All across the lands of the East the tribes of the Hindus have spread themselves, teaming across a region larger even then the empire of the conqueror Alexandros himself. Despite their far-flung habitation, the practice of war was much the same among most of them. These Hindus Pattisainya are a fine brigade of lightly armed spearmen drawn from a number of tribes like the Gandharas and those that the Hellenes called the Aspasios, or even the Yaudheya beyond the Hindus itself. Their tribal differences occassionally spring up, but by and large they are united by their common religion - mostly some form of Buddhism, but often enough they can find accomodations with their own local or shared gods. Though armed only with a light shield and a bamboo spear, they are well suited to combat in a number of regions, and are incredibly useful auxiliaries.
Historically, the infantry employed by Hindus kings like Ambhi, the two Purushotthama kings of Kekeya (the two Paurava kings), or even the far off dynasts of the Audumbaras and Yaudheyas, was dominated by light armed levies like these. Particularly among the former peoples in Gandhara and farther North among the Southern Kambojas, where class restrictions on warfare were more relaxed, and peasant levies more prevelant. They fought valiantly for their kings when men like Megas Alexandros brought his campaign to the banks of the Hindus, and even more so in their own ancient epics of battle and spiritual awakening. Later on, they fought for Alexandros himself in contingents provided by his vassals, and at various times in the armies of Indo-Greek kings like Menandros and Antialkidas. In these later times, they were a huge and formidable component of Indo-Hellenic armies, but had more restricted or varied origins. Under Menandros, they were probably heavily drawn from the Madras, Sibis, Kekeyas, and other Gandhara peoples - though local levies from among the Yaudheyas, Audumbaras, and other Buddhist peoples of his massive empire - while the armies of Zoilos or Lysias probably included more peoples of the West-Central Hindus region. Later, under the Saka, they probably served mostly as light garrison or support troops for their countrymen in the archer corps or the King's Hellenic infantry.
The Hindus tribes west of the Indus are famed for their use of massive longbows made from cane and strung with tough silken bowstrings. These bows allow them to launch arrows at a tremendous range, making their users essentially immune to enemy horse archers and projectiles. They wear no armor and rely simply on their skills with the large Indian sword to get them out of less certain melee encounters. These Indians can be the lynchpin of a proper 'wearing down' before a dedicated melee engagement, thinning the ranks that the more dedicated melee fighters will encounter.
Historically, the longbowmen of India were a famous and fearsome force, utilized by every effective army ever mobilized in the region - even Alexander the Great took advantage of their easy availability, receiving a number of them in the levy contingents from his newly acquired vassal kings. A century later, as the Baktrian Kings became more settled and grew into the roles of a "Raja," as opposed to a traditional Hellenic Basileos, such archers became a more regular component of their native levy - probably freeing most Hellenes from the lower orders of the psiloi, in order to concentrate them in their "national" phalanx. Even the archery-oriented Saka used them to augment their own foot archers, or to support their cavalry divisions, expanded as more and more cultivated land came under their power. Forunately for the Baktrians, Saka, and even the occassional non-regional power to invade India, longbowmen are a regular feature of the local military infrastructure, and easily accessable to anyone.
Self regulating professional guilds, called ‘Sreni’ formed an important part of the social fabric of the Indian sub-continent in the 3rd century B.C. Some of these were guilds of war-craft, and their members dedicated their lifetime to the art of war, conducting their affairs according to a strict code of ethics.
These infantry are equipped with the best that money can buy. For defense, they wear armour of iron and brass scales over a quilted cotton cuirass, with additional protection for the arms, legs and shoulders. For offense, they carry a large ‘sword-axe’ made of high quality iron from the mines of Magadha. At this point in history, the metal-craft of Magadha was well in advance of anything in the Mediterranean and so the equipment was of very high quality.
Heavily armoured, steeped in a warrior tradition and bound by a professional code of warrior ethics, these troops can be relied on to hold the battle line in the most trying of circumstances.
Historically, most of what we know of ancient Indian armies comes from Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’ (a manual on statecraft) and sparse depictions in Buddhist art (notably at Barhut and Ajanta). Kautilya makes it clear that troops from the ‘Sreni’ formed an integral part of the royal army and were trusted second only to the king’s own standing army. Scattered references from our sources also indicate that professional mercenary companies from India were in regular employment, fighting for and against the Achaemenids, and later for and against Alexander and his successors.
Imported from the regions around the old Eastern Persian provinces, Elephantes Indikoi are an exceptionally valuable resource in combat, very popular among Alexandros' Diadochoi. Towering over most other creatures, they can easily scare men and horses alike, with both their size and smell, though elaborate bells and trappings often add to their intimidation. Such corps are directed by their own mahouts riding behind their heads, often a native of their own country who has spent at least two years training his beast from capture. The mahout is armored to better protect against the obvious assault that generally comes against him, launched to bypass the thick natural armor of his mount.
Elephants are best used as cavalry screens for your army, where their presence can scare away enemy cavalry. They can also be used to ram through an enemy battle line, though they are less useful when faced with loose order or phalanx infantry. Pyrrhos of Epeiros even innovated a tactic of flank screens when he fought the Romans at Heraklea. Beyond their obvious use against enemy infantry or cavalry, they can also be used in siege combat; battering down gates, though they're highly vulnerable to better prepared installations. Their greatest vulnerability is against skirmishers, slingers and archers, who can pepper them with missiles - eventually toppling them by virtue of their cumulative impact. To counter the effect of enemy skirmishers, it is often wise to array your own in opposition, or to maintain constant attacks upon each individual group.
Historically, the use of elephants in war was largely contained to India, but after the battle of Hydaspes that changed. Though Alexandros never cared over much for the animals, his successors were very much in favor of their use, organizing their own elephants into a distinct corps under their own "elephantarchos". These "Elephantes Indikoi" (Indian Elephants) were imported for war in the West from the old Eastern Persian provinces around Baktria, Gandhara, Sattagydia, and Sind - though most originally hailed from the regions directly around the river the natives call the Sindhu. In the first wars of succession, each Diadochoi had a contingent of Indian elephants and Indian mahouts, who stayed on where they taught the Hellenes how to capture and train elephants for war. Such forces had been wreaking havoc on battle lines for centuries within the armies of Indian Rajas, and the Diadochoi used them on an equal scale (the first substantial group supposedly numbered 500 elephants total, granted to Seleukos I Nikator by his new ally Chandragupta Maurya, called "Sandrokottos" in Greek), attaching substantial political power to their possession - some officers gained temporary power and success simply by this virtue (most notably, the Eastern Satrap Eumenes).
Despite their great usefulness when properly employed, it was not unusual for elephants to cause defeat for those who employed them. If an enemy was clever enough to devise their own means to combat elephants, as was the case at the battle of Gaza when Ptolemaios planted an ‘iron spiked minefield’ to ward off elephants, or when Caesar properly utilized slingers and Scipio gaps between his infantry cohorts to channel the elephants, they could be defeated and even turned against their masters. Even pigs were used on occasion, released among elephants who were often scared of their comparatively small, darting forms. However, despite the many different weapons and stratagems being devised to fight them and the huge expenses required to maintain them, the elephant was still considered a valuable asset, maintained widely. The Arche Seleukeia even developed a corps of ‘elephant guards,' whose task was simply to defend the beasts in combat.
Other non-Hellenic powers also used Indian elephants in war, but it seems not to the same great extent. These powers started using elephants when they gained control of Indian provinces, such as the Pahlava, Kushan Empire and the Indo-Saka kingdoms.
Master horsemen and horse traders, Kambojas never leave an opportunity to plunder using their light horse troops. Living on both sides of the Khyber Pass, they were a part of the "Arya" races which stormed and conquered India, some 1500 years before. Their own name was a mistaken identity by the Helllenes of Alexandros who called them "Assakenoi" whereas they were "Asvaka" or "horsemen" in Sanskrit. Losing badly to Alexander, they befriended his descendants, their Greco-Baktrian overlords and along with them they invaded India reaching as far as present day Bangladesh. They repeated this feat, but with their new Lords, the Sakae who overran Greek Baktria in the end of 1st centrury BCE. Their helmet is an evolved Boiotian one, and their primary cuirass is a quilted silk one. Untreated (so called "dirty") silk had very good anti-missile qualities, which Kambojas facing Indian foot archers and Steppen Horse archers would deffinitely appreciate. They wear Iranian dotted pantaloons and have pteryges to cover their genitals. Their weapons are clearly Hellenic: round "Aspis" shield, a short kontos spear that could be held underarm in a stance reminding that of the knights, and a sturdy kopis for the time when the spear gave way. It is safe to assume that they would show the same faith to all their overlords, whoever they might be.
