I've loved your posts in this thread,
Thanks! I like your comments too! I guess we can picture ourselves as the “epigonoi” having a go at the “old guard”: the “holy trinity” of Amyntoros, Marcus and Paralus!
(yes, Paralus, despite your rebellious antics, you’re very much part of the “establishment”, up to and including your praise for Philip II!
So if you’re invited to a party to taste some delicious apples while you’re preparing to sacrifice a sheep to Dyonisos, beware!
PS: Amyntoros, Marcus and Paralus: there’s of course no “crusade” to knock you down or anything like that. It was just a funny idea that came to my mind and couldn’t help writing down! If anything, it is a recognition of the consistently high quality of your comments!
Having said that, Semiramis, I still think that Alexander was very much in charge of the operations in India. As Paralus mentioned, it was a repeated pattern: city fell, people were killed. The fact that it is done over and over again is actually the main argument in favour of a deliberate policy rather than the result of desensitization and lack of discipline (though the latter are likely to have played a role too; I only claim that the policy played a significantly more important one).
As Amyntoros mentioned (and Marcus so enlighteningly exemplified), the absence of a “slave market” made the “less cruel” alternative (slavery) less attractive than the “bloodier” one (kill everyone). I was also going to mention (Amyntoros beat me to it) that Alexander’s passage through India lacks the “civilising” features of his previous adventures: foundation of cities, garrisoning, delegation of control to local leaders. As far as I can remember, after Bucephalia and Nicea he didn’t found any other city until he got to the Ocean (but I am open to corrections!). This leads directly to the question raised by Amyntoros: why did he change in India his "traditional" approach to conquest? Karen suggested a very plausible alternative: he got there, found it not worth the effort, and walked out of it. This is, in fact, a similar approach to the one he followed in the northern border: after two years of guerrilla war, he married the daughter of the local dynast and moved on.
Is there any “all encompassing” policy that could explain this? I’m going to risk one: I believe Alex’s approach was always basically the same: surrender and keep your traditions (and send your taxes to my treasury) or fight and be eliminated (and THEN send your taxes to my treasury!
). The first option is the story of Egypt and Babylon; the second that of Thebes, Tyre, Gaza, Bactria/Sogdia, India. The latter, however, can still be divided into two groups: the first 3 (plus the Persian gates, as Paralus mentioned) were battles that took place in the “advanced” world of Persia+Greek world+Egypt, and so were only isolated actions (as Paralus highlighted) with the objective of discouraging others to follow the example, so that large and prosperous parts of the later-to-be empire would be acquired without cost (the cost was already paid in Thebes, Tyre, Gaza). In fact, Egypt and Babylon surrendered probably BECAUSE they thought fighting would not be advisable, knowing what would happen to them if they lost. The rest of the list (Bactria/Sogdia, India) were campaigns that took place, on the other hand, in peripherical regions, with only limited resources and economic value (though strategically important, since they were the “natural” borders of the Achaemenid empire). In these cases, a policy of “kill everyone” had less political and economic disadvantages than in the previous cases, and anyway, “they were all barbarians”. Furthermore, the goal of these campaigns (in my opinion) was to create in the local population an everlasting sensation of powerlessness and fear with respect to the conquering Alexandrian army. This is exemplified by Alexander’s foray into Scythian territory and the "winged soldiers" story and can be the rationale behind the mass killings in India. Here you can also see the similarity between the two campaigns: no city founded in Scythian territory or in India.
Is this theory correct? Well, I guess I will never know, but I believe it is plausible. Think about the next big campaign after India: the Kossaians. Again, “barbarians”, thieves, brigands. Result: massive kills. Surprising? Not really: they were not part of the “advanced” culture (Greece, Persia, Egypt) and hence no need for showing consideration for them.
Maybe a last exercise can give a better framework for the theory and check its predictive out-of-the-sample power (a statistician would say). So let’s assume Alex’s plans of conquering Arabia and the Mediterranean basin were true and that he was successful in fulfilling them: what kind of campaigns would you expect them to have been? My guess is that Arabia would have been very much another India: barbarians, therefore expendable. Carthage would have been probably something in between the two polar cases or, if anything, closer to the “advanced” treatment: its economic power and its navy are valuable resources that Alexander would have liked to retain rather than destroy them in battle in order to rebuild them later. Of course, if individual cities tried to defend themselves, the outcome would have been the expected one: everyone killed. Magna Greece would have been very much like Ionia: A would have played the role of “liberator” (of whom? The Romans? the Carthaginians? Other Greeks? Who cares! … as long as it sticks!), and so no mass murdering (except if another Thebes had dared to challenge his "liberation"). Rome and Etruria would probably have been similar to Carthage. “Lesser peoples”, like Numidians or Iberians, would have faced the same fate than Indians faced. So advanced+prosperous lands would have been spared (except for the once-in-a-while uprising, that will be forcefully quenched) and backward+poor lands would have been decimated (unless another more important consideration demands otherwise).
A crazy theory? Maybe. But I like it!
All the best,