Posts Tagged With: King Sambus

Wounds of War

The Nature of Curtius
Book Nine Chapter 5-9
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter Five
Alexander against the Mallians
The siege of the Mallian city entered its decisive stage when Alexander jumped into it from the city wall by himself. He did this knowing that his men could not follow – they had overloaded and broken their ladder while climbing up it behind him.

As Curtius notes, Alexander would have ‘uselessly’ sacrificed himself if he had fallen over on landing. In that instance, ‘he could have been overpowered and taken alive before he got up’. But fortune remained on his side. Alexander landed on his feet and started to fight.

To give himself the best chance of survival, Alexander fought next to ‘an old tree whose thickly-leaved branches gave [him] some cover’. He stayed close to it – Curtius says he pressed himself against it – to make sure he could not be ‘encircled’.

Upon a moment, the inevitable happened and an arrow evaded both the tree and Alexander’s shield. It struck him ‘above his right side’. The king fell to the ground. Determined, however, ‘to go down fighting [Alexander] attempted to stand by grasping the overhanging branches [of the tree] with his right hand’.

But the tree had played its part and Alexander ‘sank back to his knees’. Only the timely arrival of some of his soldiers and then the whole army – having broken through the city wall – saved him.

Chapter Six
Alexander Lives – Just
Seven days after being injured, Alexander’s wound was still open. As he lay in his bed, some unwelcome news was brought to him – a rumour that he had died was ‘gaining strength among the barbarians’. This had to be dispelled before it led to revolt.

In order to show the local tribes that he was still very much alive – even if bedridden – Alexander ‘had two ships lashed together and a tent erected in the centre of them’. He, in his bed, was placed in the tent and the boats pushed into the river.

The exercise had the desired effect. The natives saw him knew their hopes of revolt had died. Alexander, meanwhile, was so weak that the rest of the Macedonian fleet was forced to sail ‘some distance’ behind him ‘so that the stroke of the oars would not disrupt his sleep’.

Chapter Seven
A Long Journey Begins
In this chapter we read of a revolt led by (Greek) soldiers whom Alexander had settled around Zariaspa and the duel between Dioxippus and Horratas*.

Neither event is of relevance to us although perhaps we might give an honourable mention to the Greeks who left Zariaspa following their revolt. The Notes record that of those who set out for Greece, 3,000 would make it all the way back. The vast majority, though (‘some 23,000’) would be ‘massacred by Peithon on Perdiccas’ orders in 323 B.C.’

* Diodorus names him as Coragus

Chapter Eight
Alexander and Ptolemy
Alexander continued his journey downstream. Upon entering the territory of the Sabarcae, the Macedonian fleet was seen from by the many villagers who lived near the river bank.

The Sabarcae ‘perceived that the water was entirely covered with boats as far as the eye could see’. This, along with the Macedonians’ shouting, and ‘flashing arms’ terrified them. Indeed, ‘they believed an army of gods was approaching with a second Father Liber’.

The villagers fled to their army. You are insane! They told them, For you are going to fight gods, ‘invincible warriors… beyond number’. The army duly surrendered.

In the territory of King Sambus, the Macedonians undermined his tribe’s ‘strongest city’. When they appeared like moles out of the ground the natives thought their appearance a miracle.

In the city of Harmatelia*, the Macedonians were attacked with poisoned weapons. One of those injured was Ptolemy Lagides. It was only a slight wound but the poison was so strong that he fell gravely ill.

That night, Alexander slept by his friend’s bedside. He dreamt of ‘a snake carrying a plant in its mouth which it had indicated was an antidote to the poison’. Upon waking, Alexander launched a search for the plant. When it was found, he himself applied it to Ptolemy’s wound. The poison subsided. His friend, some say half-brother, was saved.

Diodorus comes into much more (gory) detail regarding the poison. If you are up to it you can read what I wrote about it here

* This name is given by Diodorus rather than Curtius

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A Land of Blood and Mercy

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 102 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
War and Peace along the Indus

The Story
Chapter 102 opens hopefully as Alexander makes peace with a few tribes but then becomes a tale of blood shed – one conquest after another as Alexander continues his journey to the ocean.

