Posts Tagged With: Bucephalus

Horsing Around

The online business magazine Quartz has published an article titled Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov accuses the West of violating horse rights. You can read it here.

He is angry because ‘the Czech Republic, where Kadyrov keeps his stable of racehorses, ruled on Monday that it would freeze any prize money won by his animals’.

This anti-equine measure, he claims, would have upset both Alexander and Bucephalus.

“If Bucephalus had heard about this, even a thousand years later he would have been so surprised that he would have rolled over in his grave,” he writes. “And Alexander the Great would have declared a war to restore horses’ rights.”

As for Bucephalus, I suspect any anger he may have felt about the situation would have quickly been allayed by a bag of feed.

As for Alexander, it goes without saying that he would not have ‘declared a war to restore horses’ rights’. Men had few enough rights in Alexander’s day, and he spent little (as in none) of his time extending them. Generally speaking, the rights of animals would not have been of any interest to him to all.

I would say that the only person whose rights mattered to Alexander were his own. He was the king, after all, how could anyone else’s matter as opposed to his own?

Having said that, we know that Alexander did have an interest in horses apart from Bucephalus. I’m thinking here of Arrian VII.13 and Diodorus XVII.110 where the two authors refer to Alexander’s visit to Nesea (aka Nysa).

Lest we think that Alexander was a horse lover in general, let it be remembered that the Nesean horses (or mares, according to Arrian) were known for their excellence. This is why Alexander was there. He wasn’t interested in any old horse breed but excellent ones. Within that context, he like excellent horses such as – for example – Bucephalus.

Thus, when the Mardian tribe stole Bucephalus (D XVII.76), Alexander promised that he would lay waste to the countryside and slaughter the inhabitants unless the horse was returned. Had the Czech Republic stolen Ramzan Kadyrov’s horses and he invoked Alexander, then he would have done so truly.

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Alexander: March/Spring Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

337
Spring Philip orders Alexander back to Pella (Peter Green*)

336
Spring Parmenion and Attalus lead the Macedonian advance army into Asia Minor (Livius, Peter Green)

335
Early Spring Alexander campaigns in Thrace and Illyria (Peter Green)
NB The Landmark Arrian** dates this campaign to Spring (as opposed to Early Spring. This applies to all similar references below)

Spring Alexander razes Thebes; Greek cities submit (Landmark Arrian)

334
March – April Alexander crosses into Asia Minor; beginning of his anabasis (Peter Green)
NB
Michael Wood*** dates the crossing of the Hellespont to May
The
Landmark Arrian dates the crossing to Spring

333
March – June Memnon’s naval offensive (Livius)

Early Spring
Memnon dies (Peter Green)

Spring Alexander arrives in Gordion where he undoes the famous knot (Landmark Arrian)

Spring (Possibly late spring?) Alexander passes through the Cilician Gates having taken Pisidia and Cappadocia (Landmark Arrian)

NB With reference to the death of Memnon, referred to above, the Landmark Arrian dates it to ‘Spring’ 333, during the Persian navy’s fight against the Macedonians. Contra Livius (below), it adds that after his death, and in the same year, the ‘Persian naval war falter[ered]’

332
Spring The Persian Fleet disintegrates (Livius)
January – September The Siege of Tyre continues (Michael Wood)

331
March Alexander visits Siwah (Livius)
NB Peter Green dates Alexander’s Siwah visit to ‘Early Spring’

Spring Alexander resumes his march towards Darius (Landmark Arrian)

330
Spring Alexander orders the royal palace in Persepolis to be burnt (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander finds the body of Darius (Landmark Arrian)

329
Spring First crossing of the Hindu Kush (Michael Wood)
NB Peter Green dates the crossing to ‘March – April’

Spring Alexander pursues Bessus across Bactria/Sogdia (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Bessus is betrayed by his officers and handed over to Alexander (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander quells an uprising along the Jaxartes (Tanais) River (Landmark Arrian)

