Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter Sixty-Three

The Spreading Persian Empire

Between 539 and 514 BC, Cyrus the Great falls in battle, Cambyses conquers Egypt, and the Indian kingdom of Magadha grows strong

AFTER THE CONQUEST OF BABYLON, Cyrus the Great ruled over his empire for a little less than nine years, and then fell in a skirmish with an unknown queen.

He was fighting his way up north into brand new territory, across the Oxus river and up into the wilds of central Asia, east of the Aral Sea. The mountain tribes up in this area were an offshoot of the Scythians: Herodotus calls them the Massagetae, fierce fighters who used bronze-tipped bows and spears, worshipped the sun, and “do not cultivate the land, but live off cattle and fish.”1

Cyrus first tried to conquer the Massagetae by treaty. He sent a message to their queen Tomyris, offering to marry her. She not only declined, but sent her son to lead an attack against the rear wing of the Persian army. The attack failed and Tomyris’s son was taken captive.

Unable to bear his shame, he killed himself. At this, Tomyris sent Cyrus a message, vowing, “I swear by the sun that I will quench your thirst for blood.” Then she led the rest of her people against the advancing Persians. The two armies met in 530 BC, a minor clash with epic proportions: “I consider this to be the fiercest battle between non-Greeks there has ever been,” Herodotus says, which (given his attitude towards non-Greeks) may mean that it was the most savage fighting ever seen. They fought with bows and arrows, and then with spears, and then with daggers.

The Massagetae did what the Assyrians could not: they wiped out most of the Persian troops. Cyrus himself, fighting on the ground among his men, fell. When the Massagetae had gained dominance over the field, Tomyris searched through the Persian bodies lying in their blood until she found the king’s corpse. She lifted his head and shoved it into a wineskin filled with blood: “I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood,” she told the body.2

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63.1 Persia and Central Asia

With her son avenged, Tomyris allowed the Persian survivors to take the body of the Great King from the battlefield. They washed the blood from his face and took the corpse in a defeated funeral procession back to Pasargadae.

Cyrus had already built himself a tomb: a gabled stone house, carved to look like timber, that stood on the top level of a seven-level ziggurat of steps. His body was dressed in royal robes and ornaments, provided with weapons, and placed on a gold couch. The tomb was sealed, and a cadre of Persian priests was given the task of living in a small house nearby as guardians of Cyrus’s final resting place.

Cambyses II, the oldest son of the king, was crowned as his successor. He had acted as his father’s commander for some years; in fact, he had been with Cyrus just before the crossing of the Oxus, but the king had sent his son back to Pasargadae to take care of matters there while he fought what must have seemed like a very minor engagement.

Surveying his father’s empire, Cambyses seems to have suffered from the exact same impulse as so many other sons of great men: he wanted to outdo his father. This was not a matter of vengeance, since he left the northeastern frontier where Cyrus had died untouched. Instead, he first moved his palace and the center of the administration of the empire from his father’s capital, Pasargadae, to a new city: the old Elamite capital of Susa, closer to the middle of the empire. And then he set his eye on Egypt.

DOWN IN EGYPT, the pharaoh Apries had led his armies straight into a huge disaster.

West of the Delta, the Greek settlement of Cyrene—the colony planted on the North African coast by the people of Thera—had finally begun to grow, after almost sixty years of bare survival. Its third king, Battus the Prosperous, had issued an all-points bulletin to every Greek city, begging for additional settlers and promising everyone who came a plot of land. Soon a “considerable mass” of people had gathered in Cyrene, mostly coming from the Greek mainland, and were claiming land all around the city.

This did not go over well with the native North Africans, whom Herodotus knows as “Libyans.” They sent a message to Egypt asking for help, and “put themselves under the protection of the Egyptian king Apries.” So Apries sent out an Egyptian army to help his fellow North Africans against the Greek invaders. Unfortunately the Egyptian army was decimated by the Greeks: they were, in Herodotus’s words, “so thoroughly annihilated that hardly any of them found their way back to Egypt.”3

This disaster turned the Egyptians against Apries, who was apparently already suffering from huge unpopularity: “They believed that Apries had deliberately sent them to certain death,” Herodotus writes, so that after their destruction, with fewer subjects left to rule over, his reign would be more secure. The survivors who returned home from Cyrene took this hard: they “combined with the friends of those who had met their deaths and rose up in open rebellion.”4

Apries sent out his chief Egyptian general, Amasis, to put down the rebellion.

