28 July 2006

Some talk of Arachosia

Operation Mountain Thrust in southeastern Afghanistan was making a lot of headlines in the British press before the Israeli assaults on Hezbollah shoved another Middle-Eastern crisis into the foreground. As the casualties mounted, I began wondering about the more distant military history of this area of Afghanistan. In the time of Alexander the Great, the region was known as Arachosia. This region featured in the civil wars following the accession of Darius the Great to the rule of Persia in the 6th century BC. You can read a translation of an original description, all we have about this conflict, under the heading "Fighting in Arachosia" here. A contingent of Arachosians fought on the left wing of the Persian army at the battle of Gaugamela, where they attempted with the rest of their division to outflank Alexander's command. After Alexander's conquest of Central Asia, the Arachosians largely vanish from the foreground of the historial stage. Much of pre-13th-century Central Asian history seems obscure from the vantage point of this English-language reader.

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