Eucratidia was a Greek town in Bactria, one of the easternmost area ever controlled by the Greeks, located at the modern site of Aï Khanum in North-Eastern Afghanistan. The history of this city is still rather unknown, but it seems that, it was first built by Alexander the Great or one of his early Seleucid successors in the last decades of the 4th century BC, under its the name Oskobara.
The town was excavated by French archeologists between 1964 and 1978.Many beautiful items were found, and what came out is a mixture of Greek and Iranian elements. For example, even if the town's plan is Greek, it is not strictly hippodamian. The nature of the temples seem to indicate local cults, maybe syncretic ones. A herôon was also found, dedicated to the founder of the city, Kineas. And on it were inscribed the Delphic maxims, showing the will of keeping Greekhood alive, even in this far-eastern area.
After the Seleucid period, the town passed under Greco-Bactrian control, during which it seems to have well developped. It was then called Eucratidia, the name taken from Eucratides I, a famous and powerfull Greco-Bactrian king whose reign is dated from 170/166 BC to 145/138 BC. This change of name may indicate than the city had a key role during his reign; especially knowing that Eucratides was first an usurper; maybe Eucratidia was the center of his uprising. Unluckily, the town fell shortly after in two phases: it was first taken by some Saka nomads from north somwhere around the end of the140s BC, and then it was looted to the ground by the Yuezhi that were pushing away the Sakas.
Aethiopia [ edit | edit source ]
Aethiopia is a formable country located in Aethiopia region populated by Cushitic people, representing their unification. Can be formed by any Cushitic country with 500 total development that owns and cores provinces of: Axum (868), Yeha (870), Adoulis (872).
When formed by a country below government rank of Major State (IV) will become a Major State (IV). Forming Aethiopia adds permanent claims over Aethiopia region.
Achaean League [ edit | edit source ]
Achaea is a formable country located in Achaea area of Graeca region, representing a league of Achaean city-states. Can be formed by any Achaean country that owns 3 provinces in Achaea area. Forming Achaea will change your government to a Republic enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of a Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II), unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Albion [ edit | edit source ]
Albion is a formable country located in Britannia region, representing unification of Brythonic tribes. Can be formed by any Brythonic country with 80 development. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Albion adds permanent claims over Britannia Inferior and Britannia Superior.
Arabia [ edit | edit source ]
Arabia (Arabiyya) is a formable country located in Arabia Petraea and Arabia Felix regions, represents unification of Arabic tribes. Can be formed by any Central Semitic country that owns and cores provinces of: Mariaba (2611), Adana (2616), Tamna (2613), Sabatha (2622), Macoraba (2562), Iathrippa (2557).
When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Arabia (Arabiyya) adds permanent claims over Arabia Petraea and Arabia Felix regions.
Arachosia [ edit | edit source ]
Arachosia is a formable country located in Arachosia region, representing coalition of arachosian tribes. Can be formed by Paropamisadaen country that owns and cores 25 provinces in Arachosia region with total development of 80. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Arachosia adds permanent claims over Arachosia region.
Areia [ edit | edit source ]
Areia is a formable country located in Aria-Margiana region, representing unification of arian tribes. Can be formed by Arian country that owns and cores 20 provinces in Aria-Margiana region, has total development of 60, owns and cores provinces of Hariy (2764) and Marvrot (2765). When formed by country with government rank below Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Areia adds permanent cores over Aria-Margiana region.
Arcadian League [ edit | edit source ]
Arcadia is a formable country located in Arcadia area of Graeca region, representing a league of Arcadian city-states. Can be formed by any Arcado-Cypriot country that owns 4 provinces in Arcadia area. Forming Arcadia will change your government to a Republic enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of a Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II), unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Assyria [ edit | edit source ]
Assyria is an existing country located in Syria and Assyria regions, if it loses the war can be reformed by Assyro-Hurran nation of Hanigalbat, after being released as a vassal or independent nation, they will question their identity and if they choose to become Assyrians they can reform nation of Assyria with Akkadian national ideas.
Belgica [ edit | edit source ]
Belgica is a formable country, located in Belgica region, representing unification of most Belgian tribes. Can be formed by any Belgae country with 90 total development. Forming Belgica as tribal country changes government into a Republic, enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Belgica adds permanent claims over Belgica region.
Boeotian League [ edit | edit source ]
Boeotia is a formable country in Boeotia area of Graeca region, representing league of Boeotian city-states. Can be formed by Aeolic country that owns 4 provines in Boeotia area. Forming Boeotia will change your government to a Republic enacting League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of a Minor State (II) will become Minor State (II), unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Baxtris [ edit | edit source ]
Baxtris is a formable country in Bactria region, representing unification of bactrian tribes. Can be formed by any of 3 Bactrian countries with 120 total development, owns and cores 50 provinces in Bactria region, including Bakhlo (2828), Oxeiana (2857), Drapsaka (2824), while other two bactrian countries don't exist. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Baxtris adds permanent claims over Bactria region.
Caledonia [ edit | edit source ]
Caledonia is a formable country, located in Caledonia region, representing unification of Caledonian tribes. Can be formed by any Caledonian country with 120 total development. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Caledonia adds permanent claims over Caledonia region.
Celtiberia [ edit | edit source ]
Celtiberia is a formable country, located in Numantia and Toletum areas of Hispania Tarraconensis region, representing Celtiberian confederation. Can be formed by Celtiberian country that fully owns and cores Numantia and Toletum areas with 85 total development. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Celtiberia adds permanent claims over Hispania Tarraconensis region.
Cimmeria [ edit | edit source ]
Cimmeria is a formable country, located in Chersonesus area inside southern part of Sarmatia Europaea region. Can be formed by decision "Form the Bosporian Kingdom" which is available to any Hellenic culture country that owns and cores provinces of: Chersonesos (1996), Theodosia (2000), Pantikapaion (2004), Phanagoreia (2068) and Tanais (2013).
Forming Cimmeria adds permanent claims over Chersonesus Heraclea area.
Dacia [ edit | edit source ]
Dacia is a formable country located in Dacia region, representing unification of zamolxis worshipping thracian tribes. Can be formed by Dacian country that owns and cores 30 provinces in Dacia region, with total development of 100. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Dacia adds permanent claims over Dacia region.
Egypt [ edit | edit source ]
If Egypt ceases to exist it can be reformed by Egyptian revolt countries. Ta-Mehu (Kemetic) in Aegyptus Inferior and Ta-Schemau (Wasetic) in Aegyptus Superior.
Elam [ edit | edit source ]
Haltamti is a formable country, located in Elam region of Mesopotamia. Representing restoration of the Elam Empire. Can be formed by Derian, Cissanian or Anzanian culture country that destroys Anshan, owns, and cores required provinces. Forming Haltamti changes your government to Monarchy enacting the Despotism reform and changes culture to Haltamtup.
Epirus [ edit | edit source ]
Epirus is a formable country located in western part of Macedonia region, representing unification of Epirot tribes. Can be formed by any of the three Epirot culture countries by destroying the other two, owning and coring the provinces of: Phoinike (1039), Ephyra (1036), Passaron (1038).
If formed by tribal nation, they will become a monarchy. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Epirus adds permanent claims over Molossia area, Chaonia area and Thesprotia. Has the unique government of Epirote Monarchy.
Eranshahr [ edit | edit source ]
Eranshahr is a formable country, located in Eran subcontinent, representing unification of Iranian tribes. Can be formed by any Eastern or Western Iranian country that isn't Persia, Media, Parthia and is not tribal. to form Eranshahr you need to own and core provinces of: Hagmatana (2688), Parsa (2682), Susun (2666), Goyman (2705), Bakhlo (2828), Mouru (2835), total development of 800 and 120 provinces owned in Eran subcontinent.
Etruria [ edit | edit source ]
Etruria is a formable country, located in Italia region, representing Etruscan League. Can be formed by Etruscan country that owns and cores Etruria Orientalis and Etruria Occidentalis areas. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Etruria changes your government to a Republic enacting League reform and gives 25 prestige.
