THE POISONING OF ALEXANDER BY THE GENERALS AND SASIGUPTA

by Ranajit Pal

The expedition of Alexander is one of the most fascinating interludes in the story of civilization that has attracted writers throughout the ages. The great Emperor had an acute sense of history and included professional writers in his train, yet it is ironical that great mystery surrounds his last years. Did he die a natural death or at the hands of conspirators? Did he defeat the Prasii as Justin wrote? Did he speak about the Brotherhood of Man in the banquet at Opis as Sir W.W. Tarn[i] held? What was the background of his desire for deification? Historians of Alexander have rarely benefited from new sources[ii] - archaeological or textual, and new writers had to be content with only reinterpretation of old documents but Indian literature now ends the impasse and offers a deep insight into many aspects of his life.

One new finding - the identification of Megasthenes' Palibothra with Kohnouj in Carmania (instead of Patna in eastern India), calls for sea-changes in the ancient history of the Orient. It changes the background of the strange and exciting adventures of Alexander in Indo-Iran and sheds light on the mystery of his sudden death and other long-standing puzzles. It also belies the claims of E. Badian[iii] and P. Green that Alexander was a thoroughgoing tyrant, ruthless and cruel. Badian was unaware that behind Alexander's clarion call for Brotherhood of Man stands Gotama, one of the Prophets of Prophthasia[iv] who had once adorned the Persian throne[v] and that the sage Kalanos (Shines or Aspines of Plutarch) was the great Buddhist scholar Asvaghosha.

Hundred Names of Orontobates 

The past is an alien land that lies beyond an abyss. Orontobates of Caria is dead, reduced to dust and ashes but the story of Alexander cannot be written without him for together they once made history. They belonged to widely separated realms yet their worlds collided in a myriad of ways. In fact their story has many elements of a mystery thriller. They were more or less of the same age, were both highly educated, were talented warriors and were victims of vicious royal intrigues. Both were world-citizens - one was chosen by the priests for a world-mission and the other was an itinerant prince seeking opportunities abroad who was perhaps often on the run to escape the knife of the assassin. According to the sources he was a Nanda prince who escaped the wrath of Chanakya who had decimated the Nanda line. They probably started as bitter adversaries but soon Orontobates saw it profitable to turn into a collaborator but finally they fell apart again.

The Sanskrit sources provide the crucial information that Orontobates is the same as Chandragupta who eventually became one of the greatest rulers of the East. The drama Mudrarakshasa shows that Chandragupta was also known as Rantivarma which is the same as Orontes.  When and where did they first meet? We do not know but there is a clue in the form of a princess (Ada the younger, daughter of Pixodarus) who had once fired the fancy of Alexander’s youth and later became Orontobates’ wife. There is no warrant to invent a love triangle here but it is absurd to think that Alexander would forget Ada and as such her husband must have had a special place in his mind. 

The very name Sasigupta tells a story (Sashi=Chandra in Sanskrit)[vi] that has remained unheard due to the callousness of historians like Badian and Green who have blindly followed the Greek and Roman sources alone for the reconstruction of Alexander's life. This is a very unsatisfactory approach that has obscured the true identity of a central figure who masqueraded under many names. Badian notes the crucial role of Sasigupta in Alexander's camp but has no idea that he is the same as Moeris of Pattala who was pursued by Alexander. Chandragupta belonged to the Maurya line of kings.

Though it can be inferred from Diodorus' report, western scholars have failed to realise that Orontobates was the same as Tiridates who later assumed the name of Sisicottos or Sasigupta. Tiridates handed over the fabulous treasury of Persepolis to Alexander. As Diodorus writes he played a silent role in many of Alexander's victories. Other names of Sisicottos were Diodotus of Erythrae, Sissines, and Andragoras. Most strikingly, the drama shows great respect of  Chandragupta  for Alexander whom he himself had probably managed to poison. Michael Wood also suspects that the generals may have poisoned Alexander.

The Indian chronicles state that Sasigupta became a changed man in his later years. What made him so sad during his last years? Why did he embrace death by refusing food just as Sysigambis had done after hearing the news of the death of Alexander? Was he related to Sysigambis in any way? There is a very thin likelihood that it could be a memory of Alexander whose favourite he was.

New Hints From Sanskrit Literature

A Palibothra in the north-west brings to the fore a great Sanskrit drama, the Mudrarakshasa, which is widely recognised as a mine of historical information.[vii] Though it remained virtually unknown for centuries, in modern India the Mudrarakshasa is a popular drama, yet its interpretation is still in infancy[viii]. To appreciate this court drama it is essential to recreate the ambiance in which it was first staged and realise that it had nothing to do with Bihar. The word Mudra in Sanskrit stands for a signet-ring and the plot is woven around the stealing of the signet-ring of Rakshasa, minister of the Nandas. This need not immediately remind one of the possession of the signet ring of Alexander by Perdikkas which was probably stolen[ix] and which played a crucial role in the succession battle. In the play Vairochaka is killed as he passes under a mechanically operated coronation arch (Torana). Can this be related to the warning of the Chaldaeans who came to Alexander and asked him to enter Babylon from the eastern side[x]? Was there a conspiracy to kill Alexander by a crashing gate? After all this was a well-known Babylonian tactic. This may not sound convincing but there is more. Bhagurayana who spies on his master may be an echo of Bagoas the younger who is widely suspected to have been an agent. The name of the bard Stanakalasha is a simple inversion of Callisthenes who was probably caught up in the tragic course of events. There are slanted references to the aging chamberlain who is clearly Permenio. The flaunting of wealth by the treasurer in the play points to Harpalus' misadventures. Poisoning, Poison-maidens and forged letters have all been discussed in relation to Alexander's death and these are also the central elements of the play. Rakshasa, after whom the drama is named is clearly Roxyartes or Oxyartes as indicated by the name of Roxane, his daughter. It is more than likely that Tissaraxa, one of Asoka's wives, was related to Rakshasa's line.

The other principal character of the play is Chanakya, the minister of Chandragupta. A careful study shows that he was none other than Bagoas the Elder, Prime Minister of Artaxerexes-III Ochus. In the drama Abhayadatta attempts to poison Chandragupta but the plot is detected and he is forced to drink the draught. This is exactly what one reads about Bagoas the Elder's death - that he attempted to poison Darius-III but was forced to drink his own cup of poison[xi]. The name of Darius-III in the Babylonian records is Arta-Sata. This, in fact, is the same as Sarva-Arta-Sata or Sarva-Artha-Siddhi, the name of the Nanda king in the play. Sarva[xii] was the name of Shiva, a protector god.

Classical writers reported[xiii] that Bagoas poisoned Ochus, gave his flesh to cats and made knife handles with his bones. It is astonishing that the Mudrarakshasa also recounts an identical story. Chanakya refused a decent burial to the Nanda king he had poisoned and animals feasted on the flesh of the Nandas[xiv]. It is uncanny to realise that apart from Chanakya and Chandragupta the play has among its dramatis personae the ghost of Alexander, his wife Roxane, his infant son and Oxyartes, his father-in-law. From the drama itself it is difficult to explain why, after all his misdeeds and bungling, Rakshasa was installed as the Prime minister in preference to the mighty Chanakya, but if one recalls that Roxane, his daughter, became the regent after Alexander's death, this appears only natural. The original inspiration of the Mudrarakshasa may have been derived from Alexander's foray into dramatics at Pattala. It is probable that it was written under the patronage of Sasigupta, once a darling of Alexander. The Mudrarakshasa, which is one of the great Sanskrit Classics, belongs to world literature.

Alexander Amidst Peacocks

Palibothra, the Indian capital, was famous for its peacocks; Lane Fox writes,

Dhana Nanda's kingdom could have been set against itself and Alexander might yet have walked among Palimbothra's peacocks"[xv]

Curiously, Arrian wrote that the great Emperor was so charmed by the beauty of peacocks that he decreed the severest penalties against anyone killing it. Where did he come across the majestic bird? Does this fascination lead us to Palibothra? It appears from Asoka's Edicts that ritual slaughter of the bird (Mayura) was practiced by the Mauryas. After all Justin wrote that he had defeated the Prasii. A closer examination of the histories of India and Iran shows that this is indeed the truth, but before going into details it is expedient to examine an age-old riddle which has been glossed over by all the writers though its bearing on the history of Alexander is immense. Where exactly was Palibothra?

Spinning Jonesian Cobwebs

The discovery of Megasthenes' Palibothra at Patna by Sir William Jones[xvi] in the closing years of the 18th century, which is widely considered to be a cornerstone of Indology, was in reality a serious blunder that is not supported by a single archaeological find. In Jones' day history was written on the basis of texts alone and though learned contemporary scholars like Rennell did not agree, the discovery was hailed as a landmark in Orientology by popular vote. Jones missed that as the name India originated from the river Hindu (Indus), the centre of ancient India has to be the north-west, not Bihar[xvii]. Due to this crucial error, common sense literally evaporated from Indian ancient history and Indology remained a still-born child. Jonesian historians like A.D.H. Bivar, R. Thapar and B. N. Mukherjee and archaeologists like F.R. Allchin and Dilip Chakravarty zealously guard one cardinal secret of Indology - that there is not a single known artefact of the great Chandragupta Maurya. Even Basham wrote,

The early history of India resembles a zigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces; some parts of the picture are fairly clear; others may be reconstructed with the aid of controlled imagination; but many gaps remain and may never be filled[xviii].

Like Basham, Thapar, or Allchin, today many others reluctantly accept Sir Arthur Berridale Keith's haughty refrain that some aspects of Indian history must remain uncertain. This cynicism is a legacy of British Indology[xix]; history of ancient India is not beyond the realm of scientific enquiry - only it stands on a false premise which has to be discarded forthwith.

