Is there any evidence to support the idea that Ashoka's aversion to war might have been due to inflationary economics rather than religion or remorse? Such as say the degradation in the value of coins over the period of expansion of the empire?

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    Is there any evidence?. Are you advancing a theory? Is there any reason to doubt the statements within Ashoka's edict?
    – MCW
    Nov 14, 2013 at 14:24
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    @ Mark C. Wallace His edicts would be his own dictum, therefore possibly propaganda. How would an emperor on the brink of economic collapse save face? Would a noble and just cause seem more acceptable to the masses? There was some comment that the coins were degrading in value, and I'm asking if there are references to that.
    – Rajib
    Nov 14, 2013 at 15:07
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    War has up to modern times usually been a highly profitable undertaking (for the victor, that is). So the base assumption must be that his aversion to war is not for economic reasons. Nov 14, 2013 at 15:21
  • His edicts are also acts of governance (I would have to go back and look at his governance mechanism) and of history; they are larger than an individual. I think you have the beginning of an interesting question, but in my personal opinion, it needs more research. If you could cite evidence of devalued coinage that would catapult this to one of my favorite questions.
    – MCW
    Nov 14, 2013 at 15:50
  • @Mark C. Wallace Romila Thapar does say that there was a suggestion that the economy was under severe pressure and there was debasement of silver coins in the later stages. This is from her book The Penguin History of Early India. See page 205 of the paperback edition. This is in reference to the shrinking of the empire almost immediately after Ashoka's death.
    – Rajib
    Nov 14, 2013 at 16:39

1 Answer 1



Ashoka went to great lengths to make sure that his new found ideals were spread to other countries/empires and preserved for posterity. It actually cost him(and his successors) a lot more to embrace peace than to continue warring. Though the debasement of silver coins is true, Ahoka had nothing to gain by giving up his military campaign. Besides, war was profitable for his kingdom even considering the economic factors.

In fact Ashoka gets blamed for spending on charity/proselytism and ignoring the military strength of his kingdom which may have contributed to later demise of the dynasty.

To elaborate more on this topic realted to economic considerations:

Quoting from Romilla Thapar's India-Early History:

However, the chronology of the coins remains uncertain and debased coins alone are not conclusive proof of a fiscal crisis.

The economics debate related to the Mauryan empire is related to the decline of the dynasty over a long period of time and the timeline is not clear enough to indicate that the debasement contributed to Ashoka's decision to discontinue the war efforts, if at all. To quote another part from the book:

The need for vast revenues to maintain the army, and to finance the salaries of the upper levels of the bureaucracy, not to mention the cost of establishing settlements on newly cleared land, could have strained the treasury.

The statement is a sweeping generalization and not entirely applicable when you consider that a convincing argument can be made that the cost of maintaining an army and implementing Ashoka's edicts were fungible.

If the economy was strained, it would have made sense to stop the war effort and concentrate on consolidating existing territories. This was not the case either - the core regions became independent states after Ashoka's demise.

Considering all the known evidence, it makes sense to conclude that the economic strain contributed more to the decline of the Mauryan empire after Ahoka became pro-buddhist, not the decision of Ahoka to stop expanding the empire using war itself.

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    What are the "great lengths" Ashoka went to to spread the ideals? What would it have cost in monetary terms to do so? Would it be greater than the cost of fighting a war? "It actually cost him(and his successors) a lot more.." how did it cost him more? In money terms? (Not in metaphorical "cost" terms). How did Ashoka have "nothing to gain by giving up his military campaign"? What is the basis/source of this statement? The question is- Was war profitable for him after a point? You state it was- based on what statistic? The later demise of the dynasty was not within his reckoning.
    – Rajib
    Dec 13, 2013 at 18:34
  • These are documented. Ashoka sent his progeny on a sea voyage to spread his ideas, which was unheard of before. Everything related to embracing a new religion is not monetary - its about how much you do for it. And risking your life to spread the idea perhaps indicates the commitment. You forget that most soldiers are not exactly like the soldiers on payroll in modern armies. They were promised a share in the loot - if there is food and land to pillage, there was an army. Ignoring martial arts and reducing the size of army was his own doing - which weakened Ashokas dynasty.
    – amarprabhu
    Dec 15, 2013 at 3:30
  • This is not answering the question regarding motives for giving up war. You do not explain why there was debasement of the coins- which points to inflationary situations. I do not question him spreading Buddhism. Or that religion is not about money. My question was entirely different. However, it seems you are firmly of a conclusion- the usually accepted one. I refrain from further discussion or questioning.
    – Rajib
    Dec 15, 2013 at 8:51
  • The question is about which factor influenced him more - economics or religion. And the answer is religion. And Romilla Thapar says 'However, the chronology of the coins remains uncertain and debased coins alone are not conclusive proof of a fiscal crisis.' So yeah - it was religion and not economics. To take a few sentences out of a book with few references and forward that as established fact is not the way to interpret history. Again the book says 'The need for vast revenues to maintain the army, and to finance the salaries of the upper levels of the bureaucracy' is not true either.
    – amarprabhu
    Dec 15, 2013 at 9:18
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    Please add your points regarding Romila Thapar's views to your main answer. As it stands now, your answer is far from the main question, but your last comment does have bearing on the question. Also note- this view does not make it conclusively- "so yeah...". She does NOT come to a conclusion. And most certainly I have not forwarded any point of view as "established fact". If it were so, then there would be no question, or need to ask a question. History is often a matter of interpretation, and I'm not biased in any direction. You're most welcome to improve your answer and refute.
    – Rajib
    Dec 15, 2013 at 9:54

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