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He advanced into the country of the Oreitae through the passes and quickly brought it all into submission.1 These Oreitae have the same customs as the Indians in other respects, but have one practice which is strange and quite unbelievable. [2] The bodies of the dead are carried out by their relatives, who strip themselves naked and carry spears. They place the bodies in the thickets which exist in the country and remove the clothing from them, leaving them to be the prey of wild beasts. They divide up the clothing of the dead, sacrifice to the heroes of the nether world, and give a banquet to their friends.2 [3]

Next Alexander advanced into Cedrosia, marching near the sea, and encountered a people unfriendly and utterly brutish.3 [4] Those who dwelt here let the nails of their fingers and toes grow from birth to old age. They also let their hair remain matted like felt. Their colour is burned black by the heat of the sun, and they clothe themselves in the skins of beasts. [5] They subsist by eating the flesh of stranded whales. They build up the walls of their houses from . . .4 and construct roofs with whale's ribs, which furnish them rafters eighteen cubits in length.5 In the place of tiles, they covered their roofs with the scales of these beasts.6 [6]

Alexander passed through this territory with difficulty because of the shortage of provisions and entered a region which was desert, and lacking in everything which could be used to sustain life.7 Many died of hunger. The army of the Macedonians was disheartened, and Alexander sank into no ordinary grief and anxiety. It seemed a dreadful thing that they who had excelled all in fighting ability and in equipment for war should perish ingloriously from lack of food in a desert country. [7] He determined, therefore, to send out swift messengers into Parthyaea and Drangine and Areia and the other areas bordering on the desert, ordering these to bring quickly to the gates of Carmania racing camels and other animals trained to carry burdens, loading them with food and other necessities.8 [8] These messengers hurried to the satraps of these provinces and caused supplies to be transported in large quantities to the specified place. Alexander lost many of his soldiers, nevertheless, first because of shortages that were not relieved, and then at a later stage of this march, when some of the Oreitae attacked Leonnatus's division and inflicted severe losses, after which they escaped to their own territory.9

1 Arrian. 6.22.1-2. Bare mention in Plut. Alexander 66.2.

2 This story is not otherwise told in this connection, but is of a type which is located in northern Iran. Onesicritus (Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, no. 134, F 5; Strabo 11.11.3) told that the Bactrians and Sogdians threw out their sick and elderly to be devoured by dogs, but that Alexander stopped the practice. Plutarch twice refers to this institution. In Plut. De Fortuna aut Virtute Alexandri 1.5.328c, he says that Sogdians kill their parents, while the Scythians eat them. In Plut. Can Vice Cause Unhappiness? 3.499d, he reports that the dead were devoured by dogs among the Hyrcanians, and by birds among the Bactrians (also Cicero Disp. Tusc 1.45.108). For other instances cp. Strabo 11.11.3; 8; Strabo 15.1.56; 62.

3 Curtius 9.10.8-10; Arrian. 6.23.1-3.

4 Arrian's account (Arrian. 6.23.3) states that the walls were made of shells, but Diodorus seems to be thinking only of materials secured from whales. All of these anecdotes probably derive from Nearchus (cp. Strabo 15.2.2).

5 Twenty-seven feet. Cp. Arrian Indica 30.8.

6 Whales, of course, do not have scales.

7 Curtius 9.10.8-17; Justin 12.10.7; Arrian. 6.23.4-26.5; Strabo 15.2.5-6.

8 Curtius 9.10.17; Plut. Alexander 66.3. Arrian does not mention this, and all of these districts are so far from Carmania that they can hardly have sent help in time to be of any use. This tradition may be connected with the subsequent execution or removal of the satraps of Gedrosia, Susiane, and Paraetacene as evidence for Alexander's attempt to find scapegoats for his ill-planned march through the desert (E. Badian, Classical Quarterly, 52 (1958), 147-150).

9 Curtius 9.10.19. Leonnatus was later crowned for a victory on this occasion (Arrian. 7.5.5).

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), GEDRO´SIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ORITAE
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (17):
    • Strabo, Geography, 15.2.5
    • Strabo, Geography, 11.11.3
    • Strabo, Geography, 15.1.56
    • Strabo, Geography, 15.2.2
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 66.3
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.45
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 66.2
    • Plutarch, De Alexandri magni fortuna aut virtute, 1
    • Plutarch, An vitiositas ad infelicitatem sufficia, 499d
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 6.22.1
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 6.23.1
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 6.23.3
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 6.23.4
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 7.5.5
    • Arrian, Indica, 30.8
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 9.10.1
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 9.10.8
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