Maurya Empire

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Maurya Empire

The Maurya Empire at its largest extent under Ashoka.
Imperial Symbol:
The Lion Capital of Ashoka
Founder Chandragupta Maurya
Preceding State(s) Mahajanapadas, mainly Magadha
Languages Sanskrit
Pali
Prakrit
Greek (northwest)
Aramaic (northwest)
Religions Hinduism
Jainism
Buddhism
Capital Pataliputra
Head of State Samraat (Emperor)
First Emperor Chandragupta Maurya
Last Emperor Brhadrata
Government Centralized Absolute Monarchy with Divine Right of Kings as described in the Arthashastra
Divisions 4 provinces:
Tosali
Ujjain
Suvarnagiri
Taxila
Semi-independent tribes
Administration Inner Council of Ministers (Mantriparishad) under a Mahamantri with a larger assembly of ministers (Mantrinomantriparisadamca).
Extensive network of officials from treasurers (Sannidhatas) to collectors (Samahartas) and clerks (Karmikas).
Provincial administration under regional viceroys (Kumara or Aryaputra) with their own Mantriparishads and supervisory officials (Mahamattas).
Provinces divided into districts run by lower officials and similar stratification down to individual villages run by headmen and supervised by Imperial officials (Gopas).
Area 5 million km² [30] (Southern Asia and parts of Central Asia)
Population 50 million [31] (one third of the world population [32])
Currency Silver Ingots (Panas)
Existed 322–185 BCE
Dissolution Military coup by Pusyamitra Sunga
Succeeding state Sunga Empire
 A representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka, which was erected around 250 BC. It is the emblem of India.
A representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka, which was erected around 250 BC. It is the emblem of India.

The Maurya Empire, ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, was the largest and most powerful political and military empire of ancient India.

Originating from the kingdom of Magadha in the Indo-Gangetic plains (modern Bihar and Bengal) in the eastern side of the sub-continent, the empire had its capital city at Pataliputra (near modern Patna). The Empire was founded in 322 BC by Chandragupta Maurya, who had overthrown the Nanda Dynasty and began rapidly expanding his power westwards across central and western India taking opportunistic advantage of the disruptions of local powers in the wake of the withdrawal westward by Alexander the Great's Macedonian and Persian armies. By 310 BC the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating the satraps left by Alexander.

At it's greatest extent, the Empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyond modern Pakistan and included Baluchistan in Persia and significant portions of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces. The Empire was expanded into India's central and southern regions by Emperor Bindusara, but it excluded a small portion of unexplored tribal and forested regions near Kalinga.

Following the conquest of Kalinga in a major war, Ashoka the Great ended the military expansion of the empire. The kingdoms of Pandya and Cheras in southern India thus preserved their independence, accepting the supremacy of the Mauryan emperor. The Mauryan Empire was perhaps the greatest empire to rule the Indian subcontinent until the arrival of the British. Its decline began fifty years after Ashoka's rule ended, and it dissolved in 185 BC with the foundation of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.

Under Chandragupta, the Mauryan Empire liberated the trans-indus region, which was under Macedonian occupation. Chandragupta then defeated the invasion led by Seleucus I, a Greek general from Alexander's army. Under Chandragupta and his successors, both internal and external trade, and agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India thanks to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration and security. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced half a century of peace and security under Ashoka: India was a prosperous and stable empire of great economic and military power whose political influence and trade extended across Western and Central Asia and Europe. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences and of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism was the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Mediterranean Europe.

Chandragupta's minister Kautilya Chanakya wrote the Arthashastra, one of the greatest treatises on economics, politics, foreign affairs, administration, military arts, war, and religion ever produced in the East. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW). The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are primary sources of written records of the Mauryan times. The Mauryan empire is considered one of the most significant periods in Indian history. The Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath, is the emblem of India.

Contents

[edit] Background

Although Alexander set up a Macedonian garrison and satrapies (vassal states) in Northwest India, ruled by the previous Indian kings Ambhi of Taxila and Porus of Pauravas, and the Greek generals Eudemus and Peithon until around 316 BC, the disruptive nature of his invasion and subsequent retreat left the region in a state of instability. It was in this context that Chandragupta Maurya and his advisor, Chanakya, were able to defeat the Macedonians and consolidate the region under the control of his newly-occupied seat of power in Magadha.

[edit] Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya

Following Alexander's advance into the Punjab, a brahmin named Chanakya (real name Vishnu Gupta, also known as Kautilya) traveled to Magadha, a kingdom that was large and militarily-powerful and feared by its neighbors, but was dismissed by its king Dhana, of the Nanda Dynasty. However, the prospect of battling Magadha in a major war was one of the factors that caused the refusal of Alexander's troops to go further east: he returned to Babylon, and he re-deployed most of his troops west of the Indus river. When Alexander died in Babylon, soon after in 323 BC, his empire fragmented, and local kings declared their independence.

