Alexander – The Not-So-Great

The first tweet thread that I read today was the one on Alexander by Savitri Mumukshu. A hero of mine just went up in smoke under the fire of truth. I am appalled to discover that we have been fed complete untruths as “historical” facts 😡. Am left wondering if anything we read in our history books was true at all … Almost everything is now under a cloud of doubt. This thread reminded me of another thread on the battle with King Porus.

Alexander – moving from great to the not-so-great

Do read the thread here – Savitri Mumukshu on Alexander

Did you know Alexander the "Great" was such a great strategist that he thought the Indus river was the source of the Nile in Egypt? Despite spies scouting India's geography before his "conquest", he thought that the Eastern Ocean (Bay of Bengal) lay after the Beas river.
Alexander’s poor knowledge of geography was based on his teacher Aristotle who knew nothing about the Ganges river system. No Alexander writer or geographer before Ptolemy mentions even the Sutlej. Justin’s statement that Alexander conquered Magadha was completely fictional.
Alexander bust
The truth is he never even reached the Ganga. The soldiers thought they were just one river away from the edge of India at the river Beas. His army rebelled & refused to go further after the Battle of Hydapses (Jhelum).
Alexander map
The Greeks thought the Indus is the largest of all rivers and that the Indus valley was close to the outer ocean. Beyond the Eastern Ocean of India they believed was only miles of desert. In reality they did not proceed beyond the NW border of today's India proper.
Alexander fighting
Arrian’s history tells us that since Alexander’s men refused to go any further than the Beas, he gave a speech saying “One more river and then the end”, thinking that he had reached the edge of the Eastern Ocean (Bay of Bengal). 
He still believed that the ocean was relatively close and that he could overrun the territory to the east in a relatively short time. This fake legend of Alexander reaching the Ganga was created by the historian Phegeus who clearly had all the details wrong.
Alexander excerpt
Phegeus said that beyond the Beas was a desert crossed in 12 days to reach Ganga - all of which is 100% utterly false. The truth is Alexander the not so great geographer had to turn back from the river Beas, & later Greek historians said it was the river Ganga to glorify him. 

Alexander the Great: Volume 2, Sources and Studies, Volume 2 - By W. W. Tarn

Aristotle, India and the Alexander Historians [article]
A. Brian Bosworth

Alexander Vs Porus – Another Lie

The history that we were taught said Alexander won the battle at Hydaspes (Jhelum) with Porus. Well, that too is a lie. Yet another amazing twitter thread from 2019 by Aabhas Maldahiyar shows clearly that the outcome of this famous battle was so different ! Do read – Alexander never defeated Porus.

I just want to share some of the tweets in that 24 tweet thread to drive home this point –

18/n They had also heard about the havoc that Indian war elephants were supposed to create among enemy ranks. The modern equivalent of battle tanks, the war elephants also scared the wits out of the horses in the Greek cavalry. 

23/n According to Budge, in the Battle of Hydaspes the Indians destroyed the majority of Alexander’s cavalry? Realising that if he were to continue fighting he would be completely ruined, the Macedonian requested Puru to stop fighting.

24/n True to Hindu traditions,the magnanimous Indian king spared the life of the surrendered enemy. A peace treaty was signed & Alexander helped Puru in annexing other territories to his kingdom. (Source:

Alexandria, Trilogy by Manfredi

In 2004, Krishnan and I along with Amma and Appa went to Egypt for our annual vacation. One of the main reasons to visit Egypt besides seeing the pyramids, was to visit Alexandria, the city named after Alexander and the place where supposedly he is buried in an unmarked grave. That’s how big a fan I was. I have read the Alexander trilogy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi a couple of times and still retain a set of these books … thankfully Manfredi doesn’t claim them to be historically accurate.

Its a sad realisation that someone whom you thought of as a hero is not a hero :).

Well, truth is liberating even if it is harsh. Wonder how many heroes will bite the dust before history becomes factual.

5 thoughts on “Alexander – The Not-So-Great”

  1. I don’t know much about Alexander, but I do know he did what he did without benefit of maps or familiarity with local languages and cultures. He was only 32 when he died, apparently from alcoholism.

    It’s not surprising that he would be confused about where he was or how far he had yet to travel. Christopher Columbus also believed he had reached India, by sailing west, thus the name “West Indies,” for his discovery of those strange, unmapped lands.

    We take for granted what history and technology have taught us about the earth and its multi-layered civilizations. India and China, and maybe Egypt, are old and mature civilizations, from a comparative point of view, whereas Europe–even Greece–is middle-aged, and the Americas are still in the adolescent stage of development.

    • True Katharine. Alexander not knowing geography is still ok but battles that were won by someone else also got attributed to him 😊. Especially as an Indian, I struggle with the fact that the Colonial powers and later the left leaning historians have distorted our history so much that we have no “real” history. The barbarians who invaded us have monuments and roads named after them – making them heroes while the real heroes are unknown. I still like Alexander because at 22 or 24 he was courageous enough to face a 100,000 strong Persian army ! Not many young men would have that courage. Yeah he was a plunderer but so were most Kings at that time. Every emperor has tried to expand their kingdom and have been engaged in wars constantly. I just want a true depiction of these historical figures, but that’s a tough ask I guess 😄

      • In the past several years, I’ve become fascinated with history, first US history, but more recently I’ve been delving into world history, especially that of the older cultures. It astounds me that so little is known and must be re-created by inference, and through disciplines like archaeology. I’m sure it’s common for the wrong people to get the credit (or blame) for significant historical events. Does it really matter which dead person actually did the deed?

      • Katharine – It does matter which dead person did the deed because dead Indians have got the raw end of the deal. For instance, the Chola empire had the largest and strongest Naval fleet. There is no mention of it in world history 🤣. We talk of hegemonies and theirs was a hegemony basis the definition but no one knows about them. Forget world history, Indian history doesn’t speak much about them. They conquered most of South East Asia all the way till Indonesia. The language spoken as Laotian has Tamil (my mother tongue and an ancient language) as the root because of the Chola empire. The Angkor wat temple is dedicated to Vishnu and all of Cambodia was a Hindu kingdom because of the same Cholas. But not many Indians know that 🙈.

      • Bindu,
        Lucky for me that you speak (write) English, otherwise we could not communicate. That’s a major limitation of US Americans–we lack fluency in other languages and don’t even use our own well.

        Please forgive my lack of knowledge about Indian history and customs. I’ve never been there and only know the bits and pieces I’ve read about. I had to look up the Chola Empire on Wikipedia.

        It occurs to me that each of us has a unique “frame” for perceiving the world. It is based on physical perceptions, as well as experience, custom, imagination and motivation, among other things. No two “frames” are the same. Even turning your head brings a new barrage of impressions. Language is an important, but only one “filter” we use to communicate what we perceive.

        My point is that no view is the only “right” one. We do best by appreciating the infinite diversity of perspectives and honoring that multidimensional complexity.

        Does it really matter who gets the credit (or blame) for significant historical events? Depending on perspective, the hero to one person is the villain to another. Perhaps the most important consideration is how the event plays out over time.

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