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Curtius Rufus on the Hindu Kush

Quintus Curtius Rufus (†53 CE): Roman senator, author of an important History of Alexander the Great.

In the Spring of 329, Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush from Gandara to Bactria in order to pursue the Persian leader Bessus. The best description is that of the Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus, who based his account on earlier, Greek sources.

Section 7.4.20-25 of his History of Alexander the Great of Macedonia was translated by John Yardley.

Alexander in the Hindu Kush

[7.4.20] Bessus had an army of 8,000 Bactrians who faithfully carried out his orders as long as they thought their intemperate climate would make the Macedonians head for India but, when it was discovered that Alexander was approaching, they all slipped off to their villages and abandoned him.

[7.4.21] With a group of dependants who had not changed their allegiance, he crossed the river Oxus, burned the boats used for crossing to stop the enemy using them, and started levying fresh troops among the Sogdians.

[7.4.22] Alexander had already crossed the Caucasus, note [“Caucasus” is the Greek name for the Hindu Kush and Himalayas.] but grain shortages had brought the troops to the verge of starvation.

[7.4.23] The men rubbed their bodies with juice from pressed sesame in lieu of oil, though the cost of this juice was 240 drachmas per jar, and honey and wine respectively cost 390 and 300 drachmas. note [A drachm was a soldier’s daily wage.] As for wheat, there was none, or very little, to be found.

[7.4.24] (Their crops were hidden by the barbarians in what they called siri, so cunningly concealed that only the men who dug them could find them.) Lacking such provisions, the men survived on fresh-water fish and herbs

[7.4.25] and, when even those means of sustenance had run out, they were given orders to slaughter the pack-animals. They managed to stay alive on the meat from these until they reached the Bactrians.

This page was created in 2001; last modified on 15 July 2020.

Curtius Rufus on the Hindu Kush Quintus Curtius Rufus (†53 CE): Roman senator, author of an important History of Alexander the Great . In the Spring of 329, Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush

Across the Hindu Kush

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Title: Across the Hindu Kush (28 Jul 1998)

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Michael Wood makes his way through war-torn Afghanistan on a dramatic march with pack horses over the Hindu Kush Mountains. At Kabul, Michael finds himself in the middle of a siege of the city by the fundamentalist Taliban. Hiring horses for the camera equipment and armed guards to ward off ambushes, he sets off to follow Alexander’s trail, 20,000ft up in the Hindu Kush Mountains, to make it through the Khawak Pass and Central Asia. On the other side, the historical traveler stays with a local warlord before pushing on by jeep across the Oxus river into former Soviet Central Asia. The journey finally leads to the city of Khodjent. Here, Michael hears of Alexander’s increasingly unstable personality. At a drunken banquet in Samarkand, the conqueror murdered one of his closest associates, fought on through the silk route, and then captured and fell in love with the beautiful teenager Roxan.

Michael Wood makes his way through war-torn Afghanistan on a dramatic march with pack horses over the Hindu Kush Mountains. At Kabul, Michael finds himself in the middle of a siege of the city by the fundamentalist Taliban. Hiring horses for the camera equipment and armed guards to ward off ambushes, he sets off to follow Alexander’s trail, 20,000ft up in the Hindu Kush Mountains, to make it …