Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Philip’s Apogee and his Assassination - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 16

Philip’s Apogee and his Assassination (336 BC)
Knowing Philip, he would never leave anything to chance if he could avoid it. So, in order to stay on good terms with his wife’s brother, Alexander of Epirus, after he had given shelter to his wife, he decided that a wedding with his own daughter Cleopatra would do the trick (yes, Cleopatra was going to marry her uncle).

It was July 336 BC when the big celebration took place at Aegae, widely attended by delegations from all the Greek states, the Macedonian nobility and even common people. Philip could afford to show off now that he was hegemon of all the Greek states, just had fathered a baby girl Europa with his last wife, and had already an advance army force securing the front lines in Asia. On top of all that, he now had consolidated his back in Epirus.

The day after the wedding proper was reserved for athletic games, to be opened with a grand procession in the theatre. Statues of the twelve Olympian gods were carried inside, followed by one of Philip himself (probably meaning that he placed himself among the gods). When everyone was seated, Philip arrived flanked by the two Alexanders: his son and his son-in-law (Alexander of Epirus) who was also his brother-in-law, but he made his entry into the theatre alone, dismissing even the royal bodyguards. He certainly wanted to show the world his full power as he walked under the protection of the gods. Suddenly Pausanias, one of the old-time guards emerged and stabbed Philip in the chest, a mortal blow. King Philip II of Macedonia died forty-six years old.

My story about Philip should end here, but I can’t avoid the logical questions that follows: who was really behind this murder and what was the true reason for it? Already in antiquity speculations have ran high and they are still ongoing in our modern times. We’ll most probably never know the truth, but then do we know the truth about recent assassinations like the one of President John Kennedy or President Hariri of Lebanon? Anyway, I’ll try to sift out a number of facts and figures.

Let’s first take a closer look at this Pausanias. He was one of Philip’s bodyguards and for some time even his lover. But the king ended the relationship and took another lover, also by the name of Pausanias. Our murderer was very unhappy being rejected, of course, mocking and calling names to the new lover, who confided his grief and jealousy to his friend Attalus, the warrant of Cleopatra, Philip's last wife. After the new lover Pausanias sacrificed himself on the battlefield for king and country, it seems that Attalus decided to avenge his friend and arranged a gang-rape at his own house after which he handed the unhappy victim over to the slaves to repeat the humiliation. Pausanias in his despair complained to king Philip, who did nothing more than promoting Pausanias to his personal guard for he was already in the process of planning his campaign to Asia where he needed Attalus. When Attalus was promoted to commander in the  Asian force and later became Philip’s father-in-law, it is not difficult to see Pausanias’ increased anger and resentment to both Philip and Attalus.

Now both Diodorus and Justin mention that after murdering Philip, Pausanias was running towards waiting horses (not one horse but more than one) to escape. This may implicate that more than the one murder was planned and in view of the above the other person might well have been Attalus. Yet who would/could have been the other murderer?

All this would imply that Pausanias assassinated his king for personal reasons, but what if he acted by order of Queen Olympias or/and Prince Alexander? When Philip decided to marry Attalus’ adopted niece, tension between him and Olympias rose to the point that she left the court and sought refuge with her brother in Epirus. At that same time, Alexander had fled Macedonia also and went to neighboring Illyria. They both may have planned revenge, although this is pure speculation and nothing has ever been proved unless we consider that the executor Pausanias comes from Orestis which had close relations with Epirus and Illyria. Olympias may simply have believed the young man and encouragement him in view of her own relationship with Philip or did she really want her son to rule Macedonia instead of her husband? I doubt the last.


[Picture from Oliver Stone's movie Alexander]

As to Alexander, we know he recently had suffered his father’s humiliation in the Pixodarus affair and he certainly will have taken his mother’s resentment about Philip’s wedding to Cleopatra closely at heart. Would that be reason enough to have his own father killed? Not for Alexander as we learn to know him during his own reign where he has given ample proof of his magnanimity. But then there are rumors that Alexander would not participate in his father’s campaign east but stay home as regent of Macedonia and fulfill the role of deputy hegemon of the League of Corinth. Philip formed a clique with Parmenion, Antipater and Attalus of which Alexander was excluded as these generals were bound together by several intermarriages. I am certain it was never Philip’s intention to belittle his son’s role in his own plans, for he desperately needed someone he could and would fully trust back home while fighting the Persians. Yet Alexander, young (he would soon turn twenty) and ambitious as he was may have felt left out when his father was going to conquer new territories and he would sit idle in Macedonia. Enough reason to kill the king? Personally, I can’t believe it but I guess everybody will draw his own conclusions.