This proved to be a mistake. The pharaoh had inherited Amasis from his father, Psammetichus II, which meant that Amasis had been around, and in power, longer than Apries had been king. Face-to-face with an armed Egyptian uprising that wanted to get rid of Apries, Amasis yielded to temptation and allowed it to be made known that, if the rebels pleased, they could make him king instead.5

Someone carried news of this treachery to Apries, who sent an official from his court demanding that Amasis return at once to the palace at Sais and give an account of his actions. “Amasis,” Herodotus remarks, “happened to be on horseback at the time; he lifted himself up in the saddle, farted, and told him to take that back to Apries.”6

Apries, receiving the message, cut off the nose and ears of the messenger, which had the effect of turning even more Egyptians against him. It was clear that he would have to fight for his throne, but pretty much all he had left were his mercenary forces, of which he had about thirty thousand, both Ionian Greeks and Carians (mercenaries of Greek descent, from the southwest coast of Asia Minor).

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63.2 Egypt and Cyrene

The two armies met halfway between Memphis and Sais, at a battlefield called Momemphis. The Egyptian forces outnumbered the mercenaries, and Amasis was a shrewd general; the Egyptians won the day, and Apries was captured. He was taken off to the palace at Sais as a prisoner, but not killed.

Apparently Apries then escaped, because three years later, a fragmentary inscription from Elephantine relates that Amasis was in his palace at Sais when he received news that Apries was sailing down on him from the north with “Greeks without number,” who were “wasting all Egypt” while the army of Amasis fled in front of them.7 Apries had gone north to hire reinforcements.

The inscription is too damaged to know exactly how the battle progressed, but it concludes, “His majesty [Amasis] fought like a lion, he made a slaughter among them…. numerouss hips took them, falling into the water, whom they saw sink as do the fish.”8 Among those caught on the sinking Greek ships was Apries, who died in the slaughter.

So Amasis was on the throne in Sais when word came down to Egypt that Cambyses, new king of the Persians, was preparing for an attack.

Cambyses had to begin by making himself a navy. The Persians had no seafaring tradition of their own; but Cyrus had provided his son with an empire that stretched all along the Mediterranean coast, and Cambyses considered the Ionian sailors of the Asia Minor coasts to be his subjects. He required them to build ships and staff them; and he made the same demand from the Phoenician cities under his control. The fledgling Persian navy combined the skills of Greeks and Phoenicians, two cultures who had been on the water since the beginning of their civilization.

Four years after his coronation, Cambyses began the attack on Egypt. His navy began its journey down the coast, while the Persian army marched across the desert. Cambyses, accompanied by his spear-bearer Darius, was in the lead; Darius, part of his personal bodyguard, was the son of a Persian nobleman who was in command of the conquered area called Parthia, in the northeastern part of the empire.9

Amasis readied his own forces to meet the Persians. But he was over seventy and had already led a long and very busy life. Before Cambyses could arrive, Amasis died of old age.

This was a bit of very good luck for Cambyses, since the job of defending Egypt now fell on Amasis’s son, Psammetichus III, who was not a gifted general. Psammetichus III lined up his forces at the northeastern border of Egypt, centering his defense at the border fortress Pelusium, which had been built by Necho II to guard his canal. There was nothing wrong with this; but when the battle began to turn against the Egyptian forces, he pulled them back all the way to Memphis.

This gave the Persians almost free access to the waterways of the Delta and allowed them to besiege Memphis both by land and by sea. We have no details of the war that followed, but Psammetichus III was soon forced to surrender. He had been pharaoh of Egypt for less than a year.

Cambyses now styled himself pharaoh of Egypt, “King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Cambyses, beloved of the goddess Wajet”—this was the cobra-goddess of Lower Egypt whose likeness had appeared on the Red Crown, all the way back in the days of the unification.10 He also apparently ordered Amasis’s body exhumed and dismembered, but mummification had made it so tough that he had to resort to burning it instead.

Herodotus (who dislikes Cambyses) says that this was an act of gratuitous sacrilege. More likely, Cambyses was attempting to identify himself as the successor of the deposed Apries, and his desecration of Amasis’s corpse was his attempt to portray the old general as a usurper whose rule had been fortunately ended. He told the people of Egypt that he was the “beloved of Wajet,” and that he had come to liberate them: a now familiar strategy.

