Alexandrias of the East


“From Alasanda ( Alexandria ) the city of the Yonas ( Greeks ) came the Thera Yonamahadhammarakkhita ( The Greek High Monk Dhammarakkhita ) with thirty thousand bhikkhus ( monks ).”

Mahavasma, Chapter XXIX

‘Good, Nâgasena! Now do not your people say that a Bhikkhu ( monk ), who has the power and mastery over his mind, can vanish from Jambudivpa ( the world ) and appear in the Brahma world ( the highest heaven ), as quickly as a strong man could stretch forth his bent up arm, or bend it in again if it were stretched out? That is a saying I cannot believe. How is it possible that he could traverse so quickly so many hundreds of leagues?’

‘The Elder replied: ‘In what district, O king, were you born?’

‘There in a town called Alasanda ( Alexandria ). It was there I was born.’

‘And how far is Alasanda ( Alexandria ) from here?’

‘About two hundred leagues.’

‘Do you know for certain of any business you once did there and now recollect?’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘So quickly, great king, have you gone about two hundred leagues.’

Milinda Panha ( Questions of King Menander ), Book III, Chapter 7

( Introduction )

The above two excerpts come from two of the most influential document from early Buddhism.

The first, the Mahavamsa chronicle the name and the various place of origin of the high monks who were around during the dedication of the Great Thupa in Sri Lanka. In it they document of a high monk named Dharmarakkhita who is of Greek origin and comes from a city known as Alexandria.

The second is known as the Milinda Panha ( or Questions of King Menander ) that documents the philosophical discussion between Nagasena and King Menander. In this discussion King Menander states that he is born in a town called Alexandria which lies 200 leagues away away from the Samkheyya Monastery.

If you now saying, “Greeks? Greeks in India?” that is precisely the question you should be asking. If that is your question, then the answer is yes. For four hundred years the Greeks were a power to contend with both in India and in Bactria. They ruled over many cities and were influential traders and merchants in the area. The Greeks mostly came with Alexander the Great and many ended up staying in India and Bactria for centuries to come. Most were of Macedonian descent but some were from the Greek colonies of Asia Minor like Miletia.

Now some readers would note that the city mentioned here is Alexandria. Now what Alexandria is this? Is this the Alexandria in Egypt, the one by the Mediterrenean sea?

That will be truly unlikely, especially given the testament from the Milinda Panha which states that Menander Alexandria is only 200 leagues ( equivalent of 1000km ) from either Palliputra or Sagala. Also to the Lankans the Yonas ( Greeks ) were considered people who dwelled far in the north of India, not in the west which makes it less likely that the Alexandria described is Alexandria in Egypt.

So are there other Alexandrias?

The answer is, yes.

When Alexandria the Great conquered Bactria and India he founded, renamed or revived many cities in his wake. Among the many cities he founded are cities such as Alexandria of Eschate ( now the modern city of Khujand ), the furthest Greek city from Europe and Alexandria of the Oxus ( now believed to be very likely the archeological ruin of Ai Khanoum ) which later became a thriving inland city.

He revived neglected cities such as Kapisa which he renamed Alexandria of the Caucasus ( now the archaeological ruin of Bergram ) and Mundigak which he renamed Alexandria of the Arachosia ( now a city in Afghanistan known as Kandahar ).

Now Alexander the Great never saw the great cities themselves rise to power. What he did was found the city. According to various accounts most of the cities were just in their settlement phase when Alexander left them. For example with regards to the city of Alexandria of the Caucasus the city was first settled by 7000 Macedonians and 3000 natives according to Diodorus. The cities themselves only developed under the nurturing hands of the Seleucids from 305BCE onwards.

Alexander’s foundation of so many prominent Hellenic cities in Bactria and India however would change the course of history. It would set the stage for a vibrant Hellenic civilization that would exist in a near independent manner so many thousands of leagues East of the Mediterrenean for another three to four hundred years.

But more amazingly, it will be from these cities that a lot of revolutionary ideas that would later influence the both Indic and Sinic worldviews would later occur.

These series of articles will touch briefly about the Greeks in Bactria and India and their legacy in both Bactria and India. It is not meant to be an in depth article on the Greeks in Bactria and India but rather covers generalities.

Alexandrias of the East

(Peculiarities of Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek studies)

Ancient coins have contributed greatly to the study of Hellenistic civilization, illuminating much that might otherwise be lost with our vanishing written records.

Frank L. Holt, PhD, Author of Thundering Zeus


Before I go any further into the history of the Greco-Bactrians and the Indo-Greek one thing must be let known.

Unlike other forms of Hellenic studies, any inquiry into the Greco-Bactrian and the Indo-Greeks yields a paucity of written information. We have brief descriptions in Classical Western sources, brief descriptions in Chinese sources, and a few mention here and there in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist sources. We may be lucky enough to find a few lines written in stones or in granite in archaeological sites. Or else through the grace of the Gods a few writing on paper may survive in partially decomposed state in a jar or urn somewhere.

In terms of archaeological evidence the recent sabotage by the Taliban over in Afghanistan of archaeological sites from the mid 1990 CE to the early 2000 CE has severely limited our ability to find new evidence to further expand our knowledge on this subject. However this does not mean that no new knowledge can be found. Areas like ancient Balkh for example has yet to be investigated thoroughly and new cities may just be found hidden in the ground somewhere.

However the one thing that allows us to study Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek history is nuministic evidence through coins. The Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kings were prolific coin makers and their coins not only depicted their portrait but also depicted trends and changes in the kingdom. Coins were used to symbolize victory, to denote important events in the kingdom, to denote marriages etc.. By studying the coins we are able to piece together this very interesting but quite unwritten part of history.

Sources I use to compile this summary are:-

1.      Thundering Zeus:- The Making of Hellenistic Bactria. Frank L. Holt

( This book contains one chapter that has all the primary Classical Western sources on the Greco-Bactrians and all literary finds in Afghanistan related to the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek period, recommended read)

2.      Into the Land of Bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan, Frank L Holt

3.      The Greeks in India and Bactria, Third Edition, WW Tarn

4.      The Shape of Ancient Thought. Comparative studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Thomas McEvilly, 2002

5.      The Indo-Greeks revised and supplemented, A K Narain 1980

6.      Coin types of the Indo-Greek Kings, Narain 1989

7.      The Greek Kingdom of Bactria: From Alexander to Eucratides the Great, Sidky , 2000

8. Buddhism in Central Asia, Puri Baij Nath 2000

9. Milinda Panha

10. Mahavamsa

11. Records of the Grand Historian, Sima Qian

12.  The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu

13. Religions of the Silk Road : overland trade and cultural exchange from antiquity to the fifteenth century. Richard Foltz 2000

14.  The Apogee of the Indo Greeks, Michael Mitchiner 1976

15.  Ashokavadana

16.  Figments and Fragments of Mahayana Buddhism in India, Gregory Schopen 2005

17.  Buddhism in India, from the Sixth Century BCE to Third Century AD, Ashok Kumar Anand 1996

18.  Buddhism decline in India, DC Ahir 2005

19.  Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundation, Paul Williams 1989

20. ( On the Indo-Greek and Greco-Bactrian and Greco-Buddhism section )

21. ( on the Indo-Greeks and Greco-Bactrian )

22. ( great place to look at the coins )


Alexandrias of the East

( The Legacy of the Diadochis )

At this point Perdiccas exposed the royal throne to public view. On this lay Alexander’s crown, robe and arms, and Perdiccas placed upon it the ring the king had given him the previous day. The sight of these objects once more brought tears to the eyes of all and rekindled their grief. ‘For my part,’ said Perdiccas, ‘I return to you the ring handed to me by Alexander, the seal of which he would use on documents as symbol of his royal and imperial authority. The anger of the gods can devise no tragedy to equal this with which we have been afflicted; and yet, considering the greatness of Alexander’s achievements, one could believe that such a great man was merely on loan from the gods to the world so that, when his duty to it was complete, they might swiftly reclaim him for their family. Accordingly, since nothing remains of him apart from the material which is excluded from immortality, let us perform the due ceremonies to his corpse and his name, bearing in mind that the city we are in, the people we are among and the qualities of the leader and king of whom we have been deprived. Comrades, we must discuss and consider how we can maintain the victory we have won among the people over whom we have won it. We need a leader; whether it should be one man or more is up to you. But you must realize this: a military unit without a chief is a body without a soul. This is the sixth month of Roxane’s  pregnancy. We pray that she has produced a male who, with the gods’ approval, will assume the throne when he comes of age. Meanwhile, designate those you want as your leaders.’ So spoke Perdiccas.

Nearchus then said that, while nobody could express surprise that only Alexander’s blood line was truly appropriate for the dignity of the throne, to wait for a king not yet born and pass over one already alive suited neither the inclinations of the Macedonians nor their critical situation. The king already had a son by Barsine he said, and should be given the crown.

Quintus Curtius Rufus, Roman Historian


As Alexander the Great finally exhaled his last breath in Babylon in 325BCE the Greek civilization was about to undergo an upheaval. Unable to let go of Alexander and unable to find someone who can replace Alexander, the then largest Empire in the world was paralysed.

Initially three successors were chosen by the generals.

The first was the mentally infirmed half brother of Alexander the Great called Arrhideaus, the second his unborn child to Roxana who will later be named Alexander. Both were not really deemed to be suitable to rule an Empire so vast and thus the regency was given to Perdiccas. The third ruler will be Craterus himself as Alexander did mutter something that sounded like his name on his death bed.

Perdiccas proved himself to be too good at eliminating any competitors and quickly booted Craterus out of a position of power. He then got Meleager, his vice killed. He then through the Partition of Babylon placed people who supports him power and those who do not out ( excepting Bactria where things were kept intact ).

The essence of the Partition of Babylon is that each area will have its satrap/governor that will technically answer to the King but because the two Kings are incapable ( one mad, one unborn ) they will answer to Perdiccas. He however left the positions in India and Bactria largely unchanged but that may be because from the moment of Alexander’s death there were many soldiers from Greece and Macedon that openly wished to return to Greece but could not due to influence of the local governors set in place by Alexander the Great.

Perdiccas attempt to consolidate power by marrying Cleopatra of Macedon two years later ( sister to Alexander the Great ) resulted in a revolt by Antipater, Craterus, Ptolemy and Antigonus. At around the same time Ptolemy took the mummified body of Alexander to Egypt. This resulted in the first of a series of war known as the war of Diadochi which claimed multiple casualities which includes Perdiccas and Craterus. Perdiccas in fact was murdered. One of the person who murdered him was a general named Seleucus who was given the position of chiliarch during the Partition of Babylon. After Perdiccas death Seleucus was given the governorship of Babylon.

By the end of third Diadochi war the Hellenic Kingdom was now splintered into the Antipatrid ( that will soon become the Antigonid Empire ), the Seleucid Empire ( founded by Perdiccas own general Seleucus I Nikator ) and the Ptolemic Empire  ( founded by Ptolemy I Soter ).

We will now focus on the Seleucid Empire as it is the Seleucid Empire that initially governed Bactria and her policies will determine the future of Bactria. It is also the actions of the first king of the Seleucid Empire, Seleucus I Nikator and his grandson Antiochus II in India that would ultimately determine the fate of the later Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

Alexandrias of the East

( Seleucus I Nikator and Chandragupta Maurya )

“Androcottus ( Chandragupta ), when he was fourteen years of age, saw Alexander, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of India, since its king was hated and despised on account of his wickedness and low birth.”

Plutarch, Parallel Lifes


“Later, as he was preparing war against the prefects of Alexander, a huge wild elephant went to him and took him on his back as if tame, and he became a remarkable fighter and war leader. Having thus acquired royal power, Sandracottos ( Chandragupta ) possessed India at the time Seleucos ( Seleucus I Nikator ) was preparing future glory.”

Junianus Justinus, Roman Author

“The Indians occupy some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus I gave them to Chandragupta Maurya in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants.”



In 305BCE Seleucus I Nicator had to turn East and disengage from the war of Diadochi ( which allowed Ptolemy to acquire control of Cyprus ) to deal with the issues on his Eastern frontier.

The reason for this is that one Hellenic Indian satrapcy after the other was falling and collapsing. During the 20 year period from the death of Alexander the Great to Seleucus I Nicator return to the Eastern frontier no less than 4 major Satrapcies in the East has fallen.

The first to fall in the spring of 316BCE was the Satrapcy of Patala with Alexandria of the Indian Ocean taken. The next to fall was the Satrapcy of the Indus Valley with Alexandria of the Indus falling by summer of 316BCE. Gedrosia fell in 303BCE to the same unstoppable force.

The unstoppable force came in the form of a young twenty year old male at the time known as Chandragupta Maurya. With the guidance of his teacher Chanakya he began to conquer one Macedonian satrapcy after the other.

Chandragupta Maurya’s ambition however was not to conquer the Hellenic Satrapcies. Following the death of Alexander and the war of Diadochis and Seleucus trying to establish his power from Judae to Babylon the Eastern Satrapcies were neglected and were left practically defenseless. They were no threat to Chandragupta Maurya.

What he needed was the resources from these countries to conquer the mighty Nanda Empire which dominated the entire Ganges Basin.

Now the Nanda Empire was already in existence in the time of Alexander the Great and the only reason Alexander never got to meet the full might of the Nanda Army ( which is said to consist of 200,000 infantry, 80,000 calvaries, 8000 chariots and 6000 war elephants according to Plutarch) is because the Nanda Army’s main post was in the East, not in the West.  After Alexander’s failed conquest of Magadha however the Nanda Army realizing that the main bulk of the threat now comes from the West and rightfully decided to position their army in the West. Historians have long speculated that part of the reason Alexander never conquered further may be because he knew fighting the Nanda empire could be another Gaugamela except this time he may not get the upper hand.


Now if we believe early Buddhist and Jain sources the Nanda kings due to their zealous tax collection policy began to affect the life of many poor people, with their last king Dhana Nanda being worse than most. The popular play Mudrarakshaksa written in the fourth century ( 700 years after the death of Chandragupta Mauray ) the just and fair Chanakya was a minister to Dhana Nanda and together with Chandragupta Maurya plotted the downfall of the wicked king.

Even with the resources of the Hellenic Satrapcies Chandragupta Maurya got initially defeated by the Nanda Empire. However ultimately he triumphed over the Nanda Empire and from there founded the Mauryan Empire.

Now by the time Seleucus I Nikator rode into Bactria most of the Indus was already under the governance of the Mauryan Empire. The only part of the Greco-Bactrian state not under the rule of the Mauryans at the time was Bactria, Sogdania and Ferghana. Arachosia was by default Mauryan. Seleucus I Nikator came into India with one extremely specific aim, to reclaim the Seleucid Empire at the very least to the Indus.

Authors like Appian and Strabo indicate that the reason Seleucus I Nicator did not achieve this in 305BCE was because he met Chandragupta Maurya in battle, came to an understanding during battle then arranged his daughter to marry Chandragupta Maurya.

The reality is most likely less amicable. Seleucus I Nicator after riding so far from Seleucia on the Tigris to India likely realized two things.

The Greeks though they ruled the cities did not really rule the countryside. The countryside mostly consist of local Bactrians who likely followed their own local customs and only nominally follow the Greeks.

The cities themselves though economically growing are unable to individually provide a significant army especially at this extremely early stage in Hellenistic history in the East. Alexandria of the Oxus ( Ai Khanoum ), one of the most well studied city archaeologically even at its economic and population peak under the Diodotids and Euthymedid may only have housed up to forty to fifty thousand or more people. However that would be nearly fifty years later. At that stage it was probably just a settlement. All the major Greek cities in Bactria when Seleucus I was riding through to meet Chandragupta Maurya were all still growing. The only exception being Bactra.

Chandragupta Maurya had the upper hand in this situation. His supply lines were short. The cities that support him are nearby and well established.

The battle between Seleucus I Nicator and Chadragupta Maurya could not have turned out well for Seleucus I Nicator as he not only gave away his daughter in a marriage alliance, he also gave away Alexandria of the Caucasus which reverted to the name Kapisa and effectively sealed the Greek access through the Hindu Kush till it was recaptured 120 years later by Demetrius.

Seleucus I Nicator’s however was gifted 500 elephants by the Mauryan King. These 500 elephants would play a major role in 301BCE in the Battle of Ipsus, so it was probably a good investment. To the credit of the Mauryan Kings they effectively allowed cities with a majority Greek population to continue on their customs and ways as it is appropriate.

Under Seleucus I Nicator the Seleucid Empire eastern border shrank from the Indus River to the Balacrista in Iran. The frontier provinces of the Seleucid Empire is now basically Ferghana, Sogdania and Bactria.

On the other hand though it is because of this concession that Seleucus I Nicator won an ally and friend in the Mauryan Empire. This friendship with the Seleucid Empire was upheld by every Mauryan King who followed and the Mauryans kings only expanded south, west or East, never north into Bactria even when they had ample opportunity to do so.

Alexandrias of the East

( Settlement and Hellenization )

Seleucus had seventy-two satraps under him, so extensive was the territory over which he ruled.  The greater part he had transferred to his son, but he continued to reign over the country which lies between the Euphrates and the sea. The last war that he waged was with Lysimachus for the possession of Phrygia on the Hellespont. Lysimachus was defeated and slain in battle.”


The Seleucids were extremely aware that their territory was large and potentially overstretched in many respects. They knew they ruled over a large number of cultures and a large number of former nations that will not necessarily accede to their rule or to the Hellenic polis code. Though Antiochus I ( son of Seleucus ) was a half Persian and as a result of this was given the task of ruling Persia by his father by 291BC they still had areas like Bactria that will be difficult to rule.

The first two Seleucids ruler were acutely aware that the only way to secure and strengthen their rule in Asia was to populate the cities with Greeks or people who can speak Greek and understands the Greek culture.

However unlike the previous colonization of Asia Minor by the Greeks when the very high population density on the Aegean peninsula necessitated movement to Asia Minor, in Seleucus and Antiochus time no such precondition to a population overspill was in existence. If populations are to migrate, it has to be planned and it has to be systematic.

Among the Seleucids, colonization was through creating and establishing military colonies. We know that as an incentive to the settlers each settler was given a cleros ( allotment of a piece of land ). This incentive would likely have drawn many poorer Greeks or Hellenized individuals to immigrate to cities or towns that provide cleros. There will be an obligation for a person who holds a piece of land to at least be able to serve in the military or provide people who can serve in the military. How this is guaranteed or enforced we are unable to tell.

Now it should be noted that the aim of every military colony is to ultimately become a polis. Whilst around the Mediterrenean it generally implies being filled with people of Greek and Macedonian descent, from the river Euphrates eastward it implies a city that has a Greek organization and civic form and one that spoke Greek.

The reason for this is that whilst most colonist on the cleros policy from the Mediterrenean to the West of the River Tigris and Euphrates tend to be Greeks or Macedonians, this does not hold true for areas East. In the East is a tendency for the migrants to be Asiatic. As a direct evidence of this many settlers on the clerus system that came East for example to cities like Avroman in Kurdistan were all Asiatic names. Using indirect evidence it is very unlikely that the Greek cities in Bactria had a very high level of migration of genetic Greeks and Macedonians ( excepting the Alexandrias ) as modern genetic testing has shown a near lack of presence of Greek and Macedonian contribution in modern gene pool in these region.

However what is obvious is that the colonies and cities attracted people who spoke Greek and had a Greek culture. Ai Khanoum ( very likely Alexandria of the Oxus ) even though it was founded in the time of Alexander the Great only began to have major building developments starting from 280BCE onwards. The economic boom and definite population boom following the Seleucid policy is definitely evident as on this site we find a gymnasium far larger than what you get in most colonies. In this period Greek style mansions rose like mushrooms overlooking the river Oxus from this city. There was even enough money to go around to build a temple to Zeus that is almost a replica to the temple of Zeus in Olympia excepting its exterior is Persian in design. The people of this city obviously enjoyed themselves as they had a theatre with five thousand seats. This indicates that the economy of the area must have been very good.

It is also obvious that the population in the city got Hellenized with time. Though we have no list of names of people who came to Ai Khanoum on the clerus system we can probably safely assume that given the number of Greek names found on tombs and funerary urns they were likely either Greek or Hellenized individuals who eventually took on a Greek name. In Takht-I Sangin we find definite evidence of Hellenization in place with a dedication of a Greek style altar to the River Oxus inscribed in Greek by an Atrosokes which goes, “Atrosokes dedicated this ex-voto to the Oxus.”

It should be noted that despite the increasing presence of Greek or at least Hellenized populations within the city outside in the countryside the population remained untouched by Hellenism and remained nominal to the rule of the Seleucids. Even after the fall of the Greco-Bactrians the Chinese traveler Zhang Qian noted that only the urban people of Daxia shares a common custom with the people of the Dayuan. This implies that the countryside in general does not share the common customs.

The Hellenization however of the urban centres in Bactria will have a long term impact in central Asia.

Alexandrias of the East

(Diodotids and Independent Greco-Bactria)

Diodotus, the satrap of the thousand cities of Bactria defected and proclaimed himself king; all the other people of Asia followed his example and seceded from the Macedonians

Justin, Roman Historian


There was at this time one Arsaces, a man of uncertain origins but certainly of proven bravery. This man accustomed to living by brigandage and plunder, having heard that Seleucus II was defeated by the Gauls was thus free from fear of the king. He invaded parthia with a band robbers and caught their governor Andragoras by surprise, removed him from power and took over. Not much later Arsaces also seized Hyrcania and thus endowed with power over two states he prepared a large army out of fear of Seleuces II and Diodotus I, king of Bactria. Soon after Diodotid I died. Relieved by the death of Diodotus the First, Arsaces made peace and concluded an alliance with his son, also by the name of Diodotus. Some time later he fought against Seleucus who came to punish the rebels, but he prevailed: the Parthians celebrated this day as the one that marked the beginning of their freedom

Justin, Roman Historian


If we ever have a black hole in our knowledge on the Greco-Bactrians, it is about the very genesis of the Greco-Bactrian states.

Popular belief inspired by the account of Justin states that the Satrap of Bactria, Diodotus I in response to the weakened state of the Seleucid empire due to Antiochus II engagement with war on the Ptolemics declared independence from the Seleucid state.

There are two commonly given reasons for this. One is that Arsaces, a Scythian invaded Parthia and wrested it from the rule of the Seleucids and made Parthia independent. Diodotus I seeing this opportunity made declared independence himself. However given that the Arsacid dynasty under the rule of Arsaces blocked all overland travel Diodotus I joined force with Seleucus with the only reason why no battle was fought was because Diodotus I died and his son took over and became friend with Arsaces.

The second theory is that Andragoras, the Satrap of Parthia declared Parthia independent. Diodotus being the friend of Andragoras likewise declared Bactria independent. Arsaces invaded Parthia and destroyed Andragoras and started the Achaemid dynasty. This angered Diodotus I who sought to attack Arsaces only to die before he could do this. Arsaces became a good friend with his son Diodotus II.

Though these stories if we were to piece of Justin and Strabo’s work together sounds logical nuministic evidence suggest a different story. Based upon the coinage of Diodotus I we know that Diodotus I was a satrap in Bactria whose mint is primarily in Ai Khanoum though this changed to Balkh later. We know that he continued to mint both Antiochus I and Antiochus II into his coins as well as the Seleucid Apollo. However his coins changed somewhere in the reign of Antiochus II where he began to mint an older portrait of himself and the symbol of house Diodotid, the thundering Zeus on his coins but still declare it the coins of King Antiochus II.

Interestingly not long after his coins began to show victory wreaths with Antiochus II. What this means is unknown but it is presumed to indicate that he and Antiochus II had a victory against Arsaces as hinted by Justin. We know that from this coins series on even though Diodotid I continued to maintain the coins in the name of Antiochus II he began to wear the wreath and the diadem.

Numinist interprets this changes as suggesting that Diodotid I has with time grown more independent off the Seleucids though still maintain loyalty to the Seleucids. Diodotid I contrary to what Justin has to say probably grew more independent off the rule of the Seleucid but remain deeply loyal to them regardless

This changed completely on the coinage of Diodotid II. Diodotid II dropped all references to the Seleucids from his coins. Diodotid II thus declared independence from the Seleucid Empire. Interestingly enough Diodotid II also removed the victory wreath from his coins that was so prevalent in both his and his father’s coins earlier on. This support the idea that Arsaces is indeed the friend of Diodotid II and that Diodotid I did attack the Arsaces and succeeded hence the victory wreath.

So based upon nuministic evidence whilst Diodotid I may have slowly weaned Bactria off total dependence on the Seleucids, it seems that Diodotid II was the one who declared independence.

There is also another notable feature of the coinage of Diodotid II. In the reign of Diodotid II there is an increasing amount of mintage of low denomination coins in circulation. What more, whilst among the high denomination coins it the image of the thundering Zeus that prevails, low denomination coins featured the syncretic and extremely popular Goddess Artemis Anahita. Artemis Anahita is frequently called “Lady Moon”.

The indications are that Diodotid II was not only trying to reach out to the Hellenic population but also to the local population. Artemis as Anahita or Anahita as Artemis was popular among both Greeks and local Bactrians. The second indication is that the locals are beginning to participate more in the local economy and thus the demand for the low denomination as most of them are poor and requires a smaller mintage. Third it also means that the level of economic activity especially when it comes to everyday goods are probably increasing and thus necessitated the need for more low denomination coins.

The Diodotids are likely the architects of an independent Greco-Bactrian culture from the Seleucid. With them came the fusion of the native Persian Bactrian culture and the Hellenistic culture of the era.

Alexandrias of the East


When he received word that Euthydemus was near Tapuria with his military forces, and that his ten thousand calvarymen were stationed in front to guard the ford at the Arius River, Antiochus III chose to abandon the seige and face this situation. Since the river was a march of three days away, he traveled at the a measured pace for two days then commanded the rest to set off at daybreak after breakfast while he himself advanced at a fast pace overnight with calvary and light infantry, together with ten thousand peltasts. For Antiochs had learned that while the enemy calvary lay in wait during the day by the edge of the river by night they pulled back to a city not less than twenty stades away. Because the plain was easy to cross on horseback, Antiochus completed the march by night and at daybreak crossed the river with most of his own forces.

The calvary of Bactria when alerted by their scouts sallied forth and engaged the enemy. Antiochus considered it vital to withstand the first charge of the enemy, so he summoned two thousand cavalry accustomed to facing danger around him; the rest he ordered to deployed by squads or troops and there hold each of their usual positions. He himself with the aforementioned cavalry met and engaged the first of the Bactrians to charge. Antiochus seems in this particular engagement have fought the most conspicuously of those with him. Accordingly though many were killed on both sides the king’s forces defeated the first cavalry charge.

