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A New Interpretation of the Edicts of Aśoka from Kandahar

Francesco Maniscalco    Università degli Studi di Milano, Italia    



From Alexandria of Arachosia, present-day Kandahar, we have two edicts in Greek, issued by the sovereign Maurya Aśoka (c. 270-230 BC). Arachosia, the ancient Eastern satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire – corresponding to present-day southeastern Afghanistan – had long seen the meeting of the Iranian world to the west and the Indian world to the east. As from the end of the fourth century BC, after the conquest by Alexander the Great and the occupation of the eastern dominions of the Empire by Seleucus Nicator, it was to see a conspicuous Greek presence, strikingly attested by the epigraphs of Aśoka. The first edict – discovered in 1957 – is in two languages, Greek and Aramaic, while the second – discovered in 1963 – is in Greek alone. On the basis of texts from the court of Maurya of Pāṭaliputra, both of them constitute summaries of and propaganda for the conversion and moral principles inspiring Aśoka, subsequent to his bloody conquest of Kaliṅga. Our aim here is to take stock of certain issues, proposing a new completion for the opening lacuna in the Greek section of the bilingual epigraph, and casting doubt anew on the originality of the Greek texts, considering the attribution of the region to Indian, rather than Seleucid rule after the pact between Seleucus Nicator and Candragupta Maurya, Aśoka’s grandfather (c. 305 BC).

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