Iranian and Macedonian invasions and their impact and Early Geek-Roman Accounts on India

Iranian and Macedonian invasions and their impact and Early Geek-Roman Accounts on India


  • The founder of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia, Cyrus, led some campaigns to the east of Iran between 558 and 530 B.C. In course of these campaigns he invaded the Indian border­land. He captured the Gandhara region.
  • Achaemenid_empire_en
  • In the reign of Darius I (522-486 B.C.), the Persians made some real advance in India. He invaded India and occupied the territories in the North-Western Frontier Province, Sind and Punjab in 516 B.C. These parts remained with the Iranian Empire till Alexander’s invasion of India.
  • The Bahistan Inscription mentions Gandhara as a province of his empire which Darius inherited from Cyrus.
    • This is further confirmed by the Susa Palace Inscription of Darius which mentions that teak was brought from Gandhara for the construction of the palace of the Emperor. (Gandhara means modern Peshawar and Rawalpindi of Pakistan)
  • The statement of Herodotus:
    • According to him, Gandhara formed the twentieth satrapy of the empire of Darius paying a tribute of 360 talents of gold dust. (This gold was probably collected from the beds of the upper Indus and from the gold mines of Dardistan). It was the most fertile and populous province of the Achaemenian Empire.
    • Herodotus has also recorded that Darius sent a naval expedition probably in 517 B.C. to explore the Indus basin.
  • The extent of Darius Empire in India:
    • The extent of the Persian Empire in India under Darius was not merely confined to Gandhara alone but extended further towards the Indus as well.
    • The Persian Empire in India reached its farthest limit under Darius.
    • The extent of the Indian dominion of Darius included the territories inherited from his predecessors and those he conquered in India. The territories of West Punjab and Lower Indus valley were under Persian rulers.
  • Persian domination over India under Xerxes and his successors:
    • Xerxes, the successor of Darius I kept his flag flying over the Indian kingdom which he had inherited from Darius, but he failed to make any forward movement in India due to his commitments in over India under Greece.
    • Herodotus states that Xerxes requisitioned large number of troops including infantry and cavalry from India for invasion of Greece.
  • The downfall of Persian Empire:
    • The defeat suffered by Xerxes in Greece led to decline of Persian power in India.
    • However, the Achaemenid rule over India continued up to 330 B.C. In that year Darius III, the last of the Achaemenid ruler summoned Indian troops to fight against Alexander the Great.
    • With the fall of the Persian power under the impact of the invasion of Alexander the Great, the Persian hold over India was lost.

Iranian Influence on India:

  • Iranian contacts with India lasted for about two centuries (516 to 326 B.C). These contacts had many important results which are as under:

(a) Political Impact:

  • The Persian invasion and the hold of the Persians in the north-western frontier regions of India did not affect Indian politics in any significant way. It only exposed the weakness of the Indian defense in that region and paved the way for the conquest of Alexander.
  • The Iranians were followed by the Greeks, the Sakas, the Kushans and the Huns.
  • However, the satrapa system of administration introduced by the Persians in their Indian provinces served as a model to later dynasties especially the Sakas and the Kushanas.
  • India learnt the necessity of a strong and united empire to repel the foreign invasions. It was for the first time that the small, scattered and mutually quarreling states of India realized how essential it was to join hands together to meet the common enemy.

(b) Encouragement to Trade:

  • Though the Persian invasion did not affect India politically to a great extent, the contact between the Indians and the Persians that continued even after the end of the Achaemenian Empire. These contacts between Persia and India through both the sea and the land led to the establishment of trade relations between the two countries.
  • The Persian rulers did much to promote geographical exploration and promote trade and commerce. The exploration of the Indus and the Arabian Sea by Scylax opened a new water-route.
  • When the western and north-western India formed parts of the Persian Empire which extended up to Asia Minor in the west, Indian trade naturally got a fresh impetus. Indian ivory and teak were popular in the Persian markets. Darius used them in the construction of his palace.
  • The India Traders and merchants now reached distant places in the Vast Persian Empire to dispose of their goods. Similarly, the Persian goods began to flow smoothly into India.

(c) Settlement of Foreigners on Indian Soil:

  • A large number of foreigners, Greek, Persians, Turks etc settled down in the North-Western parts of India. With the passage of time they completely absorbed among the Indians.

(d) Impact on Art and Architecture:

  • According to Megasthenes, the Greek Ambassador at the court of Chandragupta, the Mauryan ruler adopted certain Persian ceremonies and rituals. The Mauryan art was influenced by the Persian art to some extent.
  • Traces of the Persian influence can be seen in the Mauryan sculptures and in the Ashokan pillars.
    • The polish of the Mauryan pillars manifests the Persian influence.
    • The Persian masonry had this characteristic of high polish.
    • Ashokan pillars were influenced by Persian pillars.
  • Ashoka, followed the Iranian custom of preaching ideals by inscribing them on the stone pillars. The architecture of the period of Ashoka was completely influenced by Persian architecture.

(e) Kharoshthi Script:

  • The Aramaic form of writing which the Persians introduced in the north-western India after their conquest, gradually developed into the Kharoshti script. It was written from right to left.
  • All the Ashokan rock inscriptions in the north-west India were engraved in the Kharoshti script.
  • The idea of inscribing ethical exhortations on rocks in the form of royal proclamations might have been borrowed from Persia.
  • Certain resemblances have been discovered between the Achaemenid inscriptions and those of Ashoka. They both have the same style, especially in the construction of the opening sentence.

