Gandhāra was an ancient state, a mahajanapada, in the Peshawar basin in the northwest portion of the ancient Indian subcontinent, present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. The center of the region was at the confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers, bounded by the Sulaiman Mountains on the west and the Indus River on the east; the Safed Koh mountains separated it from the Kohat region to the south. This being the core area of Gandhara, the cultural influence of "Greater Gandhara" extended across the Indus river to the Taxila region and westwards into the Kabul and Bamiyan valleys in Afghanistan, northwards up to the Karakoram range. Gandhara was one of sixteen mahajanapadas of ancient India mentioned in Buddhist sources such as Anguttara Nikaya. During the Achaemenid period and Hellenistic period, its capital city was Pushkalavati, modern Charsadda; the capital city was moved to Peshawar by the Kushan emperor Kanishka the Great in about AD 127. Gandhara existed since the time of the Rigveda, as well as the Zoroastrian Avesta, which mentions it as Vaēkərəta, the sixth most beautiful place on earth, created by Ahura Mazda.
Gandhara was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, it subsequently became part of the Maurya Empire and the Indo-Greek Kingdom; the region was a major center for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and Gandharan Buddhism under dynasties. It was a central location for the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and East Asia, it was a center of Bactrian Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. Famed for its local tradition of Gandhara Art, Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Kushan Empire. Gandhara "flourished at the crossroads of Asia," connecting trade routes and absorbing cultural influences from diverse civilizations. Pockets of Buddhism persisted in Pakistan's Swat valley until the 11th century; the Persian term Shahi is used by historian Al-Biruni to refer to the ruling dynasty that took over from the Kabul Shahi and ruled the region during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the 10th and 11th centuries.
After it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara disappeared. During the Muslim period, the area was administered from Kabul. During Mughal times, it was an independent district. Gandhara was known in Sanskrit as गन्धार gandhāra, in Avestan as Vaēkərəta, in Old Persian as Gadāra in Babylonian and Elamite as Paruparaesanna, in Chinese as T: 犍陀羅/S: 犍陀罗, in Greek as Γανδάρα; the Gandhari people are a tribe mentioned in the Rigveda, the Atharvaveda, Vedic texts. They are recorded in the Avestan-language of Zoroastrianism under the name Vaēkərəta; the name Gāndhāra occurs in the classical Sanskrit of the epics. One proposed origin of the name is from the Sanskrit word गन्ध gandha, meaning "perfume" and "referring to the spices and aromatic herbs which they traded and with which they anointed themselves.". A Persian form of the name, mentioned in the Behistun inscription of Emperor Darius I, was translated as Paruparaesanna in Babylonian and Elamite in the same inscription. In addition to Gandhara proper, the province encompassed the Kabul Valley and Chitral.
Kandahar is sometimes etymologically associated with Gandhara. However, Kandahar was not part of the main territory of Gandhara; the boundaries of Gandhara varied throughout history. Sometimes the Peshawar Valley and Taxila were collectively referred to as Gandhara; the heart of Gandhara, was always the Peshawar Valley. The kingdom was ruled from capitals at Kapisa, Taxila, Puruṣapura and in its final days from Udabhandapura on the River Indus. Evidence of the Stone Age human inhabitants of Gandhara, including stone tools and burnt bones, was discovered at Sanghao near Mardan in area caves; the artifacts are 15,000 years old. More recent excavations point to 30,000 years before the present. Gandhara was an ancient kingdom of the Peshawar Valley, extending between the Swat valley and Potohar plateau regions of Pakistan as well as the Jalalabad district of northeastern Afghanistan. In an archaeological context, the Vedic period in Gandhara corresponds to the Gandhara grave culture; the name of the Gandhāris is attested in the Rigveda.
