Eucratides I
King of Kings, Basileus
Rendering of Eucratides on a 20-stater gold coin, found in Bukhara and later acquired by Napoleon III. Now held at the Paris Cabinet des Médailles.
King of the Bactrian Empire
Reign171–145 BC
SuccessorEucratides II
SuccessorHeliocles I
Bornc. 204 BCE
Ai-Khanum (modern day Takhar province, Afghanistan)
Died145 BCE (aged 59)
Bactria
SpouseAmastris
Issue
DynastyDiodotid dynasty
FatherHeliokles
MotherLaodice (daughter of Diodotus I)

Eucratides I (Koinē Greek: Εὐκρατίδης, Eúkratides) (reigned 172/171–145 BC), also known as Eucratides the Great,[1] was one of the most important Greco-Bactrian kings. Eucratides overthrew the Euthydemid dynasty of Bactria (possibly killing Demetrius) and restored the Diodotid dynasty of Diodotus I, allied to the Parthian Empire.[2] Eucratides fought against the easternmost Hellenistic and Indian rulers in India, holding territory in the Indus and as far as Barigaza until he was finally defeated by Menander and pushed back to Bactria. Eucratides minted a vast and prestigious coinage, suggesting a rule of considerable importance and prosperity. His son, Heliocles I was father of Heliocles II, who was the last Greek king to rule in Bactria, as Yuezhi and Saka nomads overran the country c.100 BCE.[3][4]

Biography

Early life

Eucratides was born c.204 BCE in the Hellenistic city of Ai-Khanoum, to “Heliocles” and “Laodice” as depicted on various finds of his coinage. Laodice was of the Diodotid dynasty, probably a daughter of Diodotus I and a sister of Diodotus II. She appears to have been spared from Euthydemus’ violent usurpation in 225 BCE and married a certain Heliocles, of whom nothing is known. It is also unclear as to whether Eucratides and his family held any positions of rank amongst the nobility during the reigns of Euthydemus and Demetrius, or whether he was treated as an ordinary Greek citizen.

Coup d'état

Eucratides came to the throne by overthrowing the Euthydemid dynasty in Bactria, possibly when its king, Demetrius was conquering northwestern India. The king whom Eucratides dethroned in Bactria was probably Antimachus I.

It is unclear whether Eucratides was a Diodotid Bactrian nobleman who raised a rebellion, or, according to the claims of some scholars,[5] a cousin of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was trying to regain the Bactrian territory. The Seleucid claim is highly unlikely and has been discredited by modern historians, and it is believed that Eucratides mother, Laodice was solely of the Diodotid dynasty. Justin explains that Eucratides acceded to the throne at about the same time as Mithridates, whose rule is accurately known to have started in 171 BC, thereby giving an approximate date for the accession of Eucratides:

"Around the same time, two great men started to rule: Mithridates among the Parthians, and Eucratides among the Bactrians" Justin XLI,6[6]

Some of the coins of Eucratides represent his parents, where his father is named Heliocles, and his mother, Laodice,[7] who is depicted wearing a royal diadem and therefore of royal descent. Narain and other modern authors propose that she was a daughter of Diodotus I.

Having become master of Bactria after de-throning the Euthydemid dynasty, Eucratides was faced with a Parthian invasion which began when Demetrius I was conquering India. Having taken Tapuria and Margiana from Demetrius in about 170 BCE, the powerful Mithridates I attempted to conquer Bactria itself but was checked by Eucratides who wisely reformed the Diodotid alliance with the Parthia, likely paying a sum of Indian war-Elephants.[8] Having secured his western borders, Eucratides then conquered parts of the India, campaigning as far south as Barigaza (modern day Bharuch), solidifying Greek presence in Northern India with the Indo-Greek Kingdom.[9] According to the single remaining source, Roman historian Justin, Eucratides defeated Demetrius of India, but the identity of this king is uncertain: he could be either Demetrius I, or Demetrius II, but more likely Menander I.

Eukratideion
The "Eukratideion", gold coin of Eucratides I (obverse and reverse)
Coin with flange visible
The largest gold coin of Antiquity was minted by Eucratides I: the 20-stater coin of Eucratides weighs 169.2 grams, and has a diameter of 58 millimeters. It was originally found in Bukhara, and later acquired by Napoleon III. Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.[10][11]
"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[12]

Numismatic evidence suggests that Eucratides I was a contemporary of the Indo-Greek kings Apollodotus I, Apollodotus II and Diodotus III. In any case, Eucratides' advances into India are proved by his abundant bilingual coinage that are spread all over northern India and Pakistan.

Eucratides is most likely the founder of Eucratidia - a city of great wealth straddling the Oxus.

Death

Justin ends his account of Eucratides' life by claiming that the warlike king was murdered on his way back from India by his son, who hated Eucratides so much that he mutilated and dragged his dead body after his chariot. This may have been a misinterpretation by Justin, and the regicide could instead have been perpetrated by an Euthydemid prince, Demetrius II, the son and successor of Demetrius I. Justin appears to believe Eucratides was killed by his own son, Heliocles I, but this is unlikely as patricide was uncommon in the Hellenistic age.

