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Battle of Two Giants (Historical Fiction)

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Battle of Two Giants




Statue of Alexander in Istanbul Archaeology Museum.


The sun shines brightly on the clear blue morning sky and a cool wind is blowing. The sound of the raging water of the Hydaspes river flowing can be heard all over the Greek camp. The air is moist. A 44 years old man walks towards King Alexander's tent. The ground upon which he walks is filled with low green grass. As he walks, he can see soldiers drinking, others chatting and other playing with dices lucky games.


The majority of the soldiers wear a Phrygian caps, which have a high and forward-projecting apex, and a body armour called "linothorax", which is a cuirass of stiff linen built up of glued or stitched layers of textile. It is composed of the 'girdle', a tubular section of four vertical panels, that encloses the torso. A shoulder-piece is attached to the upper rear section of the girdle, and this element is split into two wings which are pulled forward over the top of each shoulder and laced to the chest-section of the girdle. Pteruges, strips of linen or leather, protect the upper arms and hips of the wearer.




Buste of Attis as a child, wearing the Phrygian cap. Parian marble, 2nd century AD, probably during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.


The man who is walking is Craterus, the son of a Macedonian nobleman named Alexander from Orestis and brother of admiral Amphoterus. Craterus commanded the phalanx and all infantry on the left wing in the Battle of Issus. In Hyrcania, he was sent on a mission against the Tapurians, his first independent command with the Macedonian army. Craterus is a very able man and a quite capable military commander, so King Alexander has entrusted him with great responsibilities. A middle-aged man now, he has brown beard and mustache, but he remains muscular and physically fit. He wears a muscle cuirass, which is made entirely of plate bronze consisting of a breast and backplate, with shoulder pieces.


After walking for almost five minutes, he finally reaches King Alexander's tent. The tent is guarded by six soldiers, all very tall and strong and armed with swords and spears. "Craterus wishes to see the King.", he says and one of the guards immediately rushes into the tent to inform the King. Only a few second pass, and the guard gets out of the tent and shouts: "Craterus can come inside the tent and see the King!"


Craterus enters the tent and says: "Greetings, my King". King Alexander stares at a map which is laid upon a wooden table and examines it closely, so when he greets Craterus by saying "Good morning.", he does not even look at him. Alexander is a relative young man, only 30 years old. His beard is scanty and he is somewhat short. However, his face has a fair color and he is strong and handsome. Alexander wears an elaborate helmet in the form of the lion scalp of Herakles, and a complete cuirass of plate iron, decorated with gold and modeled on the form of the linothorax.




Alexander's beard is scanty and he is somewhat short, but his face has a fair color and he is strong and handsome.


The map which Alexander III of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt and Lord of Asia, looks at depicts the Hydaspes river and was made by a combined effort of his scouts, mainly cavalry, local civilians and information given by Prince Taxiles, Governor of the city of Taxila and an ally of Alexander.


"Your Majesty, the river is too deep and fast for us to cross.", Craterus informs the King.


"I know."


Alexander does not even look at Craterus when he replies and continues examining the map. He seems to be in deep thought.


"I propose, your Majesty, that we camp on the banks of the river until Autumn, when the water will not be as deep and fast and we can have a fair chance of crossing the river."


Alexander does not reply and stays silent for almost a whole minute. He just examines the map and keeps thinking, without looking at all at Craterus, who has to silently and patiently wait. Looking at his King, Craterus cannot help but think: "What will he think again? Maybe he prepares a second Issus?". Alexander has gained the admiration of all his soldiers and the fame of a military genius thanks to his spectacular and against all odds victories against the Persian Empire, the largest Empire the world had ever seen.




"Alexander fighting king Darius III of Persia", Alexander Mosaic, Naples National Archaeological Museum.


After a whole minute, Alexander finally looks at Craterus and says: "Hey, Craterus, how did you manage to learn how to go into battle without fear?"


Craterus is puzzled. "What has this to do with the upcoming battle against King Porus?". Nevertheless, he must reply since his King asks him to do so. "Your Majesty, when I first went into battle, I was very afraid. The second time I went into battle, because I now had some experience, I became less afraid. On my tenth battle, I got so much used in fighting, that I was not afraid at all."




