Alexandros

Through the mist of vague reports and Jonesian misinterpretation it is difficult to recreate the course of events that led to the revolt at Beas which came as a serious jolt to Alexander's plans. Did the army refuse to fight the Prasii or only to march eastwards? The important point which all the writers miss is that the empire of the Prasii was not in the east as Jones taught but lay westward in the Gedrosia-Carmania-Seistan area. If Alexander had really wanted to move eastward it could not have been to conquer the Prasii. If he had learnt that the fertile plains of the Ganges were only few days march away and wanted to be there for mere expansion of his Empire, he could have expected little resistance.

Reluctance of the army cannot have been due to apprehension of the Great strength of the Easterners as Jonesian writers fancied but due to the lack of any tangible political or military gain from the venture. If this was the case then Alexander had to bow down to the wishes of his men and curtail his ambitions. On the other hand if the reluctance of the soldiers and officers was to confront the Prasii it appears sensible enough as the latter were a formidable force to reckon with. However, its military might was certainly overblown by magicians and other secret agents of Chanakya and Chandragupta to frighten the Greek army. As Meroes or Sasigupta had already fought beside Porus, the Prasiian army cannot have been left intact though it could still have been a formidable fighting force. A century later the Jats and other fierce fighters of Seistan under the Surens humbled the mighty Roman army.

Although the revolt was engendered by genuine misgivings of the soldiers it would be simplistic to not to view it as a part of a grander design. It offers the first glimpses of the formation of a secret clique in which Harpalus probably played a key role. Coenus who acted as a spokesman of the soldiers had taken a leading role in securing the conviction of Philotas. Both he and his brother Cleander, who was later executed by Alexander, were close to Harpalus whose exploits were parodied in the play Agen.However, here the chief orchestrator must have been Bagoas who, together with Sasigupta, conspired with Harpalus, Eumenes, Perdikkas, Seleucus, Apollophanes, Cleander, Philip and others.

PURSUIT OF MOERIS THROUGH GEDROSIA

Coming down to the lower Indus area near Brahmanabad, Alexander reached the great city of Pattala in 325BC and found it deserted. Pattala is an echo of Pataliputra and the name Moeris of its ruler again shows the dubious nature of Jones’ identification. The absence of any archaeological relic of the Nandas or Chandragupta from eastern India shows that the latter belonged to the north-west. Thus Moeris of Pattala cannot be any other than Chandragupta Maurya. The true objective of the Gedrosian voyage now becomes apparent - Alexander was chasing Chandragupta through the desert. Bosworth’s opinion that ‘stories about Cyrus and Semiramis were later to attract him to the Gedrosian desert’ is based on ignorance. In order to ensure food supplies for his army Alexander had imposed a levy which had adversely affected the local population. Blind to the reality, Badian goes on to compare Alexander with Chengiz Khan.

Chandragupta is described as the king of Patna by Jonesian historians who have no truck with archaeology. This however did not deter B.M. Barua, one of the greatest scholars on Buddhism, from stating boldly; ‘To me Candragupta was a man of the Uttarapatha or Gandhara if not exactly of Taksashila.’ Curiously the Satrap of the Taksashila area under Alexander was another Gupta whose history has been treated in the most perfunctory manner. After capturing the rock fort at Aornos near Taxila Alexander left Sasigupta in command. Sasigupta of Taxila who is first heard of in 327BC is clearly the Chandragupta of Barua. McCrindle also noted the discrepancies but missed the real Chandragupta. Bosworth writes without any circumspection, ‘There were also refugees like Sisicottos, who had first served with Bessus and then co-operated with Alexander throughout the Sogdian campaigns (Arr. iv, 30. 4). Such men had every reason to encourage the king to invade, and he himself needed little encouragement.’ Bosworth fails to note that Chandragupta was also a refugee like Sasigupta and that ‘Sashi’ is a synonym of ‘Chandra’, but Raychaudhuri surely knew the meaning of Sashi, yet he wrote in an equally desultory manner, ‘Chandragupta’s first emergence from obscurity into the full view of history occurs in 326-25 B.C. when he met Alexander.’ So poor was the prognosis that even when H.C. Seth pointed out that Chandragupta could be Sasigupta, Raychadhuri took shelter under makeshift arguments.

ENCIRCLING THE PRASII FROM ALL SIDES

Even his worst detractors do not deny that Alexander was one of the greatest military tacticians of all times. The Gedrosian operation was in fact a brilliant three-pronged attack against the armies of Moeris and his allies. Alexander must have studied why both Cyrus and Semiramis were defeated by the fierce Massagetae who are none other than the Mahageatae or the Magadhans. Apart from the great fighting qualities and numerical strength of the Prasii, the desert terrain presented intractable logistical problems. To circumvent this he decided to carry supplies in ships. This is why the ships kept near the shoreline and the army also marched along the coast. Bagoas and Moeris knew this and despite the great care taken by Alexander to ensure food supplies, his enemies nearly succeeded in thwarting his plans by conniving with his Satraps. Harpalus and Bagoas probably were certain that Alexander would perish in the desert.

After the surrender of the ruler of Patalene near the Indus delta Alexander placed a large column of veterans under the command of Craterus but instead of taking them along with him he sent them through the Bolan Pass (or Mulla Pass) to the Helmand valley from where they were to make their way to Carmania and unite with the main forces. This was a fairly strong force comprising three phalanx battalions, a large number of elderly troops, infantry and cavalry and the whole of the elephant corps. The elephants already smell of Chandragupta whose major point of strength were these stately animals. One can recall his gift of 500 elephants to Seleucus. About 40 year later, as we learn from the Babylonian records, his grandson Diodotus-I (Asoka) was to repeat a gift of twenty elephants to Antiochus-I. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the main purpose of Craterus’ men was to encircle the Prasii.

