A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Alexias
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A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

Post by Alexias »

Whenever I have a few minutes (not often), I have been trying to read A B Bosworth 'Conquest and Empire'. It isn't a book for novices in Alexander studies as it unconsciously assumes an existing familiarity with Alexander's career and world, but it is very readable and highly enthusiastic. I have only got up to Gaugamela, but I have learnt a couple of things.

One interesting point is that Philip never needed to mobilise his full military forces, either Macedonian or allied. Page 10:
The greatest resource of Macedonia was probably its population...The Macedonian infantry under arms in 334 BC numbered 27,000, and there were ample reserves that could be mustered in subsequent years. The cavalry also was numerous and of high calibre - something over 3,000 at the time of Philip's death. These numbers are formidable, and they comprise only the nucleus of Philip's military resources: his native Macedonian forces...Indeed it can be argued that Philip never need to mobilise more that a fraction of the forces at his disposal.
This though was something I did not know about Siwah:
The god (Ammon) and his cult were familiar were, however, familiar in the Greek world,... its oracles celebrated and respected. There were also offshoots in mainland Greece, the most famous at Aphytis in Chalcidice, where there was a temple of Zeus Ammon, built in the second half of the fourth century, and whose coinage long before Philip's reign depicted the Libyan god complete with ram's horns. Alexander must have known of the cult since his infancy...
Alexander could well have visited this temple long before reaching Egypt's temple.

If you are looking for something to read, I would recommend this book. Bosworth clearly had a great enthusiasm for Alexander's adventures, and despite the scholarly content, manages to convey the excitement of the campaign. For example, this simple sentence manages to convey the 'game-on' anticipation of the upcoming battle:
Accordingly he moved up his army to a base camp below the northern outliers of the Jabal Maqlub, where he deposited his baggage and non-combatants, and in the course of the following night he took his fighting force across the intervening hills.
And this dramatizes the crucial moment at Gaugamela:
On the Persian side there was an increasing movement left by the Bactrian units under Bessus, until finally a gap developed between the Persian left and the rest of the line. This was a climatic moment. Alexander was now at the head of a wedge, the Companions thrown forward obliquely with the phalanx continuing the line on one side, the Agrianians and the infantry flank guard receding on the other.... This apex now drove into the gap in the line, and progressively widened it. The Companions then pressed inward, driving at the exposed flanks of the Persian troops while the phalanx in close formation rolled the front line with its hedge of sarisae.
So, did Bessus cause the Persian defeat at Gaugamela by allowing the gap to develop? And did Alexander realise that Bessus was thus defeatable in pursuing him?

Anyway, another thing that I didn't realise was the Companions' cavalry engagement during the pursuit of Darius was when they were actually returning from the abandoned chase. It is usually portrayed as being during the chase, rather than after it:
As the Companions returned from the pursuit, they crossed the path of a large body of stragglers from the left of the Persian line, the Persians, Parthyaeans and Indians, who had probably retreated in the face of the Macedonian phalanx. They were riding in deep formation and clashed frontally with the returning Companions, who barred their line of retreat. The result was one of the most savage melees of the day, in which some sixty Companions fell.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Alexias wrote: Sat May 15, 2021 7:36 pm Whenever I have a few minutes (not often), I have been trying to read A B Bosworth 'Conquest and Empire'. It isn't a book for novices in Alexander studies as it unconsciously assumes an existing familiarity with Alexander's career and world, but it is very readable and highly enthusiastic. I have only got up to Gaugamela, but I have learnt a couple of things.
Agreed: it is one of the best "thematic' books on Alexander. That thematic nature is probably what conveys the impression it is not for novices. Although some familiarity is good, it can still be read without such as Bosworth does narrate the campaign in the "normal" chronological fashion. It is likely the themed chapters dedicated to specific subjects that may or may not interest newcomers (though they are one of the best attributes of the work).

I would also recommend Bosworth's other works on Alexander: Alexander and the East: The Triumph of Tragedy and From Arrian to Alexander.

