Is Chanakya behind Alexander's death

4. RESISTANCE, UPRISING, RECONQUERATION Asia and North Africa Summer 323 - Summer 322 BC 4. RESISTANCE, UPRISING, RECONQUERATION The news of Alexander's death spread from Babylon like shock waves from an earthquake. Most likely, the world had never seen news travel faster and to more remote places. Within a week they heard millions. According to dated evidence recently discovered near Idumea on the Dead Sea, the news of Alexander's death arrived there after only six days. The news spread through communication channels which the Persians had created and which still fulfilled their function under Macedonian rule. Callers stationed on hills and just within earshot shouted the message to each other so that it covered a distance in one day that would have taken a traveler a month to travel. Mounted couriers, in Persian astandai, carried them at a gallop from one way station to the next and handed them over to a new rider in the saddle of a fresh horse. The fastest means of transmission were beacons that formed relay chains from Babylon to the most important Persian capitals of Susa and Persepolis. By maneuvering poles with flames blazing at the top, the signal relay could transmit encrypted messages. It is almost certain that the news of Alexander's death reached Susa with the help of this system on the night of June 11th to 12th, because Alexander died that day shortly before sunset, and it was only from Babylon to Susa a few hundred kilometers. As far as we know, many of the remaining members of the Persian royal family were staying in Susa, including two princesses who had now become Alexander's widows: Parysatis and Stateira. Stateira's grandmother Sisygambis also lived here. All three had been captured by Alexander ten years earlier, after the defeat of Sisygambis' son Darius at the Battle of Issus. According to the tradition of the Persian kings, Darius had taken his family with him and housed them near the battlefield without taking any precautions for their safety - the Persians had no experience of losing 105 battles on their own. When Darius and his officers fled the battlefield, Alexander calmly took his royal prisoners into custody, treating the women with a courtesy that has become legendary; he had her brought to Susa and carried on with her royal life. He was particularly friendly towards Sisygambis, whom he called "mother"; he did not sit down in her presence until she asked him to do so, thereby showing her the same respect that high-born Persians wore to the woman who bore them. When Alexander married Stateira and Parysatis, the granddaughter and niece of Sisygambis, in the last year of his life, the old lady saw the fate of her family miraculously turn for the better. Just a prisoner who had to reckon with a existence as a slave or worse, she was now the matriarch of a ruling family again. She could hope to see the throne of her son at some point pass to her great-grandson, who would then rule Asia, as Darius had done, and also large parts of Europe and North Africa - an empire that was not reduced by defeat, but got bigger. The news of Alexander's death, of course, dashed these hopes. The star of the Sisygambis began to decline again. She knew enough about dynastic politics to foresee what was to come. Her widowed granddaughter would be easy prey for enemies and rivals (and in fact, as we have seen, Perdickas and Roxane Stateira had Stateira murdered a little later in Babylon). Without male relatives from whom she could expect protection - purges in her own family they had removed - from now on she would be little more than a domestic slave at the Macedonian court. The prospect of having to spend her old days in dishonor was more than Sisygambis could bear. On the evening Alexander died, she stopped eating and drinking; it was a brave slow suicide. Five days later she was dead. In Susa and other large cities on the Iranian plateau, the Persians began the solemn rituals of state mourning. Alexander had come to the country as a conqueror, but now he was the only king they had, and they gave the deceased an honorable farewell. Men shaved their heads and dressed in mourning clothes. As a sign that the forces that gave life to the cosmos had come to a standstill, the sacred fires of Zoroaster, which were otherwise kept alive around the clock by the priests, were extinguished on the altars all over the country. 106 4. RESISTANCE, REVOLUTION, RECONQUERATION As the final ritual in the Persian mourning cycle, the king's corpse was sent on a slow journey through his empire; it was interrupted again and again to give the subjects an opportunity to express their grief. Alexander's corpse would also make such a final journey, the commanders meeting in Babylon finally decided. Its destination was and remained a matter of dispute. Alexander had expressed a wish to be buried at the oracle shrine of the god Amun in western Egypt, but at some point the current holders of power in Babylon had decided not to grant this wish. During his lifetime, Alexander had astonishingly undisputed rule over his empire and those entrusted with its administration; now that he was dead, his body could be instrumentalized by those who controlled his tomb. Such a valuable potential instrument of power could not be allowed to go to waste in a remote North African desert town. The call posts called, the relay horses galloped, the beacons blazed, spreading the news of Alexander's death within the five million square kilometers of the empire. It finally reached all of the king's subjects: satraps, garrison chiefs and the finance governors who directed the fortunes of the empire's roughly two dozen provinces. Alexander had appointed these men, displaced them all over the place, and removed from their ranks those whose loyalty seemed doubtful to him. Now the loyalty of these men, insofar as they were still in office and dignity, was facing its greatest test. Everything depended on their willingness to accept the orders of a triumvirate without charisma: a regent named Perdiccas, who was only human and not a myth like his late commander-in-chief, and two kings who were far more insignificant. Antigonus (Phrygia, summer 323 BC) Antigonus The news from Babylon reached a man in Phrygia (in western Anatolia) within a very short time, of whom no one had suspected - not even himself - that he would play a key role in the struggle for this Empire would fall to Alexander. Antigonus the One-Eyed had officiated as satrap in Phrygia for ten years and ruled the rebellious province on Alexander's behalf. But now Alexander was dead, and anti-ANTIGONOS 107 gonos served other masters. Soon he received news from Perdiccas, the head of the new government in Babylon, that the satrapies had been reorganized and that he had again been given command of Phrygia. No doubt Antigonus was pleased about this; However, he was less pleased with his first instruction: he should help Eumenes to gain control of his new province of Cappadocia. Antigonus had liked Eumenes during their time together at Philip's court, but in his eyes the man was only an accountant and, moreover, a foreigner. Was it really expected of Antigonus, a Macedonian with many years of administrative experience and an excellent reputation, that he would help such a man? Would the new regime really entrust satrapy to a Greek? Antigonus was around 60, a generation older than the generals in Babylon, a giant of a man with a stented voice, a harsh nature and a penchant for cockiness. As an officer in the service of Philip, Alexander's father, he had lost an eye during a siege; an arrow fired from the battlements of the besieged city had pierced his eye socket, and with typical determination he had refused to have it removed until the fight for that day was over. It must have been a terrifying sight to see this giant storm against the city wall, his cheek covered in blood and a piece of metal where his eye should have been. Even after the wound healed, his scarred face looked terrifying. Once a Greek speaker, who was cited to Antigonus because he had aroused his displeasure, defiantly said to the guards who came to pick him up: "Come on, throw me to your Cyclops!" During his time as the satrap of Phrygia, Antigonus raised his only surviving son, Demetrios. Having grown up to be a youth, the son had become almost as gigantic as his father, but much more self-indulgent. Antigonus adored the stunningly handsome young man and teased him about his desire for wine and women that would soon become legendary. Once he went to Demetrios in his rooms, where the young man had locked himself up, pretending to have a fever. As he approached his son's bedchamber, he spotted a beautiful courtesan scurrying away. He went into the room, sat down next to the boy and started to take his temperature. "The fever is gone now," Demetrios whispered, to which Antigonus replied with a wink: "I know, I saw it fly away." 108 4. RESISTANCE, INSURRECTION, RECONQUERATION Another episode handed down by Plutarch describes how Demetrios returned one day from a hunting expedition and entered the offices of the palace without having taken off his spear. Antigonus was in a conversation with some foreign ambassadors, but Demetrios sat down unconcerned, weapon in hand, next to his father. Antigonos proudly pointed out to his visitors that his trust in Demetrios was so great that he allowed him to carry weapons in his presence. Plutarch pointedly commented on the episode: The great moralist wrote that the dangers of power can be judged by the fact that Antigonus boasted that he was not afraid of his own son. Antigonus had not chosen the service in Phrygia; any general with his abilities and his temperament would have preferred to go east with Alexander. The king had sidelined him, he was the first high officer of the conquering army to be deported to a post in the stage. Perhaps, in Alexander's eyes, he was too old for the rigors of the campaign; if that was the case, the years to come would show that Alexander had been utterly wrong. Perhaps, as a source reports, he also mistrusted Antigonus' drive for power, an assessment that was far more likely to hit the mark. The appointment as a satrap was a tactful way for Alexander to neutralize ambitious men before they could become dangerous. Alexander later got rid of Kleitus, another high-ranking officer, by making him satrap of Bactria just before leaving for India. Kleitus felt this offended and cursed it incessantly during his farewell banquet; eventually he became so abusive that Alexander killed him himself. Whatever the reasons for his being cold in Phrygia, Antigonus turned out to be a good steward. With his small Macedonian force, he won several battles against determined Persian resistance. He ensured peace and stability and did it so well that his wife Stratonike left her luxurious domicile in Macedonia and moved to him in the Phrygian capital Kelainai. This brave woman became one of the first European colonial wives in Asia, the ancestor of many later memsahibs. For ten years Antigonus held the position in Phrygia, while Alexander moved further and further east. Few orders reached him from there, and he had grown accustomed to ruling his province at his own discretion and with his own troops. Now this autonomy was at risk. He had received instructions from Babylon from a new government that had been set up without his intervention. The assignment Perdiccas had given him - to help little Eumenes on his way to power - was humiliating, basically an invitation to submit. For a man like Antigonus, how to respond to this was easy to answer. Without saying anything about his intentions or motives, he simply stayed away from the invasion of Cappadocia. It was an act of passive resistance, but the message was clear. Outside Babylon, Antigonus was the first to be asked to support the new regime, and he was the first to disregard it. As one of the last representatives of his generation, after the other old fighters had been sidelined, left behind or killed by Alexander, he was not prepared to renounce his privileges and clear the way for the youngsters to triumph. The uprising in Bactria (northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, summer 323 BC) The uprising in Bactria More than 3,000 kilometers east of the official seat of Antigonus, in an opposite corner of Alexander's empire, a different challenge opened up for the new government at. In the dusty fortress cities of Bactria, the outposts that Alexander had set up to secure his northeastern border, the Greek garrison soldiers reacted to the news from Babylon with great anticipation. They had long sought ways and means of leaving their posts in places they found extremely isolated and alien. The news of Alexander's death brought this opportunity now. Similar news had come in two years ago when the rumor spread that the king's lung injury was fatal. The hoax had triggered a mass exodus of the Greeks stationed in Bactria. Filled with homesickness and believing they had got rid of a strict disciplinarian, many of them had thrown off the chains of garrison service and organized a march westward. 