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Nearchus’ Journey Down the Indus: Eastern or Western Arm?

 It is speculated that Nearchus, although senior to Alexander the Great, was educated alongside him. After being exiled by Alexander’s father, Nearchus was invited back to the court shortly after Alexander took the throne in 336.  He joined Alexander in the invasion of Asia in 334, fought with him in multiple battles, and was put in charge of several conquered areas, including Telmessus, where he crushed a revolt.  Alexander called him to join him in his conquest of India in 329. Despite successes, Alexander’s army eventually refused to travel further east. Alexander decided to return to Babylon and put Nearchus in charge of the construction of a large fleet, meant to voyage down the Indus River to meet the rest of the army at the ocean. It is generally believed that the voyage down the Indus lasted from Novemeber 326 to July 325. (Livius) Due to the monsoons and resisting native towns, the fleet had a series of delays traveling down the river. Eventually, Alexander and his men met up with what was left of the fleet and victoriously departed (Arrian).

However, the route Nearchus took on the river remains debated. Popular understanding dictates that Alexander took the eastern water route on the Indus back, but in his article entitled, “Some Passages in Arrian Concerning Alexander” N.G.L Hammond argues that the work has been mistranslated and thus has resulted in an inaccurate understanding of Nearchus’s route back to meet Alexander. He says, “If we translate the Greek correctly, there is no ambiguity. ‘The Indus outlet on this side’ is the western outlet, the nearest to the writer’s viewpoint” (Hammond).

Additionally, Hammond argues that his interpretation makes more sense with Alexander’s actions, “First, he went down the ‘right-hand’ river, i.e. to the western outlet…Next he returned to Pattala. From there he sailed down the other arm of the Indus to the other mouth, the eastern one. His aim was to learn which mouth gave easier access to the sea…As he went down the eastern arm, Alexander came to a great lake, something which did not exist on the western arm; he left his main force at the lake and went on himself to the outlet. He then rowed out to see. Thus he learnt that the mouth of the Indus on this side was the easier, i.e. the western outlet. The expedition of Nearchus, then, was to sail from the Western arm of the Indus” (Hammond). Thus, Hammond argues that Alexander only explored the Eastern route to check if it was an easier route. When Alexnader encountered rough waters, he surely must have sent word to Nearchus to take the western route, and thus, Nearchus sailed on the western route.

"Nearchus Map" . (Year image was created). Title of work [Marp], Retrieved March 10, 2014 from:

“Nearchus Map” . [Map], Retrieved March 10, 2014 from:

(The map above shows Alexander’s possible routes the Perisan sea).

However, scholar J.R. Hamilton in his article entitled, “The Start of Nearchus’ Voyage” explains his firm academic belief that there is no mistranslation, and Arrian meant to describe Alexander taking the eastern route, “it is clear from what follows in Arrian that he (Arrian) intends the reader to understand that it was the eastern arm that Alexander found easier to navigate.” Hamilton additionally argued that Alexander’s actions indicated he took the eastern route, “he relates that the king (Alexander) landed and with some of his Calvary explored the coastline to see what kind of country it was for the coasting voyage, and ordered wells to be dug to provide water for the fleet…If Alexander had in mind to sail down the western arm, what was the point of all this activity? Moreover, it seems clear from Arrian’s description of Alexander’s voyages down the two arms that the king found the eastern easier to navigate.”

Thus, the exact route of Nearchus while he traveled down the Indus River to meet with Alexander is still up for debate. Until any artifacts are found that can shed more light on the matter, it will probably maintain uncertain.






Goold, A. G. (1983). Arrian Indica. Cambridge: Harvard College.

Hamilton, J. R. (1994). The Start of Nearchus’ Voyage. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 501-504.

Hammond, N. G. (1980). Some Passages in Arrian concerning Alexander. The Classical Quarterly, 455-476.

