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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Greek, Persian & Central Asian Invasions

Urdu Version

For the next 1000 years the subcontinent was subject to further invasions by the Greeks, Persians and Central Asians.


After the fall of the Mauryan Empire the Greeks, Persians and Central Asians invaded the subcontinent over the next thousand years. In some cases one group drove out the other and in some cases they occupied different parts of the subcontinent at the same time.

Other invenstion Map
Map of subcontinent circa 145 BC
(Jain Hussain)


Demetrius of Bactria
Demetrius I of Bactria
(Wikimedia Commons)

When the Mauryan Empire began to weaken around 195 BC, Demetrius, the Greek King of Bactria, conquered the Kabul River Valley establishing an Indo-Greek Kingdom. The cities of Taxila and Pushkalavati were rebuilt in this era. The kingdom reached its peak under Menander, who extended the empire to Punjab. His capital at Sakala (modern day Sialkot) was a great center of trade. Menander, known as Milinda in India, was also a great patron of Buddhism.His successors were unable to maintain a united Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Greek-held territories were divided into small Indo-Greek Kingdoms which extended from the east of Hindu Kush mountains to East Punjab.


Kanishka & Buddha copy
Parthian statue 100 AD
(Iran Chamber Society)

The Parthians, an Iranian people, slowly took over former Seleucid territories between 170 – 131 BC. In about 50 BC the Parthians invaded the subcontinent, defeated the Bactrians and gained control of northern Pakistan. Parthian rule, was an era of economic prosperity and progress. It is during this time that the Gandharan School of Art developed as a mixture of Greek, Syrian, Persian and Indian art traditions.

Kushans & Sassanians

The Kushans, a branch of the Yue-Chi nomadic tribe from Central Asia, conquered Gandhara overthrowing the Parthians in 64 AD. They ruled the subcontinent until the 3rd century AD. The Sassanians, a southern Iranian people, attacked the Kushans and seized the capital city of Peshawar in 240 AD. They extended their empire over eastern and southern Pakistan. However, small Kushan Kingdoms continued to exist until 450 AD paying tribute to the Sassanians. There was a cultural and political exchange between the Kushans and Sassanians, but this did not affect the former’s religious tolerance.

White Huns

Hun Empire under Mihirakula
(Historical Atlas of India)

The White Huns or Hephthalites, horse-riding nomads from Central Asia, invaded Gandhara and northern Pakistan around 455 AD. They encountered the Guptas, who initially repulsed them. However, with the decline of the Gupta Empire the Huns were able to take over a large part of the empire. Under Toramana and his son Mihirakula they expanded control to include Punjab, Sindh and parts of western India. The fire and sun worshipping Huns did not embrace Gandharan culture the way the Kushans did before them and with this Buddhism slowly disappeared from this region. The Huns were eventually driven out of India in the 6th century AD.

Find out more

Books & Articles

Hussain, Jain. An Illustrated History of Pakistan (Book 1). Karachi: Oxford UP, 1981.

Cervantes, Alonso C. “Sasanian Empire.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 17 May. 2013.

Simonin, Antione. “Indo-Greek.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 28 Apr. 2011.

Wikipedia. “Parthian Empire.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 28 Apr. 2011.

“History of Pakistan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Feb. 2014.

“The Hephthalites.” Silk Road Exhibit. University of Washington.