Craterus becomes even more puzzled. "I am sorry, your Majesty, but I am too stupid to understand what you mean."


"If Porus gets used in the sound of our army moving, he will not be worried about it anymore!"


Craterus, who has seen much fighting in his life, immediately understands what his King means.


"Craterus, firstly make sure that Porus learns that I plan to camp here until Autumn, when the water will not be as deep and fast. Secondly, move up and down our mounted troops every night for ten nights."


"I shall follow your orders, your Majesty!"




General Yadu of Porus.


On the South bank of Hydaspes, a 36 years old Indian tanned man with dark complexion, a sturdy stature and with a black mustache and no traces at all of beard, walks towards King Porus' tent. The Indian man wears simple orange trousers and cape and a richly decorated belt. A long and thin sword is hanging from his waist. His torso is naked, showing his strong and muscular body. He wears a golden helmet upon his long black hair that shines on the clear blue and sunny sky. His golden helmet and his lavish belt show that this man must be very important in the Indian army of King Porus. And indeed he is a very important man. He is Yadu, King Porus' best and most trusted General.


General Yadu walks with fast movement towards King Porus' tent and soon reaches it. There, he finds four soldiers, who wear simple trousers, have their torso naked and hold swords on their hands, guarding the tent. The soldiers bow slightly before the General and allow him to enter inside the tent. Upon seeing Yadu, King Porus approaches him and says with a loud voice: "Good morning, my friend."


King Porus is a strong and relative handsome man with fair skin, at least compared to most of his men, a black mustache and long black hair. He wears a gilt breastplate, which is very richly decorated and has several Indian symbols carved upon it, a golden crown decorated with tens of gems, a golden belt and yellow trousers. Even his shoes are gilt.




King Porus with his gilt breastplate. He is a strong and handsome man.


General Yadu bows slightly before his King and says: "Good morning, your Majesty."


"What news do you have?"


Yadu laughs for a few second before saying: "How did you know that I have news?"


"You never come to see me during battle, unless there is something important to report. You mostly spend your time encouraging and training the soldiers."


"You are right, my King. There is something I have to report. My spies have got information that Alexander and his army shall camp on the banks of the river until Autumn, when the river becomes less fast and deep."


"It seems quite logical to me. I expected this. This Alexander is a quite skilled General and not a madman. Because only a madman would dare to cross the river now. The few shallow crossings on the river are heavily guarded by my men and our elephants will scare their horses if they dare to try and cross the river with their mounted forces. By the way, have your spies and scouts managed to estimate the size of the enemy forces?"


"Yes. According to my sources, this Alexander has 40,000 of his own men, both infantry and cavalry, and 5,000 Indian soldiers from his ally, that bastard Prince Taxiles, compared to our own 50,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, 200 elephants and 1,000 chariots. Also, we have 4,000 cavalry and 200 chariots from your brother."


"Good. We shall crush those Greeks! Hydaspes forms a natural wall between our two armies and I will use this wall to the maximum effect. They say that this young Alexander has been undefeated. But now, I shall teach him what defeat is!"




War Elephants are the elite forces of King Porus, as they are antiquity's "Tanks" and can scare Alexander's horses.


The same night, Craterus follows Alexander's orders and moves the entire Greek cavalry up and down. This causes much noise and alerts Porus' soldiers. General Yadu rushes into King Porus' tent to ask for instructions. When he enters the tent, Porus is yawning. It seems that he was sleeping and the noise awaken him. Yadu bows before Porus and shouts: "General Yadu awaits orders from his Majesty!"


"Gather all our cavalry and follow the movements of the Greek cavalry. We must not allow them to cross the river."


"I will follow you orders, my King!"


Yadu runs out of the tent and instructs the royal messengers to beat the war drums, thus calling the army to prepare for battle. The sound of war drums is terrible and creates an atmosphere of battle. Indian soldiers, many of whom are awake and sit half-asleep besides fires, prepare themselves for battle as quickly as they can. They prepare their weapons and rush towards their units.


