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Far East Kingdoms

South Asia


Incorporating the Angutturi & Arachoti

The ancient province of Arachosia in South Asia 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 early modern age. The region was named for its Indo-Iranian Arachoti tribe (Strabo's version of the name, while Pliny recorded them as the Angutturi). Their tribal capital may have borne the same name, but was more likely known by a variation of that name which, unfortunately, has been lost to history.

The Aryan land of Harauti lay around the Helmand area, providing another variation of the same name, but one which predated the Persian empire. 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.

Sakas on a frieze at Persepolis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, 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, and Old Kandahar: An Archaeological Reappraisal (Harvard University).)

c.1000 - 800 BC

The Parsua begin to enter Iran, probably by crossing the Iranian plateau to the north of the great central deserts (through Hyrcania) but also by working round to the south of them. This is a westwards extension of a far greater settlement of Indo-Iranian tribes in southern Central Asia and South Asia which has been on-going since the collapse of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex between 2000-1700 BC.

The Sakas - a further (and highly numerous) group of Indo-Iranians - also begins to make early in-roads into the region from beyond the River Oxus.

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 or tap on map to view 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. Arachoti tribal lands are organised into the province of Harahuwatish.

Persian 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, and especially by the region's largest Indo-Iranian 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, seemingly using the same name as the tribe itself, although more likely it was a variation. In the Greek period this was renamed and refounded as Alexandria in Arachosia and today is better known as Kandahar (albeit sited a little to the east of the ancient capital). Elsewhere within the region, Kapisa, the site of a fortress in the Persian period (the Greek city of Alexandria on the Caucasus, modern Bagram), 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 (usually from Greek sources) 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 what later was Sistān, Makrān (southern Gedrosia), 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 which 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 - named as Sattagydia - certainly was at the time of Darius' accession.

Persians & Medes

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, 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, and Old Kandahar: An Archaeological Reappraisal (Harvard University).)

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 by the Behistun inscription as a fortress in Harahuwatish).

Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great freed the Indo-Iranian Parsua people from Median domination to establish a nation which is recognisable to this day, and an empire which provided the basis for the vast territories which were later ruled by Alexander the Great

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 if the existence of its eastern empire is to be believed).

fl 522/521 BC


Satrap, with Thatagush. Raised 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 '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.

Darius the Great of Persia
The central relief of the North Stairs of the Apadana in Persepolis, now in the Archaeological Museum in Tehran, shows Darius I (the Great) on his royal throne (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 4.0 International)

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 to 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).

522 - 521 BC


Unnamed rival. Loyal to Smerdis. Killed.

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 this period 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.

Old Kandahar / Alexandria in Arachosia
The ruins of Old Kandahar were initially founded as the tribal capital of the Arachoti tribe before being commanded as Harauvatiš by the Persians and Alexandria in Arachosia by Alexander the Great, and then abandoned in the eighteenth century AD in favour of the replacement city a little way to the east

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 Saka elements are largely defeated and conquered, but probably only along the borders.

fl c.510s BC

Bagabadush / Megabazus

First cousin of Darius I. Satrap. With Gadara & Thatagush?

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 Megabazus in command of the troops.

This Megabazus could also be the Bagabadush who is named in a Persepolis tablet as the later satrap of Harahuwatish (the latter version of the name is usually taken as the Old Persian form of the former). It could also be the same Megabazus who commands the Persian forces in the west and later becomes satrap of Daskyleion.

fl c.500s BC


Son. Satrap, with Gadara & Paricania.

c.500s BC

Megabates, son of Megabazus, is father to another Megabazus who in 480 BC is one of the Persian fleet commanders during the campaign against the Greek states. While Herodotus appears not to know where to place Paricania (attributing it to 'Asiatic Ethiopians'), Arrian links it with the Ichthyophagi and Oritans of Gedrosia. It would also seem to be this Megabates who is later satrap of Daskyleion in Anatolia.

Battle of Thermopylae
Involvement in Greece would lead to the Spartan stand at Thermopylae against the Persian invasion, with the advance being stopped in its tracks, providing a rallying call for the rest of the free Greek cities to oppose the Persians

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.

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


Replacement. Satrap, with Hindush & Zranka?

fl c.390s? BC


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.

