Ancient Greek State in Afghanistan
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Ancient Greek State in Afghanistan

August 12, 2019

If we were to ask you, “Where was the last
independent Greek state in the world?” would you believe that the answer was India? Indeed,
for a brief period of time, the only part of the Greek speaking world independent from
foreign rule was a small enclave in East Punjab. This diminished rump state was once part of
a much greater Hellenic presence that spanned across modern day Afghanistan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Pakistan and India. To find out how this came to be, we must start from the
beginning. In this video, we will explore the two-century long history of the Greco-Bactrian
Kingdom, and its cultural legacy. In the year 334 BC, Alexander the Great began
an unprecedented war of conquest across the known world. Alexander and his army of veteran
Macedonians pushed their way through the entirety of the Achaemenid Empire, and then further
East. Many Greek cities were founded in his wake, establishing the Greek people as the
ruling elite across the new Macedonian Empire. This Empire’s eastern borders reached the
Punjab in the south, and the Ferghana Valley in the North. The city of Alexandria Eschate
was established there, its name literally meaning “Alexandria the Furthest”.
Upon Alexander’s death, his generals carved up the conquered territories amongst themselves.
The Ptolemaic dynasty rose in Egypt and the Levant, while the Seleucids ruled over the
former territories of the Achaemenid Empire, throughout Asia Minor, Iran, and parts of
Central Asia. The Seleucids ruled over a vast territory,
across many different people groups, languages and religions. They spent much of their history
feuding with the Ptolemies over the Syrian borderlands. The Seleucids owed the success
of their Empire to their adoption of the Achaemenid Persian administrative bureaucracy. They divided
their Empire into regional “satrapies” where a Greek elite would rule over a native
population, whom usually would take up lower level administration roles. One of the easternmost
and wealthiest of these Seleucid Satrapies was the region of Bactria. And it is in this
region that our story is centered. Bactria was always a rugged, harsh borderland.
In the days of the Persian Empire, it was akin to the wild west. The peoples of Bactria
had always been fiercely independent and resistant to centralized Persian rule. Over time, the
native Indo-Iranian Bactrians would come to be Hellenized, and absorb much of Greek culture,
including the Greek alphabet, but that independent spirit would remain, succeeded by the Greeks
who came to rule the region. When Alexander originally reached Bactria
with his army in 329 BC, he founded eight cities in the area. However, there were already
many Greeks there when he arrived. Remarkably, Bactria, a region on the edge of the Hellenic
known world, had more Greeks than many regions much closer to the Greek mainland. This was
likely a practice adopted by the Achaemenid rulers, who in centuries prior had deported
Ionian and North African Greeks who dissented against their rule.
The reign of King Darius I saw an entire city of Greeks in Barca, Cyrenaica deported due
to their refusal to surrender accused assassins within their walls. Xerxes I had exiled the
Branchidae, priests of the Spring of Didymae in Ionia. Over centuries of Persian rule,
various Greek groups had found themselves in this rugged borderland. As a result, there
was a distinct, independent Hellenic identity in Bactria separate from the Seleucid conscience.
By the year 250 BC, the ruler of the Seleucid Satrap of Bactria, Diodotus, officially seceded
from the Seleucid Empire, and proclaimed himself King Diodotus I of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom.
The motivation behind this secession remains unclear. Diodotus may have seen his opportunity,
after the Seleucid Empire was thoroughly weakened by the Third Syrian War with the Ptolemaic
Kingdom. He also took the title “Soter”, which
mean “savior”. It is believed that he acquired this title after driving the Parthians,
led by first King Arcases, out of Bactria. Nevertheless, it is important to remember
that during Seleucid rule, there had always been a distinct Greco-Bactrian identity, enabling
their rebellion. For the time being, the Seleucids were unable
to reconquer their eastern Satrapies, as they were tied up in a bitter struggle with the
Ptolemies. This gave the newly found Greco-Bactrian Kingdom time to establish its borders.
Around 230 BC, Diodotus’ son, Diodotus II was overthrown internally by Euthydemus, who
previously had been the Seleucid Satrap of Sogdia. Euthydemus had deposed the short-lived
Diotodus Dynasty, outraged that they had made an alliance with the Parthian King Arcases,
the very same Arcases whom they had fought against not a decade earlier, who was considered
a threat to all Hellenic civilization. Euthydemus expanded the borders of the Greco-Bactrian
Kingdom to include Sogdiana and Ferghana, including the city of Alexander Eschate. The
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom now ruled all the Hellenistic cities of Central Asia. Euthydemus and his
forefathers would become known as the Euthydemids, the most prosperous dynasty of Greco-Bactria.
King Euthydemus’s first test came in 209 BC, with the ascension of the Seleucid King
Antiochus III. Antiochus was young and ambitious, and had no greater desire than to take back
the territories in Iran and Central Asia that had once been part of the Seleucid Empire.
He first laid ambitions upon the Parthian Kingdom, subduing them by taking the cities
of Hykania, Tambrax and Syrinx. With Parthia neutralized, Bactria was to follow, and thus
Seleucids marched into Bactrian territory. Euthydemus was in Tapuria when he heard of
this incursion. He quickly levied 10,000 heavily armoured Cataphracts and rode to the passage
at the River Arius where he stood prepared to meet Antiochus’ army.
According to his intel, Antiochus knew that Euthydemus and his 10,000 Cataphracts only
guarded the river passage by day, and at night retreated to a nearby walled settlement. So,