The “beloved of Wajet” didn’t spend long in his new country; Cambyses put a governor in charge of Egypt and headed back into his empire to take care of other business. But his tenure as Great King was a short one. Three years after the conquest of Egypt, eight years after the death of Cyrus, Cambyses’s reign ended suddenly and mysteriously.

Herodotus, who gives the most detailed account of Cambyses’s reign, seems to have gathered and repeated every single anti-Cambyses story ever told: if he is to be believed, Cambyses was a madman who randomly executed his officials when they crossed him, killed his brother, married two of his sisters and murdered one of them, and set off to conquer Ethiopia in a temper without bothering to pack any food for his men. Given that Cambyses had managed to march an entire army across the Arabian desert and safely into Egypt, this seems unlikely. Herodotus’s offhand remark that his sources for these stories are mostly Egyptian probably explains the hostility. Apparently Cambyses’s attempt to portray himself as liberator was less than successful; he was not a popular pharaoh.

But Cambyses did indeed die suddenly, oddly, and without heirs.

The oldest sources say that Cambyses, when he began the Egyptian campaign, left his household under the management of a man Herodotus calls Patizeithes. Cambyses took his younger brother Bardiya on campaign with him, but after the conquest sent him back to Persia to check on how things were going back in the capital.

Somewhere between Egypt and Persia, Bardiya disappeared.

It so happened that the steward, Patizeithes, had a younger brother named Smerdis who looked so much like Bardiya that the two could be mistaken for each other.176 This steward, receiving news by fast courier of Bardiya’s disappearance, realized that he could keep the news under wraps. He convinced his younger brother to pose as the missing prince, set him on the throne, and then sent out messengers proclaiming Bardiya, full royal son of Cyrus, king in place of Cambyses.

Cambyses was over in Syria, checking on the western reaches of his empire. According to Herodotus, when Cambyses heard that his throne had been stolen, he ran for his horse, vaulted on to it, and in the process knocked the scabbard off his sword and sliced himself in the thigh. The wound turned; three weeks later, the Great King was dead from gangrene.11

With Cambyses dead, the imposter managed to hold onto the Persian throne for seven months; long enough for Babylonian documents to date themselves by his accession year.12 During all this time, he escaped detection by never leaving the palace compound in Susa, or calling any of the Persian noblemen who had known the family well into his presence.

The charade could not go on forever, though, and soon more than one Persian aristocrat was asking why he was never called into the throne room. Among them was Othanes, an experienced soldier and the father of one of Cambyses’s wives; and also Darius, Cambyses’s spear-bearer during the conquest of Egypt, who had returned to Persia after the campaign to Egypt and was now in Susa (for some reason unknown).

All together, seven Persian lords agreed to mount an assassination attempt against the pretender and his older brother. Othanes seems to have been the leader of the conspiracy, but Darius offered to get the group of men, their weapons hidden beneath their robes, past the palace guards; he could, he pointed out, claim that he had just come from his father, governor of Parthia, with a message for the king.13

The plan worked until the seven were almost at the doors of the royal chambers, when the king’s eunuchs refused to let them in. Then they drew their weapons, killed the eunuchs, cut off the heads of both the imposter and his brother, and displayed them to the rest of the Persian aristocrats to prove that the man who had claimed to be Bardiya was, in fact, no son of Cyrus at all.

Now the Persian empire was balanced on a knife edge. It had no king, and both sons of Cyrus were off the scene. Each of the seven conspirators might have had his own ambitions (Herodotus writes that the seven had a reasonable, Greek-sounding, and very unlikely debate about the fair way to pick one of the seven, or whether Persia should perhaps become a democracy), but Darius was the natural choice. He was young and energetic, probably around thirty at the time of the conspiracy; he had been Cambyses’s trusted aide, he was of the Achaemenid tribe by birth, and his father already held power over the soldiers in a large portion of the empire. In 521, he was acclaimed king of Persia by his six fellow conspirators, and started to smooth out the ripples caused by the death of Cyrus’s heirs.

There are a lot of question marks in this story.

