When Alexander quitted the Panjab, he posted no Macedonian garrisons in that province, making over the care of his interests to King Poros, who must have been independent in practice. Ambhi, King of Taxila, was also entrusted with authority as a colleague of Poros. After the assassination of Philippos, Alexander had sent orders from Karmania to Eudamos, commandant of a Thracian garrison on the Indus, to act as resident pending the appointment of a satrap, and to supervise the native princes. But this officer had no adequate force at his command to enforce his authority, which must have been purely nominal. He managed, however, to remain in India, probably somewhere in the basin of the Indus, until about 317 B.C., when he departed to help Eumenes against Antigonos, taking with him a hundred and twenty elephants, and a small force of infantry and cavalry. He had obtained the elephants by treacherously slaying a native prince, perhaps Poros, with whom he had been associated as a colleague.
The province of Sind, on the Lower Indus, below the great confluence of the rivers, which had been entrusted by Alexander to Peithon, son of Agenor, remained under Greek influence for a still shorter period. At the time of the second partition of the Macedonian empire in 321 B.C. at Triparadeisos, Antipater was avowedly unable to exercise any effective control over the Indian. rajas, and Peithon had been obliged already to retire to the west of the Indus. The Indian provinces to the east of the river were consequently ignored in the partition, and Peithon was content to accept the government of the regions bordering on the Paropanisadai, or Kabul country. That country probably continued to be administered by Roxana’s father Oxyartes, whom Alexander had appointed satrap. Sibyrtios was confirmed in the government of Arachosia and Gedrosia; Stasandros, the Cyprian, was given Aria and Drangiana; and his countryman Stasanor was appointed governor of Bactria and Sogdiana. These arrangements clearly prove that in 321 B.C., within two years of Alexander’s death, the Greek power to the east of the Indus had been extinguished, with the slight exception of the small territory, wherever it may have been, which Eudamos managed to hold for some four years longer.
The insecurity of the Macedonian authority in the newly annexed Indian provinces had been proved by the assassination of Philippos, the report of which was received while Alexander was in Karmania, and might be expected to return some day to the scene of his victories. His death in June, 323 B.C., dispelled all
fears of his return, and the native princes undoubtedly took the earliest possible opportunity to assert their independence and exterminate the weak foreign garrisons. The news of Alexander’s decease was known in India probably as early as August, but no serious fighting would have been undertaken by ordinary commanders until the beginning of the cold season in October; for Alexander’s indifference to climatic conditions was not shared by Indian chiefs, who were accustomed to regulate their military movements strictly in accordance with precedent. We may feel assured that as soon as the news of the conqueror’s death had been confirmed beyond doubt, and the season permitted the execution of military operations with facility, a general rising took place, and that Macedonian authority in India was at an end early in 322 B.C., except for the small remnant to which Eudamos continued to cling.
The leader of the revolt against the foreigners was an able adventurer, Chandragupta by name, at that time a young man, probably not more than twenty-five years of age. Although he was on his father’s side a scion of the royal house of Magadha, – the principal State in Northern India, – his mother was of lowly origin, and, in accordance with Hindu law, he belonged to her caste and had to bear the reproach of inferior social rank. The family name Maurya, assumed by the members of the dynasty founded by Chandragupta, is said to be a derivative from Mura, his mother’s name. In some way or other, young Chandragupta incurred the displeasure of his kinsman, Mahapadma Nanda, the
reigning King of Magadha, and was obliged to go into exile. During his banishment he had the good fortune to see Alexander, and is said to have expressed the opinion that the Macedonian king, if he had advanced, would have made an easy conquest of the great kingdom on the Ganges, by reason of the extreme unpopularity of the reigning monarch. Mahapadma Nanda was reputed to be the son of a barber, who had secured the affections of the late queen. The guilty pair had then murdered the king, whose throne was seized by the barber-paramour. His son, the now reigning monarch, was avaricious and profligate, and naturally possessed few friends.
