", dated to the first year of Kanishka's reign in 127 AD, was signed by a Greek artist named Agesilas, who oversaw work at Kanishka's stupas (caitya), confirming the direct involvement of Greeks with Buddhist realizations at such a late date. (British Museum, drawing).

Greek representations and artistic styles, with some possible admixtures from the Roman world, continued to maintain a strong identity down to the 3rd–4th century, as indicated by the archaeological remains of such sites as Hadda in eastern Afghanistan.

The Greco-Buddhist image of the Buddha was transmitted progressively through Central Asia and China until it reached Japan in the 6th century.[48]

Numerous elements of Greek mythology and iconography, introduced in northwestern India by the Indo-Greeks through their coinage at the very least, were then adopted throughout Asia within a Buddhist context, especially along the Silk Road. The Japanese Buddhist deity Shukongoshin, one of the wrath-filled protector deities of Buddhist temples in Japan, is an interesting case of transmission of the image of the famous Greek god Herakles to the Far-East along the Silk Road. The image of Herakles was introduced in India with the coinage of Demetrius and several of his successors, used in Greco-Buddhist art to represent Vajrapani the protector of the Buddha, and was then used in Central Asia, China and Japan to depict the protector gods of Buddhist temples.[49]

Another case of artistic transmission is the Greek Wind God Boreas, transiting through Central Asia and China to become the Japanese Shinto wind god Fujin.[50] In consistency with Greek iconography for Boreas, the Japanese wind god holds above his head with his two hands a draping or "wind bag" in the same general attitude. The abundance of hair have been kept in the Japanese rendering, as well as exaggerated facial features.

Intellectual and religious legacy

Main article: Greco-Buddhism

The impact of the Indo-Greeks on Indian thought and religion is unknown, although many influences have been suggested. Scholars believe that Mahayana Buddhism as a distinct movement began around the 1st century BC in the North-western Indian subcontinent, corresponding to the time and place of Indo-Greek florescence. Intense multi-cultural influences have indeed been suggested in the appearance of Mahayana: "Key formative influences on the early development of the Mahayana and Pure Land movements, which became so much part of East Asian civilization, are to be sought in Buddhism's earlier encounters along the Silk Road".[51] As Mahayana Buddhism emerged, it received "influences from popular Hindu devotional cults (bhakti), Persian and Greco-Roman theologies which filtered into India from the northwest".[52] Many of the early Mahayana theories of reality and knowledge can be related to Greek philosophical schools of thought: Mahayana Buddhism has been described as "the form of Buddhism which (regardless of how Hinduized its later forms became) seems to have originated in the Greco-Buddhist communities of India, through a conflation of the Greek Democritean-Sophistic-Skeptical tradition with the rudimentary and unformalized empirical and skeptical elements already present in early Buddhism".[53]

List of the Indo-Greek kings and their territories

Today 36 Indo-Greek kings are known. Several of them are also recorded in Western and Indian historical sources, but the majority are known through numismatic evidence only. The exact chronology and sequencing of their rule is still a matter of scholarly inquiry, with adjustments regular being made with new analysis and coin finds (overstrikes of one king over another's coins being the most critical element in establishing chronological sequences).

Lastly Theodamas, not mentionned in this list, may have been an Indo-Greek ruler in the Bajaur area in the 1st century AD.

Based on Bopearachchi (1991)
200-190 BC Demetrius I
190-180 BC Agathocles Pantaleon
185-170 BC Antimachus I
180-160 BC Apollodotus I
175-170 BC Demetrius II
160-155 BC Antimachus II
170-145 BC Eucratides
155-130 BC Menander I
130-120 BC Zoilos I Agathokleia
120-110 BC Lysias Strato I
110-100 BC Antialcidas Heliokles II
100 BC Polyxenios Demetrius III
100-95 BC Philoxenus
95-90 BC Diomedes Amyntas Epander
90 BC Theophilos Peukolaos Thraso
90-85 BC Nicias Menander II Artemidoros
90-70 BC Hermaeus Archebios
Yuezhi tribes Maues (Indo-Scythian)
75-70 BC Telephos Apollodotus II
65-55 BC Hippostratos Dionysios
55-35 BC Azes I (Indo-Scythian) Zoilos II
55-35 BC Apollophanes
25 BC- 10 AD Strato II
Rajuvula (Indo-Scythian)


