Sometimes, while reading history, one comes across a fact one never expected to see. Would anyone expect an ancient Indian Emperor to have a Greek wife? Well, he did. The Nanda Empire had been growing for centuries, but its downfall was Chandragupta Maurya. Chandragupta had been fighting them for over a decade, finally capturing their capital, leaving the empire to fall and Chandragupta to take over. However, there were many more lands to be conquered, and the new emperor did not leave them alone.
Before Chandragupta’s conquests, however, another man had built an empire stretching from Greece to the Indus River, right near the border of Chandragupta’s lands. After this great conqueror, Alexander the Great, died, his empire fell into the hands of his generals, who divided it up between themselves. The lucky man to get Persia, Afghanistan, the Indus Valley, and more was Seleucus I. And thus, the Seleucid Empire began.
However, you can’t really have two bordering empires both looking to expand without any sort of conflict and so the Seleucid-Mauryan War began. The conflict was described:
“Seleucus crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [meaning Chandragupta], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship.”
And so, Seleucus’s daughter, Helena, was married to Chandragupta, and Punjab, Hindu Kush, and some of Afghanistan were given to him. He gave 500 war elephants to Seleucus in return. Some others believe that it wasn’t a political marriage and that Helena and Chandragupta had fallen in love as they had been sending messages to each other and that Seleucus was against this marriage since Chandragupta was not Greek, but Helena was able to convince her father that the marriage was a good idea. Some people believe that Helena was in fact Chandragupta’s first wife, Durdhara, but others believe that he married Helena following Durdhara’s death.
It is thought that when they wed, Helena was in her late teens while Chandragupta was around forty. However, we can’t be sure of much as this all happened over 2,000 years ago. Helena was supposedly happy in this marriage and made attempts to learn Sanskrit and was a lover of classical Indian music. Helena is sometimes called the mother of Chandragupta’s son, Bindusara, but Chandragupta’s first wife, Durdhara, is more often given this role. It’s also possible that Helena had a son of her own who was not Bindusara.
A few years after the marriage, Chandragupta abdicated in favor of Bindusara and converted to Jainism, spending the rest of his days meditating and fasting. He died soon after. Helena probably left India for Greece, where she lived out the rest of her days, dying in the early 3rd century.