Did Alexander the Great really see UFOs ?

Among the famous historical stories one frequently finds in ufological literature and all over the Internet is the supposed UFO sightings of Alexander the Great.

It apparently began in 1959 when American writer and broadcaster Frank Edwards wrote the following in his book Stranger than Science :

"Alexander the Great was not the first to see them nor was he the first to find them troublesome. He tells of two strange craft that dived repeatedly at his army until the war elephants, the men, and the horses all panicked and refused to cross the river where the incident occurred. What did the things look like? His historian describes them as great shining silvery shields, spitting fire around the rims... things that came from the skies and returned to the skies."
(Edwards, Frank. Stranger than Science. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1959).

Possibly inspired by Frank Edwards' claim, Alberto Fenoglio wrote in 1966 in the Italian ufological periodical Clypeus :

"During the siege of Tyre in the year 332 BC, strange flying objects were observed. Johann Gustav Droysen  in his History of Alexander the Great [Geschichte Alexanders des Grossen (1833)] does not cite it intentionally, believing it to be a fantasy of the Macedonian soldiers.
The fortress would not yield, its walls were fifty feet high and constructed so solidly that no siege-engine was able to damage it. The Tyrians disposed of the greatest technicians and builders of war-machines of the time and they intercepted in the air the incendiary arrows and projectiles hurled by the catapults on the city. 
One day suddenly there appeared over the Macedonian camp these "flying shields", as they had been called, which flew in triangular formation led by an exceedingly large one, the others were smaller by almost a half. In all there were five. The unknown chronicler narrates that they circled slowly over Tyre while thousands of warriors on both sides stood and watched them in astonishment. Suddenly from the largest "shield" came a lightning-flash that struck the walls, these crumbled, other flashes followed and walls and towers dissolved, as if they had been built of mud, leaving the way open for the besiegers who poured like an avalanche through the breeches. The "flying shields" hovered over the city until it was completely stormed then they very swiftly disappeared aloft, soon melting into the blue sky."
(Fenoglio, Alberto. "Cronistoria su oggetti volanti del passato - Appunti per una clipeostoria",Clypeus no. 9 (1st semester 1966), p. 7, translated from the Italian and cited by Drake, W.R.Gods and Spacemen in Ancient Greece and Rome. London, 1976, pp. 115-116)
Unfortunately for us, neither Edwards nor Fenoglio cared to mention their sources, giving rise to decades of confusion as to the historicity of these two alleged UFO sightings by Alexander the Great and his army.

Fenoglio's riddle being, in my opinion, the easiest to solve, I will begin by him. He says that five "flying shields" flew in triangular formation and that, after some time hovering over the walls, a lightning-flash came from the largest of these shields and struck the walls of Tyre. Unfortunately, there is no mention whatsoever of such an event outside of ufological literature. I won't even comment the laughable statement by Fenoglio who dares to say that Johann Gustav Droysen did not mention it on purpose.

However, going back to the closest sources we can get, one might ponder this quote from Quintus Curtius, one of the main classical authorities on Alexander, who says that during the siege of Tyre, in 332 BC (between January and August) :
Clipeos vero aereos multo igne torrebant, quos repletos fervida arena caenoque decocto e muris subito devolvebant. Nec ulla pestis magis timebatur: quippe, ubi loricam corpusque fervens arena penetraverat, nec ulla vi excuti poterat, et quidquid attigerat perurebat, iacientesque arma laceratis omnibus, quis protegi poterant, vulneribus inulti patebant. 
(Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni, lib. IV, cap. V)

Furthermore, they [the Tyrians] would heat bronze shields in a blazing fire, fill them with hot sand and boiling excrement and suddenly hurl them from the walls. None of their deterrents aroused greater fear than this. The hot sand would make its way between the breastplate and the body; there was no way to shake it out and it would burn through whatever it touched. The soldiers would throw away their weapons, tear off all their protective clothing and thus expose themselves to wounds without being able to retaliate.
(From Heckel, W. and Yardley, J. Alexander the Great : historical texts in translation, 2004, p. 147)
This is as close as we can get to Fenoglio's "flying shields" by looking at ancient sources and I believe this passage from Quintus Curtius is the basis Fenoglio used for his version, whether intentionally or as a result of a (hard-to-believe) misunderstanding or mistranslation. 