Yadu follows his King's instructions and has his cavalry to follow the movement of the Greeks. As the Greeks move up and down, the Indians also move up and down. This continues for the whole night. For the next ten days, the same thing happens again and again. The Greek army moves up and down the river and the Indians follow suit.




The Greek Cavalry moves up and down the Hydaspes river.


On the afternoon of the eleventh day, General Yadu goes to Porus' tent and, after bowing, informs him of his opinion about the Greek movements.


"Your Majesty, in my opinion, the Greeks are just searching for shallow crossings to cross in Autumn. I do not believe that they will cross the river now. So, I say that we only leave the usual number of guards to guard the crossings and stop moving our entire army again and again up and down every night, because the only thing we manage is to tire ourselves and make us seem like fools before those damn Greeks."


King Porus thinks silently for a few minutes, but he finally comes to the conclusion that General Yadu's advise is wise and should be implemented. They should not overtire their army for no reason, otherwise they may risk losing the battle because of tiredness or ever take the risk of a mutiny. So, he agrees: "I agree with your proposal."


Yadu leaves his King's tent happy that his proposal has been accepted. Meanwhile, Craterus also enters his King's tent to inform him about the situation.


"Your Majesty, during my moving of the army up and down, I found a shallow crossing. We could cross the river there."


"Good. You have done a good job.", King Alexander replies. "Move up and down the army again today and report to me the behavior of the Indian army."


"I will, sir!"


Craterus moves again up and down his army that night, but the Indians do not follow his movement. Instead, only a few guards watch the Macedonians. When Craterus informs Alexander about this, he cannot hide his happiness. Laughing hard, he shouts "Tonight, we shall cross the river and crush Porus!"


Indeed, that night Alexander personally leads 5,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry towards the location pointed by Craterus as being shallow. Craterus remains back to the camp with most of the army. As Alexander and his army march forward, a storm begins and rain pours over them. Thunders shake the night sky and conceal the movement of Alexander's army. On the middle of the marching, Alexander leaves behind Meleager with 1,500 troops, both infantry and cavalry. He then continues the march.




The Macedonian Phalanx, the main infantry unit of the Macedonian Army.


When the Greek soldiers see the raging waters of Hydaspes, combined with the wild storm and the heavy rain, they become a bit frightened. Crossing the river is very dangerous, and if discovered by the Indian army, the Greek army is sure to be crushed. However, Alexander is confident, firstly because his deception plan has made sure that the Indians are not able to react in time. Secondly, because the storm, while making the crossing of the river a bit more difficult, also helps them since the sound of the thunders shaking the sky covers the noise of the Macedonian Army marching and also because the heavy rain limits the visibility of the Indian guards. Thirdly, Alexander had already planned about this scenario, and so he has ready skin floats filled with hay.


His soldiers use those skin floats to cross the river. As the river is deep and fast, the water reaches the neck of the soldiers, and only their head remains out of the water. However, the Greek army is battle-hardened from all those years fighting the Persians and so a simple river is not able to stop them. Alexander himself has now problem at all crossing the river, as he is now in the peak of his physical fitness.


When Alexander lands on the ground, he lets out a deep breath and runs towards his officers. He passes through deep vegetation and tall exotic trees that hide the night sky. The thunders, however, light the entire place. As he runs, Alexander sees his soldiers laying on the ground and resting or preparing their weapons for the upcoming battle, depending on how physically tough each soldier is. Perdiccas, one of the officers leading the Companion Cavalry, seeing the King running towards him, bows before him and says "Greetings, your Highness."


"Perdiccas, do you have any news?"


Perdiccas is sweating, despite the cold weather, and looks somewhat scared. When he hears those words of Alexander, his face becomes as white as ashen. Why would this middle-aged thin officer with the long black beard and hair be so scared?


"What is it?", Alexander asks, suspicious about Perdiccas' behavior.


"Your Majesty, we....we....we actually landed on an island in the middle of Hydaspes, not on the other side of the river."


Alexander becomes pale and shouts "What?!". This could spell disaster for the young Greek King. He would have to organize quickly an other crossing, which will be as difficult as the first one, before the Indians realize what is happening. Also, because of the very deep and fast water of the river, even the most battle-hardened Macedonians are tired. Will he be able to encourage them to cross again the raging water of Hydaspes and face the huge Indian army of King Porus?




