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Alexander the Myth?

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    Posted: 18-Jun-2005 at 21:15

The popularly accepted view is that Alexander was never defeated in India, but only that his soldiers refused to fight anymore. However, this popular history was short on facts and is challenged by the author of the following article (see link):

http://sify.com/itihaas/fullstory.php?id=13225593

After you read the above article, tell me what you think. Whether you agree or not, or are not familiar with the subject, please don't use emotionally driven expletives and try to reply rationally.

 



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  Quote GENERAL PARMENION Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Jun-2005 at 10:48

Alexander loosing to Porus...????

The fact that Alexander crushed Porus ( even though he did have heavy casualties ) is hisatoricaly prooven.

The Battle Of Hydaspes ( 326 B.c. )


In June 326 BC Alexander fought his last great battle on the left bank of the Hydaspes against Porus, one of the most powerful Indian kings. Porus was powerful both as a man and as a king. He stood seven feet tall, a widely feared ruler and warrior. He fielded an army that was a match for the Greeks, but Porus army had an additional advantage: war elephants.



The war elephant as later adopted by the Greeks

This marked the first real encounter with elephants in battle, and it terrified the Greeks. Worse yet, Alexander met Porus during the monsoon season and faced him across a river in flood. Alexanders army crossed the heavily defended river Hydaspes in dramatic fashion during a violent thunderstorm to meet Poruss forces. Porus set up 200 war elephants, 100 feet apart and in the space between the elephants, but a little behind them, he placed his infantry. The elephants were key because the horses in Alexanders cavalry were afraid of them. Alexander realized that he had to attack some area other than the elephants so he decided to go after the enemys cavalry and ordered his phalanx not to attack until his cavalry had sent Porus army into disarray. The enemys cavalry was surrounded and fled behind the elephants. Alexanders phalanx now advanced and were charged by the elephants which stopped the phalanx in its tracks. Eventually Alexanders light infantry gained the upper hand, as the elephants were stripped of their mahouts or hamstrung by axes. The Greek phalanx in lock shield formation advanced slowly in a solid wall of pikes causing the elephants to stampede the Indian infantry.







Alexander's light infantry disabling elephants

The Indian army broke and fled. Some 80 elephants were captured and many Indians were killed in the pursuit. The battle had raged for eight hours and the Macedonians suffered many casualties themselves, more than in any other campaign. Alexander captured Porus, who had been wounded in the battle, and, like the other rulers he had defeated allowed him to continue governing his territory as his vassal. He even subdued an independent province and granted it to Porus as a gift. In this battle Alexanders horse, Bucephalus, was wounded and died. Alexander had ridden Bucephalus in everyone of his battles in Greece and Asia, so when it died, he was grief stricken and founded a city in India in his horses name.




Porus surrenders to Alexander


Alexander, with his part of army (five hipparhies of cavalry, five battalions of phalanx with added hypaspists and also two battalions of mixed bowman and javeliners) crossed the river Hydaspes in a very hard conditions involving heavy rain and deep water. But after that, they placed the Indians in a very difficult situation because Porus now had to decide which option to choose (It is illustrated very well in Fuller's "Generaship of Alexander the Great" peage 189). Porus secured the shore that Crateros was ready to cross and with the rest of his army he stood against the part of Alexander's army which was on his side of the river.

The battle itself is a brilliant show of cavalry maneuvers that became decisive factor in this battle. Until now Alexander has made very fast attacks aimed to disorganize enemy lines. He never used the schemes twice and that is why he surprised every enemy. Before the battle of Hydapes, Alexander read books that contained information on elephant warfare, such as how they can be put into a panic when approached by many horses. Thus, his plan was to drive Porus' cavalry from their formation.


I

Alexander sent one companion unit on the far left behind his infantry so that Indians would not see them. Another was sent in direction of the forces left to guard the shore. Half of the other cavalry advanced and stopped at the save distance from the enemy and waited. Alexander's infantry units advanced along with the cavalry, but with missile units placed in front of the melee infantry. He had also previously given orders to the infantry commanders to not attack before all cavalry units of Indian army were routed. Porus, seeing that all Alexander's cavalry was moving on his left, anticipated an encirclement. So, he sent all of his cavalry from his right to his left.





II
However, Porus mistaken Alexander's cavalry to be few in numbers, so he sent his horsemen to attack them, hoping that they will return very soon to the line with very few loses. When Porus' cavalry attacked, Alexander called his cavalry that he sent away from his right wing to returns.



