain was exactly what Darius needed but Alexander tricked him into opening his defensive lines and eventually charged straight at Darius. Again the king fled, and kept on fleeing till he was assassinated by one of his own kin, Bessus, who promoted himself to be the new king.

At the Hydaspes River, things were entirely different. Alexander’s adversary was Porus, a powerful Indian ruler both in posture and in command, who was not going to budge from his choice location and advantageous position on the east bank of the river Hydaspes.

I think Alexander liked the challenge to this kind of battle, one army opposing the other where he could deploy all his strategic skills. This had not happened since Gaugamela as in Central Asia he had to adapt his tactics of warfare and convert them into a guerrilla war – a far cry from a glorious fight!

So, here we are in May 326 BC. After crossing the Indus River, Alexander is moving east and at about 77 km away from the next major river, the Hydaspes (modern Jhelum River) he is informed that Porus has set up his massive line of defense on the opposite river bank ready to keep the advancing Macedonian army out of his territory.

Porus’ army must have looked very impressive from the onset. Ancient authors describe it as an enormous wall of 30,000 men/infantry interrupted at an equal distance by a towering elephant of which there were at least 85 depending on the sources. Spread among the foot soldiers were powerful archers using 90cm high bows able to shoot cumbersome large arrows. Some 300 four-horse chariots and 3,000 cavalry completed the setting. Porus dressed in silver and gold armor sat on the largest elephant, looming over the entire army – enough to frighten any enemy. Besides, the river at this point was almost 800 meters wide, and this time of year an impetuous current offering no real fording in spite of some sandy islets. Ancient sources compare Porus’ army to a huge city wall (infantry) with intermittent towers (elephants).

It was immediately clear to Alexander that there was no way he could cross the river and attack Porus frontally, and that he would have to develop a good strategy. At first, he tested his adversary and for days in a row he had Ptolemy move his army then upstream, then downstream, shouting and making as much noise as possible, threatening to cross the river. Porus, well-prepared to impede his opponent’s army to cross followed course, moving simultaneously up and downstream. As after many days nothing happened, Porus’ attention relaxed. This was exactly what Alexander had hoped for and while his men were moving back and forth, he explored the river bank further inland and found a wooded island some 28 km upstream, just behind an angle in the Hydaspes River. At that point, the river bank at his side also had a depression just deep enough to hide his army both foot and cavalry from sight. In other words, an almost ideal place to cross the river in spate.

In order to fool his adversary further, Alexander directed his pavilion to be set up further downstream with his personal squadron standing guard and all his personal royal paraphernalia in sight. He went even as far as to dress his general Attalus in his own attire with the royal chlamys and all so he would easily be confused with Alexander since he had the same build and appearance as his king – at least from a distance. Attalus was also instructed to make excursions to the edge of the river with the king’s entourage to this spot or that in order to give the impression that he was planning a crossing. What a stratagem!

It now all came down to choosing the proper moment and clearly the gods were on Alexander side. After dark, when a heavy thunderstorm broke loose at nightfall he decided to make his move. Meanwhile, Ptolemy was still marching up and downstream with his troops and Craterus was left behind to light as many fires and make as much noise as he could in order to create the impression that the entire army was still there. His instructions were to cross the river and join the battle only when he could see that the Macedonians had broken the Indian lines.

The night was pitch dark and the Macedonians could hardly see one another, they had to shout to stay in touch but their voices were dwarfed by the wailing winds and the noise of thunder and lighting. Tempestuous rains drenched the soldiers who were at times swamped by the downpour. Fortune definitely was on their side for under these circumstances their sounds were not carried over to the enemy lines. It is amazing how Alexander managed to keep his men together during such a spooky night. In spite of the blacked-out heavens, he managed to reach the depression near the crossing spot, probably by midnight or soon thereafter. Alexander’s troops must have been exhausted after this horrific night march of nearly thirty kilometers and he allowed his men a rest. Just before dawn when the rain stopped and the wind died a little, he signaled his forces to embark on the ships and the rafts made of inflated hides with wooden decking. The king himself launched his own vessel first (of course) and as Porus’ attention was still focused on Ptolemy feign-maneuvers Alexander and his troops landed unnoticed on the wooded island. From here, Alexander and his men waded through the second part of the river, whose fast flowing icy waters reached to their armpits and submerged the horses to their necks. It seems that this action escaped the enemy’s attention till Alexander had reached Porus’ side of the river. The cavalry was first to set foot on land and Alexander immediately set off in the direction of Porus, instructing the infantry to follow as soon as they had safely crossed the river.

