Bactria

Bactria (/ˈbæktriə/); or Bactriana was a historical region in Central Asia. Bactria proper was north of the Hindu Kush mountain range and south of the Amu Darya river,[1] covering the flat region that straddles modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and parts of Northern Pakistan. More broadly Bactria was the area north of the Hindu Kush, west of the Pamirs and south of the Tian Shan with the Amu Darya flowing west through the center.

Bactria
Balkh
Province of the Achaemenid Empire, Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and Indo-Greek Kingdom
2500~2000 BC–900~1000 AD
Location of Bactria
Bactria, ca. 300 BC
Capital Bactra
Historical era Antiquity
 •  Established 2500~2000 BC
 •  Disestablished 900~1000 AD
BactriaMap
Ancient cities of Bactria
High Asia Mountain Ranges
Bactria between the Hindu Kush (south), Pamirs (east), south branch of Tianshan (north).
Ferghana Valley to the north; western Tarim Basin to the east.

Name

The English name Bactria is derived from the Ancient Greek: Βακτριανή, a Hellenized version of the Bactrian endonym Bakhlo (βαχλο). Analogous names include Avestan: Bakhdi, Old Persian: Bakhtrish,[2] New Persian: باختر‎, translit. Bākhtar, Tajik: Бохтар, Pashto: بلخ‎, translit. Balkh, Uzbek: Балх, Chinese: 大夏; pinyin: Dàxià, and Sanskrit: बाह्लीक, translit. Bāhlīka.

Geography

According to Pierre Leriche:

Bactria, the territory of which Bactra [Balkh] was the capital, originally consisted of the area south of the Āmū Daryā with its string of agricultural oases dependent on water taken from the rivers of Balḵ (Bactra) [Balkh], Tashkurgan, Kondūz [Kunduz], Sar-e Pol, and Šīrīn Tagāō [Shirin Tagab]. This region played a major role in Central Asian history. At certain times the political limits of Bactria stretched far beyond the geographic frame of the Bactrian plain.[3]

History

Bronze age

GodessesBactriaAfghanistan2000-1800BCE
Goddesses, Bactria, Afghanistan, 2000–1800 BC.

The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC, also known as the "Oxus civilization") is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age culture of Central Asia, dated to c. 2200–1700 BC, located in present-day eastern Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River), an area covering ancient Bactria. Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976). Bactria was the Greek name for Old Persian Bāxtriš (from native *Bāxçiš)[4] (named for its capital Bactra, modern Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Margu, the capital of which was Merv, in today's Turkmenistan.

The early Greek historian Ctesias, c. 400 BC (followed by Diodorus Siculus), alleged that the legendary Assyrian king Ninus had defeated a Bactrian king named Oxyartes in c. 2140 BC, or some 1000 years before the Trojan War. Since the decipherment of cuneiform script in the 19th century, however, which enabled actual Assyrian records to be read, historians have ascribed little value to the Greek account.

According to some writers, Bactria was the homeland of Indo-Iranians who moved southwest into Iran and the northwest of the Indian subcontinent around 2500–2000 BC. Later, it became the northern province of the Achaemenid Empire in Central Asia.[5] It was in these regions, where the fertile soil of the mountainous country is surrounded by the Turan Depression, that the prophet Zoroaster was said to have been born and gained his first adherents. Avestan, the language of the oldest portions of the Zoroastrian Avesta, was one of the old Iranian languages, and is the oldest attested member of the Eastern Iranian languages.

Achaemenid Empire

Xerxes I tomb Bactrian soldier circa 470 BCE
Xerxes I tomb, Bactrian soldier circa 470 BC.

