Battle of hydaspes tactics Alexander




Battle of hydaspes tactics Alexander


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Battle of hydaspes tactics Alexander





  • crossing a wide and swollen river with an enemy on other side determined not to let him cross,
  • horses wouldn’t survive the crossing because they would panic at sight (and smell) of the elephants,
  • if he did get across, how would he confront the elephants without the whole might of his army?

By very noisy and obvious troop movements up and down the river he kept Porus guessing. Porus followed these movements but he eventually gave up when nothing happened.

Alexander found a wooded island in the middle of the Indus 18 miles down river. He would cross to this first because he could hide his preparations.

Craterus (who was left in charge of the main camp) was ordered to wait until Porus had discovered Alexander had crossed and moved to meet him, before crossing unopposed with the main army, hopefully now behind Porus.

Using the hay floats the horses crossed to the island. The weather was however appalling with wind and thunder – so any noises went unnoticed.

However they soon discovered they had crossed to the wrong island. Porus’ scouts spotted them and sped off to warn Porus.  Alexander acted quickly and found another ford, however the crossing was completed with great difficulty as the water was up to their chins.

Porus didn’t believe this was the main attack so he sent a small force under his son’s command to meet it. This force was far too small – 2,000 cavalry and 120 chariots - and Alexander soon trounced them. Porus’ son was killed during this initial skirmish.

The survivors returned to Porus who was forced to move his entire army to meet Alexander.  Now with Porus gone, Craterus could cross unopposed with the rest of the Macedonian army.


  1. infantry in the centre
  2. elephants in front of infantry
  3. cavalry on either side shielded by chariots

Alexander’s main problem was the 200 elephants. He couldn’t use his infantry against them so he decided to leave them and work on the Indian’s cavalry first. His orders were:

  • the infantry weren’t to attack until they saw the enemy in disorder
  • the cavalry on the left wing (under the charge of Coenus) were to hide in a dip in the ground
  • he hoped to decoy the Indian right wing cavalry round to their left by appearing to have all his cavalry on his right and leading them to thinking that he had no cavalry on his left.
  • King Porus does order his right wing cavalry to move to his left wing – Alexander’s plan worked.


  1.  Alexander attacks the Indian left with all his cavalry, Companions, and mounted archers.
  2. Porus moved his cavalry from the right wing to the left to counter Alexander’s attack.
  3. With the whole of Indian cavalry now on Porus’ left, Coenus and his “hidden” cavalry attack, riding round to the back of the Indian line to attack the left wing from behind.
  4. The Indian cavalry in confusion fled to shelter behind the elephants and this caused confusion.
  5. Alexander orders the infantry to advance, they are met by the elephants who inflict great damage on them.
  6. Encouraged, the cavalry charge again but are forced back once more. In the confusion the elephants begin to inflict heavy casualties on their own side. The Indian cavalry is almost wiped out.
  7. Through a gap in the line, the Indians begin to flee back to their camp but they are met by Craterus and his men (who had crossed the river behind them) and they are cut down.
  8. Porus remained with his army until he is wounded. He reluctantly surrenders.

This was the most destructive of all Alexander’s battle’s and the loses were great for the Indians. Perhaps Alexander wanted a large-scale killing to avoid further battles?

King Porus asked to be treated “like a king” and Alexander gave him his kingdom back and in fact added to his lands. The two became friends and allies.

On the site of the battle Alexander also founded two cities:

  1. Nicaea – which means “victory”
  2. Bucephala – named after Alexander’s 30-year old horse who died soon after the battle.

Alexander had no intention of returning home after his victory over Porus. However his troops were by now very wary and they did not share his drive anymore.


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Battle of hydaspes tactics Alexander