CONQUEST OF THE INDUS VALLEY
Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley refers to the Achaemenid
military conquest and occupation of the territories of the North-western
regions of the Indian subcontinent, from the 6th to 4th centuries
BC. The conquest of the areas as far as the Indus river is often
dated to the time of Cyrus the Great, in the period between 550-539
BCE. The first secure epigraphic evidence, given by the Behistun
Inscription, gives a date before or about 518 BCE. Achaemenid
penetration into the area of the Indian subcontinent occurred in
stages, starting from northern parts of the River Indus and moving
southward. These areas of the Indus valley became formal Achaemenid
satrapies as mentioned in several Achaemenid inscriptions. The Achaemenid
occupation of the Indus Valley ended with the Indian campaign of
Alexander the Great circa 323 BCE. The Achaemenid occupation,
although less successful than that of the later Greeks, Sakas or
Kushans, had the effect of acquainting India to the outer world.
and invasion :
appears to the east of the inhabited world according to Herodotus,
at Bhir Mound representing the city of Taxila during the Achaemenid
For millennia, the northwestern part of India had maintained some
level of trade relations with the Near East. Finally, the Achaemenid
Empire underwent a considerable expansion, both east and west, during
the reign of Cyrus the Great (c.600–530 BC), leading the dynasty
to take a direct interest into the region of northwestern India.
the Great :
The conquest is often thought to have started circa 535 BCE, during
the time of Cyrus the Great (600-530 BCE). Cyrus probably went as
far as the banks of the Indus river and organized the conquered
territories under the Satrapy of Gandara (Old Persian cuneiform:
Gadara, also transliterated as Gandara since the nasal "n"
before consonants was omitted in the Old Persian script, and simplified
as Gandara) according to the Behistun Inscription. The Province
was also referred to as Paruparaesanna (Greek: Parapamisadae) in
the Babylonian and Elamite versions of the Behistun inscription.
The geographical extent of this province was wider than the Indian
Gandhara. Various accounts, such as those of Xenophon or Ctesias,
who wrote Indica, also suggest that Cyrus conquered parts of India.
Another Indian Province was conquered named Sattagydia (Thataguš)
in the Behistun inscription. It was probably contiguous to Gandhar,
but its actual location is uncertain. Fleming locates it between
Arachosia and the middle Indus. Fleming also mentions Maka, in the
area of Gedrosia, as one of the Indian satrapies.
A successor of Cyrus the Great, Darius I was back in 518 BCE. The
date of 518 BCE is given by the Behistun inscription, and is also
often the one given for the secure occupation of Gandhara in Punjab.
Darius I later conquered an additional province that he calls "Hiduš"
in his inscriptions (Old Persian cuneiform: H-i-du-u-š, also
transliterated as Hinduš since the nasal "n" before
consonants was omitted in the Old Persian script, and simplified
as Hindush), corresponding to the Indus Valley. The Hamadan Gold
and Silver Tablet inscription of Darius I also refers to his conquests
Darius I on his tomb
The exact area of the Province of Hindush is uncertain. Some scholars
have described it as the middle and lower Indus Valley and the approximate
region of modern Sindh, but there is no known evidence of Achaemenid
presence in this region, and deposits of gold, which Herodotus says
was produced in vast quantities by this Province, are also unknown
in the Indus delta region. Alternatively, Hindush may have been
the region of Taxila and Western Punjab, where there are indications
that a Persian satrapy may have existed. There are few remains of
Achaemenid presence in the east, but, according to Fleming, the
archaeological site of Bhir Mound in Taxila remains the "most
plausible candidate for the capital of Achaemenid India", based
on the fact that numerous pottery styles similar to those of the
Achaemenids in the East have been found there, and that "there
are no other sites in the region with Bhir Mound's potential".
to Herodotus, Darius I sent the Greek explorer Scylax of Caryanda
to sail down the Indus river, heading a team of spies, in order
to explore the course of the Indus river. After a periplus of 30
months, Scylax is said to have returned to Egypt near the Red Sea,
and the seas between the Near East and India were made use of by
according to Herodotus, the territories of Gandhara, Sattagydia,
Dadicae and Aparytae formed the 7th province of the Achaemenid Empire
for tax-payment purposes, while Indus (called "Indos"
in Greek sources) formed the 20th tax region.
Ionian (Yavanas), Scythian (Sakas) and Persian (Parasikas) soldiers
of the Achaemenid army, as described on Achaemenid royal tombs from
circa 500 to 338 BCE.
The Achaemenid army was not uniquely Persian. Rather it was composed
of many different ethnicities that were part of the vast Achaemenid
Empire. The army included Bactrians, Sakas (Scythians), Parthians,
Sogdians. Herodotus gives a full list of the ethnicities
of the Achaemenid army, in which are included Ionians (Greeks),
and even Ethiopians. These ethnicities are likely to have been included
in the Achaemenid army which invaded India.
