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Far East Kingdoms

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Gedrosia
Incorporating the Gedrosii, Ichthyophagi, & Oritans

The ancient province of Gedrosia lay largely within what is now the south-eastern corner of modern Iran, roughly in the lower half of the province of Sistan and Baluchestan, but perhaps also edging across the border into modern Pakistan. Prior to its late sixth century BC domination by the Achaemenid Persians, Gedrosia 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.

Following its formation as a province, Gedrosia was bounded to the north by Drangiana, to the east by the Indus region of far western India, to the west by Carmania, and to the south by the Arabian Sea. This region also formed a bridge between the Middle East and South Asia. By the first millennium BC it may have been populated largely by Indo-Iranian tribes which were migrating east and west from across the River Oxus. Those tribes which remained behind appear to enter the historical record around the sixth century BC, when they came up against their cousins from the rapidly expanding Persian empire.

The Gedrosii group of Indo-Iranians were based in this region (according to Strabo, while Pliny knew them as the Gedrussi). The Oritans had a district of their own in Persian Gedrosia but, seeing as they were seeking a coalition with the Gedrosii, they were probably closely related. As may be guessed, the Gedrosii were neighbours of the Oritans, separated from them by the Tomerus/Hingol. The Ariaspae were also neighbours of the Gedrosii. In the south the province reached the Arabian Sea, where the Ichthyophagi (literally the 'fish-eaters') still practiced a Neolithic forager culture.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Zoroastrian Heritage, K E Eduljee, and Talessman's Atlas (World History Maps).)

c.620 BC

The Medians (possibly) take control of Persia from the weakening Assyrians who themselves had only recently taken control of the region from Elam. According to Herodotus, Media governs all of the tribes of the Iranian steppe. This sudden empire may well include territory to the east which covers Hyrcania, Parthia, Drangiana, and Carmania.

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 Gedrosia & Maka
Incorporating the Satraps of the Oritans

Conquered in the mid-sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, the region of Gedrosia was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was the easternmost part of the Median empire who themselves had conquered various fellow Indo-Iranian tribes, with the Gedrosii being based in this region (according to Strabo - Pliny knew them as the Gedrussi). Under the Persians, the region was formed into an official satrapy or province.

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. Gedrosia is not the most poorly-documented of them, though. It is known that the River Kabul formed the border with Harahuwatish. One of the most informative sources when attempting to reconstruct the satrapal administration of Harahuwatish and Gedrosia is that of Alexander’s appointments. In northern Arachosia, when he first encountered its large administrative complex, Alexander made important decisions about Zranka, Gedrosia, and Hindush. These regions were therefore subsumed in the Arachosian administrative complex. This may have been the case in Persian times too, although not exclusively, as can be seen from the example set by Karkiš at the start of the fifth century BC.

Maka is presumed to be the southern coastal strip of the Arabian Sea which sat on the southern edge of Gedrosia. Maka could instead cover the entire Gedrosia region as the main name in use by the Persians. The region's capital was situated in modern Makrān, while the provincial capital was at Pura. Satraps are known only sporadically. The minor satrapy of the Oritans had a provincial capital named Rhambacia. During the Achaemenid period the region was autonomous (as was that of the Ariaspae), and was probably situated between the Hingol and the Hab. The Hab is selected as a potential eastern boundary because the Oritans followed a wait-and-see policy during Alexander's invasion, reacting only when he moved from Patara in the Indus delta towards them.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Consumed before the King: The Table of Darius, that of Irdabama and Irtaštuna, and that of his Satrap, Karkiš, Wouter F M Henkelman (via Academia.edu), from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, and from External Links: The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

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.