Ernst Herzfeld suggested that before its annexation to the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great in sixth century BC, Bactria belonged to the Medes[6] and together with Margiana, formed the twelfth satrapy of Persia.[3] After Darius III had been defeated by Alexander the Great, the satrap of Bactria, Bessus, attempted to organise a national resistance but was captured by other warlords and delivered to Alexander. He was then tortured and killed.[7]

Alexander

Alexander conquered Sogdiana. In the south, beyond the Oxus, he met strong resistance. After two years of war and a strong insurgency campaign, Alexander managed to establish little control over Bactria. After Alexander's death, Diodorus Siculus tells us that Philip received dominion over Bactria, but Justin names Amyntas to that role. At the Treaty of Triparadisus, both Diodorus Siculus and Arrian agree that the satrap Stasanor gained control over Bactria. Eventually, Alexander's empire was divided up among the generals in Alexander's army. Bactria became a part of the Seleucid Empire, named after its founder, Seleucus I.

Seleucid Empire

The Macedonians, especially Seleucus I and his son Antiochus I, established the Seleucid Empire and founded a great many Greek towns. The Greek language became dominant for some time there.

The paradox that Greek presence was more prominent in Bactria than in areas far closer to Greece can possibly be explained by past deportations of Greeks to Bactria. For instance, during the reign of Darius I, the inhabitants of the Greek city of Barca, in Cyrenaica, were deported to Bactria for refusing to surrender assassins.[8] In addition, Xerxes also settled the "Branchidae" in Bactria; they were the descendants of Greek priests who had once lived near Didyma (western Asia Minor) and betrayed the temple to him.[9] Herodotus also records a Persian commander threatening to enslave daughters of the revolting Ionians and send them to Bactria.[10] However, these few examples are not indicative of massive deportations of Greeks to central Asia.

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

Monnaie de Bactriane, Eucratide I, 2 faces
Gold stater of the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides
Greco-BactrianKingdomMap
Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom at its maximum extent, circa 180 BC.

Considerable difficulties faced by the Seleucid kings and the attacks of Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus gave the satrap of Bactria, Diodotus I, the opportunity to declare independence about 245 BC and conquer Sogdia. He was the founder of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. Diodotus and his successors were able to maintain themselves against the attacks of the Seleucids—particularly from Antiochus III the Great, who was ultimately defeated by the Romans (190 BC).

The Greco-Bactrians were so powerful that they were able to expand their territory as far as India:

As for Bactria, a part of it lies alongside Aria towards the north, though most of it lies above Aria and to the east of it. And much of it produces everything except oil. 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 Bactria and beyond, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander...."[11]

The Greco-Bactrians used the Greek language for administrative purposes, and the local Bactrian language was also Hellenized, as suggested by its adoption of the Greek alphabet and Greek loanwords. In turn, some of these words were also borrowed by modern Pashto.[12]

Indo-Greek Kingdom

Demetrius I of Bactria
The founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom Demetrius I (205–171 BC), wearing the scalp of an elephant, symbol of his conquest of the Indus valley.

The Bactrian king Euthydemus I and his son Demetrius I crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and began the conquest of the Indus valley. For a short time, they wielded great power: a great Greek empire seemed to have arisen far in the East. But this empire was torn by internal dissension and continual usurpations. When Demetrius advanced far east of the Indus River, one of his generals, Eucratides, made himself king of Bactria, and soon in every province there arose new usurpers, who proclaimed themselves kings and fought against each other.

Most of them we know only by their coins, a great many of which are found in Afghanistan. By these wars, the dominant position of the Greeks was undermined even more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. After Demetrius and Eucratides, the kings abandoned the Attic standard of coinage and introduced a native standard, no doubt to gain support from outside the Greek minority.

In the Indus valley, this went even further. The Indo-Greek king Menander I (known as Milinda in India), recognized as a great conqueror, converted to Buddhism. His successors managed to cling to power until the last known Indo-Greek ruler, a king named Strato II, who ruled in the Punjab region until around 55 BC.[13] Other sources, however, place the end of Strato II's reign as late as 10 AD.