As it turned out, the year 336 BC was filled with far-reaching events which were to change history for ever. King Philip II was dead. Long live King Alexander III – but that’s an other story.

Click here to read the full story about Philip II from the beginning

Monday, December 19, 2011

Philip’s wives and marital conflicts - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 15

Philip’s wives and marital conflicts (337 BC)
We know or hear very little about the first five wives of Philip before Olympias. It is interesting to note that in all four of them spoke Greek (Phila, Philinna, Nicesipolis and Olympias) and two of them did not (Audata and Meda). How historians managed to find that out, I wonder. Nicesipolis died soon after childbirth, but all the others were apparently living at court in Pella (read also The Many Wives of Philip II.). It is obvious that Olympias had a special status because she was the mother to the heir, Alexander. The other ladies had given birth to a daughter or the retarded Arrhidaeus. Since these marriages had happened rather early in his kingship and for political reasons, one may wonder how close Philip kept in touch with them.

Now in 337 BC, at the age of 45 Philip announced his marriage to the daughter of a Macedonian noblewoman called Cleopatra. She was an orphan and had been adopted by Attalus, one of Philip’s generals of noble origin, as his niece. Rumor had it that Philip fell in love with the girl, but speculations run in a different and more serious direction. As Philip was getting ready to invade Asia, he needed one or more heirs to insure his succession for betting on Alexander alone did not offer enough security. This very idea will not have been well accepted by Olympias, fearing that a son of Cleopatra could displace Alexander on the longer term of course.
[picture from Oliver Stone's movie Alexander]
The wedding took place, probably a typical Macedonian affair with abundance of wine flowing between the men. I think that even to their own standards they all got pretty drunk. Anyway, at a certain point Attalus, now father-in-law of his king, proposed a toast to the bride and groom wishing them a legitimate Macedonian heir. It is not difficult to picture Alexander’s reaction, who felt deeply hurt by the insinuation that Attalus (and who knows who else) considered him a bastard! A fiery argument broke out, the king tried to intervene but had probably been drinking too much himself as he took side with Attalus and demanded excuses from Alexander. As we can expect, Alexander refused. He left the room, picked up his mother and took her to her brother in Epirus. He himself sought refuge in Illyria. Now there is a theory by which Olympias tried to convince her brother to revolt against Philip while Alexander might have worked the mind of the Illyrians in the same direction, but nothing is proven. Eventually Philip hired an actor (as was customary to settle differences), Demaratus of Corinth, who managed to bring Alexander back to Pella. Yet this must have left quite a bitter aftertaste on both sides.

It is rather clear that Alexander was accepted as Philip’s heir since the age of fourteen when Aristotle became his tutor. There is no trace to include for instance Amyntas, the son of Perdiccas III and true heir to the throne which Philip now occupied, in Aristotle’s lessons, yet when Alexander became king he had Amyntas executed. It is also a fact that Alexander took over the regency of Macedonia at sixteen while his father was campaigning, and at eighteen Philip trusted him to lead the cavalry at Chaeronnea. But in spite of all that, Philip was still father and king and did not tolerate anyone, even his own son, to act against him will. A clear example is that of the Pixodarus affair.
Pixodarus was the ruler of Caria (the area of Bodrum) who had kicked his sister Ada, the widow of the previous ruler, from the throne while remaining submissive to the Persian King. But Persia was in turmoil after eunuch Bagoas murdered Artaxerxes III and in the confusion Pixodarus thought it wise to seek support from Philip, an interesting consideration that fitted Philip’s plans to march east. Pixodarus offered his daughter, Ada, in marriage and Philip in exchange presented the retarded Arrhidaeus. The pact was accepted. But Alexander felt his father had left him out and decided to act on his own, offering himself as marital candidate to Pixodarus, who of course could not have asked for a better deal! When Philip got vent of this maneuver behind his back, we can imagine how infuriated he became. The entire agreement with Pixodarus was called off and Philip seriously reprimanded his son by exiling several of his closest friends from Pella . That must have been quite a blow for Alexander!
These events clearly illustrate that all was not running smoothly between father and son, which may have led to the conclusions about the true murderers of Philip the next year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army by Donald W. Engels

Strangely enough, this is the only book ever (at least to my knowledge) presenting a serious study of the logistics related to such an extensive campaign as Alexander’s conquests of Asia. We take his expeditions for granted as he moves from one battlefield to the next and from one city or fortress to the next one, but there is so much more involved! In his Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (ISBN 0520042727), Donald Engels underlines a considerable amount of facts and figures to make you look at it all from a very different angle.

