Clietus. Parmenio, Philotas,Strapal Purges. Chicken feed

Discuss Alexander's generals, wives, lovers, family and enemies

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amyntoros
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Post by amyntoros »

Paralus wrote:Unlike the early part of the campaign one could remark (and I think more than one has) that at the end of almost each section of the Indian campaign that "the town fell and the by now expected slaughter began".

In any case, whatever the reasons, it occurred. And it was regular. Whatever purpose it served it was - demonstrably - not one of pacifying the "natives". The Macedonians were not ever destined to hold these fractious and rebellious Indian provinces.


Very good point, and I think the reason why people have difficulty explaining these actions in India (I won't say "justify"). It seems to me that not only were the Macedonians not destined to hold these provinces, but that they never had any intention of doing so. Don't have my sources to hand but if I recall correctly here's no evidence of cities being built at this point, no Macedonian garrisons left behind to keep control, no native Satraps appointed, nor the "gifting" of the territories to the leaders of other provinces. It was destroy, kill, and move on. If one accepts that Alexander made no effort to hold these territories then what was the true purpose? Not quite the usual conquest, methinks. The ensuring of safe passage through the territories comes to mind as a possible reason, but I recall that Alexander had to travel some distance to attack many of these natives. With the largest forces he had ever known at his command (whether or not one accepts Diodorus' figures), surely his troops marching on either side of the river were in no real danger? And I don't believe he was securing his rear or intending to return to these territories again, but simply returning home by a different route. (Maybe someone with a better knowledge of geography can tell me if the men sent with Craterus crossed the same territory again as I'm not sure.) So I'll ask now not for the reason the natives were slaughtered, but what Pothosians think was the true purpose for attacking them in the first place.

I'm not arguing for a particular point of view by the way. Just think it would be interesting to see the responses. :)

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Amyntoros

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Post by Efstathios »

Since Alexander chose to start going back, he probably chose to attack everything in the way, as a substitute for not going further to the ocean. Same reason as why he crossed the Gedrosian. He wanted to do something glorius, like achieving what others couldnt before him, mainly because he didnt reach the ocean which was the primary goal. And of course it had to do with his character, and the change of his behaviour from a point and on.

It is a nice example that shows the distancing from Aristotle's teachings. While in the start and the early years he held those teachings high and followed most of them, then he started doing things totally opposite. Like the Persian clothing. Aristotle's teachings were essentially what made Alexander better, and were valuable for the campaign. Since he started neglecting them, the controversies also begun with his soldiers.

EDIT* And of course when he was pissed off with his soldiers, his generals and the assasination attempts against him, and his friends, he didnt give a dime of what would happen to his troops, while crossing the Makran for example.
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Post by marcus »

amyntoros wrote:Very good point, and I think the reason why people have difficulty explaining these actions in India (I won't say "justify"). It seems to me that not only were the Macedonians not destined to hold these provinces, but that they never had any intention of doing so. Don't have my sources to hand but if I recall correctly here's no evidence of cities being built at this point, no Macedonian garrisons left behind to keep control, no native Satraps appointed, nor the "gifting" of the territories to the leaders of other provinces. It was destroy, kill, and move on. If one accepts that Alexander made no effort to hold these territories then what was the true purpose? Not quite the usual conquest, methinks. The ensuring of safe passage through the territories comes to mind as a possible reason, but I recall that Alexander had to travel some distance to attack many of these natives. With the largest forces he had ever known at his command (whether or not one accepts Diodorus' figures), surely his troops marching on either side of the river were in no real danger? And I don't believe he was securing his rear or intending to return to these territories again, but simply returning home by a different route. (Maybe someone with a better knowledge of geography can tell me if the men sent with Craterus crossed the same territory again as I'm not sure.) So I'll ask now not for the reason the natives were slaughtered, but what Pothosians think was the true purpose for attacking them in the first place.
A very good question - my, when we do get going on this forum, we get some clever stuff going, don't we? :D

At this moment in time I'm not in a position to give a developed answer - I'm just going to address the Craterus question ... I'm not looking at the sources either, but I don't think they specify the route Craterus and his portion of the army was to take, except that it was the "northern" route. Most of the maps in the modern biographies, if I recall correctly, show him not going back up into Bactria (or at least not as far north as Bactra), but effectively skirting over the top of Gedrosia, passing through Arachosia and Areia (probably back to Prophthasia/Farah) and then down into Carmania.

Therefore it wasn't a case of sending Craterus back to Bactria/Sogdia to check up on Oxyartes etc. However, he was passing through areas that had not really been much affected by the eastwards march ... so it rather raises the question of why Craterus was sent that way - because Al knew the Makran would be tough, and wanted to preserve some of his army? or because he hadn't properly subjugated some of these areas, so wanted Craterus to do a bit of slaughtering (which then never got mentioned in the sources because it wasn't Alexander's own actions)? :wink:

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Post by karen »

I have a couple of questions for those who might have some expertise on India as it was at the time:

Did the caste system already exist? From what I know, the "untouchables" were perhaps not technically slaves, but they seemed generally to get stuck with the scut work.

