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Indo-Greeks

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The Hellenistic expansion brought the Ancient Greeks in South Asia also known as Indo-Greeks. They have established the Indo-Greek Kingdom or Graeco-Indian Kingdom [1] covering various parts of the northwest and northern Indian subcontinent during the last two centuries BC, and was ruled by more than 30 Hellenistic kings,[2] often in conflict with each other. The kingdom was founded when the Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded India early in the second century BC; in this context the boundary of "India" is the Hindu Kush. The Greeks in India were eventually divided from the Graeco-Bactrian Kingdom centered in Bactria (now the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan).

map 7The expression "Indo-Greek Kingdom" loosely describes a number of various dynastic polities. There were numerous cities, such as Taxila,[3] Pakistan's Punjab, or Pushkalavati and Sagala.[4] These cities would house a number of dynasties in their times, and based on Ptolemy's Geographia and the nomenclature of later kings, a certain Theophila in the south was also probably a satrapal or royal seat at some point.

During the two centuries of their rule, the Indo-Greek kings combined the Greek and Indian languages and symbols, as seen on their coins, and blended ancient Greek, Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, as seen in the archaeological remains of their cities and in the indications of their support of Buddhism, pointing to a rich fusion of Indian and Hellenistic influences.[5] The diffusion of Indo-Greek culture had consequences which are still felt today, particularly through the influence of Greco-Buddhist art.

The Indo-Greeks ultimately disappeared as a political entity around 10 AD following the invasions of the Indo-Scythians, although pockets of Greek populations probably remained for several centuries longer under the subsequent rule of the Indo-Parthians and Kushans.[6]

Preliminary Greek presence in South Asia

Apollodotus I (180-160 BC) the first king who ruled in the subcontinent only, and therefore the founder of the proper Indo-Greek kingdom.[7]
 

In 326 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent as far as the Hyphasis River, and established satrapies and founded several settlements, including Bucephala; he turned south when his troops refused to go further east.[8] The Indian satrapies of the Punjab were left to the rule of Porus and Taxiles, who were confirmed again at the Treaty of Triparadisus in 321 BC, and remaining Greek troops in these satrapies were left under the command of general Eudemus. After 321 Eudemus toppled Taxiles, until he left India in 316 BC. Another general also ruled over the Greek colonies of the Indus: Peithon, son of Agenor,[9] until his departure for Babylon in 316 BC.

In 305 BC, Seleucus I led an army to the Indus, where he encountered Chandragupta. The confrontation ended with a peace treaty, and "an intermarriage agreement" (Epigamia, Greek: Επιγαμια), meaning either a dynastic marriage or an agreement for intermarriage between Indians and Greeks. Accordingly, Seleucus ceded to Chandragupta his northwestern territories, possibly as far as Arachosia and received 500 war elephants (which played a key role in the victory of Seleucus at the Battle of Ipsus):[10]

"The Indians occupy in part 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 Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants."
Strabo 15.2.1(9)[11]

Also several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes,[12] followed by Deimachus and Dionysius, were sent to reside at the Mauryan court.[13] Presents continued to be exchanged between the two rulers.[14] The intensity of these contacts is testified by the existence of a dedicated Mauryan state department for Greek (Yavana) and Persian foreigners,[15] or the remains of Hellenistic pottery that can be found throughout northern India.[16]

Bilingual edict (Greek and Aramaic) by king Ashoka, from Kandahar. Kabul Museum (click image for translation).[17]

On these occasions, Greek populations apparently remained in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Mauryan rule. Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka, who had converted to the Buddhist faith declared in the Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek,[18][19] that Greek populations within his realm also had converted to Buddhism:[20]

"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."
Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika).

In his edicts, Ashoka mentions that he had sent Buddhist emissaries to Greek rulers as far as the Mediterranean (Edict No. 13),[21][22] and that he developed herbal medicine in their territories, for the welfare of humans and animals (Edict No. 2).[23]

The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the propagation of Buddhism, as some of the emissaries of Ashoka such as Dharmaraksita,[24] or the teacher Mahadharmaraksita,[25] are described in Pali sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII).[26] It is also thought that Greeks contributed to the sculptural work of the Pillars of Ashoka,[27] and more generally to the blossoming of Mauryan art.[28]

Again in 206 BC, the Seleucid emperor Antiochus led an army to the Kabul valley, where he received war elephants and presents from the local king Sophagasenus:[29]

"He (Antiochus) crossed the Caucasus (Hindu Kush) and descended into India; renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians; received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether; and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him."
Polybius 11.39[30]

[edit] Greek rule in Bactria

Greco-Bactrian statue of an old man or philosopher, Ai Khanoum, Bactria, 2nd century BC

Alexander had also established several colonies in neighbouring Bactria, such as Alexandria on the Oxus (modern Ai-Khanoum) and Alexandria of the Caucasus (medieval Kapisa, modern Bagram). After Alexander's death in 323 BC, Bactria came under the control of Seleucus I Nicator, who founded the Seleucid Empire. One of the Seleucid satraps, Diodotus of Bactria, rebelled against the Seleucids and made himself King over the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. According to Ranajit Pal [2] he was the same as the great Ashoka. Diodotus' son was overthrown by Euthydemus I in 230 BC, who founded the Euthydemid Dynasty. The Greco-Bactrians maintained a strong Hellenistic culture at the door of India during the rule of the Mauryan empire in India, as exemplified by the archaeological site of Ai-Khanoum.[31][32]

The Greeks in Bactria (Greco-Bactrians) remained in close contact with the Greeks in the Mauryan Empire.[33] When the Mauryan empire was overthrown by the Sunga Dynasty around 185 BC, an army led by King Demetrius I of Bactria invaded India and seized the lands of the Kabul Valley.

[edit] Rise of the Sungas (185 BC)

In India, the Maurya Dynasty was overthrown around 185 BC when Pusyamitra Sunga, the commander-in-chief of Mauryan Imperial forces and a Brahmin, assassinated the last of the Mauryan emperors Brhadrata.[34][35] Pusyamitra Sunga then ascended the throne and established the Sunga Empire, which extended its control as far west as the Punjab.

Buddhist sources, such as the Asokavadana, mention that Pusyamitra was hostile towards Buddhists and allegedly persecuted the Buddhist faith. A large number of Buddhist monasteries (viharas) were allegedly converted to Hindu temples, in such places as Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Sarnath or Mathura. While it is established by secular sources that Hinduism and Buddhism were in competition during this time, with the Sungas preferring the former to the latter, historians such as Etienne Lamotte[36] and Romila Thapar[37] argue that Buddhist accounts of persecution of Buddhists by Sungas are largely exaggerated.

[edit] History of the Indo-Greek kingdom

[edit] Nature and quality of the sources

Some narrative history has survived for most of the Hellenistic world, at least of the kings and the wars;[38] this is lacking for India. The main Greco-Roman source on the Indo-Greeks is Justin, who wrote an anthology drawn from the Roman historian Pompeius Trogus, who in turn wrote, from Greek sources, at the time of Augustus Caesar.[39] Justin tells the parts of Trogus' history he finds particularly interesting at some length; he connects them by short and simplified summaries of the rest of the material. In the process he has left 85% to 90% of Trogus out; and his summaries are held together by phrases like "meanwhile" (eodem tempore) and "thereafter" (deinde), which he uses very loosely. Where Justin covers periods for which there are other and better sources, he has occasionally made provable mistakes. As Develin, the recent annotator of Justin, and Tarn both point out, Justin is not trying to write history in our sense of the word; he is collecting instructive moral anecdotes.[40] Justin does find the customs and growth of the Parthians, which were covered in Trogus' 41st book, quite interesting, and discusses them at length; in the process, he mentions four of the kings of Bactria and one Greek king of India.[41]

Menander I (155-130 BC) is one of the few Indo-Greek kings mentioned in both Graeco-Roman and Indian sources.

In addition to these dozen sentences, the geographer Strabo mentions India a few times in the course of his long dispute with Eratosthenes about the shape of Eurasia. Most of these are purely geographical claims, but he does mention that Eratosthenes' sources say that some of the Greek kings conquered further than Alexander; Strabo does not believe them on this, but modern historians do; nor does he believe that Menander and Demetrius son of Euthydemus conquered more tribes than Alexander[42] There is half a story about Menander in one of the books of Polybius which has not come down to us intact.[43]

There are Indian literary sources, ranging from the Milinda Panha, a dialogue between a Buddhist sage Nagasena and King Menander I, which includes some incidental information on Menander's biography and the geography and institutions of his kingdom, down to a sentence about Menander (presumably the same Menander) and his attack on Pataliputra which happens to have survived as a standard example in grammar texts; none is a narrative history. Names in these sources are consistently Indianized, and there is some dispute whether, for example, Dharmamitra represents "Demetrius" or is an Indian prince with that name. There was also a Chinese expedition to Bactria by Chang-k'ien under the Emperor Wu of Han, recorded in the Records of the Grand Historian and Book of the Former Han, with additional evidence in the Book of the Later Han; the identification of places and peoples behind transcriptions into Chinese is difficult, and several alternate interpretations have been proposed.[44]

There is also significant archaeological evidence, including some epigraphic evidence, for the Indo-Greek kings, such as the mention of the "Yavana" embassy of king Antialcidas on the Heliodorus pillar in Vidisha,[45] primarily in Indic languages, which has the same problems with names as the Indic literary evidence. But the chief archaeological evidence is the coins.

There are coin finds of several dozen Indo-Greek rulers in India; exactly how many is complicated to determine, because the Greeks did not number their kings, and the eastern Greeks did not date their coins. For example, there are a substantial number of coin finds for a King Demetrius, but authors have postulated one, two, or three Demetrii, and the same coins have been identified by different enquirers as describing Demetrius I, Demetrius II, or Demetrius III.[46] The following deductions have been made from coins, in addition to mere existence:

  • Kings who left many coins reigned long and prosperously.
  • Hoards which contain many coins of the same king come from his realm.
  • Kings who use the same iconography are friendly, and may well be from the same family,
  • If a king overstrikes another king's coins, this is an important evidence to show that the overstriker reigned after the overstruck. Overstrikes may indicate that the two kings were enemies.
  • Indo-Greek coins, like other Hellenistic coins, have monograms in addition to their inscriptions. These are generally held to indicate a mint official; therefore, if two kings issue coins with the same monogram, they reigned in the same area, and if not immediately following one another, have no long interval between them.

All of these arguments are arguments of probability, and have exceptions; one of Menander's coins was found in Wales.

The exact time and progression of the Bactrian expansion into India is difficult to ascertain, but ancient authors name Demetrius, Apollodotus, and Menander as conquerors.[47]

[edit] Demetrius

The founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom Demetrius I (c. 205– c.170 BC), wearing the scalp of an elephant, symbol of his conquests in India.[48]

Demetrius I was the son of Euthydemus I of Bactria; there is an inscription from his father's reign already officially hailing him as victorious. He also has one of the few absolute dates in Indo-Greek history: after his father held off Antiochus III for two years, 208-6 BC, the peace treaty included the offer of a marriage between Demetrius and Antiochus' daughter.[49] Coins of Demetrius I have been found in Arachosia and in the Kabul Valley; the latter would be the first entry of the Greeks into India, as they defined it. There is also literary evidence for a campaign eastward against the Seres and the Phryni; but the order and dating of these conquests is uncertain.[50] Demetrius I seems to have conquered the Kabul valley, Arachosia and perhaps Gandhara;[51] he struck no Indian coins, so either his conquests did not penetrate that far into India or he died before he could consolidate them. On his coins, Demetrius I always carries the elephant-helmet worn by Alexander, which seems to be a token of his Indian conquests.[52] Bopearachchi believes that Demetrius received the title of "King of India" following his victories south of the Hindu Kush.[53] He was also given, though perhaps only posthumously, the title ανικητος ("Anicetos", lit. Invincible) a cult title of Heracles, which Alexander had assumed; the later Indo-Greek kings Lysias, Philoxenus, and Artemidorus also took it.[54] Finally, Demetrius may have been the founder of a newly discovered Greek Era, starting in 186/5 BC.[55]

[edit] After Demetrius I

Indo-Greek territory, with known campaigns and battles.[56][57][58]

After the death of Demetrius, the Bactrian kings Pantaleon and Agathocles struck the first bilingual coins with Indian inscriptions found as far east as Taxila[59] so in their time (c. 185-170 BC) the Bactrian kingdom seems to have included Gandhara.[60] Several Bactrian kings followed after Demetrius' death, and it seems likely that the civil wars between them made it possible for Apollodotus I (from c. 180/175 BC) to make himself independent as the first proper Indo-Greek king (who did not rule from Bactria). Large numbers of his coins have been found in India, and he seems to have reigned in Gandhara as well as western Punjab. Apollodotus I was succeeded by or ruled alongside Antimachus II, likely the son of the Bactrian king Antimachus I.[61]

The next important Indo-Greek king was Menander (from c. 165/155 BC) whose coins are frequently found even in eastern Punjab. Menander seems to have begun a second wave of conquests, and since he already ruled in India, it seems likely that the easternmost conquests were made by him.[62]

According to Apollodorus of Artemita, quoted by Strabo, the Indo-Greek territory for a while included the Indian coastal provinces of Sindh and possibly Gujarat.[63] With archaeological methods, the Indo-Greek territory can however only be confirmed from the Kabul Valley to the eastern Punjab, so Greek presence outside was probably short-lived or less significant.

Some sources also claim that the Indo-Greeks may have reached the Sunga capital Pataliputra in northeastern India. However, the nature of this expedition is a matter of controversy. One theory is that Indo-Greeks were invited to join a raid led by local Indian kings down the Ganges river. The other is that it was a campaign likely made by Menander. Irrespective it appears that Pataliputra, if at all captured, was not held for long as the expedition was forced to retreat, probably due to wars in their own territories.[64] Menander's reign saw the end of the Indo-Greek expansion.

An Indo-Greek stone palette showing Poseidon with attendants. He wears a chiton tunic, a chlamys cape, and boots. 2nd-1st century BC, Gandhara, Ancient Orient Museum.

[edit] The first conquests

Greek presence in Arachosia, where Greek populations had been living since before the acquisition of the territory by Chandragupta from Seleucus is mentioned by Isidore of Charax. He describes Greek cities there, one of them called Demetrias, probably in honour of the conqueror Demetrius.[65]

Apollodotus I (and Menander I) were mentioned by Pompejus Trogus as important Indo-Greek kings.[66] It is theorized that Greek advances temporarily went as far as the Sunga capital Pataliputra (today Patna) in eastern India. Senior considers that these conquests can only refer to Menander:[67] Against this, John Mitchener considers that the Greeks probably raided the Indian capital of Pataliputra during the time of Demetrius,[68] though Mitchener's analysis is not based on numismatic evidence.

"Of the eastern parts of India, then, there have become known to us all those parts which lie this side of the Hypanis, and also any parts beyond the Hypanis of which an account has been added by those who, after Alexander, advanced beyond the Hypanis, to the Ganges and Pataliputra."
Strabo, 15-1-27[69]

The seriousness of the attack is in some doubt: Menander may merely have joined a raid led by Indian Kings down the Ganga,[70] as Indo-Greek presence has not been confirmed this far east.

To the south, the Greeks may have occupied the areas of the Sindh and Gujarat, including the strategic harbour of Barygaza (Bharuch),[71] conquests also attested by coins dating from the Indo-Greek ruler Apollodotus I and by several ancient writers (Strabo 11; Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chap. 41/47):[72]

"The Greeks... took possession, not only of Patalena, but also, on the rest of the coast, of what is called the kingdom of Saraostus and Sigerdis."
—Strabo 11.11.1[73]
Menander I became the most important of the Indo-Greek rulers.[74]

Narain however dismisses the account of the Periplus as "just a sailor's story", and holds that coin finds are not necessarily indicators of occupation.[75] Coin hoards suggest that in Central India, the area of Malwa may also have been conquered.[76]

Various Indian records describe Yavana attacks on Mathura, Panchala, Saketa, and Pataliputra. The term Yavana is thought to be a transliteration of "Ionians" and is known to have designated Hellenistic Greeks (starting with the Edicts of Ashoka, where Ashoka writes about "the Yavana king Antiochus"),[77] but may have sometimes referred to other foreigners as well after the 1st century AD.[78]

Patanjali, a grammarian and commentator on Pāṇini around 150 BC, describes in the Mahābhāsya, the invasion in two examples using the imperfect tense of Sanskrit, denoting a recent event:[79][80]

  • "Arunad Yavanah Sāketam" ("The Yavanas (Greeks) were besieging Saketa")
  • "Arunad Yavano Madhyamikām" ("The Yavanas were besieging Madhyamika" (the "Middle country")).

Also the Brahmanical text of the Yuga Purana, which describes Indian historical events in the form of a prophecy, but is thought to be likely historical,[81][82][83] relates the attack of the Indo-Greeks on the capital Pataliputra,[84] a magnificent fortified city with 570 towers and 64 gates according to Megasthenes,[85] and describes the ultimate destruction of the city's walls:[86]

"Then, after having approached Saketa together with the Panchalas and the Mathuras, the Yavanas, valiant in battle, will reach Kusumadhvaja ("The town of the flower-standard", Pataliputra). Then, once Puspapura (another name of Pataliputra) has been reached and its celebrated mud-walls cast down, all the realm will be in disorder."
Yuga Purana, Paragraph 47–48, quoted in Mitchener, The Yuga Purana, 2002 edition

Earlier authors such as Tarn have suggested that the raid on Pataliputra was made by Demetrius.[87] According to Mitchener, the Hathigumpha inscription indicates the presence of the Greeks led by a "Demetrius" in eastern India (Magadha) during the 1st century BC,[88] although this interpretation was previously disputed by Narain.[89] But while this inscription may be interpreted as an indication that Demetrius I was the king who made conquests in Punjab, it is still true that he never issued any Indian coins, and the restoration of his name in Kharosthi on the Hathigumpha inscription: Di-Mi-Ta, has been doubted.[90] The "Di" is a reconstruction, and it may be noted that the name of another Indo-Greek king, Amyntas, is spelt A-Mi-Ta in Kharosthi and may fit in.

Therefore, Menander remains the likeliest candidate for any advance east of Punjab.

[edit] Consolidation

Eucratides I toppled the Greco-Bactrian Euthydemid dynasty, and attacked the Indo-Greeks from the west.

The important Bactrian king Eucratides seems to have attacked the Indo-Greek kingdom during the mid 2nd century BC. A Demetrius, called "King of the Indians", seems to have confronted Eucratides in a four month siege, reported by Justin, but he ultimately lost.[91]

In any case, Eucratides seems to have occupied territory as far as the Indus, between ca. 170 BC and 150 BC.[92] His advances were ultimately checked by the Indo-Greek king Menander I,[93]

Menander is considered to have been probably the most successful Indo-Greek king, and the conqueror of the largest territory.[94] The finds of his coins are the most numerous and the most widespread of all the Indo-Greek kings. Menander is also remembered in Buddhist literature, where he called Milinda, and is described in the Milinda Panha as a convert to Buddhism:[95] he became an arhat[96] whose relics were enshrined in a manner reminiscent of the Buddha.[97][98] He also introduced a new coin type, with Athena Alkidemos ("Protector of the people") on the reverse, which was adopted by most of his successors in the East.[99]

[edit] Fall of Bactria and death of Menander

From the mid-2nd century BC, the Scythians and then the Yuezhi, following a long migration from the border of China, started to invade Bactria from the north.[100] Around 130 BC the last Greco-Bactrian king Heliocles was probably killed during the invasion and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom proper ceased to exist. The Parthians also probably played a role in the downfall of the Bactrian kingdom.

Coin of Philoxenus (c.100 BC), unarmed, making a blessing gesture with the right hand.

The Indo-Greek states, shielded by the Hindu Kush range, were saved from the invasions, but the civil wars which had weakened the Greeks continued. Menander I died around the same time, and even though the king himself seems to have been popular among his subjects, his dynasty was at least partially dethroned (see discussion under Menander I). Probable members of the dynasty of Menander include the ruling queen Agathokleia, her son Strato I, and Nicias, though it is uncertain whether they ruled directly after Menander.[101] Other kings emerged, usually in the western part of the Indo-Greek realm, such as Zoilos I, Lysias, Antialcidas and Philoxenos.[102] These rulers may have been relatives of either the Eucratid or the Euthydemid dynasties. The names of later kings were often new (members of Hellenistic dynasties usually inherited family names) but old reverses and titles were frequently repeated by the later rulers.

While all Indo-Greek kings after Apollodotus I mainly issued bilingual (Greek and Kharoshti) coins for circulation in their own territories, several of them also struck rare Greek coins which have been found in Bactria. The later kings probably struck these coins as some kind of payment to the Scythian or Yuezhi tribes who now ruled there, though if as tribute or payment for mercenaries remains unknown.[103] For some decades after the Bactrian invasion, relationships seem to have been peaceful between the Indo-Greeks and these relatively hellenised nomad tribes.

There are however no historical recordings of events in the Indo-Greek kingdom after Menander's death around 130 BC, since the Indo-Greeks had now become very isolated from the rest of the Graeco-Roman world. The later history of the Indo-Greek states, which lasted to around the shift BC/AD, is reconstructed almost entirely from archaeological and numismatical analyses.[104]

[edit] Later History

Throughout the 1st century BC, the Indo-Greeks progressively lost ground to the Indians in the east, and the Scythians, the Yuezhi, and the Parthians in the West. About 20 Indo-Greek king are known during this period,[105] down to the last known Indo-Greek ruler, a king named Strato II, who ruled in the Punjab region until around 55 BC.[106] Other sources, however, place the end of Strato II's reign as late as 10 AD - see below in the list of coins.

[edit] Loss of Eastern territories (circa 100 BC)

Coin of the Yaudheyas.

The Indo-Greeks may have ruled as far as the area of Mathura until the 1st century BC: the Maghera inscription, from a village near Mathura, records the dedication of a well "in the one hundred and sixteenth year of the reign of the Yavanas", which could be as late as 70 BC.[107] Soon however Indian kings recovered the area of Mathura and south-eastern Punjab, west of the Yamuna River, and started to mint their own coins. The Arjunayanas (area of Mathura) and Yaudheyas mention military victories on their coins ("Victory of the Arjunayanas", "Victory of the Yaudheyas"). During the 1st century BC, the Trigartas, Audumbaras[108] and finally the Kunindas[109] also started to mint their own coins, usually in a style highly reminiscent of Indo-Greek coinage.[110][111][112][113]

The Western king Philoxenus briefly occupied the whole remaining Greek territory from the Paropamisadae to Western Punjab between 100 to 95 BC, after what the territories fragmented again. The western kings regained their territory as far west as Arachosia, and eastern kings continued to rule on and off until the beginning of our era.

[edit] Scythian invasions (80 BC-20 AD)

Asia in 1 AD, showing last kingdom of the Indo-Greeks.
Tetradrachm of Hippostratos, reigned circa 65-55 BC.
Silver coin of the Indo-Scythian king Azes II (r.c. 35-12 BC).

Around 80 BC, an Indo-Scythian king named Maues, possibly a general in the service of the Indo-Greeks, ruled for a few years in northwestern India before the Indo-Greeks again took control. He seems to have been married to an Indo-Greek princess.[114] King Hippostratos (65-55 BC) seems to have been one of the most successful subsequent Indo-Greek kings until he lost to the Indo-Scythian Azes I, who established an Indo-Scythian dynasty.[115] Various coins seem to suggest that some sort of alliance may have taken place between the Indo-Greeks and the Scythians.[116]

Although the Indo-Scythians clearly ruled militarily and politically, they remained surprisingly respectful of Greek and Indian cultures. Their coins were minted in Greek mints, continued using proper Greek and Kharoshthi legends, and incorporated depictions of Greek deities, particularly Zeus.[117] The Mathura lion capital inscription attests that they adopted the Buddhist faith, as do the depictions of deities forming the vitarka mudra on their coins. Greek communities, far from being exterminated, probably persisted under Indo-Scythian rule. There is a possibility that a fusion, rather than a confrontation, occurred between the Greeks and the Indo-Scythians: in a recently published coin, Artemidoros presents himself as "son of Maues",[118] and the Buner reliefs show Indo-Greeks and Indo-Scythians reveling in a Buddhist context.

The Indo-Greeks continued to rule a territory in the eastern Punjab, until the kingdom of the last Indo-Greek king Strato was taken over by the Indo-Scythian ruler Rajuvula around 10 AD.[119]

[edit] Western Yuezhi or Saka expansion (70 BC-)

Silver bilingual drachm of Hermaeus (ruled 90-70 BC) with his wife Kalliope. King on horse, equipped with the recurve bow of the steppes.

Around eight "western" Indo-Greek kings are known; most of them are distinguished by their issues of Attic coins for circulation in the neighbouring.

One of the last important kings in the Paropamisadae was Hermaeus, who ruled until around 80 BC; soon after his death the Yuezhi or Sakas took over his areas from neighbouring Bactria. When Hermaeus is depicted on his coins riding a horse, he is equipped with the recurve bow and bow-case of the steppes and RC Senior believes him to be of partly nomad origin. The later king Hippostratus may however also have held territories in the Paropamisadae.

After the death of Hermaeus, the Yuezhi or Saka nomads became the new rulers of the Paropamisadae, and minted vast quantities of posthumous issues of Hermaeus up to around 40 AD, when they blend with the coinage of the Kushan king Kujula Kadphises.[120] The first documented Yuezhi prince, Sapadbizes, ruled around 20 BC, and minted in Greek and in the same style as the western Indo-Greek kings, probably depending on Greek mints and celators.

The last known mention of an Indo-Greek ruler is suggested by an inscription on a signet ring of the 1st century AD in the name of a king Theodamas, from the Bajaur area of Gandhara, in modern Pakistan. No coins of him are known, but the signet bears in kharoshthi script the inscription "Su Theodamasa", "Su" being explained as the Greek transliteration of the ubiquitous Kushan royal title "Shau" ("Shah", "King").[121]

[edit] Ideology

Bilingual silver drachm of Menander I (160-135 BC). With obverse in Greek "BASILEOS SOTĒROS MENANDROY" and reverse in Kharosthi "MAHARAJA TRATASA MENADRASA": "Of The Saviour King Menander". Reverse shows Athena advancing left, with thunderbolt and shield.
Indian-standard coin of Apollodotus I (180–160 BC).

Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek kings, and their rule, especially that of Menander, has been remembered as benevolent. It has been suggested, although direct evidence is lacking, that their invasion of India was intended to show their support for the Mauryan empire which may have had a long history of marital alliances,[122] exchange of presents,[123] demonstrations of friendship,[124] exchange of ambassadors[125] and religious missions[126] with the Greeks. The historian Diodorus even wrote that the king of Pataliputra had "great love for the Greeks".[127][128]

The Greek expansion into Indian territory may have been intended to protect Greek populations in India,[129] and to protect the Buddhist faith from the religious persecutions of the Sungas.[130] The city of Sirkap founded by Demetrius combines Greek and Indian influences without signs of segregation between the two cultures.

The first Greek coins to be minted in India, those of Menander I and Appolodotus I bear the mention "Saviour king" (ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ), a title with high value in the Greek world which indicated an important deflective victory. For instance, Ptolemy I had been Soter (saviour) because he had helped save Rhodes from Demetrius the Besieger, and Antiochus I because he had saved Asia Minor from the Gauls. The title was also inscribed in Pali as ("Tratarasa") on the reverse of their coins. Menander and Apollodotus may indeed have been saviours to the Greek populations residing in India, and to some of the Indians as well.[131]

Also, most of the coins of the Greek kings in India were bilingual, written in Greek on the front and in Pali on the back (in the Kharosthi script, derived from Aramaic, rather than the more eastern Brahmi, which was used only once on coins of Agathocles of Bactria), a tremendous concession to another culture never before made in the Hellenic world.[132] From the reign of Apollodotus II, around 80 BC, Kharosthi letters started to be used as mintmarks on coins in combination with Greek monograms and mintmarks, suggesting the participation of local technicians to the minting process.[133] Incidentally, these bilingual coins of the Indo-Greeks were the key in the decipherment of the Kharoshthi script by James Prinsep (1799–1840).[134] Kharoshthi became extinct around the 3rd century AD.

In Indian literature, the Indo-Greeks are described as Yavanas (in Sanskrit),[135][136][137] or Yonas (in Pali)[138] both thought to be transliterations of "Ionians". In the Harivamsa the "Yavana" Indo-Greeks are qualified, together with the Sakas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas as Kshatriya-pungava i.e. foremost among the Warrior caste, or Kshatriyas. The Majjhima Nikaya explains that in the lands of the Yavanas and Kambojas, in contrast with the numerous Indian castes, there were only two classes of people, Aryas and Dasas (masters and slaves).

[edit] Religion

Indian-standard coinage of Menander I with a Buddhist eight-spoked wheel,[139] and a palm of victory on the reverse (British Museum).

In addition to the worship of the Classical pantheon of the Greek deities found on their coins (Zeus, Herakles, Athena, Apollo...), the Indo-Greeks were involved with local faiths, particularly with Buddhism, but also with Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.[140]

After the Greco-Bactrians militarily occupied parts of northern India from around 180 BC, numerous instances of interaction between Greeks and Buddhism are recorded. Menander I, the "Saviour king", seems to have converted to Buddhism,[141] and is described as a great benefactor of the religion, on a par with Ashoka or the future Kushan emperor Kanishka.[142] The wheel he represented on some of his coins was probably Buddhist,[139] and he is famous for his dialogues with the Buddhist monk Nagasena, transmitted to us in the Milinda Panha, which explain that he became a Buddhist arhat:

"And afterwards, taking delight in the wisdom of the Elder, he (Menander) handed over his kingdom to his son, and abandoning the household life for the house-less state, grew great in insight, and himself attained to Arahatship!"
The Questions of King Milinda, Translation by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Another Indian text, the Stupavadana of Ksemendra, mentions in the form of a prophecy that Menander will build a stupa in Pataliputra.[143]

Plutarch also presents Menander as an example of benevolent rule, and explains that upon his death, the honour of sharing his remains was claimed by the various cities under his rule, and they were enshrined in "monuments" (μνημεία, probably stupas), in a parallel with the historic Buddha:[144]

"But when one Menander, who had reigned graciously over the Bactrians, died afterwards in the camp, the cities indeed by common consent celebrated his funerals; but coming to a contest about his relics, they were difficultly at last brought to this agreement, that his ashes being distributed, everyone should carry away an equal share, and they should all erect monuments to him."
Plutarch, "Political Precepts" Praec. reip. ger. 28, 6).[145]

[edit] Art

Greek Buddhist devotees, holding plantain leaves, in purely Hellenistic style, inside Corinthian columns, Buner relief, Victoria and Albert Museum.

In general, the art of the Indo-Greeks is poorly documented, and few works of art (apart from their coins and a few stone palettes) are directly attributed to them. The coinage of the Indo-Greeks however is generally considered as some of the most artistically brilliant of Antiquity.[146] The Hellenistic heritage (Ai-Khanoum) and artistic proficiency of the Indo-Greek world would suggest a rich sculptural tradition as well, but traditionally very few sculptural remains have been attributed to them. On the contrary, most Gandharan Hellenistic works of art are usually attributed to the direct successors of the Indo-Greeks in India in 1st century AD, such as the nomadic Indo-Scythians, the Indo-Parthians and, in an already decadent state, the Kushans[147] In general, Gandharan sculpture cannot be dated exactly, leaving the exact chronology open to interpretation.

Hellenistic culture in the Indian subcontinent: Greek clothes, amphoras, wine and music (Detail of Chakhil-i-Ghoundi stupa, Hadda, Gandhara, 1st century AD).

The possibility of a direct connection between the Indo-Greeks and Greco-Buddhist art has been reaffirmed recently as the dating of the rule of Indo-Greek kings has been extended to the first decades of the 1st century AD, with the reign of Strato II in the Punjab.[148] Also, Foucher, Tarn, and more recently, Boardman, Bussagli and McEvilley have taken the view that some of the most purely Hellenistic works of northwestern India and Afghanistan, may actually be wrongly attributed to later centuries, and instead belong to a period one or two centuries earlier, to the time of the Indo-Greeks in the 2nd-1st century BC:[149]

Indo-Greek princes may have been the models for the Bodhisattvas of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara.[150]

This also seems to be corroborated by Ranajit Pal's suggestion that the Indo-Greek king Diodotus_I was the great Ashoka.[3].[151]

This is particularly the case of some purely Hellenistic works in Hadda, Afghanistan, an area which "might indeed be the cradle of incipient Buddhist sculpture in Indo-Greek style".[152] Referring to one of the Buddha triads in Hadda, in which the Buddha is sided by very Classical depictions of Herakles/Vajrapani and Tyche/Hariti, Boardman explains that both figures "might at first (and even second) glance, pass as, say, from Asia Minor or Syria of the first or second century BC (...) these are essentially Greek figures, executed by artists fully conversant with far more than the externals of the Classical style".[153]

Alternatively, it has been suggested that these works of art may have been executed by itinerant Greek artists during the time of maritime contacts with the West from the 1st to the 3rd century AD.[154]

The Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, beyond the omnipresence of Greek style and stylistic elements which might be simply considered as an enduring artistic tradition,[155] offers numerous depictions of people in Greek Classical realistic style, attitudes and fashion (clothes such as the chiton and the himation, similar in form and style to the 2nd century BC Greco-Bactrian statues of Ai-Khanoum, hairstyle), holding contraptions which are characteristic of Greek culture (amphoras, "kantaros" Greek drinking cups), in situations which can range from festive (such as Bacchanalian scenes) to Buddhist-devotional.[156][157]

Seated Boddhisatva, Gandhara, 2nd century (Ostasiatische Museum, Berlin)

Uncertainties in dating make it unclear whether these works of art actually depict Greeks of the period of Indo-Greek rule up to the 1st century BC, or remaining Greek communities under the rule of the Indo-Parthians or Kushans in the 1st and 2nd century AD. Benjamin Rowland thinks that the Indo-Greeks, rather than the Indo-Scythians or the Kushans, may have been the models for the Bodhisattva statues of Gandhara[158]

[edit] Economy

Very little is known about the economy of the Indo-Greeks, although it seems to have been rather vibrant.[159][160] The abundance of their coins would tend to suggest large mining operations, particularly in the mountainous area of the Hindu-Kush, and an important monetary economy. The Indo-Greek did strike bilingual coins both in the Greek "round" standard and in the Indian "square" standard,[161] suggesting that monetary circulation extended to all parts of society. The adoption of Indo-Greek monetary conventions by neighbouring kingdoms, such as the Kunindas to the east and the Satavahanas to the south,[162] would also suggest that Indo-Greek coins were used extensively for cross-border trade.

[edit] Tribute payments

Stone palette depicting a mythological scene, 2nd-1st century BC.

It would also seem that some of the coins emitted by the Indo-Greek kings, particularly those in the monolingual Attic standard, may have been used to pay some form of tribute to the Yuezhi tribes north of the Hindu-Kush.[103] This is indicated by the coins finds of the Qunduz hoard in northern Afghanistan, which have yielded quantities of Indo-Greek coins in the Hellenistic standard (Greek weights, Greek language), although none of the kings represented in the hoard are known to have ruled so far north.[163] Conversely, none of these coins have ever been found south of the Hindu-Kush.[164]

[edit] Trade with China

An indirect testimony by the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian, who visited Bactria around 128 BC, suggests that intense trade with Southern China was going through northern India. Zhang Qian explains that he found Chinese products in the Bactrian markets, and that they were transiting through northwestern India, which he incidentally describes as a civilization similar to that of Bactria:

"When I was in Bactria", Zhang Qian reported, "I saw bamboo canes from Qiong and cloth (silk?) made in the province of Shu. When I asked the people how they had gotten such articles, they replied: "Our merchants go buy them in the markets of Shendu (northwestern India). Shendu, they told me, lies several thousand li southeast of Bactria. The people cultivate land, and live much like the people of Bactria".
Sima Qian, "Records of the Great Historian", trans. Burton Watson, p. 236.

[edit] Indian Ocean trade

Maritime relations across the Indian ocean started in the 3rd century BC, and further developed during the time of the Indo-Greeks together with their territorial expansion along the western coast of India. The first contacts started when the Ptolemies constructed the Red Sea ports of Myos Hormos and Berenike, with destination the Indus delta, the Kathiawar peninsula or Muziris. Around 130 BC, Eudoxus of Cyzicus is reported (Strabo, Geog.  II.3.4)[165] to have made a successful voyage to India and returned with a cargo of perfumes and gemstones. By the time Indo-Greek rule was ending, up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to India (Strabo Geog. II.5.12).[166]

[edit] Armed forces

The coins of the Indo-Greeks provide rich clues on their uniforms and weapons. Typical Hellenistic uniforms are depicted, with helmets being either round in the Greco-Bactrian style, or the flat kausia of the Macedonians (coins of Apollodotus I).

[edit] Military technology

Their weapons were spears, swords, longbow (on the coins of Agathokleia) and arrows. Interestingly, around 130 BC the Central Asian recurve bow of the steppes with its gorytos box starts to appear for the first time on the coins of Zoilos I, suggesting strong interactions (and apparently an alliance) with nomadic peoples, either Yuezhi or Scythian.[167] The recurve bow becomes a standard feature of Indo-Greek horsemen by 90 BC, as seen on some of the coins of Hermaeus.

Generally, Indo-Greek kings are often represented riding horses, as early as the reign of Antimachus II around 160 BC. The equestrian tradition probably goes back to the Greco-Bactrians, who are said by Polybius to have faced a Seleucid invasion in 210 BC with 10,000 horsemen.[168] Although war elephants are never represented on coins, a harness plate (phalera) dated to the 3-2nd century BC, today in the Hermitage Museum, depicts a helmetted Greek combatant on an Indian war elephant.