on the second day of marching, Antiochus left part of his army behind, and sneaked across
the Arius river with 2000 veteran cavalry, and 10,000 Peltast infantry under the cover
of night. At daybreak, Euthydemus realized that Antiochus
had crossed the river. He immediately rallied all of his cavalry and charged the Seleucid
lines. The Seleucid infantry was taken by surprise, and was yet to form up its ranks.
Antiochus had to act, or his scrambling army would be overrun by a fully armoured cataphract
charge. He rallied his 2,000-strong cavalry, outnumbered 5 to 1, and rode out to meet the
Bactrians to buy his infantry time. Antiochus and his horsemen fought off the first squadron
of cataphracts, and both sides took heavy losses. However, a second and then a third
wave crashed into his ranks, nearly breaking them.
It was at this point that the commander of the Seleucid Peltasts Panaetolus finally rallied
his infantry to Antiochus’ aid. They flanked and overwhelmed the Bactrian Cataphracts,
routing them off the battlefield. It is said that Antiochus rallied his remaining cavalry
and took many prisoners. At this point he had his horse killed under him, and lost several
teeth in the ensuing fall. All contemporary accounts say he fought valiantly.
The Seleucid king had won the initial battle, while Euthydemus had lost a quarter of his
men and been routed. Euthydemus retreated to the city of Bactria, modern-day Balkh in
Afghanistan, and holed up there, prepared to withstand a siege.
Indeed, Antiochus III arrived at the walls of Balkh and besieged it. We know little about
this siege, only that it lasted for three years, and that towards the end, Antiochus
was forced to withdraw. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, Antiochus and Euthydemus
reached an honourable peace, due to recognizing the common threat of nomadic Scythian tribes
in the north, which, as Polybius put it, would “utterly Barbarize” Hellenic civilization
in the east. The Bactrians had secured their independence
through attrition. An honourable peace between Euthydemus and Antiochus was signed, in which
Euthydemus paid Antiochus a number of war elephants as tribute, while Antiochus promised
his daughter’s hand in marriage to Euthydemus’s son, Demetrius, and recognized Euthydemus
as a rightful king. Thus, the sovereignty of the Greco-Bactrian
Kingdom was finally solidified, and it would continue to rule over much of central Asia
and parts of India for many decades to come. The Greek geographer Strabo famously stated
that “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 Ariana, but also of India”. Indeed,
four decades after Euthydemus’ victory over Antiochus, the Greeks of Bactria accomplished
what even Alexander had failed to do, and conquered parts of India.
From 180-175 BC, under the reigns of Apollodotus I and Demetrius II, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
pushed into the regions of Gandhara and western Punjab. Unfortunately while Demetrius II was
campaigning in India, one of his generals back in the Bactrian capital, Eucratides,
staged a coup, seizing Kingship over Bactria. As a result, the Greeks in India split from
their brethren in Bactria creating a distinct Indo-Greek Kingdom which would rule over parts
of India until 10 AD. The most famous of these Indo-Greek Kings was Menander I, who ruled
from 155 – 130 BC. In Buddhist Pali Canon, he is mentioned as a convert to Buddhism,
and a great patron of the faith, resulting in many Greeks converting, and the formation
of a distinct Greco-Buddhist art form. It is said the first sculpture of Buddha depicted
in human form was done by Greek artists, who fused his image with the likeness of their
own gods, such as Apollo. It even became common practice to depict Herakles himself as the
Buddha’s protector. Greek contributions to Buddhist doctrine and art are said to have
eventually spread along the silk road, influencing the Mahayana sect of the faith that came to
be practiced in China. A Roman Geographer and contemporary to the
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Justin, described the region as “the extremely wealthy Bactrian
Empire of 1,000 cities.” Bactria was known as a land of great riches, a bridge between
east and west. The Chinese explorer Zhang Qian, when visiting the markets of Bactria
in 130 BCE, recorded how impressed he was by the diversity of goods that could be found
there, even observing that many of the products came from China itself. Indeed Bactria was
the crossroads of the world. The Kingdom of Greco-Bactria would come to
an end around the year 125 BC, with the invasion of the Yuezhi, an Indo-European nomadic pastoral
people who had been driven out of their traditional homeland in modern day China by the Xiongnu.
Even though Greek sovereignty had come to an end, the urban infrastructure of the Greco-Bactrians
endured. Greek peoples would continue to have a cultural influence in the successor states
of the region, such as the multi-ethnic Kushan empire, governed by the descendants of the
Yuezhi. The Greeks remained a visible minority group in the region for centuries. The Kushan
language used the Greek alphabet, and adopted aspects of the Greek cults.
In India, the last Indo-Greek King, Strato II, fell in 10AD, after a nearly 200-year
long period of Greek rule in the subcontinent. By the time Strato’s realm had fallen, it
was the last independent Greek state in the world, with all of Alexander’s former territories
conquered by Rome, or the Parthians. The Greek presence on the edge of the known
world at the time may have been a relatively short one, in the grand scheme of things,
but their coins, artworks and ruins are dotted across Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and India to
this day. One cannot ignore the impact they had on the peoples of the region, the wealth
and prosperity they brought to their Kingdoms, and their cultural influence, which still
leaves ripples in our modern world. Thank you for watching our video on the Greek
states of Central Asia and India. We will continue with this topic, so make sure you
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the next one.

