Chaos in Central Asia After the Death of Alexander the Great

Chaos in Central Asia After the Death of Alexander the Great

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Thibron's hoplites would have fought as hoplites, with a 2 metre-long 'doru' spear and 'hoplon' shield.

Alexander the Great’s death marked the start of a period of tumultuous upheaval, as his fragile empire quickly began to fragment. In Babylon, Athens and Bactria, insurrection erupted against the new regime.

This is the story of the Greek revolt in Bactria.

Alexander conquers Central Asia

In the spring of 329 BC, Alexander the Great crossed the Hindu Kush and arrived in Bactria and Sogdia (modern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan today), both home to ancient civilisations.

Alexander’s two-year long campaign in the land proved arguably the toughest in his whole career. Where he won a resounding victory, elsewhere detachments of his army suffered humiliating defeats.

Ultimately, Alexander did manage to restore some sort of stability to the region, seemingly cemented by his marriage to the Sogdian noblewoman Roxana. With that, Alexander departed Bactria for India.

Alexander the Great, depicted in a mosaic from Pompeii

Alexander did not leave Bactria-Sogdia lightly-defended however. Hostile bands of Sogdian-Scythian cavalry still roamed the province’s countryside, so the Macedonian king left a large force of Greek ‘hoplite’ mercenaries to serve as a garrison in the region.

For these mercenaries, being stationed on a far edge of the known world was far from satisfactory. They were confined to an arid landscape, hundreds of miles away from the nearest sea and surrounded by enemies; resentment was bubbling up among their ranks.

In 325 BC, when rumour reached the garrisons that Alexander had died in India, a revolt had erupted among the mercenaries, culminating in 3,000 soldiers leaving their posts and commencing a long journey home towards Europe. Their fate is unknown, but it was a signal of things to come.

Alexander is dead, time to revolt

Two years later, when concrete confirmation of Alexander the Great’s death reached the frontiersmen that still remained in Bactria, they saw this as their time to act.

They submitted while the king was alive through fear, but when he was dead they rose in revolt.

There was great upheaval all across the region. Garrison posts were emptied; soldiers began to assemble. In very little time the assembled force numbered in the thousands, readying themselves for the journey back to Europe.

In command they selected a well-reputed mercenary general called Philon. Little is known of Philon’s background, except that he came from the fertile region of Aeniania, west of Thermopylae. His assembling of this great host was a notable logistical achievement in itself.

Fresco in Greece showing soldiers in Alexander’s army.


Gathering this force and the necessary supplies took time, and it was time that Perdiccas’ new regime in Babylon were sure to take advantage of.

The regent knew he had to act. Unlike in the west, where several forces commanded by famous generals stood ready to oppose the rebel Athenians, no sizeable army stood between Philon and Babylon. Quickly, Perdiccas and his generals mustered a force to march east and crush the revolt.

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3,800 reluctant Macedonians were chosen to form the nucleus of the army and equipped to fight in the Macedonian phalanx. Aiding them were some 18,000 soldiers mustered from the eastern provinces. In command, Perdiccas placed Peithon, another of Alexander the Great’s former bodyguards.

Peithon’s force, numbering some 22,000 men, marched east and reached Bactria’s borders. It wasn’t long before they were confronted by Philon’s force – the site of the battlefield is unknown. By then Philon’s force had grown to a remarkable size: 23,000 men in total – 20,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry.

For Peithon the upcoming battle would not be easy. The enemy army surpassed his own force in both quality and quantity. Nevertheless battle loomed.

A swift conclusion

Fighting commenced, and Philon’s force soon started to gain the advantage. Just as victory seemed near, the mercenaries saw 3,000 of their comrades peel off from the battle line and retreat to a nearby hill.

The mercenaries panicked. Had these 3,000 men retreated? Were they about to be encircled? In a state of confusion, Philon’s battle line crumbled. A full rout soon followed. Peithon had won the day.

So why had these 3,000 men deserted Philon when victory was within grasp?

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The reason was Peithon’s clever diplomacy. Prior to the battle Peithon had used one of his spies to infiltrate the enemy camp and make contact with Letodorus, the commander of these 3,000 men. The spy relayed to Leotodorus the unimaginable wealth Peithon promised him if the general defected to them mid-battle.

Letodorus defected, and swung the battle in the process. Peithon had earned a remarkable victory, but a large force of mercenaries survived the fight and regrouped away from the battlefield. Peithon therefore sent a messenger to their camp, offering a peaceful solution.

He offered them safe passage back to Greece, if only they would cast down their weapons and join his men in a public ceremony of reconciliation. Delighted, the mercenaries agreed. The fighting was at an end… or so it seemed.


As the mercenaries intermingled with the Macedonians, the latter drew their swords and started slaughtering the defenceless hoplites. By the end of the day, the mercenaries lay dead in their thousands.

The order had originated from Perdiccas, who had wanted to send a harsh lesson to those mercenaries who remained in service around the empire: there would be no mercy for traitors.

It is also said that he suspected Peithon’s ambitions, but this seems unlikely. If Perdiccas had doubted his lieutenant in the slightest, he would not have given him such an important command.

Having brutally extinguished the threat from the east, Peithon and his Macedonians returned to Babylon.

Letodorus and his men were presumably richly rewarded; Philon almost certainly lay dead somewhere on the plains of Bactria; those mercenaries that remained in Bactria accepted their fate – in time their descendants would forge one of antiquity’s most remarkable kingdoms.

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom at its height in the early 2nd century BC.

For Perdiccas and the Empire, the threat in the east had been quelled. But trouble in the west remained.

Wars of Alexander the Great

The wars of Alexander the Great were a series of wars, fought over a span of thirteen years (from 336-323 BC), that were carried out by King Alexander III of Macedon (his moniker being Alexander "The Great"). The wars began with the battles against the Achaemenid Persian Empire under the rule of former King Darius III. After Alexander's chain of victories against Persia, he then began to skirmish with local chieftains and warlords stretching as far as modern-day Punjab, India. By the time of his death, he had conquered most of the known world. [1] He did not manage to conquer all of South Asia as was his initial plan. Although he was a very successful military commander, he did not provide any stable alternative to the Achaemenid Empire, [2] and his untimely death threw the vast territories he conquered into civil war.

Alexander assumed the kingship of Macedonia following the assassination of his father King Philip II. Philip, during his rule, had unified [3] most of the city-states of mainland Greece (of Macedonian hegemony) under a federation called the Hellenic League (also known as the League of Corinth). [4] Alexander proceeded to solidify Macedonian rule by quashing a rebellion that took place in the southern Greek city-states, and also staged a short but bloody excursion against the states to the north. He then proceeded east in order to carry out his plans to conquer the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which was then ruled by Darius III. His conquests included Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Bactria. He extended the boundaries of his empire as far as Taxila, India (now Pakistan).

Alexander had initially made plans, prior to his death, for military and mercantile expansion into the Arabian Peninsula, after of which he planned to turn his armies to the west (Carthage, Rome, and the Iberian Peninsula). However, Alexander's diadochi (being his rival generals, families, and friends) quietly abandoned these plans after he died. Instead, within a few years of Alexander's death, the diadochi began fighting with each other and divided up the Empire between themselves, triggering 40 years of warfare.


Mesopotamia literally means "between the rivers" in ancient Greek. The oldest known occurrence of the name Mesopotamia dates to the 4th century BC, when it was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria. [1] Later it was more generally applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but also almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey. [2] The neighbouring steppes to the west of the Euphrates and the western part of the Zagros Mountains are also often included under the wider term Mesopotamia. [3] [4] [5] A further distinction is usually made between Upper or Northern Mesopotamia and Lower or Southern Mesopotamia. [6]

Upper Mesopotamia, also known as the Jezirah, is the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris from their sources down to Baghdad. [3] Lower Mesopotamia is the area from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. [6] In modern scientific usage, the term Mesopotamia often also has a chronological connotation. It is usually used to designate the area until the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD, with Arabic names like Syria, Jezirah and Iraq being used to describe the region after that date. [2] [7] [nb 1]

Chronology and periodization Edit

Two types of chronologies can be distinguished: a relative chronology and an absolute chronology. The former establishes the order of phases, periods, cultures and reigns, whereas the latter establishes their absolute age expressed in years. In archaeology, relative chronologies are established by carefully excavating archaeological sites and reconstructing their stratigraphy – the order in which layers were deposited. In general, newer remains are deposited on top of older material. Absolute chronologies are established by dating remains, or the layers in which they are found, through absolute dating methods. These methods include radiocarbon dating and the written record that can provide year names or calendar dates.

