Sophytes

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Sophytes (died 294 BC) is a figure whose origin is subject to much debate. There is an Indian king "Sophytes", described as ruling along the Indus during the campaigns of Alexander the Great, in the Bibliotheca of Diodorus Siculus. Curtius also records a dramatic interview between the tall and handsome Saubhuti and Alexander in which Saubhuti offers war. He has been mentioned as both a Greek prince and a mercenary captain in the late fourth century BCE and as an Indian King of Paropamisdae in Bactria. His coins have been found in Southern Asia; however, exactly where he may have operated or reigned remains unresolved. Some scholars posit his region of influence as the modern Pakistani Punjab while others note that it was further west in Bactria (Northern Afghanistan). He was born in today's Kabul in the end of 326 BC and perhaps a son of Alexander the Great by Dkhti, daughter of Subhuti (d. aft. 327 BC), Indian Prince of Paropamisos (Kabul), as well as the father of Greek General Apollodotus (b. c. 295 BC), in turn the father of King Euthydemus I of Bactria.[1]

The kingdom extended over the Salt Range, around Saubhuta and Phegelas, from c. 305 to 294 BCE. Though the history of the region appears to agree with this 11 year reign, the apparent age difference of Sophytes himself as he is portrayed on his coins, has suggested a number of different possible regnal extents. Among the prevailing theories, are that the change in age is representative of Sophytes' actual aging process, or that the "young" issues were actually stylized. In the first case, his reign may have extended as a vassal, while in the second case it probably would have ended with the conquests of either the Seleucid King or the Mauryan King Chandragupta who the former had ceded many of his Eastern possessions to. General Alexander Cunningham and other classical numismatists have also confirmed that he probably copied his coin types from Seleucus I, suggesting that his reign would have extended at least beyond Seleucus' initial Eastern conquests.

Sophytes has been subject to a great deal of speculation, with Indian origin at one end of the spectrum and Greek at the other. Cunningham identifies him with the Indian King Fobnath of "Sangala," (a name some read as "Saka-town") while A.C.L. Carlleyle connects him with the same king's son Suveg, which is more likely in light of the identification of Fobnath as a royal title rather than a name; potentially making him a Madra of Saka/Iranian origin. Cunningham believes the Sobii and Kathaei to have been his subjects, whom he asserts were Turanians, making them of the same stock as the Saka or Indo-Scythians. It is interesting to note that Sagala was the capital of the later Indo-Greek dynasty of Menander I for several generations, and that Menander himself struck several coins with a similar reverse, suggesting that his dynasty inherited the older king's mints when he took the city for himself.

John D. Grainger however, identifies him as a Greek dynast; Frank L. Holt speculating that he was a mercenary captain who minted coins simply to meet the needs of his troops. In light of his coin type, he may have been a local official, installed (although he may have been an older official, reinstated or simply recognized) by Seleucus after he took the region.

There is also an Indian king "Sophytes", described as ruling along the Indus during the campaigns of Alexander the Great, in the Bibliotheca of Diodorus Siculus. Curtius also records a dramatic interview between the tall and handsome Saubhuti and Alexander in which Saubhuti offers war (Shastri 69). The hunting dogs of his country appeared to have impressed the Macedonian. As such, questions continue to remain about exactly who Sophytes was and where he ruled.

References[edit]

  • "Age of the Nandas and Mauryas", Nilakantha Shastri, Motilal Banarsidass (1967)
  • "Hellenism in Ancient India", Gauranga Nath Banerjee, Munshiram Manoharlal.
  • "Archaeological Survey of India - Report of Tours in the Central Doab and Gorakhpur in 1874-75 and 1875-76", A.C.L. Carrleyle and Maj. General Arthur Cunningham, Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing.
  • "Symbols: Their Migration and Universality", Count Eugene Goblet d'Alviella, Dover Publications.
  • "The Greeks in Bactria and India", Sir W. W. Tarn, Ares Publishers.
  • "A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetter", John D. Grainger, Brill.
  • "Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria", Frank L. Holt, University of California Press.

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