Cambyses’s convenient death is probably the first. What actually happened to the Great King? Herodotus’s story is not impossible, but shows uncharacteristic carelessness on the part of a man who had spent most of his life around sharp objects; the Greek historian Ctesias, who is rarely reliable, says that he was whittling out of boredom and cut himself on the thigh.14 An Egyptian papyrus simply notes that Cambyses died “on a mat” (an odd phrase, which suggests that he was on a sickbed for some time) before reaching his own country, and that Darius then became king.15 Darius’s own accession inscription, the Bisitun Inscription, says without elaboration, “Cambyses died his own death,” a phrase which usually implies natural causes of some kind.

Of course, it is possible that the death from gangrene was natural but the original wound was not; Darius’s reticence on the subject is not necessarily in his favor. It was to his benefit that Cambyses die a natural death, just as it was to his benefit to discover that the man on the throne of Susa was an imposter.

Which brings us to the second mystery: what was the real identity of the “Bardiya” who died at the hands of the Persian seven? And is it really likely that an imposter could manage to hold power for almost a year, in a city where everyone knew the face of the king? Perhaps the real Bardiya didn’t disappear in the desert; maybe he arrived safely at Susa, and then mounted a coup against his brother, which would make Cambyses’s fury at the news even more understandable.

In this case, Darius is the villain. The man he killed at Susa was no imposter at all, but rather the last legitimate son of Cyrus the Great. A decapitated head is not easy to identify with certainty, particularly if it’s been hacked up while being removed.

Darius’s character is the big question mark in this scenario. It doesn’t help his cause that we know the story of Bardiya the imposter mostly from Darius’s own Bisitun Inscription, which puts Darius in the best possible light: “The people feared [the imposter] greatly,” he insists, “since he used to slay in great number the people who previously had known Bardiya…. No one dared say anything…until I came…. Then I with a few mens lew [him]…I restored Persia, Media, and the other lands.”16

On the other hand, Darius’s tale of a false Bardiya might actually be true. It is not at all unlikely that a young man who grew up in the court of Cyrus might bear a startling resemblance to one of Cyrus’s legitimate sons, and if the Bardiya at Susa was indeed an imposter as Darius claims, the real Bardiya did disappear.

This brings us to the third mystery: what happened to Cambyses’s younger brother?

Darius himself chalks up Bardiya’s death to Cambyses: “Cambyses killed Bardiya,” he writes, “and it did not become known to the people that Bardiya had been killed.” But it is in Darius’s best interest to make Cambyses the villain, since that gives Cyrus’s dynasty a nice neat implosion and ends the line so that he can begin a new dynasty. If the story of the resemblance is true, and the Bardiya in Susa was an imposter, the villain in the story is probably neither Cambyses nor Darius. Cui bono: the steward Patizeithes did best out of Bardiya’s disappearance. The accident of his brother’s resemblance to Bardiya may have been the genesis of a plot to get rid of Cyrus’s younger son.

But now Patizeithes was dead. And so were his followers (Darius had them executed), and so was Cambyses, and so was Bardiya. Darius himself married Cambyses’s widow, and nothing more was heard from her about her first husband’s death. The suspects were mostly dead, the rest were silent, and the mystery would remain unsolved.

In the meantime, more than one outlying territory of the empire had begun to plan revolt.

Darius went immediately to war to keep his new empire secure. Judging from the Bisitun Inscription, rebellions broke out among the Babylonians, the Scythians to the north, the Medians to his east, and even Parthia, where Darius’s own father had lost control of the army. A scattering of smaller rebellions blazed up between them, all across the empire.

But in an amazingly brief time, Darius had corralled them back into the empire. However he had gotten into the position of power, Darius proved extremely capable of holding onto it: not through sympathetic tyranny, as Cyrus had before him, but by crushing his enemies.

Cambyses’s army had been made up of a large number of draftees, soldiers sent to him as tribute. In an army made up mostly of draftees, the majority of the soldiers were disposable, numbers to throw in front of an opposing battle line in hopes of bearing down the opposition by sheer size. This was a strategy that had worked for Cambyses because of the inexperience of his opponent, and had not aided Cyrus, in his battle against the Scythian tribes, at all.

