The death of Alexander the Great gave rise to the
kingdom which was created by one of his leading generals, Seleucus
Nicator, who ruled a vast empire stretching from the Mediterranean
to parts of northern India. He was subsequently weakened in the
Indian sub-continent by the Maurya empire. This led his satraps in
Bactria (the region between the Hindu Kush and the River Oxus, now
northern Afghanistan, plus southern areas of Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan, and eastern Turkmenistan) and Parthia (north-eastern
Iran) to think in independent terms.
For the greater part of their existence they were
cut off from the west, so records on nearly all the Indo-Greeks are
ambiguous and fragmentary.
Diodotus, the governor of Bactria, was the first to rebel against
Antiochus (250 BC), the Seleucid king. Antiochus was ignoring his
territory in the Indian sub-continent due to his concentration in
the eastern Mediterranean region. Taking advantage, Diodotus set
himself up as an independent ruler in Bactria.
Later on, another satrap , Euthydemus defeated Diodotus' son and
founded the Euthydemid dynasty. His son, Demetrius I (195-180 BC)
led his Indo-Greek armies to the south-east of the Hindu Kush
mountains. Demetrius was followed by Agathocles (c.180-165 BC). He
may have been a contemporary or successor of Panteleon (probably the
younger brother of Demetrius), whom he replaced. He was in charge of
Paropamisadae (between Bactria and India, centred mostly on Punjab
and Kashmir). His throne was usurped by Eucratides, who pushed
Agathocles back to Bactria and established his own lineage in
Then there was Antimachus I Theos (c.180-165 BC ?), probably a brother
of Demetrius, who ruled Bactria and lower Kabul. Parts of his
kingdom were probably annexed by Eucratides.
The next known Indo-Greek king was Apollodotus I (c.180 or 175-160
BC). He was one of the generals of Demetrius, and is credited with
establishing the first Indo-Greek kingdom ruling areas of Taxila in
Punjab, and areas of Sindh and possibly Gujarat.
Later on a second king by the name of Demetrius (175 or 170-165 BC)
came to rule large areas in southern Afghanistan, Punjab and the
Amongst the later Indo-Greek kings was Antimachus II Nikephoros
(165-166 BC), probably the son of the earlier Antimachus. He had
fought against the usurper, Eucratides, and ruled over the vast
territory from the Hindu Kush to Punjab. He is credited with the
introduction of tax receipts.
EXTERNAL LINK: Ancient Sculpture Gallery: Coins
Silver tetradrachm issued by Antimachus I Theos (c.180–165 BC)
showing Poseidon on the reverse
However, the best-remembered of the Indo-Greek kings was Menander I
Soter (c.155-130 BC), otherwise known as King Milinda in Indian
texts. Milinda achieved fame due to the Buddhist text, 'Milinda Panha'. It is an account of a long discussion conducted between
Milinda and Nagasena, a Buddhist monk. This led to Milinda's
acceptance of Buddhism. Milinda also created a vast empire from
central Afghanistan as far as western and central India. His capital
remained at Sakala (Sialkot). Milinda proved himself to be a patron
of Buddhism and he himself was a reputed scholar. He enjoyed
tremendous popularity amongst his subjects, and as per the accounts
of Plutarch, after Milinda's death, all his cities vied for his
Following the rule of the Milinda 'dynasty' (including his son who succeeded him),
there were many kings, notably Zoilus I (c.150-125 BC?), who ruled
in Paropamisadae and Arachosia (southern Afghanistan), and who was
from the Euthydemus line. Lysias Aniketos, the Invincible (c.130-120
BC), was a close successor of Zoilus , and claimed descent from
There was a Strato I, son of the Indo-Greek queen, Agathokleia
(c.120 BC?), both of whom ruled in areas of Gandhara and Punjab, and
the latter is considered to be the widow of Menander I (although
this is disputed by some), and was probably a contemporary of Lysias.
The Indo-Greek kingdom had divided into Paropamisadae and Arachosia
on the one hand and Gandhara and Punjab on the other. Once this had
happened, there was a slew of apparently short-lived rulers who are
very poorly documented.
