Meroes

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Meroes was an Indian and old friend of Porus, who led Porus to Alexander during his invasion of India in 326 BC. Meroës has been mentioned by Arrian[1], the historian of Alexander the Great. Historians have identified Meroes as Maurya.

Variants of name

History

Prof. B.S. Dhillon[6] writes....The important Maurya rulers of this period (approximately 321-185 B.C.) were Chandragupta, Bindusara and Ashoka. Soon after the departure of Alexander, Chandragupta Maurya became the ruler of at least Northern India. Arrian [7] wrote, "Alexander, however, did not even on this show anger against Porus, but sent others, in relays, finally an Indian, Meroes, having learnt that this Meroes had long been a friend of Porus". In Professor Sinha's [8] words, "Dr. Buddha Prakash has identified Meroes with Chandragupta Maurya" and a well-known Indian historian, Hari Ram Gupta [9], argues with good evidences that Chandragupta Maurya was a native of Punjab. Historians generally agree that "Maurya" is the clan name.

Shashigupta vs Meroes, the friend of Porus

Towards the end of battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum), Arrian mentions a certain Meroes and attests him to be an Indian and an old friend of Porus (or Poros). Arrian further attests that he was finally chosen by Alexander to bring the fleeing Porus back for concluding peace treaty with Macedonian invader.[10] It is notable that at the time of Porus's war with Alexander, Shashigupta, the satrap of the eastern Ashvakas had very cordial relations with Porus. In fact, he was on good terms both with Porus as well as Alexander and was finally chosen by Alexander to effect peace negotiations between him (Alexander) and Porus when Taxiles i.e. the ruler of Taxila had failed in this endeavour. It is more than likely, as several scholars have speculated, that Shashigupta may have alternatively been known also as Meroes (equivalent to the Sanskrit Maurya) after his native-land Meros (Mor or Mer in Prakrit, perhaps Mt Meru of Sanskrit texts).[11]

After the assassination of Nicanor: A few months later when Alexander was still in Punjab and was engaged in war with the Glausais of Ravi/Chenab, the Ashvakas had assassinated Nicanor, the Greek governor of lower Kabul valley and also issued a threat to kill Shashigupta if he continued to cooperate with the invaders. While Phillipos was appointed to Nicanor's place, no further reference to Shashigupta by this name exists in classical sources. It appears likely that as a shrewd politician & statesman cum military general, Shashigupta had sensed the pulse of time and therefore, after deserting Alexander’ camp, he had thrown his lot with the emerging powerful group of insurgents. Thence afterward, Shashigupta seems to appear under an alternative name-Moeres or Moeris of the classical chroniclers. It is notable that Moeres, Moeris, Meris and Meroes are all equivalent terms.[12] Arrian writes Meroes [13] while Curtius spells it as Moeres or Moeris.[14] Chieftain Moeris of lower Indus delta (Patala) referenced by Curtius seems precisely to be the same person as Meroes of north-west, attested to be old friend of Porus by Arrian.[15] Alexander was apparently annoyed at this development and pursued Shashigupta who appears to have fled with his followers to lower Indus. He probably appears there as Moeres of Curtius, a chief of Patala.[16] It is but natural that after joining the band of insurgents, Shashigupta alias Meroes or Moeres became a leader of the group of rebels and started his struggle for realizing his bigger goals for bigger regal power.

Shashigupta vs Chandragupta: Dr Seth observes: "If we take into account the practice Alexander followed of putting in-charge of the area which he conquered the vanquished ruler himself or some equally influential from among the vanquished people, we find no difficulty in assuming that Shashigupta either belonged to the ruling Ashvaka dynasty of the area of which Massaga and Aornos were the important centers, or to some other influential ruling Ashvaka family of west of Indus. Obviously this was the only way in which Alexander could get support of the entirely alien people.......the Macedonian conqueror did it in case of Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila and as also in case of Porus, the ruler of territories falling between Jhelum and Vipasa (Bias)".

