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)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The power of Alexander, his generalship or his charisma or both?

Why did the mighty Persian Empire loose the battle against Alexander the Great? How did Alexander do it? He was not meant to win against the powerful army of King Darius, the King of Kings, a fight that can be compared to that of David against Goliath, but he was victorious - not once but twice!

How come Porus lost his battle against Alexander in spite of putting up such a fierce fight? Porus fought as a true soldier, proud, unafraid, and in total command of his troops. Darius was all the opposite, except maybe for his pride.

In Porus’ case, Alexander responded with great magnanimity. What would have happened had he caught Darius remains an open question, but he may have shown the same magnanimity as in the case of Porus, who knows? After all, he had treated the Persian royal family with great reverence and nobility, and this alone leads us to believe that he had no reason to treat Darius differently.

These thoughts surfaced while reading up on the Battle of Issus. Arrian, otherwise a rather practical man of few words fills almost two pages with the speech Alexander held after he received the news that Darius’ troops were close by ready to engage in a major confrontation. As Alexander addresses his troops, he enumerates the advantages of their upcoming battle and goes on to point out the rewards of victory. The flower of the Medes and Persians was waiting for them under the leadership of their Great King, and once the battle was over, all of Asia would be theirs for the take. 

There is clearly no doubt in Alexander's mind that he would be victorious! He reminds his Macedonians of their previous battles, how bravely they fought and how brilliant their victories had been. Alexander uses Xenophon as an example and goes on by singling out each and every battalion in his service, foreign and native, cavalry and infantry, archers and slingers. After that, he allows his men to eat and rest - no army can fight on an empty stomach. The timing for Alexander’s speech may have been chosen on purpose, for now, his soldiers could sit down and discuss the upcoming battle among themselves and draw courage from their king’s words.

And this is not all! After having crossed the Pillars of Jonah into open terrain, Alexander starts spreading out his troops, putting one formation after the other into place, keeping them all in an uninterrupted line facing Darius. And here I quote Arrian: "The two armies were now almost within striking distance. Alexander rode from one end of his line to the other with words of encouragement for all, addressing by name, with proper mention of rank and distinctions, not the officers of highest rank only but the captains of squadrons and companies; even the mercenaries were not forgotten, where any distinction or act of courage called for the mention of a name,...". This is the short version of Alexander’s encouragement for Curtius provides us with pages and pages of such pep talk!

I read somewhere that Alexander knew at least one thousand of his men by name and I thought this was exaggerated, but going by Arrian's text I am willing to believe it. He knew how to reach his men in their very soul, knew what made them tick, and knew how to make them feel invincible. Many modern commanders would envy Alexander for this talent! He had managed to gear up his entire army and turn their spirits into fighting mode. Imagine, having the king speaking to your company or to you personally, praising your previous exploits and accomplishments, what better incentive could there be?

Now Darius, although at the head of a much larger army merely used his men and pawns in a game of chess. They fought because they were ordered to but there was no personal reward, they were not talked into being unafraid and invincible as Alexander's troops. In the end, it was the Macedonians' determination, thirst for glory and recognition by their king, combined with the prospect of rich booty awaiting them that kept them going and led them to victory time and again!

As to Porus, it is not known whether or not he gave his men a pep talk like Alexander, but he was clearly in command from the height of the largest elephant. It is easy to imagine that the Indians seeing their Raja in such a towering position all during the fight, however fierce and bloody it may have been, inspired them and encouraged them to keep on fighting, following the example set by Porus himself! This is what struck Alexander and why he treated him as a king, simply because he did not give up or flee like Darius did, but faced his opponent. The Indian army, it seems, was at least trained to follow their Raja to the end, and they did just that.

After all, the scene of Alexander riding up and down his troops and addressing them directly as depicted by Oliver Stone is much closer to reality than one would expect at first sight, even if he placed the event in the context of Gaugamela. The key quotation may be the words spoken by old Ptolemy in this movie, “When Alexander looked you in the eyes you could do anything”. How true!

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