L’archéologie de l’empire achéménide

Paris, Collège de France, 21-22 novembre 2003
Countries of Hindus

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1. Definition of the area. With the term of “Countries of Hindus” one generally intends to deal with the easternmost part of the Achaemenid Empire, located around the Hindus river valley, from the counter forts of the Karakoram, to North and to the Arabic Sea to South. The eastern limit of this area is easily identifiable and definable, because almost coincident with that of the Achaemenid Empire, from Panjab to Sind; the western is, on the contrary, badly definable, as well as the limit between the Iranian Plateau and the Indian sub-continent. The geographic limit between those two areas is, in fact, very well defined for the most part bordered by the mountainous counter forts limiting, to west, the Hindus river valley; from the point of view of the cultural history, the term should be seen as an ample (also hundreds of kilometers) area, including an entire region, which can be definable as “Indo-Iranian frontier”. The whole eastern area of the Iranian Plateau is, as is very well known, deeply involved with Indian cultural traits, and can be more easily located within the “Countries of Hindus” than in those of Iran and Central Asia. 2. Historical Outline
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The conquest of the territories of the Indian sub-continent to west of the Hindus by Darius I, according to the Bisotun inscription, can be dated back to around 518 B.C. (Vogelsang 1987: 187-188; Briant 1996: 153); a slow penetration in different steps, starting from north to south (Fussman 1993: 84) had been proposed and confirmed by the fact that the toponym of Hindus appears only in the later inscriptions, whilst the Gandharians are already mentioned in Bisotun. As regards as to the chronological extent of the Achaemenid domination, at least to north-west of the Indian sub-continent, different opinion exist amongst scholars: that the region was again independent (Chattopadhyaya 1974: 25-26), already from the end of the Darius I’s kingdom or during that of Artaxerses II, does not seem to be confirmed by Ctesias, who mentioned gifts of the Kings of India, and however also Darius III had, amongst his army, Indians contingents (Briant 1996: 699, 774). That officers of the Great King were not explicitly nominated at the moment of the arrival in the area of the Macedonian army (327-26 B.C.), cannot be interpreted as an absence of the Achaemenid power, as still recently has been proposed (Dittmann 1984: 185); a large amount of other set of data give indication, instead, that in different forms from those of the epoch of Darius I, the Persian power still had a control there (Briant 1996: 776-778). 3. The sources

