3
The Passage to India

THIRD SON OF ZEUS

In late spring or early summer of 327 Alexander once more crossed the Hindu Kush—his Caucasus—and passed into India. His first stop was in the recent foundation, Alexandria in Paropamisadai, where he tarried for long months.1 At this point he was met by a number of kinglets from the neighborhood. They showed great delight at his arrival, and congratulated him as the third son of Zeus who had come to visit them. Unlike his two predecessors, Dionysos and Herakles, known to them only from legend, he was there in person, to be seen and obeyed.2

The implications of their claim were far-reaching. As we have seen, the presence of Dionysos and Herakles in India was of paramount importance to Alexander and to many of the people around him. If any part of Greek mythology prior to Alexander had told of their journeys to this distant and wondrous land, it has not reached us.3 Herakles freed Prometheus from his shackles somewhere on the Hindu Kush, but for Alexander that was a recent discovery. Dionysos had visited Baktria, as everyone knew from Euripides, but the playwright never suggested that the God had visited India as well. It was thus crucial for the mythical perception of Alexander’s expedition that the earlier presence of other sons of Zeus was recognized so soon, and so clearly.

Yet to the modern reader, the allegations made by members of this reception committee may seem surprising. Certainly, they raise some difficult questions. For example: Where did the Indian rulers obtain this kind of exact information about Greek mythology in general and about Alexander’s affinities and preferences in particular? Why did they choose to act out this display of piety, when they had every reason to suppose that surrender and cooperation would be enough to ensure

-39-

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From Alexander to Jesus
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Hellenistic Culture and Society iv
  • Title Page vii
  • Contents x
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Son of Man, Son of God 9
  • 2 - In the Footsteps of Herakles 27
  • 3 - The Passage to India 39
  • 4 - Symbiosis 56
  • 5 - Amazon Queen 78
  • 6 - Post Mortem 87
  • 7 - Alexander and the End of Days 104
  • 8 - Alexander and Jesus 123
  • Conclusion 147
  • Appendix A - Alexander and David 151
  • Appendix B - Sacrifices and Other Religious Matters in the Alexander Histories 155
  • Appendix C - Alexander Alcoholicus 163
  • Notes 167
  • References 217
  • Index 233
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