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Battle of the Hydaspes

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To answer this question let me tell you the story of the Battle of the Hydaspes. In 326 BC the forces of Alexander the Great and King Porus were to clash, a battle which would decide the fate of the region Punjab. As Alexander wanted to increase his territory his eye fell on India, where he began his campaign in 327 BC. After a few decisive victories he would have to face one final opponent who would prove to be stronger and smarter than any he had ever fought.

As Alexander was marching through India King Porus had flanked him. Alexander knew that he could not leave this dangerous opponent hiding in the jungle of India and prepared for a confrontation. Alexander set up his camp near the town of Jhelum on the right banks of the river. Porus drew up on the south bank of the Jhelum River to discourage Alexander to cross the river. Both sides knew that a direct crossing of the river would cost them the war. Alexander paced up and down the river banks each night until he came up with a cunning plan.

His plan was to use a suitable crossing, about 27 km upstream of his camp. This is where he would lead his troops across. He landed on another island, causing his troops to wade across to the same island as King Porus. His plan was a classic pincer maneuver. He would eventually attack Indian cavalry flanking each side of Porus’ main force from the right. To keep Porus unaware of the river’ crossing Alexander devised many traps which would keep Porus occupied. Firstly Porus was kept continuously on the move until he decided it was a bluff and relaxed. Secondly every visit to the site of the crossing, Alexander made a detour inland to stay in secrecy. Furthermore it was reported that there was an Alexander look-alike who held sway in a mock royal tent near the base.

The Battle

When King Porus realised what had happened he decided to charge on Alexander’s crossed cavalry thinking he outnumbered them. The Macedonian heavy infantry phalanx were outnumbered 1:5 against the Indian infantry. The Indian infantry still suffered setbacks due to the reach of the enemy’s longer sarissas and being light to unarmored on the torso. The other part of Alexander’s army crossed the river for a frontal encounter with the war elephants of Porus’ army. Alexander commenced the battle by sending his Scythian hired horse archers to shower the Indian right cavalry wing. His armored Companion Cavalry was sent to the outnumbered Indian left cavalry with him leading the charge himself. The rest of the Indian cavalry galloped to their hard pressed kinsmen on the right wing but at this moment, Coenus’s cavalry contingent appeared on the Indian rear. The Indians tried to form a double phalanx, but the necessary complicated maneuvers brought even more confusion into their ranks making it easier for the Macedonian horse to conquer.

Alexander, destroying Porus’ right flank circled around to Porus’ left flank launching a mass attack against Porus’s left flank. Alexander surmised correctly that Porus would be forced to move cavalry on the right wing across to the left. Alexander foresaw this and placed his cavalry, under the command of Coenus, opposite of them and out of sight. Their job was to break cover and follow the Indian cavalry, which forced the Indians to go forward, right into Craterus. Arrian states that 12,000 Indians and 80 elephants died in this mass pincer movement. As Porus’ defenses fell he knew the battle was lost but was determined to fight up until the bitter end. Alexander gained control of the Punjab region and added another piece to his already great empire. If you do not believe that this was a very smart and knowledgeable man I don’t know what does.

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