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The Growth of the Maurya Empire

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  • 0:02 Departure of Alexander
  • 0:40 Expanding the Realm
  • 1:39 Renowned to Greece
  • 2:43 Ashoka & Collapse
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Almost immediately following the collapse of Alexander the Great's empire, the Mauryan Empire stretched from the limits of Alexander's frontiers well into the southernmost parts of India. Learn more about the Mauryan Empire in this lesson.

Departure of Alexander

Although short-lived, the massive empire that Alexander the Great created had lasting effects throughout much of the known world. One of the places it had the greatest effect was actually in India, thousands of miles away from Macedon. In fact, before he finally gave in to the desires of his army to head back to Greece, or at least Babylon, Alexander met with a number of Indian princes, both to see who he could trust, as well as to remind the Indians who was in charge. One of the men Alexander met with was someone he felt some level of trust for, but would soon build an empire to match Alexander's own. His name was Chandragupta Maurya.

Expanding the Realm

Of course, building an empire from a small realm was difficult for even the most gifted of leaders. However, Chandragupta had a superb guide in Alexander. After the Macedonian's death, Chandragupta began attacking to the east and south. He recognized that Alexander was unable to effectively rule too far of a distance on either side of the Hindu Kush, and knew that with strong Greek powers to the west, his best chance for success was to attack the rest of India.

Luckily for Chandragupta, India was in a state of disarray, even more so than the Persian Empire that Alexander had conquered. For starters, Persia had a relatively strong central government, at least in theory. India was still split into several different smaller states. Chandragupta used existing rivalries between these states to control them all. Soon, the resulting Mauryan Empire stretched from Afghanistan throughout India, with only the southernmost tip of the subcontinent escaping Chandragupta's control.

Renowned to Greece

Despite such achievements, we still rely on the writings of a Greek ambassador to the Mauryan court for much of our information about how Chandragupta ruled. While not all of the book exists, the parts that do survive tell the story of someone who was obsessed with being the most efficient leader possible. Chandragupta knew that with such a diverse empire that he would have to be viewed as fair and, therefore, the idea of justice became an obsession of his.

Luckily for Chandragupta, his empire was wealthy enough to maintain justice for many different groups of people, or at least the ability to pay off those who felt wronged. The Mauryan capital, Pataliputra, dwarfed any city in the ancient world, with a perimeter of almost 90 miles around. Only Rome itself, which had a population of over one million at its height, could be compared to Pataliputra, and that was 400 years later. Efficiency was central to running both Pataliputra and the Mauryan Empire, as everything was controlled by the state, which in turn switched out officials often to limit the opportunity for corruption.

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