Chandragupta, having collected, during his exile, a formidable force of the warlike and predatory clans on the north-western frontier, attacked the Macedonian garrisons immediately after Alexander’s death, and conquered the Panjab. He then turned his victorious arms against his enemy, the King of Magadha, and, taking advantage of that monarch’s unpopularity, dethroned and slew him, utterly exterminating every member of his family. His adviser in this revolution was a subtle Brahman named Chanakya, by whose aid he succeeded in seizing the vacant throne. But the people did not gain much by the change of masters, because Chandragupta, “after his victory, forfeited by his tyranny all title to the name of liberator, oppressing with servitude the very people whom he had emancipated from foreign thraldom.” He inherited from his Nanda predecessor a huge army, which he increased until it numbered
thirty thousand cavalry, nine thousand elephants, six hundred thousand infantry, and a multitude of chariots. With this irresistible force, all the northern States, probably as far as the Narmada, or even farther, were overrun and subjugated; so that the dominions of Chandragupta, the first paramount sovereign or emperor in India, extended from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea.
While Chandragupta was engaged in the consolidation of his empire, a rival was laying the foundations of his power in Western and Central Asia, and preparing to attempt the recovery of Alexander’s Indian conquests. In the course of the internecine struggle between the generals of Alexander, two had emerged as competitors for supreme power in Asia – Antigonos and Seleukos, who afterward became known as Nikator, or the Conqueror. Fortune at first favoured Antigonos and drove his antagonist into exile; but in 312 B.C. Seleukos recovered possession of Babylon, and six years later felt himself justified in assuming the regal style and title. He is conventionally described as King of Syria, but was in reality the lord of Western and Central Asia. The eastern provinces of his realm extended to the borders of India; and he naturally desired to recover the Macedonian conquests in that country, which had been practically abandoned, although never formally relinquished. In pursuit of this object, Seleukos crossed the Indus in 305 B.C., and attempted to imitate the victorious march of Alexander. The details of the campaign are not known, and it is impossible
to determine how far the invading army penetrated into the Ganges valley, if at all, but the result of the war is certain.
When the shock of battle came, the hosts of Chandragupta were too strong for the invader, and Seleukos was obliged to retire and conclude a humiliating peace. Not only was he compelled to abandon all thought of conquest in India, but he was constrained to surrender a large part of Ariana to the west of the Indus. In exchange for the comparatively trifling equivalent of five hundred elephants, Chandragupta received the satrapies of the Paropanisadai, Aria, and Arachosia, the capitals of which were respectively the cities now known as Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar. The satrapy of Gedrosia, or at least the eastern portion of it, seems also to have been included in the cession, and the high contracting powers ratified the peace by “a matrimonial alliance,” which phrase probably means that Seleukos gave a daughter to his Indian rival. This treaty may be dated in 303 B.C. As soon as it was concluded, Seleukos started on his long march westward to confront Antigonos, whom he defeated and slew at Ipsos in Phrygia in 301 B.C. As Ipsos was at least 2500 miles distant from the Indus, the march to it must have occupied a year or more.
The range of the Hindu Kush Mountains, known to the Greeks as the Paropanisos or Indian Caucasus, in this way became the frontier between Chandragupta’s provinces of Herat and Kabul on the south, and the Seleukidan province of Bactria on the north. The first Indian
emperor, more than two thousand years ago, thus entered into possession of that “scientific frontier” sighed for in vain by his English successors, and never held in its entirety even by the Mogul monarchs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In the course of some eighteen years Chandragupta had expelled the Macedonian garrisons from the Panjab and Sind, repulsed and humbled Seleukos the Conqueror, and established himself as undisputed supreme lord of at least all Northern India and a large part of Ariana. These achievements fairly entitle him to rank among the greatest and most successful kings known to history. A realm so vast and various as that of Chandragupta was not to be governed by weakness. The strong hand which won the empire was needed to keep it, and the government was administered with stern severity. About six years after the withdrawal of Seleukos, Chandragupta died (297 B.C.), and handed on the imperial succession to his son Bindusara.
Soon after the conclusion of peace in 303 B.C., Seleukos had sent as his envoy to the court of Chandragupta an officer named Megasthenes, who had been employed under Sibyrtios, Satrap of Arachosia. The envoy resided for a considerable time at Pataliputra (now Patna), the capital of the Indian empire, and employed his leisure in compiling an excellent account of the geography, products, and institutions of India, which continued to be the principal authority on the subject until modern times. Although often misled by erroneous information received from others, Megasthenes is a veracious
and trustworthy witness concerning matters which came under his personal observation, and his vivid account of Chandragupta’s civil and military administration may be accepted without hesitation as true and accurate. That account, although preserved in a fragmentary form, is so full and detailed that the modern reader is more minutely informed in many respects concerning the institutions of Chandragupta than he is about those of any Indian sovereign until the days of Akbar, the contemporary of Queen Elizabeth.
Pataliputra, the imperial capital, which had been founded in the fifth century B.C., stood in the tongue of land formed by the confluence of the Son with the Ganges, on the northern bank of the former, and a few miles distant from the latter. The site is now occupied by the large native city of Patna and the English civil station of Bankipur, but the rivers changed their courses many centuries ago, and the confluence is at present near the cantonment of Dinapur, about twelve miles above Patna. The ancient city, which lies buried below its modern successor, was, like it, a long, narrow parallelogram, measuring about nine miles in length and a mile and a half in breadth. It was defended by a massive timber palisade, pierced by sixty-four gates, crowned by five hundred and seventy towers, and protected externally by a broad and deep moat, filled from the waters of the Son.
The royal palace, although chiefly constructed of timber, was considered to excel in splendour and magnificence the palaces of Susa and Ekbatana, its gilded pillars
being adorned with golden vines and silver birds. The buildings stood in an extensive park, studded with fish-ponds and furnished with a great variety of ornamental trees and shrubs.
Here the imperial court was maintained with barbaric and luxurious ostentation. Basins and goblets of gold, some measuring six feet in width, richly carved tables and chairs of state, vessels of Indian copper set with precious stones, and gorgeous embroidered robes were to be seen in profusion, and contributed to the brilliancy of the public ceremonies. When the king condescended to show himself in public on state occasions, he was carried in a golden palanquin, adorned with tassels of pearls, and was clothed in fine muslin embroidered with purple and gold. When making short journeys, he rode on horseback, but when travelling longer distances he was mounted like a modern raja, on an elephant with golden trappings. Combats of animals were a favourite diversion, as they still are at the courts of native princes, and the king took delight in witnessing the fights of bulls, rams, elephants, rhinoceroses, and other animals. Gladiatorial contests between men were also exhibited. A curious entertainment, which seems not to be known in the present age, was afforded by ox-races, which were made the subject of keen betting, and were watched by the king with the closest interest. The course was one of thirty stadia, or six thousand yards, and the race was run with cars, each of which was drawn by a mixed team of horses and oxen, the horses being in the centre, with an ox on
each side. Trotting oxen are still largely used for drawing travelling-carriages in many parts of India, but the breed of racers seems to be extinct.
The principal royal amusement was the chase, which was conducted with great ceremony, the game in an enclosed preserve being driven up to a platform occupied by the king, who shot the animals with arrows; but, if the hunt took place in the open country, he used to ride an elephant. When hunting, he was closely attended by armed female guards, who were obtained by purchase from foreign countries, and formed an indispensable element in the courts of the ancient Indian monarchs. The road for the sovereign’s procession was marked off with ropes, which it was death for any one, even a woman, to pass. The institution of the royal hunt was abolished by Chandragupta’s grandson, Asoka, in 259 B.C.