Persians may have later participated, together with Sakas and Greeks,
in the campaigns of Chandragupta Maurya to gain the throne of Magadh
circa 320 BCE. The Mudrarakshasa states that after Alexander's
death, an alliance of "Shak - Yavan - Kamboj - Parasik - Bahlik"
was used by Chandragupta Maurya in his campaign to take the throne
in Magadh and found the Mauryan Empire. The Sakas were the Scythians,
the Yavanas were the Greeks, and the Parasikas were the
Persians. David Brainard Spooner observed of Chandragupta
Maurya that "it was with largely the Persian army that he won
the throne of India."
Indian satrapies on the Statue of Darius I :
These events were recorded in the imperial inscriptions of the Achaemenids
(the Behistun inscription and the Naqsh-i-Rustam inscription, as
well as the accounts of Herodotus (483–431 BCE), and of the
Hellenistic accounts of the Greek conquests in India (circa 320
BCE). The Greek Scylax of Caryanda, who had been appointed by Darius
I to explore the Indian Ocean from the mouth of the Indus to Suez
left an account, the Periplous, of which fragments from secondary
sources have survived. Hecataeus of Miletus (circa 500 BCE) also
wrote about the "Indus Satrapies" of the Achaemenids.
The 'DB' Behistun inscription of Darius I (circa 510 BCE) mentions
Gandar (Gandhar, Gadara) and the adjacent territory of Sattagydia
(Thataguš) as part of the Achaemenid Empire :
Darius says :
These are the countries which are subject unto me, and by the grace
of Ahuramazda I became king of them: Persia [Pârsa], Elam
[Ûvja], Babylonia [Bâbiruš], Assyria [Athurâ],
Arabia [Arabâya], Egypt [Mudrâya], the countries by
the Sea, Lydia [Sparda], the Greeks [Yauna (Ionia)], Media [Mâda],
Armenia [Armina], Cappadocia [Katpatuka], Parthia [Parthava], Drangiana
[Zraka], Aria [Haraiva], Chorasmia [Uvârazmîy], Bactria
[Bâxtriš], Sogdia [Suguda], Gandara [Gadara], Scythia
[Saka], Sattagydia [Thataguš], Arachosia [Harauvatiš]
and Maka [Maka]; twenty-three lands in all.
Behistun Inscription of Darius I.
From the dating of the Behistun inscription, it is possible
to infer that the Achaemenids first conquered the areas of Gandara
and Sattagydia circa 518 BCE.
of Darius inscriptions :
Hinduš is also mentioned as one of 24 subject countries
of the Achaemenid Empire, illustrated with the drawing of a kneeling
subject and a hieroglyphic cartridge reading (h-n-d-w?-y), on the
Egyptian Statue of Darius I, now in the National Museum of Iran.
Sattagydia also appears (Sattagydia), and probably Gandara ( h-rw-?-d-y,
although this could be Arachosia), with their own illustrations.
Palace foundation tablets :
foundation plate of Darius I in the Apadana Palace in Persepolis
with the word Hidauv, locative of "Hiduš"
Four identical foundation tablets of gold and silver, found in two
deposition boxes in the foundations of the Apadana Palace, also
contained an inscription by Darius I in Old Persian cuneiform, which
describes the extent of his Empire in broad geographical terms,
from the Indus valley in the east to Lydia in the west, and from
the Scythians beyond Sogdia in the north, to the African Kingdom
of Kush in the south. This is known as the DPh inscription. The
deposition of these foundation tablets and the Apadana coin hoard
found under them, is dated to circa 515 BCE.
the great king, king of kings, king of countries, son of Hystaspes,
an Achaemenid. King Darius says: This is the kingdom which I
hold, from the Sacae who are beyond Sogdia to Kush, and from Sind
(Old Persian: "Hidauv", locative of "Hiduš",
i.e. "Indus valley") to Lydia (Old Persian: "Spardâ")
- [this is] what Ahuramazda, the greatest of gods, bestowed upon
me. May Ahuramazda protect me and my royal house!
DPh inscription of Darius I in the foundations of the Apadana Palace
Naqsh-e Rustam inscription :
Naqsh-e Rustam DNa inscription, on the tomb of Darius I, mentioning
all three Indian territories: Sattagydia (Thataguš), Gandara
(Gandhar, Gadara) and India (Hiduš) as part of the Achaemenid
The DSe inscription and DSm inscription of Darius in Susa gives
Thataguš (Sattagydia), Gadara (Gandara) and Hiduš (Sind)
among the nations that he rules.
