Political and Cultural Impact of the Iranian Contact




Political and Cultural Impact of the Iranian Contact:

Thinking of the impact left by the Persian contact in the period of two centuries, one thing can be noticed prominently. It is about the administrative system set by the Persian rulers. Every conquered region was annexed to their territory as a satrapy and a satrap (governor) was appointed as its chief administrator. This method was followed by Alexander and later by the Scythian (Saka) and Kushana rulers as well. The Aramaic script came into use in the north-eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent, during the times of Achaemenid rule. Kharoshthi, an ancient Indian script evolved from this script.

Kharosthi was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Afghanistan) to write Gandhari Prakrit and Sanskrit. It was used in Central Asia as well. An abugida, it was introduced at least by the middle of the 3rd century BCE, possibly during the 4th century BCE, and remained in use until it died out in its homeland around the 3rd century CE. It was also in use in Bactria, The Kushan Empire, Sogdia, and along the Silk Road, where there is some evidence it may have survived until the 7th century in Khotan and Niya, both cities in Xinjiang.

Early writing in India is associated with three scripts; Indus (Harrapan), Brahmi, and Kharoshthi. The Kharoshthi script descended from Aramaic and was used in what is now Northern Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan during the 4th or 5th century BC. The Ashokan edicts in this region are inscribed in the Aramaic script. The method of installing royal edicts at vantage points seems to be borrowed from the examples of Achaemenid inscriptions. Herodotus tells us that Daryush I had sent many explorers to gather information about the course of the river Sindhu and the Arabian Sea. Among them was ‘Scylax of Karyanda’, a Greek sailor from Ionia, who was well- known. He was the first Ionian Greek who stepped on the Indian land. Scylax began his exploration from the Sindhu and proceeded further by sailing around the coast of the Arabian Sea and then entering the Red Sea. He ended his journey at ‘Suez’, situated in the delta region of the Nile. It took two and a half years for him to complete this journey. The logbook of the journey of Scylax is known as ‘Periplus of Scylax’. The original periplus is lost but we get to know about its contents from the writings of the Greek historians. This periplus was the first source of information of the Indian subcontinent to the western world, especially to the Greeks.

Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax is an ancient Greek Periplus describing the sea route around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It probably dates from the mid-4th century BC, specifically the 330s, and was probably written at or near Athens. Its author is often included among the ranks of 'minor' Greek geographers. There is only one manuscript available, which postdates the original work by over 1500 years.

The author's name is written Pseudo-Scylax or Pseudo-Skylax, often abbreviated as Ps.-Scylax or Ps.-Skylax. Daryush I conquered the region in the lower reach of the Sindhu. Scylax had reported an already existing canal that linked the Nile and the Red Sea. It was dug by an Egyptian Pharoh. Daryush I revived that canal by digging it again. It opened a new waterway for the transport between Persia and the Indian subcontinent Darius organized the empire by dividing it into provinces and placing Satraps to govern it.

He organized Achaemenid Coinage as a new uniform monetary system, along with making Aramaic the official language of the empire. He also put the empire in better standing by building roads and introducing standard weights and measures. Through these changes, the empire was centralized and unified. Darius also worked on construction projects throughout the empire, focusing on Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and Egypt.

The inscription of Daryush I at Susa records the use of Indian ivory and teakwood for building the palace. Herodotus has described the Indian soldiers in the Achaemenid army. According to it, Xerexes’ army had soldiers from Gandhara, Sindh, and Punjab, when he invaded Greece in 480 B.C.E. The soldiers from Gandhara were equipped with bows made of cane and spears with short shafts. They also had horses and chariots drawn by horses. The Indian soldiers from Sindh and Punjab used cotton clothes and used bows and arrows made of cane.

In the times before Cyrus II, the founder of the Achaemenid empire, there was no coinage in use in Persia. The barter system prevailed to a large extent. Sometimes silver ingots of particular weight were used for exchanging commodities. Cyrus II had conquered the city-state of Lydia, where the use of coins was already in practice. Those coins were known as ‘stater’. Cyrus issued coins similar to Lydian coins. Daryush I issued coins with his own portrait on it. The Gold coins issued by him were known as ‘Darik’ and silver coins were known as ‘Siglos’. A portrait of Daryush I, holding a bow and arrow can be seen on these coins. One ‘Darik’ was equivalent to 12 ‘Sigloi’ in value.

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