Both of these definitely require more than a passing familiarity with Alexander history. The first is an in depth discussion of the eastern or Indian campaigns including the near genocide of the Malloi. A very good read. The second is an in depth study of historical methods regarding the extant sources for Alexander and, most particularly, Arrian. Not for the new to the subject or the skint of pocket, though more a library borrow!

For those interested in Diadoch musings, Bosworth's The Legacy of Alexander: Politics, Warfare and Propaganda under the Successors is a very good read (I have a PDF....). Again, this is a thematic approach which takes you through many subjects from the Babylonian Settlement, Macedonian army numbers after Alexander through the great campaigns of Antigonos and Eumenes and more. The "high chronology" argued at book's end is now redundant - at least in the view of myself and many others - and readers would do well to search out the "mixed" or "eclectic" chronology which would be the best fit for the evidence (Tom Boiy; Alexander Meeus for example). This is worht the read if only for the complete discussion the Babylonian Settlement and the campaign of Iran involving Antigonos and Eumenes. Top stuff.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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I still haven't finished the essays in the second half of the book, but the theme of the biographical part of the work is definitely what started out as being an exciting Boy's Own adventure ended up being a bloody nightmare. The Indian campaign descends into rampaging massacres with little achieved as the more southerly Indians melted away only to return and harass the garrisons such as at Patala after Alexander and the main army had moved on. The harbour and fortress built by Hephaestion at Patala failed to protect Nearchus's fleet, which left early and became becalmed, meaning they were unable to rendezvous with the army.

By the time of his death, Bosworth portrays Alexander as being a bit loopy with grandiose plans for world domination well advanced: destroying irrigation dams across the Tigris to allow navigation for ships; assembling ships at Babylon and constructing a harbour for 1,000 ships at Babylon; assembling massive reinforcements to the army; sending an expedition to the Caspian to connect to Outer Ocean and India; planning an expedition to circumnavigate Africa; a road to be built along North Africa to the Pillars of Heracles; Carthage and Sicily to be subdued as well as the expedition to Arabia. It is small wonder that Bosworth suggests Alexander's final illness may have been accelerated by poison.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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The Indian campaigns and massacres are covered in some depth in Triumph and Tragedy which, again, is well worth a read. Having read this one can well understand the nature of Alexander's veterans on display post his death. The eradication of the cityof the Larandians (and Isaurians), the murder of Perdikkas, the revolt at Triparadeisos demonstrate this. It is most clearly on display in the actions of the Argyraspides in their vicious performances at Paraitakene and Gabiene.

While on those veterans, Roisman's Alexander's Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors is an excellent discussion.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Does Bosworth suggest that Alexander had lost control of the army, or at least the Macedonian part of it? Or is he suggesting Alexander was driving the ferocity? But there again, the ferocity at Thebes and Tyre meant the Indian massacres were nothing new.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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No, what he describes is that by the Indian campaign, and increasingly throughout it, Alexander's troops - particularly the Macedonians - had become a well oiled machine long unured to killing. Also very good at it. By campaign's end these men would see killing no different to any other everyday activity of work. Most particularly the pointy end troops: the Argyraspides and the cavalry.

Not people to start an argument with as Perdikkas found out and Antigonos' Macedonians in Iran.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

Post by Alexias »

Thanks.

You might be interested in this discussion on Mazaeus and Gaugamela https://www.academia.edu/s/fd640c9551 that s going on.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Hi Alexias,

Indeed, the one-two punch of Bosworth and Nicholas G. L. Hammond provides a supremely balanced and awe-inspiring degree of erudition on Alexander; the 'problem', if I may, is that the bifurcation of the two scholars is a result of Bosworth's acceptance of the vulgate, and specifically in terms of the 'atrocities' in Swat and the Punjab, and a subject on here which has been touched on, I opt strongly to go with Hammond via Arrian.

