Alexander conquered most parts of the Western World, but there is a great deal of controversy over his invasion of India. In BC 327 Alexander came to India, and tried to cross the Jhelum river for the invasion, but was then confronted by King Purushottama (King Porus, according to the English rendition.) According to Indian history he was stopped by Porus at his entry into the country, but most of the world still believes that Alexander won the battle. Many of Internet links claim that Porus was defeated by Alexander, then he returned to Greece, giving back the Kingdom to Porus.   Campaigns and landmarks of Alexander's invasion of India.

This link from wikipedia says that "After victory, Alexander made an alliance with Porus and appointed him as satrap of his own kingdom". This is difficult to believe: IMO no noble king would accept his kingdom back after being defeated.

Also claimed there: "Exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing another giant Indian army at the Ganges River, his army mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas), refusing to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return." Did that mutiny actually occur?

After traveling hundreds of miles from Greece and even winning the battle, why would Alexander return without conquering India?

Specifically, I want to know what actually happened in the battle between Alexander and Porus: Who won? Was it true that King Porus defeated Alexander and made him flee back to Greece ? Whoever won the battle, Alexander or Porus, what historical evidence is there regarding what actually happened in that encounter?

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    From the Greek side, no one but Alexander cared about conquering India. The enemy was the Persians, and they had already been defeated. The mutiny is mentioned in Greek sources, and it makes sense, at that point in time Alexander's army had no realistic goal (reaching the end of the world isn't particularly realistic).
    – yannis
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 11:28
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    "In a simple sense no noble king would accept his kingdom back after being defeated" - Incorrect. Quite often in empire building, the defeated continues to rule their area, but as vasalls. Much of empire building is just a matter of who you pay taxes too. Alexander did do the same in in other places, so it's not unlikely at all. Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 15:28
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    While the question is interesting, I have to give it -1 for the very wrong assumption @LennartRegebro already commented about.
    – o0'.
    Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 20:32
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    Assumption is still right, I was talking the case of 'noble kings'. Noble kings would not accept that. But we are still not sure who was "noble" and "not noble". Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 6:17
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    This question was recently asked on Quora too. Here's the top voted answer: quora.com/Why-didnt-Alexander-the-Great-invade-India/answer/…
    – elexhobby
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 17:54

10 Answers 10


In regards to the battle between Alexander and Porus, both accounts are correct, in their own way.

Alexander won the battle, and received an acknowledgement of such from Porus; Porus won the war, by convincing the Greek army (if perhaps not Alexander himself) that continuing was pointlessly expensive. Both sides saved face through the reappointment of Porus as Satrap by Alexander.

Indian history tells of the glorious war won by Porus against Alexander, and Western history tells of the glorious battle won by Alexander against Porus. Everyone's history glorifies their own exploits, and everyone gets a happy ending. What surprises you of this? Real politik was just as real 2500 years ago as it is today,

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    Could you please cite something that says that Porus won? As far as I know, Indian history says that the glorious war was won by Alexander, not Porus. This was because Porus' cavalry mostly used elephants, and the night of the battle, the rain had made it difficult to move. Alexander's cavalry contained horses, and so faced no such difficulty.
    – Arani
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 17:57
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    @Arani: Alexander won the battle. Porus won the war because Alexander went home, and Porus retained his crown. Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 18:52
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    By "Indian history", you must mean "modern Indian interpretations of Greek historical sources". As I pointed out in my answer to this question, there are no Indian accounts of the battle.
    – nograpes
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 21:44
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    A historically sound and well stated answer by Pieter.
    – user26763
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 2:14
  • @nograpes In the same way that 'European history' means modern European interpretations of Greek historical sources... Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 16:58

The bulk of India then was not controlled by Porus, but by the Nanda dynasty, centered at Pataliputra. Porus controlled only a small section of India, close to Punjab (now divided between Pakistan as well as India). The Nandas were quite a powerful force, and the Greek troops had become war-weary (whether they actually refused orders is open to debate). So, Alexander reluctantly turned back without confronting the Nandas.

