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)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Alexander crossing the Indus at Ohind

In spite of the continuous tribal wars in Pakistan, archaeologists seem to say that they were able to carry out excavations at the village of Hund (Ohind in antiquity) in the north-western region of Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in modern Pakistan – the “land of the five rivers”. It is said that Alexander the Great stayed at this village before moving to Taxila. This is a known fact, but I wonder in how far there is truth to today’s excavation story (see this article published in The Statesman in March 2016) as it sounds rather vague.

The town of Hund (also known as Odabandapura) is where Alexander crossed the Indus River in 327 BC over a bridge built by Hephaistion, who together with Perdiccas was sent ahead with part of the army to subdue the lands on their route. They had marched from the Cophen River (modern Kabul River) through the Khyber Pass down to the Indus, taking Peucelaotis in the Peshawar on the way. Hephaistion had constructed a fleet of thirty-oared galleys and a pontoon bridge of linked boats spanning the Indus River, which at this point is at least 400 to 500 meters wide. This operation is not to be underestimated for although the bridge was constructed far upstream in the Punjab region, the river is fed by snow and glacial meltwater from the Karakorum, the Hindu Kush and the Himalaya Mountains and its annual flow is known to be two times faster than that of the Nile or three times that of the Euphrates and the Tigris combined.

Alexander together with Craterus and Coenus in the meantime, campaigned against the Aspasians and the Assacenes north of that road to consolidate their rear in order to avoid being cut off from their line of supplies. Both Macedonian units united near modern Hund from where the entire army crossed the Indus River.

Beyond the preparations for the crossing, little is told about the traverse itself. The local king, Omphis had provided supplies to the Macedonians working at the river but he had not met any of them in person. Omphis (also called Mophis in some sources) was the son of Taxiles whom Alexander had met whilst in Sogdiana. King Taxiles had promised to join his forces to those of Alexander in his upcoming Indian campaign. After his father’s death, Omphis had sent notice to Alexander inquiring whether he would approve him reigning in the interim at Taxila or if on the contrary, he preferred to appoint a viceroy pending his arrival – a gesture that Alexander highly appreciated. For the time being, Omphis could continue to rule but should not yet carry the title of Taxiles as was reserved for the king in power, till Alexander’s arrival.

When the Macedonian army reached Taxila, one of the smaller states in Punjab,  they were met by Omphis, pleased to come forth with his army and elephants. Watching the approach, Alexander became suspicious because the Indian king’s display looked as if he was ready for battle with his elephants distributed evenly between the formations of soldiers. To be on the safe side, Alexander immediately sounded the call to arms and the entire army took their position with the cavalry deployed at the wings, all facing the foe in silence. Noticing this sudden change, Omphis realized the impact his approach had had on the Macedonians.

Omphis ordered his men to raise their lances and stop their advance. He himself moved forward to meet Alexander escorted by only a few of his cavalry. Alexander followed suit and when both men met face to face, it became immediately clear that this was a friendly meeting. The expression on their faces said it all pending the arrival of an interpreter.

When the interpreter arrived, Alexander wanted to know why Omphis had mobilized his entire forces to meet him. The Indian responded that he had brought his army in order to place his men at Alexander’s disposal. On hearing this good news, both men shook hands as a token of friendship and fidelity. Omphis handed his fifty-six elephants over to Alexander, together with an impressive herd of livestock including 3,000 bulls dressed up for sacrifices.

Then Alexander granted him the royal insignia together with the permission to bear his father’s name, Taxiles, as he was known henceforth by his people.

The newly appointed king hosted Alexander as his guests for three days, allowing the Macedonians a time of rest. On the fourth day, Taxiles announced the amount of grain he had provided to Hephaistion while building the bridge over the Indus and at the same handed gold crowns to Alexander and each of his Friends, plus eighty talents of minted silver and a number of unspecified strange jungle beasts. Alexander was evidently delighted but returned all the gifts to Taxiles and in addition gave him 1,000 talents together with an array of gold and silver vessels and thirty of his steeds equipped as his own.

It is under these circumstances that King Taxiles joined his forces to those of Alexander as they headed further east to challenge Porus who was waiting for them on the opposite bank of the Hydaspes River.

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