Statuettes of the Maurya period, 4th-3rd century BC. Musée Guimet.
Statuettes of the Maurya period, 4th-3rd century BC. Musée Guimet.

Chandragupta Maurya's rise to power is shrouded in mystery and controversy. On the one hand, a number of ancient Indian accounts, such as the drama Mudrarakshasa (Poem of Rakshasa - Rakshasa was the prime minister of Magadha) by Visakhadatta, describe his royal ancestry and even link him with the Nanda family. A kshatriya tribe known as the Maurya's are referred to in the earliest texts Buddhist texts, Mahaparinibbana Sutta. However, any conclusions are hard to make without further historical evidence. Chandragupta first emerges in Greek accounts as "Sandrokottos". As a young man he is said to have met Alexander.[1] He is also said to have met the Nanda king, angered him, and made a narrow escape.[2] Chanakya's original intentions were to train a guerilla army under Chandragupta's command. Gathering young men and ex-soldiers from across central India, including Yavana (Greek), Scythian and Persian troops, Chandragupta's forces attacked and vanquished the Nanda dynasty.[3] In the northwest, sometime after the departure of the Greek satraps Peithon and Eudemus in 317 BC, Chandragupta vanquished the remnants of Greek forces.[4] Under principles outlined in the Arthashastra, Maurya built an extensive intelligence network, the first of its kind in India — a network of spies and informers who betrayed enemy plans, and mis-informed the enemy themselves of Maurya's true designs.

[edit] Conquest of Magadha

Chanakya encouraged Chandragupta and his army to take over the throne of Magadha. Using his intelligence network, Chandragupta gathered many young men from across Magadha and other provinces, men upset over the corrupt and oppressive rule of king Dhana, plus resources necessary for his army to fight a long series of battles. These men included the former general of Taxila, other accomplished students of Chanakya, the representative of King Porus of Kakayee, his son Malayketu, and the rulers of small states.

Preparing to invade Pataliputra, Maurya hatched a plan. A battle was announced and the Magadhan army was drawn from the city to a distant battlefield to engage Maurya's forces. Maurya's general and spies meanwhile bribed the corrupt general of Nanda. He also managed to create an atmosphere of civil war in the kingdom, which culminated in the death of the heir to the throne. Chanakya managed to win over popular sentiment. Ultimately Nanda resigned, handing power to Chandragupta, and went into exile and was never heard of again. Chanakya contacted the prime minister, Rakshasas, and made him understand that his loyalty was to Magadha, not to the Magadha dynasty, insisting that he continue in office. Chanakya also reiterated that choosing to resist would start a war that would severely affect Magadha and destroy the city. Rakshasa accepted Chanakya's reasoning, and Chandragupta Maurya was legitimately installed as the new King of Magadha. Rakshasa became Chandragupta's chief advisor, and Chanakya assumed the position of an elder statesman.

[edit] Building India's First Empire

Having become the king of one of India's most powerful states, Chandragupta invaded the Punjab. One of Alexander's satraps, Peithon, satrap of Media, had tried to raise a coalition against him. Chandragupta managed to conquer the Punjab capital of Taxila, one of ancient India's most important cities, increasing his power and consolidating his control.

[edit] Emperor Chandragupta

Approximate Dates of Mauryan Dynasty
Emperor Reign start Reign end
Chandragupta Maurya 322 BC 298 BC
Bindusara 297 BC 272 BC
Asoka The Great 273 BC 232 BC
Dasaratha 232 BC 224 BC
Samprati 224 BC 215 BC
Salisuka 215 BC 202 BC
Devavarman 202 BC 195 BC
Satadhanvan 195 BC 187 BC
Brihadratha 187 BC 185 BC

Chandragupta was again in conflict with the Greeks when Seleucus I, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, tried to reconquer the northwestern parts of India, during a campaign in 305 BC, but failed. The two rulers finally concluded a peace treaty: a marital treaty (Epigamia) was concluded, implying either a marital alliance between the two dynastic lines or a recognition of marriage between Greeks and Indians, Chandragupta received the satrapies of Paropamisadae (Kamboja and Gandhara), Arachosia (Kandhahar) and Gedrosia (Balochistan), and Seleucus I received 500 war elephants that were to have a decisive role in his victory against western Hellenistic kings at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. Diplomatic relations were established and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, Deimakos and Dionysius resided at the Mauryan court.

