Many historians up until the 18th century followed Ctesias for Assyrian history as he was thought to be the best source available. Then in the 18th century the discovery of the Assyrian kinglist tablets showed that the royal lineage given by Ctesias was clearly fable.
So, Semiramis is considered to be mythical. Semiramis is said to have founded Babylon. Historians give that date as around 2300 BC.
[Ensconced in Bactria, Semiramis ]
(2) When she heard that the nation of the Indians was the greatest in the world and that they possessed the largest and most beautiful land, she resolved to launch a campaign into India where in those days Stabrobates reigned with countless soldiers and an incredible number of elephants, brilliantly adorned with terrifying instruments of war.
(3) India is a land of exceeding beauty divided by many rivers; there is water everywhere and it produces harvest twice each year. There is such an abundance of life’s necessities that the natives are always provided with plentiful enjoyment. It is said that there has never been a famine or loss of crops in this country because of the good climate.
(4) It has an incredible number of elephants far surpassing those in Libya both in forcefulness and bodily strength. There is also an incredible supply of gold, silver, iron and bronze, and in addition to these, there is a large quantity of precious stones of all types as well as nearly everything pertinent to luxury and wealth. A fter Semiramis heard about all this in detail, she was persuaded to declare war on the Indians, although she had not been provoked in any way.
(5) Seeing that she still needed an exceedingly large force, she sent out envoys to all of her satrapies ordering the governors to enlist the best of their youth and gave them a quota based on the size of their nations. She ordered all of them to construct new armor and the others to be present prepared after a third year in Bactria.
(6) She sent for shipbuilders from Phoenicia, Syria, Cyprus and the other coastal lands where she supplied them with an abundance of wood and ordered them to construct collapsible river boats.
(7) The Indus River, the largest river in this region which defines the borders of her kingdom, required many skiffs to cross it and to guard against the Indians; since there is no forest around the river the skiffs had to be carried on foot from Bactriana.
(8) Semiramis observed that she was badly in need of elephants so she contrived a plan to construct a likeness of these animals hoping to astound the Indians because they believed that there were no elephants at all outside of India.
(9) She selected 300,000 black oxen and distributed their meat to the craftsmen and those appointed to build the contraptions, and then she sewed the skins together and filled them with hay to make the image completely imitate the form of these creatures. Each of these contraptions had a man inside in order to manage them and a camel to carry it and thus give it the appearance of a real beast to those watching from a distance.
(10) The craftsmen building these for her conducted their work in an enclosure with a wall and a diligently watched gate, so that none of the craftsmen inside could leave nor could anyone reach them from outside. She did this so that no one outside would know what was going on and no rumor of these operations would reach the Indians.
(17) Since the boats and the beast contraptions were built in the first two years, in the 3rd year Semiramis asked for the forces from all over her empire to gather in Bactriana. The numbers of the assembled army as provided by Ctesias of Cnidos were 3 million infantry, 200,000 cavalry and 100,000 chariots.
(2) There were also 100,000 men riding camels equipped with sabers which were four cubits long. Semiramis constructed 2000 collapsible riverboats and she arranged for them to be carried over land by the camels along with the elephant contraptions, as I have already said. The soldiers gathered the horses around them and taught them not to fear the strangeness of these beasts.
(3) Many years later Perseus, the king of the Macedonians, did something similar...
(4) Stabrobates, the king of the Indians, when he learned of the size of the aforementioned forces and the lengthy preparations for war, set out to outdo Semiramis in every way.
(5) First, he built 4,000 riverboats out of reeds (for India produces along the rivers and marshy areas an abundance of reeds which are so wide that a man can hardly embrace one); moreover, it is said that boats made from these reeds are superior since this material does not decay.
(6) After taking great care for the construction of armor and going around all of India, Stabrobates gathered a force far greater in size than the one assembled by Semiramis.
(7) After making a search for wild elephants and multiplying his preexisting numbers, he brilliantly equipped all of them with terrible instruments of war.
(8) Then, because of their size and the construction of the towers on their backs they gave the appearance in attack formation of something humanely impossible to withstand.
(18) When he had made all his preparations for war, Stabrobates sent envoys to Semiramis while she was on the road and accused her of starting war without provocation. In his letter he seriously cursed at her like a harlot calling upon the gods as witnesses and threatened that after her defeat he would have her nailed to a cross.
