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Author Topic: Chapter 5: Alexander’s Empire in India  (Read 4454 times)
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« on: January 10, 2016, 02:00:14 PM »

Chap. 5-Heroes of the Hellensitic Age (2016) Charles N. Pope

In India, the succession of Chandra-Gupta (Alexander the Great) was formalized very early.  Chandra-Gupta retired early in favor of Bindusara, but not before he and Chanaka (the former Darius III) had fully secured the kingdom of India for Bindusara.  One of the epithet of Bindusara was Amitrochates, “Slayer of Enemies,” which reflects that he was a “man of bloodshed.” Yet, it is doubtful that this reputation was gained in India alone, but also in the West where he campaigned extensively under the names of Pyrrhus and Antigonus Gonatas.  Amitrochates also appears to be a play on the greatest of his Western kingly names, that of Antiochus II (Amti-yoko in Indian/Sanskrit).


Bindusara son of Chandra-Gupta in turn passed the throne to Ashoka as early as 273 BC.  Although Bindusara was called the “Man with No Rivals,” he had a great number of “sons.”  However, once he had a true heir, all potential rivals were eliminated (figuratively or literally).  Ashoka was recognized as the “Emperor of Emperors,” and only one other prince named Tissa was also allowed to remain at court.  Tissa, and/or another leading prince named Susima/Sushim, are likely associated with the future Seleucus II (a.k.a., Lysimachus and Asamoneus).  Ashoka referred to himself by the epithets Devanampiya ("Beloved of the Gods," an epithet of Sargon the Great) and Piyadasi (“All-Loving,” which alludes to Piye/Sargon II).  These epithets further associate with other contemporary king names, specifically the Bactrian Diodates and Parthian Tiridates.

Note:  Recall that Piye was the Egyptian name of Sargon II.  The role of Sargon entailed attempting to collect attributes of all the divine types and in order for it to be said that the fullness of the godhead (i.e., the pantheon) dwelled in one king.

Note:  The newly established Greco-Bactrian throne was evidently established to facilitate the next phase of Ashoka’s career, the unification of China.  Bactria was always a critical region, as it controlled access to the Far East and the fierce warriors of the Central Asian Steppe.  It also reflects the early advantage that Ptolemy III son of Ptolemy II had over the younger prince Lysimachus (future Antiochus III) son of Ptolemy Epigone.

Note:  A fuller form of the name Ashoka was Ashoka-varhan, which suggests Ashoka the Farangi (i.e., “foreigner,” “westerner”).

Note:  An Egyptian Middle Kingdom magnate was called Ush-Piya (and was contemporary with the legendary figure of Yu in China).

Note:  Ashoka translates the Indian concept of Dhamma/Dharma to the Greek word eusebeia (“piety”), which is the very quality cultivated by a king placed in the Sargon typecasting.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusebeia

Shortly after Ashoka was named successor, an eight year conquest of the Indian sub-continent was initiated.  Although this would have been planned and supported by the ministers of Bindusara, the glory was shared with his young son (as Chandra-Gupta and Chanaka had previously done for Bindusara), and in fulfillment of his typecasting as a great warrior king on the order of Thutmose III and Sargon.  Ashoka, as an extension of his alter ego Ptolemy III, was firmly cast in the role of Thutmose III of the 18th Dynasty.  However, he was not destined to establish a lasting dynasty like that of Thutmose III.  The satisfaction of conquest was his, but not the ability to pass it on to a natural son.  Like Alexander, he increasingly sought immortality from exploits.  Unlike Alexander, his fortunes in fatherhood did not reverse.

In a series of stone inscriptions, Ashoka reveals an awareness of the larger world and his special place within it.  Ashoka gives us the five primary kings in the West:   Antiochus (Antiochus II Theos), Ptolemy (Ptolemy II), Antigonus (Antigonus Gonatas), Magus (of Cyrene), and Alexander.  All five names are associated with his father with the possible exception of Magus, who may refer to Ashoka’s father-in-law (a.k.a., Antiochus I).  Like his father Bindusara (the former Alexander IV), Ashoka also claimed the name of Alexander, as he was appointed successor to Pyrrhus in Epirus under the name Alexander of Epirus.  On coins, this young king in Western Greece is even depicted with an elephant skin headdress!  Ashoka was the heir apparent of every other land ruled by his father, and in his inscriptions he plainly declares that those lands were already following in obedience to him.

The inscriptions of Ashoka recount his repulsion at seeing the human carnage of war and his zeal to establish a new society based on “the Law” (Dhamma/Dharma) and doing good deeds.  In this aspect, the life of Ashoka closely parallels that of a young biblical Josiah, who in the eighth year of his reign determined to earnestly seek righteousness and promulgation of religious Law.  And like another biblical “good king” named Jehoshaphat, Ashoka described his sending out of priests throughout the land to instruct and persuade the people.  However, unlike his biblical counterparts, Ashoka did not persecute other religions, but encouraged dialog between them.  He called for the honoring of all established religious traditions, and brutally punished one group in particular (the Jainists) when one of its members mocked another faith.

Another Biblical inspiration for Ashoka would have been the holier-than-thou King Jotham, who despite his outward zeal was remembered with ambivalence by posterity.  The role Ashoka played was one of extreme pretention in religious observance and godliness, which would have been especially resented by the jaded aristocracy.   In other words, Ashoka was expected to act out the part of a self-righteous, hypocritical jerk.  In this respect, Ashoka (“Piya”) would have emulated pharaoh Piye, who took the throne of Egypt by traveling down the Nile with a great demonstration of religious purity and disdain for those with no regard for laws of cleanness, particularly “fish-eaters.”  Likewise, when Ashoka succeeded his father Ptolemy II in Egypt, he had the audacity to take the throne name of Euergetes, “The Do-Gooder.”  This self-profiling was however quite deliberate.  When Ashoka became sole ruler of India, he showed the usual capacity for ruthlessness by a dictator.  And his conquest of China was to be as bloody as any other program of unification in all of history (see Chapter 9).

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