Porus, at first, assumed that his reinforcements were joining up with him but his scouts soon discovered that their foe had managed to come across the river. The Indian ruler deployed 100 four-horse chariots and 4,000 cavalry commanded by his son. The force of the chariot is not to be underestimated because each vehicle was manned by six men, two of which were archers posted on either side of the chariot and two bore shields while the two remaining men were charioteers armed with javelins. That is at least what Curtius tells us although we may wonder how he could fit that many men on the small carriage floor.

Fortune once again was at Alexander’s side because after the recent heavy downpours the sandy bank was slimy and totally impracticable for these vehicles which soon became bogged down. Alexander immediately sent his available light infantry to attack them. A wild fight followed as the charioteers desperately tried to get some control over their vehicle, to no avail and soon all of them were put out of action. Porus’ son who had led the operation was killed in the skirmish.

Unable to impede Alexander’s crossing of the Hydaspes, Porus now had to attack his adversary. He moved north in search of relatively dry sandy land where he could effectively post the majority of his elephants, his greatest weapon, in a massive battle formation. It was immediately clear to Alexander that the Indian formation was fundamentally defensive, which in turn allowed him plenty of time to wait for his infantry to catch up with him. After having crossed the second part of the Hydaspes, these men had to take on what normally was a day-march of nearly 30 km. They had already completed an equivalent march the previous night followed by a tempestuous river crossing and it is obvious that by the time they rejoined their king they must have been pretty exhausted. It was only sensible to allow them a rest before starting the battle. In order to conceal the presence of his 9,000 infantry and the strategy of his own deployment to Porus, he ordered his 5,300 strong cavalry to keep moving back and forth in front of the Macedonian army. The trick worked, just as Alexander expected.

We don’t know how much rest the army was given before commencing the battle, but Alexander certainly had plenty of time to study the enemy’s position. Porus’ had again arranged his elephant in the front line, some thirty meters apart and his foot soldiers filled the gaps by standing in formation behind them. On either side, he has posted his cavalry protected by the remaining chariots in front of them. Alexander, rightfully so, assumed that Porus would keep his front line together and march in a straight line. He decided to start by eliminating the Indian cavalry to enable the flanking attack he liked so much.

When Alexander’s troops were rested, he moved his infantry to the center facing Porus’ line and all his cavalry to the far right. His instructions were very clear. The infantry was to stay put till the Indians were thrown into confusion by the Macedonian cavalry. Coenus and Perdiccas at the head of the Companion cavalry should stay behind at their assigned place till Porus called his cavalry from his own right flank to support his left against Alexander.

The scene is set and Alexander starts the attack by moving forward in an oblique line away from the trumpeting elephants. Porus’ cavalry followed suit, extending their own lines to prevent a flanking attack. However, the Indian ruler soon realized that he had to call for horse reinforcements from his own right flank. This was exactly what Alexander had anticipated and conform the king’s orders Coenus and Perdiccas moved towards the empty cavalry spot of the enemy. They passed behind the Macedonian infantry, turned behind Porus’ aligned infantry and fell on the enemy’s cavalry from behind, which by now was totally encircled. At this point, the only solution for Porus was to divide his cavalry in two, one group would face Alexander’s attack and the other the Coenus/Perdiccas forces. Alexander’s timing had been perfect and he now was able to launch his flanking attack which was a total success. The Indian horsemen fell back into confusion on the elephants who were called in to assist them. At this point, the solid straight line of defense broke down, which automatically created the opportunity for the Macedonian infantry to rush forward and join the action.

[Map from Frank Holt's book 'Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions' reproduced with the approval of the author for which I am very grateful]

One thing is certain, hell broke lose! Porus’ elephants were his greatest strength and most probably Alexander’s greatest challenge. The Macedonian king was quick to realize that his heavy infantry was ill-equipped to deal with these beasts and he sent his light-armed troops to poke the elephants and their drivers with arrows and javelins. Curtius graphically describes how enraged elephants trampled the Macedonians and threw others over their heads. In spite of a renewed attack by the Indian cavalry, they were no match for the Macedonians. Coenus had joined ranks with Alexander and together they made successive attacks on the Indian cavalry and infantry. Through the joint pressure of the Macedonian heavy infantry and the Companion Cavalry the elephants were forced back onto their own troops. As most of the mahouts had been killed the cornered beasts trampled to death both friend and foe. The wounded and bewildered animals could no longer be controlled; maddened by pain and fear they spread death all around them. The Indian cavalry was jammed by the elephants and having no space to move suffered severe losses also. The Macedonian infantry had enough moving space to manoeuver and tried to deal at best with the madden elephants, but the trapped Indians suffered badly.