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The political interest of the Achaemenid dynasty for the eastern frontier has been demonstrated not only by their inscriptions, where different peoples from the area are mentioned, but also by the sculptural representations. One can find those peoples either amongst the ones (dahyu) supporting the throne of the King, or the “delegations” of gifts or tribute bearers. In the first case, on the façade of the grave of Darius I at Naqs-e Rostam and, then, on those of the successive sovereigns, including the graves of Persepolis, amongst the thirty personages supporting the platform of the throne of the king. Identified by short trilingual inscriptions one can find mentioned there Gandharians, Sattagydians, Indians, all represented with similar costumes (Tourovets 2001: 226). In the second, twenty three delegations represented on the staircases of the Apadana of Persepolis seem to refer, amongst the others, also to Sattagydians, Gandharians, Indians, while other representations of the same peoples were depicted on the staircase of the Palace of Artaxerses I, partially reconstructed by Tilia. Amongst the countries represented by the images of gifts bearers on the base of the Egyptian statue of Darius I from Susa, one can find Arachosia, Sattagydia and India easily identified by hieroglyphic inscription (Roaf 1974). The frequency with which the lists and the representations disagree each other in number and order, let one, nonetheless, to understand that they were aimed only at emphasizing the ideology of the supranational Empire and cannot be considered as a real
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administrative list (Briant 1996: 189): from this differing scholars proposed different interpretations for the identification of the various peoples (as last Tourovets 2001, with bibliography). Similarly, the idea by which the gifts of the delegations should be considered as typical products of their own regions and, thus, valid indicators for their identification (Jamzadeh 1993), has been, recently, put under scrutiny, considering that many similar artefacts are present in the delegations of different provenience, and look rather like as indicators of the art of the Achaemenid Court (Moorey, 1985: 21 ff.; Genito 1995: 103-118; Genito 1996: 401-421; Tourovets 2001: 224). Neglecting for the time being any detailed stylistic or iconographic analysis of these representations, it is necessary to recall how such an ethnographic encyclopaedia as the Persepolis representations really are, can be considered as unique and above all susceptible to valid scientific debate for practically all the imperial Iranian periods. On the other hand, as far as the central-Asian populations are concerned, several essential concepts ought to be stressed. Historical-artistic and stylistic-iconographic analysis of those famous theories of delegations, of bearers of tributes, etc..., has, as everyone knows, given rise to lengthy discussions. The matter under discussion was essentially referred to the possible validity of those interpretations in which the relationship between the iconographies and their ethnic referent was considered to be direct. In other words it was justified to consider the groups of peoples depicted as having been the same as those that actually lived in that period with all the details of their costumes, weapons, objects, etc. For some time there has been an effort to establish, on the basis of the parallel drawn between the epigraphic document and the iconographic monument (which had already been supported in the 1950s, to tell the truth, for other empires of the ancient East, cf. Moscati 1961
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and 1978), also an equivalence between iconographic monument and actual historical reality. This interpretative trend has not always been successful in producing the desired results: suffice it to mention the case of the Medes and their alleged typical short akinax, which is found to be worn also by many other populations, etc. (Genito 1986; 1995). To discuss iconography and possible historical reference ethnic groups, starting from the Persepolitan representations can lead one to a distortion of reality. The pronounced courtliness and solemnity of their style could instead nudge us towards an interpretation in which the iconographic medium can be considered for its symbolic value rather than in its function of representing actual historical reality (Genito 1996: 409-410). The figurative artistic elements in Persepolis should be considered characteristic, because essentially Aulic, aimed at glorifying the power, hypostasis of the stability and immutability of the power of the sovereign, acting in harmony with the Great God, Ahura Mazda. It is, thus, a symbolic and non narrative art, centred on few essential unequivocal symbols, as those of the King fighting against the monster (the evil) and killing him, of the King in throne, of the King receiving the homage of the peoples of the Empire, of the servants supplying the banquet, of the rows of the Immortals etc. The same repetition of symbols is, thus, planned and substantial, inspired at an extreme clearness, the same ordering clearness for the buildings distribution in the urban scheme of a town, either Pasargade, Persepolis or the capital of a far satrapy, as that of Drangiana. The Greek sources and the Achaemenid inscriptions also give information about the nature of the economic link existing between the centre of the Empire and the Indo-Iranian frontier. Herodotus says (III, 90-94) that VII satrapy paid 170 talents, XVII 400, XX 360 talents of golden particles, equivalent to almost 5.000 euboic silver talents; a tribute only comparable to that of the others satrapies all together, and that makes the identification of Hindus with the major part of the Achaemenid
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dominion in India, believable (Bernard 1987; Cook 1985: 250, on the possibility that the information can be an exaggeration). According to the inscription related to the construction of the Darius I palace at Susa (DSf), from Gandhara, comes, furthermore, the wood of yaka (dabergia sissoo

roxb.), from India, the ivory. According to Ctesia, doctor in the Artaxerxes
II’s court, the kings of India sent to the Persian King precious essences (Henry 1947: 84), animals and valuable cloths (Aelian, N.A., 4, 21 e 46). An interesting evidence of the contacts between Achaemenid Iran and India is also constituted by some tablets found in Persepolis, reminding the names of Gandharians, Indians and Arachosians present at Persepolis or of officers of the King sent to East, to whom food portions had been given (Vogelsang 1990: 101; Seibert 2002: 22). 4. Old populations The peoples inhabiting the historical regions of this “Indo-Iranian frontier” are known already in the list of the Achaemenid satrapies, as given by Herodotus (3, 89-94) and, before him, by Hecateus of Miletus. This one certainly knew the Indian population of Gandharai and the city of Kaspapyros (FGrHist, I, frg. 294-295). The easternmost satrapies were: VII, XVII and XX. VII satrapy comprised the people of Sattagydai, Gandarioi, Dadikai, Aparytai; XVII was constituted by Parikanioi and the Aethiopes of Asia, while XX satrapy was that of Indians “the most numerous people of all the men we know”.
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The information given by Herodotus finds a precise confirmation in the royal achaemenid inscriptions (DB, DPe, DSe, DNa, DSaa, XPf), whereas

