For a while now I have been meaning to breakdown the various sections of Alexander’s expedition to the east to see how long he spent in each city or region.
I finally got round to doing so a few days ago. I won’t post the results here just yet – I used just one source and worked quite quickly, so there was plenty of room for error – but I am confident enough in the accuracy of my work so far to share some of my findings.
Before starting the breakdown, I knew that Alexander spent two years in Bactria-Sogdia, and a-year-and-a-half, or so, in Asia Minor. I hope to return to a study of why he spent so long in the latter. Bactria-Sogdia I can understand as these countries gave him a great deal of difficulty during the expedition but Asia Minor fell to the Macedonians in a fairly straight forward manner; he should have just swept through it – shouldn’t he? (Obviously not, so I hope to find out why).
In addition to the above, I also knew that Alexander stayed nearly two years (in my notes, it is 19 months) in Macedon after becoming king. When I say ‘stayed’ I mean he was based in Macedon for two years. During that time he went abroad to fight the Thracians and Illyrians and recalcitrant Greeks (i.e. Thebans).
Some things I did not appreciate so well, however:-
- It took Alexander and his men a whole year to march from Issus to Memphis. I should not have been so surprised at this. During that year, for example, the six month Siege of Tyre and two month Siege of Gaza both took place.
- The journey from Bactria to the Hyphasis River took another year to complete, and the journey from the Hyphasis to the Indian Ocean another 10 months. This still surprises me, but I wonder if it is only because I had not taken the time to truly appreciate the distances that Alexander covered while in the sub-continent and, perhaps, the number of battles he fought along the way.
- Despite the fact that he was in pursuit of Darius during this period, Alexander ultimately took a year to march/ride from Persepolis to the Hindu Kush. Obviously, he caught up with Darius in Media* so could slow down thereafter but I’m not aware of him taking any long breaks. With that said, short breaks add up in time.
One last thing – according to my notes, Alexander just 4-5 months in Egypt. I’m not sure yet how much of that time he spent travelling (for example, from Memphis to the site of Alexandria and then to Siwah and back to Memphis again – Arrian**) but if it was substantial could that give us a clue as to whether he was received a coronation as pharaoh or not? I am assuming that pharaonic coronations needed a lot of time to plan and execute and if Alexander was travelling hither and thither before leaving to begin the (six month) journey to Gaugamela he simply would not have had time for it. It’s just a thought.
As and when I have time I will finish my breakdown of Alexander’s schedule and post it here. For now, though, I hope the above provides some food for thought.
* I thought it was in Hyrcania or Parthis but Livius says he died ‘in the desert east of modern Tehran (ancient Rhagae)’ and Rhagae was in Media. I shall double check this.
** Or from Memphis to Siwah and then to the site of Alexandria and back to Memphis according to Curtius