(f) Interchange of Indo-Persian culture:

  • Indian Scholars and philosophers went to Persia and exchanged their views freely with the intellectuals of that country. This contact brought about a great change in the outlook of the people and bought the people closer.
  • Fusion of Iranian/Persian features in the Mauryan art.
  • Impact of Buddhism on the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia.
  • Even before the invasion of Alexander, the Persians became catalysts between the Indian and Greek cultures. The Greek philosophers came in contact with Indian philosophy long before the invasion of Alexander.

(g) Influence on Coinage:

  • The Persian silver coins were in circulation in India. This affected Indian coinage.
  • The Persian coins were known for their refined minting and elegant looks. The Indian rulers adopted similar techniques to mint their coins on the Persian model.

Comparison of Maurya columns and Achaemenian pillars:

  • Similarities:
    • Both were built of stones.
    • Both used polished stones.
    • Both have certain common sculpture motifs such as the lotus.
    • Ashokan pillar edicts are somewhat similar to pillar edicts of Darius (king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire).
    • Carved animals can be found in both the cases.
    • It has been suggested that Ashoka got the idea of inscribing proclamations on pillars from the achaemenids.
  • Differences:
    • There are differences between the two in their respective functions, conceptions, style, design and form.
      • The stone columns of the Mauryan Pillared Hall were without capitals whereas the columns of the pillared halls of Perspolis have elaborate capitals.
      • Achaemenian (Persian) columns stand on bases, either shaped like a bell (that is, inverted lotus), or on a plain rectangular or circular block. While the independent Mauryan columns have no base at all.
      • The bell form that is used as supporting base in Persian columns serves as capital on top of the shaft in Mauryan ones and makes altogether a different aesthetic effect.
      • The shape and ornamentation of the Maurya lotus is different from the Persian ones, the bulge typical of the former is absent in the latter.
      • The Achaemenian shaft is fluted in all cases except one. But Mauryan columns are smooth.
      • The Achaemenian shaft are built of separate segments of stone aggregated one above the other which is the work of mason. The shaft of the Mauryan pillar is monolithic which pertains to the character of the work of a skilled wood-carver or carpenter.
        • Hence in technique, the Mauryan pillars partakes the character of wood-carver’s or carpenter’s work, the Achaemenian, that of a mason.
      • The Achaemenid pillars were generally part of some larger architectural scheme, composed of much too many component parts looking complex and complicated. While the Ashokan columns were intended to produce the effect of an independent freestanding monument with simpler specimen, more harmonious in conception and execution and gives the feeling of greater stability, dignity and strength.
      • The capitals of the Persian columns are crowned with a cluster of stylized palm leaves and have two semi-bulls, lions, or unicorns seated back to back, or an upright or inverted cup, with double volute on the top.
        • The Mauryan type of abacus (platform above the bell) and the placing of independently carved animal motifs on the top of abacus is absent in the Achaemenian context.
      • While Darius pillars propagated military victories and military might of the Achaemenid monarch, Ashoka’s pillar edict shows his quasi-benevolent message of a caring emperor.


  • Alexander was born in 356 B.C. in Macedonia, a kingdom of Greece. Philip, his Father, was the ruler of Macedon. After the death of his father, Alexander ascended the throne at the age of twenty only. Within a few years following the accession, he conquered Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor and Persia.
  • The Alexander’s invasion of India is an important event in the history of ancient India. But it created scarcely any impression in Indian mind. The veracity of the statement is established by the fact that the event is not referred to in any branch of ancient Indian literature. It is only from the Greek sources that we come to know of the events relating to Alexander’s invasion in India. The Greek accounts have been corroborated by the archaeological evidences (especially numismatic evidences).

India’s Political, Religious, Social and Economic Conditions on the eve of Alexander’s Invasion in 326 BC:

Political Condition:

  • At that time, there was not any mighty empire in India and the whole country was divided into several small republics and monarchical states which were constantly fighting with one another. Across the Beas River the strong Magadhan Empire had neither the will or time to intervene in the political changes occurring in the states lying to the west.
  • Political Condition in the Trans-Indus States: There were probably four hill-tribes to the west of the Indus.
  • Ambhi’s Kingdom:
    • The kingdom of Taxila lay between the river Indus and Jhelum. It was ruled by Ambhi who was the sworn enemy of his neighbouring ruler Porus.
  • Porus’s Kingdom:
    • Porus ruled over the territory which lay between the Jhelum and the Chenab. He maintained a strong army which fought well against Alexander.
  • Younger Porus and the Glausai Tribe:
    • The territory between the Ravi and the Chenab was ruled by the Younger Porus, who was a relative of Porus and tribesmen of the Glausai Tribe who had their won separate areas.
  • The Territory between the Ravi and the Beas Rivers:
    • The territory was ruled by several independent tribes.
  • The Magadhan Empire:
    • To the east of the Beas lay the mighty empire of Magadha which was ruled by the Nandas who had a huge powerful army. Its capital city was at Patliputra.
  • Tribal Republics of the Southern Punjab:
    • In the Southern parts of the Punjab, which lay on the Alexander’s route, when he was returning to Greece, were the warlike tribal republics of Sivi Kshudrakas and Malla, etc. They made Alexander’s retreat a difficult affair.
  • The Indus Valley Tribes: There were several independent tribes in the Indus Valley.

Ancient Alexander

Social Condition:

  • People led a simple life. Thefts were uncommon. However, the customs of Sati, polygamy and slavers were prevalent.
  • In the light of the Greek accounts, that some of the people were forced to sell their daughters because of poverty, we can conclude that the moral decay had set in the society.
  • However, the Indians had made much progress in the field of art, architecture, literature and education.

Economic Condition:

  • Agriculture, trade and various crafts were practiced by the people. The trade was developed.
  • The Indian traders travelled to far off countries where they sold woollen blankets, hides, horses, elephants and precious stones.
  • The traders were prosperous and the trade was controlled by the state. Coins were also used as the medium of exchange.

Religious Condition:

  • The practice of worshipping the images had been firmly established. The rivers (especially the Ganga) and the trees were also worshipped. The sacred trees were never cut or injured.
  • The hold of Brahmanism was supreme though Buddhism and Jainism were also gaining ground. The Brahmanas were held in high esteem ever by the rulers

Why Alexander Invaded India?

  • Alexander the Great decided to launch an invasion of India after inflicting the finishing blow on Emperor Darius III of Persia.
  • Historical writers have given detailed accounts of conquests of Alexander the Great in India. But they didn’t tell us about the reasons that provoked Alexander to invade India.
  • The proximate causes of the invasion of India by Alexander may be the following:
    • Alexander had conquered all the provinces of the Persian Empire except the Indian satrapy of the Persian emperor. The easy conquest of Persia and plunder of Persian wealth and treasures increased the desire of Alexander to invade India.
    • The Indian satrapy paid to the Persian emperor a tribute of 360 talents of gold dust. Alexander was attracted by the wealth and prosperity of India.
    • The Indian soldiers who fought under Xerxes in Greece had awakened great interest among Greeks about India. Curiosity, love of adventure and passion for conquest inspired Alexander to march to India.
    • An embassy from the king had sought Alexander’s help against the neighbouring king Porus. Alexander became aware of internal rivalry among the Indian rulers.
    • Alexander wanted to exceed the heroism shown by the mythical heroes like Heracles.
    • The geographers in Greek were puzzled for a long time about the extent of the Ocean. One of the objects of Alexander’s campaign in India was to solve the problem by fixing the extent of the Ocean.

Conquest of Alexander in India:

  • The Indian campaign of Alexander the Great began in 326 BC. After conquering the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, the Macedonian king Alexander launched a campaign into the northwestern Indian subcontinent (Pakistan).
  • In the spring of 327 B.C. Alexander the Great decided to cross the Hindkush mountain range and move forward for conquests in India. He was accompanied by a large army.
  • The army of Alexander marched towards the Indus. The Macedonian troops with their glittering spears and shining helmets caused terror among the local tribes. They offered almost no resistance till the invaders reached the Indus.
  • First Opposition:
    • The first ruler to oppose them was the King of Pushkalavati.
    • He resisted the attack of the Macedonians for several days died a hero’s death in the defence of his capital. The fort was taken by the Macedonians.
  • Conquering resistances, Alexander reached the Indus.
  • Taxila:
    • In 326 B.C., Alexander had crossed Indus.
    • Ambhi, the king of Taxila entered into a treaty with Alexander. King Ambhi came forward to greet him. The gate of the city of Taxila was thrown open to the Mecedonians.
    • The surrender of Ambhi opened the gates of Punjab to the Macedonians. Perhaps, Ambhi did this to take revenge against his neighbour king Porus.
  • War with Porus (Battle of Hydaspes):
    • King Porus was not ready to surrender. The King of Paurava kingdom, Porus, was prepared to meet the army of Alexander.
    • The kingdom was situated between Jhelum and Chenab river.
    • The historic battle between Porus and Alexander was fought on the bank of Jhelum river in 326 B.C. The army of King Porus was huge and Alexander carefully laid his plans. Porus bravely fought against Alexander. He received several wounds on his body. After a tough battle the army of King Porus was defeated. King Porus surrendered at last.
    • Alexander was highly impressed with the bravery of King Porus and appointed him as a satrap of not only in his own Kingdom but also granted him additional territories.
  • Alexander conquered other several territories near River Indus.
  • March towards River Beas:
    • After the great victory in the Battle of Hydaspes, Alexander had a sweeping march up to the Beas.
  • Alexander heard the glory of Nanda Empire:
    • The Magadha Empire was on the east of the empire of Porus.
    • The king of the Magadha Empire was Dhana Nanda. He was the son of Mahapadma Nanda and last ruler of Nanda Dynasty.
    • The Magadha army under Nanda Empire was vast. The infantry size of Nanda army was of more than two lakh people. Further, it has large number of elephants, chariots and cavalry. The army of Alexander was exhausted. They could not gather the courage to meet such large army of Magadha.
  • The return from river Beas:
    • After reaching the river Beas, the army of Alexander refused to proceed further in spite of his appeals.
    • Alexander, using the incorrect maps of the Greeks, thought that the world ended a mere 1,000 km away, at the edge of India. He therefore spoke to his army and tried to persuade them to march further into India but his general pleaded with him to change his opinion and return.
    • Alexander, seeing the unwillingness of his men agreed and turned back.
    • He marched back to the Jhelum and there collected a fleet of boats and sailed down the Jhelum (Hydaspes) and the lower Indus. The rest of his army marched along both the banks of the river.
  • Conquest of the local tribes:
    • In course of this voyage towards the Lower Indus, Alexander faced fierce opposition from the republican tribes of the region. There was heavy loss to Alexander’s army. However, Alexander conquered the country.
    • His army conquered the Malli clans (in modern day Multan). Alexander sailed further down the river receiving submission of other republican tribes in the region.
  • Conquest of Sind:
    • The rulers of Sind strongly resisted the Macedonian army but were defeated. The region of Sind came under the control of Alexander.
  • Return of Alexander:
    • The Macedonian army returned to Persia in 324 B.C. Alexander left some of his generals at the conquered territories who ruled the region for some years.
  • While Alexander was encamping at Babylon, he succumbed to a fatal attack of fever in 323 B.C.

Ineffectiveness of Alexander’s Invasion of India:

  • Alexander’s invasion was an unimportant event in the History of India and as such it did not leave any permanent mark on its civilization due to several reasons:

(1) His Untimely Death:

  • Alexander had an ambition to annex his Indian conquests to his Greek empire. That is why he left several of his governors and a large part of his army back in India. But his untimely death put to an end all his plans.