At the critical moment Panetolus, the mercenary captain issued commands to join Antiochys and those battling beside him. He compelled the oncoming Bactrians to change course and flee headlong in disarray. Those being pressed upon by Panaetolus did not halt till they reached Euthydemus though most have already been killed. The Seleucid King cavalry, having killed many, on the one hand, and taken many alive, on the other, retired and camped beside the river. In this particular battle Antiochus horse was wounded and killed, and the king himself was struck through the mouth and lost some teeth. On the whole, he acquired on that occasion his greatest reputation for valor. Because of this battle Euthydemus was caught off guard and retreated with his forces into the Bactrian city of Zarispa.

Polybius Histories 10:49


For Euthydemus himself was a native of Magnesia, and he now, in defending himself to Teleas, said that Antiochus was not justified in attempting to deprive him of his kingdom, as he himself had never revolted against the king, but after others had revolted he had possessed himself of the throne of Bactria by destroying their descendants.  After speaking at some length in the same sense he begged Teleas to mediate between them in a friendly manner and bring about a reconciliation, entreating Antiochus not to grudge him the name and state of king,  as if he did not yield to this request, neither of them would be safe;  for considerable hordes of nomads were approaching, and this was not only a grave danger to both of them, but if they consented to admit them, the country would certainly relapse into barbarism. After speaking thus he dispatched Teleas to Antiochus. The king, who had long been on the look-out for a solution of the question when he received Teleas report, gladly consented to an accommodation owing to the reasons above stated. Teleas went backwards and forwards more than once to both kings, and finally Euthydemus sent off his son Demetrius to ratify the agreement.  Antiochus, on receiving the young man and judging him from his appearance, conversation, and dignity of bearing to be worthy of royal rank, in the first place promised to give him one of his daughters in marriage and next gave permission to his father to style himself king.  After making a written treaty concerning other points and entering into a sworn alliance, Antiochus took his departure, serving out generous ratons of corn to his troops and adding to his own the elephants belonging to Euthydemus.  Crossing the Caucasus he descended into India and renewed his alliance with Sophagasenus the Indian king.  Here he procured more elephants, so that his total force of them amounted now to a hundred and fifty, and after a further distribution of corn to his troops, set out himself with his army, leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus to collect the treasure which the king had agreed to pay. 13 Having traversed Arachosia and crossed the river Erymanthus he reached Carmania through Drangene, where, as winter was now at hand, he took up his quarters.  Such was the final result of Antiochus’s expedition into the interior, an expedition by which he not only brought the upper satraps under his rule, but also the maritime cities and the princes this side of Taurus. In a word he put his kingdom in a position of safety, overawing all subject to him by his courage and industry.  It was this expedition, in fact, which made him appear worthy of his throne not only to the inhabitants of Asia, but those of Europe likewise

Polybius, Histories 11:34

The next influential Greco-Bactrian King after the Diodotids is Euthydemus. Little is known as to exactly how he ascended to power let or whether he actually murdered Diodotid II.

All we do know for sure is that he succeeded the Diodotids and maintained the rule of Bactria, Sogdania and Ferghana intact. We know from nuministic evidence that he was for a time the rival of the Diodotids as the coins of Diodotid II and that of Euthydemus are found from the same epoch. We know is that he is a Magnesian Greek though whether he is born from a person from Magnesia or actually from Magnesia himself we do not know. We also know that during his reign the Greco-Bactrian kingdom came under increasing pressure from the nomads who were expanding from the North.

Had not Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire not attempt to retake Bactria Euthydemus may have gone practically unrecorded. Antiochus III basically inherited a fragmented, weak, disorganized Seleucid Empire. In an attempt to secure it he began to attack a few other Hellenic kingdoms. In 208BCE Antiochus III rode into Bactria with the desire to bring the country back into the fold of the Seleucids.

Here we have the most complete and thorough account of practically any event in Hellenistic Bactria. Euthydemus already anticipating the coming of Antiochus III gathered a large army and marched on to meet the Seleucid King. The Bactrian army was to secure the crossing at the Arian River. Knowing it futile to try to confront them, Antiochus III crossed the river by night.

When the Bactrian calvary realized that the Seleucid King has crossed the river they rode back as fast as they could to Euthydemus though they lost a large number of people in the process. Euthydemus unable to engage Antiochus given the state of his cavalry had to retreat behind the walls of Bactra. From 208BCE to 206BCE the king of Bactria lay seiged within.

Antiochus III eventually realizing the futility of this sent the Magnesian Teleas to negotiate with Euthydemus, a Magnesian himself. In it Euthydemus had two messages for Antiochus. The first is that Antiochus should not be angry with him as it was the Diodotids who turned Bactria independent and he merely carried out what they’ve done and not only that he has punished the descendents of the Diodotids.

The second message was a more practical one in that he warned Antiochus that as they were bickering amongst themselves the nomads could sweep down at any time and destroy the Hellenic civilization over in Bactria. This was no empty threat. Modern evidence shows that Sogdania gained independence from Bactria during the reign of Euthydemus I and it is most likely due to nomadic invasion. We know that they were an organized force to deal with as they learnt from the Greeks their military tactics and were themselves were minting coins which made the Greek lose one of the major economic advantages. We also know that the Greco-Bactrians took them seriously as they were already fortifying walls in the city of Ai-Khanoum to the north in the 2nd century BCE.

Antiochus III relented and Teleas managed to forge out an agreement between both man which saw Demetrius marrying the daughter of Antiochus III and Euthydemus remained king of Bactria though he had to cede quite a few elephants to Antiochus III.

We know that the above is true as the mintage of coins for Euthydemus had three major phases, with the second phase showing a symbol of the Seleucids. This is clearly the period when Euthydemus was under capture by the Seleucid. We also suspect that the lifting of the siege in Bactria may be marked by a series of gold octradam made in the name of Euthydemus with his symbol, that of a bearded Herakles anointing himself.

The end of Euthydemus reign would mark a new beginning for the Greco-Bactrian Empire, because from this point on history for the Greeks would lie south, in India, and the person who will open the door will be the son of Euthydemus, Demetrius I.

Alexandrias of the East

(Demetrius I Expansion into India)

Heliodotos dedicated this fragrant altar (???) so that the greatest of all kings Euthydemus, as well as his son, the glorious, victorious and remarkable Demetrius, be protected from all pains, with the help of Tykhe with divine thoughts

Greek dedication found in Kuliab, circa 200-190BCE


. Teleas went backwards and forwards more than once to both kings, and finally Euthydemus sent off his son Demetrius to ratify the agreement.  Antiochus, on receiving the young man and judging him from his appearance, conversation, and dignity of bearing to be worthy of royal rank, in the first place promised to give him one of his daughters in marriage and next gave permission to his father to style himself king.

Polybius, Histories


“The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also India, so Apollodotus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander— by Menander in particular (at least if he actually crossed the Hypanis towards the east and advanced as far as the Imaus), for some were subdued by him personally and others by Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus, the king of the Bactrians. They took over not only the Patalene but also the rest of the coast, which is called the Kingdom of Saraostos and Sigerdis. In sum, Appolodorus says that Bactria is the Jewel of all Ariana, moreover, they extended their empire as far as the Seres and Phryni



(???? ) having bestowed many privileges amounting to hundreds of thousands of the City-Corporation and the Realm-Corporation. In the seventh year of his reign, his famous wife of Vajigraha obtained the dignity of auspicious motherhood. Then in the eighth year Karavela with a large army having sacked Goradhagiri causes pressure on Rajagaha. On account of the loud report of this act of valor, the Yavana (Greek ) King Dimita ( Demetrius I of Bactria ) retreated to Mathura having extricated his demoralized army.

Hathigumpha Inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga, Line 7 and Line 8


Beyond is Arachosia. And the Parthians call this White India; there are the city of Biyt and the city of Pharsana and the city of Chorochoad and the city of Demetrias; then Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia; it is Greek, and by it flows the river Arachotus. As far as this place the land is under the rule of the Parthians.

Isodorus of Charax, Parthian Stations


“Eucratides led many wars with great courage, and, while weakened by them, was put under siege by Demetrius, king of the Indians. He made numerous sorties, and managed to vanquish 60,000 enemies with 300 soldiers, and thus liberated after four months, he put India under his rule”

Justin XlI6

185BCE marked an important transition in the history of North India. It was also an important time to the Greeks in Bactria and for that matter Greeks throughout Northern India. In 185BCE the Mauryan Empire, founded nearly 120 years prior by Chandragupta Maurya was collapsing. In its place was the mighty Sunga Empire.

Though the Mauryans did attack many Greek satrapcy early on in history, the bargaining by Seleucus I Nikator has brought friendship to the two Empires. The Greeks in Bactria despite their fears from the North never had to worry about attacks from the south as the Mauryans true to the spirit of Chandragupta Maurya remained continuously friendly to the Greeks. In fact under the Mauryans the Greeks continue to maintain a strong presence in Taxila and Alexandria of the Caucasus, also known as Kapisa and were never impeded in their activity. The only time they caused problems was during the reign of Bindusura but that has always been attributed to the Greeks frustration of incompetent governorship by the local governor as opposed to Mauryan rule. In the court of Chandragupta Maurya there was the permanent ambassador to the Seleucid Magasthene who advises Chandragupta Maurya about the Seleucid and also provides us much knowledge about the personality of this king through his constant report back to the Seleucids about the affair of Chadragupta Maurya.

In fact during Asoka’s time a few people of Greek descent were described as being very close to him. We know that he invited a few Greek monks to the Third Council of Buddhism which he himself convened. The Ashokavadana though probably not fully reliable did state that Asoka controlled the Greek city of Taxila without mean of arms but the people actually embraced him but was just angry by the unjust governor who happened to rule the city. We have one name of Dharmarikita, specifically mentioned to be a Greek who Asoka himself entrusted to spread the message of Buddhism.

As further evidence of the friendship the Seleucid had with the Mauryans was when Antiochus III after dealing with Euthymedus and his “independent” Bactria in 206BCE went down to India to pay a visit to the Mauryan King. The Mauryan King, believed to be Salisuka out of friendship gave him elephants. This shows that even 100 years after Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus I Nicator concluded the marriage alliance friendship was still strong between these two royal households.

Unfortunately for the Greeks of the now independent Bactria the fall of the Mauryan Empire in 185BCE to the Sungas meant that such convenient relationship has come to an end. The border south may not be secure for very long.

There are also suggestions that the Sunga Kings were less lenient to the Greeks than the Mauryans. This is usually attributed to the fact that Taxila ( a Greek dominated town ) and Kapisa ( Alexandria of the Caucasus ) were towns favored by Asoka because of their early conversion to the Buddhist faith and also that these towns were strong supporter of Asoka and the later Mauryan rule.

This definitely put the Greek dominated cities which had been quick to embrace Buddhism in a tight spot under the new rule. The Buddhist scriptures especially from the Ashokavadana states quite clearly that the Sungas were major persecutors of Buddhism though modern historians and modern archaeology seems to suggest that it might be an exaggeration. Most modern historians believe that the Sungas were strong supporters of Brahmanism but did not directly persecute the Buddhist. However on the other hand they also did not accord Buddhism the protection it enjoyed under the Mauryans. Thus any destruction of the temples were probably done by overzealous Brahmins as opposed to the direct order from the Sungas.

The fact that these towns were also strong supporters of Mauryan rules meant that the Sungas were less likely to favor them. There actually is no recorded attacks or raid made against Taxila and Kapisa ( Alexandria of the Caucasus ) either from Buddhist, Hindu, Greek or epigraphic sources. However given that these towns lost favor it could also mean loss of economic power, political status etc..

Because of these combination of factors it would seem that at least in the area of the Hindu Kush, Arachosia and the Indus the Sunga rule would not have been too popular.

Demetrius I based upon coinage before he left Bactria to India in between 185BCE to 180BCE gave the power of rule in Bactria to his son Euthydemus II. We know this because Euthymedus II coined a Seleucid style coin, popularly used to indicate that a king was absent and the son was the ruler.

He then proceeded into Bactria with young general known as Menander and possibly Apollodotus though who is he in relation to Demetrius I is unknown. The coinage at this time shows that Demetrius was definitely trying to conquest or already has conquested India as he is depicted with an elephant scalp on his head.

There is no certain way to determine how the conquest of India proceeded. We know that he must have crossed the Indus early on as by 180BCE his coinage was already found in the city of Taxila and must have taken the city of Alexandria of the Caucasus, then called Kapisa. His coins, found in the ruins of Kapisa showed that he established himself as ruler very early on and incorporated the elephant into his coin ( the Elephant is the symbol of Alexandria of the Caucasus and could be a relic from the time Alexander conquered India. However there is a strong suspicion that the Elephant could also be seen as a symbol for Zeus as the city is suspected to have a cult of an elephant Zeus though no concrete evidence has yet surfaced. However the theory of the Elephant Zeus is increasingly losing ground as it seems that the elephant God may just be the local God of Kapisa after a few coins has been found which goes “God of Kapisa”. A syncretised local deity with Zeus at this point still cannot be ruled out. This is elephant God however is not present on the coins of Demetrius I but definitely present on the coins of Demetrius II who ruled the city much later. It is suspected therefore that Demetrius I elephant is meant to symbolized Alexandria of the Caucasus and his rule over it ).