Darius II
Two sides of a drachm showing Darius II which was actually issued much later - in the first century BC by the Parthian kings of Iran - and which shows Darius in a Parthian-style tiara adorned with a crescent

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


Satrap of Harahuwatish, Hindush, Thatagush & Zranka.

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.

Alexander the Great crosses the River Graneikos
Alexander the Great crossed the River Graneikos (or Granicus) in 334 BC to spark a direct face-off with the Persians which had been brewing for generations, and his victory in battle near the river sent shockwaves through the Persian empire

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 (now the Greek-controlled Arachosia).

Argead 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 before Seleucus seized control of all of them.

Alexander the Great

(Information by Peter Kessler, with 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), from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), 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.

333 - 330 BC

In the winter of 333/332 BC following his capture of Syria, Alexander the Great appoints Menon, son of Cerdimmas, to the satrapy of Coele Syria. He is assigned allied cavalry for the defence of the region while Alexander proceeds into Phoenicia to undertake the sieges of Tyre and Gaza before entering Egypt.

Susa Weddings
This late nineteenth century engraving depicts a vision of the 'Susa Weddings', with Stateira seated next to Alexander and several other newlywed officers filling the rest of the scene (gravure reproduction of a painting by Andreas Muller, Munich)

Menon's position in Syria is subject to change and, by 331 BC, he is no longer needed there. Instead he is to be found in Zariaspa in Bactria by 329 BC, delivering recruits from Syria to Alexander where he has gained a fresh satrapal command in Arachosia.

330 - 323 BC


Satrap of Arachosia (& Gedrosia until 325 BC?). Died.

330 - ? BC


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 or more regional administrative duties.

325 BC

Returning towards Persis from India, Alexander enters Gedrosia from the east. A lightning campaign is conducted against the native Oritans who have probably been independent until now. Quickly surrendering, their capital of Rhambaceia (Rhambacia) is converted into a city and may well be renamed Alexandria. Its precise location is yet to be pinpointed.

Map of Central Asia & Eastern Mediterranean 334-323 BC
The route of Alexander's ongoing campaigns are shown in this map, with them leading him from Europe to Egypt, into Persia, and across the vastness of eastern Iran as far as the Pamir mountain range (click or tap on map to view full sized)

It is here that the position of satrap in Gedrosia becomes more complicated to relate. Menon's death in 323 BC sees his post being filled by the promoted Sibyrtius. Under this satrap, Arachosia and Gedrosia certainly are governed as one joint territory, but Gedrosia apparently gains a satrap of its own in 325 BC - Apollophanes - with Leonnatus as commander of the satrapy's garrison.

Tiridates seems not to be mentioned, lending support to the theory that he is a native minor satrap. Apollophanes is killed in 325 BC and is succeeded in Gedrosia by one Thoas until he dies of natural causes in 323 BC. This is probably the point at which the administration of Gedrosia is handed to that of Arachosia, and Sibyrtius becomes satrap of both.

323 - 303 BC


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

323 - 303 BC

Following the death of Alexander the Great the subsequent Wars of the Diadochi rip apart the Macedonian empire and piece it back together in various different forms. In 306 BC Antigonus proclaims himself king, so the following year the other generals do the same in their domains. Polyperchon, otherwise quiet in his stronghold in the Peloponnese, dies in 303 BC and Cassander claims his territory.

Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC ended the drawn-out and destructive Wars of the Diadochi which decided how Alexander's empire would be divided

The war ends in the death of Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, but little if any of it seems to touch Arachosia directly. While other satraps come and go, especially in the west, Sibyrtius remains in his post until the 303 BC settlement with the Mauryans of India which sees several formerly Greek possessions handed over, including what is now Mauryan Arachosia.

Mauryan & Macedonian Arachosia

The unexpected death of Alexander in 323 BC changed the situation dramatically within his vast Greek empire. Immediately his generals divided the empire between them. Seleucus was able to expand his holdings with some ruthlessness, building up his stock of Alexander's far eastern regions as far as the borders of India and the River Indus (Sindh). Appian's work, The Syrian Wars, provides a detailed list of these regions, which included Arabia, Arachosia, Aria, Armenia, Bactria, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia (as it was known) by 301 BC, Carmania, Cilicia (eventually), Drangiana, Gedrosia, Hyrcania, Media, Mesopotamia, Paropamisadae, Parthia, Persis, Sogdiana, and Tapouria (a small satrapy beyond Hyrcania), plus eastern areas of Phrygia.