By combining absolute and relative dating methods, a chronological framework has been built for Mesopotamia that still incorporates many uncertainties but that also continues to be refined. [8] [9] In this framework, many prehistorical and early historical periods have been defined on the basis of material culture that is thought to be representative for each period. These periods are often named after the site at which the material was recognized for the first time, as is for example the case for the Halaf, Ubaid and Jemdet Nasr periods. [8] When historical documents become widely available, periods tend to be named after the dominant dynasty or state examples of this are the Ur III and Old Babylonian periods. [10] While reigns of kings can be securely dated for the 1st millennium BC, there is an increasingly large error margin toward the 2nd and 3rd millennia BC. [9]

The chronology for much of the third and second millennia BC is subject to much debate. Based on different estimates for the length of periods for which still very few historical documents are available, so-called Ultra-long, Long, Middle, Short and Ultra-short Chronologies have been proposed by various scholars, varying by as much as 150 years in their dating of specific periods. [11] [12] Despite problems with the Middle Chronology, this chronological framework continues to be used by many recent handbooks on the archaeology and history of the ancient Near East. [9] [13] [14] [15] [16] A study from 2001 published high-resolution radiocarbon dates from Turkey supporting dates for the 2nd millennium BC that are very close to those proposed by the Middle Chronology. [17] [nb 2]

Pre-Pottery Neolithic period Edit

The early Neolithic human occupation of Mesopotamia is, like the previous Epipaleolithic period, confined to the foothill zones of the Taurus and Zagros Mountains and the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period (10,000–8,700 BC) saw the introduction of agriculture, while the oldest evidence for animal domestication dates to the transition from the PPNA to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB, 8700–6800 BC) at the end of the 9th millennium BC. This transition has been documented at sites like Abu Hureyra and Mureybet, which continued to be occupied from the Natufian well into the PPNB. [18] [19] The so-far earliest monumental sculptures and circular stone buildings from Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey date to the PPNA/Early PPNB and represent, according to the excavator, the communal efforts of a large community of hunter-gatherers. [20] [21]

Reconstitution of housing in Aşıklı Höyük, Upper Mesopotamia, modern Turkey.

Jar in calcite alabaster, Syria, late 8th millennium BC.

Mace-head, late 8th millennium BC.

Alabaster pot Mid-Euphrates region, 6500 BC, Louvre Museum

Alabaster pot, Mid-Euphrates region, 6500 BC, Louvre Museum

Female statuette, 8th millennium BC, Syria.

Chalcolithic period Edit

The Fertile Crescent was inhabited by several distinct, flourishing cultures between the end of the last ice age (c. 10,000 BC) and the beginning of history. One of the oldest known Neolithic sites in Mesopotamia is Jarmo, settled around 7000 BC and broadly contemporary with Jericho (in the Levant) and Çatal Hüyük (in Anatolia). It as well as other early Neolithic sites, such as Samarra and Tell Halaf were in northern Mesopotamia later settlements in southern Mesopotamia required complicated irrigation methods. The first of these was Eridu, settled during the Ubaid period culture by farmers who brought with them the Samarran culture from the north.

Halaf culture (Northwestern Mesopotamia) Edit

Pottery was decorated with abstract geometric patterns and ornaments, especially in the Halaf culture, also known for its clay fertility figurines, painted with lines. Clay was all around and the main material often modelled figures were painted with black decoration. Carefully crafted and dyed pots, especially jugs and bowls, were traded. As dyes, iron oxide containing clays were diluted in different degrees or various minerals were mixed to produce different colours.

Hassuna culture (Northern Mesopotamia) Edit

The Hassuna culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium BC. It is named after the type site of Tell Hassuna in Iraq. Other sites where Hassuna material has been found include Tell Shemshara.

Samarra culture (Central Mesopotamia) Edit

The Samarra culture is a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE. It partially overlaps with the Hassuna and early Ubaid.

Ubaid culture (Southern Mesopotamia) Edit

The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) [22] is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid in Southern Mesopotamia, where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley. [23]

In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. [24] In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period. [25]

Northern expansion of Ubaid culture Edit

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. [25] It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period. The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, [29] and two explanations were presented for the transformation. The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid that excludes the invasion theory. [30] [31] The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture. [30] [29] [31] [32]

Uruk period Edit

This was followed by the Uruk period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was followed by the Sumerian civilization. [33] The late Uruk period (34th to 32nd centuries) saw the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script and corresponds to the Early Bronze Age it may also be called the "Protoliterate period".

Jemdet Nasr period Edit

The Jemdet Nasr period, named after the type-site Jemdet Nasr, is generally dated to 3100–2900 BC. [34] It was first distinguished on the basis of distinctive painted monochrome and polychrome pottery with geometric and figurative designs. [35] The cuneiform writing system that had been developed during the preceding Uruk period was further refined. While the language in which these tablets were written cannot be identified with certainty for this period, it is thought to be Sumerian. The texts deal with administrative matters like the rationing of foodstuffs or lists of objects or animals. [36] Settlements during this period were highly organized around a central building that controlled all aspects of society. The economy focused on local agricultural production and sheep-and-goat pastoralism. The homogeneity of the Jemdet Nasr period across a large area of southern Mesopotamia indicates intensive contacts and trade between settlements. This is strengthened by the find of a sealing at Jemdet Nasr that lists a number of cities that can be identified, including Ur, Uruk and Larsa. [37]

Early Dynastic period Edit

The entire Early Dynastic period is generally dated to 2900–2350 BC according to the Middle Chronology, or 2800–2230 BC according to the Short Chronology. [38] The Sumerians were firmly established in Mesopotamia by the middle of the 4th millennium BC, in the archaeological Uruk period, although scholars dispute when they arrived. [39] It is hard to tell where the Sumerians might have come from because the Sumerian language is a language isolate, unrelated to any other known language. Their mythology includes many references to the area of Mesopotamia but little clue regarding their place of origin, perhaps indicating that they had been there for a long time. The Sumerian language is identifiable from its initially logographic script which arose last half of the 4th millennium BC.

By the 3rd millennium BC, these urban centers had developed into increasingly complex societies. Irrigation and other means of exploiting food sources were being used to amass large surpluses. Huge building projects were being undertaken by rulers, and political organization was becoming ever more sophisticated. Throughout the millennium, the various city-states Kish, Uruk, Ur and Lagash vied for power and gained hegemony at various times. Nippur and Girsu were important religious centers, as was Eridu at this point. This was also the time of Gilgamesh, a semi-historical king of Uruk, and the subject of the famous Epic of Gilgamesh. By 2600 BC, the logographic script had developed into a decipherable cuneiform syllabic script.

The chronology of this era is particularly uncertain due to difficulties in our understanding of the text, our understanding of the material culture of the Early Dynastic period and a general lack of radiocarbon dates for sites in Iraq. Also, the multitude of city-states makes for a confusing situation, as each has its own history. The Sumerian king list is one record of the political history of the period. It starts with mythological figures with improbably long reigns, but later rulers have been authenticated with archaeological evidence. The first of these is Enmebaragesi of Kish, c. 2600 BC, said by the king list to have subjected neighboring Elam. However, one complication of the Sumerian king list is that although dynasties are listed in sequential order, some of them actually ruled at the same time over different areas.

Enshakushanna of Uruk conquered all of Sumer, Akkad, and Hamazi, followed by Eannatum of Lagash who also conquered Sumer. His methods were force and intimidation (see the Stele of the Vultures), and soon after his death, the cities rebelled and the empire again fell apart. Some time later, Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab created the first, if short-lived, empire to extend west of Mesopotamia, at least according to historical accounts dated centuries later. The last native Sumerian to rule over most of Sumer before Sargon of Akkad established supremacy was Lugal-Zage-Si.

During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians which included widespread bilingualism. [40] The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. [40] This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium as a sprachbund. [40]

Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as the spoken language of Mesopotamia somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate), [41] but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the 1st century AD.

Akkadian Empire Edit

The Akkadian period is generally dated to 2350–2170 BC according to the Middle Chronology, or 2230–2050 BC according to the Short Chronology. [38] Around 2334 BC, Sargon became ruler of Akkad in northern Mesopotamia. He proceeded to conquer an area stretching from the Persian Gulf into modern-day Syria. The Akkadians were a Semitic people and the Akkadian language came into widespread use as the lingua franca during this period, but literacy remained in the Sumerian language. The Akkadians further developed the Sumerian irrigation system with the incorporation of large weirs and diversion dams into the design to facilitate the reservoirs and canals required to transport water vast distances. [42] The dynasty continued until around c. 2154 BC, and reached its zenith under Naram-Sin, who began the trend for rulers to claim divinity for themselves.

The Akkadian Empire lost power after the reign of Naram-Sin, and eventually was invaded by the Guti from the Zagros Mountains. For half a century the Guti controlled Mesopotamia, especially the south, but they left few inscriptions, so they are not well understood. The Guti hold loosened on southern Mesopotamia, where the second dynasty of Lagash came into prominence. Its most famous ruler was Gudea, who left many statues of himself in temples across Sumer.

Ur III period Edit

Eventually the Guti were overthrown by Utu-hengal of Uruk, and the various city-states again vied for power. Power over the area finally went to the city-state of Ur, when Ur-Nammu founded the Ur III Empire (2112–2004 BC) and conquered the Sumerian region. Under his son Shulgi, state control over industry reached a level never again seen in the region. Shulgi may have devised the Code of Ur-Nammu, one of the earliest known law codes (three centuries before the more famous Code of Hammurabi). Around 2000 BC, the power of Ur waned, and the Amorites came to occupy much of the area, although it was Sumer's long-standing rivals to the east, the Elamites, who finally overthrew Ur. In the north, Assyria remained free of Amorite control until the very end of the 19th century BC. This marked the end of city-states ruling empires in Mesopotamia, and the end of Sumerian dominance, but the succeeding rulers adopted much of Sumerian civilization as their own.

Old Assyrian Period Edit

Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria, little is positively known. The Assyrian King List mentions rulers going back to the 23rd and 22nd century BC. The earliest king named Tudiya, who was a contemporary of Ibrium of Ebla, appears to have lived in the mid-23rd century BC, according to the king list. Tudiya concluded a treaty with Ibrium for the use of a trading post in the Levant officially controlled by Ebla. Apart from this reference to trading activity, nothing further has yet been discovered about Tudiya. He was succeeded by Adamu and then a further thirteen rulers about all of whom nothing is yet known. These early kings from the 23rd to late 21st centuries BC, who are recorded as kings who lived in tents were likely to have been semi nomadic pastoralist rulers, nominally independent but subject to the Akkadian Empire, who dominated the region and at some point during this period became fully urbanised and founded the city state of Ashur. [43] A king named Ushpia (c. 2030 BC) is credited with dedicating temples to Ashur in the home city of the god. In around 1975 BC Puzur-Ashur I founded a new dynasty, and his successors such as Shalim-ahum, Ilushuma (1945–1906 BC), Erishum I (1905–1867 BC), Ikunum (1867–1860 BC), Sargon I, Naram-Sin and Puzur-Ashur II left inscriptions regarding the building of temples to Ashur, Adad and Ishtar in Assyria. Ilushuma in particular appears to have been a powerful king and the dominant ruler in the region, who made many raids into southern Mesopotamia between 1945 BC and 1906 BC, attacking the independent Sumero-Akkadian city states of the region such as Isin, and founding colonies in Asia Minor. This was to become a pattern throughout the history of ancient Mesopotamia with the future rivalry between Assyria and Babylonia. However, Babylonia did not exist at this time, but was founded in 1894 BC by an Amorite prince named Sumuabum during the reign of Erishum I.

Isin-Larsa, Old Babylonian and Shamshi-Adad I Edit

The next two centuries or so, called the Isin-Larsa period, saw southern Mesopotamia dominated by the Amorite cities of Isin and Larsa, as the two cities vied for dominance. This period also marked a growth in power in the north of Mesopotamia. An Assyrian king named Ilushuma (1945–1906 BC) became a dominant figure in Mesopotamia, raiding the southern city states and founding colonies in Asia Minor. Eshnunna and Mari, two Amorite ruled states also became important in the north.

Babylonia was founded as an independent state by an Amorite chieftain named Sumuabum in 1894 BC. For over a century after its founding, it was a minor and relatively weak state, overshadowed by older and more powerful states such as Isin, Larsa, Assyria and Elam. However, Hammurabi (1792 BC to 1750 BC), the Amorite ruler of Babylon, turned Babylon into a major power and eventually conquered Mesopotamia and beyond. He is famous for his law code and conquests, but he is also famous due to the large amount of records that exist from the period of his reign. After the death of Hammurabi, the first Babylonian dynasty lasted for another century and a half, but his empire quickly unravelled, and Babylon once more became a small state. The Amorite dynasty ended in 1595 BC, when Babylonia fell to the Hittite king Mursilis, after which the Kassites took control.

Unlike the south of Mesopotamia, the native Akkadian kings of Assyria repelled Amorite advances during the 20th and 19th centuries BC. However this changed in 1813 BC when an Amorite king named Shamshi-Adad I usurped the throne of Assyria. Although claiming descendency from the native Assyrian king Ushpia, he was regarded as an interloper. Shamshi-Adad I created a regional empire in Assyria, maintaining and expanding the established colonies in Asia Minor and Syria. His son Ishme-Dagan I continued this process, however his successors were eventually conquered by Hammurabi, a fellow Amorite from Babylon. The three Amorite kings succeeding Ishme-Dagan were vassals of Hammurabi, but after his death, a native Akkadian vice regent Puzur-Sin overthrew the Amorites of Babylon and a period of civil war with multiple claimants to the throne ensued, ending with the succession of king Adasi c. 1720 BC.

Middle Assyrian Period and Empire Edit

The Middle Assyrian period begins c. 1720 BC with the ejection of Amorites and Babylonians from Assyria by a king called Adasi. The nation remained relatively strong and stable, peace was made with the Kassite rulers of Babylonia, and Assyria was free from Hittite, Hurrian, Gutian, Elamite and Mitanni threat. However a period of Mitanni domination occurred from the mid-15th to early 14th centuries BC. This was ended by Eriba-Adad I (1392 BC - 1366), and his successor Ashur-uballit I completely overthrew the Mitanni Empire and founded a powerful Assyrian Empire that came to dominate Mesopotamia and much of the ancient Near East (including Babylonia, Asia Minor, Iran, the Levant and parts of the Caucasus and Arabia), with Assyrian armies campaigning from the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian, and from the Caucasus to Arabia. The empire endured until 1076 BC with the death of Tiglath-Pileser I. During this period Assyria became a major power, overthrowing the Mitanni Empire, annexing swathes of Hittite, Hurrian and Amorite land, sacking and dominating Babylon, Canaan/Phoenicia and becoming a rival to Egypt.

Kassite dynasty of Babylon Edit

Although the Hittites overthrew Babylon, another people, the Kassites, took it as their capital (c. 1650–1155 BC (short chronology)). They have the distinction of being the longest lasting dynasty in Babylon, reigning for over four centuries. They left few records, so this period is unfortunately obscure. They are of unknown origin what little we have of their language suggests it is a language isolate. Although Babylonia maintained its independence through this period, it was not a power in the Near East, and mostly sat out the large wars fought over the Levant between Egypt, the Hittite Empire, and Mitanni (see below), as well as independent peoples in the region. Assyria participated in these wars toward the end of the period, overthrowing the Mitanni Empire and besting the Hittites and Phrygians, but the Kassites in Babylon did not. They did, however, fight against their longstanding rival to the east, Elam (related by some linguists to the Dravidian languages in modern India). Babylonia found itself under Assyrian and Elamite domination for much of the later Kassite period. In the end, the Elamites conquered Babylon, bringing this period to an end.

Hurrians Edit

The Hurrians were a people who settled in northwestern Mesopotamia and southeast Anatolia in 1600 BC. By 1450 BC they established a medium-sized empire under a Mitanni ruling class, and temporarily made tributary vassals out of kings in the west, making them a major threat for the Pharaoh in Egypt until their overthrow by Assyria. The Hurrian language is related to the later Urartian, but there is no conclusive evidence these two languages are related to any others.

Hittites Edit

By 1300 BC the Hurrians had been reduced to their homelands in Asia Minor after their power was broken by the Assyrians and Hittites, and held the status of vassals to the "Hatti", the Hittites, a western Indo-European people (belonging to the linguistic "centum" group) who dominated most of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) at this time from their capital of Hattusa. The Hittites came into conflict with the Assyrians from the mid-14th to the 13th centuries BC, losing territory to the Assyrian kings of the period. However they endured until being finally swept aside by the Phrygians, who conquered their homelands in Asia Minor. The Phrygians were prevented from moving south into Mesopotamia by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I. The Hittites fragmented into a number of small Neo-Hittite states, which endured in the region for many centuries.

Bronze Age collapse Edit

Records from the 12th and 11th centuries BC are sparse in Babylonia, which had been overrun with new Semitic settlers, namely the Arameans, Chaldeans and Sutu. Assyria however, remained a compact and strong nation, which continued to provide much written record. The 10th century BC is even worse for Babylonia, with very few inscriptions. Mesopotamia was not alone in this obscurity: the Hittite Empire fell at the beginning of this period and very few records are known from Egypt and Elam. This was a time of invasion and upheaval by many new people throughout the Near East, North Africa, The Caucasus, Mediterranean and Balkan regions.

Neo-Assyrian Empire Edit

The Neo-Assyrian Empire is usually considered to have begun with the accession of Adad-nirari II, in 911 BC, lasting until the fall of Nineveh at the hands of the Babylonians, Medes, Scythians and Cimmerians in 612 BC. The empire was the largest and most powerful the world had yet seen. At its height Assyria conquered the 25th dynasty Egypt (and expelled its Nubian/Kushite dynasty) as well as Babylonia, Chaldea, Elam, Media, Persia, Urartu, Phoenicia, Aramea/Syria, Phrygia, the Neo-Hittites, Hurrians, northern Arabia, Gutium, Israel, Judah, Moab, Edom, Corduene, Cilicia, Mannea and parts of Ancient Greece (such as Cyprus), and defeated and/or exacted tribute from Scythia, Cimmeria, Lydia, Nubia, Ethiopia and others.

Neo-Babylonian Empire Edit

The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 620 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. The Assyrians had managed to maintain Babylonian loyalty through the Neo-Assyrian period, whether through granting of increased privileges, or militarily, but that finally changed after 627 BC with the death of the last strong Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, and Babylonia rebelled under Nabopolassar a Chaldean chieftain the following year. In alliance with king Cyaxares of the Medes, and with the help of the Scythians and Cimmerians the city of Nineveh was sacked in 612 BC, Assyria fell by 605 BC and the seat of empire was transferred to Babylonia for the first time since Hammurabi.

