Shashigupta (शशिगुप्त) was a ruler of Paropamisadae (modern north-west Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan), between the Hindu Kush mountains and Indus Valley during the 4th century BCE. The name Shashigupta is a reconstruction of a hypothetical Indo-Aryan name, based on a figure named in ancient Greek and Roman sources as Sisikottos (Arrian), and Sisocostus (Curtius). Sisicottus has been mentioned as viceroy of the Assacenians (Ashvakas) in 327 BC by Arrian. Shashigupta is often linked to Chandragupta Maurya in ancient Indian sources.
- 1 Variants of name
- 2 Origin of name
- 3 History
- 4 Jat History
- 5 As the Satrap of the eastern Ashvakas
- 6 Shashigupta vs Meroes, the friend of Porus
- 7 Ch.4.30: Capture of Aornus. — arrival at the Indus.
- 8 Ch 5.20: Conquest of the Glausians.— Embassy from Abisares. —Passage of the Acesines (Chenab)
- 9 References
Variants of name
- Śaśigupta (शशिगुप्त)
- Shashi Gupta (शशि गुप्त)
- Sisikottos (Arrian)
- Sisocostus (Curtius)
- Sisicottus (Arrian )
- Sasi Gupta (Mcrindle)
Origin of name
The root shashi is equivalent to chandra ("moon") in Indian languages. Consequently, Shashigupta is often linked to various figures known as Chandragupta in ancient Indian sources. Both names mean "moon-protected". However, there is no consensus amongst modern scholars as to which of the historical Chadraguptas, if any, may be identified with Shashigupta.
Sisikottos/Sisocostus appears twice in Arrian's Anabasis and once in Historiae Alexendri Magni by Curtius. Many scholars suggest that Shashigupta was a ruler of some frontier hill state south of Hindukush, it is however, more appropriate to call him a military adventurer or a corporation leader coming from the warlike background of the fierce Kshatriya clan of theAshvakas from Massaga or Aornos (Pir-Sir) or some other adjacent territory of the Ashvakas. No ancient evidence is available which attests Shashigupta's royal background prior to his appointment by Alexander as ruler of the Ashvakas of the Aornos country.
There are at least four schools of thought regarding any connection to one of the Chandraguptas. Some scholars identify him with Chandragupta Maurya, while others say that Chandragupta Maurya was a separate figure with origins in Eastern India and a third school sees Shashigupta and Chandragupta as separate Paropamisadaen figures, both of whom had ties to separate branches of the Ashvakas.
Prof. B.S. Dhillon writes that ...MCrindle quoted Arrian as saying, "He (Alexander) sacrificed upon it and built a fort, giving the command of its to Sisikottos (Sasi Gupta as per Mcrindle)". Sasi Gupta must have been of Kshatria caste, of Hindu.
As the Satrap of the eastern Ashvakas
In May 327 BCE, when Alexander the Great invaded the republican territories of the Alishang/Kunar, Massaga and Aornos on the west of Indus, Shashigupta had rendered great service to the Macedonian invader in reducing several Kshatriya chiefs of the Ashvakas of the Alishang/Kunar and Swat valleys. He appears to have done this in an understanding with Alexander that after the reduction of this territory, he would be made the lord of the country. And Arrian definitively confirms that after the reduction of the fort of Aornos in Swat where the Ashvakas had put up a terrible resistance, Alexander entrusted the command of this extremely strategic fort of Aornos to Shashigupta and made him the Satrap of the surrounding country of the eastern Ashvakas.
Towards the end of battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum), Arrian mentions a certain Meroes and attests him to be an Indian and an old friend of Porus (or Poros). Arrian further attests that he was finally chosen by Alexander to bring the fleeing Porus back for concluding peace treaty with Macedonian invader. It is notable that at the time of Porus's war with Alexander, Shashigupta, the satrap of the eastern Ashvakas had very cordial relations with Porus. In fact, he was on good terms both with Porus as well as Alexander and was finally chosen by Alexander to effect peace negotiations between him (Alexander) and Porus when Taxiles i.e. the ruler of Taxila had failed in this endeavour. It is more than likely, as several scholars have speculated, that Shashigupta may have alternatively been known also as Meroes (equivalent to the Sanskrit Maurya) after his native-land Meros (Mor or Mer in Prakrit, perhaps Mt Meru of Sanskrit texts).
