Cophen Campaign

Alexander's Indian campaign
Part of Indian campaign of Alexander the Great
The Valley of the Cophen River
Date May 327 BC – March 326 BC
Location Indian subcontinent
Result Macedonia conquers the Cophen country, modern Swat, Pakistan
Macedon Aspasians



Commanders and leaders
Alexander the Great



Ptolemy I Soter



The 'Cophen Campaign was a campaign conducted by Alexander III of Macedon between May 327 B.C.[1] all the way to March of 326 B.C.[2] It was conducted in the modern Punjab region, in the area specifically known as Swat, Pakistan. Alexander's goal was to secure his line of communications so that he could conduct a campaign in India proper without having to fear for his communications. To this effect, he had to take a number of fortresses from various Barbarian tribes.



Alexander had assumed the throne of Ancient Macedonia when he was 20 years of age after his father was asassinted at the hands of an intimate body guard . [3] Having taken up his throne and put down all those who contested his claim to it , he then set about to confirm his rule of Ancient Greece as Hegemon. A number of measures had been taken up by the Greek city states to reclaim their independence from the Macedonians. He marched his army to Thebes, at which point Thebes surrendered, promptly followed by Athens.[4] It was around this point that Alexander made the decision to leave Ancient Sparta independent [4], due to the political implications that would have in his capacity as Hegemon of Greece, it would depict him in the light of an autocrat instead of the ruler by the consent of the governed. He therefore decided to leave Antipater as his regent in Greece, with a force equal to the Spartans in the case that they should get ambitious.[5] It was as the result of this decision that he decided to extend the borders of his Macedonian Kingdom- in other words he was simultaneously Hegemon of Greece which was a strictly a civil office and the outright monarch of Macedonia - to the Danube river and subdue all the tribes between the northern Macedonian border and the right bank of the Danube[5], which he did. Greece required some final mopping up before he could begin his father's long planned expedition against the Achaemenid Empire.

Crossing the Hellespont in the early part of spring 334 B.C.[6], he had with him 30,000 Infantry and 5,200 Cavalry.[7] He subsequently marched east to the river Granicus and defeated the Persians there at the battle of the Granicus.[8] From here, he marched westward to the coast of Asia Minor, and then south, weaving it through Asia Minor's coast taking a number of critical ports of call from the Persians[9], who had stationed garrisons in all the major oppidums situated on the coast.

Alexander marched his army down the western coast of Asia Minor

These were largely Greek city states, and it was critical that they should be friendly to his cause, so he settled their local disputes and set about settling new governments more preferable to the local inhabitants.[9] At Miletus, the last city on the western coast of Asia Minor and critical to his control of Asia Minor, Alexander decided to disband his fleet and take the rest of the cities along the coast by land. There were a number of reasons for this; it would free up 30,000 sailors who could be employed in garrison duty along his lines of communication to Macedon and Antipiter (Alexander is notable in his capacity as a general for his scrupulousness towards his lines of communication)[10]; his fleet was costing him fifty talents a month (which was equal to a months rations)[11]; his fleet was only 160 ships[11] strong - it had no chance of defeating the Persian fleet (400 strong)[11] who had superior sailors - and a defeat would have terrible results on not only his men's moral but on the political situation in Greece. If he had not already developed it, it was at this point that he decided to take the Mediterranean sea coast of the Persian Empire before proceeding into the heartland of the Empire. He finished taking the coast of Anatolia in early 333 B.C. [12]

He met Darius III on the extreme east coast of the Mediterranean and fought him at the Battle of Issus [13] which was a disasterous route for the Persians.[14] From Issus, Alexander proceeded along the coast of Phoenicia, taking the various maritime trading centers existing on the coast - their being 25 of these in all.[15] He received the submission from a number of their kings, potentates or oligarchies.[16] It was at this point, on news of Darius defeat that the Persian fleet started to crumble, and came over to serve under their new King.[17] Notably, he received an embassy from the city of Tyre - the King of Tyre being with the Persian fleet in the Aegean[18] - desiring to know what his demands would be - as they would be willing to accept whatever terms he requested[18] - he requested that he be allowed to sacrifice in the Tyrian temple of Heracles (Melkart).[18][16] This request was denied, on the grounds that tradition dictated that only the Tyrian King could do this.[18] Alexander, had been unaware of this when he made the request.[18] To the Tyrian's, allowing him to do this tacitly implied that he was their king.[18] As the embassies, under whatever pretense, did not explain this particular aspect of their tradition to him, told him that they would grant him any request except this one, Alexander became angry and dismissed the embassy with contumely.[18] As a result a 7 month siege ensued, the most celebrated of all antiquity. As a result of this, and the Persian fleet he'd won, including Tyre's, he won the control of the Mediterranean. From here he marched along the rest of the Mediterranean-Persian coast, notably taking Gaza in another difficult siege. After the siege of Gaza the Macedonians slew all the men in the city[19], and enslaved all the women and children.[20] He proceeded to take Egypt, which fell without a fight. As a result of his march around the entire Mediterranean coast of the Persian Empire, his rear was absolutely secure, he could proceed into the interior of the Persian Empire without fear for his rear.

