By Ashraf Naushahi

Historians tell that Bucephalus (or Bukephalus) was the horse that Alexander lost near River Hydaspes, now known as River Jhelum. It happened more than 2300 years ago. Alexander founded a city Alexanderia Bucephalous near the location where he had lost his horse Bucephalus (or Bukephalus) and another city Alexanderia Nicaea (or Nikaia) near it.

In some historical writings of almost 2000 years ago a city named after a horse was mentioned, located along the road from Gandhara to Mathura and near the River Jhelum (known as Hydaspes or Vitasta in those eras). In some historians’ opinion it was the same city founded by Alexander.

Archeologist and Principal of Oriental College, Lahore (1888-1899) Marc Aurel Stein had an opinion that Alexander travelled to Bhera from Taxila. On this basis, historians viewed the town of Phalia as Alexendria Bucepahalous and Mong, a town near Phalia, as Alexanderia Nicaea.

A lot of archeological work is needed to know where the two cities of Alexanderia Bucephalous and Alexanderia Nicaea were located, however, it is interesting to know historically that Alexander had reached as far away as Pentapotamia, the area of five rivers, now known as Punjab.

In the northern parts of ancient Greece, Macedonia was an area having no significance comparing other parts of ancient Greece. It got a little significance when Philip became its King. In the kingdom of Philip, Alexander was a prince but his hours were not spent in luxury. His father Philip had appointed learned and skillful people to teach him. Among those learned people were Aristotle, Leonidas of Epirus, Lanike (or Lanice) and Lysimachus of Acarnania. They taught Alexander to read, write, horse riding and defending himself in battle.

Historians tell that Alexander was about ten, twelve or thirteen years old when a trader came to Philip and Philip found the price of a horse in black colour too much. According to Plutarch, name of the trader was Philonicus. Philip tried to ride the horse but failed. He disliked the horse and told the trader to take that horse away.

However, Alexander was also there and he had seen that sun rays were coming and making the shadow of horse, upsetting the horse. Young Prince Alexander requested King Philip to let him ride the horse. Philip was hesitant but allowed the Prince after some deliberation. Alexander came close to the horse and softly changed its direction so there could not be any shadow formation.  Shadow of the horse disappeared and the horse became calm. Then Alexander rode the horse for a while. Philip was happy to see it and bought the horse for the young Prince.

 Prince Alexander named the horse as Bucephalus and it remained with Alexander till he lost it during his expedition in Pentapotamia. According to historian Plutarch, the natural age of Bucephalus had become over and that’s why it could not remain anymore with Alexander. Zoologists tell that natural and average age of horses could be 25 to 30 years.

Alexander became sad on the loss of his horse Bucephalus and founded a city after its name as Alexanderia Bucephalous. Some historians see the probability of becoming the word Phalia, a city in Punjab, from Alexanderia Bucephalous, during the metamorphosis spreading over more than two thousand years. However, it could not be ascertained because of natural and historical changes in the area. Archeological sites were not properly cared for and most of the ancient remains have become extinct. In the absence of needed archeological work, the theories depend on the opinions of archeologists, anthropologists and historians.

According to another opinion, there is a mound in the west of the city of Jhelum, where the city of Alexanderia Nicaea (or Nikaia) could be located centuries ago. A traveler had also travelled in different parts of the Sub-continent during the 19th century and wrote about it. His name was Alexander Burnes. Burnes said that archeological sites of Nicaea were near Mong in the south of Jhelum city, while those of Alexanderia Bucephalous were on the other side of the River Jhelum. These opinions could not tell clearly the locations of the ancient cities, however, it becomes obvious that Alexander had founded the said two cities in the area around the River Jhelum. City of Phalia is also in the area near the River Jhelum, hence there is a probability of it be or near the location of ancient city Alexanderia Bucephalous.

When archeologists, anthropologists and historians make a significant progress in knowing something, it makes easy not only to know the past of humankind but also the present day world. It is imperative, however, that the experts continue their useful work utilizing the facilities provided by developments in natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.