Arachosia (IPA2|ˌærəˈkoʊʒə; _el. polytonic|Ἀραχωσία, "Arakhōsia") or Arachotae (IPA2|əˈrækəˌtiː; _el. polytonic|Ἀραχῶται, "Arakhōtai") is the latinized form of Greek name of an Achaemenid and Seleucid governorate (satrapy) in the eastern part of their respective empires, and that was inhabited by the Iranian Arachosians or Arachoti (polytonic|Ἀραχωτοί).citation|last=Schmitt|first=Rüdiger|title=Encyclopædia Iranica|chapter=Arachosia|volume=2|year=1987|pages=246-247|location=New York|publisher=Routledge & Kegan Paul|url=]

Arachosia's boundaries varied with successive rulers, but it may have once corresponded to much of present-day southeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, perhaps even extending all the way eastwards to the Indus River (see "geography" for details). Its center lay in what is today the Arghandab District of Afghanistan.


"Arachosia" is the latinized form of Greek "Arakhōsia". "The same region appears in the Avestan "Vidēvdāt" (1.12) under the indigenous dialect form _ae. Haraxvaitī- (whose "-axᵛa-" is typical non-Avestan)." In Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as ' _pe. Harahuvatiš', written "h-r-v-u-t-i". This form is the "etymological equivalent" of Vedic Sanskrit IAST|Sarasvatī-, the name of a (mythological) river literally meaning "rich in waters/lakes" and derived from "sáras-" "lake, pond." ("cf." Aredvi Sura Anahita).

"Arachosia" was named after the name of a river that runs through it, the Arachotus (IPA2|ˈærəˌkoʊt; _el. Αραχωτός, "Arakhōtos"), today known as the Arghandab, a tributary of the Helmand.


Isidore and Ptolemy (6.20.4-5) each provide a list of cities in Arachosia, among them (yet another) Alexandria, which lay on the river Arachotus. This city is identified with present-day Kandahar, the name of which derives (via "Iskanderiya") from "Alexandria", [citation|last=Lendering|first=Jona|title=Alexandria in Arachosia||location=Amsterdam|url=] reflecting a connection to Alexander the Great's visit to the city on his campaign towards India. Isidore, Strabo (11.8.9) and Pliny (6.61) also refer to the city as "metropolis of Arachosia."

In his list, Ptolemy also refers to a city named Arachotus (IPA2|ˈærəˌkoʊt; _el. polytonic|Ἀραχωτός) or Arachoti (acc. to Strabo), which was the earlier capital of the land. Pliny the Elder and Stephen of Byzantium mention that its original name was Cophen (Κωφήν). This city is identified today with Arghandab that lies just north of present-day Kandahar.

Although centered around the Arghandab Valley, the extent of Arachosia remains unclear. According to Ptolemy (6.20.1, "cf." Strabo 15.2.9), Arachosia was bound by Drangiana in the west, the Paropamisadae (Gandara) in the north, to "a part of India" in the east, and Gedrosia in the south. Strabo (11.10.1) suggests that Arachosia extended eastwards as far as the Indus river. Pliny (Natural History 6.92) speaks of Dexendrusi in the south.


Ptolemy (6.20.3) mentions several tribes of Arachosia by name, the Pargyetae ( _el. polytonic|Παρ(γ)υῆται), and, to the south, the Sidri ( _el. Σίδροι), Rhoplutae (polytonic|Ῥωπλοῦται), and Eoritae (polytonic|Ἐωρῖται). Despite attempts to connect the Eoritae with the "Arattas" of the Mahabharata, the identity of this tribe and the Sydres is unknown, and even Ptolemy's orthography is disputed with "Pargyetae" (it is sometimes rewritten "Parsyetae" or "Aparytae").


The region is first referred to in the Achaemenid-era Elamite Persepolis fortification tablets. It appears again in the Old Persian, Akkadian and Aramaic inscriptions of Darius I and Xerxes I among lists of subject peoples and countries. It is subsequently also identified as the source of the ivory used in Darius' palace at Susa. In the Behistun inscription (DB 3.54-76), the King recounts that a Persian was thrice defeated by the Achaemenid governor of Arachosia, Vivana, who so ensured that the province remained under Darius' control. It has been suggested that this "strategically unintelligible engagement" was ventured by the rebel because "there were close relations between Persia and Arachosia concerning the Zoroastrian faith."

The chronologically next reference to Arachosia comes from the Greeks and Romans, who record that under Darius III the Arachosians and Drangians were under the command of a governor who, together with the army of the Bactrian governor, contrived a plot of the Arachosians against Alexander (Curtius Rufus 8.13.3). Following Alexander's conquest of the Achaemenids, the Macedonian appointed his generals as governors (Arrian 3.28.1, 5.6.2; Curtius Rufus 7.3.5; Plutarch, Eumenes 19.3; Polyaenus 4.6.15; Diodorus 18.3.3; Orosius 3.23.1 3; Justin 13.4.22).

Following the Partition of Babylon, the region became part of the Seleucid Empire, which traded it to the Mauryan Empire in 305 BCE as part of an alliance. The Sunga Dynasty overthrew the Mauryans in 185 BC, but shortly afterwards lost Arachosia to the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. It then became part of the break-away Indo-Greek Kingdom in the mid 2nd century BCE. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BCE, but lost the region to the Arsacids and Indo-Parthians. At what time (and in what form) Parthian rule over Arachosia was reestablished cannot be determined with any authenticity. From Isidore 19 it is certin that a part (perhaps only a little) of the region was under Arsacid rule in the 1st century CE, and that the Parthians called it "Indikē Leukē", "White India."

The Kushans captured Arachosia from the Indo-Parthians and ruled the region until around 230 CE, when the they were defeated by the Sassanids, the second Persian Empire, after which the Kushans were replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshas or Indo-Sassanids. In 420 CE the Kushanshas were driven out of Afghanistan by the Chionites, who established the Kidarite Kingdom. The Kidarites were replaced in the 460s CE by the Hephthalites, who were defeated in 565 CE by a coalition of Persian and Turkish armies. Arachosia became part of the surviving Kushano-Hephthalite Kingdoms of Kapisa, then Kabul, before coming under attack from the Moslem Arabs. Around 870 CE the Kushano-Hephthalites (aka Turkshahi Dynasty) was replaced by the Hindu-shahi dynasty, which fell to the Muslim Turkish Ghaznavids in the early 11th century CE.

Arab geographers referred to the region (or parts of it) as 'Arokhaj', 'Rokhaj', 'Rohkaj' or simply 'Roh'.


The south, southeast and northeast parts of Arachosia retained Buddhist-Hindu religious and cultural influence until the advent of Islam in the 7th century. Much of the country remained Buddhist even while in Arab hands, but within a few centuries Islam became the region's dominant religion. See Sistan for information on the religion of the area after the Arab conquest.


* Frye, Richard N. (1963). "The Heritage of Persia". World Publishing company, Cleveland, Ohio. Mentor Book edition, 1966.
* Hill, John E. 2004. " [ The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu.] " Draft annotated English translation.
* Hill, John E. 2004. " [ The Peoples of the West from the Weilue] " 魏略 "by Yu Huan" 魚豢": A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE." Draft annotated English translation.
* Toynbee, Arnold J. (1961). "Between Oxus and Jumna". London. Oxford University Press.
* Vogelsang, W. (1985). "Early historical Arachosia in South-east Afghanistan; Meeting-place between East and West." "Iranica antiqua", 20 (1985), pp. 55-99.

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