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    Is there any evidence that the Greeks knew about Nandas, or anything about India?
    – Greg
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 12:51
  • @Greg if porus is in court of alexanader, then he never asked question like is there any other empire or not? Since Hydaspes is just small part of India at that time. Why Alexander does not take his army (like he taken from Persian) and fight wid other kingdom like nanda, since alexandar want full victory over whole asia.
    – Goyllo
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 5:17
  • Here is first article from wikipedia, it clearly says alexander army first time show the elephants in war, and they was scared, hence they did not go further, but slowly that things are removed from that article. The current wikipedia page does not include such a true information
    – Goyllo
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 8:09
  • Alexander's army wanted to go home, enjoy their wealth, wives, and girlfriends. Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 19:41

When Alexander built his great empire, what he was essentially doing is taking over the Achaemenid Empire piece by piece, at a point when the empire was weakened by internal fights.

The Kingdom of Pauruva is sometimes claimed to have lain outside the Achaemenid empire, but earlier Persian rulers seems to have claimed it was a part of the empire. This indicates that perhaps Porus his predecessor had already been paying taxes/tributes to the Persian empire, which doesn't make it surprising at all that Porus would accept a similar agreement after losing a battle.

That then brings us to the question of why Alexander didn't continue? And here we have to speculate a bit: It's probably the same reason that the Persians earlier didn't continue. The kingdoms further east probably were too powerful, so attacking them was not sure to win, at the same time they are too far from the centre of the empire, and so makes hard to extract taxes from.

It's likely that both in the case of Darius and Xerxes as well as Alexander, even though they conquered the Kingdom of Pauruva, it was just too costly and too far away to be worth it, and too hard to keep hold onto, showing that the empire building had come to it's eastern limit.


I would like put few points from my reading:

  1. Who won the battle ? Well as pointed out by others, it is not quite sure who won the battle i.e. "The Battle of Jhelum". Alexander being the great king would have had a victory in that battle. But according to Battle of the Jhelum analysis which gives valid reasons why Alexander would have lost the battle taking into consideration of his exhausted army which had already fought many battles and had a long journey across the plain. The given website explains them in detail including the geography factor and elephant factor. Also in my opinion, Puru (Porus) is from Vedic Tribe Pandava dynasty. Not much information is available about his life or about his success or failure in the war against Alexander due to loss of historical texts ! (I see this as the main reason that we lost the history about a king).

  2. Another point is the existence of Nanda dynasty which was very strong across the North India next to "Puru Dynasty" (King Porus). But there is one fact which see very interesting. There was a person named "Chanakya" political theorist and scholar from Taxila. (Remember Taxila was defeated by Alexander before his journey to Punjab !). Chanakya gives a warning message to King Dhana Nanda of Nanda dynasty that Alexander is invading but the King Nanda ignores this warning as he does not see any threat from Alexander ! Because Nanda's army was huge and Alexander had no match to Nanda's army !

So to summarize, from my first point though I mention the reasons to Alexander's "lost" but I want to say that at some point of time the battle was not won by both the army but both kings made some pact or agreement ! From the second point I would say that Alexander could not invade India because India (back then India was called Aryavartha because it had several kingdoms) was not ruled by one king but many. So with the small army it was not possible.

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    Empires with massive armies dismissing Alexander's puny forces were kind of a thing during his conquest - The Nandans were ripe to be toppled by a competent general, and that's just what Chandragupta did not long after. What saved them from Alexander was their neighbor - Porus was an above-average strategist and a great statesman. Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 12:59
  • @RISwampYankee: It is true only in the case on Nanda's because it was the non-Kshatriya dynasty and Chanakya managed to defeat him and bring Maurya empire under Chandragupta Maurya who ruled across the whole North India including Gandhara(present Afghanistan). But I agree that King Porus was the man who did the job !
    – Pradeep
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 13:23
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    @PradeepS: Your link is a good reference,thanks for sharing. Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 17:38
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    @LennartRegebro So for you all across the world wars are won only by weapons and not by politics ! Well then you don't know how Mughals and British could invade India ! You read a history which is convincing for you. For me as an Indian I know from history which says war can be won without bloodshed. I gave my comment I don't want to argue and I do not want to prove that Alexander LOST or WON. I know my reason is not going to change any history.
    – Pradeep
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 20:58
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    I realise this is 3.5 years old, but if I may, a link pointing to a highschool paper, and one with very lackluster academics at that (see how they're celebrating placing students to community colleges...), is not a very trustworthy source. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 18:52

