To India and Beyond!

Preston Hodson, Troy Esquibel, Josiah Oldham and Nathan Blue


Introduction (Time, Place and Troops): Preston Hodson

It’s the year 327 b.c. After years of struggles I’ve finally conquered the Persians! Some say that this should be sufficient, that I should enjoy the victory and be content, but not me. I crave a challenge, and I won’t be stopped. This time I’ve set my sights on India. We’ve crossed the Hindu Kush and invaded Kabul, as well as Swat. My army is, as my name states, nothing short of great. With my force of nearly 90,000, comprised of mostly Macedonian and Persian soldiers, along with some Greek cavalry and other Balkan allies, we’ve had great success. As many of them have been with me since the beginning of my conquests, they’re getting to be pretty old. It’s now necessary for me to leave them behind as garrison troops and guards in each of the cities that we conquer, that way they won’t take up valuable provisions from my younger, healthier troops, and at the same time they can at least somewhat enjoy the rest of their lives in peace. As we lose soldiers it’s proven rather difficult to acquire new ones. We have garnered a few here and there as we conquer cities and villages, but not sufficient. We’ve also asked for reinforcements from the homeland, but with minimal results. All in all, our situation isn’t too bleak to be quite honest, we’re having a lot of success. I just hope my burning desire to conquer more territory doesn’t cause my troops to revolt and turn against me, that would throw a nasty kink in my plans for world conquest… But hey, it’s not like that would ever happen, right? On we go to Porus! To India, and beyond!

Supply Logistics: Troy Esquibel

Philip, before Alexander, revolutionized the speed and agility of a massive army, breaking with Greek tradition on several fronts. The Macedonian members of the Phalanx were typically too poor to invest in heavy armor or Hoplite equipment, and as a consequence they’re personal effects were able to be transported, for the most part, on their person. This had the effect of reducing the amount of members needed in a baggage train and also reduced the reliance on pack animals. As a result, the need for grain, water, and other supplies was greatly reduced, and as the army was able to march over vast distances more swiftly, it also reduced the amount of provisions they would need from location to location.

The minimum amount of grain to satisfy a Macedonian soldier was 3 pounds and the minimum amount of water needed was 2 quarts (Engels p. 9). These are bare minimum quantities, and it is assumed, most prominently in Engels—verified by modern military experiments—that an army could only possibly march through desert conditions with 4 days’ worth of supplies. Alexander dealt with this problem in several ways, one of them was by marching along rivers, that way provisions could be delivered by watercraft as opposed to beasts of burden. Secondly, by ordering quickened and double timed marches out of problem areas, such as deserts, thus conserving rations and escaping problem areas more quickly. Thirdly, this was combated was by making allies out of his enemies, frequently before there was any chance of combat, and using the new partnerships of his allies to have outposts laden with supplies ready for his troops before they arrived (Van Mieghem p. 42).

Another important factor, alluded to by Engels, was the agricultural prowess of ancient peoples. The desert areas that Alexander had marched through were vastly more productive than contemporary times, referring to “the Negev Desert and the Tigris—Euphrates Valley. the respective yield rate was five times and twenty times higher than today, and the extent of the cultivated area was about ten times greater” (Engels p. 8). This meant that whatever amount of supplies Alexander did not bring, he was able to forage, steal, or barter for amongst local peoples. Many times those cities he conquered forfeited supplies for the campaign. Alexander was also careful to march during the harvest season to maximize efficiency (Engels p. 9).

Baggage Train and Local Encounters: Josiah Oldham

The baggage train is just as important as the army itself. Alexander could not depend on his soldiers to carry all the war equipment and siege devices by themselves, but he also couldn’t afford to bring an over-abundance of staff and items. This was, after all, a very long journey, and carrying enough food is a must (needless to say). While his soldiers often brought their own personal effects, as previously mentioned, he needed servants or pack animals to lug along the food and water. Pack animals, though, likely outnumbered the human servants. In an emergency without rations, only one of those options is edible. With careful budgeting and planning, Alexander can get away with bringing less food than the army needs, gambling on contributions from smaller towns along the march. Conversely, it is also important to bring plenty of extra weapons and armament- explained further when dealing with locals.

On this campaign, speed is of the utmost importance. While they need to keep critical personnel such as doctors and veterinarians, and guards for the siege equipment, other people just slow the trail down. These include the merchants, philosophers and poets, as well as secretaries and soldiers’ families. The veterans are also assets, as detailed in the following paragraph.

On the way to India, as is explained in the Route section, the river paths dictate that the army will encounter several small towns. They severely outnumber anyone in these towns, and as such threats of force are serious. He can station veterans and contingents of soldiers from the train in these towns, armed well enough to prevent rebellion. After the new government is in place, and the train takes supplies from them, they are several mouths fewer and several pounds of supply richer. In other words, the more towns they conquer, the easier and faster the march becomes.

However, there is one important note: as tempting as it seems, looting these towns for anything but supplies is not a good idea. Better to wait for higher-value targets than to slow the army and train down with dead weight.


Route: Nathan Blue

Alexander the Great would have been in a bind to get his men from location to location without wasting supplies or time on the march to India. There would have been a constant press to make sure that the soldiers had the proper food and water between towns and cities. An important factor on getting to each city would be simple to ask the locals the best route to the next place to stop. Many times these routes follow rivers, and the invasion path occasionally crosses them when necessary. The crossing of the Arius River from Susia to Alexandria Areia is a good example. Battles won would have also allowed for captured enemies to be brought along and provide on the trail instructions.