"As Eucratides returned from India, he was killed on the way back by his son, who ran his chariot over the blood of the king, and ordered the corpse to be left without a sepulture" Justin XLI,6[13]
Tetradrachm Eukratides I, obverse; NMAT RN474-1
Tetradrachm Eukratides I, obverse; NMAT RN474-1

The murder of Eucratides probably brought about a civil war amongst the members of the dynasty. The successors to Eucratides were Eucratides II and Heliocles I (145–130 BC), who was the last Greek king to reign in Bactria. Once the Yuezhi tribes overpowered Heliocles, the Greco-Bactrians lost control of the provinces north of the Hindu Kush.

Two other members of the dynasty were Plato of Bactria and probably Demetrius II, who in that case was not identical with the king Justin claimed was the enemy of Eucratides I.[14]

The rule of the Greco-Bactrians soon crumbled following these numerous wars:

"The Bactrians, involved in various wars, lost not only their rule but also their freedom, as, exhausted by their wars against the Sogdians, the Arachotes, the Dranges, the Arians and the Indians, they were finally crushed, as if drawn of all their blood, by an enemy weaker than them, the Parthians." Justin, XLI,6[13]

However, the rule of the Indo-Greeks over territories south of the Hindu Kush lasted for a further 150 years, ultimately collapsing under the pressure of the Yüeh-chih and Scythian (Saka) invasions in around 10 BC, with the last Indo-Greek ruler Strato II.

Eukratidia

Eucratides founded the city of Eukratidia (Εὐκρατιδία).

Sources

Full account of Justin on Eucratides:

"Almost at the same time that Mithridates ascended the throne among the Parthians, Eucratides began to reign among the Bactrians; both of them being great men. But the fortune of the Parthians, being the more successful, raised them, under this prince, to the highest degree of power; while the Bactrians, harassed with various wars, lost not only their dominions, but their liberty; for having suffered from contentions with the Sogdians, the Drangians, and the Indians, they were at last overcome, as if exhausted, by the weaker Parthians. Eucratides, however, carried on several wars with great spirit, and though much reduced by his losses in them, yet, when he was besieged by Demetrius king of the Indians, with a garrison of only three hundred soldiers, he repulsed, by continual sallies, a force of sixty thousand enemies. Having accordingly escaped, after a five months’ siege, he reduced India under his power. But as he was returning from the country, he was killed on his march by his son, with whom he had shared his throne, and who was so far from concealing the murder, that, as if he had killed an enemy, and not his father, he drove his chariot through his blood, and ordered his body to be cast out unburied."

— Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, XLI 6.1-5, IIe CE.[15]

Modern

The coinage of Eucratides has been used in the design of some Afghanistan banknotes between 1979-2002, and is now in the emblem of the Bank of Afghanistan.
The coinage of Eucratides has been used in the design of some Afghanistan banknotes between 1979-2002, and is now in the emblem of the Bank of Afghanistan.

Da Afghanistan Bank which is the central bank of Afghanistan, in its seal has a Eucratides I-era coin having the Greek text, "ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ" which means “Of the great king Eucratides.”

Coins

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Eucratides | king of Bactria". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  2. ^ Marcellinus, xxvii. 6.
  3. ^ Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  4. ^ Boyce 1986, pp. 460-580
  5. ^ Tarn
  6. ^ "Eodem ferme tempore, sicut in Parthis Mithridates, ita in Bactris Eucratides, magni uterque uiri regna ineunt." tml Justin XLI,6[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Astin, A. E. (1990). The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. p. 401. ISBN 978-0-521-23448-1.
  8. ^ "Mithradates I (c. 171 - 138 B.C.)". www.parthia.com. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  9. ^ "Indo-Greek kingdom | Asian history". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  10. ^ "Eucratides I". Oxford Reference.
  11. ^ Hollis, Adrian S. (1996). "Laodice Mother of Eucratides of Bactria". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. 110: 161–164. ISSN 0084-5388. JSTOR 20189683.
  12. ^ Justin on Demetrius: "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." Justin XLI,6
  13. ^ a b Justin XLI,6
  14. ^ "Demetrios II of Bactria and Hoards from Ai Khanoum" by L.M. Wilson (Oriental Numismatic Society newsletter nr 180)
  15. ^ Translation: John Selby Watson 1853
  16. ^ Homren, Wayne (23 November 2014). "The Biggest Ancient Coins". Vol. 17 no. 48. Numismatic Bibliomania Society. Retrieved 13 April 2018. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  17. ^ Monnaie, Eucratide I. (roi de Bactriane) Autorité émettrice de. [Monnaie : 20 Statères, Or, Incertain, Bactriane, Eucratide I].

References

Preceded by:
Demetrius
and his sub-kings:

(in Bactria)
Antimachus I
Demetrius II

(In the Paropamisade, Arachosia, Gandhara)
Apollodotus I
Antimachus II
Greco-Bactrian Ruler
(Bactria, Paropamisade, Arachosia, Gandhara)
171–145 BC
Succeeded by:
(In Bactria)
Eucratides II
Plato
Heliocles I

(In Paropamisade, Arachosia, Gandhara)
Menander I

Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article "Eucratides".