III
When they saw what was going on in this maneuver it was too late - Porus' cavalry were attacked from the front, sides and back and all they could do was quick escape. Meanwhile, Porus moved his main body to attack the phalanx. Alexander's men were perpared to defends against the assulat. His bowmen and javeliners in the front aimed at the elephants' eyes and specially prepared soldiers attacked the elephants' legs. Some of the elephants went into a frenzy and broked out of the formation but most of them advanced forward and put the Macedonian infanty in a bad situation. Crowded with no place to step back took losses from missiles from the elephant riders. Those great "war towers" broke the phalanx line everywhere they stepped.



IV
But at that moment, Porus's cavalry was history and Alexander's companions attacked the rear and back of Indian infantryman. Poruses warriors had less space with every minute. Furious attacks incited panic within the ranks of Porus' army. Paniced, the elephants became out of control and they moved in every direction just to escape from the battlefield. Poruses formations were now ruined and in such situation they could not effectively fight any longer.
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  Quote Anujkhamar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Jun-2005 at 12:05
Looks like indian and greek sources are contradicting each other, i've found other sites which also back the "Porus was not strong, still one" theory (mainly indian) and some back the "Alexaner rules" theory
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  Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Jun-2005 at 12:17
Originally posted by GENERAL PARMENION

Alexander loosing to Porus...????

The fact that Alexander crushed Porus ( even though he did have heavy casualties ) is hisatoricaly prooven.

I'm afraid it's not proven. The Greek accounts say one thing the Indian another, both are quite partizan. Overall it's about even.

Using circumstantial evidence.

The army refused to follow him any further seems a little bit of a lame excuse for not continuing. Then again after he fought Porus he continued advancing into India for a few months. Not exactly the actions of a defeated army.

In truth with no firm evidence or reliable testimony, the jury has to stay out on this one.

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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Jun-2005 at 12:39

Originally posted by Paul

The army refused to follow him any further seems a little bit of a lame excuse for not continuing.

Agreed, though it wasn't exactly rare for an army of the era to decide it wanted to pull out(even if in mid-battle).  Examples of this are shown at Paraitacene (Eumenes's force decided for itself it didn't want to go back to battle when the chance to restart came), at Gabiene (despite the fact that victory was still entirely within reach, the cavalry decides it will retreat, and thus dooms their infantry), and at Gaza (again, cavalry decides it will retreat).  Granted though, these are on a much smaller scale.

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  Quote GENERAL PARMENION Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 04:57

The fact that Alexanders army refused to continue , is very possible. It is quite possible that  his army continued reluctantly to fight much earlier than the battle of Hydaspes.

I believe it was Alexander that did not want to continue and enter deeper into India at that specific time. If he really wanted to continue , he  most defenately would !

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  Quote conon394 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 13:35

Well Im all for knocking Alexander down a peg or two, but using the Ethiopic text to do it, is rather worse than citing Oliver Stones move

The Ethiopic text is a circa 15th century text, based on 7th century Arabic translations, of Persian versions of the Alexander romance. The ultimate origins of which is Pseudo Callisthenes. The Alexander romance, reflected trough 3 iterations of translation and embellishment is hardly a credible alternative to the unanimous conclusion of all the actual historical narratives: that Alexander won, without any sign of surrender amongst his troops.  Now has to whether that victory was a hard (perhaps even a desperate) battle or another lighting win, ala the victories in Persia, is something worth arguing about.

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  Quote Vivek Sharma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Aug-2006 at 03:55
It is true that he had won.
No Indian record says that alexander was defeated. I am myself an Indian good in History so I can say that.
however I wish to highlight the following :
1. Porus or Puru was not a strong or a big king. he was a small time ruler   of one of the small Indian border states.
2. He did not enjoy support with the other Indian rulers, so nobody came to his help.
3. His army was inexperienced, had never fought a battle. (Most indian armies are like that)
4. Alexander had attacked in the night. As a religious rule Indians dont fight after dusk. So Puru & his army were not expecting an attack when it came,that too in such stormy weather & the high water level.
5.there was a chaos in the Indian army due to the elephants being fiercely attacked. further it being a very heavy rain, the groud was marshy, impending their movement with their heavy bodies. So they went bersek.
6. Puru was captured by Greeks & the battle ended
7.The fact of the rebellion in Greek army against advancing further has considerable basis. Their argument was  " If a small time King with a miniscule army "by Indian standards" can nearly rout the conquerers of the world alone, what will happen if the Greeks have to fight he big empires in the plains of India, who also hve coalitions.



