Persian and Macedonian Attacks

Persian and Macedonian Attacks

This article deals with ‘Persian and Macedonian Attacks’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.

Persian  Invasions

  • In 6th Century, Persian empire extended upto north-western borders of subcontinent .
  • Greek historian Herodotus mentions that  India (Indus Valley) was the 20th & most prosperous satrapy of Persian empire & tribute from province was more than tribute from all other provinces put together .


  • He was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia .
  • He invaded Indian border­land  and captured the Gandhara region

Darius (522 – 486 BCE)

  • Darius I (522-486 BCE)  made the real advance in India. He invaded India and occupied the territories in the North-Western Frontier Province, Sind and Punjab . These parts remained with the Persian Empire till Alexander’s invasion of India.
  • According to Herodotus (historian) , Gandhara formed the 20th satrapy of the empire of Darius paying a tribute of 360 talents of gold dust.  It was the most fertile and populous province of the Achaemenian Empire. Herodotus has also recorded that Darius sent a naval expedition probably in 517 BCE to explore the Indus basin.


  • Xerxes kept the control of Indian possessions but due to requisitioning of large number of troops for invasion of Greece, failed to make any advances in India.
  • Xerxes suffered defeat in Greece which led to the decline of Persian Empire . However, the Achaemenid rule over India continued up to 330 BCE . In that year Darius III, the last of the Achaemenid ruler summoned Indian troops to fight against Alexander . With the fall of the Persian power under the impact of the invasion of Alexander the Great, the Persian hold over India was lost.

Impact of Persian Invasions on India

Political Impact India learnt the necessity of a strong and united empire to repel the foreign invasions and realized how essential it was to join hands together to meet the common enemy.  
Encouragement to trade The Persian rulers did much to promote geographical exploration and promote trade. The exploration of the Indus and the Arabian Sea by Scylax opened a new water-route.  
Settlement of Foreigners on Indian Soil A large number of foreigners, Greek, Persians  etc. settled down in the North-Western parts of India. With the passage of time they were completely absorbed among the Indians.
On Architecture Traces of the Persian influence can be seen in the Mauryan sculptures and in the Ashokan pillars. The polish of the Mauryan pillars manifests the Persian influence. Ashoka also followed the Iranian custom of preaching ideals by inscribing them on the stone pillars.  Similarly, the pillared remains of the Palace in Pataliputra display a remarkable similarity to the pillared hall in the Achaemenid capital.  
Kharosthi Script The Aramaic form of writing which the Persians introduced in the north-western India after their conquest, gradually developed into the Kharoshti script. It was written from right to left .  
On Coinage The Persian silver coins were in circulation in India. This affected Indian coinage. The Persian coins were known for their refined minting and elegant looks. The Indian rulers adopted similar techniques to mint their coins on the Persian model.

Alexander Invasion (327-26 BCE)

  • In 327-26 BCE , North West Indian Subcontinent suffered the invasion of Alexander .
  • Persian hold over Indian provinces was nominal or non existent at that time . Alexander defeated the armies of Darius III (Persian king) established various outposts in Afghanistan & ventured into India . Greek historians make great deal of Alexanders siege of Hill fort of Arnos because tradition says that even god Herakles was unable to take that .
  • In 326 BCE , he ventured into India after crossing Indus . Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila, surrendered and accepted the suzerainty of Alexander. The most famous of Alexander’s encounters was with Porus, ruler of the region between Jhelum and Beas. The two armies met in the battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum) in which Porus was imprisoned. Later, impressed by the Porus’s dignity, Alexander restored his throne on the condition of accepting his suzerainty.
  • Alexander captured area till Ravi but movement beyond Beas was prevented because of resistance of his own soldiers who were tired by many years of wars & wanted to go back .
  • Alexander retreated back . Areas lying west of Punjab were entrusted with Satraps (governors) & Macedonian garrisons were placed there.
  • Alexander died two years later of a mysterious fever in Babylon.

One of the results of Alexander’s invasion was creation of Seleucid principality in North-West & establishment of several Greek settlements in that area including Boukephala, Nikaia & several Alexandrias  .

Effects of Alexander invasion

  • Trade routes opened up with the West. As trade contact increased, many Greek settlements were established in the northwest of India. Alexandria near Kabul, Boukephala near Peshawar in Pakistan and Alexandria in Sindh were some of the prominent Greek settlements.
  • Indirectly this invasion made possible the establishment of Indo-Bactrian and Indo-Parthian states, which at a later stage considerably influenced Indian architecture (Gandhara school of sculpture), astronomy, coinage etc.
  • The invasion opened the eyes of Indian politicians to the necessity of creating a unified empire
  • The date of the Invasion of Alexander is the ‘first reliable date in early Indian history’ and considerably helps in solving chronological difficulties. Greek historians began to write about India .