Seleucus Invasion of India

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The Mauryan Empire | Seleucus's Invasion | Bindusara | Ashoka | Kalinga War | Economy & Administration | Decline 

Alexander died in 323 B.C. As he had no heir to inherit his vast empire, it was parceled out by his three prominent generals among themselves. Seleucus was also one of them and he got the Asian parts of the Alexandrian empire. The fragmented India which Seleucus had seen during the Porus-Alexander war inspired him to see the dream of the conquest of India. His dream however, remained unrealized as by now Chandragupta Maurya had established a strong empire in India.

Seleucus was one of the leading generals of Alexander. While journeying back to Greece from India, Alexander reached Babylon, he fell seriously ill and died there in 323 B.C. Alexander died without any heir. So his extensive empire was shared out by his three generals among themselves. Thus, the far flung empire of Alexander was split up into three parts- the Greek, the Egyptian and the Asian. The first two parts came into the possession of Ptolemy and Antigones respectively, while the third i.e. the Asian part fell to the lot of Seleucus. Seleucus's Asian empire extended from Syria up to the Euphrates. Some parts of Punjab and Afghanistan were also held by him. Seleucus had accompanied Alexander during his invasion of India in 326 B.C. After the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya had established as strong empire in India and had driven out the Greeks from the Indian soil. Seleucus therefore wanted to regain these territories and to move further to the east of Indus.

The coronation of the Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta took place in 321 B.C. two years after Alexander had left India. He united the country into a strong and well Knit empire. With the help of his able minister and astute diplomat Kautilya, he succeeded in laying the foundation of a strong empire. The image of India which Seleucus had formed in his mind was that of a country fragmented into small kingdoms and were prone to mutual rivalries and jealousies. He, therefore, entertained the ambition of conquest of India, but little did he knew that India which he was going to face was even more powerful than his own empire. Consequently Seleucus advanced with a huge army against India in 305 B.C. The Indian soldiers were in fine fettle and their horsemen, chariot army and elephants were ready to inflict defeat on the invaders. A terrible war followed on the north-west borders of India. The Greeks could not withstand the onslaught of the gallant Indian fighters. The army of Chandragupta Maurya routed the invaders and Seleucus was forced to sign a peace treaty. Chandragupta Maurya, advised by Kautilya, presented his terms to the defeated army. Seleucus was forced to accept. By the terms of the treaty, Seleucus surrebderred his territories in Afghanistan - Herat, Kandhar, and the Kabul valley - to Chandragupta Maurya. In return, he was presented the gift of 300 elephants. On Kautilya's advice, Chandragupta married the daughter of Seleucus, Helen. Seleucus also appointed Megasthenes as his ambassador to the Mauryan court. Megasthenes wrote a famous account of his stay at the Mauryan court in a book entitled Indica.

Besides the preponderant army and armaments, one factor that contributed to the victory of Chandragupta Maurya in this war was that as a result of Alexander's invasion, Indians had also become familiar with the Greek methods of warfare. Moreover, it was by dint of his bravery and Kautilya's sharp intelligence that Chandragupta Maurya had built up such an extensive empire. His vast army was also well-trained and well-equipped.

No detailed accounts of this war between Seleucus and Alexander are available. The Greek historians have also confined themselves to just mentioning its results. From the results, however, we can draw the conclusion that Seleucus certainly sustained a crushing defeat in the war, and his dream of the conquest of India was shattered forever.

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