Asoka's dates

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Cribb on Friday evening (25 May 2018). Joe was keeper of coins at the British Museum and is an expert in early coins in the area of what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan. The gist of his lecture for the Ancient India and Iran Trust was a revised chronology of the Kushan period of Gandhāra, ca. 1-500 CE.

However, much of my pleasure at meeting Joe was that, just the day before, I had downloaded and read his 2017 article on the dates of Asoka and the Moriyan Empire.

Cribb, J. (2017). ‘The Greek Contacts of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka and their Relevance to Mauryan and Buddhist Chronology’ in Kamal Sheel, Charles Willemen and Kenneth Zysk (eds.) From Local to Global, Prof. A.K. Narain Commemoration Volume, Papers in Asian History and Culture (3 vol.). Delhi: Buddhist World Press. Vol. I: 3–27.

He was spurred to reconsider the dates of Asoka by our mutual friend Richard Gombrich, former Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University, though it took him some time to getting around to publishing his findings.

In this article Joe reconsiders all the evidence related to Asoka, from inscriptions, to Buddhist, Jain and Purāṇīc texts, to the Greek and Roman records. With references for anyone who wants to follow up. This is important as the original work was often done in the 19th Century and is seldom cited by modern authors. As a special treat, Joe includes his translations of the Greek and Roman mentions (of Chandragupta). Richard’s revised reading of the Dīpvaṃsa ordination lineages turns out to be compatible with the Greek and Roman accounts.

Using revised dates for Asoka, Joe puts the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa no earlier than 423 BCE and no later than 389 BCE.

Anyone interested in the chronology of Gandhāra under the Kushans should look at the other articles on his academia page.


Thanks so much, I’ll read this when I get the chance.