As he takes his reader treading in Alexander’s footsteps, Engels makes me discover what true preparations for such campaigns meant – and I’m certainly not the only one!

I had no idea for instance, that Alexander would plan to cross to Asia at the right time of the year to reap the upcoming harvest in order to get enough food for his men and fodder for his horses and pack animals. Engels calculated the daily quantity of food and water each man needed, based on thorough analysis made by the American Army, and he did the same for the pack animals and the horses. If you multiply those quantities by the number of men and beasts, multiplied by the number of days such provisions should last, you obtain unbelievable figures!

I had no idea that horses definitely needed a full day rest after trudging on for four, maximum five days! Unlike us human being, they cannot go on day after day.

I had no idea that when Alexander split up his forces during the winter months (for instance between Gordion and Lycia in 334-333 BC, or between Bactra, Maracanda (today's Samarkand) and Nautaca in 328-327 BC) the main thought behind this decision was to make sure there was enough forage for man and beast.

I had no idea that timing was so basically tributary of the terrain. One example is when Alexander has to retrace his steps across the Pillars of Jonah Pass because the Persian King Darius showed up on his back near Issus. Engels has figured out that at its narrowest part the pass would allow only two cavalry horses or four infantrymen to march through at the same time. Setting a pace of one such entity per second, multiplied by the number of troops, he manages to produce an irrefutable timetable. An amazing conclusion when you read that Alexander fanned his troops out almost immediately to be in place to face the Persian army!

And finally, I had no idea how accurate Alexander’s bematists were. They are rarely mentioned in any history book but it is beyond believe to read how precise their step counts even over long distances were, matching almost exactly today’s equivalent in English miles.

As a matter of course, Donald Engels consulted ancient authors like Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, Curtius, and many modern writers. Interestingly, he also consulted the notes and topographic maps made by the English when they crisscrossed the regions of Afghanistan and India for instance. The location and usage of old Royal Persian Roads and the ancient Silk Road are other precious assets.

This all means that in the end, Engels is able to retell Alexander’s conquests based on all the facts that he collected from these different sources, which he analyzed and translated into practical figures leading to a practical day by day progress of the king’s troops! A titanic job, but a very rewarding one!

He shares his theories and mathematics with the reader in many additional comparative tables, including an analysis of Alexander’s troops at different times of his conquests. Detailed local maps further clarify the king’s march through fertile valleys, skirting deserts and crossing mountain ranges towards newly founded Alexandria’s. A few Appendixes provide extra information about food rations, the battlefield of Issus, the horrible march through the Gedrosian desert, etc.

For those who really want to take a closer look at the genius of Alexander, this is the book to read!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Philip’s hegemony and his plans for Asia - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 14

Philip’s hegemony and his plans to cross over to Asia (337 BC)
Although at first sight the Greeks could make their own decisions within the frame of the synedrion, it definitely was Philip as hegemon who was pulling the strings – he was the one who had all the power.


This was clearly illustrated at Olympia, where Philip commissioned the building of a splendid Philippeon, a large circular tholos counting 18 Ionic columns on the outside and nine Doric ones on the inside. A statue of Philip, slightly larger than life-size would stand in the center, surrounded by his parents (Eurydice and Amyntas), his wife Olympias and his son Alexander. The architect was no one less than Leochares of Athens who had worked on the famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassos. This Philippeon  was located in the sacred area and must have caught the eye of all the visitors by its shear shape (the only round building in the sanctuary of Olympia), if not size. It may have looked like a thank-you to Zeus for his recent victory at Chaeronea, but it most certainly showed off Philip’s power and that of Macedonia.

