Early life of Alexander:
Alexander was born to victory. Along with two other pleasant messages Phillip received the third message regarding the birth of a son who was named Alexander.
Astrologers predicted that this boy would be invincible. He was a blond, long haired, large eyed boy whose early education was entrusted to Aristotle a scholar of repute.
He was inspired to live worthily by reading Homers Illiad.
It is said that he used to keep a copy of the book along with the sword under his pillow. The boy had an inordinate vanity and pride. On occasions when asked by his friends if he would like to compete in the Olympic Games young Alexander replied that he would provided the other competitors were kings. He regarded himself as the son of Aramon the god of Egypt.
History has recorded many anecdotes about his genius as a child and about his destiny as a conqueror of the world. One story speaks of how Alexander as a boy tamed a turbulent horse named Bucephalus, the horse was brought to his father for sale. Skilled riders failed to tame it. Alexander mastered it easily by turning its face towards the sun, so that it would not be frightened by its own shadow.
King Philip was so happy with the courage and tact of his son that he made a prophetic comment. “My son looks thee out a kingdom worthy of thyself for Macedonia is too small for thee”. Alexander was much attached to the horse Bucephalus that when the horse died in India, Alexander cried over the sad event as though it was a loss of a personal friend. He cherished its memory by founding a city named Bucephala.
After ascending the throne Alexander tried to consolidate his position at home. He marched into Thrace and crossed the Danube. He them swiftly marched into central Greece and crushed the revolt in a most violent manner. The city of the Thebes was looted and all its buildings were destroyed with the exception of the temples.
The whole of Greece was stunned with fear at this cruel treatment of Alexander. Alexander was now ready to carry out his father’s mission of leading Greece against Persia. In 336 B.C. he embarked upon the task of conquering the world. At the time of Alexander’s invasion the Persian Empire was weak and helpless. King Darius III had a rich treasury, a vast army and a big navy.
He captured all the property and distributed among his soldiers whom he had called as companions. Then Alexander crossed the Hellespont and landed in Asia Minor. First he visited the plain of Troy and offered a garland on the grave of Achilles whom he claimed to be his ancestor. Subsequently he inflicted a victory on Darius III the Persian emperor with the help of his famous Macedonian phalanx. After defeating Egyptian governor he founded the city of Alexandria in 332 B.C. The battle of Gaguamela in 331 B.C. earned name and fame for Alexander.
Alexander’s Indian expedition is one of the most memorable. He crossed the Hindu Kush and via the Khyber Pass entered the plains of Indus. Ambi the king of Taxila received the Macedonian king with respect and courtesy. Alexander marched towards the river Jhelum to the Kingdom of Porus (Puru) a tall and chivalrous king who refused to behave him like the cowardly Ambi.
He then met Alexander’s army at the famous battle field of Hydaspes. Alexander as a shrewed general decided to attack the Indians from the back. He crossed under the cover of darkness at night and at dawn suddenly attacked the army of Porus. Porus against such situation fought bravely till he was severely wounded. Profusely bleeding from the wounds he was taken prisoner.
But the victorious Alexander was overwhelmed by the heroism of his adversary and asked him as to how he wished to be treated. Porus replied “like a king” and nothing else. Being moved with the gallantry and courageous words. Alexander set him free, restored his kingdom and accepted him as a trusted ally in India. He then helped Porus by enlarging the kingdom with the addition of some territory.
Thus the battle of Hydaspes added a new chapterto glorify Alexander as a hero worshiper and his weakness towards the brave kings. Alexander then founded two cities and named them as Nicala and Bucephala the latter was so named after the memory of his gallant horse which died in the battle there. He then conquered the whole of the Punjab and there he heard about the mighty Nanda rulers of Magadha.
He had a desire to launch a war against Magadha but as his troops were tired of a long marches and wars they expressed their desire to return to their homes. Alexander therefore ordered his men to return. His troops were divided into two divisions; one division under the command of Nearchos sailed down the Indus towards the Arabian sea. The retreat began in October 326 BC. Apparently the record of his retreat is a record of success without aim.
His return journey however was not free from ordeals. Many republican clans inhabiting in the southern Punjab attacked and harassed the tired and retreating columns. The Sibis, Kshudrakas, Mallois, Mausikaros and other desperate tribesmen harassed the Greek Soldiers. A powerful opposition was organised by a confederacy of free tribes led by Malavas and Kshudrakas.
All the Malava towns became the centres of strong resistance. As a retaliatory measure a large number of tribes were slaughtered. The survivors sued peace and gave handsome gifts including horse chariots and many other animals. The nature of extravagance of gifts indicates the standard of prosperity and richness of the people of the time. Thus the collapse of the Malavas dampened the spirit of their tribes. Similarly the kshudrakas promptly offered submission to the Greeks. After their fall Alexander attacked their territories to the satrapy of Phillip.