3,000 Greeks had crossed most of the Asian possessions of Macedonia - a march full of dangers, of which no record has been received - and had returned to their European homeland. The news that they had made it must have found its way back to Bactria, where it stirred up new discontent and homesickness among the comrades they had left behind. Now, miraculously, these men were offered a second chance. More than 20,000 Greek soldiers were scattered over Bactria and its northern neighbor Sogdia (the "upper satrapies" as they are called). Most were hoplite-class infantrymen; Their armament consisted of large shields and two and a half meters long spears, protected by metal breastplates and helmets. Some of them had been drafted, forcibly recruited on the basis of existing contracts, others were mercenaries - soldiers of fortune hoping to get rich under the orders of an invincible leader. Still others had fought on the side of the Persians at the beginning of Alexander's campaign, but had been allowed to save their lives by changing sides in good time. Few saw Alexander as their king or were staunch supporters of his cause. For the mercenaries, he was just their employer, albeit one that paid very well. For the forced recruits, who often served as hostages to ensure the loyalty of their hometowns, Alexander embodied the war machine that had robbed Greece of its freedom. The Greek troops had only played a subordinate role in the battle. The Macedonians, who had longer lances and more easily armed, more agile units, saw in them second-rate soldiers left over from a time when the now outdated style of warfare was cultivated. Nonetheless, they were a valuable cultural resource for the army. Shod in literature and science - which could not be said of the Macedonians - and admired for their progressive political traditions, these Greeks represented an effective propaganda weapon for Alexander.His rule over Asia would not be a new edition of Persian despotism, but a Hellenic regime headed by a king who made wise and fair use of his - despite everything, absolute - power. The presence of Greek contingents in the army and a few Greek officers among his companions enabled Alexander to maintain his image of an enlightened ruler. In the upper satrapies, Alexander's Greek troops were of particular value as cultural figureheads. It was Asia's wild border area, a rugged, mountainous country in which tough nomads secured their survival with arrows and swords. Raids and reprisals had been the order of the day for centuries, with boys learning to ride and shoot almost before they could speak. ABOUT THE UPRISING IN BACTRIA 111 cases of Scythian warlords from the north ensured that the upper satrapies remained restless and breeding grounds for violence. If Hellenism could even hoist its flag here, if the Greek polis could be transferred from the Aegean Sea to the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers, then Alexander's campaign of conquest could be seen as a crusade for civilization. For this reason Greek troop contingents were selected from Alexander's army and distributed over wild Bactria like seeds from which city-states would sprout. In any case, this is the metaphor used by admirers of Alexander through the ages, from Plutarch in Roman antiquity - who in two passionate speeches painted the vision that Sophocles plays would be performed on the banks of the Oxus - to Sir William Tarn, the great British admirer of Alexander in the mid 20th century. The critics of Alexander, whose views have become dominant in recent decades, have of course taken a different point of view. For them, the new outposts were not lighthouses of enlightenment, but only fortress bunkers, which were supposed to secure the rule of the robbers over their prey. The landscape from what is now southern Afghanistan, so desolate for many Greek soldiers that they left for Europe 112 4. RESISTANCE, REVOLUTION, RECONQUERATION Truth certainly lies between these extremes. To this day, cultural and economic promotion often go hand in hand with hegemonic exploitation when we observe how Western powers try once again to tame the wild forces of Bactria. The "Athens on the Oxus" glorified by Plutarch was in any case miles away from the existence of Alexander's garrison troops. Many of these soldiers had spent six years in dried-brick cities such as Zariaspa and had otherwise seen very little of Asia. In the beginning her service had been not only arduous, but also dangerous. The surrounding deserts roamed highly mobile guerrilla bands; these tribes repeatedly prepared deadly ambushes for the garrison troops. Alexander finally pacified the region, not least through his marriage to Roxane, the daughter of the most powerful warlord, but the climate and barreness of the country remained as inhospitable as ever. From the walls of Zariaspa the Greeks only looked at a treeless wasteland and dust-dry mountain ranges that flickered in the hot air. Far and wide there was no trace of the most reliable Greek ally and guarantor of the fastest possible return home: the sea. The sea was the goal the mutineers were now trying to reach. 20,000 infantrymen and 3,000 horsemen set out for the west in the months after Alexander's death; They had chosen a certain Philo as their captain, about whom we know nothing else. They probably wanted to head for the port cities of Phenicia or Asia Minor, where there were ships that could be confiscated for crossing to Greece. For their safety, they relied on their numbers and their weapons - and on the fact that there were no Alexander any more. Perhaps they were of the opinion that none of the now ruling generals, some of whom had themselves suffered from the harsh living conditions in Bactria, was this cursed, barren area valuable enough to prevent them from leaving. If so, then they were wrong. Krateros (Cilicia, summer – winter 323 BC) Krateros Meanwhile in Cilicia (in today's southeastern Turkey) Alexander's most respected general, Krateros, weighed the pros and cons of the roads that lay before him. The news from Babylon reached him on his way to Europe, where he marched at the head of the 10,000 veterans sent home the previous year. Now that his KRATEROS 113 king was dead, a change at the top of the state was just as foreseeable as a political change, but above all a change from which all the others would result: a change of wives. At just under 50, Krateros was the oldest of Alexander's high officers, and he was married to a Persian woman from a noble family named Amastris. The cousin and best friend of Alexander's own concubine, Stateira, was one of the most respected women Alexander had married at Susa's mass wedding; he had expressed what he owed the loyal and conscientious Krateros. What looked like a special honor, however, had a catch. As everyone knew, Krateros strongly opposed Alexander's adoption of Persian customs. He loved his king - no one had done more than he to protect Alexander and consolidate his power - but he hated his amalgamation policy, by which the ruling elites of Europe and Asia were to be ennobled like the saplings of two trees, and had it for him also said several times in the face. The marriage to Amastris had made Krateros a contributor to this amalgamation plan. Shortly after the mass wedding, Alexander sent Krateros on his way home to Macedonia, perhaps because he was tired of the traditionalism of the veteran soldier. The assignment he gave Krateros was tough: he was supposed to oust the old Antipater, who had been a reliable public servant for almost half a century, from his position as trustee of the homeland and take his place. The task would be even more difficult if Krateros brought