Asii, also written Asioi, were one of the Indo-European tribes mentioned in Roman and Greek accounts as responsible for the downfall of the state of Bactria circa 140 BCE. These tribes are usually identified as "Scythian", "Saka" or Tocharian peoples.
The texts relating to the Asii are very brief. The three main surviving classical sources are those of Strabo, Trogus and Justin. Both Trogus' Historiae Philippicae (as preserved in Justin) and Strabo's Geography exist in a number of ancient manuscripts containing significant textual variations leading to widely varying translations and interpretations.
Trogus wrote his Historiae Philppicae in Latin. Only his 'Prologues' have survived intact. He mentions three tribes involved in the conquest of Bactria: the Asiani, Sacaraucae and the Tochari, of whom the Sacaraucae were said to have been destroyed. The Asiani are reported as becoming, at some point, rulers over the Tochari, though this text is sometimes translated as the "Asian kings of the Tochari."
Marcus Junianus Justinus, a late 2nd or 3rd century Roman historian, wrote an epitome or condensation of Trogus' history. The last datable event recorded by Justin is the recovery of the Roman standards captured by the Parthians in 20 BCE, although Trogus’ original history may have dealt with events into the first decade of the 1st century CE.
Strabo wrote in Greek and completed his Geography in 23 CE, around the time of Trogus. He mentions four tribes: the Asioi (commonly accepted as the equivalent of the Latin Asii), the Pasianoi, the Tacharoi (or Tokharoi) and the Sakaraukai.
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder wrote his Naturalis Historia with a brief mention of a people called the Asini:
Pliny mentions as neighbours of the Soseadae the people of the Asini, who are reigning in the city of Bucephela. From these three data; 1) the Tacoraei are neighbours of the Besadae/Sosaeadae; 2) the Asini are the neighbours of the Sosaeadae; 3) The Asiani are kings of the Thocari, it follows that the Asini of Pliny's text are identical with the Asiani, who are the kings of the Tocharians. This implies that—at least in the time of Pliny—the Kushāṇas were kings of the region between Jhelam and Indus and that Bucephala was one of their cities. It seems that Pliny availed himself of a recent description of this territory and that Ptolemy knew these data too.—
Theories on the identification of the Asii
Many theories have been proposed by historians and other scholars as to their origins, relationships, language, culture, etc., but so far no consensus has emerged.
It is generally accepted that Trogus' Asiani were probably identical to the Asii of Strabo, perhaps leaving an extra tribe, the 'Pasiani' of Strabo, to account for.
Some scholars[who?] believe that the Asii and the Pasiani were one and the same tribe, with 'Pasiani' a simple mistake for 'Asiani' and just a different form of the name for the Asii. Others[who?] believe the 'Pasiani' were a separate tribe, and still others[who?] believe that 'Pasiani' is a mistaken form of 'Gasiani'.
The Asii/Asiani may simply be a transcription of the Issedones of Herodotus. Taishan Yu proposes that Asii were "probably" the dominant tribe of the confederacy of four tribes "from the time that they had settled in the valleys of the Ili and Chu" who later invaded Sogdiana and Bactria. "This would account for their being called collectively "Issedones" by Herodotus." He also states that the "Issedon Scythia and the Issedon Serica took their names from the Issedones." Yu believes that the Issedones must have migrated to the Ili and Chu valleys, "at the latest towards the end of the 7th century B.C."
Yuezhi and Wusun
The Asii were identical with the Paisani (Gaisani) and were, therefore, also the Yuezhi.—J. Markwart. Ērānšahr
It has been suggested that the Wusun may also be identified in Western sources as their name, pronounced then *o-sən or *uo-suən, is not far removed from that of a people known as the Asiani who the writer Pompeius Trogus (1st century BC) informs us were a Scythian tribe.—J. P. Mallory and Victor H.Mair The Tarim Mummies
The Yuezhi and the Wusun were originally two branches of the same people, the Yuezhi being the 'Moon clan'; while the Wusun were the 'Solar clan'.—Yury Aleksey Zuev, Early Turks: Essays of History and Ideology
The Asii were probably one of three Scythian tribes, whereas the Tochari were probably not, and should be identified with the Yuezhi.—A. K. Narain The Indo-Greeks
One of the most important sources of information on nomad migration in Central Asia is Justin's Prologue to Pompeius Trogus (prologue to book XLII), which states that 'the Asiani are kings of the Tochari and destroyed the Scaraucae' (Reges Tocharorum Asiani interiusque Sakaraucarum). It is possible to conclude from this extract that the Asiani and the Tochari were closely related tribes. What is more, it indicates that the 'Asiani' dominated the 'Tochari' (Reges Tocharorum Asiani). We can identify the Asiani with the Kushans (von Gutschmidt 1888; Haloun 1937; Bachhofer 1941; Daffina 1967), one of the leading tribes, which subsequently came to power and created a great empire. It is noteworthy that Justin says that the Tochari were ruled by the Asiani, while the Chinese sources identify them as the largest of the five Yuezhi principalities.—Kazim Abdullaev, Nomad Migrations in Central Asia
The Asii/Asiani have also been identified with the Alans – i.e. a western Central Asian population, rather than the Yuezhi-Tochari of eastern Bactria – from whom the modern Ossetians derive their name.
With this identification of the Asii-Asiani, the Prologues seem instead to concern two later distinct periods already disconnected from the time of Eucratides. Moreover, from a geographical point of view, they describe events not related to the eastern, but to the western border of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom, that is a region which was in close contact with Parthia. Therefore, the ethnonym of the Asii-Asiani should be transferred westwards, that is to a different historical context (the Kangju area).
Asiaghs and Rishikas/Arshikas
The Sabha Parava of the Indian epic Mahabharata, many sections of which are believed to relate to historical events from around the Christian era, refers to the Bahlikas, Daradas, Kambojas, Dasyus, Lohas, Parama Kambojas, Uttara (Northern) Rishikas  and Parama Rishikas. The latter four tribes are by implication placed north of the Hindukush in Central Asia.
In his Mahabhasya, Patanjali refers to the Arshikas which are said to be same as the Rishikas. Kasika on Pāṇini (IV.2.132) also mentions the Arshikas and connects them with the Rishikas . The Sanskrit tribal name Rishika has Arshika as its adjective form, the Prakrit form is Isi and Isika or Asi and Asika.
The equivalents of the four Scythian tribes mentioned by Strabo (Asii, Pasiani, Tochari and Sacarauli) have also been found in Indian literature.
The Greeks were acquainted both with the Sanskrit forms Risika/Arsika and their Prakrit forms Isi/Isika. The Greek Asii (Appolodorus) may then represent Prakrit Isi and the Plinian Arsi the Sanskrit Arsika.
Pliny the Elder (23–79) knew about the Arsi People who may or may not be same as Asii of Apollodorus. As classical Asii/Asioi stands for Prakrit Isi/Isika or Sanskrit Risika, Plinian Arsi may also be derived from Sanskrit Arsika.
We have seen above that the Grecians knew of Asiani and Arshi. There should be no difficulty now to acknowledge that the Prakrit Ishi-Ishika stands for the Grecian Asii and the Grecian Arshi stands for the Sanskrit form Arshika. Perhaps these were the constituents of the Yüeh-Chi. The Uttara Rishikas could be equated to Ta Yüeh-Chi of the Chinese history.—Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India
It is not difficult now to see that the Greek Asii is from Sanskrit Isi or Isi, and probably the Greek Arsi may be derived from Sanskrit Arsika—Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata
The name Pasiani has never been explained satisfactorily. J. Marquart thinks that it is the same as Asiani, Von Gutschmid thinks the Pasiani and the other three names mentioned by Strabo are an attempt to render Yue-chi in Greek. W.W. Tarn, Moti Chandra and some other scholars think that "as Asiani is the (Iranian) adjectival form of Asii, so Pasiani would be the similar adjectival form of, and would imply, a name *Pasii or *Pasi". Moti Chandra further suggests that "the Grecian form Pasii could well stand for Sanskrit name Parama-Risika".
In an inscription on the pedestal of a Bodhisatta image, a woman named Amoha is called Asi (Arsi). In the alms house inscriptions of Huvishaka the Sakareya and Prachini people are mentioned, with the Pasii or Pasiani as equivalent to Prachini and the Sakaraula to Sakareya.