Chandragupta established a strong centralized state with a complex administration at Pataliputra, which, according to Megasthenes, was "surrounded by a wooden wall pierced by 64 gates and 570 towers— (and) rivaled the splendors of contemporaneous Persian sites such as Susa and Ecbatana." Chandragupta's son Bindusara extended the rule of the Mauryan empire towards central and southern India. He also had a Greek ambassador at his court, named Deimachus (Strabo 1–70).

Megasthenes describes a disciplined multitude under Chandragupta, who live simply, honestly, and do not know writing: " The Indians all live frugally, especially when in camp. They dislike a great undisciplined multitude, and consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws, but are ignorant of writing, and must therefore in all the business of life trust to memory. They live, nevertheless, happily enough, being simple in their manners and frugal. They never drink wine except at sacrifices. Their beverage is a liquor composed from rice instead of barley, and their food is principally a rice-pottage." Strabo XV. i. 53-56, quoting Megasthenes[5]

[edit] Bindusara

Chandragupta died after a reign for 24 years and abdicated in favor of his son, Bindusara, around 301 BC.[6] Details are scarce regarding Bindusara; however, the incorporation of peninsular India is generally credited to him. According to Jain tradition, his mother was a woman by the name of Durdhara. The Puranas assign him a reign of 25 years. He has been identified with the Indian title Amitraghata (slayer of Enemies), found in Greek texts as Amitrochates.

[edit] Ashoka the Great

Emperor Ashoka (a depiction)
Emperor Ashoka (a depiction)

Chandragupta's grandson Ashokavardhan Maurya, better known as Ashoka the Great (ruled 273- 232 BC), is considered by contemporary historians to be perhaps the greatest of Indian monarchs, and perhaps the world. H.G. Wells calls him the "greatest of kings".

As a young prince, Ashoka was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Taxila. As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting the Empire's superiority in southern and western India. But it was his conquest of Kalinga which proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Although Ashoka's army succeeded in overwhelming Kalinga forces of royal soldiers and civilian units, an estimated 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the furious warfare, including over 10,000 of Ashoka's own men. Hundreds of thousands of people were adversely affected by the destruction and fallout of war. When he personally witnessed the devastation, Ashoka began feeling remorse, and he cried 'what have I done?'. Although the annexation of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced the teachings of Gautama Buddha, and renounced war and violence. For a monarch in ancient times, this was an historic feat.

Ashoka implemented principles of ahimsa by banning hunting and violent sports activity and ending indentured and forced labor (many thousands of people in war-ravaged Kalinga had been forced into hard labor and servitude). While he maintained a large and powerful army, to keep the peace and maintain authority, Ashoka expanded friendly relations with states across Asia and Europe, and he sponsored Buddhist missions. He undertook a massive public works building campaign across the country. Over 40 years of peace, harmony and prosperity made Ashoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history. He remains an idealized figure of inspiration in modern India.

The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the Subcontinent. Ranging from as far west as Afghanistan and as far south as Andhra( Nellore District), Ashoka's edicts state his policies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them were written in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic. Ashoka's edicts refer to the Greeks, Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attest to Ashoka's having sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts precisely name each of the rulers of the Hellenic world at the time such as Amtiyoko (Antiochus), Tulamaya (Ptolemy), Amtikini (Antigonos), Maka (Magas) and Alikasudaro (Alexander) as recipients of Ashoka's proselytism. The Edicts also accurately locates their territory "600 yojanas away" (a yojanas being about 7 miles), corresponding to the distance between the center of India and Greece (roughly 4,000 miles).[7]

[edit] Administration

Mauryan ringstone, with standing goddess. Northwest Pakistan. 3rd century BC. British Museum.
Mauryan ringstone, with standing goddess. Northwest Pakistan. 3rd century BC. British Museum.

The Empire was divided into four provinces, with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashokan edicts, the names of the four provincial capitals are Tosali (in the east), Ujjain in the west, Suvarnagiri (in the south), and Taxila (in the north). The head of the provincial administration was the Kumara (royal prince), who governed the provinces as king's representative. The kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas and council of ministers. This organizational structure was reflected at the imperial level with the Emperor and his Mantriparishad (Council of Ministers).

Historians theorize that the organization of the Empire was in line with the extensive bureaucracy described by Kautilya in the Arthashastra: a sophisticated civil service governed everything from municipal hygiene to international trade. The expansion and defense of the empire was made possible by what appears to have been the largest standing army of its time<citation needed>. According to Megasthenes, the empire wielded a military of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 war elephants. A vast espionage system collected intelligence for both internal and external security purposes. Having renounced offensive warfare and expansionism, Ashoka nevertheless continued to maintain this large army, to protect the Empire and instill stability and peace across West and South Asia.

[edit] Economy

Silver punch mark coin of the Mauryan empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BC.
Silver punch mark coin of the Mauryan empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BC.