(in Old Persian cuneiform) also appears later as a Satrapy in the
Naqsh-i-Rustam inscription at the end of the reign of Darius, who
died in 486 BCE. The DNa inscription on Darius' tomb at Naqsh-i-Rustam
near Persepolis records Gadara (Gandara) along with Hiduš and
Thataguš (Sattagydia) in the list of satrapies.
Darius says : By the favor of Ahuramazda these are the countries
which I seized outside of Persia; I ruled over them; they bore tribute
to me; they did what was said to them by me; they held my law firmly;
Media, Elam, Parthia, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Drangiana,
Arachosia, Sattagydia, Gandara (Gadara), India (Hiduš), the
haoma-drinking Scythians, the Scythians with pointed caps, Babylonia,
Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks (Yauna),
the Scythians across the sea (Sakâ), Thrace, the petasos-wearing
Greeks [Yaunâ], the Libyans, the Nubians, the men of Maka
and the Carians.
Naqsh-e Rustam inscription of Darius I (circa 490 BCE)
Achaemenid administration :
territories of the Achaemenid Empire
names of the three Ancient Indian provinces still appear in trilingual
cuneiform labels above their respective figures on the tomb of Artaxerxes
II (c.358 BCE)
The nature of the administration under the Achaemenids is uncertain.
Even though the Indian provinces are called "satrapies"
by convention, there is no evidence of there being any satraps in
these provinces. When Alexander invaded the region, he did not
encounter Achaemenid satraps in the Indian provinces, but local
Indian rulers referred to as hyparchs ("Vice-Regents"),
a term that connotes subordination to the Achaemenid rulers. The
local rulers may have reported to the satraps of Bactria and Arachosia.
lists of Provinces :
Darius I listed three Indian provinces: Thataguš (Sattagydia),
Gandâra (Gandhara) and Hiduš (Sind), in which "Sind"
should be understood as "Indus Valley". The three regions
remained represented among Achaemenid Provinces on all the tombs
of the Achaemenid rulers after Darius, except for the last ruler
Darius III who was vanquished by Alexander at Gaugamela, suggesting
that the Indians were under Achaemenid dominion at least until 338
BCE, date of the end of the reign of Artaxerxes III, before the
accession of Darius III, that is, less than 10 years before the
campaigns of Alexander in the East and his victory at Gaugamela.
The last known appearance of Gandhara in name as an Achaemenid province
is on the list of the tomb of Artaxerxes II, circa 358 BCE, date
of his burial.
List of Herodotus :
Herodotus (III-91 and III-94), gives a list with a slightly different
structure, as some province which are presented separately in the
Achaemenid inscriptions are grouped together by Herodotus when he
described the tribute paid by each territory. Herodotus presents
Indos as "the 20th province", while "the Sattagydae,
Gandarii, Dadicae, and Aparytae" together form "the 7th
Province". According to historian A. T. Olmstead, the fact
that some Achaemenid regions are grouped together in this list may
have represented some loss of territory.
Hinduš province, remained loyal till Alexander's invasion.
Circa 400 BC, Ctesias of Cnidus related that the Persian king was
receiving numerous gifts from the kings of "India" (Hinduš).
Ctesias also reported Indian elephants and Indian mahouts making
demonstrations of the elephant's strength at the Achaemenid court.
about 380 BC, the Persian hold on the region was weakening, but
the area continued to be a part of the Achaemenid Empire until Alexander's
III (c. 380 – July 330 BC) still had Indian units in his army.
In particular he had 15 war elephants at the Battle of Gaugamela
for his fight against Alexander the Great.
Indian soldiers on the tomb of Darius I (c.500 BCE)
soldiers on the tomb of Xerxes I (c.480 BCE)
soldiers on the tomb of Artaxerxes I (c.430 BCE)
soldiers on the tomb of Darius II (c.410 BCE)
soldiers on the tomb of Artaxerxes II (c.370 BCE)
soldiers on the tomb of Artaxerxes III (c.340 BCE)
Apadana Palace :
Tribute Bearers on the Apadana Staircase 8, circa 500 BCE
small but heavy load: Indian tribute bearer at Apadana, probably
carrying gold dust. 1 liter of gold weighs 19.3 kg
The reliefs at the Apadana Palace in Persepolis describe tribute
bearers from 23 satrapies visiting the Achaemenid court. These are
located at the southern end of the Apadana Staircase. Among the
foreigners the Arabs, the Thracians, the Bactrians, the Indians
(from the Indus valley area), the Parthians, the Cappadocians, the
Elamites or the Medians. The Indians from the Indus valley are bare-chested,
except for their leader, and barefooted and wear the dhoti. They
bring baskets with vases inside, carry axes, and drive along a donkey.
