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Acesines (Chenab)

Acesines: one of the main rivers in the Punjab, modern Chenab.

The Chenab between Guhrat and Sialkot (1)
The Chenab between Guhrat and Sialkot (1)
The river that the ancient Macedonians called "Acesines" is known to us from Indian sources as the Ashkini. It has its sources in the Himalayas, has a length of about 960 km, and empties itself in the Indus.

In the early summer of 326, the army of Alexander the Great crossed the river somewhere between Chenab and Guhrat. This was not the main road (which was, then and now, the Grand Trunk Road): Alexander had decided to take a more northern route. 

Buffaloes in the Chenab
Buffaloes in the Chenab
The monsoon had started early that year, and besides, the snows of the Himalaya were melting. The historian Arrian of Nicomedia mentions that crossing was difficult because the waters were swift and violent (Anabasis, 5.20.8). It may have been about three kilometers wide, which is certainly not impossible. Dangerous rocks and torrents are also mentioned. Pliny the Elder says that the Indian cane (bamboo) on the boards of the Acesines was something special - we do not know why.note

The river Chenab, directly south of Uch
The river Chenab, directly south of Uch
In Antiquity, the Chenab passed along Lahore, which may have been the capital of the dynasty of Alexander's opponent Porus; however that may be, the river was the eastern frontier of his kingdom, the Jhelum (ancient Hydaspes) being the western border.

The Acesines expanded its size with the waters of the rivers Jhelum and Ravi (Hydraotes). It was already a very wide river when it passed Multan. Near modern Uch, ancient Alexandria, it accepted the waters of the Sutlej (Hyphasis), and finally, the big river emptied itself in the mighty Indus. The confluence is called "Head of the Punjab", and the stream can be six kilometers wide.

This page was created in 2004; last modified on 28 March 2014.