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Nearchus ( Greek Νέαρχος , Latinized Nearchus ; * around 360 BC ; † after 314 BC ), son of Androtimus, was a companion of Alexander the Great on his campaign in Asia , on which he was mainly through his sea expedition from the Indus to the Persian Gulf and its report about it became known.


Ancestry; early life

Nearchus was a Greek and came from Crete , probably from Lato . He moved to Amphipolis and entered the service of King Philip II of Macedonia . He became a youth companion ( syntrophos ) of Crown Prince Alexander. When he got into a dispute with his father Philip II, Nearchus had to have 337 or 336 BC. Like other friends of Alexander went into exile. According to Arrian , this happened after Alexander's quarrel with his father when Philip married Cleopatra , according to Plutarch, however, after the " Pixodaros affair ".

First stations while participating in the Asian campaign

After Philip II in the autumn of 336 BC BC had fallen victim to the assassination attempt by Pausanias , Nearchus was able to return to Macedonia. Shortly afterwards he was honored by the Delphic Oracle by conferring proxenia for himself and his descendants. As a close companion ( Hetairos ) of Alexander, he accompanied Alexander in the war against the Persian great king Dareios III. 334 BC The Macedonian king appointed him satrap of Lycia and Pamphylia . Later Nearchus was recalled from this position and led in the winter of 329/328 BC. Together with Asandros 3500 Hellenic mercenaries as reinforcement troops to Bactra , where Alexander had taken winter quarters. After that he may have acted as the Chiliarch of Hypaspistes .

Commander of the power fleet

In India , Nearchus was born at the end of 326 BC. Appointed commander-in-chief ( nauarchos ) of the newly built fleet when it first sailed the Hydaspes . In addition, like other senior officers, he assumed a trierarchy . Only a part of the army sailed on the ships downstream the Hydaspes to its confluence with the Akesines , the rest marched under Krateros and Hephaistion along the banks of the river. Below the mouth of the Akesines, Nearchus was left to repair the ships. A little later he was given the task of pulling ahead of the land army and building a camp, while the king himself was now waging war against the strong Indian tribe of Mallers .

Management of the coastal voyage from the Indus to the Persian Gulf

After arriving in Pattala on the Indus Delta, Alexander had preparations for the return of the army and the fleet to the west. While the core of the army under Alexander's command moved from Pattala by land through Gedrosia and Carmania , Nearchus was entrusted with the transfer of the fleet to Mesopotamia and Alexander's helmsman Onesikritos was assigned to him as a navigational officer. Nearchus was supposed to explore the hitherto little known sea route from the Indus Delta to the mouth of the Euphrates along the coast.

Since the natives launched attacks on the Macedonian fleet after Alexander's departure, Nearchus was forced to have to end about September 325 BC. Sail from the Indus delta earlier than intended. His later published, reliable report on the ensuing grueling voyage to the Persian Gulf contained many topographic, ethnographic, natural history and nautical observations Arrian has in his Indika obtained excerpts. Nearchus first drove to the coast of the Arabites, where he founded an "Alexanderhafen" and stayed at anchor for 24 days until the northeast winds that were beneficial for the onward journey came up. Stopovers were often necessary, for example at the mouth of the Arabios, to fetch water and to get provisions. When Nearchus reached Kokala, he was able to establish contact with the Macedonian land army. Here he rested for ten days, met Leonnatos , from whose troops he completed his team, and stocked up on new food supplies.

At the mouth of the Tomeros, Nearchus had to face a fight with beach dwellers who still lived on a stone age level. Then he and his fleet came to a coastal area where the ichthyophages lived. Nearchos' crew was again in poor supply there, and the only prey from an attack on a fortified settlement was fishmeal. The sailors were shocked when they sighted whales in the sea areas there . They drove to meet the animals on Nearchus' orders and tried to drive them away by beating their trumpets.

When the fleet reached Cape Maketa at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Onesikritos advised not to enter the Gulf, but to sail along the Arabian coast, that is, to circumnavigate Arabia. However, this did not correspond to Alexander's order and led to a dispute with Nearchus, who clearly expressed his opinion to Onesikritus in the discussion about his proposal. Nearchus was able to prevail with his rejection of Onesikritos' suggestion and so the fleet sailed to Harmozeia (today's Hormuz ), near which it moored.

Reunion with Alexander

In the meantime Nearchus had had no connection with Alexander's army for a long time. The king in turn, who had laboriously crossed the Drosian desert, believed in the complete loss of his fleet. Some of Nearchus 'men happened to meet a Greek who said they belonged to Alexander's camp, which was only five days' march away. This Greek also led Nearchus to the local coast commander, who in turn informed Alexander about the reappearance of Nearchus. While Nearchus was pulling the ships ashore and setting up a fortified camp, the king ordered search parties to track down his naval commander. Some of the Macedonians sent out encountered Nearchus, who was only in the company of six companions, and escorted him to Alexander, who was camping in one of the cities of Inner Carmania (around December 325 BC). The king found it difficult to recognize the emaciated, shaggy men. He was particularly pleased with Nearchus' message that the entire fleet was intact. He celebrated the happy reunion with thanksgiving offerings, sporting and musical agons and a pageant.

Late career in the service of Alexander

Alexander now wanted to appoint a different fleet commander so that Nearchus would not be in new danger. But Nearchus persuaded the king to let him return to the fleet so that he could also lead their further journey. From Harmozeia he sailed along the east coast of the Persian Gulf to the estuary of the Euphrates and Tigris and then drove up the Pasitigris to a ship bridge built by the army in the meantime, where he was in March 324 BC. Had another encounter with Alexander. In his honor celebrations were held again; he also received a gold wreath for his successful naval voyage to the Persian Gulf.

From now on Nearchus accompanied the king on the water. First he sailed to Susa , watched the self-immolation of the Indian sage Kalanos and was married to a daughter of the mentor of Rhodes and Barsine , the lover of Alexander, at Susa's mass wedding . Then he took Alexander on board his fleet and steered it down to the mouth of the Eulaios. Then he sailed again up the Euphrates to Babylon without the king .

When Alexander at the beginning of 323 BC When he came near Babylon, Nearchus may have brought him a warning from the Chaldeans not to enter the city. Ultimately, however, the king decided to move into Babylon. Nearchus was often near the king in the last lifetime of the king. Perhaps inspired by Nearchus' account of his sea voyage from India, Alexander prepared an expedition to Arabia in order to establish a sea connection between the Persian Gulf and Egypt . The waterfront areas should also be more populated. Alexander had the ships for the planned Arabian campaign assembled and trained in Babylon. After the preparations were completed, Nearchus was appointed admiral of this fleet. Before this left, the king organized for him at the end of May 323 BC. A farewell meal. Then Nearchus took part with Alexander and others of his friends in a drinking bout at the Thessaler Medios of Larissa , during which the king became seriously ill. Alexander had Nearchus tell him again about his naval voyage, but died nine days later on June 10, 323 BC. In Babylon, which is why Nearchus was no longer able to carry out his expedition to Arabia.

Role in the Diadoch time

After the death of Alexander the Great, the Greek Nearchus could no longer make a great career in the world of the Macedonian generals. He was laughed at when, during the discussions in the army assembly about the succession, he proposed that Heracles , Alexander's son von Barsine, be elected as the new Macedonian king.

In the following Diadoch Wars , Nearchus was a follower of Antigonus Monophthalmos and served as his sub-commander during the campaign of 316 BC. According to his Greek descent, he advocated the sparing of the Greek Eumenes of Cardia , albeit in vain , after he was taken prisoner by Antigonus. As Antigonos in 314 BC When he set out against Kassandros in the 3rd century BC , he gave his young son Demetrios Poliorketes, who had been left behind to protect Syria against Ptolemy I , as an advisor, along with other experienced officers. Nothing more has come down to us about Nearchus; it is also unknown when he died.


Nearchus wrote a report ( Periplus ) of unknown title about his naval voyage from Hydaspes to the Indus Delta, about his subsequent coastal voyage to Susa and probably finally about the last time with Alexander the Great in Babylon and the king's maritime plans (authoritative edition Felix Jacoby , The Fragments of Greek Historians , No. 133). This work has been lost except for fragments, but it was used extensively by Arrian in his work on India (see also Indicá ). Nearchus' writing is particularly recognizable through Arrian's indica , but also through numerous parts of the 15th and some of the 11th and 16th books of the geographical work of Strabo , who, however, often did not see Nearchus himself for his representation, but only indirectly through mediation of Eratosthenes used. Aristobulus von Kassandreia , Kleitarchos and other Alexander historians - whose works are also no longer available - apparently also used Nearchus' report.