It is very conspicuous that Shashigupta (Sisikottos) and Chandragupta (Sandrokotos) both names literally mean "moon-protected". "Shashi" part of Shashigupta has exactly the same meaning in Sanskrit as the "Chandra" part of Chandragupta—both mean "the moon". Thus, the two names are exact synonyms.[17] Scholars say that it is not an uncommon practice in India to substitute one's given name with a synonym.[18] Thus, it appears very likely, as many scholars believe, that Chandragupta may have been an alternative name for Shashigupta and both names essentially refer to same individual. This view is further reinforced if we compare the early lives of Shashigupta and Chandragupta. Both men are equally remarkable, both are military adventurers par excellence, both are rebellious and opportunists, both are equally ambitious, both are far-sighted and shrewd statesmen, and lastly but more importantly, both emerge in history precisely at the same time and at the same place in north-west India. Plutarch's classic statement that Andrakottos had met Alexander in his youth days [19] probably alludes to the years when Sisikottos had gone to help Iranians against Alexander at Bactria in 329 BCE. J. W. McCrindle concludes from Plutarch's statement that Chandragupta was native of Punjab rather than Magadha.[20] Appian's statement: "And having crossed Indus, Seleucus warred with Androkottos, the king of the Indians, who dwelt about that river (the Indus)" [21] clearly shows that Chandragupta was initially a ruler of Indus country.[22] Scholars like Dr H. C. Seth and Dr H. R. Gupta term this evidence from Appian as worthy of greatest consideration which other scholars appear to have taken lightly.[23] It was only after Chandragupta's war with Seleucus which took place in 305 BCE [24] and the defeat of the latter that Chandragupta appears to have shifted his capital and residence from north-west to Pataliputra—which was also the political headquarters of the regime he had succeeded to.

Dr Seth concludes: "If Chandragupta is identical to Shashigupta, then we find no difficulty in assuming that he indeed belonged to the Kshatriya clan of the Ashvakas whose influence extended from the Hindukush to eastern Punjab at the time of Alexander's invasion. With Mauryan conquest of other parts of India, these Ashvakas settled in other parts of India as well. From Buddhist literature, we also read of southern Ashvakas (or Assakas or Asmakas) on the bank of river Godavary in Trans-Vindhya country. The Ashvakas are said to have belonged the great Lunar dynasty..... In the region lying between Hindukush and Indus, Alexander received terrible resistance from the Kshatriya tribe called Ashvakas"".[25]

Some scholars believe that the insurgency against the Greek rule in north-west had first started probably in lower Indus.[26] If this is true, then Moeris of Patala may indeed have been the pioneer in this revolution and he may be assumed to be the same person as Meroes of north-west i.e. Chandragupta Maurya,[27] alternatively known also as Shashigupta [28] originally a native of the Swat/Kunar valleys west of Indus. Other scholars like Dr B. M. Barua, Dr H. C. Seth etc. also identify Shashigupta with Chandragupta. As noted above, Dr J. W. McCrindle calls Chandragupta a native of Panjab.[29] American archaeologist David B. Spooner thinks that Chandragupta was an Iranian who had established a dynasty in Magadha.[30] Based on the classical evidence, Dr H. R. Gupta thinks that Chandragupta as well as Shashigupta both belonged to northwest frontiers and both, perhaps belonged to two different sections of the Ashvaka Kshatriyas.[31][32][33] Dr Chandra Chakravarti also relates Shashigupta and Chandragupta to northwest frontiers and states that Shashigupta belonged to Malkand whereas Chandragupta Maurya was a ruler of Ujjanaka or Uddyana (Swat) territory of the Ashvakas.[34]

Ch 5.18: Losses of the combatants.— Porus surrenders.

Arrian[35] writes.... At the same time Craterus and the other officers of Alexander’s army who had been left behind on the bank of the Hydaspes crossed the river, when they perceived that Alexander was winning a brilliant victory. These men, being fresh, followed up the pursuit instead of Alexander’s exhausted troops, and made no less a slaughter of the Indians in their retreat. Of the Indians little short of 20,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry were killed in this battle.1 All their chariots were broken to pieces; and two sons of Porus were slain, as were also Spitaces, the governor of the Indians of that district, the managers of the elephants and of the chariots, and all the cavalry officers and generals of Porus’s army. All the elephants which were not killed there, were captured. Of Alexander’s forces, about 80 of the 6,000 foot-soldiers who were engaged in the first attack were killed,; 10 of the horse-archers, who were also the first to engage in the action; about 20 of the Companion cavalry, and about 200 of the other horsemen fell2. When Porus, who exhibited great talent in the battle, performing the deeds not only of a general but also of a valiant soldier, observed the slaughter of his cavalry, and some of his elephants lying dead, others destitute of keepers straying about in a forlorn condition, while most of his infantry had perished, he did not depart as Darius the Great King did, setting an example of flight to his men; but as long as any body of Indians remained compact in the battle, he kept up the struggle. But at last, having received a wound on the right shoulder, which part of his body alone was unprotected during the battle, he wheeled round. His coat of mail warded off the missiles from the rest of his body, being extraordinary both for its strength and the close fitting of its joints, as it was afterwards possible for those who saw him to observe. Then indeed he turned his elephant round and began to retire. Alexander, having seen that he was a great man and valiant in the battle, was very desirous of saving his life. He accordingly sent first to him Taxiles the Indian ; who rode up as near to the elephant which was carrying Porus as seemed to him safe, and bade him stop the beast, assuring him that it was no longer possible for him to flee, and bidding him listen to Alexander’s message. But when he saw his old foe Taxiles, he wheeled round and was preparing to strike him with a javelin; and perhaps he would have killed him, if he had not quickly driven his horse forward out of the reach of Porus before he could strike him. But not even on this account was Alexander angry with Porus; but he kept on sending others in succession; and last of all Meroës an Indian, because he ascertained that he was an old friend of Porus. As soon as the latter heard the message brought to him by Meroës, being at the same time overcome by thirst, he stopped his elephant and dismounted from it. After he had drunk some water and felt refreshed, he ordered Meroës to lead him without delay to Alexander; and Meroës led him thither.3