What did Indian kings, fighting within the kingdom, do with captured cities? Captured enemy soldiers? How did they maintain dominance, once they gained it? How did they raise the money they couldn't raise by selling slaves? The customs -- the "rules" applying to victor and defeated -- were obviously different, when selling people into slavery was not an option. So what were they?

I'll stay out of the debate except to say that I think Alexander went into India fully intending to conquer, just as he did everywhere else he went -- but he found that the rules were different, and adapting to them along with all the other difficulties, when he and his army were so far from their home base (and the army was homesick), was the one problem he was unable to solve, ultimately forcing him to turn back.

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Post by marcus »

karen wrote:I have a couple of questions for those who might have some expertise on India as it was at the time:
I am woefully ignorant about India at that time. I can manage snippets from the Mughal period, and the colonial period around 1840-1858, but that's not much help here. However ...
karen wrote:Did the caste system already exist? From what I know, the "untouchables" were perhaps not technically slaves, but they seemed generally to get stuck with the scut work.
To my knowledge the caste system did exist. And you're right, the "untouchables" were certainly not slaves, but they were the very lowest level of society. Whether that definitely meant that they got the "scut" work and no-one else did, I'm not sure.
karen wrote:What did Indian kings, fighting within the kingdom, do with captured cities? Captured enemy soldiers? How did they maintain dominance, once they gained it? How did they raise the money they couldn't raise by selling slaves? The customs -- the "rules" applying to victor and defeated -- were obviously different, when selling people into slavery was not an option. So what were they?
Haven't the foggiest, I'm afraid.

Hmmm, it seems as if some general reading on pre-colonial India is in order! :(

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Post by alejandro »

Semiramis wrote:Alejandro,

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! :wink: (yes, Paralus, despite your rebellious antics, you’re very much part of the “establishment”, up to and including your praise for Philip II! :wink: So if you’re invited to a party to taste some delicious apples while you’re preparing to sacrifice a sheep to Dyonisos, beware! :twisted: )

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! :D ). 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,
Alejandro
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Post by marcus »

alejandro wrote: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!
Very kind, sir. :D

I rather like being referred to as the "Old Guard" (although when we say "Old", of course, some sensitivity is in order - I found more grey hairs the other day). :cry:

But before you attempt to carry out your insurgency, just remember what happened to those satraps who thought they could get away with anything when Alexander's back appeared to be turned! :twisted:

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Post by Paralus »

karen wrote:Did the caste system already exist? From what I know, the "untouchables" were perhaps not technically slaves, but they seemed generally to get stuck with the scut work.
Yes. I shall have a quick read through Hieronymus' little ethnographic discourse on the Indians when I get the time and see if I can't make some generalisations for you.

Just a quick observation: the seven thousand mercenaries are instructive. If the sources are correct these mercenaries (and others like them) were in the service of the competing pricipalitites (Porus, Taxiles etc) and took service with whomever was paying at the time. That they expected to be able to leave the vanquished and go on their way (not realising Alexander's "serve with me or die" policy) suggests - as the sources do - that this was the norm. It appears they were not lumbered for sale or routinely bumped off. They simply decamped and found service in some other Raja's war.

Anyhow, Hieronymus first.
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Post by Paralus »

alejandro wrote:...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!
Establishment!? My, my what has become of my long hair?? Being sent home from school with notes to return in a "presentable" manner with hair above the collar?

OK, a few midnight confessions .: The head's bald and the remaining hair and beard is grey; I have wonderfully alive memories of Led Zeppelin, Exile on Main Street and Feelin' the noize.

'Twas that bass riff in Midnight Confessions that pushed me into learnig bass and reading music - again - actually.

Bugger but I feel like a decent red listening to that.Wouldn't do at the office though. When I get home. Warm up the old Marantz....

Establishment? What esablishment!

Amyntoros will accuse me forthwith of bursting into song on the forum again. I had best desist.

Alexander will have liked the Stones, Zeppelin and Slade methinks. Perhaps he could have sung along whilst charging?
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by Efstathios »

What about the doors?
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Post by Paralus »

Well apochryphal sources have him singing Light My Fire in a tired and emotional state at Persepolis...
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by Semiramis »

Butchery in India - I see both Alejandro and Amyntoros’ points about India. I myself sway a bit over this at times.

“Less advanced” India - I’m not sure about Alejandro’s “less advanced” theory as a reason for the brutality in India though. This is possibly a modern take on things.

If one looks at the writings of Alexander’s entourage about the area, they’re positively gushing about the friendly cities (where they were guests). There’s one place where, on top of everything else, the entourage comments on how beautiful the people are. Their take on it is that the Indians must expose and kill the ugly babies to get such good-looking people to populate their cities. Yes, this was a compliment. :lol: If anyone can find that quote for me I would be eternally grateful (dead computers are such a pain). I believe it was the city of Musicanus?

