Though the modern state of Afghanistan was established in 1747, the land has an ancient history and various timelines of different civilizations. An important site of early historical activity, Afghanistan is a country at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. The region has been home to various peoples through the ages.
Arachosia, Aria and Bactria were the ancient satraps of the Persian Achaemenid Empire that made up most of what is now Afghanistan during 500 BC. Some of the inhabitants of Arachosia were known as Pactyans, whose name possibly survives in today's Pakhtuns / Pashtuns.
Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with the neighboring regions to the east, west, and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan. Urban civilization may have begun as early as 3000 BC, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization. After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia moved south into the area of modern Afghanistan, among them were Indo-European-speaking. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via north of the Caspian. Many of these settlers were Indo-Iranians, the area was called Ariana.
The ancient Zoroastrianism religion is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 to 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persian Empire overthrew the Medes and incorporated the region within its boundaries. An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries he had conquered.
Buddhas of Bamyan. Buddhism was introduced for the first time during the Maurya Empire (322 BC–185 BC). In addition, Hinduism in Afghanistan has existed for almost as long as Hinduism itself, as Greater Persia overlapped with Greater India in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains. The religion was widespread in the region until the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier at the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty. Alexander took these away from the Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Chandragupta, upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants.The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled southern Afghanistan until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown. Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic re-conquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians by the end of the 2nd century BCE. During the 1st century, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century. Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers of the region in the first half of the 5th century. The Hephthalites were defeated by the Sasanian king Khosrau I in CE 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia. However, in the 6th century CE, the successors of Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi.