Monthly Archives: October 2018


Jacob- People and training of gladiators

Gladiator Schools:

While there were many gladiator schools, by far the biggest and most important ones were the ones located right there in Rome. The first, Ludus Magnus, was the biggest; holding about 2,000 gladiators. Then there is Ludus Dacicus, east of the colosseum, used to train Dacian prisoners of the Dacian wars. Third is the Ludus Gallicus; the smallest of the gladiator school and more dedicated to training more heavily armoured classes. Lastly, the Ludus Matutinus; this school was more for beast hunters and not so much for gladiators fighting each other. The word matutinus means “of the morning” where these sorts of shows would be performed.  The schools had their training ground in the middle, with their barracks and other supporting structures -such as a mess hall and a kitchen- surrounding the periphery of the training ground.

Where the Gladiators came from:

While there are many sources that suggest many different things about where the gladiators came from, there is a trend within the sources. The majority of the gladiators were criminals or slaves, but there were a few exceptions. There are accounts of volunteers who became gladiators professionally.

Employment of the gladiator schools:

The owners: Just like most corporate businesses today, the owners don’t do much except for accumulate money.

The Lanistae: The Lanistae can be assimilated to the managers of the ludus. What is interesting about the Lanistae, is that there seemed to have been a stigma with the lanistae and they were looked down upon; they were on the same ground as pimps and even the gladiators of that time.  (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 133 )

Medici: The medici were the doctors of the Ludus. They insured that the gladiators’ health was kept up to par. They may have been slaves or prisoners, but the gladiators competing was a source of income for the owner of the ludus. Included with the medical care that the gladiators received, they also had access to decent food to keep their energy up. One account mentions that the gladiators ate barley water mixed with beans.. (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 126 )

Magistri: The magistri were the gladiators’ trainers. Most of the magistri was composed from retired gladiators, mostly because after retirement from gladiating, they did not have good prospects, so they trained newer gladiators. While the magistri were the official trainers, many of the gladiators helped each other out. The more experienced ones were in charge of training the newer gladiators, despite the fact that they may have to fight each other in the ring.

Training of the Gladiators:

The gladiators were separated in different ways. The first way they were separated was by social standing. The volunteers, or the professionals, were separated from the slaves and criminals and ended up getting better treatment. The slaves and criminals though, even though it wasn’t as bad as regular prison -they had to be healthy for fighting- it wasn’t up to par to the professionals. They were also separated based off of their fighting style, and each fighting style had their own trainer. It wasn’t unusual for the gladiators to befriend their fellow adversaries, because the friends usually were the ones that made their gravestone.(Coleman)  Another point of segregation, usually the professionals went by their own name; while the slaves tended to have stage names that they used. One example is “Secundus” or “Lucky” (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 129)

In the arena:

Despite popular belief, there were actual rules when it came to gladiating; and it even included umpires. It wasn’t just kill your enemy, because you didn’t always have to. The gladiators were trained to fight with skill and accuracy; not necessarily to kill the enemy, but to disarm him or somehow disable him. (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 139)Remember, this is a show, even if it does seem like a battlefield. From there, it was decided by the crowd whether the defeated would die or be spared.

Among many things, one of the things that was harsh about the gladiating world is that you could have trained with someone, and even befriended him/her, only to be pitted against them in the arena.  (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 137)

Special gladiator schools were created in Rome. Capua was one of them. Agents scoured the empire looking for gladiators to recruit, as their turnover time was very short.


History of the Games – Garrett

The games have roots in both religious funeral rites and practices created by the people located in modern day Italy. The Etruscans of Northern Italy held gladiator battles and chariot races as sacrifices to the gods. The Romans picked up the practice later and continued to hold the games about 10-12 times a year (Pierre). It was believed in Rome that when people died their souls would travel in human blood to the afterlife. Because this was a popular belief, they would kill slaves or prisoners of war at important funerals. At Julius Brutus’s funeral in 264 BC his family had 3 pairs of slaves fight each other to the death ( Other wealthy families followed this example and began having these fights as well to prove their wealth. People passing by would come watch these fights as well and someone eventually had the idea to put out chairs and charge people to come watch the fight. The funeral of P. Licinius Crassus 120 gladiators fought and his funeral took place over 3 days and ended with a massive banquet in his honor (Thomassen). This practice eventually changed from its religious routes to more of a political event to win the favor of the mob.

The games were originally created and funded to show one’s wealth at a funeral and ensure safe passage into the afterlife. This quickly changed once they realised that they could win the hearts of the poor and desolate masses by putting on these massive spectacles for free. Once the aristocrats realized that the games would slowly increase in size to become massive, almost unbelievable spectacles of bloodsport.

As with most entertainment industries the most important thing is to be bigger and better than your competition so each times gladiator games were put on they had to be better than the last. The first advancement in scope came when aristocrats began constructing wooden arenas filled with sand. Previously they had fought either out in the open or in a roped off area. With the sand there to absorb the blood that was spilled the games could be held more often and for longer periods of time. This increase in frequency and duration then allowed gladiators to become a big business. Gambling on the outcome of gladiatorial games became a massive industry with gladiators creating troupes or familia, with managers that would decide where and when they would fight. Schools that recruited slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war in order to teach them combat techniques. Some elite romans even owned their own troupes of gladiators. formed. This growth, backed by the most elite in Rome, lead to the games becoming massive spectacles lasting months at a time at the creation of dedicated arenas rather than improvised grounds.

But private citizens owning sometimes hundreds of well trained warriors was something that could not be ignored by the state. When the Roman Republic fell the Roman empire and the Senate assumed complete control over all gladiators. They also gave Roman courts the ability to sentence criminals to participate in the games. With the ever increase in popularity, amphitheatres made of stone were built to house the games. The first of these arenas was called the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus and was built in 29 BC with the most famous of these, the Roman Colosseum being built in 80AD (Thomassen).

The history of using animals in the arena also have roots in funerals as well, with wealthy people would stock up native creatures to parade around in honor of the dead. They would teach these animals tricks as well as kill them in staged hunts called venationes. Wild animals first came into the games when elephants captured during the first punic war were taken the games in 252 B.C ( This really expanded however with the wealth figures of Pompey, Crassus, and Julius Caesar bringing in animals from Africa such as crocodiles, hippopotami, tigers, lions ,leopards, and more. Trajan’s games is famous for being the largest show ever put on. It lasted form 79-81 A.D and was held to celebrate his victory over the Dacians ( The games lasted 120-123 days and consisted of over 9,000 gladiators and about 11,000 animals ( animal hunts were so popular that many Roman Emperors actually fought in these gladiatorial animal hunts in order to earn the honor that was afforded to to the coliseums greatest champions. Emperor Commodus is the biggest example of this as he is said to have participated in over 700 gladiatorial fights (Pierre).

Eventually the attitude towards the games shifted dramatically. The rise of Christianity lead to a feeling of the games being wrong. Eventually the Emperor Honorius ended the Gladiatorial games after an Egyptian monk named Telemachus was killed after he plead to end the games. Honorius decreed the end of the games officially in 399 AD Although the gladiator games were abolished at this time the last known gladiator fight in the city of Rome took place on January 1 404 AD A bloodsport spectacle that once once brought emperors and nobles the people’s favor was now doing the opposite, and so it disappeared into history.


Emma- Colosseum 

Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 people, probably averaging to about 65,000 spectators per event. It was used for about 500 years, and it is estimated that over 400,000 people died there. Construction began in 70 AD and it was finished in 10 years, followed by a 100 day streak of daily events to celebrate the emperor, the city, and the arena. Unlike other amphitheatres carved out of hillsides, the Colosseum is a freestanding concrete and stone structure. The land it was built on was originally a lake, so drains were built to clear the area, and the arena itself would have needed to have extensive architecture planning done before construction. Since its days of fame, the Colosseum has been used for several things, including a Christian shrine, a quarry, and a source for building materials. It was also partially destroyed by an earthquake in the 1300s. There were over 250 arenas built in this time, but this was the largest of them.

There were 76 entrance gates labeled with roman numerals, much how modern stadiums are set up. Spectators were packed in like sardines, and though some scholars guess that the people were sat according to their rank, more than likely everyone just packed in as tight as they could. The Colosseum was renovated a few times, and underground tunnels, sun and rain shades, and other amenities were installed. Some evidence of latrines and even water fountains has been found. Eventually canvas shades mounted on masts that extended from top of the arena were installed, which could be rolled out to protect spectators from the hot sun and sometimes rain. The floor of the arena was covered in sand to help absorb the spilt blood of combatants. The arena was used for the famous gladiator battles but also for chariot racing, naval battles, public executions, and even plays. There is no physical evidence that the naval battles happened, but there are a few ancient records that report the Colosseum being flooded and used to recreate famous battles at sea. Underground, there were tunnels, cages for animals, holding areas for upcoming gladiators, and machinery like trap doors. This underground area was probably not present during the supposed naval recreations.

Overall, the Colosseum was a hugely successful and impressive work of art that displays Rome’s power and position at the time. It was planned out carefully, and funds were controlled to ensure the best and fastest construction. Even over a thousand years past its last use, the Colosseum is still a huge attraction today, even if you now have to pay for tickets, and has been named one of the 7 Wonders of the World.


“Munera” The Games– Alaina

Before the games could begin, advertising had to be done to inform spectators of date, venue, editor, fighters, scheduled executions, and added perks for those in attendance; which may include information on food, drink, shade awnings, and on some occasions, “door prizes”. More detailed programs could be obtained the day of, and provided additional information about the matchups and fighting styles of the gladiators. The night before the event a banquet would be held as a sort of “last meal”. It was a chance for the gladiators to sort out their affairs as well as bring more publicity to the event.

The munera would begin with something similar to an “opening ceremonies”. A pompa, or procession, would enter the arena and led by lictors (who represented the power of the magistrate editor over life and death), and were then followed by trumpet fanfare, images of the gods (who were brought to “watch” the spectacle), a scribe, and men carrying in the palm branches to be awarded to winners. The magistrate editor would then enter with the weapons and armour to be used, and the gladiators entered last.

The exact order of the munera would differ among individual events, but would generally open with sham fights, which were fought with wooden or dummy weapons as a sort of warm-up. The munus could also be opened with animal spectacles, such as the ones Seneca praised involving trainers and handlers putting their heads in lions’ mouths or getting elephants to perform tricks like kneeling and walking on ropes. He also recalled wild animals fighting each other and people; with events in single combat being fought by bestiarii (beast-fighters), and groups of hunters demonstrating their skill in venationes, or “beast hunts”.

The next stage was called the ludi meridiani, which featured a wide range of possible content. It often featured the execution of noxii (condemned prisoners), which was sometimes done through fatal re-enactments of Greek or Roman myths. The audience, as well as the gladiators were not as enthralled with these events as they denied the noxii the dignity associated with a fair fight. Comedy fights, which had the potential to be lethal, would be performed in this stage of the munus as well.

By far the most popular event were the scheduled fights between gladiators. These were also the most expensive events, owing to the need for highly trained fighters who possessed both the skill in combat and showmanship needed to create a successful show. There were four main classes of gladiators: the Samnite (named for the warriors the Romans had defeated early on in the Republic) were the most heavily armored. They carried a sword or lance, a large shield, and wore armour on his sword arm and opposing leg. The second class were the Thracian gladiators, who carried a short curved sword called a sica and a small shield for deflecting blows.The Myrmillo gladiator (sometimes called “the fisherman”) was armed in a Gallic style and was easily idenfied by the crest in the shape of a fish on his helmet. The last class, the Retiarius, wore only a padded shoulder piece for armour and carried a heavy net and a trident.

In terms of the actual combat, retired gladiators often served as “referees”, and music was played during the match to enhance the experience. The match was over when a gladiator defeated his opponent, which was done when his opponent surrendered by raising a finger or was killed. The victor was awarded a palm branch, but a laurel crown and additional money from the audience could be awarded for an outstanding performance, and emancipation granted to those who fought an especially spectacular performance.

If a gladiator surrendered, it was up to the editor to determine whether he lived or not; a decision that was usually made based on the audience’s collective decision, and was marked by the infamous thumbs up or down gesture. In the later years of the munera, the audience favored missio (not killing the gladiator) for various reasons, some being the shortage of gladiators or the rise of Christianity and decrease in bloodthirst.

In the unfortunate event a gladiator was denied missio, he was killed by his opponent, usually by a well-placed blow to the neck, but that was only if he had already earned the right to a quick death, that is. If he died honorably (without begging for mercy or crying out), he would be removed to the morgue in a dignified manner, stripped of his armour, and his throat would be cut to ensure he was in fact dead. However, if he did not die with honor, his corpse would be subjected to a more humilating fate, which involved area officials dressed as Dis Pater, the god of the underworld, and Mercury who would beat the body with a mallet and “test” for signs of life with some sort of “heated wand”, respectively. The body would then be dragged out of the area and would be denied proper funeral rites and memorial; effectively condemning his manes (shade) to wander as a restless lemur forever.



Cagniart, Pierre. “The Philosopher and the Gladiator.” The Classical World, vol. 93, no. 6, 2000, pp. 607–618. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Cartwright, Mark. “Roman Gladiator”. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 3 May 2018. Web. Accessed 22 October 2018.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Gladiator”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 16 March 2018. Web. Accessed 22 October 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Gladiator.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 Oct. 2018. Web. 22 Oct. 2018.

Cartwright, Mark. “Roman Gladiator.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2018.

“Capua.” 2018.

Talbert, Richard. Slootjes, Danielle. Brice, Lee. “Aspects of Ancient Institutions and Geography: Studies in HOnor of Richard J.A. Talbert” Impact of Empire: Roman Empire, C. 200 B.C.-A.D. 476. Volume 19. EBSCOhost. 2015.

The Ludus Originating

“About Rome.” BB Roma. 2012.

Coleman, Kathleen. “Gladiators: Heroes of the Roman Amphitheatre.” BBC- Ancient History in Depth: Gladiators. 2012.

“Ludus Dacicus.” Wikipedia.

“Rome, Ludus Magnus.” Livius.

“Gladiator Schools in Rome” Ancient Civilizations Online Textbook. Gladiators, Chariots, and the Roman Games. Web. 21 10 2018 Accessed.

Thomassen, Lasse. “‘Gladiator,” Violence, and the Founding of a Republic.” PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 42, no. 1, 2009, pp. 145–148. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Pierre Cagniart. “The Philosopher and the Gladiator.” The Classical World, vol. 93, no. 6, 2000, pp. 607–618. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Jackson, Ralph. “The Chester Gladiator Rediscovered.” Britannia, vol. 14, 1983, pp. 87–95. JSTOR, JSTOR,

BOWER, BRUCE. “Roman Gladiator School Digitally Rebuilt.” Science News, vol. 185, no. 8, 2014, pp. 14–14. JSTOR, JSTOR, Editors. “Colosseum .”, A&E Television Networks, 2009,

“Top Attractions.” Rome by CIVITATIS,

Hopkins, Keith. “History – The Colosseum: Emblem of Rome.” BBC, BBC, 22 Mar. 2011,

Nikola Simonovski. “Ancient Romans Flooded the Colosseum to Re-Create Famous Naval Battles for Thousands to See.” The Vintage News, 13 Mar. 2018,



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Hadrian: Buildings, Public Works, and Administration


Hadrian’s rule of Rome is best characterized by his numerous buildings and similar establishments. It is important to recognize the effects Hadrian’s works had on Rome’s legacy and reputation as well as the effects on his citizens’ lives.



Looking retrospectively upon his actions, Hadrian was deeply invested in improving the living quality of Rome for its citizens. Two minor but effective ways of accomplishing this were by sanctioning and reducing wheeled traffic in the city and by serving harsher punishments to those caught burying dead bodies within city limits (Boatwright 26). These steps would contribute to a cleaner and more appreciated city. A more direct service to his citizens was Hadrian’s increase of Rome’s borders to include land that was previously uninhabitable due to flooding. Through the creation of a dike, the land was made safe and habitable, and became a significant area for housing (Boatwright 24). Another benefit to Roman citizens was the creation of jobs for tens of thousands. Large numbers of workers were needed for Hadrian’s projects; skilled and unskilled workers alike were needed (Boatwright 20). Examples of these projects are the development of shrines, temples, baths, and theatres (Boatwright 7).


Map of Rome

Each of these things contributed to a greater Roman identity for citizens. Between the swell of new buildings and public works as well as the active presence and power of the Roman senate and other princeps, citizens of Rome saw their city as a beacon of strength and unstoppable improvement (Boatwright 7). A greater Roman identity would have benefited the republic in that citizens would be more supportive of their officials and proud of their community. Hadrian was well aware of these effects. In fact, many of Hadrian’s buildings arguably serve two purposes: their literal purpose and their perceived statement of status or power. For example, the purpose of the Pantheon has been debated, but it can be agreed that aside from just being a structure of religious importance, it is a uniquely Roman accomplishment. It was an emblem of Roman identity and potential (Joost-Gaugier 21).

Another point of interest is Hadrian’s buildings themselves. Hadrian, famously enamored with the culture, drew much of his inspiration from the Greeks. This can be seen in his classically Greek yet Roman reinventions of architecture (Somers). The majority of the most well known ancient Roman buildings were built under Hadrian’s reign, such as the Pantheon, the Temple of Venus and Roma, and the Mausoleum (Boatwright 5). Unlike the buildings commissioned by Trajan before him, Hadrian’s buildings lacked lavish decorations and detailing. Rather, these buildings compensated with their sheer size and scale (Boatwright 21). A contributing factor to this feat was the development of efficient and reliable concrete, which opened the doors to buildings previously impossible (Wikipedia).



The Roman Pantheon

These buildings also serve as important cooperations between the senate and the emperor. As the senate was chiefly responsible for religious matters, the creation of religious buildings required agreement between the two powers. In fact, most of the identified buildings from Hadrian’s time are religious, which paints the relationships between Hadrian and Rome’s senate in a positive light (Boatwright 29).


Works Cited

Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro. Hadrian and the City of Rome. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

“Concrete.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 16, 2018.

“Hadrian.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 17, 2018. Joost-Gaugier, Christiane L.

“The Iconography of Sacred Space: A Suggested Reading of the Meaning of the Roman Pantheon.” Artibus Et Historiae, Last modified January 1, 1998.

Mark, Joshua J. “Hadrian.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 21, 2018.

Granger. “Roman Empire: Map Of Rome by Granger.” Fine Art America. Accessed October 21, 2018.

Somers. “Hadrian’s Villa A Roman Masterpiece.”, Last modified October 4, 2004.

“The Roman Pantheon.” The Roman Pantheon – Crystalinks. Accessed October 21, 2018.




Hadrian’s Public Works

Hadrian had an interest in architecture even before he became emperor. Unlike Trajan before him, Hadrian was unable to create a military legacy, and left an impact on Roman history through public works instead. Hadrian used his public improvement projects in Rome and throughout the empire to unite his people, giving them a sense of common identity.

The Pantheon is Hadrian’s most well-known architectural achievement. It is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Roman construction ability, largely due to the use of concrete in its design. The Pantheon’s 43.3-meter-wide dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world even today. The original Pantheon was built by Marcus Agrippa after 27 BC but was burned down around AD 80. Hadrian completely rebuilt it into the building we know today. Cultural impacts of the Pantheon and its revolutionary architecture can be seen across the world, from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to the Basilica of St. Peter in 15th century Rome, which was partly designed by Michelangelo after close study of the Pantheon.

Through his extensive building and public works projects, Hadrian was able to secure his legacy as emperor, as well as strengthening the empire for his successors. In order to ensure a smooth transition of power after his death, Hadrian built himself a tomb in the center of Rome modeled after that of Augustus’s mausoleum nearby. This action was seen as a bold political statement, highlighting Hadrian’s desire to establish a dynasty.




Works Cited

“Hadrian–Life and Legacy.” British Museum. 2017. Accessed October 20, 2018.

“The Pantheon.” Honors Program in Rome. September 8, 2004. Accessed October 20, 2018.

Gill, N. S. “The Roman Emperor Hadrian.” ThoughtCo. August 14, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.



Religion in the time of Hadrian

The emperor Hadrian seems to have had a rather eclectic view of spirituality.  He favored the traditions of Hellenism, with a flair for Egyptian mythology, and a sprinkling of other religions of the day.  He constructed temples to the Greek and Roman gods, deified Antinous by comparing him to Osiris, and curbed anti-Christian sentiments by instructing governors to investigate claims against Christians and punish those who made false accusations.

Hadrian himself is difficult to classify into just one religion.  (Walton, 165) He had at least a passing knowledge of most of the sects and cults of his time, and it would stand to reason that he had a particular fascination for eastern religions, given his time spent in that region.

Hadrian desired to rebuild many cities that had been destroyed in previous conflicts, including Jerusalem.  This, however, enraged the Jewish populace — who believed that it was an insult for anyone other than their people to rebuild their holy city and temple, and ended in the Bar Kokhba revolt. (Rénan, 501)  This bloody conflict put down further Jewish uprisings.  (Goodman, 182)

The Hellenistic religions during Hadrian flourished.  New temples to the gods were erected, and nothing controversial happened between people of those beliefs. (Religious Activities, Wiki)

Christians, who practiced their religion quietly so as not to provoke enemy persecution, benefitted from Hadrian’s policies.  Hadrian allowed their religious practices so long as Christians did not object to paying homage to the many Roman gods.  Only if they broke other laws were Christians punished. (Religious Activities, Wiki)  Hadrian had knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, and would have built a temple to him if not for the admonishment of the oracle at the time, who warned that if he built that temple, the other temples would fall into disuse and it would be the end of those other religions. (Rénan, 508)

The death of his boy-lover Antinous began a new cult that was spread by Hadrian far beyond the Nile, where Antinous likely drowned.  Hadrian deified the young man, and he became known as Osiris-Antinous.  A city was established near the place of this death, called Antinopolis, which also served as a place that connected the Egyptian culture with Greco-Roman culture.  (Antinous, Wiki)

These religions would have translated from the population as a whole into the military ranks.  Though, for many soldiers, the Hellenistic cults would have been the most popular, given their high favor by emperor Hadrian.  There would have likely been a small group of Christians and other religions among the soldiers as well.

In conclusion, Hadrian’s rule was largely peaceful, with many benefits to the various religious groups — with the notable exception of the Jews, whose uprising was perhaps the most violent event in Hadrian’s reign.


Sources Cited:

Goodman, Martin. “Trajan and the Origins of Roman Hostility to the Jews.” Past & Present, no. 182 (2004): 3-29.

Rénan, Ernest. “The Emperor Hadrian and Christianity.” The North American Review 127, no. 265 (1878): 492-508.

Walton, Francis R. “Religious Thought in the Age of Hadrian.” Numen 4, no. 3 (1957): 165-70. doi:10.2307/3269342.


“Hadrian: Religious Activities.”



The Law Under Hadrian

When Hadrian became emperor, he sought to organize the government more efficiently. During his reign he sought to codify roman law. In other words, he wanted the law written down and set in stone with little room for personal interpretation. He made his legal advisors into a permanent office. The central government became very strong and often helped the upper classes more than the lower. Punishments for higher classed citizens were much more forgiving than those for the lower class. He encouraged political figures to behave well and dress nicely.

While emperor he implemented the Praetor’s Edict or Perpetual Edict. A praetor “was the magistrate charged with the administration of justice” (Touri). They made sure the law was being upheld and made sure proper legal action was taking place. At the beginning of each year, praetors would publish their edict and all legal procedures listed within. As the year continued, changes and additions may happen. When legal action needed to take place, they could refer to the edict to determine what the outcome should be. If they were ever presented a case they hadn’t dealt with in the past, they could work the case out and add to the edict.

The Perpetual Edict would be very beneficial in many ways. It prevented the law from being left to interpretation. Rather than every single legal issue needing to be brought before the emperor or praetor, smaller issues could be dealt with by referring to the edict. If anybody attempted to find a way around the law, the edict could adapt to cover their offenses.

With most praetors, their edict would rarely change from year to year (Johnston). The idea of the perpetual edict was not new to Hadrian’s time, though he was the first emperor to make it official. There are also very few sources that reference the perpetual edict and it is difficult to find exact dates for when they were published. When referring to Hadrian’s perpetual edict, there is uncertainty and vagueness associated. It is possible that modern ideas have influenced what has been said about the government of ancient Rome and it is even possible the edict didn’t exist until after Hadrian’s time.




Watson, Alan. “The Development of the Praetor’s Edict.” The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 60, 1970, pp. 105–119. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Dr Kaius Tuori (2006) Hadrian’s Perpetual Edict: Ancient Sources and Modern Ideals in the Making of a Historical Tradition, The Journal of Legal History, 27:3, 219-237, DOI: 10.1080/01440360601041076

Johnston, David. Roman Law in Context. Cambridge University Press, 1999. EBSCOhost,




The Military under Hadrian

What made the legions (and auxilia and such) so appealing compared to other professions?


Significant Non-Military Occupations:

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Farming
  • Trade
  • Government Positions


Benefits of the Legions (and Auxilia and such):

  • Legion:
    • A well established and secure pension at the end of service (worth about 14 years of income).
      • A lesser pension is given if you are misso causaria (this depends on your length of service.
    • Opportunities to travel, meet new people, and receive training in some professional skills (and lots of training in construction and ditch digging).
    • Potential for loot if you are actually involved in and survive a successful campaign.
    • More if you’re a centurion or higher officer, including potential advancement, though your fancier garb will put you in greater danger in the event of an actual battle.
  • Auxilia and such:
    • Potential to become a Roman citizen after service.
    • A pension, though a lesser one when compared to that of a Legionnaire.
    • In the navy, a slave can serve and potentially be freed
    • Again, travel and receive professional experience


Pros and Cons of Other Occupations:

  • Construction: much of the work you might like to do is already done by the legions. A traveling army needs roads, so if no such convenience exists it must be built. However, in the empire proper this is a valid occupation, if you can do the work for less than a slave.
  • Mining, Quarrying, etc.: Genuinely a valid career path, though like construction it’s hard to be more affordable than slave labor. As Hadrian downsized the empire and largely ceased conquesting however, competition with slave labor went down as slaves became less plentiful and more expensive.
  • Farming: To put it simply, land is expensive. Also, there are many parts of the world that are more agriculturally productive than Rome (much of southern Asia, for example). As a result, foreign imports tend to be less expensive for many products than their domestically produced equivalents.
  • Trade: This is, again, a decent alternative. Assuming you live somewhere along a major trade route or on the coastline, you will likely be able to make a decent living. However, like modern entrepreneurship, getting into the business and getting established is as hard as ever.
  • Government/Public Service Positions: There are obviously a lot of these in the world’s greatest empire. However, there are a few major hurdles to overcome. Among other things, you need some sort of patron to obtain a good position. Also…public service really isn’t an alternative to military service, as most civil offices are reached only after service as an officer in the Roman Army (a position which one also requires a patron to obtain).
  • In general, all of these alternatives have the advantage of significantly lower chances of being cut to pieces, shot, trampled, or otherwise brutally killed. And, with the exception of construction, you will also spend less time digging trenches than the average legionary by a significant amount.


Works Cited:

Rodgers, Nigel (2006). Roman Empire. Dodge, Hazel. London: Lorenz Books.


“Ancient Rome.” Wikipedia. (21 October, 2018).

Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2009.


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Legionary Religion and Weapons

Weapons – scaleydragon

Weapons played a huge role in military, religious, and societal standing in the Legionary times in Rome. Arrowheads made or break armies, axes made to change fighting methods, spears had various symbolic meanings, and a weapon that started the evolution of all iron weapons. This weapon was the Styli (or pen).

Sagittae, or arrows, were excavated from Concordia and were well-preserved (Salvemini, Arrowheads 1228). These arrows were either triangular, flat, or quadrangular (Salvemini, Arrowheads 1229). Triangular arrowheads were designed to penetrate armor (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1229). “The bladed heads once removed leave a flat slit of a wound, which the muscles surrounding the wound would help to close by automatically contracting. The more pronounced blades of the tri-lobed points would generate cuttings in three directions, plus a punch hole, causing the same reflex muscle action to hold the wound open. This would inhibit clotting, allowing blood to flow freely from the wound and make it much more open to infection (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1229).” Flat arrowheads were designed to aid equestrian archer’s skills. They were usually fired from compact bows to fly straight (also aided from the arrowhead’s heavier weight) (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1232). Quadrangular arrowheads were used to penetrate armored enemies in Legionary armies (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1234). Although arrows and axes were the only weapons that didn’t have an impact on a Legionary’s status.


“> 3 SIDE BLADE ARROW HEAD < Very RARE Ancient Roman Legionary Archery Weapon • $34.98.” PicClick, 26 Aug. 2018,

There are three types of axes, simple large axes with triangular hilts, simple axes with holed bottoms, and crescentic axes with a pike on the other side. Simple large axes were made to be heavy to deal sharp, blunt blows and the triangular hilts were used for better grip (Montanari 238-239). Simple axes with holed bottoms were made to be lighter to wield and easier to maneuver (also possibly used as projectile weapons) (Montanari 239-240). Finally, crescentic axes were made to deal significant blows with its crescent side. For the pickaxe side, it’s meant to pierce armor and pin enemies to the ground if needed (Montanari 240-241). The axes were used but not as popular as spears and swords.

Spears were popular due to being a symbolic weapon. It could represent nobility, righteous devotion to the church, and standing in the armies (Montanari 241-242). Most spears were in a lozenge shape and the spearhead metal and hilt of the spears would distinguish other Legionary statuses. The most important weapon during the Legionary time aside from the spear and sword would be the Styli.


IETE Journal of Education Binomial Sampling Charts Revisited with Graphical and Analytical Arguments – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 18 Oct, 2018]

Styli had a huge impact on weapon manufacturing and religious assemblies since they were used for creating maps, being used for mailing services, writing religious scripts, and more (Salvemini Styli 1.1). Most well-preserved Styli were made out of iron, it was speculated that crating Styli was a common practice to train blacksmithing skills (Salvemini Styli 1.2). When one could craft Stylis then they would move onto spears, arrowheads, swords, and axes. A Styli’s look could determine someone’s standing in an army, church, or in society (Salvemini Roman). The more gold or copper accents on the iron Styli body would mean higher class in a Legionary army and within churches.

Roman Funerals- Kimberlee Whitmore

Funerals and burial, as in many cultures, were very important to the Romans. There were many rituals and events associated with a Roman funeral. Professional mourners were hired to comprise a large portion of the funeral procession; musicians, dancers and sometimes mimes who mimicked the dead or their ancestors were also hired (Sumi). The body, carried in a bier, would follow.


The end of the procession would have been the deceased’s family and friends, following behind the body. Funerals were very public, very loud events, and a great celebration. The more important you were the larger your funeral procession and the events surrounding it would be. The death of an emperor would result in a grand event for his funeral, there would be a parade though the center of the city and many eulogies and speeches would be delivered (Favro). The rituals of the funeral were performed to exactness, many believed that if they were not performed correctly the dead would have a difficult transition to the afterlife (Hope). Many of the records that remain about Roman funerals only describe the funerals of the very rich and may not accurately represent what the average funeral would have been like (Thompson).

Early in the Roman empire it was very common to cremate the body, inhumation, or burial, had become more common by the mid second century and predominant by the mid third century though the end of the Roman empire (Thompson). When the body was cremated it was taken to the necropolis and burned on a funeral pyre. Ashes and any remains, such as bone fragments and teeth, would be gathered and put into an urn and the urn would be buried. It was believed that until the body was contained within the urn the dead’s spirit had not yet crossed the River Styx and was still present (Fife). If the body was to be buried it would be placed in an intricately decorated sarcophagus before burial. An epitaph was often included on the urn or sarcophagus, this inscription would include the name of the deceased, their birth day and life span, their relations, political offices or military rankings they held and often some form of sentiment. After the cremation and/or burial of the body a feast would be held, it was a marker for the soul to move on to the afterlife and for their family to continue on without them (Fife).


Funerals in the military would have been similar to other Roman funerals, but likely not as lavish. The conditions they lived in could have made it difficult to perform the intricate ceremonies, the dead were highly honored, although their funerals were quite simple. If the funeral had to be carried out quickly after a battle the soldiers would be buried in a mass grave or given a mass cremation, this was always avoided if possible, so the dead could be honored separately. At permanent garrisons of the Empire a small portion of the soldiers’ pay was set aside for funeral expenses. Many of the cemeteries at these outposts had special areas set aside to build pyres that would be reused multiple times for different individuals (Thompson).

Roman funerals were events steeped in ritual and ceremony, members of high society would have lavish and very public funerals, while the funeral of a soldier was often much simpler and less celebratory.

Deities – Cassandra57

The Romans had many gods and goddesses which they worshiped. However, there were only a few main gods that had to do with warfare: Mars, Bellona, Honos, and Victoria. Roman military leaders and soldiers would honor these gods in order to be successful in battle. Each of these gods had a different role to play in warfare and each was essential to the Romans.


Mars is the god of warfare, agriculture, and animal husbandry and was perhaps one of the most important gods to the Romans. He is said to have been the father of Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome (Scopacasa). Therefore, Mars was seen to be the protector of the Roman land (Scopacasa). Many of the rituals/celebrations which take place between March and October (the war season) can be traced back to the honoring of Mars. One interesting point about Mars is the fact that many of his legends include him appearing on the battlefield and fighting amongst the soldiers, “However, once set loose on the battlefield, Mars was considered capable of indiscriminate destruction” (Scopacasa). Mars was also so important that a typical sacrifice to him consisted of a bull, ram, and a boar all at once (Scopacasa). Mars was important in warfare because he was able to rally the troops and bring enough bravery and spirit of war in order to succeed in battle (Scopacasa).

Bellona is the Roman goddess of war, and her role was mostly associated with foreign warfare. In literature, her symbols typically include a shield, a spear, a torch, and a trumpet (Holland). Her temple is located outside the city of Rome, and this is where the senators would meet in order to discuss or declare war on foreign nations (Holland). When Rome would declare war on another land, it became a ritual to cast a spear from Roman land to outside the city in the direction of the land they were declaring war on. However, when that land was simply too far away, the spear would be cast in front of Bellona’s temple because it was seen to represent all foreign lands (“Fetial”). Bellona was important because she helped the Roman troops while they were fighting abroad.


Honos is the Roman god of chivarly, honor, and military justice. He was also commonly associated with the god, Virtus, who represented bravery and military strength. Honos is typically depicted with a cornucopia and a branch or sceptor (Dowling).  He would have been important to the Romans during times of war because they wanted to be worthy of the spoils in which they gained. The Romans also were concerned about whether a war was righteous or not (“Fetial”). Therefore, adhering and praying to Honos would be seen as a way to keep their fight just.

Victoria became a prominent goddess because of her ability to determine the victor in battles (“Victoria”). She became the personification of victory and was often depicted with wings like the Greek goddess Nike (Thornton). Successful generals would worship her as they returned to Rome (“Victoria”). It is obvious as to why she was seen as important to the Romans since she could determine who was the victor over life and death (“Victoria”). Her importance can also be seen by the multiple temples dedicated to her, the most important being the one on Palatine Hill (Thornton). She even has a golden statue in one of the temples dedicated to Jupiter, the head god to the Romans (Thornton). Prayers and sacrifices to Victoria would help lead to victory on the battlefield.

Important Military Festivals and Holidays- Halle

In the Roman calendar the new year starts in March. This is so that the years can start with the Campaign season. While there are many significant festivals throughout the year, I will only be focusing on those during the military season, March through October, and those immediately related to them.

Martius (March) 1st is the birthday of Mars for whom the month is named. It is also a celebration of a battle early in Rome’s history wherein wives and children kept their soldiers from walking into a trap. The war was won when the king, here unnamed, sacrificed a bull to the God Jupiter. Phoebus dropped a shield (2)  from the sky to trick Rome’s opponents (Ovid). The 9th is the festival of sacred shields, also called the dancing of the shields after the dancing priests of Mars, the shield given to the Roman King on the battle of Martius, and the original eleven replicas made to conceal its identity, are taken out to hearten the people and the army. It was also believed to be a way for the army to have good luck in the upcoming campaign season (Warde, 44). There is an account where the shield that fell from the sky was replaced by a replica, and that campaign season was a disaster (Warde, 46). The 14th is the second of the Equirria, chariot racing and discus throwing dedicated to Mars (Ovid). The 17th of march is a celebration of Jupiter userping Saturn, this is symbolic of Rome dethroning its enemies. 23- The purifying of trumpets and a sacrifice to “the Strong God” (Ovid). The 23rd and the 24th are also for the Purification of the Trumpets, most likely tubas, which were primarily used in the military (Warde, 64).


Capitoline Museums. “Colossal statue of Mars Ultor also known as Pyrrhus – Inv. Scu 58.” Capitolini.information.

A recreation of a Roman sculpture of the war god Mars, for whom the month of Marius, now March, was named.

April the 21st is a historical festival where the Vestal Virgins cleanse the city and the citizens. It was also a day to honor Romulus, the founder of Rome, for blessing the walls of Rome to never fall (Ovid). There are many rites involved with the Founding celebration including: repeating the prayer four times, and jumping over a flame three times. Similar celebration similar to this are found all over Europe, probably due to the spread of the traditions via the army (Warde, 83).

October 15th (ides) is the date of an ancient horse sacrifice to Mars. The origin and reason for this sacrifice is unclear, it is hypothesized that the winning horses from the Equirria, or perhaps the best war horses from the campaign season, were sacrificed to Mars. This was likely done as a thank you to Mars (Warde, 242). This sacrifice marks the end of military campaign season (Ovid). The literal sacrifice is phased out by the start of the republic, though the celebration stays (Warde, 242). The 19th is a ritual cleaning and storage of weapons for winter dedicated to Mars. This sacred cleansing was known as Armilustrium,  there is evidence that the sacred shields make a second appearance (Warde, 250).

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Ancient shield illustration from Nordisk familjebok
A depiction of the sacred shield bequeathed to the king by the Gods.

Februarius (February) 27th is Equirria, first of two horse racing festivals to Mars, Ovid claims this festival to be based on the chariot runs that Mars himself made (Ovid). “The Equirria occurred between King’s Flight and New Year, bridging the period of ‘disorder’: held immediately before the new moon, they prepared the way for the reestablishment of order with the new month and year (Rüpke)”

Works Cited

“> 3 SIDE BLADE ARROW HEAD < Very RARE Ancient Roman Legionary Archery Weapon • $34.98.” PicClick, 26 Aug. 2018,

IETE Journal of Education Binomial Sampling Charts Revisited with Graphical and Analytical Arguments – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 18 Oct, 2018]

Montanari, Daria. “Early Bronze Age Levantine Metal Weapons from the Collection of the Palestine Exploration Fund.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, vol. 150, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 236–252. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00310328.2018.1491937.

Salvemini, Filomena, et al. “Morphological Reconstruction of Roman <italic>styli</Italic> from <italic>Iulia Concordia</Italic>—Italy.” Archaeological & Anthropological Sciences, vol. 10, no. 4, June 2018, pp. 781–794. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12520-016-0390-4.

Salvemini, Filomena, et al. “Morphological Reconstruction of Roman Arrowheads from Iulia Concordia: Italy.” Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing, vol. 117, no. 3, Nov. 2014, pp. 1227–1240. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00339-014-8511-3.

Salvemini, Filomena, et al. “Residual Strain Mapping of Roman Styli from Iulia Concordia, Italy.” Materials Characterization, vol. 91, May 2014, pp. 58–64. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.matchar.2014.02.008.

Favro, Diane, and Christopher Johanson. “Death in Motion: Funeral Processions in the Roman Forum.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 69, no. 1, 2010, pp. 12–37. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Fife, Steven. “The Roman Funeral.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 18 Jan. 2012,

Hope, Valerie M., and Janet Huskinson. Memory and Mourning : Studies on Roman Death. Oxbow Books, 2011. EBSCOhost,

Sumi, Geoffrey S. “Impersonating the Dead: Mimes at Roman Funerals.” Oral History Review, Oxford University Press, 15 Jan. 2003,

Thompson, T.j.u., et al. “Death on the Frontier: Military Cremation Practices in the North of Roman Britain.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, vol. 10, 2016, pp. 828–836., doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.020.

Dowling, Melissa Barden. “Honos.”, Wiley Online Library, 26 Oct. 2012, DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah17204. Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

“Fetial.” Encyclopedia Britannica, the Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 24 Feb. 2016, Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

Holland, Lora L. “Bellona.”, Wiley Online Library, 26 Oct. 2012, DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah17071. Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

Scopacasa, Rafael. “Mars.”, Wiley Online Library, 26 Oct. 2012, DOI: 10.1002/978144433836.wbeah17258.

“Victoria.”, Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

Ovid. Fasti. Translated by Frazer, James George. Loeb Classical Library Volume. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1931.

Warde, W. The Roman festivals of the period of the Republic, 1847-1921.

Capitoline Museums. “Colossal statue of Mars Ultor also known as Pyrrhus – Inv. Scu 58.” Capitolini.information.

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Alexander and his conquest of India


Alexander the Great was one of history’s greatest military leaders. He established the largest empire in the ancient world, and led an army so loyal they would fight to their deaths for him. His influence on Greek and Asian culture was intense enough to create the Hellenistic Period at his death. Though he died before his dream of conquering the world was completed, he is remembered as one of the most skilled, ruthless, tactical, and intelligent rulers in the ancient world.

The Greek sculptor Lysippus was Alexander’s “official” portrait artist during his reign. The Azara Herm is a Roman copy of a bust that Lysippus made of Alexander. The copy is not exactly like the original, but is generally regarded as the most accurate representation we have of Alexander.


Lyddios’ sculpture of Alexander

Alexander III was born to King Philip II in Macedonia in 356 BCE. Legend says his father was Zeus, but Alexander adopted his Philip’s dream of conquering the Persian Empire. Philip was skilled in military tactics and made Macedonia a mighty and formidable force.

Alexander had displayed his courage by the age of 12, and when he was 13 Philip called on Aristotle to tutor Alexander. Aristotle helped Alexander find an interest in literature, philosophy, and science. He was 16 when Philip went to battle and left Alexander in charge of Macedonia. At 18 he led a cavalry into battle, decimating a previously unbeatable army, and proving his bravery and militaristic vigor.

When Philip was assassinated in 336 BCE, Alexander claimed the throne and killed other challengers before anyone could overthrow him. He was just 20 years old. Alexander followed in his father’s footsteps and sought to dominate the known world, starting with the Persian Empire. He was a brilliant and ruthless military leader, and claimed the Persian Empire after the Persian king Darius was killed. He also conquered Egypt and founded Alexandria. Alexander adopted Persian customs and ordered a few of his generals to be killed, paranoid that someone would try to overthrow him.

Mosaic of Alexander the Great

Alexander the great Mosaic


After conquering Persia, Alexander continued on his goal to conquer the world. The Greeks at this time only thought it reached to the eastern end of India, near Pakistan, so his “world” was much smaller than ours. They knew nothing of China, the Indian subcontinent, or any of the other eastern lands. He led an army of troops and supporters into India. By the time they had reached the Hyphasis River his army was too weary to continue, and they mutinied until Alexander agreed to retreat back to Persia.

The scale of the wars he fought and his undefeated status gives Alexander a reputation of being one of the most successful commanders of all time. By the time he died he had conquered most of the known world at the time. After claiming the throne to Macedonia upon his father’s death, he invaded Persia and overthrew the Persian king Darius III. He continued on to conquer Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, among others, and extended his empire as far as Punjab, India. He had made plans to expand into the Arabian Peninsula, but those plans were never seen through because of his death at age 32, which plunged his empire into civil war. He died either from malaria, natural causes, or poison. He had named no heir, and his death unraveled his massive empire, though many of the conquered lands retained his influence, and some still do.

Indian Conquest:

Alexander the Great started his conquest of India in 327 BCE, after he conquered Persia.

Alexander’s army was composed of Macedonians, Greek mercenaries, and an increasing number of Asian soldiers. As his army became less Macedonian, Alexander had to incorporate new rituals from the east. While the Macedonians accepted the introduction of Persian garments, they flatly refused the practice of proskynesis, a Persian court ritual, since many of the actions and gestures involved were what they associated with the cult of the gods.

Alexander had sent various ambassadors to the tribes of India to demand submission. Those who didn’t submit got attacked. After crossing the Hindu Kush, Alexander split his army in half. The first part of the army -under the command of Perdiccus and Hyphaestion- was sent to the Indus river to build a bridge for the army to cross. The other half of the army was sent with Alexander to conquer the neighboring tribes that did not submit to Alexander (Possibly to secure a supply chain for his army).  you see, the problem with marching across a continent with thousands of people is that you need access to food water, and other supplies. This is especially true if you also want to conquer the continent you’re walking through. The farther that you get from your own land, the harder it is going to be to get the supplies that you


Alexander’s Conquest path

need to continue. This is where having supply chains becomes extremely important.

A well functioning supply chain is essential for an extended campaign full of siege warfare. The army itself could only march up to 10 days at a time once they left a port with access to the sea. Typically a marching army would be followed by their spouses, servents, and wagons. Alexander on the other hand decided to maximize his armies speed and flexibility by taking none of these with him. He instead followed routes that would allow him access to rivers that could carry tons of supplies compared to the around 200 carried by beasts of burden (Mieghem 42). Along the way some cities would and tribes would surrender before his arrival allowing him to send messengers ahead, create the town into a depot for supplies, and acquire supplies for his army as soon as he arrived. These supplies were mainly acquired from the local terrain but were also shipped in using water routes. Using these methods of traveling light, having frequent and easy access to supplies, and acquiring resources locally allowed him to have supplies where and when he needed them.

The battles fought in the valleys were fierce, but none were quite as merciless as  that with the Aspasioi at the fort of Massaga. After the Chieftain of Massaga fell in battle, his mother, Cleophis, assumed command of the military. Her determination to defend her homeland to the death inspired the all of the local women to also join in the fight.