Euboean League [ edit | edit source ]
Euboea is a formable country located in Euboea Borealis and Euboea Australis areas in Graeca region, representing league of Euboean city-states. Can be formed by Ionic country that owns 5 provinces in those areas. Forming Euboea will change your government to a Republic enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of a Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II) unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Gallia [ edit | edit source ]
Gallia is a formable country located in Gallia region, representing unification of most Gaul tribes. Can be formed by any Central Gaul country with 180 development. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Gallia adds permanent claims over Gallia region and Narbonensis region.
Hellas [ edit | edit source ]
Hellas is a formable country in Graeca region. Hellas can be formed by any country of Hellenic culture with 300 total development that owns and cores provinces of: Athenai (959), Thebai (963), Korinthos (945), Argos (938), Sparta (933), Olympia (941), Delphi (968) and Chalkis (972).
Forming Hellas changes your government type to Republic and enacts the League reform. Adds permanent claims over Graeca region. When formed by nation below government rank of Major State (IV) will become a Major State (IV).
Hittites [ edit | edit source ]
Haattusa is a formable country in Asia region. Hittite Empire can be restored by Luwian country Chalybes before Age of Empires ends. To do so Phrygia and Kappadokia have to not exist, must have legitimacy of 100, prestige of 75, army tradition of 50, own and core 10 provinces located from Phrygia to Syria, be a great power / if Emperor and Rights of Man DLC not available then 400 development.
Forming Haattusa adds permanent claims on Cappadocia, Phrygia, Cilicia and Syria regions. When formed by nation below government rank of Major State (IV) will become a Major State (IV).
Iberia [ edit | edit source ]
Iberia is a formable country in Cartaginensis and Hispania Tarraconensis regions, representing unification of Iberian tribes. Can be formed by any Iberian Group country that owns and cores provinces of Edeta (159), Dianum (157), Indibilis (209) and Baetulo (253). When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III).
Italia [ edit | edit source ]
Italia is a formable country in Italia region, representing Italian Confederacy. Can be formed by Italic country that is not Latin or Etruscan, that owns and cores entire Italia region. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Renames your capital to "Italica", if tribal changes your government to a Republic enacting League reform, also gives 50 prestige.
Imperium Romanum [ edit | edit source ]
Imperium Romanum (Roman Principate) is a formable country representing end of Roman Republic and beginning of Roman Empire. Roman Republic can become the Principate, while having Res Publica reform and 2000 total development unlocks access to the decision "Establish the Principate" with this decision, you can form the Roman Empire as a separate tag getting its unique government reform and national ideas set.
Indo-Greek Kingdom [ edit | edit source ]
Indo-Greek Kingdom is a formable country located in Sapta Sindhavah region, representing the Indo-Greek population after Alexanders Empire. Can be formed by Greco-Bactrian or Greco-Indian country, of Buddhism religion that owns and cores provinces of Taxila (2930), Nikaeia (2951), Boukephala (2936), Maii-us-than (2927).
Forming Indo-Greek Kingdom adds permanent claims over Sapta Sindhavah region.
Indo-Scythians [ edit | edit source ]
Indo-Scythians is a formable country located in Sapta Sindhavah region, representing Scythian invasion of North Western India. Can be formed by Saka country that reformed it's government, owns and cores 5 provinces along Sapta Sindhavah and Sindhu regions. Decision unlocks once you own one province in India.
Israel [ edit | edit source ]
Israel is a formable country located in Palaestina region, representing restoration of Kingdom of Israel. Can be formed by Israelite or Samaritan country that owns and cores Yerushalem (2277), Shomron (2286) and has 8 provinces in states. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Israel adds permanent claims over Judaea and Samaria areas.
Islanders League [ edit | edit source ]
Cyclades is a formable country located in Cyclades area of Archipelagos region, representing a league of Aegean islands. Can be formed by Ionic country that owns 4 provinces in Cyclades or Archipelagos areas. Forming Cyclades will change your government to a Republic enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of a Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II) unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Illyria [ edit | edit source ]
Illyria is a formable country located in Illyria region, representing unification of Illyrian tribes. Can be formed by Delmatae, Ardiaei or Dardani country that owns and cores 28 provinces in Illyria region, with total development of 100. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Illyria adds permanent claims over Illyria region.
Kilikia [ edit | edit source ]
Kilikia is a formable country located in Asia Minor region, representing unification of cilician states into one kingdom. Can be formed by Kilikian country that owns and cores Cilicia Trachea and Cilicia Pedias areas. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III).
Krete [ edit | edit source ]
Krete is a formable country in Creta Occidentalis and Creta Orientalis areas in Archipelagos region, representing unification of the island. Can be formed by Doric or Greek country that unifies the island and has their capital on it. When formed by a country below government rank of Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II) unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Kushan [ edit | edit source ]
Kushan is a formable country in Tarim Basin region, representing unification of Tocharian tribes. Can be formed by Yuezhi country that owns 20 provinces in Tarim Basin and 120 total development. Forming Kushan adds permanent claims over Tarim Basin region.
Kypros [ edit | edit source ]
Kypros is a formable country in Cyprus Occidentalis and Cyprus Orientalis areas in Asia Minor region, representing unification of the island. Can be formed by Arcado-Cypriot or Greek culture countries that unite the island and have capital on it. When formed by a country below government rank of Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II) unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Lusitania [ edit | edit source ]
Lusitania is a formable country in Lusitania region, representing unification of ibero-celtic Lusitani tribes. Can be formed by Lusitani country that owns and cores 16 provinces in Lusitania region, with total development of 50. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Lusitania adds permanent claims over Lusitania Occidentalis and Lusitania Orientalis.
Makedonia [ edit | edit source ]
Makedonia is a playable country in Macedonia region. If it ceases to exist, it can be reformed by Old Macedon or Macedon country that owns and cores provinces of Aigeai (1061) and Pella (1063).
Margiana [ edit | edit source ]
Margiana is a formable country located in Aria-Margiana region, representing unification of margianan tribes. Can be formed by Margianan country that owns and cores 40 provinces in Aria-Margiana region or Bactria region, has total development of 100, owns and cores provinces of Eucratidia (2832) and Mouru (2835). When formed by country with government rank below Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Margiana adds permanent cores over Aria-Margiana region and Bactria region.
Mauretania [ edit | edit source ]
Mauretania is a formable country located in Mauretania region, representing unification of mauri tribes. Can be formed by Mauri country that owns and cores all provinces in: Caesariensis Orientalis, Caesariensis Occidentalis, Diur Mons, Tingitana Orientalis areas. When formed by country with government rank below Large State (III) will become Large State (III). Forming Mauretania adds permanent cores over Mauretania region.
Media [ edit | edit source ]
Media is a playable country located in Media region. If it ceases to exist, it can be reformed by Medes country that owns entire Media region.
Megale Hellas [ edit | edit source ]
Megale Hellas is a formable country located in Magna Graecia region. Can be formed by Italiote country that owns and cores provinces of: Akragas (4), Syrakosai (10), Rhegion (14), Kroton (17) and Taras (22). When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III), forming Megale Hellas changes your government to a Republic enacting League reform, also gives 50 prestige.
Meshwesh [ edit | edit source ]
Meshwesh is a formable country located in Lybia region next to Aegyptus Inferior, representing Lybian conquest of Egypt and subsequent merging of those cultures. Can be formed by country with Lybian culture, that owns and cores provinces of Zau (735) and Djanet (738) before Egyptians expel the Lybians from them.
Forming Meshwesh changes your religion to Kemetic, makes you a Pharaonic Kingdom, makes Kemetic and Lybian cultures accepted, Lybio-Egyptian becomes the primary culture. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Meshwesh adds permanent claims over Aegyptus Inferior and Aegyptus Superior.
Noricum [ edit | edit source ]
Noricum is a formable country, located in Raetia Et Noricum region, representing unification of Noric tribes. Can be formed by any Noric country with 45 total development and 25 prestige. Forming Noricum as tribal country changes government into a Republic, enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Noricum adds permanent claims over Alpes Noricae area, Vindobona area and Noricum area.
