The Persian dynasty descended from Achaemenes (c. 700 B.C.) ruled over a vast empire, which Darius I (521–486 B.C.) expanded from the Nile to the Indus. Yet Darius failed to conquer Greece in the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., and his son Xerxes was defeated at Salamis ten years later.


No inscription from the site mentions its ancient name; however, Bernard associated the site with the Alexandria Oxiana referred to by Ptolemy (c. 90–168 A.D.) in his Geography 6.12.5–6.



Following are recommended histories of Alexander’s reign: Alan Bosworth, Conquest and Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986); Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991); Nicholas Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great (Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina, 1997); John O’Brien, Alexander the Great (London: Routledge, 1992).


Important studies include Andrew Stewart, Faces of Power (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1993); George Cary, The Medieval Alexander (Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1956); and Ernst Badian, ed., Alexandre le Grand: Image et Réalité (Vanduvres-Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1976).


Frank Holt, “Alexander the Great Today,” Ancient History Bulletin 13.3 (1999): pp. 111–117, also available electronically (


On Philip II and the Macedonian background, see Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990). Alexander’s murdered kinfolk included his father, mother, siblings, two wives and son.


In one month, Alexander captured 4,835 tons of gold and silver. Greek sources record only 116.2 tons of plundered silver in the Aegean wars of the previous 150 years!


Full details may be found in Frank Holt, Alexander the Great and Bactria (Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1988).


Plutarch, Moralia 341 f.


Alexander killed Cleitus the Black, whose career is included in Waldemar Heckel, The Marshals of Alexander’s Empire (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 34–37.


The first-century A.D. Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus (Life of Alexander the Great 8.3.1–15) claims that Spitamenes’s beloved wife begged him to end the war, but he refused. She therefore cut off his head as he slept and then personally delivered the trophy to Alexander’s tent. The king rejoiced but ordered the woman to leave his camp, lest she unnerve his army. The daughter of this woman was later married to Seleucus, one of Alexander’s generals and the founder of the Seleucid dynasty in Syria.


For example, John Frederick Charles Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1960), p. 188, and Andrew Robert Burn, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World (New York: Collier, 1962), p. 153.


The classic study of this important topic is Donald Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1978).


Alexander’s insecurities are discussed most notably by Ernst Badian in “Alexander the Great and the Loneliness of Power,” in Studies in Greek and Roman History (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1964).


For instance, David Oldach et al., “A Mysterious Death,” The New England Journal of Medicine 238.24 (1998), pp. 1764–1769.


Peter Green, Alexander to Actium (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), p. xxi.


For full details on what follows, see Frank Holt, Thundering Zeus (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1999).


Alfred Foucher, La vieille route de l’Inde de Bactre à Taxila, vol. 1 (Paris: Les Éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1942), pp. 73–144.


The voluminous publications on this site are generally in French (for example, the ongoing Fouilles d’Ai Khanoum), but a good illustrated English summary may be found in Paul Bernard, “An Ancient Greek City in Central Asia,” Scientific American 246.1 (1982), pp. 148–159.


Contemporary edicts promulgating the “competing” Buddhist ideology were set up east and south of Bactria by the Indian King Asoka; see Holt, Thundering Zeus, pp. 175–176.


The nomadic Yueh-Chi tribes eventually settled into cities of their own and created the mighty Kushana Empire astride the Silk Road linking Rome and China. They borrowed the Greek script to write their language, and their graves are filled with Greek-inspired art. See Victor Sarianidi, The Golden Hoard of Bactria (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1985).


Nancy H. Dupree, Status of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage (Peshawar, Pakistan: Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage, 1998).


I myself have notified authorities that Bactrian silver coins from the famous Kunduz Hoard, found near the Oxus River and stored in the National Museum, are being sold on the Web, specifically on eBay. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to stop the rapid disappearance of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage.