Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Was Alexander the great?

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There were different facets to the personality of Alexander the Great. He was indeed a great general and a brilliant strategist who never knew defeat himself but was gracious to his defeated adversaries. On the other hand, we know he killed some 7000 Rajputs who had come from the east to fight against him with the Pathans in Massaga (between Dir and Swat). This was when their leader died in battle and they petitioned Alexander to be permitted to return to their country. Alexander offered to conscript them in his own army to which they initially agreed but later decided to bolt during the night because they did not want to fight against their own brothers. Alexander had their camp surrounded in the dark of night and ordered a general slaughter in which none of the Rajputs escaped.
Then again he killed some 800 Pathans in a similar situation on Aornos (Pir Sar).

We must also not forget that he killed Cleitus in a drunken revel in Samarkand. Clietus had saved his life in the Battle of the Granicus River (Turkey) and had this man not been there, Alexander would surely have been killed during battle on that river. Also when Coenus, another one of his generals, spoke on behalf of the troops after the revolt on the Beas, he died mysteriously a few days later. Historians believe Coenus was poisoned on Alexander’s order.

He was also a very generous man. Once he had acquired the treasure of Persia, he was liberal with gifts to soldiers who excelled in battle. We had dozens of examples of this. So we have these two men rolled into one: a generous, kind, friendly and fun-loving. The other ruthless. I suppose all humans are similar and Alexander was no different. In his own country, Macedonia, he is celebrated as their greatest son. History looks at him with growing ambivalence because we now read modern historians censuring him for his wanton desire to subdue the known world. Personally I think he was a man who did deserve the epithet of the Great. If I were to meet him and were he to ask me to have a cup of tea with him, I would more than gladly accept.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:21,


At 1 April 2013 at 13:41, Anonymous Dr. N said...

It is not about good or bad? Alexander was an invader here and he should be considered as such; his personal bravery and other traits notwithstanding.

How would you think if someone (good general) attacks here and conquer our land?

At 1 April 2013 at 16:09, Blogger Khalid Rahman said...

War is about killing. A conqueror is actually a marauder. May it be the War of Qadsia or the current war in Afghanistan.

At 1 April 2013 at 16:09, Blogger Khalid Rahman said...

War is about killing. A conqueror is actually a marauder. May it be the War of Qadsia or the current war in Afghanistan.

At 1 April 2013 at 16:30, Blogger Ayyub Kulla said...

Whatever, GREAT or not great. He was from Macedonia, not son of our land. Why should I be that much concerned about him. He did what the invaders and generals used to do in those days. And even today "Might is right". Yes he visited my village, "MONG" too..........And people know this much only. Rest Archeology department should put in its best, if it gets some funds for the project--------obviously if left over from the corruption of our leaders from every department and sector.

At 1 April 2013 at 16:50, Anonymous Ayyub Kulla said...

Here is my FB profile URL.

At 1 April 2013 at 20:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salman Rashid sb. your article left me longing for more....i was expecting something more detailed.
Ayyub i dont agree to your statement' why should i be that much concerned about him'. This approach i believe leads us to ignorance to history and the things we can learn from the great men in history. When i briefly read about Alexander two aspects that stood out to me were:
1- He had a great teacher(Aristotle)
2- He followed his dad's plans after him
personally i think this was what laid the foundation of what he was able to accomplish.

At 1 April 2013 at 22:57, Anonymous M Behzad Jhatial said...

The thing is that one who comes out of his territory, conqueres, kills, and much more, actually he is doing it just to practice his ideas, his working principles, his knowledge and his strategies. This is just his curiosity of nature. So i think he was a great general, a leader but not a valued human being. Because humanity element got certain rules, certain obligations which he never practiced.

At 1 April 2013 at 23:16, Blogger Ayyub Kulla said...

Anonymous: Either of us may not be 100% correct. It was not letting down him or his teacher or father. It is the word "GREAT". Just go on google with it, there we get more light and once put together as "Alexander Great" then things are more clear. However your answer is already posted by M Behzad Jhatial, thanks to him, and I favour that as well. Rest we keep the choice of disagreement too, please.

At 2 April 2013 at 11:18, Anonymous Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

Conquerors are neither all good, nor all bad. They aspire to the position and carry it out depending on their needs, whims and necessities in their minds. I pose the question if it isn't just something "built in" to the male of the species to create life and take it away as a form of birth control? If it wasn't for wars and the millions who have died in them (predominantly men) the population of this planet would be much more than it is right now. Is it not in our human nature to procreate, migrate and assimilate?

At 30 April 2013 at 09:34, Anonymous Hammad Mian on FB said...

Alexander the tormentor and savage killer.

At 25 May 2013 at 15:43, Anonymous Daaniyal ‏on Twitter said...

I have read he is still reviled in Iran. Folks songs talk of his cruelty. Personally I'd like that cup of tea as well :)

At 26 May 2013 at 13:45, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...


Alexander is a villain in modern Persian folklore. They have street performers and theatre where he is evil and was badly kicked around by Darius. If you see Michael Wood’s BBC documentary on Alexander you see a clip of such a street performance.


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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

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