Peculiarly enough based upon the coins we know that Demetrius I also had a successful naval battle of some sort, most likely across a river. This is attested from a series of coins all depicting a successful naval battle. One shows a Nike over a galley and the other shows Poseidon Pelagios all indicating some naval battle was won.

Tarn suggest that in Demetrius I left his son Demetrius II in charge of Taxila and proceeded further East with his general Menander. This view has been abandoned by modern numinist who upon closer study of the coins find evidence that Demetrius II has nothing to do with Demetrius I and in fact might be a relative of the Eucratides. The fact is the coins of Demetrius II appears far too late to even be considered to be a son of Demetrius I.

We know that Demetrius I and Menander advanced south into the Paliputra after this. Now if we were to base ourselves on the words of Apollodotus as quoted by Strabo Demetrius I never made it that far south. Only Menander did and it was certain that he crossed the river Hypanis. What we can make of this is unknown. We know that the Greeks did conquer Mathura and even went further than that before they were repelled backwards.

Whatever it is it seems that Demetrius I gave up further conquest. There are a few potential reasons for this. Tarn quoting Justin indicates that Demetrius I had to turn back to Bactria to attack Eucratides who was usurping the Bactrian throne. This is unlikely as we have not found any overstruck coins from Eucratides I by Demetrius I.

The other suggestion is that Euthydemus II died and Demetrius I returned. That Euthydemus II died very young is plausible as we have virtually no coins of Euthydemus II and all the coins depict a very young man. If Demetrius I did return however then why he did not then reign from Bactria is unknown.

It seems that Demetrius I ruled from Taxila till the end of his day. Demetrius I was a typical Hellenistic King and his coins show no evidence of any attempt to make the coins bilingual. His only attempt at localization was with the Artemis Anahita on his coin series but that was already present in the time of Diodotid II. Demetrius I will be the last king to maintain the strict Hellenistic style of coins. After Demetrius I the Greeks who came from Bactria and settled in India will start adopting the culture of the local Indians and fuse it with their Hellenistic culture to become Indo-Greeks.

From this point on all coinage of the Greco-Bactrian Kings and the Indo-Greek Kings will begin to show evidence of true localization with localized syncretic deities and bilingual coins being made. Many will eventually go as far as to produce the Indian style square coins.

Also from the death of Demetrius I till the time his general Menander ascends the throne of the Indo-Greeks,  the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdom will fall into a period of disunity and civil wars.

Alexandrias of the East

(After Demetrius:- Foundations of the Indo-Greeks)

The Greeks… took possession, not only of Patalena but also, on the rest of the coast, of what is called the kingdom of Sarautus and Sigerdis.

Strabo 11.11.1


This garuda standard of Vasudeva

Was erected by the devotee of Helidorus

The son of Dion, the man of Taxila

Sent by the Great Yona ( Greek ) King,

Antialkidas, as ambassador to

King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior

son of the princess from Benares, in the fourteenth year of his reign

Heliodorus Pillar, 110BCE


“The metropolis of this country is Minnagara, from which much cotton cloth is brought down to Barygaza. In these places there remain even to the present time signs of the expedition of Alexander, such as ancient shrines, walls of forts and great wells.”

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 41


In the forty-first volume are contained Parthian and Bactrian affairs. How the government was setup in Parthia by King Arsaces. Then his successors Artabanus and Tigranes, surnamed the Divine, by whom Media and Mesopotamia were subjugated. And the geography of Arabia is given as a digression. In Bactrian affairs, however, how the government was set up by King Diodotus: then, during his reign, the occupation of Bactra and Sogdiana by the Scythian tribes, the Saraucae and the Asiani. Some Indian affairs are added, the exploits of the Apollodotus and Menander, their Kings.

Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus, Prologue Book XLI


Upon the death of Demetrius I the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and its new extension into India as far as we know was divided up between Antimachus I, Agathocles and Pantaleon. This is solely based on nuministic account. We presume that Antimachus I based upon the discovery of the tax receipt which bore his name and the name of Antimachus II is unlikely to be either a relative or appointed by Euthydemus I or Demetrius I to rule over Bactria. However some numinist still holds that Antimachus I is related in some way to Euthydemus I. Of Agathocles and Pantaleon we presume that they are brothers and children of Demetrius I.

Pantaleon based upon the location of his coins is likely to have ruled for a short time over the Arachosia and the Gandahar region. The fact that very little coin of his has been found suggests that he had a very short reign.

Agathocles might have be the king of the Paropamisadae as that is where most his coins are found. His reign is likely longer than Pantaleon given the amount of his coins found.

Antimachus I ruled over Bactria and we will discuss about him more in the subsequent chapter as we return to the Greco-Bactrian states.

It is among this earliest two kings we begin to see a change in the style of the coinage of the two Kings. Even though both Agathocles and Pantaleon on their earlier coin series kept to the typical Hellenistic style of coinage, both eventually began to mint bilingual coin series. Panteleon minted a series of coins in both Brahmi and Greek and in fact incorporated a series of Indian deities on his coins, notably Lakshmi. Notably he minted coins in a typical Ghandhari fashion.

Agathocles likewise minted coins in both Brahmi and Greek but interestingly enough his bilingual series also had Kharosthi. He was the first Hellenic king to mint in Karosthi. His coin series had both a Buddhist series and a Hindu series. In his Buddhist series he had the aniconic stupa and tree ( predating the development of the Buddha-rupa or physical image of the Buddha which will only develop later in Indo-Greek period ). In the Hindu series he coined images of  the Gods Balarama-Sesha and Vasudeva ( Vasudeva is a title of Lord Krishna ).

A peculiarity in both the coin series of Agathocles and Pantaleon is that both their coins are nickel alloys. This interestingly enough may indicate trade with China or at least having weapons from China or exchange of alloying technology with China as nowhere else in the world was such an alloy found. Trade with China at least indirectly is not preposterous as this era marked the beginning of the Han Dynasty in China even though it would be another forty years before Zhang Qian would make his historic visit to the West of China. Another possibility of course is that some weapons from the period of the Warring States made it over to India and got melted down to make coins.

No one exactly knows when but around 170BCE Apollodotus I rose to power. Tarn presumed that Apollodotus I like Menander was a general of Demetrius I, and thus far there is no evidence to refute this. It is likely that the squabble between the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kings created a power vacuum that allowed Apollotodus I to fill the gap.

What Apollotodus I did to make him worthy of a mention by the Trogus source in Justin we do not know. We do know however that Apollodotus I almost exclusively minted in a bilingual style and employed far more square Indian coins than any of his predecessors. The only non-bilingual coin is coin of his found in Bactria and it is also the only coin that we can see his face on.

Apollodotus I minted a lot of Buddhist symbols and Hindu symbols on this coins though this could also be interpreted as the symbol for the cities he ruled. Most of his Indian bilingual coins that has been uncovered shows a bull and an elephant. The bull is believed to symbolize the God Shiva while the elephant the Buddhist faith. However a different interpretation could be that the elephant represents Taxila ( though that in itself would be interesting as it is a Buddhist city ) and the bull the symbol of another city.

However the religious interpretation of the symbols are more likely correct as the earlier elephant symbol in the Apollodotus coin series before they were simplified down clearly had a stupa indicating Buddhism.

Interestingly enough for coins minted in the city of Taxila ( a predominantly Greek city ) though it maintained its Indian coinage the symbols found are that of Apollo and his tripod.

Popular interpretation of the coinage series suggest that Apollodotus I was trying to reach out both to the Indians as well as the Greeks in his kingdom.

Apollodotus I was the first Greek king it seems to actively reach out to the people and appeal to both the Hellenics and the Indians. In this sense we can say that Apollodotus I is the first true Indo-Greek King. From him onwards it became the norm for Indo-Greek kings to strike their coins in a bilingual manner even if the imagery is totally Hellenic as in the case of Antimachus II.

Apollodotus I is believed to either have been succeeded directly by Menander I or by Antimachus II before being succeeded by Menander I.

Antimachus II based upon a discovery of a tax receipt reported in the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik by Rea J R and Hollis A. S. is almost certainly the son of Antimachus I who will discuss more thoroughly in the next chapter.

Beyond that not much is known of Antimachus II. He issued coins both in the square Indian tetradrachm but also the circular coins and made them in bilingual nature, typical of the Indo-Greek Kings. On the circular coin we have an image of him riding a horse and a Nike on the other side. His other coin, a tetradrachm is that of an aegis and a wreath. What these symbolizes is not well known, though some numinist suggest that this might commerate him attacking or mounting a successful defense against Eucratides I.

If Antimachus II did indeed succeed Apollodotus I then the next King in line is Menander I, the most famous Indo-Greek King who is not only mentioned in Classical Western sources but more important is considered a very important personage in Buddhist sources and is well known in Indian sources.

Alexandria of the East

(After Demetrius:-Bactria under Antimachus I, Eucratides I and the Fall of Bactria)

In the reign of Antimachos Theos and Eumenes and Antimachos

Tax receipt found in Bactria, reported in the journal journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik


Almost at the same time that Mithridates ascended the throne among the Parthians, Eucratides began to reign among the Bactrians; both of them being great men. But the fortune of the Parthians, being the more successful, raised them, under this prince, to the highest degree of power; while the Bactrians, harassed with various wars, lost not only their dominions, but their liberty; for having suffered from contentions with the Sogdians, the Drangians, and the Indians, they were at last overcome, as if exhausted, by the weaker6 Parthians. Eucratides, however, carried on several wars with great spirit, and though much reduced by his losses in them, yet, when he was besieged by Demetrius king of the Indians, with a garrison of only three hundred soldiers, he repulsed, by continual sallies, a force of sixty thousand enemies.7 Having accordingly escaped, after a five months’ siege, he reduced India under his power. But as he was returning from the country, he was killed on his march by his son, with whom he had shared his throne, and who was so far from concealing the murder, that, as if he had killed an enemy, and not his father, he drove his chariot through his blood, and ordered his body to be cast out unburied.

Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Chapter XLI


On the left and opposite these peoples are situated the Scythian or nomadic tribes, which cover the whole of the northern side. Now the greater part of the Scythian, beginning at the Caspian Sea , are called Daea, but those who are situated more to the east than these are named Massagatae and Sacae, whereas all the rest are given the general name of Scythians, though each people is given a separate name of its own. They are all for the most part nomads. But the best known of the nomads are those who took away Bactria from the Greeks, I mean the Asii, Pasiani, Tocharians and Sacaruli, who originally came from the country on the other side of the Iaxartes River that adjoins that of the Sacae and the Sogdiani and was occupied by the Sacae. And as for the Dae, some of them are called Aparni, some Xanthii, and some Pissuri. Now of these the Aparni are situated closest to Hyrcania and the part of the sea that borders on it, but the remainder extend even as far as the country that stretches parallel to Aria

Strabo, Geography


The satrapy Turiva and that of Aspionus were taken away from Eucratides by the Parthians.

Strabo Geography


Daxia ( Bactria ) is located over 2,000 li southwest of Dayuan ( Ferghana ), south of the Gui (Oxus) river. Its people cultivate the land and have cities and houses. Their customs are like those of Dayuan. It has no great ruler but only a number of petty chiefs ruling the various cities. The people are poor in the use of arms and afraid of battle, but they are clever at commerce. After the Great Yuezhi moved west and attacked Daxia, the entire country came under their sway. The population of the country is large, numbering some 1,000,000 or more persons. The capital is called the city of Lanshi ( Bactra ) and has a market where all sorts of goods are bought and sold

Sima Qian, Shiji


The great Yueh-chih is situated about 2000 or 3000 li west of Dayuan; they dwell north of the river Kuei (Oxus). To the south of them there is Daxia (Bactrians), to the west, Anxi (Parthians); to the north Kangju(Sogdians)

Sima Qian, Shiji


Following the death of Demetrius I the rule of Bactria fell to a king known as Antimachus I. Initially it was thought that Antimachus I was either a relative or appointee from the Euthymedid Dynasty to rule in Bactria. This notion has been questioned with the discovery of a receipt linking Antimachus I to Antimachus II and an unknown king called Eumene with no mention of predecessor kings like Demetrius or Euthymedus. The fact also that Antimachus I mintage of coins bear little resemblance to the Euthymedids lends credence to the idea that we are dealing with a completely separate lineage from the Euthymedus I and Demetrius I. Antimachus I strongly favoured Poseidon as the Hellenic legend on his coin which separates him from the Euthymedids who favoured Herakles and only minted Poseidon in the legend due to a presumed naval victory.

Barring a single receipt no literary source mentions of Antimachus I. We know he had a very long reign. We also know that during his reign Buddhism became very popular in Bactria. We know this because in many of his coins he depicted a decorated elephant, a symbol of Buddhism in its aniconic stage and on the obverse a Nike holding out a wreath. This has been taken to mean by many numinist that Buddhism is successfully spreading throughout Bactria. The rapid spread of Buddhism is presumably a result of the conquest of India by Demetrius I which presumably allowed increasing contact between the Hellenistic Buddhist cities of Alexandria of the Caucasus and Taxila with the Bactrian North. The second possibility is that during the reign of Antimachus II, son of Antimachus I there was free flow access between the people of Kapisa ( Alexandria of the Caucasus ) and Bactria which sped up the Buddhification of Bactria.