Alexander passes through deep vegetation and tall exotic trees that hide the night sky. The thunders, however, light the entire place.


Alexander, Perdiccas and the other Greek officers try to motivate the Greek soldiers to make an other great effort to cross the river. Skin floats are prepared again and soon the soldiers cross once again the deep and fast water of the Hydaspes river. This time, however, the water is even deeper and now even the head of most soldiers is covered with water. The Persian troops of the Greek Army, mainly those from Bactria and Sogdia, are those who face the most difficulties, as most of them are not experienced in crossing deep rivers and are not good swimmers. However, with some help from their Greek comrades, they are able to make it.


Once the Greek Army crosses the river, all the soldiers are exhausted. Alexander lets his soldiers rest for a few minutes, while he himself leads a small number of Bactrian and Sogdian horse archers to scout the enemy army. Alexander gallops forward with a tall and thin black horse, his favorite horse, Bucephalus. Although old now, Bucephalus is nevertheless strong and accompanies his master to the battle.


As the horse archers gallop forward, they meet some Indian guards, who are startled to see that their enemy has managed to cross the river. Alexander quickly orders his men to fire their arrows at the unfortunate men. The horse archers of Alexander are some of the best in the world. They are all real nomads, who lived by herding and looting in the desert regions of Afghanistan before joining the Greeks. Each one of them, even the youngest, is an expert horseman and archer. Even when they were kids, they first learned how to ride horses and shoot arrows while on horseback and then how to speak.


So, with such excellent horse archers, how could the surprised and unprepared Indian guards stand a chance? The arrows penetrate the bodies of the Indians and blood is spilled out of the bodies and flies in the air. The shouts of dying men covers the battlefield. Some of the Indians try to run away, but the nomadic horsemen of Alexander kill them with ease with their arrows, which are able to kill even the furthest targets.




The Bactrian and Sogdian horse archers chase after the Indian guards.


However, one of the Indian guards manages to escape the Greek horse archers and informs General Yadu of Alexander's crossing of the Hydaspes river. The Indian General quickly rushes into King Porus' tent and, after informing him of the situation, he bows before him and, with tears in his eyes, says: "I deserve death my King! Please kill me! Because of me, the Greeks were able to cross the river. I deserve death!!"


"No! You have made too much contribution to be killed over a small mistake. Not to say that if one needs to be punished, then that should be me. Because, while you proposed that we lower our alertness, it was I who decided to implement your advice. If I was a wiser King, I would have refused to follow your proposal. So, it is mine, not yours, the fault."


"How could you say such a thing, my King? Of course you are a wise King. Because, most other Kings in your position would blame everything on their subordinates and refuse to acknowledge that they have made any mistakes, but you not only show kindness and mercy to me, but you also reprimand yourself. That makes you a wise King and an example of how a King should lead his men. You are really a Saint - King."


Porus laughs for a few seconds and then replies: "We outnumber Alexander, so there is no reason for us to be afraid of him. I believe that we shall be able to defeat him. However, there is something that bothers me: is Alexander's force the main attacking force or is it just a small force to lure me to battle, so that the main Greek force in the Greek camp is able cross the river and outflank me? But if Alexander is indeed leading the main force, then he is just using the troops in the Greek camp to immobilize my army."


"I have a proposal, my King. Why do you not send your brother with some of his troops to attack Alexander? If Alexander is able to defeat him, then we will know that Alexander is leading the main force. If Alexander is defeated, then we will know that the main Greek force is in the Greek camp."


"Good! I shall follow your proposal."




Porus' brother leading Indian chariots against Alexander's army.


Porus' brother, a middle-aged mustached man, leads 2,000 cavalry and 120 chariots against Alexander. He himself rides a golden chariot decorated with tens of precious gems and pulled by four beautiful and strong white horses. The Indians approach the Greek army, but to their dismay, because the rain had turned the ground into mud, the chariots are not able to be used properly and only the cavalry launches an attack.


Agrianian peltasts, who wear no armor and carry only a light shield, stand by and wait for the enemy cavalry to come close enough. Then, they throw their javelins, aiming for the cavalrymen. Hundreds of cavalrymen are pierced by the javelins and die. Horse archers also attack the Indian cavalry with a storm of arrows. The attack is crushed before it even begins. Porus' brother himself is pierced by a javelin on the chest, vomits blood and dies. Without their leader, the few remaining Indians retreat. Especially the charioteers, who abandon their chariots to the mud and run for their lives. However, despite their best efforts to run away, they are easily killed by the peltasts and horse archers of Alexander. Alexander himself charges at the retreating enemies and slashes with his sword tens of them.


The screams of dying men fill the air and everywhere there are dismembered and pierced with either arrows or javelins bodies. The few Indian soldiers who survive the onslaught inform General Yadu of their crushing defeat and he, in turn, informs King Porus about the results of the battle. Porus is outrageous: "Dammit, my own brother was killed and almost the entire force I send was slaughtered!"


"But, my King, we have accomplished our mission.", Yadu, with a smile in his face, replies. "We now know that Alexander leads the main force and the the forces at the Greek camp are a secondary force. So, let us lead the majority of our army against the barbarians and crush them."


"Gather 4,000 cavalry, 300 chariots, 200 elephants and 30,000 infantry to lead against this Alexander. The rest will stay in the camp to make sure that the Greeks in the Greek Camp do not attempt to cross the river."




Agrianian peltast - modern reconstruction by Johnny Shumate


War Drums are once again beaten and the huge Indian army gathers for a final showdown with the enemy. Will the Indian army be able to face antiquity's greatest military force? Or shall they be crushed like the Persians in Issus and Gaugamela? Despite rumors about Greek invincibility, the morale of the Indian Army is relative high and the army marches quickly towards battle.


The Indians position their cavalry on both flanks and their center is compromised by infantry with elephants towering among or before them in equal intervals. At the same time, Alexander lets his army rest again and he scouts once more with the horse archers. The horse archers come close to the Indian formation and Alexander examines how Porus has positioned his troops. He is in deep thought for a few minutes, until he realizes that an Indian unit of archers fires arrows towards him.


Alexander quickly orders a retreat, as he only wants to scout the enemy forces, not attack them. The horse archers retreat but, like true nomads they are, they still shoot arrows while retreating, killing many Indian archers. General Yadu, who is riding a tall white horse, sees this and sighs. The battle has not started yet, but the Indians already have their first casualties. The Indians may outnumber Alexander, but Yadu knows that the Greeks are formidable opponents. Alexander positions his army and is soon ready for battle. The Battle of Hydaspes is about to begin


Alexander starts the battle by sending horse archers to shower the Indian left cavalry wing. The arrows of the horse archers decimate the Indian cavalry, which is outnumbered in both quality and quantity by the Greeks. Then, Alexander leads himself the charge against the weakened Indian wing with more than half of the Companion Cavalry. With his sword, the Macedonian King slays countless of his opponents.


The Greek Cavalry routs it's Indian counterpart and hundreds of Indians lie dead on the ground. Porus, seeing his left wing shaken, orders General Yadu to begin an all out offensive with all of the elephants against the Macedonian Phalanx. The Greeks are terrified to see the elephants, which are as tall as towers and destroy anything on their pass. At first, the elephants push aside the Phalanx and it looks like the Greek center will be crushed. However, Perdiccas orders his men to use their spears against the elephants' eyes. The Greeks indeed pierce the animal's eyes, causing the elephants to go crazy and run back towards their own formation, killing thousands of Indian soldiers.




Porus, seeing his left wing shaken, orders General Yadu to begin an all out offensive with all of the elephants against the Macedonian Phalanx.


At the same time, as the rest of the Indian cavalry gallops against Alexander to help their comrades, Coenus's cavalry contingent appears on the Indian rear. Coenus, son of Polemocrates and son-in-law of Parmenion, is one of Alexander's ablest officers. He has proved again and again his intelligence and valor, and his outflanking of the Indian Army, which causes panic among the Indians, shows his skills.