Basically, the vulgate means Cleitarchus, the source which has manifestly been censured for carelessness and mendacity by several ancient authors. Arrian was almost entirely concerned with the military narrative, and not unlike Polybius and Livy concerning the great campaign of Hannibal against the Roman Republic, the more reputable source is less circumstantial with interesting details (the 'Last Plans', for example). Plutarch indeed tells us that Philip 'bitterly reviled his son as ignoble and unworthy of his high estate' (Life of Alexander, Ch. 10.3), but that something was psychologically wrong with Alexander, as some have theorized, and that he was horrendously cruel to the point of being counter-productive to Bosworth's profound statement that Alexander's reign marked a watershed in the development of the ruler cult (cf. Conquest and Empire, p. 278), just doesn't jibe with what I feel is a reasonable assessment. By 'reasonable' I would suggest that people draw on evidence which we can analyze along with the right questions, starting with reputation. Any charge involving wanton cruelty can easily be a result of a hostile agenda.

On balance, it doesn't bode well at all for Cleitarchus! It almost certainly requires more scrutiny and specificity to discount Arrian than Diodorus and Curtius; basically, Aristobulus reflects the former (the court tradition, including the contemporaries Nearchus, Ptolemy and Onesicritus. We can perhaps add Anaximenes, but Hieronymus wrote of events after Alexander's death), Cleitarchus the latter (the vulgate tradition, from which we almost solely read of Alexander's bouts of gratuitous cruelty; of course, arbitrary interpretations preclude any certainty). Aristobulus was a loyal member of Alexander's entourage, and his interests stretched out to geography and science. He enjoyed Alexander's confidence, but his propensity for bias does not mean he was incredulous; his recordings of Alexander's qualities and construction of the pothos reflects a veracity of Alexander's unrelenting ambition, not some apocryphal work of grandiosity. Now, significantly, no extant work reads that Aristobulus wrote canards or lied across the board, but several well-known ancient authors explicitly stated that Cletarchus did outright lie, which is quite a red flag for one who charges Alexander with murdering around 160,000 locals amid the fighting against the kingdom of Sambus and that of the Brahmins (Curtius wrote verbatim 'according to Cleitarchus' that this horrendous act was perpetrated by Alexander, Book 9.8.15; also in Diodorus, Book 17.102.6, whereby both state that 80,000 at Sambus were massacred, and Diodorus subsequently writing that Alexander 'inflicted a similar disaster upon the tribe of the Brahmins', Book 17.102.7, as will be reiterated)! This is quite disparate from the same backdrop reported by Arrian (thus from the court accounts), who tells us in concise fashion as to what occurred, Book 6.16.1-4,

"...Then [Alexander] took the archers, Agrianians, and cavalry sailing with him, and marched against the governor of that country, whose name was Oxycanus, because he neither came himself nor did envoys come from him, to offer the surrender of himself and his land. At the very first assault he took by storm the two largest cities under the rule of Oxycanus; in the second of which that prince himself was captured. The booty he gave to his army, but the elephants he led with himself. The other cities in the same land surrendered to him as he advanced, nor did any one turn to resist him; so cowed in spirit had all the Indians now become at the thought of Alexander and his fortune. He then marched back against Sambus, whom he had appointed viceroy of the mountaineer Indians and who was reported to have fled, because he learned that Musicanus had been pardoned by Alexander and was ruling over his own land. For he was at war with Musicanus. But when Alexander approached the city which the country of Sambus held as its metropolis, the name of which was Sindimana, the gates were thrown open to him at his approach, and the relations of Sambus reckoned up his money and went out to meet him, taking with them the elephants also. They assured him that Sambus had fled, not from any hostile feeling towards Alexander, but fearing on account of the pardon of Musicanus. He also captured another city which had revolted at this time, and slew as many of the Brachmans as had been instigators of this revolt. These men are the philosophers of the Indians, of whose philosophy, if such it may be called, I shall give an account in my book descriptive of India..."

