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Arachosia is the Latinized form of Greek name of an Achaemenid and Seleucid governorate (satrapy) in the eastern part of their respective empires, and that was inhabited by the Iranian Arachosians or Arachoti.

The Greek term "Arachosia" corresponds to the Iranian land of Harauti which is southeastern Afghanistanmarker and southwestern Pakistanmarker extending eastwards to the western bank of the Indus Rivermarker (see geography for details). Its center lay in what is today the Arghandab Districtmarker of Afghanistan.


"Arachosia" is the Latinized form of Greek Ἀραχωσία - Arachōsíā. "The same region appears in the Avestan Vidēvdāt (1.12) under the indigenous dialect form - (whose -axva- is typical non-Avestan)." In Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as ' ', written h-r-v-u-t-i. This form is the "etymological equivalent" of Vedic Sanskrit -, the name of a (mythological) river literally meaning "rich in waters/lakes" and derived from sáras- "lake, pond." (cf. Aredvi Sura Anahita).

"Arachosia" was named after the name of a river that runs through it, in Greek Arachōtós, today known as the Arghandabmarker, a tributary of the Helmand.


Isidore and Ptolemy (6.20.4-5) each provide a list of cities in Arachosia, among them (yet another) Alexandria, which lay on the river Arachotus. This city is identified with present-day Kandaharmarker, the name of which derives (via "Iskanderiya") from "Alexandria",

reflecting a connection to Alexander the Great's visit to the city on his campaign towards India. Isidore, Strabo (11.8.9) and Pliny (6.61) also refer to the city as "metropolis of Arachosia."

In his list, Ptolemy also refers to a city named Arachotus ( ; ) or Arachoti (acc. to Strabo), which was the earlier capital of the land. Pliny the Elder and Stephen of Byzantium mention that its original name was Cophen (Κωφήν). This city is identified today with Quettamarker that lies just east of present-day Kandaharmarker.

Although centered around the Quettamarker and Kandaharmarker, the extent of Arachosia remains unclear. According to Ptolemy (6.20.1, cf. Strabo 15.2.9), Arachosia was bound by Drangiana in the west, Bactria in the north, to the Indus rivermarker in the east, and Gedrosia in the south. Strabo (11.10.1) too suggests that Arachosia extended eastwards as far as the Indus rivermarker. Pliny (Natural History 6.92) speaks of Dexendrusi in the south.


Ptolemy (6.20.3) mentions several tribes of Arachosia by name, the Pargyetae ( ), and, to the south, the Sidri ( ), Rhoplutae ( ), and Eoritae ( ). Despite attempts to connect the Eoritae with the "Arattas" of the Mahabharata, the identity of these tribes is unknown, and even Ptolemy's orthography is disputed ("Pargyetae" is sometimes rewritten "Parsyetae" or "Aparytae").


The region is first referred to in the Achaemenid-era Elamite Persepolis fortification tablets. It appears again in the Old Persian, Akkadian and Aramaic inscriptions of Darius I and Xerxes I among lists of subject peoples and countries. It is subsequently also identified as the source of the ivory used in Darius' palace at Susa. In the Behistun inscriptionmarker (DB 3.54-76), the King recounts that a Persianmarker was thrice defeated by the Achaemenid governor of Arachosia, Vivana, who so ensured that the province remained under Darius' control. It has been suggested that this "strategically unintelligible engagement" was ventured by the rebel because "there were close relations between Persiamarker and Arachosia concerning the Zoroastrian faith."

The chronologically next reference to Arachosia comes from the Greeks and Romans, who record that under Darius III the Arachosians and Drangians were under the command of a governor who, together with the army of the Bactrian governor, contrived a plot of the Arachosians against Alexander (Curtius Rufus 8.13.3). Following Alexander's conquest of the Achaemenids, the Macedonian appointed his generals as governors (Arrian 3.28.1, 5.6.2; Curtius Rufus 7.3.5; Plutarch, Eumenes 19.3; Polyaenus 4.6.15; Diodorus 18.3.3; Orosius 3.23.1 3; Justin 13.4.22).

Following the Partition of Babylon, the region became part of the Seleucid Empire, which traded it to the Mauryan Empire in 305 BCE as part of an alliance. The Sunga Dynasty overthrew the Mauryans in 185 BC, but shortly afterwards lost Arachosia to the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. It then became part of the break-away Indo-Greek Kingdom in the mid 2nd century BCE. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BCE, but lost the region to the Arsacid and Indo-Parthians. At what time (and in what form) Parthian rule over Arachosia was reestablished cannot be determined with any authenticity. From Isidore 19 it is certain that a part (perhaps only a little) of the region was under Arsacid rule in the 1st century CE, and that the Parthians called it Indikē Leukē, "White India."

The Kushans captured Arachosia from the Indo-Parthians and ruled the region until around 230 CE, when the they were defeated by the Sassanids, the second Persian Empire, after which the Kushans were replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshas or Indo-Sassanids. In 420 CE the Kushanshas were driven out of Afghanistan by the Chionites, who established the Kidarite Kingdom. The Kidarites were replaced in the 460s CE by the Hephthalites, who were defeated in 565 CE by a coalition of Persian and Turkish armies. Arachosia became part of the surviving Kushano-Hephthalite Kingdoms of Kapisa, then Kabulmarker, before coming under attack from the Moslem Arabs. Around 870 CE the Kushano-Hephthalites (aka Turkshahi Dynasty) was replaced by the Hindu-shahi dynasty, which fell to the Muslim Turkish Ghaznavids in the early 11th century CE.

Arab geographers referred to the region (or parts of it) as 'Arokhaj', 'Rokhaj', 'Rohkaj' or simply 'Roh'.


The south, southeast and northeast parts of Arachosia retained Buddhist-Hindu religious and cultural influence until the advent of Islam in the 7th century. Much of the country remained Buddhist even while in Arab hands, but within a few centuries Islam became the region's dominant religion. See Sistan for information on the religion of the area after the Arab conquest.


  • Frye, Richard N. (1963). The Heritage of Persia. World Publishing company, Cleveland, Ohio. Mentor Book edition, 1966.
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu. Draft annotated English translation.
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation.
  • Toynbee, Arnold J. (1961). Between Oxus and Jumna. London. Oxford University Press.
  • Vogelsang, W. (1985). "Early historical Arachosia in South-east Afghanistan; Meeting-place between East and West." Iranica antiqua, 20 (1985), pp. 55-99.

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