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  Quote BigL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2006 at 03:17
Pyrrhic victory maybe
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  Quote Penelope Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2006 at 02:19

The fact that elephants were used in the battle doesnt really mean much, since they were just giant targets. All a soldier had to do was chop off the trunk or even stab the knee of the animal and it would basicly go balistic and turn around and run away, and in the process, they actually trampled more Indians than Macedonians. As a matter of fact, i think it would be fair to say, that most of the Indian casualties didnt even come from Alexanders army.

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  Quote Vivek Sharma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Aug-2006 at 02:38
Absolutely true.

All historical texts clearly mention that Porus's army was overrun by his own elephants. the stormy weather, the night & the sudden unexpected attack besides lack of experience were too much for the elephants.
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  Quote Penelope Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Aug-2006 at 05:32
Originally posted by Vivek Sharma

Absolutely true.

All historical texts clearly mention that Porus's army was overrun by his own elephants. the stormy weather, the night & the sudden unexpected attack besides lack of experience were too much for the elephants.
 
Exactly, and Thankyou.
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  Quote Gundamor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Aug-2006 at 13:25
Originally posted by Vivek Sharma

Absolutely true.All historical texts clearly mention that Porus's army was overrun by his own elephants. the stormy weather, the night & the sudden unexpected attack besides lack of experience were too much for the elephants.


And this makes the victory less how? Perhaps the weather and night also accounted for the higher casualties of Alexanders army. You can make excuses for both sides it doesnt change the outcome. Didnt Chandragupta say that Alexander missed the oppurtunity to take the Magadha kindom and was perfectly capable of doing it? 8 years of hard fighting over a large portion of land and all of a sudden they were afraid? I think people confuse reason with courage. Alexanders men felt there was no reason to risk their lives to go any deeper. Lets call them cowards because they decided not to take the whole world though still managed to take alot of it. The Magadha kindom proved to be a joke when Chandragupta just stepped in and scooped it up.
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  Quote akritas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Aug-2006 at 14:08
Originally posted by Vivek Sharma

Absolutely true.

All historical texts clearly mention that Porus's army was overrun by his own elephants. the stormy weather, the night & the sudden unexpected attack besides lack of experience were too much for the elephants.
I disagree.Alexander won because studied  the Poros formation.
 
Diodoros Sicelus mention as about the pre- battle..
 
Alexander study the enemy formation and developed respectively and his own forces (17-87)
 
and for the battle
 
Then and  as well as the beasts were struck by the javelins(Macedonian sarissa) and began to ache very from the wounds, the Indies  that led them,  they could not retain them  and the elephants turned behind so that they step theirs  own soldiers(17-88)
 
Plutarach(60) mention as about the pre-battle...
 

The Hydaspes, he says, now after the storm, was so swollen and grown so rapid, as to have made a breach in the bank, and a part of the river was now pouring in here, so that when he came across, it was with difficulty he got a footing on the land, which was slippery and unsteady, and exposed to the force of the currents on both sides. This is the occasion when he is related to have said, "O ye Athenians, will ye believe what dangers I incur to merit your praise?"

and for the battle
 

But he, apprehending the multitude of the enemy, and to avoid the shock of their elephants, dividing his forces, attacked their left wing himself, and commanded Coenus to fall upon the right, which was performed with good success. For by this means both wings being broken, the enemies fell back in their retreat upon the center, and crowded in upon their elephants. There rallying, they fought a hand to hand battle, and it was the eighth hour of the day before they were entirely defeated. This description the conqueror himself has left us in his own epistles.

 
Clearly both writers mention the genius Alexander strategy pre and during the battle.Except if we want to reject Plutarch because had as source the Alexander himselfConfused
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  Quote Vivek Sharma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Aug-2006 at 02:23

And this makes the victory less how? Perhaps the weather and night also accounted for the higher casualties of Alexanders army. You can make excuses for both sides it doesnt change the outcome. Didnt Chandragupta say that Alexander missed the oppurtunity to take the Magadha kindom and was perfectly capable of doing it? 8 years of hard fighting over a large portion of land and all of a sudden they were afraid? I think people confuse reason with courage. Alexanders men felt there was no reason to risk their lives to go any deeper. Lets call them cowards because they decided not to take the whole world though still managed to take alot of it. The Magadha kindom proved to be a joke when Chandragupta just stepped in and scooped it up.

Your first argument is absolutely tenable logic.

Regarding Chandragupta Maurya scooping up the  Magadh empire, I would like to bring to your notice the following points :

1. There ws no military war between Chandragupta Maurya & Magadh. It was not a conquest. It was more of toppling of the magadh Empire, with the former Prime Minister of Magadh swithich sides to Arya Chanakya the teacher of Chandragupta Maurya. This happened with the other courtiers & vassal states too. Only a miniscule portion of the Emperors personal bodyguards had to be defeated. There was factionalism even in the Magadh emperors family, a section of it supporting his ouster.

