Journal of Eurasian Studies - EPA

Journal of Eurasian Studies - EPA

April‐June 2010 JOURNAL OF EURASIAN STUDIES Volume II., Issue 2.


The Kushans

The historians divide the reign of the Kushans into three periods:

a) the Early Kushans, b) the Great Kushans and c) the Later Kushans. In the nineties of the last century

archaeologists found the so called Rabatak Inscription in Afghanistan. The explanation of this epigraph

gave an approximate answer to the much debated dating and relationship of the Kushan rulers. 15

According to the explanation, the son of Kujula Kadphises was Vima Taktu ‐ the great conqueror of the

Punjab and of the north‐western part of India; Vima Taktu’s son was Vima Kadphises – he also conquered

further territories in India – and his son was Kanishka I: the Great Kanishka (about 110 – 134 A.D.). He was

the most famous and most talented Kushan king, who extended his empire to the East.

The father of Kujula Kadphises was most probably Heraios, the last king of the Indo‐Greek Principality,

but he called himself Kushan Sanab on his coins. One of the best Kushan researchers, the Englishman

Robert Bracey, considers this name a title, not a personal name. Its meaning is Lord or Great Lord. 16

Kanishka I was followed by his elder son: Vasishka (about 134 – 140 A.D.) who died as a young man;

his younger brother, Huvishka succeeded him on the throne. He ruled for a long time (140 – 172 A.D.) and

added more territories to his father’s kingdom. Kanishka’s, Vasishka’s and Huvishka’s names are typical

Kushan names, neither Iranian nor Indian, but their successor’s name, Vasudeva, is already an Indian one;

we don’t know whether he was a son or relative of Huvishka. He ruled after him (176 – 210 A.D.). There

was a short gap between the two rulers. Vasudeva still kept his huge empire. It included the following

territories: from the Oxus valley in the North to the banks of the Ganges in India in the South, from East

Iran in the West to Bihar state, in India in the East, but even the famous Hotan (now in Xinjiang in China)

in the East and the well‐known ancient country, Khorezm in the West became tributary states of the

Kushans. As a part of the large commercial route, the Silk Road passed through the Kushan territory; they

controlled it and could collect customs duties and taxes. These incomes made their kingdom prosperous.

Their well‐known, beautiful gold coins prove their richness. On the obverse of the coins appear the

images of kings with Bactrian inscriptions in Greek characters. On the reverse appear the images of either

Greek, Persian or Hindu gods; later the symbols of Buddhism, such as the Wheel of Religion or the Dharma

Chakra. The images of the kings are shown in Central Asian costume, a belted broadcloth tunic, felt boots

and a large sword. They intended to demonstrate, even in their attire, that they were different from the

subjugated people.

The Sassanians, another Scythian people, envied the advantage the Kushans had by controlling the Silk

Road. First they fought against the Parthians and, later, in 234 A.D. Ardashir I and his son, Shapur I,

defeated the Kushans in the western part of their kingdom and the Sassanians occupied Bactria and

Eastern Iran. 17 The Later Kushan kings: Kanishka II, Kanishka III, Vasudeva II, Saka and Kipunada, fought

15 Nicholas Sims‐Williams – Joe Cribb: “A New Bactrian Inscription of Kanishka the Great” in “Silk Road Art and Archeology”,

No.4. 1995. pp.75‐142.

16 Robert Bracey: “Kushan History” in Wikipedia, 2007.

17 Aradi, Éva: ibid. pp.88‐89.


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