𐏃𐎼𐎢𐎺𐎫𐎡𐏁 (Harauvatiš)
Ἀραχωσία (Arachōsíā)
Map of the easternmost Persian satrapies, including Arachosia
Map of the easternmost Persian satrapies, including Arachosia
Empire Achaemenid Persia
Depiction of Arachosian magi carrying various gifts and animals for ritual sacrifice at Persepolis

Arachosia (/ærəˈksiə/; Greek: Ἀραχωσία Arachōsíā), or Harauvatis (Old Persian: 𐏃𐎼𐎢𐎺𐎫𐎡𐏁 Harauvatiš), was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire.[1][2] Mainly centred around the Arghandab River,[3] a tributary of the Helmand River, it extended as far east as the Indus river.[4][5] The satrapy's Persian-language name is the etymological equivalent of Sárasvatī in Vedic Sanskrit.[1] In Greek, the satrapy's name was derived from Arachōtós, the Greek-language name for the Arghandab River.[1] Around 330 BCE, Alexander the Great commissioned the building of Alexandria Arachosia as Arachosia's new capital city under the Macedonian Empire. It was built on top of an earlier Persian military fortress after Alexander's conquest of Persia, and is the site of today's Kandahar in Afghanistan.[1]


Map showing the Arachosian satrapy and the Pactyan people (500 BCE)

"Arachosia" is the Latinized form of Greek Ἀραχωσία (Arachōsíā). "The same region appears in the Avestan Vidēvdāt (1.12) under the indigenous dialect form 𐬵𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬓𐬀𐬌𐬙𐬍‎ Haraxvaitī- (whose -axva- is typical non-Avestan)."[6] In Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as 𐏃𐎼𐎢𐎺𐎫𐎡𐏁, written h(a)-r(a)-u-v(a)-t-i.[6] This form is the "etymological equivalent" of Vedic Sanskrit Sarasvatī-, the name of a river literally meaning "rich in waters/lakes" and derived from sáras- "lake, pond."[6] (cf. Aredvi Sura Anahita).

"Arachosia" was named after the name of a river that runs through it, known in ancient Greek as the Arachōtós and today as the Arghandab River, a left-bank tributary of the Helmand River.[6]


Arachosia bordered on Drangiana to the west, on the Paropamisadae to the north, Hindush to the east, and Gedrosia to the south.[7] Isidore and Ptolemy (6.20.4-5) each provide a list of cities in Arachosia, among them (yet another) Alexandria, which lay on the river Arachotus. This city is frequently misidentified with present-day Kandahar in Afghanistan, the name of which was thought to be derived (via "Iskanderiya") from "Alexandria",[8] reflecting a connection to Alexander the Great's visit to the city on his campaign towards India. But a recent discovery of an inscription on a clay tablet has provided proof that 'Kandahar' was already a city that traded actively with Persia well before Alexander's time. Isidore, Strabo (11.8.9) and Pliny (6.61) also refer to the city as "metropolis of Arachosia."[citation needed]

In his list, Ptolemy also refers to a city named Arachotus (English: Arachote /ˈærəkt/; Greek: Ἀραχωτός) or Arachoti (acc. to Strabo), which was the earlier capital of the land. Pliny the Elder and Stephen of Byzantium mention that its original name was Cophen (Κωφήν). Hsuan Tsang refers to the name as Kaofu.[9] This city is identified today with Arghandab which lies northwest of present-day Kandahar.


Further information: History of Afghanistan

According to Roman historian Arrian, Greek explorer Megasthenes lived in Alexandropolis (now Kandahar, Afghanistan), from where he travelled to Pataliputra (now Patna, India) in the Mauryan Empire, to be received at the court of Chandragupta Maurya.

The region is first referred to in the Achaemenid-era Elamite Persepolis fortification tablets. It appears again in the Old Persian, Akkadian and Aramaic inscriptions of Darius I and Xerxes I among lists of subject peoples and countries. It is subsequently also identified as the source of the ivory used in Darius' palace at Susa. In the Behistun inscription (DB 3.54-76), the King recounts that a Persian was thrice defeated by the Achaemenid governor of Arachosia, Vivana, who so ensured that the province remained under Darius' control. It has been suggested that this "strategically unintelligible engagement" was ventured by the rebel because "there were close relations between Persia and Arachosia concerning the Zoroastrian faith."[6]

Alexander the Great with Greek troops in Arachosia (329 BCE)

