The Indo-Europeans were a group of semi-
nomadic peoples who came from the
steppes—dry grasslands that stretched north of
the Caucasus Mountains, which lie between the
Black and Caspian seas. Map
These primarily pastoral people herded cattle,
sheep, and goats. The Indo-Europeans also
tamed horses and rode into battle in light, two-
They lived in tribes that spoke forms of a
language that we call Indo-European.
The languages of the Indo-Europeans were the
ancestors of many of the modern languages of
Europe, Southwest Asia, and South Asia.
English, Spanish, Persian, and Hindi all trace their
origins back to different forms of the original Indo-
No one is for sure why the Indo-Europeans left
Escape from invaders?
Whatever the reason, the Indo-Europeans
began migrating to other regions over the next
By about 2000 BC, one group of Indo-European
speakers, the Hittites, occupied Anatolia, also
called Asia Minor.
Huge peninsula in modern-day Turkey that juts out
into the Black and Mediterranean seas.
high, rocky plateau, rich in timber and agriculture.
The city of Hattusas was its capital.
The Hittites adopted and adapted:
Used their own language with one another.
Adopted the Babylonians language, Akkadian.
Borrowed literature, politics, and laws ideas from
The Hittites were superior in war because of their
Iron instead of Bronze
However, they were overrun and conquered by
tribes from the North and vanished around 1190
At the same time of the Hittites, another Indo-
European people, the Aryans, crossed over the
northwest mountain passes into the Indus River
Valley of India.
The only records they left were their sacred
literature, the Vedas, which gives a fairly accurate
picture of Aryan life.
The Vedas are four collections of prayers, magical
spells, and instructions for performing rituals.
At first, the Vedas were not written, but passed down
orally. However, the Aryans believed reciting the
prayers incorrectly would have terrible consequences.
The Aryans (“the nobles” in their language) called
the people they found in India dasas (“dark”),
referring to the color of their skin. (Dasa eventually
became the Aryan word for slave.)
The Aryans differed from the dasas in many ways.
Aryans were taller, lighter in skin color, and spoke a
The Aryans had not developed a writing system.
They were pastoral people and counted their wealth in
The dasas, on the other hand, were town dwellers
who lived in communities protected by walls.
Aryans were divided into four groups or social
classes according to their occupation:
Traders and landowners
peasants or laborers.
The class that an Aryan belonged to
determined his or her role in society.
(landowners and traders)
(rulers and warriors)
At first, the four classes mixed freely.
Eventually, the higher groups began to exclude the lower
The Shudras (laborers or craftsmen) did the work that Aryans
did not want to do.
Varna, or skin color, was the distinguishing characteristic in
People are born into their caste for life.
Their caste membership determined
the work they did
the man or woman they could marry
the people with whom they could eat.
Ritual purity was all-important in Aryan culture.
The jobs that would make a person unclean (grave digging,
butchers, trash collectors) were reserved for the lowest class,
This group, The Untouchables, were so named because even
coming into physical contact with them would make one
Over many centuries, the Aryans took more and
more of what is now India.
Eventually many powerful people tried to create
their own kingdoms, fighting each other.
One kingdom, Magadha, won control over almost
all of India.
One of the great epics of India, Mahabharata, was
Reflects the struggles that took place in India as the
Aryan kings worked to control the lands.
One part of it, the Bhagavad Gita, tells the story of a
warrior prince about to go to war. His chariot driver,
Krishna, is a god in human form.