Alexander won ONE battle. That does not necessarily mean that he will win the second or third.

By being able to appoint Porus "Satrap," Alexander got the "props" for winning the first battle. By accepting the position from Alexander, Porus got to keep control of his country without risking a second or third battle.

It was a "win-win" (limited victory) situation for both sides. Each got what they most wanted out of the situation without having to risk everything.


I like to point out two reasons behind Alexander's return without conquering India which is not identified in this answer till now.

  1. From Madison to North-West India, Alexander faced few wars. We may say that his army first faced a war after coming to the Indian Border i.e. the battle with Porous beside the Sindhu. Distance from Madison to India was very big and his soldiers were unwilling to go any more.

  2. Modern Bengali were called Gangaridai at that time by Greek historians. They were a very strong fighting Indian community. They were very brave and became a greek myth. Porous fought bravely against Greeks. He also had solders from this community. Alexander saw their courage and braveness face to face in the time of war who were in his mythological stories. It forced him to come to the decision not to go any more inside India.

The given link will enlighten records available in modern age about Gangaridai and show the relationship of them with Greeks.

  • Why downvote? Please show your reason.
    – Supriyo
    Commented Sep 14, 2013 at 14:00
  • I upvote because of the 2nd point. Because the link provided by you has a supporting information.
    – Pradeep
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 6:48
  • Thank you. There are some people who like to downvote unnecessarily.
    – Supriyo
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 13:05
  • There is not enough records available on King Porus. Hence it is necessary to look at a broader sense by analyzing the other small regional tribes and their history of war against the Greeks.
    – Pradeep
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 13:39
  • Really it is. Moreover Greek's attack did not affect Indian history except some cultural exchange. It has no importance in the Indian History as the attack of British has.
    – Supriyo
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 14:45

This is a grey area of history. While the Porus-Alexander story is legendary, there is no guarantee that it actually took place. Neither is there any guarantee that it did not. And there the matter lies as on date.

The Alexander episode does not find much mention in the entire written record, that is the strangest aspect of it. Neither is there any record of the presence of any King called Porus in North-Western India during that time. There are very few references in Indian records, which is a very curious and noteworthy aspect of this matter. The closest one comes to it is the Puru Tribe of Northwest India. Beyond that, there is little evidence. Remember that initial history was written by Europeans; a few of these initial writings are beginning to be challenged as new evidence emerges. There are quite a few gaps in the accepted records; even for established figures like Ashok. In Ashok's case, the narrative throws up significant differences in the approach of The Ashokavadaan and the other books from that time: like the Mahavamsa. The 2 simply do not reconcile in most of the important details of the emperor's life. Similar is the case of Alexander. The only thing that is certain is that the supposed invasion does not merit a detailed coverage in any Indian records from that day.

In 327 BC Alexander, in his march against Emperor Darius empire, came into India.This lasted for 2 years. There is no record in Indian sources of his exploits, and there was little consequence of his invasion in the long term. He came to India to reach the easternmost parts of Darius' empire - reach the ocean. This ran into trouble along the Sindhu river (Indus), and he then went along the river, fighting many battles - Puru, subduing of the Gana-Sanghas, Battle with the Malloi where he was injured - and exacted a brutal revenge.