One man in the Indian procession carries a small but visibly heavy
load of four jars on a yoke, suggesting that he was carrying some
of the gold dust paid by the Indians as tribute to the Achaemenid
to the Naqsh-e Rustam inscription of Darius I (circa 490 BCE), there
were three Achaemenid Satrapies in the subcontinent: Sattagydia,
of annual tribute per district, in the Achaemenid Empire, according
The conquered area was the most fertile and populous region of the
Achaemenid Empire. An amount of tribute was fixed according to the
richness of each territory. India was already famous for its
(who makes several comments on India) published a list of tribute-paying
nations, classifying them in 20 Provinces. The Province of Indos
(the Indus valley) formed the 20th Province, and was the richest
and most populous of the Achaemenid Provinces.
Indians made up the twentieth province. These are more in number
than any nation known to me, and they paid a greater tribute than
any other province, namely three hundred and sixty talents of gold
Herodotus, III 94.
According to Herodotus, the "Indians" (Indoi), as separate
from the Gandarei and the Sattagydians, formed the 20th taxation
Province, and were required to supply gold dust in tribute to the
Achaemenid central government for an amount of 360 Euboean talents
(equivalent to about 8300 kg or 8.3 tons of gold annually, a volume
of gold that would fit in a cube of side 75 cm). The exchange rate
between gold and silver at the time of Herodotus being 13 to 1,
this was equal in value to the very large amount of 4680 Euboean
talents of silver, equivalent to 3600 Babylonian talents of silver
(equivalent in value to about 108 tons of silver annually). The
country of the "Indians" (Indoi) was the Achaemenid district
paying the largest tribute, and alone represented 32% of the total
tribute revenues of the whole Achaemenid Empire. It also means that
Indos was the richest Achaemenid region in the subcontinent, much
richer than Gandara or Sattagydia. However the amount of
gold in question is quite enormous, so there is a possibility that
Herodotus was mistaken and that his own sources actually only meant
something like the gold equivalent of 360 Babylonian talents of
delegation at Apadana Palace
The territories of Gandara, Sattagydia, Dadicae (north-west of the
Kashmir Valley) and the Aparytae (Afridis) are named separately,
and were aggregated together for taxation purposes, forming the
7th Achaemenid Province, and paying overall a much lower tribute
of 170 talents together (about 5151 kg, or 5.1 tons of silver),
hence only about 1.5% of the total revenues of the Achaemenid Empire
Sattagydae, Gandarii, Dadicae and Aparytae paid together a hundred
and seventy talents; this was the seventh province
Herodotus, III 91.
Indian soldiers of the three territories of Sattagydia, Gandhara
and Hindush respectively, supporting the throne of Xerxes I on his
tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam. See also complete relief. c. 480 BCE
soldiers of the Achaemenid army participated to the Second Persian
invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE)
The Indians also supplied Yaka wood (teak) for the construction
of Achaemenid palaces, as well as war elephants such as those used
at Gaugamela. The Susa inscriptions of Darius explain that
Indian ivory and teak were sold on Persian markets, and used in
the construction of his palace.
to Achaemenid war efforts
Second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE) :
Indians were employed in the Achaemenid army of Xerxes in the
Second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE). All troops were
stationned in Sardis, Lydia, during the winter of 481-480 BCE to
prepare for the invasion. In the spring of 480 BCE "Indian
troops marched with Xerxes's army across the Hellespont". It
was the "first-ever force from India to fight on the continent
of Europe", storming Greek troops at the Battle of Thermopylae
in 480 BCE, and fighting as one of the main nations until the final
Battle of Platea in 479 BCE.
in his description of the multi-ethnic Achaemenid army invading
Greece, described the equipment of the Indians :
Indians wore garments of tree-wool, and carried bows of reed and
iron-tipped arrows of the same. Such was their equipment; they were
appointed to march under the command of Pharnazathres son of Artabates.
— Herodotus VII 65
Spartan hoplite (Vix crater, c. 500 BCE), and a Hindush warrior
of the Achaemenid army (tomb of Xerxes I, c. 480 BCE), at the time
of the Second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BCE)
Herodotus also explains that the Indian cavalry under the Achaemenids
had an equipment similar that of their foot soldiers :
Indians were armed in like manner as their foot; they rode swift
horses and drove chariots drawn by horses and wild asses.
Herodotus VII 86
The Gandharis had a different equipment, akin to that of the Bactrians
Bactrians in the army wore a headgear most like to the Median, carrying
their native bows of reed, and short spears. The Parthians, Chorasmians,
Sogdians, Gandarians, and Dadicae in the army had the same equipment
as the Bactrians. The Parthians and Chorasmians had for their
commander Artabazus son of Pharnaces, the Sogdians Azanes son of
Artaeus, the Gandarians and Dadicae Artyphius son of Artabanus.