The chronologically next reference to Arachosia comes from the Greeks and Romans, who record that under Darius III the Arachosians and Drangians were under the command of a governor who, together with the army of the Bactrian governor, contrived a plot of the Arachosians against Alexander (Curtius Rufus 8.13.3). Following Alexander's conquest of the Achaemenids, the Macedonian appointed his generals as governors (Arrian 3.28.1, 5.6.2; Curtius Rufus 7.3.5; Plutarch, Eumenes 19.3; Polyaenus 4.6.15; Diodorus 18.3.3; Orosius 3.23.1 3; Justin 13.4.22). In 316 BCE Antigonus I Monophthalmus sent most of the elite Argyraspides, a veteran Macedonian corps with over forty years experience, to Arachosia to protect the Eastern frontier with India. However they were sent with the order to Sibyrtius, the Macedonian satrap of Arachosia, to dispatch them by small groups of two or three to dangerous missions so that their numbers would rapidly dwindle and remove them as a military threat to his power.

Following the Wars of the Diadochi, the region became part of the Seleucid Empire, which traded it to the Mauryan Empire in 305 BCE as part of an alliance. The Shunga dynasty overthrew the Mauryans in 185 BC, but shortly afterwards lost Arachosia to the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. It then became part of the break-away Indo-Greek Kingdom in the mid 2nd century BCE. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BCE, but lost the region to the Arsacids and Indo-Parthians. At what time (and in what form) Parthian rule over Arachosia was reestablished cannot be determined with any authenticity. From Isidore 19 it is certain that a part (perhaps only a little) of the region was under Arsacid rule in the 1st century CE, and that the Parthians called it Indikē Leukē, "White India."[10]

The Kushans captured Arachosia from the Indo-Parthians and ruled the region until around 230 CE, when they were defeated by the Sassanids, the second Persian Empire, after which the Kushans were replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshas or Indo-Sassanids. In 420 CE the Kushanshas were driven out of present Afghanistan by the Chionites, who established the Kidarite Kingdom. The Kidarites were replaced in the 460s CE by the Hephthalites, who were defeated in 565 CE by a coalition of Persian and Turkish armies. Arachosia became part of the surviving Kushano-Hephthalite Kingdoms of Kapisa, then Kabul, before coming under attack from the Moslem Arabs. These kingdoms were at first vassals of Sassanids. Around 870 CE the Kushano-Hephthalites (aka Turkshahi Dynasty) was replaced by the Saffarids, then the Samanid Empire and Muslim Turkish Ghaznavids in the early 11th century CE.

Arab geographers referred to the region (or parts of it) as 'Arokhaj', 'Rokhaj', 'Rohkaj' or simply 'Roh'.


Further information: Pashtun people

15th-century reconstruction by German cartographer Nicolaus Germanus of a 2nd-century map by Roman geographer Ptolemy, depicting Arachosia and surrounding satrapies
Relief at Naqsh-e Rostam, on the tomb of Xerxes I, depicting an Arachosian soldier of the Achaemenid army (c. 470 BCE)

The inhabitants of Arachosia were Iranian peoples, and were referred to as Arachosians or Arachoti.[6] They were called Pactyans in reference to their individual ethnicity, and that name may have been in reference to the modern-day ethnic group known as the Pashtuns.[11]

Isidore of Charax, in his 1st-century CE "Parthian stations" itinerary, described an "Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia", which he said was still Greek even at such a late time:

"Beyond is Arachosia. And the Parthians call this White India; there are the city of Biyt and the city of Pharsana and the city of Chorochoad and the city of Demetrias; then Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia; it is Greek, and by it flows the river Arachotus. As far as this place the land is under the rule of the Parthians."

— Isidore of Charax, Parthians stations, 1st century CE. Original text in paragraph 19 of Parthian stations