Writers on Indian ancient history have ignored that there is no archaeological corroboration of Jones' hypothesis at all. Excavations at Patna have failed to unearth a single inscription, sculpture or coin of not only the Nandas or Chandragupta but even of Asoka. Although the eminent scholar Sir Mortimer Wheeler pointed out that urbanisation of Eastern India cannot be traced before the period of Bindusara, the obvious consequence of this has been lost upon gullible historians. It is impossible to visualize the enormous wealth of the Nandas in Patna of the fourth century BC. Tarn wrote about a Prasiane near Pattala and had serious misgivings about a 'raid' from Rawl Pindi upon Jones' Palibothra (GBI, p. 146) but Bivar[xx] boldly imagines a 6th century BC Magadha in the Gangetic area forgetting that the first mention of that name occurs only in a 3rd century BC inscription of Asoka. In sharp contrast, the famous archaeologist A. Ghosh emphatically stated that the history of Patna is based on texts, not archaeology. Kulke and Rothermund also refuse to swallow Jonesian chaff.[xxi] The absurdity is heightened by the fact that Persian emperors assumed the name Nanda[xxii] - Darius-II was Nonthos - and that the name Nunudda occurs in the Persepolis fortification tablets. Bivar's categorical statement,

So far as India is concerned, the Fortification Tablets attest an active and substantial traffic, though they shed no light on the geography of that province.

is heedless and empty. The fortification tablets clearly show that Palibothra was in the north-west. On the other hand the eminent historian N. G. L. Hammond unhesitatingly admits that "Patna is too far east". (personal communication).

Victory Over The Indians At Kahnuj In Carmania

The clearest hint leading to the exact location of Palibothra comes from Alexander's history. Owing to Jones' error the straightforward implication of Alexander's famous week-long celebration[xxiii] of "victory over the Indians" at Kahnuj in Gedrosia has been lost. Writers like Bosworth and Green failed to realise that the victory over the Indians could have been celebrated only at the chief Indian city. This clearly attests to a Palibothra in the north-west. Numerous other evidences indicate that in the fourth century BC south-eastern Iran was a part of India. Vincent Smith had a clear insight and agreed with authors like Stephanus and Pliny that Gedrosia and Carmania were within ancient India but due to a blind faith in Jones, writer like Basham, Raychaudhuri, and Thapar have ignored this. The name Palibothra, which means 'city of the Bhadras' (City = Kala, Bala, Pala, Polis etc.) indicates a location in Gedrosia which was the Bhadrasva of the Indian texts. Another hint is in name Batrasasave[xxiv] of an important city in Carmania. This is linked to Palibatra or Palibothra. V. Elisseeff[xxv] writes with great insight;

The Iranian region, with its affinity for the Orient, permitted the development of two different cultural areas: the northwestern one, more properly Iranian, with the localities of Tepe Giyan, Tepe Sialk, Tepe Hissar, and Anau; and the south-eastern one, which can be considered Indian, of Baluchistan and the centers of the valley of the Zhob and of Quetta and Amri.

Elisseeff clearly perceives what more influential writers like Bivar or Mary Boyce have failed to note. However, south eastern Iran was not only closer to India from the archaeological viewpoint - even in the 4th century BC it was India proper.

Alexander's victory over the Indians was at Kohnouj near Jiroft where an ancient civilisation has recently been unearthed 

Bosworth writes that the victory was celebrated near Khanu or Kahnuj[xxvi]. Nearby Gulaskherd (Gul =Phul=Kusuma) was probably Kusumapura which was a name of Pataliputra. This shows that Hidus or India extended up to Southeast Iran. The very name Kahnuj shows the absurdity of Jonesian Indology. Kanyakubja, which is thought to be synonymous with Kanauj occurs in the Ramayana and certainly belongs to an era far earlier than the age of the Maukharis when Kanauj in eastern India was a great city. (6th Cent. AD) Therefore the significance of the presence of another ancient city of the same name in Carmania is immense. As Khuvja was the name of Elam Kanyakubja can be easily seen to be Kahnuj. No wonder that here one encounters hoary primogenitors like Manu[xxvii] who ruled Dilmun, Magan and Melukhkha. Magan must have been the earlier Magadha of the texts. This clears the mystery centered around the names Dilmun, Magan, and Melukhkha which were almost always mentioned together in the Mesopotamian records. Dilmun, Magan, and Melukhkha was in fact the Greater India of antiquity. Palibothra was the chief city of the Indians which suggests that it was only a different name of Kanauj which had a similar position in the Indian texts. Dow in his History of Hindostan identified Sandrocottos with Sinsarchund who, according to Firista, ruled from Kanauj.