Darius had a different vision for his army. Instead of padding his ranks with mercenaries and tribute fighters, Darius planned for a professional army, one that would be smaller, but better fed, better trained, and more loyal. It would have a professional standing core of ten thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand cavalry, all of them Persians or Medes, and would move far faster than the huge and unwieldy armies of his predecessors.17 “The Persian and Median army which was under my control was a small force,” Darius writes, in his own inscription.18 The troops were bound together by national feeling, with loyalty so strong that the ten thousand infantry soldiers called themselves the Companions and jealously guarded entrance into their own ranks.

One division of this new army put down the eastern rebellion of Media, while Darius in command of another small force tackled the Babylonian uprising, and yet another squad travelled to Asia Minor. The core troops—small, fast, flexible, well trained—were successful. In hardly more than a year, the revolts were over. Darius’s huge celebratory relief, carved onto a cliff overlooking the road into Susa (where no one could miss it), shows him with his foot on the chest of the prostrate imposter to the throne, the false Bardiya, with the kings of Babylon, Scythia, Media, and six other lands roped and chained in front of him.

Darius was as brilliant an administrator as a general (a rare combination). He organized the reconquered empire into a more orderly set of provinces, or satrapies, each governed by a trustworthy satrap, and assigned each satrap a tribute which had to be sent to Susa each year. Satraps who did not send the proper amount, or who did not manage to keep their satrapies in order, were liable to be executed. This seems to have worked quite well for Darius; it transferred the job of intimidating conquered peoples from the king to the governors, who were forced to be far more diligent in keeping an eye on their territories than any Eye or Ear of Cyrus could ever have been.

We get a glimpse of this in the biblical book of Ezra. The satrap who had the watch over Jerusalem noticed that the construction of the temple (and its defensive walls) had progressed to a worrying degree. The rising building must have looked suspiciously like the center of a fortress, because the satrap, a man named Tattenai, made a special journey down to ask the builders what they thought they were doing.

The Jews protested that Cyrus had given them permission to build, but Tattenai was not willing to take their word for it. He ordered them to stop building until he could report the activity to Darius. “The king should know,” the report reads, “that the people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls; the work is making rapid progress.”19 Darius ordered the royal archives searched. Eventually a copy of Cyrus’s decree was located, in (of all places) an old library at Ecbatana, and Darius gave the satrap permission to let the building go ahead. The biblical account is not sympathetic to Tattenai, but the man was undoubtedly worried lest he miss the seeds of rebellion and lose his head.

With the existing empire stable, Darius could turn his eyes to new frontiers. He hoped to march his army towards India.

INDIA WAS NOT, for the Persians, a strange and unfamiliar land, as Alexander of Macedonia would find it to be a century and a half later. The Indians of the north were, after all, descendants of the same Aryans who also stood in the Persian family tree. In the language of the Persians, the names of Darius’s noblemen are recognizably kin to the names of the Indian princes who ruled the mahajanapadas: Utana, son of Thukra; Vidafarnah, son of Vayaspara; Bagabuxsa, son of Datuvahya.

While the Persians were expanding their grasp to the east and west, the Indian kingdom of Magadha was trying to swallow its own neighbors. The ambitious Bimbisara, who had conquered Anga and claimed part of Kosal as his wife’s dowry, had sired an equally ambitious son. Unwilling to wait for his own chance at rule, this son, Ajatashatru, mounted a revolt against his father, imprisoned him, and allowed him to starve to death: “Bimbisara was imprisoned by his son in a tower,” says the tale “The Jealousy of Devadatta.”177

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63.3 The Expansion of Magadha

His mother grieved so harshly over her husband’s loss that she died. At that point her brother, now king of Kosal, reclaimed the land that had been in her dowry, and Ajatashatru went to war to get it back.

At first, his soldiers were driven back by the Kosal defense forces, but Kosal had its own internal troubles. The crown prince, as ambitious as Ajatashatru himself, took advantage of the conflict to mount his own bid for the throne, and drove his father out of Kosal. Then he began a war of his own against the gana-sangha of Shakya, the tribal alliance that had produced the Buddha. He wiped them out; from this point, they disappear from the historical record.20

Meanwhile, his dethroned father had fled towards Ajatashatru’s capital city of Rajagriha (a particularly well-fortified city, thanks to the natural walls formed by five hills that ringed it).21 When he reached the city, he begged for sanctuary. This may seem like an unwise decision, but he was Ajatashatru’s uncle, and could claim some privilege of kinship. He was also an elderly man, and by the time he got to the wall, he was so worn out by his journey that he died before the gates could actually be opened.22