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  1. The West: Greece is a Western power and my home boy
    The East: Then why did Greece invade me so much but only made colonies in you?

  2. I do follow your every single videos and I am looking for more about AFGHANISTAN.
    a big thanks for everybody who create the video.
    Never thought my ancestors were Greeks.

  3. Thank God they did not come to America , when they did come they started the first Gay Village . MAGA lol

  4. The Greek defeated the Chin in the eastern border and forcing the Chin people eastward and later on became the Qin Empire in China…..


    At 3:25 and after, I learned something I had not known before. That many Greeks were ALREADY in Bactria before Alexander's armies arrived. This being because previous to Alexander, the rulers of places that had absorbed Greek populations had exiled those Greeks to the far East hinterland, where they found each other and established a Greek identity far from the Hellenic homeland.

    Was it a surprise, the Alexandrian invaders finding a "Shangri-La" of Greeks out there? When they first entered, was it a shock to hear Greek being spoken back to them?

    More on this bit, K and G!

  6. So if you ever think your fanfiction crossover is getting 'too out there', remember that someone made Herakles the bodyguard of The Buddha.

  7. I don't know how the greeks were in afgaistan before alexander ,because king Darius never let anyone go through Persia, Greeks and romans were threatened by Persian kings and over lords from 500 bc to alexanders time 325 bc. (assur parnipal and other persian kings, Thats why Alexander tried to destroy Persia. Alexander fought Darius , he ran away also killed by his own genarals. in 310 BC Chandra Gupta Moriya of magada Desha had a big war with Seleucus Nikater greek from Babylon the succeeder of Alexander,The war so was bad and Selucs finally gave up Afghanistan to (gandara) chandra gupta in exchange for 500 trained war elephants also selucus gave his daughter to Chandra gupta, as recorded. Selucus won his enemies and was the sole owner from siriya to iran, greeks never were able to enter India. , and for elephants are only available in south india and assam nowhere else , hence they need huge foder to eat (500 lbs per day)., there are no edible trees for elephants in afganistan and iran. and you need trained people to run them. beside Asian elephants wont survive the heat, they need lots of water. ,greeks never stepped into India because after Chandra Gupta, Asoka the great was there, till 100AD, Hellenic greek became Buddhist and his follower's king kaniska was ruling Afghanistan ,get you sources right please.

