Posts Tagged With: Phrygia

21. Calaenae

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Four days later [Alexander] reached Celaenae, where the acropolis, rising steep on all sides, was held under the satrap of Phrygia by a garrison of a thousand Carians and a hundred Greek mercenaries. They sent envoys to Alexander assuring him that they would surrender…’
(Arrian I.29.1-2)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

… but only if Darius didn’t send reinforcements by a certain date. Alexander regarded the acropolis as ‘completely unassailable’ (Arr. I.29.2) and so agreed. He left a detachment behind and set off for Gordium.

For the second day in a row we see Alexander recognising his limits and acting accordingly. Of course, the two cases are sightly different. From what Arrian says, it seems that Alexander believed he could take Telmissus but not quickly enough so decided to leave it. As above, Celaenae looked too strong to take in the first place. 

What happened between Celaenae and Tyre? How could he ever have thought that the former was impervious to attack and the latter wasn’t? I suspect here that Alexander was swayed by the Celaenians offer to surrender. The acropolis looked hard, really hard; I could stay, but… they are offering to surrender; let’s call it impossible and move on to a better target.

A medieval picture of Alexander taking Calaenae

Credit Where It’s Due
Alexander takes Celaenae: Wikipedia

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19. Aspendus

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘… Alexander marched for Aspendus. Most of Aspendus is built on a strong acropolis which rises sheer, with the river Eurymedon running past it.’
(Arrian I.26.5 – 27.1)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

The Aspendians were lucky not to be killed and their city razed. Previously, they had met Alexander on the road* and surrendered the city to him with a request that no Macedonian garrison be placed there. Alexander agreed. 

Now, as Alexander left Syllium, Aspendus reneged on the deal. Confident of its protection, the Aspendians took refuge in their acropolis. They thought that Alexander would send one of his generals who, naturally, would fail to dislodge them. 

However, Alexander himself came. When they saw him, the Aspendians panicked and tried to negotiate their surrender on the same terms as before. Because he was not equipped to lay siege to the acropolis, the Macedonian king accepted their surrender. But only on harsher terms. Wisely, the Aspendians accepted.

Upon leaving Aspendus, Alexander returned to Perge and from there made his way to Telmissus in Phrygia.

*Just after he left Perge – No. 16 in this series

Map of Asia Minor

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of Asia Minor: Turkey Trex

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16. Perge

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Alexander now set out from Phaselis, sending part of his army through the mountains towards Perge on the road built for him by the Thracians… He himself led his own section along the coastal path by the sea-shore….’
(Arrian I.26.1)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

While Alexander was in Phaselis, he received word of the first plot against his life. According to a Persian agent named Sisines, whom Parmenion had captured in Phrygia, a Companion named Alexander Lyncestis had contacted Darius and offered to assassinate the Macedonian king. Sisines was on his way to give Alexander Lyncestis Darius’ terms: Alexander the king’s life in return for money and the Macedonian throne.

Parmenion sent Sisines to Alexander the king. After discussing the matter with his counsellors, Alexander decided to arrest Alexander Lyncestis. He sent Craterus’ brother, Amphoterus, to Parmenion’s camp in Phrygia, to seize the traitor.

On his way to Perge, Alexander marched along the coastline. He followed a path that, had the wind been blowing from the south, would have been impassable. Fortunately, the wind blew from the north as Alexander passed by.

Konyaalti beach, near Antalya, not far from where Perge was located

Credit Where It’s Due
Konyaaltı beach: The Daily Telegraph

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15. Sardis and Phaselis

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Sardis (Parmenion)
  • Phaselis (Alexander)

‘[Alexander] came in person to Phaselis and helped the inhabitants to destroy a strong fort which had been built by Pisidians to threaten the district, and was used as a base from which the barbarians caused much damage to the Phaselite farmers’.
(Arrian I.24.6)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

After settling affairs in Caria, Alexander ordered Parmenion to go to Sardis and hence to Phrygia. Sardis had already surrendered (see Arr. I.17.3) so it looks like Parmenion was meant only to use it as a staging post.