The Sambastae lived in cities that were ‘governed in a democratic manner’. Their army comprised of ‘sixty thousand infantry, six thousand cavalry, and five hundred armoured chariots’.

I don’t know how large the Macedonian army was at this point, but it seems that the Sambastae was organised and had sufficient numbers to put up a good defence of their country. They were compromised, however, by two things.

(i) An unfamiliarity with ships. When they saw the Macedonian fleet approach, they were taken aback by it.

(ii) A knowledge of the Macedonian army’s reputation.

If only the Sambastae had been ignorant of the Macedonian army’s achievement they might have recovered enough to fight. As it was, the tribal elders advised the authorities ‘not to risk a fight’.

Unlike the young Marmarians (read here) the rulers of the Sambastae agreed, and they sent ‘fifty of their leading citizens’ to beg for their lives. The ploy worked. Alexander ‘praised them and agreed to a peace’. In return, he was given ‘large gifts and heroic honours’.

Sodrae and Massani
These two tribes lived on either side of the Indus River and submitted to Alexander, as it seems, without a fight.

A New City
Alexander built a new Alexandria in or near these tribes’ territory. Ten thousand people were settled in it.

King Musicanus
We are not told whether there was a battle or if Musicanus gave himself up or was kidnapped; however, by some means or another, Alexander caught and executed him. In so doing he made Musicanus’ country subject to himself.

King Porticanus
There was definitely fighting here. Diodorus says that two cities in Porticanus’ country were taken ‘by storm’. Afterwards, Alexander gave his men permission ‘to plunder the houses, and then set them on fire’. As for Porticanus, he managed to escape to a stronghold only to be killed when Alexander attacked it.

Alexander was not done with Porticanus’ territory yet. He captured all ‘the other cities of [Porticanus’] kingdom and destroyed them’.

King Sambus
Diodorus says that Alexander ‘ravaged’ Sambus’ kingdom, killing eighty thousand people and destroying his cities. Most of their populations were taken into slavery. Sambus himself ‘fled with thirty elephants into the country beyond the Indus’. I wonder if he met cousin-Porus out there?

As he had done to Sambus’ people, so he did to the Brahmins. The survivors ‘came supplicating [to Alexander] with branches in their hands’. Alexander heard their appeal. Diodorus notes that he punished ‘the most guilty’ (i.e. those who had called for war against him?) and ‘forgave the rest’.

First of all, I’d like to go back to yesterday’s post. In it, we read how Dioxippus defeated Coragus in their duel by upending him, and placing his foot on Coragus’ neck. I visited the British Museum yesterday, and while there saw this Assyrian relief.


The man standing up is Tiglath-Pileser III; the man submitting to him is Hanunu, the ruler of Gaza. Can you see where Tiglath-Pileser’s foot is?

I was a bit surprised to read about the Sambastae’s alarm at the Macedonian ships. They obviously live quite close to the river, don’t they use ships themselves? It occurs to me, though, that perhaps it was the design of the Macedonian vessels that threw them – perhaps even their prows with the images of the gods on front.

Citing Arrian, the Footnotes say that this latest Alexandria was built ‘at the junction of the Acesines and the Indus’. I thought we left the Acesines behind when it flowed into the Indus, but obviously not. My picture of the rivers is contained in the third paragraph of this post.

As I said above, Diodorus doesn’t say if Alexander fought Musicanus. I’m going to suggest that he did, and that is why he killed him rather than confirm him in his post, like he did numerous other kings who willingly submitted.

Porticanus must really have angered Alexander, for not only did Alexander let his men plunder Porticanus’ cities, but he destroyed them and then destroyed all the other settlements in that country. In doing so, Diodorus writes, Alexander ‘spread the terror of his name throughout the whole region’.

Sambus’ kingdom gets equally tough treatment. They must have put up fierce resistance to the Macedonians.


Making Bactria and Sogdia look easy since 327 B.C.

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

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