Numidia [ edit | edit source ]
Numidia is a formable country, located in Africa region, representing unification of numidian tribes. Can be formed by Numidian country with 250 total development that owns and cores provinces of Cirta (589), Capsa (624) and Mina (563), along with 25 other provinces in Africa, unless formed by Massylia it must not exist. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Numidia adds permanent claims over Africa, Mauretania and Libya regions.
Panchala [ edit | edit source ]
if Panchala ceases to exist, it can be reformed by 5 revolt countries. Keshins, Somakas, Srinjayas, Krivis, Turvashas. Playing as one of those nations you must own and core provinces of Kampilya (2979) and Ahichatra (2976), and make sure other 4 countries no longer exist.
Persia [ edit | edit source ]
Persia is a formable country, located in Persis region, representing Achaemenid unification of iranian tribes. Can be easily formed by Anshan mission or by Persian country that is not a subject and is not Eranshahr or Media, own and core Temisdia area, Rudiane area and Paraepaphitis area. Forming Persia adds permanent claims over Persis region.
Phoenicia [ edit | edit source ]
Phoenicia is a formable country located in Palaestina region, representing rebelling Phoenician people against foreign control. Can be formed by country with Phoenician culture, that owns and cores provinces of Ramatha (2320), Arwad (2317), Gebal (2316), Sidun (2300), Sur (2299), Ako (2287).
When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III).
Pontic Kingdom [ edit | edit source ]
Pontus is a formable country located in Pontus region, representing Trapezous conquest of Pontus area. Can be formed by any greek colony after event "Koine Greek" which changes Ionic to Pontic Greek in Pontus area, owns and cores provinces of Trapezous (2232), Amisos (2228), Sinope (2225) and Amaseia (2237).
Forming Pontus adds permanent claims over Helenopontus, Pontus Polemoniacus and Paryadres Mons areas.
Raetia [ edit | edit source ]
Raetia is a formable country located in Alpes Raetae area, representing unification of native alpine Raetian tribes. Can be formed by country with Raetian culture with 40 total development. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Raetia adds permanent claims over Raetia area and Vindelicia area.
Rhodos [ edit | edit source ]
Rhodos is a formable nation located in Rhodiorum area in Archipelagos region, representing unification of Rhodes island. Can be formed by Doric country that owns and cores provinces of Ialysos (995), Kamiros (996) and Lindos (997).
Samnium [ edit | edit source ]
Samnium is a formable country located in Italia region, representing unification of Samnite tribes. Can be formed by Samnite country that owns and cores Samnium Borealis and Samnium Australis areas. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). If tribal changes your government to a Republic enacting League reform, also adds 25 prestige.
Shang [ edit | edit source ]
Shang is a formable country located in China, representing restoration of Shang dynasty. Can be formed by: Song, Ji Shi, Dai, Xiao, GuZu or Quan. Playing as one of them you need to own and core all provinces in Ji Zhou, Si Zhou and Yu Zhou regions. Forming Shang will change your national ideas.
Tamilakam [ edit | edit source ]
Tamilakam is a formable country located in Tamilakam region, representing unification of Tamil people. Can be formed by Tamil country that owns and cores Pandya area and Chola area.
Thessalian League [ edit | edit source ]
Thessalia is a formable country in Thessalia area of Graeca region, representing league of Thessalian city-states. Can be formed by Aeolic country that owns 6 provinces in Thessalia or Magnesia area. Forming Thessalia will change your government to a Republic enacting the League reform. When formed by a country below government rank of a Minor State (II) will become a Minor State (II) unless blocked by the Greek Polis reform.
Thracia [ edit | edit source ]
Thracia is a formable country in Thracia region, representing unification of Thracian tribes. Can be formed by Thracian or Paeonian country that owns and cores 35 provinces in Thracia region, with total development of 150, when formed not as Odrysia it must also be conquered. When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Thracia adds permanent claims over Thracia region.
Trinakria [ edit | edit source ]
Trinakria is a formable country in Magna Graecia region, representing Kingdom of Sicily. Can be formed by Italiote country that owns and cores areas of Sicilia Occidentalis, Sicilia Orientalis and Syracusae. When formed by a country below government rank of Large State (III) will become a Large State (III) unless blocked by Greek Polis reform. Forming Trinakria removes cores of Carthage from Sicilia and adds 50 prestige.
Venetia [ edit | edit source ]
Venetia is a formable country in Gallia Cisalpina region, representing unification of Veneti tribes. Can be formed by Veneti country that owns and cores provinces of: Ravena (82), Atria (85), Patavium (109), Altinum (116) and Aquileia (118). When formed by a country below government rank of a Large State (III) will become a Large State (III). Forming Venetia adds permanent claims over Venetia area.
Xia [ edit | edit source ]
Xia is a formable country in China, representing restoration of Xia dynasty. Can be formed by Yi countries of Yue, Qi (not the big one, the green one), Zeng and Tan, who must own and core all provinces in Qing Zhou, Ji Zhou and Si Zhou regions.
Xiongnu [ edit | edit source ]
Xiongnu is a formable country in Northern Steppe region, representing unification of native steppe tribes by Xiongnu. Can be formed by country with Xiongnu culture with 15 owned provinces in Northern Steppe and 60 total development. Forming Xiongnu gives 1 stability, 25 prestige and adds permanent claims over Northern Steppe region.
Lost & Found
On a hot day in late april some 30 archaeologists, cultural officials and National Museum of Afghanistan staffers crammed into a small office at the city's Central Bank. Before them was a safe, one of six containing a cache of 2,000-year-old gold jewelry, ornaments and coins from the former region of Bactria in northern Afghanistan. Fifteen years before, the treasure, known as the Bactrian Hoard, had been secretly removed from the museum and stashed in the bank's underground vault under the supervision of Omara Khan Masoudi, the museum's director. The handful of museum employees responsible for hiding it had risked their lives to protect the treasure from warring factions and looters in the wake of the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. In the years since, conflicting rumors had circulated about the objects. One version had departing Soviet troops spiriting them away to Moscow. Another held that they had been melted down to buy arms. A third had them sold on the black market. Now that the political situation had improved and an agreement had been reached with the National Geographic Society to conduct an inventory, the Bactrian gold would at last be brought back into public view.
Since keys to the safe could not be found, a locksmith had been summoned. It took just 15 minutes for him to penetrate it with a circular saw. As sparks flew, Fredrik Hiebert, an American archaeologist working for the National Geographic Society, held his breath.
"I could just imagine opening the safe to find a big, hot lump of melted gold," he recalls. "It was an incredibly emotional moment."
Four years later, many of the artifacts—none of which were damaged in the opening of the safes—are the centerpieces of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, with Hiebert as guest curator, "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures From the National Museum, Kabul" will travel to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (October 24, 2008-January 25, 2009), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (June 23-September 20, 2009).
Unearthed from four ancient sites, the show's 228 works (including more than 100 pieces from the Bactrian trove) reveal the extent of links in the years 2200 b.c. to a.d. 200 among Hellenistic, Persian, Indian, Chinese and nomadic cultures along the ancient Silk Road—trading routes stretching 5,000 miles from the Mediterranean Sea to China. A knife handle embossed with an image of a Siberian bear, for instance, and a diadem (opposite) festooned with gilded flowers similar to ones found in Korea both indicate far-flung stylistic influences.
Afghanistan's deputy culture minister, Omar Sultan, a former archaeologist, says he hopes the exhibition will call attention to the beleaguered country's untapped rich archaeological heritage. He estimates that only 10 percent of its sites have been discovered, though many, both excavated and not, have been looted. "Afghanistan is one of the richest—and least-known—archaeological regions in the world," says Hiebert. "The country rivals Egypt in terms of potential finds."
Hill of Gold
Fashioned into cupids, dolphins, gods and dragons and encrusted with semiprecious stones, the Bactrian pieces were excavated in 1978-79 from the graves of six wealthy nomads—Saka tribesmen from Central Asia, perhaps, or the Yuezhi from northwest China—at a site called Tillya Tepe ("Hill of Gold") in northern Afghanistan. The 2,000-year-old artifacts exhibit a rare blend of aesthetic influences (from Persian to Classical Greek and Roman) and a high level of craftsmanship. The diadem, a five-inch-tall crown of hammered gold leaf, conveniently folds for travel, and a thumb-size gold figure of a mountain sheep is delicately incised with curving horns and flaring nostrils.