As for Alexander, he himself marched for Phaselis. Before arriving there, he assaulted and took ‘the fortress of Hyparna (Arr. I.24.4). He then entered the region of Lycia, where he ‘won over the people of Telmissus by agreement’ (Ibid) and received the submission of the following: Pinara, Xanthus, and Patara, as well as ‘about thirty smaller towns’ (Ibid).

The main road at Phaselis

Credit Where It’s Due
Phaselis: Wikipedia

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The Gordian Knot

Market Watch reports on the on-going attempts to resolve the economic crisis in Greece. Greece: Can the Gordian Knot be severed? states that

Greece has… become the Gordian knot of ancient mythology.

In that enduring legend Gordius, a peasant who became king in Asia Minor, tied his wagon to a post with an intricate knot. An oracle said whoever untied the knot would rule all of Asia. Young Alexander the Great 100 years later came through and after a futile effort to untie the knot drew his sword and severed it with a powerful swing. That night a violent electrical storm told the people the gods were pleased. Alexander went on to rule much of the known world.

You can read the article here.

The legend of the Gordian Knot appears in four of the five principle sources on Alexander’s life (Diodorus omits it).

Arrian II.3-4
Curtius III.1.14-18
Justin XI.7
Plutarch Life of Alexander 18

Here is how Market Watch‘s interpretation of the story compares to theirs:

… Gordius, a peasant who became king in Asia Minor…
Arrian – States that it was Gordius’ son, Midas, who became king
Curtius – Does not confirm or deny that Gordius became king
This agrees with Justin
Plutarch – Does not confirm or deny that Gordius became king, referring only to ‘king Midas’

… tied his wagon to a post with an intricate knot…
Arrian – The knot ‘fixed’ the yoke to the wagon
Curtius – Says that the yoke ‘was strapped down with several knots’. The use of the word ‘down’ suggests to me that C. means it was attached to the shaft that connected it to the wagon – which C. calls the ‘carriage’ – rather than to a post
Justin – Says no more than that the knots were attached to the yoke. No mention is made of a post or anything else (J. refers to the wagon as a ‘car’)
Plutarch – The knot attached the yoke to the chariot

An oracle said whoever untied the knot would rule all of Asia.
Arrian – Makes no reference to an oracle but says that the belief (which the Notes to my edition of Arrian’s Anabasis say that, in Alexander’s day, Asia ‘meant the Persian Empire’) was a traditional one
This agrees with Curtius, though he says that ‘the local people claimed that an oracle had foretold mastery of Asia for the man who untied this impossible knot’ (my emphasis)
This agrees with Justin, who refers to oracles in the plural
Plutarch – States that ‘the fates had decreed that the man who untied the knot was destined to become the ruler of the whole world’ (my emphasis)

Young Alexander the Great 100 years later came through…
Arrian – Does not say specifically when Gordius lived though refers to it as being ‘in the ancient days’
Curtius – Makes no mention of when Gordius lived
Justin – Makes no mention of when Gordius lived. He does, though, refer to the oracles who said whoever undid the knot would rule Asia as being ‘the oracles of old’
Plutarch – Does not say when Gordius lived but refers to Midas as being an ‘ancient king’
By-the-bye, Alexander was 22-23 when he arrived in Gordium

… and after a futile effort to untie the knot drew his sword and severed it with a powerful swing…
This agrees with Arrian and Plutarch and some of their sources, for A. and P. both note that – according to Aristobulos – Alexander worked out how to undo the knot
This agrees with Curtius and Justin

That night a violent electrical storm told the people the gods were pleased.
This agrees with Arrian
Curtius, Justin and Plutarch do not mention this part of the story

Alexander went on to rule much of the known world.
This agrees with Arrian, Curtius, Justin and Plutarch and everyone else who has ever studied his life

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Alexander: January / Winter Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

334/333
Winter Alexander conquers Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia and Phrygia (Landmark Arrian*, Livius)
Winter Alexander son of Aeropos arrested (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander subdues Pisidians (Landmark Arrian)