Accuracy of Information: Troy Esquibel

Like a lot of ancient history, most of this information is the best approximation of the logistical and supply chain strategies of Alexander during the duration of his campaign. There are many extant sources, but all of these were written centuries after the actual campaign. The most trusted of these sources was Arian, from the first and second century current era, but even he relied heavily on Ptolemy, who existed several centuries after Alexander. Engels suggests that Ptolemy is the most reliable, and gives proof to geographical and fossil records that still prove to be extremely accurate today. Like all ancient history, we can only give our best approximation of the facts.


Works Cited

Lendering, Jona. “Alexander the Great.”, 30 Jul. 2016. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. (

Arrian trans. Chinnock, E.J. “The Anabasis of Alexander.” The Selwood Printing Works, 1884.

Van Mieghem, Timothy. “Logistic Lessons From Alexander the Great.” Quality Progress January 1998. P 41-46, Web

Engels, Donald. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. University of California Press, 1978.

Google Earth Version 6.2 (12/31/1969) Iran (Susia). Lat 35.99N Lon 60.01E, 2299 ft. Eye alt. 563.82 mi. Places Layers Alexander’s Route Out. Digital Globe (Accessed October 5, 2016).


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Alexander the Great Blog



Alexander the Great’s Journey East


  1. c. 334 BCE


  1. Only two years after inheriting the throne Alexander the Great decided to leave Macedonia and go and conquer the Persians. Alexander left with somewhere between 48,000 and 90,000 soldiers to begin his conquest (Engels).  Depending on where he was and at what point he was in his journey he had more or less troops on hand.  As he went on conquering cities and nations he gathered more troops from those cities.  He would also receive more troops from time to time from his home nation of Macedonia.  At the same time, however, he was losing troops to battle and by letting veterans retire and go home.  Alexander being the great leader that he was, understood what his troops wanted and how to keep there moral up and keep them happy.  This is why he allowed the older more seasoned soldiers to retire and either live out the rest of their days in whatever part of the world they were in at that moment or allow them to return home to their families.


  1. An army of this size needed a huge amount of supplies. These supplies would have a great range of variety to them as well.  There were the basics that the soldiers would need to survive such as food and water.  There were also many other things that soldiers would need such as clothing, shelter, a place to bath, wood for fire, etc.  Alexander the Great used very practical ways to appease these needs.  For things such as food and water Alexander simply choose his route carefully.  He followed water ways such as rivers so that he had constant access to water.  For food he formed a supply chain from the cities and towns he had previously conquered.  He would collect a portion of the food from all the towns and use that to feed his army.  He also chose a route that was fertile and had wood to have fires and build temporary shelters.   All the other supplies that his army needed were supplies through a large baggage train that followed the army everywhere.


Works Cited

Lendering, Joana. Livius. 30 July 2016. 4 October 2016. <;.

Walbank, Frank W. Alexander the Great. 7 4 2015. 5 10 2016. <;.

Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Print.   

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Alexander the Great: The Journey Back Home

With the Indus River in sight, Alexander the Great has been confronted with the decision to either ignore his men’s requests and push on to India or journey back home. As we write our own version of history, we chose to concede to our men’s wishes and travel back home.

When, Where, and How: Alexander’s Homeward Campaign [BerossusOfBabylon]

The year is 326 BCE. The army stands poised along the western edge of the Indus River, a world away from home. To the East is India, where, to the Hellenes, only Heracles and Dionysus had traveled in the myths (Hamilton). It’s been nearly eight years since we set out from Macedonia to hunt down Darius, and having since claimed his Persian Empire, we decide whether or not to extend this new, unprecedented empire to incorporate the lands beyond Persia’s most eastern extremities. But the men have demonstrated through their uprising the limitations of their ambition. They are who brought us this far, so it seems only fitting that we respect their collective desire to return to their homes—that is, those who don’t remain in our new eastern satrapies to keep our Hellenistic empire intact. So the rugged journey back to Babylon begins.


To return home, we’ll take a southerly route, following the Indus to where it empties into the Arabian sea, then turn west, establishing an Alexandria before passing through the Gedrosian Desert, heading northwest past the Persian Gulf into Persis, then on to Babylon—conquering and founding cities along the way (Strayer). But “…to plan the type of logistical support that may be needed to conduct a campaign, intelligence must first be collected about the over-all climate, geography, and agricultural resources of the opponent’s country” (Engles, “Alexander’s Intelligence” 328).

The same means by which we first navigated into the Persian heartland will be used on the journey home. Luckily, from the beginning, “A great deal of strategic information on the Persian empire and especially its western satrapies was available to the Greek world long before … [our] Asian expedition,” namely historians like Herodotus, Ctesius, and Xenophon (328). Apart from these written sources, “…strategic information might also … [be] obtained from merchants, travelers, artisans, and Macedonian and Greek diplomats to the Persian royal court and satrapal courts,” as well as veterans from past engagements with Persian military forces (328). Along with the Greek diplomats who’ve visited Persia, “…exiles from the Persian Empire to Phillip’s court during the reign of [Artaxerxes] Ochus … [will be] especially important sources of strategic information. All these men held satrapies or high military commands and would all be in a position to have vital strategic information about the entire Persian Empire”reliable sources because these outcast elites will have no reason to withhold information valuable to the empire that threw them into exile (328).

As our knowledge of south-central Asian geography is supplemented by our homeward campaign, “Diplomatic envoys used as spies and sent to countries where future campaigns might be undertaken … [will be] used to obtain strategic intelligence” (329), both of the peoples we intend to assimilate into the empire and the lands wherein they exist. If, like our initial eastward campaign, nations surrender to us before we arrive, arrangements will be “…made by local officials to supply the army and guide its march before it [enters] their territory” (329).