General Seleucus 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 the lost territories in north-western 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.

Second century BC Greeks in internecine strife

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by David Kelleher, from Life of Apollonius Tyana, Philostratus, from King of the Seven Climes: A History of the Ancient Iranian World (3000 BCE - 651 CE), Khodadad Rezakhani (Touraj Daryaee, Ed, Ancient Iran Series Vol IV, 2017), from The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire, R C Blockley (Francis Cairns, Oxford, 1983), 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: Ancient History Encyclopaedia (dead link), and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org. Where information conflicts regarding the Indo-Greek territories, Osmund Bopearachchi's Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné (1991) has been followed.)

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.

The Mauryan capital of Patna
While the Macedonian generals squabbled over the division of Alexander the Great's empire, Chandragupta was gradually taking their easternmost territories away from them (his capital of Pataliputra - modern Patna - is shown here in computer-generated form as it would have appeared from the air in the fourth century BC

This includes the regions of Paropamisadae, Arachosia, the northern 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 where he receives tribute of five hundred talents of silver from the citizens of Gerrha, a mercantile state on the eastern 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.180 BC

Placing the death of Demetrius of Bactria (of unknown causes) on this date is generally accepted but far from certain. It is used in an attempt to fit in his death with the subsequent appearance of many successors in several regions of the enlargened kingdom.

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 which would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Greater Yuezhi (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Some of Demetrius' successors may be co-regents, but civil wars and territorial divisions are very likely. Pantaleon, Antimachus I, Agathocles, and possibly Euthydemus II are all theoretically linked as relatives to Demetrius. In Bactria, Euthydemus II rules, while in the Indo-Greek territories, Agathocles rules in Paropamisadae while Pantaleon rules in Arachosia.

c.185 - 175 BC


Bactrian. In Arachosia.

180? - 165? BC

Antimachus I Theos

Brother? In Bactria, Paropamisadae & Arachosia.

c.180 - 160 BC

Apollodotus I

In Paropamisadae, Arachosia, & Western Indus.

175 - 170/165 BC

Demetrius II

Son of Antimachus I. In Paropamisadae & Arachosia.

c.175 BC

Demetrius II rules in Paropamisadae and Arachosia as a sub-king or joint ruler with his father, the Bactrian king, Antimachus I. While he is campaigning in the east, a usurper arises in the west about 170 BC.

170? BC

Antimachus of Bactria is apparently defeated by the able newcomer and former general, Eucratides (an alternative is that his territory is absorbed by Eucratides upon his death). Eucratides is opposed by Demetrius II from the Indo-Greek territories, who apparently returns to Bactria with sixty thousand men to oust the usurper, but is defeated and killed in the encounter.

A silver tetradrachm of Eucratides I of Bactria
The successor to Antimachus I of Bactria was Eucratides I, with this silver tetradrachm being minted in his image at some point during the twenty-six years or so of his reign

Antimachus I also fights against Eucratides, but ultimately is defeated around 160 BC and Eucratides seems to occupy territory as far as the Indus. The Euthydemids are pushed out of Bactria, retaining only the Indo-Greek territories.

171 - c.145 BC

Eucratides I / Eukratides I

Bactrian. In Paropamisadae, Arachosia, & W Indus.

160 - 155 BC

Antimachus II Nikephoros

In Paropamisadae, Arachosia, & Western Indus.

c.160 BC

Antimachus II is the son either of Demetrius II or Antimachus I. He serves as co-regent until the deaths of both rulers. It is possible that Apollodotus I becomes the senior ruler until he too dies in 160 BC, at which point Antimachus II heads the kingdom.

c.155 BC

In the east, Indo-Greek King Menander seems to repel the invasion by Eucratides, pushing him back as far as Paropamisadae, and thereby consolidating the rule of the Indo-Greek kings in northern India. After this, the Indo-Greek kingdom is permanently divided from Bactria.

c.145 BC

Under pressure in their established homeland thanks to the migration of the Greater Yuezhi, the Sakas enter the territory of Bactria around this time. They burn to the ground the city of Alexandria on the Oxus, an event which seemingly coincides with the death of Eucratides I himself.