For the first time in South Asia, political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system and enhanced trade and commerce, with increased agricultural productivity. The previous situation involving hundreds of kingdoms, many small armies, powerful regional chieftains, and internecine warfare, gave way to a disciplined central authority. Farmers were freed of tax and crop collection burdens from regional kings, paying instead to a nationally-administered and strict-but-fair system of taxation as advised by the principles in the Arthashastra. Chandragupta Maurya established a single currency across India, and a network of regional governors and administrators and a civil service provided justice and security for merchants, farmers and traders. The Mauryan army wiped out many gangs of bandits, regional private armies, and powerful chieftains who sought to impose their own supremacy in small areas. Although regimental in revenue collection, Maurya also sponsored many public works and waterways to enhance productivity, while internal trade in India expanded greatly due to newfound political unity and internal peace.

Under the Indo-Greek friendship treaty, and during Ashoka's reign, an international network of trade expanded. The Khyber Pass, on the modern boundary of Pakistan and Afghanistan, became a strategically-important port of trade and intercourse with the outside world. Greek states and Hellenic kingdoms in West Asia became important trade partners of India. Trade also extended through the Malay peninsula into Southeast Asia. India's exports included silk goods and textiles, spices and exotic foods. The Empire was enriched further with an exchange of scientific knowledge and technology with Europe and West Asia. Ashoka also sponsored the construction of thousands of roads, waterways, canals, hospitals, rest-houses and other public works. The easing of many overly-rigorous administrative practices, including those regarding taxation and crop collection, helped increase productivity and economic activity across the Empire.

In many ways, the economic situation in the Maurya Empire is comparable to the Roman Empire several centuries later, which both had extensive trade connections and both had organizations similar to corporations. While Rome had organizational entities which were largely used for public state-driven projects, Mauryan India had numerous private commercial entities which existed purely for private commerce. This was due to the Mauryas having to contend with pre-existing private commercial entities hence they were more concerned about keeping the support of these pre-existing organizations, while the Romans did not have such pre-existing entities to contend with hence they were able to prevent such entities from developing.[8] (See also Economic history of India.)

[edit] Religion

Emperor Chandragupta Maurya became the first major Indian monarch to initiate a religious transformation at the highest level when he embraced Jainism, a religious movement resented by orthodox Hindu priests who usually attended the imperial court. At an older age, Chandragupta renounced his throne and material possessions to join a wandering group of Jain monks. However, his successor, Emperor Bindusara, preserved Hindu traditions and distanced himself from Jain and Buddhist movements.

Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Ashoka (260-218 BC).
Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Ashoka (260-218 BC).

But when Ashoka embraced Buddhism, following the Kalinga War, he renounced expansionism and aggression, and the harsher injunctions of the Arthashastra on the use of force, intensive policing, and ruthless measures for tax collection and against rebels. Ashoka sent a mission led by his son and daughter to Sri Lanka, whose king Tissa was so charmed with Buddhist ideals that he adopted them himself and made Buddhism the state religion. Ashoka sent many Buddhist missions to West Asia, Greece and South East Asia, and commissioned the construction of monasteries, schools and publication of Buddhist literature across the empire. He is believed to have built as many as 84,000 stupas across India, and he increased the popularity of Buddhism in Afghanistan. Ashoka helped convene the Third Buddhist Council of India and South Asia's Buddhist orders, near his capital, a council that undertook much work of reform and expansion of the Buddhist religion.

While himself a Buddhist, Ashoka retained the membership of Hindu priests and ministers in his court, and he maintained religious freedom and tolerance although the Buddhist faith grew in popularity with his patronage. Indian society began embracing the philosophy of ahimsa, and given the increased prosperity and improved law enforcement, crime and internal conflicts reduced dramatically. Also greatly discouraged was the caste system and orthodox discrimination, as Hinduism began to absorb the ideals and values of Jain and Buddhist teachings. Social freedom began expanding in an age of peace and prosperity.

[edit] Contacts with the Hellenistic world

[edit] Foundation of the Empire

Greek Late Archaic style capital from Patna (Pataliputra), thought to correspond to the reign of Ashoka, 3rd century BC, Patna Museum (click image for references).
Greek Late Archaic style capital from Patna (Pataliputra), thought to correspond to the reign of Ashoka, 3rd century BC, Patna Museum (click image for references).

Relations with the Hellenistic world may have started from the very beginning of the Maurya Empire. Plutarch reports that Chandragupta Maurya met with Alexander the Great, probably around Taxila in the northwest:

"Androcottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth." Plutarch 62-3[9]

The Macedonians (due to the mention of Yavanas in the Mudrarakshasa) may also have participated, together with other groups, in the armed uprising of Chandragupta against the Nanda Dynasty. The Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka, often identified with Porus.[10] This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a composite and powerful army made up of Yavanas (Greeks), Kambojas, Shakas (Scythians), Kiratas (Nepalese), Parasikas (Persians) and Bahlikas (Bactrians) who took Pataliputra (also called Kusumapura, "The City of Flowers"):

"Kusumapura was besieged from every direction by the forces of Parvata and Chandragupta: Shakas, Yavanas, Kiratas, Kambojas, Parasikas, Bahlikas and others, assembled on the advice of Canakya" Mudrarakshasa 2[11]

With the help of these frontier martial tribes from Central Asia, Chandragupta was apparently able to defeat the Nanda/Nandin rulers of Magadha so as to found the powerful Maurya empire in northern India.

[edit] Reconquest of the Northwest (c. 310 BC)

Chandragupta ultimately occupied Northwestern India, in the territories formerly ruled by the Greeks, where he fought the satraps (described as "Prefects" in Western sources) left in place after Alexander (Justin), among whom may have been Eudemus, ruler in the western Punjab until his departure in 317 BC or Peithon, son of Agenor, ruler of the Greek colonies along the Indus until his departure for Babylon in 316 BC.

"India, after the death of Alexander, had assassinated his prefects, as if shaking the burden of servitude. The author of this liberation was Sandracottos, but he had transformed liberation in servitude after victory, since, after taking the throne, he himself oppressed the very people he has liberated from foreign domination" Justin XV.4.12-13[12]
"Later, as he was preparing war against the prefects of Alexander, a huge wild elephant went to him and took him on his back as if tame, and he became a remarkable fighter and war leader. Having thus acquired royal power, Sandracottos possessed India at the time Seleucos was preparing future glory." Justin XV.4.19[13]

[edit] Conflict and alliance with Seleucus (305 BC)

Silver coin of Seleucus I Nicator, who fought Chandragupta Maurya, and later made an alliance with him.
Silver coin of Seleucus I Nicator, who fought Chandragupta Maurya, and later made an alliance with him.

Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of the Asian portion of Alexander's former empire, conquered and put under his own authority eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus (Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55), until in 305 BC he entered in a confrontation with Chandragupta:

"Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he [Seleucus] acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus." Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55[14]

[edit] Exchange of territory against war elephants

Seleucus and Chandragupta ultimately reached a settlement, and through a treaty sealed in 305 BC, Seleucus, according to Strabo, ceded the territories along the Indus:

"The Indians occupy [in part] some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants." Strabo 15.2.1(9)

Maintstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received much more territory, including Pakistan, southern Afghanistan and parts of Persia. Some authors claim this is an exaggeration, which comes from a statement made by Pliny the Elder, referring not specifically to the lands received by Chandragupta, but rather to the various opinions of geographers regarding the definition of the word "India":[15]

"The greater part of the geographers, in fact, do not look upon India as bounded by the river Indus, but add to it the four Satrapies of the Gedrosi (Gedrosia), the Arachotæ (Arachosia), the Arii (Aria), and the Paropauisidæ (Paropamisadae), the river Cophes (Kabul river) thus forming the extreme boundary of India. All these territories, however, according to other writers, are reckoned as belonging to the country of the Arii." Pliny, Natural History VI, 23[16]

Archaeologically, concrete indications of Mauryan rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandhahar, in today's southern Afghanistan.

In exchange for this territory, Seleucus obtained five hundred war elephants, a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC.

[edit] Marital alliance

A matrimonial alliance was also agreed upon (called Epigamia in ancient sources, meaning either the recognition of marriage between Indians and Greeks, or a dynastic alliance):

"He (Seleucus) crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship." Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55[17]

Since there are no records of an Indian princess in the abundant Classical literature on the Seleucid, it is generally thought that the alliance went the other way around, and that a Seleucid princess may have been bethrothed to the Mauryan Dynasty. This practice in itself was quite common in the Hellenistic world to formalize alliances. There is thus a possibility that some of the descendants of Chandragupta were partly of Hellenic descent, whether Chandragupta married the Seleucid princess, or his son Bindusara, and that the Maurya dynasty was considered as closely connected to the Seleucid one.[18] Bindusara himself, born earlier around 320 BC, could not have been the result of such a union, but he may have been the one who married the Seleucid princess, just before his rise as Emperor in 298 BC.[19]

Although Indian sources mention him as the son of brahmin woman, the marriage arrangement has led some to suggest that Ashoka may have been a product of this union with a Seleucid princess[20] although the general view is that Ashoka was born from a Brahmin mother who was a minor queen of Bindusara, based on the account of the 2nd century CE Ashokavadana ("Legend of Ashoka").[21] The practice of Mauryan rulers to have harems is repeatedly mentioned in sources such as the Ashokavadana however, which would suggest a multiplicity of bloodlines and a numerous descent for each king.

