Coin of Menander II.
Obv: Menander wearing a diadem. Greek legend: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΥ (BASILEOS DIKAIOU MENANDROU) "Of King Menander the Just".
Time of reign
Bopearachchi has suggested that Menander II reigned circa 90–85 BCE, whereas R. C. Senior has suggested circa 65 BCE. In that case, Menander II ruled remaining Indo-Greek territories in Gandhara after the invasion of Maues.
Relations to other kings
Menander II Dikaios may have belonged to the dynasty of Menander I Soter, the greatest of the Indo-Greek kings. It was long believed that there was only one king named Menander (see discussion under Menander I) as their portraits were rather similar and Menander II seems to have been a devout Buddhist, just as Menander I was, according to the ancient Buddhist scripture the Milindapanha.
On the other hand, the name Menander could well have been popular in the Indo-Greek kingdom, and the coins of Menander II are not very like those of Menander I nor of those other kings (such as Strato I) who are believed to have belonged to his dynasty. R. C. Senior links Menander II with the Indo-Greek king Amyntas, with whom he shares several monograms and also facial features such as a pointed nose and receding chin. He also suggests a close relation to the semi-Scythian king Artemidorus, son of Maues, since their coins use similar types and are often found together.
There is a small possibility that Menander II, rather than Menander I, is actually the Buddhist Greek king referred to in the Milinda Panha. This point is unsolved however, since Greek sources (Plutarch (Praec. reip. ger. 28, 6)) relate that the great conqueror Menander I is the one who received the honour of burial in what could be interpreted as Buddhist stupas.
More likely, Menander I may indeed have first supported Buddhism, like the other Indo-Greek kings, and was probably the main protagonist of the Milindapanha, on account of his described fame, whereas Menander II, a minor king, may have wholeheartedly embraced Buddhism, as exemplified by his coins.
Coins of Menander II
The coins of Menander II bear the mention "Menander the Just", and "King of the Dharma" in Kharoshti, suggesting that he adopted the Buddhist faith. Menander II struck only Indian silver. These depict the king in diadem or helmet of the type of Menander I, with a number of reverses: a king on horseback, Nike and a sitting Zeus of the type of Antialkidas and Amyntas Nikator, but with an added eight-spoked Buddhist wheel.
His bronzes feature Athena standing, with spear and palm-branch, shield at her feet, making a benediction gesture with the right hand, similar to the Buddhist vitarka mudra. Other varieties feature a king performing the same gesture.
|INDO-GREEK KINGS AND THEIR TERRITORIES
Based on Bopearachchi (1991)
||ARACHOSIA||GANDHARA||WESTERN PUNJAB||EASTERN PUNJAB|
|200–190 BCE||Demetrius I|
|185–170 BCE||Antimachus I|
|180–160 BCE||Apollodotus I|
|175–170 BCE||Demetrius II|
|160–155 BCE||Antimachus II|
|155–130 BCE||Menander I|
|130–120 BCE||Zoilos I||Agathokleia|
|120–110 BCE||Lysias||Strato I|
|110–100 BCE||Antialcidas||Heliokles II|
|100 BCE||Polyxenos||Demetrius III|
|90–85 BCE||Nicias||Menander II||Artemidoros|
|Yuezhi tribes||Maues (Indo-Scythian)|
|75–70 BCE||Telephos||Apollodotus II|
|55–35 BCE||Azes I (Indo-Scythian)||Zoilos II|
|25 BCE – 10 CE||Strato II & III|
- "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 1-58115-203-5
- "Buddhism in Central Asia" by B.N. Puri (Motilal Banarsidass Pub, January 1, 2000) ISBN 81-208-0372-8
- "The Greeks in Bactria and India", W.W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press.