Invading India (Alexander's mirror-III)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

With the death of King Alexander, my assignment as his Mesopotamian multilinguist was over. I didn't want to stay within the circle of his competing generals. I went to my olden UR city.
(Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Hydaspes)

Invading India

(Alexander's mirror-III)

 

King Alexander knew that I was Cleitus' friend and was devastated by his death in my arms on that black night. He granted me a healing time in Maracanda as he left for his planned invasion of India.

He began the campaign through the mountainous Khyber Pass. The Pass is an integral part of the Silk Road that connects Taxila (Pakistan) to Bagram (Afghanistan).

After gaining control of the Gandhara Satrapy, he crossed the river Indus and advanced towards Taxila, the Cut Stone city. He then moved into Punjab to attack King Porus, ruler of the kingdom, between Hydaspes (Jhelum) and Chenab's rivers.

Before the Hydaspes River's battle in 326 BC, Alexander ordered to assemble a fleet of tens of boats that he used as a bridge to cross the river through a wooded island.

Even though Porus had been betrayed by his neighboring Taxila that welcomed the Macedonians and joined the invaders, Porus's courage and his 200 elephants were effective warriors, killing many of Alexander's cavalry. The battle resulted in an indecisive win for both sides.

In return for recognizing Alexander's authority in India, Porus remained the ruler of his kingdom and rewarded Taxila!

*****

East of Porus's Punjab kingdom, on the other side of the Ganges River, was the powerful Nanda Kingdom of Magadha and the Gangaridai Kingdom of Bengal. King Alexander wanted to conquer them, thinking that the world ended with their edge at the Great Eastern Ocean

The exhausted Alexander's troops refused to march further east, fearing the prospects of facing other mighty Indian armies. They opposed their King when he wanted to cross the wide Ganges River because a colossal number of fighters and the largest-sized elephants covered the other bank. Alexander was further deterred when he knew that the Indians possessed up to four thousand war elephants.

His men's unwillingness to continue east was the mutiny that forced Alexander to return. Hydaspes River thus marked the easternmost extent of his conquests. He couldn't reach the end of the Earth as he was hoping.

*****

Alexander turned to the Indus River's mouth, one of the longest rivers in the world, with a length of more than 3000 km (flows through China, India, and Pakistan). He captured Opiana (Ghazni in central Afghanistan) and controlled more tribes along the lower Indus.

Along the way down the river, one of the villages of the Mallis' warriors halted Alexander's army. He was wounded several times in the attack, most seriously when an arrow pierced his breastplate and ribcage. His officers rescued him in a narrow escape from the village.

The army continued the arduous march south, reaching Patala. The Indus parted into two branches at this location, and the island thus formed was called Patalene, where Alexander used its coast as a naval base.

The Conqueror tasked Nearchus to explore the Arabian seashore with a quarter of the army under his command. Alexander intended to follow the coastline and set up supply depots for the fleet along the way, but the Taloi Mountains forced him to turn inland. Nearchus fleet left to find their supplies along the deserted shores.

With the remaining three-quarters of his army, Alexander left Patala towards Carmania through the Gedrosia Desert (Baluchistan).  He wanted to conquer the southern route to Persia.

The march through the desert was the toughest. The expedition, including many women and children, had to walk over the waterless desert at night to avoid the intense heat by day. The two months desert convoy, under the fierce heat and the water shortage, suffered numerous casualties.

When they reached the Makran coastline, they found a tribe that hadn't discover fire. They were the "Fish Eaters," the naked primitive people with black tangled hair, lived in huts made of whale bones and ate raw seafood. Abusing and exploiting this tribe was only merciful conduct of the wild Alexander's army. 

Along with the campaign, Alexander's troops had suffered heavily, but the natives who lived on the coast suffered more. They were brutalized by his military and by Nearchus' fleet sailors.

Finally, Alexander reached the Baloch-speaking Pura, the capital of the  Gedrosia in the deep southern Persia. It was early December, the winter rains were starting, and their troubles were over.

I was much help to the King because I could speak the Balochi language (common in Persia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan).

*****

After resting in Pura, King Alexander moved to Carmania, united with Craterus forces there, and Nearchus, who had brought the fleet across to Harmozeia.

Admiral's Nearchus voyage down the Indus River in 326 BC took more than a year and controlled many native Indian towns along the route. He wrote a history of his travels together with a description of India entitled Indica. He described how rice, sugarcane, cotton fabrics, and textiles were cultivated, manufactured, and traded in the Indus Valley.

Whereas Alexander's next land route was leading to Susa passing by Persepolis, the city that he earlier burned and ruined, Nearchus continued the fleet expedition until he reached Tylos (Dilmun or Bahrain). It was a prosperous commercial island, a center of pearl trading and cotton fabrics under the fallen Achaemenians.  Nearchus made it a base for the fleet and encouraged Greek settlements.

The Macedonians fleet continued up the gulf and finally reached the Tigris River's mouth, where it meets the Euphrates in southern Mesopotamia. The explorer Nearchus turned back to re-join Alexander at Susa in early 324 BC.

*****

Many of Alexander's officers united in Susa city, including his best friend, Hephaestion.

Alexander introduced the oriental court ceremonial, which was unliked by his officers. He wanted to unite the Persians and the Greeks by taking a wife and celebrating with his captains, for whom he arranged marriages with the most notable Medes and Persians wives.  

In Mar 324 BC, the King organized mass weddings for eighty of his high-rank officers. He was already married to Roxana, the daughter of the Bactrian chief, but he took Stateira, the eldest daughter of Darius III as a second wife.  Alexander also made his friend Hephaestion part of the royal family when he gave him Drypetis, sister of Stateira as a bride.

Afterward, they all traveled towards Ecbatana to retrieve the Persian treasure.  When they arrived in autumn, Hephaestion fell ill with a fever and died in October 324 BC. He was 32 years of age. Alexander was overwhelmed with grief.

Hephaestion was one of the Companion Cavalry Unit officers, a prominent at logistics of city-planning and bridge-building. He was also a gifted negotiator with Indian and Persian lords. The King hated to stay in Susa after the death of his closest friend. He decided to go back to Mesopotamia.

In Spring, King Alexander arrived in Babylon, but he fell sick, probably from prolonged drinking sessions. He suffered severe fever and abdominal pain for many days. Eventually, He died on June 13, 323 BC, in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, the ancient Babylonian King, at the age of 33 years. No one was sure whether he was poisoned. During his campaign, he suffered severe wounds and also drank heavily.

The royal guards laid Alexander's body in a coffin filled with honey and sent it to Macedonia to be buried in the royal tombs. On the way, Ptolemy seized it to Memphis in Egypt, where he made himself a satrap first and later a King of Egypt. He used the body to legitimize his rule. His successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, transferred the sarcophagus to Alexandria.

Alexander had no heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after his death. However, he founded many cities that took his name.

With the death of Alexander, my assignment as his Mesopotamian multilinguist was over. I didn't want to stay within the circle of his competing generals. I went to my olden UR city.

To be continued

 


Submitted: December 14, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Ali Al-Zaak. All rights reserved.

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