Gradually the elephants became exhausted and their charges grew weaker. Alexander saw the time right to encircle what remained of the Indian army, signaling his infantry “to lock shields” and advance onto the enemy en masse. Those who were able to escape through a small gap in the cavalry line did so but were intercepted by Craterus, who by now and according to his instructions had crossed the Hydaspes with fresh troops and joined the fight. The entire battle must have been a grueling carnage!

Although Porus still towering above the battlefield had been wounded at least nine times and bled profusely, he kept on fighting with undiminished verve until he collapsed. His mahout turned his master’s massive elephant and set in the flight, with Alexander evidently in close pursuit. At this point, Alexander’s horse was shot from under him and some assume this was how and when his dear Bucephalus died while other sources tell us that his horse died from old age. In any case, Alexander lost some time in his pursuit as he had to mount another horse.

Alexander sent a messenger to Porus asking for his surrender, which he proudly refused. The events that followed seem to come straight out of some tale about a fearless knight. Flights of missiles of all kinds were hurled towards the Indians and their powerful king, who started to collapse and slid down his mount. His mahout thinking that Porus wanted to dismount, directed the elephant to crouch down on its knees and automatically all the other elephants did the same. Thinking that Porus had died, Alexander ordered his body to be stripped but as soon as the Macedonians approached, the elephant began to stand guard over his rider and menaced whoever dared to approach. He then picked up his noble king and put him back on its back. Once again the Macedonian attacked in full force with an overwhelming amount of missiles till the elephant fell down. Porus was laid in a chariot.

Soon word spread that the Indian king was dead and his army set out to flee. For Alexander the fight was over; he clearly was victorious and he sounded the recall of his troops. As he went over to Porus and saw him move his eyelids he could not help but ask why he had not surrendered when offered. According to some source Porus seems to have answered that he considered that there was nobody as strong as him “though I knew my own power, I had not yet tested yours”. When asked how he should be treated, Porus responded with the known phrase “as a king”. He evidently won Alexander over not by compassion but by respect. Alexander had Porus’ wounds cared for and when against all odds he recovered, Alexander restored his kingdom to him and even extended his territory.

[The two action pictures are evidently from Oliver Stone's movie Alexander]

17 comments:

  1. India- The Final Frontier (Part 1)

    By Alexander's time, the Greek already had substantial notions about Egypt and Persia. But India still remained a fantasy world, a never-never land. The very edge of the 'oikoumene'/ the known world, her vastness supposedly abounding in all kinds of spiritual freaks (Aeschylus' "wandering Indians", great wealth ( Sophocles' "Indian gold") and amazing creatures ( Herodotus' "gold-mining dog-sized ants") . Even Alexander believed that he would find the sources of the Nile in India. It was also the land where the earth ended and godhood was achieved, both Dionysus and Heracles had conquered Indians and gained divine status.

    Riches, spiritual prodigies, fantastic animals, vast extents, the end of the world, the land where godhood was achieved or validated ! Of course, Alexander would come here. India -the final frontier ! ( Are you listening Captain Kirk ? :-) ) There was one further enticement. Alexander had subjugated the Persian (conquered) world He must have been burning to prove his mettle against a truly peregrine, 'out-worldly' enemy. In 323 BCE, he crossed the Hindu Kush and invaded the Indian subcontinent. Fighting here would be as arduous as in Bactria and prove to be a bitter-sweet experience for the Macedonians.

    Thank you Argyraspid for crossing the Indus too and bringing us into the fourth and the final major battle of Alexander’s life – the Battle of the Hydaspes River in May, 326 BCE. I had always asked myself why this battle with a border 'minor' rajah Porus was accredited as a major victory of Alexander. Your posting provided the answer.