328
Spring Alexander campaigns in Bactria and Sogdia (Michael Wood)
Spring The Sogdian Rock is captured (Michael Wood)

327
Early Spring Alexander marries Roxane (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the wedding to Spring

Early Spring The Pages’ Plot (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the Pages’ plot (and Callisthenes subsequent arrest/possible death) to Spring

Early Spring Callisthenes is executed (Michael Wood)
Spring Pharasmanes and Scythians seek an alliance with Alexander (Landmark Arrian)
Spring
The Sogdian Rock is captured (Livius, Peter Green, Landmark Arrian)
Spring The Rock of Chorienes is captured (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Craterus eliminates the last rebels (following Spitamenes’ death in the Autumn of 328) (Landmark Arrian)
Late Spring Second crossing of the Hindu Kush (Michael Wood)

326
Early Spring The Aornos Rock is captured (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the capture of the Aornos Rock to Spring

Early Spring Alexander meets Hephaestion and Perdiccas at the Indus River, which the reunited army then crosses (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the crossing of the Indus to Spring

Early Spring Alexander reaches Taxila (Michael Wood)

NB
The Landmark Arrian lists the sequence of events following Alexander’s capture of the Aornos Rock slightly differently to Michael Wood:
Wood Siege of Aornos > Alexander meets Hephaestion & Perdicas at the Indus > Macedonians cross the Indus > Alexander arrives in Taxila
Landmark Arrian Siege of Aornos Alexander sails down the Indus to Hephaestion’s and Perdiccas’ bridge > Alexander visits Nysa > Alexander receives Taxiles’ (‘son of the Taxiles he met in the Indian Caucasus’ the previous summer) gifts > Alexander crosses the Indus > Alexander meets Taxiles

Spring Battle of the Hydaspes River (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Bucephalus is buried (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander founds Nicaea and Bucephala (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Abisares submits to Alexander (Landmark Arrian)

325
Spring – Summer Journey down the Indus River (Michael Wood)
Spring Alexander defeats the Brahmins, Musicanus, and Sambus (Landmark Arrian)

324
February – March Alexander’s journey to and arrival in Susa (Peter Green)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates Alexander’s arrival to Spring. It adds that after his arrival he purged the corrupt satraps, held the mass wedding ceremonies,and forgave his soldiers’ debts/awarded ‘gold wreaths to officers’; this did not, howeverm stop tensions rising ‘over Alexander’s moves to integrate the army’
March Alexander meets Nearchus in Susa (Livius)
March Susa Marriages (Livius)
March Alexander issues the Exiles’ Decree (Peter Green)
March Alexander issues the Deification Decree (Peter Green)
Spring Alexander explores lower Tigris and Euphrates (Landmark Arrian)
Spring The 30,000 epigoni arrive in Susa (Peter Green)

323
Spring Alexander returns to Babylon after campaigning against the Cossaeans (Peter Green)
Spring Bad omens foreshadow Alexander’s death (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander sends ‘spoils of war to Greece; he is hailed as a god by Greek envoys
Spring Alexander makes preparations for an Arabian campaign (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander orders ‘extravagant’ honours to be given to Hephaestion (Landmark Arrian)

*Peter Green Alexander of Macedon 356 – 323 B.C. A Historical Biography (University of California Press 1991)
** The Landmark Arrian Ed. James Romm (Pantheon Books 2010)
***Michael Wood In the Footsteps Of Alexander the Great A Journey from Greece to India (BBC Books 2004)

Notes

  • This chronology is part of an on-going work. If you see any mistakes or omissions please feel free to let me know!
Categories: Chronology of Alexander's Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Harold Lamb to Yiannis Pappas

Linked to Alexander (7)
More Links here

22nd Dec. 2014
Alexander of Macedon
(The News International)
Quotations from Harold Lamb’s Alexander of Macedon