1. Diodorus (xvii. 89) says that more than 12,000 Indians were killed in this battle, over 9,000 being captured, besides 80 elephants.

2. According to Diodorus there fell of the Macedonians 280 cavalry and more than 700 infantry. Plutarch (Alex. 60) says that the battle lasted eight hours.

3. Curtius (viii. 50, 51) represents Porus sinking half dead, and being protected to the last by his faithful elephant. Diodorus (xvii. 88) agrees with him

p.293-295

Ch 5.19: Alliance with Porus.— death of Bucephalas

Arrian[36] writes.... When Alexander heard that Meroës was bringing Porus to him, he rode in front of the line with a few of the Companions to meet Porus; and stopping his horse, he admired his handsome figure and his stature,[1] which reached somewhat above five cubits. He was also surprised that he did not seem to be cowed in spirit,[2] but advanced to meet him as one brave man would meet another brave man, after having gallantly struggled in defence of his own kingdom against another king. Then indeed Alexander was the first to speak, bidding him say what treatment he would like to receive. The report goes that Porus replied: "Treat me, Alexander, in a kingly way!" Alexander being pleased at the expression, said: "For my own sake, Porus, thou shalt be thus treated; but for thy own sake do thou demand what is pleasing to thee!" But Porus said that everything was included in that, Alexander, being still more pleased at this remark, not only granted him the rule over his own Indians, but also added another country to that which he had before, of larger extent than the former.[3] Thus he treated the brave man in a kingly way, and from that time found him faithful in all things. Such was the result of Alexander's battle with Porus and the Indians living beyond the river Hydaspes, which was fought in the archonship of Hegemon at Athens, in the month Munychion[4] (18 April to 18 May, 326 B.C.).

Alexander founded two cities, one where the battle took place, and the other on the spot whence he started to cross the river Hydaspes; the former he named Nicaea,[5] after his victory over the Indians, and the latter Bucephala in memory of his horse Bucephalas, which died there, not from having been wounded by any one, but from the effects of toil and old age; for he was about thirty years old, and quite worn out with toil.[6] This Bucephalas had shared many hardships and incurred many dangers with Alexander during many years, being ridden by none but the king, because he rejected all other riders. He was both of unusual size and generous in mettle. The head of an ox had been engraved upon him as a distinguishing mark, and according to some this was the reason why he bore that name; but others say, that though he was black he had a white mark upon his head which bore a great resemblance to the head of an ox. In the land of the Uxians this horse vanished from Alexander, who thereupon sent a proclamation throughout the country that he would kill all the inhabitants, unless they brought the horse back to him. As a result of this proclamation it was immediately brought back. So great was Alexander's attachment to the horse, and so great was the fear of Alexander entertained by the barbarians.[7] Let so much honour be paid by me to this Bucephalas for the sake of his master.


1. Cf. Curtius, viii. 44; Justin, xii. 8.

2. Cf. Arrian, ii. 10 supra. δεουλωμένος τη γνωμη. The Scholiast on Thucydides iv. 34, explains this by τεταπεινωμένος φοβω.

3. Cf. Plutarch (Alex., 60); Curtius, viii. 51.

4. Diodorus (xvii. 87) says that the battle was fought in the archonship of Chremes at Athens.

5. Nicaea is supposed to be Mong and Bucephala may be Jelalpur. See Strabo, xv. 1.

6. Cf. Plutarch (Alex., 61). Schmieder says that Alexander could not have broken in the horse before he was sixteen years old. But since at this time he was in his twenty-ninth year he would have had him thirteen years. Consequently the horse must have been at least seventeen years old when he acquired him. Can any one believe this? Yet Plutarch also states that the horse was thirty years old at his death.