A theory of Croatian origin traces the origin of the Croats to the area of Arachosia. This connection was at first drawn due to the similarity of Croatian (Croatia - Croatian: Hrvatska, Croats - Croatian: Hrvati / Čakavian dialect: Harvati / Kajkavian dialect: Horvati) and Arachosian name,[12][13] but other researches indicate that there are also linguistic, cultural, agrobiological and genetic ties.[14][15] Since Croatia became an independent state in 1991, the Iranian theory gained more popularity, and many scientific papers and books have been published.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica (14 May 2022). "Arachosia".
  2. ^ Inc, IBP (1 August 2013). Afghanistan Country Study Guide Volume 1 Strategic Information and Developments. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-4387-7372-8. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
  3. ^ Howard, Michael C. (10 January 2014). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies: The Role of Cross-Border Trade and Travel. McFarland. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7864-9033-2. ... Arachosia (modern Arghandab district in Afghanistan and neighboring areas of southeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan).
  4. ^ Becking, Bob (4 August 2020). Identity in Persian Egypt: The Fate of the Yehudite Community of Elephantine. Penn State Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-64602-074-4. Arachosia is a mountainous area in which is now the border territory between Afghanistan and Pakistan...
  5. ^ Samad, Rafi U. (2011). The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. Algora Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-87586-858-5. Arachosia, covering an area from Kandahar and Quetta to the western bank of the Indus, shared its northern boundary with Gandhara.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Schmitt, Rüdiger (10 August 2011). "Arachosia". Encyclopædia Iranica. United States.((cite encyclopedia)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Arachosia". Retrieved 14 May 2022. According to Ptolemy 6.20.1 (cf. Strabo 15.2.9), Arachosia bordered on Drangiana in the west, on the Paropamisadae (i.e., the satrapy of Gandāra) in the north, on a part of India in the east, and on Gedrosia (or, according to Pliny, Natural History 6.92, on the Dexendrusi) in the south; Ptolemy also mentions (6.20.3) several tribes of Arachosia by name—the Parsyetae, and, to the south, the Sydri, Rhoplutae, and Eoritae.
  8. ^ Lendering, Jona. "Alexandria in Arachosia". Amsterdam: Archived from the original on 15 June 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2020..
  9. ^ Mookerji, Radhakumud (1966). Chandragupta Maurya and his times (4 ed.). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 173. ISBN 978-81-208-0405-0. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  10. ^ The Greeks in Bactria and India. Cambridge University Press. 24 June 2010. ISBN 978-1-108-00941-6. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  11. ^ Houtsma, Martijn Theodoor (1987). E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. Vol. 2. BRILL. p. 150. ISBN 90-04-08265-4. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  12. ^ "Identity of Croatians in Ancient Afghanistan".
  13. ^ Kalyanaraman, Srinivasan. "Sarasvati Civilization Volume 1". Bangalore: Babasaheb (Umakanta Keshav) Apte Smarak Samiti. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2017. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help).
  14. ^ Budimir/Rac, Stipan/Mladen (1999). "Anthropogenic and agrobiological arguments of the scientific origin of Croats". Staroiransko Podrijetlo Hrvata: Zbornik Simpozija. Zagreb: Staroiransko podrijetlo Hrvata: zbornik simpozija / Lovrić, Andrija-Željko (ed). - Teheran: Iranian Cultural Center: 71..
  15. ^ Abbas, Samar. "Common Origin of Croats, Serbs and Jats". Bhubaneshwar:
  16. ^ Beshevliev 1967: "Iranian elements in the Proto-Bulgarians" by V. Beshevliev (in Bulgarian)(Antichnoe Obschestvo, Trudy Konferencii po izucheniyu problem antichnosti, str. 237-247, Izdatel'stvo "Nauka", Moskva 1967, AN SSSR, Otdelenie Istorii)
  17. ^ Dvornik 1956: "The Slavs. Their Early History and Civilization." by F. Dvornik, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, USA., 1956.
  18. ^ Hina 2000: "Scholars assert Croats are Descendants of Iranian Tribes", Hina News Agency, Zagreb, Oct 15, 2000 (
  19. ^ Sakac 1949: "Iranisehe Herkunft des kroatischen Volksnamens", ("Iranian origin of the Croatian Ethnonym") S. Sakac, Orientalia Christiana Periodica. XV (1949), 813-340.
  20. ^ Sakac 1955: "The Iranian origin of the Croatians according to Constantine Porphyrogenitus", by S. Sakac, in "The Croatian nation in its struggle for freedom and independence" (Chicago, 1955); for other works by Sakac, cf. "Prof. Dr. Stjepan Krizin Sakac - In memoriam" by Milan Blazekovic, Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Schmitt 1985: "Iranica Proto-Bulgarica" (in German), Academie Bulgare des Sciences, Linguistique Balkanique, XXVIII (1985), l, p.13-38;
  22. ^ Tomicic 1998: "The old-Iranian origin of Croats", Symposium proceedings, Zagreb 24.6.1998, ed. Prof. Zlatko Tomicic & Andrija-Zeljko Lovric, Cultural center of I.R. of Iran in Croatia, Zagreb, 1999, ISBN 953-6301-07-5, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 December 2006. Retrieved 13 June 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Vernadsky 1952: "Der sarmatische Hintergrund der germanischen Voelkerwanderung," (Sarmatian background of the Germanic Migrations), G. Vernadsky, Saeculum, II (1952), 340-347.


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