One possibility is that Fenoglio stumbled upon this quote from Quintus Curtius while looking for the source of Frank Edwards' story. We can't tell for sure whether he considered (or intended) it to be one and the same as the latter's or just a similar but independent story but in any case, W.Raymond Drake treated both cases as two different stories, in his 1976 book,Gods and Spacemen in Ancient Greece and Rome.
A close examination of Frank Edwards' story shows that it mentions the war elephants of Alexander. Now, Alexander only began using war elephants after his successful victory over Darius III in Gaugamela (supposedly in Iraq, east of Mosul), on October 1st, 331 BC. Supposing it ever happened at all, the sighting mentioned by F. Edwards must then have occurred after that date, restricting our search to the Persian and Indian campaigns of Alexander, in between 331 and 323 BC.
Unfortunately, none of the classical historians who treated Alexander's life talk of an event who might look similar to the one described by Frank Edwards. That leaves us with the second thread of possible sources, the one which originates with the Pseudo-Callisthenes (4th century AD) and gave rise to the incredibly rich medieval genre known as the Alexander Romance. This genre which has more roots in literature than in historiography extended Alexander's life with various marvelous and prodigious events. It developed more or less independently in western Europe, the Byzantine empire and even the Arabic world, each adding its share of marvels to Alexander's life.
One of the key documents in the development of this genre is the Epistola Alexandri ad Aristotelem (the Letter of Alexander to Aristotle) which focuses on the marvels of Alexander's campaign in India. The letter itself is a fake, probably composed in the 4th or 5th century AD. It was extremely famous during the middle ages and was eventually inserted in the Pseudo-Callisthenes. A middle English version is also known to us.
The false letter of Alexander describes the marvels of India and is full of encounters with strange animals and beings, but the only celestial prodigy that is mentioned in the Epistola is the following:

Immediately after that the sky grew very black and dark, and from the dark sky there came burning fire. The fire fell to the earth like a burning torch, and the whole plain was burning from the fire's flame. Then men said that they thought it was the anger of the gods which had fallen upon us. Then I ordered old clothing to be torn up and used as a protection against the fire. After that we had a quiet and peaceful night, once our difficulties assuaged.
(Orchard, Andy.
 Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf Manuscript, Cambridge, 1995, p. 245)
Unfortunately, this does not compare to Frank Edwards claim. And even if it was the case, the historiographical value of the documents belonging to the Romance of Alexander genre being more than doubtful, it wouldn't account for much in terms of historicity.
We have to take note however of a striking element in F. Edwards' narration : the precision about the alleged flying crafts, these being supposedly described as "silvery shields". It comes as striking because of the name of an elite infantry unit of Alexander's army, namely the Hypaspists, who at the beginning of the campaign in India, in 326 BC, changed their names to Ἀργυράσπιδες (Argyraspides), the "silver shields", after decorating their shields with silver. The coincidence is remarkable enough to wonder whether the renaming of theHypaspists led to a confusion between their silver shields and some supposed flying "silvery shields".
In any case, the absence of mention of such an event as the one described by Frank Edwards in any historiographical source must lead us to consider this case as extremely dubious. As a conclusion then, the bottom-line is that everything in these cases comes from unreliable and/or posterior sources with little to none historiographical value.

One might find it amusing however that, in a limited sense, the aforementioned ufo writers have somewhat become the spiritual continuators of the tradition of the Alexander Romance into our century, still adding marvelous events to it, as had done before them their medieval predecessors...

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