Sogdian Rock

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Essaouira
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Sogdian Rock

Post by Essaouira »

Does anyone know what kind of fortification there was on the Sogdian Rock and how it might have been defended ?
Also, any thoughts as to who might have accepted Alexander's challenge? Can we deduce this from any other stories of
climbers scaling walls or cliffs /
Any suggestions welcome
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by Taphoi »

Essaouira wrote:Does anyone know what kind of fortification there was on the Sogdian Rock and how it might have been defended ?
Also, any thoughts as to who might have accepted Alexander's challenge? Can we deduce this from any other stories of
climbers scaling walls or cliffs /
Any suggestions welcome
The references are Curtius 7.11.1-29, Metz Epitome 15-18, Polyaenus 4.3.29 and Strabo 11.11.4. (Arrian locates the marriage to Roxane here and is contradicted, as usual on Sogdian matters, by every other source.)
And so the king had imposed peace upon all other parts, but impelled by panic a multitude of men from the province had sought the protection of a towering pinnacle. This rock was occupied by the Sogdian Ariamazes with thirty thousand warriors and previously hoarded provisions, so as to provide for such prodigious numbers for as long as two years. The altitude of this pinnacle presented an intimidating sight, for it soars up in excess of twenty stades in height with a circumference of a hundred and fifty. None but the birds may inhabit it, for it is thickly forested, sheer on every side and approached by a precipitous and pinched pathway. At about the halfway point in the ascent the path passes into a cavern with a narrow and shadowy mouth, which is the only way up to the heights. But bit-by-bit it broadens further in and ultimately even develops deep alcoves. Springs spout virtually throughout the cavern and the waters that course forth collectively source a stream that cascades down the crags. Having observed the obstacles that the place displayed, the king considered that it could not be captured by storm. He had decided to depart, when he was inspired by a yearning even to harass Nature’s art.
So its defences were natural. There was a cave system at the head of a mountain stream, so probably limestone geology and these caves afforded the only easy ascent, that is without actual rock climbing. Obviously the access along the stream's course must have been fortified, but there is no hint of fortifications elsewhere. There must have been an inhabitable area above the cave system, but below the summit. It should be located somewhere in the mountains north or east of Ai Khanoum.

There is also the case of General Wolfe's ascent of the Heights of Abraham before winning the Battle of Quebec or even Hannibal's traversal of the Alps to surprise the Romans... and of course we should not forget the ascent of the Wall in Westeros.

Best wishes,

Andrew
Essaouira
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by Essaouira »

Thanks for those references. Can you tell me where the one that you quote in your post comes from.
It seems to describe a very different rock to Arrian, who talks about the soldiers using tent pegs and flaxen rope to climb
the mountain. Are there a few different Sogdian rock assaults in the campaign?

Also any thoughts on which of his soldiers might have have had the mountain climbing experience to volunteer for this challenge ?
thanks
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by Taphoi »

Essaouira wrote:Thanks for those references. Can you tell me where the one that you quote in your post comes from.
It seems to describe a very different rock to Arrian, who talks about the soldiers using tent pegs and flaxen rope to climb
the mountain. Are there a few different Sogdian rock assaults in the campaign?

Also any thoughts on which of his soldiers might have have had the mountain climbing experience to volunteer for this challenge ?
thanks
It is a synthesis: mainly Curtius with a few details from the Metz Epitome and Polyaenus reconstructing their common source, Cleitarchus. The account carries on with mention of the iron pegs:
...the men made ready rugged ropes and tapering iron pegs to wedge between the slabs. Then their ruler rode around the rock and at its rear, where the access seemed least severe and precipitous, bestowing his blessings he bade them begin their ascent in the second watch of the night. Packing provisions sufficient for two days and armed only with swords and spears, they started their climb. And at first they forged forward on foot, but then upon reaching the cliffs some levered themselves aloft by grasping handholds in the rock, whilst others hauled themselves up on ropes with nooses cast ahead to snag on protrusions. Still others wedged the tapering iron pegs into crevices between the slabs, threading their ropes through them, so as to establish a ladder up which they could clamber. And each of them helped out the rest, as step by step they crept to the crest.
To select the climbers Alexander summoned his customary counsellors and instructed them:
Let you fetch me three hundred of the fittest young fellows from your respective forces, such as at home herd their flocks up mountain tracks and across crags that are practically impassable.
So they were shepherds from mountain pastures.
Arrian confuses details of the several pinnacles that Alexander assaulted in 328BC and the succeeding year. He puts the Sogdian Rock episode in the spring of 327BC, but it almost certainly happened in the late summer of 328BC. It was the Rock of Chorienes that Alexander took in the spring of 327BC and that was indeed where he met Roxane.
Best wishes,
Andrew
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by agesilaos »