The Gandhāris, along with the Balhikas, Mūjavants and the Magadhas, are mentioned in the Atharvaveda, as distant people. Gandharas are included in the Uttarapatha division of Buddhistic traditions; the Aitareya Brahmana refers to King Nagnajit of Gandhara, a contemporary of Janaka, king of Videha. Gandhara was one of sixteen mahajanapadas of ancient India; the primary cities of Gandhara were Puruṣapura, Takṣaśilā, Pushkalavati. The latter remained the capital of Gandhara down to the 2nd century AD, when the capital was moved to Peshawar. An important Buddhist shrine helped to make the city a centre of pilgrimage until the 7th century. Pushkalavati, in the Peshawar Valley, is situated at the confluence of the Swat and Kabul rivers, where three different branches of the River Kabul meet; that specific place is still called Prang an
Philoxenus Anicetus was an Indo-Greek king who ruled in the region spanning the Paropamisade to Punjab. Philoxenus seems to have been quite an important king who might have ruled most of the Indo-Greek territory. Bopearachchi dates Philoxenus to c. 100–95 BCE and R. C. Senior to c. 125–110 BCE. Historians have not yet connected Philoxenus with any dynasty, but he could have been the father of the princess Kalliope, married to the king Hermaeus. Philoxenus struck several series of bilingual Indian silver coins, with a reverse of a mounted king, a type used as obverse by Antimachus II sixty years earlier and as reverse on rare types of Nicias. Whether the horseman was a dynastic emblem or a portrait of the king as a cavalryman is unclear. Several Saka kings used similar horsemen on their coinage, his drachms were square, another feature, rare among Indo-Greeks but standard for Sakas, this indicates that Philoxenus had connections with the nomads that had conquered Bactria. Philoxenus struck bronzes with Helios/Nike.
Philoxenus minted some Attic-type tetradrachms, meant for circulation in Bactria. One overstrike is known, of Epander over Philoxenus. Greco-Bactrian Kingdom Seleucid Empire Greco-Buddhism Indo-Scythians Indo-Parthian Kingdom Kushan Empire The Greeks in Bactria and India, W. W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press. Coins of Philoxenus
The Nanda dynasty ruled in northern India during the 4th century BCE. The Nandas overthrew the Shaishunaga dynasty in the Magadha region of eastern India, expanded their empire to include a larger part of northern India. Ancient sources differ regarding the names of the Nanda kings, the duration of their rule, but based on the Buddhist tradition recorded in the Mahavamsa, they appear to have ruled during c. 345-322 BCE. Modern historians identify the ruler of the Gangaridai and the Prasii mentioned in ancient Greco-Roman accounts as a Nanda king; the chroniclers of Alexander the Great, who invaded north-western India during 327-325 BCE, characterize this king as a militarily powerful and prosperous ruler. The prospect of a war against this king led to a mutiny among the soldiers of Alexander, who had to retreat from India without waging a war against him; the Nandas built on the successes of their Haryanka and Shaishunaga predecessors, instituted a more centralized administration. Ancient sources credit them with amassing great wealth, a result of introduction of new currency and taxation system.
Ancient texts suggest that the Nandas were unpopular among their subjects because of their low status birth, their excessive taxation, their general misconduct. The last Nanda king was overthrown by Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire, the latter's mentor Chanakya. Both Indian and Greco-Roman traditions characterize the dynasty's founder as of low birth. According to Greek historian Diodorus, Porus told Alexander that the contemporary Nanda king was thought to be the son of a barber. Roman historian Curtius adds that according to Porus, this barber became the former queen's paramour thanks to his attractive looks, treacherously assassinated the king, usurped the supreme authority by pretending to act as a guardian for the princes, killed the princes; the 12th century Jain scholar Hemachandra corroborates the Greco-Roman accounts, stating that the first Nanda king was the son of a barber and a courtesan. The Puranas name the dynasty's founder as Mahapadma, claim that he was the son of the Shaishunaga king Mahanandin.
However these texts hint at the low birth of the Nandas, when they state that Mahapadma's mother belonged to the Shudra class, the lowest of the varnas. Since the claim of the barber ancestry of the dynasty's founder is attested by two different traditions - Greco-Roman and Jain, it appears to be more reliable than the Puranic claim of Shaishunaga ancestry; the Buddhist tradition calls the Nandas "of unknown lineage". According to Mahavamsa, the dynasty's founder was Ugrasena, "a man of the frontier": he fell into the hands of a gang of robbers, became their leader, he ousted the sons of the Shaishunaga king Kalashoka. There is little unanimity among the ancient sources regarding the total duration of the Nanda reign or their regnal period. For example, the Matsya Purana assigns 88 years to the rule of the first Nanda king alone, while some scripts of the Vayu Purana state the total duration of the Nanda rule as 40 years; the 16th century Buddhist scholar Taranatha assigns 29 years to the Nandas.
