Depiction of the Macedonians climbing the Sogdian rock
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
The Sogdian Rock or Rock of Arimazes, was a fortress located north of Bactria in Sogdiana (near Samarkand, today Uzbekistan), ruled by Arimazes, was captured by the forces of Alexander the Great in the early spring of 327 BC as part of his conquest of the Persian Empire.
Oxyartes of Bactria sent his wife and daughters, one of whom was Roxane, to take refuge in the fortress, as it was thought to be impregnable, and was provisioned for a long siege.
When Alexander asked them to surrender, they refused by telling him that he would need men with wings to capture it!
Alexander asked for volunteers, whom he would reward if they could climb the cliffs under the fortress. There were some 300 men who from previous sieges had gained experience in rock-climbing. Using tent pegs and strong flaxed lines, they climbed the cliff face at night, losing about 30 of their number during the ascent. In accordance with Alexander's orders, they signalled their success to the troops below by waving bits of linen, and Alexander sent a herald to tell the defenders that if they looked up, they would see that he had found his winged men. The defenders were so surprised and demoralised by this that they surrendered, even though they outnumbered the mountaineers by a hundred to one and Alexander's main force still had no way to reach the summit. The defenders had thought that the Rock was impregnable, and with one bold stroke Alexander showed them how wrong they were. The enemy's quick surrender validated Alexander's insightful use of psychological warfare.