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 information—and 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).
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).
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]
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).
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.
- “Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 23 Jan 2016. Photograph from web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great#/media/File:AlexanderTheGreat_Bust.jpg. Accessed 4 Oct 2016.
- Allen, Brooke. “Alexander the Great: Or the Terrible?” The Hudson Review 58.2 (2005): 220-30. Web.
- Arian. The Land Mark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander: Anabasis Alexandron. Translated by Pamela Mensch. 1st ed., Pantheon Books, 2010. New York NY.
- Burke, Edmund M. “Philip II and Alexander the Great.” Military Affairs 47.2 (1983): 67-70. Web.
- Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. University of California Press, 1978, pp. 1-25, 119-158.
- Engles, Donald. “Alexander’s Intelligence System.” The Classical Quarterly 30.2 (1980): 327-340. Print.
- “Gedrosia.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 15 Aug 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gedrosia#CITEREFBosworth1988. Accessed 4 Oct 2016.
- Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011. Print.
- Hodge, Brendan. “Alexander the Great.” The Humanities Program, Elementary Program, Vol 1. 7 July 2017. Web. http://www.humanitiesprogram.com/2010/07/alexander-great.html. Accessed 8 Oct 2016.
- “Philip II of Macedon.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 30 Sep 2006. Photograph from web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Macedon#/media/File:Filip_II_Macedonia.jpg. Accessed 4 Oct 2016.
- Strayer, Robert. Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. Print.
- Wasson, Donald L. “The Army of Alexander the Great.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Web. 4 April 2014. http://www.ancient.eu/article/676/. Accessed 4 Oct 2016.
- Werner, Berthold. “Alexander Mosaic.” 17 April 2014. Image from web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great#/media/File:Napoli_BW_2013-05-16_16-25-06_1_DxO.jpg. Accessed 8 Oct 2016.