It is difficult to assign other early dynasties of Magadha. Historians Irfan Habib and Vivekanand Jha date the Nanda rule from c. 344-322 BCE, relying on the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition which states that the Nandas ruled for 22 years. Historian Upinder Singh dates the Nanda rule from 364/345 BCE to 324 BCE, based on the assumption that Gautama Buddha died in c. 486 BCE. The 14th century Jain writer Merutunga, in his Vichara-shreni, states that king Chandra Pradyota of Avanti died on the same night as the Jain leader Mahavira, he was succeeded by his son Palaka. After that, the Nandas captured the Avanti capital Ujjayini; the Nanda rule, spanning the reigns of nine kings, lasted for 155 years, after which the Mauryas came to power. According to the Shvetambara Jain tradition, Mahavira died in 527 BCE, which would mean that the Nanda rule - according to Merutunga's writings - lasted from 467 BCE to 312 BCE. According to historian R. C. Majumdar, while all the chronological details provided by Merutunga cannot be accepted without corroborative evidence, they cannot be dismissed as unreliable unless contradicted by more reliable sources.
The Buddhist and Puranic traditions all state that there were 9 Nanda kings, but the sources differ on the names of these kings. According to the Greco-Roman accounts, the Nanda rule spanned two generations. For example, the Roman historian Curtius suggests that the dynasty's founder was a barber-turned-king, that his son was the dynasty's last king, overthrown by Chandragupta; the Greek accounts name only one Nanda king - Agrammes or Xandrames -, a contemporary of Alexander. "Agrammes" may be a Greek transcription of the Sanskrit word "Augrasainya". The Puranas, compiled in India in c. 4th century CE state that the Nandas ruled for two generations. According to the Puranic tradition, the dynasty's founder Mahapadma destroyed the Kshatriyas, attained undisputed sovereignty; the Matsya Purana assigns Mahapadma an long reign of 88 years, while the Vayu Purana mentions the length of his reign as only 28 years. The Puranas further state that Mahapadma's 8 sons ruled in succession after him for a total of 12 years, but name only one of these sons: Sukalpa.
A Vayu Purana script names him as "Sahalya", which correspo
Eucratides I, sometimes called Eucratides the Great, was one of the most important Greco-Bactrian kings, descendants of dignitaries of Alexander the Great. He replaced it with his own lineage, he fought against the Indo-Greek kings, the easternmost Hellenistic rulers in northwestern India, temporarily holding territory as far as the Indus, until he was defeated and pushed back to Bactria. Eucratides had a prestigious coinage, suggesting a rule of considerable importance. Eucratides came to the throne by overthrowing the dynasty of Euthydemus I in Bactria, whose son Demetrius was conquering northwestern India; the king whom Eucratides dethroned in Bactria was Antimachus I. It is unclear whether Eucratides was a Bactrian official who raised a rebellion, or, according to some scholars, a cousin of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, trying to regain the Bactrian territory. Justin explains that Eucratides acceded to the throne at about the same time as Mithridates, whose rule is known to have started in 171 BC, thereby giving an approximate date for the accession of Eucratides: "Around the same time, two great men started to rule: Mithridates among the Parthians, Eucratides among the Bactrians" Justin XLI,6 Some of the coins of Eucratides represent his parents, where his father is named Heliocles, his mother, thought to be Laodice, is wearing a royal diadem.
Laodice may have been a member of the Seleucid imperial house. Having become master of Bactria, Eucratides conquered the western parts of the Indo-Greek kingdom. According to the single remaining source, Roman historian Justin, Eucratides defeated Demetrius of India, but the identity of this king is uncertain: he could be either Demetrius I, or Demetrius II. "Eucratides led many wars with great courage, while weakened by them, was put under siege by Demetrius, king of the Indians. He made numerous sorties, managed to vanquish 60,000 enemies with 300 soldiers, thus liberated after four months, he put India under his rule" Justin XLI,6 Numismatic evidence suggests that Eucratides I was a contemporary of the Indo-Greek kings Apollodotus I, Antimachus II and Menander I. In any case, Eucratides' advances into India are proved by his abundant bilingual coinage. In the west the Parthian king Mithradates I attacked Eucratides. Eucratides I is most the founder of Eucratideia. Justin ends his account of Eucratides' life by claiming that the warlike king was murdered on his way back from India by his own son, who hated his father so much that he dragged his dead body after his chariot: "As Eucratides returned from India, he was killed on the way back by his son, whom he had associated to his rule, who, without hiding his patricide, as if he didn't kill a father but an enemy, ran with his chariot over the blood of his father, ordered the corpse to be left without a sepulture" Justin XLI,6 The murder of Eucratides brought about a civil war amongst the members of the dynasty.
