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Indian Peninsula under Achaemenid Influence



19 September 2005


Joe Cribb, Assistant Keeper of South Asian coins and a curator of Coins and Medals department of the British Museum believes that the differences between the Iranologists and the experts of Greek history should not be an obstacle to the studies of the influence of the Achaemenid empire in India and Afghanistan.

Joe Cribb has been a curator of the British Museum's Department of Coins and Medals since 1970. He is a specialist in Asian coins and currencies. He has written extensively on the coins of South, Central and South-East Asia, with particular emphasis on the numismatic evidence for the Kushans.

According to Cribb, Iranologists have always been busy with the matters of Greek history and culture, which have caused them to forget the influence of Iranian culture especially that of the Achaemenid era on the ethnic groups living east of Iran.

Noting the significance of the exhibition of “The Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia”, being held in the British Museum, in the studies of the influence of the Persian empire on India, he told CHN, “The comparison of the works and symbols presented in this exhibition with those discovered from Gupta rulers who ruled India in the 3rd century CE indicates that the Achaemenid art continued its influence 300 years after their collapse.”

According to Cribb, scenes of hunting and fighting with wild animals such as lions, which can be seen on the Iranian bas reliefs and seals have been found in Gupta works as well.

The Kushans ruled ancient Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India from the 1st to the 4th century AD. The fourth Kushan king, Kanishka I (c. AD 127-150) adopted Buddhism towards the end of his reign and summoned a council of Buddhist teachers in Kashmir to re-codify the Buddhist religion. Coins are the most important historical source for this dynasty. Together with inscriptions and archaeology, they provide an insight into the political, cultural and religious history of this period. They were among the people who were greatly influenced by the Achaemenids.

“At first when they came to Bactria (Balkh), they chose Greek language and Gods, but with the passing of time, especially in the time of Kanishka, the greatest Kushan king, they adopted Persian language and Gods. Discovery of an inscription from Kanishka, on which we can see the style of Darius, the Achaemenid king, indicates that the Kushans were familiar with the Achaemenid system of government,” explained Cribb.

Cribb explained about the existence of the names of Bahram and Mitra on the remained inscriptions from the Kushans, “In addition to these names which have been carved on the inscriptions, the coins which have remained from that time indicate the influence of Achaemenids on the Kushan dynasty. In a particular period, the pictures on the coins are changed. On some of their coins, we see the face of the king, just like the Greek ones. But after a while, this has changed to the full figure of the king in an Achaemenid dress, just like Achaemenid coins.”

The era of Kushan dynasty was a glorious one of Afghanistan. The famous statues of Bamian Buddhas which were 53 and 35 meters and destroyed by Taliban belonged to this period.




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