As a rule, the king remained within the precincts of the inner palace, under the protection of his Amazonian body-guard, and appeared in public only to hear cases, offer sacrifice, and to go on military or hunting expeditions. Probably he was expected to show himself to his subjects at least once a day, and then to receive petitions and decide disputes in person Like the modern Indians, Chandragupta took pleasure in massage or friction of the limbs, and custom required that he should indulge in this luxury while giving public audience; four attendants used to massage him with ebony rollers during the time that he was engaged in disposing of cases. In accordance with Persian custom, which had
much influence upon the Indian court and administration, the king ceremonially washed his hair on his birthday, which was celebrated by a splendid festival, at which the nobles were expected to make rich presents to their sovereign.
In the midst of all the gold and glitter, and in spite of the most elaborate precautions, uneasy lay the head that wore the crown. The king’s life was so constantly threatened by plots that he dared not incur the risk either of sleeping in the daytime, or of occupying the same bedroom two nights in succession. The dramatist brings vividly before us the astuteness of the Brahman counsellor who detected the plots both of the poisoners and of –
“The brave men who were concealed
In the subterrene avenue that led
To Chandragupta’s sleeping chamber – thence
To steal by night, and kill him as he slept.”
The army, to which Chandragupta owed his throne and empire, was maintained at enormous numerical strength, and so organized, equipped, and administered as to attain a high degree of efficiency, as measured by an Oriental standard. It was not a militia, but a standing army, drawing liberal and regular pay, and supplied by the government with horses, arms, equipment, and stores. The force at the command of Mahapadma Nanda is said to have numbered eighty thousand horse, two hundred thousand foot, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. This huge force was greatly augmented by Chandragupta;
who raised the numbers of the infantry to six hundred thousand, and also had thirty thousand horse, and nine thousand elephants, besides chariots, all permanently enrolled in a regularly paid establishment.
Each horseman carried two lances, resembling the kind called saunia is by the Greeks, and a buckler. All the infantry carried the broadsword as their principal weapon, and as additional arms, either javelins, or bow and arrows. The arrow was discharged with the aid of pressure from the left foot on the extremity of the bow resting upon the ground, and with such force that neither shield nor breastplate could withstand it.
Each chariot, which might be drawn by either four or two horses, accommodated two fighting-men besides the driver; and an elephant, in addition to the mahout, or driver, carried three archers. The nine thousand elephants therefore implied a force of thirty-six thousand men, and the eight thousand chariots, supposing them to be no more numerous than those kept by Mahapadma Nanda, required twenty-four thousand men to work them. The total number of soldiers in the army would thus have been six hundred thousand infantry, thirty thousand horsemen, thirty-six thousand men with the elephants, and twenty-four thousand with the chariots, or 690,000 in all, excluding followers and attendants.
These high figures may seem incredible at first sight, but are justified by our knowledge of the unwieldy hosts used in war by Indian kings in later ages. For instance, Nunez, the Portuguese chronicler, who was contemporary with Krishna Deva, the Raja of Vijayanagar, in
the sixteenth century (1509–30), affirms that that prince led against Raichur an army consisting of 703,000 foot, 32,600 horse, and 551 elephants, besides camp-followers.
From an Ajanta Cave Painting. (After Griffiths.)
The formidable force at the disposal of Chandragupta, by far the largest in India, was controlled and administered under the direction of a War Office organized on an elaborate system. A commission of thirty members was divided into six boards, each with five members, to which departments were severally assigned as follows: Board No. 1, in co-operation with the admiral – Admiralty; Board No. 2 – Transport, commissariat, and Army Service, including the provision of drummers, grooms, mechanics, and grass-cutters; Board No. 3 – Infantry; Board No. 4 – Cavalry; Board No. 5 – War-chariots; Board No. 6 – Elephants.
All Indian armies had been regarded from time immemorial as normally comprising the four arms, cavalry, infantry, elephants, and chariots; and each of these arms would naturally fall under the control of a distinct authority; but the addition of co-ordinate supply and admiralty departments appears to be an innovation due to the genius of Chandragupta. His organization must have been as efficient in practice as it was systematic
on paper, for it enabled him not only, in the words of Plutarch, to “overrun and subdue all India,” but also to expel the Macedonian garrisons, and to repel the invasion of Seleukos.
