522 – 326 B.C -Persian Achaemenid Empire

The next chapter of Pakistan’s history unravels itself with the attack of Persians under Darius (522 B.C.486 B.C.) who made this region a province of Achaemenian Empire (or may be earlier under his grand-father Cyrus). Darius affirms this in his inscriptions at Persepolis and Naksh-e-Rustam mentioning Hapta Hindva (seven rivers) as a province of his Empire. The conquered provinces of the Punjab and Sind were considered to be the richest and most populous satrapy of the Empire, to the revenues of which they were required to pay the enormous tribute of a million sterling. This 15th (20th according to some) Satrapy of Darius’ Empire extended up to Beas – almost the same area as now covered by Pakistan.

Vincent Smith says: “although the exact limits of the Indian satrapy under Darius cannot be determined.. it must have comprised the course of the Indus from Kalabagh to the sea, including the whole of Sind, and perhaps included a considerable portion of the Punjab east of Indus.” “We know nothing certain about the fate of this region until the latter half of the 6th century B.C. when Gandhara (Peshawar in the NWFP and Rawalpindi region in the Punjab) together with the province of Indus were included in the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids.”

“It seems that Darius I held the entire course of the Indus from the Upper Punjab to the Arabian Sea and some land to the east of the river how far east is not known, but most authorities seem to think that he had the sections of Sind west of the Rajputana Desert and had penetrated into the Punjab beyond the Indus. “The one generalization we can make is that politically the north-west was again separate from central, northern, and eastern India. The fact seems clearly to have facilitated the invasion of Alexander and to have contributed to the cultural divergence between the north-west and the rest of the subcontinent in the centuries after his time.” (Pakistan and Western Asia, By Prof. Norman Brown).

A Pakistani contingent fought in Xerxes’ army on his expedition to Greece. Herodotus mentions that the Indus satrapy supplied cavalry and chariots to the Persian army. He also mentions that the Indus people were clad in armaments made of cotton, carried bows and arrows of cane covered with iron. Herodotus states that in 517 B.C. Darius sent an expedition under Scylax to explore the Indus.

As part of the Persian Empire, Pakistan had a flourishing economy; inter-regional trade developed considerably and several caravan cities sprang up. Charsadda on the Peshawar road and Taxila near Rawalpindi were supposed to have been two of the many centres of trade and intellectual activity during the pax-Persica of the latter half of the 6th century B.C.

“The materials available to the scholar today indicate that the northwestern part of the sub-continent was an economically advanced province in the last centuries of the first millennium B.C. to the early first millennium of our era. Herodotus describes the people inhabiting the part of the sub-continent under the Achaemenids as the most numerous of all peoples known to him, a people who “paid (to the Achaemenids) a tribute which was great in Comparison to the others.” (The Peoples of Pakistan, By Yu. V. Gankovsky)

As such, as part of the Achaemenian Empire she became involved in Middle East politics. Since Darius had defeated the Greeks extending the western frontiers of his Empire up to River Danube, and since Pakistani troops had participated in this campaign and in another war against Greece under Xerxes (486-465 B.C.), when Alexander came out to take revenge for his country’s previous defeats he made it a point to attack and annex Pakistan. The fact that Pakistan was part of the Persian Empire till Alexander’s time is proved by the call which Darius III, the last of the Achaemenian dynasty was able to issue troops for the defense of the satrapy when making his final stand at Arbela to resist the Greek invasion of Persia by Alexander. According to the historian, Arrian, some of the forces of Indus people were grouped with their neighbours, the Bactrians and the Sogdians, under the command of the satrap of Bactria at Arbela against Alexander.

An important point to be noted here is that even during the period Pakistan was under the Achaemenian Empire from the time of Darius, about 522 B.C. to the arrival of Alexander in 326 B.C., i.e., a span of almost two hundred years, it enjoyed complete autonomy. Its administration was under several local rulers (rajas) who merely acknowledged the suzerainty of the Persians. During the last days of the Achaemenians when the monarchy had become decadent autonomy was asserted to a still greater extent.