the place-names of Thatagus, Gandhara and Hindus are found, as well as the names of the related peoples: one can exclude from this list that of Maka, by someone identified with the coastal baluchi region of Makran (the last Lecocq 1997: 52), and which has been, on the contrary, more properly located in the Arabian peninsula than in the Indo-Iranian frontier (de Blois 1989). With Hindus it is possible to recognise the middle and low Hindus valley with the exclusion of Gandhara (Bernard 1987: 186), even if the identification of Hindus with the “Indians of the Mountains”, quoted in the late achaemenid epoch texts (Briant 1982: 204) has been, also, proposed. With Gandhara one can certainly mean the whole course of Kabul river, up to the junction with the Hindus, and not only the Peshawar plain: in the Babylonian and Elamite versions of the inscription of Bisotun, in fact, instead of the place-name Gandhara, one can find that of

Paruparaesanna, equivalent to Paropamisadae, with which the classical tradition means the region having as its centre the high valley of Kabul. Interesting is that the city of Kaspapyros/Kaspatyros (cf. Daffinà 1983), which Hecateus collocates in Gandarikè, was associated by Herodotus (III, 102 e IV, 44) to Paktyikè, region contiguous to the northernmost of all
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other Indians: it is probable that these place-names coincide, and that the second derives from an Iranian etnonym (Herzfeld 1947: 182), even if linguistically non identifiable, in spite of the apparent similarity with the present Pukhtun. As far as the localisation of Thatagus is concerning, correspondent to the Sattagydia of the Greeks, the opinions of the scholars have been, up to now, discordant (Lecocq 1997: 146-47): recent archaeological

investigations in the city of Akra, near Bannu (Khan et al. 2000), would give the confirmation of the localisation of this region in the piedmont area, between Gandhara to North and Arachosia to South, previously proposed (Fleming 1982; contra, Vogelsang 1990: 98, who proposed the region of Multan in southern Punjab). Dadikai seem to correspond to Darada, who in the puranic inscriptions of India are quoted together with Gandharians and Kashmirs (Tucci 1977: 11), while for the Aparytai the identification proposed with the ancestors of the present pashtun tribe of the Afrids (Caroe 1958: 37) should still to be confirmed. An Indian source of great importance, furthermore, gives a picture of the peoples inhabiting the Indo-Iranian frontier in the 3rd century B.C., so less than one century after the end of the Achaemenid domination: in V edict of the Maurya sovereign Asoka, one has, in fact, a list of peoples amongst which Yona, Kambojas and Gandhara, while in XIII edict is present the composed name of Yonakambojesu. Whether few doubts remain on the
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identity of Gandharians and of Yona (Greeks of Asia which the Greek version of the edict of the Maurya sovereign, found at Kandahar by the Italian Mission of Is.M.E.O., had been dedicated for), the Kambojas have variously been identified with peoples inhabiting the left side of Kabul river, or better with the peoples which the Aramaic version of Asoka edicts (Scerrato in Pugliese Carratelli and Garbini 1964: 14-15, with bibliography) had been written for: and the linguistic particularities of such a version suggest that they were an Iranian language speaking people (Garbini 1964: 59-61; Bailey 1971). A paradigmatic example for the Indo-Iranian frontier is that of Arachosia, Harauvatis of the Achaemenid inscriptions, which, according to the representations of the costumes of their inhabitants on the relief of the Achaemenid tombs, seems to be related to other satrapies of eastern Iran, as Areia and Drangiana (Tourovets 2001: 225). Other cultural traits, nonetheless, relate Arachosia to India so much, that its inclusion in the Achaemenid Empire has been interpreted as an Indian penetration to west (Vogelsang 1985). Of particular interest is the appellation of “White India” used by Isidorus of Charax (par. 9), Greek geographer of the 1st century A.D., to describe it (Walser 1985: 154-55). The link of this region of the Iranian plateau to the Indian world is also confirmed, for the following epochs, by a large amount of archaeological evidences. In the Achaemenid inscriptions DSf and DSz from Susa, furthermore, Arachosia
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is indicated together with Ethiopia and Hindus, as a region famous for ivory, suggesting, thus, that it was a trade-exchange place for the Indian ivory (Vogelsang 1987: 186). 5. The archaeological data. The individuation of concrete archaeological remains of the