Classical Antiquity to Late Antiquity Edit

After the death of Ashurbanipal in 627 BC, the Assyrian empire descended into a series of bitter civil wars, allowing its former vassals to free themselves. Cyaxares reorganized and modernized the Median Army, then joined with King Nabopolassar of Babylon. These allies, together with the Scythians, overthrew the Assyrian Empire and destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC. After the final victory at Carchemish in 605 BC the Medes and Babylonians ruled Assyria. Babylon and Media fell under Persian rule in the 6th century BC (Cyrus the Great).

For two centuries of Achaemenid rule both Assyria and Babylonia flourished, Achaemenid Assyria in particular becoming a major source of manpower for the army and a breadbasket for the economy. Mesopotamian Aramaic remained the lingua franca of the Achaemenid Empire, much as it had done in Assyrian times. Mesopotamia fell to Alexander the Great in 330 BC, and remained under Hellenistic rule for another two centuries, with Seleucia as capital from 305 BC. In the 1st century BC, Mesopotamia was in constant turmoil as the Seleucid Empire was weakened by Parthia on one hand and the Mithridatic Wars on the other. The Parthian Empire lasted for five centuries, into the 3rd century AD, when it was succeeded by the Sassanids. After constant wars between Romans and first Parthians, later Sassanids the western part of Mesopotamia was passed to the Roman Empire. Christianity as well as Mandeism entered Mesopotamia from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD, and flourished, particularly in Assyria (Assuristan in Sassanid Persian), which became the center of the Assyrian Church of the East and a flourishing Syriac Christian tradition which remains to this day. A number of Neo-Assyrian kingdoms arose, in particular Adiabene. The Sassanid Empire and Byzantine Mesopotamia finally fell to the Rashidun army under Khalid ibn al-Walid in the 630s. After the Arab-Islamic conquest of the mid-7th century AD, Mesopotamia saw an influx of non native Arabs and later also Turkic peoples. The city of Assur was still occupied until the 14th century, and Assyrians possibly still formed the majority in northern Mesopotamia until the Middle Ages. Assyrians retain Eastern Rite Christianity whereas the Mandaeans retain their ancient gnostic religion and Mesopotamian Aramaic as a mother tongue and written script to this day. Among these peoples, the giving of traditional Mesopotamian names is still common.

    • Median and Babylonian Assyria (605 to 549 BC) , (6th to 4th centuries BC) Mesopotamia (4th to 2nd centuries BC) (Assyria (2nd century BC to 3rd century AD) (2nd century BC to 3rd century AD) (1st to 2nd centuries AD) (2nd to 7th centuries AD), Roman Assyria (2nd century AD)
      (Assyria) (3rd to 7th centuries AD) Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, dissolution of Assyria (633–651 AD)

    A now-lost History of Babylonia was written in Greek by Berossus in the third century BC.

    Alexander the not so Great: History through Persian eyes

    Any visitor to the spectacular ruins of Persepolis - the site of the ceremonial capital of the ancient Persian Achaemenid empire, will be told three facts: it was built by Darius the Great, embellished by his son Xerxes, and destroyed by that man, Alexander.

    That man Alexander, would be the Alexander the Great , feted in Western culture as the conqueror of the Persian Empire and one of the great military geniuses of history.

    Indeed, reading some Western history books one might be forgiven for thinking that the Persians existed to be conquered by Alexander.

    A more inquisitive mind might discover that the Persians had twice before been defeated by the Greeks during two ill-fated invasions of Greece, by Darius the Great in 490BC and then his son, Xerxes, in 480BC - for which Alexander's assault was a justified retaliation.

    But seen through Persian eyes, Alexander is far from "Great".

    He razed Persepolis to the ground following a night of drunken excess at the goading of a Greek courtesan, ostensibly in revenge for the burning of the Acropolis by the Persian ruler Xerxes.

    Persians also condemn him for the widespread destruction he is thought to have encouraged to cultural and religious sites throughout the empire.

    The emblems of Zoroastrianism - the ancient religion of the Iranians - were attacked and destroyed. For the Zoroastrian priesthood in particular - the Magi - the destruction of their temples was nothing short of a calamity.

    The influence of Greek language and culture has helped establish a narrative in the West that Alexander's invasion was the first of many Western crusades to bring civilisation and culture to the barbaric East.

    But in fact the Persian Empire was worth conquering not because it was in need of civilising but because it was the greatest empire the world had yet seen, extending from Central Asia to Libya.

    Persia was an enormously rich prize.

    Look closely and you will find ample evidence that the Greeks admired the Persian Empire and the emperors who ruled it.

    Much like the barbarians who conquered Rome, Alexander came to admire what he found, so much so that he was keen to take on the Persian mantle of the King of Kings.

    And Greek admiration for the Persians goes back much earlier than this.

    Xenophon, the Athenian general and writer, wrote a paean to Cyrus the Great - the Cyropaedia - showering praise on the ruler who showed that the government of men over a vast territory could be achieved by dint of character and force of personality:

    "Cyrus was able to penetrate that vast extent of country by the sheer terror of his personality that the inhabitants were prostrate before him…," wrote Xenophon, "and yet he was able at the same time, to inspire them all with so deep a desire to please him and win his favour that all they asked was to be guided by his judgment and his alone.

    "Thus he knit to himself a complex of nationalities so vast that it would have taxed a man's endurance merely to traverse his empire in any one direction."

    Later Persian emperors Darius and Xerxes both invaded Greece, and were both ultimately defeated. But, remarkably, Greeks flocked to the Persian court.

    The most notable was Themistocles, who fought against Darius's invading army at Marathon and masterminded the Athenian victory against Xerxes at Salamis.

    Falling foul of Athenian politics, he fled to the Persian Empire and eventually found employment at the Persian Court and was made a provincial governor, where he lived out the rest of his life.

    In time, the Persians found that they could achieve their objectives in Greece by playing the Greek city states against each other, and in the Peloponnesian War, Persian money financed the Spartan victory against Athens.

    The key figure in this strategy was the Persian prince and governor of Asia Minor, Cyrus the Younger, who over a number of years developed a good relationship with his Greek interlocutors such that when he decided to make his fateful bid for the throne, he was able to easily recruit some 10,000 Greek mercenaries.

    Unfortunately for him, he died in the attempt.

    Soldier, historian and philosopher Xenophon was among those recruited, and he was full of praise for the prince of whom he said: "Of all the Persians who lived after Cyrus the Great, he was most like a king and the most deserving of an empire."

    There is a wonderful account provided by Lysander, a Spartan general, who happened to visit Cyrus the Younger in the provincial capital at Sardis.

    Lysander recounts how Cyrus treated him graciously and was particularly keen to show him his walled garden - paradeisos, the origin of our word paradise - where Lysander congratulated the prince on the beautiful design.

    When, he added, that he ought to thank the slave who had done the work and laid out the plans, Cyrus smiled and pointed out that he had laid out the design and even planted some of the trees.

    On seeing the Spartan's reaction he added: "I swear to you by Mithras that, my health permitting, I never ate without having first worked up a sweat by undertaking some activity relevant either to the art of war or to agriculture, or by stretching myself in some other way."

    Astonished, Lysander applauded Cyrus and said: "You deserve your good fortune Cyrus - you have it because you are a good man."

    Alexander would have been familiar with stories such as these. The Persian Empire was not something to be conquered as much as an achievement to be acquired.

    Although Alexander is characterised by the Persians as a destroyer, a reckless and somewhat feckless youth, the evidence suggests that he retained a healthy respect for the Persians themselves.

    Alexander came to regret the destruction his invasion caused. Coming across the plundered tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargad, a little north of Persepolis, he was much distressed by what he found and immediately ordered repairs to be made.

    Had he lived beyond his 32 years, he may yet have restored and repaired much more. In time, the Persians were to come to terms with their Macedonian conqueror, absorbing him, as other conquerors after him, into the fabric of national history.

    And thus it is that in the great Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh, written in the 10th Century AD, Alexander is no longer a wholly foreign prince but one born of a Persian father.

    It is a myth, but one that perhaps betrays more truth than the appearance of history may like to reveal.

    Like other conquerors who followed in his footsteps even the great Alexander came to be seduced and absorbed into the idea of Iran.

    Ali Ansari is a professor in modern history and director of The Institute of Iranian Studies at The University of St Andrews, Scotland.

    Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic world

    The conquests of Alexander the Great form one of the most dramatic episodes in world history. They changed the course of history by brining a sudden end to the Persian Empire, and spreading Greek civilization far and wide across the Middle East and into India. Here it fused with other, more ancient civilizations to give rise to a new fusion, Hellenistic civilization.


    Alexander the Great

    Coming to the throne

    In the years up to 338 BCE most of the city-states of mainland Greece had fallen under the hegemony of Macedonia, at that time ruled by its highly capable king, Philip II. In 336, however, just as he was about the lead the Greeks in an invasion of the Persian empire, Philip was assassinated. He was succeeded by his 20 year old son, Alexander.

    By the time of his accession, Alexander had had a thorough military training, and was an experienced commander. He had a reputation for outstanding courage and leadership and it seems that the Macedonian nobility immediately accepted him as their king. However, Alexander took immediate steps to eliminate any potential rivals within the royal family by having several relatives killed.

