Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

Infobox Former Country
native_name =
conventional_long_name = Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
common_name = Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
continent = Asia
region =
country =
era = Antiquity
status =
event_start =
year_start = 256 BC
date_start =
event1 =
date_event1 =
event_end =
year_end = 125 BC
date_end =
p1 = Seleucid Empire
flag_p1 =
s1 = Indo-Greek Kingdom
flag_s1 =

flag_type =

image_map_caption = Approximate maximum extent of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom circa 180 BCE, including the regions of Tapuria and Traxiane to the West, Sogdiana and Ferghana to the north, Bactria and Arachosia to the south.
capital = Balkh
common_languages = Greek
religion = Greek gods
government_type = Monarchy
leader1 = Diodotus I
year_leader1 = 250-240 BC
leader2 = Heliocles I
year_leader2 = 145-130 BC
title_leader = King
legislature =

The Gr(a)eco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BCE. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into northern India from 180 BCE established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 CE.

Independence (256 BCE)

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was founded around 256 BCE when the Seleucid military governor of Bactria, Sogdiana and Margiana, named Diodotus (Theodotos), wrested independence for his territory from the Seleucid ruler Antiochus II, who was embroiled in a war against Ptolemaic Egypt:

:"Diodotus, the governor of the thousand cities of Bactria (Latin: "Theodotus, mille urbium Bactrianarum praefectus"), defected and proclaimed himself king; all the other people of the Orient followed his example and seceded from the Macedonians." (Justin, XLI,4 [ [ Justin XLI, paragraph 4] ] )The new kingdom, highly urbanized and considered as one of the richest of the Orient ("opulentissimum illud mille urbium Bactrianum imperium" "The extremely prosperous Bactrian empire of the thousand cities" Justin, XLI,1 [ [ Justin XLI, paragraph 1] ] ), was to further grow in power and engage into territorial expansion to the east and the west:

:"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 of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander... Their cities were Bactra (also called Zariaspa, through which flows a river bearing the same name and emptying into the Oxus), and Darapsa, and several others. Among these was Eucratidia, which was named after its ruler." (Strabo, XI.XI.I [ [ Strabo XI.XI.I] ] )

Soon after, the ruler of neighbouring Parthia, the former satrap and self-proclaimed king Andragoras, was eliminated by Arsaces, leading to the rise of the Parthian Empire. The Greco-Bactrians became cut off from direct contact with the Greek world. Overland trade continued at a reduced rate, while sea trade between Greek Egypt and Bactria developed.

Diodotus was succeeded by his son Diodotus II, who allied himself with the Parthian Arsaces in his fight against Seleucus II::"Soon after, relieved by the death of Diodotus, Arsaces made peace and concluded an alliance with his son, also by the name of Diodotus; some time later he fought against Seleucos who came to punish the rebels, and he prevailed: the Parthians celebrated this day as the one that marked the beginning of their freedom" (Justin, XLI,4 [ [ Justin XLI] )] )

Overthrow of Diodotus (230 BCE)

Euthydemus, a Magnesian Greek according to Polybius [ [ Polybius 11.34] ] and possibly satrap of Sogdiana, overthrew Diodotus II around 230 BCE and started his own dynasty. Euthydemus's control extended to Sogdiana, going beyond the city of Alexandria Eschate founded by Alexander the Great in Ferghana:

:"And they also held Sogdiana, situated above Bactriana towards the east between the Oxus River, which forms the boundary between the Bactrians and the Sogdians, and the Iaxartes River. And the Iaxartes forms also the boundary between the Sogdians and the nomads." Strabo XI.11.2 [ [ Strabo 11.11.2] ]

eleucid invasion

Euthydemus was attacked by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III around 210 BCE. Although he commanded 10,000 horsemen, Euthydemus initially lost a battle on the Arius [ [ Polybius 10.49, Battle of the Arius] ] and had to retreat. He then successfully resisted a three-year siege in the fortified city of Bactra (modern Balkh), before Antiochus finally decided to recognize the new ruler, and to offer one of his daughters to Euthydemus's son Demetrius around 206 BCE [ [ Polybius 11.34 Siege of Bactra] ] . Classical accounts also relate that Euthydemus negotiated peace with Antiochus III by suggesting that he deserved credit for overthrowing the original rebel Diodotus, and that he was protecting Central Asia from nomadic invasions thanks to his defensive efforts::"...for if he did not yield to this demand, neither of them would be safe: seeing that great hords of Nomads were close at hand, who were a danger to both; and that if they admitted them into the country, it would certainly be utterly barbarised." (Polybius, 11.34 [ [ Polybius 11.34] ] )

