View Full Version : Did Alexander the Great really encounter UFOs in 329 BC?

4th December 2010, 13:49
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I just watched the latest episode of Ancient Aliens, s02e06 "Alien Tech" in which it is revealed that

(in) 329 BC, Alexander the Great decided to invade India and was attempting to cross the river Indus to engage the Indian army when "gleaming silver shields" swooped down and made several passes over the battle.

These "gleaming silver shields" had the effect of startling his cavalry horses, causing them to stampede. They also had a similar effect on the enemies' horses and elephants so it was difficult to ascertain whose side these "gleaming silver shields" were on. Nevertheless, after exiting the battle victoriously Alexander decided to not proceed any further into India.

Here's a short YouTube video with more stills taken from ancient pictures:
Alexander the Great and other UFO sightings from long ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTkNe-TpAPc)

"The mighty Greek leader Alexander the Great is chronicled as having witnessed UFOs...", it says, and additionally reports a further encounter several years later at Tyre, where "...reported by observers on both sides of the conflict, one of the objects (UFOs) suddenly shoots a beam of light at the city wall which crumbles into dust allowing Alexander and his troops to easily breach the defences and take the city."

Wow. They never taught us that at school. So..which famous historian chronicled this?

Starting with our UFO friends, we find the most complete description of this at UFO.Whipnet.org (http://ufo.whipnet.org/xdocs/alexander.the.great/index.html), too long to print here. It was contributed by a Russ Crawford, though without any earlier reference. There is another, shorter account at Rense.com (http://www.rense.com/ufo4/historyofufo.htm), contributed by "Thon"; again, no references. In fact all accounts of this in the UFO websites completely omit any earlier citation. Puzzling. The only indication of the origin of this story is in Whipnet's account, which states it was "recorded by Alexander’s chief historian". So who was he?

This is where it gets interesting.

There are many ancient sources on the career of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great: the Library of world history of Diodorus of Sicily, Quintus Curtius Rufus' History of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, a Life of Alexander by Plutarch of Chaeronea and the Anabasis by Arrian of Nicomedia are the best-known. All these authors lived more than three centuries after the events they described, but they used older, nearly contemporary sources, that are now lost.


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As you can see from this diagram (earliest at the bottom, most recent at top), Callisthenes was his official historian and wrote Deeds of Alexander, a book which is now lost but quoted by Ptolemy. Cleitarchus' History of Alexander was "...the most popular and entertaining history of Alexander's conquests. It offered many vivid descriptions and eyewitness accounts, usually from a soldier's point of view. We know these stories from Diodorus' Library of world history and the History of Alexander the Great of Macedonia by Curtius Rufus, because Cleitarchus' own book is now lost. However, Diodorus and Curtius Rufus retell the stories often in almost identical words, which gives us a good idea of the History of Alexander."

Thus our main sources of information on Alexander today are (top of diagram) Arrian, Plutarch, Curtius Rufus and Diodorus. There are also some oriental references to him, such as the Astronomical Diary and Zoroastrian texts, but these are not complete chronicles of his life and differ in some details from those of Roman historians.


Well, let's return to our hero. Where was he in 329 BC?

For a start, he was not "attempting to cross the river Indus". In fact, he was crossing the Jaxartes River (now known as the Syr Darya) to do battle with the nomadic Scythians (aka Sacae) in what became the famous Battle of Jaxartes, famous for his use of a well-disciplined battalion of mounted spearmen.

http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jaxartes/battle.html (best account)

For a summary of Alexander's Asian campaigns, complete with map, see here:

Also here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_expedition_of_Alexander_the_Grea t_into_Asia

He didn't reach the Indus river until 326 BC, where he had to fight Porus, the local Punjab king, on the banks of the Hydaspes River (now called the river Jhelum, a tributary of the river Indus).

The Indians were outnumbered and outclassed by the Macedonian army. However, Porus still had one dangerous weapon: the elephants, an army unit that the Macedonians had never encountered before. These pages provide further information:


So, could it have been this battle where UFOs were seen?

Well, it's now becoming clear that whoever suggested the UFO encounter got the dates and details muddled. The events at Tyre are detailed here:


For translations of Alexander's campaigns by the "top row" four historians, see here:

For a summary of the events of 329 BC, see here.

Naturally, a heroic figure such as Alexander might be expected to spawn a number of legends


However, not one of these well-documented and reliable accounts mention anything suggesting the appearance of UFOs.

I'm not the only one to repudiate this myth.

5th December 2010, 05:06
Since my original post, two more references have turned up and may point to the origin of this tale.