Another aspect suggesting against the “less advanced” theory is Alexander’s respect for the Brahmin philosophers. His friendship with Calanus, the Brahmin who became part of his entourage, is probably beyond question. The rather strange funeral of Calanus was probably the most lavish Alexander had commissioned - not counting Hephaistion’s. Didn’t Indian philosophy become rather fashionable in Athens post Alexander? All in all, it’s hard to say that he respected the culture or customs there less than anywhere else. After all his ancestor Dionysis had visited the place and was worshiped there. ;)

And last but not least, India could not have been of peripheral value in terms of resources. The place was practically bursting at the seams with valuable goods - elephants, gems, wood... You name it. The Achaemenids had long had a lustful eye towards Indian wealth and if we know anything about Alexander, he would've too. :)

Alexander’s plans for India – Agreeing with Karen here. I think he had every intention to conquer and hold on to the northwestern regions he visited. If Darius the Great could do it, why couldn’t the son of Ammon? Alexander left Macedonian garrisons behind in India (poor sods, so far away from home) and a satrap named Phillip. When Phllip died, he sent a Thracian to share the throne with the Indian king Omphis. Let’s not forget that Alexander was invited by two Indian kings, so a stable Indian satrapy must’ve looked quite plausible.:)

Caste system - I’m inclined to agree with Marcus that the caste system existed by Alexander’s time. It’s mentioned in much older religious literature. Although, they seem to suggest it wasn’t always sanguine as it is now. Perhaps it wasn’t as rigid back in Alexander’s times compared to the British Raj times? Now, as to the origins of the caste system… Em… Isn’t this thread controversial enough without someone mentioning the Aryan Invasion Theory? :D

Old Guard - Pssst… Alejandro, I like this guerrilla warfare thing you have going. We shall take the Old Guard by surprise and disappear back into the civilian population... Let's keep this insurgency business hush hush between us for now. ;)
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Post by alejandro »

marcus wrote:But before you attempt to carry out your insurgency, just remember what happened to those satraps who thought they could get away with anything when Alexander's back appeared to be turned! :twisted:
Ouch! I should have realised that you don’t become a somatophilax without being as ruthless as the king! :D . I guess I will follow Semiramis’ advice and continue the fight in secret. Just hope no Keballinos tells about it to anyone, or if he does, that the listener is a Philotas! :D
paralus wrote:OK, a few midnight confessions .: The head's bald and the remaining hair and beard is grey; I have wonderfully alive memories of Led Zeppelin, Exile on Main Street and Feelin' the noize.
What? Beard? You see! You’re part of the Old Guard! Firmly on Philip’s side! :wink:
semiramis wrote:“Less advanced” India - I’m not sure about Alejandro’s “less advanced” theory as a reason for the brutality in India though. [...] The Achaemenids had long had a lustful eye towards Indian wealth and if we know anything about Alexander, he would've too.
All good points, indeed, and they forced me to think about them for a long time, after which I’ve managed to come with some ideas to salvage my theory (hey! You wouldn’t expect me to retreat so easily, would you? :D ). Anyway, here are the new versions. I still believe that the distinction between advanced and less advanced societies was one accepted then (at least by the allegedly advanced ones): Greeks and Macedonians certainly looked down at Indians (they complained about “those rags” they had to use because they couldn’t get “decent Macedonian clothing”), and I would think that Persians shared that view. The fact that Alexander was obsequious when a guest could be thought to be just good diplomacy. He needed allies, didn’t he? Politics, politics. But once he got those allies, “everyone else was game”, and boy they were!. Here I guess we have to resort to Athenas Owl’s argument of numbers, and notice that since India was so densely populated, killing more people in absolute terms doesn’t necessarily translate into “more brutality”. If I remember well, there was a period in the campaign when they found several cities quite close to one another, and every time Alexander took one of them their people were killed, the main reason being to avoid their escaping to the other ones carrying the news and –more importantly- joining their troops. These large numbers may also help solving the resources conundrum: I may re-phrase my theory in terms of per-capita resources ("backward+poor-per-capita"), and then the value of India as producer of elephants and the like would be greatly diminished. Why per-capita? Well, it can be a good measure of how many resources a conqueror will have to “invest” in conquering the area, so that even if India’s value was enormous in absolute terms, the cost of conquering it could outweigh the benefits (the rate of return may be too low or even negative). This, by the way, fits Karen’s view (that we both agree with) that Alex started the campaign with the goal of conquest, but then found out that it was not worth the effort and left (and, if you push a bit, you can even fit Kenny’s idea that the Beas mutiny was a god-sent –staged? :twisted: - event that allowed A to “write-off his losses” and leave India without losing face).
Did I convince you? :D

All the best,
Alejandro
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Post by Efstathios »

I dont think that Alexander conquered every area that they passed through because it had something special. It was just in the way. And there were other areas too, that had far more less than India. Yet, he conquered them.
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Post by Theseus »

Efstathios wrote:What about the doors?
Break on through (to the other side) :D
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