    The death of Philip resulted in the Greek states throwing off their allegiance to the Macedonian king. Alexander swiftly moved south and, out-manoeuvring his opponents, secured the renewed submission of these states with barely any bloodshed. He then secured his northern and western borders against Thracian and Illyrian tribes in a series of lightening victories. Meanwhile, the Greek cities of Thebes and Athens had rebelled again. A furious Alexander rushed south and crushed the Theban army. He raised the famous city to the ground, its people he sold into slavery and its territory he shared out amongst its neighbours. Athens immediately sued for mercy, and the other cities of Greece were cowed into submission.

    Invasion of the Persian empire

    He was now in a position to take up the task which his father was about to begin at the time of his death. In 334 BCE Alexander invaded Asia Minor. He had with him an army of some 40,000 men, made up of Macedonians troops plus contingents sent from the Greek, Thracian and Illyrian states under Macedonian rule. There were also some mercenaries.

    The army crossed the Hellespont, the narrow strip of water between Europe and Asia Minor, and marched north to meet an army which the local Persian governors (satraps) were gathering with which to defend the empire. The two forces met on the banks of the River Granicus Alexander’s was much the larger army, but the Persian army (of some 25,000 men) was in a good defensive position, awaiting Alexander’s attack. In the ensuing battle Alexander showed his aggression by attacking the enemy head on, and his masterly generalship by a series of feints which caught the enemy off-balance and led to their rout. The Persians lost some 6,000 men that day, killed or captured, while Alexander lost about 400 men.

    Alexander then marched his army southward along the coast of Asia Minor. He met stout resistance at the city of Halicarnassus, but after a four-month siege and some demoralising setbacks, some of his troops were able to make a breach in the city walls, allowing his army to enter and take the city.

    The Battle of Issus

    He then continued along the coast, receiving the submission of the cities there, before swinging northward into the interior. Marching through the centre of Asia Minor, all the tribes and cities here too surrendered to him he then turned south-east, towards Syria.

    Meanwhile, the king of Persia, Darius III, had collected a huge army from all parts of his empire (modern historians estimate about 100,000 strong), massed it at Babylon, and marched to meet Alexander (with his 40,000). In 333 the two armies approached each other on the narrow coastal plain of northern Syria, near the Gulf of Issus. The Persians out-manoeuvred Alexander to position their army between it and its supplies this forced Alexander to abandon his prepared position and march to meet Darius. In the ensuing battle, Alexander was able to lead a cavalry charge which punched a hole in the left wing of the Persian line, swung round and attacked the Persian infantry (many of which were in fact Greek mercenaries) from the rear. The Persian army then lost its cohesion and fell apart. Its troops fled as best they could, Darius with them. The Persian king left behind his wife, daughters and mother to fall into Alexander’s hands.

    The battle of Issus was a great victory for Alexander. Darius offered Alexander peace terms, but Alexander refused. However, he did not follow up this victory by marching east, into the heart of the Persian empire. He clearly felt that, given the Persian empire’s vast reserves of manpower, his comparatively small army could easily be isolated by enemy forces, and its lines of supply cut. He therefore headed south, to make sure that the lands bordering the Mediterranean were safely in his hands, and that their ports were open to ships supplying and reinforcing his army. Also, what may have been on his mind was the fact that Egypt, probably the wealthiest portion of the Persian empire, was also its most rebellious province. Perhaps he felt that the Egyptians would greet him as a liberator from the hated Persians, which would help to strengthen his position.

    The Seige of Tyre

    The cities of Syria hurried to acknowledge him as their lord, with the exception of the great Phoenician city of Tyre. Here the people, having withdrawn to an island a kilometre off shore, surrounded with strong walls, withstood a seven-month siege (332 BCE).

    Alexander’s army was forced to build a causeway across the sea to reach the island and it was only when he had built up a large fleet, mainly provided by the other Phoenician cities, which had come under his control, that he was able to closely blockade the island and put a stop to the destructive attacks on his men and siege engines. Eventually these were able to breach the walls, and the city fell to him.

    Tyre’s long resistance was a cause of great frustration to Alexander, and in his wrath he ordered the famous city be destroyed and its inhabitants killed or enslaved.

    Into Egypt

    The cities to the south, on the road to Egypt, all hurried to open their gates to him, until he reached Gaza. Here Alexander had to conduct another major siege. The experience gained at Halicarnassus and Tyre, however, stood his troops in good stead, and this siege, though bitterly fought (and during which Alexander was wounded in the shoulder), was not as long. On Gaza’s fall, the way to Egypt lay open.
    Egypt accepted Alexander as a liberator, as he had hoped, and the priests acclaimed him as the son of their chief god, Ammon. During his stay there he founded the city of Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast this would soon blossom into the largest and wealthiest city in the Mediterranean, and probably in the entire world.

    Meanwhile, Darius, king of the Persians, had been trying to persuade Alexander the give back his family members, leave his territory, or at least be content with what he had already conquered, in return for which Darius would pay him an enormous ransom. Whilst these attempts at diplomacy were taking place, Darius was raising a second army from around his empire. Estimates of its size have been hard to arrive at, but it was probably about the same strength (c. 100,000 men) as the one defeated at Issus.

    The Battle of Gaugamela

    In 331 BCE, Alexander at last marched (still with an army of c. 40,000 men), first north to Tyre, and then east, into northern Mesopotamia. Darius advanced into northern Mesopotamia to meet him, and awaited Alexander at Gaugamela, near the city of Mosul. Darius chose this spot because it was a wide, flat plain, which would give his larger army, with its much more numerous cavalry (including elephants) the chance to outflank Alexander’s.

    In the battle which followed, the long experience and tight discipline of Alexander’s army enabled him to execute an amazing battle plan. Alexander essentially used the Persians’ strength against them by encouraging their cavalry wings to fight ever further from their centre. The Macedonian phalanx then charged an over-extended centre, which broke and fled. Darius fled the battlefield, which was the signal for his entire troops to do likewise.

    The natural and dangerous corollary of this concentration on the centre was that the cavalry wings were put in jeopardy by the superior numbers they were fighting. Alexander was unable to follow up his victory in the centre by pursuing the Persian king, therefore, and had to turn back and come to the aid of one of the wings, which was particularly hard pressed. A period of fierce fighting ended in the defeat of the Persian cavalry here, and a complete victory for Alexander.

    Nevertheless, Darius had been allowed to escape, and the eastern half of the Persian empire remained unconquered. Alexander marched on Babylon, which he entered without a fight, and from thence on Susa, one of the two royal capitals of the Persian empire, which also fell to him with ease.

    The Death of the King of Persia

    The other capital, Persepolis, lay a considerable distance to the east, and the safest road to it lay along the long road which skirted the Zagros mountains to the south before heading east to the capital. More direct routes lay through the Zagros mountains themselves, through narrow valleys which could be easily defended by Persian forces.

    Alexander divided his army, with the bulk heading along the longer but safer route, while he himself led a smaller force along the more direct but harder route.

    At first, Alexander met no resistance, and, lulled into a false sense of security, he seems to have let his guard down. At the narrowest point along the route, with the valley sides rearing almost vertically up from the road, his troops were ambushed by a numerically much smaller Persian force. They took many casualties before they were able to extricate themselves to the wider section of the valley through which they had come. They then dug themselves in, and a stand off followed over the following few weeks, with indecisive and desultory actions between the two sides. In the meantime, Alexander was acutely aware that Darius, who was somewhere in the eastern parts of his empire, was actively raising yet another army (or so he thought).

    Eventually, Alexander’s scouts, perhaps aided by local shepherds or Persian deserters, were able to find a path which took them above the Persian positions. Alexander was thus able to turn the tables on them, assaulting them from above. The Persians fought a desperate battle, but sheer numbers overpowered them. Alexander was at last able to proceed on his way. He reached Persepolis, which like Babylon and Susa opened its gates to him. He and his army remained there five months, but their time there was disfigured by a major fire which destroyed the royal palace and much of the city.

    Meanwhile, Darius’ attempts to raise another army had met with failure, as his satraps, seeing the way the wind was blowing, were now deserting him. In 330, arriving in the far eastern province of Bactria, Darius was murdered on the orders of the local satrap, Bessus, who then proclaimed himself king of the Persians.

    On hearing of Darius’ death, Alexander, who was leading his army in pursuit of Darius, and who had come to respect his opponent, was deeply angered. Bessus was forced to flee, and in 329 Alexander set out in pursuit. He and his army traversed a huge area of what had been the eastern Persian empire as he went, Alexander received the submission of the local satraps, and planted a series of colonies at strategic locations, composed of his Macedonian and Greek veterans (these could be spared because Alexander’s army was constantly being replenished by new recruits from Macedonia and Greece).

    Eventually Bessus was betrayed to Alexander by one of his underlings, and executed.

