Porus alexander coin.png
King Porus (on elephant) fighting Alexander the Great, on a "victory coin" of Alexander (minted c. 324–322 BC)[1]
Reignbefore 326 – c. 317 BC
BornPunjab region
Diedc. 321 – c. 315 BC
Punjab region

Porus or Poros (Ancient Greek: Πῶρος Pôros; fl. 326–321 BC) was an ancient Indian king whose territory spanned the region between the Jhelum River (Hydaspes) and Chenab River (Acesines), in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. He is only mentioned in Greek sources.

Credited to have been a legendary warrior with exceptional skills, Porus unsuccessfully fought against Alexander the Great in the Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BC).[2] In the aftermath, an impressed Alexander not only reinstated him as his satrap but also granted him dominion over lands to the south-east extending until the Hyphasis (Beas).[3][4] Porus reportedly died sometime between 321 and 315 BC.[5]


The only contemporary information available on Porus and his kingdom is from Greek sources, whereas Indian sources do not mention him.[6] These Greek sources differ considerably among themselves.[7]



Michael Witzel conjectures Porus to have been a king of the Pūrus, who existed as a marginal power in Punjab since their defeat in the Battle of the Ten Kings notwithstanding (probable) political realignment with the Bharatas.[8][9][10] Hem Chandra Raychaudhuri had largely agreed with this identification.[7]


Multiple histories — Indica by Arrian, Geographica by Strabo, and Bibliotheca historica by Diodorus Siculus — mention Megasthenes[a] to have described an Indian tribe called Sourasenoi: they worshiped one "Herakles" and originated from a land having the city of Mathura and the river of Yamuna.[11][12] The Greeks often chronicled foreign gods in terms of their own divinities; thus multiple scholars have understood "Herakles" to mean "Hari-Krishna".[11][12] That Quintus Curtius Rufus mentions Porus' vanguard soldiers to have carried a banner of "Heracles" during the face-off with Alexander,[11] Ishwari Prasad argues Porus to be a Shurasena.[13][b]

However, the identification with "Hari-Krishna" is not well-settled; there is no evidence of Krishna worship as early as 4th century BC.[12] Modern scholars increasingly equate "Herakles" to Indra but even this identification is not widely accepted.[12]


H. C. Seth had identified Porus with Parvataka, a king mentioned in the Sanskrit play Mudrarakshasa, the Jain text Parishishtaparvan, and some other sources including royal genealogies of Nepal.[7] However, there is little evidence in support: Parishishtaparvan assigns him the territory of Himavatkuta while Greek sources have Porus rule in the present-day Punjab region, and Mudrarakshasa attributes his death to poisoning planned by Chanakya while Greek sources state that Porus was killed by Eudemus (or Alexander, himself).[7]



Porus ruled over the tracts between rivers Hydaspes (Jhelum) and Acesines (Chenab); Strabo noted the territory to contain almost 300 cities.[15] He had a hostile relationship with the neighboring polity of Taxila having assassinated their erstwhile ruler Ambhiraj, who was his maternal uncle.[15]

Porus's nephew, also called Porus in Greek sources, ruled a territory between the Irāvatī (Hydraōtēs) and Asikni (Akesinēs) rivers.[16]

When the armies of Alexander crossed Indus in its eastward migration, probably in Udabhandapura, he was greeted by then ruler of Taxila, Omphis/Ambhi, son of Ambhiraj.[15] Omphis had visited Alexander in Sogdiana and was treated as an ally; his rule was confirmed and gifts lavished but a Macedonian satrap was installed.[15] Omphis hoped to force both Porus and Abisares into submission leveraging the might of Alexander's forces and dispatched diplomatic missions to such effects.[15] In response, Abisares offered submission but Porus refused, leading Alexander to seek for a face-off on the bank of Jhelum.[15] Thus began the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC; the exact site remains unknown and the exact strength of the armies cannot be determined either due to major discrepancies in sources.[15]

Battle of the Hydaspes

Main article: Battle of the Hydaspes

A painting by Charles Le Brun depicting Alexander and Porus during the Battle of the Hydaspes
A painting by Charles Le Brun depicting Alexander and Porus during the Battle of the Hydaspes

Alexander re-used the same vessels which were used for crossing the Indus, some 300 km away at Udabhandapura.[15] Small scale attempts at intrusion were frequently mounted by Alexander's forces and even before the battle had started, skirmishes were reported in riverine islands.[15]