UFO researcher Bruno Mancusi, in a posting on the UFO Updates mailing list from April 18, 2003, gives the following references to this event. These references were discovered by him and Macedonian historian Aleksander Donski. Mancusi writes:

I had an e-mails exchange in 2001 with a Macedonian historian,
Aleksandar Donski, about this tale. We found the following

1. Frank Edwards, 'Stranger than Science', Pan, London 1963, p.
198 (1st US edition: 1959):

Alexander the Great was not the first to see them nor was he the
first to find them troublesome. He tells of two strange craft
that dived repeatedly at his army until the war elephants, the
men, and the horses all panicked and refused to cross the river
where the incident occurred. What did the things look like? His
historian describes them as great shining silvery shields,
spitting fire around the rims... things that came from the skies
and returned to the skies."

Unfortunately, there is no reference.

The article lists four more references, including one by Alberto Fenoglio in the Italian UFO newsletter Clypeus (a clypeus is one of the sclerites that makes up the "face" of an arthropod [e.g., insect])

Bruno Mancusi concludes:

There are two new informations here: year 329 BC (not 332) and the name of the river. According to Donski, this name (Jaxartes) is correct, but "our" battle might happened near the river Indus. And always no reference given...

So this story remains very dubious.

A more detailed analysis of these tales by historian Yannis Deliyannis is found here:

Among the famous historical stories one frequently finds in ufological literature and all over the Internet is the supposed UFO sightings of Alexander the Great.

It apparently began in 1959 when American writer and broadcaster Frank Edwards wrote the following in his book Stranger than Science :

"Alexander the Great was not the first to see them nor was he the first to find them troublesome. He tells of two strange craft that dived repeatedly at his army until the war elephants, the men, and the horses all panicked and refused to cross the river where the incident occurred. What did the things look like? His historian describes them as great shining silvery shields, spitting fire around the rims... things that came from the skies and returned to the skies."
(Edwards, Frank. Stranger than Science. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1959).

Possibly inspired by Frank Edwards' claim, Alberto Fenoglio wrote in 1966 in the Italian ufological periodical Clypeus :

"During the siege of Tyre in the year 332 BC, strange flying objects were observed. Johann Gustav Droysen in his History of Alexander the Great [Geschichte Alexanders des Grossen (1833)] does not cite it intentionally, believing it to be a fantasy of the Macedonian soldiers.
The fortress would not yield, its walls were fifty feet high and constructed so solidly that no siege-engine was able to damage it. The Tyrians disposed of the greatest technicians and builders of war-machines of the time and they intercepted in the air the incendiary arrows and projectiles hurled by the catapults on the city.
One day suddenly there appeared over the Macedonian camp these "flying shields", as they had been called, which flew in triangular formation led by an exceedingly large one, the others were smaller by almost a half. In all there were five. The unknown chronicler narrates that they circled slowly over Tyre while thousands of warriors on both sides stood and watched them in astonishment. Suddenly from the largest "shield" came a lightning-flash that struck the walls, these crumbled, other flashes followed and walls and towers dissolved, as if they had been built of mud, leaving the way open for the besiegers who poured like an avalanche through the breeches. The "flying shields" hovered over the city until it was completely stormed then they very swiftly disappeared aloft, soon melting into the blue sky."
(Fenoglio, Alberto. "Cronistoria su oggetti volanti del passato - Appunti per una clipeostoria", Clypeus no. 9 (1st semester 1966), p. 7, translated from the Italian and cited by Drake, W.R. Gods and Spacemen in Ancient Greece and Rome. London, 1976, pp. 115-116)

Unfortunately for us, neither Edwards nor Fenoglio cared to mention their sources, giving rise to decades of confusion as to the historicity of these two alleged UFO sightings by Alexander the Great and his army.

Yannis' conclusions make interesting reading:

We have to take note however of a striking element in F. Edwards' narration : the precision about the alleged flying crafts, these being supposedly described as "silvery shields". It comes as striking because of the name of an elite infantry unit of Alexander's army, namely the Hypaspists, who at the beginning of the campaign in India, in 326 BC, changed their names to Ἀργυράσπιδες (Argyraspides), the "silver shields", after decorating their shields with silver. The coincidence is remarkable enough to wonder whether the renaming of the Hypaspists led to a confusion between their silver shields and some supposed flying "silvery shields".

In any case, the absence of mention of such an event as the one described by Frank Edwards in any historiographical source must lead us to consider this case as extremely dubious. As a conclusion then, the bottom-line is that everything in these cases comes from unreliable and/or posterior sources with little to none historiographical value.

One might find it amusing however that, in a limited sense, the aforementioned ufo writers have somewhat become the spiritual continuators of the tradition of the Alexander Romance into our century, still adding marvelous events to it, as had done before them their medieval predecessors...

Both articles are most interesting to read in their entirety.

However, if you want to get right into the thick of it, try this translation of Diodorus' original writings:
Siege of Tyre
Battle against Porus
Unfortunately, Diodorus' account of Alexander's Battle of the Jaxartes against the Scythians is lost.

Every bit as good as Lord of the Rings, and no mention of UFOs. ;)