(2) Semiramis, however, read the letter, laughed, and remarked that through her actions the Indian would experience her true virtue. She then advanced with her force and came to the Indus River where she found the boats of the enemy ready for battle.
(3) Consequently, Semiramis quickly prepared her boats, filled them with her best marines and engaged in a naval battle on the river while her infantry drawn up along the stream eagerly joined in.
(4) While the engagement continued for a long time and both sides were fighting fiercely, finally Semiramis was victorious destroying nearly 1,000 boats and taking many prisoners.
(5) Ecstatic over her victory, she enslaved the islands in the river and the cities while collecting more than 100,000 captives. After this, the king of the Indians led his force away from the river pretending to be withdrawing in fear but in truth he was coaxing the enemy to cross the river.
(6) Semiramis, meanwhile, as matters were proceeding according to plan, crossed the river by constructing a lavish bridge over which she transported her entire force. She left behind 60,000 men to guard it while she advanced with the rest of her army in pursuit of the Indians with the elephant imitations leading the way so that the enemy's scout s would inform the king of the numbers of elephants she had.
(7) Her hopes were not dashed; when those sent out on reconnaissance informed the Indians of the multitude of elephants which the enemy had, they were all at a loss as to from where such a large number of elephants could have come.
(8) The lie did not remain a secret for very long; some of Semiramis' soldiers were caught during the night neglecting their guard duties in the camp and for fear of the impending punishment they deserted to the enemy and informed them of the deception of the elephants. The king of the Indians gained confidence upon hearing the news and informed his army about the fake elephants; he then marshaled his army and turned back to face the A ssyrians.
(19) When Semiramis did the same, as the armies drew closer to each other, Stabrobates the king of the Indians sent his cavalry with his chariots well in advance of the battle -line.
(2) Since the queen faced the attack of the cavalry courageously and the constructed elephants were marshaled in front of the line of battle in equal distances from each other, it happened that the Indian horses became terrified.
(3) The elephant contraptions from a distance had the same appearance as the real beasts and the Indian horses, being accustomed to them, boldly charged; however, when they drew near, the smell that hit them was unfamiliar and this, along with everything else being substantially different, threw the horses into utter disorder. Consequently, some of the Indians fell to the ground while others, when their animals disobeyed the bit, as it happened, were carried into the enemy lines with their horses.
(4) Semiramis, fighting with select soldiers and skillfully taking advantage of the situation, routed the Indians; although thes e men fled toward the line of battle, King Stabrobates remained calm and advanced the ranks of his infantry with the elephants leading the way while he personally took up position on the right flank and, fighting on the strongest elephant, boldly advanced against the queen who just happened to be positioned opposite him.
(5) When the rest of the elephants did likewise, the army of Semiramis was able to withstand the attack of the beasts for only a short period of time as the animals had superior strength and trusting in their own power easily destroyed all resistance.
(6) As a result, there was widespread slaughter: some men were trampled under foot while others were ripped apart by their tusks and some were flung in the air by their trunks. When there was a heap of bodies piled up and the impending danger aroused great terror and panic in those watching, no one still had the courage to remain at his post.
(7) And so when the entire army was put to flight, the king of the Indians pressed hard against Semiramis herself. At first, he fired arrows at her and wounded her in the arm and then he hurled a javelin at her which ran through the queen's back hitting her sideways; for that reason, Semiramis did not suffer serious injury and quickly rode off while the pursuing beast fell behind because it lacked speed.
(8) Every one had fled towards the pontoon bridge and, because such a large crowd ended up confined in one narrow place, some of the queen's men were killed by their own people as horses and foot soldiers ran headlong together in mass confusion. When the Indians were at hand there was a violent thrust for the bridge out of fear so that many were forced over both sides of the bridge and fell into the river.
(9) Then, when most of the survivors had reached safety across the river, Semiramis cut off the bonds holding the bridge together. With the bonds broken, the pontoon bridge fell to pieces and as many of the pursuing Indians were on it when it was brought down by the force of the current, many of them perished while Semiramis found safety because she prevented the enemy from crossing to her side.
(10) After this the king of the Indians, since he had perceived omens in the sky and seers were prophesizing that the river was not to be crossed, halted his pursuit. Semiramis, meanwhile, made an exchange of prisoners and returned to Bactria having lost two-thirds of her force.