The details recorded concerning the civil administration of Chandragupta’s empire, if not so copious as we might desire, are yet sufficient to enable us to realize the system of government, which, although of course based upon the personal autocracy of the sovereign, was something better than a merely arbitrary tyranny.
The administration of the capital city, Pataliputra, was regarded as a matter of the highest importance, and was provided for by the formation of a Municipal Commission, consisting of thirty members, divided, like the War Office Commission of equal numbers, into six boards or committees of five members each. These boards may be regarded as an official development of the ordinary non-official panchayat, or committee of five members, by which every caste and trade in India has been accustomed to regulate its internal affairs from time immemorial.
The first Municipal Board, which was entrusted with the superintendence of everything relating to the industrial arts, was doubtless responsible for fixing the rates of wages, and must have been prepared to enforce the use of pure and sound materials, as well as the performance of a fair day’s work for fair wages, as determined by the authorities. Artisans were regarded as being in a special manner devoted to the royal service, and capital punishment was inflicted on any person who
impaired the efficiency of a craftsman by causing the loss of a hand or an eye.
The second Board devoted its energies to the case of foreign residents and visitors, and performed duties which in modern Europe are entrusted to the consuls representing foreign powers. All foreigners were closely watched by officials, who provided suitable lodgings, escorts, and, in case of need, medical attendance. Deceased strangers were decently buried, and their estates were administered by the commissioners, who forwarded the assets to. the persons entitled. The existence of these elaborate regulations is conclusive proof that the Maurya empire in the third century B.C. was in constant intercourse with foreign states, and that large numbers of strangers visited the capital on business.
The third Board was responsible for the systematic registration of births and deaths, and we are expressly informed that the system of registration was enforced for the information of the government, as well as for facility in levying the taxes. The taxation referred to was probably a poll-tax, at the rate of so much a head annually. Nothing in the legislation of Chandragupta is more astonishing to the observer familiar with the lax methods of ordinary Oriental governments than this registration of births and deaths. The spontaneous adoption of such a measure by an Indian native state in modern times is unheard-of, and it is impossible to imagine an old-fashioned raja feeling anxious “that births and deaths among both high and low might not be concealed.” Even the Anglo-Indian administration,
with its complex organization and European notions of the value of statistical information, did not attempt the collection of vital statistics until very recent times, and has always experienced great difficulty in securing reasonable accuracy in the figures.
The important domain of trade and commerce was the province of the fourth Board, which regulated sales, and enforced the use of duly stamped weights and measures. Merchants paid a license tax, and the trader who dealt in more than one class of commodity paid double.
The fifth Board was responsible for the supervision of manufactures on similar lines. A curious and not easily intelligible regulation prescribed the separation of new from old goods, and imposed a fine for violation of the rule.
The collection of a tithe of the value of the goods sold was the business of the sixth and last Board, and evasion of this tax was punishable with death. Similar taxation on sales has always been common in India, but rarely, if ever, has its collection been enforced by a penalty so formidable as that exacted by Chandragupta.
Our detailed information relates only to the municipal administration of Pataliputra, the capital, but it is reasonable to infer that Taxila, Ujjain, and the other great cities of the empire were governed on the same principles and by similar methods. The “Provincials’ Edict” of Asoka is addressed to the officers in charge of the city of Tosali in Kalinga.
In addition to the special departmental duties above detailed the Municipal Commissioners in their collective
capacity were required to control all the affairs of the city, and to keep in order the markets, temples, harbours, and, generally speaking, all public works.
The administration of the distant provinces was entrusted to viceroys, probably, as a rule, members of the royal family. Chandragupta’s brother-in-law was, as we have seen, governor of remote Kathiawar on the western coast. The information concerning the viceroyalties being more complete for Asoka’s reign than for that of Chandragupta, the subject will be referred to again when Asoka’s system of administration is discussed.
