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THE Scythian (Shaka) and Parthian (Pahlava) invaders of India are often mentioned in Sanskrit literature, and nearly always in association with each other and with the Yavanas. But, as this literature is not historical, we must turn to other sources to Greek and Chinese historians, to the inscriptions of Persia and India, and to coins for information as to their origin and their rule in India.

The Yavanas had come from Bactria over the Hindu Kush into the upper Kabul valley, and thence along the Kabul river into India by a route which has since been abandoned for that which now leads through the Khyber defile. It was formerly assumed that the Shakas came directly into India from the same region and by the same way. But this view is attended with difficulties which cannot be explained. In the first place, if the Shakas came through the Kabul valley, all traces of their invasion must be supposed to have disappeared from that region; for, among the many thousands of coins which were collected on its ancient sites at the time when the country was still open to archaeological investigation, the coins of the earliest Shaka kings are conspicuous by their absence; and secondly, it is certain that the Kabul valley remained in the possession of the Yavana princes of the house of Eucratides after the Yavana dominions in N.W. India on the eastern side of the Khyber Pass, that is to say, in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, had been conquered by the Shakas. Ingress from Bactria was therefore barred at this period.

The alternative suggestion that the Shakas may have come into India from their northern home in the country of the Jaxartes through Kashmir involves a physical impossibility. The geographical difficulties of this region are such that an invasion from this direction of tribal hordes or armies sufficiently powerful to overwhelm the Yavana kingdoms and to conquer the whole of the N.W. Frontier Province and the Punjab is inconceivable.

Any direct invasion from the north seems, in fact, to be out of the question. It is therefore far more probable, nay almost certain, that the Shakas reached India indirectly, and that, like the Pahlavas, they came through Ariana (W. and S. Afghanistan and Baluchistan) by the great highway, associated in modern times with the Bolan Pass, which led from the Parthian provinces of Drangiana (Seistan) and Arachosia (Kandahar) over the Brahui mountains into the country of the lower Indus (Sind). This route was well known and comparatively easy. By it Craterus had returned with that division of Alexander’s army which included the elephants.

The Scythian (Shaka) settlements, which can only have been the result of invasions along this route, gave to the region of the Indus delta the name 'Scythia' or 'Indo-Scythia' by which it was known to the Greek geographers, and the name 'Shaka-dvipa' or 'the river country of the Shakas' as it appears in Indian literature.

This region still continued to be governed by the Pahlavas, who are inseparably connected with the Shakas, at the end of the first century AD. There can be little doubt that Indo-Scythia was the base from which the Shaka and Pahlava armies moved up the valleys of the Indus and its tributaries to attack the Yavana kingdoms of the successors of Euthydemus and Eucratides.

In all ages the name 'Scythian' has been applied generally to the nomads inhabiting the northern regions of Europe and Asia; and, according to Herodotus , the term 'Saka,' as used by the Persians, was equally vague. In the cuneiform inscriptions of Darius it denotes no less than three different and widely separated settlements of Scythians. These, enumerated from east to west, have been identified as follows :

(1) The Saka Tigrakhauda, 'wearers of pointed helmets.' They are so described by Herodotus, who states that they were included together with their neighbours, the Bactrians, in the army of Xerxes. They were therefore the Shakas whose home was in the country of the river Jaxartes (the Syr Daria).

(2) The Saka Haumavarka, who have been identified with the Shaka settlers in the Persian province of Drangiana, the country of the river Helmand, which was afterwards known as Shakasthana, 'the abode of the Shakas,' the later Persian Sijistan and the modern Seistan.

(3) The Saka Taradaraya, or 'the Shakas over the sea '; that is to say, the Scythians of Europe who inhabited the steppes of Russia to the north of the Black Sea.

These three settlements are no doubt merely specimens of the larger deposits left by the waves of Scythian migration which may be traced back in history to about the middle of the eighth century B.C. The flood had now for some three and a half centuries been held in check by the barrier maintained in Bactria, first by the Achaemenid kings of Persia and afterwards by the successors of Alexander. But the strength of Bactria had been sapped by foreign and domestic strife, and it was no longer capable of resisting the pressure of barbarian hordes on the frontier.

Migration of the Tueh-chi

The initial impulse of the tribal movements, which were destined to overwhelm Greek civilisation in the Oxus country, and to determine the history of N. India for many centuries to come, may be traced to an incident in the turbulent history of the Huns, against whose inroads the Chinese emperors had protected themselves by building the Great Wall.

In the neck of country between the Great Wall and the mountains which forms part of the province of Kan-su, lived a people known to Chinese historians as the Yueh-chi. Being attacked and defeated by the Huns, c. 165 B.C., the Yueh-chi were driven from their country, and began a westward migration which necessarily brought them into conflict with other nomads, and produced a general condition of unrest among the tribes inhabiting the northern fringe of the deserts of Chinese Turkestan.

The pressure caused by the steady onward movement of Yueh-chi tribes, numbering probably from half a million to a million souls, forced before it other nomads, and set up a flood of migration which, after sweeping away the Yavana power in Bactria, was only stayed in its westward course by Parthia. Certain incidents in this migration, which must have extended over some thirty or forty years, are recorded by Chinese authors.

In the country of the Hi river, now called Kulja, the Yueh-chi came upon a tribe called the Wu-sun. The Wu-sun were routed, and their king was slain; and the Yueh-chi continued their journey westwards towards the Issyk-kul Lake in the country which was until recently Russian Turkestan. Here they appear to have divided themselves into two bands the one, afterwards known as the Little Yueh-chi, going southwards and settling on the borders of Tibet, and the other, the Great Yueh-chi, continuing their movement to the west until they came into contact with a people whom the Chinese called Sse (Sai) or Sek, and who are probably to be identified with the Shakas of the Jaxartes. The Yueh-chi took possession of the country of the Shakas; and the Shakas being driven to the south-west occupied the country of the Ta-hia or Bactria.