Geographic expansion

Following the departure of the Seleucid army, the Bactrian kingdom seems to have expanded. In the west, areas in north-eastern Iran may have been absorbed, possibly as far as into Parthia, whose ruler had been defeated by Antiochus the Great. These territories possibly are identical with the Bactrian satrapies of Tapuria and Traxiane.

Contacts with China

To the north, Euthydemus also ruled Sogdiana and Ferghana, and there are indications that from Alexandria Eschate the Greco-Bactrians may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar and Ürümqi in Chinese Turkestan, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BCE. The Greek historian Strabo too writes that::"they extended their empire even as far as the Seres (Chinese) and the Phryni" (Strabo, XI.XI.I [ [ Strabo XI.XI.I] ] ).

Several statuettes and representations of Greek soldiers have been found north of the Tien Shan, on the doorstep to China, and are today on display in the Xinjiang museum at Urumqi (Boardman [On the image of the Greek kneeling warrior: "A bronze figurine of a kneeling warrior, not Greek work, but wearing a version of the Greek Phrygian helmet.. From a burial, said to be of the 4th century BCE, just north of the Tien Shan range". Ürümqi Xinjiang Museum. (Boardman "The diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity")] ).

Greek influences on Chinese art have also been suggested (Hirth, Rostovtzeff). Designs with rosette flowers, geometric lines, and glass inlays, suggestive of Hellenistic influences [Notice of the British Museum on the Zhou vase (2005, attached image): "Red earthenware bowl, decorated with a slip and inlaid with glass paste. Eastern Zhou period, 4th-3rd century BC. This bowl was probably intended to copy a more precious and possibly foreign vessel in bronze or even silver. Glass was little used in China. Its popularity at the end of the Eastern Zhou period was probably due to foreign influence."] , can be found on some early Han bronze mirrors, dated between 300-200 BCE ["The things which China received from the Graeco-Iranian world- the pomegranate and other "Chang-Kien" plants, the heavy equipment of the cataphract, the traces of Greeks influence on Han art (such as) the famous white bronze mirror of the Han period with Graeco-Bactrian designs (...) in the Victoria and Albert Museum" (Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India", p363-364)] .

made these coin issues around 170 BCE. Copper-nickel would not be used again in coinage until the 19th century.

The presence of Chinese people in India from ancient times is also suggested by the accounts of the "Ciñas" in the Mahabharata and the Manu Smriti.

The Han Dynasty explorer and ambassador Zhang Qian visited Bactria in 126 BCE, and reported the presence of Chinese products in the Bactrian markets::""When I was in Bactria (Daxia)", Zhang Qian reported, "I saw bamboo canes from Qiong and cloth made in the province of Shu (territories of southwestern China). When I asked the people how they had gotten such articles, they replied, "Our merchants go buy them in the markets of Shendu (India)."" (Shiji 123, Sima Qian, trans. Burton Watson).

Upon his return, Zhang Qian informed the Chinese emperor Han Wudi of the level of sophistication of the urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria and Parthia, who became interested in developing commercial relationship them::"The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana (Dayuan) and the possessions of Bactria (Daxia) and Parthia (Anxi) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, and placing great value on the rich produce of China" (Han Shu, Former Han History).

A number of Chinese envoys were then sent to Central Asia, triggering the development of the Silk Road from the end of the 2nd century BCE. [ [ C.Michael Hogan, "Silk Road, North China", Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham] ]

Contacts with India (250–180)

The Indian emperor Chandragupta, founder of the Mauryan dynasty, had re-conquered northwestern India upon the death of Alexander the Great around 322 BCE. However, contacts were kept with his Greek neighbours in the Seleucid Empire, a dynastic alliance or the recognition of intermarriage between Greeks and Indians were established (described as an agreement on Epigamia in Ancient sources), and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, resided at the Mauryan court. Subsequently, each Mauryan emperor had a Greek ambassador at his court.