The book of Nearchus was apparently based mainly on autopsy. Alexander the Great was portrayed in it with admiration. A lot of cultural-historical, scientific, ethnographic and geographical information was interspersed. Originally, Nearchos had probably kept a ship's diary during the fleet voyage, for which the exact notes on distances and journey times speak, and then expanded this journal for literary purposes, whereupon he published this elaborated version. According to Felix Jacoby, Nearchus wrote after Onesikritos - possibly also to write against his representation and to correct it - and before Kleitarchos. Accordingly, the drafting time would have to be dated to the first decade after Alexander's death.


The moon crater Nearch is named after Nearchus .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Arrian , Anabasis 3, 6, 5; Arrian, indica 18, 4 and 18, 10; among others
  2. Arrian Indika 18, 4; 18, 10.
  3. Arrian, Anabasis 3, 6, 5; Plutarch , Alexander 10.
  4. Arrian, Anabasis 3, 6, 5.
  5. Plutarch, Alexander 10.
  6. ^ Wilhelm Dittenberger , Sylloge inscriptionum Graecarum , 3rd edition 1915-24, 266.
  7. Arrian, Anabasis 3, 6, 6; Iustinus , Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum Pompei Trogi 13, 4, 15.
  8. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 7, 2; Quintus Curtius Rufus , Historiae Alexandri Magni 7, 10, 12.
  9. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 30, 5.
  10. Arrian, Anabasis 6, 2, 3; Arrian, Indica 18, 10.
  11. Arrian, Anabasis 6, 5, 4.
  12. Arrian, Anabasis 6, 5, 6; 6, 13, 1; Strabon , Geographika 15, 692.
  13. Arrian, Anabasis 6, 21, 1-3; Arrian, indica 20, 1-7; Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni 9, 10, 3; Diodor , Bibliothéke historiké 17, 104, 3; Plutarch, Alexander 66, 3.
  14. Arrian, Anabasis 6, 21, 1-3; Indica 21, 1-6; Strabon , Geographika 15, p. 721 f .; Pliny , Naturalis historia 6, 96.
  15. ^ Arrian, Indica 21-33.
  16. Arrian, Indica 21: 10-13; Pliny, Naturalis historia 6, 97.
  17. ^ Arrian, Indica 22, 8.
  18. ^ Arrian, Indica 23: 4-8.
  19. ^ Arrian, Indica 24, 1-9.
  20. ^ Description of the ichthyophages in Arrian, Indika 29, 7-16.
  21. Arrian, Indica 27, 7--28, 9.
  22. Arrian, Indica 30, 1-9; Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni 10, 1, 12; Diodor, Bibliothéke historiké 17, 106, 6 f.
  23. Arrian, Indica 32, 7-33, 2.
  24. Arrian, Indica 33 , 5-35 , 8; Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni 10, 1, 10-15; Diodor, Bibliothéke historiké 17, 106, 4-7 (wrongly localized); Plutarch, Alexander 68, 1.
  25. Arrian, Indica 36, 3; Diodor, Bibliothéke historiké 17, 106, 4 f.
  26. ^ Arrian, Indica 36, 4-7.
  27. Arrian, Indica 37-42; Strabon, Geographika 15, 732; Pliny, Naturalis historia 6, 98-100.
  28. Arrian, Anabasis 7, 5, 6; Arrian, Indike 42; Stephanos of Byzantium , Ethnika , s. Lete .
  29. ^ Arrian, Anabasis 7, 3, 6.
  30. ^ Arrian, Anabasis 7, 4, 6.
  31. Arrian, Anabasis 7, 1, 7 and 7, 19, 3; Plutarch, Alexander 73.
  32. Plutarch, Alexander 73, 1; Diodor, Bibliothéke historiké 17, 112, 3 f .; different Arrian, Anabasis 7, 16 f.
  33. ^ Arrian, Anabasis 7, 19, 3-6.
  34. Arrian, Anabasis 7, 25, 4.
  35. Pseudo-Callisthenes 3, 31, 8.
  36. Plutarch, Alexander 76.
  37. ^ Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni 10, 6, 10-13.
  38. Diodor, Bibliothéke historiké 19, 19, 4 f.
  39. Plutarch, Eumenes 18, 6.
  40. ^ Diodor, Bibliothéke historiké 19, 69, 1.
  41. a b Helmut Berve: Nearchos 3. In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswwissenschaft (RE). Volume XVI, 2, Stuttgart 1935, Col. 2135.
  42. Wilhelm Capelle: Nearchos 3. In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen antiquity science (RE). Volume XVI, 2, Stuttgart 1935, Col. 2135 f.