At the very least, this treaty on "Epigamia" implies lawful marriage between Greeks and Indians was recognized at the State level, although it is unclear whether it occurred among dynastic rulers or common people, or both.

[edit] Exchange of ambassadors

Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (Modern Patna in Bihar state). Later Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka, is also recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court.[22]

[edit] Exchange of presents

Classical sources have also recorded that following their treaty, Chandragupta and Seleucus exchanged presents, such as when Chandragupta sent various aphrodisiacs to Seleucus:

"And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous]. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love" Athenaeus of Naucratis, "The deipnosophists" Book I, chapter 32[23]

His son Bindusara 'Amitraghata' (Slayer of Enemies) also is recorded in Classical sources as having exchanged present with Antiochus I:

"But dried figs were so very much sought after by all men (for really, as Aristophanes says, "There's really nothing nicer than dried figs"), that even Amitrochates, the king of the Indians, wrote to Antiochus, entreating him (it is Hegesander who tells this story) to buy and send him some sweet wine, and some dried figs, and a sophist; and that Antiochus wrote to him in answer, "The dry figs and the sweet wine we will send you; but it is not lawful for a sophist to be sold in Greece" Athenaeus, "Deipnosophistae" XIV.67[24]

[edit] Greek populations in India

Greek populations apparently remained in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Ashoka's rule. In his Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek, Ashoka describes that Greek populations within his realm converted to Buddhism:

"Here in the king's domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dharma." Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika).
Bilingual edict (Greek and Aramaic) by king Ashoka, from Kandahar. Kabul Museum. (Click image for translation).
Bilingual edict (Greek and Aramaic) by king Ashoka, from Kandahar. Kabul Museum. (Click image for translation).

Fragments of Edict 13 have been found in Greek, and a full Edict, written in both Greek and Aramaic has been discovered in Kandahar. It is said to be written in excellent Classical Greek, using sophisticated philosophical terms. In this Edict, Ashoka uses the word Eusebeia ("Piety") as the Greek translation for the ubiquitous "Dharma" of his other Edicts written in Prakrit:

"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (Ashoka) made known (the doctrine of) Piety (εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily." (Trans. by G.P. Carratelli [1])

[edit] Buddhist missions to the West (c.250 BC)

Also, in the Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as a recipient of his Buddhist proselytism, although no Western historical record of this event remain:

"The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400-9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka)." (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).

Ashoka also claims that he encouraged the development of herbal medicine, for men and animals, in their territories:

"Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi's [Ashoka's] domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals." 2nd Rock Edict

The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the propagation of Buddhism, as some of the emissaries of Ashoka, such as Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII[25]).

[edit] Subhagsena and Antiochos III (206 BC)

Sophagasenus was an Indian Mauryan ruler of the [[3rd century BC], described in ancient Greek sources, and named Subhagsena or Subhashsena in Prakrit. His name is mentionned in the list of Mauryan princes, and also in the list of the Yadava dynasty, as a descendant of Pradyumana. He may have been a grandson of Ashoka, or Kunala, the son of Ashoka. He ruled an area south of the Hindu Kush, possibly in Gandhara. Antiochos III, the Seleucid king, after having made peace with Euthydemus in Bactria, went to India in 206 Bc and is said to have renewed his friendship with the Indian king there:

"He (Antiochus) crossed the Caucasus and descended into India; renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians; received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether; and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him." Polybius 11.39

[edit] Decline

Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. Brhadrata, the last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty, held territories that had shrunk considerably from the time of emperor Ashoka, although he still upheld the Buddhist faith.

[edit] Sunga coup (185 BC)

He was assassinated in 185 BC during a military parade, by the commander-in-chief of his guard, the Brahmin general Pusyamitra Sunga, who then took over the throne and established the Sunga dynasty. Buddhist records such as the Asokavadana write that the assassination of Brhadrata and the rise of the Sunga empire led to a wave of persecution for Buddhists,[26] and a resurgence of Hinduism. According to John Marshall,[27] Pusyamitra may have been the main author of the persecutions, although later Sunga kings seem to have been more supportive of Buddhism. Other historians, such as Etienne Lamotte[28] andRomila Thapar,[29] among others, have argued that archaeological evidence in favor of the allegations of persecution of Buddhists are lacking, and that the extent and magnitude of the atrocities have been exaggerated.

