• The Indo-Greek Kingdom, or Graeco-Indian Kingdom, also known historically as the Yavana Kingdom, was a Hellenistic-era Greek kingdom covering various parts of Afghanistan, the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent, (all of present Pakistan), and a small part of Iran; from 180 B.C.E. to around 10 C.E.
  • The kingdom began when the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded India in 180 B.C.E., ultimately creating an entity which seceded from the powerful Greco-Bactrian Kingdom cantered in Bactria.



  • Preliminary Greek presence in India
    • In 326 B.C.E. Alexander III conquered the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent as far as the Hyphasis River, and established satrapies.
    • Later in 303 B.C.E., Seleucus ceded to Chandragupta his north-western territories
      • Also several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes followed by Deimachus and Dionysius, went to reside at the Mauryan court. The two rulers continued to exchange presents.
    • On these occasions, Greek populations apparently remained in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Mauryan rule.
    • Further, In his edicts, Ashoka claims he sent Buddhist emissaries to Greek rulers as far as the Mediterranean
    • The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the propagation of Buddhism
  • Greek rule in Bactria
    • Bactria or Bactriana, was an ancient region in Central Asia.
    • Alexander also had established in neighboring Bactria several cities (Ai-Khanoum, Begram) and an administration that lasted more than two centuries under the Seleucids and the Greco-Bactrians, all the time in direct contact with Indian territory.
  • Rise of the Sungas (185 B.C.E.)
    • In India, the overthrow of Maurya Dynasty occurred around 185 B.C.E. when Pusyamitra Sunga, described as a “senapati”, was the commander-in-chief of Mauryan Imperial forces and a Brahmin, who assassinated the last of the Mauryan emperors Brhadrata.
    • Pusyamitra Sunga then ascended the throne and established the Sunga Empire, which extended its control as far west as the Punjab.


History of the Indo-Greek kingdom

  • The invasion of northern India, and the establishment of the “Indo-Greek kingdom,” started around 180 B.C.E. when Demetrius I, son of the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I, led his troops across the Hindu Kush.
  • Apollodotus, seemingly a relative of Demetrius, led the invasion to the south, while Menander, led the invasion to the east.
    • Possibly at a later period, the Greeks advanced to the Ganges River, apparently as far as the capital Pataliputra, under the orders of Menander
  • According to Strabo (Greek Geographer), Greek advances temporarily went as far as the Sunga capital Pataliputra (today Patna) in eastern India.
  • To the south, the Greeks may have occupied the areas of the Sindh and Gujarat down to the region of Surat (Greek: Saraostus) near Mumbai (Bombay), including the strategic harbor of Barygaza (Bharuch)
  • The majority of historians consider Menander (reigned c.165/155 –130 BC) the most successful Indo-Greek king, and the conqueror of the greatest territory.
  • Following Menander’s reign, about 20 Indo-Greek kings ruled in succession in the eastern parts of the Indo-Greek territory.
  • Later at around 125 B.C.E., The Indo-Greeks thus suffered encroachments by the Greco-Bactrians in their western territories.
  • The Indo-Greeks may have ruled as far as the area of Mathura until sometime in the first century B.C.E., the Maghera inscription, from a village near Mathura records.
  • An inscription on a signet ring of the first century C.E. in the name of a king Theodamas, from the Bajaur area of Gandhara, in modern Pakistan constitutes the last known mention of an Indo-Greek ruler.



  • Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek kings, and their rule, especially that of Menander, has been remembered as benevolent.
  • The Greek expansion into Indian territory may have been intended to protect Greek populations in India, and to protect the Buddhist faith from the religious persecutions of the Sungas
    • Alternatively, some described the Greek invasions in India as purely materialistic, only taking advantage of the ruin of the Maurya Empire to acquire territory and wealth.
  • Most coins of the Greek kings in India in Greek on the front and in Pali on the back (in the Kharoshthi script), which indicate a tremendous concession to another culture never before made in the Hellenic world.



  • In addition to the worship of the Classical pantheon of the Greek deities found on their coins (Zeus, Herakles, Athena, Apollo…), the Indo-Greeks involved with local faiths, particularly with Buddhism, but also with Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.
    • Histories describe Menander I, the “Saviour king,” seemingly a convert to Buddhism, as a great benefactor of the religion, on a par with Ashoka or the future Kushan emperor Kanishka



  • Historians generally consider the coinage of the Indo-Greeks as some of the most artistically brilliant of Antiquity.
  • The Hellenistic heritage (Ai-Khanoum) and artistic proficiency of the Indo-Greek would suggest a rich sculptural tradition as well, but traditionally very few sculptural remains have been attributed to them.
  • Further, the possibility of a direct connection between the Indo-Greeks and Greco-Buddhist art has been reaffirmed recently as the dating of the rule of Indo-Greek kings has been extended to the first decades of the first century C.E., with the reign of Strato II in the Punjab.



  • Very little is known about the economy of the Indo-Greeks.
  • The abundance of their coins would tend to suggest large mining operations, particularly in the mountainous area of the Hindu-Kush, and an important monetary economy.
  • The Indo-Greek did strike bilingual coins both in the Greek “round” standard and in the Indian “square” standard, suggesting that monetary circulation extended to all parts of society.
  • The adoption of Indo-Greek monetary conventions by neighbouring kingdoms, such as the Satavahanas, also suggest that Indo-Greek coins were used extensively for cross-border trade.
  • An indirect testimony by the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian, who visited Bactria around 128 B.C.E., suggests that intense trade with Southern China went through northern India.
    • Zhang Qian explains that he found Chinese products in the Bactrian markets, transiting through North-western India, which he incidentally describes as a civilization similar to that of Bactria
  • Maritime relations across the Indian Ocean started in the third century B.C.E., and further developed during the time of the Indo-Greeks together with their territorial expansion along the western coast of India, along the Indus delta and Kathiawar peninsula or Muziris.


Armed forces

  • The coins of the Indo-Greeks provide rich clues on their uniforms and weapons depicting typical Hellenistic uniforms, with helmets being either round in the Greco-Bactrian style, or the flat Kausia of the Macedonians.
  • The Milinda Panha, in the questions of Nagasena to king Menander, provides a rare glimpse of the military methods of the period

Thus, presently 36 Indo-Greek kings are known. Several of them are also recorded in Western and Indian historical sources, but the majority are known through numismatic evidence only. The exact chronology and sequencing of their rule is still a matter of scholarly inquiry, with adjustments regular being made with new analysis and coin finds