After the assassination of Nicanor: A few months later when Alexander was still in Punjab and was engaged in war with the Glausais of Ravi/Chenab, the Ashvakas had assassinated Nicanor, the Greek governor of lower Kabul valley and also issued a threat to kill Shashigupta if he continued to cooperate with the invaders. While Phillipos was appointed to Nicanor's place, no further reference to Shashigupta by this name exists in classical sources. It appears likely that as a shrewd politician & statesman cum military general, Shashigupta had sensed the pulse of time and therefore, after deserting Alexander’ camp, he had thrown his lot with the emerging powerful group of insurgents. Thence afterward, Shashigupta seems to appear under an alternative name-Moeres or Moeris of the classical chroniclers. It is notable that Moeres, Moeris, Meris and Meroes are all equivalent terms. Arrian writes Meroes  while Curtius spells it as Moeres or Moeris. Chieftain Moeris of lower Indus delta (Patala) referenced by Curtius seems precisely to be the same person as Meroes of north-west, attested to be old friend of Porus by Arrian. Alexander was apparently annoyed at this development and pursued Shashigupta who appears to have fled with his followers to lower Indus. He probably appears there as Moeres of Curtius, a chief of Patala. It is but natural that after joining the band of insurgents, Shashigupta alias Meroes or Moeres became a leader of the group of rebels and started his struggle for realizing his bigger goals for bigger regal power.
Shashigupta vs Chandragupta: Dr Seth observes: "If we take into account the practice Alexander followed of putting in-charge of the area which he conquered the vanquished ruler himself or some equally influential from among the vanquished people, we find no difficulty in assuming that Shashigupta either belonged to the ruling Ashvaka dynasty of the area of which Massaga and Aornos were the important centers, or to some other influential ruling Ashvaka family of west of Indus. Obviously this was the only way in which Alexander could get support of the entirely alien people.......the Macedonian conqueror did it in case of Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila and as also in case of Porus, the ruler of territories falling between Jhelum and Vipasa (Bias)".
It is very conspicuous that Shashigupta (Sisikottos) and Chandragupta (Sandrokotos) both names literally mean "moon-protected". "Shashi" part of Shashigupta has exactly the same meaning in Sanskrit as the "Chandra" part of Chandragupta—both mean "the moon". Thus, the two names are exact synonyms. Scholars say that it is not an uncommon practice in India to substitute one's given name with a synonym. Thus, it appears very likely, as many scholars believe, that Chandragupta may have been an alternative name for Shashigupta and both names essentially refer to same individual. This view is further reinforced if we compare the early lives of Shashigupta and Chandragupta. Both men are equally remarkable, both are military adventurers par excellence, both are rebellious and opportunists, both are equally ambitious, both are far-sighted and shrewd statesmen, and lastly but more importantly, both emerge in history precisely at the same time and at the same place in north-west India. Plutarch's classic statement that Andrakottos had met Alexander in his youth days  probably alludes to the years when Sisikottos had gone to help Iranians against Alexander at Bactria in 329 BCE. J. W. McCrindle concludes from Plutarch's statement that Chandragupta was native of Punjab rather than Magadha. Appian's statement: "And having crossed Indus, Seleucus warred with Androkottos, the king of the Indians, who dwelt about that river (the Indus)"  clearly shows that Chandragupta was initially a ruler of Indus country. Scholars like Dr H. C. Seth and Dr H. R. Gupta term this evidence from Appian as worthy of greatest consideration which other scholars appear to have taken lightly. It was only after Chandragupta's war with Seleucus which took place in 305 BCE  and the defeat of the latter that Chandragupta appears to have shifted his capital and residence from north-west to Pataliputra—which was also the political headquarters of the regime he had succeeded to.