In accordance with the usual practice of Oriental monarchies, the court kept watch over the more remote functionaries by means of special agents, or “news-writers,” the akhbar navis of modern times, who are called “overseers” and “inspectors” by the Greek authors, and are mentioned in the Asoka Edicts as the king’s “men” or “reporters.” The duty of these officers was to superintend or oversee all that occurred in town or country, and to make private reports to the government. Arrian notes that similar officers were employed by the authorities of the independent nations as well as by the monarchical governments of India. They did not disdain to utilize as coadjutors the courtesans of the camp and city, and these must have transmitted at times to their masters strange packets of scandalous gossip. Arrian’s informants assured him that the reports sent in were always true, and that no Indian could be accused of lying; but it is permissible to doubt the strict accuracy of this statement, although
it is certainly the fact that the people of ancient India enjoyed a wide-spread and enviable reputation for straightforwardness and honesty.
The general honesty of the people and the efficient administration of the criminal law are both attested by the observation recorded by Megasthenes, that while he resided in Chandragupta’s camp, containing four hundred thousand persons, the total of the thefts reported in any one day did not exceed two hundred drachmai, or about eight pounds sterling. When crime did occur, it was repressed with terrible severity. Ordinary wounding by mutilation was punished by the corresponding mutilation of the offender, in addition to the amputation of his hand. If the injured person happened to be an artisan devoted to the royal service, the penalty was death. The crime of giving false evidence was visited with mutilation of the extremities, and in certain unspecified cases serious offences were punished by the shaving of the offender’s hair, a penalty regarded as specially infamous. Injury to a sacred tree, evasion of the municipal tithe on goods sold, and intrusion on the royal procession going to the hunt were all alike capitally punishable. These recorded instances of severity are sufficient to prove that the code of criminal law, as a whole, must have been characterized by uncompromising sternness and slight regard for human life.
The native law of India has always recognized agricultural land as being Crown property, and has admitted the undoubted right of the ruling power to levy a Crown
rent, or “land revenue,” amounting to a considerable portion, either of the gross produce or of its cash value. Even the English laws, which, contrary to ancient custom, recognize private property in culturable land, insist that the land revenue is the first charge on the soil, and permit the enforcement of the charge by sale of the land free of all incumbrances, in the event of default. The land revenue is still the mainstay of Indian finance. So it must have been in the days of Chandragupta. The details of his system of “settlement,” or valuation and assessment of the land, have not been preserved, and it is not known whether a fresh valuation was made annually, or at longer intervals. The normal share of the gross produce taken by the Crown is said to have been one-fourth; but in practice, no doubt, the proportion taken varied largely, as it does to this day, and all provinces could not be treated alike. Certain other unspecified dues were also levied. Since the army was a professional force, recruited from the fighting castes, the agricultural population was exempt from military service, and Megasthenes noted with’ surprise and admiration that the husbandmen could pursue their calling in peace, while the professional soldiers of hostile kings engaged in battle.
The proper regulation of irrigation is a matter of prime importance in India, and it is much to the credit of Chandragupta that he maintained a special Irrigation Department, charged with the duty of measuring the lands and of so regulating the sluices that everyone should receive his fair share of the life-giving water.
The allusion to the measurement of lands as part of the duty of the Irrigation Department seems to indicate that a water-rate was levied, and the reference to sluices implies a regular system of canals.
The inscription of the Satrap Rudradaman, engraved about the year 150 A.D. on the famous rock at Girnar in Kathiawar, on which Asoka, four centuries earlier, had recorded a version of his immortal edicts, bears direct testimony to the care bestowed by the central government upon the question of irrigation, even in the most remote provinces. Although Girnar is situated close to the Arabian Sea, at a distance of at least a thousand miles from the Maurya capital, the needs of the local farmers did not escape the imperial notice. Chandragupta’s brother-in-law Pushyagupta, who was viceroy of the western provinces, saw that by damming up a small stream a reservoir of great value for irrigation could be provided. He accordingly formed a lake called Sudarsana, “the Beautiful,” between the citadel on the east side of the hill and the “inscription rock” farther to the east, but failed to complete the necessary supplemental channels. These were constructed in the reign of Chandragupta’s grandson Asoka, under the superintendence of his representative Tushaspa, the Persian, who was then governor. These beneficent works constructed under the patronage of the Maurya emperors endured for four hundred years, but in the year 150 A.D. a storm of exceptional violence destroyed the embankment, and with it the lake.