    Should not we Shouldn't Ask for Directions?
    Rain. Rain. Go Away...
    Too Many Elephants !
    What a frightful din this has been !
    Enmity to magnanimity.

    Thank you for your admirable minute presentation of the battle, it made me understand the full extent of Alexander's genius and why the battle is considered important in Alexander's military career. It was his final great display of strategic flexibility, his "mind games" with Porus in order to get the latter to "drop his guard,", the brilliancy of his on-the-spot last minute maneuvers.... Porus was valiant and 'larger than life' with additional advantages: war elephants and familiar terrain. Yet, Alexander prevailed, got to show his magnanimity towards a noble, defeated but worthy opponent and earned the latter's lasting loyalty. Your detailed account, the lucid, explicit overview of the entire 'hullabaloo' fired my imagination and transported my mind right in the midst of the sound and fury of the battle.

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    1. Wonderful to read that Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush after his death in 323 BC ;-)) Nothing is impossible, is it? But you made up with the crossing of the Hydaspes in 326 BC - thank you!
      I don't think Alexander questioned whether Porus was a major or a minor rajah, he just stood in his way and Porus was most determined to impede Alexander's crossing into his territory.
      The greatness of the ensuing battle lies in the tactics Alexander developped. How good is a plan "B"?

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    2. He ! He ! June 327 BC of course ! Inexcusable blunder indeed ! Especially after I had just re-read A.M. Chugg's Alexander in India. I stand corrected, thanks Argyraspid.

      Hey ! It is the month of May. Should it not be some kind of anniversary of the Hydaspes Battle, the 2342nd ? :-) What saith thou sire Argyraspid ? should not a toast proposed to, say, the spirit of the valiant opponents, to the military genius and magnanimity of Alexander, to the steadfast loyalty the 'as of then' Satrap Porus, to the intrepid spirit of the Bucephalus ....?

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    3. YES! By all means, let us toast to those valiant spirits, the loyalty of Porus, the magnanimity of Alexander and the dauntless spirit of Bucephalus! After all, what other occasion can be worthty such a celebration 2342 years onward?

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    4. May was a very eventful month in Alexander's life, wasn't it? And but not always fortunate, worthy of a toast.

      Of Course , the Battle of the Granicus River in 334 BC, he was almost killed and was saved thanks to Black Cleitus. His first victory against Persia. :-)

      Alas, the month of May was also the month of the destruction of Persepolis in 330 BC. An act Alexander regretted later. :-)

      Finally, May was also the most tragic month. 29th-30th May 323 BC
      he fell ill and over a week later, he was dead. :-((

      (Did you notice that I am careful about my dates now.)

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    5. Yes, thank you for caring about the dates ;-)))
      Whatever happened in May during Alexander's lifetime, I think the great man deserves a toast anyway for we cannot even imagine what the world would have been without him!

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    6. Further to 'May, a very eventful month in Alexandre's live', a well produced 2-minutes long video featuring the month-by-month progress of Alexander's military conquests.

      Link
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2VfQobm1x0&feature=youtu.be

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    7. Lovely to see how Alexander's conquests spread as a big ink blob over the continent!
      Thank you!

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  2. India- the Final Frontier (Part 2)

    Your blog did not accept long comments. Your extensive and comprehensive article deserved fitting feedback) :-)

    Yes ! The Hydaspes battle, undoubtedly, was a brilliant, bitterly gained victory and important battle in Alexander's military career. But where I do not agree with your assertion, Argyraspid, is when you state that « this battle is by far the greatest battle Alexander ever fought ». For us Indic, a layperson like me or the traditional Indian scholarship, it is preposterous that the Macedonians would make such an ado about a victory against a small kingdom which could only muster thirty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry, 300 chariots and a paltry 85 war elephants. Well, if he were able to come down and fight a 'real' battle against Magadha ( Praesii in Greek texts) with its vast eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants ( figures from Plutarch but close to reality) - then that would have been genuinely sterling!