(2) Short Stay in India:

  • Alexander stayed in India for a short period of 19 months. Almost all this time, he spent in fighting battles. In this atmosphere of war and distrust neither the Greeks nor the Indians could have an open heart to understand each other. In such a condition, how could the Greek civilization influence the civilization of India.

(3) Merely a Border Invasion:

  • Alexander could not penetrate deep into the country and thus, his invasion remained more or less like a border raid. There was, therefore, remote possibility of its influencing the Indian civilization.

(4) The Indian Civilization was already well-deployed:

  • The Indian civilization was already well-developed and the Indian people did not lag behind in any field than any other people in the world. They, therefore found nothing worth-while that they could learn from the Greek invaders.

(5) Founding of the Mauryan Dynasty:

  • No sooner did Alexander turn his back, all his Indian territories were occupied by Chandragupta Maurya and thus even the last vestiges of the Greek invasion were obliterated.

Consequences of Alexander’s Invasion:

  • Though Alexander failed to plant his Greek civilization in India, nor could his invasion produce any direct consequences of permanent nature yet his invasion was not a total failure. It cannot be called a ‘non-event’ in the Indian history. It produced several indirect consequences, some of these were as under:

(1) Political Impact:

  • Alexander’s invasion of India carried both a political lesson and a political result. The lesson was that divided into small kingdoms, republics and tribal units, the North-West India suffered badly from hands of the foreign invaders. Unity and not the disunity became the need of the time.
  • The political result of the invasion was noteworthy. Alexander destroyed the power of the many existing states and wiped out the independent existence of some of them.
    • When soon after his departure, the process of building a powerful Indian empire began, the states of the North-West were easily conquered and they formed a part of that empire.
    • Alexander, in fact, made the work of Chandragupta Maurya simpler, and paved the path for his imperial power of Maurya in the Greek invaded areas.
  • Alexander did not fight with the real political power of India which was represented by the Nanda Empire.
    • He fought with much smaller powers and won victory. Even then, a small king like Porus showed to him the courage of the Indian side.
    • The political myth created by the Greek writers that the Western army was superior to that of the Indian proved meaningless when Chandragupta Maurya not only drove out the Greeks from the Indian soil, but also defeated the most powerful Greek ruler after Alexander, Seleucos Nikator, and forced him to surrender a large part of his territory.
    • Politically, thus, India raised as a mighty power of Asia soon after the invasion of Alexander the Great.

(2) Commercial Impact:

  • Alexander’s invasion opened up the land routes between the Greek world in the West and the Indian sub-continent.
    • It is said that he opened as many as five different lines of communication between India and the West during the course of his campaigns.
    • Of those, four routes were on land, and one by sea. His voyages and campaigns enlarged the geographical horizon of both the western and eastern peoples.
  • As a result, overland trade and maritime commerce began to develop between India and the West.
    • After the destruction of the Persian Empire over which the Greeks began to rule, the lines of contact between India and the Western Asia and through that with Europe became more effective and direct.
  • The geographical separation between the West and East was thus reduced to a large extent in the wake of Alexander’s invasion.
  • Several Indian traders, artisans and religious scholars went to other countries and some people came to India from other countries. In this way, Indian contacts with Europe developed rapidly.
  • The land routes to the West ran mainly through Kabul, the Mulla Pass of Baluchistan and Gedrosia. In his conquered territories, Alexander founded cities, military posts, and Greek settlements. Those places developed into centers of trade in course of time.

(3) Help in building Indian Chronology for subsequent Events:

  • Alexander’s invasion helped in the construction of the Indian history. He invaded India in 326 A.D. a date which helped us a lot in determining the Indian chronology.
  • Indian texts especially the Purans have ignored to record events in chronological order.
  • Megasthenes and other Greek writers have written a lot about the contemporary Indian society. Their descriptions have proved valuable in this respect.
  • The historians who accompanied Alexander have given an important information about the social and economic conditions of India. The Greek accounts have been corroborated by the archaeological evidences (especially numismatic evidences).

(4) Foundation of the Greek States and Cultural Impact:

  • After Alexander’s departure, the Greek generals who were left in India established their in dependent states on the North Western Frontiers of India. In this way, the Indians came in contact with the Greeks and both of them benefited from each other.
  • India was rich in religion and philosophy at the time of the Greek invasion.
    • The Greeks also were the pioneers of Western civilisation with a rich philosophy of their own.
    • The historians, scholars and writers who came with Alexander closely observed the Indian philosophical systems and noted them in their descriptions.
    • Alexander himself was curious to hear and know about some of the most difficult systems of Indian ascetics’ and philosophers.
    • The description left by the Greek writers caused much curiosity in the advanced Greek minds of that time and of later periods.
    • The Hindu and the Buddhist religious faiths and philosophies had an impact of the Greek world of philosophy following Alexander’s time.
  • The Indians, on their part are supposed to have been impressed by the Greek coinage. King Saubhuti, struck coins in imitation of the Greek coins.
  • Similarly, the Indians came to know of the Greek astronomy. And later on, they came to appreciate the Hellenistic art.
  • Long after Alexander, this influence came to its admirable form in shape of the Gandhara School of Art. The images of Buddha, under this art, showed a remarkable mixture of the Greek and the Indian art of image making. Of course, this art perfected itself at the time of Emperor Kanishka who brought sculptors from the Greek settlements of Bactria for the work, and who were far remote from the days of Alexander the Great.