The ruler Oxycanus is known as Porticanus in Diodorus 17.102.5. Arrian doesn't slur the account nor omit that Alexander showed no scruples in slaying many people if resisted (the earlier massacre of the Branchidae by Alexander was believed to be perpetuated because their descendants surrendered to Xerxes the treasures of the temple of Apollo near Miletus. Terrible, indeed, but not wantonly murderous due to a 'dark' side of Alexander). The vulgate does not mention the diplomacy involved here, and what is even more dichotomous than Curtius in relation to Arrian, Diodorus (viz., Cleitarchus) tells us that Alexander 'ravaged the kingdom of Sambus, enslaving the population of most of the cities and, after destroying the cities, killed more than 80,000 of the natives before inflicting a similar disaster upon the tribe of the Brahmins'. Similar disaster? So, Alexander may have murdered 160,000 people amid this backdrop and destroyed their 'cities', too, even though our reputed main source tells us many of them submitted and were pardoned by Alexander? I don't think so. I can't prove this in some empirical manner (can we ever?), but no soldier or mercenary with Alexander ever relayed such grim information for Cleitarchus, per the data we have that participants provided Cleitarchus with much information when he wrote some fifteen years after this intense backdrop.

But the details regarding Sambus and Musicanus (who was soon executed) does not allow for a massacre of 80,000 people, not only because a tertiary source is not in sync with the most reputable source, but that source, Cleitarchus, is described as often mendacious: Cleitarchus was well read by the Romans amid a time when Alexander carried a fetishistic level of admiration (hence perhaps many of them didn't like what Cleitarchus wrote, it must be considered), but he perhaps despised Macedonians, thus attributing to Alexander this massacre of 80,000 Indians in the realm of Sambus - and perhaps the 'similar disaster' against the Brahmins we read in Diodorus - was a way to denigrate Alexander for the execution of a fellow philosopher Callisthenes, with whom Cleitarchus probably shared an animosity towards Alexander (cf. Hammond, Alexander the Great: King, Commander & Statesman, p. 3). The apologia of Aristobulus was certainly real but thinly-veiled, yet Cleitarchus sacrificed historical accuracy for rhetorical effect (cf. John C. Yardley, Introduction, The Sources, p. 6, in the Penguin Classics Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander). Curtius himself wrote on one occasion that Cleitarchus was careless, which I'll emphasize further down. Quintilian wrote that Cleitarchus 'won approval by his talent, but his accuracy has been impugned' (Institutes of Oratory, 10.1.75); Cicero wrote that Cleitarchus was guilty of fabrication and notoriously untrustworthy (Brutus 42, On the Laws 1.7 and Letters to Friends 2.10.3); Strabo also tells us that Cleitarchus prevaricated (Geography, Book 11.5.4); Pliny the Elder stated that Cleitarchus was a 'celebrated writer' (Natural History, Book 10.136). Moreover, the well-known Oxyrhynchus Papyri mirrors the other critics that Cleitarchus was a sensationalist writer of his composition (Lines 9-12), but does state he was 'blameless' and seemed to carry a high level of responsibility (LInes 13-14), and was a tutor to Ptolemy IV much later in his life (Lines 15-17). But most telling, perhaps is what is revealed in a seminal treatise of the 1st century ACE, titled On the Sublime (the author specifcally deals with literary criticism, and is though to have been one Dionysius Longinus), which corroborates the others, in Ch 3.2,

"...we laugh at those fine words of Gorgias of Leontini, such as 'Xerxes the Persian Zeus' and 'vultures, those living tombs,' and at certain conceits of Callisthenes which are high-flown rather than sublime, and at some in Cleitarchus more ludicrous still - a writer whose frothy style tempts us to travesty..."