Causes of the Defeat of Indians:
The lack of unity among the Indian kings served as the first cause of the defeat of the Indians. In fact there was not a single strong kingdom under a dynamic and capable leader who could unite all petty chiefs and organize formidable defence. On the contrary the petty and independent chiefs were jealous of each other, spent time and energy on internecine quarrels and domestic feuds.
Secondly Alexander was an outstanding general perhaps was the best among living generals of the time. His opponents on the Indian side were incapable of asserting superior generalship. They were practically no match with Alexander’s sound strategy arcane planning and superior leadership.
Thirdly the Greek army was far superior in discipline, tactics and physical fitness. They were well organised, well led, well equipped and well trained under the able leadership of Alexander. Fourthly the elephants and chariots used by the Indians against the Greeks went against their own interest. The chariots got bogged down on soft grounds and made the army practically immobile and ineffective.
The elephants sometimes turned wild and trampled the soldiers of the Indian regiments. The techniques adopted by the Greek phalanx made the Indian soldiers puzzled and thus they failed to compete with the invaders. The Indian soldiers could not stand before the Greek Phalanx with their weapons like long spears, bows and arrows which were much superior to those of Indians.
Results of Alexander’s Invasion:
Alexander’s invasion did not leave any permanent impact on the Indian culture and civilization. In fact it came as a storm and passed away without leaving any permanent imprint on India. Alexander stayed in India for a short period after occupying the north-western territory. Most of the time of his presence in India was spent on armed struggle. His invasion did not carry the idea of building an empire on Indian spoil permanently. Except the North-West frontier the rest of the country remained unaffected.
After Alexander’s premature death the governors were either ousted or made powerless. With the result they were unable to assert their rule and authority. The appearance of Chandragupta Maurya finally wiped out the Greek authority from the Indian soil. Evidently, Indian culture and civilization had already sufficiently developed. The Indians were neither backward nor inferior to other races of the world. In fact Indian developed culture did not require any incentive and on the other hand the Greek culture was nothing superior or extraordinary to contribute to enrich the existing culture and civilization of the Indians.
Indirectly Alexander’s invasion helped Chandragupta Maurya to subjugate the war like tribes to the North-West frontier provinces and the Punjab and helped the process of consolidating a strong Mauryan empire. It also paved the way for the political unity of India. The small and weak states felt the necessity of uniting together and made a viable force to frustrate future invasions.
This invasion prompted the rulers of small states to discredit the small state system of the Punjab and thus helped the cause of unity. Out of the war with Alexander the Indian soldiers learnt the new techniques and methods of war-fare. It provoked Chandragupta Maurya to organize and maintain a large army in the line of Alexander’s army for defence as well as pursuing imperialistic design.
Alexander’s invasion left several authentic historical materials. These materials helped the historians of later age to reconstruct the history of the Ancient India chronologically. These Greek source materials are of immense historical value and had left a graphic account of political, social and economic conditions of the time.
The Greeks who were left behind in India after Alexander’s retreat eventually established their independent states on the North-Western frontier of India. Obviously it generated a close relationship between the Greek states on the Indian soil and their parent land. Frequent exchanges of ideas and enterprises in every field continued to benefit the Indians and the Greeks.
Alexander’s invasion in reality demolished the barrier between the East and the West. It helped to open three land routes that generated the avenues for trade and commerce. It invited visitors, missionaries and travelers. It geared up and assured uninterrupted intercourse between the East and the West and brought all round prosperity for the Indians and the Greeks. The Indians learnt the art of making beautiful coins and went a step forward in numismatic art. The impressive Greek coins provoked the Indians to manufacture nice and excellent coins. It further helped to reshape and reform the coins already in circulation.
Greeks and Indians came in contact so closely that they got opportunity to enrich their culture naturally. Scholars and intellectuals of both sides stepped up contacts and thereby gave a new lease of life to Indian culture. Hellenistic art was appreciated by many in India. Long after Alexander this influence came to its admirable form in shape of the Gandhara School of Art. The images of Buddha under this art showed a remarkable mixture of the Greek and Indian art of image making. The Greeks were also influenced by Indian culture and learning.
They learnt philosophy, art, science and medicine. Many Greeks embraced Hindu religion and adopted Hindu names. They showed loyalty and allegiance to India. Indeed a substantial exchange of fusion in cultural and spiritual field was one of the greatest achievements of the Greek invasion. Though Alexander’s invasion did not leave any permanent impact on political field like building a permanent empire etc. yet its indirect influence on various facets of political, social and economic life was not negligible. The most potent consequences of Alexander’s invasion of India was that he actuated the ambition of others.
A century after his departure the Greeks from Bactria overran the Punjab and the Gangetic plain and the actual subjugation took place. It enabled Chandragupta Maurya to realize the very concept of a universal rule in India which he established in the truest sense of the term that opened a new lease of life for the people living in a progressive and developed state with all its intellectual attainment.