Alexander's plans for Arabia

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Semiramis
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Alexander's plans for Arabia

Post by Semiramis » Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:33 pm

Hey guys,

Please can you tell me about Alexander's plans to conquer Arabia before the beautiful Hephaestion broke his heart? The building of ships? Frankincense? Myrrh? Is this only in Arrian or other sources also? What was the exact term used to describe the area or its inhabitants?

Thanks heaps in advance.

Alexias
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Re: Alexander's plans for Arabia

Post by Alexias » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:24 am

I think the main reason for conquering Arabia was to secure the southern Persian Gulf coast to open up trade with India. The mouth of the Euphrates was still open to sea-going ships and would have brought trade into the heart of Persia. The conquest of Arabia had probably been planned since the march back from India when Alexander's original plan had been to march along the northern coast, so he was obviously thinking about trade routes then.

Trade was the reason Hephaestion had built Patala at the delta of the Indus. The northern coast of the Gulf had proved difficult so in conquering Arabia, Alexander would have been considering the southern coast. He would also have had plans to open up the Red Sea route to trade with Egypt.

Edited to correct Persian Gulf, not Red Sea

Semiramis
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Re: Alexander's plans for Arabia

Post by Semiramis » Tue Jun 07, 2016 1:08 am

Thank you so much Alexias.

That gives me the strategic background. The Coastal inhabitants (Modern Yemen etc.) were famous for trade with India, Africa and South East Asia among other lands.

I think in-land Bedouins would've been difficult to conquer. Similar to the the northern Caucasus semi-nomadic tribes that had resisted the Great Kings for centuries.

What exact terms do the sources use to identify the areas or inhabitants? What we in the modern day would call the Hejaz? Are any differences made between the coastal and inner lands?

Thanks again guys for your help.

Semiramis
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Re: Alexander's plans for Arabia

Post by Semiramis » Tue Jun 07, 2016 3:47 am

As an aside, Patala is a much more ancient city than Hephaestion. He may have created an alliance or developed a port at most.

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amyntoros
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Re: Alexander's plans for Arabia

Post by amyntoros » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:08 am

Try The Voyage around the Erythraean Sea for information on goods and places of trade in ancient Arabia. The work was written around the first century CE and therefore some of the goods (and places?) were possibly not available in Alexander's time. Nevertheless, I think the info on incense might be helpful to you.

As far as I can tell, the info on Arabia begins at section 20 and runs through section 32. A Roman map of Arabia or a modern one showing ancient place names would be useful in putting together the larger picture regarding coastal and inland areas and inhabitants.

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sean_m
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Re: Alexander's plans for Arabia

Post by sean_m » Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:27 am

Semiramis wrote:Hey guys,

Please can you tell me about Alexander's plans to conquer Arabia before the beautiful Hephaestion broke his heart? The building of ships? Frankincense? Myrrh? Is this only in Arrian or other sources also? What was the exact term used to describe the area or its inhabitants?

Thanks heaps in advance.
I get the impression that the Aramaic and Babylonian (later Greek and Latin) term Arab/Arabia in the first millennium started out as the equivalent of Habiru in the second; a term for all the people who wandered about the dry country on the edge of civilization (sort of like our word Bedouin). But the meanings of terms change, and some of our sources (say Curtius Rufus) have enthusiastically updated the names of lands and peoples in their sources to be more familiar to their readers. Herodotus used the term for people living near Buto in the western part of the Nile Delta, and for the people living far to the south of the Arabian Peninsula where the cinnamon trees and gum trees grew (3.107-112).

Because of my background, I can't but think of the campaigns of Nabonidus/Nabû-naˀid (“Nabu is taking care”) in western Arabia in the sixth century BCE. So far it appears that the Persians did not repeat this idea, but they considered the Arabs to be their subjects, and we really do not know how far into the desert their power extended. There is also a campaign by some of the Successors against the Natabaeans in Diodorus.

There is an article by Robert Rollinger, “Griechische Spezialisten im alten Vorderasien, oder: Alexander der Große und die altorientalische Tradition” which looks at Neo-Assyrian kings who brought specialists from Yauna and Phoenicia to Babylon to build a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf. This is important, because like the kings before him, Alexander liked to find out how far earlier kings had gone, go a little bit farther, put up a monument and turn around (he did that on the Danube, in Egypt, on the Oxus, and in India). So the more precedents he had, the more likely Alexander was to have thought that conquering Arabia was a good idea.

If he had really wanted to conquer somewhere that nobody had ever heard of, he could always have found someone to say that Herakles had gone there and used that as his precedent, but he did not use that excuse to march deep into unknown lands across the Danube or up the Nile or beyond the Oxus or in India. He chose to campaign in places where Cyrus or Darius had already campaigned.
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