At this, Ajatashatru had yet another excuse to make war on Kosal. He regathered his forces, vowing loudly (and publicly) to avenge his uncle’s death (never mind that his own attack on his uncle’s land had brought about the original situation). But before he could get to Kosal, he had to turn and deal with his own family. His brother, who was serving him as vice-regent over the conquered kingdom of Anga, made a bid to become a king in his own right. He was preparing an alliance with the gana-sangha just to his north, Licchavi, against Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru built a fort on the frontier between the two territories, the fort Pataliputra on the shores of the Ganga, and went to war.

It was a war that lasted twelve years. At least Ajatashatru was spared from having to fight off his cousin in Kosol at the same time. A flash flood wiped out most of the army of Kosol, which had unwisely camped in a riverbed (later, a similar catastrophe drowned a number of Alexander’s camp followers on one of his campaigns to the east). With the army gone, Ajatashatru simply marched in and took Kosol over.23

The twelve-year war with his brother, a few details of which survive in the Buddhist tales, forced Ajatashatru to make innovations. For one thing, he is credited with inventing a couple of new offensive weapons, including a huge rock-throwing catapult and a new kind of war chariot. Twelve years of war also required a professional army, one paid to do nothing but fight: India’s first standing military force.24

His army was not Ajatashatru’s only weapon. When the Buddha died, on a journey north into the kingdom of Malla, Ajatashatru at once claimed that Magadha had the right to guard the Buddha’s sacred legacy. He ordered a council held in his capital, Rajagriha, in order to collect and set down into writing the Buddha’s sayings, the suttas. This first Buddhist council presided over the first composition of those collected sayings which would become the Pali Canon, and it was held under Ajatashatru’s watchful eye.

Empire-building, co-opting a religious tradition for political gain, family hostilities in the royal line, a professional army: northern India had joined the world to the west.

THE INDUS RIVER had probably been reached once by Persian soldiers, under Cyrus’s command, although this is about all that we can surmise. Cyrus certainly didn’t encounter any of the Indian tribes or fight his way into the Indus river valley. But Darius knew that the Indus was there. He just had no idea where it went.

So he hired a Carian sailor named Skylax, a Greek from southwest Asia Minor, to accompany an expedition down the river and make a map of what he saw. According to Herodotus, the starting point for the journey was the land he calls Pactyice, which is on the northern Indus: presumably both Cyrus and Darius reached the Indus by going through the Khyber Pass. Once through the pass, Darius’s expedition must have built boats on the shore of the Indus river and then sailed down it, through the territory of the mahajanapada called Gandhara. They passed the Thar desert, before coming to the sea. Then they sailed west, around the entire southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, and came back up the Red Sea. Darius had ordered the canal from the Nile to the Red Sea dug out after it had begun to silt up, so the ships could then go through the Delta into the Mediterranean.

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63.1. First World Map. The first known map of the world shows Babylon at its center, surrounded by a circular “Salt Sea.” British Museum, London. Photo credit HIP/Art Resource, NY

“After this successful circumnavigation,” Herodotus says, after describing a three-year journey, “Darius conquered the Indians.”25 The conquest was certainly not “all of the Indians,” but Darius got some ways into the Punjab, perhaps dominating the Gandhara and Kamboja kingdoms: in an inscription at Susa, he lists goldwork from Egypt, Lydian stone, and timbers from Gandhara as the materials brought from the far places of his empire to build a new palace. Another inscription calls his far eastern conquest the “Hindush satrapy.” It became the twentieth satrapy in his kingdom, with the duty of sending a yearly tribute of gold dust to Susa.26

During these years, some scribe in Babylon drew the earliest surviving map of the world. The clay tablet shows Babylon on the Euphrates, Assyria to the east, and other cities, all of it ringed with “bitter water”—the Persian Gulf. Eight lands lie beyond, impossibly distant but nevertheless close enough to put on a map for the first time.

It is also in these years that a Babylonian inscription mentions a woman from India, Busasa, who kept an inn in the city of Kish. Presumably she had travelled down the Indus and up the Persian Gulf by sea: not moving from India to Babylon, but rather moving from one part of Darius’s empire to another.27 Persia had become a bridge between India and the peoples farther west.

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