Two hours north of Ghazni, on the road to Kabul, in an arid place, a dusty track leads westward. If you follow it, you enter a half-forgotten kingdom, and a legendary highway that traversed the known world. Beyond this, hidden in the mountains, are green valleys and rivers bordered with willows and hayfields. Even before Ashoka began spreading his empire through the western passes and into Bactria and Ghandara, traders had moved eastward and westward with caravans of silk and other precious goods bound for Balkh and distant Rome.
But at the beginning of the first millennium of our era, a new power arose in Asia. Its people had been driven westward by the consolidation of the Han empire. They settled in what is now known as Afghanistan, ending the rule of the Graeco-Buddhist kingdoms that had ruled there since Alexander’s conquest of Asia three hundred years before. Their empire flourished for about three centuries before they were overtaken by the expansion of the Sassanian kingdom in Iran, but their continuing influence was immense, and spread far beyond their borders across the whole of Asia. This influence strongly shaped eastern culture as we know it, and most particularly the development of Buddhism. This empire—the Kushan—seems to have been of people of largely Iranian stock, whose language had distinct affinities with the ancient Celtic tongues. Continue reading
Filed under: Art, Biography, Encyclopedia, History, John Aske, News & events | Tagged: Afghanistan, ancient Celtic tongues, Genghis Khan, Ghazni, Graeco-Buddhist kingdoms, Hepthalite Huns, Kabul, Kushan | 2 Comments »