Achaemenid presence in the region of the Indo-Iranian frontier is still under scrutiny, if we take in consideration how much is still indefinable an “Achaemenid” material culture in Iran. Already the Iron age cultures in the Swat region and that, recently come to light, at Akra, nearby Bannu (Assemblage 2: Khan et al. 2000: 107-8, 113), indicate, in fact, strong relationships with the Iranian and Central Asiatic area. Just the character of “frontier” of the region constitutes the main reason of the cultural affinities with the Iranian plateau and Central Asia, more evidenced in the craftsmanship production, than in the ownership to the Achaemenid Empire. At Taxila, the main centre of North-west, at East of the Hindus, the excavations of Sir John Marshall in Bhir Mound did not single out any structural remains of “palatial” character, or typical traits of the Achaemenid architecture, and the attribution to the “slipshod method of Persian builders” of the irregular plans of the inhabited areas (Marshall 1951: 12), seems completely arbitrary. Also to the light of the funerary customs of the dardic peoples, the Persian origin of the costume of
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exposing corpses, which the classical sources testify to Taxila (ibid.: 16), should be verified. In the material culture going back to IV period datable to Achaemenid period, and to the following periods, the only cultural trait of somewhat Achaemenid in character, seems the shape of some scaraboid-shaped beads for necklace, besides different other seals (Marshall 1951, II: 103, 674-675). As far as the main inhabited centres of Gandhara region, west of the Hindus, are concerning, to try to individuate archaeological evidence of the Achaemenid domination did not supply significant elements. At Charsada, the old Puskalavati/Peukelaotis, in which the governor of Gandhara fighting against Alexander was placed, the excavations of Sir Mortimer Wheeler gave to the light an important ceramic sequence (Wheeler 1962), for long time utilized for the whole region, notwithstanding some revisions of its absolute chronology. Wheeler (1962: 34) related the presence of the Iron with the coming of the Achaemenids, placing, thus, the beginning of the sequence just in the 6th century B.C. The new dating of the earliest phases to the end of the 2nd century B.C., based on comparisons with the materials of the close Swat (Stacul 1990: 606), has been useful in order to clarify, after a methodologically fable try (Dittmann 1984), what the phases,

chronologically correspondent to the Achaemenid domination, really represented. In those phases, nonetheless, the only elements which could, in some way, be related to Persian models, are the ‘tulip’ and ‘carinated’
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bowls: the first found by Wheeler in layers dating back to between the 3rd and the 2nd century B.C., i.e. in post-achaemenid contexts; the second (v.

infra), according to Wheeler (1962: 40), are supposed to be found from
the beginning of the sequence, till the layer 27, concretely by him documented only starting from 4th-3rd centuries B.C. (Vogelsang 1988: 106). Actually those shapes at Bhir Mound belong to period II, dating back to 3rd century B.C. (Sharif 1969: 73). At Balambat, in the Dir valley, to North of Gandhara, the carinated bowls, on the contrary, are found not only amongst the materials (Dani 1967: figs. 57-60, ‘Achaemenian pottery’) of period IV, defined as Achaemenid period, but in the earlier period III, which by paradox has been also denominated Achaemenid (ibid.: 264). The Achaemenid characterisation of the period is mainly based on one of two types of ovens or fire places here found (ibid.: 245), interpreted as fire altars on the basis of the comparison with those of Dahan-e Gholaman in Sistan and which, instead, seem to be distinguished from those, also typologically and to have rather had a practical function (Tucci 1977: 12 ff.). Also as far as the Swat valley is concerning, the consistent activity of the Italian archaeologists did not produce useful elements to the question (Tusa 1979): the valid proposals of linking the ceramic of period VII of the protohistorical sequence of the Swat with the materials of the Hasanlu IIIa culture, Iron Age III (Stacul 1970) and Yaz II and III in Margiana (Silvi Antonini 1969) (Cattani and Genito 1998: 75Bruno Genito Ne pas citer Not to be quoted

88), should be revised to the light of new chronology set up, by comparing materials and, mainly the common Indo-Iranian fond. In the Bannu region, identifiable probably with Sattagydia, the culture come to light from the Pakistani-British excavations at Akra and denominated Assemblage 1, datable between the 6th and the 4th century B.C., presents bowls with offset vertical rims, S-carinated rim bowls and tulip bowls, having clear comparisons in different regions of the Achaemenid Iran, from south-east (Tepe Yahya) to westernmost regions as Fars (Khan et al. 2000: 104-6). The British excavations in Kandahar, main centre of Arachosia, gave evidence that the initial phase of the building a fortified settlement in mud brick, dating back to the Iron Age, was followed by some remains brought to light in differing places of the inhabited area, different for dimensions and quality, but for the most part characterised by a constant orientation, suggesting the existence of a main complex dominating it: traces of this have been individuated in the casemated massive wall, dating to period II, corresponding to the Achaemenid Age. Amongst the ceramic material of this period similar traits to the pottery of Achaemenid Iran have been individuated, mainly carinated cups (Fleming 1996). Even if the typological affinities amongst the ceramic material, up to now suggested, are evident, it is better to consider them as sign of a partial affinity in the material culture of different areas of the same political entity; this perhaps was due also to the ownership to this
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entity, without a direct derivation from the political power: one can remind the problems evidenced by the detailed investigations on the pottery of Central Asia of Achaemenid epoch (Gardin and Cattenat 1977; Lyonnet 1990), mainly if compared with that of Hellenistic epoch. The Achaemenid presence in the “Countries of Hindus” is testified to by two traits of the material culture, more directly related to the political power: the diffusion of a coinage, similar for characters to the bent bars coinage (Allchin 1995: 132) and (in Taxila, Kandahar and Hadda) of the Aramaic writing, with the consequent birth of a syllabic writing (Kharosthi), taking origin, without any doubt, from the Aramaic. If the silver bent-bar punchmarked coinage would seem testified in Bhir Mound, already from the period IV, the earliest (Marshall 1951: 103) for Allchin (1995: 131), develops only in the late Achaemenid epoch. The links between this coinage and the local punch-marked coinage have been enhanced by most of the scholars (Cribb 1983). The Achaemenid influx remained for long time, and still some coins of Taxila of the end of the III century B.C. show an achaemenidizing iconography (Bernard 1987: 188-189). Also as far as the origin of Kharosthi writing is concerning, its derivation from the Aramaic is secure (Greenfield 1985: 705) and evidences of the diffusion of the Imperial Aramaic in North-west, are not lacking, though all are of post-achaemenid epoch. The same idea of writing, also, thus, for the Brahmi, besides the Kharosthi, are supposed to be derived through the
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contacts with Persia, as the Iranian origin of the term lipi with which the Indian grammatic Panini defines the writing (Fussman 1988-89: 513), would indicate. A third class of materials originating, without any doubts, during the Achaemenid presence in North-West, as already mentioned, is constituted by a number of Greek-Persian seals, typical production of Imperial Achaemenid context, where the presence of symbols as svastika and the “taurine”, combined, in time, with typical Indian iconographies, like zebù, suggest to have been locally produced (Callieri 1996). It is also useful to precise something about the supposed direct Achaemenid origin of some important aspects of the Maurya architecture and art in northern India in 3rd century B.C. The hypostyle padillon with 80 polished stone columns came to light during the excavations in Kumrahar at Patna, capital of Maurya, in Bihar, has been in the past considered a derivation from the Apadana of Persepolis and Susa: that the building be a pavilion rather than a palatial hall seems to suggest it was a realisation of local architects of an idea, perhaps inspired by the description of the Persian halls, in a different context (Allchin 1995: 203, 236-38). The very fine finishing of the surfaces of many of the stone sculptures of Maurya epoch has, furthermore, been put in relationship with the Achaemenid sculpture (Huntington 1985: 43, 46): Sir Mortimer Wheeler
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developed the theory by which artisans, active to the Achaemenid Court, without work, after the fall of the Empire would have emigrated in the new Indian Empire (Wheeler 1974). Recent detailed investigations on the architectonic elements remained of the Maurya architecture suggest, instead, that the achaemenidizing inspiration be, instead, indirect, and mediated by the Seleucids (Nylander 1988): and the Greek or Hellenistic influx, visible in the capitals with volutes recalling, in the moulding and in some decorative details, as the acanthus leave or the honeysuckle, the ionic order, prevail upon the achaemenid traits, which can be singled out in some capitals with animal figures (Boardman 1994: 110; Allchin 1995: 260). Decorative near-eastern elements, certainly mediated from the Achaemenid Art, as the friezes of sharp-leaved lotuses, survive in India up to the 1st century B.C. (Boardman 1994: 111).

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