It was around this time that Alexander received a letter from Darius entreating him to give him his mother, wife and children - which he'd captured after Darius' unceremonious [21] flight from Issus.[22] These were valuable assets, as Alexander could employ them as bargaining chips if matters should prove problematical. However, Alexander denied this request in spite of the offer of friendship and alliance.[22] His reply was

Your ancestors came into Macedonia and the rest of Greece and treated us ill, without any previous injury from us. I, having been appointed commander and chief of the Greeks, and wishing to take revenge on the Persians, crossed over into Asia, hostilities being begun by you. For you sent aid to the Perinthians,’ who were dealing unjustly with my father; and Ochus sent forces into Thrace, which was under our rule. My father was killed by conspirators whom you instigated as you have yourself boasted to all in your letters; and after slaying Arses, as well as Bagoas, and unjustly seizing the throne contrary to the law of the Persians, and ruling your subjects unjustly, you sent unfriendly letters about me to the Greeks, urging them to wage war with me. You have also despatched money to the Lacedaemonians, and certain other Greeks; but none of the States received it, except the Lacedaemonians. As your agents corrupted my friends, and were striving to dissolve the league which I had formed among the Greeks, I took the field against you, because you were the party who commenced the hostility. Since I have vanquished your generals and viceroys in the previous battle, and now yourself and your forces in like manner, I am, by the gift of the gods, in possession of your land. As many of the men who fought in your army as were not killed in the battle, but fled to me for refuge, I am protecting; and they are with me, not against their own will, but they are serving in my army as volunteers. Come to me therefore~ since I am lord of all Asia; but if you are afraid you may suffer any harsh treatment from me in case you come to me, send some of your friends to receive pledges of safety from me. Come to me then, and ask for your mother, wife, and children, and anything else you wish. For whatever you ask for you will receive; and nothing shall be denied you. But for the future, whenever you send to me, send to me as the king of Asia, and do not address to me your wishes as to an equal; but if you are in need of anything, speak to me as to the man who is lord of all your territories. If you act otherwise, I shall deliberate concerning you as an evil-doer; and if you dispute my right to the kingdom, stay and fight another battle for it; but do not run away. For wherever you may be, I intend to march against you.[23]

After the battle of Issus, Darius had fled to assemble a new army from the eastern reaches of his Kingdom.[24]Alexander marched his army at top speed to meet Darius, and finally made headway into the Persian heartland, Mesopotamia.[25] Crossing these fertile plains he gathered victual [25] and founded cities along his lines of communication back to Macedonia[25] to secure his communications. He crossed the Tigris north of Eski Mosul, near Nineveh, the crossing was difficult on account of the current but it was not disputed by the Persians. [26] At the final battle for the Persian Empire, near the town of Arbela, the battle of Gaugumela was another complete defeat for the Persians. As a result of this victory, Alexander easily gained both Babylon and Susa - two of the political centers of the Empire.[22]

After taking these cities, the Macedonians had a difficult fight in the pass known as the battle of the Persian Gates, which he was able to take by ruse.[27] It was as a result of taking this pass that Alexander was able to take the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, known as Passargadae.[27] From this point, Alexander proceeded with the goal of capturing Darius in mind.[28]After a high speed persuit over great distances marching from the Caspian Gates to Shahrud (253 miles) in just seven days - he found Darius had been killed by his cousin Bessus.[29][30] A march of 253 miles in seven days is an average of thirty six miles a day - and it was mid-summer and much of the country the Macedonians marched over was barren and dry.[29] This was a splendid feat.

