Oh! Why hello there gentle readers! I didn’t hear you sneak up on me. Well, since you’re here, perhaps you’d like to hear a story of Alexander the Great? Let us begin at the middle/end of his story. I will include here a handy map of the mighty empire of Alexander (The Greatest Alexander) for your reference needs.
At the Eastern end of Alexander’s empire were the mysterious lands of Bactria and Gandhara. Gandhara is of particular importance as it lies in what is now known as Afghanistan. This land is important for several reasons: it is the farthest East anyone in the Classical Mediterranean (or the ‘West’ if you prefer) had ever been (except for that one odd Roman guy who ended up in India and discovered that Buddhism was actually pretty nifty), it is home to several Alexandrias (Alexandria in Arachosia, Alexandria on the Caucasos, Alexandria on the Oxos and Alexandria in Aria respectively) and it is a superb example of what happens when cultures meld. I refer specifically to the art of the area. Artifacts found in the area that used to be Gandhara are mostly Asian in design but with a very disctinct Greek influence. For example, a cute little Buddha head in the LMU Archaeology Museum’s collection is very much a typical depiction of the Buddha, but it has some subtle Greek (yes, even though Alexander was Macedonian) touches in the design. The shape of the facial features hints at the Classical culture that was brought East by Alexander and his massive army and entourage. Pay close attention to the mouth and hair.
What’s left of Alexander’s mighty Eastern empire? Well…not much. There’s mostly bits and pieces and every so often some structural ruins show up in the more remote areas.
-Alexandria on the Oxos became the town of Ai Khanum. The site was excavated by the French and was home to all kinds of cool Greek/Macedonian goodies befitting a decently-sized citadel. Sadly, it’s not there anymore. Why? Taliban. The city had the misfortune of being in the way during some pretty heavy fighting the first time around. *sigh*
-Alexandria in Arachosia is now the modern city of Kandahar! Granted, there’s a new city on top of it, but it’s still there! Kind of! Woo!
(*This is a rather old picture. Kandahar doesn’t look like this today, but it was the only photo option for ancient things and Kandahar in the same photo. Deal.)
– Alexandria on the Caucasos is now better known as Kabul. Again, there’s some delightful (not) Soviet architecture going on on top of it now, but it’s still there! Every so often a wall peeks out of the modern city, like in this photo at left. That is totally an ancient wall heading up that hill/small mountain. Let’s hear it for continual habitation of ancient cities!
Alexander also built a mean fort in Herat that is actually…wait for it…still standing! Granted, it’s been reinforced a bit since he left, but that fort is still there. To celebrate this fact, we shall look at a picture of it’s marvelous beauty.
Well, there you have it. A brief overview of cool stuff in Afghanistan from a rather cool period of history. Why is this important? You know why.