Daxia, Tukhara and Tokharistan

Daxia, Ta-Hsia, or Ta-Hia (Chinese: 大夏; pinyin: Dàxià) was the name given in antiquity by the Han Chinese to Tukhara or Tokhara: the central part of Bactria. The name "Daxia" appears in Chinese from the 3rd century BC to designate a little-known kingdom located somewhere west of China. This was possibly a consequence of the first contacts between China and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom.

During the 2nd century BC, the Greco-Bactrians were conquered by nomadic Indo-European tribes from the north, beginning with the Sakas (160 BC). The Sakas were overthrown in turn by the Da Yuezhi ("Greater Yuezhi") during subsequent decades. The Yuezhi had conquered Bactria by the time of the visit of the Chinese envoy Zhang Qian (circa 127 BC), who had been sent by the Han emperor to investigate lands to the west of China.[14][15] The first mention of these events in European literature appeared in the 1st century BC, when Strabo described how "the Asii, Pasiani, Tokhari, and Sakarauli" had taken part in the "destruction of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom". Ptolemy subsequently mentioned the central role of the Tokhari among other tribes in Bactria. As Tukhara or Tokhara it included areas that were later part of Surxondaryo Province in Uzbekistan, southern Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. The Tokhari spoke a language known later as Bactrian – an Iranian language. (The Tokhari and their language should not be confused with the Tocharian people who lived in the Tarim Basin between the 3rd and 9th centuries AD, or the Tocharian languages that form another branch of Indo-European languages.)

MenWithDragons
The treasure of the royal burial Tillia tepe is attributed to 1st century BC Sakas in Bactria.
ZhangQianTravels
Zhang Qian taking leave from emperor Han Wudi, for his expedition to Central Asia from 138 to 126 BC, Mogao Caves mural, 618–712 AD.

The name Daxia was used in the Shiji ("Records of the Grand Historian") by Sima Qian. Based on the reports of Zhang Qian, the Shiji describe Daxia as an important urban civilization of about one million people, living in walled cities under small city kings or magistrates. Daxia was an affluent country with rich markets, trading in an incredible variety of objects, coming from as far as Southern China. By the time Zhang Qian visited, there was no longer a major king, and the Bactrians were under the suzerainty of the Yuezhi. Zhang Qian depicted a rather sophisticated but demoralised people who were afraid of war. Following these reports, the Chinese emperor Wu Di was informed of the level of sophistication of the urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria and Parthia, and became interested in developing commercial relationship with them:

The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Dayuan and the possessions of Daxia and Anxi Parthia are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the people of Han, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China.[16]

These contacts immediately led to the dispatch of multiple embassies from the Chinese, which helped to develop trade along the Silk Roads.

ZeusSerapisOhrmazdWithWorshipperBactria3rdCenturyCE
Kushan worshipper with Zeus/Serapis/Ohrmazd, Bactria, 3rd century AD.[17]
PharroAndWorshipperBactria3rdCenturyCE
Kushan worshipper with Pharro, Bactria, 3rd century AD.[17]

Kujula Kadphises, the xihou (prince) of the Yuezhi, united the region in the early 1st century and laid the foundations for the powerful, but short-lived, Kushan Empire.

In the 3rd century AD, Tukhara was under the rule of the Kushanshas (Indo-Sasanians).

The form Tokharistan – the suffix -stan means "place of" in Sanskrit – appeared for the first time in the 4th century, in Buddhist texts, such as the Vibhasa-sastra. Tokhara was known in Chinese sources as Tuhuluo (吐呼羅) which is first mentioned during the Northern Wei era. In the Tang dynasty, the name is transcribed as Tuhuoluo (土豁羅). Other Chinese names are Doushaluo 兜沙羅, Douquluo 兜佉羅 or Duhuoluo 覩貨羅.

During the 5th century, Bactria was controlled by the Xionites and the Hephthalites, but was subsequently reconquered by the Sassanid Empire.

Introduction of Islam

By the mid-7th century, Islam under the Rashidun Caliphate, had come to rule much of the Middle East and western areas of Central Asia.[18]

In 663, the Umayyad Caliphate attacked the Buddhist Shahi dynasty ruling in Tokharistan. The Umayyad forces captured the area around Balkh, including the Buddhist monastery at Nava Vihara, causing the Shahis to retreat to the Kabul Valley.[18]

In the 8th century, a Persian from Balkh known as Saman Khuda left Zoroastrianism for Islam while living under the Umayyads. His children founded the Samanid Empire (875–999). Farsi became the official language and had a higher status than Bactrian, because it was the language of Muslim rulers. It eventually replaced the latter as the common language due to the preferential treatment as well as colonization.[19]

Bactrian people

BactrianZoroastrian
Painted clay and alabaster head of a mobad wearing a distinctive Bactrian-style headdress, Takhti-Sangin, Tajikistan, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, third–second century BC

Bactrians were the inhabitants of Bactria. Several important trade routes from India and China (including the Silk Road) passed through Bactria and, as early as the Bronze Age, this had allowed the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth by the mostly nomadic population. The first proto-urban civilization in the area arose during the 2nd millennium BC.

Control of these lucrative trade routes, however, attracted foreign interest, and in the 6th century BC the Bactrians were conquered by the Persians, and in the 4th century BC by Alexander the Great. These conquests marked the end of Bactrian independence. From around 304 BC the area formed part of the Seleucid Empire, and from around 250 BC it was the centre of a Greco-Bactrian kingdom, ruled by the descendants of Greeks who had settled there following the conquest of Alexander the Great.

The Greco-Bactrians, also known in Sanskrit as Yavanas, worked in cooperation with the native Bactrian aristocracy. By the early 2nd century BC the Greco-Bactrians had created an impressive empire that stretched southwards to include northwest India. By about 135 BC, however, this kingdom had been overrun by invading Yuezhi tribes, an invasion that later brought about the rise of the powerful Kushan Empire.

Bactrians were recorded in Strabo's Geography'

"Now in early times the Sogdians and Bactrians did not differ much from the nomads in their modes of life and customs, although the Bactrians were a little more civilised; however, of these, as of the others, Onesicritus does not report their best traits, saying, for instance, that those who have become helpless because of old age or sickness are thrown out alive as prey to dogs kept expressly for this purpose, which in their native tongue are called "undertakers," and that while the land outside the walls of the metropolis of the Bactrians looks clean, yet most of the land inside the walls is full of human bones; but that Alexander broke up the custom."[20]

The Bactrians spoke Bactrian, a north-eastern Iranian language. Bactrian became extinct, replaced by north-eastern[21] Iranian languages such as Pashto, Yidgha, Munji, and Ishkashmi. The Encyclopaedia Iranica states:

Bactrian thus occupies an intermediary position between Pashto and Yidgha-Munji on the one hand, Sogdian, Choresmian, and Parthian on the other: it is thus in its natural and rightful place in Bactria.[22]

The principal religions of the area before Islam were Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.[23] According to Richard Nelson Frye, a leading historian of Iranian and Central Asian history, the Persian migration to Central Asia may be considered the beginning of the modern Tajik nation, and ethnic Persians, along with some elements of East-Iranian Bactrians and Sogdians, as the main ancestors of modern Tajiks.[24] The Encyclopædia Britannica states:

The Tajiks are the direct descendants of the Iranian peoples whose continuous presence in Central Asia and northern Afghanistan is attested from the middle of the 1st millennium bc. The ancestors of the Tajiks constituted the core of the ancient population of Khwārezm (Khorezm) and Bactria, which formed part of Transoxania (Sogdiana). They were included in the empires of Persia and Alexander the Great, and they intermingled with such later invaders as the Kushāns and Hepthalites in the 1st–6th centuries ad. Over the course of time, the eastern Iranian dialect that was used by the ancient Tajiks eventually gave way to Farsi, a western dialect spoken in Iran and Afghanistan.[25]