333/332
Winter Alexander asks Tyrians permission to sacrifice to Herakles in Tyre (Landmark Arrian)
332
January (?) Byblos and Sidon submit to Alexander (Peter Green**)
January-July The Siege of Tyre (Livius, Michael Wood***)
NB Landmark Arrian says that the siege took place between winter and summer

332/331
Winter Alexander into Egypt (Landmark Arrian, Wood)
Winter Alexander is informed that the Persian Navy has been defeated in Aegean (Landmark Arrian)
Mid-winter Alexander visits Siwah (Wood)

331
January Alexander in Heliopolis and Memphis (Livius)
January Alexander founds Alexandria (Wood)
NB Landmark Arrian says Alexandria was founded in ‘winter’
331/330
Winter Alexander takes Susa (Landmark Arrian)

330
Winter Macedonian army enters Persia (Wood)
20th January Battle of the Persian Gates (Livius)
30th January Alexander arrives at Persepolis (Livius)
Jan-May Alexander at Persepolis (Livius)
NB Wood agrees that the Battle of the Persian Gates and Alexander’s arrival in Persepolis both took place in January but doesn’t give the specific date of either event; Green places the sack of Persepolis in January but only with a question mark next to the date

330/329
Winter Spitamenes’ second revolt takes place (Landmark Arrian)

329
January Alexander approaches Kabul (Wood)

329/328
Winter Alexander at Zariaspa (Green, Livius, Wood)
Winter Alexander gives orders for Bessos to be mutilated (Landmark Arrian)

328/327
Winter Alexander at Maracanda (Livius)
Winter
Alexander is based at Nautaca (Livius, Wood)
Winter While in Nautaca, Alexander appoints new satraps (Landmark Arrian)
Winter The Rock of Sisimithres is captured (Wood)
Winter After the Rock of Sisimithres falls, Alexander returns to Zariaspa (Wood)
Winter Callisthenes refuses to perform proskynesis to Alexander (Landmark Arrian)

327/326
Winter Alexander stops at Maracanda and Nautaca (Livius)
Winter Hephaestion to the Indus via Khyber Pass (Wood)
Winter Alexander enters the Swat Valley and campaigns there (Wood)
Winter Macedonians at Nysa [where they get drunk en masse] (Wood)
Winter Alexander attacks the Massaga (Wood)

326/325
Winter Alexander campaigns against the Mallians and is badly wounded. His men are unsettled until they see him alive (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Mallians and Oxydrakai submit (Landmark Arrian)

325
January Alexander campaigns against the Mallians and is wounded (Livius)
NB Wood has the Mallian campaign taking place in December
325/324
Winter Alexander reunites Nearchus and Craterus in Carmania (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander Return to Persepolis (where he orders Orsines to be executed (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander visits Pasargadae where he orders Cyrus the Great’s tomb to be restored (Landmark Arrian)

324
January Alexander meets Nearchus in Carmania (Green, Livius)
January Alexander returns to Persia (Wood)
January Alexander’s second visit to Persepolis; also visits Pasargadae (Wood)

324/3
Winter Alexander requests divine honours for Hephaestion (Livius)
Winter Alexander campaigns against Cossaeans (Landmark Arrian, Livius)

* The Landmark Arrian Ed. James Romm (Pantheon Books 2010)
** Green Alexander of Macedon 356 – 323 B.C. A Historical Biography (University of California Press 1991)
*** 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.
  • As can be seen, I have noted where The Landmark Arrian, Livius, Michael Wood and Peter Green have disagreed on the dates; these notes, however, are not comprehensive. My focus has been on recording what each author has said rather than synthesising the dates.