Viktor Sarianidi, the Moscow archaeologist who led the joint Soviet-Afghan team that uncovered the graves, compares the impact of the find to the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. "The gold of Bactria shook the world of archaeology," he writes in the exhibition catalog. "Nowhere in antiquity have so many different objects from so many different cultures—Chinese-inspired boot buckles, Roman coins, daggers in a Siberian style—been found together in situ."
Sarianidi first came to the Bactrian plain in 1969 to search for traces of the Silk Road. After excavating ruins of a first-century a.d. city there, he stumbled across, and soon began uncovering, an Iron Age temple used for fire worship that dated from 1500 to 1300 b.c. While carting away earth from the temple mound in November 1978, a worker spied a small gold disk in the ground. After inspecting it, Sarianidi dug deeper, slowly revealing a skull and skeleton surrounded by gold jewelry and ornaments—the remains of a woman, 25 to 30 years old, whom he called a nomadic princess. He subsequently found and excavated five additional graves, all simple trenches containing lidless wooden coffins holding the remains of once ornately attired bodies. Over the next three months, he cleaned and inventoried more than 20,000 individual items, including hundreds of gold spangles, each about the size of a fingernail.
In the grave of a chieftain—the only male found at the site—Sarianidi's team uncovered turquoise-studded daggers and sheaths and a braided gold belt with raised medallions that bear the image, some say, of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, riding sidesaddle on a panther. (Others speculate it's the Bactrian goddess Nana seated on a lion.) Near the chieftain's rib cage, excavators found an Indian medallion that, according to Véronique Schiltz, a French archaeologist with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, bears one of the earliest representations of Buddha. The man had been buried with his head resting on a gold plate on a silk cushion. Around him lay two bows, a long sword, a leather folding stool and the skull and bones of a horse.
In a nearby grave, the archaeological team found the remains of a woman in her 30s wearing signet rings with images of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and a pair of matching jeweled pendants with gold figures grasping S-shaped dragons, as if to tame them. Another grave, that of a teenage girl, contained thin gold shoe soles (meant, says Hiebert, for the afterlife), along with a Roman coin minted in the early first century a.d. in Gallic Lugdunum (present-day Lyon, France). Schiltz says the coin probably came to southern India by sea before ending up with the woman through trade or as booty.
Schiltz also speculates that the nomads had migrated south from Central Asia or China and ended up plundering the Greco-Bactrian cities. The opulent jewelry that accompanied their burials, she says, indicates that the group belonged to a ruling family. The graves apparently survived intact because they were well concealed in the ruins of the Iron Age temple.
Archaeological evidence about nomadic groups is rare, for obvious reasons. The Tillya Tepe graves contained the first examples of nomadic art to be found in Afghanistan. Initially Hiebert thought the nomads had acquired the artifacts by "cherry-picking the Silk Road," he says. But after inventorying the objects, he was persuaded by their similarities that they all came from a single local workshop.
"That meant that these nomads took iconography from Greece, Rome, China, India, even as far away as Siberia, and put it together into their own unique and highly refined art style," he says. "They were creators, not merely collectors." He suspects that the workshop lies buried near the tombs.
In late 1978, just before the outbreak of widespread civil war in Afghanistan, armed tribesmen began threatening the dig. By February 1979, the political situation and the impending onset of winter caused Sarianidi to abandon the site before he could excavate a seventh grave it would later be stripped by looters. Sarianidi crated up the artifacts he had found at the site and brought them to the National Museum in Kabul, where they remained until their removal to the bank vault in 1989.
The oldest pieces in the National Gallery exhibition, which date from 2200 to 1900 b.c., were found in Tepe Fullol, also in northern Afghanistan, in July 1966, when farmers there accidentally plowed up a Bronze Age grave, then began divvying up the priceless artifacts with an ax. Local authorities managed to salvage a dozen gold and silver cups and bowls (along with some gold and silver fragments), which they turned over to the National Museum. Jean-François Jarrige, director of Paris' Guimet Museum and a Bronze Age specialist, says that the bowls are connected to the craftsmanship of what is known as the Bronze Age Oxus culture, which existed within a large geographic area in Central Asia encompassing what is now Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The geometric "stepped-square" motifs on one goblet, for instance, resemble designs uncovered in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and the gold itself likely came from Central Asia's Amu Darya River (known in antiquity as the Oxus). But although these bowls have something of a local character, says Jarrige, "they also show signs of outside influences. in particular the representation of bearded bulls reminiscent of a generally recognized theme from Mesopotamia." The designs on these bowls, write the curators, "include animal imagery from distant Mesopotamian and Indus Valley (present-day Pakistan) cultures, indicating that already at this early date, Afghanistan was part of an extensive trade network."
Greeks Bearing Gifts
One of the most important ancient cities in Afghanistan was discovered in 1964 at Ai Khanum, also in the northern region formerly known as Bactria. Founded around 300 b.c. by Seleucus I, a Macedonian general who won a power struggle to control the region following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 b.c., the city became the eastern outpost of Greek culture in Asia. Its artifacts reflect Greek and Indian, as well as local, artistic traditions. Works featured in the exhibition include a seven-inch-high bronze figure of Hercules and a gilded silver plaque that combines Greek and Persian elements. It depicts Cybele, the Greek goddess of nature, riding in a Persian-style chariot, shaded by a large parasol held by a priest.
Like Tillya Tepe and Tepe Fullol, Ai Khanum was also discovered by chance. While out hunting game in 1961 near the border with the then Soviet Tajik Republic (present-day Tajikistan), the last Afghan king, Zahir Shah, was presented with a carved chunk of limestone by local villagers. The king later showed the fragment to Daniel Schlumberger—then the director of a French archaeological expedition in Afghanistan—who recognized it as coming from a Corinthian, likely Greek, capital. (A similar capital is displayed in the show.) In November 1964, Schlumberger led a team to Ai Khanum, where, after digging up shards bearing Greek letters, he began excavations that continued until the Soviet invasion in December 1979.
Shaped like a triangle, roughly a mile on each side, the city, which was strategically located at the junction of the Oxus and Kokcha rivers, was dominated by an acropolis situated on a flat-topped, 200-foot-high bluff. Its huge entry courtyard was surrounded by airy colonnades supported by 126 Corinthian columns. Beyond the courtyard lay reception halls, ceremonial rooms, private residences, a treasury, a large bathhouse, a temple and a theater.
As in nearly every Greek city, there was a gymnasium, or school, and in it excavators found two sundials that appear to have been used to teach astronomy. Unusually, one of them was calibrated for the Indian astronomical center of Ujjain, at a latitude some 14 degrees south of Ai Khanum—an indication, says Paul Bernard, a member of the French excavation team, of scholarly exchanges among Greek and Indian astronomers.
Based on Indian works discovered at the site, Bernard believes that in the second century b.c., Ai Khanum became the Greco-Bactrian capital city Eucratidia, named for the expansionist king Eucratides, who likely brought the pieces back from India as spoils from his military campaigns there. After a century and a half as an outpost of Hellenistic culture in Afghanistan, the city came to a violent end. Eucratides was murdered in 145 b.c., apparently touching off a civil conflict that left the city vulnerable to marauding nomads, who burned and destroyed it the same year. Sadly, the archaeological site of Ai Khanum met a similar fate it was looted and nearly obliterated during the years of Soviet occupation and civil strife in Afghanistan.
A Fortress in the Hindu Kush
In 329 b.c., Alexander the Great is believed to have established the fortress city of Alexandria of the Caucasus in a lush river valley south of the Hindu Kush mountains about 50 miles north of Kabul. Now known as Begram, the city was an important trading center for the Greco-Bactrian kingdom from about 250 to 100 b.c. and continued to thrive under the Kushan Empire that arose in the first century a.d.