See also

Sources

  • Bernard, Paul (1994). "The Greek Kingdoms of Central Asia." In: History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250, pp. 99–129. Harmatta, János, ed., 1994. Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
  • Beal, Samuel (trans.). Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, by Hiuen Tsiang. Two volumes. London. 1884. Reprint: Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1969.
  • Beal, Samuel (trans.). The Life of Hiuen-Tsiang by the Shaman Hwui Li, with an Introduction containing an account of the Works of I-Tsing. London, 1911. Reprint: New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1973.
  • Cotterell, Arthur. From Aristotle to Zoroaster, 1998; pages 57–59. ISBN 0-684-85596-8.
  • Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." Second Draft Edition.
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation.
  • Holt, Frank Lee. (1999). Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria. Berkeley: University of California Press.(hardcover, ISBN 0-520-21140-5).
  • Holt, Frank Lee. (2005). Into the Land of Bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24553-9.
  • Tremblay, Xavier (2007) "The Spread of Buddhism in Serindia ― Buddhism among Iranians, Tocharians and Turks before the 13th century." Xavier Tremblay. In: The Spread of Buddhism. (2007). Edited by Ann Heirman and Stephan Peter Bumbacher. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section Eight, Central Asia. Edited by Denis Sinor and Nicola Di Cosmo. Brill, Lieden; Boston. pp. 75–129.
  • Watson, Burton (trans.). "Chapter 123: The Account of Dayuan." Translated from the Shiji by Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian of China II (Revised Edition). Columbia University Press, 1993, pages 231–252. ISBN 0-231-08164-2 (hardback), ISBN 0-231-08167-7 (paperback).
  • Watters, Thomas. On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India (A.D. 629–645). Reprint: New Delhi: Mushiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1973.
  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bactria" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 180–181.

Notes

  1. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Eduljee, Ed. "Aryan Homeland, Airyana Vaeja, in the Avesta. Aryan lands and Zoroastrianism". www.heritageinstitute.com. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  3. ^ a b P. Leriche, "Bactria, Pre-Islamic period." Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. 3, 1998.
  4. ^ David Testen, "Old Persian and Avestan Phonology", Phonologies of Asia and Africa, vol. II (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1997), 583.
  5. ^ Cotterell (1998), p. 59
  6. ^ Herzfeld, Ernst (1968). The Persian Empire: Studies in geography and ethnography of the ancient Near East. F. Steiner. p. 344.
  7. ^ Holt (2005), pp. 41–43.
  8. ^ Herodotus, 4.200–204
  9. ^ Strabo, 11.11.4
  10. ^ Herodotus 6.9
  11. ^ Strabo Geography, Book 11, chapter 11, section 1
  12. ^ UCLA Language Materials Project: Language Profile: Pashto Archived 2009-01-03 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Bernard (1994), p. 126.
  14. ^ Silk Road, North China C. Michael Hogan, the Megalithic Portal, 19 November 2007, ed. Andy Burnham
  15. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  16. ^ Hanshu, Former Han History
  17. ^ a b Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition
  18. ^ a b History of Buddhism in Afghanistan by Dr. Alexander Berzin, Study Buddhism
  19. ^ "Origin of the Samanids – Kamoliddin – Transoxiana 10". www.transoxiana.org. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  20. ^ "LacusCurtius • Strabo's Geography — Book XI Chapter 11". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  21. ^ "The Modern Eastern Iranian languages are even more numerous and varied. Most of them are classified as North-Eastern: Ossetic; Yaghnobi (which derives from a dialect closely related to Sogdian); the Shughni group (Shughni, Roshani, Khufi, Bartangi, Roshorvi, Sarikoli), with which Yaz-1ghulami (Sokolova 1967) and the now extinct Wanji (J. Payne in Schmitt, p. 420) are closely linked; Ishkashmi, Sanglichi, and Zebaki; Wakhi; Munji and Yidgha; and Pashto. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/eastern-iranian-languages
  22. ^ N. Sims-Williams. "Bactrian language". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Originally Published: December 15, 1988.
  23. ^ John Haywood and Simon Hall (2005). Peoples, nations and cultures. London.
  24. ^ Richard Nelson Frye, "Persien: bis zum Einbruch des Islam" (original English title: "The Heritage Of Persia"), German version, tr. by Paul Baudisch, Kindler Verlag AG, Zürich 1964, pp. 485–498
  25. ^ Tajikistan: History Britannica Online Encyclopedia

