Alexander’s rule of the subcontinent, albeit brief, left a lasting impact on it.
Last Updated: 28 Feb. 2014
Alexander of Macedonia (356 to 323 BC) is known for creating one of the largest empires of the ancient world stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He ascended the throne at the age of twenty in 336 BC. After coming to power, Alexander began a conquest of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. In 331 BC he defeated the great Persian Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela and proceeded to declare himself the ruler of Persia. He then turned his sights to the subcontinent.
In 327 BC, Alexander crossed the mighty Indus at Ohind, sixteen miles north of Attock. The ruler of Taxila, Omphis, submitted to his authority without a fight. Alexander led a campaign against the rulers of the hill clans in the Swat, Buner and Kunar Valleys, defeating them.
Alexander then encountered fierce resistance from Raja Porus, ruler of the Paurava Kingdom in Punjab, when they met on the banks of the Jhelum River in 326 BC. Eventually Alexander was able to defeat Porus using his military skills. Alexander was so impressed by Porus’ bravery both on the field and in defeat that he restored the kingdom to Porus and put him in charge of his northern conquests.
Alexander went on to conquer other territories, but turned back soon thereafter from the banks of the Beas River in 323 BC, when his army refused to go further east. On his way back, he fought a fierce battle with the Malloli people at Multan where Alexander received a serious chest wound from an arrow. He made the return journey by going south along the Indus River and then west towards Greece. It was this encounter with the river that led the Greeks to coin the term Indos which later led to the name Indus.
In 323 BC, Alexander died at the age of 32. The cause of his death is still a matter of dispute. Some historians claim he was poisoned, others believe he died from the wounds he received in Multan. Although Greek reign was short lived, Alexander’s invasion had a lasting effect on the subcontinent. It opened up lines of communication between Europe and Asia, which led to philosophical and artistic exchanges as well.
Hussain, Jain. An Illustrated History of Pakistan (Book 1). Karachi: Oxford UP, 1981.