The embankment was rebuilt “three times stronger “
than before by order of the local Saka Satrap Rudradaman, who has recorded the history of the work in an inscription which is the only known epigraphic record containing the names of Chandragupta and Asoka Maurya. Notwithstanding the triple strength of Rudradaman’s masonry, it, too, failed to withstand the fury of the elements, and the dam again burst at some time unknown. The lake thus finally disappeared, and its site, buried in deep jungle, was so utterly forgotten that modern local inquirers have experienced difficulty in ascertaining its exact position.
The fact that so much pains and expense were lavished upon this irrigation work in a remote dependency of the empire is conclusive evidence that the provision of water for the fields was recognized as an imperative duty by the great Maurya emperors, and is a striking illustration of the accuracy of Megasthenes’ remark that imperial officers were wont to “measure the land, as in Egypt, and inspect the sluices by which water is distributed into the branch canals, so that every one may enjoy his fair share of the benefit.”
The central government, by means of local officers, exercised strict control and maintained close supervision over all classes and castes of the population. Even the Brahman astrologers, soothsayers, and sacrificial priests, whom Megasthenes erroneously described as forming a separate caste of “philosophers” or “sophists,” received their share of official attention, and were rewarded or punished according as their predictions and observations proved correct or mistaken.
Among the artisans, ship-builders and armour-makers were salaried public servants, and were not permitted, it is said, to work for any private person. The woodcutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, and miners were subject to special supervision, of which the nature is not defined.
According to Strabo, no private person was permitted to keep either a horse or an elephant, the possession of either animal being a royal privilege. But this assertion is undoubtedly inaccurate, and is contradicted by the reasonable and detailed observations of Arrian. That author tells us that the mounts used commonly were horses, camels, and asses, elephants being used only by the wealthy, and considered specially appropriate for the service of royalty. Except as regards asses, which are now looked upon with contempt and restricted to the humblest services as beasts of burden for potters and washermen, the statement of Arrian applies accurately to modern India. To ride an elephant or camel, or to travel in a four-horse chariot, was, he says, a mark of distinction, but anybody might ride or drive a single horse.
The roads were maintained in order by the officers of the proper department, and pillars, serving as milestones and sign-posts, were set up at intervals of ten stadia, equivalent to half a kos, according to the Indian . reckoning, or 2022½ English yards. The provision of these useful marks was made more liberally than it was afterward by the Mogul emperors, who were content with one pillar to each kos. A royal road, or grand
highway, ten thousand stadia in length, connected the north-western frontier with the capital.
The foregoing review of the civil and military system of government during the reign of Chandragupta proves clearly that Northern India in the time of Alexander the Great had attained to a high degree of civilization, which must have been the product of evolution continued through many centuries. Unfortunately, no monuments have been discovered which can be referred with certainty to the period of Chandragupta and his son, and the archaeologist is unable to bring the tangible evidence afforded by excavation to support the statements of the Greek observers.
The earliest known examples of Indian art and architecture, with very slight exceptions, still date from the reign of Asoka. No trace of stone architecture prior to the age of Asoka has been detected. Writing was certainly in common use long before the days of Chandragupta, when, according to the Greek authors, the bark of trees and cotton cloth served as writing material, and it is surprising that no inscriptions of his time have yet been found. But some records, either on stone or metal, probably exist, and may be expected to come to light whenever the really ancient sites shall be examined.
Chandragupta ascended the throne at an early age, and, inasmuch as he reigned only twenty-four years, must have died before he was fifty years of age. In this brief space of life he did much. The expulsion of the Macedonian garrisons, the decisive repulse of Seleukos
the Conqueror, the subjugation of all Northern India from sea to sea, the formation of a gigantic army, and the thorough organization of the civil government of a vast empire were no mean achievements. The power of Chandragupta was so firmly established that it passed peaceably into the hands of his son and grandson, and his alliance was courted by the potentates of the Hellenistic world. The Greek princes made no attempt to renew the aggressions of Alexander and Seleukos upon secluded India, and were content to maintain friendly diplomatic and commercial relations with her rulers for three generations.