In 326 B.C.E,  fighting under Cleophus,  Massaga gives Alexander resistance and was bent on defeating Alexander’s army. So, Alexander lured them outside of their fort by attacking just outside the fort. Once more Indians came to reinforce themselves, Alexander “retreated” as to lure the Indians further and further out of their fort. Once Alexander had done this, he turned his army around and chased them back to Massaga, killing many of them. Alexander then constructed siege towers and bridges to storm the wall. Before Alexander was successful with this, the Indians called a truce, asking to join Alexander’s army instead. However, that night, the Indians attempted to desert the army. Alexander countered this by massacring them, then burned Massaga to the ground.

It is thought that Massaga is near the modern day town of Chakdara, near Churchill’s Picket. It is also notable to mention that Alexander’s ankle was severely injured during the siege of Massaga.

Going further into India (still in 326 B.C.E), Alexander captured the fort, Ora, where he employed the same tactic of total warfare from Massaga. After hearing this, many Assakenians fled North to a high fortress called Aornos. This fortress was famously uncapturable by even the mighty hero Hercules.Also, another local legend claimed that another local deity, Krishna, was not able to capture Aornos either. This likely spurred Alexander on because he was known for liking too claim deity. The problem was that traditional siege warfare is conducted with the purpose of weakening the occupants of a city by cutting off their supply chains and essentially breaking spirits due to lack of food and the eternal threat of attack (Louis 130) . This would either allow you to capture the city with little to no casualties after fighting a weakened opposing force or possibly even forcing your foe to surrender

Without any conflict. This is, of course, a very good method of taking an isolated city because it’s only a matter of time before they run out of supplies and all you have to do is wait and watch them wither away. But this wasn’t the case with Aornos. The “Rock of Aornos” -or more commonly known as Mt. Pir Sarai- was 25 miles in circumference and 8,000 feet high with only one path carved from the rock. This of course makes it easier to block their supplies, but it also makes it harder to attack and in this case the positive of cutting off supplies doesn’t apply. The Rock had fresh water springs and arable land on top giving the people on the rock a near limitless supply of food and water, allowing them to stay for a near infinite amount of time. So the question was, how could you capture the rock that even Hercules wasn’t able to?

Alexander, unlike Hercules, had help from the locals. He was informed that there was a weak spot where troops could be sent to create a forward position and begin his attack from a nearby mountainous ridge. He sent Ptolemy, one of his generals, to take the position with a smaller group and signal Alexander that he could bring his forces to join him after marching his troops up the main path. In the meantime, Alexander used his local connections to being stockpiling supplies of his own in preparation for an extended siege. Once the signal was given and Alexander eventually met up with Ptolemy they had the problem of trying to cross the gap between the forward position and Aornos itself. Alexander had the idea to essentially build a bridge over to the other side. The forces of Alexander cut down the nearby trees and create wooden stakes that were then used as a framework for an earthen mount looking toward Aornos. From this mound he began his assault using archers and catapults.

Alexander's Path to seige Aornos

Alexander’s siege of Aornos

These catapults would have either been built near the earth mound or would have previously been built before joining forces because siege equipment was still in its earliest form, it was hard to build, hard to repair, and hard to transport (Hacker 37).It was also much different from the more commonly thought of medieval catapult. Instead of throwing one large rock a long distance, it would instead propel smaller stones and arrows at high velocities in an attempt to pierce any armor enemy soldiers may have had. Once they had this offensive mound created they continued building it up further in order to build a bridge closer to the enemy encampment. This method is somewhat similar to Alexander’s strategy at the siege of Tyre in 332 BC where he built a land bridge to an isolated island(Lagasse). With the catapults and archers providing cover for the builders, the enemies quickly surrendered upon seeing the progress. Alexander accepted their surrender, but then killed many of the Indians as they retreated. That is how Alexander the great conquered The Rock of Aornos.

After Aornos, Alexander reunites his army at a town called Hun to cross the Indus river. (this is still 326 B.C.E)  They crossed by building a bridge, which was constructed by Hephaestion. Hephaestion was sent earlier by Alexander to subdue the lands before Alexander had gotten there. The bridge was thought to be constructed of boats that were linked together spanning about 1500 feet across. Once they reunited, the army crossed and headed towards Taxila.

Once at Taxila the Macedonians were confronted by Omphis, the local king of Taxila, and his army. The Macedonians prepared for battle, thinking that they were going to have to fight through Taxila too. Omphis came up to Alexander and Alexander had asked Omphis why he had mobilized his entire force if he wasn’t going to attack. Omphis then said that he was offering his army for Alexander’s disposal. This friendly gesture prompted Alexander to make Omphis king of Taxila. The common thought on why Omphis did this is he recognized that Alexander was powerful, so being his ally, he could possibly further expand his power into other territory under the wing of Alexander.

In the summer of 326 B.C.E, Alexander continues his journey of conquest; towards the Hydaspes river -more commonly known as the Jhelum river-. The only thing that stops him is King Porus. Hearing that Porus was on the other side of the river waiting for him, Alexander orders that the boats used to cross the Indus river to be disassembled and to be reassembled at the Hydaspes river.

King Porus, on the other side of the river, has set up pickets (little groups of troops) to border the shore of the Hydaspes river to discourage any attempt of Alexander trying to cross. What King Porus failed to realize though, is that Alexander came well prepared and Alexander’s army camped on the other side of the river throughout the winter.

Alexander really only had two options: wait for the waters height to drop in the winter, or cross right then and there. Although Alexander had the supplies to last until winter, he decided that he needed to cross this river as soon as possible and continue his conquest; but he would have to do so as secretly as possible. Alexander began marching his army up and down the river every day making an extremely large scene as if he were attempting to cross the river. Hydaspes would then mobilize his army to mirror the actions of Alexander’s in case they attempted a crossing. This strategy was successful in two ways. King Porus’ army was inclined to parallel Alexander’s army to insure that they would not attempt a crossing. After a while, however, they got a false sense of security because throughout those few nights, Alexander never crossed so it was (poorly) assumed that Alexander wouldn’t dare cross any of the other nights either. The second advantage to this strategy is it gave Alexander ideas on where it would be most beneficial to cross. Alexander, after a few nights, had decided that the best place to cross would be a heavily wooded island 18 miles upstream from where they were camping.

At the night of their crossing, (it is suspected that this was in July of 326 B.C.E) it was instructed that one of Alexander’s general, Craterus, would stay behind with his portion of the army and only attempt to cross the river if Porus had moved upstream to meet Alexander and there was a small force left behind. This is so Porus wouldn’t get too suspicious when all of Alexander’s army suddenly went missing.


Alexander’s Plan for crossing the river

As a source of communication, Alexander set up his own pickets along the banks of the river to have faster travel of messages, which were vital in this stealth operation. Alexander then moved part of his forces 18 miles up the river where he planned to cross. Under cover of night, and also a thunderstorm luckily,  he began his crossing. They destroyed the boats that they used to cross the Indus river and used the materials as flotilla that would help them bring the supplies and troops across. Unfortunately he didn’t realize that the landmass that he initially thought was the opposite shoreline was actually an isolated island. This added crossing time and allowed Porus’s scouts to spot the forces and inform Porus and move his forces to meet them. Once that happened Craterus was able to cross as well with little resistance; allowing all of Alexander’s forces to cross the river without becoming a massive target.

King Porus arrives on the scene and Alexander is left with a dilemma to solve. King Porus has elephants which are spaced 100 feet apart with cavalry behind them, along with a left and right wings of infantry and cavalry. Alexander knows it would be a death trap to attack the elephants head on, so he splits his army in two. He places ½ of his army in the command of general Coenus, and the rest in his command. Alexander leads the charge and attacks Porus’ left wing. In response, his cavalry rushes over to support the left wing, leaving the right wing with little support. General Coenus then attacks the right wing. ½ of Porus’ cavalry in response turns around to help out, splitting Porus’ army in half. This is exactly what Porus didn’t want to happen. As the battle progressed, Alexander’s army slowly condensed Porus’ army into a circle, taking out the elephant drivers when possible. The elephants were still a problem, but one that they solved relatively quickly. They just let the elephants pass when they charged.

It is important to note that the battle was made easier for Alexander because Porus’ chariots proved to be useless in the mud newly created by the storm. Alexander noticed this and made another opportunity to claim himself as a god like being.

As the battle continued on, Alexander’s army encapsulates Porus’ and this lack of space leads to a lack of coordination and chaos. The elephants take out a lot of Alexander’s men, but also take out a lot of Porus’ men too. At about this time, General Craterus comes with his portion of his army and reinforces Alexander.

After this strategic maneuver was done.  The majority of Porus’ army was decimated, and Porus is forced to retreat, wounded from the battle. Alexander sent messengers to Porus to negotiate. Finally negotiating in person, Alexander ask what Porus desires. Porus responds, “Treat me as a king would treat another king.”

Alexander respects this, and allows Porus to keep his land.

After the battle against King Porus was finished, Alexander holds a victory celebration before marching against a neighboring tribe, in which Alexander promised to Porus. The end of this gruesome and tough battle made Alexander’s more hesitant to continue the conquest of India.

In his march further into India, Alexander is troubled to have to deal with a few small rebellions in which he has to delay his conquest. Once taken care of, he continued his conquest; making the inhabitants come to terms or fight.  Most chose to come to terms, but a tribe by the name of the Kathaioi was prepared to fight them.  The rebellious tribe chose their fort, Sangala, as the perfect place to defend.

Although it has not been located yet, Arrian suggests that the fort of Sangala stood on top of a hill. The enemy set up three consecutive circles of wagons around the hill of which Sangala sits, to act as a barrier. Once Alexander understands their tactic, he changes the formation of his army so that the archers ran in front of the enemy front lines. When the battle commenced, the Indians countered by standing on top of the carts and using their bows to strike down Alexander’s cavalry. Alexander adapts by forcing his cavalry to retreat and Alexander leads his infantry head first into the wagon barrier. The Indians are forced to retreat back into the fort.

Alexander takes the break from battle to surround the fort with his army. He did not have enough people to completely encircle the fort, so he had the cavalry patrol the most likely route of escape.

The Indians, under the cover of night, attempted to escape their fort, but were routed back by the cavalry. In a separate attempt, they had opened the gates and had made a run for it. Unfortunately for them, Alexander had learned of this plan and had used the carts against them. Alexander used the cart to block the way of the Indians. Noticing that they wouldn’t be able to escape fast enough, they retreated again. Sangala was finally taken when Alexander’s army climbed the wall with ladders and the town was attacked by siege engines.

In the late summer/ early fall of 326 BCE, Alexander’s army refuses to cross the Hyphasis river. Alexander was convinced that they were nearing the end of the world, but Coenus reminded Alexander that his army was tired and wanted to return home. Angry and annoyed, Alexander waits two days at the Hyphasis river (more commonly known as the Beas river) and offers a sacrifice, in which he didn’t receive “favorable omens. ” So Alexander turns back, but acting on the will of the gods, and not the men, because that would be weak…

Many scholars disagree on the extent of Alexander’s impact on India’s history.

As Dr. V.A. Smith said, “India remained unchanged. The wounds of battle were quickly healed India was not Hellenized. She continued to live her life of splendid isolation and soon forgot about the passing of the Macedonian storm. No Indian author, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain, makes even the faintest allusion to Alexander or his deeds.”

While Alexander’s campaign was not a defining moment of Indian history, it wasn’t an isolated event of no consequence. It is possible that Alexander’s conquering of the small tribes set an example that allowed for unified Indian rule in the future. Additionally, the Greeks left behind dated records, which were incredibly useful for future historians because they could then more certainly date later events, and the records proved to be a valuable source for early Indian history.



HopologyEnthusiast: How

Isaac, Son of Abrahm: When and where

Codexromana99: Who and what

Mediocrelegionnaire: Why



“The siege of Sangala (in modern Pakistan)” 2016.

Arrian. “Mutiny at the Hyphasis.” M.M. Austin. 2016.