  8. What a bunch of BULLSHIT!

  9. PLEASE do not exaggerate the occupation of INDIA by the Greeks ; Why did Alexander retreat even after breaking India's fence? – People say that – When Alexander struggled to defeat a small Indian king, he decided not to campaign against the mighty ruler of Magadha – Dhana Nandha who was abot 100 times powerful than Porus. This may be true. But, the truth is that he didn't defeat Porus at all and retreated back.
    After gaining control of the former Achaemenid satrapy of Gandhara, including the city of Taxila, Alexander advanced into Punjab, where he engaged in battle against the regional king Porus,
    Here why should Alexander allow the "so called" defeated king Porus to continue governing his own kingdom as a satrap ??? SO if he allowed PORUS to remain in his throne, that's because he faced an exceptionally valiant army that of Porus…

    Alexander's march east put him in confrontation with the Nanda Empire of Magadha and the Gangaridai of Bengal. According to the Greek sources, the Nanda army was supposedly five times larger than the Macedonian army. His army, exhausted, homesick, and anxious by the prospects of having to further face large Indian armies throughout the Indo-Gangetic Plain, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas River) and refused to march further east. Alexander, after a meeting with his officer, Coenus, and after hearing about the lament of his soldiers, eventually relented, being convinced that it was better to return. This is the reason why Alexander decided to walk towards south, advancing through southern Punjab and Sindh, along the lower Indus River, before finally turning westward. THIS IS CALLED " GREAT ESCAPE" not a victory parade !!

  10. Do you that CHANDRA GUPTA MAURYA too defeated SELEUKOS and gave his daughter in marriage to that Indian KING ,,,,???? By the terms of treaty between Chandragupta and Seleukos in 305 BC, Seleukos, ceded to Chandragupta:-

    Satrapies of Arachosia ( modern Kandhar, in Afghanistan), and the Parponsidae (Kabul), together with portions of Aria (Herat) , and Gedrosia ( Baluchistan).

    Chandragupta on his part cemented this alliance by making a present to Seleukos of 500 war elephants.

    The present of elephants was followed by other expressions of friendly relations between the two kings.

    There is a suggestion made by Appian ( A Roman Writer), that there was a marriage alliance between the two kings so that Seleukos either became father-in- law or son-in-law of Chandragupta.

    In traditions, Chandragupta married Helena, daughter of Seleukos in 305 or 304 B.C.

  11. -Be me.
    -Notice lots of similarities between Japan and Greece.
    -Ponder whether it's possible the Ancient Greeks influenced Chinese Philosophy in some manner to inform Greek memes entering Japanese Culture.
    -Get told by know-it-all friends and relatives that I'm grasping straws and any such similarities are just coincidence.
    -Find out highly populous ancient Greek kingdoms exist in Afghanistan and Ancient India.
    -Find out Greek king in the East Converted to Mahayana Buddhism.
    -Find out that Mahayana Buddhism is the branch that converted China.
    -Find out Mahayana Buddhism came to China via Bactria.
    -Already know China brought Mahayana Buddhism to Korea.
    -Already knew China and Korea teamed up to convert Japan…
    -Find out Ancient Greek culture indeed directly influenced Far East and affectations of Greek Culture in Japan are not a coincidence.

  12. It is interesting how many nations ruled India for some time but then they were perished from history, i think the problem was the number of rulling elite, you had Indo Greek kingdom, Indo Scythian, Indo Sassanian and Kushan Empire which was founded by the Yuezhi Tocharians from Western China

  13. That Greek kingdom lasted only a few years! Until Chandra Gupta Mourya beat the Greeks back and Greeks made peace by giving their princess in marriage to the Indian King.

  14. I've seen a video that says MAYBE greeks found America first I dont know if its true but its intrsensting. Anyway nice job I love your videos from Greece <3 <3 <3

  15. Should do a follow up on the Hepthalite Empire, Now you follow the Greeks but how important the Yamnaya proto-indo-european r1b ? Why Bactria was a spiritual center governed by heir apparent to the Achaemenid dynasty? Blessed is Zoroaster.

  16. What do the Russians know about the siege of Balkh (Balkh the source of all bronze age Lapis Lazuli) Bactria – Margiana Archaeological Complex?

  17. menander was one the most successful kings from alexanders succesors..he fought against many indian tribes and managed to reach at the Gang river subduing and controlling vast territories…

  18. People of punjab do not have Greek DNA. Greek people have always been small in height and the people of punjab have been tall. Punjab during Alexander time did not exist. It was covered in jungles and forests and large mounds.

    Present people living in Punjab started migrating to Punjab from the desserts of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur around 1350-1400 AD. This proof can be found in traditional folklore.



  21. It would have been nice to see a few more photos of any surviving Greek ruins in Central Asia than just a quick flash of the few depicted at 14:14. Or are there none really left in existence?