    Alexander in India

    During this period, dissensions began to appear within Alexander’s close circle of senior officers. Alexander seems to have had become more autocratic, and less tolerant of disagreement. He had left important Persian satraps in possession of their provinces, thus limiting the rewards available to his senior officers. For a time he insisted that anyone who approached him should abase themselves before him, as had been the case with the Persian kings. This had aroused the anger of many in his inner circle, whom he had hitherto treated on fairly equal terms and for whom the gods alone could claim such adoration, and he had reluctantly abandoned the demand. Some also bitterly opposed his marriage to Roxana, the daughter of a central Asian nobleman, in 327. Plots against him, real or imagined, began to surface. The resulting tensions, along with his drunken bouts of violence, led to the deaths of some of his longest-serving officers.

    In 327-6 BCE, Alexander invaded western India. He defeated several kings, and confirmed others as local rulers under his suzerainty. Eventually, however, his troops mutinied on the banks of the Hyphasis river, homesick and daunted by rumours of a huge empire to the east (which were true: the Mauryan empire was beginning to take shape at this time). They demanded to return westward. Only with great reluctance did Alexander agree. Dividing his army into two, he ordered one portion to return by a northern route, retracing their steps through central Iran to Babylon while he himself led the rest along a southern route, through the harsh deserts of Balochistan and southern Iran. He is thought to have lost more than half his men to hunger, thirst and heat stroke on this march.

    In the last years of his life, whilst based in Susa and then Babylon, Alexander increasingly dressed and behaved in the manner of a Persian king. He also began appointing Persians to senior positions in his army and the provinces, which naturally caused jealousy amongst his Macedonian and Greek veterans. Most dramatically, he organized a mass marriage between his senior Macedonian officers and Iranian wives.

    In 323, Alexander fell ill with a fever, and died eleven days later. He was just 32 years old.

    The Successors

    Alexander the Great left behind a huge empire, stretching from Greece to India but with his death it was an empire without a ruler. His young widow Roxana was pregnant with an unborn child, who would, if a male, become his heir, but he would not be able to take on Alexander’s mantle for many years.

    The high command therefore appointed one of their number, Perdiccas, as Regent. They then divided Alexander’s empire up amongst themselves, each taking a major province (satrapy) to rule as governor (satrap).

    They, plus their sons and one or two others who would come to prominence in the years ahead, have gone down in history as the “Successors”, because they succeeded to the rule of Alexander’s conquests.

    One aspect of the period immediately following Alexander’s death was that some of his policies which had been particularly dear to him were abandoned. Many of his senior officers set aside the Persian wives he had forced them to marry, and Alexander’s moves towards creating a single Macedonian/Greek/Persian ruling class came to nothing.

    The wars of the Successors

    There began almost 50 years of wars, coups, alliances, counter-alliances, betrayals, assassinations and mutinies. In all these complex goings-on, a pattern developed by which any one of the Successors who attained a pre-eminent position amongst the rest would attract an alliance of the others to bring him down.

    In 321, the regent Perdiccas was faced with such an alliance. In the ensuing war he was murdered by his own lieutenants.
    A general named Antigonus emerged from this situation as the pre-eminent Successor. The others therefore joined forces against him. The resulting wars dragged on for the next two decades, with many twists and turns. At different times it was waged in Macedonia, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia the city-states of Greece tried to regain their independence but failed, becoming the impotent playthings of different Successors.

    Alexander’s widow and son were caught up in the violence, and were murdered in 310. From 307 onwards the surviving Successors began proclaiming themselves as kings: Antigonus in Asia Minor and Greece Ptolemy in Egypt Lysimachus in Thrace, Cassander in Macedonia and Seleucus in the east.

    Ipsus and after

    It was not until 301 that the other Successors were able to defeat Antigonus, at the Battle of Ipsus. Here Antigonus was killed, and in the aftermath his enemies divided his territory between them: Cassander (king of Macedonia) took Greece Seleucus (king of the East) took Syria and parts of eastern Asia Minor and Lysimachus (king of Thrace) took the rest of Asia Minor. Ptolemy (king of Egypt, who had not been at the battle) was confirmed in his position in Palestine and in parts of southern Asia Minor.

    Lysimachus and Seleucus

    The next Successor to attain a dangerous eminence was Lysimachus, who, starting as king of Thrace and western Asia Minor, soon gained control of Macedonia (Cassander had died in 297) and much of Greece. With Ptolemy and his successor (also called Ptolemy) focussing on their Egyptian realm, the final round of the Successors was fought between Lysimachus and Seleucus. Seleucus defeated and killed Lysimachus at the battle of Corupedium, in Asia Minor, in 281 BCE.

    This left Seleucus with a huge kingdom stretching from Bactria in the east to Asia Minor in the west. He apparently had even wider ambitions, to recreat Alexander the Great’s empire however he was assassinated very shortly after his victory over Lysimachus as he crossed over to Macedonia.

    The Gauls

    In Greece and Macedonia

    In 279 a powerful group of Gauls, who had migrated from France to the Danube region and thence down into the Balkans, invaded Thrace, and then Macedonia and Greece. Many cities were sacked as the Gauls rampaged through these lands. Macedonia was thrown into anarchy, from which it was eventually rescued by a general called Antigonus Gonatus (in 277), who founded the Antigonid dynasty which ruled Macedonia until its conquest by the Romans.

    The Gauls then crossed over to Asia Minor. Here they were defeated by the forces of Antiochus, the son of Seleucus (275), who had succeeded his father to rule a vast stretch of Asia. He settled the Gauls in central Asia Minor, in a region henceforth known as Galatia, under his overlordship. From this base they continued to menace neighbouring lands from time to time, until in 238 BCE they were severely defeated by Attalus, a vassal of the Seleucids whose family had controlled a local city, Pergamum, for a couple of generations. From then on the Gauls confined themselves to their own territory of Galatia.

    Attalus, meanwhile, declared his independence of the Seleucids by proclaiming himself king of Pergamum. This kingdom would gradually expand its territory in western Asia Minor, but would always remain quite small. However, it was extremely wealthy, and was able to punch above its weight in the international affairs of the region.

    The Hellenistic states

    Major kingdoms

    By then, the divisions of Alexander the Great’s former empire had solidified around three main kingdoms, each ruled by one of the Successors or their descendants. Ptolemy had early gained control of Egypt, and his descendants (the Ptolemies) now ruled that country, plus Palestine, Cyprus, and some territories on the south coast of Asia Minor. The Seleucids (the descendants of Seleucus) ruled a vast area of Asia stretching from Asia Minor to Bactria, taking in Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran Macedonia was under Antigonus and his descendants, who also exercised a considerable influence over Greece.

    The city-states of Greece

    Some of the city-states of Greece had come under the control of the kings of Macedonia, but many of the smaller ones had banded together to form two leagues, the Aetolian League and Achaean League, to resist the power of Macedonia and the other kingdoms. These leagues expanded over time as they gained more and more members.


    One other city-state which achieved prominence in this period was the island state of Rhodes. This had resisted the power of the Successors through skilful diplomacy and the strength of its fleet. Rhodes prospered during the Hellenistic period, and became a centre of maritime commerce. Its coins were widely circulated and its philosophical school became one of the most highly regarded in the Mediterranean. In 280 BCE the Rhodians built the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, to commemorate a victory.

    Smaller kingdoms

    Alongside the three major kingdoms which dominated the Hellenistic world, and the Greek cities mentioned above, there were also some smaller kingdoms. In northwest Greece the kingdom of Epirus had played an important role in the struggles between the Successors under its valiant king Pyrrhus. Indeed it won wider fame: in 281 Pyrrhus crossed over to southern Italy to aid Greek cities there against the expanding power of Rome. Despite winning some battles he soon withdrew, claiming that these victories were not worth the cost (hence our phrase, “Pyrrhic victory”). After the death of Pyrrhus, Epirus was dominated by its more powerful neighbour, Macedonia. In 233 BCE a revolution replaced the monarchy with a federation called the Epirote League.

    In Asia Minor, apart from Pergamum (see above), the kingdoms of Bithynia and Cappadocia had been semi-autonomous provinces within the Persian empire and had successfully fought off attempts by the Successors to annex them and Pontus had been founded by a Persian adventurer called Mithridates in 291 BCE. These were all loosely affiliated to the Seleucid kingdom, but later became completely indpendent.

    At the other end of the Hellenistic world was Bactria, in modern-day Afghanistan, which had been founded by a Greek general, Diodotus. He was in the service of Seleucus but declared his independence in c. 250 BCE. Later, his kingdom was completely cut off from the other Hellenistic states by the expansion of the Parthians.


    Wherever he conquered, Alexander had founded (or re-founded) cities, and the Successors continued this policy. These were modelled on Greek city-states, and were initially populated by veteran Macedonian and Greek soldiers. Later immigrants from Greece boosted their populations.

    These city-foundations were partly to reward soldiers with land (which also had the effect of relieving land-hunger in the Greek homeland) partly they were to act as garrisons to keep in check local populations, and as administrative centres of local government and partly they were to spread Greek culture around the known world, which the conquerors “knew” was the best of all possible cultures. Whatever the reasons, these numerous small islands of Greek civilization did indeed became major centres of the Hellenization throughout the Middle East and beyond. This was probably the most important outcome of Alexander the Great’s career.