  • "Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné", Osmund Bopearachchi, 1991, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ISBN 2717718257 (French).
  • "The Shape of Ancient Thought. Comparative studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies" by Thomas McEvilley (Allworth Press and the School of Visual Arts, 2002) ISBN 1581152035
  • "Buddhism in Central Asia" by B.N. Puri (Motilal Banarsidass Pub, January 1, 2000) ISBN 8120803728
  • "The Greeks in Bactria and India", W.W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press.
  • "Dictionary of Buddhism" Damien Keown, Oxford University Press ISBN 0198605609
  • "De l'Indus à l'Oxus, Archéologie de l'Asie Centrale", Osmund Bopearachchi, Christine Sachs, ISBN 2951667922 (French).
  • "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity" by John Boardman (Princeton University Press, 1994) ISBN 0691036802
  • "The Crossroads of Asia. Transformation in Image and symbol", 1992, ISBN 0951839918
  • "Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian coins in the Smithsonian institution", Smithsonian Institution, Bopearachchi, 1993
  • "Alexander the Great: East-West Cultural contacts from Greece to Japan" (NHK and Tokyo National Museum, 2003)
  • ”The Vision of the Buddha”, Tom Lowenstein, ISBN 1903296919
  • "Religions and the Silk Road" by Richard C. Foltz (St. Martin's Press, 1999) ISBN 0312233388
  • "The Buddhist art of Gandhara", Sir John Marshall, Cambridge University Press, 1960. ISBN 812150967X
  • "The Yuga Purana", John E. Mitchiner, Kolkata, The Asiatic Society, 2002, ISBN 8172361246
  • "The "Avaca" Inscription and the Origin of the Vikrama Era", Richard Salomon, Journal of the American Oriental Society - Vol. 102.