Though Antimachus I had a relatively long reign, his reign came to an end when Eucratides I the Great took power. This if we trust Justin occurred at roughly the same time as when Mithridiates I of Parthia took over power from his brother Phraastes I of Parthia. The timing of Mithridiates I of Parthia accession to the throne is very well dated as is his conquest of Babylonia as is his capture of Demetrius II of the Seleucids. Mithridiates I successful control of Parthia, Persia and Babylon effectively cut the Indo-Greeks and the Greco-Bactrians from the Hellenic world.

If the timing is correct then Eucratides I must have ascended to power in 171BCE or somewhere in that time period.

Now Eucratides is recorded by the historian Justin as having been attacked or attack Demetrius. Which Demetrius though is unknown. It is now believed to have been highly likely to be Demetrius II and likely occurred at the end of the reign Eucratides I.

Citing Justin and Strabo and dating it to Chinese sources it seems that Eucratides I reign was marred by violence and increasing weakening of the Greco-Bactrian state as one area after the other fell to either the nomads or to the Parthians. Eucratides I for example lost two satrapcies to Parthia under Mithridiates. Chinese sources suggest that the Yuezhi migrated to the North of the Oxus during the same timeframe as Eucratides I which means that he would have lost Alexandria Eschate midway through his rule.

Nuministic evidence suggest however that despite losing provinces on his Western frontier and Northern frontier Eucratides I was bent on establishing his power in India. His coins are present in Taxila and Alexandria of the Caucasus which indicates that he had for a time established his power base quite far south. Not only that he was able to produce the tetradrachm indicating that for a time he controlled the Indo-Greek mints and produced bilingual coins. The Indo-Greeks and Greco-Bactrians effectively went into a prolonged period of civil war under Eucratides I and when the Milinda Panha describes the defensive maneuveres of city Menander I was supposed to have been engaging in it could be against Eucratides I.

Nuministic evidence however concludes that it was during the reign of Eucratides I the city of Ai Khanoum, or Alexandria of the Oxus fell and was never rebuilt ever again. This must have been a blow for Eucratides I as it is believed that Ai Khanoum is the city Eucratidae mentioned in Strabo which means it would have been Eucratides capital. This would be a logical choice as it is also the town which mints coins. The latest coins that can be found in the city belongs to that of Eucratides I himself. None of that of his sons like Heliokes I or Eucratides II was ever found in the city which increases support that the city fell in the reign of Eucratides I. The city is believed to have been razed to the ground by fire though it may have been abandoned prior to that due to the increasing Yuezhi presence.

Eucratides I according to Justin was murdered by his own sons. He based on the coinage was taken over by Eucratides II and Heliokes I. Nuministic evidence suggest that the last cities south of the Hindu Kush that answered to the Greco-Bactrians were taken over by Menander I either not long before Eucratides I death or immediately after Eucratides I death.

Heliokes I whilst interestingly enough had a few pedigree coins to his late father Eucratides I did not use the legend of his father ( the Dioskuris ) and favoured a Zeus. Heliokes I got eventually deposed by the Yuezhi.

With him ends the Greek rule in Bactria. Whilst Chinese sources are quite clear that Hellenized civilization persisted to a degree in Bactria under the rule of the nomads and so did settled agriculture, the Greeks who did stay in Bactria no longer self ruled. Even if they did rule it will only be ruled on the level of town and cities which is probably what Zhang Qian observed when he arrived in Bactria nearly two to three decades later.

The Hellenic civilization, cut off from the Mediterrenean by the overland route, savaged in the North by the nomads will now continue in India. Also, while the Greco-Bactrian civilization was collapsing and sighing its last breath, among the Indo-Greeks this was their golden age and it has finally arrived under the rule of Menander I.

Alexandrias of the East

(Menander I the Buddhist and the Apogee of the Indo-Greeks)

Of the two the novice one became the king of the city of Sâgala in India. His name was Milinda ( Menander ), educated, eloquent, wise, and skillful; and a diligent observer, and that at the right time, of all the various acts of devotion and ceremony enjoined by his own knoweldge concerning things past, present, and to come. Many were the arts and sciences he knew, religious traditions and secular laws; the Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, and Vaishika, philosophy, arithmetic, music, medicine; the four Vedas, the Puranas, and the Itihasas; astronomy, causation, the art of war; poetry; conversation–in a word, the whole nineteen

As a disputant he was hard to equal, harder still to overcome. He was as superior as all of the founders of the various schools of thought. And as in wisdom so in the strength of his body, swiftness, and valor there was found none equal to Milinda in all India. He was rich too, mighty in wealth and prosperity, and the number of his armed hosts knew no end.

Milinda Panha ( Questions of King Menander )


Thereupon the five hundred Yonas ( Greeks ) said to Milinda ( Menander ): ‘There are the six Masters, your majesty. Kassapa, Makkhali, the Nigantha, Sangaya, Agita, and Pakudha. These are famous founders of schools, having numerous disciples, and highly honoured by the people. Go, great king! Ask them your questions and have them resolved.

So king Milinda, followed by the five hundred Yonas ( Greeks ), mounted the royal car with its splendid decoration, went out to the dwelling-place of Purana, exchanged with him friendly greetings, and took his seat courteously apart. And thus sitting he said to him, ‘Who is it, venerable Kassapa, who rules the world?’

‘The Earth, great king, rules the world!’

‘But, venerable Kassapa, if it be the Earth that rules the world, how comes it that some men go to the Avici, thus getting outside the sphere of the Earth?

When he had thus spoken, neither could Purana Kassapa conider the puzzle, nor could he bring it up. Crestfallen, driven to silence, and depressed, there he sat.

Then Milinda the king said to Makkhali ‘Are there, venerable Gosala, good and evil acts? Is there such a thing as fruit, ultimate result, of good and evil acts?’

‘There are no such acts, your majesty. No such fruit or ultimate result exist. Those who here in the world are now nobles, they when they go to the other world, will become nobles once more. And those who are Brahmans, or of the middle class, or workpeople, or outcasts here, will in the next world and become the same. What then is the use of good or evil acts? ‘

‘If, venerable Gosala, things are as you say, by parity of reasoning, those here in this world, having a hand cut off, must in the next world become persons with a hand cut off, and in like manner those who have had a foot cut off or an ear or their nose!’

And at this saying Gosala was silenced.

Then thought Milinda the king thought: ‘All India is an empty thing, it is verily like chaff! There is no one, either recluse or Brahman, capable of discussing things with me, and dispelling my doubts.’ And he said to his ministers: ‘Beautiful is the night and pleasant! Who is the recluse or Brahman we can visit tonight to question him, who will be able to converse with us and dispel our doubts?’ And at that saying the counsellors remained silent, and stood there gazing upon the face of the king.

Milinda Panha (Questions of King Menander)


-Has it ever happened to you, O king, that rival kings rose up against you as enemies and opponents?

-Yes, certainly.

-Then you set to work, I suppose, to have moats dug, and ramparts thrown up, and watch towers erected, and strongholds built, and stores of food collected?

-Not at all. All that had been prepared beforehand.

-Or you had yourself trained in the management of war elephants, and in horsemanship, and in the use of the war chariot, and in archery and fencing?

-Not at all. I had learnt all that before.

-But why?

-With the object of warding off future danger

Milinda Panha (Questions of King Milinda )


The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also India, so Apollodotus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander— by Menander in particular (at least if he actually crossed the Hypanis towards the east and advanced as far as the Imaus), for some were subdued by him personally and others by Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus, the king of the Bactrians. They took over not only the Patalene but also the rest of the coast, which is called the Kingdom of Saraostos and Sigerdis. In sum, Appolodorus says that Bactria is the Jewel of all Ariana, moreover, they extended their empire as far as the Seres and Phryni



After a man named Menander had reigned well as king in Bactria and then died in camp, the cities observed the other usual funeral rites, but they quarreled over his actual remains and with difficulty agreed to divide up his ashes into equal shares to set up monuments of the man beside all the cities

Plutarch, Moralia


To the present day ancient drachmae are current in Barygaza, coming from this country, bearing inscriptions in Greek letters, and the devices of those who reigned after Alexander, Apollodotus and Menander.

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 47


On the 14th day of Kārttika, in the reign of Maharaja Minadra ( Milinda ), (in the year ????), (the corporeal relic) of Sakyamuni, which is endowed with life… has been established

Buddhist reliquary found in Bajaur


Of the king of kings, Great Savior, Just, Victorious, and Invincible Menander …

Brahmi pillar inscription, 150BCE


After having conquered Saketa, the country of the Panchala and the Mathuras, the Yavanas( The Greeks ), wicked and valiant, will reach Kusumadhvaja

Garghi Samita, Chapter Yuga Purana, circa 150BCE


Of all the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kings known to us one common theme in general is noted.

None of them are mentioned in Indian literature or are known in mainstream Indian history.  The mention of Dimitra or Demetrius I was only discovered by chance owing to a discovery of the still relatively intact Inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga on the Hathigumpta pillar. Otherwise even he would be unknown from the Indian side. Though the visit of Antiochus III to India after his attack on the Euthymedids is alluded to in Indian history there is no mention of the events of the preceding two years prior to his visit in the Kambojas ( Bactria ) in known Indian text. Apollodotus and Eucratides though very important kings, one an Indo-Greeks, the other a Greco-Bactrian are not mentioned by name in any Indian text and we can only suspect that Eucratides got defeated by Menander I based upon an allusion in the Milinda Panha, or Questions of King Milinda. Even the various kings we know from coinage like Strato I or Zoilos I or Heliokes II who obviously ruled within India are unmentioned in Indian literary history.

In fact virtually all mentions we have of the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kings comes from Classical Western sources. If it were not for Classical Western sources we would have no idea about Euthydemus or the exploits of Eucratides or even that Apollodotus was a great King.

The one exception to this rule however is Menander I. Believed to have started his rule somewhere in 165BCE and ended his rule somewhere between 130BCE, he is the one Indo-Greek King to have a mention in Indian history and in fact is well known in Indian history. He is the Yavana King ( Greek King ) who is mentioned in the Yuga Purana as the Greek king who arrived at Pancala and Mathura.

But he is also the same King Milinda whose conversation with a historically unverifiable Nagasena became one of the most important Socratic style dialogue in Buddhist literature. The Milinda Panha, or Questions of King Milinda is believed to be a possible collection of the discussions of King Milinda with various Buddhist monks. In fact of all the Greek names Milinda is the one name that got integrated into standard Indian names, with Milinda being one of the more popular Sinhalese names.

So who is Menander I? One thing we know for sure, he was a Greek born in India, specifically either in Alexandria of the Caucasus or Alexandria of the Arachosia though based upon the Milinda Panha Alexandria of the Caucasus is likely. The way the Milinda Panha describes the Menander I is that he was obviously born to a commoner family though whether there is royal connection is unknown. We know that Menander though having a good Hellenic upbringing also had a lot of interaction and contact with the local Indians to the point he was able to converse with them in the Indian languages and if the Milinda Panha is to be trusted has mastered the subtle nuances of most Indian philosophies and ideas. This will not be surprising as Alexandria of the Caucasus which is most likely the birthplace of Menander I was a mixing pot of Indian, Persian and Greek culture and Menander I would have ample opportunity as a child to interact with and understand the Indian culture.

Tarn suggest that Menander I is a general to Demetrius I and together conquered India. This is based upon Strabo which suggests that both together conquered India. Tarn also suggests that Demetrius I betrothed to Menander I his daughter, Agalathoceia. That Menander I married Agalathoceia we can be certain based upon the coinage but whether she is a daughter of Demetrius I is unknown.

That Menander I rose to power as king after the death of Apollodotus I is certain. Based upon nuministic evidence and suggestions in the Milinda Panha we can assume that he defeated Eucratides I early in the course of his rule. With Eucratides I defeated and later died Menander was the first Indo-Greek king to rule solely over all of the Paraposimidae, Arachosia, Gandhara, and Western Punjab. Based on the Yuga Purana and hinted in the Milinda Panha and in Strabo and based upon nuministic evidence during his reign he extended the rule of the Indo-Greeks into the Eastern Punjab though further expansion was repelled by virtue his own soldiers began to squabble amongst themselves.

Menander I likely was the sole ruler of the Indo-Greek Kingdoms for most of his reign. His capital based upon the Milinda Panha is Sagala. This is believed to be modern Sialkot. There is certainly a lot of his coins are recovered in that area which increases the likelihood that this is true.

His reign likely heralded an economic boom for the Indo-Greeks as his coins are the commonest amongst the Indo-Greek Kings. His coins are found in relatively large numbers in virtually every city that we know he ruled from. This indicates at economic activity and trade between the cities under his rule were extremely high. The city of Taxila which is under the rule of King Menander had an entire layer of building built between 200-100BCE. The Milinda Panha describes his capital Sagala in a state of economic boom as stated below.