Chandragupta's grandson Asoka converted to the Buddhist faith and became a great proselytizer in the line of the traditional Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism, directing his efforts towards the Indian and the Hellenistic worlds from around 250 BCE. According to the Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek, he sent Buddhist emissaries to the Greek lands in Asia and as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts name each of the rulers of the Hellenistic world at the time.

: "The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (4,000 miles) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni." (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).

Some of the Greek populations that had remained in northwestern India apparently converted to Buddhism:

:"Here in the king's domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dharma. (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).

Furthermore, according to Pali sources, some of Ashoka's emissaries were Greek Buddhist monks, indicating close religious exchanges between the two cultures:

: "When the thera (elder) Moggaliputta, the illuminator of the religion of the Conqueror (Ashoka), had brought the (third) council to an end… he sent forth theras, one here and one there: …and to Aparantaka (the "Western countries" corresponding to Gujarat and Sindh) he sent the Greek (Yona) named Dhammarakkhita... and the thera Maharakkhita he sent into the country of the Yona". (Mahavamsa XII).

Greco-Bactrians probably received these Buddhist emissaries (At least Maharakkhita, lit. "The Great Saved One", who was "sent to the country of the Yona") and somehow tolerated the Buddhist faith, although little proof remains. In the 2nd century CE, the Christian dogmatist Clement of Alexandria recognized the existence of Buddhist Sramanas among the Bactrians ("Bactrians" meaning "Oriental Greeks" in that period), and even their influence on Greek thought:

: "Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets of the Egyptians; and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians; and the Druids among the Gauls; and the Sramanas among the Bactrians ("Σαρμαναίοι Βάκτρων"); and the philosophers of the Celts; and the Magi of the Persians, who foretold the Saviour's birth, and came into the land of Judaea guided by a star. The Indian gymnosophists are also in the number, and the other barbarian philosophers. And of these there are two classes, some of them called Sramanas ("Σαρμάναι"), and others Brahmins ("Βραφμαναι")." Clement of Alexandria "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" Book I, Chapter XV [ [ Clement of Alexandria "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" Book I, Chapter XV] ] .

Expansion into India (after 180 BCE)

Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus, started an invasion of India from 180 BCE, a few years after the Mauryan empire had been overthrown by the Sunga dynasty. Historians differ on the motivations behind the invasion. Some historians suggest that the invasion of India was intended to show their support for the Mauryan empire, and to protect the Buddhist faith from the religious persecutions of the Sungas as alleged by Buddhist scriptures (Tarn). Other historians have argued however that the accounts of these persecutions have been exaggerated (Thapar, Lamotte).

Demetrius may have been as far as the imperial capital Pataliputra in eastern India (today Patna). However, these campaigns are typically attributed to Menander. The invasion was completed by 175 BCE. This established in northern India what is called the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which lasted for almost two centuries until around 10 CE. The Buddhist faith flourished under the Indo-Greek kings, foremost among them Menander I.

It was also a period of great cultural syncretism, exemplified by the development of Greco-Buddhism.

Usurpation of Eucratides

Back in Bactria, Eucratides, either a general of Demetrius or an ally of the Seleucids, managed to overthrow the Euthydemid dynasty and establish his own rule around 170 BCE, probably dethroning Antimachus I and Antimachus II. The Indian branch of the Euthydemids tried to strike back. An Indian king called Demetrius (very likely Demetrius II) is said to have returned to Bactria with 60,000 men to oust the usurper, but he apparently was defeated and killed in the encounter:

:"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, XLI,6 [ [ Justin XLI,6] ] )

Eucratides campaigned extensively in northwestern India, and ruled on a vast territory as indicated by his minting of coins in many Indian mints, possibly as far as the Jhelum River in Punjab. In the end however, he was repulsed by the Indo-Greek king Menander I, who managed to create a huge unified territory. In a rather confused account, Justin explains that Eucratides was killed on the field by "his son and joint king", who would be his own son, either Eucratides II or Heliocles I (although there are speculations that it could be his enemy's son Demetrius II). The son drove over Eucratides' bloodied body with his chariot and left him dismembered without a sepulture:

:"As Eucratides returned from India, he was killed on the way back by his son, whom he had associated to his rule, and who, without hiding his parricide, as if he didn't kill a father but an enemy, ran with his chariot over the blood of his father, and ordered the corpse to be left without a sepulture" (Justin XLI,6 [ [ Justin XLI,6] ] ).