    Alas ! Alexander was not allowed by his own soldiers to proceed further east and test his pluck and luck against 'true blue' major Indian kingdoms. Despite this bitter-sweet Indian expedition, Alexander right from his arrival in Karmania celebrated 'Indian Victory' and started a gung ho 'communication campaign' in order to present the Hydaspes Battle as the Macedonian army's grand victory leading to the conquest India. Why would Alexander do it ? The damage was done, thus even today, some historians continue to depict Alexander's fleeting foray into India's border kingdoms as 'conquest of India', his 'greatest victory'!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kalpana for this extensive response – you really gave this fight a lot of thought. I didn’t know either that there is a size-limit to the comment box. You may be the first to discover it!
      In this second part, you are triggering a totally new discussion: What makes a battle great? I cannot speak from the military point of view, who consider Gaugamela a handbook example for a fight and is even taught at the Military Academy of Westpoint. The Battle of the Hydaspes has not reached that honour. There are, in my mind, several elements that need to be developed here beyond the military. This may not fit in my allotted space in the comment box either, so there will be a new post on this subject soon.
      Meanwhile I have posted my thoughts about the aftermath of this battle, which may provide a partial answer for now.

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    2. Thanks for, Argyraspid your patient and ungrudging replies to my comments.

      Guagamela was certainly historically one of the most significant battles ever. Alexander’s superior tactical judgment, his ability to sift through reports rapidly and deduce events as they unfolded in the chaos of battle, enabled him to overcome superior numbers with minimal losses. One victory under the leadership of a military genius changed the entire course of world history. Western and part of Central and South Asia would remain under Hellenic sovereignty in succeeding centuries. Much of the world would be influenced and largely molded by the amenities of classical Greek education, literature, art and science. No wonder Guagamela is considered ‘a handbook example’ for a fight and is taught at the Military Academy of Westpoint’.

      Nevertheless, I could imagine that it is the Hydaspes Battle that Alexander would consider as his most hard-earned and satisfying victory. We from the modern and a much more globalised age would have difficulties to imagine how much Alexander found himself in circumstances beyond his ken- strange land, strange mores, strange terrain, strange climatic conditions, strange foes, strange war paraphernalia... Surveying Porus and his forces, he is recorded to have exclaimed-’ At last I behold a trial worthy of my spirit, since I am up against both monstrous beasts and warriors of prowess”. Yet, he triumphed over it all- monsoon rains, war elephants, swollen river, gallant enemy. What effort, what performance and achievement, what sense of triumph, what felicity, to at long last, confront an opponent worthy of one-self ! What an woe too, later to realise that his Macedonians did not share his elation and would not be inspired by this victory to proceed further !

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    3. Thank you for this eloquent ovation of Alexander, Kalpana! I could not have worded it any better.
      My intention of writing a separate post about What makes a battle great, has become obsolete. Your argumentation is most convincing!

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  3. India- the Final Frontier ( 3rd and final part )

    Why would Alexander resort to this exaggeration, 'disinformation' in modern lexicon ! Despite your opening assertion, Argyraspid, the numismatic evidence that you have provided above, also gives us the answer. The “Porus ” or “Franks Medallion” (named after the donor of the first example of the coin to the British Museum), discovered in modern Afghanistan in the late 19th century, is a reference to the Macedonian victory at the Hydaspes. It represents not only a very rare surviving depiction of Alexander the Great produced in his lifetime but would also be the earliest known numismatic image of an identified living person and the first ever commemoration of a battle victory on a coin. As such, it imparts a remarkable insight into the mindset of Alexander, his propaganda regarding the battle and his views on his own divinity. On the observe, we see Alexander on horseback attacking from behind. Only a cowardly warrior would attack his opponent from the rear. Therefore, this is not right interpretation, rather Alexander is chasing the retreating Porus on his elephant. Yet, nowhere in the sources is Porus ever described as a cowardly warrior who tried to run away from the battle nor is Alexander reported as having to pursue him from behind (unlike Darius). Why then this false depiction equating Porus' attitude to that of Darius' cowardly posture ? Obviously, the aim is to notify that the Indian conquest was as decisive and complete as his Persian victory. Thankfully for Porus and Indian warriors' reputation, Alexander's chroniclers re-established the truth regarding their valour after Alexander's death. On the reverse of the coin, we see Alexander being crowned by the goddess Victory as he holds a sarissa in his left hand. More importantly his right hand is gripping a lightning bolt, the iconic weapon of Zeus, that normally only the divine lord would hold and wield. Alexander is consequently claiming his share of divinity as the son of Zeus who yields power similar to his divine father. The coin thus validates the fact that Alexander needed to inflate the importance of his sole clear-cut victorious Indian battle and that the endorsement of his divinity was one of the primary agendas for the Indian campaign. As to India- did she really, like the British poet Matthew Arnold said :

    The East bowed low before the blast In patient, deep disdain,
    She let the legions thunder past,
    And plunged in her own thought again ?