River Oxus / Amu Darya
The River Oxus - also known over the course of many centuries as the Amu Darya - was used as a demarcation border throughout history and was also a hub of activity in prehistoric times - but during this period it flowed right through the heart of the region that was known as Bactria

fl c.505 BC

Artavazda

Satrap.

fl c.500? BC

Jamāspa

Satrap. Immediate successor or predecessor to Artavazda.

fl c.490s? BC

Karkiš

Satrap of Karmana & Gedrosia.

c.490s BC

Karkiš is mentioned in the Persepolis Fortification Archive or tablets, where he is enjoying a feast with Darius the Great. The date is unknown, so the latter end of Darius' reign has been used here to allow time for Nabonidus to relinquish his own hold over the position as satrap of Karmana. Karkiš is not actually named as satrap, but he is clearly in charge in Karmana. As previously, Karmana is a minor post but now, rather than falling under the administrative eye of Persis, it falls under the authority of Gedrosia, and Karkiš holds both posts. It seems possible that Karmana is separated as a satrapy in its own right by the time of Artaxerxes II (404-359 BC).

330 - 328 BC

In 330 BC Gedrosia becomes part of the Greek empire despite the efforts of Bessus, self-styled 'king of Asia', to retain at least some of the Persian territories. His claim is legal, since his satrapy of Bakhtrish is traditionally commanded by the next-in-line to the throne, but Persia has already been lost and his loose collection of eastern allies provides nothing more than a sideshow to the main event - the fall of Achaemenid Persia. Still, it takes Alexander the Great two more years to fully conquer the region.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesArgead Dynasty in Gedrosia

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, Gedrosia was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 305 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 (sometimes shown as Cedrosia), Northern Indus and Southern Indus. These regions were therefore subsumed in the Arachosian administrative complex. 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. The territory of the Ariaspae may also have fallen partially or largely within Gedrosia in the form of a minor satrapy.

The minor satrapy of the Oritans had a provincial capital named Rhambacia. During the Achaemenid period the region was autonomous, but the Oritans followed a wait-and-see policy during Alexander's invasion. They reacted only when he moved from Patara in the Indus delta towards them, and then they sought an alliance with the Gedrosii. Their autonomy probably ended at this point as they were drawn into the satrapy of Gedrosia proper.

(Additional information from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, from Historiae Alexandri Magni, Quintus Curtius Rufus, from Ancient Samarkand: Capital of Soghd, G V Shichkina (Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 1994, 8: 83), 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

Amedines?

Minor satrap of the Ariaspae?

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. Amedines is counted as a minor satrap of the Ariaspae, with speculation making him a replacement for Tiridates when he falls out of favour.

326 BC

Alexander's army enters western India through the passes of the Hindu Kush, but the troops rebel against the prospect of more battles against another great army, that of Magadha, on the Ganges. Alexander is forced to retreat, abandoning his hopes of conquering India. While he has been away, Aspastes, satrap of Carmania, has attempted a rebellion. Now he meets Alexander in neighbouring Gedrosia and is promptly executed for his treason.

323 - 303 BC

Sibyrtius

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

312 - 306 BC

The Wars of the Diadochi decide how Alexander the Great's empire is carved up between his generals, but the period is very confused, especially in the east. Bactria is taken by the Seleucids around 312 BC.

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)

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesMacedonian Gedrosia

Once safely under Seleucid control after the conclusion of the Greek Wars of the Diadochi, Gedrosia was governed by Macedonian satraps.

(Where information conflicts regarding the Indo-Greek territories, Osmund Bopearachchi's Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné (1991) has been followed. Additional information from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Encyclopćdia Britannica.)

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'.

c.165 BC

Defeated by the Xiongnu, the Yeuh Chi/Yuezhi are forced to evacuate their lands on the borders of the Chinese kingdoms. They begin a migration westwards that triggers a slow domino effect of barbarian movement.

140 - 130 BC

Indo-Scythians have long been pressing against Bactria's borders. Now, following a long migration from the borders of the Chinese kingdoms, the Tocharians/Yuezhi start to invade Bactria from Sogdiana to the north. Initially, Indo-Scythian elements who are already in Bactria become vassals to the Tocharians.

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)

At around the time of the death of the Indo-Greek King Menander in 130 BC, the Tocharians overrun Bactria and end Greek rule. Heliocles may possibly invade the western part of the Indo-Greek kingdom, as there are strong suggestions that the Eucratids continue to rule there, especially in Heliocles' presumed son, Lysias.

