Dec 10, 2009

Sandrocottus: Chandragupta of the Greeks

By: William Smith
SANDROCOTTUS an Indian king at the time of Seleucus Nicator, ruled over the powerful nation of the Gangaridae and Prasii on the banks of the Ganges. The Gangaridae, also written Gandaridae, and the Prasii, are probably the same people ; the former name signifying the people in the neighbourhood of the Ganges, and the latter being of Hindu origin, and the same as the WacAz, the eastern country of Sanscrit writers.

The capital of Sandrocottus was Palibothra, called by the Sanscrit writers Pataliputra, probably in the neighbourhood of the modern Patna. The Greek writers relate that the father of Sandrocottus was a man of low origin, being the son of a barber, whom the queen had married after putting her husband the king to death. He is called by Dio-dorus Siculus Xandrames, and by Q. Curtius Aygrammes, the latter name being probably only a corruption of the former. This king sent his son Sandrocottus to Alexander the Great, who was then at the Hyphasis, and he is reported to have said that Alexander might easily have conquered the eastern parts of India, since the king was hated on account of his wickedness and the meanness of his birth. Justin likewise relates, that Sandrocottus saw Alex­ander, and that having offended him, he was ordered to be put to death, and escaped only by flight. Justin says nothing about his being the king's son, but simply relates that he was of ob­scure origin, and that after he escaped from Alex­ander he became the leader of a band of robbers, and finally obtained the supreme power.

So much seems certain, that in the troubles which followed the death of Alexander, Sandrocottus or his father extended his dominions over the greater part of northern India, and conquered the Macedonians, who had been left by Alexander in the Panjab. After the general peace between the successors of Alexander in b. c. 311, Seleucus was left for ten years in the undisturbed possession of his do­minions, and at some period during this time he made an effort to recover the Indian conquests of Alexander.

The year in which he undertook the expedition is not stated, but from the account of Justin it would appear to have been only a short time before the war with Antigonus, that is, b.c. 302. It is unknown how far Seleucus penetrated in India; according to some accounts he advanced as far as Palibothra. At all events, he did not succeed in the object of his expedition ; for, in the peace con­cluded between the two monarchs, Seleucus ceded to Sandrocottus not only his conquests in the Panjab, but also the country of the Paropamisus. Seleucus in return received five hundred war ele­phants, which had then become an object of so much importance as perhaps to be almost an equi­valent for the loss of the dominions which he sus­tained.

The peace was cemented by a matrimonial alliance between the Syrian and Indian kings. Megasthenes subsequently resided for many years at the court of Sandrocottus as the ambassador of Seleucus ; and to the work which Megasthenes wrote on India, later writers were chiefly indebted for their accounts of the country. [megasthenes.] The name of Sandrocottus is written both by Plu­tarch and Appian Androcottus without the sibilant, ftnd Athenaeus gives \is the form Sandrocuptus

Sandrocottus has excited considerable interest among modern scholars, as he appears to be the same as the Chandragupta of the Sanscrit writers. Not only does the great resemblance of name point to an identity of the two, but the circumstances related by the Sanscrit writers respecting the his­tory of Chandragupta bear so great a similarity to those recorded by the Greek authors respecting Sandrocottus, that it is impossible to doubt that they are the same person. The differences between the Greek and Sanscrit writers rather enhance the value of both sets of testimonies, since a perfect agreement would have been suspicious. The Hin­du narrative was as follows. At Pataliputra reigned a king named Nanda, who was the son of a woman of the Sudra caste, and was hence, ac­cording to the Hindu law, regarded as a Sudra himself. He was a powerful prince, but cruel and avaricious; and hence, as well as by the inferiority of his birth, he provoked the animosity of the Brahmans. He had by one wife eight sons, who with their father were known as the nine Nandas; and, according to the popular tradition, he had by a wife of low extraction another son, called Chan­dragupta.

The last circumstance, however, is not stated in the Puranas, and may therefore be ques­tioned; but it appears certain that Chandragupta was of low origin, and that he was of the same family as Nanda, if he was not his son. But whatever was the origin of Chandragupta, -he ap­pears to have been made the instrument of the rebellious projects of the Brahmans, who raised him while a youth to the throne, after effecting the destruction of Nanda and his eight sons. In this they were aided by a prince in the north of India, to whom an accession of territory was offered as the price of his assistance; but after they had gained their object, the Brahmans not only refused to fulfil their engagement, but appear to have got rid of him by assassination.

To revenge his father's death, his son Malayaketu marched with a large army against Chandragupta, and among his forces were Yavanas, whom we may regard as Greeks. Malayaketu was obliged to return to his own country without inflicting his meditated vengeance. Chandragupta reigned twenty-four years, and left the kingdom to his son. The expedition of Malayaketu may perhaps be the same as that of Seleucus, who probably availed himself of the distracted state of the kingdom for the purpose of extending the Greek dominions in India.

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