Included in these were Antialcidas of Paropamisadae (fl
c.120 BC?), Heliocles of Gandhara (c.110-100 BC), Polyxenios of
Paropamisadae (fl c.100 BC), and Demetrius III (fl c.100 BC) of
A Hermaios coin from Gandhara at the beginning of
the first century AD. The rear of the coin shows Zeus enthroned
and facing three quarters to the left, right hand extended, and
holding a sceptre in his left hand, with a monogram in the field
to the left
Another Indo-Greek coin, this time issued by one of the strongest
Bactrian/Indo-Greek kings, Eucratides I
Following them there was Philoxenus (100-95 BC), who ruled
entire regions from Paropamisadae to Punjab, Diomedes (c.95-90 BC),
who ruled Paropamisadae, Amyntas (c.95-90 BC), who ruled
Afghanistan, Epander (c.95-90 BC), who ruled Punjab, Theophilos of
Paropamisadae (c.90 BC), followed further by Peukolaos of Gandhara
and Thraso (both c.90 BC), who ruled central and western Punjab,
Nicias of Paropamisadae (c.90-85 BC), Menander II (c.90-85 BC), who
ruled Arachosia and Gandhara, Artemidoros (c.90-85 BC) in western
Punjab, Hermaeus in Paropamisadae (c.90-70 BC), and Archebios
(c.90-70 BC) in Gandhara and Pushkalavati / Peshawar.
Artemidoros is also claimed by some scholars as being a son of Maues,
the Indo-Scythian king of the Sakas. Whatever the truth of that,
somewhere in between that mass of Greek rulers, Maues himself (85-60
BC or c.90-60 BC) conquered Taxila and established his kingdom in
Despite this setback, the line of Indo-Greeks continued. Telephos
(c.75-70 BC) ruled Gandhara (probably as a briefly dominant
Indo-Greek successor to Maues), and Apollodotus II (c.75-70 BC)
belonged to the dynasty of Menander I, ruling in Punjab.
Hippostratos (c.65-55 BC) ruled Punjab and Peshawar, and Dionysios
(c.65-55 BC) ruled eastern Punjab. Zoilos II (c.55-35 BC) ruled
eastern Punjab, as did Apollophanes (c.55-35 BC), although it isn't
known whether this was before, after or along with Zoilos II. Strato
II (c.25-10 BC) ruled eastern Punjab.
He was the last Indo-Greek
king after his territory was invaded by the Indo-Scythian king,
Rajuvula of Mathura (in Uttar Pradesh state).
There is also mention of Heliodorous, who was either the king of
Taxilla or the king's envoy. He was a devotee of Lord Vasudeva (or
Vishnu - a primary Hindu God), and was responsible for erecting a
structure known as the 'Garuda Dhwaja' in honour of Lord Vasudeva.
The Indo-Greeks introduced a lot of innovations in the coins that
they made. They used the technique of die striking in the
manufacture of their coins. Their coins all bore portraits of the
rulers, something which was employed by the later Indian kings,
although many of the less powerful kings over-stamped coins of
previous rulers with their own mark.
Greek astronomy is also considered as being a gift to India, as per
the Brahmin text 'Gargi Samhita' , and Indian astronomers such as Varahamira.
Greek sculpture also left an indelible mark on Indian
arts and culture. In return the Greeks were influenced by Hindu and
Buddhist philosophies and rituals, resulting in many of the
Indo-Greek kings embracing these religions.
The Indo-Greeks ruled in India for two centuries (up until first
century AD), although Hellenistic influences and pockets of Greek
culture remain for some centuries after that. Their movement
eastwards into India paved the way for the Sakas (otherwise known as
Indo-Scythians), the Pahlavas (the Indo-Parthians), and the Kushans
(the Yuezhi or Kushanas).
The Bamiyan Bhuddas were built by Greek
descendants in Afghanistan
 The Brahmin text 'Gargi Samhita' (the
Yugapurana section), is also critical of the Greeks, or Yavanas as they
were called, for their brutality in the Indian sub-continent. The Yavanas
have been termed barbarians for their approach, but as per Romila Thapar,
this may have been thanks to their patronising of Buddhism, and newly
emerging Hindu sects such as 'Shaivaism' and 'Bhagvatism', at the
cost of Vedic Brahmanism.
Majumdar, R C - Ancient India, Motilal
Banarsidass Publishers Ltd, 1987
Prasad, L - Studies in Indian History,
Cosmos Bookhive, Gurgaon, 2000
Thapar, Romila - Penguin History of India,
Volume 1, Penguin Books, London, 1990