Lendering, J. (2009, January 1). Nearchus. Retrieved from



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The Battle of Salamis: Consequences & Signifcance

The Battle of Salamis was a naval battle fought by the allied Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BC between the island of Salamis and the mainland Greece (Wikipedia Contributors). Prior to the battle, Xerxes, ruler of Persia, had won battles in Artemisium, Thermopylae, and most notably, Athens, which he captured in September 480, as a part of the Greek Conquest. However, the Greeks, stationed at Salamis, remained close to the Athenian harbor, and thus were a strategic problem for the Perisans who hoped to be able to transport supplies to their army, which was moving to the Isthmus of Corinth (Lendering). The following map, which shows the Greco-Persian wars, indicates the location of Salamis, and its proximity to Athens.

Map: Bibi Saint-Pol. "Map Greco-Persian Wars." Map. Wikipedia. Captain Blood, 27 Feb. 2007. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Map: Bibi Saint-Pol. “Map Greco-Persian Wars.” Map. Wikipedia. Captain Blood, 27 Feb. 2007. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. 


Despite the successes of the Persians, the Greeks were persuaded by the Athenian general Themistocles to go battle at sea (Wikipedia Contributors). What was resulted was an overwhelming victory for the Greeks. Herodotus describes the shockwaves such news meant to the Persian people, who first heard about the victory of Athens only to be quickly informed of the devastating loss near Salamis, “the first message had arrived at Susa while Xerxes was in possession of Athens, and the news so delighted the Persians who had stayed behind that they scattered myrtle on all the roads, burned incense, and gave themselves over to sacrifices and pleasure. The second message, following closely as it did on the first, so disturbed them that everyone tore their tunics to shreds, with endless crying and wailing, and placed the blame on Mardonius” (Herodotus, 642).

Following the defeat, Xerxes sought the counsel of Artemisia, who had previously given him war advice. She recommended that Xerxes abandon the campaign and leave it to be managed by Mardonius, whose reputation and honor was intertwined with the campaign. With Xerxes back in Asia, he could rule free from the failures of the campaign, should it continue to go poorly, but reap the benefits if Mardonius was successful. Xerxes followed this advice, leaving Mardonius to continue the campaign against the Greeks (Herodotus, 644).

While Xerxes gave Mardonius the pick of top soldiers to stay behind, the transition period stalled their military strategy and caused them to rest at a winter quarters. This gave the Greek armies time to regroup. While Mardonius continued the conquest the following year, with an insufficient number of soldiers and an energized opponent, he was unable to maintain momentum, and the campaign ended (Lendering).

The great victory at Salamis also shaped Greek thought. In his thoughts of the Battle of Salamis in regards to political theory, J. Peter Euben states that, “Salamis set the terms in which Athenians defined themselves as a people.” Additionally, J. Peter Euben went on to explain that while initially the battle was seen as the will of the Gods,, the Greeks came to view it as a product of their own collective strength. Thus, forming an understanding that “their power (as distinct from their material strength) and so their triumph, as emulating from democratic ethos” (Euben, 1986).

Ultimately, the victory of the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis turned the tide of the war, delaying Persian action, and giving the Greeks time to regain strength in their numbers and stopping Persian advances. Additionally, the victory at Salamis impacted Greek consciousness, giving the Greek people a sense of “people” and value in democratic ethos.




Euben, J. Peter. “The Battle of Salamis and the Origins of Political Theory.” Political Theory 14.3 (1986): 359-90. Web.

Herodotus. The Landmark Herodotus. Ed. Robert B. Strassler. Trans. Andrea L Purvis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007. Print

Lendering, Jona. “Naval Battle of Salamis (480 BCE).” Livius, 17 July 2008. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <>.

Map: Bibi Saint-Pol. “Map Greco-Persian Wars.” Map. Wikipedia. Captain Blood, 27 Feb. 2007. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Wikipedia contributors. “Battle of Salamis.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 March. 2005. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


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This is Hypatiathemartyr, and this is my first blog post! 

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