  1. ^ Strabo 15-1-27
  2. ^ Strabo quoting Apollodorus on the extent of Greek conquests:
    • "Apollodorus, for instance, author of the Parthian History, when he mentions the Greeks who occasioned the revolt of Bactriana from the Syrian kings, who were the successors of Seleucus Nicator, says, that when they became powerful they invaded India. He adds no discoveries to what was previously known, and even asserts, in contradiction to others, that the Bactrians had subjected to their dominion a larger portion of India than the Macedonians; for Eucratides (one of these kings) had a thousand cities subject to his authority." Strabo 15-1-3 Full text
    • "The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander -- by Menander in particular (at least if he actually crossed the Hypanis towards the east and advanced as far as the Imaüs), for some were subdued by him personally and others by Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus the king of the Bactrians." (Strabo 11.11.1 Full text)
  3. ^ Justin on Demetrius "King of the Indians": "Multa tamen Eucratides bella magna uirtute gessit, quibus adtritus cum obsidionem Demetrii, regis Indorum, pateretur, cum CCC militibus LX milia hostium adsiduis eruptionibus uicit. Quinto itaque mense liberatus Indiam in potestatem redegit." ("Eucratides led many wars with great courage, and, while weakened by them, was put under siege by Demetrius, king of the Indians. He made numerous sorties, and managed to vanquish 60,000 enemies with 300 soldiers, and thus liberated after four months, he put India under his rule") Justin XLI,6
  4. ^ Strabo on the extent of the conquests of the Greco-Bactrians/Indo-Greeks: "The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander -- by Menander in particular (at least if he actually crossed the Hypanis towards the east and advanced as far as the Imaüs), for some were subdued by him personally and others by Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus the king of the Bactrians; and they took possession, not only of Patalena, but also, on the rest of the coast, of what is called the kingdom of Saraostus and Sigerdis. In short, Apollodorus says that Bactriana is the ornament of Ariana as a whole; and, more than that, they extended their empire even as far as the Seres and the Phryni." (Strabo 11.11.1 Full text)
  5. ^ Periplus
  6. ^ "Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian coins in the Smithsonian institution", Bopearachchi, p16.
  7. ^ "tatha Yavana Kamboja Mathuram.abhitash cha ye./ ete ashava.yuddha.kushaladasinatyasi charminah."//5 — (MBH 12/105/5, Kumbhakonam Ed)
  8. ^ "Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian coins in the Smithsonian institution", Bopearachchi, p16. Also: "Kalidasa recounts in his Mālavikāgnimitra (5.15.14-24) that Puspamitra appointed his grandson Vasumitra to guard his sacrificial horse, which wandered on the right bank of the Sindhu river and was seized by Yavana cavalrymen- the later being thereafter defeated by Vasumitra. The "Sindhu" referred to in this context may refer the river Indus: but such an extension of Sunga power seems unlikely, and it is more probable that it denotes one of two rivers in central India -either the Sindhu river which is a tributary of the Yamuna, or the Kali-Sindhu river which is a tributary of the Chambal." The Yuga Purana, Mitchener, 2002.
  9. ^ "For any scholar engaged in the study of the presence of the Indo-Greeks or Indo-Scythians before the Christian Era, the Yuga Purana is an important source material" Dilip Coomer Ghose, General Secretary, The Asiatic Society, Kolkata, 2002
  10. ^ "The greatest city in India is that which is called Palimbothra, in the dominions of the Prasians [...] Megasthenes informs us that this city stretched in the inhabited quarters to an extreme length on each side of eighty stadia, and that its breadth was fifteen stadia, and that a ditch encompassed it all round, which was six hundred feet in breadth and thirty cubits in depth, and that the wall was crowned with 570 towers and had four-and-sixty gates." Arr. Ind. 10. "Of Pataliputra and the Manners of the Indians.", quoting Megasthenes Text
  11. ^ "The diffusion, from the second century BC, of Hellenistic influences in the architecture of Swat is also attested by the archaeological searches at the sanctuary of Butkara I, which saw its stupa "monumentalized" at that exact time by basal elements and decorative alcoves derived from Hellenistic architecture", in "De l'Indus a l'Oxus: archaelogie de l'Asie Centrale" 2003, Pierfrancesco Callieri, p212
  12. ^ "De l'Indus à l'Oxus. Archéologie de l'Asie Centrale" 2003, Pierfrancesco Callieri, p 211: "Throughout the Indian continent, the only fortifications which are similar [to those of Sirkap and Barikot] are those of Rajgir, in Bihar" See also: Italian mission to Pakistan (1956-2006) (Italian Pdf)
  13. ^ Full text of the Hathigumpta inscription
  14. ^ "Numismats and historians are unanimous in considering that Menander was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, and the most famous of the Indo-Greek kings. The coins to the name of Menander are incomparably more abundant than those of any other Indo-Greek king" Bopearachchi, "Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques", p76.
  15. ^ On the relations between the Greeks and the Mauryas:
    • 1) Discussion on the dynastic alliance in Tarn, p152-153: "It has been recently suggested that Asoka was grandson of the Seleucid princess, whom Seleucus gave in marriage to Chandragupta. Should this far-reaching suggestion be well founded, it would not only throw light on the good relations between the Seleucid and Maurya dynasties, but would mean that the Maurya dynasty was descended from, or anyhow connected with, Seleucus... when the Mauryan line became extinct, he (Demetrius) may well have regarded himself, if not as the next heir, at any rate as the heir nearest at hand".
    • 2) Description of the 302 BC marital alliance in Strabo 15.2.1(9): "The Indians occupy [in part] some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants." The ambassador Megasthenes was also sent to the Mauryan court on this occasion.
    • 3) In the Edicts of Ashoka, king Ashoka claims to have sent Buddhist emissaries to the Hellenistic west around 250 BC.
    • 4) When Antiochos III, after having made peace with Euthydemus, went to India in 209 BC, he is said to have renewed his friendship with the Indian king there and received presents from him: "He crossed the Caucasus (Hindu Kush) and descended into India; renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians; received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether; and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him." Polybius 11.39
  16. ^ "We can now, I think, see what the Greek 'conquest' meant and how the Greeks were able to traverse such extraordinary distances. To parts of India, perhaps to large parts, they came, not as conquerors, but as friends or 'saviors'; to the Buddhist world in particular they appeared to be its champions" (Tarn, p180)
  17. ^ Tarn p175. Also: "The people to be 'saved' were in fact usually Buddhists, and the common enimity of Greek and Buddhists to the Sunga king threw them into each other's arms", Tarn p175. "Menander was coming to save them from the oppression of the Sunga kings",Tarn p178
  18. ^ Bopearachchi p.138
  19. ^ Plutarch "Political precepts", p147-148 Full text
  20. ^ Chapter XXIX of the Mahavamsa: Text
  21. ^ Original text of the inscription, in Gandhari: Text
  22. ^ "Crossroads of Asia", p12
  23. ^ "The Buddhist art of Gandhara", Marshall, p101
  24. ^ "In the art of Gandhara, the first known image of the standing Buddha and approximatively dated, is that of the Bimaran reliquary, which specialists attribute to the Indo-Scythian period, more particularly to the rule of Azes II" (Christine Sachs, "De l'Indus à l'Oxus").
  25. ^ The Crossroads of Asia, p62
  26. ^ "The survival into the 1st century AD of a Greek administration and presumably some elements of Greek culture in the Punjab has now to be taken into account in any discussion of the role of Greek influence in the development of Gandharan sculpture", The Crossroads of Asia, p14
  27. ^ On the Indo-Greeks and the Gandhara school:
    • 1) "The beginnings of the Gandhara school have been dated everywhere from the first century B.C. (which was M.Foucher's view) to the Kushan period and even after it" (Tarn, p394). Foucher's views can be found in "La vieille route de l'Inde, de Bactres a Taxila", pp340-341). The view is also supported by Sir John Marshall ("The Buddhist art of Gandhara", pp5-6).
    • 2) Also the recent discoveries at Ai-Khanoum confirm that "Gandharan art descended directly from Hellenized Bactrian art" (Chaibi Nustamandy, "Crossroads of Asia", 1992).
    • 3) On the Indo-Greeks and Greco-Buddhist art: "It was about this time (100 BC) that something took place which is without parallel in Hellenistic history: Greeks of themselves placed their artistic skill at the service of a foreign religion, and created for it a new form of expression in art" (Tarn, p393). "We have to look for the beginnings of Gandharan Buddhist art in the residual Indo-Greek tradition, and in the early Buddhist stone sculpture to the South (Bharhut etc...)" (Boardman, 1993, p124). "Depending on how the dates are worked out, the spread of Gandhari Buddhism to the north may have been stimulated by Menander's royal patronage, as may the development and spread of the Gandharan sculpture, which seems to have accompanied it" McEvilley, 2002, "The shape of ancient thought", p378.
  28. ^ Boardman, p141
  29. ^ Boardman, p143
  30. ^ "Others, dating the work to the first two centuries A.D., after the waning of Greek autonomy on the Northwest, connect it instead with the Roman Imperial trade, which was just then getting a foothold at sites like Barbaricum (modern Karachi) at the Indus-mouth. It has been proposed that one of the embassies from Indian kings to Roman emperors may have brought back a master sculptorto oversee work in the emerging Mahayana Buddhist sensibility (in which the Buddha came to be seen as a kind of deity), and that "bands of foreign workmen from the eastern centers of the Roman Empire" were brought to India" (Mc Evilley "The shape of ancient thought", quoting Benjamin Rowland "The art and architecture of India" p121 and A.C. Soper "The Roman Style in Gandhara" American Journal of Archaeology 55 (1951) pp301-319)
  31. ^ Fussman, JA 1993, p127 and Bopearachchi, "Graeco-Bactrian issues of the later Indo-Greek kings", Num.Chron.1990, pp79-104)
  32. ^ Strabo II.3.4‑5 on Eudoxus
  33. ^ "Since the merchants of Alexandria are already sailing with fleets by way of the Nile and of the Arabian Gulf as far as India, these regions also have become far better known to us of today than to our predecessors. At any rate, when Gallus was prefect of Egypt, I accompanied him and ascended the Nile as far as Syene and the frontiers of Ethiopia, and I learned that as many as one hundred and twenty vessels were sailing from Myos Hormos for India, whereas formerly, under the Ptolemies, only a very few ventured to undertake the voyage and to carry on traffic in Indian merchandise." Strabo II.5.12
  34. ^ Polybius 10.49, Battle of the Arius
  35. ^ Megasthenes Indica
  36. ^ Justin XLI
  37. ^ "They are a nation of nomads, moving from place to place with their herds, and their customs are like those of the Xiongnu. They have some 100,000 or 200,000 archer warriors... The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian or Heavenly mountains and Dunhuang, but after they were defeated by the Xiongnu they moved far away to the west, beyond Dayuan, where they attacked and conquered the people of Daxia (Bactria) and set up the court of their king on the northern bank of the Gui (Oxus) river" ("Records of the Great Historian", Sima Qian, trans. Burton Watson, p234)
  38. ^ Following the embassy of Zhang Qian in Central Asia around 126 BC, from around 110 BC "more and more envoys (from China) were sent to Anxi (Parthia), Yancai, Lixuan, Tiazhi, and Shendu (India)... The largest embassies to foreign states numbered several hundred person, while even the smaller parties included over 100 members" ("Records of the Grand Historian", by Sima Qian, trans. Robert Watson, p240-241). According to the Hou Hanshu, W'ou-Ti-Lao (Spalirises), king of Ki-pin (Kophen, upper Kabul valley), killed some Chinese envoys. After the death of the king, his son (Spaladagames) sent an envoy to China with gifts. The Chinese general Wen-Chung, commander of the border area in western Gansu, accompanied the escort back. W'ou-Ti-Lao's son formented to kill Wen-Chung. When Wen-Chung discovered the plot, he allied himself with Yin-Mo-Fu (Hermaeus), "son of the king of Yung-Kiu" (Yonaka, the Greeks). They attacked Ki-Pin (possibly with the support of the Yuezhi, themselves allies of the Chinese since around 100 BC according to the Hou Hanshu) and killed W'ou-Ti-Lao's son. Yin-Mo-Fu (Hermaeus) was then installed as king of Ki-Pin, as a vassal of the Chinese Empire, and receiving the Chinese seal and ribbon of investiture. Later Yin-Mo-Fu (Hermaeus) himself is recorded to have killed Chinese envoys in the reign of Emperor Yuan-ti (48-33 BC), then sent envoys to apologize to the Chinese court, but he was disregarded. During the reign of Emperor Ching-ti (51-7 BC) other envoys were sent, but they were rejected as simple traders. (Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India")
  39. ^ Quoted in Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India", p376, based on Weber, B. Liebich, O. Stein.
  40. ^ Avaca inscription: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 102, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1982) , pp. 59-68
  41. ^ Description of the Hellenistic urbanism of Taxila:

    • "Taxila, they tell us, is about as big as Nineveh, and was fortified fairly well after the manner of Greek cities" (Life of Apollonius Tyana, II 20)
    • "I have already described the way in which the city is walled, but they say that it was divided up into narrow streets in the same irregular manner as in Athens, and that the houses were built in such a way that if you look at them from outside they had only one story, while if you went into one of them, you at once found subterranean chambers extending as far below the level of the earth as did the chambers above." (Life of Apollonius Tyana, II 23)
  42. ^ (Life of Apollonius Tyana, II 29)
  43. ^ (Life of Apollonius Tyana, II 31)
  44. ^ See Chronology of Indian eras
  45. ^
    • A comment in "Brihat-Samhita" by the mathematician Varahamihira says: "The Greeks, though impure, must be honored since they were trained in sciences and therein, excelled others....." ("mleccha hi yavanah tesu samyak shastram kdamsthitam/ rsivat te 'p i pujyante kim punar daivavid dvijah" (Brihat-Samhita 2.15)).
    • Also the Mahabharata compliments the Greeks as "the all-knowing Yavanas" (sarvajnaa yavanaa): "The Yavanas, O king, are all-knowing; the Suras are particularly so. The mlecchas are wedded to the creations of their own fancy." ("sarvajnaa yavanaa rajan shuraaz caiva vishesatah/ mlecchah svasamjnaa niyataanaanukta itaro janah (Mahabharata VIII.31.80))
  46. ^ "Crossroads of Asia", p10
  47. ^ Greek impact on the genetics of India (last paragraph):Text
  48. ^ "Needless to say, the influence of Greek art on Japanese Buddhist art, via the Buddhist art of Gandhara and India, was already partly known in, for example, the comparison of the wavy drapery of the Buddha images, in what was, originally, a typical Greek style" (Katsumi Tanabe, "Alexander the Great, East-West cultural contacts from Greece to Japan", p19)
  49. ^ "The origin of the image of Vajrapani should be explained. This deity is the protector and guide of the Buddha Sakyamuni. His image was modelled after that of Hercules. (...) The Gandharan Vajrapani was transformed in Central Asia and China and afterwards transmitted to Japan, where it exerted stylistic influences on the wrestler-like statues of the Guardian Deities (Nio)." (Katsumi Tanabe, "Alexander the Great, East-West cultural contacts from Greece to Japan", p23)
  50. ^ "The Japanese wind god images do not belong to a separate tradition apart from that of their Western counter-parts but share the same origins. (...) One of the characteristics of these Far Eastern wind god images is the wind bag held by this god with both hands, the origin of which can be traced back to the shawl or mantle worn by Boreas/ Oado." (Katsumi Tanabe, "Alexander the Great, East-West cultural contacts from Greece to Japan", p21)
  51. ^ Foltz, "Religions on the Silk Road", p8.
  52. ^ Tom Lowenstein, ”The Vision of the Buddha, p63.
  53. ^ McEvilley, "The Shape of Ancient Thought", p503.

