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Eucratides I

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(‘the Great’), Graeco-Bactrian king c.170–145bc. His brilliant but warlike reign marked the climax of Greek rule in Bactria(-Sogdiana). Just. Epit. 61. 6. 1–5 compares him to Mithradates the Great of Parthia, while Apollodorus of Artemita (quoted at Strabo 15. 1. 3) calls him ‘ruler of a thousand cities’. His parents Heliocles and Laodice, commemorated on a special series of his coins, are otherwise unknown; however, Laodice is portrayed wearing a diadem and was therefore from a royal family. Some believe her to be a sister of Antiochus III the Great, but most scholars reject this view and associate her with either the family of Diodotus II or Euthydemus I. Eucratides apparently seized power in Bactria, and then waged wars in Sogdiana, Arachosia, Drangiana, Aria, and finally NW India. His principal adversary was probably King Demetrius I (son of Euthydemus I, though some argue for Demetrius II). After enduring a long siege, Eucratides overcame Demetrius and claimed the territories of Parapamisadae and Gandhara. It is likely that he also defeated the relatives of Demetrius I, including the ephemeral kings Euthydemus II, Agathocles, and Pantaleon. A campaign against Menander I is also possible.

The career of Eucratides may be traced in his voluminous coinage, which is among the finest and most innovative from antiquity. Besides commemorating his parents, he portrayed himself in heroic pose and added the epithet ‘Great’ to his royal title. His standard coin-type, the charging Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), seems to celebrate the famous cavalry of Bactria. South of the Hindu Kush mountains, he issued rectangular and bilingual coins (Greek/Prakrit) on an Indian standard for local commerce. He also struck the largest known gold coin from the ancient world, a numismatic masterpiece weighing 20 staters (169 g.: almost 6 oz.).

Eucratides was brutally assassinated c.145 bc by one of his sons, probably Plato. Another son, Heliocles ‘the Just’, avenged the crime, but Bactria-Sogdiana soon fell victim to nomadic invaders from the north and Parthian encroachment from the west.

Frank L. Holt

Subjects: Classical studies

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