alex in afghanistan

This moderated forum is for discussion of Alexander the Great. Inappropriate posts will be deleted without warning. Examples of inappropriate posts are:
* The Greek/Macedonian debate
* Blatant requests for pre-written assignments by lazy students - we don't mind the subtle ones ;-)
* Foul or inappropriate language

Moderator: pothos moderators

JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

Hello, Im obviously new here. That being said im in afghanistan and lucky enough to have seen an interesting castle said to have been made by alexander. The FOB im currently located at is called farrah. If anyone could give me some information on this it would be appreciated. I will also take pictures if i can. :)
User avatar
marcus
Somatophylax
Posts: 4764
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2002 6:27 am
Location: Nottingham, England

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by marcus »

JohnT wrote:Hello, Im obviously new here. That being said im in afghanistan and lucky enough to have seen an interesting castle said to have been made by alexander. The FOB im currently located at is called farrah. If anyone could give me some information on this it would be appreciated. I will also take pictures if i can. :)
Hi John,

Welcome to Pothos.

Certainly it is said that Alexander built some sort of fortifications at Farah, although as with many of the cities "founded" by Alexander it is never clear whether this means simply adding to existing fortifications, or building an entirely new city, or merely settling people in an existing one.

Still, it is possible that it was at Farah that Alexander had Philotas, the commander of the Companion Cavalry, arraigned and executed for treason. Locating where some episodes of the history occurred is difficult sometimes, and it is by no means certain that the event took place there; but there is at least a possibility.

If you are able to get some pictures for us, I'm sure many of us would love to see them.

And - best of luck with your time in Afghanistan.

All the best
Marcus
Sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago
At Amazon US
At Amazon UK
User avatar
Taphoi
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 931
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:32 pm
Location: Bristol, England, UK
Contact:

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Hi JohnT,

If Farrah is a Forward Operating Base(?) near Farah in the west of Afghanistan, then you are on or near the route taken by Alexander at the end of 330BC. He was travelling from Herat (Alexandria Areion) in the satrapy of Areia southwards to the vicinity of Lake Sistan (or Seistan) in ancient Zarangaea. In January-February of 329BC he set out up the Helmand River to Kandahar (the name is a corruption of Alexandria) and afterwards he moved on to Kabul.

The fort might well have been occupied by Alexander, but I would caution you that most such forts would have been reconstructed many times over the centuries, so little if anything may remain of Alexander's phase. Nevertheless you are on one of the least documented and most rarely visited sections of Alexander's route, so your photos would be very interesting. If you can show some of the older masonry of the fort, then someone may have an opinion on whether it could be Hellenistic.

Best regards and good luck!

Andrew
JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

I'll try and get some pics for you ladies and gents. I'm fairly excited due to the fact that the castle/gaurd post. Is built out of a small pinnacle. So the rooms and fortifacations are made out of solid rock..wich is NOT something the locals do here. So ill get the best pics i can and post them here when i can.. Ok folks thanks for taking the time !

Also this structure is in the middle of nowhere, possible ten to 12 miles from the nearest settlement.
athenas owl
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 401
Joined: Tue Apr 25, 2006 4:07 am
Location: US

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by athenas owl »

Looking forward to the pics! And any insights you might want to share.
User avatar
Taphoi
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 931
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:32 pm
Location: Bristol, England, UK
Contact:

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Just to clarify the status of Farah in the ancient sources:

Strabo 11.8.9 and Pliny 6.61 give the name Prophthasia to a site approx. 270km from Alexandria in Areia (Herat), which is about the correct distance for modern Farah (they give the route distances seemingly taken from the bematists of Alexander's expedition).

Stephanus Byzantinus in his entry for "Phrada" says that this place was called Prophthasia by Alexander and that it was a town among the Drangae (aka Zarangae).

Hence it is clear that Prophthasia was very probably at or near Farah, although Tarn has gone against the grain by placing it further south actually on Lake Seistan.

The name Prophthasia ("Anticipation" - in the sense of forestalling something) given by Alexander seems to refer to him having outrun fate in the form of the Dimnus conspiracy - hence the association with the site of the Philotas affair.

Best wishes,

Andrew
Last edited by Taphoi on Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

I'm really appreciating the participation in this thread. Growing up I always wanted to be an archeaologist, alas life being what it is i ended up destroying things instead of finding things. So this is a very cool time for me :P Getting pics of this site isn't going to be easy to due certain constraints but i WILL get pics. I probly wont be able to load then for a week or so, till i get back somewhere with the correct equipment. My crew is actually pretty excited about it as well, so all camera's will be taking photo's. One thing ive forgotten to mention, The place im talking about in the before mentioned postings is by itself out in the desert. Probly about 6 miles from the city itself. In the city proper is another structure, and its HUGE. it's about 3 football fields square, with about 15 foot walls around it. Very thick.. the corners and thruout the wall structures are round gaurd towers, You can tell this place is very old do to corrosion and wear and tear. In one corner it looks as if there was a large Square structure using the 2 conjoining walls as the outer walls. From the air it looks as if that was the only structure within the "compound". The rumour is that it was also a structure from that time. But looks more like local architecture Than the mountain turned into fort. Just on a larger scale, ill try to get pictures of that as well, but it might be a bit harder since its in the heart of the city. Well have to go for now. Thanks for taking the time to answer this thread !
John


edit* As for the pictures is there anything particular that i could get pictures of that would be beneficial to ya'll ? anything that would make studying the structure easier or something particular to look for ?
User avatar
Taphoi
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 931
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:32 pm
Location: Bristol, England, UK
Contact:

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Hi JohnT,

Obviously, we can see the citadel in Farah, Afghanistan that you are describing in the satellite images of the area on Google Maps and we can see the square structure that you have described in its northern corner.

I also notice that there is a roundish hill or small mountain circa 10km due west of the town. Is that the mound that you are referring to? It is a possibility that such a hill could be Alexander's fort of Prophthasia, whereas Farah proper is the Phrada of Stephanus Byzantinus. That would be a very interesting hypothesis to investigate and we could help by telling you what kinds of things to look for.

There is a hint in one of the online resources on Farah (Encyclopaedia Iranica) that something like this is already understood to be going on:
The old town, now in ruins, stood on the right bank at a strategic point commanding the northern entrance into Sīstān, and used to be a major stage and tollhouse mid-way on the caravan road from Qandahār to Herat. The modern town, built on the opposite (eastern) bank, is now the center of all activities and population.
The same source has:
Later F(a)rāh was an important stronghold on the eastern frontier of the Sasanian empire, possibly rebuilt by Pērōz (AD457-84) since the province was once named Frāxkar-Pērōz.
I have to agree that the citadel within the modern town looks vaguely Sassanian to me. All those round bastion towers reflect fortress architecture from the Late Roman Empire, which originated in the Middle-East.

Best regards,

Andrew
JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

hey andrew ! Forgot about google maps :) and unfortunately i cant use it where im at atm, it will have to wait till i get back, if you look on google maps, im located SE of farah, approx 3 nautical miles. wich im sure you can see on google maps. if you pinpoint my position then the citadel, and im thinking thats a dang good word for this place is approx 5 to 7 miles to the ESE at approx 118 degrees, there is a small dirt track that goes directly to the base of the structure.. Like i said previously i would put the size of the hill at about 200 feet AGL. and probly 1/2 mile long and 1/4 mile wide..so its fairly big, Take these measurements with a grain of salt, It was night under NVG's that i got a chance to see it, and i was in the air. It was amazing though :) ok my time is up for now, so gotta go, im going to ask around to see if i can get some pics from other guys to give you guys a glimps, so you can better tell me what pics you want me to get when i get back up in the air.
john
User avatar
Taphoi
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 931
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:32 pm
Location: Bristol, England, UK
Contact:

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Hi JohnT,

Well I can see the airstrip ESE of Farah, where I guess you’re based. Then the best guess is that you’re referring to the ridge about 9km SE from the airbase buildings and oriented at about 60 degrees to N. There is a track running past your airstrip and on past the SW tip of this ridge at an orientation of ~115 degrees to N. Google Terrain suggests this ridge rises about 60m to 80m above the plain and it’s about the right dimensions???

This would seem quite far from the main river and in a rather dry area for it to be an obvious candidate for Prophthasia. On the other hand, we have good evidence that the climate in that area was wetter in antiquity. Secondly, it could lie on the direct route to the Helmand district and Kandahar beyond. I notice that there is also a very faint and sometimes interrupted straight track oriented at about 110 degrees to N, which intersects the southern tip of this ridge. Towards the west, it runs on through a large gap in a low ridge about 3.5km SE of the southern tip of your airstrip. Towards the east, it intersects the more prominent modern track where it enters the foothills. Could this be the ancient road from Farah to Kandahar?