These are the sources, except Curtius for whom no translation is available onine but the Penguin should be available quite cheaply most from here

https://sites.google.com/site/alexandersources/home

Polyainos IV 3
(29) When Alexander penetrated into Sogdiana, a country rough and rugged and traced with no roads, his march was attended with great difficulties. In the middle of it extended a high and craggy rock; its tops accessible only to the birds. Around it was a thick and continued wood: which rendered the product of the place still more secure. There Ariomazes posted himself, with a numerous and determined band of Sogdians. On the part of the rock, where he had fortified himself, were fine springs, and plenty of provision. Alexander riding round, and reconnoitering the place, observed behind the rock a slope particularly well-covered with wood. There he ordered three hundred young men, expert in climbing precipices, without their arms to endeavour to make their way through the trees, assisting each other by fastening as they went up small cords to the boughs. And as soon as they had reached the top, loosing the white belts they had on, they were directed to fix them upon poles, and extend them above the trees; that the gleaming girdles brandished about might be seen as well by the Macedonians below, as the Barbarians above them. The active and intrepid band, as soon as they had with difficulty reached the top, at sun-rise according to orders brandished their belts: when the Macedonians set up a general shout. Ariomazes apprehending the whole army were in possession of the top of the mountain, and above their heads, surrendered himself and his rock to Alexander, supposing his power and abilities divine.
Metz
[15] A mass of people from these regions, driven by fear, rushed to a certain mountain and fled to its heights, for its altitude was daunting to behold; for it rose no less than twenty stadia from base to summit. This was accessible by one place, a cave alsewhere the slopes were sheer and overhanging.
[16] When Alexander saw that it could not be assaulted here, he chose three hundred men from the whole army, who were reckoned the strongest and he led them to the mountain with the promise of a great reward and he pointed out that they should find out if the sheer summit of the mountain might be reached by driving iron nails into the rocks, by use of the hooks they had fashioned and by helping each other up on ropes bit by bit; they set out that night and were to signal, at dawn, with their white linen.
[17] They accomplished this more quickly than Alexander had calculated. Though many fell to their deaths, the remainder completed the task. At first light the next morning Alexander sent one of his men to the enemy leaders, Dares and Ariomazes, to persuade them to surrender to him; if he could not achieve this he was to point out the men on the summit to Dares.
[18] When Ariomazes saw them he was astonished, it was as if Alexander’s army had men with wings. Taking note of this frightening development, the crowd of men there slew Ariomazes. Then they surrendered. And Alexander pardoned them their murder.
Strabo Book XI. Chapter XI. 4. Bactria.
Alexander, it is said, founded eight cities in Bactriana and Sogdiana, some he razed, among which were Cariatae in Bactriana, where Callisthenes was seized and imprisoned; Maracanda in Sogdiana, and Cyra, the last of the places founded by Cyrus, situated upon the river Iaxartes, and the boundary of the Persian empire. This also, although it was attached to Cyrus, he razed on account of its frequent revolts.
Alexander took also, it is said, by means of treachery, strong fortified rocks; one of which belonged to Sisimithres in Bactriana, where Oxyartes kept his daughter Roxana; another to Oxus in Sogdiana, or, according to some writers, to Ariamazas. The stronghold of Sisimithres is described by historians to have been fifteen stadia in height, and eighty stadia in circuit. On the summit is a level ground, which is fertile and capable of maintaining 500 men. Here Alexander was entertained with sumptuous hospitality, and here he espoused Roxana the daughter of Oxyartes. The height of the fortress in Sogdiana is double the height of this. It was near these places that he destroyed the city of the Branchidae, whom Xerxes settled there, and who had voluntarily accompanied him from their own country. They had delivered up to the Persians the riches of the god at Didymi, and the treasure there deposited. Alexander destroyed the city in abhorrence of their treachery and sacrilege.
Arrian IV
CHAPTER XVIII. OXYARTES BESIEGED IN THE SOGDIAN ROCK.