The immediate cause of the downfall of Greek rule in Bactria would therefore seem to have been an overwhelming invasion of Shaka hordes who had been driven from their own lands. The native inhabitants of Bactria, the Ta-hia or Dahae, are represented as an unwarlike people living in towns and villages which were governed by their own magistrates. The state of society described is such as prevailed also in India : it is a society made up of local groups self-governed and self-contained. In the case of such communities the military conquest of a country merely determines the landlord to whom the customary dues must be paid. It is probable that for a brief period Qaka warrior chiefs took the place of Eucratides and Heliocles as rulers of the Ta-hia.

Such would appear to have been the state of affairs when the Chinese envoy in 126 BC visited the Yueh-chi and found them still in the territories to the north of the Oxus from which they had expelled the Shakas. The political conditions then existing were in a transient stage of unstable equilibrium. They were the outcome of a disturbance of peoples which began in far distant China nearly forty years before. But the movement had not yet completed its course: it was resumed in consequence of an attack on the Yueh-chi.

The infant son of the Wu-sun king, who was slain by the Yueh-chi in their earlier conflict, had been adopted by the Huns; and when the boy grew up to manhood and became king of the Wu-sun, he with the aid of his protectors led an expedition against the Yueh-chi and drove them into the country south of the Oxus. The result must necessarily have been a further dispersal of the Shakas. A concise summary of events is given in the Chinese encyclopaedia of Ma-twan-lin :

"In ancient times the Hiung-nu having defeated the Yueh-chi, the latter went to the west to dwell among the Ta-hia, and the king of the Sai' (Shakas) went southwards to live in Ki-pin. The tribes of the Sai divided and dispersed, so as to form here and there different kingdoms". (Translated from Remusat, Nouveaux Melanges Asiatiques)

This account is supplemented in the Annals of the Han Dynasty which state that the Shaka king became the lord of Ki-pin.

The Shaka Invasion

The summary records the complete annihilation of Shaka rule in Bactria. The king himself becomes king in Ki-pin a geographical term which is used in various senses by Chinese writers, but which, in this case, would most naturally mean Kapisha (Kafiristan); and the tribes formerly under his command are dispersed. There is no indication that any considerable body of Shakas accompanied their king to Ki-pin. The main movement, impeded by the Yavana power in Kabul, would naturally be westwards in the direction of Herat and thence southwards to Seistan. The tide of Scythian invasion had no doubt been flowing in these directions since the time when the Shakas were first expelled from their territory beyond the Jaxartes by the Yueh-chi; for there is good evidence to show that the earlier Scythian settlements in Iran were reinforced about the time when the Shakas first occupied Bactria.

The kings of Parthia who now held eastern Iran were engaged during two reigns (Phraates II, 138-128 BC, and Artabanus I, 128-123) in unsuccessful struggles with their Scythian subjects; and the contest was only decided in favor of Parthia in the reign of the next monarch, Mithradates II the Great (123-88). Parthia had now taken the place of Bactria as the barrier which impeded the westward course of migrations from upper Asia. But the stream of invasion was only diverted into another channel : checked in Ariana, it forced its way along the line of least resistance into the country of the lower Indus (Indo-Scythia). The Shaka invasion of India, like the invasion of the Huns (Hunas) between five and six centuries later, was but an episode in one of those great movements of peoples which have so profoundly influenced the history not only of India, but also of Western Asia and Europe.

On a few of their coins, generally imitated from those of their Yavana predecessors the Shaka and Pahlava kings repeat the Greek royal title 'King' or ' Great King'; but their normal style is 'Great King of Kings', a title which is distinctively Persian. It has a long history from the Kshayathiyanam Kshdyathiya of the inscriptions of Darius down to the Shahan Shah of the present day. Like the Indian Chakravartin, 'the wielder of the discus', the Persian 'King of Kings' was the supreme monarch to whom other kings paid homage. In the Parthian empire the title was probably first assumed by Mithradates II the Great (123-88 BC) in imitation of his predecessors, the Achaemenids. It was in his reign that the struggle between the kings of Parthia and their Scythian subjects in eastern Iran was brought to a close and the suzerainty of Parthia over the ruling powers of Seistan and Kandahar confirmed.

In these subordinate governments Parthians (Pahlavas) and Scythians (Shakas) were so closely associated that it is not always possible to distinguish between them: the same family includes both Parthian and Scythian names. It is therefore little more than a convenient nomenclature which labels the princes of the family of Maues, who invaded the lower Indus valley, as Shakas, and those of the family of Vonones, who ruled over
Drangiana (Seistan) and Arachosia (Kandahar), as Pahlavas. The relation between Maues and Vonones is uncertain; but it is clear that their families were associated in a later generation.

It has been supposed that the introduction into India of the Persian and Parthian title, 'Great King of Kings', was the result of an actual conquest of N.W. India by Mithradates I; and a statement of the historian Orosius that this monarch conquered all the peoples between the Hydaspes and the Indus has been interpreted to mean that he extended the power of Parthia beyond the Indus as far as the Indian Hydaspes (the Jhelum). But to an author who is writing from the standpoint of Parthia, the expression 'between the Hydaspes and the Indus' must surely connote an extension from west to east from a Persian river to the great Indus which has so often in history been the boundary between Iran and India. Hydaspes is a Persian name, and the river mentioned in this passage is no doubt the Medus Hydaspes of Virgil. The theory of a conquest of N.W. India by Mithradates I would therefore seem to be founded on a misunderstanding
of the historian's statement. The invasion of India must be ascribed not to the Parthian emperors, but to their former feudatories in eastern Iran; not to the reign of Mithradates I, but to a period after the reign of Mithradates II, when the power of Parthia had declined and kingdoms once subordinate had become independent. The association to which the coins bear witness is not one between Parthia and eastern Iran, but between Iran and N.W. India. In fact, all through the period of Shaka and Pahlava rule the countries to the west and east of the Indus were governed by members of the same royal house. There were normally three contemporary rulers of royal rank a King of Kings associated with some junior member of his family in Iran, and a King of Kings in India; and the subordinate ruler in Iran usually became in due course King of Kings in India.

The Caka King of Kings

The assumption of the imperial title, 'King of Kings', by these Shaka and Pahlava suzerains is most significant as testifying, in a manner which cannot be mistaken, to the diminished power of Parthia at this period. In Parthia itself the title remained in abeyance during the interval from 88 to 57 BC which separates the reigns of Mithradates II and III; and in the meantime it was assumed not only by the Shaka king Maues in the East, but also, in the years 77-73, by Tigranes, king of Armenia, the great rival of Parthia in the West.

In eastern Iran the 'King of Kings' and the prince of his family who was associated with him in the government issued coins bearing the names of both the former in Greek on the obverse, and the latter in Kharoshthi on the reverse. Greek was the ordinary language of coins throughout the Parthian empire: it was not characteristic of any particular province. Kharoshthi, on the other hand, was, in eastern Iran, restricted to Arachosia (Kandahar). We may reasonably infer therefore from his Kharoshthi coin-legends that the viceroy governed this province in the upper valley of the Helmand and its tributaries. The other province, Drangiana (Seistan), was most probably under the direct rule of the suzerain.

In India the 'King of Kings' ruled with the aid of satraps and military governors. The first three Qaka suzerains who succeeded to the dominions of the Yavanas in the N.W. Frontier Province and the Punjab were Maues, Azes I, and Azilises. Their numerous coinages are, almost without exception, copied from those of their Yavana predecessors : and it is therefore probable that the coins represent only those districts of the Shaka realm which were formerly held by the Yavanas. The great variety of the types thus imitated indicates the wide extent of these territories; and the astonishing difference of style shown by coins struck in the same reign proves that the art of different regions varied enormously at the same period. The best coins belong no doubt to Gandhara (Pushkalavati and Takshashila). Inferior workmanship is a sign of remoteness from this region rather than of a late date, as the numismatists have commonly assumed.

It was in Gandhara that the Graeco-Buddhist school of art, the outcome of a fusion of Greek and Indian ideals and methods, grew up and flourished, but it was not until the end of the first century AD that this school reached its highest state as seen in the religious sculptures of the Kushanas. Its beginnings are no doubt to be traced in the coins of an earlier date, and such beginnings were naturally progressive. The finest coins of Maues, for instance, are excelled by those of Azilises two reigns later. The early date, viz. c. 120 BC, which is usually assigned to Maues entirely on grounds of style and on the gratuitous assumption that art was retrogressive from the time of the Yavanas onwards, cannot therefore be maintained. It is far more probable that he invaded India after the end of the reign of Mithradates II (123-88 B.C.) when Parthia ceased to exercise any real control over Seistan and Kandahar.

The precise date of Maues cannot at present be determined. He is undoubtedly to be identified with the Great King Moga, who is mentioned in the Takshashila copper-plate inscription of the satrap Patika. The inscription is dated in the reign of Maues and in the year 78 of some unspecified era. None of the known Indian eras seems to be possible in this case; and it may not unreasonably be suggested that the Shakas, like other foreign invaders at all periods, may have brought with them into India their own system of reckoning, and that this may be the era used in Seistan. The month in the inscription is Parthian; and from this fact it may be inferred that the era itself is probably of Parthian origin. It may possibly mark the establishment of the new kingdom in Seistan after its incorporation into the Parthian empire by Mithradates I, c. 150 BC. If so, the date of the inscription would be c. 72 BC, a year which may well have fallen in the reign of Maues.

The coins of Maues are copied from those struck by princes of both the Yavana houses. The numismatic evidence combined with that of the Takshashila copper-plate indicates that he conquered Gandhara Pushkalavati to the west of the Indus as well as Takshashila to the east and it is possible that he may have invaded the Yavana dominions in the eastern Punjab. But it is clear that in the direction last mentioned the Shaka conquests failed to reach their limit during his reign. For a time the remnants of the two Yavana houses in the upper Kabul valley and in the eastern Punjab seem to have been separated by the Shaka dominions which lay between them in the valley of the Indus.

The Date of Azes I

The evidence for this is supplied by the coins of Azes I and Azilises, who not only continue the issues of Maues, but also strike a number of additional types which are manifestly borrowed from those of the Yavana princes whose kingdoms they conquered. The most noteworthy of these is the rev. type 'Athene Promachos' which is characteristic of the families of Apollodotus and Menander in the eastern Punjab. It appears on coins of Azes I, but not on those of Maues. Such additional types bear witness to a considerable extension of the Shaka dominions, and seem to indicate that after the reign of Maues the house of Euthydemus was extinguished and Yavana rule in the Punjab brought to an end. The house of Eucratides, now probably represented by its last king, Hermaeus, still continued for a while to hold the upper Kabul valley the base from which the Yavana power had first extended to Arachosia and to India.

To Azes I has been attributed the foundation of the Vikrama era beginning in 58 BC, and, according to Sir John Marshall, an inscription discovered by him at Takshashila is actually dated 'in the year 136 of Azes.' This interpretation may well be correct, in spite of the tradition that this era was founded by King Vikramaditya of Ujjain to commemorate the defeat of the Shakas; and, whatever may have been the origin of this era, the assignment of the reign of Azes I to this period is justified by other considerations. It is consistent with the date ascribed independently to his predecessor, Maues (c. 75 BC), and with the date of his third successor on the throne, Gondopharnes, who almost certainly began to rule in 19 AD; and it is supported by evidence drawn from the epigraphy of the Greek coin-legends.

On the earlier coins of the Yavanas and on those of the first Shaka king, Maues, the round form of the Greek omicron only is found. On some of the later Yavana coins, e.g. those of Hippostratus, and on the coins of Azes I the square form, makes its appearance side by side with the round form. The same change took place in Parthia during the reign of Orodes I (57-38 BC). That at this period there was constant communication between Parthia and India there can be no doubt. It is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that this epigraphical change is due to a fashion which spread from one country to the other, and that the occurrence of the square omicron on a Parthian or Indian coin is an indication that its date is not earlier than c. 40 B.C. Judged by this test, the Yavana king, Hippostratus, must have continued to reign after the death of Maues; and he must have been contemporary with the successor of Maues, Azes I, who restruck his coins and continued to use some of his most distinctive monograms, no doubt after the conquest of his kingdom.

There is no reason to question the almost unanimous opinion of numismatists that Azes I was succeeded by Azilises; but there was certainly a period in which these two kings were associated in the government. On some coins which they issue conjointly both bear the Imperial style, 'Great King of Kings'; but Azes I, as the elder, occupies the place of honor on the obverse with its Greek legend. On other coins, however, the same two names appear with the same titles, but with a change of position Azilises occupying the obverse with a Greek legend, and Azes the reverse with a Kharoshthi legend; and, as degrees of dignity or seniority are undoubtedly indicated by these positions in similar instances, it has been inferred that Azilises was associated with two kings named Azes possibly with his father and predecessor at the beginning of his reign and with his son and successor at its close. The existence of a second Azes might well be questioned if it could be proved by no more cogent argument than this. But the coins which bear the name show so great a diversity of style that, from this fact alone, numismatists have suspected that they must have been struck by more than one king; and, if our system of chronology be correct, the Azes who succeeded Maues in 58 BC cannot possibly have been the Azes who was succeeded by Gondopharnes in 19 AD.

At some time during the period when the first three Shaka kings were establishing their empire in India, Vonones was reigning as suzerain over the kingdoms of eastern Iran with the same imperial title, 'Great King of Kings'. It is inconceivable that such a dignity should have been usurped in this region so long as it remained under the suzerainty of Parthia. Vonones, like Maues, must, therefore, be later than the reign of Mithradates II the Great (123-88 B.C.) precisely how much later must for the present remain uncertain.


The two classes of coins which bear his name are distinguished respectively by the type of Demetrius, 'Heracles standing', and the type of Heliocles, 'Zeus standing'. They were issued presumably in districts of Arachosia which were once under the sway of these Yavana kings. Their Greek legends show the round form of omicron which, in some other cases, indicates a date earlier than c. 40 BC; but it appears that this epigraphical test cannot be applied in this particular instance, since the square form seems not to occur in connexion with these types until much later. The most trustworthy evidence as to the date of Vonones is supplied by the coins of Spalirises, 'the king's brother'. If 'the king', who is not named, was Vonones himself, as is usually assumed, the earlier coins of Spalirises, i.e. those struck by him before he became suzerain of eastern Iran in succession to Vonones, may perhaps afford a valuable historical indication.

There are two classes of these, both of them issued in the district in which the type of Heliocles, 'Zeus standing', prevailed. In the first, Spalirises appears alone as 'the king's brother' without any distinctly royal title. In the second, he as senior (Greek legend) is associated with Azes as junior (Kharoshthi legend), both of them bearing the subordinate or viceregal title 'Great King'. Vonones was evidently still reigning as Great King of Kings at this time. The relationship of Azes to Spalirises is not expressed in the Kharoshthi legend; and in such cases it seems to be assumed that the junior is the son of the senior: otherwise, i.e. when the junior is a brother or a nephew, the relationship is stated. We may conclude, then, that this Azes was most probably the son of Spalirises and the nephew of Vonones, and we may identify him with Azes II who afterwards became suzerain of N.W. India and ended his reign in 19 AD.

Vonones was at least a generation earlier; that is to say, he appears to have been contemporary with Azilises and possibly with Azes I. Until more definite evidence can be discovered, he may be supposed to have begun his reign c. 30 BC. It seems impossible, therefore, to identify him with Vonones I of Parthia (8-11 AD). The family of Vonones is one in which the two ruling elements of eastern Iran have been blended.

The name of Vonones himself is distinctly Parthian ; but the names of his brothers, Spalahores and Spalirises, and of his brothers' sons, Spalagadames and Azes, are Scythian. For the sake of convenience we may call this family 'Pahlava', in order to distinguish it from the better known 'Parthian' dynasty of Ctesiphon, although in reality the two terms are etymologically identical.