He is supposed to have built an alliance with Ambhi of Taxila, and attacked Puru on the banks of the Jhelum. One historical source even claims that the name Puru may have been referring to the Puru Tribe, which has inhabited the area since Rug-vedic times. Alexanders' invasion is not mentioned in any Indian Texts; we only have Macedonian records, No one can say for sure how accurate they are. Some of them state the presence of giant ants that dig for Gold! Sample this observation:

There are men said to be 10 feet tall and six feet wide; some had ears reaching down to their feet - Megasthenes in Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian. This does not mean all of their observations were hogwash, some were accurate. They are supposed to be a mix of fact and fable.

In all history texts that I have read (please dont refer online or western sources for this) the entire Puru episode does not include more than 4 lines. There is no guarantee of the accuracy of that episode. That battle did take place is about the only thing that is certain; as is the fact that Alexander won. As to the rest - could be conjecture, or could be fact, No Idea.

The most important result of Alexander's exploits is sadly forgotten - the emergence of the Mourya Dynasty... but that is another story

Ref: Early India - Romila Thapar; Land Of The Seven Rivers- Sanjeev Sanyal

Alexander did not return after defeating Porus (or the puru tribe); he went further along the river. He was actually injured in the battle against the Malloi; not against Porus. He did decide to turn back after the Puru battle, but he instead went further along the river, thinking that this is the river Nile. They discovered their mistake on reaching the ocean, and then subsequently turned along the Makran and Persian Gulf coast.

That is all that is known - all from Greek records. None from Indian records; which are silent on this, which is very curious indeed.

First answered here: http://qr.ae/NCnTd

  • If there is a solid historical record base of this time in India, particulary northern India, then the fact that there is little to no historical evidence discussing Alexander is noteworthy, yes? If there are very few (to none at all) written historical records from what is now Northen India, concerning this period... then the fact that there is no history written about Alexander means what, exactly?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 17:50
  • @CGCampbell Indeed, there are few Indian accounts of anything during this era, as I pointed out in an answer to this question.
    – nograpes
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 21:35

It is only a theory that Alexander moved back encountering elephants (for first time ?).

Having won the most of walk-able world Alexander would have seen different cultures and learnt all techniques. And, I believe, elephants are not so difficult to face in the following context. Wars are wars and they don't happen just after sunrise as we see or visualize. Burning homes, poisoning drinking water, terrorizing civilians, bribing for a win, all that I can remember. So elephants could have been easily poisoned/killed during night/"trained not to walk" with local supporters, etc.

As posted above, manageability must be the issue. He didn't want to settle down in India.

Secondly India had too many small kings and it would have been so easy for Alexander to buy some of them.

So, I believe he left coz he wanted to.

PS- excuse grammar mistakes if any

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    Interesting opinions; this would be a better answer if it were supported by evidence.
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 18:57
  • No one will know for sure I guess. But Elephants actually caused problems for Porus rather than help. Alexander's cavalry heckled them to the extent that they started trampling on their own soldiers once they got hemmed in.
    – Rajib
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 11:20

actually the greek force was fearful of the great Nand king that was ruling the vast empire of Magadh from its capital patliputra(modern patna and gaya area).he was tyrant but had a huge army under his command including elephants expert in war.had alexender moved to eastern part of punjab there was chance of direct confrontation with nand king .hence was compelled to retreat.

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    A source would greatly improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 17:24
  • Ok, that is a valid answer, but remember that this is an English-speaking site, so you should be attempting to write valid and correct English sentences with correct punctuation and capitalization. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 19:09

Military strategy says Never invade landlocked nation (Afghanistan) Thou India has a coast, much of the country occupied by other regions. Alexander defeated Porus at the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, (Modern pay Punjab, Pakistan), he did "Invade" india but did so by going South, in the lower Indus Valley, His army, exhausted, homesick, and anxious by the prospects of launching a prolonged Campaign into the interior.... so he went around. Also facing Nanda empire, scaled back plans when they had 5x the Army size.

Alexander was very popular with his men, fiercely loyal. However, they, long since exhausted by war, decided to return. India has fierce terrain, deserts west, and mountains north so the only flat terrain is close to the coast, where the Nanda's possessed a fully stocked army.

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