Greek and Persian Invasions to India

In 530 BCE Cyrus the Great, King of the Persian Achaemenid Empire crossed the Hindu-Kush mountains to seek tribute from the tribes of Kamboja, Gandhara and the trans-India region (modern Afghanistan and Pakistan). By 520 BCE, during the reign of Darius I of Persia, much of the north-western Indian subcontinent (present-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan) came under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, as part of the far easternmost territories. The area remained under Persian control for two centuries. During this time India supplied mercenaries to the Persian army for the Second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE). Under Persian rule the famous University of Ancient Taxila became a centre where both Vedic and Achaemenid learning were mingled. Persian ascendency in North-western South Asia ended with Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia in 327 BCE.

Alexander Invasion of India

By 326 BCE, Alexander the Great had conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire and had reached the northwest frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. There he defeated King Porus in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the Punjab. Alexander's march east put him in confrontation with the Nanda Empire of Magadha and the Gangaridai of Bengal. His army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing larger Indian armies at the Ganges River, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas River) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, and after learning about the might of the Nanda Empire, was convinced that it was better to return.

The Persian and Greek invasions had repercussions in the north-western regions of the Indian subcontinent. The region of Gandhara, or present-day eastern Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan, became a melting pot of Indian, Persian, Central Asian, and Greek cultures and gave rise to a hybrid culture, Greco-Buddhism, which lasted until the 5th century CE and influenced the artistic development of Mahayana Buddhism.
Indian Warriors (Gandharian Style)


The Indian campaign of Alexander the Great began in 326 BC. After conquering the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, the Macedonian king (and now the great king of the Persian Empire), Alexander, launched a campaign into the Indian subcontinent, part of which formed the easternmost territories of the Achaememid Empire following the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley (6th century BC). The rationale for this campaign is usually said to be Alexander's desire to conquer the entire known world, which the Greeks thought ended in India.

After gaining control of the former Achaemenid satrapy of Gandhara, including the city of Taxila, Alexander advanced into Punjab, where he engaged in battle against the regional king Porus, whom Alexander defeated in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, but was so impressed by the demeanor with which the king carried himself that he allowed Porus to continue governing his own kingdom as a satrap. Subsequently, Alexander's army mutinied at the Beas River, which caused Alexander to turn south, advancing through southern Punjab and Sindh, along the way conquering more tribes along the lower Indus River, before finally turning westward.

Alexander's Troops Returning From India


After the death of Spitamenes and his marriage to Roxana (Raoxshna in Old Iranian) in 326 BC to cement his relations with his new Central Asian satrapies, Alexander was finally free to turn his attention to India. For Alexander, the invasion of India was a natural consequence of his subjugation of the Achaemenid Empire, as the areas of the Indus valley had long been under Achaemenid control, since the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley circa 515 BCE. Alexander was only taking possession of territories which he had obtained from the Achaemenids, and now considered rightfully his own.

Alexander invited all the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara, to come to him and submit to his authority. Ambhi (Greek: Omphis), ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Jhelum (Greek: Hydaspes), complied. At the end of the spring of 327 BC, Alexander started on his Indian expedition leaving Amyntas behind with 3,500 horse and 10,000 foot soldiers to hold the land of the Bactrians.

Battle of Hydaspes

The Battle of the Hydaspes River was fought by Alexander in July 326 BC against king Raja Purushottama (Poros) on the Hydaspes River (Jhelum River) in the Punjab, near Bhera. The Hydaspes was the last major battle fought by Alexander. The main train went into what is now modern-day Pakistan through the Khyber Pass, but a smaller force under the personal command of Alexander went via the northern route, resulting in the Siege of Aornos along the way. In early spring of the next year, he combined his forces and allied with Taxiles (also Ambhi), the King of Taxila, against his neighbor, the King of Hydaspes.

Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with his general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus while he led the rest of his forces back to Persia by the southern route through the Gedrosian Desert (now part of southern Iran) and Makran (now part of Pakistan). In crossing the desert, Alexander's army took enormous casualties from hunger and thirst, but fought no human enemy. They encountered the "Fish Eaters", or Ichthyophagi, primitive people who lived on the Makran coast of the Arabian Sea, who had matted hair, no fire, no metal, no clothes, lived in huts made of whale bones, and ate raw seafood obtained by beachcombing.[citation needed] During the crossing, Alexander refused as much water as possible, to share the sufferings of his men.

Ptolemy Coin - Alexander wearing Elephant Cap

In the territory of the Indus, Alexander nominated his officer Peithon as a satrap, a position he would hold for the next ten years until 316 BC, and in the Punjab he left Eudemus in charge of the army, at the side of the satrap Porus and Taxiles. Eudemus became ruler of a part of the Punjab after their death. Both rulers returned to the West in 316 BC with their armies. In 321 BC Chandragupta Maurya of Magadha, founded the Maurya Empire in India and conquered the Macedonian satrapies during the Seleucid–Mauryan war (305–303 BC).

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