The relocation of Palibothra throws overboard the entire history of Alexander's expedition after the revolt at Hyphasis and focuses on another great figure of 4th century BC - Chandragupta. Palibothra in the north-west leads to a sweeping reformulation of the early history of India. Nearly all the historical figures appear to be from the north-west. Gomata of the Behistun inscription must have been Gotama Buddha.[xxviii] Bagapa of Babylon was surely Gotama whose title was Bhagava. Experts on the Indo-Greeks and Arsacids have missed that Diodotus-1 was the true Asoka. Ghirshman writes that the name of the founder of the Arsacid dynasty was Assak. Raychaudhuri equated Chandragupta with Androcottos. This could be the same as Andragoras who appears to be a contemporary. Andragoras could have been a Saka. The Rajatarangini states that the father of Chandragupta was Shakuni, probably a Saka. It may be noted that the Arsacids were also called Arsakuni. The great scholar B.M. Barua maintained that Chandragupta was from Gandhara. In the Mahabharata also Shakuni was the brother of queen Gandhari.

The Revolt of Orontobates-Tiridates And The Mutiny At Hyphasis 

Through the mist of vague reports and Jonesian misinterpretation it is difficult to recreate the course of events that led to the revolt at Beas which came as a serious jolt to Alexander's plans. The most important factor that led to the mutiny was that the soldiers and the generals realised to their agony that Orontobates who had hitherto secretly aided them was now their feared enemy heading the vast army of the Prasii. Did the army refuse to fight the Prasii or only to march eastwards? All the writers miss that the empire of the Prasii was not in the east as Jones taught but lay westward in the Gedrosia- Carmania-Seistan area[xxix]. If Alexander had really wanted to move eastward it could not have been to conquer the Prasii. If he had learnt that the fertile plains of the Ganges were only few days march away and wanted to be there for mere expansion of his Empire, he could have expected little resistance. Reluctance of the army cannot have been due to apprehension of the Great strength of the Easterners as Jonesian writers fancied but was perhaps due to the lack of any tangible political or military gain from the venture. If this was the case then Alexander had to bow down to the wishes of his men and curtail his ambitions. On the other hand if the reluctance of the soldiers and officers was to confront the Prasii it appears sensible enough as the latter were a formidable force to reckon with. However, its military might was certainly overblown by magicians and other secret agents of Chanakya[xxx] and Chandragupta to frighten the Greek army. As Meroes or Sasigupta had already fought beside Porus, the army of the Prasii cannot have been left intact though it could still have been a formidable fighting force. A century later the Jats and other fierce fighters of Seistan under the Surens humbled the mighty Roman army.

Although the revolt was engendered by genuine misgivings of the soldiers it would be simplistic to not to view it as a part of a grander design. It offers the first glimpses of the formation of a secret clique in which Harpalus probably played a key role. Coenus who acted as a spokesman of the soldiers had taken a leading role in securing the conviction of Philotas. Both he and his brother Cleander, who was later executed by Alexander, were close to Harpalus whose exploits were parodied in the play Agen. However, here the chief orchestrator must have been Bagoas who, together with Sasigupta, conspired with Harpalus, Eumenes, Perdikkas, Seleucus, Apollophanes, Cleander, Philip and others.

Pursuit Of Moeris Through Gedrosia

Coming down to the lower Indus area near Brahmanabad, Alexander reached the great city of Pattala in 325BC and found it deserted. Pattala is an echo of Pataliputra and the name Moeris of its ruler again shows the dubious nature of Jones' identification. The absence of any archaeological relic of the Nandas or Chandragupta from eastern India shows that the latter belonged to the north-west. Thus Moeris of Pattala cannot be any other than Chandragupta Maurya. The true objective of the Gedrosian voyage now becomes apparent - Alexander was chasing Chandragupta through the desert. Bosworth's opinion that 'stories about Cyrus and Semiramis were later to attract him to the Gedrosian desert' is based on ignorance. In order to ensure food supplies for his army Alexander had imposed a levy which had adversely affected the local population. Blind to the reality, Badian goes on to compare Alexander with Chengiz Khan.

Chandragupta is described as the king of Patna by Jonesian historians who have no truck with archaeology. This however did not deter B.M. Barua, one of the greatest scholars on Buddhism, from stating boldly[xxxi];

"To me Candragupta was a man of the Uttarapatha or Gandhara if not exactly of Taksashila. His early education, military training and alliances were all in that part of India. He added the whole of the province of Gandhara and the surrounding tribal states (Punjab and N.W. frontier province) to the growing Magadha empire together with the territories ceded to him by Seleukus…”

Curiously the Satrap of the Taksashila area under Alexander was another Gupta whose history has been treated in the most perfunctory manner[xxxii]. After capturing the rock fort at Aornos near Taxila Alexander left Sasigupta in command. Sasigupta of Taxila who is first heard of in 327BC is clearly the Chandragupta of Barua. McCrindle[xxxiii] also noted the discrepancies but missed the real Chandragupta. Bosworth writes without any circumspection,

There were also refugees like Sisicottos, who had first served with Bessus and then co-operated with Alexander throughout the Sogdian campaigns (Arr. iv, 30. 4). Such men had every reason to encourage the king to invade, and he himself needed little encouragement.

