From The Pages of History
Monday June 26 2006 15:34:00 PM BDT
By Azizul Jalil
Alexander tried to pacify the fears of his troops and persuade them to march
on to Bengal. He appealed to their love of king, country and the Greek gods.
"There is a wheel on which the affairs of men revolve, and its movement
forbids the same to be always fortunate." Herodotus
Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) of Macedonia had endless desire for
conquest, glory and wealth, the latter to finance his army and its
campaigns. His greatest adventure began in 327 BC. Though he did not go much
beyond the Punjab, Greek sources considered it as conquest of India. The
Persian Empire had once stretched east up to the Indus River.
Alexander intended to proceed far beyond the Persian frontier to the ocean,
to what he believed to be the edge of the inhabited world. He found himself
contending with war elephants, the monsoon, and the unfamiliar phenomenon of
great rivers with strong currents. With his military genius, strength of
mind and courage, he was able to overcome all these real obstacles. But one
obstacle even Alexander failed to overcome was the opposition of his
In the course of his Indian campaigns, Alexander had crossed the rivers
Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, and Ravi and reached the shores of River Beas, a
distance of about 390 miles from the Indus crossing. He wanted to move
further eastward to Bengal and beyond. One of the purposes of invading
Bengal was to plunder its wealth to make the soldiers' long many years' of
fighting in unaccustomed climate and territory, worthwhile. The troops were,
however, very anxious to return to family and their own homes. Alexander was
thwarted in his ambitions to cross the Ganges. The recalcitrant soldiers and
their officers were in mutiny.
The homesick troops had been in India for some years in an inhospitable and
hot climate. By that time, they had amassed a wealth of war booty. Fear of
crossing the mighty Ganges and the elephants and other animals in the swampy
territory of Bengal were also bearing heavily on their minds. Alexander
tried to pacify the fears of his troops and persuade them to march on to
Bengal. He appealed to their love of king, country and the Greek gods. He
shed tears in public and private and spoke at length about the good fortune
that would come to the soldiers. He assured that they would be taken care of
in the future, and should anything happen to them, their families at home.
However, he failed in his attempt to persuade the troops to move into
He had simultaneously started to build about 800 boats to enable him and the
army to sail, after the Bengal campaign, down the Jhelum River in the
Punjab. Then through the Indus down to Sind and the Indian Ocean, he would
be on his way back to Macedonia via Persia and Mesopotamia. He did not reach
home but died in Babylon on June 11 in the year 323 BC.
About three hundred years after his death, Quitinus Curtius Rufus, the Roman
historian wrote "The History of Alexander" in Latin. It is a detailed
account, mostly in the form of a dialogue between the King and his followers
and enemies. It contains a vivid account of Alexander's life and adventures.
This article is based on an English translation of Curtius's book by John
Yardley, Guy MacLean Rogers' "Alexander", J.R. Hamilton's book, "Alexander
the Great" and Paul Cartledge's book of the same name.
Determined to cross the Beas River, Alexander collected pertinent
information before marching east. He was informed that beyond that river,
lay a twelve-day journey through barren land. Then they would reach the
Ganges, the largest river in India. On the bank of the Ganges, there lived
two tribes, the Gangaridae and the Prasii. Their ruler was Aggrammes, who
was waiting with a force of 20,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry. Behind
this, he had 2000 chariots and 3000 elephants. Alexander also learnt that
the ruler was a common man from the lowest class. His father, who was a
barber, was extremely good looking. With the help of the queen, he
treacherously murdered the king, and then his children to assume the throne.
Because of these and his behaviour, Aggrammes had earned the hatred of the
Alexander had only contempt for the enemy and the elephants, though the
terrain and the violence of the rivers concerned him. However, convinced
that he was invincible, Alexander was determined to proceed. He had said
earlier that 'it is a lovely thing to live with courage, and die leaving an
everlasting fame.' He called his men to an assembly and addressed them. He
told them not to believe the rumours and false reports of the enemy's
natural advantages and army strength. He said, 'We have withstood elephants
and crossed the Jhelum River.
Why if stories could have defeated us we would have fled Asia long ago!'
Alexander, who was tutored by Aristotle, informed the troops that the
broader the river, the gentler its flow. He added, 'it is when the rivers
are compressed between narrow banks that the waters they carry become
torrents: a broad channel, conversely, slows the current.'
As to the elephants, Alexander told the troops that they were a greater risk
to their masters than to the enemy. In the earlier battle with Porus, it was
noticed that when a few elephants received injuries by axes and scythes,
they all turned to flight and charged their own men more violently then they
did the enemy. 'Unless cowardice stands in our way, we shall return home in
triumph, after bringing the ends of the earth into subjugation.'
The men listened in silence and hung their heads. They did not respond to
the King's exhortations. Alexander then said that if he is abandoned, he
alone will press on with his journey and find a way to gain victory 'of
which you despair, or else death with honour.' The soldiers started to
groan, and soon tears started flowing. Coenus, one of the generals came
forward to speak to the king. Men urged him to plead that owing to
exhaustion from wounds and the relentless hardship of the campaign, they
were unable to fulfill their responsibilities.
Coenus said to the king, 'whatever mortals were capable of, we have
achieved. You are preparing to enter another world and seek an India even
the Indians do not know. That is a program appropriate to your spirit, but
beyond ours.' Coenus made a memorable point: it was a noble thing to
exercise self-restraint when all was going well. He suggested that Alexander
should proceed quickly to the sea by going south, which was not so vast,
instead of striving for glory by a circuitous route. Applause greeted his
speech. None rallied to Alexander's call to world conquest. Alexander was
convinced that his officers, like the men, had no stomach for further
Frustrated by all these, Alexander jumped down from the dais. He went to the
royal quarters, ordering to it to be closed to all but his personal
attendants. He remained there in seclusion and in an angry mood. Alexander
emerged on the third day, giving up his plans for going to Bengal. As one of
the ancient historians, Arrian had noted, Alexander was vanquished only
once-and that by his own men. He ordered the erection of twelve altars of
stone to commemorate his expedition. He founded two cities, naming one of
them Bucephela in memory of his horse, which he had lost in battle.
Meanwhile, the ships he had ordered were ready for the journey. Alexander
appointed his boyhood friend Nearchus, as the Admiral of the fleet. In late
326 BC, he sailed down the Indus, forgoing the Ganges and what lay beyond
it. Bengal remained unconquered by Alexander.
Azizul Jalil writes from Washington.
it ain't no mystery, when it is musla shistory.
Alex is in the quron, was a true 'mussulman!
But when he heard of bungla,
He quivered to his mungala,
Turned right back and ran home to momma.
"VognoDuut761" <VognoD...@zilmore.com> wrote in message
Lol. Alec, according to Koran, was not just true Muzzie but a rasool no
Alec must have spent his formative time with Allah in Zannat enjoying
celestial whores aka 'houris & fresh boys', as back on Earth he swung