  22. Alexander the Great and Macedonians weren't greek they were slavic. His real name was Lesandar (Les-pagan god, dar-gift; Les's gift). When tumb of his father was discovered there were freska's of Macedonians with slavic swastikas on their skirts. Greek archeologiest over painted those slavic signs with black paint even doe they knew what that means and they didn't allow any pictures to be taken before they covered up the evidence of slavic macedonians. Since first x-ray/ultraviolet photos were taken, Greeks don't allow them anymore. Macedonia was named after slavic word (Mak-poppy) Makedonia-land of poppy. So Bactria and other states weren't a Greek states but Slavic states who accepted greek culture mixed with native culture and traditions.

  23. Greeks were so stupid always fighting eachother, even after when they saw what happens, when they were united under Alexander. Imagine if they weren't so stupid with all those settlements they founded all across Europe we would probably have like 2 nations today Greece and China. (Rome was founded by Troan refugees which were Greeks so they get out of the picture.)

  24. Bullsit budism is forms of zorroastryanism and was brought by khusan uygur tribes with roma indo iranians in subcontinent of india and to greko bactrians afghans greeks and roma indo iranians was formed army of ashoka mauryan empires from old khusaan and scityians uygur and tajik avestan heritage and hittites sancritt persanics origins from sumer babilonia persanics heritage asiatics

  25. I would love to hear old ileni greki greci…or whateva they called themselves, say greko-baktria)))))))
    helenized Kelts, helenized Trakians, helenized Dinarik tribes were already there 3 times. It is couse of them that this thing worked for some time.

  26. I really love the fact that everyone in comments recognize that Macedonia is greek. And if you convince your army to bomb our parliament, I could give my life to you.

  27. Macedonians are not greeks, Alexander included them in his army after defeating them, and because of their closeness and respect of their culture

  28. no such thing as ancient 'greece'. they were ancient Macedonians and some hellens that have no connection to modern greeks people of today

  29. This Western narrative may be challenged as flawed with new archeological findings in North West India. Already the Aryan invasion has been demolished.

  30. I love learning about these less remembered parts of history because they are no less significant. The juxtaposition of Hercules (Heracles) and Buddha is too cool.

  31. there was no such thing as 'greeks' during this time period of history. stop confusing modern greeks with ancient hellens

  32. A falsified version. Ever heard of the Magadha empire and Chandragupta Maurya (Sondrocottes). Stop kidding and abandon biased, monochromatic classical Greek sources. A standing army of 600,000 Indians was waiting to finish Alexander. He developed cold feet. And was packed off as a dead man by a much smaller Indian kingdom.

  33. it's so great to learn more about my parents' country… thank you and i hope you do more videos about afghanistan/central asia!

  34. There were neither greeks nor greece. All of these two names were
    created for the politics in 19th century. In macedonia the biggest god
    was Hephaistos. This god depicted as forging while iron. And there were
    found coins containing "IYI" stamps. There were Kurgans contains "ISKIT"
    figured helmets. So we should rethink History thesis again over these
    new foundings.

    As an addition there were different kind of civilisations in Agean and
    Mediterranian who shares in same region. But that does not make them

  35. There were neither greeks nor greece. All of these two names were
    created for the politics in 19th century. In macedonia the biggest god
    was Hephaistos. This god depicted as forging while iron. And there were
    found coins containing "IYI" stamps. There were Kurgans contains "ISKIT"
    figured helmets. So we should rethink History thesis again over these
    new foundings.

    As an addition there were different kind of civilisations in Agean and
    Mediterranian who shares in same region. But that does not make them

  36. There were neither greeks nor greece. All of these two names were
    created for the politics in 19th century. In macedonia the biggest god
    was Hephaistos. This god depicted as forging while iron. And there were
    found coins containing "IYI" stamps. There were Kurgans contains "ISKIT"
    figured helmets. So we should rethink History thesis again over these
    new foundings.

    As an addition there were different kind of civilisations in Agean and
    Mediterranian who shares in same region. But that does not make them

  37. @Kings and Generals, there are no primary sources that mention such a thing as ancient 'Greek' state in Afghanistan. It's a shame that people have been hoodwinked into perpetuating the modern academic fallacies instead of referencing the actual people and tribe names.

  38. I’m Bactrian reading people comments. ???

    Let me tell you all something 9/11 was not the goal or the target. The target was to bring the American empire in the graveyard of empires.

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