7. Curtius (vl. 17) says this occurred in the land of the Mardians; whereas Plutarch (Alex., 44) says it happened in Hyrcania.

p.295-298

External links

Se also

References

  1. The Anabasis of Alexander/5b, Ch.18,19.
  2. The Anabasis of Alexander/5b, Ch.18,19.
  3. The Anabasis of Alexander/5b, Ch.18,19.
  4. Historiae Alexandri Magni, ix,8,29
  5. Historiae Alexandri Magni, ix,8,29
  6. History and study of the Jats/Chapter 2,p.42
  7. Arrian (95-175 A.D.), Anabasis of Alexander, Translated by E.I. Robson, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1966, pp. 37, 59, 69-72, 131, 139 (Vol. II).
  8. Sinha, B.C., Studies in Alexander's Campaigns, Bhartiya Publishing House, Varanasi, India, 1973, pp. 35-36, 40.
  9. Gupta, H.R., Chandragupta Maurya: A Native of Punjab, in Punjab Past and Present: Essays in Honour of Dr. Ganda Singh, edited by H. Singh and N. Gerald Barrier, Published by the Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, 1976, pp. 27-32.
  10. Arrian Anabasis, 1893, Book 5b, Ch xviii,, E. J. Chinnock; The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, 1896, pp 108, 109, Dr John Watson M'Crindle; Political and Social Movements in Ancient Panjab, 1964, p 172, Dr Buddha Prakash.
  11. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1936, p 164, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute - Indo-Aryan philology, Dr H. C. Seth; The Indian Historical Quarterly, 1963, p 673, India; Punjab History Conference, Second Session, October 28–30, 1966, Punjabi University Patiala, pp 32-35, Dr H. R. Gupta; The Indian Review, 1937, p 814, edited by G.A. Natesan - India.
  12. Age of Nandas, and Mauryas, 1967, p 427, K. A. Nilakanta Sastri; Maurajya Samarajya Samsakrik Itihasa, 1972, B. P. Panthar; Alexander's Campaigns in Sind and Baluchistan and the Siege of the Brahminabad, 1975, p 26, Pierre Herman Leonard Eggermont; Indological Studies, 1977, p 100, University of Sindh, Institute of Sindhology.
  13. Arrian's Anabasis, Book 5b, Ch xx.
  14. Historiae Alexandri Magni, ix,8,29
  15. Arrian's Anabasis, Book 5b, Ch xx
  16. Historiae Alexandri Magni, ix,8,29.
  17. Chandragupta Maurya, 1969, p 8, Lallanji Gopal; The Indian Historical Quarterly, v.13, 1937, p 361; The Indian Review, 1937, p 814, edited by G.A. Natesan.
  18. Did Candragupta Maurya belong to North-Western India?, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1936, p 163, Dr S. C. Seth; Was Chandragupta Maurya a Punjabi?, Punjab History Conference, Second Session, Oct 28-30, 1966, Punjabi University Patiala, p 32, Dr H. R. Gupta
  19. Plutarch's Life of Alexander, Chapter LXII; The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, 1896, p 311, John Watson M'Crindle.
  20. The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, 1896, p 405, John Watson M'Crindle .
  21. Appian's Roman History, XI.55 .
  22. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona,1936, Vol xviii, part 2, pp 161, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Dr H. C. Seth.
  23. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona,1936, Vol xviii, part 2, pp 161, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Dr H. C. Seth.
  24. The Cambridge History of India, 1962, p 424, Edward James Rapson, Wolseley Haig, Richard Burn, Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler, Henry Dodwell; The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, 1910, p 839, Edited by Hugh Chisholm; A History of Asia, 1964, p 149, Woodbridge Bingham - Asia History; Chronology of World History, 1975, p 69, G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville.
  25. Did Candragupta Maurya belong to North-Western India?, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1936, Vol xviii, part 2, pp 158-164, Dr S. C. Seth.
  26. Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 236, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury.
  27. Studies in Indian History and Civilization, 1962, p 133, D Buddha Prakash; Studies in Alexander's Campaigns, 1973, p 40, Binod Chandra Sinha.
  28. Poisoning of Alexander ( part 2 ), Newsfinder, History section, Dr Ratanjit Pal.
  29. The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, 1896, p 405, John Watson M'Crindle
  30. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1915, Part I, p 406, Part II, pp 416-17.
  31. Was Chandragupta Maurya a Punjabi?, Punjab History Conference, Second Session, Oct 28-30, 1966, Punjabi University Patiala, p 32-35, Dr H. R. Gupta.
  32. Punjab revisited: an anthology of 70 research documents on the history and culture of undivided Punjab, 1995, Ahmad Saleem - History.
  33. Punjab past and present: essays in honour of Dr. Ganda Singh, 1976, p 28, Ganda Singh - History.
  34. The Racial History of Ancient India, 1944, p 814, Chandra Chakraberty.
  35. The Anabasis of Alexander/5b, Ch.18
  36. The Anabasis of Alexander/5b, Ch.19