That last sentence is pretty overt! So, the gratuitous acts of murder attributed to Alexander (hence 'the Triumph and Tragedy in the East'!) are borne out of the vulgate (an amalgam of tertiary source material; Arrian is 'tertiary' in a timeframe sense of his Anabasis, but he represents fully the the fountainhead), and the 'official' albeit apologetic tradition reflected in Arrian via Ptolemy, Aristobolus and the King’s Journal (Ephimerides) does not besmirch a massacre he undertook nor omit an enemy’s temporary success against him amid battle (eg, at Halicarnassus the defenders were stout enough at an early stage to prevent Alexander to capture the city by surprise or sudden assault, per Arrian 1.20.6-7, thus Bosworth misleads us a little by stating that Arrian 'represents the siege as a series of effortless victories' in Conquest and Empire, p. 48; again I take Hammond over Bosworth for accurately following what I deem the more veracious source).

Again, it’s quite revealing that the primary writer representing the vulgate, Cleitarchus, explicitly charged by several reputable writers - including Cicero no less - as being a fabricator (not merely something like ‘his accuracy might be a little suspect at times’). There’s no gray area here, particularly that even a treatise (On the Sublime) concerned with literary criticism per se mentions Callisthenes and Cleitarchus as overtly unreliable. What was lied about wasn’t specified, but it’s a fair assumption it would be events which are divergent from Arrian, particularly regarding another act of wanton murder described by Diodorus at 17.84.2. That Alexander developed a darker character as he ventured further east is something to be considered, as he now perhaps wanted to be treated as a Persian king, etc. But a scrutiny of our more reliable historiography doesn’t favor the manifestation of an increasingly murderous tyrant.

Arrian tells us in Book 4.27.3-4 of the resultant incident at the siege of Massaga in the fall of 327 BCE, which for Diodorus via Cleitarchus (presumably) was a murderous act, whereby Alexander accepted the surrender of the defenders under the condition the mercenaries join his ranks. But upon receiving intel they were 'resolved to arise by night and run away to their own abodes, because they were unwilling to take up arms against the other Indians', he had them cut down amid their flight. Far from home and on campaign under these circumstances, mercenaries were either to be absorbed as allies or eliminated lest they subsequently take up arms against him with future enemies, etc. (this is what the discerning Hammond stresses). Alexander probably didn’t lose any sleep over this, but he had to do what he had to do in an attempt to prevent any possible impasses. The counter-insurgency he was dealing with was clearly intensifying! Sure, he and the Macedonian-led instrument became more inured to killing as the years went by, and however 'immune' professional campaigning soldiers became to this, it doesn't denote at all they enjoyed an exacerbation of doing so. Cleitarchus, I believe, was not directly apprised by participating soldiers and officers of the Swat and Punjab campaigns that they massacred tens of thousands of people with ‘fist-clinched’ aplomb!

The vulgate tells us (Diodorus being his characteristic uncritical reporter, but noteworthily absent this time in Curtius) in disturbing fashion that Alexander was ostensibly generous in accepting terms for the mercenaries to leave the city in safety, but once outside he told them 'I didn't agree you were safe from me outside your walls' (my own jargon!), and systematically killed them, along with their women and children. The Loeb Classical Library editor, professor Charles Bradford Welles, of its Diodorus Siculus, Library of History Vol. VIII (Books 16-17, 1963), footnotes that Plutarch agrees with Diodorus on 'this rather discreditable account of Alexander's treatment of them', but also noting historians have a dilemma in weighing the balance of what may be the vulgate and Plutarch blackening Alexander, or Arrian whitening his reputation. Well, no plethora of critical sources down the timelines have placed any discredit on Arrian as they have Cleitarchus. The event we read from Diodorus in 17.84 was likely an invention by Cleitarchus (cf. Hammond, Three Historians of Alexander the Great, p. 52).