According to Sanjyot Mehendale, a Near Eastern authority at the University of California at Berkeley, the Roman glass and bronze, Chinese lacquer and hundreds of Indian-style ivory plaques and sculptures unearthed at Begram in 1937 and 1939 suggested that the city had been a major commodities juncture along the Silk Road. Although French archaeologists Joseph and Ria Hackin, who excavated the site, concluded that Begram was the summer residence of the Kushan emperors, Mehendale believes that two sealed rooms containing what the Hackins called "royal treasure" were actually a merchant's shop or warehouse.
The glassware and bronze, she says, likely arrived by sea from Roman Egypt and Syria to ports near present-day Karachi, Pakistan, and Gujarat in western India, and were then transported overland by camel caravan. The exhibition's Begram section includes plaster medallions depicting Greek myths ivory plaques recounting events from the life of Buddha and whimsical fish-shaped flasks of blown colored glass.
In retrospect, National Museum of Afghanistan director Omara Khan Masoudi's decision to hide the Bactrian Hoard and other archaeological treasures in 1989 seems fortuitously prescient. Once an impressive cultural repository, the Kabul museum suffered massive damage and extensive looting during the factional conflicts of the 1990s. Then, in March 2001, the Taliban rampaged through the museum, smashing sculptures of the human form it viewed as heretical, destroying more than 2,000 artifacts. Although the National Museum was recently rebuilt with foreign assistance, it is not safe enough to display the country's most valuable treasures. The museum has received funds from the current exhibition tour, and there is a proposal to build a new, more secure museum closer to the center of Kabul, but it will be years before such a project can even be started. During the past year, about 7,000 visitors came to the museum the numbers seem to matter less than the symbolic importance of keeping the building open. "The war destroyed so much," says Masoudi, "so whatever we can do to show off our ancient civilization—here and abroad—makes us proud."
Masoudi and Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, believe the current exhibition represents a cultural reawakening and, perhaps, even a turning point. "We hope this exhibit will help overcome the darkness of Afghanistan's recent history," says Jawad, "and shed some light on its rich past, thousands of years old, as a crossroads of cultures and civilizations."
Author Richard Covington lives outside Paris and writes frequently on art, culture, the environment and social issues.
Ai Khanoum, the Capital of Eucratides in Ancient AfghanistanRuins of Ai Khanoum / Creative Commons
Founded during the conquests of Alexander the Great, the city developed and grew after his death.
By Antoine Simonin
Ai Khanum (also spelled Ai-Khanoum or Ay-Khanum, lit. “Lady Moon” in Uzbek), was founded in the 4th century BC, following the conquests of Alexander the Great and was one of the primary cities of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom.
The site is located in the northern part of modern Afghanistan, in a little plain between the Amou-Darya and the Kokcha. In 1961, the Afghan king Mohammad Zaher Chach, hunting, discovered here what seems to be one of the most beautiful Greek towns in Central Asia. Three years after, the excavations began supervised by the French Paul Bernard, from 1964 to 1978. The Russo-Afghan war, and then the civil war and the Taliban occupation forced the excavations to stop, and even if since 2006 the French archeologists can cautiously go back to Ai Khanum, the site was severly damaged by looters and fights betwenn Talibans and Massoud’ forces.
The name of the town is still unclear to us today. It was proposed that Ai Khanum was the site of Alexandria of the Oxus (Oxus beeing more or less the today Amou-Darya), but Claude Rapin showed recently that Ptolemy confused Oxus and Occhus (his confluent), so that Alexandria probably was Termez. The town must have been called Eucratidia for a time, but Eucratides (c.170-c.138 BC) was the last Greco-Bactrian king to rule it, so it could have been a second name for a symbolic refoundation. Maybe the site town of Oskobora, mentioned by Ptolemy, could have been his name, but it’s uncertain.
The town measures 2km in length and 1,5km in width, divided between upper and lower city like most of the Greek towns. There is a main street, and most of public buildings are of Greek style, but the plan is not strictly hippodamian. In fact, the city shows a lot of Greek style but also some Iranian influences.
There are 4 major phases of construction in this town:
- The first one is almost-unknown today, because of the excavations’ end. This one is probably the first stage of the city, but maybe not the first stage of occupation. This phase probably covers the early stage of the town, the last decades of the 4th century BC, knowing that the town was probably built by one of Alexander’s or Perdiccas’ generals.
- The second phase began somewhere in the first decades of the 3rd century BC, probably linked to Antiochos I’s expedition against the nomads in the area. This is the first real phase of the city’s developement, in the frame of hellenization of the eastern Hellenistic world.
- The third phase began somewhere around 170 BC, when Eucratides, maybe at first as a general and then as king, situated his capital here. This is indicated by buildings such as the palace or the splendid gymnasium.
- The fourth phase begins somewhere around 145 BC, when the town fell to the Saka invaders. The city was damaged but the Sakas settled here for at most one decade, and then the Yuezhei destroyed the town.
The state of excavations cannot let us have a clear general look at the town, but some buildings, especially from the third phase, are enough known to say something about it.Plan of Ai Khanum as it was excavated by the D.A.F.A until 1978 / Image by Claude Rapin, Public Domain
At the center of the lower city lays the Heroon of Kineas. This is a shrine probably dedicated to the founder of the town. This heroon was firstly (phase one) small, and then a pronaos and a terrace were added to it. It was made of raw bricks molded by grey or reddish earth, with Greco-Orientalisitc style noted by the presence of a cella. The building probably never was a somptuous one, it wasn’t the aim. On it was inscribed a part of the Delphic maxims, a series of proverbs as much advice for the life of the citizens. They were quotes of a certain Clearchos, maybe the Clearchos of Soloi, a Greek philosopher of the peripatetic school.
Some temples were found near this heroon, and another outside the town. There is a stone vault mausoleum near the heroon. A hundred feet south lays a temple with niches, in which a plate with the picture of the phrygian goddess Cybele was found. In this major temple of the town a giant foot of Zeus was found (identified by the thunder on his sandal). By comparing this foot (3x the human length) and the height of the temple, we know that it was part of a seated statue. Now a coin of the Indo-Greek king Hermaios shows a god (Zeus-styled) enthroned, with sunbeams around the head, something typical of Mithra. A link was made between the two and it is probable that a cult to Zeus-Mithra, a syncretic god, occured here under the Greco-Bactrian rule.The architecture of those temple is almost-fully orientalistic, with podium and terrace in degrees for example.
The palace is an impressive piece of architecture. It is located on the city’s center, near the temples. It was constructed in third phase, even if there was probably something here before. The palace itself is a square of 200m long sides, included in a larger structural system. In his principal entrance were 160 triple-rowed columns of 10m height. The palace is built in a architectural splendour typical of orientalistic and post-Alexander buildings, similar in some ways to Darius’ palace at Susa. In this temple complex a treasury was found which yielded many inscribed ostraca (pottery shards).
A gymnasium was found too, with a statue of the god Hermes, god of the traders but also of the speakers and of the athletes. The rooms were arranged around a central court, like today’s models of school.
The city was surrounded by 12m high walls, even on the riversides. The town was in a strategical location, near to a road passing over the Occhus river, a natural frontline between the nomads in the North and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to the South.
Leaving aside the other buildings, some really interesting objects were found too. The ostraca of the treasury were especially about coins, and lot of coins were found just outside the town. In those were attic-standard coins, but also Indo-Greek ones and karshapana, typical Indian ones. The crowding of those three type of coins shows the situation of this town, between two cultural area.
Another example is a rich pendant that is made with coral from the Mediteranean Sea, pearls from the Persian Gulf, lapis-lazuli from Bactria and ruby from Burma. It seems that Ai Khanoum was a cosmopolitan town, ruled by a Greek elite but populated by many locals, Bactrians and Indians. Cultural syncretism was probably a reality here, with Greco-Iranian gods, trade and products from every part of Central Asia. The town was well-located on the vast trade route between India, China, and the nomads who held the gold from Altai mountains, and the Mediterranean world via the Parthian Empire.