a barbarian wife with him. Alexander had seen this difficulty for himself, for he had forbidden the 10,000 veterans to take home their Asian wives or children from those marriages. Such mixed families were not particularly uncommon among the troops stationed in Babylon, but in Europe they would cause offense and consternation. It was no wonder, then, that Krateros was in no hurry to finish his mission. He had been sick when he left Babylon, and that had made him slow, but at last he and his people had come to a complete stop. Less than a year after leaving Babylon, they were still in Cilicia, only about halfway to the Macedonian capital Pella. In Cilicia, 323 couriers from the east and west supplied Krateros with information about the changes in the world situation in the summer and autumn. The news came from Babylon that Alexander was dead, that the last orders of the king had been revoked, that Perdiccas was acting as guardian of the two reigning kings, and that he, Krateros, was to rule Europe together with Antipater, the man he had previously been supposed to overthrow. Then reports came in from Europe that Athens had revolted, the Greeks had marched out and Antipater was besieged in Lamia and was desperately waiting for relief. Finally a letter arrived from Antipater himself. In it he asked Krateros to cross the Hellespont and prevent the collapse of the homeland. To reinforce his promise of alliance, Antipater Krateros offered one of his daughters, his oldest and most valued, the much-vaunted Phila. Few women could match Phila in wisdom, refinement, and warmth. It was said that when she was a child, Antipater discussed state affairs with her. In later years she was mature enough to settle disputes between armed soldiers in camps, and the fairness of her judgments won the trust of all concerned. But Phila was not an Athena and was not only interested in war and statecraft. They were equally passionate about matters of the heart. From her private fortune she financially supported the marriages of poor women who could not raise dowries - a private foundation in the service of love. At the time of Alexander's death, Phila was in Cilicia, not far from the crater camp, and had recently been a widow. Her marriage to a Macedonian officer named Balakros had brought her to Tarsos, the capital of Cilicia, but the year before Balakros had died in a battle against the Pisiders, a tribe that stubbornly defended its independence. The coincidence of time and place seemed to bring together Krateros and Phila, the most revered officer in the Macedonian army and one of the most admired women in Europe. Krateros liked this connection much better than his arranged marriage to Amastris, and it would also guarantee the security of his position in the imperial hierarchy. With Phila at his side, his glorious return would be certain, and if he succeeded in freeing Antipater from Lamia, he would not only be the old man's son-in-law, but also his inheritance in the foreseeable future. Still, Krateros showed no hurry. Despite the urgent messages that came from Antipater, he stayed month after month in Cilicia. What was holding him back? It was probably the attraction of the power vacuum in Babylon, where the Perdiccas regime, Krateros learned from reports, was struggling. Among the common soldiers, PERDIKKAS AND PEITHON 115 Krateros had the greatest respect of all of Alexander's generals; undoubtedly many were saying behind closed doors that he, and not Perdiccas, should be their new commander. The troops that Krateros now brought home, more than 10,000 experienced fighters, including the unsurpassable silver shields, would be more than sufficient to take on Perdickas and his followers. Of course, any action taken against Perdiccas, who had tried so hard to put Krateros in a high position within the new regime, would amount to a stab in the back - but he would have an extraordinarily good chance of success. Would Krateros face east or west, towards Babylon or towards Pella? The answer depended on which woman he chose. If he stayed with his current wife Amastris, he could rule over the Asian part of the empire and bring children into the world who - at least in Persian eyes - would be candidates for the royal throne. However, if he abandoned Amastris and opted for Phila, the most powerful man in Europe would be his father-in-law. Each of the women seemed to bring a continent as a dowry. One was related in nature to him, while the other would open the doors to immeasurable power and wealth for him, perhaps even let him ascend a throne. For the time being, Krateros stayed where he was: in Cilicia. None of those who were with him recorded his thoughts or motives, which consequently belong to the most unfathomable mysteries of the Diadochian era. But the resisting forces that tore at him paralyzed even this decisive general. Paths to fame beckon on both sides, and right in the middle, only a few kilometers away, was Phila, Antipater's daughter, who on one path would bring him certain success and happiness in life. Perdickas and Peithon (Babylon, autumn 323 BC) Perdickas and Peithon In Babylon, Perdickas, the head of the new regime oppressed by many sides, tried to become Antipater's son-in-law. Perhaps he had heard that the old man had offered his daughter to Phila to Krateros and feared that this new marital relationship would isolate him. Antipater stood for legitimacy, stability and authority; Receiving his blessing was essential for anyone seeking to take Alexander's place. Shortly after he had made himself regent 116 4th RESISTANCE, REVOLUTION, RECONQUERATION for the royal duo, Perdiccas asked Antipater for the hand of his daughter Nicaea in a letter; In his reply the old man gave his consent to this connection. Now, while Perdiccas waited for his bride to arrive, he wondered about the two revolts that were looming on the fringes of his Asian dominion. In the west, Antigonus the One-Eyed had ignored his orders and refused to help Eumenes in Cappadocia. In the east, the Greek hoplites stationed in Bactria had withdrawn from the garrisons established by Alexander and were moving west. Perdiccas ’authority, which he had restored at such a high cost after the Meleager uprising, was seriously threatened on both sides. He decided to exclude Antigonus for the time being and to tackle the problem of the Greeks in Bactria. For this purpose he had Peithon come, who had once also been one of Alexander's bodyguards and was now one of his close allies. In the turbulent week after Alexander's death, Peithon had stood by Perdiccas most firmly. His status was too low for him to seek supreme command himself, and so he had limited himself to supporting the Perdiccas proposals for the complex structure of the new government. As a reward, he had been appointed Satrap of Media, a rich and important province. It was there that Peithon had begun to develop further ambitions: he had in mind the rule over the cavalry-rich eastern part of the empire, the upper satrapies of Bactria and Sogdia, ideal terrain for the creation of an independent kingdom or even for the subjugation of all of Asia. For the time being, of course, he kept his dreams to himself. Following the summons of the Perdiccas, Peithon entered Babylon. He received an expeditionary corps with 3,000 infantrymen and 800 riders who had been selected by lot from Perdikkas ’own troops. Peithon also received letters authorizing him to request additional troops from the other satraps further east and to act as strategos or "commander-in-chief" of the entire region. Such letters were sealed with the seal of Alexander - whose signet ring Perdiccas now wore - and were used by default for the administration of the empire. In them the relocation of troops within the vast empire was ordered or funds were moved. If such a letter was presented to a satrap, he had to follow the instructions contained therein, otherwise other letters would go to the commanders of the local garrisons and order its determination - or worse. PTOLEMAIOS 117 The letters handed over to Peithon were necessary to put down one revolt, but Perdickas feared that they might be the cause of another. For some time he had harbored a certain distrust of Peithon, the man to whom he had just entrusted a prestigious mission. He feared that his service in the upper satrapies would remove Peithon from the control of the central authority. If Peithon teamed up with the Greek rebels instead of bringing them under control, it would be easy for him to control the east. Perdiccas decided not to take any chances: he ordered Peithon's army not to capture the Greek rebels but to kill them; the soldiers' property should be allowed to plunder as a reward for their obedience. None of the more than 20,000 former comrades were to stay alive. It was an extremely cynical strategy: the preventive annihilation of an entire armed force in order to prevent a rival from using it for their own purposes. The upper satrapies would largely lose their Greek colonists, but care would be taken to ensure that the empire as a whole would not be threatened. If Perdiccas had to chop off an arm or a leg to preserve the rest of the body, that was a price he was willing to pay. And so he sent Peithon eastwards, while at the same time awaiting the arrival of an envoy from the west who would bring Antipater's daughter Nikaia with him, his future bride. Ptolemy (Egypt, autumn 323 - summer 322 BC) Ptolemy In the south of the empire, in Egypt, Ptolemy, another of Alexander's generals, was preparing to marry another daughter of Antipater: Eurydice, his youngest. Ptolemy had sought this marriage as part of a pact with Antipater, whose support he desperately needed. Immediately after his arrival in Egypt, he took steps that would have serious consequences: war with Perdiccas. Ptolemy already had two remarkable women by his side. The one who had been his mistress for years was the equally beautiful and famous courtesan Thais from Athens. According to tradition, it was Thais who, during a boozy feast held by Ptolemy and other commanders in the royal palace at Persepolis, made the high-spirited suggestion that the building should be torched. Alexander, who was also drunk, did not have to be told twice and hurled a torch into the roof beams of the palace; the great fire that developed from it left only a devastated shell of the palace. (The ruins can still be seen in southern Iran today.) Perhaps the fire really started this way, or, as another source suggests, it was the result of an order given by a sober Alexander. But even if Thais had given the impetus, she had not lost Ptolemy’s affection because of it. The couple had three children born during the Asian campaign, two boys and a girl, who now lived with them in their new home, Egypt. Ptolemy also had a wife, Artakama, who came from a noble Greco-Persian family and whom Alexander had given him the year before at the mass wedding of Susa. She was the daughter of the great Persian warlord Artabazos and the sister of Barsine, Alexander's former mistress and mother of his son Heracles. By marrying Artakama, Ptolemy was accepted into Alexander's extended family and at the same time became a member of the hybrid Euro-Asian elite that would rule the brave new world in the future. It was a strange combination: a high-born Persian princess and a high-priced Athenian courtesan. But Ptolemy was also a jack-of-all-trades, versatile and of imposing stature. Alexander had entrusted him with a number of different commands, all delicate missions, and each time he had succeeded. He was not born to be a soldier, at least it did not play a prominent role in the first five years of the Asian campaign, but he had learned a lot about the craft of war from those he dealt with. Perhaps he was not as brave as Perdiccas, had not as much authority as Krateros, and not the cleverness of Eumenes the Greek. However, he was characterized by a synthesis of all these qualities, which was worth more than any individual property in itself. Ptolemy would need his versatility now. His new Egyptian satrapy was a land of strange and powerful religious passions. In its capital, Memphis, there was a splendid temple in which a black young bull, the Apis bull, was worshiped as a divine being. The worship of animal deities was one of the peculiarities of Egypt and was often difficult to understand for foreigners. A Persian king once brutally stabbed Apis in the flank and called him a stupid god for stupid people. The animal later developed gangrene and died. Alexander behaved quite differently: after his invasion of Egypt he made sacrifices for PTOLEMAIOS 119 Egyptian gods in Memphis and explicitly took into account the Apis bull. Ptolemy learned a lot about adaptability, tolerance and openness to change. Ptolemy was a tolerant person by nature, not charismatic like Alexander, but reasonable and just. In later years his kindness earned him the nickname Soter (Savior or Savior), by which he has been known ever since. Indeed, the Egyptians desperately needed a tolerant ruler, for in previous years they had again been oppressed by a cruel foreigner, in this case by a scheming Greek named Cleomenes, as in the times of Persian rule. Kleomenes, whom Alexander had appointed head of administration in Egypt, had over time taken control of all instances of power and made spectacular fortunes. A document that has survived provides information about the gangster methods with which he amassed his fortune. He extorted money by revoking ancient priesthood privileges and then offering them for repurchase; he manipulated grain prices by speculatively buying up grain - Egypt's most important export good - and extorted money from the Egyptians through massive intimidation. While on a boat trip on the Nile in a region where crocodiles were considered sacred, Cleomenes once lost a slave to an attack by one of these animals. He then ordered the crocodiles to be hunted and all of them slaughtered. The local priests could only avert this sacrilege by bringing Cleomenes sacks of gold. He had used their gods as hostages. Alexander had hated the machinations of Cleomenes, but was either unable or unwilling to stop them. In the last year of his life, the king even bought himself a favor by giving Cleomenes a blank amnesty. Inconsolable about the death of his friend Hephaistion, Alexander gave Cleomenes the order to erect monumental monuments to Hephaistion in the new city of Alexandria, which was under construction, one in the city itself and another on an offshore island where there were ships from all passing ships could be seen from. "If on my arrival I find the sanctuaries and the hero cult of Hephaistion arranged as desired," wrote Alexander in the letter, "then I will look over your past crimes and you will have nothing to fear for future ones either." Cleomenes was able to live out his kleptocracy in Egypt, now with the blessing of the king. As part of the agreement reached in Babylon, Perdiccas had awarded Egypt to Ptolemy on the condition that he recognized Cleo menes 120 4. RESISTANCE, REVOLUTION, RECONQUERATION as his hyparchos or representative. The intention behind this was clearly to clip Ptolemy's wings and to keep his conduct under strict supervision. Ptolemy canceled this agreement soon after his arrival in Egypt by eliminating Cleomenes. Under a legal pretext - an accusation of financial misconduct offered itself and was all too plausible - Ptolemy had the greedy Greek condemned and executed and thus made himself the sole ruler of Egypt. It was a declaration of independence from Perdiccas and the rule of the two kings. In a letter to Antipater, which he presumably wrote after Cleomenes had been eliminated, Ptolemy asked for the hand of one of the old man's daughters. Sooner or later there would be a trial of strength with Perdiccas, and Ptolemy would need help to assert himself in his new position. An alliance between him and Antipater would enable a continental pincer strategy: if they teamed up, Europe and Africa would be able to hold the mighty forces of Asia in check. Antipater was evidently willing to participate in this triangular strategy, in which much was at stake, because he sent his daughter Eurydice to Ptolemy as a bride. He sent Berenike, Eurydikes' cousin and chambermaid, and a young lady for whom great things were waiting in Egypt, even if no one had suspected anything of them, as her companion. Cleomenes wasn't the only problem Ptolemy had to deal with during his first year in Egypt. Another daring Greek with great ambitions, a soldier of fortune from Sparta named Thibron, had launched an attack on Cyrene, a Greek city on the North African coast. Long independent and rich, Cyrene, not yet part of the Macedonian Empire, was tempting prey for a warlord like Thibron. His plans did not threaten Ptolemy’s territory directly, but they would make him a direct neighbor and his bravado appeared to jeopardize the stability of the entire region. Thibron was one of the many talented mercenaries who had become privateers during Alexander's last year. He had only been on the road with Harpalos, the renegade treasurer of Babylon, who had sailed to Athens with his mercenary troops to make the city revolt. He had seen Harpalus shipwreck with his plans in Athens, not once, but twice, and then sailed on to Crete with his hapless purser, where they sought refuge from Alexander's retribution. There were still 6000 armed fighters on board and a fortune in silver - enough money and clout to carry out some daring operation, but which one? Either the poor, perplexed Harpalus did not know, or it seemed unlikely that he would succeed, in any case Thibron took matters into his own hands in Crete: he killed Harpalus and seized the authority. Then he crossed to North Africa and blocked the port of Cyrene. With the support of some comrades-in-arms exiled from Cyrene, he quickly forced a treaty on the city in which the inhabitants undertook to pay tribute and to strengthen Thibron's troops. But then something went wrong. One of Thibron's subordinates, a Cretan, rebelled against him, recruited the other Cretans in his troop and ran over with them to the Cyrenians. Thibron was forced out of town but still controlled the port and was able to finance his warfare by confiscating trade goods. He built a new bastion in the nearby town of Taucheira, while the Kyrenians, in turn, turned to their neighbors, the Libyans and Carthaginians, for help. A full-blown regional war was developing right on the western border of Ptolemy’s empire. Thibron suffered devastating setbacks, but persistently like many Spartans, did not give up. After a successful commando operation by the Cretans, he lost control of the port of Cyrene; his men, forced to look for food in the open country, were driven to flight by Libyan tribal warriors; its ships, deprived of their anchorages, were sunk or driven out to sea by a storm. All he had was silver in cash, and that was considerable. Thibron sent messengers to Tainaron, which was still the assembly point of unemployed mercenaries, hired a new contingent of 2500 soldiers and attacked Cyrene again. He defeated a Cyrenian army of allegedly 30,000 men - a further indication of the unheard-of destructive power of well-trained war veterans - and regained control of the area around the city. The conflict, which until then had known alternating winners, got stuck in a positional war, on the outcome of which the fate of a large part of the region depended. Ptolemy watched the war from the security of his palace on the Nile. The twists and turns that produced this crisis were really confused. Money collected by the Persians had fallen into Alexander's hands, then stolen by Harpalus and taken to Athens to finance a war against Macedonia, had changed hands one last time and had landed in North Africa. It had drawn streams of unemployed Greek mercenaries into the region like a magnet. The remnants of this money had combined with free-floating military personnel to form an inconsistent and explosive mixture. The conflagration they had started threatened to spread to Egypt. Thanks to the looting of his predecessor Cleomenes, Ptolemy also had a huge supply of money. When Ptolemy had the Egyptian treasury examined, the handsome sum of 8,000 talents was found; that was enough to pay a large armed force for several years, for a salary of a tenth of a talent per year and man was customary. Ptolemy invested this silver in the formation of a force more than equal to that of Thibron, and when the opportunity arose to intervene in Cyrene, he was armed. When a request for help from the exiled Cyrians arrived, he sent his newly recruited soldiers under the orders of his general Ophellas. Thibron was swiftly defeated, captured, and handed over to the cities he raided for torture and crucifixion. Ophellas was