Causes responsible for the defeat of the Indians by Alexander:

  • Alexander the tremendous superiority of a trained army over the vast and unwieldy armies of Indian kingdoms. He had found routes to India by land and sea. He completely altered the balance of power and the political completion of North Western India. Some of the main causes responsible for the defeat of the Indians were the following:
  • The main cause of defeat was the lack of unity among the Indian rulers. Their mutual jealousy had made them utterly selfish. They could not pool their resource even at the time of national crisis.
  • Alexander was undoubtedly a great general, perhaps one of the greatest general that the world has ever produced.
  • The Greek army was more disciplined and better organized than the India unwieldy and untrained, indisciplined armies.
  • The Greek soldiers were familiar with the latest tactics.
  • The elephants used by the Indians proved a liability rather than an asset for them. When wounded by the Greek archers they ran away in madness and trampled their own soldiers.
  • Nature also seemed to favour the Macedonians. Because of rain and storm the Indian archers could not use their bows effectively on the slippery battle field.
  • The Chariots could not move quickly and got stuck in the rain soaked mud. This slowness of movement proved very detrimental to the Indian side.
  • The Indian side was taken unaware when Alexander attacked them all of a sudden. The idea that no one could cross the Jhelum in flood had rendered the Indian soldiers quite inactive and careless.

Nature and impact of India’s contact with Western Asia and the Mediterranean world:

  • Nature of India’s contact with Western Asia and Mediterranean world
    • Diplomatic relations – Examples of Greek Ambassador Megathenes in the court of Chandragupta, Syrian Ambassador Deimachus and Egyptian Ambassador Dionysius in Bindusara’s court can be cited to support it.
    • Cordial relationship – The story of Bindusara requesting Antiochus to buy and send him some sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist is often cited to support the good relationship between India and Syria.
    • Trade relationship – Trade and Commerce between India and Western Asia and the Mediterranean world flourished which is supported by evidence of Greek and Persian coins and accounts of Megasthenes, Arabian etc.
    • Dhamma-vijaya – Dhamma missions were sent to different countries and Ashoka claims to have attained Dhamma-Vijaya in the dominions of Antiochus II, Ptolemy II, Philadelphus of Egypt, Magas of Cyrene (North Africa), Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia, and Alexander of Epirus.
    • Matrimonial relationship – According to Roman historian Appian, Seleucus entered into the marriage relationship with Chandragupta Maurya, however, this account is not very reliable.
  • Persian Impacts
    • Achaemenid rulers Cyrus and Darius annexed parts of Punjab and Sindh. Indian subjects enrolled in the Achaemenid army. Their rule lasted for 2 centuries.
    • Flourishing trade and commerce between Persia and India. Some Persian gold and silver coins were found in Punjab.
    • Impact on the administrative structure of Mauryan empire. For ex – Persian title of Satrapa (governor) continued to be used by Indian Provincial governors as Kshtrapa.
    • Use of Kharosthi in Ashokan Inscriptions.
    • Influence is seen in Ashokan edicts, Mauryan art and culture like in Ashokan pillars.
    • Chandragupta Maurya used to take ceremonial hair bath. It used to be in typical Persian style. Presence of sacred fire shows Zoroastrian influence.
  • Greek Impact
    • Alexander’s conquest of North-west India and North-west India came under Seleucus Nikator, who declared himself king after Alexander’s death. Later, it paved the way for unification and conquest of Northwest India by Chandragupta Maurya.
    • Discovery of routes by sea and land between India and Europe which led to increase in trade and commerce.
    • Art of making well-shaped and beautifully designed gold and silver coins came from Greeks.
  • Greek influence on Indian astrology
    • Greek accounts of Megathenes, Arrian etc provide valuable information about socio-economic life including crafts like carpentry, brisk trade, prosperity etc.
    • Ideas and notions of Indian philosophy and religion went to the Western world.
    • Greek accounts also helped in framing chronology of ancient Indian history. For ex – Date of Alexander’s victory in 326 BC. ©


Chronology of Foreign Invasions
518-486 BC King Darius or Darus invaded India
326 BC Alexander invaded India
190 BC Indo Greeks or Bactrians invaded India
90 BC Sakas invaded India
Ist century AD Pahalavas invaded India
45 AD Kushanas or Yue-chis invaded India

7 thoughts on “Iranian and Macedonian invasions and their impact and Early Geek-Roman Accounts on India”

  1. Hello. I am working as a journalist on the subject that has historical references. I glanced at your paper and would like to have a word with you. Is there anyway i can contact you?

    Greek Orator
    “… not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honors, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave” – Demosthenes, Third Philippic, 31. The famous words that this Greek orator from Athens used to describe the Macedonian king Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, prior to Philip’s conquest of Greece.
    We know for a fact that the ancient Greeks stereotyped and called all non-Greeks barbarians. These included the Persians, the Thracians, Illyrians, Macedonians, etc. The modern Greeks however, claim that Philip was Greek, and that Demosthenes called him “not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks” and “barbarian”, onlyin “rhetorical context”, which was aroused by the political anger that existed between Macedonia and the Greeks states on the south, although it is very clear from Demosthenes’s words that he regards the Macedonians and their king Philip II as non-Greeks. This modern Greek position is easily debunked, however, when we consider the following two points:
    a. If the Macedonians were Greeks but still called barbarians and nor related to the Greeks, why is then no other Greek tribe called barbarians and nor related to the Greeks in “rhetorical context”? There were many examples when that could have happened, it’s enough to point to the long Peloponesian War, or any of the many constant wars between the Greek states. Yet no Spartan, Athenian, Theban, Epirote, was ever called non-Greek or barbarian during any of these political and war conflicts! Not ONCE!
    b. We know for a fact that the ancient Greeks also called the Persians barbarians. Are we suppose to say now, based on the modern Greek “logic”, that the Persians were too a Greek tribe, but they were called non-Greeks only in “rhetorical context”?
    The lesson is clear. The ancient Greeks called all non-Greeks barbarians, and the modern Greek argument can simply not be true, and is quite frankly ridiculous. It does however, prove to what extend the modern Greek writers would go to make the Macedonians forcefully Greek, steel the Macedonian history, and even rewrite the feelings of the ancient Greeks during that process.
    Now lets see some credible evidence:
    [1] Alexander returns from the campaigns at the Danube, north of Macedon. When the news reached him that the Thebans had revolted and were being supported by the Athenians, he immediately marched south through the pass of Thermopylae. ‘Demosthenes’, he said, ‘call me a boy while I was in Illyria and among the Triballi, and a youth when I was marching through Thessaly; I will show him I am a man by the time I reach the walls of Athens.’ [p.264] Plutarch The Age of Alexander
    [2] [Modern day Greeks would like to dispatch off Demosthenes castigations of Philip II as political rhetoric, and yet Demosthenes was twice appointed to lead the war effort of Athens against Macedonia. He, Demosthenes, said of Philip that Philip was not Greek, nor related to Greeks but comes from Macedonia where a person could not even buy a decent slave. ‘Soon after his death the people of Athens paid him fitting honours by errecting his statue in bronze, and by decreeing that the eldest member of his family should bemaintained in the prytaneum at the public expense. On the base of his statue was carved his famous inscription: ‘If only your strength had been equal, Demosthenes, to your wisdom Never would Greece have been ruled by a Macedonian Ares’ [p.216] Plutarch
    [3] “While Demosthenes was still in exile, Alexander died in Babylon, and the Greek states combined yet again to form a league against Macedon. Demosthenes attached himself to the Athenian convoys, and threw all his energies into helping them incite the various states to attack the Macedonians and drive them out of Greece.” [p.212] Plutarch
    [4] The news of Philip’s death reached Athens. Demosthenes appeared in public dressed in magnificent attire and wearing a garland on his head, although his daughter had died only six days before. Aeshines states:
    “For my part I cannot say that the Athenians did themselves any credit in puting on garlands and offering sucrifices to celebrate the death of a king who, when he was the conqueror and they the conquered had treated them with such tolerance and humanity. Far apart from provoking the anger of the gods, it was a contemptible action to make Philip a citizen of Athens and pay him honours while he was alive, and then, as soon as he has fallen by another’s hand, to be besides themselves with joy, tremple on his body, and sing paeans of victory, as though they themselves have accomplished some great feat of arms.” [p.207] Plutarch
    [5] “Next when Macedonia was at war with the citizens of Byzantium and Perinthus, Demosthenes persuaded the Athenians to lay aside their grievances and forget the wrongs they had suffered from these peolples in the Social War and to dispatch a force which succeeded in relieving both cities. After this he set off on a diplomatic mission, which was designed to kindle the spirit of resistance to Philip and which took him all over Greece. Finally he succeeded in uniting almost all the states into a confederation against Philip.” [p.202] Plutarch
    [6] On Demosthenes’ tirades about Macedonians: “… we are concerned only with sentiment, which is itself historical fact and must be taken seriously as such. In these tirades we find not only the Hellenic descent of Macedonian people (which few seriously accepted) totally denied, but even that of the king.” Ernst Badian
    All quotes below taken from WERNER JAEGER’s Demosthenes
    Here, in these excerpts from Jeager’s book, you will find Demosthenes’ hatred for Macedon not only readily displayed and exercised, but its Hellenic descent categorically excluded and implicitly denied. The fact that some modern authors ascribe Hellenic affinity to the ancient Macedonians should come to no great surprise because of the impact left by Johan Gustav Droysen on early nineteenth-century historian where Macedon is depicted as a natural “unifier” of the Greek city-states, the same role played by Prussia and Savoy in German and Italian unification in the nineteenth century. “On this false analogy the whole of Greek history was now boldly reconstructed as a necessary process of development leading quite naturally to a single goal: unification of the Greek nation under Macedonian leadership”.
    Demosthenes and most of his contemporaries did not see it that way; to them the leadership of Macedon was seen as the ‘death of Greek political liberty’ Some people dismiss Demosthenes’ outbursts as a political rhetoric, others hold his political abuse of Philip from Macedon as historical facts, undeniably blunt and truthful. His sentiments are, in this case, fundamental historical documents, which testify to the simmering hate and contempt for the Macedonian conqueror. The hands of the sculptor are being replaced by his sharply cutting tongue. At the end the features emerge to the surface unpretentiously clear and aggressive. Demosthenes unlike Isocrates does not mask his national ideals with “Panhellenistic union” against the Persians, but boldly and aggressively calls his Hellenic nation to an uprising against the barbarian from the north -the Kingdom of Macedon and its king Philip.
    Demosthenes’ cries and pleas are not intended for his beloved Athens only, but to every liberty loving Hellene, and even the Persians, Greece’s centuries-old enemy. He calls on the Persians to join the Hellenes in the war against Macedon, and at the same time he warns them that if they leave the Greeks in the lurch, they would be next Philip’s victim. As destiny would have it, Demosthenes was right. Here is the proof:
    [7] “On the Symmories, namely, that Demosthenes originally stood close to a group of politicians who were vigorously combating the radical democratic influence; indeed, it is only to this degree that he can be said to have come from any one party at all. It is true that in later years, when he is coming to grips with the danger of Macedonia’s foreign yoke, he naturally appeals to the lofty ideal of Greek liberty.” [p.93]
    [8] “It is not until Demosthenes is fighting the “tyranny” of the Macedonian conqueror that the idea of liberty takes on its true color for him and becomes significant as a great national good.” [p.93]
    [9] “Even then this watchword of “liberty” serves solely to promote his (Demosthenes’ foreign policy; but by that time it has really become an essential factor in his envisagement of the world about him, in which Greece and Macedonia are polar opposites, irreconcilable morally, spiritually, intellectually.” [p.93-4]
    [10] “Thereupon all Thessaly submitted to him of its own accord. He was acclaimed as a deliverer and named commander-in-chief of the Thessalian confederacy. He would have marched at once into central Greece as a conquering hero and would probably have brought the war to an end there with a single blow, had not the Athenians and Spartans bestirred themselves to send auxiliary troops to Thermopylae, thus shutting against him this gateway to Hellas.” [p.114]
    [11] “In the Panegyricus he [Isocrates] had urged an understanding between Sparta and Athens, so that the Greeks might unite in a common expedition against the Persian empire. Nothing of that sort was any longer thinkable. But the policy of which he now had such high hopes offered a surprisingly simple solution for the distressing problem that lay heavily on all minds the problem of what was to be the ultimate relationship between Greece and the new power in the north.” [p.152]
    [12] “If Philip was not to remain a permanent menace to the Greek world from outside, it was necessary to get him positively involved in the fate of Hellas; for he could not be eluded. Of course in the view of any of the Greek states of the period, this problem was comparable to that of squaring the circle.” [p.152]
    [13] “But for Isocrates that was no obstacle. He had long since come to recognize the impossibility of resisting Macedonia, and he was only trying to find the least humiliating way to express the unavoidable submission of all the Greeks to the will of Philip. Here again he found the solution in a scheme for Macedonian hegemony over Greece. For it seems as if Philip’s appearance in this role would be most effective way to mitigate his becoming so dominant a factor in Greek history; moreover, it ought to silence all Greek prejudices against the culturally and ethnically alien character of the Macedonians.” [p.153]
    [14] “With the help of the role that Isocrates had assigned to him, he had the astuteness to let his cold-blooded policy for the extension of Macedonian power take on the eyes of the Greeks the appearance of a work of liberation for Hellas. What he most needed at this moment was not force but shrewd propaganda; and nobody lent himself to this purpose so effectively as the old Isocrates, venerable and disinterested, who offered his services of his own free will.” [p.155]
    [15] “Philip now had the problem of compelling the Athenians to recognize the Delphic resolutions aimed against Phocis; and he sent ambassadors to Athens, where strong opposition prevailed. However, with the Macedonian army only a few day’s march from the Attic border and in good fighting trim, Athens was quite defenseless, and even Demosthenes advised submission.” [p.157]
    [16] “When Demosthenes draws up his list of Philip’s transgressions, it includes his offense against the whole of Greece, not merely those against Athens; and Demosthenes’ charge of unbecoming remissness is aimed at all the Greeks equally- their irresolution, and their failure to perceive their common cause.” [p.171]
    [17] “Therefore he (Demosthenes) urges them to send embassies everywhere to call the Greeks together–to assemble them, teach them, and exhort them; but the paramount need is to take the necessary steps themselves and thus perform their duty.” [p.171]
    [18] “In this appeal to the whole Greek world Demosthenes reached a decisive turning point in his political thought…………….He was still thoroughly rooted in Athens’s governmental traditions, never overstepping the bounds of her classical balance-of-power policy for the interior of Greece. But the appearance of the mighty new enemy from beyond the Greek frontier now forced him to take a different track.” [p.171-2]
    [19] “Looking far beyond the actualities of the Greek world, hopelessly split asunder as it was, he (Isocrates) had envisaged a united nation led by the Macedonian king.” [p.172]
    [20] “Quite apart, however, from any theoretical doubts whether the nationalistic movement of modern times, which seeks to combine in a single state all the individuals of a single folk, can properly be compared with the Greek idea of Panhellenism, scholars have failed to notice that after the unfortunate Peace of Philocrates Demosthenes’ whole policy was an unparalleled fight for national unification. In this period he deliberately threw off the constrains of the politician concerned exclusively with Athenian interests, and devoted himself to a task more lofty than any Greek statesman before him had ever projected or indeed could have projected. In this respect he is quite comparable to Isocrates; but an important point of contrast still remains. The difference is simply that Demosthenes did not think of this “unification” as a more or less voluntary submission to the will of the conqueror; on the contrary, he demanded a unanimous uprising of all the Greeks against the Macedonian foe.” [p.172]
    [21] “His Panhellenism was the outgrowth of a resolute will for national self-assertiveness, deliberately opposed to the national self-surrender called for by Isocrates – for that was what Isocrates’ program had really meant, despite its being expressed romantically as a plan for a Persian war under Macedonian leadership.” [p.172-3]
    [22] “As the success of his appeal was to show, he was correct in his estimate of the actual political prospects of a really national uprising now that direct hostile pressure was felt. Since the days of the Persian wars Hellas had at no time been seriously endangered from without.” [p.173]
    [23] “The foe and the emergency [Macedon and its king Philip] had now appeared; and if the Greeks still had a spark of their fathers’ sense of independence, the fate that was now overtaking them could not but bring them together. The Third Philippic is one mighty avowal of this brand of Panhellenism; and this is entirely Demosthenes’ achievement.” [p.173]