Alternative/Modern Names
Nautaca – ‘Uzunkir near Shakhrisyabz’ (Wood)
Nysa – Jelalabad
Zariaspa aka Bactra – Balkh

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Alexander: December and Winter Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

336
Nov-Dec Alexander wins Greek support for war against Persia (Livius)

335
Nov-Dec Alexander holds festivals in Dion and Aegae (Livius)

334/333
Winter Alexander conquers Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia and Phrygia (Landmark Arrian*, Livius)
Winter Alexander son of Aeropos is arrested (Landmark Arrian)
Winter The Pisidians harass Macedonian army but are subdued (Landmark Arrian)

333
Dec (?) Darius tries to negotiate with Alexander (Livius)

333/332
Winter Alexander asks Tyrians if he can enter the city to sacrifice to Herakles; he is denied access (Landmark Arrian)
Winter The Siege of Tyre begins (Landmark Arrian)

332/331

Winter Alexander enters Egypt (Landmark Arrian, Michael Wood**)
Winter Alexander founds Alexandria (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander visits Siwah (Landmark Arrian)
Green suggests that the foundation of Alexandria could have taken place in April
Winter Alexander is informed of the Persian navy’s defeat in the Aegean (Landmark Arrian)
Mid-winter Alexander visits Siwah (Wood)
Green has Alexander’s visit take place in early Spring

331
Early Dec Alexander takes Susa unopposed (Peter Green***)
15th Dec Abulites surrenders Susa to Alexander (Livius)
22nd Dec Alexander leaves Susa (Livius)

331/330
Winter Alexander reaches Persia (Wood)
Winter Alexander takes the Susian Gates (Green)
Winter Alexander takes Susa (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander subdues the Ouxioi (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander passes the Persian Gates and enters Persepolis (Landmark Arrian)

330/329
Winter Spitamenes’ second revolt is put down (Landmark Arrian)

329/328

Winter Alexander at Zariaspa (Green, Livius, Wood)
Winter Bessus is mutilated ahead of being executed (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Bessus is executed (Green)

328
December Spitamenes is captured (Livius)

328/327
Winter Alexander in Maracanda and Nautaca (Livius, Wood)
Winter Alexander captures the Rock of Sisimithres (Wood)
Winter Alexander returns to Zariaspa (Wood)
Winter Callisthenes objects to Alexander’s attempt to introduce proskynesis (Landmark Arrian)
Winter In Nautaca, Alexander appoints new satraps (Landmark Arrian)

327/326

Winter Hephaestion to the Indus River via the Khyber Pass (Wood)
Winter Alexander enters the Swat Valley (Wood)
Winter Alexander at Nysa (Wood)
Winter ‘The Dionysus episode’ (Green) i.e. Macedonian army gets drunk en masse
Winter Alexander attacks the Massaga (Wood)
Winter Alexander campaign in the Swat Valley (Wood)

326

December Alexander campaigns against the Mallians (Wood)
December Siege of the Mallian city  (Wood)
The Landmark Arrian gives the Mallian campaign as happening during the winter of 326/5

325
December Satraps punished for wrong-doing (Green, Livius)
December Alexander joins up with Craterus in Carmania (Livius)
December Macedonian army reaches Hormuz (Wood)

325/324
Winter Alexander joins up with Craterus and Nearchus (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander orders the restoration of Cyrus the Great’s Tomb (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Orxines is executed (Landmark Arrian)

324/323
Winter Alexander requests divine honours for Hephaestion (Livius)
Winter Alexander campaigns against Cossaeans (Landmark Arrian, Livius)

***

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

***

Notes

  • This chronology is part of an on-going work. If you see any mistakes or omissions please feel free to let me know.
  • As can be seen, I have noted where The Landmark Arrian, Livius, Michael Wood and Peter Green have disagreed on the dates; these notes, however, are not comprehensive. My focus has been on recording what each author has said rather than comparing it to the others.

***

Modern Names
The Mallian city – Multan
Nysa – Jelalabad
Zariaspa aka Bactra – Balkh

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A Land of Nymphs and Knots

The Nature of Curtius
Book Three, Chapter 1
For the other posts in this series, click here

Introduction
Quintus Curtius Rufus is known for the dramatic nature of his History of Alexander. In his account we see ‘a brilliantly realised image of a man ruined by constant good fortune in his youth’*.

In consequence, when it came to deciding how to approach this series of posts on his book it made perfect sense to look at Curtius’ Alexander through the lens of the flora and fauna that he met and passed through along the way**.

I have to say, I don’t recall that Alexander was ever greatly troubled by wild animals during his expedition, so they are most likely to appear in the form of icons and/or representations.