There is in the country of the Yonas ( Greeks ) a great centre of trade, a city that is called Sagala, situated in a delightful country well watered and hilly. It is abundant in parks and gardens and groves and lakes and tanks, a paradise of rivers and mountains and woods. Wise architects have laid it out, and its people know of no oppression, since all their enemies and adversaries have been put down. Brave is its defence, with many and various strong towers and ramparts, with superb gates and entrance archways; and with the royal citadel in its midst, white walled with a deep moat. Well planned are its streets, squares, cross roads, and market places. Well displayed are the innumerable sorts of costly merchandise with which its shops are filled. It is richly adorned with hundreds of alms-halls of various kinds; and splendid with hundreds of thousands of magnificent mansions, which rise aloft like the mountain peaks of the Himalayas. Its streets are filled with elephants, horses, carriages, and foot-passengers, frequented by groups of handsome men and beautiful women, and crowded by men of all sorts and conditions, Brahmans, nobles, artificers, and servants. They resound with cries of welcome to the teachers of every creed, and the city is the resort of the leading men of each of the differing sects. Shops are there for the sale of Benares muslin, of Kotumbara stuffs, and of other cloths of various kinds; and sweet odors are exhaled from the bazaars, where all sorts of flowers and perfumes are tastefully set out. Jewels are there in plenty, such as men’s hearts desire, and guilds of traders in all sorts of finery display their goods in the bazaars that face all quarters of the sky. So full is the city of money, and of gold and silver ware, of copper and stone ware, that it is a very mine of dazzling treasures. And there is laid up there much store of property and corn and things of value in warehouses-foods and drinks of every sort, syrups and sweetmeats of every kind. In wealth it rivals Uttara-kuru, and in glory it is as Âlakamandâ, the city of the gods.

Domestic trade was not the only economic growth during the rule of Menander I. International trade with the Indo-Greek states probably reached its height as the coins for Menander I can be found as far afield as England and is definitely found in various Seleucid states. We know that the Seleucid empire in the Mediterrenean had a sudden increase in trade with India between 175BCE to 150BCE.

The Milinda Panha also suggested that in the Indo-Greek kingdom itself anyway there was relative security and that the rule of King Menander I was also one where there is increasing level of social and military security. Milinda Panha suggest that this was because King Menander I was very good at pre-empting potential danger against his kingdom.

King Menander I it seemed promoted a great degree of interaction between the Hellenics in his Kingdom and the Indians. He produced a far larger number of bilingual coins than anyone else and if the Milinda Panha can be trusted he himself is very fluent in the local languages and spent a great deal of time interacting with the Indians. His capital Sagala is an interesting choice of city to rule from as it is an Indian city, not a Greek style polis. However archaeological evidence dating from the second century BCE and first century BCE shows that despite being an Indian city a lot of Hellenic style buildings with Indian features were built in that very Indian city. King Menander I could have easily ruled from a Hellenic city like his birth city of Alexandria of the Caucasus or Taxila. Instead he chose to rule from an Indian city and add Hellenic elements to it.

Menander I coinage is interesting. His favourite deity it seems is Athena, a deity that has never been syncretised or Orientalized. The other deities on his coinage is Herakles and Zeus. What it unique about his coinage is that from very early on some depictions of Athena and Zeus on his coinage are depicted doing a Buddhist style mudra. So though he chose very Hellenic deities to be represented on the legends of his coins, they had very Buddhist features about them. The other Athena of course is the Athena with thunderbolt.

His choice of Athena has alluded to some authors that though Menander ruled India he wanted his subjects to remember that he was still a Hellenic King. However his Athena with mudra was also meant to show his subject of his concurrent Buddhist faith. Another theory is that this is also meant to appeal to the local Greeks who adhere to the Buddhist philosophies but still practice the Hellenic religion. This symbolization of Greek Gods extending their hand with a Buddhist mudra must have been very popular among the populace as virtually all Indo-Greek kings after Menander depicted the Greek Gods in that manner.

Which leads us to why Menander I made it into Indian literature in the first place. The only reason why Menander I is so famous in Indian literature is that he is the main character in the Buddhist literary text the Milinda Panha. The text records the many questions of Menander I and his subsequent conversion to Buddhism and his renunciation of his throne. Based upon the Milinda Panha, Menander I was the first Western ruler to have converted to Buddhism.

The idea that Menander I renounced the world and became a monk can be dismissed immediately as no evidence from coinage indicates that this ever occurred. Moreover the part of the Milinda Panha that records his becoming a monk is considered by most Buddhist scholars and monks to be a later add. The part where he became a monk was written in the time when Menander I was considered a champion of Buddhism at par with Asoka and Kaniskha and attempts were made to conform his stories with that of the Buddha.

The later monks could also have been confused by the story of Menander I and Menander II, given that both have similar names and both are Buddhist. Menander I is the obvious Great King who defended cities and who conquered various parts of India while Menander II is a very, very Buddhist king who ruled much later and definitely not in the glory days of the Indo-Greeks as stated in the Milinda Panha. The sharp witted, curious, intelligent King who asked the much broader style questions in the first few books of the Milinda Panha must be Menander I whilst the King who asked the very Indian style philosophy and religious questions like the quality of mountain heights and a fishermen in Book VII must be Menander II and it is in Book VII that Menander II is said to become a monk. Renunciation of the world to become a monk is not surprising for the deeply religious Menander II but will be utterly unlikely for Menander I.

However that he became a lay Buddhist at least is difficult to deny. For one other Indo-Greek kings who were obviously Buddhist alluded to his conversion to Buddhism in their coins. His coinage already shows Athena and Zeus with a Buddhist mudra. Then there is another coin of him depicted with his face then another with the symbol of the Dharma Wheel. Then there is another coin of his series which shows an eight spoke Wheel of Buddhism and a Dharma wheel. Absent from his coin series however at the popular appellation of later Indo-Greek kings calling themselves follower of the Dharma.

The nature of his funeral described in Plutarch also likely indicate that he was a Buddhist. According to Plutarch, Menander I had a cremation and his ashes was entombed in various stupas, typical of a burial of any Buddhist monarch.

There are suggestions that Menander I himself never became a Buddhist but responded to the rising tide of Buddhism in the Indo-Greek kingdoms. It is true that the Bajaur casket indicates that Buddhism was indeed spreading in the Indo-Greek kingdom but in India religions did not usually spread without some form of royal patronage. The Brahmanic religion was already on the rise in India under the Sungas and there is no reason why Buddhism would thrive in the Indo-Greek states from Menander I onwards unless there was patronage, usually royal of some sort for Buddhism. Religions tend to rise and fall due to various patronages by various Kings and the Buddhism in the Indo-Greek states would be no exception to the rule.

By the end of the reign of Menander I the Indo-Greek state has enjoyed its singular longest and sustained period of economic growth, The Indo-Greeks has enjoyed a few decades of relative peace and relative security. The Indo-Greeks are also living in a society that is getting increasingly more Indo-Greek as opposed to Hellenic and Indian. It is living in a society where a new form of Buddhism known as Greco-Buddhism is taking root.

After the death of Menander I the Indo-Greek kingdom will begin to fragment under the rule of various kings and would eventually collapse under the increasing expansion of the nomads. The death of the Menander I marked the end of the golden age of the Indo-Greeks.

Alexandrias of the East

(Division and Fall of the Indo-Greeks)

The country inland from Barygaza is inhabited by numerous tribes, such as the Arattii, the Arachosii, the Gandaraei and the people of Poclais, in which is Bucephalus Alexandria. Above these is the very warlike nation of the Bactrians, who are under their own king. And Alexander, setting out from these parts, penetrated to the Ganges, leaving aside Damirica and the southern part of India; and to the present day ancient drachmae are current in Barygaza, coming from this country, bearing inscriptions in Greek letters, and the devices of those who reigned after Alexander, Apollodorus and Menander.

Periplus of the Erythraean sea


The history of the Indo-Greeks after the death of Eucratides and Menander is indeed difficult to reconstruct. The slender thread of literary evidence breaks off; the tribes which destroyed Indo-Greek power  are barely mentioned in the classical sources

A.     K. Narain: The Indo-Greeks, Revisited and Supplemented


in the one hundred and sixteenth year of the reign of the Yavanas ( Greeks )

Well in Mathura, ?100BCE


Beyond is Arachosia. And the Parthians call this White India; there are the city of Biyt and the city of Pharsana and the city of Chorochoad and the city of Demetrias; then Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia; it is Greek, and by it flows the river Arachotus. As far as this place the land is under the rule of the Parthians.

Isodorus of Charax, Parthian Stations, 100BCE


This garuda standard of Vasudeva

Was erected by the devotee of Helidorus

The son of Dion, the man of Taxila

Sent by the Great Yona ( Greek ) King,

Antialkidas, as ambassador to

King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior

son of the princess from Benares, in the fourteenth year of his reign

Heliodorus Pillar, 110BCE


The meridarch Theodorus has enshrined relics of Lord Shakyamuni, for the welfare of the mass of the people.

Found inside a relic vase in a stupa, dated to the reign of Menander the Just ( Menander II )


The world of the Indo-Greek after the death of Menander I is indeed a blur as we have virtually no literary records to guide us in this time. All we have are nuministic evidence provided by coins and a few inscriptions like that of the Heliodorus pillar.

Immediately upon the death of Menander I the traditional view is that the power of rule fell upon his wife Agathocleia. Not much is known about her, save that she is the mother of Strato I, the presumed heir which she was acting as regent for. She is frequently depicted as a woman with an Indianized hairstyle. Her legend is that of Athena, similar to her husband Menander I. That she was probably a Buddhist is indicated by herself being depicted as making the Buddhsit gesture and

It seems that Agathocleia failed to hold her husband’s kingdom intact and Zoilos I took over the Paropamisadae and the Arachosia. There are evidence that Zoilos I was already trying to take over these places during the reign of Menander I as some of Menander I’s coins have been overstruck by Zoilos I.

Zoilos I was an interesting king as he is definitely a Buddhist King as he call himself “Follower of the Dharma”. This must have been popular amongst the Indo-Greeks as subsequent kings started calling themselves that.

From this point on in general the Indo-Greek kingdoms would be ruled by two kings. The Western provinces cover the Paropamisadae and Arachosia, the Eastern provinces cover Gandahar and Western Punjab. Eastern Punjab fell to the Indian Kings not long after Menander I either in the reign of Agathocleia or Strato I. The Eastern Punjab will only be taken back by Apollodotus II and will be the last seat of the Indo-Greeks king till the collapse of the Indo-Greek kingdom after Strato II.

Zoilos I and Agathocleia both had a relatively short rule before Lysias took over the position of Zoilos I and Strato I ascended the throne of his mother.

Strato I had a relatively long reign though it seems he lost all of the Eastern Punjab during this reign. It seems he was in constant conflict with Lysias and later Antichaldis I as his coins got overstruck many times.

Antichaldis I is one of the two Kings post the death of Menander I whom we have any record of his name beyond coins. He is the king whose name is mentioned on the Heliodorus pillar. Interestingly enough all his coins are minted in the Greco-Bactrian style though it was mostly bilingual. He also mints interesting legends which shows a Zeus with an elephant. Whether this represents a syncretised version of Zeus or the God of Taxila it is unknown. His rule is believed to be as long as that of Strato I and was likely more successful.

It seemed that Strato I fell from power and he was overtaken by a Heliokles II. His coin marking is very similar to that of Heliokles I and bear a lot of similarity to Antichaldis I. Modern historians believe he might be a relative of Heliokles I and Antichaldis I.

It seems that both Heliokles II and Antichaldis I ruled over a very long period indeed, both are commonly believed to have started their reign between 120BCE to 115BCE and ended their reign almost simultaneously somewhere in 95BCE.

The reason their reign could have terminated so abruptly is due to the coming of a King Philoxenus. His coins are both a mix of tetradrachm and Greco-Bactrian coins and are found throughout every major city from Arachosia to Eastern Punjab though not in large volumes and only over a very short time period. It is suspected that Philoxenus actually united the Indo-Greek Empire for an extremely brief period, usually put to be under five years if not even less. His money is widespread but not present in large quantities or in vast series as is the case of long reigning kings. This indicates that he ruled over a wide area but not for very long. Heliokles II and Antichaldis I may have been deposed by this up and rising king who took over both their kingdoms.

Philoxenus extremely brief reign is succeded by three Kings. Diomedes who is believed to be his son in the Parapomisadea, Amyntas in Arachosia and Gandahar, Epander in Western Punjab. Of these three Amyntas ruled the longest and his legend was mostly filled with the Menander style Athena leading people to wonder whether this is a descendant of Strato I. Amyntas ruled long enough for his coins to have a few known series in it. Interestingly enough Amyntas reign may be even longer than previously thought with the realization that his coins were overstruck by Heliokles II who we know was succeeded by Philoxenus.

The other two Kings Diomedes and Epander had very short reigns and were quickly succeeded as far as we can tell by Theosphilos and Thraso respectively. Both these kings likewise had extremely short reign. All their reigns are believed to be about one to two years. If fact were it not for a chance find of a single coin of Thraso we would not even know that this king had even existed in the first place.

Amyntas death meant that Peukaloas took over the position of king in Gandahar and Arachosia but his reign was also very short.

Peukalos was succeeded by a very Buddhist king known as Menander the Just or Menander the Second between 90 to 70BCE The reason we know that he is very religious is that his coins are almost exclusively Buddhist. His coins show an Athena with mudra on one side and the other side the Buddhist lions for example. He calls himself the King of the Dharma on all coins we can find on him. His Zeus was in mudra. His coins were all bilingual with the Greek side claiming his title to be Menander the Just and the Karoshti side Follower of the Dharma. In fact because the Athena symbology he favoured plus the fact that his coins were so Buddhist in symbology earlier numinist mistakenly believe this King to be the same King Menander I who became a Buddhist and thought that he became very Buddhist indeed. This has now been proven to be not the case and what is likely is that Menander II is a descendant or at least related to House Menander ( hence the prevalence of the Athena symbol on his coins like that of Amyntas ) and is a very devout Buddhist.