    Despite their sense of cultural superiority, however, it was not long before Greek and Macedonia settlers were accommodating themselves to their new cultural environments. In the Ptolemaic kingdom, we find Egyptianized Greeks by the 2nd century onwards, and the royal family used pharaonic iconography in presenting themselves to the people (though it was not until the time of the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII, that a ruler bothered to learn the Egyptian language). The Indo-Greek ruling class in Bactria and, later, in kingdoms within India itself, widely adopted Buddhism.

    With the Greeks in Asia and Egypt adopting local customs, a hybrid culture, which modern scholars label ‘Hellenistic‘, emerged, at least among the upper echelons of society.

    The most famous cities of this new Hellenistic world were Alexandria, capital of the Ptolemies in Egypt, and Antioch, on the Mediterranean coast of Syria, the capital of the Seleucids.

    The end of the Hellenistic states

    By the end of the 3rd century BCE a new power was beginning to cast its shadow over the Hellenistic world. The Romans had come to dominate Italy and then the whole of the western Mediterranean after two major wars with the powerful maritime power of Carthage.

    Squeezed from West and East

    Given Macedonia and Greece’s geographical proximity to Italy, it was naturally the first of the Hellenistic kingdoms to feel the impact of Rome. In 200 BCE the first of a series of hostilities opened in which Rome fought Macedonia along with varying combinations of Greek states (who sometimes also fought as allies of Rome). In all these wars Rome was victorious, and they ended in Greece and Macedonia being absorbed into the Roman empire (146 BCE).

    At the other end of the Hellenistic world the Seleucids were having large chunks of territory torn from them by the expanding Parthians. By the end of the 2nd century BCE these had created a large empire in the east, and the Seleucids were confined to Syria.

    In the west, Roman power continued its advance. In 133 BCE, when king Attalus III of Pergamum died without an heir, he handed his kingdom to the Roman Republic in his will to spare his subjects a civil war or invasion from neighbouring states. This became the Roman province of Asia.


    In 88 BCE, the king of Pontus, Mithridates, threw off his alliance with Rome and expanded the borders of his kingdom, conquering Cappadocia, Galatia, Bithynia and the Roman province of Asia and he instigated the massacre of up to 100,000 Romans and Italians across Asia Minor and the Aegean. Many Greek cities, including Athens, joined him in their opposition to Rome.

    With the Romans repeatedly pre-occupied with their own political troubles, including civil wars, it was more than twenty years before Mithridates was finally defeated, in 65 BCE. The long war left the Romans completely dominant in the eastern Mediterranean, and their general, Pompey the Great, reorganized the lands of the region along lines which suited the Romans. Bithynia and Pontus were annexed as Roman provinces. Cappadocia and Galatia continued as kingdoms, but very much under the power of Rome. The Seleucids had collapsed entirely, so Pompey annexed what was left of their kingdom (i.e. Syria) and it too became a Roman province. Judaea was also absorbed into the Roman sphere, though a native ruler was left in place as a Roman puppet.


    This left only Ptolemaic Egypt as the one Hellenistic kingdom still in existence (though hardly independent, such was the power of Rome across the region).

    The most famous member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra, now came to the throne. With Roman armies now trampling at will around the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, she made the most of her personal physical assets by becoming the mistress of the two most powerful of the Roman commanders in turn, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Unfortunately for her, Julius Caesar was murdered (44 BCE) and Mark Antony was defeated by a rival Octavian (31 BCE). Cleopatra committed suicide (30 BCE) and Octavian annexed Egypt to the Roman empire.

    Middle East 200 BCE

    The conquests of Alexander the Great have reshaped the map of the Middle East, and Greek-speaking kingdoms, founded by Alexander's generals, now cover the region.

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    What is happening in Middle East in 200BCE

    Alexander the Great

    The past few centuries have seen the huge Persian empire conquered in a series of brilliant campaigns by the young Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, between 333 and 323 BCE. These campaigns involved armies largely recruited from amongst the city-states of Greece.

    The spread of Greek culture

    Alexander’s empire failed to survive his early death, and his generals, together with some local princes, divided his conquests amongst themselves. Their descendants now rule powerful kingdoms – the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran, and various dynasts in Asia Minor. They have founded numerous Greek-style cities, which can now be found scattered across the Middle Eastern world as far as India, and from which the ruling classes of these kingdoms are drawn.

    These cities have become the center for the spread of Greek culture and language (which is replacing Aramaic as the lingua franca of the region). Greek cultural traditions mix with more ancient native elements to form a fascinating hybrid civilization which modern scholars label “Hellenistic”. It is at this time that some of the most spectacular “Greek” artistic and intellectual achievements occur, in countries far away from the Greek homeland.


    Afghanistan is a land-locked country bordering on Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, a tiny border with China at the northeast, and Pakistan to the east and south.

    Its total area is 251,826 square miles (652,230 square kilometers.

    Most of Afghanistan is in the Hindu Kush Mountains, with some lower-lying desert areas. The highest point is Noshak, at 24,580 feet (7,492 meters). The lowest is the Amu Darya River Basin, at 846 ft (258 m).

    An arid and mountainous country, Afghanistan has little cropland a scant 12 percent is arable, and only 0.2 percent is under permanent crop-cover, the rest in pasture.

    The Founding of Cities

    Over the course of his conquests, Alexander founded some 20 cities that bore his name, most of them east of the Tigris River. The first, and greatest, was Alexandria in Egypt, which would become one of the leading Mediterranean cities. The cities’ locations reflected trade routes, as well as defensive positions. At first, the cities must have been inhospitable, and little more than defensive garrisons. Following Alexander’s death, many Greeks who had settled there tried to return to Greece. However, a century or so after Alexander’s death, many of these cities were thriving with elaborate public buildings and substantial populations that included both Greek and local peoples.

    Alexander’s cities were most likely intended to be administrative headquarters for his empire, primarily settled by Greeks, many of whom would have served in Alexander’s military campaigns. The purpose of these administrative centers was to control the newly conquered subject populations. Alexander attempted to create a unified ruling class in conquered territories like Persia, often using marriage ties to intermingle the conquered with conquerors. He also adopted elements of the Persian court culture, adopting his own version of their royal robes, and imitating some court ceremonies. Many Macedonians resented these policies, believing hybridization of Greek and foreign cultures to be irreverent.

    Alexander’s attempts at unification also extended to his army. He placed Persian soldiers, some of who had been trained in the Macedonian style, within Macedonian ranks, solving chronic manpower problems.

    Ashoka the Great

    Ashoka the Great (r. 268-232 BCE) was the third king of the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE) best known for his renunciation of war, development of the concept of dhamma (pious social conduct), and promotion of Buddhism as well as his effective reign of a nearly pan-Indian political entity. At its height, under Ashoka, the Mauryan Empire stretched from modern-day Iran through almost the entirety of the Indian subcontinent. Ashoka was able to rule this vast empire initially through the precepts of the political treatise known as the Arthashastra, attributed to the Prime Minister Chanakya (also known as Kautilya and Vishnugupta, l. c. 350-275 BCE) who served under Ashoka's grandfather Chandragupta (r. c. 321-c.297 BCE) who founded the empire.

    Ashoka means “without sorrow” which was most likely his given name. He is referred to in his edicts, carved in stone, as Devanampiya Piyadassi which, according to scholar John Keay (and agreed upon by scholarly consensus) means “Beloved of the Gods” and “gracious of mien” (89). He is said to have been particularly ruthless early in his reign until he launched a campaign against the Kingdom of Kalinga in c. 260 BCE which resulted in such carnage, destruction, and death that Ashoka renounced war and, in time, converted to Buddhism, devoting himself to peace as exemplified in his concept of dhamma. Most of what is known of him, outside of his edicts, comes from Buddhist texts which treat him as a model of conversion and virtuous behavior.


    The empire he and his family built did not last even 50 years after his death. Although he was the greatest of the kings of one of the largest and most powerful empires in antiquity, his name was lost to history until he was identified by the British scholar and orientalist James Prinsep (l. 1799-1840 CE) in 1837 CE. Since then, Ashoka has come to be recognized as one of the most fascinating ancient monarchs for his decision to renounce war, his insistence on religious tolerance, and his peaceful efforts in establishing Buddhism as a major world religion.

    Early Life & Rise to Power

    Although Ashoka's name appears in the Puranas (encyclopedic literature of India dealing with kings, heroes, legends, and gods), no information on his life is given there. The details of his youth, rise to power, and renunciation of violence following the Kalinga campaign come from Buddhist sources which are considered, in many respects, more legendary than historical.


    He was highly educated at court, trained in martial arts, and was no doubt instructed in the precepts of the Artashastra – even if he was not considered a candidate for the throne – simply as one of the royal sons. The Artashastra is a treatise covering many different subjects related to society but, primarily, is a manual on political science providing instruction on how to rule effectively. It is attributed to Chanakya, Chandragupta's prime minister, who chose and trained Chandragupta to become king. When Chandragupta abdicated in favor of Bindusara, the latter is said to have been trained in the Arthashastra and so, almost certainly, would have been his sons.

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    When Ashoka was around the age of 18, he was sent from the capital city of Pataliputra to Takshashila (Taxila) to put down a revolt. According to one legend, Bindusara provided his son with an army but no weapons the weapons were provided later by supernatural means. This same legend claims that Ashoka was merciful to the people who lay down their arms upon his arrival. No historical account survives of Ashoka's campaign at Taxila it is accepted as historical fact based on suggestions from inscriptions and place names but the details are unknown.