Alexander now took up the formal titles of the Persian monarch, and started to wear their clothing and tiara, which upset the Macedonians.[29] He also demanded that the Persians pay him proskynesis, which they did.[29] The topic of paying Alexander homage in the traditional Persian fashion was one which caused a lot of problems in the Macedonian camp.[31] However, the attire of state only pertained to the affairs of state.[31] Whenever Alexander took the field with his Macedonians, he always took up his traditional Macedonian armour - with its notable white plumes on the helmet which made him so auspicious to his men while in the field.[31]

After having seized Darius' body, Alexander reorganized his army and gave it rest after it's incredible exertions. His army was strung out as not all the men had been able to keep up. Bessus had taken up the royal Persian vestments and Tiara as Artaxerxes IV - and marched into Bactria where he was gathering support with the Scythians.[32] A number of problems arose on his march towards Bessus, including a revolt in his rear while marching towards Bessus.[32] It was as a result of this that Alexander marched his army in a huge arc down to the south before settling with Bessus.[33]

Alexander would spend the next two years settling the affairs of this region. Matters became so problematical that he eventually settled on massacring the majority of the population. This business took up some time, but the majority of it was smalll arms war against numerous rebellions arising in his front or rear from whatever point he was advancing towards or away from. Notably, he faced off with Spitamenes at this time, a very able persian Satrap who had fought at Gaugumela. This Satrap caused Alexander many problems, and Alexander chased him to and fro across Aria, Bactria and Sogdiana for no short length of time.[34] However, after some time the Scythians whom Spitamenes had taken up with were sick of running from Alexander, who it seemed, would never let them rest as long as Spitamenes lived.[34] They killed Spitamenes, and to appease Alexander they gave the King his head as a gift.[35] However, the inhabitants of this region would never be completely content unless there were forced to do so, and to this effect he would eventually be forced to garrison the region with 10,000 infantry and 3,500 cavalry. [36]


It had been Alexander's purpose for some time to conquer the whole of the Persian Empire for some time, who claimed the fealty of - at least in name - as far as Gandara.[37] Darius the Great in former days had sent a commander by the name of Skylax sailed down the Indus.[38] As a result of this expedition, Darius was able to conquer the Indian country up to this neighborhood - and received 350 Euboic talents from it per annum - an extravagent sum.[39]. Relatively little is known about the Punjab in Alexander's day. [39] There were a variety of princelings and Republics, which the Indians called, "Kingless"[40] peoples - but they were all vying for power over the region with each other. The Indians, had contempt for these Republics. [37]

The King of Taxila, whom the Macedonians just called Taxila - but in fact his name was Omphis - [41] had invited Alexander to come to his aid in his struggle against the neighboring potentate Porus[37] - who was deemed the most powerful prince in the region, in addition to being capable in his own right. In addition to this, the Indian King, Sisicotus - who had served at Gaugumela in the Persian Army - [37] and had afterwords been Alexander's vassal in some capacity.[36] Allegedly, Alexander received plenty of information concerning the region from these individuals.[36] What information he received is not mentioned.

Alexander had begun planning the expedition two years before, in 329 B.C.[42], but had been held up due to a series of revolts that had taken place in Aria, Sogdiana and Bactria. However, he was held up in putting down this revolt as he had been marching through the Hindu Koosh mid-winter and decided to camp in the mountains.[43] It was during this time that he founded the city of Alexandria ad Caucasum. [43] This city is some twenty five miles northwest of modern Kabul, in Afghanistan. Returning to Alexandria ad Caucasum in May 327 B.C.[1] there was a surfeit of victual and supplies ready for the army for it's expedition into India.[44] However, there were administrative matters that required his attention. Both the satrap of the parapamisus Proëxes, and the commander of the garrison Neiloxinus were replaced due to their unsatisfactory conduct. There were a number of tribes [44] that were shuffled around, and other necessary affairs were taken up. At this moment, before he set out for Nicea, he is alleged to have had 150,000 soldiers at this point.[36]. These included soldiers from Greece, Thrace, Agriania and a healthy leaven of Oriental soldiers from the new sections of his empire.[36] It has been alleged that 50-60,000 of these were Europeans.[45] Leaving Alexandria ad Caucasum, he marched to Nicea, where he sacrificed to Athena - which was his habit at the beginning of every campaign and began his advance towards the Indus via the Cophen river.[46]