BAGOAS THE ELDER WAS CHANAKYA

While recounting the gruesome stories of bloodshed and turmoil that tarnished the expedition, writer’s on Alexander have lost sight of a Satan-like figure who literally revelled in murder and mayhem - Bagoas the elder. Diodorus writes (xvii.5.3), “While Phillip was still king, Ochus ruled the Persians and oppressed his subjects cruelly and harshly. Since his savage disposition made him hated, the chiliarch Bagoas, a eunuch in physical fact but a militant rogue in disposition, killed him by poison administered by a certain physician and placed upon the throne the youngest of his sons, Arses.

He similarly made away with the brothers of the new king, who were barely of age, in order that the young man might be isolated and tractable to his control. But the young king let it be known that he was offended at Bagoas’ previous outrageous behaviour and was prepared to punish the author of these crimes, so Bagoas anticipated his intentions and killed Arses and his children also while he was still in the third year of his reign. The royal house was thus extinguished, and there was no one in the direct line of descent to claim the throne”. Since Artaxerexes-III is referred to as Nindin or a Nanda in the Babylonian texts this agrees with the accounts in the Indian texts that Chanakya had decimated the Nanda line.

DIODORUS’ ACCOUNT OF BAGOAS THE ELDER’S DEATH IS FALSE

Diodorus also wrote that Bagoas attempted to poison Daris-III also but was instead forced to drink his own cup of poison. Even if one takes account on its face value there remains the possibilty that he did not die even after drinking the poison that would have killed lesser mortals. Diodorus’ report only shows that Bagoas went underground after the incident and the Greeks did not know that he was not dead. A fiendish man who had poisoned so many must have taken some precaution against the poison. One reads in the Indian texts that Chanakya made Chandragupta drink small doses of poison daily to gain immunity against the poison. Doubtlessly he himself could have taken the same protection. Only Lane Fox suspects Diodorus’ account of the death of Bagoas the Elder. Tarn dismissed Aelian’s report (Aelian V.H. III, 23) that Bagoas entertained Alexander at Babylon but this may be unjustified. Apart from the Mudrarakshasa many other Indian texts indicate that Chandragupta rose to the throne with the help of Chanakya or Bagoas. Bagoas was the poison-man par excellence and his meeting with Alexander a few days before his death clearly points to conspiracy.

BESSOS WAS DHANA NANDA OF THE INDIAN TEXTS

One key figure who remains unnoticed by Indian historians is Bessos, the ‘Leader of the Indians’ who fought against Alexander. In the famous battle at Gaugamela on the extreme left of the Persian contingent was the Bactrian cavalry under Bessos who led the Indians and the Sogdians. Bessos and his cavalry fought valiantly and remained virtually intact. Surprisingly, there is no mention of him in the Indian texts. On the other hand one prominent Nanda king, Dhana Nanda, who must have been a contemporary of Alexander, finds no mention in the Greek and Roman records. We have already referred to Lane Fox’s remark that Dhana Nanda’s kingdom could have been set against itself and Alexander might yet have walked among Palimbothra’s peacocks. However, if one notes that Dhana in Sanskrit stands for wealth another word for which is Vasus, it appears likely that Bessos was none other than Dhana Nanda. That Bessos was the master of both Sasigupta and Oxyartes or Rakshasa is also clear. Classical writers reported that Sasigupta, together with Bagistanes deserted Bessos when Alexander was in pursuit of Darius (330 BC) and informed Alexander about Darius’ plight. As the phonetic shift B-M is very common, this duo must have been Chandragupta and Megasthenes. Gullible historians like Thapar and Raychaudhuri failed to recall that this corresponds precisely to the reports that Chandragupta had met Alexander in 335 BC in Bactria and told him of the possibility of dethroning the Nanda king who was very unpopular.

SELEUCUS AND CHANDRAGUPTA

Even though the beacon of Hellenism was kept alight by the Seleucids after the death of Alexander, Seleucus himself may have directly connived with Sasigupta and Chanakya to poison Alexander and rise to the throne. In the first level of scrutiny he is suspect for his friendship with Chandragupta; not only that he did not fight with the latter and had given him 500 elephants instead, more importantly, his daughter became a member of the Mauryan family. This relationship has a much deeper background. Like most other important Greeks, Seleucus had also married an Iranian lady but whereas nearly all these marriages had broken up, Seleucus remained faithful to Apame till the end. One has to remember that Apame’s father was the redoubtable Spitamenes, a fierce fighter and a sworn enemy of Alexander whose severed head was sent to him as a peace-offering by the Massagetae. Andragorus, Spitamenes and Oxyartes were the three most powerful leaders of Indo-Iranian resistance against the Greco-Macedonians and Seleucus’ alliance with two of the triumvirate unmistakably points to his complicity. It is quite apparent that the sending of his daughter to the Mauryan household was dictated principally by Apame’s family background.

Hamilton strikes the right tone, ‘It is perhaps ironical that the Seleucids, who ruled the largest portion of Alexander’s empire, should be descended from the Bactrian patriot.’ Was Oxyartes a party to this conspiracy? This is highly improbable but cannot be ruled out. The Mudrarakshasa ends in an alliance between Chandragupta and Rakshasa i.e. between Andragorus and Oxyartes. There is a touching episode where Oxyartes laments that his actions have led to the fall of his master.