Rawlings, Louis. The Ancient Greeks at War. Manchester University Press, 2007. EBSCOhost,

Hacker, Barton C. “Greek Catapults and Catapult Technology: Science, Technology, and War in the Ancient World.” Technology and Culture, vol. 9, no. 1, 1968, pp. 34–50. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Hamilton, J. R. “The Cavalry Battle at the Hydaspes.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 76, 1956, pp. 26–31. JSTOR, JSTOR,

“Tyre.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Paul Lagasse, and Columbia University, Columbia University Press, 8th edition, 2018. Credo Reference, Accessed 30 Sep. 2018.


Arrian. Arrian’s Anabasis of Alexander and Indica. , England;United Kingdom;, 1893.

“Alexander the Great.” HISTORY. A&E Television Networks, 2009.

“Alexander the Great: KING OF MACEDONIA.” Frank W. Walbank. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“SparkNote on Alexander the Great.” SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web.

“Wars of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia.

Wikipedia contributors. “Indian campaign of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Sep. 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.

Lendering, Jona. “Alexander the Great.”

Arrian (1971) The Campaigns of Alexander the Great. Bungay: The Chaucer Press.

V, Shivani. “Alexander’s Invasion and Its Effect on India.”





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Alexander Blog

It is useful, in an attempt to more fully understand the world-shaking conquest of Alexander the Great, to view the context of his campaign. In learning about the state of the territories that he was to invade, both physically and in other, more temporary aspects, such as the political and cultural status’ of these lands, we discover elements that help to explain some of Alexander’s exceptional military success during his short reign.

The State of Greece

Alexander III of Macedon rose to power in 336 BC, following the assassination of his father Philip II by a royal bodyguard. His father’s accomplishments include the founding of the League of Corinth, a federation of Greek States, formed for mutual defense, as well as with intentions of conquering Persia, though Philip II died before any such campaign could be undertaken. The extent of his control can be seen in this map, where all the marked territories excepting Sparta, Crete, and the Persian Empire (naturally) could be considered his, though parts of it were still, at least in name, “independent” (such as Thrace and Molossia).


Upon Philip’s assassination, Alexander was the heir apparent and laid claim to the throne, though Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the some of the Thracian tribes in the northern reaches of the kingdom attempted to rebel. This was something of a kick-start to Alexander’s conquest, however, as his magnificent success in reconquering these rebellious territories–including the total destruction of Thebes–helped secure his native kingdom and established him in the eyes of his army as a capable leader from the very beginning of his campaign. Hence, when he turned toward Persia in 334 BC, his base in the Greek peninsula was stable.

The State of the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Achaemenid [Converted]

Interestingly, Darius III of the Achaemenid Persian Empire ascended the throne as the Persian “King of Kings” in the same year Alexander did, also as the result of his predecessor’s assassination, though his reign was fated to end far sooner than that of his contemporary, Alexander.

The vizier of the Persian empire for some years before 336 BC was a eunuch named Bagoas. Notably, during his time in that office, he was effectively the ruler of the Empire. Those emperors who attempted to assert dominance during this time were poisoned and replaced. However, when he selected Darius III as the new emperor after poisoning most of the family of Artaxerxes IV (as well as the man himself, naturally), Darius showed himself immediately to be dominant and, being forewarned of Bagoas’ tactics, forced his adviser to drink the poison intended for Darius. However, it appears that Darius may have had a harder time establishing his control in his Empire, as Alexander would make quite an indentation in the Persian border before meeting any real opposition from the Emperor.

The Terrain of Alexander’s Route


Alexander spent much of his early conquest of Persia trying to remain close to river banks and the ocean, typically only departing from this approach when it was necessary to conquer a strategic target.. This was a mixed bag for him: it was basically necessary, assuming he wanted supplies to be able to reach his army quickly, and as it allowed his forces to minimize the advantage the more numerous Persian armies that (eventually) opposed them had, but at the same time this left them open to harassment by the Persian navy (sadly, until he conquered enough of Persia’s ports, Alexander had little to no navy of his own). When he did move inland, much of his travel was through mountainous terrain, particularly as he progressed closer to Alexandria Eschate (lit. “the furthest), the final reach of his stretch into Persia.

“File:Map Macedonia 336 BC-en.svg.” Wikimedia Commons. January 28, 2017. Accessed September 30, 2018.

The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. “Bagoas.” Encyclopædia Britannica. April 11, 2016. Accessed September 30,2018.

Kia, Mehrdad. The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2016.

“Wars of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia. September 24, 2018. Accessed on September 30, 2018.

“File:The Achaemenid Empire at its Greatest Extent.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons. August 19, 2017. Accessed on October 1, 2018.



What kind of troops would be effective?

Assuming we have around 60,000 total troops, choosing which types to bring requires us to understand what the enemy has. In one battle described by Kaushik Roy, Alexander fought against chariot archers, lightly armed cavalry, and disorganized infantry (Roy, 2004). Around 45,000 heavily armored men in the phalanx won’t have much difficulty with the enemy’s infantry, and around 5,500 heavy cavalry (called the companion cavalry) can help against the enemy’s chariots and cavalry.

The bigger issue is that India has lots of elephants. When one of the massive beasts charges the phalanx, the dense group of soldiers get trampled and impaled by the iron tipped trunks. A charging elephant can eliminate large groups of men very fast. To help combat this, the phalanx must split up. Instead of being in a big group, they can be divided into smaller groups that stay close enough together to prevent the enemy from surrounding them, but also providing enough room for them to spread out when an elephant charges. They can surround it and attempt to drive it back into the enemy infantry. If it doesn’t work quite so perfectly, it will at least help reduce losses.

Another important group of units would be around 1,500 horse archers. Societies like the Scythians are excellent horse archers, recruit as many of them as possible to help with the not as excellent Macedonian mounted archers (Mounted Archery). Elephant riders would often carry poisoned spikes they could stab into the head of the elephant if it ever turned on its own troops. Archers could pick of the riders to leave the beast uncontrollable and aid in driving it back into the opposing infantry.

The remaining 8,000 troops could contribute to the phalanx or cavalry, but there are some other units that could be useful. Lighter infantry, possibly mercenaries, could make up a lighter infantry that can fight where the phalanx can’t. More archers can be beneficial, especially if they have high power bows that can pierce metal. War elephants can be good, but overall not many should be used because of their unpredictability. Elephants might be more useful as a pack animal, but still require a large amount of food and care.

How do we deal with our troops?

As conquering continues, cities will be established and provides an excellent opportunity to leave behind those who are severely wounded and those who have served their time and would like to stay.  To transport the sick and wounded, they can be carried in a wagon or slung over a pack animal in what is called a litter (Sternberg, 1999). New troops can be recruited from conquered regions and hired as mercenaries. It can be dangerous and expensive to do so, but will help maintain the number of troops. Winning battles will help keep mercenaries on our side.



Mounted Archery. Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Roy, K. (2004). India’s Historic Battles: From Alexander the Great to Kargil. Orient Blackswan.

Sternberg, Rachel Hall. “The Transport of Sick and Wounded Soldiers in Classical Greece.” Phoenix, vol. 53, no. 3/4, 1999, pp. 191–205. JSTOR, JSTOR,



Alexander the Great Logistics

The first problem faced by any army is how to provide adequate food and water for a large number of soldiers. In the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate Alexander’s army would have marched through on their way to India, each soldier would require a minimum of 3,400 calories a day, including 70 grams of protein, and at least 9 quarts of water. With around 65,000 soldiers, the army would have to take along about 195,000 pounds of grain, 325,000 pounds of water, and about 375,000 additional pounds of grain to feed pack animals.

Another common problem was the issue of speed and flexibility. In the past, the ox-cart was the most common means of transport for armies traveling long distances. While it allowed more supplies to be moved, the carts only moved about two miles an hour for five hours. Ox-carts also required almost constant repair, necessitating the presence of repairmen, extra lumber, and tools, which added to the overall burden armies had to carry and slowed them even further. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the horse to military operations, allowing their armies greater speed and the ability to move over all types of terrain. While it took five horses to pull a load carried by one ox-cart, horses required almost half the amount of forage and were able to move the load at four miles an hour for eight hours. By the time of the Persians, the rapid growth of army size had created a logistical burden so large that speed and operational flexibility was becoming severely limited. The Persians’ use of horses as part of their military operations did a lot to remedy this issue, though they still relied heavily on the ox-cart. Phillip II and Alexander became the first to make horses a major part of their logistics train.

The mobility issue was further resolved by Phillip of Macedon, who was the first military commander to forbid the presence of camp followers in his armies. Before this, a typical army of 30,000 would bring with it almost the same number of attendants, wives, and various service providers. The logistics burden of his army was reduced by nearly 2/3 without the presence of these people, increasing the army’s combat power as well as the speed at which they were able to travel. Alexander’s army also maximized the speed at which it was able to travel by requiring each soldier to carry his own food and equipment. As a result, soldiers carried nearly 1/3 of the load normally hauled by horses and oxen and the army required almost 5,000 less pack animals.

Alexander the Great Logistics

The first problem faced by any army is how to provide adequate food and water for a large number of soldiers. In the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate Alexander’s army would have marched through on their way to India, each soldier would require a minimum of 3,400 calories a day, including 70 grams of protein, and at least 9 quarts of water. With around 65,000 soldiers, the army would have to take along about 195,000 pounds of grain, 325,000 pounds of water, and about 375,000 additional pounds of grain to feed pack animals.

Another common problem was the issue of speed and flexibility. In the past, the ox-cart was the most common means of transport for armies traveling long distances. While it allowed more supplies to be moved, the carts only moved about two miles an hour for five hours. Ox-carts also required almost constant repair, necessitating the presence of repairmen, extra lumber, and tools, which added to the overall burden armies had to carry and slowed them even further. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the horse to military operations, allowing their armies greater speed and the ability to move over all types of terrain. While it took five horses to pull a load carried by one ox-cart, horses required almost half the amount of forage and were able to move the load at four miles an hour for eight hours. By the time of the Persians, the rapid growth of army size had created a logistical burden so large that speed and operational flexibility was becoming severely limited. The Persians’ use of horses as part of their military operations did a lot to remedy this issue, though they still relied heavily on the ox-cart. Phillip II and Alexander became the first to make horses a major part of their logistics train.

The mobility issue was further resolved by Phillip of Macedon, who was the first military commander to forbid the presence of camp followers in his armies. Before this, a typical army of 30,000 would bring with it almost the same number of attendants, wives, and various service providers. The logistics burden of his army was reduced by nearly 2/3 without the presence of these people, increasing the army’s combat power as well as the speed at which they were able to travel. Alexander’s army also maximized the speed at which it was able to travel by requiring each soldier to carry his own food and equipment. As a result, soldiers carried nearly 1/3 of the load normally hauled by horses and oxen and the army required almost 5,000 less pack animals.

Sources Cited:

Kast, Bernahrd. “The Logistics of Alexander the Great.” Military History Visualized. April 19, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018.

“Alexander the Great Needed Great Supply Chains.” SCM Globe. March 17, 2014. Accessed September 23, 2018.

“Ancient Macedonian Army.” Wikipedia. August 31, 2018. Accessed September 23, 2018.

“Military Supply Chain Management.” Wikipedia. March 9, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018.



Navigation in Ancient Times

Being able to get from place to place was important, not only for regular citizens, but especially for military campaigns.  Alexander would have used every possible tool at his disposal in his conquest of Persia and Asia. Basic maps would have been had among the military, but the real information about the terrain would have come from the native populations.

