of the use of a particular grammatical form he refers to Yavana raids in the

Of the use of a particular grammatical form he refers

This preview shows page 246 - 248 out of 597 pages.

of the use of a particular grammatical form he refers to Yavana raids in the western Ganges Plain and in Rajasthan. The best remembered of the Indo-Greek kings was undoubtedly Men- ander, who, as Milinda, attained fame in the Buddhist text Milinda-panha - the Questions of King Milinda - a catechismal discussion on Buddhism. Supposedly conducted by Menander and the Buddhist philosopher Naga- sena, it is claimed to have resulted in Menander's conversion to Buddhism. This was a period when Greeks were interested in Buddhism, so such a manual would have been extremely useful to the propagation of the religion. Menander, ruling from c. 150 to 135 BC, stabilized Indo-Greek power, in addition to extending its frontiers in India. He is known to have held the Swat Valley and the Hazara district in the north-west, as well as the Punjab. His coins have been found as far north as Kabul, and to the south in the Mathura region. He is thought to have conquered territory in the Ganges Plain, but failed to retain it. He may well have attacked the Shungas in the Yamuna region, if not closer to Pataliputra itself. His popularity gave rise to a legend that various cities of the north-west vied with each other for his ashes after his cremation, then built monuments over the relics. But perhaps the Roman writer Plutarch, who narrates this story, was confusing the legend of the Buddha's death with that of Menander. Following Menander, there appears to have been a regency, after which came the reign of Strato. Meanwhile, Bactria was ruled by the line of Eucratides, which had broken away from that of Euthydemus and from which the first Demetrius seems to have split off. The Bactrian king cast longing eyes at Gandhara and, advancing beyond Kabul, he annexed the kingdom of Taxila. But the Bactrians did not hold Taxila for long. The Hellenistic Greeks marked their presence by monumental buildings and by small, finely crafted objects. Excavation of the cities of Ai-Khanoum, on the confluence of the Oxus and the Kokcha, of Bactra (modern Balkh), of Antioch in Margiana and of Sirkap at Taxila, reveals a characteristic talent for urban planning. Ai-Khanoum was built on the usual city-plan, the citadel differentiated from the lower city with predictable features such as temples, theatres, buildings embellished with pillars and patterned mosaic floors, and promenades. Its location and its function as an evolved Hellen- istic city indicate it was a successor to the Achaemenid presence in central Asia. Scattered throughout the area of Hellenistic activities are their coins - excellent examples of minting, with portraiture of a high aesthetic quality. Curiously, portraits on coins never became fashionable in India. 215
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EARLY INDIA The history of the Indo-Greeks has been reconstructed mainly on the evidence of their coins. Some of the coinage of Bactria was based on the Attic standard and comparable to the Athenian 'owl' coins, suggesting close ties with the eastern Mediterranean. The silver Athenian owl coin, so called
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