Dr Seth concludes: "If Chandragupta is identical to Shashigupta, then we find no difficulty in assuming that he indeed belonged to the Kshatriya clan of the Ashvakas whose influence extended from the Hindukush to eastern Punjab at the time of Alexander's invasion. With Mauryan conquest of other parts of India, these Ashvakas settled in other parts of India as well. From Buddhist literature, we also read of southern Ashvakas (or Assakas or Asmakas) on the bank of river Godavary in Trans-Vindhya country. The Ashvakas are said to have belonged the great Lunar dynasty..... In the region lying between Hindukush and Indus, Alexander received terrible resistance from the Kshatriya tribe called Ashvakas"".
Some scholars believe that the insurgency against the Greek rule in north-west had first started probably in lower Indus. If this is true, then Moeris of Patala may indeed have been the pioneer in this revolution and he may be assumed to be the same person as Meroes of north-west i.e. Chandragupta Maurya, alternatively known also as Shashigupta  originally a native of the Swat/Kunar valleys west of Indus. Other scholars like Dr B. M. Barua, Dr H. C. Seth etc. also identify Shashigupta with Chandragupta. As noted above, Dr J. W. McCrindle calls Chandragupta a native of Panjab. American archaeologist David B. Spooner thinks that Chandragupta was an Iranian who had established a dynasty in Magadha. Based on the classical evidence, Dr H. R. Gupta thinks that Chandragupta as well as Shashigupta both belonged to northwest frontiers and both, perhaps belonged to two different sections of the Ashvaka Kshatriyas. Dr Chandra Chakravarti also relates Shashigupta and Chandragupta to northwest frontiers and states that Shashigupta belonged to Malkand whereas Chandragupta Maurya was a ruler of Ujjanaka or Uddyana (Swat) territory of the Ashvakas.
Arrianwrites.... ON the first day his army constructed the mound the length of a stade; and on the following day the slingers shooting at the Indians from the part already finished, assisted by the missiles which were hurled from the military engines, repulsed the sallies which they made against the men who were constructing the mound. He went on with the work for three days without intermission, and on the fourth day a few of the Macedonians forcing their way occupied a small eminence which was on a level with the rock. Without taking any rest, Alexander went on with the mound, being desirous of connecting his artificial rampart with the eminence which the few men were now occupying for him. But then the Indians, being alarmed at the indescribable audacity of the Macedonians, who had forced their way to the eminence, and seeing that the mound was already united with it, desisted from attempting any longer to resist. They sent their herald to Alexander, saying that they were willing to surrender the rock, if he would grant them a truce. But they had formed the design of wasting the day by continually (delaying the ratification of the truce, and of scattering themselves in the night with the view of escaping one by one to their own abodes. When Alexander discovered this plan of theirs, he allowed them time to commence their retreat, and to remove the guard which was placed all round the place. He remained quiet until they began their retreat; then taking ‘yoo of the body-guards and shield-bearing infantry, he was the first to scale the rock at the part of it abandoned by the enemy; and the Macedonians ascended after him, one in one place another in another, drawing each other up. These men at the concerted signal turned themselves upon the retreating barbarians, and killed many of them in their flight. Others retreating with panic terror perished by leaping down the precipices; and thus the rock which had been inexplicable to Heracles was occupied by Alexander. He offered sacrifice upon it, and arranged a fort, committing the superintendence of the garrison to Sisicottus, who long before had deserted from the Indians to Besstts in Bactra, and after Alexander had acquired possession of the country of Bactria, entered his army and appeared to be eminently trustworthy.
He now set out from the rock and invaded the land of the Assacenians; for he was informed that the brother of Assacenus, with his elephants and many of the neighbouring barbarians had fled into the mountains in this district. When he arrived at the city of Dyrta1, he found none of the inhabitants either in it or in the land adjacent. On the following day he sent out Nearchus and Antiochus, the colonels of the shield-bearing guards, giving the former the command of the Agrianians and the light-armed troops2, and the latter the command of his own regiment and two others besides. They were despatched both to reconnoitre the locality and to try if they could capture some of the barbarians anywhere in order to get information about the general affairs of the country; and he was especially anxious to learn news of the elephants. He now directed his march towards the river Indus3, and his army going forward made a road, as otherwise this district would have been impassable. Here he captured a few of the barbarians, from whom he learnt that the Indians of that land had fled for safety to Abisares, but that they had left their elephants there to pasture near the river Indus. He ordered these men to show him the way to the elephants. Many of the Indians are elephant-hunters, and these Alexander kept in attendance upon him in high honour, going out to hunt the elephants in company with them. Two of these animals perished in the chase, by leaping down a precipice, but the rest were caught and being ridden by drivers were marshalled with the army. He also as he was marching along the river lighted upon a wood, the timber of which was suitable for building ships; this was cut down by the army, and ships were built for him, which were brought down the river Indus to the bridge, which had long since been constructed for him by Hephaestion and Perdiccas.
