Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

256 BC–125 BC
 

 

Approximate maximum extent of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom circa 180 BC, including the regions of Tapuria and Traxiane to the West, Sogdiana and Ferghana to the north, Bactria and Arachosia to the south.
Capital Bactra
Alexandria on the Oxus
Languages Greek
Bactrian
Religion Hellenism
Buddhism
Government Monarchy
King
 -  256–240 BC Diodotus I
 -  145–130 BC Heliocles I
Historical era Antiquity
 -  Established 256 BC
 -  Disestablished 125 BC

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was — along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom — the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into northern India from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around AD 10.

Independence (around 250 BC)

Gold coin of Diodotus c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – "(of) King Diodotus".

Diodotus, the satrap of Bactria (and probably the surrounding provinces) founded the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom when he seceded from the Seleucid Empire around 250 BC and became King Diodotus I of Bactria. The preserved ancient sources (see below) are somewhat contradictory, and the exact date of Bactrian independence has not been settled. Somewhat simplified, there is a high chronology (c. 255 BC) and a low chronology (c. 246 BC) for Diodotos’ secession.1 The high chronology has the advantage of explaining why the Seleucid king Antiochus II issued very few coins in Bactria, as Diodotos would have become independent there early in Antiochus' reign.2 On the other hand, the low chronology, from the mid-240s BC, has the advantage of connecting the secession of Diodotus I with the Third Syrian War, a catastrophic conflict for the Seleucid Empire.

"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 3)

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 4), was to further grow in power and engage into territorial expansion to the east and the west:

Remains of a Hellenistic capital found in Balkh, ancient Bactra.
"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,5 which was named after its ruler." (Strabo, XI.XI.I 6)

In 247 BC, the Ptolemaic empire (the Greek rulers of Egypt following the death of Alexander the Great) captured the Selucid capital, Antioch. In the resulting power vacuum, the satrap of Parthia proclaimed independence from the Selucids, declaring himself king. A decade later, he was defeated and killed by Arsaces of Parthia, leading to the rise of a Parthian Empire. This cut Bactria off from 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)7

Overthrow of Diodotus II (230 BC)

Asia in 200 BC, showing the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and its neighbors.

Euthydemus, a Magnesian Greek according to Polybius8 and possibly satrap of Sogdiana, overthrew the dynasty of Diodotus I around 230-220 BC 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.11.29

Seleucid invasion

Coin depicting the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus 230–200 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΕΥΘΥΔΗΜΟΥ – "(of) King Euthydemus".

Euthydemus was attacked by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III around 210 BC. Although he commanded 10,000 horsemen, Euthydemus initially lost a battle on the Arius 10 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 BC.11 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 hordes 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 8)

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.

Statuette of a Greek soldier, from a 3rd-century BC burial site north of the Tian Shan, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum (drawing).

Contacts with China

Probable Greek soldier in the Sampul tapestry, woollen wall hanging, 3rd–2nd century BC, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum.
Zhou/Han bronze mirror with glass inlays, perhaps incorporated Greco-Roman artistic patterns (rosette flowers, geometric lines, and glass inlays). Victoria and Albert Museum.
Western-influenced Zhou vase with glass inlays, 4th–3rd century BC, British Museum.

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 BC. 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 6).

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 12).

Greek influences on Chinese art have also been suggested (Hirth, Rostovtzeff). Designs with rosette flowers, geometric lines, and glass inlays, suggestive of Hellenistic influences,13 can be found on some early Han dynasty bronze mirrors.14

Numismatics also suggest that some technology exchanges may have occurred on these occasions: the Greco-Bactrians were the first in the world to issue cupro-nickel (75/25 ratio) coins,15 an alloy technology only known by the Chinese at the time under the name "White copper" (some weapons from the Warring States period were in copper-nickel alloy 16). The practice of exporting Chinese metals, in particular iron, for trade is attested around that period. Kings Euthydemus, Euthydemus II, Agathocles and Pantaleon made these coin issues around 170 BC and it has alternatively been suggested that a nickeliferous copper ore was the source from mines at Anarak.17 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 BC, 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 with 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" (Hanshu, 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 BC.18

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 BC. 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.

Bilingual Edict of Ashoka (in Greek and Aramaic), found in Kandahar. Circa 250 BC, Kabul Museum.

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 BC. 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 AD, 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 Judea 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.19

Expansion into India (after 180 BC)

Silver coin depicting Demetrius I of Bactria (reigned c. 200–180 BC), wearing an elephant scalp, symbol of his conquests in India.

Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus, started an invasion of India from 180 BC, 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 BC. This established in northern India what is called the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which lasted for almost two centuries until around AD 10. 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 BC, 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:

Silver tetradrachm of King Eucratides I 171–145 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ – "(of) King Great Eucratides".
Bilingual coin of Eucratides in the Indian standard, on the obverse Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ-"(of) King Great Eucratides", Pali in the Kharoshthi script on the reverse.
"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 20)

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 sepulchre:

"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 20).

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:

Gold 20-stater of Eucratides, the largest gold coin of Antiquity. The coin weighs 169.2 grams, and has a diameter of 58 millimeters.
"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 20)

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 9)

In the year 141 BC, 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 21)

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, c. 138 BC, before his kingdom was weakened by his death in 136 BC.22

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.

Nomadic invasions

Yuezhi expansion (c. 162 BC-)

The migrations of the Yuezhi through Central Asia, from around 176 BC to AD 30.

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

Scythians (c. 140 BC-)

Gold artifacts of the Scythians in Bactria, at the site of Tillia tepe.

Around 140 BC, 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 BC, Phraates's successor, his uncle Artabanus I was killed by the Scythians.23

Second Yuezhi expansion (120 BC-)

When Zhang Qian visited the Yuezhi in 126 BC, 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,24 with customs identical to those of the Xiongnu, which would probably have easily defeated Greco-Bactrian forces (in 208 BC when the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I confronted the invasion of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great, he commanded 10,000 horsemen 10). Zhang Qian actually visited Bactria (named Daxia in Chinese) in 126 BC, 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 BC, 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.

Silver coin of Heliocles (r. 150–125 BC), the last Greco-Bactrian king. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ ΗΛΙΟΚΛΕΟΥΣ – "(of) King Heliocles the Just".

The invasion is also described in western Classical sources from the 1st century BC, 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 25)

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 BC, when the Yuezhi again invaded his territory in the Paropamisadae (while the "eastern" Indo-Greek kings would continue to rule until around AD 10 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 BC the Yuezhi then moved further to northern India where they established the Kushan Empire.

Main Greco-Bactrian kings

House of Diodotus

Territories of Bactria, Sogdiana, Ferghana, Arachosia:

The existence of a third Diodotid king, Antiochus Nikator, perhaps a younger son of Diodotus I, has recently been suggested.

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:

Demetrios I Baktria (c. 205–171 BC). founder of the Indo-Greek kingdom The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ – "(of) King Demetrius

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

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

Territory of Bactria

Silver coin of Antimachus I. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΑΝΤΙΜΑΧΟΥ – "(of) King God Antimachus".

Territories of Paropamisadae, Arachosia, Gandhara, Punjab

  • Pantaleon (190s or 180s BC) Possibly another brother and co-ruler of Demetrius I.
  • Agathocles (c. 190–180 BC) Yet another brother? Coins
  • Apollodotus I (reigned c. 180–160 BC) A fourth brother?
  • Antimachus II Nikephoros (160–155 BC)
  • Demetrius II (155–150 BC) Coins
  • Menander (reigned c. 155–130 BC). 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

Silver tetradrachm of King Eucratides 171–145 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ – "(of) King Great Eucratides".