By the same token, it may well be that Curtius doesn’t have much to say about the land over which the Macedonians marched. If so, this will simply be a very short series!

However, when I began Plutarch’s Women I had much the same worry and that turned out alright, so here’s hoping.

Nota Bene This won’t be an exhaustive look at every last pebble and pigeon that Alexander came across and it will involve a (fair) bit of me speculating and imagining so don’t expect a Gradgrindian concern for FACTS and only FACTS!

And one final note for those who might be unaware – You may have noticed that we are beginning this series at the start of book three. This is because the first two books of Curtius’ History have been lost.

* This quotation comes from the blurb on the back page of my edition of Curtius (Penguin 2004)
** For the avoidance of doubt, yes, I am being ironic!

Chapter One
The Marsyas River
We begin with Alexander in Lycia, settling his affairs in Pamphylia before moving on to Phrygia. There, he came to the city of Caleanae. This brings us to Curtius’ first description of a natural feature – the Marsyas River.

He places the source of the Marsyas high above Calaenae, indeed, high above the world – on a mountain peak. From there, it flows down the mountain side with a ‘thunderous roar’ before crashing down onto a rock and into a pool, or perhaps a lake or mere, at the foot of the mountain.

If the Marsyas flowed as noisily as Curtius says, the sound of it echoing throughout the hills must have been a source of awe and wonder to the Calaenaeans, and anyone else who passed that way.

In fact, I wonder if they were not filled at times with dread. I would not laugh at them if this was the case, for nature can be a violent and oppressive force sometimes. For that reason, I see the travellers pausing before crossing the river at some calmer point, and pouring libations to the Potami*, in order to ensure a safe passage across the water.

This is not a wholly unlikely scenario – Curtius tells us that the Marsyas had been ‘made famous by Greek poetry with all its myths’. For example, the river’s clear water had ‘given rise to… the story… that nymphs sit on the rock, held fast there by their love for the river’.

Love conquers all; so, perhaps we have the nymphs to thank for the Marsyas’ serenity once it poured into the rock pool. If so, their influence was very timely, for the river now had an important work to do – irrigation. Its waters ran out of the pool in streams that splashed and gurgled their way across the Phrygian plains giving life to the seeds sown by farmers.

We must it, however, in another direction – to Calaenae.

Calaenae was a walled city. To enable the Marsyas to enter it, holes had been cut out of the walls.

Lector Walls? For a stream?

I agree. That’s not likely. And Curtius seems to show this when he says that upon leaving the city, the Marsyas did so ‘with increased force’ due to the fact that it was now carrying ‘a larger volume of water’.

Lector Well… maybe the little stream simply became a big stream.

Perhaps, but I don’t think so. If that is all the Marsyas was I don’t think it would have been worth mentioning to begin. And it would hardly have been worth the Calaenaeans effort to change the river’s name after it left their city, for then it stopped being the Marsyas then and transformed, Dr Who like, into the Lycus.

Alexander put the Calaenaeans under siege by surrounding their citadel. The Phrygians agreed to surrender but only if Darius did not come to their aid. When that happened (or rather, didn’t), they kept their word.

* Greek gods of rivers. See Theoi for more details

Gordium
Curtius describes Gordium as being ‘on the banks of the river ‘Sangarius, equidistant from the Pontic and Cilician Seas’. As I understand it, the Pontic is the Black Sea and Cilician that part of the Mediterranean that touches Cilicia in the south-east of Asia Minor. Given that Gordium is in Phrygia I would say that it is a little closer to the Pontic.

But, to be honest, Curtius’ geography is not very accurate. He describes ‘Asia’ as becoming no more than an isthmus. For him, Asia Minor is really like an island in appearance. To be fair, Curtius does recognise that it is attached ‘to the continent’. Although, I think he means Europe rather than the near east.

Alexander entered Gordium and tried to undo the famous knot. Failing, he simply cut it with his sword, declaring ‘It makes no difference how they’re untied’.

Leaving the city, Alexander ‘determined to attack Darius whoever he was’. In Ancyra he reviewed his troops before moving on to Paphlagonia and hence Cappadocia with troops newly arrived from Macedon.

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