Timeline: Foreign Kingdoms Northern Empires Southern Kingdoms

 6th century BC
 5th century BC
 4th century BC

 3rd century BC
 2nd century BC

 1st century BC
 1st century AD

 2nd century AD
 3rd century AD
 4th century AD
 5th century AD
 6th century AD
 7th century AD
 8th century AD
 9th century AD
10th century AD
11th century AD

(Persian rule)
(Greek conquests)

  • Indo-Greek kingdom

  • Indo-Scythians
  • Indo-Parthian Kingdom
  • Kushan Empire
  • Western Kshatrapas
  • Indo-Sassanians
  • Kidarite Kingdom
  • Indo-Hephthalites

(Islamic invasion of India)

  • Shahi

(Islamic empires in India)

  • Magadha empire
  • Nanda empire

  • Maurya Empire
  • Satavahana empire
  • Sunga Empire
  • Kuninda Kingdom
  • Kalinga

  • Gupta Empire

  • Pala Empire

  • Solanki
  • Sena dynasty
  • Pandyan Kingdom

  • Chera

  • Cholas

  • Kalabhras

  • Pallava

  • Chalukya
  • Rashtrakuta

See also

  • Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
  • Seleucid Empire
  • Greco-Buddhism
  • Indo-Scythians
  • Indo-Parthian Kingdom
  • Kushan Empire
  • Roman commerce
  • Timeline of Indo-Greek Kingdoms


  • Indo-Greek history and coins
  • Ancient coinage of the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms
  • Text of Prof. Nicholas Sims-Williams (University of London) mentioning the arrival of the Kushans and the replacement of Greek Language.
  • Wargame reconstitution of Indo-Greek armies

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