Ancient Bactra/Balkh city walls
The landscape around the walls of the ancient city of Bactra, capital of Bactria (shown here - now known as Balkh in northern Afghanistan, close to the border along the Amu Darya), was and still is very diverse, offering both challenges and rewards to any settlers there, including the newly arrived Greeks

Generally presumed to be the modern ruins known as Ay Khanum (or Ai Khanum, literally 'Lady Moon' in Uzbek), the city is possibly also known as Eucratidia during its last days - almost certainly thanks to Eucratides I. The city goes into unrecoverable decline and today is entirely uninhabited.

c.130 BC

At around the time of Menander's death, the Greater Yuezhi overrun Bactria and end Greek rule there, isolating the remaining Greeks to the east of the Hindu Kush. Heliocles (I) of Bactria 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.

There are no historical records of events in the Indo-Greek kingdom after Menander's death, since the Indo-Greeks have by now become very isolated from the rest of the Greco-Roman world. Events from this point are reconstructed almost entirely from archaeological and numismatic analyses.

fl c.130 BC


In Paropamisadae, Arachosia, & W Indus (Punjab).

fl c.150 - 125? BC

Zoilus / Zoilos I

Euthydemid? In Paropamisadae & Arachosia.

According to numismatic evidence, Zolius rules during the reign of Menander, as the latter king overstrikes two of his coins. Upon Menender's death his queen, Agathokleia, apparently manages to flee east with her child (the future Strato I) in the face of Zoilus' appropriation of much of her husband's realm, to establish a realm of her own there.

Map of the Yuezhi lands and exodus route
The Greater Yuezhi were defeated and forced out of the Gansu region by the Xiongnu, and their migratory route into Central Asia is pretty easy to deduct from the fact that they chose to try and settle in the Ili river valley below Lake Balkhash (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Alternatively, Menander himself may previously have relocated east to the Indus (Punjab), where the mint marks on his coins had changed, and this territory is then handed onto his wife and son upon his death.

fl c.130 - 120 BC

Lysias Aniketos (the Invincible)

In Paropamisadae & Arachosia (& W Indus?).

Probably the son of Heliocles I of Bactria, coins for Lysias have been found in the Punjab. It seems likely that he extends his control to both halves of the Indo-Greek kingdom for a period, placing his son as regent in Taxila. This makes understandable the fact that Lysias imitates Demetrius before him, claiming that he is also a conqueror of 'India' - which to the Greeks means Paropamisadae and Indus (Punjab).

fl c.115 - 100 BC


In Paropamisadae & Arachosia.

110 BC

The Heliodorus pillar in Vidisha in central India records that the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas sends an ambassador to the court of the Sunga king, Bhagabhadra, at or before this date.

Sunga terracotta plaque
This late-period Sunga terracotta plaque from the first century BC depicts the goddess Durga and her attendants

fl c.100 BC


In Paropamisadae & Arachosia.

fl c.100 - 95 BC


In Paropamisadae, Arachosia, W & E Indus (Punjab).

c.100 - 70 BC

Philoxenus briefly rules the whole of the remaining Indo-Greek territory. He may even extend his rule as far as the city of Mathura (in modern Uttar Pradesh), according to an inscription there. From 95 BC the territories fragment again, with the western kings regaining their territory as far west as Arachosia. Some time after 70 BC, Mathura is lost to Indian kings, as is south-eastern Indus (Punjab).

fl c.95 - 90 BC


In Arachosia & Paropamisadae.

fl c.90 BC


In Arachosia & Paropamisadae.

fl c.90 - 85 BC

Menander II

In Arachosia & Paropamisadae.

fl c.90 - 70 BC


In Arachosia, Paropamisadae, & W Indus (Punjab).

c.90 - 60 BC

The Sakas under Maues take control of Indo-Greek Paropamisadae, 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 Sakas in what is now 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 which 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 or tap on map to view full sized)

c.AD 20

With the Parthian empire gradually fracturing and collapsing, Gondophares ventures east and establishes an independent Indo-Parthian kingdom in what is now Afghanistan. His kingdom stretches from Arachosia and Gedrosia to northern India. Despite various efforts, Parthian King Artabanus is unable to restore these Indo-Parthians to Parthian control.

Shortly afterwards, Kujula Kadphises founds the Kushan empire in Bactria-Tokharistan and seizes a long corridor of territory which stretches to the middle Amu Darya. This has the deliberate effect of creating a barrier around Sogdiana, which is then isolated for almost three hundred years. It would seem to be during this period that Gondophares briefly holds power over the diminished Sakas, counting Kshatrapa Sodasa of Mathura as a vassal.