To interact with the native populations of the lands along our homeward campaign, we’ll continue to maintain a small host of translators and greatly reward native guides from the occupied territory for providing accurate information (332). As a precaution, relatives of these guides will be held hostage until Macedonian scouts and skirmishers can be deployed ahead of the army to verify the legitimacy of the informationand all local sources will report to us directly, with no intermediaries save the interpreters, so as to lessen the likelihood of any information becoming distorted (332).

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 10.29.54 AM.png

This is how we’ll make it back to Babylon, growing this unparalleled Eurasian empire along the way. If we can’t bring India under Macedonian rule, at the very least the whole of Asia will be a part of this new Hellenistic world.

Keeping Troops Appeased and Recruiting New Ones – [honorstudent2016]

Ideally, we will replace the troops we retire to keep a constant amount of men at our command. We started the march back home with an estimated 30,000 troops (“Gedrosia”). To replace the veterans, new troops will be recruited in many different ways: recruiting troops from the homeland and troops from conquered regions. A message will be sent back to Macedonia with an order to send able-bodied men, who are not veterans, to this location. However, the more utilized method will be recruiting from nearby conquered regions due to the ease of proximity. I, Alexander the Great, am known for being a conqueror and taking slaves, as seen in the instance of Thebes. However, I am also known for being charming and charismatic, being able to convince people into becoming loyal to him (Allen 221-2). Therefore, there is no question we will take men from conquered groups and turn them into devoted troops. However, we will want to choose the men we can more easily mold into loyal, fighting machines.

I am notorious for the rapport I have built between me and my men. In fact, one of my most famous quotes declares, “Remember, upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” This doesn’t mean to say I am soft in my approach to ruling over my men. Strict militarian mindsets run in my family, so it is not shocking that I would carry on the ideals of my father, Philip II. Both of us are rigorous generals who revolutionized their armies. I am a stern general who demands loyalty and respect from my men; the troops are to be loyal to me rather than to their hometowns. Disobedience is not tolerated and will be punished (Wasson).

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 10.30.10 AM.png

I do expect tremendous respect from my men, but I also give them respect in return. I live among them, dine with them, fight alongside them, and suffer with them. If water is low, I will not drink. If food reserves are scarce, I will find enough food for all my men. One historical example of this is when my army was traveling through the Desert of Gedrosia and food was low. The scarcity of food inspired the men to take corn belonging to me and “made use of the corn themselves, and gave a share of it to those who were especially pinched with hunger.” Surprisingly, I did not punish them, but rather pardoned them for I understood their dire need. In response to this, I scoured the land for enough food to feed my hungry men (Arrian 5:23). Rather than forcing my men to do my will, I conceded on multiple occasions to their requests. It is not astonishing, then, when I listen when my men rebel and refuse to move forward towards India (Arrian 5:28).  

I am not only empathetic to my men, but I graciously reward my troops, in turn keeping morale high. For example, when I defeated the Persians in 331 BCE, I intercepted Darius’ baggage train and then later invaded his palace and major cities. I shared generous amounts of Darius’ riches with my troops, and urged them to marry the beautiful Persian women (Hodge). That being said, the veterans will either be sent back home to Macedonia, or they will be commanded to go into a newly conquered colony. The veterans who have shown intelligence and bravery will be given positions of authority in newly conquered locations. The men who are especially home-sick will be granted permission to go back home with honor. They will be an example to younger troops of the rewards given to them if they stay and fight valiantly.

Baggage Train & Supplies – [chaoticblackcat]

Baggage Train

A large portion of Alexander the Great’s success also lies with the “rapidity with which he moved” which was a result of “logistical considerations” such as the reduction of the baggage train and the distribution of supplies (Burke 69). The traditional baggage train could vary depending on the army in question. In our case, the baggage train contains a wide range of bodyguards, hostages, servants, seers, physicians, surveyors, soothsayers, engineers, soldiers’ wives, and their children (Engels 11). However, a lot of our advantages come from changes previously made in the Macedonian army that had been implemented by Alexander’s father (Burke 67). Burke wrote of us that “Philip had required his troops to carry their own arms, utensils, and daily provisions; wagons and women were forbidden, and portage servants kept to a minimum” (Burke 69). The mere change of forcing the soldiers to carry their own supplies resulted in a reduction in the amount of pack animals that were needed, which in turn reduced the amount of food required to feed the animals; they are still used to carry big and bulky items (Engels 14). That, coupled with Philip’s reduction of women and servants, led to a cut in the extraneous personnel present in the baggage train (Burke 69).

This cut in the baggage train has played a role in making us “the fastest, lightest, and most mobile force in existence, capable of making lightning strikes against opponents” (Engels 23).The reduction of the baggage train gives us an advantage over the Persian and Greek armies which are delayed by their long and bulky baggage trains (Burke 69). This advantage is so prized by Philip’s son Alexander that he routinely shortens the baggage chain by burning “excess baggage and by eliminating followers” (Engels 23). The need for him to continually prune the baggage train results from the fact that, as his campaigns have grown longer, Alexander has become more tolerant on the restriction of wives; nevertheless, he still tries to limit the members of the baggage train(Engels 12-13).


Detailing the kind of supplies required by the army, the soldiers carry their own “arms, armor, utensils, and some provisions while marching” (Engels 12). The type of arms and armor carried in our army is standard. The primary weapon of our army is a pike eighteen to twenty feet long called the sarissa (Wasson). The change in weaponry—which had been implemented by Philip—also results in a change in shields since the sarissa requires the use of both hands (Wasson). The resulting shield, the aspis, is carried over the shoulder by a sling (Wasson). Both are shown in the image below. In addition, through it is not shown in the picture, we carry a “double-edge sword or xiphos for close-in-hand fighting” (Wasson).