[edit] Establishment of the Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BC)

Main article: Indo-Greek kingdom

The fall of the Mauryas left the Khyber Pass unguarded, and a wave of foreign invasion followed. The Greco-Bactrian king, Demetrius, capitalized on the break-up of pan-Indian power, and he conquered southern Afghanistan and parts of northwestern India around 180 BC, forming the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks would maintain holdings on the trans-Indus region, and make forays into central India, for about a century. Under them, Buddhism flourished, and one of their kings Menander became a famous figure of Buddhism. However, the extent of their domains and the lengths of their rule are subject to much debate. Numismatic evidence indicates that they retained holdings in the subcontinent right up to the birth of Christ. Although the extent of their successes against indigenous powers such as the Sungas, Satavahanas, and Kalingas are unclear, what is clear is that Scythian tribes, renamed Indo-Scythians, brought about the demise of the Indo-Greeks from around 70 BC and retained lands in the trans-Indus, the region of Mathura, and Gujarat.

[edit] The Empire To Modern Indians

Having been India's first major empire, the Maurya Empire holds a special place in the minds of Indian people: Indians feel pride in recalling the great political and military power the Empire held in its day, and the spirituality and piety of Ashoka, who kept war and violence away from his people. The media in India also has produced works based upon Mauryan times:

  • Chanakya (early 1990s) was a Hindi television series that depicted the life and philosophy of Kautilya Chanakya, from fighting Alexander's invasion to the coronation of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Asoka (2001) is a Hindi film by Santosh Sivan starring Shahrukh Khan as the Emperor Ashoka, depicting his aggressive youth, early impetuous rule, and his transformation following the war in Kalinga. The film, however, does not claim that its portrayal of Ashoka's life is historically accurate.
  • Chanaka Chandragupta (1977) is Telugu film by N.T. Rama Rao starring legendary actors Akkineni Nageswara Rao as Chanayka and N.T. Rama Rao as Chandragupta Maurya.


Preceded by
Nanda Dynasty
Magadha dynasties Succeeded by
Sunga dynasty



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(Persian rule)
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[edit] Notes

