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Lesson summary: Empires in India

Key terms

Maurya Empireempire that united most of the Indian subcontinent
Chandragupta Mauryafounder of the Maurya Empire; stepped into the power vacuum created when Alexander the Great withdrew from western India.
AshokaChandragupta Maurya’s grandson and arguably the most powerful ruler of the Maurya Empire
central treasurygovernment-controlled money, collected via taxes, that funds the military and other government jobs; Maurya Empire officials used control of the central treasury as a way of maintaining centralized authority
Gupta EmpireIndian empire that emerged a few centuries after the end of the Mauyra Empire; like the Maurya Empire, it flourished under a centralized government
Sri Guptafounder of the Gupta Empire
Arthashastraancient Indian treatise that included advice on how to collect taxes, administer trade and agricultural resources, manage diplomacy, and how to wage war
rock and pillar edictsstone slabs that contained written orders and were placed in public spaces

Key dates

322 BCE—185 BCEduration of the Maurya Empire
c. 268—232 BCEreign of Emperor Ashoka
320 CE—550 CEduration of the Gupta Empire

Key themes

State building: Empires in India expanded as rulers imposed political unity on areas where previously there had been competing states. For example, the Maurya Empire created systems of rules, which were conveyed through rock and pillar edicts. It also created a bureaucracy and central treasury that allowed it to manage large numbers of people and vast resources.
Economics: As empires expanded, they created administrative institutions, some of which were economic in nature. The Maurya and Gupta empires were the first states to utilize a central treasury and the first to issue standardized currency across the Indian subcontinent. Government-controlled money, collected via taxes, funded the military and other government jobs.

Review questions

  • What are two ways that rulers of the Maurya Empire contributed to the centralization of political authority in south Asia?
  • What are two economic institutions that developed during the rule of the classical Indian Empires?

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