A characteristic feature of the coins of Vonones and his family is, as we have seen, the association of the Great King of Kings with the viceroy of Arachosia, whose relationship to the suzerain is sometimes expressed in the Kharoshthi legend of the reverse. Thus Vonones ruled conjointly with his brother, Spalahores, and with his nephew Spalagadames, the son of Spalahores . If we may assume with Mr Whitehead that the Scythian name, Spalahores (Shpalahora) appears in a Greek guise as Spalyris, this brother of Vonones and his son also ruled conjointly as viceroys over the district of Arachosia in which coins bearing the type of Euthydemus, 'Heracles seated', were current. This district had formerly been under the direct government of the Great King of Kings, Azilises.

The rev. type of the coins which Spalirises issued as the successor of Vonones in the suzerainty of eastern Iran is 'Zeus enthroned'; and, as it is evidently borrowed from the coins of Hermaeus, it may perhaps be interpreted as an indication that the kingdom of Kabul had now passed from the Yavanas to the Pahlavas. If so, it would appear that this last stronghold of Yavana power had yielded to an invasion of the Pahlavas of Kandahar. The types of these coins of Spalirises are sometimes found restruck on coins of Vonones as if they were intended for circulation in a newly conquered territory.

The family of Vonones may thus be reconstructed from the numismatic evidence :






(end of reign 19 AD)

The Satraps

The coins and inscriptions of the satraps of Shaka suzerains of N.W. India enable us to suplu a few additional outlines of the history before the christian era. The names of a considerable number of these provincial administrators are known; but it must suffice here to mention only those whose date and province can be determined approximately.

In the satrapal system of government a Great Satrap was associated with a Satrap, usually his son, who succeeded to the higher dignity in due course. The earliest recorded ruler of this kind is Liaka Kusulaka, who, according to the Takshashila copperplate inscription of the year 78 (= c. 72 BC?), was satrap of Chhahara and Chukhsa, districts which have not been identified, but which were presumably in the neighborhood of Takshashila. His coins were imitated from those of Eucratides. His son, Patika, who made the deposit of relics which is commemorated by the inscription, bore no title at that time; but there can be little doubt that he must have succeeded his father first as satrap and afterwards as great satrap. His name with the higher title is among those inscribed on the Mathura Lion-Capital (c. 30 BC?).

This remarkable monument of the rule of the Shakas in the south-eastern extremity of their dominions was discovered at Mathura by an Indian scholar, Pandit Bhagvanlal Indraji, in 1869, and was bequeathed by him to the British Museum on his death in 1888. It is of the local red sandstone, and represents two lions reclining back to back and facing in the same direction. Its style is strikingly Iranian. The capital must originally have surmounted a pillar, and must itself have supported some religious emblem; but its purpose had long ago been forgotten; and when it was discovered it was built into the steps of an altar devoted to the worship of Shitala, the goddess of small-pox. The Kharoshthi inscriptions with which the surface is completely covered associate in the religious merit of the foundation the donor herself (the Chief Queen of the Great Satrap Rajula) and all the members of her family together with certain contemporary satraps governing other provinces of the Qaka realm and other eminent personages of the time. The Great Satrap Rajula, whose name appears as Rajuvula in other inscriptions, is unquestionably the Ranjubula who, both as satrap and as great satrap, struck coins in imitation of those of Strato I and Strato II, the last of the Yavana kings to reign in the E. Punjab; and he was the father of Shodasa in whose reign as satrap the monument was erected. Subsequently Shodasa himself appears as great satrap on the Amohini votive tablet at Mathura, which is dated in the second month of Winter of the year 42. As the month is thus recorded in an Indian style, the era must probably also be Indian; and if, as seems likely, it is the era of Azes (58 BC), we may conclude that Shodasa was great satrap in 17-16 BC.

Among the names of contemporary Shaka governors mentioned in the inscriptions of the Lion Capital is found that of Patika, now a great satrap, who during the reign of Maues made the benefaction recorded in the Takshagila copper-plate (year 78 of the era of Seistan = c. 72 B.C.?). At that time he was a private individual without any official title. It may be assumed that in due course he succeeded his father in the administration of Chhahara and Chukhsa. When the Lion Capital was inscribed, he was a great satrap and contemporary with the Great Satrap Ranjubula (Rajula) of Mathura. If a period of about forty years may be allowed for his whole official career, the date of the Lion Capital may be given provisionally as c. 30 BC; and we may tabulate the chronology of the two satrapal families as follows :

Chhahara and Chukhsa


Great Satraps


Great Satraps


c. 72 B.C.





c. 30 B.C.




16 B.C.



In that portion of Pahlava history which comes after the Christian era, the period of the reign of Gondopharnes may be regarded as almost definitely fixed. The date of its beginning appears to be certain; and it is certain also that it lasted for at least 26 years. The evidence for this is supplied by a monument of this king's rule in the Peshawar District commonly known as the Takht-i-Bahi inscription. It is dated in the 26th year of the king's reign, and on the 5th day of the month Vaigakha in the year 103. There can be little doubt that the era is the Vikrama samvat which began in 58 BC, and that, therefore, Gondopharnes began to reign in 19 AD and was still reigning in 45 AD.

The Strategoi

The king's name is unquestionably Pahlava (Parthian), for the various forms in which it appears on the coins are merely attempts to render local pronunciations of the Persian Vindapharna, 'the winner of glory', in Greek letters. Many of his types are continued from the money of his predecessors, and, like them, may be traced back to Yavana originals. They seem to indicate that he succeeded to the dominions of the Pahlavas and Shakas both in eastern Iran and in N.W. India. That he ruled also in the Kabul valley, which was probably annexed before his reign, appears to be shown by the large numbers of his coins which were found on its ancient sites by Masson and other explorers at the time when such exploration was still possible.

Coins show also that his immediate predecessor on the throne was Azes II; for the two monarchs are associated with the same strategos or 'commander-in-chief', Aspavarman, son of Indravarman.

