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 Drangiana/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, 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, November 17, 2016

The siege of Sangala (in modern Pakistan)

It is one of those fights that hardly catches our attention and is generally ignored among the greater battles of Alexander. Yet it is another of those gems among his incessant conquests pushing ever further eastwards.


As soon as Alexander had set foot on the eastern bank of the Hydraotes River, modern Ravi (see also: Alexander marching beyond the Hydaspes), most of the Indian tribes surrendered without resistance and those who did not were, of course, subdued by force. Sangala, however, was another story. Although the city has not yet been located, we are told by Arrian that it stood on top of a hill. The tribes that resisted Alexander in the immediate surrounding of the city had sought and found refuge inside its walls. Three consecutive circles of carts were set up around the hill by the defenders to function as individual obstacle walls. They felt pretty comfortable behind their defenses from where they could easily venture out to face Alexander - or so they thought.

Alexander is a master when it comes to adjusting his tactics to any given situation and upon arrival, he immediately instructed his archers to ride along the enemy front line while shooting their arrows at long range in order to pin them down inside the city. This gave Alexander enough time to put his men into position so he could start the advance towards the outer line of carts. The Indians advanced and climbed on their carts, attacking with bows and arrows at long range. Clearly, the cavalry was of no use here and Alexander rapidly dismounted to lead his infantry to the assault. The enemy was soon driven from the first line of carts and rallied behind the second line where they could better defend themselves as they fought in closer ranks. Although the Macedonians had to push and maneuver their way through the outer ring of carts to reach the Indians, the enemy was once again forced to withdraw. They did not make another stand behind the third ring of carts but retreated rapidly inside the city instead.

This was enough fighting for one day and Alexander instructed his infantry to string out around Sangala. However, he did not have enough troops available at this time to allow a complete encirclement. The break in his defenses was opposite a shallow lake so he took the precaution to post his cavalry around the lake. Alexander’s guess was that the Indians would try to slip out of Sangala under cover of darkness. How well he understood what warfare was all about, for his supposition turned out to be correct. In the dead of night, the Indians left the city but fell in the arms of the patrolling cavalry. Many were killed, others returned to the relative safety of the city walls.

At this stage, Alexander built a double stockade around the city and made sure that the lake itself was more efficiently guarded. He even made arrangements to bring in his siege engines when he learned from stray Indians that the people of Sangala planned to escape that very night through the opening in the stockade at the lake.

Ptolemy was put in charge and he collected all the Indian carts that were left behind and placed them across the line of the Indian’s escape route to stop or at least slow down their flight. He also instructed his men to collect the wooden posts that had not been used for the construction of the stockade and pitch them as a barrier on either side between the lake and the city. Since most of this work had been done in near darkness, the people of Sangala had no knowledge of this barrier. As soon as the Indians opened their city gates and speeded down to the lake, Ptolemy sounded the alarm and soon his men were on top of the Indians who tried to find their way between the carts and the newly erected palisade – to little or no avail and once again they withdrew inside the city.


At this time, Porus who had been called in to reinforce Alexander’s troops arrived with his elephants and some 5,000 Indians, and Alexander had erected his siege engines. The Macedonians, in the meantime, had been able to undermine the city wall and climbed the scaling ladders they set all around the town. Sangala was taken by assault and up to 17,000 Indians were killed in the process while over 70,000 were taken prisoner. Alexander also captured 500 cavalry and 300 war chariots. His own losses did not reach more than one hundred men but strangely enough over 1,200 of his troops were wounded – a remarkably high number. These figures can be explained when reading Curtius’ account of the battle. He tells us that the Indians had tied the chariots together and standing on their platforms were able to rapidly leap from one cart to the next, attacking the Macedonians with lances and axes from above. In the ensuing chaos, Alexander soon ordered that the bonds that held the chariots together should be cut first after which his troops could attack the enemy on the individual carts. It must have been quite a bloody affair.

After having buried his dead with the proper rituals and ceremonies, Alexander sent his secretary, Eumenes, with a small detachment to convince the two neighboring towns which had joined in Sangala’s resistance with offers of peace if they surrendered willfully. The embassy was useless for the bad news had traveled ahead of them and the people of both cities had fled by the time Eumenes arrived. Alexander tried to catch up with them, but they had had enough time to get away. He then returned to Sangala and razed it to the ground.

Porus was sent to back to the cities that had surrendered with instructions to garrison them. Alexander himself resumed his march east towards the Hyphasis River, modern Beas.

[Picture of the Hydraotes River from Wikipedia By Vjdchauhan - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0]
[Map from Travel, Tourism, Transport and Maps of Pakistan]

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