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0035 Archaeological Reconnaissances in North-Western India and South-Eastern Īrān : vol.1
Archaeological Reconnaissances in North-Western India and South-Eastern Īrān : vol.1 / Page 35 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000189
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There he learned of the opposition which Poros, the powerful king of the region beyond the Hydaspes, was preparing to offer to his advance. The mention of Taxila as the place whence Alexander's move to meet Poros was begun furnishes an absolutely safe starting-point for his route. The position of Taxila, the Takshasilâ of early Indian texts, was long ago correctly identified by Sir Alexander Cunningham with the ruined site of Shâhki-dhéri, between Hassan Abdal and Rawalpindi, on the North-Western Railway.5 Epigraphic finds and Sir John Marshall's successful excavations have since placed this location beyond all doubt. Its certainty derives all the more importance for us from Strabo's mention of Alexander's route from Taxila to the Hydaspes having lain mainly towards the south, and from Pliny's statement that the distance between Taxila and the Hydaspes, as measured by Alexander's surveyors, was 120 Roman miles.s

The march thence to the Hydaspes must have taken Alexander across the Salt Range and the much broken table-land to the north-west of it. In many places the ground here would place difficulties in the way of a large force advancing across it. But apart from an incident of uncertain location related by Polyaenos,7 we read of no armed resistance having been met until `Alexander encamped on the banks of the river and Poros was seen on the opposite side, with all his army and his array of elephants around him', as Arrian tells us.8

Alexander `clearly saw that it was impossible for him to cross where Poros himself encamped near the bank of the Hydaspes'. Other points affording chances of a passage were also being carefully watched by detachments of the enemy. No crossing could be attempted at any point if Poros were to move and oppose it with his elephants, which the horses of the Macedonians unaccustomed to their sight would not be able to face on landing. So Alexander resorted to a series of demonstrations along his bank of the river in order to divert and wear out the enemy's attention, while he was trying to find a place where it would be possible for him to steal his passage across the river. Finally the nightly feints made by Alexander's cavalry had their effect, and Poros ceased to move out of his camp with the elephants to meet such threats.9 But the great physical obstacle presented by the condition of the river remained. For it was the time after the summer solstice when its waters,

5 See Survey of India Sheet No. 43. c. (1. D).

6 Cf. Strabo, Geographia, xv. 32, and Pliny, Historia naturalis, vi. 17; for the significance of bearing and distance, see below, pp. 16 sq.

' Cf. Polyaenos, Strategernata, iv. iii. 21. Pittakos, a grandson of Poros, who has been identified with Spitakes mentioned by Arrian among the slain in the battle on the Hydaspes, is there stated

to have endeavoured to arrest Alexander's march in a narrow valley terminating in a strait defile.

8 Cf. Anabasis, v. ix. 1. Passages from Arrian and Curtius are quoted in M'Crindle's translation in his `Invasion of India by Alexander the Great', with needful modifications where suggested by the original text.

Cf. Anabasis, v. x. 3, 4.