First Phase - Aspasians

While on the march Alexander sent ambassadors ahead to the various tribes that were in his front - ordering them to submit and report to him with hostages.[41]. Not only Taxila, but a number of other princes came to him bringing him gifts in proof of their vassalage and paying tribute with gifts for the Macedonians - a proof that they were ready to serve him. [41] Including other gifts that the Macedonians had never seen before, the Indian potentates furnished Alexander with a number of Elephants[41] - twenty five of which were on hand.[23] As he had now effectively replaced Darius as King of Persia, he had replaced him as overlord of the Empire and this region right where Alexander was at present situated was the eastern most Persian province.[47] As a result of this particular outlook, Alexander was enabled to treat any who resisted him as in revolt against him. While descending into the Cophen valley, Alexander informed his new vassals of his intentions; He planned to spend the rest of the Summer and Autumn in reducing the region in his front up to the river Indus.[41] From there, he was going to proceed beyond the Indus and punish the Indian nations beyond that river and punish the nations that had not submitted themselves to him and brought him tribute and recognized him as their new master.[41]

At Nicea, he took the time to split his army into two separate forces with a very specific goal in mind; to retain the interior lines so that he could reinforce his army at any point should any particular section of his army become threatened during the course of his campaign in the valley of the Cophen. In addition to this, these two forces were to keep the Indians in the region from combining their forces and coordinating against the Macedonians.[48] This is the sign of Alexander's conception of strategy, especially considering the nature of the topography of the region. The army that was going to march along the river Cophen was going to be commanded by Perdiccas and Haphaestion[23]; they were going to have the king of Taxila with them so that they had his knowledge of the region at their disposal.[23][49] They were to proceed along the right, or southern bank, of the Cophen and the forces they were to have at their disposal were as follows; the three brigades of Gorgias, Clitus (The White One) and Meleager, half the Companion ( mostly Macedonian noblemen who were equipped with a spear[50], a shield and were disciplined to such an extent that they've been called, "the first real cavalry")[51] and all the Greek mercenary Cavalry.[49][23] Their instructions were as follows; to follow the river as fast as they could to the Indus -reducing all the cities and oppidums to submission on the way - through either systematic reduction or by terms.[23][48] - and immediately build a bridge upon their arrival at the Indus[23] so that when the King arrived and after the winter when the King had wintered his army in the region - as planned - they could proceed to cross the river and punish the tribes across the Indus.[48]

The King, meanwhile had at his disposal the bulk of the forces in his army.[48] These forces were as follows; the shield bearing gaurds, four regiments of Companion cavalry, the Phalanx minus what marched with the first column, the foot agema, the archers, the other half of the horse archers (or Daans) the Agrianians and the horse lancers.[48][23] Now, Alexander's plan was to march up and down all the valleys that were in between Nicea and the river Indus. To subdue those tribes that had not paid tribute and bring them to heal.[23] Alexander clearly considered this the most difficult work at hand, and took it up. Taking up the task he deemed to be the most difficult is a habit of his that he constantly displays in the course of all his campaigns.[52]

Alexander received information to the effect that the Aspasians, the first tribe whose lands he had entered had raced off to their capital. Eager to defeat them, the Macedonians crossed the first river with all the cavalry and eight hundred Macedonian infantry mounted on horses.[53][23] The arrived quickly enough to kill a number of the Indians and drive them within their walls.[53] The rest of the Army came up the next day, and they took the city. However, a number of the Indians decided to make their exit before the city was taken, seeing their cause as lost. The Macedonians followed them up and killed a great many of them.[53] Following up a victory and exploiting it to the utmost capacity, was another habit of Alexander's, as with his father.[54] Alexander's men, who were enraged as their King had been injured during the course of the siege, raised the city to the ground. The Macedonians marched off to the next town, Andaca, which capitulated. [53]

The King's campaign through the Aspasians territory.

There being so many valleys in this particular region, Alexander came to appreciate that if he held the head of each of these regions with a suitable garrison, he could hold the entirety of each of these valleys.[53] He therefore left Craterus - whom he had probably kept in hand in case of just such an occasion - in command of a force suitable to this task, and continued on his way.[53] Now, the Indians of this region were largely herders and were in possesion of very large flocks. [55] These were probibly a species of hostages in their own right for the good behavior for the Indians, since at any point which they misbehaved the Macedonians could march into their flocks and slaughter their herds and thereby destroy their lively hoods. As they were in valleys, there is nowhere they could take these herds in time to escape the vengeance of the Macedonians. It is not unlikely to assume Craterus received instructions to this effect. However, it is not noted in the sources.

