History Files
 

 

Far East Kingdoms

South Asia

 

 

 

Arachosia
Incorporating the Arachoti

The ancient province of Arachosia lay largely within central areas of modern Afghanistan, and perhaps edging into western Pakistan. Prior to its late sixth century BC domination by the Achaemenid Persians, Arachosia seems to have formed part of a much larger and more poorly-defined region known as Ariana, of which the later province of Aria was the heartland. Barely recorded by written history, its precise boundaries are impossible to pin down. It may have encompassed much or all of Transoxiana, the region around the River Oxus (the Amu Darya), and could have reached as far south as the coastline of the Arabian Sea.

Arachosia formed part of the crossroads between ancient Transoxiana, Persia and India. During the Persian and Greek periods, it was bordered by Aria and Bactria to the north, Gandhara and Paropamisadae to the east, Northern Indus and Southern Indus to the south-east, and Drangiana to the south-west. The region of which Arachosia was part came to be known as Southern Khorasan following the Islamic invasion of the seventh and eighth centuries AD. Southern Khorasan (generally within modern Afghanistan) comprised the highlands to the west and north-west of the River Indus. It also included the ancient regions of Gandhara (now largely within northern Pakistan) and Arachosia itself.

Arachosia's people have always been fiercely independent, but they have also contributed strongly to various empires over the centuries, before a single state began to emerge in the modern age. The region was named for its Arachoti tribe. The great Hindu Kush mountain range climbs in the east of the country and onto the border with Pakistan. The Bolan Pass near Quetta forms one of the most important routes into the Indus region of India, and it was this which was used by Alexander the Great, plus the Mongols, the Mughals, and many other adventurers and explorers.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), and The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996).)

c.4000 BC

From around this date, proto-Indo-Europeans emerge in Central Asia to form a homogenous people who all speak the same general language. In the third millennium BC, groups begin to migrate west and south, beginning a fragmentation that sees them occupy large swathes of Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.

1000 - 800 BC

The Sakas make in-roads into the region.

Map of Central Asia & India c.700 BC
Following the climate-change-induced collapse of indigenous civilisations and cultures in Iran and Central Asia between about 2200-1700 BC, Indo-Iranian groups gradually migrated southwards to form two regions - Tūr (yellow) and Ariana (white), with westward migrants forming the early Parsua kingdom (lime green), and Indo-Aryans entering India (green) (click on image to see full sized)

c.546 - 540 BC

The defeat of the Medes opens the floodgates for Cyrus the Great with a wave of conquests, beginning in the west from 549 BC but focussing towards the east of the Persians from about 546 BC. Eastern Iran falls during a more drawn-out campaign between about 546-540 BC, which may be when Maka is taken (presumed to be the southern coastal strip of the Arabian Sea). Further eastern regions now fall, namely Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, Carmania, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Gandhara, Gedrosia, Hyrcania, Margiana, Parthia, Saka (at least part of the broad tribal lands of the Sakas), Sogdiana (with Ferghana), and Thatagush - all added to the empire, although records for these campaigns are characteristically sparse.

Index of Persian SatrapiesPersian Satraps of Harahuwatish (Arachosia)

Conquered in the mid-sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, the region of Arachosia was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was populated by Indo-Iranian tribal groups, especially a tribe known by Strabo as the Arachoti, or by Pliny as the Angutturi. Under the Persians, the region was formed into an official satrapy or province which, according to the Behistun inscription of Darius the Great, was called Harahuwatish or Harauvatiš (Arachosia is a Greek mangling of the name). Its capital was Arachoti, the tribal capital of the region's largest Indo-Iranian tribe. In the Greek period this was renamed and refounded as Alexandria Arachosia and today is better known as Kandahar. Kapisa, the site of a fortress in the Persian period, may be the same location as the fortress of Kapiša-kaniš which was the scene of a battle in 522 BC.

These eastern regions of the new-found empire were ancestral homelands for the Persians. They formed the Indo-Iranian melting pot from which the Parsua had migrated west in the first place to reach Persis. There would have been no language barriers for Cyrus' forces and few cultural differences. Although details of his conquests are relatively poor, he seemingly experienced few problems in uniting the various tribes under his governance. He was the first to exert any form of imperial control here, although his campaign may have been driven partially by a desire to recreate the semi-mythical kingdom of Turan in the land of Tūr, but now under Persian control. Curiously the Persians had little knowledge of what lay to the north of their eastern empire, with the result that Alexander the Great was less well-informed about the region than earlier Ionian settlers on the Black Sea coast had been.

When viewing the Persian satrapies, there is a notable decrease of information as one travels from west to east. This dearth of detail is particularly noticeable in the case of Harahuwatish. Accounts of pre-Achaemenid conditions are scanty, and even in Achaemenid times little seems to have been recorded about the region. What is known is that the rivers Kabul and Indus formed the border with Gedrosia and Thatagush. Only Alexander the Great's presence over two hundred years later allows any more light to be glimpsed in the darkness. The assumption that Achaemenid administration in Sistān, Makrān, and Baluchestān could have been based upon older administrative structures has to rely on the tradition about the Old Iranian Sāma dynasty of which the best-known representatives are Kərəsāspa-/Karšāsp (a participant in the defeat of the kingdom of Turan) and his grandson, Rostam. The etymological relationship of the dynasty’s name with the ethnic term Thamanaioi (a tribe generally ascribed here to the Drangiana region but which may also have occupied areas of Harahuwatish) has been noted by Josef Marquart.

At this time, what is now northern Afghanistan formed part of the provinces of Bakhtrish and Gadara, while the south formed part of Harahuwatish. One of the most informative sources when attempting to reconstruct the satrapal administration of Harahuwatish and Gedrosia is that of Alexander’s appointments. Drangiana too belonged to Harahuwatish/Arachosia, thanks to Strabo's description of Arachosia being situated south of the mountains that enclose Haraiva. This geographical reference is only comprehensible if Arachosia is understood as a unit which included Drangiana. Hindush is another province which may have belonged to Arachosia following its conquest by Darius, and neighbouring Thatagush - names as Sattagydia - certainly was at the time of Darius' accession.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, from Ctesias' Persica in its Near Eastern Context, Matt Waters, from Alexander The Great: In the Realm of Evergetǽs, Reza Mehrafarin, and from External Links: The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Livius.org, and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

c.546 - 540 BC

During his campaigns in the east, Cyrus the Great initially takes the northern route from Persis towards Bakhtrish to reassure or subdue the provinces. This route probably involves the 'militaris via' by Rhagai to Parthawa. At some point he takes the more difficult southern route, destroying Capisa along the way (possibly Kapisa on the Koh Daman plain to the north of Kabul - which is possibly also the Kapishakanish named at Behistun as a fortress in Harahuwatish).

On a fresh leg of the campaign, Cyrus enters the Dasht-i-Lut desert (the modern Dasht-e Loot) on the eastern route out of Karmana towards Harahuwatish. His army faces crippling loses but for the assistance provided by the Ariaspae on the River Helmand. They are named 'the Benefactors' (Greek 'Euergetai') by Cyrus in thanks. This route appears to have been poorly reconnoitred, hinting at a lack of Persian knowledge of this region and therefore a lack of preceding Median occupation here in its eastern empire.

fl 522/521 BC

Vivâna

Satrap, with Thatagush. Appointed by Cambyses. Loyal to Darius.

522 - 521 BC

Immediately after Darius I secures the throne he faces several rebellions, stretching from Babirush to Media and Armina to Parthawa, and Verkâna. The responses to all of these are handled well by Darius and all are crushed in turn. Another major rebellion in Mergu happens towards the end of 522 or 521 BC and that too is put down.

