Alexander aficionados like to believe that crossing rivers using animal skins is something Alexander “invented”. Well, I have to disappoint them for as it turns out, the practice was already known by the Assyrians who used this technique as early as the ninth century BC, i.e. at least five hundred years earlier. It is not impossible that the practice is even much older but has not been documented.
[Picture from Nemrud showing Assyrian soldiers using inflatable devices to cross a river from Ancient History]
Cyrus the Great, who Alexander greatly admired, used inflated or stuffed animal skins to cross a Babylonian river as mentioned by Xenophon. Another example is Darius I who used the same technique in 522 BC to cross the Tigris River. Much later, the Romans and the Arabs still resorted to this simple but ingenious solution.
One impressive such depiction comes from the Northwest Palace of Nimrud and shows how King Ashurnasirpal II and his army cross the
on their march westwards in order to expand the empire all the way to the Mediterranean. This king immortalized his successes on
the walls of his splendid
at some time between 865 and 860 BC. A
substantial number of these reliefs found their way to museums around the
world, including the Palace
of Nimrud British
Museum in . London