Historically, Kamboja, were among the westernmost of the 16 or so nations (mahajanapadas) which comprised the Archaic (Vedic) Indian world. IndoIranians to the utmost, they presumably took the name from river Kabul (then named Kaboj) or from Kam(region)-used mostly in those areas to this date- and Bhoja(owner). They must have a major impact on the Achaimenid Persians who conquered them, as Cyrus the great (Kurush) named his son Kambyses (Kambujiya) the 3rd, presumably after a Mythical hero, Kambujiya (Kamboja of Shantiparava),who led the Iranians against a Vedic king Kuvalashava, defeating him in the battle and wresting a prized sword from his lineage. Thus, it can be easily understood that common language and mythical bonds made Achaimenids and Kambojas friendly to one another.
This good relation with their overlords would change later, as the Kamboja clans - the Aspasioi of Kunar/Alishang valleys, the Guraeans of the Guraeus (Panjkora) valley and the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys fought the Makedones to a man. When worse came to worst, even the Assakenoi(Ashvakayanas) Kamboj women had taken up arms and fought the invaders side by side with their husbands, thus preferring "a glorious death to a life of dishonor". In fact Alexander spent a couple of years at present day Afghanistan and NW Pakistan fighting Kamboja clans. These highlanders, designated as "parvatiya Ayudhajivinah" in Panini's Astadhyayi were rebellious, fiercely independent and freedom-loving clans who never easily yielded to any overlord. Modern historians have this to say on them ...."It was indeed a hard work for Alexander to take their strongholds, of which Massaga and Aornus need special mention (A. K. Narain, 'Alexander the Great') and "A tribute must be made to the vision and sagacity of Alexander because he realised that without reducing these highlanders, his march into India would neither be secure nor effective."(History of Punjab, Vol I, 1997, p 225, Dr Buddha Prakash). This was the wonder and the tragedy of those people. That they controled the way to India, thus they had to be either conquered or destroyed.
Heavy cavalry, exclusive to the Gandhara region, those mostly Indo-Iranian horsemen combine elements of both Hellenic weapon and armor mastery, and Indian excellent iron forging traditions. Wearing a Hellenic facemask made to resemble the syncretic deity of Zeus-Ahura Mazda with his distinct outflowing sunrays, armed with a small "cavalry" aspis shield, a spear and a kopis for close work and a leather cuirass, those alone would classify him a heavy cavalry. Yet, worn above the leather cuirass is the true Mauryan ion forging skills evident. Right on the edge of the facemask begin a circular leather shoulder and neck protector, with iron and bronze scales intertwined. His cloak, heavy at the shoulders for enhanced slash protection is basically two parts, that are tied together prior to battle. On top of his leather cuirass, a wooden frame is held together by leather straps. Therein either metal shards or rectangular lamellae are held together by the wooden frame, making a very Indian style "framed breastplate", on top of his hardened leather cuirass. An Iranian style pantaloon and perikneimeides' also known as greaves complete the picture.
Historically, closely after Alexandros died, his Indian pocessions became the property of one of the greatest Indian dynasties to come out of the Magadha area, the Mauryans, named after its founder Chandragupta Maurya. Be it his immitating of the tolerant Seleukid ways, be it that he felt gratitude toward the "Yavanas/Yonakas" mercenaries who helped him assume the throne, Chandragupta Maurya, allowed free reign on all. This is further demonstrated by his grandson Asoka Maurya, in his Bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) inscriptions at Kandahar/Gandahara (Shar-i-kuna). (3rd century BCE). They were preserved at the Kabul Museum.
Today they have disappeared. There he had written among other verses which proclaimed abstaining from killing..."and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily". It has been suggested that Ashoka has had a quarter Greek blood, as his grandfather Chandragupta did marry Seleukos' daughter, but that is beside the point. It may be that his supposed quarter Greek ancestry did make him more hospitable towards Yavanas and other Northwestern "barbarians", but it is more prudent to assume that Ashoka had studied government, and had learned about Seleukos forging a kingdom out of nothing through "tolerance" and "synthesis" of foreign elements. This process would come to be known thousands of years later in a land far far away as "E pluribus unum".
