Agathocles of Bactria

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Agathocles the Just" (Δίκαιος)
Indo-Greek king
Agathokles2.jpg
Coin of Agathocles.
Reign 190–180 BC

Agathocles Dikaios (Greek: Ἀγαθοκλῆς ὁ Δίκαιος; epithet meaning: "the Just") was a Buddhist Indo-Greek king, who reigned between around 190 and 180 BC. He might have been a son of Demetrius and one of his sub-kings in charge of the Paropamisade between Bactria and India. In that case, he was a grandson of Euthydemus whom he qualified on his coins as Βασιλεὺς Θεός, Basileus Theos (Greek for "God-King").

Agathocles was contemporary with or a successor of king Pantaleon. He seems to have been attacked and killed by the usurper Eucratides, who took control of the Greco-Bactrian territory. Little is known about him, apart from his extensive coinage.

Pedigree coinage[edit]

Agathocles issued a series of "pedigree" dynastic coins, probably with the intent to advertise his lineage and legitimize his rule, linking him to Alexander the Great, a king Antiochus Nikator (Greek: "Νικάτωρ" "Victorious", probably intended is Antiochus III), the founder of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom Diodotus and his son Diodotus II, Euthydemus, Pantaleon, and Demetrius.

Dynast or usurper?[edit]

Pedigree coin of Agathocles with Demetrius I.
Obv:Greek inscription reads: ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ ΑΝΙΚΗΤΟΥ i.e. "of Demetrius the Invincible".

The pedigree coinage has been seen as a token of his ancestry, but a critical view might be considered. All the associations provide a contradictory image. The Euthydemid kings (Demetrius and Euthydemus) are not known to be related to Diodotus – in fact, Euthydemus I overthrew Diodotus II! The Seleucids were enemies of the Euthydemids as well – in fact king Antiochus III had besieged Bactra for almost three years before claiming victory over Euthydemus I. Nevertheless, Antiochus III is known to have used the epithet "Nikator" ("Νικάτωρ" Greek for "Victorious")[1]

Finally, the association with Alexander was a standard move for usurpers in the Hellenistic world, such as the pseudo-Seleucids Alexander Balas and the Syrian general Diodotus Tryphon.

All in all, the coins might well support the view of a usurper, or more probable a member of a minor branch of a dynasty, anxious to gather support from all quarters with his various memorial coins. However, the similarities between his coinage and that of Pantaleon make it probable that Agathocles was indeed a relative of the latter, who in that case might have been a usurper as well.

ObverseGreek inscription reads: ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ i.e. "of Alexander son of Philip".
ReverseGreek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΟΝΤΟΣ ΑΓΑΘΟΚΛΕΟΥΣ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ i.e. "of Reign Agathocles the Just".

  • II) Pedigree coin of Agathocles with Diodotus the Saviour.

ObverseGreek inscription reads: ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ i.e. "of Diodotus the Saviour".
ReverseGreek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΟΝΤΟΣ ΑΓΑΘΟΚΛΕΟΥΣ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ i.e. "of Reign Agathocles the Just".

Nickel coins[edit]

Also, Agathocles and Pantaleon, along with their contemporary Euthydemus II, are unique in the ancient world, in that they were the first in the world to issue copper-nickel (75/25 ratio) coins1, an alloy technology only known by the Chinese at the time (some weapons from the Warring States period were in copper-nickel alloy2). These coins are indicative of the existence of trade links with China around that time (see Greco-Bactrian kingdom). Copper-nickel would not be used again in coinage until the 19th century in the United States.

Bilingual coinage[edit]

Indian coinage of Agathocles, with Buddhist lion and Lakshmi.

