History Files
 

 

Far East Kingdoms

Persia and the East

 

 

 

Gandhara (Paropamisadae) / Kabul

The city of Kabul may have been founded as a settlement as early as 1500 BC. There are references to it in the Rig Veda scriptures which were probably composed when Indo-European migrants were drifting down into India. During the Indo-Greek period in South Asia, the region was known as Gandhara, and by the time it was conquered by Alexander the Great it was already home to an old Aryan Indo-European kingdom, of which virtually nothing is known. Today Kabul is the largest and most highly-populated city in modern Afghanistan, as well as being its capital.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel and Foreign Impact on Indian Life and Culture (c.326 BC to c.300 AD), Satyendra Nath Naskar, and from External Link: Encyclopædia Britannica.)

c.4000 BC

From around this date, proto-Indo-Europeans emerge in Central Asia to form an 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.

Persian Satraps

Conquered in the late sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, Gandhara was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was either part of the Median empire, or was populated by tribal groups, but which is unknown. Under the Persians, the province became a satrapy.

516 - 515 BC

Achaemenid ruler Darius embarks on a military campaign into the lands east of the empire. He marches through Aria and Bactria, and then to Gandhara and Taxila. By 515 BC he is conquering lands around the Indus Valley before returning via Arachosia (modern southern Afghanistan and northern and central Pakistan, and perhaps extending as far as the Indus) and Drangian. Along the way the Sakas are largely defeated and conquered.

fl 510s BC

Megabazus

Satrap.

329 - 328 BC

Persia is conquered by the Greek empire under Alexander the Great. Persian king Darius III retreats into his eastern territories where he is murdered by Bessus, the satrap of Bactria. Bessus attempts to create a national focus of resistance, and it takes Alexander two more years to fully conquer the region.

Argead Dynasty

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 331-330 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 several wars, the region was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 312 BC.

330 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

327 - 326 BC

Alexander the Great's Macedonian army enters western India through the passes of the Hindu Kush, aided by the king of Gandhara in his war against Kekaya. But in the Punjab his troops rebel against the prospect of more battles against another great army on the Ganges. Alexander is forced to pull back, abandoning his hopes of conquering India. However, a swathe of minor states across northern India remain his vassals.

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.

326 - 321 BC

Oxyartes

Greek satrap of Gandhara (between Bactria & N Punjab).

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. The former falls in about 130 BC to the Kushans.

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)

fl 206 BC

Sophagasenos

King in the Kabul Valley (in Paropamisadae?).

206 BC

Seleucid ruler Antiochus III marches from Bactria, across the Hindu Kush, and into the Kabul Valley where he renews ties of friendship with an Indian king by the name of Sophagasenos (alternatively shown as Sophagasenus or Sophagasenas). This king is otherwise completely unknown and cannot be matched with any more certain Indian rulers. Instead, given the location it seems that he may be a local ruler, perhaps in post-Mauryan Paropamisadae before it is seized by the Indo-Greek kingdom.

185 BC

Much shrunken since the days of Ashoka, the Mauryan empire is overthrown by General Pusyamitra Sunga. The Macedonian kings of Bactria annexe the western half of the empire, including Paropamisadae and Arachosia, advancing as far as the Ganges and the capital at Pataliputra (modern Patna) to form the Indo-Greek kingdom.

115 - 100 BC

With 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 around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria while the Indo-Scythians are diverted into Indo-Greek Paropamisadae.

c.90 - 60 BC

The Indo-Scythian Sakas under Maues take control of Indo-Greek Gandhara, creating a capital at Taxila in Punjab. Gandhara falls within modern southern Afghanistan, part of a region stretching into Persia that remains known as Sakastan or Sistan even today. Taxila is in today's Pakistan. Just forty or so years later, the Kushans capture the same territory from the Indo-Scythians in Afghanistan.

Map of Central Asia & India c.50 BC
By the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been squeezed towards Eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands (shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India (click on map to show full sized)

c.57 - 35 BC

Azilises

Ruled in Gandhara as a joint Saka king with Azes.

c.50 BC?