Defeats against Parthia

Concurrently, and possibly during or after his Indian campaigns, Eucratides' Bactria was attacked and defeated by the Parthian king Mithridates I, possibly in alliance with partisans of the Euthydemids:

:"The Bactrians, involved in various wars, lost not only their rule but also their freedom, as, exhausted by their wars against the Sogdians, the Arachotes, the Dranges, the Arians and the Indians, they were finally crushed, as if drawn of all their blood, by an enemy weaker than them, the Parthians." (Justin, XLI,6 [ [ Justin XLI,6] ] )

Following his victory, Mithridates I gained Bactria's territory west of the Arius, the regions of Tapuria and Traxiane::"The satrapy Turiva and that of Aspionus were taken away from Eucratides by the Parthians." (Strabo XI.11.2 [ [ Strabo 11.11.2] ] )

In the year 141 BCE, the Greco-Bactrians seem to have entered in an alliance with the Seleucid king Demetrius II to fight again against Parthia:

:"The people of the Orient welcomed his (Demetrius II) arrival, partly because of the cruelty of the Arsacid, king of the Parthians, partly because, used to the rule of the Macedonians, they disliked the arrogance of this new people. Thus, Demetrius, supported by the Persians, Elymes, Bactrians, routed the Parthians in numerous battles. At the end, trumped by a false peace, he was taken prisoner." (Justin XXXVI, 1,1 [ [ Justin XXXVI, 1,1] ] )

The 5th century historian Orosius declares that Mithridates I managed to occupy territory between the Indus and the Hydaspes towards the end of his reign, circa 138 BCE, before his kingdom was weakened by his death in 136 BCE. [Mentionned in "Hellenism in ancient India", Banerjee, p140, to be taken carefully since Orosius is often rather unreliable in his accounts.]

Heliocles I ended up ruling in what territory remained. The defeat, both in the west and the east, may have left Bactria very weakened and open to the nomadic invasions from the north that would spell its end.

Nomadic invasions

Yuezhi expansion (c. 162 BCE-)

According to the Han chronicles, following a crushing defeat in 162 BCE by the Xiongnu (Huns), the nomadic tribes of the Yuezhi fled from the Tarim Basin towards the west, crossed the neighbouring urban civilization of the "Ta-Yuan" (probably the Greek possessions in Ferghana), and re-settled north of the Oxus in modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, in the northern part of the Greco-Bactrian territory. The Ta-Yuan remained a healthy and powerful urban civilization which had numerous contacts and exchanges with China from 130 BCE.

The Yuezhi apparently occupied the Greco-Bactrian territory north of the Oxus during the reign of Eucratides, who was busy fighting in India against the Indo-Greeks.

cythians (c. 140 BCE-)

Around 140 BCE, eastern Scythians (the Saka, or Sacaraucae of Greek sources), apparently being pushed forward by the southward migration of the Yuezhi started to invade various parts of Parthia and Bactria. Their invasion of Parthia is well documented, in which they attacked in the direction of the cities of Merv, Hecatompolis and Ectabana. They managed to defeat and kill the Parthian king Phraates II, son of Mithridates I, routing the Greek mercenary troops under his command (troops he had acquired during his victory over Antiochus VII). Again in 123 BCE, Phraates's successor, his uncle Artabanus II was killed by the Scythians. ["Parthians and Sassanid Persians", Peter Wilcox, p15]

It seems that Bactria was also attacked and strongly diminished during the same massive movement of the Scythians. The destruction of the Greco-Bactrian city of Ai-Khanoum, dated to around 140 BCE, is regularly attributed to them. The Scythians would be further displaced to the South and South-East into Afghanistan and India, under the pressure of the Yuezhi.

The culture of these nomadic invaders is apparently documented by such archaeological sites as Tillia Tepe, is northwestern Afghanistan.

econd Yuezhi expansion (120 BCE-)

When Zhang Qian visited the Yuezhi in 126 BCE, trying to obtain their alliance to fight the Xiongnu, he explained that the Yuezhi were settled north of the Oxus but also held under their sway the territory south of Oxus, which makes up the remaining of Bactria.

According to Zhang Qian, the Yuezhi represented a considerable force of between 100,000 and 200,000 mounted archer warriors ["They are a nation of nomads, moving from place to place with their herds, and their customs are like those of the Xiongnu. They have some 100,000 or 200,000 archer warriors... The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian or Heavenly mountains and Dunhuang, but after they were defeated by the Xiongnu they moved far away to the west, beyond Dayuan, where they attacked and conquered the people of Daxia (Bactria) and set up the court of their king on the northern bank of the Gui (Oxus) river" ("Records of the Great Historian", Sima Qian, trans. Burton Watson, p234)] , with customs identical to those of the Xiongnu, which would probably have easily defeated Greco-Bactrian forces (in 208 BCE when the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I confronted the invasion of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great, he commanded 10,000 horsemen [ [ Polybius 10.49, Battle of the Arius] ] ). Zhang Qian actually visited Bactria (named Daxia in Chinese) in 126 BCE, and portrays a country which was totally demoralized and whose political system had vanished, although its urban infrastructure remained:

:"Daxia (Bactria) is located over 2,000 li southwest of Dayuan, 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." ("Records of the Great Historian" by Sima Qian, quoting Zhang Qian, trans. Burton Watson)

The Yuezhi further expanded southward into Bactria around 120 BCE, apparently further pushed out by invasions from the northern Wu-Sun. It seems they also pushed Scythian tribes before them, which continued to India, where they came to be identified as Indo-Scythians.

The invasion is also described in western Classical sources from the 1st century BCE, with different names than those used by the Chinese:

: "The best known tribes are those who deprived the Greeks of Bactriana, the Asii, Pasiani, Tochari, and Sacarauli, who came from the country on the other side of the Jaxartes, opposite the Sacae and Sogdiani."
(Strabo, 11-8-1 [ [ Strabo 11-8-1 on the nomadic invasions of Bactria] ] )

Around that time the king Heliocles abandoned Bactria and moved his capital to the Kabul valley, from where he ruled his Indian holdings. Having left the Bactrian territory, he is technically the last Greco-Bactrian king, although several of his descendants, moving beyond the Hindu Kush, would form the western part of the Indo-Greek kingdom. The last of these "western" Indo-Greek kings, Hermaeus, would rule until around 70 BCE, when the Yuezhi again invaded his territory in the Paropamisadae (while the "eastern" Indo-Greek kings would continue to rule until around 10 CE in the area of the Punjab).

Overall, the Yuezhi remained in Bactria for more than a century. They became Hellenized to some degree, as suggested by their adoption of the Greek alphabet to write their Iranian language, and by numerous remaining coins, minted in the style of the Greco-Bactrian kings, with the text in Greek.

Around 12 BCE the Yuezhi were then to move further to northern India where they established the Kushan Empire.

Main Greco-Bactrian kings

House of Diodotus

Territories of Bactria, Sogdiana, Ferghana, Arachosia:
*Diodotus I (reigned c. 250-240 BCE) [ Coins]
*Diodotus II (reigned c. 240-230 BCE) Son of Diodotus I [ Coins]

The existence of a third Diodotid king, Antiochus Nikator, is uncertain.

Many of the dates, territories, and relationships between Greco-Bactrian kings are tentative and essentially based on numismatic analysis and a few Classical sources. The following list of kings, dates and territories after the reign of Demetrius is derived from the latest and most extensive analysis on the subject, by Osmund Bopearachchi ("Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné", 1991).

House of Euthydemus

Territories of Bactria, Sogdiana, Ferghana, Arachosia:
*Euthydemus I (reigned c. 223- c.200 BCE) Overthrew Diodotus II. [ Coins]

The descendants of the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus invaded northern India around 190 BCE. Their dynasty was probably thrown out of Bactria after 170 BCE by the new king Eucratides, but remained in the Indian domains of the empire at least until the 150s BCE.

