Persian and Greek Invasion of India - Cyrus and Alexander Invasion and their Imapact - Ancient India Notes

Extents of Achaemenid Empire/Credit:Wikimedia

Persian Invasion of India:

  • Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, invaded the North-Western front of India in 550 BCE.
  • Small provinces like Gandhara, Kamboja, and Madra were engaged in constant conflicts at that time.
  • Bimbisara of the Haryanka dynasty was ruling over Magadha during the Persian invasion.
  • Cyrus brought Indian tribes west of the Indus, such as Gandhara, under Persian control.
  • Punjab and Sindh were annexed by Darius I, Cyrus's grandson.
  • Xerxes, the son of Darius, couldn't proceed with further conquests in India due to his war with the Greeks. Indian cavalry and infantry were employed in the conflict.

Effects of the Persian Invasion:

  • Indo-Iranian contact boosted trade and commerce between the two regions for about 200 years.
  • Iranian coins found in the northwestern frontier indicate trade relations with Iran.
  • The Persians introduced the Kharoshti script to northwest India, and some of Ashoka's inscriptions were written in this script.
  • The Kharoshti script, derived from Aramaic, was written from right to left.
  • The rock inscriptions used by Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE might have been inspired by Persian king Darius, showing Iranian influence in Ashoka's monuments and edicts.

Greek Invasion of India and its Impact – Alexander's Invasion (327 BCE):

  • Alexander, son of Philip of Macedonia, became king in 336 BCE and embarked on a campaign for supremacy against the Greeks and Iranians.
  • After conquering Asia Minor, Iran, and Iraq, Alexander marched into northwest India from Iran in 327 BCE.
  • He defeated Persian King Darius III and annexed Persia (Babylon) in the Battle of Arbela (330 BCE).
  • Alexander was attracted to India's wealth and had a keen interest in geographical exploration and natural history.
  • Northwest India was ruled by small rulers like Ambhi of Taxila and Porus of the Jhelum region.
  • Ambhi accepted Alexander's sovereignty, but Porus valiantly fought and lost. Alexander granted Porus his territory back.
  • Alexander's army crossed the Chenab River and annexed the tribes between Ravi and Chenab.
  • However, his army refused to cross the Beas River, leading to a revolt due to exhaustion, homesickness, and disease.
  • Forced to retreat in 326 BCE, Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BCE.
  • His dream of an eastern empire remained unfulfilled, and the Greek Empire split in 321 BCE.
  • Four of Alexander's generals were left in charge of four regions in northwest India, including Seleucus I Nicator, who later exchanged territories with Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Eudamas was the last General of Alexander in India.

Effects of Alexander's Invasion:

  • Alexander's invasion facilitated political unification in northern India under the Mauryas, as the destruction of small states aided the Mauryan empire's expansion and control of the northwestern frontier.
  • The invasion established direct contact between India and Greece, paving the way for trade between the two regions.
  • Alexander's campaign records provide important insights into social and economic conditions of the time, including the mention of practices like sati, the sale of girls at marketplaces, and the breeding of oxen in northwest India.
  • Indo-Greek rulers emerged in northwest India after the invasion.
  • Greek settlements continued to exist under Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka, with notable cities like Alexandria in the Kabul region, Bonkephala on the Jhelum, and Alexandria in Sindh.
  • The Gandhara school of art reflects the influence of Greek art on Indian art.

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