What is going on with maurya empire map?

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,437
Same types of differences appear in maps of many ancient empires:

Han China maps:
(1)


(2)


The territory of the second map looks over twice as large as in the first map.

The fact is that we really have imperfect information regarding the exact degree of territorial control of each ancient state as well as there is a difference between territorial claim and territory effectively controlled as explained by civfanatic explains.

The farther back in time we go the worse our knowledge regarding territorial control tends to be. Also I should point out that the as research is done more precise borders tend to be know and maps of territorial control tends to decrease in size as maps improve from speculative borders covering large landmasses to roughly where the borders might have really been. For instance, we know the Roman Empire's borders in 2nd century much better than the Islamic Caliphate borders in the 8th century, because the amount of research done for the first case is much larger than the second.
We just talked about the fact that the Han maps are using different standards from the Mauryan ones. The Han map above depicts an area directly subject to a Weberian bureaucracy of taxation, administration and registration. If we use that standard to draw Mauryan maps, then the Mauryan Empire would have been restricted to the land directly under the king's control, or the region inside the eastern Gangetic plains and a few isolated cities outside of it. Even the truncated map of the Mauryan Empire only shows regions where Mauryan style inscriptions were found. If we use the presence of inscriptions and other artifacts as the standard to draw the Han, we have to include not just the counties of China proper (including North Korea and Vietnam), but Xinjiang and parts of Mongolia as well as we've found several Han inscriptions in these regions.
 
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Aupmanyav

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Jun 2014
5,739
New Delhi, India
Mauryans did not leave any maps, but inscriptions. Whatever maps there are, they have been made by modern historians.
 

civfanatic

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Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
Most maps of ancient empires are trying to project modern concepts of sovereignty as perceived today; and that applies for both maps of the Mauryan Empire shown; whether the more generalized one or the truncated version. If not, maps of ancient regimes wouldn't even have clearly colored blotches to represent control as ancient boundary lines are often vague and control over vassals not clearly defined.
The truncated map (which is from Hermann Kulke's A History of India) is aspiring to a more realistic depiction of Mauryan control, even though it fails in some respects and commits some of the same errors as the first map. I think the most realistic depiction of the Mauryan empire as a command-and-control imperial structure would be a map of key imperial cities which served as administrative centers (e.g. Pataliputra, Ujjain, Taxila) and the geographical interconnections between them, superimposed over pre-existing political units and tribes (which did not simply disappear with the ascent of Mauryan rule). The "boundaries" of the empire should be depicted as dotted lines to emphasize their imprecise and fluctuating nature, rather than as clearly-defined edges of solidly-colored blotches.


Every culture has their own unique way of defining imperial rule, and there is no reason to give western ideas of sovereignty special treatment; especially when you are talking about times when western notions of imperial rule are not universal. If you apply Mauryan ideas of dominion, then the Mauryan did consider all the lands of the Aparantas as well as the "unconquered" forest people, as within its dominion as inscriptions stated. Here the Mauryan does not need other states to recognize said claims, because you have a single polity which has a monopoly of power over the surrounding region to define itself as the entirety of the Indian international system.
I don't think historical maps should depict sovereignty at all, except when that is the most appropriate depiction of a given historical situation (e.g. a map of America's "territorial expansion" after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which was not an expansion of actual American territorial control but rather an expansion of nominal American territory within the norms of the Western state-system). Most historical maps purport to depict territorial control, but often end up conflating territorial control with territorial sovereignty or territorial claims.