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 1.14.56 PM.png

Though the number of animals was reduced, a few still remain to carry “bulky items such as tents, hammocks, and the ambulance” (Engels 17). However, there is one type of supply that everyone in the army—animal or human—relies on: food. David Engels maintained that our leader Alexander’s success was partly “due to his meticulous attention to the provisioning of his army” and stated that Alexander is constantly ensuring that there are “adequate provisions” for us (3, 18).

How many provisions would we usually require? Engels forms his speculations based upon mathematical calculations with the intent to identify the answer of just how much food would likely have been required. However, Engel’s calculations are considered speculative because estimations are used in his calculations of how much food could have been carried and consumed. His assumptions are based upon what is known in his time period. For example, he estimates that the animals in Alexander’s baggage train probably could carry about 250 pounds each based upon what modern animals were likely able to carry, taking into consideration the fact that insufficient harnesses that were used (15). His consumption rates are based on the known rates required for individuals and he wrote that the minimum ration that is required for each male is three pounds of grain daily and two quarts of water daily (3, 18). The animals likely need nearly three times that amount daily (Engels 18).

Applying the estimated number to the 30,000 troops present during our march from India, it is estimated that we would need a minimum of 90,000 pounds of food daily just to feed the soldiers in the baggage train. The actual number of supplies would likely be higher in order to feed the other members of the baggage train. Unfortunately, the exact number of the other members of the baggage train proves harder to compute than the soldiers. Engels asserts that “any estimate of the numbers of followers” in our army “can only be an approximation” (13). The closest guess Engels can provide is the approximation of one follower for every two soldiers (13). Using this guess, the result is an estimation of 45,000 pounds of required supplies for the miscellaneous members of our baggage train. This grand estimated total of 135,000 pounds of supplies required daily still does not take into account the few pack animals that we employ.

If so much supplies are required but the baggage train is intentionally kept short, how does Alexander continually provision his army? Perhaps the shortened baggage train enables easier resupply due to the fact that there are least mouths to feed (Burke 69). It is an idea supported by Engels (12). This question of supplying the army has been a basis for Alexander’s strategy in the past and it is observed that “when the climate, human and physical geography, available methods of transport, and the agricultural calendar of a given region are known, one can often determine what Alexander’s next move will be” (Engels 119). Alexander’s first step in campaigns involves obtaining intelligence and taking great pains to learn the area’s “routes, climate, and resources”, no doubt in order to calculate the availability of food (Engels 120). It is probably not a coincidence that all of Alexander’s chosen routes have usually passed through populated areas where opportunities for pillaging and foraging for food were readily available (Engels 120).

However, Alexander’s strategy for resupplying his army does not rest solely upon finding what was available. Alexander often makes arrangements prior to the campaigns. These arrangements are sometimes deals “made in advance with local officials, who regularly surrendered” before we invaded their regions (Engels 120). In addition, in areas where it was difficult to acquire supplies we would either “take hostages or establish garrisons” in order to insure the income of supplies (Engels 120).

Such a method can be seen on our trip back from India. We will probably target multiple cities and kingdoms (Arrian 250-252). For example this strategy of using conquered territories resources can be seen when Alexander sails “to the capital of the Sogdoi” where he will “[fortify] another city and [build]other docks, and his damaged vessels [will be] repaired” (251). The conquering of two of the cities in Oxikanos’ domain explicitly describes how “Alexander gave the plunder to the army” (252).

That is a broad overview of Alexander’s usual strategy in regards to resupplying his army during his campaigns. However, this tactic is not always reliable. The question of supplies will become our primary problems during the march through the Gedrosia desert “where there [are] no supplies and even water was often not to be found” (Arrian 258). There is speculation as to why Alexander chose this path for us if he indeed had a habit of choosing paths near available resources. It is possible that our leader was still trying to keep to that code. After all, he sent Theos to survey the coast and found little supplies (Arrian 259-260). That detail combined with the previously outlined methodology leads to the theory that Alexander chose the path through the Gedrosia desert because provisions were more obtainable there, even if it was not sufficient enough to supply us (Engels 141).

The heat and lack of water will have a devastating effect on the army (Arrian 260). Aside from the obvious threat of starvation and dehydration, the desert environment seems to have an effect on the soldiers’ behavior. There will be an incident where Alexander’s men were so hungry that they ate food supplies intended for another division of the army (Arrian 259). In addition, the hunger will drive some of the soldiers to begin killing and eating their pack animals then claiming “that the animals had died of thirst or exhaustion” (Arrian 260). However, both incidents will be treated kindly by Alexander. The army will be forgiven for breaking into the supplies, and Alexander accepted their claims regarding the animals’ deaths (259, 260).

How Will Future Generations Know About the Baggage Train & Supplies of Alexander the Great?

A lot of the studies of Alexander the Great will be, according to Edmund M. Burke, based upon “Diodorus, Arrian, Plutarch, Quints Curtius, and Justin” (67). For example of this, is the fact that all these sources are mentioned by David Engels in the bibliography of his book Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Furthermore, Engels will write in his conclusion that “the details of the Macedonians’ logistic system given by Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, Plutarch, and Strabo form a coherent and consistent pattern from which a meaningful hypothetical model can be reconstructed” (122). However, in regards to the specifics of army, speculative math will likely have to be done in the future based upon figures they have calculated.


