19. When the Huns Invaded India
In the 5th century, two of the ancient world's superpowers - Rome and India - were threatened by massive migrations of nomadic peoples. But while the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the Gupta Empire managed to defeat them. How? The answer lies in the story of the shadowy figure known as Skanda-Gupta.
Skanda-Gupta was a lowborn son of the Gupta emperor Kumara-Gupta, who faced off two deadly challenges and quite literally saved the empire. His actions, however, played out in a larger global context of political turmoil, economic fragmentation, and climate change. This episode recounts his tragic story, from his brilliant campaigns against the Huns to his ignominious death.
Notes and Sources below.
Voice Credits (in order of appearance):
Narrator - Anirudh
Skandagupta - Abbas
On Skandagupta and his half-brother, see Tandon, Pankaj. “The Succession after Kumāragupta I.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2014.
On the ancient Indian military, by far the most critical source I have found is Chakravarti, PC. The Art of War in Ancient India. Calcutta: University of Dacca, 1941.
A more "modern" but in some ways less critical reference: Roy, Kaushik. Warfare in Pre-British India–1500BCE to 1740CE. Routledge, 2015.
On climate change and the fall of Rome: Harper, Kyle. The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an empire. Princeton University Press, 2017.
Inscriptions are from BHANDARKAR, D R. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol 3 (Revised): Inscriptions Of The Early Gupta Kings. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 1981.
On Gupta civil wars in Vidisha, see Bakker, Hans, Martin Brandtner, and Shishir Kumar Panda. "A Theatre of Broken Dreams: Vidiśā in the Days of Gupta Hegemony." Interrogating History: Essays for Hermann Kulke (2006): 165-87.
Kautilya's Arthashastra is an excellent window into the mind of an ancient Indian strategist. The Rangarajan translation (available from Penguin) also has plenty of diagrams and is reorganised thematically for easy reference, especially on military matters.