The successors to Eucratides were Eucratides II and Heliocles I, the last Greek king to reign in Bactria. Once the Yuezhi tribes overpowered Heliocles, the Greco-Bactrians lost control of the provinces north of the Hindu Kush. Two other members of the dynasty were Plato of Bactria and Demetrius II, who in that case was not identical with the king Justin claimed was the enemy of Eucratides I; the rule of the Greco-Bactrians soon crumbled following these numerous wars: "The Bactrians, involved in various wars, lost not only their rule but their freedom, as, exhausted by their wars against the Sogdians, the Arachotes, the Dranges, the Arians and the Indians, they were crushed, as if drawn of all their blood, by an enemy weaker than them, the Parthians." Justin, XLI,6 However, the rule of the Indo-Greeks over territories south of the Hindu Kush lasted for a further 150 years collapsing under the pressure of the Yüeh-chih and Scythian invasions in around 10 BC, with the last Indo-Greek ruler Strato II.
Full account of Justin on Eucratides: "Almost at the same time that Mithridates ascended the throne among the Parthians, Eucratides began to reign among the Bactrians. But the fortune of the Parthians, being the more successful, raised them, under this prince, to the highest degree of power. Eucratides, carried on several wars with great spirit, though much reduced by his losses in them, when he was besieged by Demetrius king of the Indians, with a garrison of only three hundred soldiers, he repulsed, by continual sallies, a force of sixty thousand enemies. Having accordingly escaped, after a five months’ siege, he reduced India under his power, but as he was returning from the country, he was killed on his march by his son, with whom he had shared his throne, and, so far from concealing the murder, that, as if he had killed an enemy, not his father, he drove his chariot through his blood, ordered his body to be cast out unburied." Da Afghanistan Bank, the central bank of Afghanistan, in its seal has a Eucratides I-era coin having the Greek text, "ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔ
The Maurya Empire was a geographically-extensive Iron Age historical power based in Magadha and founded by Chandragupta Maurya which dominated the Indian subcontinent between 322 and 187 BCE. Comprising the majority of South Asia, the Maurya Empire was centralized by the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, its capital city was located at Pataliputra; the empire was the largest political entity to have existed in the Indian subcontinent, spanning over 5 million square kilometres at its zenith under Ashoka. Chandragupta Maurya raised an army, with the assistance of Chanakya, overthrew the Nanda Empire in c. 322 BCE. Chandragupta expanded his power westwards across central and western India by conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, by 317 BCE the empire had occupied northwestern India; the Mauryan Empire defeated Seleucus I, a diadochus and founder of the Seleucid Empire during the Seleucid–Mauryan war, thus acquiring territory west of the Indus River. At its greatest extent, the empire stretched along the natural boundary of the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, to the west into Balochistan and the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now eastern Afghanistan.
The dynasty expanded into India's southern regions by the reign of the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded Kalinga, until it was conquered by Ashoka. It declined for about 50 years after Ashoka's rule, dissolved in 185 BCE with the foundation of the Shunga dynasty in Magadha. Under Chandragupta Maurya and his successors and external trade and economic activities all thrived and expanded across South Asia due to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance and security; the Maurya dynasty built the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia's oldest and longest trade networks, connecting the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of centralized rule under Ashoka. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased socio-religious reform across South Asia, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism and sponsorship of Buddhist missionaries allowed for the expansion of that faith into Sri Lanka, northwest India, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Hellenistic Europe.
The population of the empire has been estimated to be about 50–60 million, making the Mauryan Empire one of the most populous empires of antiquity. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware; the Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath is the national emblem of the modern Republic of India; the name "Maurya" does not occur in Ashoka's inscriptions, or the contemporary Greek accounts such as Megasthenes's Indica, but it is attested by the following sources: The Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman prefixes "Maurya" to the names Chandragupta and Ashoka. The Puranas use Maurya as a dynastic appellation; the Buddhist texts state that Chandragupta belonged to the "Moriya" clan of the Shakyas, the tribe to which Gautama Buddha belonged. The Jain texts state. According to the Buddhist tradition, the ancestors of the Maurya kings had settled in a region where peacocks were abundant.
Therefore, they came to be known as "Moriyas" "belonging to the place of peacocks". According to another Buddhist account, these ancestors built a city called Moriya-nagara, so called, because it was built with the "bricks coloured like peacocks' necks"; the dynasty's connection to the peacocks, as mentioned in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, seems to be corroborated by archaeological evidence. For example, peacock figures are found on the Ashoka pillar at Nandangarh and several sculptures on the Great Stupa of Sanchi. Based on this eviedence, modern scholars theorize that the peacock may have been the dynasty's emblem. According to Dhundiraja, a commentator on the Vishnu Purana, the word "Maurya" is derived from Mura, the name of the wife of a Nanda king and the mother of the first Maurya king. However, the Puranas themselves make no mention of Mura and do not talk of any relation between the Nanda and the Maurya dynasties. Dhundiraja's derivation of the word seems to be his own invention: according to the Sanskrit rules, the derivative of the feminine name Mura would be "Maureya".