Bosworth fails to note that Chandragupta was also a refugee like Sasigupta and that 'Sashi' is a synonym of 'Chandra', but Raychaudhuri[xxxiv] surely knew the meaning of Sashi, yet he wrote in an equally desultory manner, 'Chandragupta's first emergence from obscurity into the full view of history occurs in 326-25 B.C. when he met Alexander.' So poor was the prognosis that even when H.C. Seth pointed out that Chandragupta could be Sasigupta, Raychaudhuri took shelter under makeshift arguments.

Encircling The Prasii From All Sides

Even his worst detractors do not deny that Alexander was one of the greatest military tacticians of all times. The Gedrosian operation was in fact a brilliant three-pronged attack against the armies of Moeris and his allies. Alexander must have studied why both Cyrus and Semiramis were defeated by the fierce Massagetae who are none other than the Mahageatae or the Magadhans. Apart from the great fighting qualities and numerical strength of the Prasii, the desert terrain presented intractable logistical problems. To circumvent this he decided to carry supplies in ships. This is why the ships kept near the shoreline and the army also marched along the coast. Bagoas and Moeris knew this and despite the great care taken by Alexander to ensure food supplies, his enemies nearly succeeded in thwarting his plans by conniving with his Satraps. Harpalus and Bagoas probably were certain that Alexander would perish in the desert.

After the surrender of the ruler of Patalene near the Indus delta Alexander placed a large column of veterans under the command of Craterus but instead of taking them along with him he sent them through the Bolan Pass (or Mulla Pass) to the Helmand valley from where they were to make their way to Carmania and unite with the main forces. This was a fairly strong force comprising three phalanx battalions, a large number of elderly troops, infantry and cavalry and the whole of the elephant corps. The elephants already smell of Chandragupta whose major point of strength were these stately animals. One can recall his gift of 500 elephants to Seleucus. About 40 year later, as we learn from the Babylonian records, his grandson Diodotus-I (Asoka) was to repeat a gift of twenty elephants to Antiochus-I. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the main purpose of Craterus' men was to encircle the Prasii.

Bagoas The Elder Was Chanakya

While recounting the gruesome stories of bloodshed and turmoil that tarnished the expedition, writer's on Alexander have lost sight of a Satan-like figure who literally revelled in murder and mayhem - Bagoas the elder.[xxxv] Diodorus writes (xvii.5.3),

While Phillip was still king, Ochus ruled the Persians and oppressed his subjects cruelly and harshly. Since his savage disposition made him hated, the chiliarch Bagoas, a eunuch in physical fact but a militant rogue in disposition, killed him by poison administered by a certain physician and placed upon the throne the youngest of his sons, Arses. He similarly made away with the brothers of the new king, who were barely of age, in order that the young man might be isolated and tractable to his control. But the young king let it be known that he was offended at Bagoas' previous outrageous behaviour and was prepared to punish the author of these crimes, so Bagoas anticipated his intentions and killed Arses and his children also while he was still in the third year of his reign. The royal house was thus extinguished, and there was no one in the direct line of descent to claim the throne.

Since Artaxerexes-III is referred to as Nindin or a Nanda in the Babylonian texts this agrees with the accounts in the Indian texts that Chanakya had decimated the Nanda line.

Diodorus' Account Of Bagoas The Elder's Death Is False

Diodorus also wrote that Bagoas attempted to poison Darius-III also but was instead forced to drink his own cup of poison. Even if one takes account on its face value there remains the possibility that he did not die even after drinking the poison that would have killed lesser mortals. Diodorus' report only shows that Bagoas went underground after the incident and the Greeks did not know that he was not dead. A fiendish man who had poisoned so many must have taken some precaution against the poison. One reads in the Indian texts that Chanakya made Chandragupta drink small doses of poison daily to gain immunity against the poison. Doubtlessly he himself could have taken the same protection. Only Lane Fox suspects Diodorus' account of the death of Bagoas the Elder. Tarn dismissed Aelian's report (Aelian V.H. III, 23) that Bagoas entertained Alexander at Babylon but this may be unjustified. Apart from the Mudrarakshasa many other Indian texts indicate that Chandragupta rose to the throne with the help of Chanakya or Bagoas. Bagoas was the poison-man par excellence and his meeting with Alexander a few days before his death clearly points to conspiracy.

Bessos Was Dhana Nanda Of The Indian Texts

One key figure who remains unnoticed by Indian historians is Bessos, the 'Leader of the Indians' who fought against Alexander. In the famous battle at Gaugamela on the extreme left of the Persian contingent was the Bactrian cavalry under Bessos who led the Indians and the Sogdians. Bessos and his cavalry fought valiantly and remained virtually intact. Surprisingly, there is no mention of him in the Indian texts. On the other hand one prominent Nanda king, Dhana Nanda, who must have been a contemporary of Alexander, finds no mention in the Greek and Roman records. We have already referred to Lane Fox's remark that Dhana Nanda's kingdom could have been set against itself and Alexander might yet have walked among Palimbothra's peacocks. However, if one notes that Dhana in Sanskrit stands for wealth another word for which is Vasus, it appears likely that Bessos was none other than Dhana Nanda. That Bessos was the master of both Sasigupta and Oxyartes or Rakshasa is also clear. Classical writers reported that Sasigupta, together with Bagistanes deserted Bessos when Alexander was in pursuit of Darius (330 BC) and informed Alexander about Darius' plight. As the phonetic shift B-M is very common, this duo must have been Chandragupta and Megasthenes. Gullible historians like Thapar and Raychaudhuri failed to recall that this corresponds precisely to the reports that Chandragupta had met Alexander in 335 BC in Bactria and told him of the possibility of dethroning the Nanda king who was very unpopular.

Seleucus And Chandragupta

Even though the beacon of Hellenism was kept alight by the Seleucids after the death of Alexander, Seleucus himself may have directly connived with Sasigupta and Chanakya to poison Alexander and rise to the throne. In the first level of scrutiny he is suspect for his friendship with Chandragupta; not only that he did not fight with the latter and had given him 500 elephants instead, more importantly, his daughter became a member of the Mauryan family. This relationship has a much deeper background. Like most other important Greeks, Seleucus had also married an Iranian lady but whereas nearly all these marriages had broken up, Seleucus remained faithful to Apame till the end. One has to remember that Apame's father was the redoubtable Spitamenes, a fierce fighter and a sworn enemy of Alexander whose severed head was sent to him as a peace-offering by the Massagetae. Andragoras, Spitamenes and Oxyartes were the three most powerful leaders of Indo-Iranian resistance against the Greco-Macedonians and Seleucus' alliance with two of the triumvirate unmistakably points to his complicity. It is quite apparent that the sending of his daughter to the Mauryan household was dictated principally by Apame's family background. Hamilton strikes the right tone,

It is perhaps ironical that the Seleucids, who ruled the largest portion of Alexander's empire, should be descended from the Bactrian patriot.

Was Oxyartes a party to this conspiracy? This is highly improbable but cannot be ruled out. The Mudrarakshasa ends in an alliance between Chandragupta and Rakshasa i.e. between Andragoras and Oxyartes. There is a touching episode where Oxyartes laments that his actions have led to the fall of his master.

NOTES


[i] Tarn, who was strongly criticised by E. Badian, was a great scholar whose wide knowledge of the history of both the European and Asiatic peoples gave him an intuitive insight which remains unmatched. Another scholar of the same genre was Sir George Macdonald who posed many pertinent questions about Arsacid history.

[ii] Archaeologists have found little in India or Iran that can be directly linked to Alexander and reference to Alexander in Indian literature is scanty though not non-existent. There were about 20 contemporary accounts of Alexander but these are not extant. Aristoboulos and Ptolemy wrote many years later. Historians have been forced to use the later accounts of Arrian, Plutarch and other secondary sources. However, unlike Tarn, modern writers like Badian, Bosworth and Green do not seem to be aware of the need to look for valuable evidence from the Indian and Iranian sources.

[iii] Badian's pompous rhetoric often betrays a shallow and parochial outlook. Probably Droysen did not know about Buddhism or Gotama, yet his 1877 work is nearer the truth than Badian's. W. Smith's "A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Bibliography", which was published only three years later, is a gem of high scholarship.

 

[iv] Even Tarn who identified Kuh e-Khwaja on Lake Hamun as Alexandria Prophthasia did not read the message hidden in the name Alexandria Prophthasia which means Alexandria of the Prophets. From Sir Aurel Stein's great discovery of a Buddhist shrine at Kuh-e Khwaja it can be seen that one of these Prophets was Gotama Buddha who is the same as Gomata mentioned in the Behistun inscription. See note 28. 

[v] It is likely that Bardiya sat on the throne with Gomata beside him. See R. Pal, 'Gotama Buddha in West Asia', Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Reasearch Institute, vol. 77. 

[vi] H.C. Seth's suggestion that Sasigupta could be the same as Chandragupta was pooh-pooed by H.C. Raychaudhuri and others as too daring a dissertation. 

[vii] The business of the play is diplomacy and politics, to the entire exclusion of any amourous interludes. In this respect it is unique in world literature. 

[viii] Keith, who was a learned Sanskrit scholar also chose to write much on ancient history, which, owing to his ignorance of the Jonesian gaffe, bristles with contradictions and is of little intrinsic value. F.W. Thomas was also unaware of the Jonesian blunder but his views were much saner. Although Keith assigned the present redaction to 9th century AD, the original story appears to be much older. Futile attempts have been made to link it to later kings and fit it to Bihar even though ancient commentators like Dhundiraja associated it with the rise of Chandragupta Maurya.

[ix] Even Badian suspects that it was stolen. Perdikkas had probably stolen it from Roxane or her mother. In the play it is stolen from Rakshsa's wife.

