During the fourth century BC, the Greeks and the Persians fought for supremacy overWest Asia. The Achaemenid empire was finally destroyed by the Greeks under the leadershipof Alexander of Macedon. He conquered Asia Minor, Iraq and Iran and then marchedtowards India. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Alexander was greatly attractedtowards India because of her fabulous wealth.

On the eve of Alexander’s invasion, north western India was divided into a number ofsmall principalities. Lack of unity among them helped the Greeks to conquer theseprincipalities one after another. However, Alexander’s army refused to march ahead whenthey heard about the vast army and the strength of the Nandas of Magadha. Alexanderhad to return. He died at Babylon at the young age of 32 on his way back to Macedon.

Alexander hardly had any time to reorganise his conquests. Most of the conquered stateswere restored to their rulers, who had submitted to his authority. He divided his territorialpossessions covering parts of eastern Europe and a large area in western Asia into threeparts and placed them under three Greek governors. The eastern part of his empire wasgiven to Seleucus Nikator, who declared himself a king after the death of his master,Alexander.

Though the contact between the Macedonians and ancient Indians was for a brief period,its impact was fairly wide in range. Alexander’s invasion brought Europe, for the first time,in close contact with India, as routes, by sea and by land, were opened between India andthe West. A close commercial relation was also established. The traders and craftsmenused to follow these routes. Alexander asked his friend Nearchus to explore the sea coastfrom the mouth of the Indus to the Euphrates in search of harbours. The Greek writershave left many valuable geographical accounts of this region for us.

Alexander’s invasion paved the way for political unification of north western India byconquering the warring tribes of this region. It seems that by his campaigns Alexandermade Chandragupta Maurya’s work of annexing this area easier. Soon after Alexander’sdeparture, Chandragupta defeated one of his generals, Seleucus Nikator and brought thewhole of north western India upto Afghanistan under his control.

The influence of Greek art is found in the development of Indian sculpture as well. Thecombination of the Greek and the Indian style formed the Gandhara School of art. Indiansalso learnt the art of making well-shaped and beautifully designed gold and silver coinsfrom the Greeks. The Greeks had some influence on Indian astrology as well.

Many valuable information about the social and economic condition of northern and northwestern India of that time are known from the Greek accounts left by Arrian, admiralNearchus, and Megasthenes. They tell us about the developed condition of many crafts,existence of a brisk trade with the outside world, and about the general prosperous conditionof the country. Much has also been said in these accounts of carpentary as a flourishingtrade in India. It seems the fleet which Alexander sent along the western coast of Indiaunder Nearchus was built in India.

Alexander’s adventure also helped the West to know something about the Indian life andthinking. It has been said that the ideas and notions of Indian philosophy and religion whichfiltered into the Roman empire flowed through the channel opened by Alexander.

As the Greek writers left dated records of Alexander’s campaign, it helped us a great dealto frame the chronology of ancient Indian history. The date of Alexander’s invasion – 326BC provides a definite ‘marker’ for arranging the sequence of historical events in India.

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