Indo-Greek officer (on a coin of Menander II), circa 90 BC. He is equipped with a cuirass, lamellar armour for the thighs, and leg protections (cnemids).[169]

The Milinda Panha, in the questions of Nagasena to king Menander, provides a rare glimpse of the military methods of the period:

"(Nagasena) Has it ever happened to you, O king, that rival kings rose up against you as enemies and opponents?
-(Menander) 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, Book III, Chap 7)

The Milinda Panha also describes the structure of Menander's army:

"Now one day Milinda the king proceeded forth out of the city to pass in review the innumerable host of his mighty army in its fourfold array (of elephants, cavalry, bowmen, and soldiers on foot)." (Milinda Panha, Book I)

[edit] Size of Indo-Greek armies

The Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides (171-145 BC) is said to have vanquished 60,000 Indo-Greeks, before being himself defeated by Menander.

The armed forces of the Indo-Greeks engaged in important battles with local Indian forces. The ruler of Kalinga, Kharavela, claims in the Hathigumpha inscription that he led a "large army" in the direction of Demetrius' own "army" and "transports", and that he induced him to retreat from Pataliputra to Mathura. The Greek ambassador Megasthenes took special note of the military strength of Kalinga in his Indica in the middle of the 3rd century BC:

"The royal city of the Calingae (Kalinga) is called Parthalis. Over their king 60,000-foot-soldiers, 1,000 horsemen, 700 elephants keep watch and ward in "procinct of war."
—Megasthenes fragm. LVI. in Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8–23. 11.[170]

An account by the Roman writer Justin gives another hint of the size of Indo-Greek armies, which, in the case of the conflict between the Greco-Bactrian Eucratides and the Indo-Greek Demetrius II, he numbers at 60,000 (although they allegedly lost to 300 Greco-Bactrians):

"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[171]

These are considerable numbers, as large armies during the Hellenistic period typically numbered between 20,000 to 30,000.[172]

The Indo-Greeks were later confronted by the nomadic tribes from Central Asia (Yuezhi and Scythians). According to Zhang Qian, the Yuezhi represented a considerable force of between 100,000 and 200,000 mounted archer warriors,[173] with customs identical to those of the Xiongnu.

[edit] Legacy of the Indo-Greeks

The Indo-Scythian Taxila copper plate uses the Macedonian month of "Panemos" for calendrical purposes (British Museum).[174]

From the 1st century AD, the Greek communities of central Asia and northwestern India lived under the control of the Kushan branch of the Yuezhi, apart from a short-lived invasion of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom.[175] The Kushans founded the Kushan Empire, which was to prosper for several centuries. In the south, the Greeks were under the rule of the Western Kshatrapas.

It is unclear how much longer the Greeks managed to maintain a distinct presence in the Indian sub-continent. The legacy of the Indo-Greeks was felt however for several centuries, from the usage of the Greek language and calendrical methods,[176] to the influences on the numismatics of the Indian subcontinent, tracable down to the period of the Gupta Empire in the 4th century.[177]

The Indo-Greeks may also have had some influence on the religious plan as well, especially in relation to the developing Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism has been described as "the form of Buddhism which (regardless of how Hinduized its later forms became) seems to have originated in the Greco-Buddhist communities of India, through a conflation of the Greek DemocriteanSophisticSkeptical tradition with the rudimentary and unformalized empirical and skeptical elements already present in early Buddhism".[178]

[edit] List of the Indo-Greek kings and their territories

Today 36 Indo-Greek kings are known. Several of them are also recorded in Western and Indian historical sources, but the majority are known through numismatic evidence only. The exact chronology and sequencing of their rule is still a matter of scholarly inquiry, with adjustments regular being made with new analysis and coin finds (overstrikes of one king over another's coins being the most critical element in establishing chronological sequences). The system used here is adapted from Osmund Bopearachchi, supplemented by the views of R C Senior and occasionally other authorities.[179]

INDO-GREEK KINGS AND THEIR TERRITORIES
Based on Bopearachchi (1991)
Territories/
Dates
PAROPAMISADE
ARACHOSIA GANDHARA WESTERN PUNJAB EASTERN PUNJAB
200-190 BCE Demetrius I DemetriusCoin.jpg  
190-180 BCE Agathocles AgathoclesWithAlexander.jpg Pantaleon  
185-170 BCE Antimachus IAntimachusMedaille.jpg  
180-160 BCE Apollodotus I AppolodotusCoin.JPG  
175-170 BCE Demetrius II  
160-155 BCE Antimachus II  
170-145 BCE EucratidesTetradrachm Eukratides.jpg  
155-130 BCE Menander IMenander Alexandria-Kapisa.jpg
130-120 BCE Zoilos IZoilosI-525.jpg AgathokleiaAgathokleia&Strato.jpg  
120-110 BCE Lysias Lysias-150.jpg Strato I  
110-100 BCE AntialcidasAntialcidas.JPG Heliokles II  
100 BCE Polyxenios Demetrius III Demetrius Aniketou.jpg  
100-95 BCE Philoxenus PhiloxenusCoin2.JPG  
95-90 BCE Diomedes Amyntas Epander  
90 BCE Theophilos Theophilos-634.jpg Peukolaos Thraso  
90-85 BCE Nicias Menander IIMenanderDikaiou.jpg Artemidoros  
90-70 BCE Hermaeus HermaeusCoin.jpg ArchebiosArchebios229.jpg  
  Yuezhi tribes Maues (Indo-Scythian)  
75-70 BCE   Telephos Apollodotus IIApollodotusCoin.jpg
65-55 BCE   HippostratosHippostratos.jpg Dionysios
55-35 BCE   Azes I (Indo-Scythian) Zoilos IIZoilosIICoin.JPG
55-35 BCE   ApollophanesApollophanes.jpg
25 BCE- 10 CE   Strato IIStratoIAndStratoII.jpg
    Rajuvula (Indo-Scythian)

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