The Greek title strategos, which is the equivalent of the Indian senapati, 'lord of the army', was inherited by the Shakas and Pahlavas from the Yavanas. Aspavarman is a representative of the Shaka military chiefs who are repeatedly mentioned in the inscriptions of Western India in the second century AD, when this region was governed by Shaka satraps. The names ending in -varman and -datta show that they had become Hinduised, and claimed to be Kshatriyas. To this class belongs the Shaka Ushavadata (Rishabhadatta), the brother-in-law of Nahapana. On the coins of Gondopharnes and on those of his successor, Pacores, we find the name of another of these military governors, Sasas, who no doubt succeeded Aspavarman as commander-inchief. The sequence of the strategoi thus affords valuable evidence for the order of succession of their sovereigns and for the chronology of the period. Two generations of these military chiefs Aspavarman and his nephew, Sasas, held office during the reigns of Azes II, Gondopharnes, and Pacores, and for a period which began before 19 AD and ended after 45 AD.

But before he succeeded Azes II as Great King of Kings in India, Gondopharnes had also succeeded him as viceroy of Arachosia. In this subordinate rule he was at one time associated, under the suzerainty of Orthagnes, with Guda or Gudana (Gudana) who may perhaps have been his brother. The coins, on which Orthagnes still appears as chief ruler but with Gudana alone as his subordinate, must no doubt be assigned to the period after Gondopharnes had succeeded Azes II in the sovereignty of N.W. India.

The name of Orthagnes is Pahlava. It is of Persian origin, and the Greek equivalent of Verethragna, 'the Victorious'. The type 'Victory' on his coins may be an allusion either to an actual victory or to the king's name. It is used also by Vonones I of Parthia (8-11 AD) whose name has a similar meaning Vanana, 'the Conqueror'; but in this case it would seem undoubtedly to refer to the victory over Artabanus.

Most of the coins which Gondopharnes struck either alone or together with his nephew, Abdagases, and all of those which he struck in association with his commanders in-chief, Aspavarman and Sasas, bear the symbol $ which is so characteristic of his rule that it is usually called by his name; and, as this symbol is found countermarked on coins of the Parthian kings Orodes I (57-38 BC) and Artabanus III (10-40 AD), it is not improbable that Gondopharnes may have conquered some of the Parthian dominions. There can be little doubt that under his sway the Pahlava power attained its height; and it appears probable that this power was now controlled by a single suzerain who reigned supreme over both eastern Iran and N.W. India; for the coins of Gondopharnes bear the types both of Orthagnes and of Azes II, and seem to show therefore that he had succeeded to the dominions of both of these suzerains.


The name of Gondopharnes, and possibly those of two princes of his family, Guda and Abdagases, have been preserved in connection with the legends of St Thomas in the literature of the early Christian church. The apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas the Apostle, which contains an account of the ministry of St Thomas in India, exists in Syriac, Greek, and Latin versions; and of these the earliest, the Syriac, is supposed to date from before the middle of the third century AD. The story, as told in this version, begins :

"And when all the Apostles had been for a time in Jerusalem they divided the countries among them, in order that each one of them might preach in the region which fell to him and in the place to which his Lord sent him. And India fell by lot and division to Judas Thomas (or the Twin) the Apostle. And he was not willing to go, saying : 'I have not strength enough for this, because I am weak. And I am a Hebrew : how can I teach the Indians?'. And whilst Judas was reasoning thus, our Lord appeared to him in a vision of the night, and said to him : 'Fear not, Thomas, because My grace is with thee'. But he would not be persuaded at all, saying : 'Whithersoever You will, our Lord, send me; only to India I will not go'. And as Judas was reasoning thus, a certain merchant, an Indian, happened (to come) into the south country from -?, whose name was Habban; and he was sent by the king Gudnaphar, that he might bring to him a skilful carpenter". (Trans. Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles)

Because of the unwillingness of St Thomas, our Lord appears, and, claiming him as His servant, sells him to the merchant Habban for twenty pieces of silver; and St Thomas journeys with Habban to the court of King Gondopharnes, who orders him to build a palace. St Thomas spends the money of the king in acts of charity to build a palace not made with hands, immortal in the heavens; and the disappointed king casts St Thomas and the merchant into prison. While they are lying there, Gad, the king's brother, dies, and being carried by the angels to heaven is shown the heavenly palace which St Thomas had built by his good works. Gad is restored to life; and in the sequel both Gondopharnes and Gad are converted.

There can be no question that Gudnaphar, who is definitely called 'the king of India' is to be identified with Gondopharnes; and Gad, 'the brother of the king' may possibly be the Guda or Gudana, who is associated with him on coins. The legend of St Thomas has thus been furnished with an historical setting which is chronologically possible. The fact of St Thomas's visit to the court of Gondopharnes may be doubted; but the story remains to show that the fame of this king had spread to the West. A still more distant echo of his name, transmitted through its Armenian form Gathaspar, has been recognised by von Gutschmid in Gaspar, the traditional name of the first of the three wise men who, according to the Gospel story, came from the East to worship Christ at His nativity.

Another apocryphal work, the Evangelium Ioannis de obitu Mariae gives the name Labdanes to the sister's son of a king to whom St Thomas went. So far as the form is concerned, Labdanes may well be a corruption of Abdagases in the manuscripts; but the identification of the two names is far from certain. The name of the king is not mentioned: he may have been either Gondopharnes or Mazdai, whom St Thomas also visited, and under whom he suffered martyrdom; and moreover the Abdagases of the coin-legends is the brother's son, not the sister's son, of Gondopharnes.