External links

Coordinates: 36°45′29″N 66°53′56″E / 36.7581°N 66.8989°E

Agathocles of Bactria

Agathocles Dikaios (Greek: Ἀγαθοκλῆς ὁ Δίκαιος; epithet meaning: "the Just") was a Greco-Bactrian/ 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.

Bactria (satrapy)

Bactria was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. The first mention of Bactria comes in 520 BCE at the Behistun inscription. Bactria was a special satrapy in that it was ruled by a crown prince or an intended heir. The capital of Bactria was Bactra, and the region also sometimes included Sogdia. During the reign of Darius the Great, the Bactrians and the Aeglians were placed in one tax district, which was supposed to pay 360 talents every year.

Bactrian camel

The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel. Its population of two million exists mainly in the domesticated form. Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria.Domesticated Bactrian camels have served as pack animals in inner Asia since ancient times. With its tolerance for cold, drought, and high altitudes, it enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. A small number of feral Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan and the Nubra Valley in India. Bactrian camels, whether domesticated or feral, are a separate species from the wild Bactrian camel which is the only truly wild (as opposed to feral) species of camel in the world.

Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex

The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia, dated to c. 2300–1700 BC, located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River). Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976). Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra (modern Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Marguš, the capital of which was Merv, in modern-day southeastern Turkmenistan.

Sarianidi's excavations from the late 1970s onward revealed numerous monumental structures in many sites, fortified by impressive walls and gates. Reports on the BMAC were mostly confined to Soviet journals until the last years of the Soviet Union, so the findings were largely unknown to the West until Sarianidi's work began to be translated in the 1990s.

Balkh Province

Balkh (Pashto and Persian: بلخ‬‎, Balx) is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the north of the country. It is divided into 15 districts and has a population of about 1,245,100, which is multi-ethnic and mostly a Persian-speaking society. The city of Mazar-i-Sharif serves as the capital of the province. The Mazar-e Sharif International Airport and Camp Marmal sit on the eastern edge of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The name of the province is derived from the ancient city of Balkh, near the modern town. The city of Mazar-e-Sharif has been an important stop on the trade routes from the Far East to the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Europe. Home to the famous blue mosque, it was once destroyed by Genghis Khan but later rebuilt by Timur.

The city of Balkh and the area of Balkh Province was considered a part of various historical regions in history including Ariana and Greater Khorasan.It serves today as Afghanistan's second but main gateway to Central Asia, the other being Sherkhan Bandar in the Kunduz Province.

Bessus

For the Christian saint, see Saint Bessus.

Bessus, also known as Artaxerxes V (died summer 329 BC), was a prominent Persian Satrap of Bactria in Persia, and later self-proclaimed King of Kings of Persia. According to classical sources, he killed his predecessor and relative, Darius III, after the Persian army had been defeated by Alexander the Great.

Demetrius II of India

Demetrius II (Greek: Δημήτριος Β΄) was a Greco-Bactrian/Indo-Greek king who ruled briefly during the 2nd century BC. Little is known about him and there are different views about how to date him. Earlier authors such as Tarn and Narain saw him as a son and sub-king of Demetrius I, but this view has now been abandoned.

Osmund Bopearachchi has suggested that he ruled in Bactria and Arachosia c. 175–170 BC, but this has been challenged by later authors. R. C. Senior instead prefers c. 175–140 BC, and this is supported by L M Wilson who also assumes from numismatical clues and portrait likeness that Demetrius II was a relative of Eucratides the Great. The later dating is supported by the circumstance that no coins of Demetrius II have been found in the ruins of Ai Khanoum, which was presumably destroyed during the reign of Eucratides I.