appointed governor of Cyrene, which subsequently became a province annexed to Egypt - his fate is a memorable example of the power of money. There was another way of turning money into power. Alexander had developed it first, but Ptolemy now used it more consistently. Coin that had been minted in state mints and provided with a likeness was a powerful propaganda tool. Alexander had used it all over his empire and had coins minted that showed the image of his legendary ancestor Heracles on one side and the inscription "Alexander" on the other. Heracles was shown wearing a headgear made from the fur of the Nemean lion, which defied any weapon - a symbol of Alexander's own supposed invincibility. Ptolemy took this strategy one step further during his first two years in Egypt: he had a coin minted that did not show the profile of Heracles, but that of Alexander. It was the first time that the image of a person and not that of a god or a mythological figure appeared on an occidental coin. Instead of the lion skin helmet on the earlier Herakles coins, the coin of Ptolemy showed Alexander wearing a bizarre headdress made from the tanned scalp of an elephant. The beast's tusks protruded from the top of the king's head, behind which the CHANDRAGUPTA AND CHANAKYA 123 arched back like a grotesque flesh-like crown. From the side of the headgear twisted the horn of a ram, the symbol of the Egyptian god Amun, who allegedly declared Alexander his son. Alexander had never been seen like this during his lifetime, rather it was a symbolic representation that conveyed useful ideas. It established a connection between Alexander and the non-European world and thus created something that Ptolemy wanted to bring closer to his new Egyptian subjects. In a special way, however, the picture was reminiscent of the conquest of India, Alexander's most important act. In India, Alexander had defeated the most formidable weapon his armed forces had ever encountered, the trained war elephants, and had even learned to use them. Alexander had dealt with the wildness of the jungle, and he had made it his own. It was as if in the fire of the Indian War a new type of ruler had been forged, in whom an enlightened, rational Hellenism was combined with something terrifying and monstrous. By bringing this ingenious symbol to the people on his coins, Ptolemy endowed Alexander with a new kind of power, the power of the East. Chandragupta and Chanakya (Gandhara / India, 323–318 BC) Chandragupta and Chanakya The land of the war elephants, the region which the Persians called Gandhara and which for the Greek world was India (in today's border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan), was the last province of Alexander's empire to know of his death. The news probably arrived there several weeks later than anywhere else in Asia. Messages that were spread in the central satrapies by relay riders or fire signals moved at a snail's pace from the Hindu Kush, as it were, because they could only be brought on foot over the Khaiber and Khawak passes. Once the reports reached the wide plain east of the mountain ranges, they picked up speed again and spread from garrison to garrison at lightning speed along the Indus and its four tributaries. Finally they crossed the river Hyphasis, the eastern border of the empire, and came to the banks of the Ganges and thus into the domain of the Nandas, who ruled over the great kingdom of Magadha. 124 4. RESISTANCE, INSURRECTION, RECONQUERATION The news of Alexander's death aroused the burning interest of two men who at the time were making plans for the overthrow of the Nandas and the expulsion of the Macedonians. Within a few years they should be successful in both projects and unite the valleys of the Indus and Ganges in one rule; they founded an empire that ended up encompassing almost the entire Indian subcontinent. Together they drove Alexander's satraps out of the region and made sure they would never return. These men were Chandragupta Maurya, whom the Greeks called Sandrokottos, and his brilliant teacher and adviser, a man who appears in Indian texts by two different names: the patronymic Chanakya and the name Kautilya. Little is known for sure about both men, but there are legends about them in abundance, both in Greco-Roman and Indian sources.In the review that Justin gives of the writings of the Roman historian Pompey Trogus, we read that Chandragupta was a common man who insulted the Nanda king and was thereupon sentenced to death. Somehow he escaped his guards, ran for his life and collapsed exhausted when he reached the safety of the jungle. He fell asleep where he collapsed, and while he slept, a passing lion licked the sweat off his face. When he awoke, he saw the beast trotting away peacefully and knew that he was destined to be ruler. According to Indian legends, Chanakya, the sage who helped Chandragupta gain his empire, was also a man destined for great things. He had been born with all of his teeth, a sign that local monks interpreted as an omen of a future rulership. Fearing that royal power would ruin his son's soul, Chanakya's father took a file and grinded his teeth. When the monks saw the infant toothless, they declared that his destiny had changed: Chanakya would not become ruler himself, but would watch over someone who ruled; he would become "a king hidden in a picture". Grown up into a man, Chanakya looked for a youth worthy of being his avatar; Guided by further omens and omens, he finally recognized Chandragupta as such. He took him with him and taught him the art of conquest and domination; perhaps these lessons have been preserved in Arthashastra, a political textbook in Sanskrit that is said to be the work of Chanakya. In fact, Arthashastra is from a later period, but its main lessons, including gruesome guides on CHANDRAGUPTA AND CHANAKYA 125 political murder and espionage, may very well be traced back to Chanakya. Chandragupta was 14 or 15 years old in the years Alexander roamed India and most likely lived in Taxila, the university town that served as a base for the Macedonians. Chanakya, who was probably 35 or 40 at the time, had brought the boy here and enrolled him in one of the city's religious schools. It is here in Taxila that Chandragupta must have met the great Alexander, if we are to believe Plutarch's brief account of the meeting of the two. How the encounter came about - one of them was just finishing his campaign of conquest, the other had not yet started his own - Plutarch does not say. However, he reports that in later years Chandragupta laughed when he thought of what a great opportunity Alexander was missing out on at the time. If the Macedonians had advanced to the Ganges, Chandragupta believed that conquering the Nanda Kingdom would have been child's play for them. He knew what he was talking about, he'd done it himself by now. While Chandragupta and Chanakya lived as teachers and students in Taxila, they witnessed the