Why Alexander the Great failed to conquer India

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Alexander the Great was unarguably one of the greatest commanders in history. His conquest of the Persian Empire was much beyond the expectations of anyone. Subsequently, his troops entered the Indian border. He fought King Porus, one of the Indian princes at the Battle of Hydaspes. The casualties were much more than his earlier battles, but he still won the day.

Alexander’s campaign in India. These lands fell to the Macedonians, before Chandragupta recaptured them decades later.

However, soon after this battle, Alexander decided to end his ambitions of conquering the world. He started a march back home. Unfortunately, he never saw his home again. He died from illness at Babylon in 323 BC.

Why Alexander did not marching eastern to conquer India was an interesting question that fascinated readers for a millennium. These could be the answer.

His army mutinied

After the battle of Hydaspes, Alexander would like to continue his rally to the east. He hoped he could conquer the mighty Nanda Empire. Arrian wrote that the king wanted to connect “the seas” together.

This Indian empire was much stronger than Porus and his princedom. This Indian empire was also stable than the Persian Empire that Alexander swiftly conquered. Curtius reported that the Nanda had at least 200,000 soldiers, 20,000 cavalry, and 3,000 large elephants.

His soldiers had been demoralized after the heavy casualties at the Battle of Hydaspes. Stiff resistance by the Indian tribes decreased their morale even more. Thus, when the soldiers heard of Alexander’s plan, they refused to march further. The king had no choice but allowed them to march back home.

Above were what Greek accounts told about the situation in the Greek camp. A mutiny that resulted from a sharp plunge in morale stopped Alexander from conquering India.

However, these accounts (Arrian, Plutarch, Curtius) were written centuries after Alexander’s death. These historians might not record everything in the camp. Thus, there might be other issues that were lost in history.

Alexander was wounded

Alexander marched south after the mutiny. On the way, he faced the Mallians. The king ordered his army to capture the city. However, the Indians fought with great determination. His forces could not penetrate the wall. Suddenly, he grabbed the ladder, trying to lead the siege by himself.

Alexander led the siege. Cr:
Andre Castaigne

With his great courage, the king killed the Mallian leader. However, someone fired an arrow at Alexander. It pierced through his lung. His troops carried him from the battlefield. His conditions were severe. He almost lost his life. Fortunately, he escaped death at the end.

Earlier, Alexander hoped that he might be able to convince his soldiers to march east once again. As he was injured, this was no more possible. He could do nothing except accepting his fate.

Alexander died in Babylon a few years later. His generals divided his empire among themselves. The Macedonian Empire was over.