Nearchus was one of the officers in the army of Alexander the Great and the commander of the fleet in his Indian expedition (B.C. 327-326). He was the son of Androtimus, and was born in Crete, but settled in Amphipolis in Macedonia, near the Thracian boundary. He was high in favor with Philip, but was banished on account of his adherence to Alexander. When, however, Alexander succeeded to the throne of Macedon, Nearchus was recalled, and when the conquest of the Persian Empire was begun, he was appointed Governor of Lycia and other districts in the south of Asia Minor.
In 325, when Alexander descended the Indus to the sea, he ordered Nearchus to conduct the fleet to the head of the Persian Gulf. The success with which Nearchus accomplished this arduous enterprise led to his selection by Alexander for the more difficult task of circumnavigating Arabia from the mouth of the Euphrates to the Isthmus of Suez. But this project was cut short by the illness and death of the king (323).
In B.C. 329 he accompanied Alexander to Bactria, with a body of Greek mercenaries. When his patron ordered a fleet to be built on the Hydaspes, Nearchus received the command of it. He sailed down the Indus, and then to the Persian Gulf, and arrived at Susa, in Persia, February 24, 324, shortly after Alexander himself, who had marched overland.
After the death of Alexander Nearchus accepted the decision of the other generals with regard to the position of the kingdom, and retained his own provinces of Lycia and Pamphylia under Antigonus, whom he accompanied against Eumenes. In 314 Antigonus appointed him a councilor of his son, Demetrius. He probably therefore shared in the downfall (301) of that monarch.
He wrote a detailed narrative of his expedition, of which a full abstract was embodied by Arrian in his Indica-one of the most interesting geographical treatises of antiquity. Fragments of his narrative of his voyage have been preserved in the Indica of Arrian. Consult McCrindle, Invasion of India by Alexander the Great (Westminster, 1896).
The text, with copious geographical notes, is published in C. Muller's Geogmphi Graeci Minores, i. (1856); on the topography see W. Tomaschek, "Topographische Erlauterung der Kiistenfahrt Nearchs xom Indus bis zum Euphrat" in Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Acad. def Wissenschaften, cxxi. (Vienna, 1890). See also E. H. Bunbury, Ancient Geography, i. ch. 13; and Alexander the Great. Ancient authorities.-Arrian, Anab. vi. 19, 21; vii. 4, 19, 20, 25; Plutarch, Alexander, ro, 68, 75; Strabo xv. pp. 721, 725; Diod. Sic. xvii. 104; Justin xiii. 4.
The New International Encyclopaedia (1905) pg. 318.
1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 19. pg. 322.