1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Alexander the Great. The Ptolemies of Egypt.

(Part 3)

Alexander the Great. The Ptolemies of Egypt.

The conquests of Alexander the Great, by making known the vast empire of Persia, materially enlarged the bounds of geographical knowledge. Although the course of his expedition was mainly by land, the conqueror was also intent on commerce and maritime discovery. In 327 B.C. Alexander led an army of Greeks down the valley of the Cabul river into the Punjab, and his expedition resulted in a voyage of discovery from the mouth of the Indus to that of the Tigris, and in opening direct intercourse between Grecian and Hindu civilization. The Greeks who accompanied Alexander were accurate observers, and described the towns and villages, the products and the aspect of the country, with care. The conqueror resolved ton return through Gedrosia (the modern Baluchistan), by the also intended to open the trade by sea between Europe and India, and his general Nearchus, a native of Crete, volunteered to lead this famous voyage of discovery. His fleet consisted of 30 galleys containing 2000 men. On October 2, 326 B.C., the fleet of Nearchus left the Indus, and the anchorages each night are carefully recorded. On the 17th of December Cape Jask was doubled and the fleet entered the Persian Gulf, and on the 9th of February it was at the mouth of the Karún. Nearchus rejoined Alexander at Susa; and the conqueror himself embarked in the fleet and ascended the Tigris to Opis, above Baghdad. He then ordered his successful admiral to prepare another expedition for the circumnavigation of Arabia; but unfortunately the great conqueror died at Babylon in 324 B.C., and the fleet was dispersed.

The dynasties founded by Alexander’s generals, Seleucus, Antiochus, and Ptolemy, encouraged the same spirit of enterprise which their master had so carefully fostered, and extended geographical knowledge in several directions. Seleucus Nicator established the Greco-Bactrian empire, and continued the intercourse with India. The most authentic information respecting the Gangetic valley was supplied by Megasthenes, an ambassador sent by Seleucus, who reached the remote city of Patali-putra, the modern Patna, of Ganges.

The Ptolemies of Egypt showed equal anxiety to extend the bounds of geographical knowledge. Ptolemy Euergetes sent an expedition which discovered Abyssinia, and fitted out a fleet under Eudoxus left the Egyptian service, and proceeded to Cadiz with the object of fitting out an expedition for the purpose of African discovery; and we learn from Strabo that the veteran explorer made at least two voyages southward along the coast of Africa. The Ptolomies sent fleets annually from their Red Sea ports of Berenice and Myos Hormus to Arabia, as well as to ports on the coats of Africa and India.

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