The Maurya empire was not, as some recent writers fancy that it was, in any way the result of Alexander’s splendid but transitory raid. The nineteen months which he spent in India were consumed in devastating warfare, and his death rendered fruitless all his grand constructive plans. Chandragupta did not need Alexander’s example to teach him what empire meant. He and his countrymen had had before their eyes for ages the stately fabric of the Persian monarchy, and it was that empire which impressed their imagination and served as the model for their institutions, in so far as they were not indigenous. The little touches of foreign manners in the court and institutions of Chandragupta, which chance to have been noted by our fragmentary authorities, are Persian, not Greek; and the Persian title of satrap continued to be used by Indian provincial governors for centuries, down to the close of the fourth century A.D.
The military organization of Chandragupta shows no trace of Hellenic influence. It is based upon the ancient Indian model, and his vast host was merely a development of the considerable army maintained by the kingdom of Magadha. The Indian kings relied upon their elephants, chariots, and huge masses of infantry, the cavalry being few in comparison, and inefficient. Alexander, oil the contrary, made no use of elephants or chariots, and put his trust in small bodies of highly trained cavalry, handled with consummate skill and calculated audacity. In the art of war he had no successor. The Seleukid kings were content to follow the Oriental system and put their trust in elephants.
When Chandragupta died, in the year 297 B.C., he was succeeded by his son Bindusara. The Greek writers, however, do not know this name, and call the successor of Chandragupta by appellations which seem to be attempts to transcribe the Sanskrit epithet Amitraghata, “Slayer of foes.” The friendly relations between India and the Hellenistic powers, which had been initiated by Chandragupta and Seleukos, continued unbroken throughout the reign of Bindusara, at whose court Megasthenes was replaced by Deimachos, as ambassador. The new envoy followed his predecessor’s example by recording notes on the country to which he was accredited, but, unfortunately, very few of his observations have been preserved. When the aged founder of the Seleukid monarchy was assassinated in 280 B.C., his place was taken by his son and colleague,
Antiochos Soter, who continued to follow his father’s policy in regard to India.
The anecdote concerning the correspondence between Antiochos and Bindusara, although trivial in itself, is worth quoting as a tangible proof of the familiar intercourse between the sovereign of India and his ally in Western Asia. Nothing, we are told, being sweeter than figs, Bindusara begged Antiochos to send him some figs and raisin wine, and added that he would like him also to buy and send a professor. Antiochos replied that he had much pleasure in forwarding the figs and raisin wine, but regretted that he could not oblige his correspondent with the last-named article, because it was not lawful for Greeks to sell a professor.
Nothing is recorded concerning the internal policy of Bindusara, whose reign lasted for twenty-five years, nor is any monument or inscription of his time known. But it is probable that he continued his father’s career of annexation and conquest within the borders of India. The limits of the empire ruled by Asoka, son and successor of Bindusara, are known with sufficient accuracy, and it is certain that his dominions extended as far south as Madras. The country south of the Narmada was not conquered by Asoka, whose only annexation was that of the kingdom of Kalinga, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
The Deccan, or peninsular India, down to approximately the latitude of Madras, must have been subjugated by either Chandragupta or Bindusara, because it was inherited from the latter by Asoka; and it is
more probable that the conquest of the south was the work of Bindusara than that it was effected by his busy father. But the ascertained outline of the career of Chandragupta is so wonderful. and implies his possession of such exceptional ability, that it is possible that the conquest of the south must be added to the list of his achievements. With this brief glance the shadowy figure of Bindusara passes from our view, and the next two chapters will be devoted to the history of Asoka, who rightfully claims a place in the front rank of the great monarchs, not only of India, but of the world.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage