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Alexander in the Hindu Kush


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). In the Spring of 329, Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush from Gandara to Bactria in order to pursue the Persian leader Bessus. The best description is that of the Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus, who based his account on earlier, Greek sources.

Section 7.4.20-25 of his History of Alexander the Great of Macedonia was translated by John Yardley.

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The Hindu Kush near Begram.
The Hindu Kush (©!!!)

Bessus had an army of 8,000 Bactrians who faithfully carried out his orders as long as they thought their intemperate climate would make the Macedonians head for India but, when it was discovered that Alexander was approaching, they all slipped off to their villages and abandoned him. With a group of dependants who had not changed their allegiance, he crossed the river Oxus, burned the boats used for crossing to stop the enemy using them, and started levying fresh troops among the Sogdians.
 
Alexander had already crossed the Caucasus [1], but grain shortages had brought the troops to the verge of starvation. The men rubbed their bodies with juice from pressed sesame in lieu of oil, though the cost of this juice was 240 drachmas per jar, and honey and wine respectively cost 390 and 300 drachmas [2]. As for wheat, there was none, or very little, to be found. (Their crops were hidden by the barbarians in what they called siri, so cunningly concealed that only the men who dug them could find them.) Lacking such provisions, the men survived on fresh-water fish and herbs and, when even those means of sustenance had run out, they were given orders to slaughter the pack-animals. They managed to stay alive on the meat from these until they reached the Bactrians.
Note 1:
Caucasus is the Greek name for the Hindu Kush and Himalayas.

Note 2:
A drachma was a soldier's daily wage.

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