The last city of the Brahmins, called
was proud of the valour of its inhabitants and of the strength of its
location. Thither he sent a small force of mobile troops with orders to engage the enemy and
retire if they came out against them.
These were five hundred
in number, and were despised when they attacked the walls.2
Some three thousand soldiers issued out of
the city, whereupon Alexander's task force pretended to be frightened and fled.
Presently the king launched an unexpected attack against the pursuing
natives and charging them furiously killed some of the natives, and captured others.
A number of the king's forces were wounded, and these met a new and
The Brahmins had smeared their weapons with a drug of mortal
effect; that was their source of confidence when they joined the issue of battle. The power of
the drug was derived from certain snakes which were caught and killed and left in the sun.
The heat melted the substance of the flesh and drops of
moisture formed; in this moisture the poison of the animals was secreted. When a man was
wounded, the body became numb immediately and then sharp pains followed, and convulsions and
shivering shook the whole frame. The skin became cold and livid and bile appeared in the vomit,
while a black froth was exuded from the wound and gangrene set in. As this spread quickly and
overran to the vital parts of the body, it brought a horrible death to the victim.
The same result occurred to those who had received large wounds and to
those whose wounds were small, or even a mere scratch.
wounded were dying in this fashion, and for the rest Alexander was not so much concerned, but
he was deeply distressed for Ptolemy, the future king, who was much beloved by him.
An interesting and quite extraordinary event occurred in the case of
Ptolemy, which some attributed to divine Providence. He was loved by all because of his
character and his kindnesses to all, and he obtained a succour appropriate to his good deeds.
The king saw a vision in his sleep. It seemed to him that a snake appeared carrying a plant in
its mouth, and showed him its nature and efficacy and the place where it grew.
When Alexander awoke, he sought out the plant, and grinding it up
plastered it on Ptolemy's body. He also prepared an infusion of the plant and gave Ptolemy a
drink of it. This restored him to health.4
Now that the value of the remedy had been
demonstrated, all the other wounded received the same therapy and became well. Then Alexander
prepared to attack and capture the city of Harmatelia, which was large and strongly fortified,
but the inhabitants came to him with suppliant branches and handed themselves over. He spared
them any punishment.