24th Dec. 2014
Living History
(Alex V. Cipolle | Eugene Weekly)
Interview with Dan Carlin – host of Hardcore History

24th Dec. 2014
Gaza: A crossroads of civilisations
(Jessica Purkiss | Middle East Monitor)
Gaza through the ages

9th January 2015
Pay row artist gave City Chambers statue pig ears
(Edinburgh Evening News)
Bucephalus’ controversial appearance

13th January 2015
Alexander the Great Virtual Museum to be Completed End of 2015
(A Makris | Greek Reporter – Greece)
A museum for the ‘net

15th January 2015
Alexander the Great Statue to be Placed in Downtown Athens
(Ioanna Zikakou | Greek Reporter – Greece)
Thank you Yiannis Pappas

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Death of a Friend

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 109, 110 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander: Greek Exiles May Return Home
The New Ten Thousand
* King retires 10,000 Macedonians from his army
* Retirees owe 10,000 talents; king settles the debt
Persians Promoted; Macedonians Revolt
* Alexander Faces Revolt Down
Peucestas arrives with more Persian Soldiers
Alexander Goes Sight Seeing
Hephaestion Dies

The Story
Chapter 109
In the summer of 324 B.C., the Olympic Games were held at Olympia, and Alexander had it announced there that all Greek exiles ‘except those who had been charged with sacrilege or murder’ could return home.

Perhaps at the same time, he also released ten thousand of his oldest soldiers from service, and, upon learning that many were in debt, paid their creditors out of the royal treasury.

Diodorus mentioned in the last chapter (yesterday’s post here) how the Macedonian army became ‘frequently unruly when called into an assembly’.

One day, the men harangued the king again. This time, he responded in kind. Leaping down from the platform, Alexander ‘seized the ring-leaders of the tumult with his own hands, and handed them over to his attendants for punishment’.

Unsurprisingly, this increased the tension between the king and his army. But rather than conciliate, Alexander simply appointed Persians to ‘positions of responsibility’. This cut the Macedonians to the quick and they begged Alexander to forgive them. He did but not quickly or easily.

Chapter 110
We enter a new year. During it, ‘Alexander secured replacements from the Persians equal to the number of these soldiers whom he had released’. 1,000 of the new recruits were assigned to the bodyguard at court.

This year, too, Peucestes arrived out of the east (After and/or as a result of (?) saving Alexander’s life at the Mallian city – read here – he had been made satrap of Persia) with 20,000 ‘Persian bowmen and slingers’. These were integrated into the army.

By 324, there were now ‘sons of the Macedonians born of captive women’. How many? Diodorus says about 10,000. This figure is appearing a little too often for my liking. Anyway, Alexander set aside sufficient money so that the children could be given ‘an upbringing proper for freeborn children’. This included a suitable education.

Alexander now left Susa. Crossing the Tigris river, he came to a village called Carae. From there, ‘he marched through Sittacenê until he arrived at a city (?) called Sambana. After resting for a week there, he set out for ‘the Celones’ reaching them three days later.

It is not clear to me what exactly the Celones is – a group of settlements? A region? Neither Diodorus nor the Footnotes make it clear. What is clear is that Alexander met a people descended from Boeotians who had been deported there by Xerxes I. Despite never having been back to Greece, they had ‘not forgotten their ancestral customs’ still keeping Greek as one of their languages and continuing ‘Greek practices’.

After spending several days in the Celones, Alexander set off once more. His purpose now was ‘sight-seeing’ and he left ‘the main road’ so that he could enter Bagistanê, a country ‘covered with fruit trees and rich in everything which makes for good living’.

Next on the itinerary was a land of wild horses. In days of old, Diodorus says, 160,000 horses grazed here. In 324 B.C., however, they only numbered 60,000. I wonder if, as he looked out on the horses, Alexander thought about Bucephalus. I expect so.