Scholars have pointed out that 'Yuezhi' in Chinese translates literally as "Moon clan" or "Moon tribe". The Mahabharata refers to the Kamboja king Chandravarman as descendant of "Candra" or "the moon". In one version of the Mahabharata, the king Chandravarma Kamboja is substituted with Chandravarma Risika which seems to endorse the view that the Kambojas and Rishikas were allied or cognate/or agnate people and one may have been a branch of the other. The epic verse Udyogaparava of the Mahabharata also intimately relates the Kambojas with the Rishikas. According to precise translation the Rishikas are in fact said to be the Kambojas. The Sabha Parava of the same epic also groups the Parama-Kambojas with the Lohas, Rishikas and the Parama-Rishikas as allied tribal groups. Kalhana's Rajatarangini, depicting historical events in Kashmir 730-740 AD, groups the Kambojas with the Tukharas and localizes them in the Oxus valley. In the Markandeya Purana the Tukharas are mentioned with the Kambojas, Daradas, Barbaras and Chinas as "vahyato narah" (foreign races).
S. Lévi claims the Yuezhi existed in the Deccan between 25 and 130 BCE, which he supports by numerous literary sources such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kasika, Mahabhasya of Patanjali, Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira, Markandeya Purana, and Matsya Purana as well as the epigraphic evidence from the Nasik Cave Inscriptions of Queen Balasri which mentions the Rishikas (Asikas) as a component of Gautamiputra Satkaranai's empire. The Kambojas are also shown to have migrated and settled in south-west and southern India.
- "The Murundas and the ancient trade-route from Taxila to Ujjain." P. H. L. Eggermont. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 9 (1966), p. 283.
- Archaeological Reconnaissances in North-western India and South-eastern Īrān, pp. 31-32 and n. 15. Aurel Stein. (1937). Macmillan and Co., London.
- Iaroslav Lebedynsky. (2006). Les Saces: Les «Scythes» d'Asie, VIIIe siècle av. J.-C. — IVe siècle apr. J.-C. Editions Errance, Paris. ISBN 2-87772-337-2
- "The Yüeh-chih and their migrations." K. Enoki, G. A. Koshelenko and Z. Haidary. In: History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250", p. 173. Harmatta, János, ed., 1994. Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
- "The Tokharians and Buddhism", p. 3. Xu Wenkan, In: Studies in Central and East Asian Religions 9, pp. 1-17 (1996). Downloaded on 14 June 2003, from: 
- A Study of Saka History, pp. 140-141. Taishan Yu. Sino-Platonic Papers No. 80. July, 1998. Dept. of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
- Taishan Yu. A Study of Saka History, pp. 12, 15, 24, 140. (1998) Sino-Platonic Papers. University of Pennsylvania.
- Taishan Yu. A Study of Saka History, pp. 21 and 38, n. 13 (1998) Sino-Platonic Papers. University of Pennsylvania.
- J. P. Mallory and Victor H.Mair. (2000) The Tarim Mummies, p. 92. Thames & Hudson Ltd., New York and London. ISBN 0-500-05101-1.
- W. W. Tarn. The Greeks in Bactria and India. 2nd edition. (1951), pp. 284, 286, 533. Cambridge.
- Taishan Yu. A Study of Saka History, p. 40, n. 30. (1998) Sino-Platonic Papers. University of Pennsylvania.
- J. Markwart. Ērānšahr. (1901), p. 206. Referred to in: Taishan Yu. A Study of Saka History, p. 38, n. 17. (1998) Sino-Platonic Papers. University of Pennsylvania.
- J. P. Mallory and Victor H.Mair. (2000) The Tarim Mummies, pp.91-92. Thames & Hudson Ltd., New York and London. ISBN 0-500-05101-1.
- Rannie tyurki. Ocerki istorii i ideologii. (2002) Yury Aleksey Zuev. Daik-Press, Almaty, Kazakhstan. In Russian. English title: Early Turks: Essays of History and Ideology. Draft translation by Norm Kisamov, ), p. 10. See also, pp. 21, 23, 29-30, 33-34.
- A. K. Narain. The Indo-Greeks, p. 132. (1957). Oxford University Press.
- Kazim Abdullaev (2007). "Nomad Migrations in Central Asia." In: After Alexander: Central Asia before Islam. Proceedings of the British Academy - 133, Eds. Joe Cribb & Georgina Herrmann, p. 75. ISBN 978-0-19-726384-6.
- Rapin, Claude (2007). "Nomads and the Shaping of Central Asia." In: After Alexander: Central Asia before Islam. Proceedings of the British Academy - 133, Eds. Joe Cribb & Georgina Herrmann, pp. 59-60. ISBN 978-0-19-726384-6.
- Jindal, Mangal Sen (1992). History of origin of some clans in India, with special reference to Jats. Sarup & Sons.
- Deshraj, Thakaur (1934). Jat Itihas (Hindi). Delhi: Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan.