MEANTIME Coenus returned to Alexander at Nautaca, as also did Craterus, Phrataphernes the viceroy of the Parthians, and Stasanor the viceroy of the Areians, after executing all the orders which Alexander had given them. The king then caused his army to rest around Nautaca, because it was now mid-winter; but he despatched Phrataphernes into the land of the Mardians and Tapurians to fetch Auto phradates the viceroy, because, though he had often been sent for, he did riot obey the summons. He also sent Stasanor as viceroy into the land of the Drangians, and Atropates into Media, with the appointment of viceroy over the Medes, because Oxodates seemed disaffected to him. Stamenes also he despatclied to Babylon, because news came to him that Mazaeus the Babylonian governor was dead. Sopolis, Epocillus, and Menidas he sent away to Macedonia, to bring him the army up from that country. At the first appearance of spring, he advanced towards the rock in Sogdiana, to which he was informed many of the Sogdianians had fled for refuge; among whom were said to be the wife and daughters of Oxyartes the Bactrian, who had deposited them for safety in that place, as if forsooth it were impregnable. For he also had revolted from Alexander. If this rock was captured, it seemed that nothing would any longer be left to those of the Sogdianians who wished to throw off their allegiance. When Alexander approached it, he found it precipitous on all sides against assault, and that the barbarians had collected provisions for a long siege. The great quantity of snow which had fallen helped to make the approach more difficult to the Macedonians, while at the same time it kept the barbarians supplied with plenty of water. But notwithstanding all this, he resolved to assault the place; for a certain overweening and insolent boast uttered by the barbarians had thrown him into a wrathful state of ambitious pertinacity. For when they were invited to come to terms of capitulation, and it was held out to them as an inducement, that if they surrendered the place, they would be allowed to withdraw in safety to their own abodes, they burst out laughing, and in their barbaric tongue bade Alexander seek winged soldiers, to capture the mountain for him, since they had no apprehension of danger from other men. He then issued a proclamation that the first man who mounted should have a reward of twelve talents, the man who came next to him the second prize, and the third so on in proportion, so that the last reward should be three htindred darics to the last prize-taker who reached the top. This proclamation excited the valour of the Macedonians still more, thottgh they were even before very eager to commence the assault.

CHAPTER XIX.ALEXANDER CAPTURES THE ROCK AND MARRIES ROXANA.

ALL the men who had gained practice in scaling rocks in sieges, banded themselves together to the number of three hundred, and provided themselves with the small iron pegs with which their tents had been fastened to the ground, with the intention of fixing them into the snow, wherever it might be seen to be frozen hard, or into the ground, if it should anywhere exhibit itself free from snow. Tying strong ropes made of flax to these pegs, they advanced in the night towards the most precipitous part of the rock, which was on this account most unguarded; and fixing some of these pegs into the earth, where it made itself visible, and others into the snow where it seemed least likely to crumble, they hoisted themselves up the rock, some in one place and some in another. Thirty of them perished in the ascent; and as they fell into various parts of the snow, not even could their bodies be found for burial. The rest, however, reached the top of the mountain at the approach of dawn; and taking I)ossession of it, they waved linen flags towards the camp of the Macedonians, as Alexander had directed them to do. He now sent a herald with instructions to shout to the sentries of the barbarians to make no further delay, but surrender at once since “the winged men” had been found, and the summits of the mountain were in their possession. At the same time the herald pointed at the soldiers upon the crest of the mountain. The barbarians, being alarmed by the unexpectedness of the sight, and suspecting that the men who were occupying the peaks were more numerous than they really were, and that they were completely armed, surrendered, so frightened did they become at the sight of those few Macedonians. The wives and children of many important men were there captured, including those of Oxyartes. This chief had a daughter, a maiden of marriageable age, named Roxana, who was asserted by the men who served in Alexander’s army to have been the most beautiful of all the Asiatic women whom they had seen, with the single exception of the wife of Darius. They also say that no sooner did Alexander see her than he fell in love with her; but though he was in love with her, he refused to offer violence to her as a captive, and did not think it derogatory to his dignity to marry her. This conduct of Alexander I think worthy rather of praise than blame. Moreover, in regard to the wife of Darius, who was said to be the most beautiful woman in Asia, he either did not entertain a passion for her, or else he exercised control over himself, though he was young, and in the very meridian of success, when men usually act with insolence and violence, On the contrary, he acted with modesty and spared her honour, exercising a great amount of chastity, and at the same time exhibiting a very proper desire to obtain a good reputation.