Alexander was known for using guides from the newly conquered people in order to move to the next place.  These guides often gave accurate information, but sometimes used their position of trust to deceive and mislead.  Treachery of this sort was swiftly dealt with, as the cost in time, supplies and even lives mattered a great deal.  (Engels, 331) Either the guides themselves acted as hostages for their own good performance, or else family members of the guides were taken to insure proper intelligence gathering. (Engels, 331-332)

Another tactic was to use social connections to be introduced in new places.  These friends or kinsmen led the way to the new location and made introductions with the locals in charge. (Stark, 107)  Having the personal connection made it much easier to overtake cities.

It is also important to note that trade routes and roads were used on some of the campaigns.  (Stark, 110) These roads were important not only for the movement of troops, but also for communication sent via horseback.Trekking_the_Old_Roman_Road

By Davidbena [CC BY-SA 4.0  (, from Wikimedia Commons

For naval use, the employment of sounding weights would have given navigators information about the depth of the water and general topography of the seafloor.  The weight was usually dropped to measure the depth of the water near the shore, but also in times of inclement weather. (Oleson, 119-120)

Interesting Tidbits from the Research

As I was researching this topic, I came across several references to Zoroastrianism in Persia. Alexander got in quite a bit of trouble for going counter to their traditions.  In one instance, Alexander ordered the crucifixion of Bessus, and for the soldiers to keep the vultures away from the body. This upset the Zoroastrians, who believed that it was important for the dead to be devoured by birds and wild beasts. (Livius, 2.12)

People during this time were highly superstitious, and armies often had magicians and soothsayers as part of their advisors.  The final battle between Alexander and Darius III was foretold to spell doom for Darius because of a lunar eclipse. In fact, the omen was so widely known for its negative prediction that many in Darius’ army deserted before the battle began.  (Livius, Alexander the Great)

Engels, Donald. “Alexander’s Intelligence System.” The Classical Quarterly 30, no. 2 (1980): 327-40.

Oleson, John Peter. “Testing the Waters: The Role of Sounding Weights in Ancient Mediterranean Navigation.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes 6 (2008): 119-76.

Stark, Freya. “Alexander’s March from Miletus to Phrygia.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 78 (1958): 102-20. doi:10.2307/628929.



Punjab and Indus Valley, Approx. 327 BCE.

A well-planned and executed baggage train is essential for any successful military march, or at least for any march in the 4th century BCE. Alexander the Great’s cavalcade was no exception. The efficiency of a baggage train was generally rooted to the ability of its animals in terms of speed, survivability, and strength.

Before addressing the animals, it’s important to know what the “baggage” of a baggage train is. This is all of the army’s provisions: food, equipment, tents, medicine, firewood, etc. It’s also important to note that the followers in this march were not solely comprised of soldiers. In fact, the numbers were greatly bolstered by non-military individuals, as listed by Donald W. Engels:

Traveling with the Macedonians were bodyguards, older Macedonians exempt from combat duty, hostages, servants, seers, physicians, sophists, poets, a historian, a tutor, secretaries, surveyors, the transport guard, Egyptian and Babylonian soothsayers, Phoenician traders, courtesans, a harpist, a siege train, engineers, and as the expedition advanced further into Asia, women and children. (Engels 11)

Alexander was conscious of the size of his following, and took measures to downsize when appropriate. One method was to burn excess baggage and unnecessary carts (Engels 13). It goes without saying that limiting the number of wagons and carts and their respective beasts of burden would speed the march up.

As previously stated, a baggage train is only as good as its animals. Mules, horses, and camels would have been Alexander’s primary “motive power.” Between these three animals, Alexander’s march would be able to transport its cargo with relative speed and efficiency. Mules and horses were effective at weathering down a path for the army to follow (Hammond 28). Camels were capable in the same terrains as mules and horses, but were more strongly suited for desert terrain(Hammond 28). Donkeys and oxen were not used as they were too slow and unfit for long journeys (Hammond 14-15). These animals, though able to be loaded with packs, would have hindered the march.


Having inherited his army from Philip, Alexander would have maintained most of the practices previously in place, including the general unfriendliness towards the usage of carts. Only carts carrying essential battle equipment of medical supplies were allowed (Engels 15). Among whatever other reasoning exists for this decision. It was thought that the usage of carts might encourage individuals to try and bring along cargo that was unimportant and a waste of space (Engels 16). As a general rule, personnel were to carry their own smaller possessions— weapons, armor, utensils, etc.— rather than take up valuable space in wagons or carts (Engels 12). The smaller the train was in both size and weight the easier it would be to traverse and troublesome terrain. According to Livius, the march would have ran into trouble when the Himalayan snows melted and filled rivers in the surrounding valleys. In cases such as these, smaller was better.


As far as amounts go, Engels asserts that, “About 800 pack animals were required by each legion to carry its noncomestible supplies, or about one animal per seven combatants” (17), and notes the increase of Alexander’s army as time went on as he continues, “After crossing the Hellespont, there were about 48,000 soldiers in Alexander’s army and about 6,100 cavalry horses… 1,300 baggage animals would be required” (18).


“Alexander 2.13.” Livius, Last modified January 16, 2017.

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

Hammond, N. G. L. Army Transport in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries. Cambridge: Clare College, 1982.

Loaded CamelKisspng. Accessed September 30, 2018.

Lovell, Tom. “ Alexander The Great Refusing Water In The Desert.” . American Gallery. Accessed September 30, 2018.



How do we know these things?

Using primary and secondary sources, historians and researchers have been able to piece together most of the information.  Some things have to be inferred based on other historical evidence not related to this particular campaign, but similar in both time period and other methodology.  Additionally, sources are useful for what they spell out, but they are equally useful for what they do not expressly tell. Depending on the audience intended for the original documents, certain information would have been left out based on social norms or the expectation that the intended audience would have already had some of the information.  



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From India to Persia. Alexander The Great’s Return.

  1. Place your blog in time and space: – medievallyme

Alexander the Great achieved many things throughout his life, a life that stretched from 356 BC to 323 BC, by most estimates. His reign ran from 336 BC to 323 BC, and much of that was spent on campaigns to conquer the world as Alexander knew it, even though his maps were incorrect about the world’s edge (“Indian campaign of Alexander the Great” 2018.) After Alexander had conquered Persia in 326 BC, he set his sights on India. The Conquest of India began in 327 BC and ended with Alexander returning home without conquering India after the battle of the Hydaspes River and the mutiny of his troops. After allowing himself to be persuaded by his troops and the signs that the gods were forcing him to turn back, such as an eclipsed moon which was a bad omen at the time, Alexander had to make a plan of how to return. If he returned through what was likely the easier route, through the kingdom of Porus, Pauravas, to Taxila and Gandara, he would be able to easily reach Alexandria in the Caucasus. But he risked looking like he had failed if he took that route. Therefore, he decided, in the end, to go to the ocean and utilize his ships to get back to Persia and Babylonia. This path would take them west, back to the Hydaspes river, with Alexander founding cities on the way. Once enough ships had been built, Alexander and his men could finally leave, with the fleet being escorted by two armies who marched on the west and east banks, but all did not go according to plan. They lost many ships and many more lives during the attempt. The Indus river which Alexander followed was populated by many people, who, unlike most, resisted Alexander’s control and conquest. Those who resisted met with a destructive, merciless genocide and found themselves under control of Alexander in the end. Those who were left, quickly surrendered and Alexander continued his journey home. Alexander continued southward, attacking and conquering all who were unlucky enough to end up in his path. However, he wanted to continue his journey up to the nearby sea when revolts prevented him. He continued his journey home. “One of the armies that was sent out to suppress the rebellions was commanded by Craterus, and was under orders to continue to the west, through the Bolan pass to Carmania and Persis. He commanded about a third of the army, including the war elephants; this means that Alexander did not want to expose all his men to the dangers that were ahead. After all, a large part of them would have to march through the Gedrosian desert, others were to sail along the almost unknown shores of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf(Lendering 2017).” His troops suffered greatly in the desert, but the natives of the desert suffered more so. However, they made it through and Alexander returned to Babylon where he resided for his final days.


(Lendering 2017)


Yeager, J. Alexandri Magni Itinera. Public Domain, 1823.

  1. Army – sombodycallixii – 2.1 Sections of the army – beholdaman – 2.2 numbers and make up of the army

Before exploring the conquests of Alexander the Great it is important to know how the Macedonian army functioned. There were two main sectors of this army the infantry and the cavalry. The infantry would have made up the bulk of the army, they were the foot soldiers, known as pezhetarios in Greek. The sarissa was the primary weapon of the heavy infantry, it was essentially a long pike. It had a sharp blade of iron on the offensive and and a spike on the opposite so that it could be braced on the ground during an attack. The spike also acted as a counterbalance for the sarissa, as the weapon was several meters long (English 16). Because of the weapon’s length it was purely an offensive weapon, and was ineffective for defense. The effectiveness of this weapon was vital to the formation of the troops that wielded it.  They fought in an improved phalanx formation, every member of the phalanx would have had a sarissa of the same length, allowing for the formation to create an impenetrable wall of spears. Should a break occur in the wall of spears they lost nearly all effectiveness (English 7). The infantry troops that traveled with Alexander were highly trained on how to fight and move on any terrain, something that was a weakness in for less trained soldiers fighting in similar fashion. While traveling it is likely that the weapons were carried by the baggage train, as marching with the lengthy weapons would have been impractical, if an attack was suspected the weapons would have been carried vertically by the infantrymen. In situations were the sarissa would have been an impractical weapon a hoplite spear or javelin would have been used. The infantry wore very little armor to increase mobility. They wore only a small shield that attached to their arm and shoulder, so their could wield their weapons with both hands (English 25).

Much was asked of the infantry and by the time they reached India they were exhausted from the fighting and travel. When they reached the Hyphasis river they revolted against Alexander and his desire to reach the ocean. They refused to march forward and as a result Alexander eventually agreed to turn back, claiming that he had received a message from the gods that continuing the campaign would be unfavorable. He still insisted that they still sail down the Indus to the Southern Ocean and return home from there (Worthington 251-253).

Alexander’s cavalry was instrumental in his success during his campaign. The cavalry was the main strike force of the army. They were divided into two sections. The first were known as the prodromoi, they were the lighter cavalry, they were typically used as scouts and surveyors. The other section consisted of the Companion cavalry, they were used more directly in battle (Wasson). The cavalry were armed with a shorter version of the sarissa, called a xyston, that would have been easier to wield while riding, though it was stated to be no less than 8 cubits long, or about 3.5 meters. This weapon had a spear point on each end, so that if it were to break, the rider could turn it around and still have a weapon, it was light enough to be thrown as a javelin (English 56). In addition to the xyston they also carried a sword for close combat. A sizable portion of the cavalry during the campaign to India would have been comprised of previously Persian cavalry. It is likely that they were incorporated into the cavalry from early on, and did not have separate ranks. Part of what made Alexander’s cavalry so successful is that members of each section were able to perform the tasks of the other without much trouble, this allowed for exchange of riders to perform whichever task was needed. The versatility and training of Alexander the Great’s army is what lead to his great success throughout his campaign.


Alexander the great took approximately 120,000 foot soldiers and 15,000 cavalry into India and returned with barely a fourth of them (Plutarch). Alexander disband the expensive and unruly mercenary armies hired while in Asia and replaced with native soldiers (Bosworth, 148). These new armies were tasked with maintaining newly conquered lands in Alexander’s name and did not make the return trip. This left 48,000 men marching toward the coast. After the mutiny at Opis, which forced Alexander to cease expanding his empire east, he was bitter toward his men and commanders. This showed in his treatment and choices in moving his army back to Persia and eventually Macedonia. He chose a meandering path that separated him from many of his commanding officers. Veterans were dismissed and given land in Asia as reward, with very little hope of returning home (Bosworth, 3,5).