- Historie du bouddhisme Indien, p. 110, E. Lammotte; Hindu Polity, A constitutional History of India in Hindu Times, 1978, p 140, K. P. Jayswal; Essai sur les origines du mythe d'Alexandre: 336-270 av. J. C., 1978, p 152, n 12, Paul Goukowsky; History; Panjab Past and Present, pp 9-10, Buddha Parkash; East and West, 1950, pp 28, 157-58, Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Editor, Giuseppe Tucci, Co-editors Mario Bussagli, Lionello Lanciotti; Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 133 fn 6, pp 216-20, (Also Commentary p 576 fn 22), H. C. Raychaudhury, B. N. Mukerjee; History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Saka Era, 1988, p 100 - History.
- Farthest Kambojas or Para-Kambojas.
- NOTE: Besides Northern Rishikas, there was also another section of the Rishikas called southern Rishikas, inhabiting southern India near about Khandes on Krishna river which fact is amply attested from literary sources like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Markandeya Purana, Brhat-Samhita of Varahamihira, Patanjali, Kasika as well as by Nasik Cave Inscriptions of Queen Balasri of Satavahana dynasty which mentions the Rishikas (Asikas) as a component of Gautamiputra Satkaranai's empire.
- Farthest Rishikas or Para-Rishikas.
- Mahabharata 2.27.24-27; Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 11 sqq, Moti Chandra; Geographical Data in the Early Purāṇas: A Critical Study, 1972, p 168, M. R. Singh; India as Known to Pāṇini: A Study of the Cultural Material in the Ashṭādhyāyī, 1953, p 64, Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala - India; A Grammatical Dictionary of Sanskrit (Vedic): 700 Complete Reviews of the ..., 1953, p 62, Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala, Surya Kanta, Jacob Wackernagel, Arthur Anthony Macdonell, Peggy Melcher - India; The Deeds of Harsha: Being a Cultural Study of Bāṇa's Harshacharita, 1969, p 199, Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala.
- Mahabhasya IV.2.2.
- Kasika IV.2.132 .
- Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 18, Moti Chandra; Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, p 94, Moti Chandra - History.
- It is remarkable to note that in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute's edition of the Mahabharata the footnote gives the Prakrit forms of Risika as Isi and Isika (See: Mahabharata, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute edition, See foot note for Risika.
- Sanskrit Epics, 1998, p 200, J. L. Brockington.
- Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, p 94.
- Cf: "Strabo refers to the Asioi, who, along with the Tokharoi and the Sakrauoi, conquered Bactria from the Greeks. Perhaps, the Asioi are the per4haps the Rishikas or the Yueh-chis. The process of Arjuna's victory in the north direction shows that the Rishikas resided in Central Asia, as the former had defeated them in the north after defeating the Vahlikas, Kamboja, Daradas, Lohas and the Parama Kambojas. They resided in that region up to the 1st quarter of the 2nd century BC. Thus, it is apparent that epic refers to them in their original home (Central Asia) (Ref:Political Ideas and Institutions in the Mahābhārata, Based on Poona Critical Edition: (based on Poona critical edition), 1975, p 18, Brajdeo Prasad Roy).
- Journ. Bihar and Orissa, Res. Soc., XVIII, 1, 97 et 99; Cf: Fragments de textes koutchéens, Udānavarga, Udānastotra, Udānālaṁkāra et karmavibhaṅga, publiés et traduits avec un vocabulaire et une introduction sur le "tokharien": Publiés et traduits avec un vocabulaire et un introd. sur le "tokharien" par Sylvain Lévi, 1933, p 6, Sylvain Lévi; Journal asiatique, Item notes: v.222-223 (1933), p 6, Société asiatique (Paris, France), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France)- Oriental.
- Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1957, p 10, item notes: v.37 1956, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; For Asi/ASi = Risika, also see: Political and social movements in ancient Panjab (from the Vedic age upto [sic] the Maurya period), 1964, p 96, Buddha Prakash; The Indian Historical Quarterly, 1954, p 227, item notes: v.30-31 1954-1955, India.
- Literary History of Ancient India in Relation to Its Racial and Linguistic Affiliations, 1953, p 183, Chandra Chakraberty.
- Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 18, Moti Chandra - India.
- King Asoka and His Inscriptions, 1968, p 96, B. M. Barua, I. N. Topa.
- India as Known to Pāṇini: A Study of the Cultural Material in the Ashṭādhyāyī, 1953, p 68, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala.
- Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, p. 94. Abhinav Publication, New Delhi. See also: Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 18, Moti Chandra - India.
- : Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 18, Moti Chandra.
- Kasika IV.2.132
- Political and social movements in ancient Panjab (from the Vedic age upto [sic] the Maurya period), 1964, p 96, Buddha Prakash.
- ...the Risikas, who are therefore by implication in Central Asia and possibly to be identified with Asioi referred to by Strabo (2.24)"
- See also: India as Known to Pāṇini: (a Study of the Cultural Material in the AShtadhyayi), 1953, p 71, V. S. Agrawala.
- Goeg., XI, 8, 2, Von Gutschmid.
- Seleucid-Parthian Studies, 1930, p 11; The Greeks in Bactria & India, 1938, p 292, William Woodthorpe Tarn
- Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, p 94, Moti Chandra; Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 17, Moti Chandra.
- Proceedings of the British Academy, 1930, p 113, British Academy, Balasundara Gupta; Literary History of Ancient India in Relation to Its Racial and Linguistic Affiliations, 1953, p 148, Chandra Chakraberty - Sanskrit literature.
- Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 17, Moti Chandra.
- See also: Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, p 94.
- See: King Asoka and His Inscriptions, 1968, p 96, B. M. Barua, I. N. Topa
- Parama Risika of the epic would be Para-Risika (Para-Arsika) i.e further Rishikas, which could easily become Pasika in Prakrit, Pasiani in Iranian form as well as of the classical writings.
- Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, p xi, Moti Chandra.
- "The Yüeh-chih Problem Re-examined." Otto Maenchen-Helfen. JAOS, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1945), p. 80, n. 10.
- "Nugae Indo-Sericae." John Brough. In: W. B. Henning Memorial Volume. Eds: Mary Boyce and Ilya Gershevitch. London, 1970, pp. 87-88 and nn. 30-36.
- "Kaniṣka et Ṥātavāhana, deux figures symboliques de l’inde au premier siècle." Sylvain Lévi. JA, (1936). Vol. 228 (Janv.-déc. 1936), pp. 62-121.
- Nanā on Lion: A Study in Kushāṇa Numismatic Art. (1969), p. 96.The Asiatic Society, Calcutta.
- "Bactrian Language", p. 345. (undated) N. Sims-Williams. In: Encyclopædia Iranica, pp. 344-349. 
- Candra.varmati vikhiyaatah Kambojanam.nra.dhipah. || 32 ||
- MBH, 1/67/31-32, Gorakhpore edition)
- Translation: "The foremost among the sons of Diti known by the name of Candra and handsome as the lord of the stars himself became on earth noted as Chandravarma, the king of the Kambojas" (The Mahabharata, Book 1, Ch 67, Adi Parva, Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.).
- India and Central Asia, Bengal (Calcutta), 1955, P.C.Bagch.
- Buddhism in Central Asia, p. 90.
- The Journal of Central Asian Studies, 2003, p 33,University of Kashmir Centre of Central Asian Studies - Central Asia.
- Journal of Tamil studies, 1985, p 86, 87, International Association of Tamil Research, International Institute of Tamil Studies - History.
- Shakanam Pahlavana.n cha Daradanam cha ye nripah./
- Kamboja RishikA ye cha pashchim.anupakashcha ye 15.// (MBH 5/4/15)
- Translation: "These kings of the Shakas, Pahlavas and Daradas, these are Kaamboja-Rishikas and these are in the western riverine area" (Ishwa Misra: IndianCivilzation Forum; JatHistory Forum).
- MBH 2.27.26-27.
- Rajatrangini 4.164-166.
- Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India, 1990, p 195, D.C. Sircar - History; Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, 1996, Ch 26, p 528, Shyam Singh Shashi; Purana, Vol V, No 2, July 1963, The Land of Kamboja, p 252, D. C. Sircar.
- Markendeya Purana, LVII.39.
- Bengali Ramayana, Kishkindha Kanda, XLI.16; Real Ramayana, Kishkindha Kanda, XLI.19; Cf: Works, 1865, p 167, H. H. Wilson.
- Mahabharata 8.5.20; MBH 6:9.
- Kasika IV.2.132
- Arsikas of Mahabhasya IV.2.2.
- Brhat Samhita, 16.11ab, Varahamihira; See: Geographical Data in the Early Purāṇas: A Critical Study, 1972, p. 280, M. R. Singh.
- Markandeya Purana Chapter 58.20-28.
- The Matsya Puranam, 1917, pp. 50-51, Srisa Chandra Vasu.
- Epigraphia Indica, VIII, p 60.