Demetrius I of Bactria

Demetrius I (Greek: Δημήτριος Α΄), also called Dharmamita, was a Hellenistic (Yona in Pali language, "Yavana" in Sanskrit) king (reigned c. 200–180 BC) of Gandhara. He was the son of the Greco-Bactrian ruler Euthydemus I and succeeded him around 200 BC, after which he conquered extensive areas in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan.He was never defeated in battle and was posthumously qualified as the Invincible (Aniketos) on the pedigree coins of his successor Agathocles. Demetrius I may have been the initiator of the Yavana era, starting in 186–185 BC, which was used for several centuries thereafter.

"Demetrius" was the name of at least two and probably three Greek kings of Bactria. The much debated Demetrius II was a possible relative, whereas Demetrius III (c. 100 BC), is known only from numismatic evidence.

Diodotus I

Diodotus I Soter (Greek: Διόδοτος Α' ὁ Σωτήρ; epithet means "the Saviour"; c. 285 BC – c. 239 BC) was Seleucid satrap of Bactria, rebelled against Seleucid rule soon after the death of Antiochus II in c. 255 or 246 BC, and wrested independence for his territory, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. He died in 239 BC.

This event is recorded by Trogus, Prol. 41; Justin xli. 4, 5, where he is called Theodotus; Strabo xi. 515. The name apparently is related to the title Soter he uses for himself. His power seems to have extended over the neighbouring provinces. Diodotus was a contemporary, a neighbour, and probably an ally of Andragoras, the satrap of Parthia, who at about the same time also proclaimed independence from the Seleucid Empire.

Eucratides I

Eucratides I (Greek: Εὐκρατίδης Α΄; reigned c. 171–145 BC), sometimes called Eucratides the Great, was one of the most important Greco-Bactrian kings, descendants of dignitaries of Alexander the Great. He uprooted the Euthydemid dynasty of Greco-Bactrian kings and replaced it with his own lineage. He fought against the Indo-Greek kings, the easternmost Hellenistic rulers in northwestern India, temporarily holding territory as far as the Indus, until he was finally defeated and pushed back to Bactria. Eucratides had a vast and prestigious coinage, suggesting a rule of considerable importance.

Euthydemus I

Euthydemus I (Greek: Εὐθύδημος Α΄; c. 260 BC – 200/195 BC) was a Greco-Bactrian king in about 230 or 223 BC according to Polybius; he is thought to have originally been a satrap of Sogdiana who overturned the dynasty of Diodotus of Bactria and became a Greco-Bactrian king. Strabo, on the other hand, correlates his accession with internal Seleucid wars in 223–221 BC. His kingdom seems to have been substantial, including probably Sogdiana to the north, and Margiana and Ariana to the south or east of Bactria.

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was – along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom – the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. It was centered on the north of present-day Afghanistan. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into present-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 AD.

Greco-Buddhism

Greco-Buddhism, or Graeco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD in Bactria and the Indian subcontinent. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian satraps were then conquered by the Mauryan Empire, under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka would convert to Buddhism and spread the religious philosophy throughout his domain, as recorded in the Edicts of Ashoka. Following the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, Greco-Buddhism continued to flourish under the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Indo-Greek Kingdoms, and Kushan Empire. Buddhism was adopted in Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century AD, ultimately spreading to China, Korea, Japan, Siberia, and Vietnam.

Kidarites

The Kidarites (Chinese: 寄多羅 Jiduolo) were a dynasty that ruled Bactria and adjoining parts of Central Asia and South Asia in the 4th and 5th centuries CE. The Kidarites belonged to a complex of peoples known collectively in India as the Huna and/or in Europe as the Xionites (from the Iranian names Xwn/Xyon). (The Huna/Xionite tribes are often linked, albeit controversially, to the Huns who invaded Eastern Europe during a similar period).