As none of the coin-legends of Abdagases bear the imperial title, there is no evidence that he reigned independently at any time. The types suggest that he ruled as the viceroy of Gondopharnes in Iran (Seistan and Kandahar).

There can be no doubt that, soon after the reign of Gondopharnes, the Pahlava power in India came to an end. Some stages in the disintegration of the empire are clearly reflected in the coinage.

The successor of Gondopharnes was Pacores. His coins show that he was undoubtedly suzerain in Iran; for they bear the imperial title together with the type 'Victory' which was first issued by Orthagnes; and his portrait, combined on coins found at Takshashila with the symbol of Gondopharnes and the legend of the commander-in-chief, Sasas, proves that he exercised at least a nominal sway in India. The types of another king, Sanabares, with their purely Greek legend, must be attributed to Seistan. There is no evidence of his rule either in Kandahar or India.

The passing of Pahlava rule in eastern Gandhara (Takshashila) is illustrated by the remarkable hoard of 21 small silver coins, which was found by Sir John Marshall in an earthern jar on the ancient site of Sirkap. The coins belong to four distinct classes, all hitherto unknown two belonging to the reign of Gondopharnes, and one each to the reigns of Pacores and V'ima Kadphises. The first two classes bear the portrait and the symbol of Gondopharnes, with the names respectively of Sapedana and Satavastra and the style 'Great King, King of Kings', which is only one degree inferior to the most lofty title assumed by Gondopharnes, viz. 'Great King, Supreme King of Kings'. Such a style can only mean that, even in the reign of Gondopharnes, the allegiance of the governors to the suzerain was becoming merely nominal.

The third class has the portrait of Pacores and the symbol of Gondopharnes combined with the legend of Sasas, who uses the subordinate title, 'Great King', and is described as 'the brother's son of Aspa'' There can be no doubt that this Aspa must be the strategos Aspavarman, who held office in the reigns of Azes II and Gondopharnes. During the reign of Gondopharnes he was succeeded by his nephew, Sasas, who was governor of Takshashila in the reign of Pacores. The line of strategoi was no doubt continued under the suzerainty of the Kushanas. It is apparently represented by the coins which bear the title, 'The Great Saviour', and which were formerly attributed to 'the unknown king.'

Vima Kadphises

The fourth class marks the transition from Pahlava to Kushana rule in Gandhara. The coins show the protrait of the Kushana conqueror, Vima Kadphises, wearing the conical headdress which distinguishes him, while the legend describes him as 'Great King, Supreme King of Kings, the Kushana Chief'. The chronological limits of the period covered by these coins are clear. Gondopharnes was reigning in the year 45 AD; and Vima Kadphises was reigning in the year 78 AD. Within these thirty-three years must be included (1) the latter part of the reign of Gondopharnes, (2) the reign of Pacores, and (3) some portion of the reign of Vima Kadphises.

The period of Vima Kadphises is determined by the evidence of a Kharoshthi inscription discovered by Sir John Marshall in the Chir Tope at Takshashila. The inscription is dated on the 5th day of the Indian month Ashadha in the year 136. If, as seems almost certain, the era is that which begins in 58 BC, this date would be equivalent to the year 77-8 AD, that is to say, the last year in the reign of Vima Kadphises, according to those scholars who hold that his successor, Kanishka, began to reign in 78 AD.

According to the interpretation of Sir John Marshall this inscription is actually dated in the era of Azes; for after the year comes the word ayasa which, on the coins, is the ordinaryKharoshthi equivalent of the Greek AZOY, 'of Azes'. He therefore translates : 'In the year 136 of Azes'. This view is probably correct; and, if so, the discovery is of great importance, as it determines the origin of the so-called Vikrama Era and fixes the beginning of the reign of Azes I in 58 BC. The bald designation of an era by a king's name without the accompaniment of any royal title has, however, appeared so strange to some scholars that they have displayed no slight ingenuity in their endeavours to find some alternative explanation of the word ayasa. But it is doubtful if any real difficulty exists. It must be remembered that the inscription belongs to a people that knew not Azes. His family had been deposed and deprived of all royal attributes. The throne of Takshashila had passed from the Shakas and Pahlavas to the Kushanas. Azes could scarcely have been furnished with his wonted title, 'Great King of Kings,' in this inscription, without prejudice to the house then actually reigning.

The monarch then ruling at Takshasila is described in the inscription as 'Great King, Supreme King of Kings, Son of the Gods, the Kushana (Khushana)'; and, although his personal name is not given, there is sufficient evidence to show that he is almost certainly to be identified with Vima Kadphises, the second king of the Kushana dynasty. His titles except for the substitution of the ordinary royal designation of the Kushanas, 'Son of the Gods', in place of 'Chief' - are identical with those which occur in the legend of the small silver coins bearing the portrait of Vima Kadphises; and the first two of these titles, inherited from the Pahlava kings, are included in the style usually assumed by this monarch on other coins. Moreover at the end of the inscription is affixed the symbol (the trishula or nandipada) which is likewise characteristic of the coins of Vima Kadphises.

We may conclude, therefore, that the Kushana Vima Kadphises was ruling over Takshashila as the successor of the Pahlava Pacores in 78 AD; and this year would appear to have been the last of his reign, since it is also most probably the first in the reign of his successor, Kanishka, and the starting point of the era used in the inscriptions of the later Kushana kings.