Darius mentions that the the 'false' king he had replaced on the Achaemenid throne, Smerdis (otherwise known as Vahyazdâta), had sent his own satrap to govern Harahuwatish with orders to put down the present incumbent. The two sides meet (or have met) in battle at a fortress called Kapiša-kaniš (probably Kapisa). Quite possibly Vivâna is besieged for several weeks before assembling for battle in December 522 BC. Vivâna's forces are victorious, but the rebels are able to regroup and offer battle again at Gandutava. This time they are crushed, although the 'false' satrap is able to flee to a fortress called Aršâdâ, still within Harahuwatish and possibly Vivâna's personal headquarters in the province. Vivâna and his army march after them on foot and at the fortress they are seized and killed (in February 521 BC).

The emergency in Harahuwatish is over. The 'false' satrap seems not to be mentioned by name, a good way of ensuring that history forgets him. However, there may still be rebel elements in Thatagush, as Darius conducts a campaign there, during which he also seems to secure a new satrapy by the name of Hindush. Some of this territory is already likely to have been part of the conquests of Cyrus the Great, but it is possible that Darius now extends and completes the conquest.

516 - 515 BC

Achaemenid ruler Darius embarks on a military campaign into the lands east of the empire. He marches through Haraiva and Bakhtrish, and then to Gadara and Taxila. By 515 BC he is conquering lands around the Indus Valley to incorporate into the new satrapy of Hindush before returning via Harahuwatish and Zranka. Along the way the Sakas are largely defeated and conquered.

513 BC

The unreliable Ctesias claims that Darius orders Ariaramnes, satrap of Katpatuka, to cross the Black Sea to conduct a preliminary reconnaissance of the Scythian territories there. Ariaramnes brings back prisoners which include the brother of the Scythian king, and the resultant protests give Darius his excuse to go to war in Scythia. Following the failure of the campaign, Darius leaves Megabazos in command of the troops. This could be the Bagabadush who is named in a Persepolis tablet as the later satrap of Harahuwatish.

fl c.500s BC

Bagabadush

Satrap. With Thatagush?

c.440s - 420s BC

The placement in Zranka of four satraps, father-and-son duo Hydarnes and Teritoukhames and their two replacements, is highly uncertain but is made possible because a city of Zaris is mentioned in their story. Hydarnes is believed to be a descendant of another Hydarnes, one of the seven who had defeated the Magi and elevated Darius I to the throne in 522 BC. His family becomes important to the Achaemenid succession, with a great deal of intermarriage into the royal line.

fl c.440s? BC

Hydarnes / Idernes

Satrap, with Hindush & Zranka? Died.

fl c.420s? BC

Teritoukhames / Teritoukhmes

Son. Satrap, with Hindush & Zranka? Killed.

c.420s - 410s BC

The marriage alliance between Hydarnes and the descendants of Darius I has been important in supporting Darius II in his acquisition of the throne. Upon the death of Hydarnes, his son Teritoukhames has been appointed satrap in his stead (although the name of the satrapy is not given by Photius). Ctesias reports the plot by Teritoukhames to rid himself of his unwanted royal wife so that he can marry his own sister, Rhoxane. Darius has Teritoukhames attacked and killed and Darius' queen, Parysatis, takes violent action against the rest of Teritoukhames' family. There appear to be no survivors other than Stateira, wife of Arsakes (eventually to be Artaxerxes II). Many years later, Parysatis also arranges her death.

fl c.410s? BC

Oudiastes

Replacement. Satrap, with Hindush & Zranka?

fl c.390s? BC

Mitradates

Son. Satrap, with Hindush & Zranka?

Mitradates opposes the royal court and also his own father and attempts to establish the independent rule of the city of Zaris (Zarin). Again this is assumed to be within the satrapy of Zranka. The prevailing chaos in the Persian court and the great distance between it and Zaris allows the rebellion to establish itself for a short time, forming an independent Achaemenid state.

360s/350s BC

Artaxerxes II is occupied fighting the 'revolt of the satraps' in the western part of the empire. Nothing is known of events in the eastern half of the Persian empire at this time, but no word of unrest is mentioned by Greek writers, however briefly. Given the newsworthiness for Greeks of any rebellion against the Persian king, this should be enough to show that the east remains solidly behind the king. It seems that all of the empire's troubles hinge on the Greeks during this period.

? - 330 BC

Barsaentes

Satrap, with Hindush & Zranka. One of 3 most powerful satraps.

330 - 328 BC

Barsaentes is one of the three most senior satraps of the east, the others being Bessus in Bakhtrish and Satibarzanes of Haraiva. In 330-329 BC, despite the best efforts of Bessus to rally supporters to his defence of the empire, the Persian provinces of the east are conquered by the Greek empire under Alexander the Great. He takes the capital of Harahuwatish in 330 BC.

Barsaentes turns tail when Alexander appears at the border of Zranka and does not wait for him to reach Harahuwatish. Instead he takes refuge in the region of the 'Mountain Indians', a contingent of whom he had commanded at Gaugamela. These facts (probably) indicate that Barsaentes is also responsible for the province of Hindush, the home of the Mountain Indians, and therefore that it is a main satrapy of Harahuwatish.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesArgead Dynasty in Arachosia

The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic sections. Following Alexander's conquest of central and eastern Persia in 331-328 BC, the Greek empire ruled the region until Alexander's death in 323 BC and the subsequent regency period which ended in 310 BC. Alexander's successors held no real power, being mere figureheads for the generals who really held control of Alexander's empire. Following that latter period and during the course of several wars, Arachosia was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 312 BC.

One of the most informative sources when attempting to reconstruct the satrapal administration of Arachosia and Gedrosia is that of Alexander’s appointments. In northern Arachosia, when he first encountered its large administrative complex, Alexander made important decisions about Drangiana, Gedrosia, Northern Indus, and Southern Indus. These regions were therefore subsumed in the Arachosian administrative complex (and may already have been so during the Persian period, although this is contested). The capital was Arachoti, the later Alexandria Arachosia, otherwise known as Alexandropolis, and now better known as Kandahar.

During subsequent years Alexander's many adjustments in this province are not easy to interpret, partly because some of the appointed officers lost their lives during disturbances and through illness. However, the fact that Sibyrtius was satrap of Arachosia and Gedrosia is very good evidence that the two provinces were ruled from Arachosia.

(Additional information from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, from Historiae Alexandri Magni, Quintus Curtius Rufus, from Who's Who in the Age of Alexander the Great: Prosopography of Alexander's Empire, Waldemar Heckel (Ed), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Bibliotheca Historica, Diodorus Siculus (Perseus Project Texts Loaded under PhiloLogic).)

330 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 - 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 - 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

330 - 323 BC

Menon

Satrap of Arachosia & Gedrosia? Died.

330 - ? BC

Tiridates?

Minor satrap of Arachosia and/or Gedrosia?

330 BC

Arrian reports that the tribes of the Arachoti and Gedrosii are left independent under Alexander. Diodorus states that both receive Alexander with kindness and that the administration of both peoples is given to one Tiridates. Menon becomes the official satrap of Arachosia and Gedrosia (according to Arrian) or of Arachosia alone (according to Curtius), so Tiridates may be a native of the country who handles more direct administrative duties. Menon's death in 323 BC sees his post being filled by the promoted Sibyrtius, but Tiridates seems not to be mentioned, lending support to the theory that he is a native minor satrap.

323 - 303 BC

Sibyrtius

Greek satrap of Arachosia & Gedrosia. (Formerly in Carmania.)

323 - c.130 BC

Following the death of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Greek in-fighting, Bactria is part of the Seleucid empire until 256 BC, when an independent Bactrian kingdom is declared, followed by an Indo-Greek expansion eastwards. Arachosia is still a Seleucid territory in 206-205 BC, when Antiochus III proceeds through it on his way back to the west. Bactria falls around 130 BC to the Kushans.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesMacedonian & Mauryan Arachosia

General Seleucus of the fragmenting Greek empire fought a number of wars in order to secure his own hold on power. By 305 BC he was fully in charge of the empire's eastern provinces from his capital at Babylon. In 305 BC he launched a campaign to reconquer India which lasted for two years but which came up against the might of the Mauryan empire and failed to achieve its objectives. Strabo records that Seleucus conceded the Indo-Greek provinces to the Mauryans as part of an alliance agreement. This included the regions of Paropamisadae, Arachosia, Gandhara, the northern Indus and the southern Indus. Subsequent relations between the Greeks and the Mauryans were generally cordial, with a Seleucid ambassador appointed to Chandragupta's court.

305 - 303 BC

Following two years of war on the far eastern border of his empire while he attempts a Greek reconquest of India, Strabo records that Seleucus concedes the Indo-Greek provinces to the ruling Mauryans as part of an alliance agreement. This includes the regions of Paropamisadae, Arachosia, the northern Indus and the southern Indus. Subsequent relations between the Greeks and the Mauryans appear to be cordial. Seleucus even appoints Megasthenes as the Seleucid ambassador to Chandragupta's court.

206 - 205 BC

Seleucid ruler Antiochus III returns from his expedition into the eastern regions by passing through the provinces of Arachosia, Drangiana, and Carmania. He arrives in Persis in 205 BC and receives tribute of five hundred talents of silver from the citizens of Gerrha, a mercantile state on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Having re-established a strong Seleucid presence in the east which includes an array of vassal states, Antiochus now adopts the ancient Achaemenid title of 'great king', which the Greeks copy by referring to him as 'Basileus Megas'.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Tocharians (click on map to show full sized)

c.90 - 60 BC

MapThe Indo-Scythian Sakas under Maues take control of Indo-Greek Gandhara, creating a capital at Taxila in northern Indus. Just forty or so years later (perhaps even less), the Indo-Parthians and then the Kushans capture the same territory from the Indo-Scythians in what is now Afghanistan.

c.AD 100

The Kushans capture Arachosia (now south-eastern Afghanistan) from the Indo-Parthians, although the dating is very uncertain. The Kushan borders now extend right up to the edge of the Parthian empire. With pretenders to the Parthian throne regularly basing themselves in eastern Parthia, King Pacorus is unable to do anything about it.

c.230 - c.250

The end of Kushan King Vasudeva's reign in AD 207 apparently coincides with the beginning of the Sassanid invasion of north-western India, although the dating for the main invasion fits with Vashiska and his successor around 230-250. Perhaps there is a first, preliminary invasion followed by a much greater second.

The Kushans are toppled in former Arachosia, Aria, and Bactria (more recently better known as Tokharistan) and are forced to accept Sassanid suzerainty, being replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshahs or Indo-Sassanids. There is a split in Kushan rule, so that a separate, eastern section rules independent of the Sassanids, while some of the nobility remain in the west as Sassanid vassals. Even so, Kushan power still gradually wanes in India.

Kushanshahs (Indo-Sassanids)
c.AD 230 - c.410

The Persian Sassanids toppled the Kushan empire between around AD 230-250, conquering large swathes of territory in the process. Included in this was the ancient region of Arachosia, which was centred on the south-east of modern Afghanistan but which at times stretched much further east, into modern Pakistan and perhaps as far as the River Indus. To counter the threat of reconquest posed by the north Indian empire of the Guptas, and well as by Central Asian tribes, the Sassanids created a buffer state which was governed by the Kushanshahs, the 'kings of the Kushans', or Indo-Sassanids (or even Kushano-Sassanids).

Dating for the Kushanshahs is very approximate and little is known of the region under their rule.

c.230

Sassanid ruler Ardashir I controls the region directly as part of his Persian empire.

c.245

In around this year, Shapur devolves direct rule in what is now Afghanistan by creating a buffer state which is governed by the Kushanshahs.

c.245 - c.270

Peroz I

c.270 - c.295

Hormazd / Hormizd I

Sassanid ruler (272-273)?

c.270

In Gandhara, Hormazd issues coins, possibly in the names of his governors 'Kavad' and 'Meze' (if these are indeed the names of governors and not titles or something else which remains unknown). It may be that the governor of Gandhara at this time is Vasudeva IV, one of the last of the Kushan nobility.

c.295 - c.300

Hormazd / Hormizd II

Sassanid ruler (302-309).

c.300 - c.325

Peroz II

Begins to assert independent control.

325

With Peroz II beginning to pull away from Sassanid control, the Persian ruler Shapur II divides the realm, assuming direct control of the southern areas of what is now Afghanistan (and also Merv in modern Turkmenistan, Herat, and then Gandhara), while the Kushanshahs continue to rule in the north. With events in the east frequently being poorly documented, there is some doubt about the identity of the Shapur who carries this out. It is probably Shapur II, but it may instead be a governor, or even Shapur's older brother, who bears the same name.

Kushanshah letter addressed to Varhran
A Kushanshah letter addressed to their mid-fourth century AD ruler, Varhran, from the daughter of a princess named Dukht-anosh, a Middle Persian name

c.325 - c.350

Varhran I

In the north only.

c.350 - c.400

Varhran II

Vassal of the Sassanids.

c.350 - c.400

Peroz III

In Gandhara. A rival claimant or opponent to Sassanid rule?

c.400 - c.410

Varhran III

Vassal of the Sassanids.

c.410 - 565

Despite being bordered by the powerful Guptas to the east and the Sassanids to the west. Kushanshah vassal rule of the region is displaced from the north, as the Hephthalites invade and conquer Bactria and Gandhara.

565 - 652

The Hephthalites are in turn defeated by an alliance of Göktürks and the Sassanids, and a level of Indo-Sassanid authority is re-established in the region for the next century. The Western Göktürks set up rival states in Bamiyan, Kabul, and Kapisa, strengthening their hold on the Silk Road.

During this period, any notion of the territory which later goes into forming modern Afghanistan as a single state, or even a coherent regional entity, is entirely impossible. It is not until the tenth century that something approaching an 'Afghanistan' begins to be created with the emergence of the Turkic Samanids.

Southern Khorasan

Various factions were agitating for dominance in former Islamic Greater Khorasan. The Samanid ruler faced internal uprisings in the tenth century, and the Ghaznavid ruler, Sebuktigin, went to his assistance, defeating the rebels at Balkh and then Nishapur. Sebuktigin was granted the title 'Nasir ud-Din' ('Hero of the Faith') while his son, Mahmud, was made governor of a northern Khorasan which was removed from Samanid authority. This meant a permanent division of Khorasan, with the southern section being cut up into several regional power bases.

It is this southern region which largely formed later eastern Persia and a good deal of modern Afghanistan.

Afghan (Turkic) Samanid Subject Kings (Southern Khorasan)
AD 962 - 977

The Yamanids claimed descent from the last of the Sassanid kings, Yazdagird, whose family had fled the Islamic invasion following his death. They resettled in Turkistan, where they intermarried with the locals until one of their number, a twelve year-old named Sebuktigin, was captured by a neighbouring tribe and ended up being purchased by Alptigin, the governor of Samanid Khurasan. However, he backed the losing side in a dynastic squabble amongst his masters, so he crossed the Hindu Kush and seized Zabulistan, together with Ghazni in the south-east of modern Afghanistan, from its governor, Abu Bakr Lawik and established an independent Khorasanian Sunni Muslim kingdom. Sebuktigin was made a general and continued in that role until his own accession.

962 - 963

Alptigin

Seized the eastern Afghan region from the Samanid governor.

962

Alptigin, Turkic for 'brave prince', seizes Ghazni and expels the Samanid governor of Zabulistan, Abu Bakr Lawik. Although he establishes independent rule of Ghazni, coins from the era show that he nominally acknowledges Samanid overlordship, always a useful ruse for avoiding an attack by former masters.

Alptigin, founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty in Afghanistan
A monument to Alptigin, founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty in Afghanistan, located in the town of Söğüt in western Turkey

963 - c.963?

Abu Ishaq Alptegin

Son.

c.963? - c.965?

Abu Bakr Lawik briefly manages to wrest back control of his emirate before he is expelled and the independent kings of Ghazni re-establish their rule.

c.963? - c.965?

Abu Bakr Lawik

Restored.

c.965 - 966

Abu Ishaq Alptegin

Restored.

966

Abu Ishaq Alptegin dies childless, so the commanders of his army select one of their number, Bilgetigin, as his successor.

966 - 975

Bilgetigin

Former army commander.

975 - 977

Piri / Pirai

A former slave of Alptigin.

977

During his reign, the cruel Piri is threatened by Abu Ali Lawik, the son of Abu Bakr Lawik. He is rescued by General Sebuktigin, who surprises the enemy army near Charkh, on the east bank of the River Lohgar, killing many of them and taking ten elephants along with his prisoners. Following Piri's death, Sebuktigin succeeds to the throne, creating a Yamanid dynasty of kings.

FeatureAfghan (Turkic) Ghaznavid Dynasty (Southern Khorasan)
AD 977 - 1186

In 977, Sebuktigin succeeded to the throne of Ghazni, situated south of Transoxiana (and 120 kilometres (eighty miles) to the south-west of Kabul, both in modern Afghanistan, of which Ghazni is now an eastern province). He immediately began strengthening his domains and increasing his territory. This was at a time at which both the Samanids and the Persians were fading in power, but although the kingdom was independent it perhaps still showed nominal allegiance to the Samanids. For the most part, Lahore was the easternmost bastion of Ghazni power, although they frequently raided further east.

Bist (otherwise known as Bost or Bust) became the winter capital of the Ghaznavids, perhaps especially because its climate was entirely suitable for war elephants. Located on the junction between the River Argandab and the Helmand, the city had served as an early outpost of Islam in the region. Before that it was within the area dominated by the 'Benefactors' of Cyrus the Great, the Ariaspae people of Indo-Iranian Central Asia.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

977 - 997

Sebuktigin / Sebuk-Tigin

Son-in-law of Alptegin. First Yamanid king of Ghazni.

994

The Samanid ruler faces internal uprisings, and Sebuktigin goes to his assistance. The rebels are defeated at Balkh and then Nishapur, and Sebuktigin is granted the title 'Nasir ud-Din' ('Hero of the Faith'), while his son, Mahmud, is made governor of Khwarazm.

997

Mahmud of Khwarazm campaigns against the Qara-Khitaï in Central Asia, but is ultimately defeated. His failure is a harbinger of problems to come where the Qara-Khitaï are concerned.

997 - 998

Ismail

Son. Captured and imprisoned for life.

998

Although Ismail is Sebuktigin's chosen heir, his elder half-brother Mahmud of Khwarazm contests his claim to the throne. Initially in command of Nishapur, Mahmud hands it over to his uncle, Borghuz, and younger brother, Nur-ud-Din Yusuf, and marches upon Ghazni. The capital city is captured and Mahmud claims the throne, imprisoning his brother in a fort in Joorjan.

999 - 1005

The Turkic Karakhanids depose the Samanid emir, Mansur II, allied with the Buwayids who are supreme in south-western Persia and Mesopotamia. The Karakhanids briefly take possession of areas of what is now Afghanistan before being ousted by the Ghaznavids in 1005.

998 - 1030

Yamin-ud-Dawlah Mahmud

Brother. Former governor of Khwarazm. First sultan.

1003

Khalaf I of Saffarid Seistan has long been exhibiting irrational behaviour, including the act of putting to death his own son, Tāher. He has largely alienated popular support within Seistan in favour of the Ghaznavids. Yamin-ud-Dawlah Mahmud is now able to march into Seistan, defeat the emir, and carry him off into captivity where he later dies. Seistan now becomes a province of the Ghaznavid empire, and the once-mighty Saffarid house is extinguished. A Nasrid malik is soon put in place to govern Seistan.

1008

Mahmud is responsible for turning the small kingdom into a large empire, and transforming Ghazni from a small regional capital into a large and wealthy city. Turning his attentions eastwards, he defeats the Rajput confederacy, conquering Gwalior, Kannauj, Nagarkot, Thanesar, and Ujjain and leaving them in the hands of native client kings, as well as regularly raiding further into India. Soon afterwards, Balkh is brought under direct control after the death of its friendly emir, Abu Nasr Mohammad.

Ghaznavid soldiers
A computer-generated image of Ghaznavid regular troops

1017 - 1019

Making good the loss of 995, Mahmud conquers the emirate of Khwarazm after the emir (his relative) is killed in a rebellion. He apparently regains Greater Khorasan in its entirety which also includes territory to the south of the present emirate. Within two years, Mahmud also begins his invasion of India, notably sacking Kannauj, the capital of the kingdom of the Pratiharas of Kannauj. However, he is repulsed by the Rajput Chandelas.

1023

Mahmud conquers the Punjab of the Pallavas.

1030

The death of Mahmud ends the dominance of the Ghaznavids. Conflicts between various Ghaznavid claimants and lesser rulers arise and as a result the empire started to crumble. In Seistan, the Ghaznavid governor, Nasr, soon declares his independence and founds a Nasrid emirate there, based around the Nimruz Province of modern Afghanistan (the country's south-western corner, abutting Iran to the west and what is now Pakistan to the south).

1030 - 1031

Jalal-ud-Dawlah Mohammed

Son. Overthrown.

1031

Mohammed is the younger of twins, and his accession leads to strife between him and his brother, Masud. Masud wins, overthrowing Mohammed and claiming the throne. Mohammed is blinded and imprisoned.

1031 - 1041

Shihab-ud-Dawlah Masud I

Twin brother.

1040

Masud is unable to preserve his father's empire. Disastrously defeated by Seljuq Turks at the Battle of Dandanqan, he loses the western Ghaznavid territories, including Khwarazm. His successors continue to rule much of the territory which later becomes Afghanistan and also areas of northern India in reduced circumstances. He is deposed by a rebellion of his own troops, and his brother is restored. Masud is assassinated while in prison.

1041

Jalal-ud-Dawlah Mohammed

Restored, but killed by Mawdud.

1041

Responding to the death of his father and the seizure of the throne, Mawdud gathers together his forces from his governor's base in Balkh and marches on Ghazni. Mohammed is overthrown and executed by him. Mawdud's brother in Lahore does not recognise his rule, but soon dies, leaving Lahore to be ruled directly from Ghazni. Some of the empire's extreme eastern territories are lost to rebellion, however, and the empire continues its slow decline with a series of short-lived rulers and internal disputes.

1041 - 1049

Shihab-ud-Dawlah Mawdud

Son of Masud.

1049

Masud II

1049 - 1050

Baha-ud-Dalwah Ali

1050 - 1053

Izz-ud-Dawlah Abd al-Rashid

1053

Qiwam-ud-Dawlah Tughril

Usurper.