A second meeting of the Synedrion was held that same spring in Corinth to officially elect Philip as hegemon. This is when he announced his plans to invade Asia as part of a pan-Hellenic plan to liberate the Greeks of Asia Minor from Persian rule and to punish the Persians for sacking Athens some one hundred and fifty years before. This is what he proclaimed, while we may wonder whether it was his dire need of money that instigated this decision. We know he made huge profits from his several gold and silver mines (more than 1,000 talents a year from Crenides alone), but vast amounts went into his army. His court in Pella cannot have come cheap either with all the women and guest-friends. And then there were all the bribes he paid to influential statesmen and the many awards he lavishly granted for building temples, fortifications, etc. It’s interesting to read a comment made by Diodorus that “Philip used gold more than arms to enlarge his kingdom”, which tells a lot. We all remember that Alexander when he set out to Asia had no more than 70 talents in his treasury and that he had to borrow 600 talents on top of that – a clear proof that Philip’s money was not there for the taking, although he somehow always had managed to use the income from one campaign to finance the next one.

Now the reason why Philip went to Asia is another interesting question. There are several theories, as always, but most likely is that Philip wanted to win the cities of Asia Minor over to Greece as the country was in need of agrarian land (it might even be a place where the Greeks could dispose of their unwanted or disreputable elements!). On the other hand he had a golden opportunity to expand his own empire and acquire more wealth.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Common Peace or League of Corinth - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 13

The Common Peace or the League of Corinth (338-337 BC)
Philip now had to deal with the fate of the states he conquered. The Thebans came first, obviously I would say. They had to pay a ransom for those killed during the battle; the Thebans taken prisoner were sold as slaves. In the west, he soon controlled the entire north-south route from de Gulf of Corinth  all the way to Epirus.

Athens was an entirely different ballgame. The king sent a delegation with an offer of peace (once again), followed by an official embassy led by nobody less than Alexander in the company of Antipater and Alcimachus. They took the ashes of the cremated Athenians from the battlefield with them, as well as the two thousand Athenian prisoners taken at Chaeronea for which no ransom was demanded. They only requested that an Athenian embassy would go to Philip to discuss a mutual peace. Why Philip was so lenient towards Athens is a question that remains unanswered (Alexander also treated them differently from the other cities), but one important reason may have been his plans to invade Asia. He could hardly set out to punish the Persians for destroying Athens if he himself were to attack and loot the city now. After two years of warfare, both parties finally agreed on a treaty of friendship and alliance. The Athenians went even as far as conferring citizenship to Philip and Alexander, which by itself was not an exceptional gesture but it shows they made a step towards pleasing Philip. They even erected an equestrian statue of him on the Agora.

With peace restored in central Greece, Philip could and should now focus on the Peloponnese where Sparta still had the power (and probably the ambition) to create an uproar – something the king could do without if he were to cross over to Asia. The Spartans remained stubborn and since Philip did not want to engage in another war, he simply isolated Sparta by winning the surrounding states to his cause. Simple but effective.

That winter, Philip summoned all the Greek states to send their delegates to Corinth. There was nothing else they could do but comply and soon the Community of the Greeks (to koinon ton Hellenon) was born, the treaty we call The League of Corinth. I’m amazed how timely and topical the concept and the language of this treaty sounds! Our European “Union” can still learn from this and I feel it is worth to take a closer look of its contents.

[picture graciously shared by Jim]


Each state individually had to swear not to harm any other member of the Common Peace (or Philip or his descendants for that matter) and not to interfere in their internal affairs. They also swore not to become ally with any foreign power that could damage any member of the Treaty. No member could undertake any operation that might endanger the peace or overthrow its constitution. It sounds so simple, so logical and yet, still today, a near impossibility.

A new council (synedrion) headed by a hegemon (this was evidently to be Philip) was created to enforce the peace and each state had to send a number of council members elected by their own political organs to the synedrion’s meetings. This council would decide by a majority vote on all military, financial, domestic and foreign matters of the league. In fact, this synedrion was the final authority to settle any dispute between individuals or between member states. They had to help each other if one of the members was attacked, but were not allowed to accept support from foreign powers. Whoever would not adhere to these basic rules would face serious reprisals.

The very first meeting was held that same winter in Corinth and the Greeks (except Sparta, of course) all voted in favor of Philip’s settlement. This done, the members went home and Philip returned to Pella. He had finally defeated the Athenians, paralyzed the Thebans and neutralized the Peloponnese, in short Greece was now his. Before Philip, Greece as such did not exist except for an agglomeration of several cities and city-states. We owe the first national state ever created to Philip and this was Greece – an aspect that is generally forgotten or belittled, unfortunately. 

Click here to read the full story about Philip II from the beginning