Perdiccas, seeing the confusion in the Indian ranks, takes the chance and leads the entire Macedonian infantry against the Indians. The Macedonian Phalanx, the unbeatable infantry unit invented by Phillip II of Macedon, father of Alexander, easily crushes the Indian infantry and the battle becomes a massacre. The Indians, against all odds, continue to fight bravely, but their bravery achieves nothing, except for causing them even more casualties.


Alexander, riding Bucephalus, charges against the Indian infantry all by himself and kills countless soldiers. Then, he suddenly sees an elephant charging against him. Instead of being frightened, he gallops with his old horse against the elephant and as the elephant rises on it's two feet and is ready to trample the young King, Alexander stabs thrice his sword on the animal's throat. The rider of the elephant loses his control over the beast and Alexander somersaults and jumps upon the animal's head. He then stabs with all of his power the elephant's head with his sword and, as the animal collapses on the ground, he jumps back onto his horse and gallops away.




Alexander, riding Bucephalus, charges against the Indian infantry all by himself and kills countless soldiers.


Alexander continues slaying enemy troops, until a spear suddenly pierces Bucephalus. The old horse spits blood and Alexander falls on the ground. Alexander roars in anger and cannot stop crying. The horse also cries. It tries to get up, but it can't. Finally, it vomits some more blood and dies. So, the horse that had accompanied Alexander since the age of 10, is now dead. Alexander lets loose an other roar, even more louder than the last one. This roar, which is like an angry lion's roar, can be heard all over the battlefield.


It is then when Alexander sees who the murderer is: General Yadu riding on his white horse. The Indian General charges against Alexander, but as the horse comes close to Alexander, he ducks down and chops the horse's legs. Yadu falls on the ground, but he quickly gets up and somersaults against Alexander, aiming with his sword at the young King's throat. Alexander's sword clashes with Yadu's and a great "clang" can be heard. The two men exchange 45 more moves, before Alexander can stab Yadu's right elbow, causing him to let off his sword. Alexander, then, tries to finish off Yadu, but he dodges the attack, somersaults, lands behind Alexander and kicks his back, causing him to also let off his sword.


So, the two men fight hand to hand. Alexander tries to kick Yadu, but he blocks the attacks using his elbows. He then tries to kick Alexander's head, the only part of his body that is not protected by armor, but Alexander grabs Yadu's leg and breaks it onto his right knee. Yadu cannot walk well, but he still manages to get up, after a great try. However, Alexander quickly grabs a sword he finds on the ground and throws at Yadu. The sword pierces Yadu's chest, killing him.


The battle continues for many more hours. Craterus, seeing the Indian army in complete disarray, crosses the river with the troops left in the Greek camp and outflanks the Indians. Despite the fact that thousands of Indians are dying and that he has lost the battle, Porus continues fighting his enemies. He rides on top of a war elephant and tramples as many Macedonians as he can. Whenever someone dares to ask him to surrender, whether Indian or Greek, he kills him by throwing a spear against him. However, he soon finds himself surrounded by hundreds of Greek soldiers.




Despite the fact that thousands of Indians are dying and that he has lost the battle, Porus continues fighting his enemies. He rides on top of a war elephant and tramples as many Macedonians as he can.


Finally, after many attacks by the Greeks, Porus' elephant is killed and it collapses on the ground. Porus, nevertheless, pulls out a sword and is ready to fight to the last. However, Alexander, seeing this and admiring his bravery, approaches him and politely asks him: "How do you want me to treat you?"


"Like a King!", Porus replies.


Alexander laughs for a few seconds and then asks again: "I was going to treat you like that anyway. Anything else you want?"


"Everything is summarized on my first request."


"Very well. You shall remain King and I shall also add new territories on your Kingdom."


So, Alexander and Porus become friends. Alexander has won the battle of Hydaspes, however the death toll is great: 1,000 Macedonians and 23,000 Indians died. But Alexander has managed to secure his flank and can now continue his Indian Campaign. His campaign, however, does not last long as his soldiers mutiny and force him to return back to Babylon, which is made capital of the Empire. Alexander dies on 11 June 323 BC, aged only 32.


Alexander's the Great Empire


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