Alexander eventually decided on accompanying a striking force to cross via the densely forested headlands; the base camp with substantial cavalry and infantry units was left under Craterus to follow him upon a successful passage whilst the remaining forces were distributed along the length of the river under three phalanx officers to distract Porus' forces.[15] The strategy was successful and they crossed Jhelum unobstructed, in a stormy night, on the eve of dawn.[15] A band of horsemen on chariots led by Porus' son did detect the intrusion and mounted a charge but was repelled by Alexander's superior cavalry.[15]

Informed of Alexander's passage, Porus became concerned with tackling those who have already crossed, rather than prevent passage of the remaining majority.[15] He took a defensive position in the plains, interspersing infantry units with elephants[c] on the front-lines and stationing the cavalry and chariots in the wings.[15][17] Alexander chose to shield his infantry and instead led a devastating cavalry charge on Porus' left wing, forcing reinforcements from the right; however, this rear-transit came under attack by Coenus' cavalry and Porus' cavalry was compelled to take refuge within the infantry frontlines causing confusion.[15]

This led to an all-out attack from both sides but Porus' plans proved futile.[15] While, on the front, not only were Porus' cavalry charges repelled but also the mahouts assassinated using sarissa and the elephants pushed back into Porus' columns, wrecking havoc, on the rear, Alexander's cavalry kept on charging and inflicting disorder.[15] Soon enough, Porus' army was surrounded from all sides, and became easy fodder for Alexander's forces with the cavalry being exterminated and most of the elephants being captured.[15] Still, Porus refused to surrender and wandered about atop an elephant, until he was wounded and his force routed.[15] A fraction of infantry had successfully escaped and probably planned to regroup but Craterus pursued them to death.[15]


The battle resulted in a decisive Greek victory; however, A. B. Bosworth warns against an uncritical reading of Greek sources who were obviously exaggerative.[15] Alexander held athletic and gymnastic games at the site, and even commissioned two cities—Nicaea at the site of victory and Bucephalous at the battle-ground (in memory of his horse)—in commemoration.[15][d] Later, decadrachms would be minted by the Babylonian mint depicting Alexander on horseback, armed with a sarissa and attacking a pair of Indians atop an elephant.[15][18]

Surrender of Porus to Alexander, 1865 engraving by Alonzo Chappel.
Surrender of Porus to Alexander, 1865 engraving by Alonzo Chappel.


Despite the apparently one-sided results, Alexander was impressed by Porus and chose to not depose him.[19][20] Not only was his territory reinstated but also expanded with Alexander's forces annexing the territories of Glausaes, who ruled to the northeast of Porus' kingdom.[19] Further, Omphis was reconciled with Porus.[19]

A joint expedition was then mounted against a territory east of Chenab, which was ruled by an enemy-cousin of Porus; he had earlier submitted to Alexander but suspicious of Porus' rise in ranks, chose to flee with his army.[19] The date of this battle remains disputed; Alexander's forces overran his lands before meeting stiff resistance at a walled Sangala on the other side of Ravi.[19] Siege warfare was executed to brilliant effect and the full-fledged attack began, once Porus had joined with his elephants.[19] As Sangala and allying cities were razed, Porus was allowed to station his garrisons.[19]

Thereafter, Alexander proceeded unopposed to Beas and even intended to cross it towards mainland India; however, the monsoon was in its peak and the much-weary troops remained stubborn despite a variety of cajoling and threats.[19] An unwilling Alexander had to renounce his plans and turn back.[19] Porus was thus ratified as the de facto ruler of the entire territory east of Jhelum — he was given no European satrap to co-rule with, unlike Ambhi and Abisares.[19] The crossing-back of Jhelum was a prolonged affair; filled with festivities, it attracted thousands.[19]


After Alexander's death in 323 BC, Perdiccas became the regent of his empire, and after Perdiccas's murder in 321 BC, Antipater became the new regent.[21] According to Diodorus, Antipater recognized Porus's authority over the territories along the Indus River. However, Eudemus, who had served as Alexander's satrap in the Punjab region, treacherously killed Porus.[22]

See also


  1. ^ He had traveled to India, after Porus had been already supplanted by Chandragupta Maurya.
  2. ^ Iswhari Prashad and others, following his lead, found further support of this conclusion in the fact that a section of Shurasenas were supposed to have migrated westwards to Punjab and modern Afghanistan from Mathura and Dvārakā, after Krishna walked to heaven and had established new kingdoms there.[14]
  3. ^ Porus had expected the elephant units to negate charges by Alexander's well-trained cavalry.
  4. ^ Craterus supervised the construction. These cities are yet to be identified.