2. This was a unique event in the history of Kingdoms. Possibly the only case where the emperor chandragupta was not the hero of the empire. it was Vishnugupta Bhatt also called Arya Chanakya who was the hero the cause as well as the result of this new empire.

3. The talk of Alexander being able to take Magadh by thestorm was purposefully spread by Chanakya to belittle the status of the king of maagadh in the vassal states.

4. Chandragupta Maurya, although the king was not the founder of the amuryan empire. It was Chanakya who founded this. chandragupta merely was a via media...
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  Quote Penelope Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Aug-2006 at 03:09
[QUOTE=positron_051]

The popularly accepted view is that Alexander was never defeated in India, but only that his soldiers refused to fight anymore. However, this popular history was short on facts and is challenged by the author of the following article (see link):     

 Keep in mind that if Alexander was truelly defeated, the entire world would have known. There is absolutely no way that he would've lost a battle and been able to cover it up. It's impossible.
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  Quote Gundamor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Aug-2006 at 03:33
Originally posted by Vivek Sharma

Regarding Chandragupta Maurya scooping up the Magadh empire, I would like to bring to your notice the following points :
1. There ws no military war between Chandragupta Maurya & Magadh. It was not a conquest. It was more of toppling of the magadh Empire, with the former Prime Minister of Magadh swithich sides to Arya Chanakya the teacher of Chandragupta Maurya. This happened with the other courtiers & vassal states too. Only a miniscule portion of the Emperors personal bodyguards had to be defeated. There was factionalism even in the Magadh emperors family, a section of it supporting his ouster.
2. This was a unique event in the history of Kingdoms. Possibly the only case where the emperor chandragupta was not the hero of the empire. it was Vishnugupta Bhatt also called Arya Chanakya who was the hero the cause as well as the result of this new empire.
3. The talk of Alexander being able to take Magadh by thestorm was purposefully spread by Chanakya to belittle the status of the king of maagadh in the vassal states.
4. Chandragupta Maurya, although the king was not the founder of the amuryan empire. It was Chanakya who founded this. chandragupta merely was a via media...


I've read all that. The whole region and the Magdha kindom seemed unstable which would make alot of the exagerated army size numbers even less feasible. I wrote scooped up because I know there was no conquest. In fact in the entire Mauryan empire history(almost nothing recorded) I could only find one military campaign.

Heres a question for you then. Who do you believe Sandrocottus was? I've read 2-3 different variations with a couple being pretty solid. History in that region is confusing as hell. Especially with the uncertainty of some of the Yavana writings and how they even differ from eachother.

We should also note in the Battle of Hydaspes that Alexanders force was only around 11,000 strong. The main body or other half came across pretty much to mop up and isnt even portraited in alot of battle maps. Had Alexander been beat maybe Custer wouldnt have divided his forces at Little Big Horn
    
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  Quote Vivek Sharma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Aug-2006 at 04:10
You are absolutely right. The Mauryans didnt have to fight wars, at least not big wars.

The reason is unique in history. The basis of Mauryan empire was the statecraft Of Vishnugupta Bhatt, a teacher at who was insulted by the Magadh emperor Dhanananda when he went ot the king to seek his support for fighting the greeks. This was because the frontier kings had personal querrals with Porus & nobody wanted to support Porus against Alexander. In fact one of the Indian kings Ambhi had personally invited Alexander to attack porus & promised him the support of himself & many Indian Kings. So when you say Alexander's army was only 11000, it is only his army, in addition there was also the army of Ambhi fighting on his side against Porus.

Coming back to Chanakya, the Magadha king insulted Chanakya by untying his knotted hair. Chanakya took a vow then that he will not tie his hair untill he had destroyed the Magadh king & united the whole of India into one empire.

On his way back he found a small boy aged 5 years at that time, playing a game of kings & peasants, impressed with the boy, chanakya took his mothers permission to make him a pupil promising her that he was taking a kid from her & would return to her an emperor after some years.

This is what he did.

The mauryans didnt have to fight a war because of chanakyays expertise is statecraft. He belived that war was the last resort, meant for the unintelligent, & that brilliance in not fighting a war but winning it without having to fight one. Thus the whole toppling game of the magadh empire as well as the fact that the amuryas were able to establish an empire the present day US without fighting wars.

His treatise Arthashastra is one of the most brilliant books of governance ever written, remarkable for his times.

I must mention one fact that in India Chandragupta Maurya is not  considered as popular as Chanakya, he just being the means employed by Vishnugupta Bhatt Chanakya to achive the end.




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