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Bazira (Barikot)


The river Swat near Bir-Kot, ancient Bazira. Photo Jona Lendering.
The Swat valley
Bazira (Old Indian: Vajira): citadel in the Punjab, captured by Alexander the Great, modern Barikot.

In the spring of 326 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the beautiful valley of the river Swat. While he was besieging Massaga, his adjutant Coenus was sent to Bazira, but he failed to take the fort. Although Alexander came to his assistance, he decided to take nearby Ora first, which was larger and seemed to be on the point of receiving reinforcements. 

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Ditches on the western slope of Bazira, seen from the north. Photo Jona Lendering.
Ditches on the western slope

Coenus therefore built a fortified camp to check the inhabitants of Bazira, who belonged to the tribe of the Assaceni. Seeing that the Macedonians had taken up defensive positions, the Indians attacked their enemies, but they were defeated by the soldiers of Coenus. The siege of Bazira continued until Ora had been taken. When the defenders learned that the other fort had fallen, they fled across the Shang-La pass to Aornus, a rock citadel near the Indus.

Today, the fortifications are still visible. Catapult stones have been found in the fort, and it is tempting to connect them with the Macedonian siege.

Bazira from the east. The fortification walls are still visible. Photo Jona Lendering. Bazira from the north, across the Swat. To the left, the ancient walls are visible. Photo Jona Lendering. Ditches on the western slope of Bazira, seen from the north. This slope is the only accessible part of the rock. Photo Marco Prins.

The three photos above were taken from the east, the north (across the river; walls visible to the left), and the west, the only slope that is accessible. A satellite photo can be seen here.

Literature

  • Arrian, Anabasis, 4.27-28
  • Aurel Stein, On Alexander's Track to the Indus (1929, 2003) 35-42
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 13Feb. 2009
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