At the same time, Agathocles issued an intriguing range of bilingual coinage, displaying what seems to be Buddhist as well as Hinduist symbolism. The coins, manufactured according to the Indian standard, using either Brahmi, Greek or Kharoshthi (a first in the Greek world), and displaying symbols of the various faiths in India, tend to indicate a considerable willingness to accommodate local languages and beliefs, to an extent unseen in subsequent Indo-Greek kings. They may be indicative of the considerable efforts of the first Indo-Greek kings to secure support from Indian populations and avoid being perceived as invaders, efforts which may have subsided once the Indo-Greek kingdoms were more securely in place[citation needed].

Buddhist coinage[edit]

The Buddhist coinage of Agathocles is in the Indian standard (square or round copper coins) and depicts Buddhist symbols such as the stupa, the "tree in railing", or the lion. These coins sometimes use Brahmi, and sometimes Kharoshthi, whereas later Indo-Greek kings only used Kharoshthi.

Hinduist coinage[edit]

Coin of Agathocles with Hindu deities: Vasudeva-Krishna and Balarama-Samkarshana.

The Hinduist coinage of Agathocles is few but spectacular. Six Indian-standard silver drachmas were discovered at Ai-Khanoum in 1970, which depict Hindu deities.

These are the first known representations of Vedic deities on coins, and they display early Avatars of Vishnu: Balarama-Sankarshana and Vasudeva-Krishna.

The dancing girls on some of the coins of Agathocles and Pantaleon are also sometimes considered as representations of Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu.

Preceded by:
Demetrius I
Indo-Greek Ruler
(Paropamisade)
190–180 BC
Succeeded by:
Apollodotus I
INDO-GREEK KINGS AND THEIR TERRITORIES
Based on Bopearachchi (1991)
Territories/
Dates
PAROPAMISADE
ARACHOSIA GANDHARA WESTERN PUNJAB EASTERN PUNJAB
200–190 BCE Demetrius I DemetriusCoin.jpg
190–180 BCE Agathocles AgathoclesWithAlexander.jpg PantaleonCoin of Greco-Baktrian Kingdom king Pantaleon.jpg
185–170 BCE Antimachus IAntimachusMedaille.jpg
180–160 BCE Apollodotus IApollodotosi.jpg
175–170 BCE Demetrius II Demetriosii.jpg
170–145 BCE EucratidesTetradrachm Eukratides.jpg
160–155 BCE Antimachus IIAnimachusii(2).jpg
155–130 BCE Menander IMenander Alexandria-Kapisa.jpg
130–120 BCE Zoilos IZoilosI-525.jpg AgathokleiaAgathokleia.jpg
120–110 BCE Lysias Lysias-150.jpg Strato IAgathokleia&Strato.jpg
110–100 BCE AntialcidasAntialcidas.JPG Heliokles IIHelioclesii.jpg
100 BCE PolyxenosPolyxenos.jpg Demetrius IIIDemetrius Aniketou.jpg
100–95 BCE PhiloxenusPhiloxenos.jpg
95–90 BCE DiomedesDiomedes2.jpg Amyntas Amyntas.jpg EpanderEpander.jpg
90 BCE Theophilos Theophilos-634.jpg PeukolaosPeukolaos coin.jpg Thraso
90–85 BCE NiciasNikias.jpg Menander IIMenanderDikaiou.jpg ArtemidorosArtimedoros.jpg
90–70 BCE HermaeusHermaeusCoin.jpg ArchebiosArchebios229.jpg
Yuezhi tribes Maues (Indo-Scythian)
75–70 BCE Telephos Telephos.jpg Apollodotus IIAppollodotosii.jpg
65–55 BCE HippostratosHippostratos.jpg DionysiosDyonisos coin.jpg
55–35 BCE Azes I (Indo-Scythian) Zoilos IIZoilosIICoin.JPG
55–35 BCE ApollophanesApollophanes.jpg
25 BCE – 10 CE Strato II & III Stratoii.jpg
Rajuvula (Indo-Scythian)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chronographia, John of Malalas

References[edit]

  • "The Greeks in Bactria and India", W. W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press
  • "Bactria – the history of a forgotten empire", H. G. Rawlinson, Probhstain & co, London (1912)

External links[edit]