* Demetrius I (reigned c. 200–180 BCE) Son of Euthydemus I. Greco-Bactrian king, and conqueror of India. [ Coins]

The territory won by Demetrius was separated between western and eastern parts, ruled by several sub-kings and successor kings:

Territory of Bactria
* Euthydemus II (c 180 BCE), probably a son of Demetrius. [ Coins]
* Antimachus I (possibly 180-165 BCE), brother of Demetrius. Defeated by usurper Eucratides. [ Coins]

Territories of Paropamisadae, Arachosia, Gandhara, Punjab

* Pantaleon (190s or 180s BCE) Possibly another brother and co-ruler of Demetrius I.
* Agathocles (c180-170 BCE) Yet another brother? [ Coins]
* Apollodotus I (reigned c. 175–160 BCE) A fourth brother?
* Antimachus II Nikephoros (160-155 BCE)
* Demetrius II (155-150 BCE) [ Coins]
* Menander (reigned c. 150–135 BCE). Legendary for the size of his Kingdom, and his support of the Buddhist faith. It is unclear whether he was related to the other kings, and thus if the dynasty survived further. [ Coins]
* Followed by Indo-Greek kings in northern India.

House of Eucratides

Territory of Bactria and Sogdiana
*Eucratides I 170-c.145 BCE [ Coins]
*Plato co-regent c.166 BCE
*Eucratides II 145-140 BCE [ Coins]
*Heliocles (r.c. 145-130 BCE).

Heliocles, the last Greek king of Bactria, was invaded by the nomadic tribes of the Yuezhi from the North. Descendants of Eucratides may have ruled on in the Indo-Greek kingdom.

Greek culture in Bactria

The Greco-Bactrians were known for their high level of Hellenistic sophistication, and kept regular contact with both the Mediterranean and neighbouring India. They were on friendly terms with India and exchanged ambassadors.

Their cities, such as Ai-Khanoum in northeastern Afghanistan (probably Alexandria on the Oxus), and Bactra (modern Balkh) where Hellenistic remains have been found, demonstrate a sophisticated Hellenistic urban culture. This site gives a snapshot of Greco-Bactrian culture around 145 BCE, as the city was burnt to the ground around that date during nomadic invasions and never re-settled. Ai-Khanoum "has all the hallmarks of a Hellenistic city, with a Greek theater, gymnasium and some Greek houses with colonnaded courtyards" (Boardman). Remains of Classical Corinthian columns were found in excavations of the site, as well as various sculptural fragments. In particular a huge foot fragment in excellent Hellenistic style was recovered, which is estimated to have belonged to a 5–6 meters tall statue.

One of the inscriptions in Greek found at Ai-Khanoum, the Herôon of Kineas, has been dated to 300–250 BCE, and describes Delphic precepts:

: "As children, learn good manners.: As young men, learn to control the passions.: In middle age, be just.: In old age, give good advice.: Then die, without regret."

Some of the Greco-Bactrian coins, and those of their successors the Indo-Greeks, are considered the finest examples of Greek numismatic art with "a nice blend of realism and idealization", including the largest coins to be minted in the Hellenistic world: the largest gold coin was minted by Eucratides (reigned 171–145 BCE), the largest silver coin by the Indo-Greek king Amyntas (reigned c. 95–90 BCE). The portraits "show a degree of individuality never matched by the often bland depictions of their royal contemporaries further West" (Roger Ling, "Greece and the Hellenistic World").

Several other Greco-Bactrian cities have been further identified, as in Saksanokhur in southern Tajikistan (archaeological searches by a Soviet team under B.A. Litvinski), or in Dal'verzin Tepe.


ee also

*Seleucid Empire
*Indo-Greek Kingdom
*Indo-Parthian Kingdom


* "The Shape of Ancient Thought. Comparative studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies" by Thomas McEvilley (Allworth Press and the School of Visual Arts, 2002) ISBN 1-58115-203-5
* "The Oxford Illustrated History of Greece and the Hellenistic World" by John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-285438-0
* "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity" by John Boardman (Princeton University Press, 1994) ISBN 0-691-03680-2
* "Records of the Great Historian. Han dynasty II", Sima Qian, trans. Burton Watson. Columbia University Press. 1993. ISBN 0-231-08167-7
* "Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné", Osmund Bopearachchi, 1991, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ISBN 2-7177-1825-7.
* "Buddhism in Central Asia" by B.N. Puri (Motilal Banarsidass Pub, January 1, 2000) ISBN 81-208-0372-8
* "The Greeks in Bactria and India", W.W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press.
* "De l'Indus à l'Oxus, Archéologie de l'Asie Centrale", Osmund Bopearachchi, Christine Sachs, ISBN 2-9516679-2-2

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