115 - 100 BC

MapWith Parthian territory having been harried for years by the Indo-Scythians, King Mithridates II is finally able to take control of the situation. First he defeats the Yuezhi (Tocharians) in Sogdiana in 115 BC, and then he defeats the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan (in Drangiana) around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria while the Indo-Scythians are diverted into Indo-Greek Gandhara.

Indo-Parthians / Pahlavas

FeatureThe expansion of the Kushans was checked by the Indo-Parthians, or Pahlavas, who had their origins in territory within modern Iran. Gondophares was a vassal of the Parthian Arsacids, governing territory of theirs deep into the southern fringes of Central Asia. With the empire fragmenting over the course of several decades, he declared his independence from it and ventured eastwards to establish his own kingdom in present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India, sharing domination of the region with the Indo-Scythians. Their arrival, though, seems to have taken the prize of Kashmir from Indo-Scythian hands. Information, and especially dating, for the Pahlavas is hard to come by, some of it being provided by numismatic evidence only, so the dating used is approximate.

Although there seems to be no other evidence to back it up, Gondophares has been linked to the House of Suren within the Parthian empire (by Ernst Herzfeld). This was an important noble house whose members were often responsible for crowning the Arsacid king. No more than two generations prior to Gondophares, a Parthian cavalry commander by the name of Surena of the same house had been responsible for inflicting a catastrophic defeat upon the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae, so it was certainly a name to be reckoned with. It would seem to be this potential family link which is responsible for some map-makers showing the Indo-Parthian territories under the label 'Suren Kingdom'.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Foreign Impact on Indian Life and Culture (c.326 BC to c.300 AD), Satyendra Nath Naskar, and from Das Haus Sūrēn von Sakastan, Ernst Emil Herzfeld (Ed, Archćologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, I, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1929).)

c.AD 10

The Indo-Greek kingdom disappears under Indo-Scythian pressure. It seems to be Rajuvula, kshatrapa of Mathura, who invades what is virtually the last free Indo-Greek territory in the eastern Punjab, and kills the Greek ruler, Strato II and his son. Pockets of Greek population probably remain for some centuries under the subsequent rule of the Kushans and Indo-Parthians. By now the Parthians already seem to have captured Kashmir from the Indo-Scythians, relieving them of an important prize.

c.AD 20 - 50

Gondophares

Parthian vassal who declared independence.

c.20

Gondophares ventures east and establishes an independent Indo-Parthian kingdom in what is now Afghanistan. It would seem to be during this period that he briefly holds power over the diminished Sakas, counting Kshatrapa Sodasa of Mathura as a vassal.

Gondophares Pahlava coin
A Gondophares coin showing the Greek goddess Nike, and legends in both Greek and Kharoshthi

c.30 - 80

The Kushan ruler, Kadphises, subdues the Indo-Scythians and establishes his kingdom in Bactria and the valley of the River Oxus (the Amu Darya). This means defeating the Indo-Parthians and successfully recapturing the main areas of their kingdom, which include Gandhara. The Pahlavas survive in northern India and Pakistan, mainly Sakastan (former Saka territory) and Arachosia.

c.50 - 65

Abdagases I

Nephew.

fl c.60

Satavastres

fl c.70

Sarpedones

fl c.70

Orthagnes / Orthagnes-Gadana

fl c.77

Ubouzanes

Son.

fl c.85

Sases / Gondophares-Sases

fl c.90

Abdagases II

c.100

The neighbouring Kushans capture former Indo-Greek Arachosia from the Indo-Parthians.

c.100 - 135

Pacores / Pakores

c.135

Pacores is the last king with any real power. One more Indo-Parthian king follows him but in diminished circumstances, and virtually unknown to history.

?

Known from numismatic evidence only.

c.140?

By this date, if not before, the last Indo-Parthians are conquered by the Kushans. Indo-Parthians also remain in some of the areas that they have conquered in the past. Around this time, Rudradaman I of the Western Kshatrapas divides his empire into provinces so that they are easier to administer. The Girnar records show that an Indo-Parthian amatya (governor) by the name of Suvisakha is placed in charge of the administration of Ananta-Surastra.