 

[x] After Alexander had crossed the Tigris and was approaching Babylon, a group of Priests of Marduk came to see him. They beseeched him not to enter the city at this time for, they said, they had received an oracle from the Gods prophesying that, if he did, misfortune would befall him. Alexander did not trust them and continued his journey to Babylon but he did listen to another of their requests - to enter the city from the east.

 

[xi] Drinking the poison cup could have killed Darius-III but probably not Bagoas. One reads in the Indian texts that Chanakya made Chandragupta drink small doses of poison daily to gain immunity against the poison. Doubtlessly he himself could have taken the same protection.

 

[xii] The name is linked to Sarapis mentioned by Greek authors. All arguments which claim that Sarapis was a god whose worship was not established until the reign of Ptolemy -1 in Alexandria, are flimsy. The name is linked to the Sarvastivadins, one of the earliest Buddhist clans. It is probable that Buddhism developed as a deviant form of Shaivism. 

[xiii] Diodorus, Bk xvi. See also Lempriere's Classical Dictionary.

[xiv] Chanakya's demoniacal hatred for the Nandas can only be explained by his loathing for Buddhism. The name Sarvarthasiddhi of the Nanda king(Darius-III) shows his inclination for Buddhism. It is possible that apart from the greed and treachery of the generals, the enemies of Alexander united under an anti-Buddhist, Zoroastrian platform. 

[xv] Lane Fox, Robin, Alexander the Great, London, 1973, p. 372. 

[xvi] Jones resented many aspects of British society and genuinely loved India. His great contribution was the founding of the Asiatic Society which changed western perceptions on Oriental civilizations. Bentham's indictment of Jones, 'He was an industrious man with no sort of genius who sent spinning cobwebs out of his own brain ...' was perhaps unfair.

[xvii] As a result of Jones' well-meaning but careless enthusiasm, mistakes piled up on mistakes and inconsistency became almost a hallmark of Indology. The mathematician D.D. Kosambi, who was also a great historian, pointed to serious discrepancies in Indian ancient history and scholars like R.S. Tripathy lamented, ".. in ancient Indian history, where gaps still yawn and the evidence is not only vague, uncertain, and incomplete, but also at times conflicting and contradictory". A. L. Basham also described the political history of ancient India as tantalizingly vague and uncertain. Again very little is known about the historicity of the great Epics or the Vedic societies. That the inscription on the famous Mehrauli iron pillar is ascribed to such diverse names as Chandragupta-II, Chandravarman, Samudragupta and Kaniska only shows the poverty of Indology. The list is endless; Kalidasa, Asvaghosha, Panini, all remain shadowy figures. The uncertainty surrounding the all-important Saka era is a disgraceful blot on Indology; in spite of a sea of literature on the subject and two fruitless London conferences, the dates of Kanishka still elude us. Kanishka experts like Bivar are unaware that Kanik who convened the Buddhist council of Purushapura is Alexander. Taranatha warned that Kanika was not Kanishka. 

[xviii] Basham's work on Indian history had none of the prejudice that tarnishes the writings of Keith and Monier-Williams, yet his description of Rama of Valmiki as a petty tribal chief is baseless. A careful study of Mesopotamian and Elamite records reveals that Rama (Ram-Sin of Larsa; Sin=Chandra) was a World- Emperor who ruled not only the Indus cities but also Elam and Sumer. European writers on Iranian history have totally missed the great respect for Rama in Sassanid Iran. D.P. Mishra realised that Harayu in Arachosia could be the Sarayu in the Ramayana. Recently historian Shyam Narain Pande has also suggested that Rama was from the Afghanistan area. See Pal, R. and Sato, T., 'Gotama Buddha in West Asia', Toho Shuppan, Osaka.

[xix] Historians like A.L. Basham and R. Thapar callously accept the shoddy 1903 confirmation of Jones' surmise by Waddell, a writer having no scientific bent and notorious for wild speculations. On the other hand unwary archaeologists like F.R. Allchin, B. B. Lal, V.N. Mishra and K. Paddayya throw caution to the wind and seek solace in the textual hearsay of Jones, ignoring the stark archaeological scenario. In sharp contrast, scholars like A. Ghosh, H.D. Sankalia, B.M. Barua, Debala Mitra and others have stressed the scientific spirit of questioning and expressed grave doubts about Jones' identification. Both Tarn and Vincent Smith came very close to discarding Jones' view. Although Ghosh warned that fancy should not fly ahead of facts, it is a chilling realisation that today much of Indian ancient history rests mainly on soothing fables. 

[xx] See the article 'The Indus Lands" in the Cambridge Ancient History. Bivar echoes Darius-I without any circumspection and writes about the 'Magian impostors' without for a moment pondering that this could be Gotama. In view of the strong evidence from the north-west, F.R. Allchin's enthusiastic proposal for further digging in the residential quarters of Patna is likely to be totally fruitless. 'Ancient historians today generally supplement the record of the ancient writers with the findings of archaeology, including the study of inscriptions, sculpture and coins.', remarks a contemporary writer (R. Stoneman, 'Alexander the Great', Routledge, 1997, p.6), in a tone reminiscent of Sir Mortimer Wheeler's allusion to philately in reference to archaeology of the north-western border provinces. Archaeology does not merely supplement history, it provides the basis on which alone true history can stand. 