It is rare that a fusion of cultures, ideas, religions and yes, warrior cultures happens. It is however very fortunate that in the cases that it does, units that combine all the great aspects of their perspective "schools of thought" so far as military technology of the time. The Greek facemask, maybe the best form of facial protection at the time would start a legacy that would last for at least 1500 years across all Asia. The small round shield, by no means a Greek invention, is still in use in India, in Kalaripayattu martial arts discipline. Kopis sword, is now known as Khukri and the resemblance to the Kopis is uncanny. The cuirass has certainly evolved away from what the Taxilan Agema wear. A heavy Nissean or Kambojan horse is what the Taxilan agema is mounted on, and even if it isn't armored, nobody can say the same for his rider. Taxilan agema will fight for whomever owns the regions that they are recruited in, and do so until they die, or their horses collapse from under them.
After the kingdom of Baktria attacked and seized its Indian possessions, it found the Greeks who had been living there had adapted somewhat to native ways. Gone was the close phalanx formation and the long spear, replaced by a somewhat looser but more skilled melee formation. They adopted a Phrygian style helmet, light cotton Thracian trousers, and javelins, in addition to a smaller and lighter shield. This allows them to be excellent elephant killers, as well as defeat the more lightly armored infantry of the east. They can be used as a good medium infantry, to screen the flanks and protect against elephants and cavalry while the Thureophoroi deliver the fatal melee blow.
Historically, the Indo-Greeks adapted quite well to the environment of India and prospered. Many became Buddhists, though they still remained fierce warriors, true to their Hellenic forbearers. They are an excellent medium infantry, well able to compliment other troop types and provide a versatile unit against light cavalry and elephants.
Hoplitai Indoi are the lightest component of the regular Indo-Greek phalanx line, equipped with fairly light linothrax and ptyrges, and an equally light helm, though a heavy thuroes and bronze greaves afford them substantially greater defensive coverage then the traditional hoplitai of distant Hellas. They are arrayed in a traditional, non-Makedonian phalanx to prevent a need for more regular drilling and equipped with a thuroes to compensate for the lesser defensive value inherint in this lighter formation. In Baktrian and Saka armies, they are best used to support the more expert and elite linesman around them, the Pezhetairoi Indoi and Hoplitai Indoi Beltistoi in the case of the burgeoning Baktrian empire and the Hoplitai Hellenikoi and Agema Hellenikon in the case of the Philhellenic Saka Kingdom.
Historically, when the Baktrian Kingdom began its fairly rapid conquest of Northern India, they transplanted a large number of Iranians - Bahlikas and Kambojas in the native tongues - with them, serving variously as lower-order administrators or yoemen in their armies, immigrants, or in their massive auxilliary corps. These men, now settled in India and affected by both the native and conquorer's culture, along with partially Hellenized local Indians and the part-Indian children of Hellenic families, formed the bulk of this varied local levy. After the conversion of the Baktrian King Menander to Buddhism, as reported in various later Buddhist texts, they likely evolved into the bulk of his successors' light linemen - particularly his own locally supported dynasty, as represented by his son Strato and both their various namesakes. Other dynasties, like that of Zoilos centered in Arachosia or that of Antialkidas at Taxila also utilized such forces, though the former's ranks probably held more soldiers of Iranian extraction and the latter of loyal dharmayavanas (Hellenized Indiands). In the time of Hellenic rule, they had a fairly limited role and their position in Baktrian armies reflects this, but under the Saka, such men were a major component of their well-trained local regulars, second in the region only to the Agema Hellenikon.
Indohellenikoi Eugeneis Hoplitai are the elite infantrymen of Hellenic India, drawn from the Indo-Greek population, be they descendants of those settled during Alexander’s invasion or recent immigrants from Baktria. They wear an evolved Boiotian helmet that offers protection against both weapons and the sun so it won’t obstruct their view. They also wear elaborately decorated bronze cuirasses with Indian motifs, pteryges, perikneimides (full greaves) and of course a heavy bronze hoplon shield to complete their armor. An iron-tipped spear is their primary weapon, but should the need arise they are also armed with an evolved kopis or Khukhri as the Indians call it, a medium sized sword of Indian steel made for slashing. In fact, when compared to the Hoplites of old, they are more mobile and have better vision of the battlefield, due to the evolved Boiotian helmet they wear. They are also equally skillful with spear or sword. These men are among the finest soldiers in India or at least in the Indus valley and western Gangetic plains and can be relied on to do their duty to a man, but a wise strategos knows to use these troops with care as there are few Hellenes in the East and their numbers are not easily replaced. In fact they, along with the Sreni (Professional guild warriors) were the ones that the Indogreek kings relied upon to hold the line.
