The predominantly Afrotropical genus Charaxes is represented by 31 known species outside of Africa (excluding subgenus Polyura Billberg). We explored the biogeographic history of the genus using every known non-African species, with several African species as outgroup taxa. A phylogenetic hypothesis is proposed, based on molecular characters of the mitochondrial genes cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) and NADH dehydrogenase 5 (ND5), and the nuclear wingless gene. Phylogenetic analyses based on maximum parsimony and Bayesian inference of the combined dataset implies that the Indo-Pacific Charaxes form a monophyletic assemblage, with the exception of Charaxes solon Fabricius. Eight major lineages are recognized in the Indo-Pacific, here designated the solon (+African), elwesi, harmodius, amycus, mars, eurialus, latona, nitebis, and bernardus clades. Species group relationships are concordant with morphology and, based on the phylogeny, we present the first systematic appraisal and classification of all non-African species. A biogeographical analysis reveals that, after the genus originated in Africa, the evolutionary history of Charaxes in the Indo-Pacific, in particular Wallacea, may be correlated with the inferred geological and climatic history of the region. We propose that Wallacea was the area of origin of all Charaxes (excluding C. solon) occurring to the east of Wallace's  Line. The earliest Indo-Pacific lineages appear to have diverged subsequent to the initial fragmentation of a palaeo-continent approximately 13 million years ago. Further diversification in Indo-Pacific Charaxes appears primarily related to climatic changes during the Pliocene and possibly as recently as the Pleistocene. Although both dispersal and vicariance have played important roles in the evolution of the genus within the region, the latter has been particularly responsible for diversification of Charaxes in Wallacea. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 100, 457–481.