Alexander stayed amidst the horses for thirty days. Finally, however, it was time to leave. And now, he came to Ecbatana in Media. Citing unnamed sources, Diodorus gives Ecbatana’s ‘circuit’ as being 250 stades. As the capital of Media, its storehouses were ‘filled with great wealth’. But was there also something else there, something rather less pleasant to the king? Namely, Parmenion’s tomb. If it was, I wonder if he acknowledged it.

Alexander remained in Ecbatana ‘for some time’. While there, he held ‘a dramatic festival’ and ‘constant drinking parties’. During the course of one of these, Hephaestion took ill; not long later, he died.

Diodorus describes Alexander as being ‘intensely grieved’ by his friend’s death. I don’t think you will read a bigger understatement than that this month let alone today. Presently, however, he recovered enough to order Perdiccas – Hephaestion’s replacement as chiliarch – to transport Hephaestion’s remains to Babylon where Alexander intended to ‘celebrate a magnificent funeral for him’.

Comments
Diodorus states that the Macedonian soldiers who were in debt owed ‘little short of ten thousand talents’. That’s on average, one talent each. The Footnotes refer to Curtius’ ‘astonishment’ at this figure, and I have to share it. I can’t believe that during the course of the expedition they would have had the opportunity to spend so much money.

The Footnotes also state that the mutiny described in Chapter 109 is the Opis Mutiny ‘continued from chap. 108’ although the way it is described there, it is as if Diodorus is talking about the Macedonian army’s behaviour in general rather than a mutiny that took place in a specific place and on a particular date. (Note also that Diodorus has the mutiny take place in Susa rather than Opis).

It seems rather surprising that Alexander is able to bring his men to heel by doing something that on the face of it should disillusion them further. I can only imagine that the Macedonians did not look at the matter as a case of ‘they are taking our jobs, we want them back’ but as ‘this race is usurping ours in the king’s affections; we must show him we love him in order to win him back to our side’.

An interesting note – the Footnotes say that of ‘all Alexander’s generals [Peucestas] showed the greatest willingness to conciliate the Persians’

The ‘main road’ to which Diodorus refers is – according to the Footnotes – the main Baghdad-Hamadan route which connects Mesopotamia to Iran.

The Footnotes also confirm the name of the horse country – Nysa (from Arrian). Can we say that it is an indication of Alexander’s love of horses that he stayed so long there?

If Didorus is to be believed, Hephaestion died a Macedonian’s death – as a result drinking too much. I am sure, though, that the alcohol simply weakened his resistance to whatever illness did kill him. Otherwise, I must resist the temptation to complain about the brevity with which Diodorus treats the death of such an important figure.

Here’s to all the Macedonians who died
after a little much of the glorious red stuff

ancient_greek_amphora(Except Black Cleitus. Still not polite to mention him)

This picture comes from Warwick University’s article on Drinking in Ancient Greece

 

Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

In Hyrcania and Mardia

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 75, 76 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Takes Hyrcania
Bucephalus Stolen
Alexander Issues Ultimatum: Bucephalus or Death
Mardians: Here’s Your Horse. V. Sorry.

The Story
Chapter 75
After dismissing those of the allied Greeks who wished to return to Greece, Alexander began the journey to Hyrcania. On the third day, he arrived outside a prosperous city called Hecatontapylus.

As well as being wealthy, Hecatontapylus enjoyed a surfeit of ‘everything contributing to pleasure’. What can Diodorus mean? The Macedonians had a good opportunity to find out as Alexander ‘rested [ahem] his army there for some days’.

From Hecatontapylus, the king marched one hundred and fifty furlongs before stopping at a great rock from which issued a river named the Stiboeites.

According to Diodorus, the river ran for three furlongs before dividing into two around ‘a breast-shaped “rock”‘ (I’m sure that brought back some happy memories of Hecatontapylus for the Macedonian men).