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Alexander the Great’s Return From India

Alexander the Great

alexander_athens2  Alexander the Great (Wikipedia, 2016)




  1. Place your blog in time & space.In 327 BCE, Alexander began to move towards India. Having already conquered most of the known world, India was all that remained. Alexander began by crossing the Hindu Kush and conquering everything in the way: “Fighting was hard and merciless; on more than one occasion, Alexander massacred people who had already surrendered.” (Livius). Up to this point, Alexander had been developing a sense of divinity, believing that his choices were beyond the simple categories of right or wrong. This belief led him to attack some targets that were not necessarily important militarily, but more to bolster his prowess and persona. “He now proceeded along the Uttarāpatha (the modern Grand Trunk Road) to the east, and reached Taxila.”(Livius). Here, Alexander was persuaded by the king of Taxila to attack a nearby region. Alexander did, securing an important, if not hard fought, victory which further cemented his claim of divine support. However, following this battle, Alexander’s troops decided that they had had enough, and decided not to go on any further, so Alexander was forced to turn back.



Indian Campaign of Alexander the Great (Wikipedia, 2016)



  1. How many and what kinds of troops do you start with?  How do you get more troops?  How do you settle veterans?  Where do your troops come from?

Alexander entered Asia with “12,000 phalangists –  9,000 pezhetairoi and 3,000 hypaspists.” These pezhetairoi carried shields and usually sarissas, very long spears(15-20 ft), and the hypaspists usually carried shorter spears and larger shields. He also had about 7,000 Greek infantry. Troops were usually replenished with Persians who were then trained to fight like their new Macedonian comrades, and equipped with the same weapons and armor, while veterans were either sent home or given control over some of the newly conquered land, with some of the infantry assisting their efforts. “While the army that crossed the Hellespont in 334 BCE was mostly Macedonian, there were others from all over Greece: Agrianians, Triballians, Paeonians, and Illyrians.” (Wassson, 2014)  (Wasson, D. L. (2014).



  1. What kind of supplies do you need and how do you get them? 

As Alexander the Great traveled with his army across deserts to India, they would be in need of supplies such as food, water, leather, wood, cloth, metal, etc.  Considering the size of his army, Alexander had to consider different ways of supplying his army.  He solved this problem by building a supply chain of countries he had defeated.  By following rivers and agricultural land and stopping at supply stations of these territories and picking up and exchanging the materials they needed, the Macedonian army was able to keep marching in a swift fashion.  

Once there was a mutiny among his men however, Alexander was forced to retreat home and abandon his quest for India.  Unknown to scholars for the reason, perhaps for being the first one to make the trek or by embarrassment of looking defeated, after reaching the Indian Ocean, Alexander divided his army into three parts for the journey home (Livius, 2016).  One part would take the heavy equipment through the relatively safe route to Persia with his general Craterus (Live Science, 2013; Wikipedia, 2016).  The second was a fleet commissioned to explore the Persian Gulf under the admiral Nearchus (Wikipedia, 2016).  The third part of the broken army was led by Alexander himself through the southern route of the Gedrosian Desert (southern Iran) and Makran (Pakistan) (Live Science, 2013; Wikipedia, 2016).  

After building a town called Patala, each part of the army was refitted for the return journey (Livius, 2016).  The naval fleet suffered from bad winds due to their lack of knowledge of the tides (Live Science, 2013).  The hardest struggle was with Alexander and his army through the desert.  The first part of the desert was accessible due the monsoon season which had left a lot of rain.  They were even able to supply themselves with food for a while by building a large grain store (Livius, 2016); however, the army’s luck soon ran out.  For sixty days, the army marched through the desert with blazing heat and lack of water.  Even “baggage animals had to be butchered…the concubines of the soldiers, the merchants, and other noncombatants seem to have suffered terribly from hunger and thirst” (Livius, 2016).  It is estimated that up to three-quarters of the Macedonian army died along this trek (Live Science, 2013).


Gedrosian Desert (Wikipedia, 2016)


Parker Langeveld

  1. How do you find your way in an era without GPS and with only rudimentary maps?

One of our favorite studies of all time, and recently published by NPR is that of trying to get man to walk blindfolded in a straight line, or also trying to get man to walk in a straight line without landmarks to follow. The study can be viewed here:

As can be seen in the study, without any kind of fixed point such as the stars, mountains, sun, etc to follow as the men left the barn to simply arrive at a point not too far away on a foggy day, they did a bunch of circles and arrived exactly where they started.

We can easily deduct from these studies, the which still prove true today, and also of the which we still don’t have answers, that entire armies would have walked in circles had they not been able to see a fixed point. By day these things could easily have been mountains, rivers, the sun, or other prominent landmarks. By night, such things as the north star and moon likely were developed into their system of travel.

Also in his book, Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass, Harold Gatty suggests that other such ways include observing migrating birds and other mammals, snow drift directions, shifting sands, weather patterns, and vegetation. For example, it could be mapped rudimentarily that one is likely entering a desert if vegetation begins to dwindle and we see birds flying away from such an area. The same can be inferred with snow drift directions, as such will tell us which direction the wind blows. When we know that, we can determine which direction is likely planar and which direction more mountainous. Weather patterns, such as a flash flood, can show us where heavy water tends to flow, and will eventually lead us to a river. So, in reality of things, they let nature be their maps. And, experience allowed them to remember these things and take mental notes they could recall on future journeys through the same area.

Finally, one of the most ancient texts known to mankind today is the Holy Bible. In such is related the account in which the angel appears to the shepherds and the wise men. They were led to find the babe Jesus by the shining North Star in the night sky, which further evidences the use of landmarks as guiding tools for ancient peoples.



  1. How do you deal with the locals?  

In January 325 before the Macedonian army had reached the Indian Ocean, Alexander’s men had to fight through the countries of Mallian who lived near modern Multan (Livius, 2016). Through a tough and merciless battle, several Mallian towns- perhaps modern Kamalia and Talamba- were captured.  During the siege of the capital, Alexander jumped into the fortified city with only two of his bodyguards and was seriously wounded by an arrow that punctured his lung.  Due to the efforts of his surgeon Kritodemos of Kos, Alexander survived his injury but would suffer pain for the rest of his life (Wikipedia, 2016; Livius, 2016).  

