Posts Tagged With: Peucestas

Alexander in Iran

It isn’t only death and taxes that are certain. So are politicians who try to claim that a defeat is actually a victory.

Enter the Foreign Minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif. A few days ago, in response to threats made by Donald Trump against the very existence of his country, Zarif tweeted,

“Goaded by #B_Team, @realdonaldTrump hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis & other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. #EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won’t “end Iran”. #NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect-it works!”

Full reports: Sky News

Zarif implies that Alexander tried to destroy Iran and the Iranian people only to be repulsed by the latter who ‘have stood tall for millennia’.

To paraphrase Donald Trump, this is fake history.

Firstly, because when he fought the Persian – Archaemenid – Empire (the then predecessor to Iran), Alexander did indeed destroy it. Forever.

Secondly, while it’s true that Alexander did not destroy the Iranian/Persian people, this was not because he tried and failed to do so. He simply never wanted to do so in the first place, either in part or whole. Alexander had a very positive attitude towards the Persian people – too positive for many people in his army. He appointed Persians to important positions, adopted Persian customs and dress, brought Persians into his army, and supported people like Peucestas who was enthusiastically pro-Persian in his role as satrap.

It cannot be stressed enough: Alexander’s quarrel was with Darius III not the Persian people as a whole. By suggesting otherwise, Zarif shows that he knows as much about his country’s history as Donald Trump does about diplomacy.

Categories: By the Bye | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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’.

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

The City of the Mallians

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 98, 99 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Sydracae and Mallians Make Peace in the Face of a Common Enemy
Sydracae and Mallians Form Join Army.
* Negotiations over who commands it ongoing
Joint Army Breaks-up: No Agreement Over Leadership
Macedonians Attack City: Many Indian Casualties

The Story
Chapter 98
Diodorus makes no mention of what happened to the fleet immediately after its escape from the deadly eddies of the Indus River; presumably, Alexander ordered the surviving ships to be repaired while he continued his journey by land; alternatively, he might have waited for the repairs to be completed before continuing on foot with the ships sailing alongside him.

Unfortunately, Diodorus doesn’t give any clue as to which was indeed the case, opening the chapter with ‘[n]ext Alexander undertook a campaign against the Sydracae and the people known as Mallians’.

Up till Alexander’s arrival, the Sydracae and Mallians had been fighting each other. Seeing a common enemy approach, however, they patched up their differences and joined forces.

The joint army numbered ‘eighty thousand infantry, ten thousand cavalry, and seven hundred chariots’. Undoubtedly, a mighty force. But the two tribes also had mighty egos and ‘fell into a dispute’ over who should command the army. Unable to agree, they retired to their cities.

Whether delighted or disappointed by the army’s dispersal, Alexander came to ‘the first city’. Judging by what happened next and with reference to the other Alexander historians, this was the city of the Mallians. Diodorus simply refers to the inhabitants as Indians, though, so I shall follow him in that practice.

Alexander wanted to ‘take [the city] by storm’, but one of his seers – a man named Demophon – warned that if he did so, he would put himself in ‘great danger’. Demophon ‘begged Alexander’ to leave the city be ‘for the present’ but the king’s blood was hot. Not only did he ignore the warning but publicly ‘scolded’ Demophon for ‘dampening the enthusiasm of the soldiers’.

Demophon was dismissed and the siege got underway. Presently, a postern gate was broken open. Alexander led his men into the city. Many Indians were killed. Those who survived fled to the city’s citadel.

Diodorus now states that while the Macedonians fought ‘along the wall. Alexander seized a ladder, leaned it against the walls of the citadel’ and climbed up it.

Too scared to fight him mano-a-mano, the Indians ‘flung javelins and shot arrows at him’ instead. Their blows (upon his shield) made Alexander stagger. Where were his men? They were making ready to follow him. Two ladders were placed against the wall. The soldiers ‘swarmed up in a mass’. Suddenly – disaster. There were too many, and the ladders broke under their weight.

Chapter 99
Alexander was on top of the wall, alone. He could have climbed back down to rejoin his men, but that was not his way. His way was to fight. So, he leapt into the…

… citadel? No, apparently he jumped into ‘the city’. Did Diodorus forget he had just written that Alexander climbed the citadel wall a few lines ago? Perhaps. Or maybe the reference to Alexander climbing the citadel wall is a mistake and that after pursuing the Indians to the citadel he returned to the city walls. Although, why he would feel the need to go back outside and climb the wall to re-enter the city is beyond me. I think Alexander jumped into the citadel and Diodorus has been a bit lazy checking his text. As he says ‘city’ though, I will follow him in this.

Therefore, after jumping down into ‘the city’, Alexander found himself surrounded by Indians. Diodorus says he was ‘undismayed’ by their attack. I suspect that is only the beginning of the Macedonian king’s emotions, most of which were probably along the lines of ‘This is fantastic! A chance to win GLORY!’

During the fight, Alexander made use of a tree on his right-hand side and the city wall on his left to give him extra protection.

The Indians drew closer and closer; Alexander sustained ‘many blows upon the helmet [and] not a few upon the shield’. But he was determined to ‘make this, if it were the last feat of his life, a supremely glorious one’.

The fight continued until – inevitably – an Indian arrow hit its target. Alexander ‘was struck… below the breast’. The wound caused him to falter. The archer who had shot him ran up to deliver the coup de grâce. His hubris was the death of him. Alexander lunged his sword into the Indian’s side. Using a branch, the king hauled himself to his feet to continue the fight. Despite his injury and the pain he must have been in, Alexander ‘defied the Indians to come forward and fight’.

On the other side of the city wall, a third ladder had been found and was now flung against the wall. Peucestes (more commonly called Peucestas), the man who had carried the sacred shield into battle ever since Alexander took it from Troy, climbed up first.

Leaping down into the city, Peucestes covered Alexander with his shield. More Macedonians now followed. The Indians took fright and withdrew.

The Macedonians took the city ‘by storm. In a fury at the injury to their king, [they] killed all whom they met and filled the city with corpses’.

Alexander was seriously injured. So much so that a rumour went round the Greek settlements in Bactria and Sogdiana that he had died. The settlers had never really wanted to live in these wild and unfriendly places and so packed their bags to begin the long journey home. They never made it, being ‘massacred by the Macedonians after Alexander’s death’.

Hands up anyone who thought of the Greeks when they read about the Sydracae and Mallians falling out over who should command the army! That was certainly my first reaction.

Why did Alexander publicly admonish Demophon? What was so important about the city that he simply had to attack it? I wonder if it wasn’t just a matter of pride – something that Alexander was feeling a lot of after his humiliating climb down on the Hydaspes River.

I think the image of Alexander, an arrow sticking out of his chest, shouting at the Indians to to fight him is one of my most favourite from the whole of Diodorus’ book. The whole episode – how he climbed up the wall first, jumped into the citadel/city and kept fighting says everything that needs to be said about Alexander as a general.

The south-west wall of Multan’s citadel.

Did Alexander jump down here?









Only Diodorus knows, and he ain’t telling

Photo: From Livius

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

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