Bazira

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Bazira was a town mentioned by Arrian, historian of Alexander the Great. It is the present Barikot (Urdu: بریکوٹ‎) city located in the south end of the Swat valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.

Location

It is about 20 km away from Mingora. It is the entrance town to Swat valley with a population of 25,000 approximately.

History

The Italian Archaeological Mission (renamed ISMEO), founded by Giuseppe Tucci has been excavating ruins of the ancient town of Bazira under Barikot since 1984.[1]

The expeditions in the 1980s and 90s discovered an Indo-Greek town from around the time of King Menander I in the 2nd century BC. Beginning in 2011, an excavation in the south west corner of the site discovered several older settlements. One pre-Indo-Greek level was dated to the mid 3rd century BC or in the middle of the Mauryan era. An earlier town was probably destroyed after it was conquered by Alexander the Great during the 4th century BC. Near Bazira a village of the Gandhara grave culture from the 7th to 8th century BC has also been discovered.[2] The oldest layer under Barikot was a village which has been dated to 1000-1100 BC.[3]

The 2nd century BC town covered an area of about 12 ha (30 acres) (including the acropolis or about 7 ha (17 acres) without)at its peak. It was surrounded by a defensive wall with massive rectangular bastions.[4] The excavations have discovered a number of artifacts which document the daily life of the residents, including coins, pottery and weapons. Several large artifcats including, a large green-schist statue of Siddhartha Buddha riding his horse Kanthaka and a carving of a stupa with two lions, document the Buddhist history of Bazira. Another statue depicting an unknown deity sitting on a throne, with long, curled hair, holding a wine goblet and a severed goat head in his hands may represent Dionysus, the Greek god of wine or another local deity.[5]

Under the Kushan Empire it grew into a major town before a series of earthquakes in the 3rd century AD devastated it. Probably due to the damage from the earthquakes as well as the decline of the Kushan Empire, Bazira was abandoned by the end of the 3rd century.[6]

Ch.28: Capture of Oazira by Alexander.— advance to the rock of Aornus.

Arrian[7] writes.... WHEN the men in Bazira heard this news, despairing of their own affairs, they abandoned the city about the middle of the night, and fled to the rock as the other barbarians were doing. For all the inhabitants deserted the cities and began to flee to the rock which is in their land, and is called Aornus1. For stupendous is this rock in this land, about which the current report is, that it was found impregnable even by Heracles, the son of Zeus. I cannot affirm with confidence either way, whether the Theban, Tyrian, or Egyptian Heracles2 penetrated into India or not; but I am rather inclined to think that he did not penetrate so far for men are wont to magnify the difficulty of all difficult enterprises to such a degree as to assert that they would have been impracticable even to Heracles. Therefore, I am inclined to think, that in regard to this rock the name of Heracles was mentioned simply to add to the marvellous-ness of the tale. The circuit of the rock is said to be about 200 stades (i.e., about twenty-three miles), and its height where it is lowest, eleven stades (i.e., about a mile and a quarter). There was only one ascent, which was artificial and difficult; on the summit of the rock there was abundance of pure water, a spring issuing from the ground, from which the water flowed; and there was also timber, and sufficient good arable land for 1,000 men to till3. When Alexander heard this, he was seized with a vehement desire to capture this mountain also, especially on account of the legend which was current about Heracles. He then made Ora and Massaga fortresses to keep the land in subjection, and fortified the city of Bazira. Hephaestion and Perdiccas also fortified for him another city, named Orobatis, and leaving a garrison in it marched towards the river Indus. When they reached that river they at once began to carry out Alexander’s instructions in regard to bridging it. Alexander then appointed Nicanor, one of the Companions, viceroy of the land on this side the river Indus; and in the first place leading his army towards that river, he brought over on terms of capitulation the city of Peucelaotis, which was situated not far from it. In this city he placed a garrison of Macedonians, under the command of Philip, and then reduced to subjection some other small towns situated near the same river, being accompanied by Cophaeus and Assagetes, the chieftains of the land. Arriving at the city of Embolima4, which was situated near the rock Aornus, he left Craterus there with a part of the army, to gather as much corn as possible into the city, as well as all the other things requisite for a long stay, so that making this their base of operations, the Macedonians might be able by a long siege to wear out the men who were holding the rock, supposing it were not captured at the first assault. He then took the bowmen, the Agrianians, and the brigade of Coenus, and selecting the lightest as well as the best-armed men from the rest of the phalanx, with 200 of the Companion cavalry and zoo horse-bowmen, he advanced to the rock. This day he encamped where it appeared to him convenient; but on the morrow he approached a little nearer to the rock, and encamped again.


1. This seems to be the Greek translation of the native name, meaning the place to which no bird can rise on account of its height. Cf. Strabo, xv. 1. This mountain was identified by Major Abbot, in 1854, as Mount Mahabunn, near the right bank of the Indus, about 60 miles above its confluence with the Cabul.

2. Cf. Arrian, ii. 16 supra.

3. Curtius (viii. 39) says that the river Indus washed the base of the rock, and that its shape resembled the meta or goal in a race-course, which was a stone shaped like a sugar-loaf. Arrian's description is more likely to be correct as he took it from Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals.

4.Near mount Mahabunn are two places called Umb and Balimah, the one in the valley of the river and the other on the mountain above it. See Major Abbot's Gradus ad Aornon.

p.257-260

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References


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