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Asia Society
Homeland Afghanistan

Geography and Destiny For centuries, scarce resources and difficult terrain have required people in the Hindu Kush region to develop unique solutions to survive. But while geography has brought challenges, it has also offered opportunities. In Afghanistan, geography is a multi-sided destiny.

Identity and Perception Local, tribal, and religious identities in the Hindu Kush region have always shifted depending on one’s point of view. As Afghanistan decides what it means to be Afghan, it faces a kaleidoscope of moving perspectives.

Tradition and Modernization Afghans have always had to be flexible. At times, this flexibility has brought people together, and at other times it has torn them apart. Reconciling tradition and modernization means making sense of what’s at stake when people change--and when they don’t.

Traces and Narratives History is not always written. Much of what we know about Afghanistan comes from scattered artifacts, symbols, and oral traditions. Understanding these traces means piecing together the narratives that history leaves behind.

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Empire Strikes Back

CIRCA 323 BCE
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Geography & Destiny

Traces & Narratives

Reveal Source

Bo-deh. "Apamea Cardo Maximus." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apamea_Cardo_Maximus.jpg. Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en

Ghorab Shirsokhta. "Untitled Song." Recorded November 8, 1966. Hiromi Lorraine Sakata, 1966.

Loeff, Patrik M. "Indien: Sanchi." Digital image. Patrikmloeff's Flickr Photostream. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bupia/2276914716/.
Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en

"MauryanCoin." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MauryanCoin.JPG.

Musée Guimet. Gymnasiarch Strato. National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul.

PHGCOM. "SeleucosCoin." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SeleucosCoin.jpg.

Shirsokhta,  "Untitled Song." Recorded November 8, 1966. Hiromi Lorraine Sakata, 1966.

Stellmach, Thomas. "Apamea Excursion 29." Digital image. Tom$'s Flickr Photostream. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dysturb/2192145131/.
Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en

Stellmach, Thomas. "Apamea Excursion 33." Digital image. Tom$'s Flickr Photostream. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dysturb/2192936992/.
Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en

Stellmach, Thomas. "Apamea Excursion 50." Digital image. Tom$'s Flickr Photostream. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dysturb/2192940768/.
Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en

Strabo. "A Rubbing of Strabo's Geographica." Digital image. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen1104.htm.

"Strabo." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strabo.jpg.

Strabo. "Map of the World by Strabo." Digital image. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.summagallicana.it/lessico/s/Strabone.htm.


Producer: Grace Norman

Reveal Transcript

After Alexander the Great’s demise, there was an epic power struggle over Alexander’s dominion. Seleucus, a brilliant but pitiless military general, exerted control over the massive Eastern portion of Alexander’s territory. The empire he founded became known as the Seleucid empire.

Throughout Seleucid reign, Persian culture continued to mingle with Greek traditions. 

The Seleucid culture had an impact on Afghanistan. They did play a role in reinforcing Iranian culture in the country.

The Greek historian Strabo wrote an encyclopedia called Geographica, which suggested Seleucusused his Eastern assets to conquer lands Westward.

Strabo wrote: “Alexander [...] established … settlements of his own [in the Indus Valley], but Seleucus gave them [away] in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return 500 elephants.

The story goes that Seleucus offered a young Indian king the hand of his own daughter in marriage. In return the Indian king gave Seleucus 500 elephants from his reported 9,000-strong elephant army.The 500 elephants later went on to win a critical battle for the Seleucid Empire that eventually allowed them to capture lands that include what is now Turkey, through the Middle East, and beyond.

Just as Alexander’s army had conquered vast lands from Macedonia, east to Central Asia, Seleucus and his descendents swept his armies from what is today Afghanistan back towards the west and clear to the Aegean Sea.

 

 

 

The Greek world carried its influence deep into Asia. Now, the Seleucid Empire strikes back.

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