Expedition of Alexander the Great to Margiana

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Expedition of Alexander the Great to Margiana

The history of the army activity of Alexander the Great in Margiana is not fully investigated at present. One of main reasons of it is a fact that only the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus left in his work the «Histories of Alexander the Great» the description about the army’s activity of the great combat leader in Margiana — and even then, it is by no means complete and detailed.

Until the mid-fifties of the twentieth century, most researchers questioned the reliability of this historian’s testimony. It was believed, in particular, that in the description the name «Margiana» was included in text by mistake instead of the word «Marakanda». Attitude to the Rufus’s description was changed, first of all, due to woks of Igor Nikolayevich Khlopin, who worked in Turkmenistan for many years. 

Khlopin proved, that the only one discrepancy in the work of Curtius Rufus is that in the description of history of one of the cities founded by Alexander in Margiana, the antique author got wrong the cities Merv and Merverud.

What did the historian reveal about the expedition of the Alexander the Great to Margiana? In the beginning of chapter dedicated to this event he wrote that the king waited for arrival of the reinforcement under the leadership of Ptolemy and Menid. When the number of troops increased, the army marched to Oxa (as historians of the ancient world called the river Amudarya). On the fourth day of the campaign, the army reached the river, crossed and continued on its way. The ultimate goal of the campaign was Sogdiana. The ruler considered the fact that a source of water had broken through from under the ground in his tent right before the crossing was a happy sign for himself.

It is further reported that the king, upon arriving at the city of Margiana, personally chose the site for the founding of six fortresses - two to the south and four to the east of the city, at a close distance from each other, so as not to seek far from mutual assistance. All new settlements were located on high hills.

The fact that Curtius writes specifically about Margiana is also evidenced by the fact that at the end of his message he speaks of the Parthians as the rulers of these lands contemporary to him, while they did not control Marakanda even during their greatest successes. Currently, scholars have come to the conclusion that in all cases when Rufus describes the events of Parthian history, the degree of reliability of the historian's information turns out to be very high.

The German author Franz von Schwartz on the bases of his own investigations came to decision, that the army of Alexander passed the winter of 328 года B.C. in the region where Turkmenabat city is located now.

Reviewing the results of the campaign, Curtius Rufus stated its main result – provision of security in the rear and foundation of Alexandria Margiana city. Foundation of new cities in the East was one of main vectors of the policy of Alexander, indeed, the settlements, founded by his order, should play an important role in the control of the new joined to empire territories. The population of Alkexandria included the Macedonian-veterans, Greeks-hired gun and representatives of local population. The city was managed by the ruler assigned by the king.