Named after Kidara, their founding ruler and purported membership of a clan named Ki, the Kidarites appear to have been a part of a Huna horde known in Latin sources as the Kermichiones (from the Iranian Karmir Xyon) or "Red Huna". The Kidarites established the first of four major Xionite/Huna states in Central Asia, followed by the Hephthalites, the Alchon, and the Nezak.

In 360–370 CE, a Kidarite kingdom was established in Central Asian regions previously ruled by the Sasanian Empire, replacing the Kushano-Sasanians in Bactria. Thereafter the Sasanian Empire roughly stopped at Merv.

Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom

The Kushano-Sassanids (also called Kushanshas or Indo-Sassanians) were a branch of the Sassanid Persians who established their rule in Bactria and in northwestern Indian subcontinent (present day Pakistan) during the 3rd and 4th centuries at the expense of the declining Kushans. They captured the provinces of Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara from the Kushans in 225 CE. The Sasanians established governors for the Sasanian Empire, who minted their own coinage and took the title of Kushanshas, i.e. "Kings of the Kushans". They are sometimes considered as forming a "sub-kingdom" inside the Sasanian Empire. This administration continued until 360-370 CE, when the Kushano-Sasanians lost their territories to the invading Kidarite Huns. Thereafter the limit of Sasanian territory was near Merv. Later, the Kidarites were in turn displaced by the Hephthalites. The Sasanians were able to re-establish some authority after they destroyed the Hephthalites with the help of the Turks in 565, but their rule collapsed under Arab attacks in the mid 7th century.

The Kushanshas are mainly known through their coins. Their coins were minted at Kabul, Balkh, Herat, and Merv, attesting the extent of their realm.A rebellion of Hormizd I Kushanshah (277-286 CE), who issued coins with the title Kushanshahanshah ("King of kings of the Kushans"), seems to have occurred against contemporary emperor Bahram II (276-293 CE) of the Sasanian Empire, but failed.

Margiana

Margiana (Greek: Μαργιανή Margianḗ, Old Persian: Marguš, Middle Persian: Marv) is a historical region centred on the oasis of Merv and was a minor satrapy within the Achaemenid satrapy of Bactria, and a province within its successors, the Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian empires.

It was located in the valley of the Murghab River which has its sources in the mountains of Afghanistan, and passes through Murghab District in modern Afghanistan, and then reaches the oasis of Merv in modern Turkmenistan. Margiana bordered Parthia to the south-west, Aria in the south, Bactria in the east and Sogdia in the north.

Plato of Bactria

Plato (Greek: Πλάτων) was a Greco-Bactrian king who reigned for a short time in southern Bactria or the Paropamisade during the mid 2nd century BCE. The style of Plato's coins suggests that he was a relative — most likely a brother since Plato is a middle-aged man on his coins — of Eucratides the Great, whose rise to power is dated to around 170–165 BCE.

Some of Plato's coins have inscriptions which may possibly be interpreted as dates using the Indo-Greek era which started around 186 BCE. In that case Plato ruled around 140 BCE. This matches the dating given by numismatician Bopearachchi, who places Plato between 145–140 BCE, since his coins are not found in the ruins of Ai Khanoum, a Bactrian city which was destroyed during the reign of Eucratides.

Roxana

Roxana (Ancient Greek: Ῥωξάνη; Old Iranian Raoxshna; sometimes Roxanne, Roxanna, Rukhsana, Roxandra and Roxane) was a Sogdian princess of Bactria whom the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, married, after defeating Darius III, the Achaemenian king, and invading Persia. She was born in c. 340 BC though the precise date remains uncertain and died in c. 310 BC.

Theophilos (king)

Theophilos (Greek: Θεόφιλος) was a minor Indo-Greek king who ruled for a short time in the Paropamisadae. He was possibly a relative of Zoilos I and is only known from coins. It is possible that some of Theophilos' coins in fact belong to another ruler, in Greek Bactria, during approximately the same period.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.