Even if the Mauryan empire was the only state within the territory it claimed to be its "dominion," that wouldn't imply it had a "monopoly of power" within that territory, because state power can certainly be challenged by stateless peoples or non-state actors. There are no competing states as such within Syria, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but that doesn't imply that the official regimes of those sovereign states possess a monopoly of power or complete territorial control. Which map of Syria is the "more accurate" depiction of Syria in late 2015, this map or this map? The answer depends on whether you want to depict Syria as an internationally-recognized de jure geopolitical entity, or the de facto control exercised by the Syrian regime within Syria in contrast to non-state or anti-state forces. Likewise, the depiction of the Mauryan empire that I would like to see is a depiction of what the Mauryan regime actually controls, not merely what Ashoka unilaterally proclaims to be his "dominion."
 

heavenlykaghan

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Mar 2012
4,437
The truncated map (which is from Hermann Kulke's A History of India) is aspiring to a more realistic depiction of Mauryan control, even though it fails in some respects and commits some of the same errors as the first map. I think the most realistic depiction of the Mauryan empire as a command-and-control imperial structure would be a map of key imperial cities which served as administrative centers (e.g. Pataliputra, Ujjain, Taxila) and the geographical interconnections between them, superimposed over pre-existing political units and tribes (which did not simply disappear with the ascent of Mauryan rule). The "boundaries" of the empire should be depicted as dotted lines to emphasize their imprecise and fluctuating nature, rather than as clearly-defined edges of solidly-colored blotches.
That's fine and all, but I still maintain that standards should be the same. If one does one thing for one empire, one should apply the same standard to others.
So a more detailed map of control should apply with early European empires.

I don't think historical maps should depict sovereignty at all, except when that is the most appropriate depiction of a given historical situation (e.g. a map of America's "territorial expansion" after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which was not an expansion of actual American territorial control but rather an expansion of nominal American territory within the norms of the Western state-system). Most historical maps purport to depict territorial control, but often end up conflating territorial control with territorial sovereignty or territorial claims.

Even if the Mauryan empire was the only state within the territory it claimed to be its "dominion," that wouldn't imply it had a "monopoly of power" within that territory, because state power can certainly be challenged by stateless peoples or non-state actors. There are no competing states as such within Syria, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but that doesn't imply that the official regimes of those sovereign states possess a monopoly of power or complete territorial control. Which map of Syria is the "more accurate" depiction of Syria in late 2015, this map or this map? The answer depends on whether you want to depict Syria as an internationally-recognized de jure geopolitical entity, or the de facto control exercised by the Syrian regime within Syria in contrast to non-state or anti-state forces. Likewise, the depiction of the Mauryan empire that I would like to see is a depiction of what the Mauryan regime actually controls, not merely what Ashoka unilaterally proclaims to be his "dominion."
You can say the same about western notions of de jure recognition. Spanish claim of the Louisiana is also challenged by native American tribes such as the Commanche, and its irrelevant whether other Europeans recognize this claim when the locals do not care about European recognition nor are the Europeans strong enough at this time to enforce their international views. Imagine that the Mauryan Empire split into 5 more sections and all of them accepts the idea that Ashoka owns the forest people, would that make a difference to the fact that it was a single Mauryan Empire claiming it or five empires recognizing it when the locals does not accept it.
You are basically saying that a club of powers together has more validity in their claims than a single polity that monopolized power even when the nature of that claim is the same.
 

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
That's fine and all, but I still maintain that standards should be the same. If one does one thing for one empire, one should apply the same standard to others.
So a more detailed map of control should apply with early European empires.
Yes, and there do exist more nuanced maps of control which more accurately depict the actual extent of European control in places like North America. For example, here is a map from a historical atlas I own which shows the European presence in the North American interior during the 18th century (I couldn't find a similar map online, so I took a picture on my phone and posted it):




Notice how the French presence in North America is depicted as little more than a network of forts and trading posts, whereas the English presence on the east coast is shown with more solid blotches of color because those areas were intensively settled by Europeans and therefore were actually subject to state control. The same could hardly be said of the vast lands in the Louisiana territory which were nominally owned by France. Maps like this are basically useless for anything except illustrating the territorial claims of different European powers. They tend to be quite misleading because they give the impression of homogeneous control within those territories (when in fact Europeans may have limited or non-existent control in many areas), while also giving the false impression that French "control" in a place like Missouri was qualitatively the same as English control in Massachusetts.