Alexander's next destination was Euspla[53], where the King of the Aspasians was. At this point, deeming their cause lost, the Aspasians burned this city and fled.[53] The Macedonians persued them, during which an interesting combat took place between Ptolemy I Soter, The Aspasian King and Alexander.[56] One of the barbarians with the Aspasian King thrust his spear right through Ptolemy's breast plate[23], but the spear did not make contact with him due to the armour stopping the severity of the blow.[56][23] It was at this point that Ptolemy killed the King of the Aspasians himself by thrusting his spear through both of his thigh's.[56][23] At this point, in a combat between Alexander, Ptolemy and the Aspasian Kings body guard they fought over the corpse of the fallen king.[56]

Second Phase - Guraeans

After slaying the Aspasians to a satisfactory capacity to put his lines of communication to a point of security beyond peradventure the Macedonians marched towards the Indian oppidum of Arigaeum - which hearing news of Alexander's capacity as a general and besieger - they had burned.[57] It was at this particular point that Craterus returned from settling the affairs of the Aspasian valleys - specifically having left Andaca in a state that Alexander was satisfied with.[57] Alexander put Craterus back to work, ordering him to set up a number of new colonies in the region, including Arigaeum. This city, and Andaca were geographically advantageous for controlling the Choaspes river, and the possession of oppidums with healthy garrisons would prove advantageous in the case of revolts.[57]

The Guraeans had retreated after burning their city to join some of their fellow tribesmen. These tribes had effectuated a junction and were preparing to face Alexander.

Combat at Arigaeum

The King's force takes up the center of the Macedonian line while Ptolemy and Leonnatus' forces take a circuit to catch the barbarians by suprise.

Ptolemy, who had been sent ahead to forage for victual [57] came back to the main contingent of the army under Alexander and reported to the King that there was a very large force of barbarians assembled and preparing to face the Macedonians. [57] The forces not only from the oppidum of Arigaum itself, but also the neighboring vicinity had taken up arms against the Macedonians. [57] The King raced off to meet this force with his wonted speed. [57]

When the Macedonians arrived, Alexander divided his army into three parts; Ptolemy taking up the left, had a third of the hypaspists, the brigades of Philip and Philotas, two squadrons of horse archers (a new unit for the Macedonians, an idea they stole from the Persians), the Agrianians and half the other cavalry [57]; Leonnatus was ordered to take up the right flank, with Attalus' and Balacrus' brigades [58]; and the King himself took up the most difficult work in the center - as was his habit - opposed to the Barbarian center.[58] Alexander sent Ptolemy and Leonnatus to their respective flanks by hidden routes that the barbarians could not see[58], thus hiding these two particular flanks of his army - lined roughly obliquely with his center line[58] - from the eyes and more importantly, the knowledge of the barbarians. Alexander's contingent was comparatively small, and his plan was to lure them out and to fight them in their front while Leonnatus and Ptolemy took them on both of their flanks respectively.[58]

As predicted, the Barbarians attacked Alexander's small contingent and after Ptolemy faced rough fighting in his front[58] he was able to effectuate a victory on his flank of the barbarians. Leonnatus' victory was comparitively easier, after which time the barbarians surrendered.[59] Allegedly, all told their were 40.000 captured.[59] This number is highly unlikely.

Third Phase - Assacenians

Proceeding from his most recent victory, Alexander marched down the river by the name of Garaeus - with the intention of subdueing the tribes of this region to tribute paying status. From here he proceeded into the valley of the Suastos - where there was a force of two thousand cavalry, thirty thousand infantry and thirty elephants.[60] Alexander raced forward with the van, planning to do all he could to upset their preparations, while Craterus followed up at a more methodical pace with the main force.[59] It is specifically mentioned that he had the siege engines with him.[59] It was in this region that the results of the Indus flattening the topography started to bear results on the surrounding country, and it must have been a great relief for the Macedonians to proceed into the relatively flat lands of this region compared to the mountainous regions of the proceeding area they had been in.[59] The speed with which the Macedonian van proceeded was such that he was able to prevent a full junction of the enemy from taking place, and each of the barbarian tribes raced off to their respective territories.[61]

Siege of Massaga

Alexander followed up the barbarian tribes, and marched to Massaga, the largest oppidum of the Assacenians and their capital.[61] The denizens of this place had acquired the services of 7,000 mercenaries from beyond the Indus.[60] These mercenaries were soldiers of no common order, and as a result of their presence the Assacenians as well as the mercenaries themselves were confident of victory against the Macedonians.[60] [61]