1053 - 1059

Jamal-ud-Dawlah Farrukhzad

1059 - 1099

Zahir-ud-Dawlah Ibrahim

1059

Ibrahim re-establishes a truncated empire after the unstable two decades preceding his rule. He agrees peace terms with the Seljuqs and restores cultural and political links. However, the empire is increasingly sustained by riches gained in raids across northern India, and the Rajput rulers there offer stiff resistance.

1099 - 1115

Ala-ud-Dawlah Masud III

1115

Masud's death begins a period of instability and the decline of the empire. His sons fight amongst themselves for the throne, with Bahram Shah eventually winning out, but only as a vassal of the Seljuqs.

1115

Kamal-ud-Dawlah Shirzad

1115 - 1118

Sultan-ud-Dawlah Arslan Shah

1118 - 1152

Yamin-ud-Dawlah Bahram Shah

Seljuq vassal. Forced to Lahore in 1150.

1146

The Ghurids begin to assert their control in the region in the face of weakening Ghaznavid control.

1150

The Ghaznavid emirate is effectively brought to an end when Ghazni is captured by the Ghurid Moslems. Ghaznavid power continues in northern India alone, with them ruling from Lahore.

1152 - 1160

Muizz-ud-Dawlah Khusrau Shah

In Lahore.

1160 - 1186

Taj-ud-Dawlah Khusrau Malik

In Lahore.

1186

Lahore is conquered by the Ghurids who also inherit Pallava Punjab.

Ghurid Sultanate / Shansabani
AD 1149 - 1215

The Ghurids, from Bamiyan in the Afghan mountains, were initially conquered by the Ghaznavids and converted from paganism (probably Zoroastrianism) to Islam in the eleventh century. In 1149 Aladdin Hussein turned the tables and sacked the city of Ghazni in 1150, ending Ghaznavid rule in what later becomes Afghanistan. Ghurid rulers from the Shansabani clan took over and formed a short-lived sultanate. Some scholars relate the Shansabani name to that of the Sassanids, many of who had fled east during the Arab invasion of Persia in 651.

1146 - 1149

Sayf ud-Din Suri

1149

Baha' ud-Din Sam I

1149 - 1161

Aladdin Jahan-Suz Husain II

Founder of the Ghurid sultanate.

1150

The Ghaznavid emirate is brought to an end when Ghazni is captured by the Ghurid Moslems. Ghaznavid power continues in northern India alone, with them ruling from Lahore.

1161 - 1163

Sa'if ud-Din Muhammad

1163

The death of Sa'if ud-Din Muhammad appears to cause fractures within the sultanate, with two rulers appearing, one each in Firuzkuh and Ghazni.

1163 - 1203

Abu'l-Fath Muhammad Shams ad-Din

In Firuzkuh.

1173 - 1206

Shihab ud-Din Muhammad (III)

In Ghazni.

1186

The Ghaznavids in Lahore are conquered by the Ghurids, who also gain the Punjab of the Pallavas.

1194

Muhammad sacks and destroys the Rajput kingdoms of the Gahadavalas and Chauhans.

1206

Muhammad Ghori dies without an heir. After a battle of succession, the Turkic ex-slave general, Qutub uddin Aibak, takes possession of Muhammad Ghori's Indian empire. He establishes his capital first at Lahore, and later at Delhi. Ghiyathuddin Mahmud gains the western section of the empire, focused on territory which largely forms modern Afghanistan.

1206 - 1212

Ghiyathuddin Mahmud (III)

1206 - 1215

Taj ud-Din Yïldïz Mu'izzi

In Ghazni.

1212 - 1213

Baha' ud-Din Sam II

1213

The Ghurids are displaced in what is now Afghanistan by the Khwarazm shahs.

1213 - 1214

Alauddin Atsiz

Vassal or governor of Khwarazm.

1214 - 1215

Alauddin Mohammed IV

Vassal or governor of Khwarazm.

1215

The remaining Ghurid territories in northern India are taken over by the Delhi sultanate which also gains the Punjab of the former Pallavas.

1221

After the shah of Khwarazm decapitates the Mongol ambassador from Chingiz Khan, the emirate is attacked twice by the Golden Horde. Khwarazm is reduced to its western section covering northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. Bukhara and then Samarkand are captured by the Mongols and chaos results, with thousands being massacred or sold into slavery. Ghurid Southern Khorasan does not escape unscathed. The Mongols raze the city of Bamiyan and exterminate its inhabitants.

1266 - 1332

When the defeated Great Khan Ariq-Boke dies just two years after losing his struggle for the great khanship, his side of the struggle against Kublai Khan is continued by Kaidu of Mughulistan. This is the point at which Mughulistan becomes entirely independent of the suzerainty of the great khans and becomes a kingdom in its own right. Its territories include northern Afghanistan as far south as Kabul.

1332 - 1369

Descendants of the earlier Ghurid rulers reassert control over Southern Khorasan.

1369

Much of Southern Khorasan is conquered by Timur and becomes part of Timurid Persia.

1382 - 1383

Having secured his conquests around Transoxiana, Timur has begun the expansion of his territory into Southern Khorasan and Persia. He forces the Kartid dynasty of Herat into submission and demands a hostage from Seistan to symbolise the subservience of the Mihrabanids. Malik Qutbuddin sends a relative named Tajuddin.

However, in 1383, despite agreeing a hostage, Timur still turns up at Seistan with his army. The two sides fail to come to agreement so Timur defeats the Mihrabanids in open battle. Qutbuddin is soon captured, imprisoned, and deported to Samarkand. He is executed three years later. Timur appoints Shah-i Shahan as governor of Seistan and proceeds to ravage the province.

1405

The Timurid empire splits in two following the death of Timur. Queen Goharshad, wife of the western ruler, Shah Rukh, moves the capital from Samarkand to Herat (which still exists as a city and a province in the west of modern Afghanistan), part of their domains in Greater Khorasan and Persia. The eastern portion is governed from Samarkand. Kandahar falls within the western half.

1405 - 1409

Shah Rukh / Shahrukh

Son of Timur. In Khorasan initially, and in Persia (1409-1447).

1409 - 1447

Herat remains the heart of the Timurid empire which still covers Persia and Greater Khorasan, until Ulugh Beg's weak rule allows a rival to take control of the city.

The tomb of Shah Rukh in Multan
The tomb of Shah Rukh in Multan (in modern Pakistan)

1529

Ubayd Allah Sultan Khan of Bukhara is at war against Tahmasp I of Persia, and the Uzbeks of Khwarazm support Bukharan attacks by advancing to Pil Kupruki. The border cities of Khodjend (in Khorasan) and Asferain (near Astarabad) are also stormed. As Tahmasp also has to face the Ottomans, he negotiates with the Khwarizmi and effectively hands them Khorasan.

1585

Kabul is formally annexed to the Moghul empire after the death of Mirza Muhammed Hakim.

1623 - 1638

Prince Khurram (Shah Jehan) resents the influence of Nur Jahan, wife of Moghul emperor, Jahangir, over the royal court and rebels against his father. One of Jahangir's generals, Mahabat Khan, humiliated by Nur Jahan and her brother, Asaf Khan, joins that rebellion. Taking advantage of Shah Jahan's revolt, the Persians capture Kandahar.

1638 - 1648

Buoyed by his successes in the Deccan against Golconda and Bijapur, Moghul emperor Shah Jahan retakes Kandahar. However, the Persians manage to take it back just ten years later, and it is permanently lost to the Moghuls. It becomes a Persian province until 1709.

1678

Rajput king Jaswant Singh of Marwar is fighting in Southern Khorasan when he dies, allowing his overlord, Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb, to put into action a plot to reduce the Rajputs' special status within the empire.