Territory of Bactria and Sogdiana

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

Corinthian capital, found at Ai-Khanoum, 2nd century BC

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 BC, 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.

Stone block with the inscriptions of Kineas in Greek. Ai Khanoum.

One of the inscriptions in Greek found at Ai-Khanoum, the Herôon of Kineas, has been dated to 300–250 BC, 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 BC), the largest silver coin by the Indo-Greek king Amyntas Nikator (reigned c. 95–90 BC). 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.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ J. D. Lerner, The Impact of Seleucid Decline on the Eastern Iranian Plateau: the Foundations of Arsacid Parthia and Graeco-Bactria, (Stuttgart 1999)
  2. ^ F. L. Holt, Thundering Zeus (Berkeley 1999)
  3. ^ Justin XLI, paragraph 4
  4. ^ Justin XLI, paragraph 1
  5. ^ possibly present day Qarshi; Encyclopaedia Metropolitana: Or Universal Dictionary of Knowledge, Volume 23, edited by Edward Smedley, Hugh James Rose, Henry John Rose, 1923, page 260, states: "Eucratidia, named from its ruler, (Strabo, xi. p. 516.) was, according to Ptolemy, 2° North and 1° West of Bactra." As these coordinates are relative to, and close to, Bactra, it is reasonable to disregard the imprecision in Ptolemy's coordinates and accept them without adjustment. If the coordinates for Bactra are taken to be 36°45′N 66°55′E / 36.750°N 66.917°E / 36.750; 66.917, then the coordinates 38°45′N 65°55′E / 38.750°N 65.917°E / 38.750; 65.917 can be seen to be close to the modern day city of Qarshi.
  6. ^ a b Strabo XI.XI.I
  7. ^ Justin XLI
  8. ^ a b Polybius 11.34
  9. ^ a b Strabo 11.11.2
  10. ^ a b Polybius 10.49, Battle of the Arius
  11. ^ Polybius 11.34 Siege of Bactra
  12. ^ 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 BC, just north of the Tien Shan range". Ürümqi Xinjiang Museum. (Boardman "The diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity")
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ "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, pp. 363-364)
  15. ^ Copper-Nickel coinage in Greco-Bactria.
  16. ^ Ancient Chinese weapons A halberd of copper-nickel alloy, from the Warring States Period.
  17. ^ A.A. Moss pp317-318 Numismatic Chronicle 1950
  18. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Silk Road, North China, Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham
  19. ^ Clement of Alexandria "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" Book I, Chapter XV
  20. ^ a b c Justin XLI,6
  21. ^ Justin XXXVI, 1,1
  22. ^ Mentioned in "Hellenism in ancient India", Banerjee, p140, to be taken carefully since Orosius is often rather unreliable in his accounts.
  23. ^ "Parthians and Sassanid Persians", Peter Wilcox, p15
  24. ^ "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)
  25. ^ Strabo 11-8-1 on the nomadic invasions of Bactria

References

  • Boardman, John (1994). The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03680-2.
  • Boardman, John, Jasper Griffin, and Oswyn Murray (2001). The Oxford Illustrated History of Greece and the Hellenistic World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-285438-4.
  • Bopearachchi, Osmund (1991). Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ISBN 2-7177-1825-7.
  • Bopearachchi, Osmund and Christine Sachs (2003). De l'Indus à l'Oxus, Archéologie de l'Asie Centrale: catalogue de l'exposition. ISBN 2-9516679-2-2.
  • McEvilley, Thomas (2002).The Shape of Ancient Thought. Comparative studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. Allworth Press and the School of Visual Arts. ISBN 1-58115-203-5
  • Puri, B. N. (2000). Buddhism in Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi. ISBN 81-208-0372-8.
  • Tarn, W. W. (1966) The Greeks in Bactria and India. 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press.
  • Watson, Burton, trans. (1993). Records of the Great Historian. Han dynasty II, by Sima Qian. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08167-7.

External links








Creative Commons License