Anyway, Prophthasia, the lost city of Alexander the Great, does probably lie somewhere within fifteen km or so of where you are based. I’m not aware that any archaeological trace of it has yet been found, so it’s waiting to be discovered. These are some ways of trying to pin it down:

1) Is there a local museum or local antiquities collector/dealer? Do they have any finds that could come from the Greek period (especially things like coins, which are easily dated)? Do they know where they were found?
2) Use of a metal detector at a site could reveal coins or jewellery fragments that could date the site. Alexander’s troops (and those of his successors, such as Seleucus) would have been paid in silver drachms or tetradrachms and they are bound to have lost a few in the vicinity of their fortress.
3) A Greek city of any size is likely to have had a theatre (semicircular steeply stepped auditorium). There was one at Ai Khanum in N. Afghanistan (Alexandria on the Oxus), which had been hollowed into the hillside (see reconstruction below).
4) A Hellenistic Greek fortress is quite likely to have walls made of large well-squared blocks of masonry, most likely without mortar (which is why the blocks have to be large and fit together well). The towers (if any) would tend to be square.
5) From the air, you can look for faint traces of ancient roads. They would tend to be interrupted by landslides and debris from the washes in storms, but might be straighter than modern tracks, if they had been constructed by Greek engineers.
6) As already mentioned, there is an Alexandria at Ai Khanum in Bactria (N Afghanistan), which has been excavated. It was abandoned anciently, so is well preserved. We should be looking for similar archaeology and features in Prophthasia. It had straight streets, pebble mosaics (a very Macedonian feature) and columns with Corinthian capitals – so it was very Greek-looking overall. There are images of Ai Khanum on Google Images. Here are some:

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

Best regards,

Andrew
JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

i think your fairly close andrew, This structure DOES have squared off walls, the bricks/rocks look fairly large, But there close to 100 feet up, i think thats where they start, i didn't see any other prominent features anywhere close bye..its seems to be all alone out there..one funny thing we where wondering about..is while we where flying around it, there was a, well it had the demensions of an airstrip. but had raised walls, it was very old and hardly descernable..it resided about 100 meters outside the bottom of the rock where the road came in. Dang i need to get you guys some pics, Tomorrow, ill be up during the day and ill get it done..stay tuned !
JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

ok i got PICS :) First though Description and location.

2800 feet above sea level, 600 to 650 feet high, 100 meters long running north to south, about 150 feet wide at the top, it does have square corners, and archways as you will see in the pictures, the hill looks to have been hollowed out at least partially, (seen evidence of fallen ceilings from tunnels..
Location..... for you old school folks Lat N3216.52 Long 0621089
for the technologicaly advanced.. GPD cords are 41SMR22927124.. dunno if ya'll can work with that, if not ill figure it out some other way and shoot that out as well.

ok pics. damn lol pics are to big...one sec
JohnT
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

Image Image Image Image Image Image thats a couple i have more as well, will continue to upload when i can ! Also in shrinking these ive lost about half of the pic, let me know what you think and maybe there is some way i can put the full image on here :) thanks in advance
User avatar
marcus
Somatophylax
Posts: 4764
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2002 6:27 am
Location: Nottingham, England

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by marcus »

JohnT wrote:thats a couple i have more as well, will continue to upload when i can ! Also in shrinking these ive lost about half of the pic, let me know what you think and maybe there is some way i can put the full image on here :) thanks in advance
Fantastic, John, thanks so much.

Even if half the photos are lost, they still look great - especially the first couple.

If you can upload more, please do. I'm not sure what to do to get the entire photos up, technologically, but I'm sure there is a way. I shall have to think about that. Otherwise, uploading to somewhere like Flickr, and posting us a link, might be another way round it.

Would love to see more!

All the best
Marcus
Sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago
At Amazon US
At Amazon UK
User avatar
Paralus
Strategos (general)
Posts: 2846
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:13 am
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Paralus »

Love your "ride". Sure beats donkeys...

Keep putting them up John T.
Paralus
Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

Academia.edu
Post Reply