Saturday, September 20, 2014

Demetrius of Bactria: Greek Buddhist King (222 BC)


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Demetrius I of Bactria....Demetrius I, Demetrios I (Greek: Δημήτριος Α΄; Persian: ‎/Pashto: دیمتریوس بلخی‎) was a Greek King (reigned c. 200–180 BC) of Gandhara. He was the son of Euthydemus and succeeded him around 200 BC, after which he conquered extensive areas in what now is eastern Iran thus creating an Indo-Greek Kingdom far from Hellenistic Greece. He was never defeated in battle and was posthumously qualified as the Invincible (Aniketos) on the pedigree coins of his successor Agathocles....The term used for "young prince" is neaniskos (νεανίσκος), suggesting an age around 16, which in turn gives a birth date for Demetrius around 222 BC."

"Demetrios I was the son of Euthydemos I and ruled (c. 200-185 BCE) after his father. He must have been a very capable man. Apparently he negotiated the peace between Euthydemos and the Seleucid king Antiochos III, and there is also evidence that he made inroads into conquering parts of India south of the Hindu Kush. His basic coin type, wearing an elephant scalp, symbolizes this as the elephant represented India to the Greeks. ....Bactria: Demetrios I, Silver tetradrachm, c. 200-185 BC....Diademed head of king facing right, wearing elephant scalp head-dress /.....Nude Herakles standing facing, holding club and lion skin in left hand, and crowning himself with his right hand,......Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΔHMHTPIOY."......

"Demetrius and Buddhism....Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek kings...Demetrius I, who was born in the milieu of Bactria and struck coins with Buddhist gods, personally was a Buddhist. His conquests did however influence the Buddhist religion in India.....Greco-Buddhist art....There are several parallels between Demetrius and the first representations of the Greek Buddha in human form......Also in another parallel, the characteristic protector deity of Demetrius (Herakles standing with his club over his arm, as seen on the reverse of his coins), was represented in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara as the protector deity of the Buddha....Greco-Buddhism influenced the artistic, and perhaps the spiritual development of Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism"

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"Demetrius" was the name of at least two, probably three Greek kings of Bactria (known as "ولایت بلخی" or Balkh Province in Afghanistan) and India. The much debated Demetrius II was a possible relative, whereas Demetrios III (c. 100 BC), is known only from numismatic evidence. Demetrius I was also known as the second Alexander."

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"Demetrius started the invasion of northwestern India from 180 BC, following the destruction of the Mauryan dynasty by the general Pusyamitra Sunga, who then founded the new Indian Sunga dynasty (185–78 BC). The Mauryans had had diplomatic alliances with the Greeks, and they may have been considered as allies by the Greco-Bactrians. The Greco-Bactrians may also have invaded India in order to protect Greek populations in the subcontinent.....Demetrius may have first started to recover the province of Arachosia, an area south of the Hindu Kush already inhabited by many Greeks but ruled by the Mauryas since the liberation of the territory by Chandragupta from Seleucus. In his "Parthian stations", Isidorus of Charax mentions a colony named Demetrias, supposedly founded by Demetrius himself:....Beyond is Arachosia. And the Parthians call this White India; there are the city of Biyt and the city of Pharsana and the city of Chorochoad and the city of Demetrias; then Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia; it is Greek, and by it flows the river Arachotus. As far as this place the land is under the rule of the Parthians." "Parthians stations", 1st century BC....A Greek dedication inscribed on stone and discovered in Kuliab, a hundred kilometers northeast of Ai-Khanoum, also mentioned the victories of the prince Demetrius during the reign of his father."

"By c. 175 BC, the Indo-Greeks ruled parts of northwestern India, while the Sungas remained in the Gangetic, Central, and Eastern India. The Indo Greek presence in the Northwest continued until the last petty principality was absorbed by the Sakas around 20 BC."

"Demetrius I, son of Euthydemus I. While still crown prince of Bactria Demetrius conducted, on behalf of his father, negotiations with the Seleucid Antiochus III in 206-05 B.C.E.; Antiochus considered Demetrius “worthy of kingship because of his distinction, conversational rapport, and capacity for leadership” and promised him one of his own daughters in marriage. Having succeeded to the throne of Bactria, Demetrius campaigned in India, making apparently extensive conquests (Polybius, 11.39). On the obverse of his silver coins he is portrayed wearing the elephant-scalp headdress of Alexander the Great (q.v.), with the reverse type of a youthful Hercules crowning himself with a garland. On a commemorative “pedigree coin” of the later Euthydemid king Agathocles, presumably a son of Demetrius (Allan), Demetrius is portrayed with the title Aníkētos (invincible), which had been borne by Alexander himself. Subsequently, after the appearance in Bactria of the rival prince Eucratides around 175 B.C., he returned from India (Justin, 41.6, where he is described as king of India) and besieged Eucratides’ small escort with an army said to have numbered 60,000; he was nevertheless outmaneuvered, defeated, and apparently slain. The curious allusion to “the grete Emetrius, the King of Ynde” in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale (ll. 2155-57) is thought by some to echo Demetrius’ story, as found in medieval sources was derived from the lost histories of Trogus (Bivar).".....

"Demetrius II was presumably another son of Demetrius I; he is known only from Greco-Bactrian coins with the reverse type of a standing Athena.......Bilingual Indo-Bactrian coins in the name of Demetrius Aníkētos, in particular a remarkable tetradrachm with the royal portrait wearing the kausía (sun hat), though usually attributed to Demetrius II, or III, are similar in monogram and arrangement of the legend to late issues of Menander (ca. 155-46 B.C.E.) and were probably commemorative issues of an unnamed ruler.".....

A. K. Narain, The Indo-Greeks, Oxford, 1957

W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, Cambridge, 1951

R. B. Whitehead, “Notes on Indo-Greek Numismatics,” NC, 1923


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….September 2014



  1. I have found coin it few days before in Logar Afghanistan

    1. Yes that is the same type if coin as pictured above.....

      Do you live in the Logar region?

    2. yes but now i am at Kabul Afghanistan

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