Sarpedones succeeds as ruler of the Indo-Parthian kingdom and adopts the name Gondophares. His rule is not nearly so certain as that of his more illustrious predecessor, however. Issues of his coinage are somewhat fragmented, appearing in Arachosia, eastern Punjab (a region which could be included in the former satrapy of Northern Indus), and Sindh.

Sarpedones coin
Shown here are both sides of a coin issued during the rule of Sarpedones (Gondophares II), with him diademed and draped on the left and the goddess Nike standing on the right


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.


Pacores is the last Indo-Parthian king with any real power, and even that does not extend into former core territories in Arachosia and Sindh. One more Indo-Parthian king follows him but in diminished circumstances, and virtually unknown to history.

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.

Kadphises I coin from Tokharistan
This photo illustrates a Kadphises I coin - the first major Kushan ruler - which was discovered in the Bactria-Tokharistan region and which has on it a corrupt Greek legend

The Kushans are toppled in former Arachosia, Aria, and Bactria (more recently better known as Tokharistan). 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. Those western Kushan nobles are now replaced in commanding positions by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshahs or Indo-Sassanids.

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

The Indo-Iranian Sassanids toppled a large part of Asia's Kushan empire between around AD 230-250, conquering 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 farther east, into modern Pakistan and perhaps as far as the River Indus.

Once there, to counter the threat of reconquest which was being posed by the growing northern Indian empire of the Guptas, and well as by Central Asian tribes, the Sassanids created a buffer state which was governed by the kushanshahs. This title literally means 'kings of the Kushans', otherwise known as Indo-Sassanids or even Kushano-Sassanids.

The kushanshahs appear to have been a cadet branch of the Sassanid imperial family. Established primarily under the rule of Shapur I around AD 245, they seem to have been too powerful to simply have been Sassanid governors. Instead they may reflect an early Sassanid continuation of Arsacid imperial procedure, acting as an allied but autonomous junior branch of the Sassanid royal house.

The kushanshah rulers bore names which closely resemble the type used by the Sassanid main house itself, but dating for the kushanshahs is very approximate and little is known of the region which fell under their governance. That territory - eastern Iran - certainly informed the senior Sassanids via cultural production from at least the reign of Shapur II (AD 309-379). The title of kay is adopted from the east, although already it had firmly established origins as kai in what had once been the eastern Indo-Iranian domain of Turan and amongst the early Persians in Iran.

Sassanid Emperor Shapur I

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from King of the Seven Climes: A History of the Ancient Iranian World (3000 BCE - 651 CE), Khodadad Rezakhani (Touraj Daryaee, Ed, Ancient Iran Series Vol IV, 2017), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, from Kushan, Kushano-Sasanian, and Kidarite Coins, D Jongeward & J Cribb (American Numismatic Society, 2015), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Iranians & Turanians in the Avesta.)

c.230 - 241

Ardashir I

Governor of Persis. Founded Sassanid empire.


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. The Kushans are toppled in former Arachosia, Aria, and Bactria (more recently better known as Tokharistan). The remaining Kushan nobility is forced to accept Sassanid suzerainty.

Coin issued by Vasudeva II
Two sides of a coin issued by Vasudeva II, a gold stater showing the king standing at the altar (on the left), while honouring the Central Asian (Indo-Iranian) goddess, Ardoksho who is seated facing outwards (on the right)

The first kushanshah coin-issuing authority is a certain Ardasharo Koshano, who may be Ardashir I. This Ardasharo is most likely a contemporary of Kanishka II of the Kushans. Both silver and copper issues of Ardasharo are minted in Marv (formerly Margu, in the ancient province of Margiana), and are then transported to Tokharistan for circulation.

The coins show clear Kushan, or at least Bactrian, influence since they carry Bactrian legends as well as Pahlavi ones. The obverse Bactrian legends read as 'Ardashir, the Kushan Shah' and the reverse depicts the god Mithra (Bactrian Miiro, who is also depicted on Kushan coins).


Around this year, Shapur devolves direct rule in what is now Afghanistan by creating a buffer state which is governed by the kushanshahs. They replace the Kushan nobility as the holders of power in the east. kushanshah coins, initially issued mainly to the north of the Hindu Kush, are also soon to be found to the south in the Begram/Kapiśa area alongside issues by Kushan King Vasishka, suggesting a period of competition between the two sides in this region.