    I would reply that though the ancient Indian chroniclers failed to record Alexander or the Macedonian invasion, India was no more to remain the never-never land, the very edge of the 'oikoumene'. Thanks to Alexander, she had joined the world community. It is the accompanying Greeks who saw it fit to describe her to outside world and chronicle the bravery and courage of Porus, of unnamed queen of Muskavati, who led her people to defend their city, of the Malli who would not give up, of the Indian mercenaries of Massaga and their fighting wives.... prompting Arrian to say that the Indians were the bravest soldiers that Alexander encountered. He devastated the North-West Indian territories like a tempest of gore. But she did not plunged back to her thought but sprang to action. The trauma of his despoliation whipped up India to rally immediately and establish, within two years of Alexander's death, the first ever and mighty pan-Indian Maurya empire which would successfully counter the second Macedonian foray of Seleucus.

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    1. Aaah! The famous Porus or Elephant Medallion! You are absolutely right, Kalpana, about the description and origin of this medallion, but having Alexander poking the elephant’s rear and attacking Porus from behind may not be what is meant here. On this subject I have the fullest confidence in Frank Holt who devoted an entire book (The Mystery of the Elephants Medallions) to the subject.
      He comes to the conclusion that we are looking at Alexander on horseback attacking a fleeing elephant and that Porus is one of the two riders; Alexander clearly is thrusting his sarissa through the body of the attendant, not Poru’s. In this way the honour of both Alexander and Porus is saved while the Macedonians emerge victorious.
      As to the figure of Alexander on the reverse side, it does not necessarily mean – as you are saying Kalpana - that he wanted to inflate his role in Indian victory by presenting himself as a god. It is known that Alexander received recognition as the son of Zeus and was depicted by his painter Apelles holding a thunderbolt in his hand. So nothing really new here and there is no reason, in my eyes, why he would put his divinity central in his Indian campaign.
      Important also is to note Holt’s conclusion that the medallion was probably struck in Persia according to their customs and probably even during Alexander’s reign. None ever circulated in Greece and the few example we have were found all over Bactria mainly (the furthest west being Babylon). Since the coin does not carry any inscription, is one of the reasons why he talks about a medallion instead.
      And finally, the only time Alexander celebrated his victory was after the Hydaspes battle, and it would be obvious that he issued such a magnificent medallion as a gesture to thank his soldiers for this success – a tradition that is still perpetrated today.
      I will answer the second part of your comment next, in a separate window - just in case this one may overflow.

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    2. Thanks for your comments. Frank Holt’s expert conclusions are his own. As for me, the iconic representation of 'Alexander on horseback attacking a fleeing elephant with Porus on its back' is disturbing and disgraceful. The image can be compared with with the famous Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii, here too Alexander is depicted in the heat of battle thrusting his sarissa through the body of an attendant of the fleeing Darius who, at least, is allowed the honour of facing his opponent. In the military code of honour and representation, this is important. Porus, who by all reports was a valiant warrior, belonged to a military culture that claimed loud and clear - ‘In victory thy glory on Earth, In death thy glory in Heaven’. To portray him on a fleeing position on his mount is base. Alexander or the patron who commissioned this coin could at least make the opponents face each other. he still would have been thanking his soldiers for the success of the battle.

      As for the Alexander Keraunophoros (Alexander holding a thunderbolt) exposed in Ephesus in the antiquity that you mention, I am curious to know if Appeles of Kos painted it before the Indian invasion or after ?

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    3. The image on the medallion is indeed being compared to that on the famous mosaic from Pompeii (which is further discussed by Frank Holt also).
      Although I fully understand your resentment of seeing Porus running away from his enemy while he so bravely confronted him, the message of victory which Alexander wanted to portray is more explicit this way. If the two parties, Alexander and Porus, had faced each other on the medallion it would have carried the message of a confrontation rather than victory. The mosaic is large enough to show the faces of both kings and their expressions, but on the medallion there is no space for such details.
      Well, my view point is evidently not impartial. In my eyes, Alexander cannot go wrong ... :-)
      Great question, Kalpana, when did Appeles paint Alexander holding the Zeus thunderbolt? I wish we could ask him!

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  4. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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