There are even speculations that the Milinda Panha may consist of two parts. The earlier part was almost certainly discussing about Menander I but the later books where Menander almost seemed to have a monkish countenance may actually be Menander II. The composition of the earlier books of the Milinda Panha coincided with the time of the reign of Menander II so it could be that this very Buddhist king oversaw the composition of the text of his ancestor’s Menander I conversion to Buddhism. The Milinda Panha underwent a second composition centuries later and in those composition we have description of a Menander on a throes of becoming a monk ( which does not correlate with what we know of Menander I ). It is likely that monks in the fourth century CE thought that both Menanders are the same Menander and decided to complete the Milinda Panha with the popular story circulating at the time that a king called Menander became a Buddhist monk.

An interesting fact about Menander II is that we know that a Meridarch called Theodosus enshrined the relic of the Buddha during his reign. We also know that the building of a lot of stupa in the area of Gandahar occurred during this rule, further reinforcing the notion of a very Buddhist king.

Though he was not a powerful King in that he never expanded his rule he did rule for a longer time than most Indo-Greek Kings. His coins like that of Amyntas has many series and were all bilingual.

Menander II was succeded by Archebeius, also very Buddhist. He it seems did expand the kingdom of Menander II to cover the Western Punjab. However his kingdom collapsed while still under his rule to the combined invasion of the Yuezhi and the Sacae tribes.

Nicias ruled the Arachosia at around the same time as Menander II but we have no idea about his history  but we know that he ruled as long as Menander II.

Nicias was either succeeded or actually had a co-rule with Hermaeus as ruler of the Arachosia. We happen to know quite a few things about Hermaeus. We know that he was the husband of Kalliope because he issued a series of coins depicting her with him. His legend is interesting as it is that of Zeus-Mithra. His rule is probably very long and interestingly enough we have coins of his being overstruck by Amyntas indicating that his rule is far longer than previously thought. In fact some theories suggest that Hermaus ruled the exclusively the Western frontier of the Arachosia and the city of Alexandria of the Arachosia. This is consistent with nuministic findings where most of his coins are only ever found in Gandahar.

Hermaeus kingdom must have fallen relatively intact to the Yuezhi nomads as after Hermaeus collapse virtually all coins of the Yuezhi nomads were modelled after his coins.

In fact there are increasing theories that Hermaeus may not have fallen at all as previously thought but rather that his kingdom was succeeded by the Yuezhi in an intact and organized manner. This certainly make sense given that the Yuezhi seemed to have become Hellenized relatively quickly and that the Yuezhi nomads actually made coins to honor him posthumously!! This is not something you do to a deposed king.

Interestingly enough the later nomad kings half a century later like Kujula Kaphises, known to the Chinese as the great nomad King Qiujueque has entire coin series that has the face and name of King Hermaeus on the obverse. This is a common technique to depict an ancestor. If this is true, than Hermaeus likely married a Yuezhi and from him came the line of the Indo-Greek Yuezhi kings.

The Indo-Greeks fell to the invasion of the Sacae in Western Punjab and Gandahar region and in Arachosia and the Hindu Kush fell to the Yuezhi. This all happened between 70BCE to 60BCE. However this setback is only temporary as would be expanded on later.

Even though the Indo-Greek kingdoms post Menander I was always in some way or the other in political turmoil and had constant civil war, this period also marked a flourishing of economic activity and art. A lot of coins from other civilizations are found in towns and cities throughout Arachosia, the Hindu Kush, Gandahara and the Punjab during this period indicating that a lot of trade was still going on.

This period also marked the flourishing period in Buddhist thought and also Greco-Buddhist art. During the period from the later rule of Menander I to the first fall of the Indo-Greeks a form of art known as Greco-Buddhist art emerged. Among the most important product from this art is the Buddha rupa or the shape of the Buddha. It is in this period and in the area ruled by the Indo-Greeks that the first human Buddha image appeared. We know that Buddhism became important to the Indo-Greeks due to the allusion of their kings on their coins but also by the number of stupas built. A lot of stupas present throughout modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan had their foundation built in this time period.

A flourishing of Buddhist thought likely happened at this time.

The Indo-Greek kingdom was traditionally dated to have permanently collapsed and fallen under the rule of Hermaeus by 65 BCE when the Yuezhi tribe took over. However that is true only in Arachosia and in the Hindu Kush but in the East we can see the story was rather different. Remember that even though the Indo-Greek kings fell the Greeks and Hellenized Indians were still staying in the cities and towns and would prove a source of resistance to the rulers.

Maues was the Indo-Scythian king was the king who took over from the rule of Archebios somewhere in 70BCE and governed both the Western Punjab and Gandahar.

However his rule in the Western Punjab seemed very short lived due to a rising star, Apollodotus II.

Apollodotus II reconquered Taxila in a matter of a few years of Indo-Scythian rule from the hands of Maues and re-established Indo-Greek rule in that area. It is possible that the Greek majority in Taxila did not like the rule of Maues and supported Apollodotus II.

We know that Apollotodus II is from the line of royals due to his coinage which states that he is father loving. We know that he was a very strong ruler and probably a very strong military man as well as all evidence indicates that not only did he wrest back the control of Taxila from the Indo-Scythians, he also took over the Eastern Punjab. We know that he came into severe conflict with Maues as he overstruck many coins of Maues.

Apollodotus II presided over a minor economic boom as his coins were numerous and were found in many cities both in and outside the Eastern and Western Punjab area. He ruled for about a decade in so far as we can tell. Under him the Indo-Greeks had a single king and a united rule.

However as is the case of the Indo-Greek kingdoms the moment Apollodotus II died his kingdom split. His sons Hippostratos and Dionysios likely disagreed over who should rule and warred with each other as both their coins were overstruck frequently by each others coinage. Hippostratos appears to be the stronger of the two kings as his coinage is more numerous and of better quality and less of his coins got overstruck as opposed to Dionysios. There is a good evidence that Hippostratos fought a war on two fronts. One against his brother, the other against Azes I. Dionysios likely died earlier than him and his coins were later also overstruck by Zoilos II.

Hippostratos had multiple series of coins indicating that he ruled for a relatively long time though he eventually collapsed when the Indo-Scythian king Azes finally took over the rule of the Western Punjab in 50BCE. With the rule of Azes the Greeks would never again rule over the Western Punjab.

Dionysios likely died in 55BCE before his brother and was succeeded by his son Zoilos II. Zoilos II likely pressured his uncle Hippostratos I until Azes took over. Under Zoilos II the kingdom of the Indo-Greek in the Eastern Punjab likely shrunk, probably under the attack of the Indo-Scythians.

Zoilos II despite this ruled for a long time and was finally succeeded by Apollophanes. Apollophane coins were of poor quality and began to lose a lot of quality of Greco-Bactrian and Greek minting coin style. This lends support to the idea that Apollophane was only a local ruler but was Indo-Greek nonetheless. Apollophane coins are only found in modern day Sialkot which indicates that Sagala is likely his only area of rule.

The last king of the Indo-Greeks was Strato II. We know that his rule was relatively long as he has a few series of coins. His rule like his father Apollophanes was likely limited to only Sagala as that is where most of his coins are found. It is unlikely Strato II had access to a good Hellenic mint as his coins were not only of poor quality, they had spelling mistakes on it. The economy in this time must have been poor as he is the only king to have issued lead coin series and most of his coins were bronze and his silver coins were all debased silver. His legend is that of Pallas Athena.

Strato II never overstruck other coins. His rule likely ended in 10CE as we know that the King Rajuvela of the Indo-Scythians ruled over the city of Sagala in 10CE immediately after deposing of the old king.

With Strato II deposed the Indo-Greeks will never rule again. The long illustrious chapter of the Greeks in the East, starting with Alexander the Great, with independence under the rule of the Diodotids, the invasion of India by Demetrius, consolidation of the Indo-Greek empire by the Menander will finally end with Strato II whose rule most likely never exceeded very far beyond the wall of the city of Sagala.

Alexandrias of the East

(Culture and Religion of the Greco-Bactrian and the Indo-Greeks)

These wise words of ancient men are set up,
utterances of famous men, in holy Delphi,
Clearchus copied them carefully and set them up,
shining from afar, in the sanctuary of Kineas:

As children, be well behaved,

as young men, be self controlled

in middle age, be just

in old age, be wise

then die, without regret

Delphic Maxims, found in the Sanctuary of Kineas in Ai Khanoum


Atrosokes dedicated this ex-voto to the Oxus.”

Greek style altar to the River Oxus, 2nd century AD


Of the wild beast …. set up this in the sacred precinct, the son of Aristonax Alex .. among his fellow citizens and of my savior ….

Ai Khanoum, on Greek funerary urns dated 300-250BC


And I hear that the maidens of Lydia of Bactria who dwells along the Halys River worship Artemis the Tmolian goddess

Atheneaus, Deipnosophistae


Triballos and Strato, sons of Strato, to Hermes and to Herakles

Ai Khanoum, Greek gymnasium dedication dated ca 200-150BCE


Heliodotos dedicated this fragrant altar (???) so that the greatest of all kings Euthydemus, as well as his son, the glorious, victorious and remarkable Demetrius, be protected from all pains, with the help of Tykhe with divine thoughts

Greek dedication found in Kuliab, circa 200-190BCE


This garuda standard of Vasudeva

Was erected by the devotee of Helidorus

The son of Dion, the man of Taxila

Sent by the Great Yona ( Greek ) King,

Antialkidas, as ambassador to

King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior

son of the princess from Benares, in the fourteenth year of his reign

Heliodorus Pillar, 110BCE


The meridarch Theodorus has enshrined relics of Lord Shakyamuni, for the welfare of the mass of the people.

Found inside a relic vase in a stupa, dated to the reign of Menander the Just ( Menander II )


The thera Dhammarakkhita the Yona ( the Greek ), being gone to Aparantaka and having preached in the midst of the people the Aggikkhandhopama-sutta gave to drink of the nectar of truth to thirty-seven thousand living beings who had come together there, lie who perfectly understood truth and untruth. A thousand men and yet more women went forth from noble families and received the pabbajja



“From Alasanda ( Alexandria  of the Caucasus) the city of the Yonas ( Greeks ) came the Thera Yonamahadhammarakkhita ( The Greek High Monk Dhammarakkhita ) with thirty thousand bhikkhus ( monks ).”

Mahavasma, Chapter XXIX


The regions around Dayuan ( Ferghana, likely the seat of Alexandria of Eschate ) make wine out of grapes, the wealthier inhabitants keeping as much as 10,000 or more bottles stored away. It can be kept for as long as twenty or thirty years without spoiling. The people love their wine and the horses love their alfalfa. The Han envoys brought back grape and alfalfa seeds to China and the emperor for the first time tried growing these plants in areas of rich soil. Later, when the Han acquired large numbers of the “heavenly horses” and the envoys from foreign states began to arrive with their retinues, the lands on all sides of the emperor’s summer palaces and pleasure towers were planted with grapes and alfalfa for as far as the eye could see

Sima Qian, Shiji


Thus far the entire article on the Alexandrias of the East has focused merely upon the history and events, usually political the Greco-Bactrians and their predecessors the Indo-Greeks experienced. What have not been focused on is who the Greco-Bactrians are and who are the later Indo-Greeks. What is it that made them special? What is the difference between the Greco-Bactrians and the Indo-Greeks? In what way are the Greco-Bactrians different than to say the Greeks in Greece or the Greeks in Egypt at the time?

To know the Indo-Greeks we must first know the Greco-Bactrians and to know the Greco-Bactrians we are going to need to know the cultural origins of the Greco-Bactrians.

When Alexander the Great settled his many cities throughout Bactria he settled those cities not only with Macedonians but also natives and also soldiers from the Persian army. Thus the heritage of the Greco-Bactrians from the start was a fusion between a Hellenistic culture, a Bactrian culture ( that was quite Persian ) and a Persian/Zoroastrian style culture. We however know that the Greeks and probably the Hellenized Persians wanted more a Greek style of life as the revolt during Alexander’s time was because the Greeks wanted to live a Hellenized lifestyle.

When the Seleucids realized that they needed a more Hellenized culture to settle in Bactria ( and most provinces under their rule ) in order for them to govern the area better they enacted a klearchos system that basically encouraged people to migrate. It is very unlikely that the klearchos system resulted in mass migration of the Greeks from the Aegean Peninsula or Asia Minor to Bactria, and genetic testing of the modern population in Afghanistan testifies to the low likelihood of this. However the Hellenized population of the time were not only in Greece, they could be found in Babylon and other Middle Eastern cities. Hellenization has already started nearly 30 to 40 years prior in Babylon and its surrounding areas and there are good evidence to indicate that there were a substantial Greek speaking and Hellenized population in that area. Evidence from Susa indicates that there was heavy migration of people from the Middle East to Susa under the klearchus system, and there is no reason why the Klearchus system did not do the same in Bactria.

The Greco-Bactrians point to be made were mostly very Hellenic with a touch of their Persian heritage showing through at least in the city areas. The ruins of Ai Khanoum and excavations in the city of Alexandria of the Arachosia testifies to the fact that these people lived a very Hellenc lifestyle. Ai Khanoum or what we believe is Alexandria of the Oxus is described by archaeologist as the Hellenic oasis of the East.