You can say the same about western notions of de jure recognition. Spanish claim of the Louisiana is also challenged by native American tribes such as the Commanche, and its irrelevant whether other Europeans recognize this claim when the locals do not care about European recognition nor are the Europeans strong enough at this time to enforce their international views. Imagine that the Mauryan Empire split into 5 more sections and all of them accepts the idea that Ashoka owns the forest people, would that make a difference to the fact that it was a single Mauryan Empire claiming it or five empires recognizing it when the locals does not accept it.
You are basically saying that a club of powers together has more validity in their claims than a single polity that monopolized power even when the nature of that claim is the same.
I think you are failing to understand what I am saying. Of course a Comanche tribesman in modern-day Texas wouldn't care if the Spanish or French or anybody else claimed the territory they lived in, so long as the Spanish or French didn't have a meaningful presence in those areas and the Comanche were not subjected to some greater Spanish or French authority. I have never said that mere claims or sovereignty (challenged or unchallenged) equates to territorial control, and I have never said that maps depicting sovereignty should be equated with maps that purport to depict territorial control. What I am saying is that maps that depict sovereignty can still be useful, particularly in the context of an international system where different powers fight and bargain over sovereignty. For example, under the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years' War, France formally ceded its sovereignty over the Louisiana territory to Spain and Britain, with the Mississippi river serving as the new legal boundary between the Spanish and British empires. Of course, France did not transfer actual control over all of Louisiana to the Spanish and British, because France had never possessed such control to begin with; it wasn't until the late 19th century that Westerners actually controlled the entire interior of North America and subjugated the last independent Amerindian tribes in the region. France simply gave up its legal right (i.e. sovereignty) to the territory, and this legal right would have only mattered to other Western powers who operated within the same geopolitical system.

It's worth depicting those changes in sovereignty because even though they were essentially legal fiction and did not imply actual control over the territory (as I have repeatedly emphasized numerous times), Western powers were still willing to fight wars over such concepts of sovereignty and to engage in negotiations over them (the same Western powers might then have to wage a series of separate wars and negotiate separate treaties with indigenous peoples who did not care for the Western concept of sovereignty and did not recognize the Western powers as their rulers, as the United States did with various native tribes). That's what makes them relevant from the perspective of Western political history.

However, I am not primarily interested in sovereignty, but in actual territorial control. A map that depicts the territory claimed by Ashoka as part of his dominion (to the extent that is even possible given our scarce primary source material) could be just as useless as a typical map of European colonial empires in North America for understanding the actual extent of a given state's territorial control, because sovereignty is fundamentally a normative concept and not a positive one.
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,437
I think you are failing to understand what I am saying. Of course a Comanche tribesman in modern-day Texas wouldn't care if the Spanish or French or anybody else claimed the territory they lived in, so long as the Spanish or French didn't have a meaningful presence in those areas and the Comanche were not subjected to some greater Spanish or French authority. I have never said that mere claims or sovereignty (challenged or unchallenged) equates to territorial control, and I have never said that maps depicting sovereignty should be equated with maps that purport to depict territorial control. What I am saying is that maps that depict sovereignty can still be useful, particularly in the context of an international system where different powers fight and bargain over sovereignty. For example, under the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years' War, France formally ceded its sovereignty over the Louisiana territory to Spain and Britain, with the Mississippi river serving as the new legal boundary between the Spanish and British empires. Of course, France did not transfer actual control over all of Louisiana to the Spanish and British, because France had never possessed such control to begin with; it wasn't until the late 19th century that Westerners actually controlled the entire interior of North America and subjugated the last independent Amerindian tribes in the region. France simply gave up its legal right (i.e. sovereignty) to the territory, and this legal right would have only mattered to other Western powers who operated within the same geopolitical system.