Herodotus VII 64-66
Destruction of Athens and Battle of Plataea (479 BCE) :
After the first part of the campaign directly under the orders Xerxes
I, the Indian troops are reported to have stayed in Greece as one
of the 5 main nations among the 300,000 elite troops of General
Mardonius. They fought in the last stages of the war, took part
in the Destruction of Athens, but were finally vanquished at the
Battle of Platea :
Indian corps at the Battle of Plataea, 479 BCE
Mardonius there chose out first all the Persians called Immortals,
save only Hydarnes their general, who said that he would not quit
the king's person; and next, the Persian cuirassiers, and the thousand
horse, and the Medes and Sacae and Bactrians and Indians,
alike their footmen and the rest of the horsemen. He chose these
nations entire; of the rest of his allies he picked out a few from
each people, the goodliest men and those that he knew to have done
some good service... Thereby the whole number, with the horsemen,
grew to three hundred thousand men.
Herodotus VIII, 113.
At the final Battle of Platea in 479 BCE, Indians formed one
of the main corps of Achaemenid troops (one of "the greatest
of the nations"). They were one of the main battle corps,
positioned near the center of the Achaemenid battle line, between
the Bactrians and the Sakae, facing against the enemy Greek troops
of "Hermione and Eretria and Styra and Chalcis". According
to modern estimates, the Bactrians, Indians and Sakae probably numbered
about 20,000 men altogether, whereas the Persian troops on their
left amounted to about 40,000. There were also Greek allies
of the Persians, positioned on the right, whom Herodotus numbers
at 50,000, a number which however might be "extravagant",
and is nowadays estimated to around 20,000. Indians also supplied
part of the cavalry, the total of which was about 5,000.
Indian soldiers of the three territories of Gandar, Sattagydia
(Tathagatus) and Hindush are shown, together with soldiers of all
the other nations, supporting the throne of their Achaemenid ruler,
at Naqsh-e Rostam on the tombs of Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes
I and Darius II, and at Persepolis on the tombs of Artaxerxes II
and Artaxerxes III. The last Achaemenid ruler Darius III never
had time to finish his own tomb due to his hasty defeat by Alexander
the Great, and therefore does not have such depictions. The soldiers
from India are characterized by their particular clothing, only
composed of a loin cloth and sandals, with bare upper body, in contrast
to all the other ethnicities of the Achaemenid army, who are fully
clothed, and in contrast also to the neighbouring provinces of Bactria
or Arachosia, who are also fully clothed.
three types of Indian soldiers still appear (upper right corner)
among the soldiers of the Achaemenid Empire on the tomb of Artaxerxes
III (who died in 338 BCE)
The presence of the three ethnicities of Indian soldiers on the
all the tombs of the Achaemenid rulers after Darius, except for
the last ruler Darius III who was vanquished by Alexander at Gaugamela,
suggest that the Indians were under Achaemenid dominion at least
until 338 BCE, date of the end of the reign of Artaxerxes III, before
the accession of Darius III, that is, less than 10 years before
the campaigns of Alexander in the East and his victory at Gaugamela.
at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE) :
According to Arrian, Indian troops were still deployed under
Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE). He explains
that Darius III "obtained the help of those Indians who bordered
on the Bactrians, together with the Bactrians and Sogdianians themselves,
all under the command of Bessus, the Satrap of Bactria". The
Indians in questions were probably from the area of Gandara. Indian
"hill-men" are also said by Arrian to have joined the
Arachotians under Satrap Barsentes, and are thought to have been
either the Sattagydians or the Hindush.
Indian war elephants were also part of the army of Darius III at
Gaugamela. They had specifically been brought from India. Still,
it seems they did not participate to the final battle, probably
because of fatigue. This was a relief for the armies of Alexander,
who had no previous experience of combat against war elephants.
The elephants were captured with the baggage train by the Greeks
after the engagement.
Gandaran soldier of the Achaemenid army, circa 480 BCE.