The Maurya Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, with help from Chanakya, at Takshashila, a noted center of learning. According to several legends, Chanakya travelled to Magadha, a kingdom, large and militarily powerful and feared by its neighbours, but was insulted by its king Dhana Nanda, of the Nanda dynasty. Chanakya vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. Meanwhile, the conquering armies of Alexander the Great refused to cross the Beas River and advance further eastward, deterred by the prospect of battling Magadha. Alexander re-deployed most of his troops west of the Indus River. Soon after Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BCE, his empire fragmented into independent kingdoms led by his generals; the Greek generals Eudemus and Peithon ruled in the Indus Valley until around 317 BCE, when Chandragupta Maurya orchestrated a rebellion to drive out the Greek governors, subsequently brought the Indus Valley under the control of his new seat of power in Magadha. Chandragupta Maurya's rise to power is s
Paropamisadae or Parapamisadae was a satrapy of the Alexandrian Empire in modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, which coincided with the Achaemenid province of Parupraesanna. It consisted of the districts of Sattagydia, Gandhara and Udyana. Paruparaesanna is mentioned in the Akkadian language and Elamite language versions of the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great, whereas in the Old Persian version it is called Gandāra; the entire satrapy was subsequently ceded by Seleucus I Nicator to Chandragupta Maurya following a treaty. Paropamisadae is the Latinized form of the Greek name Paropamisádai, in turn derived from Old Persian Parupraesanna; the latter means "Beyond the Hindu Kush", where the Hindu Kush is referred to as Uparaesanna. In the Greek language and Latin, "Paropamisus" came to mean the Hindu Kush. In many Greek and Latin sources editions of Ptolemy's Geography where their realm is included on the 9th Map of Asia, the names of the people and region are given as Paropanisadae and Paropanisus.
They appeared less as Parapamisadae and Parapamīsus, Paropamīsii, etc. The name was applied to a nearby river the Obi river. Strabo describes the region as follows: The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the Paropamisus mountain. Alexander took these away from the Arians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus I Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus, upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants. Alongside the Paropamisadae, on the west, are situated the Arii, along-side the Arachoti and Gedrosii the Drangae, thus the region was north of Arachosia, stretching up to the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains, bounded in the east by the Indus river. It included the Kabul region and the northern regions such as Swat and Chitral; the nations who composed the Paropamisadae are recorded as the Cabolitae in the north near modern Kabul. The major cities of the land were the city of Ortospana or Carura identifiable with Kabul, Gauzaca modern Ghazni, modern-day Kapisa, Parsia, the capital of the Parsii.
In the ancient Buddhist texts, the Mahajanapada kingdom of Kamboja compassed the territories of Paropamisus and extended to the southwest of Kashmir as far as Rajauri. The region came under Achaemenid Persian control in the late 6th century BC, either during the reign of Cyrus the Great or Darius I. In the 320s BC, Alexander the Great conquered the entire Achaemenid Empire, beginning the Hellenistic period; the Greek name Παροπαμισάδαι or Παροπαμισσός was used extensively in Greek literature to describe the conquests of Alexander and those of the kings of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom, from the 3rd to the 1st centuries BC.. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, the area came under control of the Seleucid Empire, which gave the region to the Mauryan Dynasty of India in 305 BC. After the fall of the Mauryans in 185 BC, the Greco-Bactrians under King Demetrius I annexed the northwestern regions of the former Mauryan Empire, including Paropamisus, it became part of his Euthydemid Indo-Greek Kingdom.