However, to reiterate, I would agree it's credible that as Alexander progressed eastwards, he became less agreeable with anyone in his way. But not to the degree we read in the vulgate. A reflection of Ptolemy's righteousness - not to mention no help to those who attempt to press that he’s a hagiographic, hence unreliable, source - is that he denied the valor bestowed upon him by Cleitarchus that he had saved Alexander's life at Malli (Cleitarchus was perhaps patronizing Ptolemy, as his works were being put together in Alexandria while Ptolemy was Soter, but it still reflects telling canards): as I brushed on earlier, Curtius at 9.5.21 reveals that Ptolemy himself said he had been sent elsewhere before the clash with the Mallians, as well as stating that 'such was the carelessness of those who composed the old records', specifically naming Cleitarchus and Timagenes.

Thus we are not on terra ferma with Cleitarchus via Diodorus, following these allegations. Hammond emphasizes this literary evidence, Bosworth does not, only stating prosaically that Cleitarchus was 'repeatedly accused of rhetoric bombast' (Conquest and Empire, p. 297). Things should be judged on their own merits, and nobody's infallible, but Arrian is our primary source for Alexander. The massacres in the East are more credible with the court histories than the vulgate, thus Hammond over Bosworth for me! Alexias, if you are not familiar with it already, I strongly endorse Hammond's Alexander the Great: King, Commander and Statesman. We need the likes of Bosworth for some check-and-balance, but it's my favorite basic study of the career of Alexander.

But that’s just me! Thanks, James :)
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Indeed: I was a participant. Kathy's work is quite interesting.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Paralus wrote: Sat Oct 02, 2021 2:34 am

Indeed: I was a participant. Kathy's work is quite interesting.
I had noticed :)

Hi James, thank you for your post.

If the vulgate tradition is not to be replied upon, I think we ought to be equally wary of believing implicitly what Arrian says. He was too conscious of painting a view of Alexander as a prince among men and as he himself says, he has omitted stuff that he didn't think was probable, and by extension, what didn't accord with his view of Alexander.

The campaign in India probably was particularly bloody for, as you say, Alexander had been thwarted, he was dealing with an army that really didn't want to be there; they probably sensed they had bitten off more than they could chew; they probably didn't have the capacity to take thousands of captives and sell them into slavery, and; there may have been a need to eradicate resistance in their rear to keep their northward lines of communication open, and provide a line of retreat if they were unable to advance any further.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Alexias wrote: Sun Oct 03, 2021 2:03 pm
Paralus wrote: Sat Oct 02, 2021 2:34 am

Indeed: I was a participant. Kathy's work is quite interesting.
I had noticed :)
Kathy's had several chapters up for discussion. Been quite an interesting set of discussions.
Alexias wrote: Sun Oct 03, 2021 2:03 pmHi James, thank you for your post.

If the vulgate tradition is not to be replied upon, I think we ought to be equally wary of believing implicitly what Arrian says. He was too conscious of painting a view of Alexander as a prince among men and as he himself says, he has omitted stuff that he didn't think was probable, and by extension, what didn't accord with his view of Alexander.
The notion of a reliable tradition and an unreliable tradition has long been discarded and it surprises me that it still rears its head. The analogy, above, of a "more reputable" Polybios (and, so, less "reputable" Livy is, at the very best, fraught and misunderstands the variegated source tradition behind the Hannbalic War. All sources for Alexander rely on contemporary sources but are filtered to us by authors writing centuries afterward "when the objective was literary embellishment, rather than factual reportage" (Bosworth, "A Tale of Two Empires" in Alexander The Great in Fact and Fiction, Oxford 2000, p 25). This applies to Arrian as much as to to our other sources and to see it otherwise is naive. After all, this more "reputable" source who is "less circumstantial with interesting details" - Arrian - has no qualms in telling us that Alexander was led to Siwa by talking serpents.

The fact of the matter is that Alexander and his army had become ruthlessly adept at slaughter. What transpired with the foreign mercenaries at Granikos was an entree for what would occur during the Indian campaign. It began with the Assakanoi and reached its height with the Malloi where the tactical plan of multiple columns was squarely aimed at trapping and annihilating as many as possible. Similar occurred at Hydaspes. There is no point in whitewashing what, clearly, were slaughters and massacres.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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