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Battle map

Hydaspes Order of Battle

The Battle   of the Hydaspes 326 B.C.
by Jeff Jonas

   Alexander paused as his infantry slogged up through the marshy and still soggy ground. He surveyed the enemy battleline and decided to focus his attacks on the Indian left wing. At one point moving out far ahead of the infantry which consisted of the Hypaspists, two phalnx battalions, the Cretans, Thracians, and Agrianians. Some of the light infantry were equipped with axes to   deal with Porus' elephants.

Phase 1: Alexander lures out the Indian cahriots and cavalry.
   The Dahae and Scythian horse archers worked over the Indian chariots on the left flank.  The chariots apparently drove out  from their main body to try to come to grips with these elusive foes.  Soon the Bactian and Sogdian javelineers were making mincemeat out of this chariot attack, and the Indian cavalry intervened trying to rescue the chariots.  Alexander then apparently stripped off two hipparchies of Companions under Coenus to threaten the Indian right flank. Porus saw this maneuver an orderd his right wing cavalry move to reinforce his left wings advance. Also Porus' line began to edge to the left.
   As the reinforced Indian horsemen began to gain the upper hand against Alexander's light horse he charged in with two hipparchies and the Agema squadron of Companions. Somehow Coenus broke off his flank attack and intervened in time to catch the Indian cavalry in their rear as Alexander hit them in front.
Soon the Indian cavalry "in great disorder" fled back to behind their Elephants, but Alexander's horsemen would not face the beasts, and apparently were either halted in place or they were routed back themselves.

Phase 2: The elephants intervene and charge the phalanx.
   About this time the Hypaspsists, phalanx and light infantry (sometime before this three other phalanx battalions had joined the line) had moved up and  were charged by elephants. A terrific struggle ensued as the pikemen were flung about, or variously mangled by the elephants. A number of these Elephant charges, led by Porus himself, stopped the phalanx in it's tracks. Eventually the light infantry gained the upper hand, as the elephants were stripped of their mahouts, or hamstrung by axes. The Indian infantry are not mentioned as intervening in this fight, apparently being content to attempt to fire missiles when the lines parted enough to clear targets.

Phase 3: The elephants are driven off.
   The wounded and riderless beasts, "trumpeting in defiance", were then driven back onto their own lines by the phalanx which had recovered it's composure,"locked shields" and advanced slowly in a solid wall of pikes.
The Indian infantry line was crumpled by their own stampeding elephants, the inevitable crunch of the closed order phalanx, and the Macedonian cavlary which had rebounded and was now encircling the Indian armies collapsing left wing. The Indian army broke and fled as Craterus arrived with reinforcements form the main crossing point. Some 80 odd elephants were captured, and many Indians were killed in the pursuit. The Macedonians had suffered heavy casualties themselves, over 900 killed, which, even if it is an underestimate is the largest total admitted in any of Alexander's victories.

   Alexander eventually captured Porus, who had been wounded in the fight. His "Kingly" demeanor was admired by Alexander who later allowed Porus to continue to govern his own lands as his vassal. Alexander pushed his troops further into India, but rumours of vast enemies with huge elephant armies eventually cause his army to mutiny.

   The vaunted Indian longbow was not a decisive factor in the battle, it is possible that the rains and muddy ground made archery slippery work. Some have suggested that the longbow could not have been effectively strung on muddy turf. Still others argue that the bowstrings lost tension in the wet conditions. The chariots seem to also to have been hampered by muddy conditons. In any case it was the elephant that was the weapon that made this battle such a bloody and "traumatising" battle for the Macedonians.


Created by Jeff Jonas 10/99

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