Hotaki Dynasty (Ghilzai Afghans)
AD 1709 - 1738

Mirwais Khan Hotak, the leader of the Pashtun Ghilzai Afghans and mayor of Kandahar, killed the Persian-appointed governor, Gurgin Khan (King Giorgi XI of the Georgian kingdom of Kartli), in 1709, declaring Kandahar to be independent. In 1722, the successful new dynasty also conquered the Safavid shahs of Persia, ruling a large empire for seven years before being defeated by Nadil Kuli and forced back towards what is now Afghanistan itself, where what remained of it fragmented. Mirwais Khan may not have realised it at the time, but his independent dynasty created the basis for the modern state of Afghanistan.

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1709 - 1715

Mirwais Khan Hotak

Leader of the Ghilzai Afghans. Died peacefully.

1715 - 1717

Abd al-Aziz

Brother. Overthrown by his nephew.

1715 - 1717

Upon his death, Mirwais is succeeded by his brother, Adb al-Aziz, but the Ghilzai Afghans persuade the son of Mirwais, Mahmud, to seize power for himself and in 1717 he overthrows and killed his uncle.

1717 - 1725

Mir Mahmud Hotaki

Son of Mirwais.

1722 - 1729

The Ghilzai Afghans under Mir Mahmud Hotaki occupy much of Safavid Iran, including the capital at Estfahan. However, they are seen as usurpers by much of the population, and hold effective power only in the east.

1725 - 1729

Ashraf Khan

Son of Mirwais.

1725 - 1729

Under Ashraf Khan, the dynasty and its newfound empire undergoes a short and sudden decline. Although he is able to beat off incursions by the Ottomans (1727) and Russians, Ashraf Khan is defeated and expelled from Persia in 1729 by the Afsharid general, Nadir Kuli. Ashraf is murdered on the return home by Baloch tribesmen, quite possibly on the order of his cousin, who is holding Kandahar at the time. Afghanistan fragments, with Kandahar being ruled by Mir Husayn.

1729 - 1738

Mir Husayn

Cousin. In Kandahar only, but independent of Persia.

1738 - 1747

The Afsharid shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, enters Afghanistan with a large army and conquers Ghazni, Kandahar, Kabul and Lahore in the same year. Alongside him is his vassal, the future King Erekle II of Kakhetia, and a contingent of Georgian troops. Persian rule of the region is assured for the next nine years, until the effective coup which creates the Duranni dynasty.

Durrani Dynasty (Afghan Empire)
AD 1747 - 1823

In 1747, the Persian ruler, Nadir Shah, was assassinated. While the finger of blame was pointed firmly at his former general, Ahmad Shah Abdali, by Persia, as someone who was very close to Nadir Shah, they were unable to prove it. Even so, Ahmad Shah Abdali was very quickly appointed king by loya jirga (grand council), and established the Durrani empire in what quickly became Afghanistan by capturing Kandahar and carving out a vast territory of conquests within a very short space of time. However, his successors governed so ineptly that the empire was effectively at an end within half a century of his death.

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1747 - 1772

Ahmad Shah Abdali

Established the dynasty.

1747

Following his accession as shah, or king, Ahmad Shah Abdali immediately sets out to consolidate and enlarge Afghanistan. He captures Ghazni from the Ghilzai, takes Kabul from a provincial warlord, defeats the Moghuls in the west of the Indus to gain Punjab and Kashmir, and takes Herat from the Persians. The new empire quickly extends from Central Asia to Delhi, and from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea.

1750

Southern Khorasan is officially renamed Afghanistan, while the north is now within the khanate of Khiva and the emirate of Bukhara. The westernmost section is another Khorasan, a fragment of former Greater Khorasan which is now a region of Persia and is being occupied by the Afsharids after their expulsion from central Persia by the Zand regent, Karim Khan. The name of Afghanistan sticks, and is used to refer to the region from this point onwards.

1756 - 1757

Ahmad Shah Abdali invades the India of the declining Moghul emperors (for a fifth time in his reign) and plunders Mathura.

1761

The Peshwa sends an army to challenge the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Abdali, and the Maratha army is decisively defeated on 13 January 1761 at the Third Battle of Panipat. However, the Sikhs soon gain power over areas of Punjab at Ahmad's expense, while Ahmad also has to agree a border with the Uzbek emir of Bukhara at the River Amu Darya.

The Third Battle of Panipat
The Third Battle of Panipat saw the Marathas defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali's army, confirming the greatness of the empire he had created

1773 - 1793

Timur Shah Durrani

Son.

1773

The capital of Afghanistan is transferred from Kandahar to Kabul due to tribal opposition, mainly to Timur himself. Constant internal revolts occur in the state, especially in its eastern provinces.

1788

The Marathas have recently evacuated Delhi, so the opportunistic Afghan Rohillas march on the city, but financially, Delhi is already bankrupt. Finding nothing to loot, the Afghans blind Moghul emperor Shah Alam II just before the Marathas return to save him and drive away the Rohillas.

1793

Humayun Shah

Son. Governor of Kandahar.

1793

Upon the death of Timur, his son Humayun by his fourth wife declares himself king, along with another of Timur's many sons. Humayun is blinded and imprisoned by his brother, Zaman, who holds the strongest position as governor of the capital. Many of his half brothers are also imprisoned when they arrive in Kabul to confirm the election of a new shah, not knowing that Zaman has already seized power.

1793 - 1801

Zaman Shah Durrani

Brother. Governor of Kabul. Overthrown.

1795

The Qajar shahs of Iran invade their 'lost' province of Khorasan and annexe it back to Persia proper (the Zands having let it go after 1750). Afghanistan itself is under constant threat of internal revolt and is in no shape to fight back.

1801 - 1803

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Brother. Overthrown.

1801

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah, or Mahmud Shah, overthrows his brother, but just two years later he is in turn overthrown by yet another of Timur's sons, as Afghanistan slides towards complete dissolution as a coherent state.

1803 - 1809

Shah Shuja

Brother. Overthrown.

1805

The Persians have been attempting to intrude small units of troops into Afghanistan in a bid to conquer the city of Herat while the Afghans are fighting one another for domination of their kingdom. Unfortunately for the Persian forces, that very instability undermines their own efforts and forces the plan's abandonment.

1809

Shah Shuja signs a treaty with the British which includes a clause stating that he will oppose the passage of foreign troops through his territories. This agreement is the first Afghan pact with a European power, and it stipulates the undertaking of joint action if there is any Franco-Persian aggression against Afghan or British dominions. Only a few weeks after signing the agreement, Shuja is deposed by his predecessor, Muhammad Shah.

1809 - 1819

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Restored. Overthrown.

1809 - 1819

In a tumultuous Afghanistan, war with Persia is inconclusive following another attack on Herat. Mohamman Vali Mirza, son of the Persian shah, is defeated at the Battle of Kafir Qala in 1818. However, internal fighting continues, and Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah's second reign is ended by yet another brother. He finds that he controls very little of the country outside Kabul, perhaps just a 160-kilometre radius of territory and that his dynasty has alienated not only the outlying tribes but other Durrani Pashtun tribes as well. Instead a new Emirate has taken control of large swathes of countryside, and it is this which forms the country's next major power.

1818 - 1819

Sultan Ali Shah

Brother. Overthrown.

1819 - 1823

Ayub Shah

Brother. Deposed and probably killed.

1823

The Afghans lose Sindh permanently to the British in India as the Durrani dynasty is overthrown. It is briefly returned to power in 1839.

