We are taught in our school history books that Alexander when he invaded India in 326 BCE defeated Porus. The defeated Porus was brought in front of Alexander, when Alexander asked Porus as to how he would like to be treated; Porus responded that he would like to be treated as a king. Alexander pleased with the brave words of the valiant Porus gave back Porus his kingdom and Alexander returned homewards to Babylonia, leaving behind his General Selucus Nikator on friendly terms with Porus. Our history also states that this turnaround by Alexander was because his army was tired and wanted to go back home.
When we look at the historic route taken by Alexander's army in its marches, we see the brutal quality of Alexander and his army. But for their brutal nature Alexander and his armies could not have defeated kingdom after kingdom and reached all the way upto Indus River. Why did Alexander a ruthless warlord suddenly have a change of heart, acquired a pardoning trait only on the banks of the Indus river and return back peacefully? While the marches of Alexander are a major event in European history of that period, which has also been glorified by the colonial historians, there is hardly any mention of the visit of Alexander in the pre-colonial historical writings of India.
These divergent views urged us dwell in to have a fresh look into the details of Alexander's visit, to look for the real turn of events. In this subject capsule we have looked at in detail the original records of the various historical personalities and their views on Alexander, his times and his invasion.
The stories brought back by Alexander's soldiers helped historians of those times viz, Callisthenes, Ptolemy, Aristobulus, Clietarchus to write their report on the conquests of Alexander. Based on these reports, other historians like Plutarch, Arian, Diodorus, Justin, Qunitus Curtus all wrote about the gory and glory of the conquest of Alexander's army. It is pertinent to note here, that these historians lived between 300 to 500 years after Alexander's time. Obviously by that time, a lot of myth could easily have got mixed with reality.
Apart from all this, we also get valuable information from the pre-Biblical text in the name of Ethiopic texts. The other two important records available to us are from the notes of
(1) Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander and
(2) Megasthanes, the Greek traveller who stayed back in India in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
The historian Vincent A Smith and our own Jawaharlal Nehru ask illuminating questions on the conquest of Alexander which guides us to look for answers in all the above texts.
Based on all these, many modern historians have questioned the very aspect of Alexander having returned victorious from India.
These questions and answers have been looked at in-depth in this subject capsule.