SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

Alexander the Great and the Bakhtiari

Even now, the Bakhtiari talk about how Alexander the Great (called ‘Skander’) not only did not conquer them, but was forced to pay a toll for travelling over their land. Blond children – who are not uncommon amongst the Bakhtiari  – are sometimes said to reflect the marriage of local women with Alexander’s troops.

Blond children


Certainly Alexander travelled in the area. Nearby Susa was one of his major prizes, and he crossed the Zagros Mountains on his way from there to conquer and burn Persepolis. Arrian, usually considered a reliable source, relates how the local “mountaineers” (who he calls Uxians) did indeed demand tolls, but then says that the “barbarians” were later routed by clever tactical fighting from Alexander’s troops (see Arrian Anabasis Book 3b, Ch.17. From the distances recorded, Layard considers that the ‘Pasitigris’ may be what we now call the Karun).

Alexander is also recorded as having organised a mass marriage (of eighty of his Companions) at Susa (see Arrian Anabasis Book 7a, section 4). At the same time, he ordered that all the marriages of Macedonians to “any of the Asiatic women” be recorded – and gave presents to the 10,000 men involved.