Emirate of Afghanistan (Barakzai Dynasty)
AD 1823 - 1839

In 1823 the last of the weakened Durrani dynasty were overthrown by Habibollah Shah. However, the country remained fragmented, sometimes held together almost entirely under the emir's control, sometimes ruled by several regional warlords, usually allied to various factions of the Barakzai clan.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1823

Habibollah Shah

1823 - 1826

Soltan Mohammad Khan

Regent.

1824

William Moorecroft, of the East India Company, arrives in Peshawar in Afghanistan, while en route to Bukhara, east of Khiva (and now in Uzbekistan), to trade for horses. The country is experiencing one of its most lawless periods in a long tradition of such periods and Moorecroft is killed in Balkh while returning to India.

1826 - 1839

Dost Mohammad Khan

Regent (1826-1836), then emir. Deposed and deported to India.

1832 - 1834

The Iranian Qajar shahs move into the province of Khorasan, and then threaten Herat yet again. The Afghans are forced to defend the city but manage to repel the invaders by 1833. The following year they lose Peshawar to the Sikhs. Later the Afghans defeat the Sikhs under the leadership of Akbar Khan, son of Dost Mohammed, near Jamrud, and kill the great Sikh general, Hari Singh. However, they fail to retake Peshawar due to their own lack of unity and bad judgment on the part of Dost Mohammad Khan regarding the people of Peshawar.

1836 - 1839

Dost Mohammad Khan is proclaimed as Amir al-mu' Minin, commander of the faithful. He is still trying to reunify the whole of Afghanistan when the British, in collaboration with an ex-king, Shah Shoja, invade Afghanistan and depose him.

Emirate of Afghanistan (Durrani Dynasty)
AD 1839 - 1842

By 1839, Britain had decided that Persian and Russian intrigues posed a threat to their control of India. To counter that perceived threat, it was decided that Afghanistan would be used as a buffer state. A British army marched to Kabul, triggering the First Anglo-Afghan War, which saw Dost Mohammad replaced with a Durrani restoration ruler as the British figurehead in the country. Between 1839-1842, Britain controlled much of Afghanistan, at least in theory. The British also meddled across Afghan borders - in the khanate of Khiva to ensure that Russia could not find a valid reason to invade and further its own designs on India.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010).)

1839 - 1842

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Restored for a second time. Puppet ruler.

1839 - 1840

Russia under Czar Nicholas I pursues a renewed policy of pressuring the Ottoman empire and Britain for control of southern Central Asia. He sends an expedition to Khiva, purportedly to free slaves who had been captured from areas of the Russian frontier and sold by Turkmen raiders. Britain is already involved in the First Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan but, despite sending over five thousand infantry, the Russian force stumbles into one of harshest winters in living memory. It is driven back by the weather and by its losses in early 1840.

Britain decides that Russian (and also Persian) intrigues pose a threat to their control of India. To counter that perceived threat, it is decided that Afghanistan will be used as a buffer state and the slave situation in Khiva will be solved without military intervention. The khan is convinced to free all Russian subjects under his control and to outlaw any further slavery of Russians.

1842

Fath Jang Khan

Puppet ruler.

1842

Shahpur Khan

Puppet ruler.

1842

The Afghans manage to unify for long enough to force the British to retreat from the country in January, and Dost Mohammad is released from captivity.

Emirate of Afghanistan (Barakzai Dynasty Restored)
AD 1842 - 1926

When he was released from captivity in India, Dost Mohammad Khan was able to regain his throne and govern an independent Afghanistan. He renewed his hostility towards British interests in the region and allied himself with the Sikhs. Their defeat in 1849 forced him to retreat back into Afghanistan.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1842 - 1863

Dost Mohammad Khan

Restored.

1855 - 1859

Dost Mohammad Khan signs a peace treaty with British India. Four years later Britain takes Baluchistan, and Afghanistan becomes completely landlocked.

Dost Muhammad Khan
Emir Dost Muhammad Khan played an important part in shaping Afghanistan in the nineteenth century

1856 - 1857

The Anglo–Persian War is triggered on 1 November 1856 during a further - and this time largely successful - attempt by Persia to capture the Afghan city of Herat, a long-standing ambition to compensate them for the loss of the South Caucuses. However, they have taken too long, and now Afghanistan is generally within the British sphere of operations from their base in India. Herat has already declared independence as a city state with its own emir, in alliance with the emirate of Kabul, and has accepted British protection. A two-pronged British attack on Iran's southern coast and also in southern Mesopotamia drives Naser al-Din to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1857, in which he relinquishes control over and any claim to Herat.

1863 - 1866

Sher Ali Khan

Son. Deposed.

1865 - 1866

Russia takes Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarkand in 1865 (all of which go into forming Uzbekistan in 1924). The following year, Sher Ali Khan is dethroned when Mohammad Afzal Khan captures Kabul and the throne.

1866 - 1867

Mohammad Afzal Khan

Usurper. Died.

1867 - 1868

Mohammad A'zam Khan

1868

Mohammad A'zam Khan flees to Iran in the face of the deposed emir, Sher Ali Khan, re-imposing his control over the country.

1868 - 1879

Sher Ali Khan

Restored.

1873

Russia establishes a fixed boundary between Afghanistan and its new territories, promising to respect Afghanistan's territorial integrity.

1879 - 1880

Sher Ali refuses a British commission in Kabul, resulting in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. British troops occupy Kabul for a brief period when British General Frederick 'Little Bobs' Roberts is sent with an army to force Afghanistan into a treaty which cedes its foreign policy to the British. The treaty is concluded, but the British envoy is murdered. General Roberts returns to Kabul to hang the envoy's murderers and is himself ambushed with the result that another British force in southern Afghanistan is almost annihilated. Roberts retreats under continual guerrilla gunfire in a march from Kabul to Kandahar. Shortly afterwards, Sher Ali dies in Mazar-i-Shariff, and Emir Mohammad Yaqub Khan takes over until October 1879. He gives up several Afghan territories to the British which include Kurram, Khyber, Michni, Pishin, and Sibi.

1879

Mohammad Yaqub Khan

Interim ruler until October.

1879 - 1880

Mohammad

Regent.

1880 - 1901

Abdur Rahman Khan

The 'iron emir'.

1880

Abdur Rahman Khan gains the throne, and during his reign he comes to be known as the 'iron emir'. British troops leave Kabul shortly after his accession, but Britain retains effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs. Over the next few years, Britain and Russia officially establish the borders of what will become modern Afghanistan.

1893 - 1895

In 1893 the Durand Line fixes the borders of Afghanistan with British India for a century, splitting Afghan tribal areas, and leaving half of these divided Afghans in what is now Pakistan. Two years later, Afghanistan's northern border is fixed and guaranteed by Russia.

1901 - 1919

Habibullah Ghazi Khan

Son. Assassinated by his family.

1907

Russia and Great Britain sign a treaty at the convention of St Petersburg, in which Afghanistan is declared outside Russia's purview.

1914 - 1918

Afghanistan remains neutral during the First World War, despite German encouragement of anti-British feeling and an Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India.

1919

Nasrullah Khan

Brother. Deposed.

1919

Shortly after Nasrullah Khan ascends the throne, his nephew deposes and imprisons him. Approximately a year later Nasrullah is murdered in his cell.

1919 - 1929

Amanullah Khan

Brother. Became king in 1926.

1919 - 1921

Amanullah Khan notes the weakness of the major political players in the region, Russia and Britain, after the conclusion of the First World War and decides to launch a surprise attack against the British. This leads to the Third Anglo-Afghan War which quickly becomes a stalemate. An armistice is agreed in 1921 which allows Afghanistan to become an independent nation.

1926

Amanullah proclaims himself shah, creating the kingdom of Afghanistan under his Barakzai dynasty.

Kingdom of Afghanistan (Barakzai Dynasty)
AD 1926 - 1973

The Barakzai dynasty continued to rule Afghanistan in the form of Amanullah Khan, but now as a kingdom. Despite an early career in which he and contributed to the murder of his father, and the death of his brother who he himself had imprisoned, Amanullah Khan attempted to introduce progressive and fairly liberal social reforms. This lead to opposition from conservative forces which seeded unrest, and three years after proclaiming himself king he was forced to flee when the army failed to protect Kabul from an uprising. His eventual replacement was the temporarily popular Habibullah Kalakani.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1926 - 1929

Amanullah Khan

Elevated himself to king. Abdicated and was exiled. Died 1960.

1929

Anti-reformist elements band together and storm the capital, Kabul. The king is forced to abdicate and after his brother is ordered to relinquish his own claim to the throne, the leader of the rebellion, Habibullah Kalakani, takes control.

1929

Inayatullah Khan

Brother. Unwilling king who quickly abdicated.

1929

Habibullah Kalakani (Ghazi)

Anti-reform usurper. Killed by Nadir Khan.

1929 - 1933

Mohammed Nadir Khan

Former minister under Amanullah Khan. Assassinated.

1933

Zahir Shah becomes king and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for the next four decades.

1933 - 1973

Mohammed Zahir Khan

1953

General Mohammed Daud Khan, cousin of the king, becomes prime minister. He turns to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance, and introduces a number of social reforms, such as the abolition of purdah (the practice of secluding women from public view).

1963 - 1964

Mohammed Daud is forced to resign in 1963. A constitutional monarchy is introduced, but this leads to political polarisation and power struggles.

1973

Mohammed Daud seizes power in a coup and declares a republic of Afghanistan.

Modern Afghanistan
AD 1973 - Present Day

The modern Islamic republic of Afghanistan is largely a creation of the eighteenth century, formed out of several local regions. It is located along the ancient trade routes between modern Iran to its the west and India to the east. To the north it is bordered (from west to east) by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. China borders briefly along the eastern Wakhan Corridor Nature Refuge, while Pakistan occupies the full remainder of the eastern and southern border.

The territory which now forms Afghanistan largely formed the ancient region of Arachosia. Arachosia seems to have formed part of a much larger and more poorly-defined region known as Ariana, of which the later province of Aria was the heartland. Barely recorded by written history, its precise boundaries are impossible to pin down. Conquered in the mid-sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, Arachosia was added to the Persian empire as the satrapy of Harahuwatish. The Greek empire replace the Persians, and the Indian Mauryan empire replaced them. Following that the region suffered from the same uncertainty and shifting rulers as the rest of South Asia, although the Kushanshahs held sway for some time. A new region, Southern Khorasan, emerged during the early Islamic period, of which a greater part was later absorbed into Afghanistan as a native kingship eventually emerged. From the 1700s those native kings were engaged in a near-constant battle against Iranians and Indians for power and territory, and then became playthings of the colonial powers prior to independence being restored early in the twentieth century.

As can be seen, the country endured a troubled time for several centuries, and not more so than since 1973. Mohammed Daud seized power in a coup in that year and declared Afghanistan to be a republic, ditching its Barakzai king. He tried to play off the Soviets against the western powers, but his style quickly alienated left-wing factions who joined forces against him. Soviet Russian forces invaded the country in 1979, leading to a decade of guerrilla warfare from the Afghan tribal forces. Despite a massive superiority in firepower, Russia was never able to defeat these canny hill-fighting forces, but by the time they retreated the country was in ruins. Various factions vied for control thereafter, sometimes briefly unifying the country before the next faction pushed it aside. The most destructive of these was the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which employed brutal suppression as its tool of government. They were pushed into the east by the allied invasion of 2001 and have largely been pinned back there ever since.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, from Alexander The Great: In the Realm of Evergetǽs, Reza Mehrafarin, and from External Links: The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Livius.org, and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1973 - 1978

Mohammed Daud Khan

Military dictator. Murdered.

1978 - 1979

Daud is overthrown and killed in a coup by the leftist People's Democratic Party. The party's Khalq and Parcham factions fall out, leading to a purge of most of the Parcham leaders. At the same time, conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders who object to social changes begin an armed revolt in the countryside.

Russian invasion of 1979
The Soviet Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the decade of war which followed left the country devastated, and starkly divided along factional lines

1978 - 1979

Nur Mohammed Taraki

Pro-Soviet leader. Overthrown and murdered.

1979

A power struggle explodes between the leftist leaders, Hafizullah Amin and Nur Mohammed Taraki, in Kabul is won by Amin. Taraki is removed from power and is murdered on Armin's orders. Revolts in the countryside continue and the Afghan army faces collapse. The Soviet Union finally sends in troops to help remove Amin, who is executed.

1979

Hafizullah Amin

Leftist victor in the power struggle. Executed.

1980 - 1986

Babrak Karmal

Parcham faction leader & Soviet puppet ruler. Replaced.

1980 - 1989

Various Mujahideen factions fight a guerrilla war against the occupying Soviet army. In 1985, they unite in Pakistan and begin to offer a much more effective fighting force, backed by the USA from 1986. Soviet troops begin to withdraw from 1988, with the evacuation being completed in 1989. The Afghan Civil War (1989-1992) is triggered as the Mujahideen fight on to oust Najibullah.

1986 - 1992

Najibullah Ahmadzai

Soviet puppet ruler. Hanged by the Mujahideen.

1993 - 1996

The next phase of the Afghan Civil War (1992-1996) sees the tables turned. The victorious Mujahideen forces agree on the formation of a government, with an ethnic Tajik, Burhanuddin Rabbani, being proclaimed president. In 1994, the Pashtun-dominated Taliban emerge as major challenge to his government, and within two years they capture Kabul and impose a hardline version of Islam, banning women from working, and introducing fundamentalist Islamic punishments, which include death by stoning and amputations (the removal of a hand for low-level crime, for instance). Rabbani flees to join the anti-Taliban northern alliance as the still-recognised president in exile, and another phase of the Afghan Civil War (1996-2001) is triggered.

1992 - 1996

Burhanuddin Rabbani

Mujahideen ruler. Fled Kabul as president-in-exile.

1996 - 2001

Mullah Mohammad Omar

Taliban ruler.

2001

In March, the Bamiyan Bhuddas, built by the Indo-Greek settlers in the region in the third century, are destroyed by the Taliban. By 2008 a project to rebuild one of them is underway, to be completed in 2009.

The Taliban refuse a US demand to hand over terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden, who is taking refuge in the country. This gives the US an excuse to take military action of its own and open a fresh phase of the Afghan Civil War (2001-2014). By November 2001, the Taliban have been pushed out of Kabul and into the eastern fringes of the country by US and British air strikes and a resurgent northern alliance. A power-sharing government is formed in Kabul, with Hamid Karzai selected as interim head of state. US and British forces, along with smaller units from other countries, attempt to destroy the remaining Taliban forces without much overall success.

2004 - 2005

Presidential elections are undertaken in the country, with Hamid Karzai winning. The first parliamentary and provincial elections in decades are held in the country in 2005. Some stability has been achieved in the west and north, but the fighting against the Taliban in the east shows no sign of abating.

Taliban
Despite a decade of fighting against Nato forces, the Taliban remain strong in eastern Afghanistan, although various attempts to negotiate a peace with them have floundered

2014 - 2015

The last British troops pull out of Helmand province, transferring all defensive duties to Afghan forces as the fight against the Taliban continues. US forces in the country are also being reduced to a minimum by the end of the year, although official combat participation formally ends in line with the British on 26 October. The following year the Taliban agree for the first time to take part in peace negotiations, although fighting still takes place in bursts of activity.