There were many more battles on the way back to Macedonia. During one, known as the siege of Malli, Alexander had received his reinforcements of 30,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry (Worthington, 253). With his numbers replenished with men from Greece, Thrace and Babylon, he laid siege to Malli. 6,500 foot and 2,000 calvary went north with Alexander, including mounted archers, the rest were divided between Craterus, Philip, Hephastion, and Nearchus to attack the city from all directions (Worthington, 254).  During battle Alexander was shot in the chest and out through the neck and his men, upon seeing their king lying prone in his own blood, went into a rage winning the battle by genocide (Plutarch). At various stages of his recovery, Alexander bolstered his mens’ courage by riding and walking among them, some were moved to tears and cheering (Worthington, 256).

Upon reaching the coast the army was divided, 18,000 were to return by boat under the command of Admiral Nearchus (Bosworth, 145) while Alexander lead the remaining 30,000 by a southerly route (Bosworth, 142). This division was to keep Nearchus, and other high ranking officials, from further influencing soldiers against Alexander (Plutarch). However, he didn’t have to worry about maintaining support from his men. Despite their insistence on abandoning the campaign, they remained notoriously loyal.

Alexander allegedly lead his portion of the army through the Gedrosian desert to establish his historical dominance over “previous rulers, such as Semiramis, Queen of Assyria, and Cyrus the Great, who had lost almost all of their men” (Worthington, 261) trying to cross. This decision is widely cited as the biggest military blunder of Alexander’s reign (worthington, 261).  During the difficult journey through Gedrosia the wounded and ill were left behind to either die or recover and follow to army later (Plutarch). At this point, while still engaging in battles, these was very little recruitment happening while still in Asia. The army would have consisted of primarily macedonians and persians trained like them, with a few native soldiers to aid with terrain and field medicine specific to the area (Bosworth, 5,7). The home army of Macedonia had been ordered to meet the returning army in Persia to help squash a forming rebellion (Bosworth, 148).


  1. Supplies – Cassandra57

An army is only as good as it’s soldiers, and soldiers need food, water, and armor. With an army of 30,000 men, there had to be plenty of supplies in order for Alexander the Great’s campaign to be successful. On the way back from India, Alexander decided to cross the Gedrosian desert. This came with many hardships having to do with food, water, and other supplies.

It is helpful to note that the Macedonian soldiers were required to provide their own armor, which was often passed down through generations. However, this was not always a possibility. Alexander accounted for this and ordered 25,000 pieces of armor to be delivered to India for the soldiers (MILHISVIS). This should have provided for the clothing needs of the army for the conquest of India and the return home.

Alexander the Great’s return from India was met with many hardships while crossing the Gedrosian Desert. According to Plutarch, when Alexander’s army first came to Gerdosia, “[They] found great plenty of all things, which the neighboring kings and governors of provinces, hearing of his approach, had taken care to provide. When he had here refreshed his army…” (44). This would have given the army rest before crossing the desert and supplied them for the journey. However, water and food rations were scarce, and many soldiers and pack animals died from dehydration and sun exposure during the crossing of the desert.

Water was especially a concern while marching across the dry sand dunes. Alexander tried to stay close to the coast, but there was never a guarantee of when they would find drinkable water. Once they found a water source, Alexander would often make his camp a few miles from it. He did this because the soldiers were so thirsty that they would drink too much or fling themselves into the pool or stream and end up drowning themselves which contaminated the water for everyone else (Nicomedia). Alexander, however,  was not oblivious to the struggles of his army. One famous story relates how scouts who were sent ahead to search for water came back and put some of the water they brought back into a helmet. As soon as Alexander received the helmet of water, he poured it onto the sand in front of all his troops because if they couldn’t drink, neither would he. This was said to have rallied his army enough that it was as if they had all drunk from the helmet (Mensch 262).

Food was another concern while crossing the Gedrosian desert. At one time Alexander and his army came across a place in Gedrosia that had a lot of grain. Alexander sealed as much as he could of this to send to his other troops. However, the soldiers, being so overcome with hunger, disregarded Alexander’s wishes and ate the grain themselves. Instead of punishing them, Alexander pardoned them and requested that more grain be ground so that the soldiers could purchase it (Mensch 259-260). It was also common that soldiers would kill one of the pack animals once the supplies it was carrying ran out and claim that it died from exhaustion or dehydration so that they could eat it (Nicomedia).

Crossing the desert was a long and difficult journey. Soldiers often became desperate and acted purely out of extreme hunger and thirst. Through Alexander’s leadership and understanding of the hardships he was putting his army though, his troops made it across Gedrosia despite the lack of proper provisions.


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

        The people of today often take for granted how much easier things have become for them because of the rise of technology. Even now, computers, smartphones, and the Internet allows for almost instant knowledge of whatever suits their fancy. And often, that information is correct, and people can discover why it is correct with just a twitch of the wrist. However, in older times, this was not the case. For seafaring folk, the secret was staying in sight of the land, where they could line up landmarks to the distant shore to figure out where they were going (Tyson 1998.) But that could only get people so far. Those who wanted to travel would have to rely on other things, such as celestial navigation, which utilizes the stars at night and the sun in the daytime (Whitaker 2012). This was a relatively easy navigation due to the fact that required very simple knowledge of the skies above. Ironically, in this day and age, celestial navigation would be all but impossible for those without extremely good vision or tools, due to light pollution. And these techniques were enhanced by the development of charts, and tools to track and record the observations of the heavens, even when they were out of their depth. They developed the mariner’s compass, which utilizes magnetism to work. However, these were often incorrect due to the lack of understanding of magnetic variation (Wells 2016.) Therefore, the variety of options gave those who wanted to travel some ability to do so, but they were only as good as the tools and knowledge that created them.


  1. Baggage Train and how it affected the march of the troops – scaleydragon

Alexander the Great’s baggage train consisted of either two-wheelers, four-wheelers, or six-wheeler carts with horses, camels, and “under-the-yoke” animals (also known as oxen carriages) (Hammond, 2011).
Alexander the Great acquired many treasures during his way to India. On his way back, he tamed Indian Elephants with the help of Indian Elephant Hunters to add to his treasures and baggage train (Kimmich 300). Although two elephants were killed in this hunt, the rest were added to Alexander the Great’s treasure. These elephants numbered to at least 30 (Kimmich 300).


Anonymous. Untitled (two elephants in combat). circa 1700. Artstor,

He had his troops create ships from wood that numbered to be a fleet. The fleets had to be enough to carry up to 3000 sacrificial animals, 10,000 sheep, the 30 acquired war elephants, 200 talents of silver, 700 Indian Riders, and the rest of his troops (ranging from 13,000-14,000 infantry and 3,000-5,000 cavalry) (Kimmich 300, 470, 471). During Alexander the Great’s conquest from India and going back to Persia, it was known that he would leave some spoils of war in cities or areas where he was dubbed royalty or was defeated (Gogiashvili 199). This decreased how much his troops had to carry back to Persia but not by a lot since he was known to still carry a lot of his spoils. He would also celebrate each victory and use his sacrificial animals for the occasions (usually when he won battles or dubbed of royalty) (Kimmich 300).
Alexander the Great was known to have a large army, but a lot of the troops died from storms and harsh weather (Kimmich 332). This affected how much his supplies needed to be tossed to maintain the pace of the army. However, his army and supplies would always be replenished via gifts, foreign recruits, and spoils of war (Kimmich 331). So his baggage train always fluctuates depending on the location, weather, and where his troops stand in inhabited areas.
With the deaths of many troops, losses of battles and skirmishes, and daunting trails and roads, Alexander the Great’s baggage train formation was fantastic at keeping his troops’ morale high enough to push through the negativity. Each calvary was restricted to once calvary to one groom to move wagons of their loot and it was reported that high officers would bring lute girls to raise morale and relief stress from the long marches in full heat and equipment (Kimmich 32). It was also noted he would leave some baggage trains behind or hidden for days during battles and skirmishes (Kimmich 30).
Alexander the Great would abandon some baggage trains in larger battles. He would say to his troops that if they don’t overcome the enemy by any means necessary, their baggage train would mean nothing to them if they were dead. But if they succeed, they wouldn’t need their baggage trains anymore since they would have their enemy’s supplies and baggage (Kimmich 497). For battles, Alexander the Great’s enemies would always be up against veteran troops under the direction of a military genius who is in a do-or-die situation and is willing to do anything to win. This always set up Alexander the Great to rise in almost all situations.

In general, Alexander would have strict, quick marches, blitzkrieg battles, and tossing/abandoning of baggage trains during his trip from India to Persia. The delays to his trip back were definitely weather, troops dying, and terrain such as desert hills (Hammond, 2011). The pace was quick but had a lot of setbacks.


  1. How do we know this information? – scaleydragon

A lot of our sources were historians or historians/translators sourcing histories. Johann Gustav Droysen is a notable German historian who studies Alexander the Great’s conquest from Persia to India with Flora Kimmich translating his works. Kimmich also translated other novels such as Wallenstein and Fiesco at Genoa.
Plutarch, a notable Greek-Roman biographer and Arrian of Nicomedia, a notable Greek historian both studied Alexander the Great and are both hailed as some of the best sources for Alexander the Great’s biography and life.
Some of our other sources are organizations or bloggers are professionals in the history field or is citing sources who are experts in the field. Military History Visualized is run by an Austrian who has a Master of Arts in History from the University of Salzburg (Austria) (MilHisVis FAQ).

7. Interesting Information – scaleydragon

Alexander the Great rode Bucephalus, a “horse with fire-breathing nostrils”  (Gogiashvili 204).

8. Works Cited/References – scaleydragon, medievallyme, Cassandra57, sombodycallixii, beholdaman

Anonymous. “Untitled (two elephants in combat).” circa 1700. Artstor,

Bosworth, A. B. “Alexander the Great and the Decline of Macedon.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 106, 1986, pp. 1–12. JSTOR, JSTOR,

English, Stephen. The Army of Alexander the Great. Pen and Sword, 2009. EBSCOhost,

Gogiashvili, Elene. “Alexander of Macedon in Georgian Folktales.” Folklore, vol. 127, no. 2, Aug. 2016, pp. 196-209. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/0015587X.2016.1147221.

Hagerman, Christopher. “In the Footsteps of the ‘Macedonian Conqueror’: Alexander the Great and British India.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition, vol. 16, no. 3/4, Dec. 2009, pp. 344-392. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12138-009-0130-6.

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

“Indian Campaign of Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2018,

Kimmich, Flora, et al. “Johann Gustav Droysen: HISTORY OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 102, no. 3, 2012, pp. I-605. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Lendering, Jona. “Alexander 2.13-2.16.” Livius, 16 Jan. 2017,

Lendering, Jona. “Map of Alexander’s Indian Campaign.” Livius, 16 Jan. 2017,

MilHisVis. “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).” Military History Visualized – Offical Homepage for the YouTube Channel, Miltary History Visualized, 30 Mar. 2018,

MilHisVis. “The Logistics of Alexander the Great.” Military History Visualized – Offical Homepage for the YouTube Channel, Miltary History Visualized, 22 May 2016,

Nicomedia, Arrian of. “Alexander in the Gedrosian Desert.” Pliny the Younger – Livius, Livius, 28 Aug. 2016,

Ptsinari. “Alexander the Great: a Very Competent Expert in Finances.” Archaeology Wiki, Archaeology & Arts, 30 Nov. 2012,

Yeager, J. Alexandri Magni Itinera. Public Domain, 1823.

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Hello all!  I chose the username iamcamalot as a play on words.  I love the story of King Arthur, along with the musical Camelot, and it works because of the nickname I get called sometimes.  I am not as well versed in Ancient and Medieval history as I’d like, and I thought that this class might give me some more insights into that time period.  Plus, who doesn’t like learning about ancient smackdowns?

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