Other countries also stood in the way of Alexander and his army on their trek home.  With the defeat of the Mallians, the Oxydracae (Ksudraka) also surrendered.  The country Sindhu was ruled by Musicanus who refused to pay homage to Alexander and therefore was invaded by the Macedonians.  Going southward, the army attacked King Oxicanus’ kingdom near modern Sukkur and the kingdom of King Sambus called Sambhu (Livius, 2016).  



  1. Discuss the make-up of the baggage train and how this affects Alexander’s actions? 

‘Under-the-yoke’ animals were used in Alexander’s baggage train (Hammond, 2011). Pack animals were also used. One of the pack animals used was the camel. Camels were efficient when it came to carrying grain (Hammond, 2011). Another animal included in the baggage train was the Nisean horse. “When Alexander conquered Persia, he demanded a tribute of thousands of Nisean horses from the captured cities” (Wikipedia, 2016).  In Asia, Alexander had a supply- train of wagons, which  were either two-wheelers, four-wheelers, or six-wheelers. “When he wished to lighten the baggage-train, he burnt some wagons (with their loads) according to one account but only the baggage taken from the wagons according to another” (Hammond, 2011). Due to the use of wagons on sand hills, the trek through the Gedrosian desert was delayed (Hammond, 2011). “Throughout the 60-day march through the desert, Alexander lost at least 12,000 soldiers, in addition to countless livestock, camp followers, and most of his baggage train” (Wikipedia, 2016). Many ‘under-the-yoke’ animals died from the lack of water. Others died from drowning in the flood or being killed by soldiers (Hammond, 2011).



  1. How do we know this information?

We know most of this information from Arrian of Nicomedia (c. 86- c. 160 AD). Arrian was a Greek “historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman period” (Wikipedia, 2016). He wrote The Anabasis of Alexander, which is considered to be the best source we have on the military operations of Alexander the Great (Wikipedia, 2016). The Anabasis of Alexander is a primary source and includes seven books. The basis of these books is Xenophon’s account of the March of Cyrus (Wikipedia, 2016).



Hammond, N. G. L. (2011). Army transport in the fifth and fourth centuries. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 24(1), 27-31.

Live Science. (2013). Alexander the Great: Facts, Biography & Accomplishments. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Livius. (2016). Alexander the Great. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Wasson, D. L. (2014). The Army of Alexander the Great. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from

Wikipedia. (2016). Arrian. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Wikipedia. (2016). Gedrosian Desert. Image retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Wikipedia. (2016). Indian campaign of Alexander the Great. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Wikipedia. (2016). Nisean Horse. Retrieved October 10,2016 from

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           Alexander, The Greatest of the Great


It’s the year 327 b.c. After years of struggles I’ve finally conquered the Persians! Some say that this should be sufficient, that I should enjoy the victory and be content, but not me. I crave a challenge, and I won’t be stopped. This time I’ve set my sights on India. We’ve  crossed the Hindu Kush and invaded  Kabul, as well as Swat. My army is, as my name states, nothing short of great. With my force of nearly 90,000, comprised of mostly Macedonian and Persian soldiers, along with some  Greek cavalry and other Balkan allies, we’ve had great success. As many of them have been with me since the beginning of my conquests, they’re getting to be pretty old. It’s now necessary for me to leave them behind as garrison troops and guards in each of the cities that we conquer, that way they won’t take up valuable provisions from my younger, healthier troops, and at the same time they can at least somewhat enjoy the rest of their lives in peace. As we lose soldiers it’s  proven rather difficult to acquire new ones. We have garnered a few here and there as we conquer cities and villages, but not sufficient. We’ve also asked for reinforcements from the homeland, but with minimal results. All in all, our situation isn’t too bleak to be quite honest, we’re having a lot of success. I just hope my burning desire to conquer more territory doesn’t cause my troops to revolt and turn against me, that would throw a nasty kink in my plans for world conquest… But hey, it’s not like that would ever happen, right? On we go to Porus! To India, and beyond!




Lendering, Jona. “Alexander the Great.”, 30 Jul. 2016. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. (


Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. University of California Press, 1980.


Arrian trans. Chinnock, E.J. “The Anabasis of Alexander.” The Selwood Printing Works, 1884.


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Alexander the Great


Alexander the Great followed major geographic markers to find his way around the known world. The most notable landmarks were the Indus River, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the Nile River, the Amu Darya River, and the Mediterranean Sea (as seen in the map below). He did this because civilizations rise near water, and he and his men would need water on their journey.

Map of Alexander's journey through the Persian Empire to India and back


As Alexander’s army became less Macedonian and more Asian, he could have relied on his new recruits to point him in the right direction. They would know the surrounding areas much better than the invader did.

The battles themselves also pushed Alexander the Great in different directions. The Persian commander Mazaeus pulled the Macedonian army northward to the east of the Tigris River.

Alexander III crushed opposition by force. He and his men stayed in the city Persepolis during the winter of 330 BCE and pillaged the city, particularly the palaces, the following spring. When Spitamenes incited rebellion among the Sogdians and attacked the Macedonians using guerilla warfare, Alexander ordered mass deportations. Eventually Spitamenes was killed (approximately 328 BCE).

Alexander also made political connections to win over supporters. He married Roxane, a Sogdian princess and arguably “the loveliest woman they had seen in Asia,” and hired Dahae, another Sogdian, to fight for him. When Darius was assassinated, possibly by Persian noblemen, Alexander sought to punish the murders. This would gain him support from the Persian aristocracy.