CHAPTER XX. MAGNANiMOUS TREATMENT OF THE FAMILY OF DARIUS.
IN relation to this subject there is a story current, that soon after the battle which was fought at Issus between Darius and Alexander, the eunuch who was guardian of Darius’s wife escaped and came to him. When Darius saw this man, his first inquiry was, whether his children, wife, and mother were alive? Ascertaining that they were not only alive, but were called queens, and enjoyed the same personal service and attention which they had been accustomed to have by direction of Darius, he thereupon made a second inquiry, whether his wife was still chaste? When he ascertained that she remained so, he asked again whether Alexander had not offered any violence to her to gratify his lust? The eunuch took an oath and said: “0 king, thy wife is just as thou didst leave her; and Alexander is the best and most chaste of men.” Upon this Darius stretched his hands towards heaven and prayed as follows :—“ 0 King Zeus, to whom power has been assigned to regulate the affairs of kings among men, do thou now protect for me first and above all the empire of the Persians and Medes, as indeed thou didst give it to me. But if I am no longer king of Asia according to thy behest, at any rate do thou hand over my power to no other man but Alexander.” Thus not even to enemies, I ween, are chaste actions a matter of unconcern. Oxyartes, hearing that his children were in the power of Alexander, and that he was treating his daughter Roxana with respect, took courage and came to him. He was held in honour at the king’s court, as was natural after such a piece of good fortune.

CHAPTER XXI. CAPTURE OF THE ROCK OF CHORIENES.
WHEN Alexander had finished his operations among the Sogdianians, and was now in possession of the rock, he advanced into the land of the Paraetacians, because many of the barbarians were said to be holding another rock, a strongly fortified place in that country. This was called the rock of Chorienes; and to it Chorienes himself and many other chiefs had fled for refuge. The height of this rock was about twenty stades, and the circuit about sixty. It was precipitous on all sides, and there was only one ascent to it, which was narrow and not easy to mount, since it had been constructed in spite of the nature of the place. It was therefore difficult to ascend even by men in single file and when no one barred the way. A deep ravine also enclosed3 the rock all round, so that whoever intended to lead an army up to it, must long before make a causeway of earth over this ravine in order that he might start from level ground, when he led his troops to the assault. Notwithstanding all this, Alexander undertook the enterprise. To so great a pitch of audacity had he advanced through his career of success, that he thought every place ought to be accessible to him,’ and to be captured by him. lIe cut down the pines, which were very abundant and lofty all round the mountain, and made ladders of them, so that by means of them the soldiers might be able to descend into the ravine for otherwise it was impossible for them to do so. During the day-time he himself superintended the work, keeping half of his army engaged in it; and during the night his confidential body-guards, Perdiccas, Leonnatus, and Ptolemy, son of Lagus, in turn, with the other half of the army, divided into three parts, performed the duty which had been assigned to each for the night. But they could complete no more than twenty cubits in a day, and not quite so much in a night, though the whole army engaged in the labour; so difficult was the place to approach and so hard was the work in it. Descending into the ravine, they fastened pegs into the steepest and narrowest part of it, distant from each other as far as was consistent with strength to support the weight of what was placed upon them. Upon these they placed hurdles made of willow and osiers, very much in the form of a bridge. Binding these together, they loaded earth above them, so that there might be an approach to the rock for the army on level ground. At first the barbarians derided, as if the attempt was altogether abortive; but when the arrows began to reach the rock, and they were unable to drive back the Macedonians, though they themselves were on a higher level, because the former had constructed screens to ward off the missiles, that they might carry on their labour under them without receiving injury, Chorienes grew alarmed at what was being done, and sent a herald to Alexander, beseeching him to send Oxyartes up to him. Alexander accordingly sent Oxyartes, who on his arrival persuaded Chorienes to entrust himself and the place to Alexander; for he told him that there was nothing which Alexander and his army could not take by storm; and as he himself had entered into an alliance of fidelity and friendship with him, he commended the king’s honour and justice in high terms, adducing other examples, and above all his own case for the confirmation of his arguments. By these representations Chorienes was persuaded and came himself to Alexander, accompanied by some of his relations and companions. When he arrived, the king gave him a courteous answer to his inquiries, and retained him after pledging his fidelity and friendship. But he bade him send to the rock some of those who came down with him to order his men to surrender the place; and it was surrendered by those who had fled to it for refuge. Alexander therefore took 5oo of his shield-bearing guards and went up to get a view of the rock; and was so far from inflicting any harsh treatment upon Chorienes that he entrusted that very place to him again, and made him governor of all that he had ruled before. It happened that the army suffered much hardship from the severity of the winter, a great quantity of snow having fallen during the siege; while at the same time the men were reduced to great straits from lack of provisions. But Chorienes said he would give the army food for two months; and he gave the men in every tent corn, wine, and salted meat out of the stores in the rock. When he had given them this, he said he had not exhausted even the tenth part of what had been laid up for the siege. Hence Alexander held him in still greater honour, inasmuch as he had surrendered the rock, not so much from compulsion as from his own inclination.
Prospectus of Diodoros XVII
How the king led his troops against the Sogdiani and Scythians.
How the chieftains of the Sogdiani, who were being led off to execution, were unexpectedly saved.
How Alexander defeated the Sogdiani who had revolted and slew more than one hundred and twenty thousand of them.
How he punished the Bactriani and subdued the Sogdiani a second time and founded cities in suitable places to restrain any who rebelled.
The third rebellion of the Sogdiani and capture of those who took refuge in the "Rock."
Concerning the hunt in Basista and the abundance of game there.
Concerning the sin against Dionysus and the slaying of Cleitus at the drinking bout.
Concerning the death of Callisthenes.
The campaign of the king against the people called Nautaces and the destruction of the army in heavy snow.
How Alexander, enamoured of Roxanê, daughter of Oxyartes, married her and persuaded numbers of his friends to marry the daughters of the prominent Iranians.
Preparation for the campaign against the Indians.
Plutarch Alex. 58
3 It is said that when he was besieging the citadel of Sisimithres, which was steep and inaccessible, so that his soldiers were disheartened, he asked Oxyartes what sort of a man Sisimithres himself was in point of spirit. 4 And when Oxyartes replied that he was most cowardly of men, "Thy words mean," said Alexander, "that we p391can take the citadel, since he who commands it is a weak thing." And indeed he did take the citadel by frightening Sisimithres. 5 Again, after attacking another citadel equally precipitous, he was urging on the younger Macedonians, and addressing one who bore the name of Alexander, said: "It behooves thee, at least, to be a brave man, even for thy name's sake." And when the young man, fighting gloriously, fell, the king was pained beyond measure.
A longer and more embellished version is Curtius VII 11 ff.
When you think about, it free-choice is the only possible option.
Essaouira
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by Essaouira »