Upon arriving, Alexander ordered that the camp be set up outside of the oppidum. However, so confident with these mercenaries by their side, the Assacenians decided to instantly attack.[61][60] Seeing an opportunity, Alexander ordered his men to retreat to a hill about a mile distant from the town, which they proceeded to do.[60] [62] In persueing the Macedonians, the Assacenians lost their discipline and became disordered due to their excitement at the prospect of having caught the Macedonians so off guard. However, when they finally came within range of the Macedonian bows, Alexander ordered them to fire on the barbarians.[60][62] The mounted javelin men, Agrianians and archers at once dashed forward to the attack.[60] These were swiftly followed by the phalanx, which Alexander led in person.[60] Alexander was injured during the course of this action and is alleged to have stated, "They may call me son of Zeus, but I suffer none the less like a mortal. This is blood, not ichor!"[62]

The proceeding night was spent in preparation for an assault, which proved to be unsuccessful.[63] The professional mercenaries, wherever they had come from, were worth the gold they were getting paid. The next day, Alexander ordered the siege equipment to be brought up and ordered a section of the wall to be battered down.[62] However, the mercenaries knew better than to allow the Macedonians to be successful in such an effort, and were successful in preventing this from taking place.[62] As a result, the King ordered that a tower and terrace be built - it took 9 days to build these.[62] On the day after the completion of these two things, Alexander ordered that the tower be advanced toward the wall.[62] Archers and slingers, most likely from Cyprus, were stationed on the tower as it was moved forward in order to keep the defenders at a distance from their own fortifications.[62] In spite of their expertise in warfare, it is not unlikely that the Indian mercenaries had never come across such a sophisticated siege scheme and equipment. The Macedonians had developed the most advanced form of siegecraft that the world up to that point had known.[64]Although they had obviously been watching the Macedonians build the tower and terrace, it must have been a strange site for them to watch the Macedonians actually push this, frankly ridiculous, tower forward along the terrace that they had built. No doubt they'd never seen anything like it before.

Alexander ordered that a tower and terrace be built - it took nine days - after which time he ordered that archers and slingers be stationed on top of the tower and force the defenders from the ramparts.

In spite of this though, the mercenaries fought fiercely, and would not let the Macedonians through.[60] The next day, Alexander ordered that from the tower they extend a bridge and would have the same men who stormed Tyre from the bridges built on the mole to storm the Assacenians. Meanwhile, the archers and slingers would continue to fire as before. However, again the mercenaries put up fierce resistance. While this was going on, Alexander ordered that a unit of Hypaspists charge across the bridge at the mercenaries. However, to many of them rushed upon it to quickly and the hastily built bridge[63] collapsed under their weight.[60] Seeing that they had just gotten an opportunity the barbarians instantly seized upon it. First they started to fire various of arrows, stones and even fireballs into the ditch on top of the men.[63] The pit they had fallen into was to be their tomb, and a great many of them were slain once the barbarians made a sortie from one of the side gates and started to kill these largely helpless soldiers in earnest.[63] However, Alexander saved those he could by attacking this sortie with a counter-attack of his own - a number of his men were saved.[65]

The next day, the Macedonians built another bridge and attacked in a similar manner.[63] However, during the course of they're attack the Macedonians fired a lucky shot and killed the leader of the mercenaries.[66] Consequentially, the Barbarians decided to treat for surrender. Alexander's conditions for their surrender were as follows; they agree to serve under him and they surrender to him the king's family as hostages.[66] However, they were unwilling to carry out their part of the bargain, as a result of the fact that they were going to have to march over the Indus and fight their fellow Indians as a result of it.[66] They decided to retreat from the encampment they had made near the city after they had surrendered to Alexander.[66] Alexander hearing of this, had his Macedonians surround the hill that they were encamped upon. Seeing the recalcitrant mercenaries attempting to make their escape, all hell broke loose and the Macedonians became enraged, slaying a great many of them.[66] After this, the Macedonians proceeded back to Massaga and took it with ease, and killed all the soldiers in the garrison of the city. This happening, in spite of the terms that had specifically been negotiated with Massaga.[66] During the course of the siege, the Macedonians had lost no more than 25 men, however a number of them were wounded.[65]

Events Proceeding Aornus

During the course of the siege of the fortress of Massaga Alexander developed the opinion that the taking of Massaga would strike the tribes in the surrounding territory with fear as to his power and ability.[65] It was as a result of this, and as the siege went on and it was becoming clearer and clearer that the stronghold would surrender[65] , that Alexander decided to dispatch a number of his lieutenants to the surrounding oppidums in order to follow up on this victory. To that effect he issued the following orders, Coenus (Co-eh-nahs) was to proceed to an oppidum by the name of Bazira[65] - he expected this town to capitulate as a result of Massaga.[65] Simultaneously, he sent Alcetas, Attalus and Demetrius to Ora with the very specific orders to blockade the oppidum of Ora until he could arrive himself and take it.[65] It was often Alexander's habit to take up each task in person, himself. There are other occasions, notably the Mallian Campaign where Alexander issueed orders to this same effect. Alexander preferred to let as few of the denizens of these towns escape as possible, as to retain the element of suprise.

Upon arriving at Ora, Alcetas was assaulted by the inhabitants that had taken up in Ora.[67] However, Alcetas was easily able to drive this sortie back into the town.[67] Coenus' town of Bazira however, which stood on the precipice of a mountain was fortified by "nature and art" as the saying employed by the ancient authors goes, showed absolutely no signs of capitulating.[67] After receiving the submission of Massaga and massacring it's inhabitants[65] treacherously, Alexander set out in the direction of Bazira.[67] However, while proceeding in the direction of this town he received news to the effect that Abisares, the Rajah of Hazara, was going to cross the Indus[68] with forces to interrupt the siege and assist Ora.[67] Alexander changed his plans, he set out for Ora at once with all the forces under his immediate command.[67]In addition to this, he ordered Coenus to create a camp and fortify it as an eventual base of operations against the town of Bazira[67], being situated as it was in a difficult to reach location; Coenus was then to leave a suitable garrison in that future base of operations to observe Bazira and join the King and his forces at Ora.[67]

However, when Coenus left Bazira, the inhabitants of the oppidum sallied out and attacked the encampment he had set up.[67] These tribesmen lost 500 of their fellow tribesmen during the course of this attack, and were easily driven back.[67] A few days later on, the Macedonians were able to take Ora, after which point the denizens of Bazira looked on their cause as lost, and abandoned Bazira to the Macedonians and headed off to Aornus.[67]

It was as a result of these conquests that Alexander conquered the Peshawar valley.[67] The Peshawar valley was situated perpendicularly to the Swat river, which was situated on a north-south axis.[67][68] This valley was thereby, more or less, an opening through which Abisares could pass through and make a junction with them.[67] It was therefore critical to take the whole of this valley so that no reinforcements coud be brought up into the valley and file through either the north or south exit of the valley and debouch on Alexander while he was besieging Aornus.[67] A noted historian of Alexander's, who took up the issue and examined the topography of the region, had this to say about the strategic situation that Alexander had developed for himself as a result of this campaign

to understand the sound strategic reasons which caused Alexander, before attacking Aornus, first to turn south to the Peshawar valley. Once he had consolidated his hold there and made his arrangements for crossing the Indus quite secure, he could safely move up to the right bank and attack the mountain retreat of the Swat fugitives from the south. He thus avoided the entanglement of the mountainous region that would have attended and hampered direct persuit from the Swat side. The fugitive host could be cut off from retreat to the east of the Indus and from such assistance as Abisares, the ruler on that side, might offer. Finally, when attacking Aornus from the south, Alexander could command all the advantages which the Indus valley and the fertile plains of the Peshawar valley would offer in respect of supplies and other resources[67][69]

Siege of Aornus

The Aornos is located to the north of Taxila.

Aornos (in Swat, Pakistan) was the site of Alexander the Great's last siege, "the climax to Alexander's career as the greatest besieger in history" according to Alexander's biographer Robin Lane Fox.[70] The siege took place in the winter of 327–326 BCE. The site was satisfactorily identified with the modern mountain Pir-Sar in Swat, Pakistan by Sir Aurel Stein in 1926, and has been confirmed since by archaeologists. It offered the last threat to Alexander's supply line, which stretched, dangerously vulnerable, over the Hindu Kush back to Balkh, though Arrian credits Alexander's heroic desire to outdo his kinsman Heracles, who allegedly had proved unable to take the place Pir-Sar, which the Greeks called Aornis. The site lies north of Attock in Punjab, on a strongly reinforced mountain spur above the narrow gorges in a bend of the upper Indus River. It had a flat summit well supplied with natural springs and wide enough to grow crops: it could not be starved to submission. Neighboring tribesmen who surrendered to Alexander offered to lead him to the best point of access.