    She was not apparently married to Ashoka nor destined to accompany him to Pataliputra and become one of his queens. Yet she bore him a son and a daughter. The son, Mahinda, would head the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka and it may be that his mother was already a Buddhist, thus raising the possibility that Ashoka was drawn to the Buddha's teachings [at this time]. (90)

    According to some legends, Devi first introduced Ashoka to Buddhism, but it has also been suggested that Ashoka was already a nominal Buddhist when he met Devi and may have shared the teachings with her. Buddhism was a minor philosophical-religious sect in India at this time, one of the many heterodox schools of thought (along with Ajivika, Jainism, and Charvaka) vying for acceptance alongside the orthodox belief system of Sanatan Dharma (“Eternal Order”), better known as Hinduism. The focus of the later chronicles on Ashoka's affair with the beautiful Buddhist Devi, rather than on his administrative accomplishments, can be explained as an effort to highlight the future king's early association with the religion he would make famous.

    Ashoka was still at Ujjain when Taxila rebelled again and Bindusara this time sent Susima. Susima was still engaged in the campaign when Bindusara fell ill and ordered his eldest son's recall. The king's ministers, however, favored Ashoka as successor and so he was sent for and was crowned (or, according to some legends crowned himself) king upon Bindusara's death. Afterwards, he had Susima executed (or his ministers did) by throwing him into a charcoal pit where he burned to death. Legends also claim he then executed his other 99 brothers but scholars maintain he killed only two and that the youngest, one Vitashoka, renounced all claim to rule and became a Buddhist monk.

    The Kalinga War & Ashoka's Renunciation

    Once he had assumed power, by all accounts, he established himself as a cruel and ruthless despot who pursued pleasure at his subjects' expense and delighted in personally torturing those who were sentenced to his prison known as Ashoka's Hell or Hell-on-Earth. Keay, however, notes a discrepancy between the earlier association of Ashoka with Buddhism through Devi and the depiction of the new king as a murderous fiend-turned-saint, commenting:


    Buddhist sources tend to represent Ashoka's pre-Buddhist lifestyle as one of indulgence steeped in cruelty. Conversion then became all the more remarkable in that by `right thinking' even a monster of wickedness could be transformed into a model of compassion. The formula, such as it was, precluded any admission of Ashoka's early fascination with Buddhism and may explain the ruthless conduct attributed to him when Bindusara died. (90)

    This is most likely true but, at the same time, may not be. That his policy of cruelty and ruthlessness was historical fact is borne out by his edicts, specifically his 13th Major Rock Edict, which addresses the Kalinga War and laments the dead and lost. The Kingdom of Kalinga was south of Pataliputra on the coast and enjoyed considerable wealth through trade. The Mauryan Empire surrounded Kalinga and the two polities evidently prospered commercially from interaction. What prompted the Kalinga campaign is unknown but, in c. 260 BCE, Ashoka invaded the kingdom, slaughtering 100,000 inhabitants, deporting 150,000 more, and leaving thousands of others to die of disease and famine.

    Afterwards, it is said, Ashoka walked across the battlefield, looking upon the death and destruction, and experienced a profound change of heart which he later recorded in his 13th Edict:

    On conquering Kalinga, the Beloved of the Gods [Ashoka] felt remorse for, when an independent country is conquered, the slaughter, death, and deportation of the people is extremely grievous to the Beloved of the Gods and weighs heavily on his mind…Even those who are fortunate to have escaped, and whose love is undiminished, suffer from the misfortunes of their friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and relatives…Today, if a hundredth or a thousandth part of those people who were killed or died or were deported when Kalinga was annexed were to suffer similarly, it would weigh heavily on the mind of the Beloved of the Gods. (Keay, 91)

    Ashoka then renounced war and embraced Buddhism but this was not the sudden conversion it is usually given as but rather a gradual acceptance of Buddha's teachings which he may, or may not, have already been acquainted with. It is entirely possible that Ashoka could have been aware of Buddha's message before Kalinga and simply not taken it to heart, not allowed it to in any way alter his behavior. This same paradigm has been seen in plenty of people – famous kings and generals or those whose names will never be remembered – who claim to belong to a certain faith while regularly ignoring its most fundamental vision.


    It is also possible that Ashoka's knowledge of Buddhism was rudimentary and that it was only after Kalinga, and a spiritual journey through which he sought peace and self-forgiveness, that he chose Buddhism from among the other options available. Whether the one or the other, Ashoka would embrace Buddha's teachings in so far as he could as a monarch and establish Buddhism as a prominent religious school of thought.

    The Path of Peace & Criticism

    According to the accepted account, once Ashoka embraced Buddhism, he embarked on a path of peace and ruled with justice and mercy. Whereas he had earlier engaged in the hunt, he now went on pilgrimage and while formerly the royal kitchen slaughtered hundreds of animals for feasts, he now instituted vegetarianism. He made himself available to his subjects at all times, addressed what they considered wrongs, and upheld the laws which benefited all, not only the upper class and wealthy.

    This understanding of Ashoka's post-Kalinga reign is given by the Buddhist texts (especially those from Sri Lanka) and his edicts. Modern-day scholars have questioned how accurate this depiction is, however, noting that Ashoka did not return the kingdom to the survivors of the Kalinga campaign nor is there any evidence he called back the 150,000 who had been deported. He made no effort at disbanding the military and there is evidence that military might continued to be used in putting down rebellions and maintaining the peace.

    All of these observations are accurate interpretations of the evidence but ignore the central message of the Artashastra, which would have essentially been Ashoka's training manual just as it had been his father's and grandfather's. The Artashastra makes clear that a strong State can only be maintained by a strong king. A weak king will indulge himself and his own desires a wise king will consider what is best for the greatest number of people. In following this principle, Ashoka would not have been able to implement Buddhism fully as a new governmental policy because, first of all, he needed to continue to present a public image of strength and, secondly, most of his subjects were not Buddhist and would have resented that policy.

    Ashoka could have personally regretted the Kalinga campaign, had a genuine change of heart, and yet still have been unable to return Kalinga to its people or reverse his earlier deportation policy because it would have made him appear weak and encouraged other regions or foreign powers toward acts of aggression. What was done, was done, and the king moved on having learned from his mistake and having determined to become a better man and monarch.


    Ashoka's response to warfare and the tragedy of Kalinga was the inspiration for the formulation of the concept of dhamma. Dhamma derives from the concept, originally set down by Hinduism, of dharma (duty) which is one's responsibility or purpose in life but, more directly, from Buddha's use of dharma as cosmic law and that which should be heeded. Ashoka's dhamma includes this understanding but expands it to mean general goodwill and beneficence to all as “right behavior” which promotes peace and understanding. Keay notes that the concept is equated with “mercy, charity, truthfulness, and purity” (95). It is also understood to mean “good conduct” or “decent behavior”.

    After he had embraced Buddhism, Ashoka embarked on pilgrimages to sites sacred to Buddha and began to disseminate his thoughts on dhamma. He ordered edicts, many referencing dhamma or explaining the concept fully, engraved in stone throughout his empire and sent Buddhist missionaries to other regions and nations including modern-day Sri Lanka, China, Thailand, and Greece in so doing, he established Buddhism as a major world religion. These missionaries spread Buddha's vision peacefully since, as Ashoka had decreed, no one should elevate their own religion over anyone else's to do so devalued one's own faith by supposing it to be better than another's and so lost the humility necessary in approaching sacred subjects.

    Ashoka died after reigning for nearly 40 years. His reign had enlarged and strengthened the Mauryan Empire and yet it would not endure for even 50 years after his death. His name was eventually forgotten, his stupas became overgrown, and his edicts, carved on majestic pillars, toppled and buried by the sands. When European scholars began exploring Indian history in the 19th century, the British scholar and orientalist James Prinsep came across an inscription on the Sanchi stupa in an unknown script which, eventually, he came to understand as referencing a king by the name of Devanampiya Piyadassi who, as far as Prinsep knew, was referenced nowhere else.

    In time, and through the efforts of Prinsep in deciphering Brahmi Script as well as those of other scholars, it was understood that the Ashoka named as a Mauryan king in the Puranas was the same as this Devanampiya Piyadassi. Prinsep published his work on Ashoka in 1837 CE, shortly before he died, and the great Mauryan king has since attracted increasing interest around the world most notably as the only empire-builder of the ancient world who, at the height of his power, renounced warfare and conquest to pursue mutual understanding and harmonious existence as both domestic and foreign policy.

    The Legacy of Alexanders Conquest

    It was only the north of India through which Alexander had marched. He had not really conquered the people, although he left Greek garrisons and Greek rulers behind him, and when he died the people quickly revolted against the rule of Macedonia. So all trace of Alexander and his conquests soon disappeared from India. His altars have vanished and the names of the cities which he founded have been changed. But for long ages, the deeds of the great "Secunder," as they called him, lived in the memory of the Indians.

    And it is since the time of Alexander that the people of the West have known something of the wonderful land in the East with which they had traded through many centuries.

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