The Kushanas

The chronology of this period has been one of the most perplexing problems in the whole of Indian history; and the problem can scarcely be said to be solved positively even now; that is to say, it has not yet been placed beyond all possibility of doubt. But the evidence obtained by Sir John Marshall from his excavations of the ancient sites of Takshashila proves conclusively that the period of Kanishka's reign must have been somewhere about the end of the first century AD; and a comparison of this evidence with the statements of Chinese historians and with the dates supplied by inscriptions makes it seem almost certain that Kanishka was the founder of the well-known era which began in 78 AD.

Some outlines of the early history of the Kushana empire have been preserved by Chinese writers. From these it appears that the Yueh-chi, who drove the Shakas out of Bactria, consisted of five tribes, each governed by a prince bearing the Turkish title which is usually translated as 'Chief' - the yavuga of the coins. More than a hundred years after their settlement in Bactria, at a date which, according to Dr Franke, must lie between 25 and 81 AD and probably nearer to the first of these limits than to the second, the Chief of one of these tribes, the Kushanas, gained the supremacy over the Yueh-chi, and founded a united kingdom which became known by the name of his own tribe. Thus once more Bactria became the nursery of a great power which was destined to dominate N.W. India.

History repeated itself; and the Kushanas, like their predecessors, the Yavanas, speedily became masters of the adjacent territories lying to the south of the Hindu Kush, that is to say, the modern Southern Afghanistan, or the ancient provinces of the Paropanisadae (Kabul) and Arachosia (Kandahar). These first conquests were made, as the Chinese authorities state definitely, by the first Kushana monarch, who has been identified with Kujula Kadphises Kujula being no doubt a title, like the Kusulaka of the Qaka satrap, Liaka, and Kadphises the proper name; and, as they took place after 25 AD, they were made at the expense of the Pahlava suzerain, who was either Gondopharnes or Pacores. As other evidence will show, their date cannot be much later than the middle of the first century A.D. at the latest

Most of the coins of Kujula Kadphises show clearly both by their types and by their fabric that they were struck in the Kabul valley. They are imitated from the barbarous issues of that region which still continued to reproduce mechanically the legends with the name of the last Yavana king, Hermaeus, long after his death. They are found in enormous numbers beyond the limits of the Kabul valley in Takshashila, where the stratification of the objects discovered in the excavations proves unquestionably that, in that district, they are rather later than the coins of Gondopharnes.

At first sight the evidence of the finds would thus seem to show that Kujula Kadphises himself was later in date than Gondopharnes and that he was the actual conqueror of Taksasiila; but, since the coins in question manifestly come from the Kabul valley, we must suppose rather that they represent the ordinary currency of the Kushanas at the time when the invasion took place, and that they were introduced into Takshashila as large numbers of Sassanian coins were brought into the country of the lower Indus from Iran by the Hunas in the fifth century AD. It is, therefore, by no means impossible that Kujula Kadphises may have been not later than, but contemporary with, Gondopharnes; and there is no reason to doubt the statement of the Chinese writers that it was not Kujula Kadphises, but his son and successor, Vima Kadphises, who extended the dominions of the Kushanas from the Kabul valley to N.W. India.

That this extension had been completed before 64 AD appears certain from the evidence of an inscription which was discovered near Panjtar in the Yusufzai sub-division of the Peshawar District. It is dated on the first day of the month Shravana jn the year 122; and there can be no doubt that the era is the same as that which occurs in the Takht-i-Bahi inscription of Gondopharnes, that is to say, the era of Azes which began in 58 BC. The inscription was set up in the reign of a Kushana (Gushana) who is styled ' Great King'; but, as the personal name of this monarch is not given, he cannot be identified. If he was not Vima Kadphises himself, he was, as the subordinate title may perhaps indicate, most probably one of his viceroys and possibly the Kara Kadphises whose coins seem to belong to the region in which the inscription was found).

Later Shakas and Pahlavas

The precise date at which the Pahlava suzerainty in India came to an end is unknown, but it undoubtedly lies within the comparatively narrow limits marked by the years 45 and 64 AD. the last recorded year of Gondopharnes and the earliest mention of a Kushana king on an Indian monument. But the Shakas and Pahlavas, although they had lost the proud predominance which they once held, had by no means ceased to play a part in Indian history. Like the Yavanas, they continue for some centuries to be mentioned in Indian inscriptions in a manner which shows that they still formed organized communities; and there is evidence to show that they still governed their own states, no doubt as feudatories more or less nominal of the Kushanas. In the last part of the first century AD their original Indian settlements in the country of the Indus delta continued to be ruled by princes of their own race whom the author of the Periplus calls Parthian (Pahlava) and describes as turbulent chiefs perpetually engaged in turning one another out. But that these princes of foreign origin who governed the country of the lower Indus had at this period been forced to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Kushanas, is proved by the Sue Vihara inscription in the Bahawalpur State which is dated in a regnal year of Kanishka (year 11 = 89 AD).

It was from this country, too, and under the leadership of Shaka and Pahlava satraps that the Kushana power was extended to Western India; and in this manner were laid the foundations of the kingdom of the Kshatrapas of Surashtra and Malwa, the 'Western Satraps', who are known in the later Indian literature and inscriptions as 'Shakas.' This kingdom lasted from about the beginning of the second century to the end of the fourth, when it was conquered by the Guptas. The dates which appear on the coins and inscriptions of its princes are all in the era which starts from the beginning of Kanishka's reign in 78 AD. They range from the year 41 to the year 310 (119-388 AD) and form the most continuous and complete chronological series found on the monuments of ancient India. It was in consequence of its long use by the Shaka princes of Western India that the era became generally known in India as the Shaka era a name which effectually disguises its origin, and one which has in no small degree perplexed modern scholars in their endeavours to unravel the secret of Kanishka.