MapThe Kushans capture the territory of the Sakas in modern Afghanistan. They probably also cause the downfall of Indo-Greek King Hermaeus, as they conquer Paropamisadae in the process. The Sakas consolidate their rule in northern India as compensation for the loss of Paropamisadae. They also fight the Satvahanas in India, and later enter into matrimonial alliances with them.

1st century AD

Theodamus is the last Indo-Greek ruler of any kind to be noted, but only by an inscription on a signet ring. Possibly he governs as a vassal in this last stronghold of Indo-Greek influence in the region - the Bajaur area of Gandhara.

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 in Sakastan (former Saka territory) and Arachosia.

c.270

In Gandhara, Kushanshah king 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.

325

With Peroz II of the Kushanshahs beginning to pull away from Sassanid control, the Persian ruler Shapur II divides the realm, assuming direct control of the southern areas of Afghanistan (including 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.

c.350

The Sassanids end the Kushanshah drift towards independence by reasserting their control. Kushanshah rulers remain on the throne as vassals.

Kushanshah letter addressed to Varhran
A Kushanshah letter addressed to Varhran from the daughter of a princess named Dukht-anosh, a Middle Persian name

c.350 - c.400

Peroz III

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

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, or White Huns, invade and conquer Bactria and Gandhara.

565 - 652

The White Huns 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.

Shahi Kingdom of Zabulistan
AD 565 - 962

The kingdom of Zabulistan was based at Kabul and was created by the Western Göktürks when they aided the Sassanids in clearing out White Hun control of the region. Later a fairly extensive empire stretching east towards the Himalayas, the Hindu Shahi kingdom, as it became known (except by the Muslim world), survived the Islamic empire's conquest of Persia in 652, but eventually fell under the control of the Samanid emirate after 900.

652

Large areas of the territory (mostly western Afghanistan and large swathes of Khorasan) are conquered by the Islamic empire as it takes Persia, although Kabul remains independent as part of Zabulistan.

821

The Tahrid emirs are established in Khorasan to the north and west when the region is granted to them by the Abbasid caliph, al-Mamun.

873

The Tahrids are ousted as emirs of Khorasan by the Saffarids.

900

Saffarid central Afghanistan is conquered by the Transoxianan Samanid emirate while the Buwayid amirs gain control of western Persia. This territory includes Zabulistan with its capital at Ghazni, and it is this area that emerges as the main focus point of the control of the entire region.

Map of India c.AD 900
India of AD 900 was remarkably unchanged in terms of its general distribution of the larger states - only the names had changed, although now there was a good deal more fracturing and regional rule by minor states or tribes (click on map to view full sized)

c.950 - 962

Abu Bakr Lawik

Samanid governor of Zabulistan.

962

Zabulistan is seized by a rebellious Samanid governor and a semi-independent kingdom is formed with its capital at Ghazni.

977

Sebuktigin becomes the first Yamanid king of Ghazni when he succeeds to the throne, which is situated south of Transoxiana (and 120 kilometres (eighty miles) to the south-west of Kabul, both in modern Afghanistan.

Timurid Kabul (with Ghazni and Kandahar)
AD 1504 - 1526

When the Shaibanid Turks invaded Khorasan in 1507, the Timurid prince from Farghana in Transoxiana, Babur, had already realised the hopelessness of the Timurid position there, especially with the sons of the last strong ruler, Husayn Bayqarah, fighting each other for control. Instead, he retreated south in 1506, where he had already captured Kabul (in modern Afghanistan). Shortly afterwards, he also took Ghazni (near Kandahar), displacing an unpopular Arghunid usurper in the region called Muquim. Babur made many attempts to recapture Transoxiana, which he had briefly won before his exile. Each attempt was a failure until he was aided by the Safavid ruler of Persia, Ismail, who took control of the region himself.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1504 - 1530

Babur

Timurid prince from Farghana in Transoxiana.