Alexander also tried implementing traditions and beliefs from his Asian troops to win their respect. He had previously accepted Persian garments, which his Macedonian soldiers had allowed. The introduction of proskynesis, “the Persian court ritual,” however crossed the line. His European troops felt that that type of behavior should be reserved for worshipping the gods.



Arrian trans. Aubrey de Selincourt. “Alexander captures the Sogdian Rock.”, 27 Aug. 2016. Web. 9 Oct. 2016. (

“Common Errors (16): Persepolis.” New at LacusCurtius & Livius. New at LacusCurtius & Livius, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2016. (

Lendering, Jona. “Alexander the Great.”, 30 Jul. 2016. Web. 9 Oct. 2016. (

Map from

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Hannibal and Elephants

In-class Assignment: Hannibal and Elephants

[chaoticblackcat], [honorstudent2016], [berossusofbabylon]

The Most Likely Route and Why – [honorstudent2016]

Rome had met its match when Hannibal utilized war elephants in battle during the second Punic War. Being able to control and use these war beasts in battle gave Hannibal the upper-hand. Nonetheless, the extent of the elephants’ contributions to the Carthaginian army’s success is debated (Rhodan and Charles 363). The Romans were surprised when they caught word Hannibal and his army were crossing the Alps with intention to attack Italy. Publius Cornelius Scipio immediately sent troops over when he received the news of Hannibal’s plans (“Hannibal”). How did Hannibal get these elephants across the Alps and into Italy? What route did he end up taking? These questions are still highly debated amongst scholars.

Polybius may have given a more accurate description of the path Hannibal took because, although he and Livy used the same first-person account, Polybius used the text written by a witness of the march, whereas Livy used a text that was a copy of the original witness’ text. Historians also claim that Polybius has greater knowledge of military circumstances than Livy. For these reasons, Polybius’ account is more favorable than Livy’s in this circumstance (“Hannibal in the Alps”).

The Col du Montgenèvre route, traveling to Cesana Torinese & Oulx from Briançon & Montgenèvre, seems to be the most logical, historically accurate route Hannibal would have taken (see fig. 1). According to, this route meets multiple criteria needed for it to be consistent with historical descriptions given by Polybius: The passage needs to be relatively high in the Alps because Hannibal’s men had to deal with snow; as the route nears Italy, it should head north; the distance should agree with historical sources; the route necessitates sufficient space to accommodate the passage and encampment of tens of thousands of soldiers and a little over three dozen elephants; and near the path, there had to have existed villages or tribes of people Hannibal could have conquered. The Col du Montgenèvre route is the only route that satisfies all these criteria, and the other routes fall short in comparison (Polybius 3: 50-55, “Hannibal in the Alps”).


Figure 1. The possible routes Hannibal could have taken in the Alps are illustrated. The correct route proposed in this article is emphasized in gold (“Hannibal’s Crossing of the Alps”).

How Hannibal Handled the Elephants – [chaoticblackcat] [berossusofbabylon]

There are some scholars (albeit a minority group) who are suspicious of whether or not Hannibal was actually able to bring elephants across one of the ten highest mountain ranges on Earth. But there is ample evidence to support the possibility. Chief among that evidence are the records of the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition under the leadership of British engineer John Hoyte (see fig. 2). In 1959, Hoyte conducted an experimental archaeological expedition wherein he successfully guided an Asian elephant named Jumbo, on loan from a zoo in Turin, from France across the Col du Mont Cenis to Susa, Italy, effectively putting to rest the arguments that Hannibal’s crossing was no more than legend (“The British Alpine”).

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However, Jumbo was most likely not the species of elephant that Hannibal yoked into his trans-Alpine war machine. Extant sources and archaeological evidence suggest that a now-extinct species of African forest elephant would have been the most probable species. While some scholars speculate that Hannibal’s elephants were of the Syrian or Indian variety, this may have been in part due to being “…supposed, mostly from a reference to an elephant named Surus (“the Syrian”) in a fragment of Cato the Elder’s Annales … that one of Hannibal’s elephants may have been Indian” (Charles, “African Forest” 342). The majority of war elephants, however, were undoubtedly African forest elephants.

One of the key pieces of archaeological evidence supporting this claim is cited by Sir William Gowers: “…an admirable representation of an African elephant on a silver coin (date about 220 B.C.) of the Barcid dynasty in Spain—it may have been done from one of the actual elephants which afterwards crossed the Alps. The rider does not look and is not dressed like an Indian” (43). The extant texts support this claim, as well: “…Silius Italicus, writing under the emperor Domitian, seems to be quite aware the beasts were of African origin—witness the phrase “Libyan beasts…” (Charles, “African Forest” 345). Charles goes on to state that “By the time of the First Punic War, the African forest elephant formed an important part of Carthage’s military arsenal” (“African Forest” 339).

But what could it possibly matter which species of elephant Hannibal brought across the mountains? It’s simple: Larger animals require more food, and “…the adult forest elephant generally averages only around half the weight of the two larger varieties [i.e., Indian and savannah African]” (339). That forest elephants were more available in greater numbers to the Carthaginians was logistically fortuitous; if they had employed a larger species, the baggage train would’ve needed to cart twice as much food on a journey that already bordered on the impossible. The smaller breed was essential in executing the crossing.

Accounts of the other myriad obstacles Hannibal’s armies faced appears in the work of the historian Polybius, who notes that there was some difficulty at passing through a particular mountain pass. He wrote that “in three days [Hannibal] managed to get the elephants across but in a wretched condition from hunger” (135). Hannibal might have gotten them over the mountains, but how did he manage it? There are a few factors that probably contributed to the elephants’ cooperation: their extensive training, the food provided by the army, and the presence of their trainers.