History of South Asia

History of India
Stone Age 70,000–3300 BC
· Mehrgarh Culture · 7000–3300 BC
Indus Valley Civilization 3300–1700 BC
Late Harappan Culture 1700–1300 BC
Vedic Period 1500–500 BC
· Iron Age Kingdoms · 1200–700 BC
Maha Janapadas 700–300 BC
Magadha Kingdom 1700 BC–AD 550
· Maurya Empire · 321–184 BC
Middle Kingdoms 230 BC–AD 1279
· Satavahana Empire · 230 BC–AD 199
· Kushan Empire · 60–240
· Gupta Empire · 240–550
· Pala Empire · 750–1174
· Chola Empire · 848–1279
Islamic Sultanates 1206–1596
· Delhi Sultanate · 1206–1526
· Deccan Sultanates · 1490–1596
Hoysala Empire 1040–1346
Kakatiya Empire 1083–1323
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  1. ^ :"Androcottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth." Plutarch 62-3 Plutarch 62-3
  2. ^ :"He was of humble origin, but was pushing to acquiring the throne by the superior power of the mind. When after having offensed the king of Nanda by his insolence, he was comdemned to death by the king, he was saved by the speed of his own feet... He gathered bandits and invited Indian to a change of rule." Justin XV.4.15 "Fuit hic humili quidem genere natus, sed ad regni potestatem maiestate numinis inpulsus. Quippe cum procacitate sua Nandrum regem offendisset, interfici a rege iussus salutem pedum ceieritate quaesierat. (Ex qua fatigatione cum somno captus iaceret, leo ingentis formae ad dormientem accessit sudoremque profluentem lingua ei detersit expergefactumque blande reliquit. Hoc prodigio primum ad spem regni inpulsus) contractis latronibus Indos ad nouitatem regni sollicitauit." Justin XV.4.15
  3. ^ The Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka, sometimes identified with Porus (John Marshall "Taxila", p18, and al.) This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a composite and powerful army made up of Yavanas (Greeks), Kambojas, Shakas (Scythians), Kiratas (Nepalese), Parasikas (Persians) and Bahlikas (Bactrians):
    "asti tava Shaka-Yavana-Kirata-Kamboja-Parasika-Bahlika parbhutibhih
    "Chankyamatipragrahittaishcha Chandergupta Parvateshvara
    "balairudidhibhiriva parchalitsalilaih samantaad uprudham Kusumpurama"
    (Sanskrit original, Mudrarakshasa 2)
    With the help of these frontier martial tribes from Central Asia, Chandragupta was apparently able to defeat the Nanda/Nandin rulers of Magadha so as to found the powerful Maurya empire in northern India.
  4. ^ "Later, as he was preparing war against the prefects of Alexander, a huge wild elephant went to him and took him on his back as if tame, and he became a remarkable fighter and war leader. Having thus acquired royal power, Sandracottos possessed India at the time Seleucos was preparing future glory." Justin XV.4.19 "Molienti deinde bellum aduersus praefectos Alexandri elephantus ferus infinitae magnitudinis ultro se obtulit et ueluti domita mansuetudine eum tergo excepit duxque belli et proeliator insignis fuit. Sic adquisito regno Sandrocottus ea tempestate, qua Seleucus futurae magnitudinis fundamenta iaciebat, Indiam possidebat." Justin XV.4.19
  5. ^ Source:Megasthenes fragment XXVII
  6. ^ "Shastri, Nilakantha, "Age of the Nandas and Mauryas", p.165, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1967)
  7. ^ Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, translation S. Dhammika.
  8. ^ Khanna, Vikramaditya S. (2005). The Economic History of the Corporate Form in Ancient India. University of Michigan.
  9. ^ Plutarch 62-3
  10. ^ John Marshall "Taxila", p18, and al.
  11. ^ Sanskrit original: "asti tava Shaka-Yavana-Kirata-Kamboja-Parasika-Bahlika parbhutibhih Chankyamatipragrahittaishcha Chandergupta Parvateshvara balairudidhibhiriva parchalitsalilaih samantaad uprudham Kusumpurama". From the French translation, in "Le Ministre et la marque de l'anneau", ISBN 2-7475-5135-0
  12. ^ "(Transitum deinde in Indiam fecit), quae post mortem Alexandri, ueluti ceruicibus iugo seruitutis excusso, praefectos eius occiderat. Auctor libertatis Sandrocottus fuerat, sed titulum libertatis post uictoriam in seruitutem uerterat ; 14 siquidem occupato regno populum quem ab externa dominatione uindicauerat ipse seruitio premebat." Justin XV.4.12-13
  13. ^ "Molienti deinde bellum aduersus praefectos Alexandri elephantus ferus infinitae magnitudinis ultro se obtulit et ueluti domita mansuetudine eum tergo excepit duxque belli et proeliator insignis fuit. Sic adquisito regno Sandrocottus ea tempestate, qua Seleucus futurae magnitudinis fundamenta iaciebat, Indiam possidebat." Justin XV.4.19
  14. ^ Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55
  15. ^ Debated by Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India", p100
  16. ^ Pliny, Natural History VI, 23
  17. ^ Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55
  18. ^ Discussion on the dynastic alliance in Tarn, p152-153: "It has been recently suggested that Asoka was grandson of the Seleucid princess, whom Seleucus gave in marriage to Chandragupta. Should this far-reaching suggestion be well founded, it would not only throw light on the good relations between the Seleucid and Maurya dynasties, but would mean that the Maurya dynasty was descended from, or anyhow connected with, Seleucus... when the Mauryan line became extinct, he (Demetrius) may well have regarded himself, if not as the next heir, at any rate as the heir nearest at hand". Also discussed in "Taxila", John Marshall
  19. ^ A similar case is known when Antiochus III fought Euthydemus of Bactria around 210 BC, and finally gave one of his daughters to his son Demetrius: :"And after several journeys of Teleas to and fro between the two, Euthydemus at last sent his son Demetrius to confirm the terms of the treaty. Antiochus received the young prince; and judging from his appearance, conversation, and the dignity of his manners that he was worthy of royal power, he first promised to give him one of his own daughters, and secondly conceded the royal title to his father." Polybius 11.34 Siege of Bactra
  20. ^ Tarn, John Marshall, "The Cambridge Shorter History of India", by J.Allan, p33: "If the usual oriental practice was followed and if we regard Chandragupta as the victor, then it would mean that a daughter or other female relative of Seleucus was given to the Indian ruler or to one of his sons, so that Asoka may have had Greek blood in his veins.". Also McEvilley, "The shape of ancient thought", 2002, p367, ISBN 1-58115-203-5: "Asoka may have been either one-half or one-quarter Greek". Ashoka, the son of Bindusara, also happens to have been born around the time this matrimonial alliance was sealed.
  21. ^ The unknown Ashoka
  22. ^ Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap. 21
  23. ^ Ath. Deip. I.32
  24. ^ Athenaeus, "Deipnosophistae" XIV.67
  25. ^ Full text of the Mahavamsa Click chapter XII
  26. ^ According to the Ashokavadana
  27. ^ Sir John Marshall, "A Guide to Sanchi", Eastern Book House, 1990, ISBN-10: 8185204322, pg.38
  28. ^ E. Lamotte: History of Indian Buddhism, Institut Orientaliste, Louvain-la-Neuve 1988 (1958)
  29. ^ Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar, Oxford University Press, 1960 P200

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