They “do not remain there entirely of their own will”

The conference call on Arrian Book 4 & 5 in Andre’s group had an interesting “side topic” discussion on people left to provide a garrison for Alexander’s empire. I thought a post to continue that topic would be worthwhile since it seemed the discussion could have gone on longer.


Many times in Arrian’s text Alexander leaves mercenaries, injured soldiers, and trusted companions to man and control a city. During the soldiers’ revolt at the Hyphasis River, Koinos highlights the disappointment or resistance against this forced population (from 5.27.5): “Of the other Greeks, those who have been settled in the cities you founded do not remain there entirely of their own will”.


We’ll never know all of Alexander’s intentions when he left Macedon, especially including how far east he intended to go in subduing Asia. Arrian never gives us the reaction of the people left behind for these purposes. It’s clear the troops expected to return home at some point (if Koinos’ speech was representative of their feelings). One factor that muddies the water was Alexander’s disposal of most of the royal property before leaving Macedon. (Forgive me for including an outside source but I think it’s important in looking at the question on expectations of return.)  From Plutarch’s Life of Alexander (translation by John Dryden):

However narrow and disproportionable the beginnings of so vast an undertaking might seem to be, yet he would not embark his army until he had informed himself particularly what means his friends had to enable them to follow him, and supplied what they wanted, by giving good farms to some, a village to one, and the revenue of some hamlet or harbour-town to another. So that at last he had portioned out or engaged almost all the royal property; which giving Perdiccas an occasion to ask him what he would leave himself, he replied, his hopes. “Your soldiers,” replied Perdiccas, “will be your partners in those,” and refused to accept of the estate he had assigned him. Some others of his friends did the like, but to those who willingly received or desired assistance of him, he liberally granted it, as far as his patrimony in Macedonia would reach, the most part of which was spent in these donations.

There are several possible ways to spin this disposal in addition to the surface explanation of leaving finances in order before leaving, but it raises more questions than Plutarch provides answers. What’s your take on the forced garrisoning of cities by Alexander and the apparent ill will it provoked?


14. September 2011 by dwightgreen
Categories: Arrian-Alexander, Commentary | Tags: , | Comments Off on They “do not remain there entirely of their own will”