    [24] “The task that confronted Demosthenes demanded utterly gigantic powers of improvisation; for the Greek people had not been making preparedness an end in itself for years as the enemy had done, and they also found it hard to adjust themselves spiritually to their new situation. In the Third Philippic Demosthenes’ prime effort was to break down this spiritual resistance, and everything hinged on his success.” [p.174]
    [Greek people on one side, and the enemy on the other. Were Macedonians seen as Greeks by the ancient Greeks? Did the Greeks have the enemy from within their own kin? Were there some Greeks who were making preparations for a war, and other Greeks who were not? It is a clear no, since the Macedonians were not Greek]
    [25] “Demosthenes speaks of embassies to be sent to the Peloponnesus, to Rhodes and Chios, and even to the king of Persia, to call for resistance against the conqueror.” [p.177]
    [Point of Interest] Greeks were sending embassies to the king of Persia to ally with them against the conqueror from the north – Macedonia and its king Philip. One needs not be a scholar to see through the lies propagated by today’s Greeks when they claim that Macedonia was a part of Greece and Philip was their king. “It is an illusion to think that ancient Macedonians were Greeks”. [Karagatsis – a Greek writer]
    [26] Demosthenes’ call for a national uprising was slowly gaining strength; Corinth and Achaea went over to the Athenian side, Messenia, Arcadia and Argos were won over and lined themselves behind the program. In March of the year 340 the treaty was formerly concluded at Athens. Even Athens and Thebes reconciled and joined his national program. “The true greatness of these achievements — achievements for which the citizens of Athens honored Demosthenes with a golden crown at the Dionysia of 340 – was rightly appreciated by the ancient historians.” [p.178]
    [27] “If the Persian leaves us in the lurch and anything should happen to us, nothing will hinder Philip from attacking the Persian king.” [Fourth Philippic] [p.181]
    [28] “For historians of the old school, Greek history ended when the Greek states lost their political liberty; they looked upon it as a closed story, mounting to a heroic finish at Chaeronea.” [p.188]
    [29] “For if any non-Greek power, whether Persian or Macedonian, were to achieve world dominion, the typical form of the Greek state would suffer death and destruction.” [p.188]
    [30] “Anyone who had assured himself that Macedonian hegemony would lead to the inner unification of the Greeks, was bound to be disappointed. Philip surrounded Athens with four Macedonian garrisons placed at respectful distances, and left everything else to his supporters and agents in the cities.” [p.191]
    [31] The first resolution passed by Synedrion at Corinth was the declaration of war against Persia. “The difference was that this war of conquest, which was passionately described as a war of vengeance, was not looked upon as a means of uniting the Greeks, as Isocrates would have had it, but was merely an instrument of Macedonian imperialism.” [p.192]
    [32] “But although the Greek people thus came to play a uniquely influential role as pioneers of culture and, to that degree, as inheritors of the Macedonian empire, politically they had simply dropped out of the ranks of free peoples, even if Philip abstained from formally making Hellas a Macedonian province. The Greeks were themselves aware of this.” [p.192]
    [35] “Outwardly, the “autonomous” city-states kept their relations with Macedonia on a fairly strict level of rectitude. Inwardly, the time was one of dull pressure and smoldering distrust, flaring up to a bright flame at the least sign of any tremor or weakness in Macedonia’s alien rule – for that is how her surveillance was generally regarded. This excruciating state of affairs continued as long as any hope remained. Only when the last ray of hope was exctinguished and the last uprising had met disaster, did quiet finally settle down upon Greece — the quiet of the graveyard.” [p.192]
    [36] (Aeschines attempt to triumph over Demosthenes for the last and final round backfires with Demosthenes’ heroics in “The Crown”. Demosthenes at the end received the crown.) “But though Athens was powerless against the might of her Macedonian conqueror, she retained her independence of judgment and declared that no history could confute Demosthenes.” [p.196]
    [37] “Then when Alexander suddenly died in the flower of his age, and Greece rose again for the last time, Demosthenes offered his services and returned to Athens. But after winning a few brilliant successes, the Greeks lost their admirable commander Leosthenes on the field of battle; and his successors was slain at Crannon on the anniversary of Chaeronea; the Athenians then capitulated, and, under pressure of threats from Macedonia, suffered themselves to condemn to death the leader of the “revolt”.” [p.196]
    Demosthenes died from a dose of poison on the island of Calauria, in the altar of Poseidon. Forty years later Athens honored him for eternity. Such was the destiny of a man whose ideals were his people, his country and their liberty. When modern Greeks dismiss him (in order to divert the stinging truth of his oratory) as a mere politician and his arousing oratory against Macedonia and the Macedonian conqueror as a political rhetoric, they, the modern Greeks, denounce the true Greek spirit, devoid of which, they, themselves, are.
    [38] “The dispute of modern scholars over the racial stock of the Macedonians have led to many interesting suggestions. This is especially true of the philological analysis of the remains of the Macedonian language by O. Hoffmann in his Makedonen etc. Cf. the latest general survey of the controversy in F. Geyer and his chapter on prehistory. But even if the Macedonians did have some Greek blood- as well as Illyrian- in their veins, whether originally or by later admixture, this would not justify us in considering them on a par with the Greeks in point of race or in using this as historical excuse for legitimizing the claims of this bellicose peasant folk to lord it over cousins in the south of the Balkan peninsula so far ahead of them in culture. It is likewise incorrect to assertthat this is the only way in which we can understand the role of the Macedonian conquest in Hellenizing the Orient. But we can neglect this problem here, as our chief interest lies in discovering what the Greeks themselves felt and thought. And here we need not cite Demosthenes’ well-known statements; for Isocrates himself, the very man who heralds the idea of Macedonian leadership in Hellas, designates the people of Macedonia as members of an alien race in Phil.108. He purposely avoids the word barbaroibut this word is one that inevitably finds a place for itself in the Greek struggle for national independence and expresses the views of every true Hellene. Even Isocrates would not care to have the Greeks ruled by the Macedonian people: it is only the king of Macedonia, Philip, who is to be the new leader; and the orator tries to give ethnological proof of Philip’s qualifications for this task by the device of showing that he is no son of his people but, like the rest of his dynasty, a scion of Heracles, and therefore of Greek blood.” [p.249]

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