After being built at the very beginning of Hellenistic period, the town must have been enlarged and embellished by the Seleucids and then the first Greco-Bactrian kings. Even if at this time, the royal capital was Bactra, the city was probably the chief town of this area. When Eucratides made his career as a general in Sogdiana, he probably seated his power in Ai Khanum, and began the second big phase of embellishment it continued when Eucratides became king, building the palace as it was found in the excavations.
Yet Eucratides had many struggles, against Greeks, his own son and nomads in the North. The nomadic Sakas took Ai Khanoum between 145 and 138 BC. They barely settled themselves in the city and other nomads, the Yuezhei, repelled them and finally destroyed the city.
Ai Khanum is a perfect example of what could have been a Greek city in this Greek-Far East. It perfectly shows a mix of Greek style and Orientalistic conceptions, with products coming from all over Asia and gods from all neighbouring cultures. It tells alot about the acculturation, which seem to have gone both ways according to the populations, to create an original culture. Shamelessly, it’s also a perfect example of what becomes the historical heritage in its regions and the evil that can be on a theologistic state, for the knowledge of its own past.
After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Cyrene and other cities of the Cyrenaica fell to the Ptolemies. It was only in 96 BC that the Romans incorporated it as the Province of Crete and Cyrene, while they were already well established in the Tripolitania. Rome’s appetite for power had led previously to several wars, especially with Cartage (Punic Wars of 264-241 BC, 218-202 BC, and 149-146 BC) which led to the total destruction of the city. By the first century BC, they finally have North Africa firmly in their grip. We know that nobody less than Julius Caesar had his mind set on Egypt and when Octavian eliminated his rival Marc Anthony in 31 BC, Egypt was definitely theirs, including the cities of the Cyrenaica. At that time, the largest export product by far was silphium, a medical and potent plant that disappeared entirely but that was in high demand, especially in Rome. When in 395 AD the Roman Empire is split up between the eastern and western empire, it is obvious that the Cyrenaica becomes part of the eastern empire while the Tripolitania remains attached to the west. This separation till exist under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian who conquers the land in 533 and rules over both regions. A good hundred years later, the Arabs occupy the territory and rule over the Cyrenaica from Cairo as it failed in power and strength to occupy the Tripolitania as well. The first attempt to link both regions is only made last century by Mussolini who constructed a 2,000 km-long highway along the coastline of Libya, the Litoranea, running from Tunisia all the way to the Egyptian border.
This is the history of Libya in a tiny nutshell. Time to take a closer look at Cyrene, which is on the World Heritage List of Unesco.
When I arrive, all I see is a high city wall with a single entrance beyond a dozen steps. Stepping over the threshold, I find myself immediately inside the Hellenistic Gymnasium also called Ptolemaion in honor of Ptolemy VIII who built it in the 2nd century BC. When the Romans arrived in the first century AD, they paved the wide grounds and turned it into a Forum , which evidently was called Caesarion. The size of this Forum is entirely in accordance with the size of Cyrene itself, i.e. an impressive 85 x 96 meters! Thanks to the efforts of the Italians who excavated the Libyan sites under Mussolini, the majority of the surrounding colonnades have been re-erected. This seems to emphasize its sheer size and makes me stop in my tracks. In the center are the remains of a small temple dedicated to Dionysus (later to Julius Caesar) that has been restored by Hadrian after the Jewish revolt of 115 AD. In one of the corners, I discover delicate black and white mosaics that have weathered heavily – such a shame!
Beyond the Forum lies the Odeon , cozily nestled in the depth, an ideal location for whatever meeting that was held here. Both the Gymnasium/Forum and this Odeon border the notable Battus Street – so striking because a covered gallery ran along its entire length over a distance of some 130 meters. High up the walls of this long Stoa windows were added, each separated by an Atlantes (the male equivalent of a caryatid ) representing, in turn, Hercules and Hermes, as both gods were held in high esteem by the local athletes. It is an intriguing sight, these compact male figures that are now balancing on top of the wall. I’ve never seen atlantes figures before and to witness them here in such lavish quantities is something really special.
Across the road, I discover another small theater or Odeon that is pretty well preserved. From the upper row, I have a good overview of the landscape, in fact, all part of Cyrene that has not been excavated as yet. It is huge! Far down I discern a row of Doric columns belonging to the Temple of Demeter . More to the right are the half exposed remains of a theater that was also part of Demeter’s Sanctuary with several altars on the other side.
When I stop there the next day, I am met by a group of Italian archaeologists digging right next to this temple and exposing several new walls. I’m not allowed to take pictures but can otherwise walk around freely – a unique experience to witness this work in progress from nearby. All over Cyrene now rusted narrow train rails and small wagons are still there where the Italian archaeologists from Mussolini’s days have left them, determined to come back one day, it seems.
From the Odeon I easily enter the prestigious house of Jason Magnus, a well-to-do priest of the Sanctuary of Apollo who built his home around the end of the 2nd/beginning 3rd century. He definitely was “well-to-do” for his residence covers two entire blocks.
My walk continues over the Battus Street , an avenue worthy of a king I would say simply because the sight of all these Hermes and Heracles figures, even without their protecting roof is absolutely stunning. I can’t get enough of this! I finally reach the Agora , not exactly the wide open space one would expect for it is filled with buildings, monuments and two huge altars from the 4th century BC dedicated to Hera and Zeus. It takes some figuring out. On the right-hand side of the Battus Street , I find Battus ’ tomb covered with marble slabs on the Agora-side. Nearby I’m unexpectedly confronted with a winged Nikè, almost identical to the famous Nikè of Samothrace now at the Louvre . Well, well, … Upon closer inspection, I see that this victory is standing on an elaborate ship’s bow with a very recognizable bronze ram. This Nikè has lost her wings but her tunica, as can be expected, elegantly wraps around her female body as she proudly faces the sea breeze. This ensemble is resting on the back of a cute dolphin that seems to be carrying the entire ship. It is so special to find this statue in the very place where it is supposed to be!
I've heard of the Kalash several times from my parents, who both hailed from Pakistan. Their unique culture, as well as their amazing founding myth has brought them trouble with the Taliban, and there have been attempts by several in Pakistan to convert them to Islam, which horrifies me as the loss of this wonderful culture would be tragic.
While they are definitely not Greek, the similarities of culture, religion and language are confounding! I hope to visit these wonderful people someday and hear their stories and watch their dances.
Alexander's appearance as a founding myth is not unique to the Kalash, but also the Barusho and the Pathans. The Kalash and Barusho are not genetically Greek, but the Pathans, who have legends that they are variously the descendents of the Macedonian army or the lost tribes of Israel, appear to have a small admixture of haplotype E3b1, which is heavily concentrated in the Balkans, Macedonia and Bulgaria in particular. It appears Pathans and Pashto speakers have mingled with Macedonian blood at some point in their genetic history-the question is whether it was by Greek slaves, Macedonian colony/Army, or Hellenistic trade routes.
Either way, I think this interest in Alexander from these tribes, and by Pakistani and Indian people in general, is a tribute to Alexander's legacy. His stay in India was short, but long enough to entrench his magnetic persona into the cultural memory of the region, which has surfaced in the most intriguing ways.
I wrote an answer on August 21, but it has disappeared it seems. So I'm resending it again.
I still owe you an answer to this comment of yours. It took me a moment for I was not familiar with the Pathans your are mentioning till I found out that they are also known as Pashtu, so now I am back on track – thank you!
Basically I think it is inevitable that some Macedonian blood is running through the veins of many peoples of Persia, Central Asia, Pakistan or India. You will remember that Alexander “legalized” his veterans’ marriages with Asian wives at Susa, bestowing a royal gift on every 10,000 of them. To those figures you have to add those veterans no longer fit for service that were left behind in the many fortresses or cities he founded during his march and definitely the countless intimate contacts his soldiers had along the way. It must amount to quite an impressive quantity of intimate exchanges!
I like your remark about Alexander’s “magnetic persona” leaving an everlasting imprint on many tribes in Pakistan and India. It seems to be more than what is being remembered of him in our Western memories, don’t you think so?
