Franz v Schwarz: Alexander in Turkestan

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chris_taylor
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Franz v Schwarz: Alexander in Turkestan

Post by chris_taylor »

This post is to share knowledge that might not be accessible to everyone:

It is an article on Alexander's campaign in Bactra & Sogdiana, published in 1893 and written in old German. I found a reference to it while researching for travelling the region next year. I'm a native German speaker, so downloaded it. To the best of my knowledge, there is no English translation, but IMHO, it is a hugely important contribution: it was written by someone who travelled the area during a time when it hadn't yet changed much since Alexander's time AND who had a close working relationship with the Russian military.

Original Title: Franz v. Schwarz: Alexander des Grossen Feldzüge in Turkestan. Kommentar zu den Geschichtswerken des Flavius Arrianus und Q. Curtius Rufus auf Grund vieljähriger Reisen im russischen Turkestan und den angrenzenden Ländern

Translated: Military campaigns of Alexander the Great in Turkestan. Commentary to the historical works of Flavius Arrianus and Q. Curtius Rufus, based on many years of travelling in Russian Turkestan and its neighbouring countries

Some background to the author and the paper:

Turkestan is an old name for the region roughly equating to Bactria & Sogdiana, now encompassing much of Uzbekistan, plus bits of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Russia annexed Turkestan in the 1870s, but in those days, there were no maps and to fill in the blanks, the Russian military carried out extensive surveys.

Around the same time, Russia was also building an observatory at Taschkent (capital of modern Uzbekistan), but they didn’t have enough experts in astronomy. So they looked first to Britian and when that didn’t work out, to Germany. Schwarz, an astronomer from Munich, was dispatched to Taschkent to help out.

Schwarz went on to live and work in Turkestan for over 15 years, travelling extensively to carry out measurements. He developed a close relationship with the Russian military topography department. With that combined knowledge (first hand experience of geography and understanding of military matters), Schwarz says that he found Arrian’s description of the campaign so clear and so transparent, he had a complete map of the route in his head just after the first read.

Realizing that he was in a unique position to provide insights, he decided to write it up for posterity.

He used Arrian’s account, occasionally supplemented it with Curtius (never replaced, only supplemented) and then explained step by step which ancient place maps to which modern town, why and when (it might be another place, depending on whether its summer or winter (!)) and the route Alexander would have taken between them.

If you understand German, read the article. It’s an eye-opener, and a refreshing change from the sophistry of armchair academics who've never been to look.

in the absence of an English translation, I uploaded

1. the original article. it's over a hundred pages, but about one third are lengthy quotes of German Arrian and Latin Curtius. the photographs, drawing and maps & tables at the end are language independant.

2. two Google Earth kmz files of the route suggested by Schwarz. The route is in red, river courses sketched in blue (Google Earth is superb, but it is difficult to make out rivers and as these were a major determinant in how ancient armies moved, it helps making them stand out more)

3. a spreadsheet that expands on Schwarz' table on page 101 of his article. the table gives the names of towns along the route he says Alexander went and the distances between them. Schwarz used the old German names and spellings, so whenever possible, I translated them into modern Google-maps-english, based on similarities of spelling or sound, distances given, my own detective work and a good dose of common sense.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/ ... sp=sharing

Any mistakes in the transfer are mine - mapping Alexander's route on Google Earth is a work in progress :)

Any questions, ask.

Chris
All men by nature desire understanding. Aristotle.
Alexias
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Re: Franz v Schwarz: Alexander in Turkestan

Post by Alexias »

Many thanks for this, Chris. Just wish there were more people around who could appreciate it!
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delos13
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Re: Franz v Schwarz: Alexander in Turkestan

Post by delos13 »

Thank you, Chris Taylor, for this very interesting post. I wish I knew German but still, I am going to explore this material. I maybe can give you some help with one of the points of the route. In your table of route points (in Word) there is item #9 that you put in Old German as "Kamenny-Most". It is actually in Russian not in old German. ;) It means "stone bridge". Maybe at the time of his travels there was a stone bridge or it was a local name for the place.
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chris_taylor
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Re: Franz v Schwarz: Alexander in Turkestan

Post by chris_taylor »

delos13 wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:38 pm ... #9 that you put in Old German as "Kamenny-Most". It is actually in Russian not in old German. ;) It means "stone bridge". Maybe at the time of his travels there was a stone bridge or it was a local name for the place.
Thanks so much for this, I uploaded the corrected file.

You've actually raised an important issue overall: the article is written in German, all places are spelt in the latin alphabet and few names matched those given maps.google.de. Most spellings were close enough to be recognizable as typically German ways of spelling foreign names (Kw for Q, Dsch for Dh), so I *assumed* Schwarz used German names & spellings of the 1800s.

But coming to think of it, that might be wrong: the territory was under Russian occupation, there were no maps and no one in Germany would have heard about any place in the region bar the largest cities. Maybe Schwarz used the *Russian* names, as they appeared on the new, locally created maps and transliterated those for his German audience.

Chris

PS: if anyone else finds mistakes, please let me know and I'll fix it.
All men by nature desire understanding. Aristotle.
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