Xerxes I tomb
soldier (enhanced detail)
soldier of the Achaemenid army, circa 480 BCE. Xerxes I tomb
soldier (enhanced detail)
soldier of the Achaemenid army, circa 480 BCE. Xerxes I tomb
soldier (enhanced detail)
and Achaemenid coinage :
Strike of an Achaemenid siglos, Kabul, Afghanistan, circa
5th century BCE. Archer king type. Coins of this type were also
found in the Bhir Mound hoard in Taxila
Empire coin minted in the Kabul Valley. Circa 500-380 BCE
bar" minted under Achaemenid administration, of the type found
in large quantities in the Chaman Hazouri hoard and the Bhir Mound
hoard in Taxila
Coin finds in the Chaman Hazouri hoard in Kabul, or the Shaikhan
Dehri hoard in Pushkalavati in Gandhara, near Charsadda, as well
as in the Bhir Mound hoard in Taxila, have revealed numerous Achaemenid
coins as well as many Greek coins from the 5th and 4th centuries
BCE which circulated in the area, at least as far as the Indus during
the reign of the Achaemenids, who were in control of the areas as
far as Gandhar.
and Bhir Mound hoards :
The Kabul hoard, also called the Chaman Hazouri, Chaman Hazouri
or Tchamani-i Hazouri hoard, is a coin hoard discovered in the vicinity
of Kabul, Afghanistan. The hoard, discovered in 1933, contained
numerous Achaemenid coins as well as many Greek coins from the 5th
and 4th centuries BCE. Approximately one thousand coins were in
the hoard. The hoard is dated to approximately 380 BCE as no coins
in the hoard were later than that date.
numismatic discovery has been very important in studying and dating
the history of coinage of India, since it is one of the very rare
instances when punch-marked coins can actually be dated, due to
their association with known and dated Greek and Achaemenid coins
in the hoard. The hoard supports the view that punch-marked coins
existed in 360 BCE, as suggested by literary evidence.
Schlumberger also considers that punch-marked bars, similar to the
many punch-marked bars found in north-western India, initially originated
in the Achaemenid Empire, rather than in the Indian heartland :
punch-marked bars were up to now considered to be Indian (...) However
the weight standard is considered by some expert to be Persian,
and now that we see them also being uncovered in the soil of Afghanistan,
we must take into account the possibility that their country of
origin should not be sought beyond the Indus, but rather in the
oriental provinces of the Achaemenid Empire"
Daniel Schlumberger, quoted from Trésors Monétaires,
Modern numismatists now tend to consider the Achaemenid punch-marked
coins as the precursors of the Indian punch-marked coins.
In 2007, a small coin hoard was discovered at the site of ancient
Pushkalavati (the Shaikhan Dehri hoard) near Charsada in Pakistan.
The hoard contained a tetradrachm minted in Athens circa 500/490-485/0
BCE, together with a number of local types as well as silver cast
ingots. The hoard contained a tetradrachm minted in Athens circa
500/490-485/0 BCE, typically used as a currency for trade in the
Achaemenid Empire, together with a number of local types as well
as silver cast ingots. The Athens coin is the earliest known example
of its type to be found so far to the east.
to Joe Cribb, these early Greek coins were at the origin of Indian
punch-marked coins, the earliest coins developed in India, which
used minting technology derived from Greek coinage.
of Achaemenid culture in the Indian subcontinent
Cultural exchanges: Taxila :
Taxila (site of Bhir Mound), the "most plausible candidate
for the capital of Achaemenid India", was at the crossroad
of the main trade roads of Asia, was probably populated by Persians,
Greeks and other people from throughout the Achaemenid Empire.
The renowned University of Taxila became the greatest learning
centre in the region, and allowed for exchanges between people from
of the Buddh :
Several contemporaries, and close followers, of the Buddh are said
to have studied in Achaemenid Taxila: King Pasenadi of Kosal,
a close friend of the Buddh, Bandhul, the commander of Pasedani's
army, Angulimal, a close follower of the Buddh, and Jivak, court
doctor at Rajagrih and personal doctor of the Buddh. According
to Stephen Batchelor, the Buddh may have been influenced by the
experiences and knowledge acquired by some of his closest followers
in Taxila (Takshashila).
The 5th century BCE grammarian Panini lived in an Achaemenid environment.
He is said to have been born in the north-west, in Shalatula
near Attock, not far from Taxila, in what was then a satrapy of
the Achaemenid Empire following the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus
Valley, which technically made him a Persian subject.
and Chandragupta Maurya :
Kautilya, the influential Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya,
is also said to have been a professor teaching in Taxila. According
to Buddhist legend, Kautilya brought Chandragupta Maurya, the future
founder of the Mauryan Empire to Taxila as a child, and had him
educated there in "all the sciences and arts" of the period,
including military sciences, for a period of 7 to 8 years. These
legends match Plutarch's assertion that Alexander the Great met
with the young Chandragupta while campaigning in the Punjab.
and astrological knowledge was also probably transmitted to India
from Babylon during the 5th century BCE as a consequence of the
Achaemenid presence in the sub-continent.
