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No satisfactory explanation exists of the operations of Alexander immediately preceding his passage of the Indus. Rennell, De-la-Rochette, and others, carry him far to the north of the Cabul river. Mitford does not attempt to trace his march systematically; and such an effort would have been a hopeless task, until recent military events in Affghanistan had rendered the geography of that country somewhat familiar to us, and marked out the two grand military approaches to India, the Khyber and Bolan passes, in indelible characters. If we dismiss the confused account of Quintus Gurtius, and apply the plain narrative of Arrian alone to our recently acquired knowledge of that country, the thread may perhaps be unravelled. Arrian's history bears internal evidence of its being written in a business-like, unexaggerated style; and he composed it from the best materials, the faithful accounts left by Ptolemy and Aristobulus, the companions in the counsels and arms of the great captain, and eye-witnesses of his exploits.
Alexander, intent upon the invasion of India, quitted Bactra (Balk,) early in the spring of the year B.C. 327, and effecting the passage of the Parapamisan Chain in ten days, arrived at Alexandria, the town and colony he had previously founded. Alexandria is commonly considered, and perhaps with justice, as identical with the modern Candahar;-but Arrian mentions two towns successively in the march of Alexander, after his arrival from Bactria; first Alexandria, the seat of his government, and, secondly, Nicaea, where he sacrificed to Minerva. After
this he advances in the direction of the Cophenes river, TogouŻópel 6); āsti toy Kooya. I suspect Alexandria ought to be placed at Ghuznee, the true ancient capital, and Nicaea at Candahar. The Cophenes river is generally supposed to be the Helmund, if so, it must be the eastern branch of that river, now called the Tarnuck; because the government, of which Alexandria was the chief seat, extended eastward to the Cophenes; and in marching towards India from Candahar, the Helmund proper would not have lain in the way of the Macedonians. Here Alexander formed his army into two divisions; one, under the command of Hephæstion, and accompanied by a disaffected Indian prince, Taxiles, he sent forward with orders to force their way to the country of Peucelaotis on the Indus, and there to construct a bridge. This place is universally recognised as the modern Attok; and there seems little doubt that the road taken by Hephæstion to reach it must have been the direct route from Candahar, by way of the Gomul River, to Dera-IsmaelKhan, a comparatively obscure line of country, but not wholly impracticable, for in the official papers relating to the Afghan war, we read one of General Pollock’s letters, from Peshawar, 11th March 1841, in which he calls the attention of Colonel Palmer, then at Ghuznee, to the Guhree Pass, leading to DeraIsmael-Khan. Hephæstion appears to have executed the march without difficulty. In the meantime Alexander, with the remainder of his forces, proceeded to subjugate the country, which it would have been imprudent to have left unsubdued in his rear, and through which he was probably then meditating his return from India. And here all authorities seem to concur in describing him to have marched to the northward, into Cohistan, and even to Cashmere. In defiance of such authorities, I am disposed to think such a march would have been impossible; for, in the first place, the early season of the year would have rendered all proceeding towards Cabul, and to the north of that country, utterly impracticable; and, secondly, he would have had to cross the Cabul river, which is unquestionably the Indus of Arrian and the ancients, for Arrian and Strabo both describe the Indus as rising in the Parapamisan mountains, whereas no mention is made of such a passage prior to his crossing it at Attok; lastly, Aornos would have to be placed in that northern district, whereas Aornos is expressly described as a mountain pass on the main road from Persia towards India,