Pillai’s Imaginary Invader

Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai may be an excellent ‘management guru’ but he is no historian. In this article from the Hindu Times he is quoted as saying that,

… the great Indian philosopher Chankaya united the country against the global invader Alexander the Great. “It is because of one man’s intelligence; Alexander showed his back without waging a war against India. This was possible because of the effective communication. He used his good offices and united the princely states to terrify the invader.”

  • Chankaya did not unite India against Alexander.
  • Alexander fought (and won) a number of battles against Indian tribes.
  • Alexander at no point displayed any fear of ‘the princely states’.

Chankaya is not mentioned in any capacity by any of the Greek sources. Are they suppressing his involvement in expelling Alexander from India? Why would they when they are perfectly content to talk about other people who tried to resist the Macedonian king during the course of his career?

All five of the major sources for Alexander’s life (i.e. Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, Justin and Plutarch) mention the conqueror’s Indian campaign and the battles he led while there. The idea that Alexander ran scared from the sub-continent is simply risible.

Further to the above, I cannot think of any occasion when any of the sources say that Alexander was ‘terrified’ by the Indians. When Alexander decided to quit the country, he did so because his army – mentally exhausted after ten years of fighting – told him it could go no further.

By the way, India is where Alexander displayed one of his most conspicuous acts of courage; that is, when he jumped into the Mallian fortress alone to take on its defenders in a fight to the death (see Arrian VI.9-12). The fact that Peucestas, Leonnatus and Abreas followed him showed that though though the Macedonian army had weakened it had lost none of its bravery.

With all that said, Dr. Pillai makes one very good point. According to the Hindu Times,

The management guru said the most important ingredient of modern business was to understand the local culture and develop a local model. For this one had to imbibe multi-lingual skills and understand many cultures to sustain for many years.

Alexander would have been sympathetic to this advice. Although I doubt he would ever have followed it, he did try to create not just a Macedonian but a world empire by appointing Persians to key political positions, by taking on their customs and dress and through the Susa mass weddings. Sadly, the Macedonians at large never accepted even this, and we know of only one – Peucestas – who did indeed ‘imbibe multi-lingual skills’ by learning Persian. I am quite sure that he also sought to understand the culture of Persia where his satrapy was located.

Categories: By the Bye | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Pillai’s Imaginary Invader

  1. terrioak

    I seriouly doubt Alexander was ever terrified of anything. I think this guy needs to check his facts again.

    Like

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