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, June 29, 2016

Alexander’s near fatal dip in the Cydnus River at Tarsus

Tarsus, in antiquity, was a large and prosperous city but its remains are sadly disappointing since all that is left is a short stretch of Roman road of black basalt with white edges without beginning or end. In a way, this is not surprising as sixteen consecutive layers of habitation have been found on top of the Roman layer. Tarsus today looks like a rather sleepy town with typical Ottoman houses recently renovated and repainted.

Consequently, all my hopes are focused on the River Cydnus. This is a typical mountain river, tumbling down from the Taurus Mountains over rocks and outcrops and meandering between trees and bushes that cling to their footholds along its very banks. It is said to be 200 ft wide but I wonder about the spot where these measurements were taken for the water at times cascades happily over the many rocks through narrow passages, while at other times the river is slowly flowing between wide manmade banks. After some effort, I find a spot where I can dip my hand in the fast flower water. It is early May, about the same time of year Alexander was here. The water is clear and cold, chilly but not exactly ice-cold and certainly not to the extent of causing a convulsive reaction.

What illness struck Alexander remains vague. Arrian speaks of “a bout of sickness”, adding that Aristobulus mentions exhaustion. Alexander was seized by a convulsion, followed by high fever and sleepless nights. Curtius, as usual, is more elaborate, describing how Alexander’s limbs stiffened, how he lost his color and the warmth of his body, making him look more dead than alive. This certainly spread commotion and concern throughout the camp where many started mourning their king, wailing with great anxiety. Alexander’s physicians were at a loss, but one of them, Philip of Acarnia, who knew Alexander from boyhood, promised to treat him with a strong purgative. Alexander agreed to take it when he received a letter from Parmenion who had been sent ahead, cautioning him against the doctor. “Beware of Philip”, he wrote adding that he was informed that Philip had been bribed by King Darius with a thousand talents to poison him. As Philip handed his cup of medicine to his patient, Alexander with the letter in his hand, drank the concoction and handed the document to his physician.  Philip showed no alarm and simply advised Alexander to continue the treatment. There obviously was nothing wrong with the medicine or with Philip who continued to serve Alexander all through his further campaigns. Curtius says that Alexander appeared in front of his soldiers after the third day of treatment – much to everybody’s relief, for sure.

It is near impossible to imagine Alexander’s camp on the banks of the Cydnus. There are simply too many modern houses and streets closing in around the river. In any case, this “illness” had pinned down the Macedonian army for a while and delayed Alexander’s advance. At that time, Darius was waiting to confront Alexander on the plains of Sochi but as soon as he heard the bad news, he set his army in motion in order to safeguard Cilicia. Yet he was not going to take Alexander off guard for the Macedonian king had dispatched Parmenion to hold the Syrian Gates, modern Beilan Pass, in the Amanus Mountains, southeast of Iskenderun

Alexander, as soon as he was strong enough set the remaining part of his army in motion too and marched to Issus.

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