It's worth depicting those changes in sovereignty because even though they were essentially legal fiction and did not imply actual control over the territory (as I have repeatedly emphasized numerous times), Western powers were still willing to fight wars over such concepts of sovereignty and to engage in negotiations over them (the same Western powers might then have to wage a series of separate wars and negotiate separate treaties with indigenous peoples who did not care for the Western concept of sovereignty and did not recognize the Western powers as their rulers, as the United States did with various native tribes). That's what makes them relevant from the perspective of Western political history.

However, I am not primarily interested in sovereignty, but in actual territorial control. A map that depicts the territory claimed by Ashoka as part of his dominion (to the extent that is even possible given our scarce primary source material) could be just as useless as a typical map of European colonial empires in North America for understanding the actual extent of a given state's territorial control, because sovereignty is fundamentally a normative concept and not a positive one.

I know what you are saying but that wasn't the point this thread was discussing before. The problem is that most maps in world history textbooks do not differentiate things such as actual control and claimed sovereignty. That is the issue which generates bias. They simply give a colored territorial extent and will include maps of different empires with different standards and label these as such and such of an "empire". You will even find different standards used on the same map depicting different empires that existed at the same time like these:




Search most basic history books or type in Spanish Empire on google and how many maps actually bother to note that this is only the "recognized territory of the European system"? Even if they do label it as claimed territory, the frequency of their appearance over maps of actual control will simply lead the reader to think this is indeed European territory as if the natives weren't there. You will be lucky to even find one or two. You had to upload pictures from your phone because you have trouble finding it readily (and that map itself doesn't differentiate Native American tribes which submitted to Spanish suzerainty and those which never did).
This will lead to people misusing maps as if they are the same standard as we've already have in this very thread.
Then we have articles like this analyzing size of historical empires using different standards, which I attribute to the author's lack of in depth knowledge of non-European Empires; which probably resulted from these selective map choices; https://escholarship.org/content/qt3cn68807/qt3cn68807.pdf

This is part of the point in my conversation with Yuyue and Naima, that maps of different empires always use different standards and leads people to think that they are similar.

The example you gave of Syria is different from the case of the 18th century Spanish Empire because modern states all recognize the international system; including states that sought for independence. That cannot be said about the 18th century one. Tribes such as Comanche were powerful competing forces that merit their own space on the map. To just label all of Louisiana as Spanish Empire is hence no more misleading as labeling the whole Indian Subcontinent north of the Deccan as Mauryan Empire.
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
I know what you are saying but that wasn't the point this thread was discussing before. The problem is that most maps in world history textbooks do not differentiate things such as actual control and claimed sovereignty. That is the issue which generates bias. They simply give a colored territorial extent and will include maps of different empires with different standards and label these as such and such of an "empire". You will even find different standards used on the same map depicting different empires that existed at the same time like these:




Search most basic history books or type in Spanish Empire on google and how many maps actually bother to note that this is only the "recognized territory of the European system"? Even if they do label it as claimed territory, the frequency of their appearance over maps of actual control will simply lead the reader to think this is indeed European territory as if the natives weren't there. You will be lucky to even find one or two. You had to upload pictures from your phone because you have trouble finding it readily (and that map itself doesn't differentiate Native American tribes which submitted to Spanish suzerainty and those which never did).
This will lead to people misusing maps as if they are the same standard as we've already have in this very thread.
Then we have articles like this analyzing size of historical empires using different standards, which I attribute to the author's lack of in depth knowledge of non-European Empires; which probably resulted from these selective map choices; https://escholarship.org/content/qt3cn68807/qt3cn68807.pdf

This is part of the point in my conversation with Yuyue and Naima, that maps of different empires always use different standards and leads people to think that they are similar.

The example you gave of Syria is different from the case of the 18th century Spanish Empire because modern states all recognize the international system; including states that sought for independence. That cannot be said about the 18th century one. Tribes such as Comanche were powerful competing forces that merit their own space on the map. To just label all of Louisiana as Spanish Empire is hence no more misleading as labeling the whole Indian Subcontinent north of the Deccan as Mauryan Empire.
There is are differences between empires as to the degree of control. Some "empires" just collected tribute, but otherwise left the lands to pretty much run tnemselves. Was Judah un Hezekiah part of the Assyrian empire, even though it paid tribute? Other than paying tribute, it pretty much ran itself. Other empires are actively inovled in running their territories, building up infrastructure, promoting their languqge, administrating justice and enforcing laws, promoting their language and culture.

The Mauryan empire seemed to be more on the lax extreme. It founded no cities, its money it coined did not become tne currency for most of its empire, and it left no lasting impact. When the Mauryan empire collapsed, it was if it had never been, and it was completely forgotten by the overwhelming number of Indians until rediscovered by colonialist. Almost no Indian would have known who Ashoka was in the 18th century, even well educated ones. Compared to something like the Roman empire, or Han empire. the effectice control and impact ot the Mauryan was far less. Based on a lack of lasting legqcy, in terms of cities founded, roads, bridges, dams built, it would seem the control exerted by the Mauryan was rather minimum.

Also, the historical records for the Mauryan Empire are rather meager, most of the written records date from many centuries later from mostly Buddhist sources. The Ashoka edicts themselves give little actual historical details. So while we are on fairly solid footing for records on tne Roman and Han empires, we are on much more shakey grounds for the Mauryan, even less for the slightly older Alexandrian empire. The archaeological evidence is less than for Hna Empire, Roman, or even Alexander Empire. the extent of the Mauryan empire is more up to speculation. Asn far as shaping India, tne later Gupta Empire I would argue nad a greater impact. The lack of lasting impact wouod indicate the Mauryan empire control over most of tne territority acribed to it was slight, and nominal, otherwise its long term impact over India would be greater.
 
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Apr 2019
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The usual map





The map suggested by German Indologists





why is there stark difference of territorial claims of the mauryas?

is there any agenda to reduce significance of the maurya empire?
The usual map





The map suggested by German Indologists





why is there stark difference of territorial claims of the mauryas?

is there any agenda to reduce significance of the maurya empire?


The issue with Indian history is that it was NOT written by neutral historian. Everyone had an agenda behind it and more the mass of people writing the history, then that history was tilted towards that particular agenda. For example, take the case of Ashoka. What were his biggest achievements? Beating a small Kingdom called Kalinga, spreading Buddhism. On the flip side, his kingdom evaporated after 40 years of Ashoka rule, hardly a distinction of being great. None of the southern kingdoms were under the rule of Ashoka or even acknowledged his suzerainty. If it took 300,000 soldiers to win over Kalinga, which was a small kingdom, do we really believe that he could fight against the Southern kingdoms, who were prosperous due the burgeoning ocean trade. Remember, trading is easy because you collect taxes without having to do the work yourself and hence the Southern kingdoms were wealthy all through history. I really think Ashoka is over rated compared to other kings of the North/South.
 
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On the flip side, his kingdom evaporated after 40 years of Ashoka rule, hardly a distinction of being great. None of the southern kingdoms were under the rule of Ashoka or even acknowledged his suzerainty. If it took 300,000 soldiers to win over Kalinga, which was a small kingdom, do we really believe that he could fight against the Southern kingdoms, who were prosperous due the burgeoning ocean trade.
you seems like dravidian nationalist, what southern kingdoms are you even talking about? the ones mentioned by ashoka in the first place? or the ones conquered by the mauryas, wasn't andhra, karnataka under mauryas who gave birth to ninety percent southern kingdoms in the first place including satavahanas, chalukyas, vijayanagar. pallavas etc? kalingas did have a very strong military and they operated four gigantic forts, the remains of which can still be seen today, and they had a really big trade network in SEA.
 
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