Historically, infantrymen like these were scarce, but they still built up a fearsome reputation and Hellenes were sought after as bodyguards all over India, there is even mention of Hellenes serving as bodyguards in far away Sri Lanka. The Indo-Greek kingdoms themselves can be called Baktrian successor kingdoms as it was the Hellenes of Baktria who invaded India after the Mauryan collapse and it was Baktrian Hellenic nobles who made themselves lords in their new conquests. The Indo-Greek kingdoms were established during the civil wars and rebellions that were common in the Graeco-Baktrian Empire after 200 BC and after Baktria itself was overrun by the Saka and other nomadic groups. Evidence indicates that most infantrymen in the far eastern Hellenic kingdoms were drawn from subject peoples, except the most elite units who were made up of Hellenes and thoroughly Hellenized subjects. The same seems to have been in the case of the Indo-Greeks too, who levied large numbers of Indians to serve as infantry. Some sources indicate that Indian infantry apparently were poorly disciplined and had a low morale and thus prone to desert or rout. One battle used to illustrate this is the siege of Baktra, where 300 horsemen lead by Eukratides sallied out from the city and routed the Indo-Greek King Demetrios II’s army of 60000 men all the way to the Indus River, according to Justin (XLI,6). Apparently after this more reliable elite infantry units were raised and dispersed among the Indian infantry to try and maintain morale and lead by example.
Indohellenikoi Eugeneis Hoplitai were infantrymen who served in the Indo-Greek Kingdoms as crack troops, but units like these were likely to have fought in Baktrian armies as well, one reason being that Baktria did field elite infantry units of their own and these men would simply have been an Indo-Greek variant of those. The Saka, knew a good thing when they saw it, so not only did they keep them as a fighting force, enhancing them with their own people and fighting elements, meaning a bigger emphasis on sword than spear, a gradual shift that would take centuries to complete.
Graphical evidence includes a frieze showing a hoplite in full gear in a relief wearing the chlamys found in Butkara, National Museum of Oriental Art. There is also a Hero Stone in southern India, a dead Ksatriyas' grave, showing two rows of over hand holding spearmen, armed also with an aspis shield attacking each other, with the Hero dieing a glorious death.
Some Puranic (Indian epic) references on them... Kane quotes several minor texts in which Yavanas (Greeks) are described as barbarians (mlecchas), eaters of cow's flesh, contradictory thinkers, and having their own peculiar manner of dress and trimming of hair. (Indians at the time wore their hair long and in topknots). In other parts they are shown as different to mlecchas, above them as if leading them.
Several references to the Yavanas and their kingdom occur in Tamil epic literature and in the Ceylonese chronicle Culavamsa. In the fifth part of the Tamil epic poem Cillappatikaram, for example, the abodes of wealthy Yavanas and mercenary Yavana swordsmen are described. A Yavana kingdom existing in the North is also mentioned.
In Malinda Panha (the Buddhist monk Nagasena's account of a meeting with King Milinda or Menandros in Euthydemia, present day Sind), when the King is cornered on a difficult philosophical question, his "500 Greeks" exclaim in one voice..." Now get out of that if you can" in a most jovial mood (1st chapter). Later on they take part on the discussion as if they were expected to in some way. This indicates that they must have been pretty close to the king, the infantry part of the Basilikon Agema (King's bodyguards). In another part, he explains of a prepared military force, who is always ready for war.
The Saka used this elite force to further cement their Indian state. In time it became a mix of Yavanas, Saka and Indians, who in turn became the majority. Some Saka customs remained with them though, such as the "Ultimate Sacrifice" called "Saka" in which all those who take part, fight to the last man and either succeed or die fighting. It is not known whether a connection exists between those "Noble elites" and the Rajput-ra or "King sons'" , but the latter had that "Saka" custom as a ritual in war. Also, some of the Rajput family emblems resemble the Makedonian 16 pointed sun, which was Megas Alexandros' emblem when he started out the campaign which led to India, so many centuries before. Rajputs from the lower Indus region, in the 10th century AD fled Islamic conquest to Nepal and there they evolved into the elite Nepalese Ghurkas, who to this day carry an evolved Kopis (Khukri) and count the time by the Saka calendar.