1511

Following the death of the Shaibanid ruler, Babur is able to recapture Samarkand with Safavid Persian help, but is unable to retain it. The Shaibanids re-conquer the city just eight months later.

1519 - 1530

From 1519, Babur leads a great many raids on the sultanate of Delhi, which is divided and weakened. In 1526, he is invited by the nobility to invade, and the sultan is killed at the Battle of Panipat. Babur creates a Moghul empire which sacks and controls Delhi as the heart of that empire, while also retaining Kabul within it. In 1530, Kabul and Ghazni are handed by Babur's son to his brother, Kamran, to rule ('mirza' means prince).

1530 - 1545

Kamran Mirza

Brother of Moghul emperor Humayun. A detested ruler.

1540

After being present at the rebellion of Hindal in Moghul Agra in 1539, Kamran returns to Kabul and, with the help of his brother, Askari, secures territory as far east as Lahore and proclaims himself king of Afghanistan.

Kamran Mirza era coins
Silver coins issued by Kamran Mirza during his reign as an independent king in Afghanistan, bearing his mark over that of Babur's

Askari

Brother. Governor in Kandahar (1540-1545).

1543 - 1545

Kamran's elder brother, Humayun, the exiled Moghul emperor, arrives in Kabul, after failed attempts from Amrakot to regain his territory. The two are now implacable enemies, and Humayun is forced to flee to the court of the Safavid shah of Persia. Here, he receives enough support to strike out and defeat Askari in Kandahar and then Kamran in Kabul just two years later, also adding Lahore to his domains. Humayun exiles his surviving brothers to Mecca, while Hindal has already died fighting on his behalf.

1545 - 1555

Humayun

Brother. Moghul emperor in exile.

1554 - 1555

The death of Islam Shah Suri in Delhi leaves his dynasty weak and open to rival claimants, of which their are many. The most powerful of these is the resurgent Humayun, who leads his army eastwards from Kabul in a string of impressive victories. Afghanistan is again part of the restored Moghul empire, with the emperor's relative, Mirza Muhammed Hakim, governing Kabul and the surrounding districts.

1555 - 1585

Mirza Muhammed Hakim

Cousin of Moghul emperor, Akbar. Rebelled. Died Jul 1585.

1562 - 1564

The Afghan Karrani dynasty captures large tracts of south-eastern Bihar and west Bengal in India, and with their assassination of the previous ruler, they seized complete control of Bengal.

1566

An army from nearby Badakhshan arrives to besiege Kabul. The governor leaves the garrison in place and retreats with his army towards the Indus in the Punjab plain. There, he is incited by Uzbek rebels to besiege Lahore. The Moghul emperor, Akbar, marches to confront him and he retreats back to Kabul, now cleared of its attackers. Akbar chooses not to pursue him.

1576

The Safavid shahs of Persia begin to encroach on Afghan territory, putting pressure on Kabul to defend itself.

1581

Mirza Muhammed continues to rule Kabul as an independent state, and the governor of Kandahar now also supports him, while he plans to invade Punjab and seize Hindustan. Akbar sends his Rajput general, Man Singh of Amer, to attack Kabul, and Man Singh captures the city, while Kandahar is peacefully surrendered by its erstwhile governor. However, Mirza Muhammed is restored as governor of the province.

1585

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

1623

Taking advantage of a revolt by Shah Jahan, son of the Moghul emperor, the Persians capture Kandahar. The attempt has taken quite some time, with Isfandiyar, son of Khan Arab Muhammad I of Khwarazm, also aiding them in 1621. In return, he is granted five hundred troops to aid him against his rebel brothers in the khanate.

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. Persian rule of the region is assured for the next nine years, until the effective coup which creates the Duranni dynasty.

1773

The capital is transferred from Kandahar to Kabul due to tribal opposition to the Durannis, mainly to Timur Shah Durrani himself. Constant internal revolts occur in the state, especially in its eastern provinces, but from this point forwards, Kabul forms the capital of Afghanistan.

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.