[xxi] Kulke, H. and Rothermund, D., "India" , Routledge, London,1990,p. 61. 

[xxii] In fact Darius-II and many other Persian emperors were Indo-Iranians in origin.

[xxiii] "He gave orders for villagers along his route to be strewn with flowers and garlands, and for bowls full of wine and other vessels of extraordinary size to be set out on the thresholds of houses .... The friends and the royal company went in front, heads wreathed with various kinds of flowers woven into garlands, with the tones of the flute heard at one point, the tones of the lyre at another .... The king and his drinking companions rode in a cart weighed down with golden bowls and huge goblets of the same metal. In this way the army spent seven days on a drunken march...." (Curtius, 9.10.25-27). 

[xxiv] "Greeks in Bactria and India", p. 481

[xxv] Encyclopedia of World Art, See under Asiatic Prehistory.

 

[xxvi] Bosworth, A.B., 'Conquest and Empire', Cambridge, 1988, p. 150. Khanu is also given as Kohnouj and Kahnuj in modern maps.

 

[xxvii] S. Ratnagar is so beguiled by Jonesian fantasies that even after accidentally descending upon Manu, she does not come out of her trance and hurries on to discuss timber from Magan. "Encounters", Oxford Univ. Press, p.39. Indian ancient texts like the Manusamhita leave no room for doubting that Manu was also the ruler of Melukhkha or the Indus cities. That his empire also included Dilmun is clear from inscriptions. See Nayeem, A.N., 'Bahrain', Hyderabad, 1992, p. 414.

 

[xxviii] No primary relic of Gotama has been unearthed from eastern India except his ashes which were surely brought from the northwest. His mortal remains were also found mostly from the North-West which must have been his arena. Gotama was a contemporary and namesake of Gomata and stalwarts like Olmstead, Toynbee and Dandamaev realized that Darius had lied in the Behistun inscription - Gomata was not an impostor. His immense popularity is attested by Herodotus' report that the whole of Asia rose in revolt in his support. He was a great benefactor who abolished taxes and freed slaves; his Palace was at Sikayavati which links him to Sakya, Gotama's title; he proscribed Zarathustra just as Gotama had banished Devadatta and Al-beruni stated that the Zoroastrians drove the Buddhists eastward. In the highly authentic Ajanta caves child Siddhartha is shown dressed as a foreigner. Thus Bagapa, Viceroy of Babylon during Darius' reign was surely Gotama whose title was Bhagava. Bagapa must have been the chief priest of E-Sangila. Before his death Gotama lamented his happy days at the Isigili mount which is the E-sagila. There is a reference in the fortification tablets(PF 756) to Gaumata in a religious context which indicates that Bardiya was killed, not Gaumata. After Darius-I's death Gotama was probably banished by his son Xerexes who crushed the Daevas or Buddhists. Pal, R. ,"Gotama Buddha in West Asia", Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, vol.77, p.67-120.

 

[xxix] Only Tarn intuitively came near the truth; "He had found a number of disconnected states and peoples in the North-West, and had had no relations with, even if he had heard of, the most powerful of the Indian kingdoms, that of Magadha on the Ganges". Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India", p. 129. 

[xxx] This is indicated in the Mudrarakshasa. 

[xxxi] Indian Culture, vol. X, p. 34.

[xxxii] "We know of one Indian chief Sasigupta, (Sisicottos), already in the conqueror’s train. His had been probably some little hill-state on the slopes of the Hindu Kush, whence he had gone two years since, to help the Iranians in Bactria against Alexander. When their case was lost, he had gone over to the European". Cambridge History of Ancient India, ed . E.J. Rapson, p.314. 

[xxxiii] "We do not know what induced Sandrocottos to leave his home and take service under the latter monarch (Nandrus), but we incline to attribute it to a sentiment of patriotism forbidding him to seek office or advancement under a power which had crushed the liberties of his country. What the nature of his offence against Nandrus was does not appear, but he so dreaded his resentment that he quitted his dominions and returned home..". McCrindle, 'Invasion of India by Alexander the great', p. 405. 

[xxxiv] Raychaudhuri resented the maxim "must remain unknown", but his text on Political history of ancient India, which is almost worshipped as a Bible in India, remains an invaluable collation of textual data which is often very incoherent due to its Jonesian basis. 

[xxxv] In the Greek texts Bagoas is described as an Egyptian. But his being an eunuch may link him with Babylon which was famous for eunuchs Usually princes who had no claim to the throne were turned into eunuchs. The Babylonian scribes and learned men were often eunuchs. Also his famous house at Babylon makes it very likely that he was from that city. That there were Dramils in Babylon is well known.