Bagram

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This article is about the city. For United States military base, see Bagram Airfield. For the village in Iran, see Bagram, Iran.
Bagram
Bazaar and part of the city of Bagram.
Bazaar and part of the city of Bagram.
Bagram is located in Afghanistan
Bagram
Bagram
Location in Afghanistan
Coordinates: 34°58′N 69°18′E / 34.967°N 69.300°E / 34.967; 69.300Coordinates: 34°58′N 69°18′E / 34.967°N 69.300°E / 34.967; 69.300
Country  Afghanistan
Province Parwan
District Bagram
Elevation 4,895 ft (1,492 m)
Time zone + 4.30

Bagram (بگرام Bagrām), founded as Alexandria on the Caucasus and known in medieval times as Kapisa, is a small town and seat in Bagram District in Parwan Province of Afghanistan, about 60 kilometers north of the capital Kabul. It is the site of an ancient city located at the junction of the Ghorband and Panjshir Valley, near today's city of Charikar, Afghanistan.

The location of this historical town made it a key passage from Ancient India along the Silk Road, leading westwards through the mountains towards Bamiyan.

History[edit]

It is unknown when the site was originally settled. In the mid 500s BC, Cyrus the Great of the Persian Achaemenid Dynasty destroyed the city as part of his campaign against the Saka nomads in the region. The town, however, was soon rebuilt by his successor Darius I.

In the 320s BC, Alexander the Great captured the city and established a fortified colony named Alexandria of the Caucasus. The new town, laid out in the "hippodamian plan" or iron-grid pattern—a hallmark of Greek city planning, had brick walls reinforced with towers at the angles. The central street was bordered with shops and workshops.

After his death in 323 BC, the city passed to his general Seleucus, who traded it with the Mauryans of India in 305 BC. After the Mauryans were overthrown by the Sunga Dynasty in 185 BC, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom invaded and conquered northwestern India (present-day Pakistan) with an army led by Demetrius I of Bactria. Alexandria became a capital of the Eucratidian Indo-Greek Kingdom after they were driven out of Bactria by the Yuezhi in 140 BC.

Bagram became the capital of the Kushan Empire in the 1st century, from here they invaded and conquered Peshawar in the south. The "Bagram treasure" as it has been called, is indicative of intense commercial exchanges between all the cultural centers of the classical time, with the Kushan empire at the junction of the land and sea trade between the east and west. However, the works of art found in Bagram are either quite purely Hellenistic, Roman, Chinese or Indian, with only little indications of the cultural syncretism found in Greco-Buddhist art.

Bagram under the Maurya Empire[edit]

Main article: Maurya Empire
Bilingual edict (Greek and Aramaic) by Emperor Ashoka, from Kandahar - Afghan National Museum. (Click image for translation).

While the Diadochi were warring amongst themselves, the Mauryan Empire was developing in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. The founder of the empire, Chandragupta Maurya, confronted a Macedonian invasion force led by Seleucus I in 305 BC and following a brief conflict, an agreement was reached as Seleucus ceded Gandhara and Arachosia (centered around ancient Kandahar) and areas south of Bagram (corresponding to the extreme south-east of modern Afghanistan) to the Mauryans. During the 120 years of the Mauryans in southern Afghanistan, Buddhism was introduced and eventually become a major religion alongside Zoroastrianism and local pagan beliefs. The ancient Grand Trunk Road was built linking what is now Kabul to various cities in the Punjab and the Gangetic Plain. Commerce, art, and architecture (seen especially in the construction of stupas) developed during this period. It reached its high point under Emperor Ashoka whose edicts, roads, and rest stops were found throughout the subcontinent. Although the vast majority of them throughout the subcontinent were written in Prakrit, Afghanistan is notable for the inclusion of 2 Greek and Aramaic ones alongside the court language of the Mauryans.

Inscriptions made by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, a fragment of Edict 13 in Greek, as well as a full Edict, written in both Greek and Aramaic has been discovered in Kandahar. It is said to be written in excellent Classical Greek, using sophisticated philosophical terms. In this Edict, Ashoka uses the word Eusebeia ("Piety") as the Greek translation for the ubiquitous "Dharma" of his other Edicts written in Prakrit:

"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (Ashoka) made known (the doctrine of) Piety (εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily." (Trans. by G.P. Carratelli[1])

The last ruler in the region was probably Subhagasena (Sophagasenus of Polybius), who, in all probability, belonged to the Ashvaka (q.v.) background.

Recent history[edit]

Bagram school children

Bagram hosts the strategic Bagram Airfield from which most US air activity in Afghanistan takes place. The runway was built in 1976 and it was a Soviet Air base from 1979 to 1989. There is also a Provincial Reconstruction Team which is led by the US.

Bagram is also the location of the Parwan Detention Facility, this detention facility was the last prison in Afghanistan under management of the US. It was handed back to the Afghan government on 25 March 2013.[2] The detention centre came earlier in the news as it was claimed that prisoners were tortured: see the article Bagram torture and prisoner abuse, and also at the time of the hand-over of the facility human-rights groups like Amnesty International have raised concerns about the treatment of prisoners in the facility[2]

References and footnotes[edit]

  • Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul (2008). Eds., Friedrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon. National Geographic, Washington, D.C. ISBN 978-1-4262-0374-9.

External links[edit]