The rock appears to have been a cave as underneath it was ‘a vast cavern’ into which the water fell ‘with a great roar’. The subterranean river continued for three hundred furlongs before emerging into the light once more.

Diodorus’ description of the Stiboeites’ path seems to awake a desire in him to explore the countryside a little further, for after quickly telling us that Alexander ‘took possession’ of all Hyrcania’s cities, he goes onto give a sketch of the flora and fauna of the region. We learn that –

  • In the Caspian (aka Hyrcanian) Sea live ‘many large serpents and fish… quite different in colour to ours’
  • A number of Hyrcanian villages enjoy a particularly rich harvest. These places are called the Fortunate Villages
  • Each vine of the Fortunate Villages ‘produces a metretes [four and a half gallons] of wine. Their fig trees ‘produce ten medimni [roughly one and a half bushels] of figs
  • The land is so fertile that even unsown grain germinates
  • An abundance of honey drips from a tree that is oak-like in appearance
  • A bee-like insect called the anthredon makes ‘a liquor of surpassing sweetness’

Between the women of Hecatontapylus and the anthredon’s liquor it is a wonder the Macedonian’s ever left Hyrcania. If Dionysus passed this way during his travels, he must have enjoyed himself very much.

Chapter 76
As well as winning Hyrcania and her people, Alexander also received at this time the submission of a number of Persian officers. To cap off an extremely satisfactory period, Alexander accepted the surrender of 1,500 Greek mercenaries. Both Persians and Greeks were treated favourably by the king. The latter were integrated into Alexander’s army ‘on the same pay scale as the rest’.

Things got tougher, though, when Alexander entered Mardia. There, the Mardians not only declined to send any embassies to pay the king homage but decided to hold a pass against him. Eight thousand men stood ready to fight believing that they had what it took to defeat the invader.

They didn’t. Alexander attacked and Alexander won.

That wasn’t the end of the king’s troubles. In fact, they got worse. After seizing the pass, Alexander ordered his men to lay waste to the countryside. While they were dong so, some Mardians kidnapped the royal horses – including Bucephalus. Alexander was enraged. Ordering ‘every tree in the land [to] be felled’, he informed the Mardians that if Bucephalus wasn’t returned the whole country would be laid waste and they would be ‘slaughtered to a man’. He didn’t wait for an answer but began the killing spree straight away. Finally seeing sense, the Mardians returned all the horses along with ‘their costliest gifts’. Fifty men came as well ‘to beg forgiveness’.

Comments
I enjoyed reading about the Fortunate Villages and athredon. Although I am most interested in the military aspects of Alexander’s expedition, it is good to receive these little insights into the countries he visited as they remind me that Alexander was not just about weapons but also knowledge.

Bucephalus’ appearance here is, I think, his first appearance in Diodorus’ narrative. The story of his kidnapping is a very dramatic one but I can’t help but feel that it would elicit an even greater emotional response if we had ‘seen’ Bucephalus already. A good story-teller does not simply throw characters into his book as and when they are required. What was Diodorus thinking of? I am, I suppose, speaking from a modern perspective; the way the ancient Greeks and Romans read was, perhaps, different to us?

Music Lyrics
Welcome to the Heca’ 
by Swords N Shepherds

Welcome to the Heca’,
We’ve got fun n games;
We got everything you want,
Boys just tell us your names.
We are the people that can find,
A hole for mouth an’ seed;
If you’ve got the money, honey,
She’s got what you need,
In the Heca,
Welcome to the Heca…

Swords N Shepherds are an interesting, if controversial, addition to the Hyrcanian music scene, which has traditionally sung mainly about myths and pastoral life. SnS focus solely on the seedier side of life in Hecatontapylus with a disturbing amount of knowledge for such young men. May the gods help them if they ever move to Babylon.  

Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tarn Springs Some Surprises

I have now finished W W Tarn’s Narrative. Here are three things that made an impression upon me between pages 86 and 148. If you would like to read what I thought of the first half of the book and can’t see the relevant post below this one, just click here.
.
Alexander and Herodotus

Herodotus was no longer much read… there is no sign that Alexander knew him at all, not even his account of Scylax’s voyage.
(Tarn, p. 86)

I almost drew breath when I read this even though I have no idea whether it is accurate or not. My understanding is that Alexander was a well read man. Is this not true? Of course, we may well have been and still not known about Herodotus’ Histories if the latter had fallen into obscurity. Tarn’s book was published just after World War II ended and at least one part of it was written in the 20s so scholarship may have discovered that Herodotus was not a stranger to Alexander after all. I certainly hope so. The alternative does not seem at all fitting.
.
In the last post, I noted a couple of points where Oliver Stone used Tarn’s text in his film about Alexander. In the film, Stone has Bucephalus die during the Battle of the Hydaspes River. I had always thought this to be inaccurate and that Bucephalus died at some point earlier or later. Tarn surprised me, therefore, when I read,

Alexander after his victory [in the Battle of the Hydaspes] founded two cities, Alexandria Nicaea where his camp had stood, and Alexandria Bucephala on the battlefield, nicknamed from his horse which died there…
(Tarn, pp 96-7)

Ah. Maybe my memory was at fault, then. I jumped to Arrian to see what he said. Sure enough…

Porus’ son… wounded Alexander with his own hand and struck the blow which killed his beloved horse Bucephalus.
(Arrian, p. 274)

To be sure, Arrian is talking about the engagement that took place just before the battle started but it was a confrontation that was part of the whole so on that basis we can give Stone and Tarn a qualified pass. Except, Plutarch –

After [the battle at the Hydaspes River] Bucephalus… died, not immediately but some while later. Most historians report that he died of wounds received in the battle, for which he was being treated but according to Onesicritus it was from old age, for by this time he was thirty years old.
(Plutarch, para 61)

I don’t know much about Onesicritus but if his Wikipedia entry is accurate then he is not necessarily a writer to be trusted.
.
The last thing that made a big impression definitely did make me draw a breath, which is funny because its one of those things I kind of knew already. In short, it highlighted how interested Alexander was in exploring and learning about the world. My principle image of him is, of course, as the second Achilles – being all about the war and glory. Tarn makes it clear though, that Alexander was simply not about blood ‘n guts. Here is the relevant passage:

[Alexander] attacked the secret of the ocean. He sent Heracleides to explore the Hyrcanian sea, and ascertain whether Aristotle had been right in calling this great expanse of salt water a lake, or whether the old theory that it was a gulf of Ocean might not be true after all…

He himself turned his attention to the Persian Gulf. He took steps to ensure better communication between Babylonia and the sea by removing the Persian obstacles to free navigation of the Tigris and founding an Alexandria on the Gulf at the mouth of that river…

He also planned to colonise the eastern coast of the Gulf, along which Nearchus had sailed, and sent 500 talents to Sidon to be coined for the hire or purchase of sailors and colonists. This would help to establish the already explored sea-route between India and Babylon; but he meant to complete the sea-route from India to Egypt by exploring the section between Babylon and Egypt and circumnavigating Arabia, possibly as a preliminary to still more extensive maritime exploration in the future. He therefore planned an expedition along the Arabian coast…
(Tarn, p. 118)

I can’t tell you what about this passage opened my eyes because I don’t know, but reading it felt like a splash of cold water to the face. As I said above, I already knew that Alexander was a keen explorer and student but what this passage has succeeded in doing is bringing that truth home to me in a strong and direct way. I’m not going to rename this blog The Second Aristotle but sure I won’t forget it in a hurry.

Editions Used
Arrian The Campaigns of Alexander (Penguin Classics London 1971)
Plutarch The Age of Alexander (Penguin Classics London 2011)
Tarn, W W Alexander the Great I Narrative (Cambridge University Press 1948)

Categories: Of The Moment | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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