The Eucratidians seized the area soon after the death of Menander I, but lost it to the Yuezhi around 125 BC. Indo-Greek kingdom Greco-Bactrian kingdom Eggermont, Pierre Herman Leonard, Alexander's Campaigns in Sind and Baluchistan and the Siege of the Brahmin Town of Harmatelia, Peeters Publishers, ISBN 978-90-6186-037-2 The Greeks in Bactria and India by W. W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press Ptolemy's section on the Paropanisadae in English translation John Watson McCrindle's Ancient India as Described in Ptolemy
Indo-Scythians were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples of Saka and Scythian origin who migrated southward into western and northern South Asia from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD. The first Saka king in South Asia was Maues/Moga who established Saka power in Gandhara, Indus Valley; the Indo-Scythians extended their supremacy over north-western India, conquering the Indo-Greeks and other local kingdoms. The Indo-Scythians were subjugated by the Kushan Empire, by either Kujula Kadphises or Kanishka, yet the Saka continued forming the Northern Satraps and Western Satraps. The power of the Saka rulers started to decline in the 2nd century CE after the Indo-Scythians were defeated by the Satavahana emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni. Indo-Scythian rule in the northwestern Indian subcontinent ceased when the last Western Satrap Rudrasimha III was defeated by the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II in 395 CE; the invasion of northern regions of the Indian subcontinent by Scythian tribes from Central Asia referred to as the Indo-Scythian invasion, played a significant part in the history of the Indian subcontinent as well as nearby countries.
In fact, the Indo-Scythian war is just one chapter in the events triggered by the nomadic flight of Central Asians from conflict with tribes such as the Xiongnu in the 2nd century AD, which had lasting effects on Bactria and the Indian subcontinent as well as far-off Rome in the west, more nearby to the west in Parthia. Ancient Roman historians including Arrian and Claudius Ptolemy have mentioned that the ancient Sakas were nomadic people. However, Italo Ronca, in his detailed study of Ptolemy's chapter vi, states: "The land of the Sakai belongs to nomads, they have no towns but dwell in forests and caves" as spurious; the ancestors of the Indo-Scythians are thought to be Sakas tribes. "One group of Indo-European speakers that makes an early appearance on the Xinjiang stage is the Saka. Saka is more a generic term than a name for ethnic group. Like the Scythians whom Herodotus describes in book four of his History, Sakas were Iranian-speaking horse nomads who deployed chariots in battle, sacrificed horses, buried their dead in barrows or mound tombs called kurgans."
According to their own origin myths, they claimed descent from Kushtana Maurya, the exiled son of the Indian Emperor Ashokavardhana Maurya who established the Kingdom of Khotan at Tarim Basin. In the 2nd century BC, a fresh nomadic movement started among the Central Asian tribes, producing lasting effects on the history of Rome in Europe, Parthia in Western Asia, Bactria and India in the east in Southern Asia. Recorded in the annals of the Han dynasty and other Chinese records, this great tribal movement began after the Yuezhi tribe was defeated by the Xiongnu, fleeing westwards after their defeat and creating a domino effect as they displaced other central Asian tribes in their path. According to these ancient sources Modu Shanyu of the Xiongnu tribe of Mongolia attacked the Yuezhi and evicted them from their homeland between the Qilian Shan and Dunhuang around 175 BC. Leaving behind a remnant of their number, most of the population moved westwards into the Ili River area. There, they displaced the Sakas, who migrated south into Sogdiana.
According to the Chinese historical chronicles: " attacked the king of the Sai who moved a considerable distance to the south and the Yuezhi occupied his lands."Sometime after 155 BC, the Yuezhi were again defeated by an alliance of the Wusun and the Xiongnu, were forced to move south, again displacing the Scythians, who migrated south towards Bactria and present Afghanistan, south-west closer towards Parthia. The Sakas seem to have entered the territory of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom around 145 BC, where they burnt to the ground the Greek city of Alexandria on the Oxus; the Yuezhi remained in Sogdiana on the northern bank of the Oxus, but they became suzerains of the Sakas in Bactrian territory, as described by the Chinese ambassador Zhang Qian who visited the region around 126 BC. In Parthia, between 138–124 BC, a tribe known to ancient Greek scholars as the Sacaraucae and an allied non-Saka/Scythian people, the Massagetae came into conflict with the Parthian Empire; the Sacaraucae-Massagetae alliance won several battles and killed, in succession, the Parthian kings Phraates II and Artabanus I.
The Parthian king Mithridates II retook control of parts of Central Asia, first by defeating the Yuezhi in Sogdiana in 115 BC, defeating the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes migrated far to the east into Bactria, which they were to control for several centuries, from which they conquered northern India to found the Kushan Empire; the Sakas settled in Drangiana, an area of Southern Afghanistan, western Pakistan and south Iran, called after them as Sakastan or Sistan. From there, they progressively expanded into present day Iran as well as northern India, where they established various kingdoms, where they are known as "Saka"; the Arsacid emperor Mithridates II had scored many successes against the Scythia