The Sakas, better known as Indo-Scythians once they
reached India, were a collection of nomadic tribes from Central Asia,
some of which had inhabited the region around Lake Issykkul and the
River Jaxartes. Generally, they were pastoralists and good horsemen.
They often attacked sedentary societies with the intention of acquiring
pastoral grazing land and livestock - typical cattle-centric steppe
Following the death of Alexander the Great and the
gradual diminution of his eastern empire, the Sakas infiltrated
those lands to create states of their own. They settled down in
Bactria and Parthia, overrunning the Parthians (the Pahlavas or
Indo-Parthians), and forcing remnants of their people into India,
one of a complex series of incursions and migrations from Central
Asia into India in this period. Then they were attacked and driven
further south by the Yuezhi tribes, where they contributed towards
the weakening of the remaining Greek kingdom there.
The Saka king, Maues or Moga (circa 90-60 BC),
established Saka rule in Gandhara (modern Kandahar in eastern
Afghanistan). He defeated the Indo-Greek territories (in modern
Pakistan) and established his governance as far as the River Jhelum.
But after his death the Indo-Greeks regained their territories.
Maues was succeeded by Vonones (75-65 BC), who ruled
along with his brother, Spalahores. The brother was succeeded in turn
by his son, Spalagadames (50 BC) who ruled areas between Central Asia
and South Asia. Records are very hazy for this post-Greek period, often
with the only information being supplied by coin finds.
Spalagadames' successor, Azes (57-35 BC), increased
his importance by capturing the kingdom of the last great Indo-Greek
king, Hippostratus. His joint ruler (although perhaps as a junior
partner) was Azillises, who was succeeded by the somewhat doubtful
Azes II (35-12 BC). Azes II completed the conquest of the Scythians
in northern India, but his death coincided with the rise of the
Kushans in India.
The Sakas ruled over the north-west frontier, and
in Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir, western Uttar Pradesh, Saurashtra,
Kathiawar, Rajputana, Malwa, and the north Konkan belt of Maharashtra.
They also fought against the Satvahanas in India, and later entered
into matrimonial alliances with them, furthering their own integration
into Indian society. Benefiting from their earlier interaction with
the Greeks, the Sakas kings employed the Greek system of rule and
appointed kshatrapas (satraps, governors) to govern each
The Sakas were later overpowered by the Kushans
when they succeeded in taking control from the Sakas. The Sakas
were forced to accept their suzerainty but, after the Kushans
themselves faded, the Sakas' own western kshatrapas once
again rose in prominence. This was especially the case under King
Nahapana, who occupied large swathes of Satvahana territory in
western and central India. Eventually he was defeated by the
Satvahana king, Gautamiputra Satkarni.