art and architecture: Pataliputra :
Masarh lion. The sculptural style is "unquestionably Achaemenid"
Various Indian artefacts tend to suggest some Perso-Hellenistic
artistic influence in India, mainly felt during the time of the
Mauryan Empire. The sculpture of the Masarh lion, found near the
Maurya capital of Pataliputra, raises the question of the Achaemenid
and Greek influence on the art of the Maurya Empire, and on the
western origins of stone carving in India. The lion is carved in
Chunar sandstone, like the Pillars of Ashok, and its finish is polished,
a feature of the Maurya sculpture. According to S.P. Gupta, the
sculptural style is unquestionably Achaemenid. This is particularly
the case for the well-ordered tubular representation of whiskers
(vibrissas) and the geometrical representation of inflated veins
flush with the entire face. The mane, on the other hand, with tufts
of hair represented in wavelets, is rather naturalistic. Very similar
examples are however known in Greece and Persepolis. It is possible
that this sculpture was made by an Achaemenid or Greek sculptor
in India and either remained without effect, or was the Indian imitation
of a Greek or Achaemenid model, somewhere between the fifth century
B.C. and the first century B.C., although it is generally dated
from the time of the Maurya Empire, around the 3rd century B.C.
Pataliputra palace with its pillared hall shows decorative influences
of the Achaemenid palaces and Persepolis and may have used the help
of foreign craftsmen. Mauryan rulers may have even imported craftsmen
from abroad to build royal monuments. This may be the result of
the formative influence of craftsmen employed from Persia following
the disintegration of the Achaemenid Empire after the conquests
of Alexander the Great. The Pataliputra capital, or also the
Hellenistic friezes of the Rampurva capitals, Sankissa, and the
diamond throne of Bodh Gaya are other examples.
renowned Mauryan polish, especially used in the Pillars of Ashok,
may also have been a technique imported from the Achaemenid Empire.
Ruins of pillared hall at Kumrahar site at Pataliputra
of the 80-column pillared hall in Pataliputra
Pataliputra capital, generally described as "Perso-Hellenistic"
motifs in Pataliputra
Tomb of Payava (dated 375-360 BCE) and Lomas Rishi cave entrance
(dated circa 250 BCE)
Cave 9 (dated 1st century BCE)
similarity of the 4th century BCE Lycian barrel-vaulted tombs, such
as the tomb of Payava, in the western part of the Achaemenid Empire,
with the Indian architectural design of the Chaitya (starting at
least a century later from circa 250 BCE, with the Lomas Rishi caves
in the Barabar caves group), suggests that the designs of the Lycian
rock-cut tombs travelled to India along the trade routes across
the Achaemenid Empire.
on, James Fergusson, in his " Illustrated Handbook of Architecture",
while describing the very progressive evolution from wooden architecture
to stone architecture in various ancient civilizations, has commented
that "In India, the form and construction of the older Buddhist
temples resemble so singularly these examples in Lycia". The
structural similarities, down to many architectural details, with
the Chaitya-type Indian Buddhist temple designs, such as the "same
pointed form of roof, with a ridge", are further developed
in The cave temples of India. The Lycian tombs, dated to the 4th
century BCE, are either free-standing or rock-cut barrel-vaulted
sarcophagi, placed on a high base, with architectural features carved
in stone to imitate wooden structures. There are numerous rock-cut
equivalents to the free-standing structures and decorated with reliefs.
Fergusson went on to suggest an "Indian connection", and
some form of cultural transfer across the Achaemenid Empire. The
ancient transfer of Lycian designs for rock-cut monuments to India
is considered as "quite probable".
historian David Napier has also proposed a reverse relationship,
claiming that the Payava tomb was a descendant of an ancient South
Asian style, and that Payava may actually have been a Graeco-Indian
columns: the Pillars of Ashok :
polished Achaemenid load-bearing column with lotus capital and animals,
Persepolis, c. 5th-4th BCE
Capital of Ashok from Sarnath
Regarding the Pillars of Ashok, there has been much discussion of
the extent of influence from Achaemenid Persia, since the column
capitals supporting the roofs at Persepolis have similarities, and
the "rather cold, hieratic style" of the Sarnath Lion
Capital of Ashok especially shows "obvious Achaemenid and Sargonid
influence has also been suggested. In particular the abaci of some
of the pillars (especially the Rampurva bull, the Sankissa elephant
and the Allahabad pillar capital) use bands of motifs, like the
bead and reel pattern, the ovolo, the flame palmettes, lotuses,
which likely originated from Greek and Near-Eastern arts. Such examples
can also be seen in the remains of the Mauryan capital city of Pataliputra.
Frieze of Rampurva capitals, alternating palmettes and lotus
Frieze of Sankissa
of the diamond throne of Bodh Gaya
language and script :
The Aramaic Inscription of Taxila
The Aramaic language, official language of the Achaemenid Empire,
started to be used in the Indian territories. Some of the Edicts
of Ashok in the north-western areas of Ashok's territory, in modern
Pakistan and Afghanistan, used Aramaic (the official language of
the former Achaemenid Empire), together with Prakrit and Greek (the
language of the neighbouring Greco-Bactrian kingdom and the Greek
communities in Ashok's realm).