In this extremely well preserved polis we have a gymnasium which is one of the largest of its kind in the Hellenic world. We have a 5000 seat theatre to which we can presume that Greek plays of all sorts were played from. We have a Macedonian style palace with a library though not much of it is left. The architecture of the city had Rhodian porticoes, Corinthian style tiles and Athenian propylae. We have found amphoras that probably contained olive oil which means that the city must have imported it as olive does not grow in the Bactrian area. We find a wine press and the Chinese were already quite clear that even 150 years later wine was still grown quite extensively throughout the countryside. We find Megaran style bowls and cutleries in the ruins of the city. We find figurines of Aphrodite and Hermes that probably once were part of family devotion in the many Delian style houses that straddled along the city cliff.

In the middle of the city we find the sanctuary of Kineas. Who Kineas is we do not know but he was probably important in the early foundation of the city and very likely received hero worship. On it we note that a Klearchos has put a slab in the sanctuary of Kineas with the Delphic maxim, which makes it very likely that the sanctuary of Kineas was also the focus of the town.

We know that the people held very typical Greek positions in the city. The fragmentary inscription found throughout the city had positions such as market supervisors and assayers.

We know that people in this city paid homage to Hermes and Herakles. We also know however that they paid homage to various Gods in Persian style temples, one of them likely to be Zeus and the other likely to be the syncretic Goddess Artemis Anahita who we know was very popular amongst the Greco-Bactrian. Artemis Anahita we know is a syncretic fusion between the Greek Artemis and the Bactrian goddess Anahita who is believed to be Goddess of the Moon but also the waterways. Greco-Bactrian rulers began to formally stamp this Goddess on their coins as early as the reign of Diodotid II, a testament to her popularity.

We know that the dominant names in the city are that of Greeks such as Strato, Cosmas, Philoxenus, Zeno, Isidora, Lysanias, Hippias though indigenous Persian Bactrians names such as Oxyboakes and Oxybazos is still present.

We know that the even the local Bactrians ultimately began to practice a very Hellenized culture and religion. The altar to the Oxus river for example written in Greek was dedicated by a Persian named Atrosokes. This practice is very typically Greek and for a non-Greek to do that indicates that Hellenization was rapid. We know also that the Greek script and Greek Gods continued to be worshiped long after the collapse of the Greek cities and the Greco-Bactrian rule indicating that Hellenization was relatively successful in Bactria.

However the culture of the Greco-Bactrian was unlikely to be totally Greek. Predominantly Greek, yes, totally Greek, unlikely. Some elements of local Bactrian and Zoroastrian culture became fused with the Greek culture while others went underground for a long time. Based upon the graves some Greco-Bactrians began to use Bactrian names and though the Greeks continue to worship the Greek Gods the temples they tend to build were influenced by Persian design and setup. There are examples as well of houses build in a Delian manner with a Persian courtyard.

Some Bactrian culture went underground for a time and only surfaced when the Greeks weakened. The Greeks for example deliberately dropped off the hounds from anything symbolizing Artemis as the local Bactrians had a custom of letting the dogs eat the dead. This custom did not seem to vanish under the Greek rule as the rulers were still aware of it even though it is obvious that the Greeks tried to suppress it as it reemerged after the fall of the Greeks.

Now the early Greco-Bactrians seemed to not be too influenced by either Hinduism or Buddhism. This is despite Asoka’s claim that he has sent missionaries to the land of the Greeks and to Kamboja ( Bactria ). The coins depicting legends such as Vasudeva or Buddhist symbology like the garlanded elephant or the eight spoke wheel only occurred after Demetrius I invaded India.

However what seems to have happened especially with the case of Buddhism is that after Demetrius I entered India the two Indian religions spread very fast, with Buddhism it seems spreading faster than Hinduism. This is postulated to be likely due to the fact that with Demetrius I being ruler of both India and Bactria movement of populace of both sides were facilitated which brought the Greco-Bactrians into more contact with the Indian culture and religion.

In order to understand the rapidity of this change among the Greco-Bactrians we must now understand another subgroup of Greeks that got “left out” of Greco-Bactrian history and only rejoined Hellenistic history later in time when Demetrius I invaded India following the falls of the Sunga. They would become the forerunners to the group known as the Indo-Greeks.

Alexander the Great when he came into India he revived an old city in a pass in the Hindu Kush a city known as Kapisa and named it Alexandria of the Caucasus. There he settled the town with 7000 Macedonians, 3000 mercenaries, likely Persians and 1000 natives.

This city rapidly became one of the most Hellenic cities in India as can be testified by the amount of Greek statues, ceramics etc.. However it was also an Indian city and though designed in a Greek polis had a sizeable Indian population inside.

The other city is Taxila. In 317BCE the king Ambhi of Taxila surrendered his city to Alexander the Great who then settled an unknown number of Macedonian soldiers and probably Persian soldiers into the city. The city became Hellenized and by the time of Asoka was described as a Yona city. ( Greek city ) So synonymous was Taxila with the Greeks that in  Bindisura’s time the two Greek uprising is actually the uprising of the city of Taxila.

Both these Greek populations got cut off from the Greco-Bactrians by virtue of a deal between Seleuces I Nikator and Chandragupta Maurya where these cities were ceded to his rule.

So while the Greeks in Bactria retain a large chunk of their Hellenic culture, the Greeks in Alexandria of the Caucasus and Taxila whilst retaining a large chunk of their Hellenic culture also began to blend it with a lot of Indian culture.

Buddhism in the time of Chadragupta Maurya and Bindisura were rising religions and the Greeks in these two cities clearly embraced it as from very early on these two cities were notable Buddhist centres. It is often said that Buddhism only got Hellenized at a later period when it was probably Hellenized very early on. Without its earlier Hellenization it is unlikely it would have spread at the rate it did.

Buddhism at this time still saw the Buddha as a man and the religion as being more a philosophy. The Greeks naturally took to this. In the West there were the equivalents in the Stoics and the Epicureans and the Skeptics and Democriteans whose philosophies were already floating around even in Bactria. The Greeks were still able to worship the Gods of the Greeks but practiced Buddhism alongside this without any major contradiction.

This process meant that the Greeks from very early on already begun to fit the Buddhist religion into Hellenic culture and worldview, nearly a century before the invasion of India by Demetrius I. By the time of Asoka one of the chief monks in the Third Council was a Greek called Dhammarikita. A Greek monk with the same name from Alexandria of the Caucasus during the Mauryan era apparently went down to Sri Lanka as part of the devotion of the Great Thupa. The Sri Lankans in fact sent monks all the way to Alexandria of the Caucasus early on in Buddhist history to learn the methods of Dhammarikita.

Hinduism was definitely practiced as well but it seems that it did not take off as rapidly as Buddhism among the Greeks until the Indo-Greek era. The exception to this will be the God Vasudeva or Krishna who was quite popular among the Greeks.

Now when Demetrius I invaded India after the fall of the Mauryans he brought back the city of Alexandria of the Caucasus and Taxila back into the fold of the greater Hellenic civilization. He also brought into Hellenic rule many Indian cities in the area.

This brought about a very interesting change. The Greeks who went into India from Greco-Bactria were encountering a culture that was very different to theirs. Ironically it was one that they could understand quite easily with help from the Greeks from Alexandria of the Caucasus and Taxila who spoke extremely fluent Greek, are Hellenic in culture but at the same time fused aspects of the Indian religion and culture into their life. The Greeks already present in India were the bridge that linked the extremely Hellenic Greco-Bactrians who just emigrated from Bactria with the local culture. The same Greeks probably helped the Greeks in Bactria understand the Indian religion and culture better.

The classical example is King Menander I. King Menander I is described as conversant in both the language of the Indians and the Greeks, understood both cultures extremely well, is described as dressed in both styles. He was born in Alexandria of the Caucasus before Demetrius I took it back. In fact he was a general or at least a close advisor to Demetrius I when he took it back. It is people like Menander I who probably became a bridge between the local people and the Greco-Bactrian rulers and immigrants.

Another point that can be shown is Agathocleia who though a Greek queen dressed like an Indian. Given that she is Menander’s queen she is likely a polyglot as well and understand both the Indian and Greek culture.

This trait will be the hallmark of the Indo-Greeks from Menander I onwards.

For the Greco-Bactrians even though Buddhism and Hinduism was now spreading in Bactria they were still maintaining a very strict Hellenic culture. Even till the end when the Yuezhi were invading under Eucratides I the Greco-Bactrians remained strongly Hellenic. There was probably no reason for them to become anything but Hellenic. The locals were getting increasingly Hellenized, the Indians if they came their way did not come in large numbers. Even though the Buddhist and various Hindu philosophies probably struck a chord with the Greco-Bactrians and made easier to understand with Greeks coming from Alexandria of the Caucasus and Taxila there is unlikely to be any major change in their culture.

Things however changed when Mithriadates blocked the overland route into Europe. For the first time the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek got cut off from Europe ( that was until the Indo-Greeks under Menander re-established sea trade ). Also the Greco-Bactrian north was now under assault from the nomads and was diminishing.

Whilst in Greco-Bactria the norm was Hellenization and the locals eventually got Hellenized, in India though some Indians did Hellenize with time this was not rampant. Even in areas governed by the Greeks the Indians maintained mostly to their culture though among Buddhist Indians there clearly was some degree of Hellenization. The very controversial cave inscription where a Indragnidatta the Yonaka who is a citizen of Demetria-Patala is an interesting case. Indragnidatta is a clearly Indian name yet this person calls himself a Yonaka. If this person is an Indian by descent he clearly identifies himself culturally as a Greek.

The Greeks had to adapt and slowly began to adopt more and more of the local customs. It is likely most of them became fluent in some Indian language as well as Greek. Given the coinage it was probably likely that they began to dress in a more Indian fashion. Though they clearly continued to use Greek names and maintain a very Hellenic outlook, education, polis system, culture and also continued to worship the Hellenic Gods there was more of an attempt to blend this in with the Indian culture and to allow the Indians to partake in this.

Narain and Tarn calls this Indianization. To me this is a form of syncretisation and cultural fusion.

This is the one distinction of the Indo-Greek culture. The Indo-Greek culture is a Hellenistic culture fused with an Indian culture.

Buddhism exploded among the Indo-Greeks. The evidence of this comes from the fact that many Stupas throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan had their foundations laid during the Indo-Greek period if not built outright. Hellenic art pervade every corner of early Buddhist art

None of this more so than the Buddha statue and the Buddha image. This we know originates from the Indo-Greeks. The Indo-Greeks moved Buddhism from an aniconic movement to one where a person is depicted. A legacy of this is the hairstyle of the Buddha which is depicted till today in an Apollo Bellevedue style and the clothing of the Lord Buddha, a Greek toga.

It is also obvious that the Indo-Greeks began to associate the Greek Gods with various deities in Buddhism.  In Greco-Buddhist art for example, Vajrapani is depicted as Herakles, Harti is depicted as Tykhe and Vayu as Boreas. Early Greco-Buddhist art had Sakra depicted as Zeus. The Great Departure mural from the Indo-Greek era clearly shows Hermes, Apollo and Dionysios with Ariadne along with Herakles, Tykhe and Boreas watching the Buddha as he embarked on the Great Departure. This mural is not just merely art because it is found inside a stupa indicating that it is there also for religious purposes. Then there are the coins of Buddhist kings which clearly shows Greek Gods making the mudra of blessings.

This syncretisation must have made it into mainstream Mahayana Buddhism as Japanese Buddhist Goddesses like Kishimongen ( a Japanese Hariti ) is both the Goddess of children and a Goddess of fortune. The Goddess of fortune part makes zero sense strictly from scriptural basis unless you take into consideration that Hariti was fused with Tykhe at some point and her worship became associated with fortune.

The Indo-Greeks almost certainly had a hand in the composition of the Mahayana sutras and also the transformation of the Buddha from a man to a Bhagavat. The Mahayana sutras were written and composed mainly in Indo-Greek towns like Taxila, Kapisa and Gandahar and we know that in those towns there is a convergence of various philosophies be it Greek, Indian or Persian. The transformation of the Buddha from man to a Bhagavat and a semi-divine being seems preposterous from a strictly canonical and Indian basis until you realize that among the Greeks it is possible for a man to reach a semi-divine status post death through the process of becoming a Hero. If the Greeks regarded the Buddha as a Hero they would have likely started to make offerings to him as they would a Hero thus providing the first step towards concepts such as Celestial Bodhissatvas or Buddhas.

The Milinda Panha which so famously contains the teachings of Menander I was almost certainly written by someone familiar with Socratic style dialogue which puts its composition squat in the Indo-Greek period as such skills began to diminish after the fall of the Indo-Greek. The change of styles are clear from the earlier composition to the later add on composition. The add on composition are clearly Indian in style, while the earlier chapters are all very Greek though with Buddhist and Indian contents.

Buddhism is not the only religion that the Indo-Greeks embraced. Hinduism was embraced as well though not to the degree Buddhism enjoyed. Two non-Hellenic Gods popularly depicted on the coins of the Indo-Greek kings were either Vasudeva ( Krishna ) or Shiva. We do not have much archaeological or written evidence as to the contribution of the Greeks to Hinduism as we do for Buddhism but needless to say that some Indo-Greeks did practice Hinduism.


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