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Alexander in Afghanistan and India

From the heartland of Persia, Alexander in 329 B.C. marched northeastward into the trackless steppes of Bactria1 (modern Afghanistan). When he proved unable to subdue completely the highly mobile locals, who avoided pitched battles in favor of the guerrilla tactics of attack and retreat, Alexander settled for an alliance that he sealed by marrying the Bactrian princess Roxane in 327 B.C. In this same period, Alexander completed the cold-blooded suppression of both real and imagined resistance to his plans2 among the aristocrats in his officer corps. As in past years, he used accusations of treachery or disloyalty as justification for the execution of those Macedonians he had come to distrust. These executions, like the destruction of Thebes in 335 B.C., demonstrate Alexander's appreciation of terror as a disincentive to rebellion.

From Bactria Alexander headed east to India3. He probably intended to push on all the way through to China in search of the edge of the farthest land on the earth, which Aristotle, whom Philip had once employed as the young Alexander's tutor, had taught was a sphere. Seventy days of marching through monsoon rains, however, finally shattered the nerves of Alexander's soldiers. In the spring of 326 B.C. they mutinied4 on the banks of the Hyphasis River (the modern Beas) in western India. Alexander was forced to agree to lead them in the direction of home. When his men had balked before, Alexander had always been able to shame them back into action by sulking in his tent like Achilles in the Iliad. This time the soldiers were beyond shame.

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