Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Greeks in Chitral?

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Legend has it that some of Alexander’s legions having lost their way strayed into remote Chitral. Unable or unwilling to leave this delightful hill country which so resembled Macedonia both in terms of scenery and climate, they remained there, wedded local women and started families whose descendents are the modern Kalasha. The other yarn concerns Alexander himself having crossed into Chitral. Having remained in those cool climes several months, he left behind many pregnant women to begin the Kalasha line.
 

Self-proclaimed anthropologists draw parallels between Kalasha culture and that of the Greeks. But they deny the similarities that Kalasha culture, especially their pantheon, has with other ancient sub-continental cultures. It is an interesting and spiritually uplifting notion for anyone to be linked with the greatest and most civilised conqueror the world has ever known. The Kalasha therefore cling to the notion of being Alexander’s progeny.


Alexander’s history is fairly accurately documented. To begin with, Alexander himself wrote frequent and lengthy letters to his teacher Aristotle and his mother Olympias. Then there was Eumenes, the official writer of the Royal Diaries who diligently recorded everything that transpired whether on the field of battle or during the hours of leisure. There were, moreover, several other officials who wrote. Aristobulos (considered more of an Alexander apologist) was compiling his diaries while Onesicritos, Alexander’s helmsman, kept a record of his own. Then there were generals like Nearchus and Ptolemy who wrote within a few years of Alexander’s death.
Not much of this original record survives to our time. But it was all there when historians like Plutarch, Arrian, Quintus Curtius and Diodorus wrote within the first few hundred years of Alexander’s death. It was this original material that formed the basis of these historians’ treatises. Not one of these histories mentions the Macedonian army’s struggles across a high, snow-bound pass (Lowari) which Alexander would have had to cross in February to enter Chitral. Neither do they record the desertion of any legions as the Kalasha legend asserts.

The first outsider to enter Kalasha domains and write his account was Taimur the Lame (died March 1405). Had the legend of the Greek origin of the Kalasha then been extant, he would surely have recorded it in his diary. Nearly five hundred years later the first British explorer William McNair entered Kalasha valleys and shortly afterwards the Greek connection was ‘discovered’. McNair did his map-making all right, but he never disclosed in his reports what other nonsense he fed those poor ignorant people. Not long afterwards Kipling popularised the Greek connection with his rather engaging novel Man who would be king. And so the legend lives on to this day, based not so much on research as on wild British caprice.

Note: This story first appeared in Tales Less Told - Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) book of days 2009.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 7:31 AM,

4 Comments:

At March 12, 2013 at 8:04 AM, Anonymous Shirazi said...

I have been in Chitral (Village Mir Khanni) for two years during Russin occupation of Afghanistan. This tale reminds me of my stay there.

 
At March 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM, Blogger the ethical man said...

One of the General Alexander left in Bactria and present Afghan region was Selukus..who was defeated in the same year by Chandragupt Maurya..Infact Selukus even married his daughter to the Maurya..

The notion that Alexander was the greatest and most civilised conquerer is western product..because they beleive anyone who conquered from west to east was civilized and east to west (Genghis Khan)was barbaric..mind you Genghis like Alexander was not a Muslim.

Kalash people population is rapidly decreasing..the threat being as the whole Pakistan is Islamic prosecution..

 
At March 12, 2013 at 7:34 PM, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

What a mythical place we are poised to lose for ever. You are stripping off what ever is associated with name Kalasha. Who will go there any more sir.

 
At March 13, 2013 at 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Alexander The Great was built up by the Romans so everything that is written has to be looked through their eyes. It is pure propaganda to justify their conquests.
British had the same purpose with their Indo-European Language and Aryan Invasion Theory. Both of which can be
refuted but no one cares.

If You look at genetically. The Y chromosome is
what geneticists map to find lineages.
If you go back 20 generations which is just 500 years.
In that time 2^20 = 1048576 of those half were men.
So any Greek component would be lost in 2000 years surely.
But even that is too hard for some people to comprehend.

Also recently Greek Historians have started to take about Trojan War. Their conclusion was the war was about stealing Troy women because Greek Kings were hording women.


 

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days