Ptolemy and Alexander's secretary Eumenes, whose account provided material for all later ones, reconnoitered and reinforced a neighboring spur to the west with a stockade and ditch. His signal fire to Alexander also alerted the defenders of Pir-Sar, and it took two days of skirmishing in the narrow ravines for Alexander to regroup. At the vulnerable north side leading to the fort, Alexander and his catapults were stopped by a deep ravine. To bring the siege engines within reach, an earthwork mound was constructed to bridge the ravine with carpentry, brush and earth. The first day's work brought the siege mound 50 m (60 yards) closer, but as the sides of the ravine fell away steeply below, progress rapidly slowed; nevertheless, at the end of the third day, a low hill connected to the nearest tip of Pir-Sar was within reach and was taken, after Alexander in the vanguard and his first force were repelled by boulders rolled down from above. Three days of drumbeats marked the defenders' celebration of the initial repulse, followed by a surprise retreat. Alexander hauled himself up the last rockface on a rope. Alexander cleared the summit, slaying some fugitives (Lane Fox), inflated by Arrian to a massacre, and erected altars to Athena Nike, Athena of Victory, traces of which were identified by Stein.[71]


  1. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 509
  2. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 540
  3. ^ Fuller, J (1958). The Generalship of Alexander The Great. New Jersey: Eyre & Spottiswoode, Ltd. London. ISBN 59-15620. 
  4. ^ a b Fuller, J (1959). [59-15620 The Generalship of Alexander the Great]. New Jersey: Quinn & Boden Company, Inc.,. pp. 83. ISBN 59-16620. 59-15620. 
  5. ^ a b Fuller 1959, p. 84
  6. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 225
  7. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 226
  8. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 91
  9. ^ a b Fuller 1959, p. 92
  10. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 231
  11. ^ a b c Dodge 1890, p. 261
  12. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 97
  13. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 99
  14. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 200
  15. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 206
  16. ^ a b Fuller 1959, p. 101
  17. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 102
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Fuller 1959, p. 207
  19. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 218
  20. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 104
  21. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 198
  22. ^ a b c Fuller 1959, p. 100
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Arrian 1890, XV
  24. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 210
  25. ^ a b c Dodge 1890, p. 355
  26. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 357
  27. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 408
  28. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 112
  29. ^ a b c d Fuller 1959, p. 113
  30. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 424
  31. ^ a b c Dodge 1890, p. 436
  32. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 438
  33. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 439
  34. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 479
  35. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 492
  36. ^ a b c d e Dodge 1890, p. 511
  37. ^ a b c d Dodge 1890, p. 510
  38. ^ Smith, Vincent (1914). The Early History of India. England: University of Oxford. 
  39. ^ a b Smith 1914, p. 37
  40. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 539
  41. ^ a b c d e f Dodge 1890, p. 513
  42. ^ Smith 1914, p. 513
  43. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 452
  44. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 512
  45. ^ Smith 1914, p. 48
  46. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 225
  47. ^ Fuller 1959, p. 126
  48. ^ a b c d e Dodge 1890, p. 515
  49. ^ a b Dodge 1890, p. 514
  50. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 177
  51. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 177
  52. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 231
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h Dodge 1890, p. 517
  54. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 232
  55. ^ Dodge 1890, p. 516
  56. ^ a b c d Dodge 1890, p. 518
  57. ^ a b c d e f g h Dodge 1890, p. 519
  58. ^ a b c d e f Dodge 1890, p. 520
  59. ^ a b c d e Dodge 1890, p. 521
  60. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fuller 1959, p. 245
  61. ^ a b c d Dodge 1890, p. 522
  62. ^ a b c d e f g h Dodge 1890, p. 523
  63. ^ a b c d e Dodge 1890, p. 524
  64. ^ Delbrück 1990, p. 181
  65. ^ a b c d e f g h Fuller 1959, p. 246
  66. ^ a b c d e f Dodge 1890, p. 525
  67. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Fuller 1959, p. 247
  68. ^ a b Fuller 1959, p. 125
  69. ^ Stein 2004, p.123-4
  70. ^ Lane Fox, p. 343ff.
  71. ^ Lane Fox (1973); Arrian.


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