The elephants that crossed the Alps probably had been exposed to extensive training that took place prior to the campaign. In two of his published books, John M. Kistler describes the use of elephants in warfare. He writes that training is a long process because most elephants are generally too nervous for warfare, and painstaking training is required to prepare them for combat (War Elephants 9). Based upon the startled way the elephants reacted to the prospect of crossing the river Rhone, shown in the picture below, Kistler speculates that Hannibal’s elephants had not had any previous experiences and had likely been reared by Hannibal since they were juveniles (War Elephants 111). If this was indeed the case, Hannibal would then likely have had a long period of extensive training invested in these particular elephants.

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In addition to an extensive training period, the species of the elephants in question might have contributed to their cooperation. In an article published in The Classical World, Michael B. Charles  and Peter Rhodan describe how a new extinct species of African elephant, the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) was the one trained by the ancients for warfare (364-365). There is some dispute that Hannibal employed some Indian elephants, but Charles and Rhodan attribute the description of Indian to be more reflective of the type of elephant riders, the eastern mahouts (365-366).

There are two potential approaches that could have been taken to the elephants’ training. In the most extreme case, the training might have involved what to a modern mind would constitute animal cruelty. It is possible that abusive methods, such as those previously used by circuses to train elephants, were used by the ancients. The Humane Society writes that these circus training methods involve beating and starving the elephants in order to achieve human dominance over them. If this is indeed the case, it would be unlikely that the starvation resulting from the trek across the Alps was anything ‘new’ to the elephants.

This idea might sound contradictory to the very idea of a war elephant. How could such supposedly nervous and broken-down animals then become such destructive forces on the battlefield? Certain techniques were known to be used to rile the elephants into action. A BBC documentary entitled Hannibal: The Man, The Myth, The Mystery briefly focuses specifically on the employment of elephants on the battlefield. The documentary discusses how the elephants would be plied with alcohol and deliberately prodded and poked in their ankles until they became angry, at which point they would be pointed at the enemy.This approach seems counterproductive during a march, but such methods might not have been necessary. Kistler notes that most were “only used for carrying supplies in an auxiliary role” implying that training an elephant for transportation was easier than training an elephant for warfare (9).

However, this abuse is an extreme version of the training that might have been used on Hannibal’s elephants. There is another approach that Kistler seems to favor. Kistler compares the ‘tamed’ elephant to being something akin to a human employee, writing that “in exchange for special foods and good scrubbing baths in the river, the elephant will do some work for the humans” (War Elephants 5-6). In this case, the incentive for the elephants to cross the Alps might have less the result of abuse but rather a desire for food. Kistler writes that an elephant would need more than 200-300 pounds of food daily, along with a decent ration of water (War Elephants 11). Due to the sheer amount of what these beasts ate, Kistler suggests that the trainers (the mahouts) would often allow them to go foraging for their own food away from camp, training the elephant to return to the camp “for treats and work” (Animals in the Military 58).

This more lenient approach to training might have played a role in convincing the elephants to cooperate with Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps. Foraging for food would have proven difficult in the alpine terrain of the Alps. The trained elephants might have fallen back on the trained ‘employee and employer’ relationship described by Kistler. They would likely have been given the order samyana (to march) and carried out with the expectation of receiving food as a reward.

Speculation of the nature of training and incentives aside, it is likely that the animals were trained in some way and to the presence of their trainers might have cemented their cooperation. A History Herald article by Yozan Mosig titled “Hannibal’s Elephants: Myth and Reality” describes how the mahouts might have used commands or applied pressure to control the elephants’ movements. Kistler agrees with that method and describes how a mahout would use a hook called an ankhus “to guide the elephant when voice and foot commands were not enough” (Animals in the Military 60). Kistler asserts that the hook could be used in combat when the noises of the battlefield drowned out the mahout’s voice (23). However, it is not hard to see how someone could use it to implement more abusive methods.

Such techniques are best demonstrated in a particular scene when Hannibal tried to cross the river Rhone, prior to reaching the Alps. Kistler refers to the historian Livy’s description of how “one mahout was beating his ’ferocious’ elephant” in an effort to try and persuade her to cross the river (War Elephants 113). She ultimately turned on him and attacked him (War Elephants 113). Kistler believes this scene has an element of truth to it, but he disregards the idea that the entire herd was beaten in order to persuade them to cross (War Elephants 113). He states that it would have been too dangerous a strategy considering it risked losing control of the elephant herd (War Elephants 113). In any case, this scene is a good representation of the constant reinforcement the elephants would have likely endured at the hands of their mahouts during their crossing of the Alps.

There is only one problem with the idea of the mahouts exerting influence over the elephants. Polybius writes that many of the mahouts were drowned during the crossing of the river Rhone (War Elephants111). Kistler states that other mahouts and mahout trainees were likely paired up with the elephants (War Elephants 114). After all, is doubtful that Hannibal would have let the elephants go rider-less. While these trainers probably played a similar role, it is doubtful that their efforts would have been effective as the original mahouts.

However, despite this limitation, the trainers had another technique that might have been used. In addition to the domineering physical presence of a rider, Hannibal’s army likely had a failsafe mechanism to employ in the event of losing control of the elephants. It is mentioned by Charles and Rhodan in their shared article that each mahout carried a hammer and a chisel to drill into the elephant’s skull if the beast ever went out of control (371). It is possible that some of the elephants would have faced this consequence if they proved uncooperative and problematic. Charles and Rhodan write that “according to Livy, [it] was an innovation on Hasdrubal’s part” (371). Considering Hasdrubal was Hannibal’s uncle, it is likely he was familiar with this technique. Essentially, the elephants had little choice in the matter.

Edited and Presented by [berossusofbabylon]






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