To select the climbers Alexander summoned his customary counsellors and instructed them:
Let you fetch me three hundred of the fittest young fellows from your respective forces, such as at home herd their flocks up mountain tracks and across crags that are practically impassable.

So they were shepherds from mountain pastures
.

Is it possible they were Agrianes -mountain men from Thrace ?
agesilaos
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by agesilaos »

The sources say they were from the whole army so some from all the ethnic groups, the shepherd business smacks of authorial elaboration on Curtius' part. As we have him Alexander sends 300 from each command whereas the other sources make it 300 total, which is more likely. The methods of ascent described are not those of shepherds chasing stray sheep but of climbers, egg collectors maybe, I do not think recreational climbing was an ancient Greek thing but might be wrong there.
When you think about, it free-choice is the only possible option.
Semiramis
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by Semiramis »

Hi Sogdian enthusiasts,

There's some interesting new genetic information out that may add to the source information or verify it. The paper is linked below. I'll write a decent summary in relation to Alexander if I find something relevant. Let me know what you guys think. :)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... 034288.pdf

Cheers

Semiramis.
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Re: Sogdian Rock

Post by sean_m »

Thanks for the link! My thought about these genetic studies is that they have so many potential points of error (the genetics, the statistics, the software, the assumptions used to interpret the genetics, and the history used to interpret those results) that it would take a lot of work to look them over and decide whether they are making a reasonable sort of argument. Genetics can't tell you how people in one isolated village called themselves Romans in 400 CE, then Franks in 600 CE, then Flemmings a few hundred years later ... not because someone settled there and drove out the old inhabitants, but because people's grandchildren sometimes call themselves by different names than their grandfathers did.
My blog (Warning: may contain up to 95% non-Alexandrian content, rated shamelessly philobarbarian by 1 out of 1 Plutarchs)
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