The ‘Other’ Greek who Marched into India
Around 170 BCE, two massive armies left Taxila for the great city of Pataliputra. One army marched through Punjab and the Gangetic plains, while the other headed down the Indus, then up through Malwa, and finally met the other at Pataliputra. These were the Greek armies of ‘Yavanaraja Dimita’, as the Bactrian-Greek ruler Demetrius I was known to Indians.
The Mauryan Empire had collapsed and Pushyamitra Shunga had just seized power after assassinating the last Mauryan ruler, Brihadratha Maurya. Taking advantage of the chaos, Demetrius I set out to complete what Alexander the Great had failed to do achieve – establish a Greek kingdom in India.
One arm of Demetrius’s army under his general Menander marched through Punjab, sacked Saketa (Ayodhya) and Mathura and captured Pataliputra. The other army under Apollodotus marched down the Indus and captured the great city of Ujjain. Pataliputra and Ujjain fell, and with Demetrius at Taxila, Menander at Pataliputra and Apollodotus at Ujjain, the Greeks held three of the most important cities in India at the time.
The dream of ‘Yavanaraja Dimita’ was fulfilled, albeit for a short period. To underline the fact that he was now the ‘Master of India’, Demetrius minted coins that showed him wearing a headdress with an elephant, a symbol most closely associated with India.
We know of this forgotten chapter of Indian history from the unlikeliest of sources – a Sanskrit grammar textbook. In Mahabhasya, a 2nd century BC text on the rules of grammar, Rishi Patanjali engages in a discussion on an ‘imperfective tense’, explaining that “the imperfect should be used to signify an action not witnessed by the speaker but capable of being witnessed by him and known to people in general”. To illustrate his point, he cites two examples. “Arunad Yavanah Saketam” [Yavanas besieged Saketa (Ayodhya)] and “Arunad Yavano Madhyamikam” (Madhyamikas were besieged by the Yavanas).
This has led historians like Dr R G Bhandarkar, Dr R C Mazumdar and others to conclude that there was indeed a Greek invasion of India during the lifetime of Rishi Patanjali. Another Sanskrit text, Gargi Samhita, an astrological work dating to the same time as Mahabhasya, also gives an account of the ‘Yavana’ invasion of Pataliputra.
Who were these ‘Yavanas’ and how did they reach the heart of India?
It is popularly believed that Greek contact with India began with the invasion of Alexander the Great in 327-325 BCE. However, the book Indo-Greeks (1957) by Indian historian and numismatist A K Narain throws some very interesting light on the subject. Much of what we know of the Indo-Greek rulers is only through their coins, and that is what makes Narain’s work so important.
After an extensive study of coins found in Central Asia, Narain concluded that there may have been Greek settlements in Central Asia that predated Alexander. Narain believed that the Persians exiled a number of Greeks to the eastern corners of their empire, where these Greeks intermarried with Persians and established their own settlements. These were the ‘Bactrian Greeks’, known to Indians as ‘Yavanas’. They were different from the ‘Hellenistic Greeks’, who came with Alexander the Great.
What is riveting is that the ‘Greek conquest of India’ is steeped in Greek mythology. Ancient Greeks believed in a popular legend that Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, travelled the world and taught people how to make wine. One of the most famous of his expeditions was to India, which is said to have lasted several years. In fact, this belief was so widespread that when Alexander the Great reached a settlement called Nysa on the banks of the Indus River, the locals told him that they were the descendants of the Greeks who had come with Dionysus to India!
Another myth also spoke of the conquest of India by Hercules, the son of Zeus. The 1st-century Greek historian Strabo, in his text Geographica, states, “Indians have never been engaged in foreign warfare nor have they ever been invaded or conquered by a foreign power, except by Hercules and Dionysus and lately by the Macedonians”. Perhaps it was this myth of the conquest of India that drew Alexander the Great here in the first place. We shall never know.
Following the death of Alexander in 323 BCE, his vast empire was split between his generals, with his possessions in India, Central Asia and Persia going to Seleucus Nikator. Between 305-302 BCE, Seleucus Nikator invaded India with a view to recapturing the Indian possessions of Alexander that had come under the control of Chandragupta Maurya.
The details of this conflict are not known but the fact that Seleucus Nikator ceded the Hindu Kush, Punjab and parts of Afghanistan to Chandragupta Maurya means that the Mauryans were probably victorious. Seleucus Nikator also gave his daughter Helena in marriage to Chandragupta and appointed Megasthenes as an ambassador in the Mauryan court. Megasthenes became famous for his text Indica, which gives a fascinating account of the India he saw at the time.
Around 250 BCE, the local governor of Bactria, Diodotus declared his independence from the Seleucid Empire founded by Seleucus Nikator, and established the Greco-Bactrian kingdom that maintained close links with the Indian subcontinent. You will not find ‘Bactria’ on modern world maps but it is the ancient name for a region that roughly corresponds with Northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and bound by the Hindu Kush and the Pamir mountains. The Greco-Bactrian kingdom became extremely rich and powerful due to trade and the fertile land of the Amu Darya or Oxus river basin.
The Greco-Bactrians maintained close trade and cultural ties with India, the focal point of which was the city of ‘Ai-Khanum’ (‘Lady Moon’ in Uzbek), earlier known as ‘Alexandria on Oxus’ and ‘Eucratidia’. The city was located in the present-day Takhar province of Northern Afghanistan, at the confluence of the Panj and Kokcha rivers, both tributaries of the Amu Darya, and on the route to India.
The archaeological site of Ai-Khanum was accidentally discovered by an Afghan nobleman named Khan Gholam Serwar Nasher on a hunting trip in the 1960s. While excavations by archaeologists between 1964 and 1978 revealed a magnificent city, sadly the site was extensively looted by the Taliban during the Afghan Civil War. Archaeologists had discovered a great city with a great palace, a large theatre, a gymnasium and various temples including a large temple dedicated to Zeus built in Zoroastrian style.
But it is the coins found at Ai-Khanum that are the most eye-catching. Among the numerous coins found here are those minted by King Agathocles of Bactria (r. 190-180 BCE). These coins are typical Indian-style square coins and depict Indian deities! Historians and numismatists interpret them as forms of Vishnu, Shiva, Balarama, and Lakshmi.
These are the earliest coins that depict Vedic deities. For example, there is a coin depicting Goddess Lakshmi with a Brahmi legend ‘Rajane Agathukleyasasa’ or ‘King Agathocles’. Equally interesting are the coins that depict Balarama-Shankarshana with a mace and a plough, and Vasudeva-Krishna with a shanka (conch) and a Sudarshana Chakra. In addition, there are coins depicting stupas and the Bodhi tree with a railing, which is common Buddhist imagery. This tells us how closely connected the city of Ai-Khanum was to India, culturally.
Emperor Ashoka (304 to 232 BCE) is said to have sent missionaries to the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, where they converted many people to Buddhism. In fact, some of Ashoka’s missionaries were themselves Greek-Buddhist monks.
In Mahavamsha, an epic poem in Pali on the early history of Sri Lanka, there is a reference to how Ashoka sent a ‘Yona’ (Yavana) monk named Dharmarakshita to the Aparanta country (Konkan coast) to preach Buddhism. The Ashokan edict at Kandahar in Afghanistan is written in Greek and Aramaic, which tells us about the large Greek settlement there.
After the death of Ashoka, a series of weak rulers led to the decline of the Mauryan power. In 180 BCE, Brihadhrata Maurya was assassinated by his general Pushyamitra Shunga during a military parade. Taking advantage of the chaos that followed, Greco-Bactrian ruler, Demetrius I invaded India, sending his armies to conquer some of India’s great cities like Mathura, Saketa (Ayodhya) and Pataliputra. While we know that Demetrius was victorious in his campaigns, we don’t know for how long he was able to hold on to these territories.
With his kingdom expanding deep into India, Demetrius moved his capital to Sirkap, just opposite the river bank from the city of Taxila (near present-day Peshawar). The ruins of Sirkap show that it was built according to the ‘Hippodamian’ grid-plan characteristic of Greek cities. It was organized around one main avenue and 15 perpendicular streets.
What is fascinating is that at a stupa at Sirkap has the earliest known motif of the ‘Double Headed’ Eagle, which later spread across India as a symbol of royalty. Interestingly, it is today used by the state of Karnataka, in present-day India!
In Indian texts like the Gargi Samhita, King Demetrius is known as ‘Yavanaraja Dimita’ or ‘Dharmamita’. We know very little of Demetrius after his India conquest. He simply disappears from history. King Kharavela of Kalinga, in his Hathigumpha inscription at Udayagiri near Bhubaneshwar, boasts that he was so fearsome that a Yavana (Greek) king or general retreated to Mathura with his demoralized army. The name of the Yavana king is not clear but it contains three letters, and the middle letter can be read as ‘ma’ or ‘mi’. This has led to some historians such as R D Banerji and K P Jayaswal to claim that it refers to ‘Dimita’ or ‘Demetrius’.
The death of Demetrius saw the decline of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. The Yuezhi tribe from China (later known as Kushanas) began to invade Bactria from the north. In the 1st century BCE, King Heliocles moved his capital to the Kabul valley, from where he ruled Punjab. This was the end of the Bactrian-Greek kingdom.
The Greek rulers who ruled from India after the fall of Bactria to the Scythians were called ‘Indo-Greeks’ to distinguish them from the ‘Bactrian Greeks’. The ‘Indo-Greek’ kings ruled much of North India, the most prominent among them being King Menander, the General of Demetrius I, who had marched to Pataliputra. He set up his own kingdom and ruled from Sagala, modern-day Sialkot (in Pakistan’s Punjab).
The Greek geographer Strabo wrote that Menander had “conquered more tribes than Alexander the Great”. The sheer number of his coins found across India has led historians to conclude that he probably presided over a very prosperous empire. But Menander is the most well known Indo-Greek king due to a Buddhist text known as Milinda Panha.
According to Buddhist tradition, King Menander is said to have embraced Buddhism, following a religious discussion with a Buddhist monk named Nagasena. Interestingly, Nagasena is said to have been a disciple of Dharmarakshita, the ‘Yavana’ Buddhist missionary sent by Ashoka to the Konkan. King Menander is said to have had philosophical discussions with Nagasena at Sagala (Sialkot), which were compiled as Milinda Panha or ‘Questions of Milinda (Menander)’. As a fellow Buddhist, the text heaps praise on Menander, stating:
“King of the city of Sâgala in India, Milinda by name, learned, eloquent, wise, and able and a faithful observer, and that at the right time, of all the various acts of devotion and ceremony enjoined by his own sacred hymns concerning things past, present, and to come. Many were the arts and sciences he knew – holy tradition and secular law the Sânkhya, Yoga, Nyâya, and Vaisheshika systems of philosophy, arithmetic, music, medicine, the four Vedas, the Purânas, and the Itihâsas, astronomy, magic, causation, and magic spells, the art of war, poetry, conveyancing in a word, the whole nineteen.”
Not just Buddhist sources but even Greek accounts such as that of 1st century CE Greek scholar Plutarch of Chaeronea praise the just rule of Menander and claim that just like Buddha, Menander’s relics too were distributed among different stupas across North-West India.
“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.”
Menander’s greatest legacy was the establishment of Greco-Buddhism, which saw a revival in art that was a unique synthesis of Greek and Buddhist influences. Menander’s successors depicted themselves or their Greek deities forming with the right hand a symbolic gesture identical to the Buddhist vitarka mudra and started to adopt on their coins the Pali title of ‘Dharmikasa’, meaning ‘follower of the Dharma’. During his reign, we see friezes of Greek-looking people appearing on the stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut.
Did you know that in 1950, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar started an educational college in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, which he named ‘Milind Mahavidyalaya’ after the Indo-Greek King Menander I?
After the death of Menander, the Indo-Greek kingdom never regained its glory. There was a long line of 20-odd Indo-Greek kings in Western Punjab, of whom we know very little. In fact, the only legacy they left behind is a bunch of coins. They, however, do help us piece together a loose chronology.
For example, there was even an Indo-Greek Queen Agathokleia, who is said to have ruled parts of Northern India as a regent for her son, Strato I, and minted coins in her own name. She depicted herself as ‘Athena’, the Greek Goddess of War. For the longest time, historians believed she was the widow of King Menander I (Milinda), but recent numismatic evidence has led historians to believe that she was the widow of a later Indo-Greek king, possibly Nicias or Theophilus.
While they have been more or less relegated to the periphery of Indian history, with no mention of the ‘great march’ to the plains… he cultural influence of the Yavanas or Greeks can be found across India. In the heart of India, in Besnagar near Bhopal, you will find the Heliodorus pillar. Around 115 BCE, King Antialkidas sent Heliodorus as his ambassador to the court of the Shunga king Bhagabhadra in Vidisha. A staunch devotee of Vishnu, Heliodorus built a Garuda pillar, where he described himself as a follower of the Bhagavata cult. In a number of cave complexes of Western India, such as Karla, Nashik and Manmodi, you will find references to ‘Yavana’ donors.
Like they had been pushed out of Bactria, the Indo-Greeks began to be pushed out of North-West India as well by the invading Indo-Scythians (the Shakas) around 80 BCE. In Eastern Punjab and Haryana too, they began losing their lands to small entities like Arjunayanas and the Yaudheya Republic.
Perhaps the last reference to Indo-Greek rule in India is what is known as the Yavanarajya inscription, also called the Maghera Well Stone Inscription discovered in the village of Maghera, 17 km north of Mathura in 1988. The inscription mentions a donation for a water well to the community “in the year 116 of the Yavanarajya”. This roughly corresponds to 69 or 70 BCE.
Two things can be deduced from the inscription, the first being that Mathura was still under the rule of the Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) at the time and that the Indo-Greeks had their own calendar. The Yavana Era or the Yona era was earlier thought to have been started by Dmitrius I to commemorate his conquest of India around 186 BCE. But now historians believe it may have begun later, probably 174 BCE.
The Indo-Scythians or Shakas conquered much of North India. Around 10 CE, Rajuvula, the satrap of Mathura, is said to have conquered the last Indo-Greek outpost at Sagala (Sialkot), thereby bringing the ‘Age of Yavanas’ to an end. But their strong cultural legacy continued for centuries. It is interesting how the ‘Yavanarajya’ continued to be a source of legitimacy for centuries. German historian Harry Falk in his paper Ancient Indian Eras: An Overview writes about how, when the Kushana king Kanishka launched his own era around 127 CE, he pegged it to precisely 300 years after the ‘Yavana Era’. Falk argues that Kanishka wanted to link his own rule with that of the Indo-Greeks, who had first linked Central Asia and India.
Today, the Indo-Greeks have been completely forgotten by Indian history, which only remembers Alexander the Great and his conquests. It would be wrong to see these ‘Yavanas’ as outsiders or invaders. Perhaps the best summation of why is explained by historian A K Narain in his book Indo-Greeks, where he states:
”The Indo-Greeks were more influenced by Indian religion and thought than any Hellenistic king by the faith and ideas of the land in which he lived and ruled. No Seleucid (Greek rulers of Persia) ever put Iranian or Babylonian legends on his coinage. No Ptolemy ever used Egyptian (legends) but the Indo-Greeks introduced Indian legends in Indian scripts on their money. Their history is part of the history of India and not of the Hellenistic states they came, they saw, but India conquered.”
When Alexander Reached the Indus (326-323 BCE)
This article is part of our series ‘Two Thousand Years of India’s History’, where we focus on the period between 600 BCE- 1400 CE, and bring alive the many interesting events, ideas, people and pivots that shaped us and the Indian subcontinent. Dipping into a vast array of material – archaeological data, historical research and contemporary literary records, we seek to understand the many layers that make us.
This series is brought to you with the support of Mr K K Nohria, former Chairman of Crompton Greaves, who shares our passion for history and joins us on our quest to understand India and how the subcontinent evolved, in the context of a changing world.
Eucratidia - History
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