2. The name Indus is derived from the Sanscrit appellation Sindhu, from a root Syandh, meaning to flow. The name Indians, or Sindians, was originally applied only to the dwellers on the banks of this river. Hindustan is a Persian word meaning the country of the Hindus or Sindus. Compare the modern Sinde, in the north-west of India, which contains the lower course of the Indus. In Hebrew India was called Hodu, which is a contraction of Hondu, another form of Hindu. See Esther i. 1; viii. 9. Krüger changed ωδοποιειτο into ωδοποιει
Arrianwrites.... WHEN Alexander had paid all due honours to those who had been killed in the battle, he offered the customary sacrifices to the gods in gratitude for his victory, and celebrated a gymnastic and horse contest upon the bank of the Hydaspes at the place where he first crossed with his army1. He then left Craterus behind with a part of the army, to erect and fortify the cities which he was founding there; but he himself marched against the Indians conterminous with the dominion of Porus. According to Aristobulus the name of this nation was Glauganicians; but Ptolemy calls them Glausians. I am quite indifferent which name it bore. Alexander traversed their land with half the Companion cavalry, the picked men from each phalanx of the infantry, all the horse-bowmen, the Agrianians, and the archers. All the inhabitants came over to him on terms of capitulation; and he thus took thirty-seven cities, the inhabitants of which, where they were fewest, amounted to no less then 5,000, and those of many numbered above 10000. He also took many villages, which were no less populous than the cities. This land also he granted to Porus to rule; and sent Taxiles back to his own abode after effecting a reconciliation between him and Porus. At this time arrived envoys from Abisares,2 who told him that their king was ready to surrender himself and the land which he ruled. And yet before the battle which was fought between Alexander and Porus, Abisares intended to join his forces with those of the latter. On this occasion he sent his brother with the other envoys to Alexander, taking with them money and forty elephants as a gift. Envoys also arrived from the independent Indians, and from a certain other Indian ruler named Porus.3 Alexander ordered Abisares to come to him as soon as possible, threatening that unless he came he would see him arrive with his army at a place where he would not rejoice to see him. At this time Phrataphernes, viceroy of Parthia and Hyrcania, came to Alexander at the head of the Thracians who had been left with him. Messengers also came from Sisicottus, viceroy of the Assacenians, to inform him that those people had slain their governor and revolted from Alexander. Against these he dispatched Philip and Tyriaspes with an army, to arrange and set in order the affairs of their land. He himself advanced towards the river Acesines.4 Ptolemy, son of Lagus, has described the size of this river alone of those in India, stating that where Alexander crossed it with his army upon boats and skins, the stream was rapid and the channel was full of large and sharp rocks, over which the water being violently carried seethed and dashed. He says also that its breadth amounted to fifteen stades; that those who went over upon skins had an easy passage but that not a few of those who crossed in the boats perished there in the water, many of the boats being wrecked upon the rocks and dashed to pieces. From this description theft it would be possible for one to come to a conclusion by comparison, that the size of the river Indus has been stated not far from the fact by those who think that its mean breadth is forty stades, but that it contracts to fifteen stades where it is narrowest and therefore deepest; and that this is the width of the Indus in many places. I come then to the conclusion that Alexander chose a part of the Acesines where the passage was widest, so that he might find the stream slower than elsewhere.
1. Diodorus (xvii. 89), says Alexander made a halt of 30 days after this battle.
2. Cf. Arrian, v. 8 supra, where an earlier embassy from Abisares is mentioned.
3. Strabo (xv. 1) says that this Porus was a cousin of the Porus captured by Alexander.
4. This is the Chenab. See Arrian (Indica, iii.), who says that where it joins the Indus it is 30 stades broad.
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- The Anabasis of Alexander/5b, Ch. 20
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