History of Ashoka of Magadha Part 1

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WHEN Alexander, invincible before all enemies save death, passed away at Babylon in June. B. c. 323, and his generals assembled in council to divide the empire which no arm but his could control, they were compelled perforce to decide that the distant Indian provinces should remain in the hands of the officers and princes to whom they had been entrusted by the king. Two years later, when an amended partition was effected at Triparadeisos in Syria, Sibyrtios was confirmed as governor of Arachosia (Kandahar) and Gedrosia (Makran), the provinces of Aria (Herat) and Drangiana (Sistan) being assigned to Sta.sander the Cyprian, while Bactriana and Sogdiana to the north of the Hindu Kush were bestowed on Stasanor of Soli, another Cyprian. Oxyartes, father of Alexander's consort, Roxana, obtained the satrapy of the Paropanisadai, or Kabul territory, the neighbouring Indian districts to the west of the Indus being placed in charge of Peithon, son of Agenor, whom Alexander had appointed ruler of Sind below the confluence of the rivers. Probably Peithon was not in a position to hold Sind after his master's death. Antipater, who arranged the partition, admitting that he possessed no force adequate to remove the Rajas to the east of the Indus, was obliged to recognize Omphis or Ambhi, king of Taxila, and Pdros, Alexander's honoured opponent, as lords of the Panjab, subject to a merely nominal dependence on the Macedonian power 1 . Philippos, whom Alexander had made satrap of that province, was murdered by his mercenary troops early in B. c. 324, and Alexander, who heard the news in Karmania, was unable to do more than appoint an officer named Eudemos to act as the colleague of King Ambhi. Eudemos managed to hold his ground for some time, but in or about B. c. 317 treacherously slew his Indian colleague, seized a hundred and twenty elephants, and with them and a considerable body of troops, inarched off to help Eumenes in his struggle with Antipater 2 . The departure of Eudemos marks the final collapse of the Macedonian attempt to establish a Greek empire in India.

But several years before that event a new Indian power had arisen which could not brook the presence of foreign garrisons, and probably had destroyed most of them prior to the withdrawal of Eudemos. The death of Alexander in June, B. c. 323, must have been known in India early in the autumn, and it is reasonable to suppose that risings of the natives occurred as soon as the season for campaigning opened in October, if not earlier. The leader of the movement for the liberation of his country which then began was a young man named Chandragupta Maurya, who seems to have been a scion of the Nanda dynasty of Magadha, or Bihar, then the premier state in the interior. With the help of an astute Brahman counsellor named Chanakya, who became his minister, Chandragupta dethroned and slew the Nanda king, exterminating his family. He then ascended the vacant throne at Pataliputra the capital, the modern Patna, and for twenty-four years ruled the realm with an iron hand. If Justin may be believed, the usurper turned into slavery the semblance of liberty which he had won for the Indians by his expulsion of the Macedonians, and oppressed the people with a cruel tyranny. Employing the fierce and more than half-foreign clans of the north-western frontier to execute his ambitious plans, he quickly extended his sway over the whole of Northern India, probably as far as the Narmada. Whether he first made himself master of Magadha and thence advanced northwards against the Macedonian garrisons, or first headed the risings in the Panjab, and then with the forces collected there swooped down upon the Gangetic Kingdom, does not clearly appear There is, however, no doubt about the result of his action. Chandragupta became the first strictly historical emperor of India and ruled the land from sea to sea. Seleukos, surnamed Nikator, or the Conqueror, by reason of his many victories, had established himself as Satrap of Babylon after the partition of Triparadeisos in B. c. 331, but six years later was driven out by his rival Antigonos and compelled to flee to Egypt.

After three years' exile he recovered Babylon in B. c. 312, and devoted himself to the consolidation and extension of his power. He attacked and subjugated the Bactrians, and in B. c. 306 assumed the royal title. He is known to historians as King of Syria, although that province formed only a small part of his wide dominions, which included all western Asia.

About the same time (B. c. 305) he crossed the Indus, and directed his victorious arms against India in the hope of regaining the provinces which had been held by his late master for a brief space, and of surpassing his achievement by subduing the central kingdoms. But the vast hosts of teeming India led by Chandragupta were more than a match for the power of the Macedonian, who was compelled to withdraw from the country and renounce his ambition to eclipse the glory of Alexander. No record of the conflict has survived, and we are ignorant of the place of battle and everything save the result. Terms of peace, including a matrimonial alliance between the two royal houses, were arranged, and the Indian monarch obtained from his opponent the cession of four satrapies, Aria, Arachosia, Gedrosia, and the Paropanisadai, giving in exchange the comparatively small recompense of five hundred elephants. This memorable treaty extended Chandragupta's frontier to the Hindu Kush mountains, and brought under his sway nearly the whole of the present Kingdom of Afghanistan, besides Baluchistan and Makran.

A theory has evolved that has evolved from his inner consciousness a theory that Chandragupta recognized the suzerainty of Seleukos, but the plain facts are that the Syrian monarch failed and was obliged to surrender four valuable provinces for very inadequate consideration. Five hundred elephants at a high valuation would not be worth more than about two millions of rupees, say 200,000 sterling. Seleukos never attempted to assert any superiority over his successful Indian rival, but, on the contrary, having failed in attack, made friends with the power which had proved to be too strong for him, and treated Chandragupta as an equal.


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