  1. ^ See Keyne Cheshire, Alexander the Great (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p.139: "Alexander charges Porus, who hurls a javelin from atop his elephant"
  2. ^ Fuller, pg 198

    "While the battle raged, Craterus forced his way over the Haranpur ford. When he saw that Alexander was winning a brilliant victory he pressed on and, as his men were fresh, took over the pursuit."

  3. ^ p. xl, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare, J, Woronoff & I. Spence
  4. ^ Arrian Anabasis of Alexander, V.29.2
  5. ^ "Porus", Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 8 September 2015
  6. ^ Asoke Kumar Majumdar (1977). Concise History of Ancient India: Political history. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 136. Nothing is known of Porus from Indian sources
  7. ^ a b c d H. C. Raychaudhuri (1988) [1967]. "India in the Age of the Nandas". In K. A. Nilakanta Sastri (ed.). Age of the Nandas and Mauryas (Second ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 147. ISBN 978-81-208-0466-1.
  8. ^ Witzel, Michael (1997). "The development of the Vedic canon and its schools: the social and political milieu". crossasia-repository.ub.uni-heidelberg.de: 263, 267, 320. doi:10.11588/xarep.00000110. Retrieved 15 April 2021.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Witzel, Michael (1995). "4. Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parametres". In Erdosy, George (ed.). The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity. Indian Philology and South Asian Studies. De Gruyter. pp. 85–125. doi:10.1515/9783110816433-009. ISBN 978-3-11-081643-3. S2CID 238465491.
  10. ^ Brereton, Joel P.; Jamison, Stephanie W., eds. (2014). The Rigveda: The Earliest Religious Poetry of India. Vol. I. Oxford University Press. pp. 880, 902–905, 923–925, 1015–1016. ISBN 9780199370184.
  11. ^ a b c Krishna: a sourcebook, pp 5, Edwin Francis Bryant, Oxford University Press US, 2007
  12. ^ a b c d Puskás, Ildikó (1990). "Magasthenes and the "Indian Gods" Herakles and Dionysos". Mediterranean Studies. 2: 39–47. ISSN 1074-164X. JSTOR 41163978.
  13. ^ A Comprehensive History of India: The Mauryas & Satavahanas, pp 383, edited by K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta Sastri, Bharatiya Itihas Parishad, Published by Orient Longmans, 1992, Original from the University of California
  14. ^ "Actually , the legend reports a westward march of the Yadus (MBh. 1.13.49, 65) from Mathura, while the route from Mathura to Dvaraka southward through a desert. This part of the Krsna legend could be brought to earth by digging at Dvaraka, but also digging at Darwaz in Afghanistan, whose name means the same thing and which is the more probable destination of refugees from Mathura..." Introduction to the study of Indian history, pp 125, D D Kosambi, Publisher: [S.l.] : Popular Prakashan, 1999
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Bosworth, Albert Brian (1993). "The campaign of the Hydaspes". Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press. pp. 125–130.
  16. ^ Raychaudhuri 1953, pp. 249–250.
  17. ^ Hamilton, J. R. (1956). "The Cavalry Battle at the Hydaspes". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 76: 26–31. doi:10.2307/629551. ISSN 0075-4269. JSTOR 629551.
  18. ^ Holt, Frank Lee (2003). Alexander the Great and the mystery of the elephant medallions. University of California Press.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bosworth, Albert Brian (1993). "From the Hydaspes to the Southern Ocean". Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press.
  20. ^ Anson, Edward M. (2013). Alexander the Great: Themes and Issues. Bloomsbury. p. 151. ISBN 9781441193797.
  21. ^ Heckel, Waldemar (2006). Who's Who in the Age of Alexander the Great: Prosopography of Alexander's Empire. Wiley. ISBN 9781405112109.
  22. ^ Irfan Habib; Vivekanand Jha (2004). Mauryan India. A People's History of India. Aligarh Historians Society / Tulika Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-81-85229-92-8.


Further reading

  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Porus" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Lendring, Jona. Alexander de Grote - De ondergang van het Perzische rijk (Alexander the Great. The demise of the Persian empire), Amsterdam: Athenaeum - Polak & Van Gennep, 2004. ISBN 90-253-3144-0
  • Holt, Frank L. Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions, California: University of California Press, 2003, 217pgs. ISBN 0-520-24483-4
  • Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1953). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of Gupta Dynasty. University of Calcutta.