Macedonians devastating their land. The campaign down the Indus to the sea, which Alexander led since the autumn of 326, drew a swath of devastation through the habitats of proud, independent Indian peoples such as the Maller and the Oxydraker (Mâlava and Kshudraka in Sanskrit). Although their battle-tested warriors outnumbered the invaders many times over, they suffered terrible losses: hundreds of thousands were killed or enslaved. For a short time it seemed as if the Mallers had dealt the death blow to Alexander when they put one of their dreaded arrows in the chest, but the king miraculously survived. In the end, the two peoples gave up their ancient freedom, showered Alexander with gifts and offered him their leaders - the few who had survived - as hostages. Chandragupta and Chanakya got to know and worship a man with the strange-sounding name Philippos as their new ruler. Alexander appointed this man (who was not related to his father or his half-brother) as the satrap of the region and gave him a contingent of hardened Thracian troops under a captain named Eudamus. Then Alexander and his troops set out. One part embarked for the journey across the Indian Ocean, the other part marched back to Persia via the Hindu Kush. The worst lot went to those who crossed the deserts of Gedrosia with Alex. The Indian adventure of the Macedonians, which had soaked the land of the five rivers in blood for more than a year, was over. The European rump force that remained in the Indus Valley was nowhere near strong enough to hold the area, especially as it was further weakened by internal strife. Philip was dead only a few months after Alexander's departure, he fell victim to an uprising by his own troops. Eudamos took over command in his place, but was driven out of the region a few years later when Chandragupta and Chanakya, who meanwhile had an army behind them, set out to recapture the Indus Valley; they had already taken control of the Ganges. How could such an army come together in a region depopulated by a war reminiscent of genocide? We only fi nd a clue from Justin, who writes that Chandragupta attacked the garrisons of Alexander with the help of "outlaws". There is a presumption that this refers to the Maller and Oxydraker, autonomous peoples whose independence may have seemed like lawlessness to a Roman like Justin. It is only a conjecture, but it suggests the possibility that Chandragupta's conquests benefited from the anger of those who were most adversely affected by Alexander. In this scenario, the Indus Valley peoples rose and took back the land Alexander had taken from them - the only subjugated peoples in Asia to do so. Perhaps Alexander had cruelly decimated her and forced her into submission, but had not broken her pride. Eudamos fl ow westward, in the direction of the central satrapies, where we will meet him again shortly. On the way he took a herd of war elephants that he had taken possession of after killing Raja Porus; this former main opponent of Alexander in the region later became his loyal vassal. Gandhara, the land of the five rivers, ceased to be a part of Alexander's realm and from then on belonged to the realm of Chandragupta. Within a generation, the Macedonians were to finally give up their claim to rule - at the price of 500 more elephants, the heavy weapon they needed for their endless civil wars. THE END OF THE BACTRIAN UPRISING 127 The end of the Bactrian uprising (summer 322 BC) The end of the Bactrian uprising About a year after the death of Alexander, Peithon, whom Perdiccas had appointed commander-in-chief in the east, arrived in Bactria. Its troop strength had meanwhile grown to 13,000 infantrymen and 8,800 cavalry men. It was the largest army that had been seen in the east since Alexander left, apart from the 23,000 mutinous Greeks who were supposed to destroy Peithon. Of course, the latter did not intend to carry out the order. Rather, he planned to incorporate the mutineers into his own ranks and so bring together an invincible force. This enabled him to defend the upper satrapies against any assault and at the same time prepare for his next step - perhaps a decisive battle against Perdickas, should his troops dare to fight him. Somewhere in Central Asia, in a place too bleak to bear a name - at least Diodorus, our only detailed source for these events, has not given a name - Peithon met the army of mutinous Greeks. He had already wisely made a deal with a Greek subordinate named Letodoros and bribed him to lead his 3,000 men from the field when the battle began. He hoped to end the battle with little bloodshed, as the fallen on both sides would ultimately be lost to himself. The plan worked fine. When the troops faced each other, Letodorus withdrew behind a nearby hill; it seemed as if he and his men were giving up the Greek cause. The remaining 20,000 mutineers lost their courage, gave up their formation and thus enabled the Macedonians to achieve an easy victory. Peithon ordered the Greeks to lay down their arms and promised to spare them. All they have to do is return to their garrisons in Bactria. Encouraged by the words of Peithon, the Greeks surrendered their weapons and mingled with the Macedonians. Many recognized comrades from the time of the Alexanderzug; many hands were stretched out as a sign of friendship and trust. The Macedonians certainly thought of the baggage vehicles behind the Greek lines, which were richly laden with booty from Persepolis and Susa, booty that had been promised them. Some also remembered the order of Perdiccas: do not leave any of them alive. 128 4. RESISTANCE, UPRISING, RECONQUERATION Somebody gave a signal, whereupon the Macedonians struck: Everyone hurled his spear at the Greek closest to him, and the Greeks, who had laid down their spears and armor, had no chance to defend themselves. Peithon did not stop the carnage; he had no plausible reason to do it. In a few minutes an army of more than 20,000 men was destroyed - a large part of the able-bodied male population of Greece, which Alexander's recruiting agents had recruited for military service in Asia over the past 13 years. This is how the Bactrian uprising ended. Peithon led his troops homeward towards Babylon; on the way he gave contingents of troops to one or the other satrapy and finally brought the core force back to Perdickas. The plans Peithon had nurtured for the upper satrapies had been foiled, but that was not to be the last word. His ambition to gain dominion over the East was not extinguished. For Perdiccas, the head of the central government in Babylon, the episode was a success with a bitter aftertaste. He had got the upper hand in the unexplained trial of strength with Peithon and averted a threat before it had taken shape. The Macedonian control over Bactria was considerably weakened, but the unity of the empire was preserved. The reign of the royal duo, on whose behalf Perdiccas exercised power, went into their second year.