Indian Kharosthi script shows a clear dependency on the Aramaic
alphabet but with extensive modifications to support the sounds
found in Indic languages. One model is that the Aramaic script arrived
with the Achaemenid Empire's conquest of the Indus River (modern
Pakistan) in 500 BCE and evolved over the next 200+ years, reaching
its final form by the 3rd century BCE where it appears in some of
the Edicts of Ashok.
of Ashok :
The Edicts of Ashok (circa 250 BCE) may show Achaemenid influences,
including formulaic parallels with Achaemenid inscriptions, presence
of Iranian loanwords (in Aramaic inscriptions), and the very act
of engraving edicts on rocks and mountains (compare for example
Behistun inscription). To describe his own edicts, Ashok used the
word Lipi (now generally simply translated as "writing"
or "inscription". It is thought the word "lipi",
which is also orthographed "dipi" (in the two Kharosthi
versions of the rock edicts,[b] comes from an Old Persian prototype
dipî also meaning "inscription", which is used for
example by Darius I in his Behistun inscription,[c] suggesting borrowing
and diffusion. There are other borrowings of Old Persian terms for
writing-related words in the Edicts of Ashok, such as nipista or
nipesita ("written" and "made to be written")
in the Kharoshthi version of Major Rock Edict No.4, which can be
related to the word nipišta ("written") from the
daiva inscription of Xerxes at Persepolis.
of the Edicts of Ashok, such as the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription
or the Taxila inscription were written in Aramaic, one of the official
languages of the former Achaemenid Empire.
The word Dipi ("Edict") in the Edicts of Ashok, identical
with the Achaemenid word for "writing"
Kharoshthi script is generally considered as a development from
Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription of Ashok (circa 256 BCE) in
Greek and Aramaic
of foreigners in Mathura :
head", Mathura, c. 2nd century BCE. Mathura Museum
Nobleman clad in coat dupatta trouser and turban", Mathura,
c. 2nd Century BCE. Mathura Museum
Figurines of Persian foreigners in Mathura (4th-2nd century
Some relatively high quality terracotta statuettes have been recovered
from the Mauryan Empire strata in the excavations of Mathura in
northern India. Most of these terracottas show what appears to be
female deities or mother goddesses. However, several figures of
foreigners also appear in the terracottas from the 4th to the 2nd
century BCE, which are either described simply as "foreigners"
or Persian or Iranian because of their foreign features. These figurines
might reflect the increased contacts of Indians with Iranian people
during this period. Several of these seem to represent foreign soldiers
who visited India during the Mauryan period and influenced modellers
in Mathura with their peculiar ethnic features and uniforms. One
of the terracotta statuettes, a man nicknamed the "Persian
nobleman" and dated to the 2nd century BCE, can be seen wearing
a coat, scarf, trousers and a turban.
According to Ammianus Marcellinus, a 4th-century CE Roman author,
Hystaspes, the father of Darius I, studied under the Brahmins in
India, thus contributing to the development of the religion of the
Magi (Zoroastrianism) :
a very wise monarch, the father of Darius. Who while boldly penetrating
into the remoter districts of upper India, came to a certain woody
retreat, of which with its tranquil silence the Brahmans, men of
sublime genius, were the possessors. From their teaching he learnt
the principles of the motion of the world and of the stars, and
the pure rites of sacrifice, as far as he could; and of what he
learnt he infused some portion into the minds of the Magi, which
they have handed down by tradition to later ages, each instructing
his own children, and adding to it their own system of divination".
Ammianus Marcellinus, XXIII. 6.
In ancient sources, Hystapes is sometimes considered as identical
with Vishtasp (the Avestan and Old Persian name for Hystapes), an
early patron of Zoroaster.
the life of the Buddh also coincided with the Achaemenid conquest
of the Indus Valley. The Achaemenid occupation of the areas of Gandara
and Hinduš, which was to last for about two centuries, was
accompanied by Achaemenid religions, reformed Mazdaism or early
Zoroastrianism, to which Buddhism might also have in part reacted.
In particular, the ideas of the Buddh may have partly consisted
in a rejection of the "absolutist" or "perfectionist"
ideas contained in these Achaemenid religions.
according to Christopher I. Beckwith, commenting on the content
of the Edicts of Ashok, the early Buddhist concepts of karma, rebirth,
and affirming that good deeds with be rewarded in this life and
the next, in Heaven, probably find their origin in Achaemenid Mazdaism,
which had been introduced in India from the time of the Achaemenid
conquest of Gandara.