The coming of the Sassanids as replacements for the Parthians meant an entirely new and more vigourous empire being created in the north-western borders of Saka-controlled lands

With the next kushanshah, Pēroz I, the kushanshahs start to displace the later Kushans from Gandhara, confining them to Mathura in northern India, where they are reduced to local princes.

c.245 - c.270

Pēroz I

First of cadet branch of Sassanids called kushanshahs.

c.270 - c.295

Hormazd / Hormizd I

Possibly Sassanid ruler (272-273), but unlikely.


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.

In fact a great shift occurs in kushanshah authority under the rule of Hormazd I. While his early gold issues from Balkh refer to him as 'Hormazd, the Great Kushan King', later issues of gold denars from the same mint switch the king's title to 'Hormazd, the Great Kushan King of Kings'.

The change in title is also a significant change in kushanshah political ideology, and perhaps a direct affront to the 'imperial' Sassanid line. It is safe to assume that, during the time of Hormazd I, the kushanshahs assume a new level of independence from the main Sassanid line. Hormazd's successor is someone who may later be a Sassanid king himself, signifying - perhaps - a re-imposition of more direct Sassanid control over the east.

Old Kandahar / Alexandria in Arachosia
The ruins of Old Kandahar in Harahuwatish to the north of Gadara served as the regional centre for the Persians, and therefore for Satrap Bagabadush of Harahuwatish and Gadara

c.295 - c.300

Hormazd / Hormizd II

Probably the later Sassanid ruler (302-309).

c.300 - c.325

Pēroz II

Began to assert independent control.


With Peroz II beginning to pull away from Sassanid control, a Sassanid ruler by the name of Shapur divides the realm, assuming direct control of the southern areas of what is now Afghanistan (and also Merv in modern Turkmenistan, Herat in Aria, 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 (confusingly) bears the same name.

c.325 - c.350

Varhran / Wahram / Warahran I

In the north only.

Varhran is the last kushanshah in Tokharistan and is also a contemporary of Sassanid ruler Shapur II. Varhran's grip over the kushanshah territories on both sides of the Hindu Kush is greatly threatened, and it is not long before his realm and power falls to the incoming Kidarites and the expanding reach of Sassanid central power. The control of Gandhara by Shapur II - known through the issue of his copper denomination there - appears to be a side effect of the increased Sassanid interest in the east.

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.350 - c.400

Varhran / Wahram / Warahran II

Vassal of the Sassanids.

c.350 - c.400

Peroz III

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


There is no evidence of any Kushans after Kipunada. Having been subjugated by the Gupta kings, the rump eastern Kushan state is soon conquered by the invading Kidarites. They, in turn, claim to be the rightful successors of the Kushans and kushanshahs.

Any possible survivors in the west are probably displaced by the Hephthalites. This is the next wave of barbarians to invade the territory of the kushanshahs, where they conquer former Bactria and Gandhara to form their own kingdom.


Bactrian legends on the Kidarite coins which are issued around this period declare them to represent the 'King of the Kushan'. The Kidarites consider themselves to be the continuation of rule by Kushans and kushanshahs.

A coin type which shows the king in frontal view and wearing a crown with ram's horn has a legend in Brahmi declaring the authority to be 'Sa Piroysa', meaning 'King Peroz'. This is most likely the Peroz III of Gandhara, the potential rival to Sassanid rule, but possibly only a puppet of the Kidarites.

Kidarite coins
The Kidarites swept into eastern Iran and Tokharistan in the mid-fifth century AD, and by the end of the century they and the other Xionite groups were heavily involved in conquering areas of north-western India, which is where this Kidarite bronze obol with a scorpion was found (in the Kashmir Smast caves)

c.400 - c.410

Varhran / Wahram / Warahran 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 under the authority of the viceroy in Tokharistan, 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.

Until then the vast region of Khorasan which is created during the arrival of the Islamic empire begins to form a distinctive division in the form of Southern Khorasan. It is this which replaces the name of Arachosia and those of parts of other ancient regions in the collective consciousness.

Map of Central Asia and India AD 500
By the late 400s the eastern sections of the Sassanid empire had been overrun and to an extent occupied by the Hephthalites (Xionites) after they had killed Shah Peroz (click or tap on map to view full sized)

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