INDIA: 10 coins from the period c. 500-1 BCE

Dedicating to the BALKAN relatives of Prince Karim Aga Khan, Hunza, Gilgit of Pakistan

Coin #4:

Bactria, Seleucid, Seleucos I Silver tetradrachm, c. 290 BCE
Weight: 16.87 gm., Diam: 26 mm.


 Laureate, bearded bust of Zeus right / Athena driving elephant quadriga
Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY (of King Seleucos)

Bactria: Seleucid
Seleucos I
Silver drachm, c. 290 BCE

Weight:4.22 gm., Diam:16-17 mm., Die axis:6h


Bust of horned horse right/ Seleucid anchor
Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY (of King Seleucos)


Coin #6:
Bactrian Kingdom, Diodotos I or II, Gold stater, c. 250-230 BCE
Weight: 8.24 gm., Diam: 18 mm.


Diademed head of Dioddotos right, dotted border around /
Nude Zeus standing left, seen from behind, holding aegis on left arm, hurling thunderbolt with right
Eagle at left, Greek legend, at right: BAΣIΛEΩΣ, at left: ΔIOΔOTOY


Bactria: Diodotos I or II, as King
Bronze dichalkon, c. 240 BCE

Weight: 5.74 gm., Diam: 21 mm., Die axis: 6h



Bust of Hermes right, wearing petasos /
Pallas Athena standing facing, holding spear
Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΔIOΔOTOY (of King Diodotos)


Coin 4 represents one of the first clearly “foreign” coins to be minted in India. Although the Achaemenids had ruled northwestern India for a while, they did not leave any numismatic legacy. However, after Alexander the Great’s brief appearance on the Indian horizon, the Seleucid empire established a presence in the northwestern part of the country. Although a few Greek style coins were minted in Bactria prior to the Seleucid issues, this coin, of Seleucos I (312-280 BCE) is nevertheless one of the first Greco-Bactrian coins. With a laureate head of Zeus right on the obverse and Athena in an elephant quadriga on the reverse, the coin is representative of the highest quality classic Greek coins of the period. It introduces to Indian numismatics not only an entirely new design type, but also the use of legends to identify the issuer. Here we see on the reverse the Greek inscription: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY (of King Seleucos).

To Seleucos, the Indian provinces were a distant holding far from the center of his empire in Syria. These distant provinces faced a threat from a rising super-power in India: the Maurya dynasty. The dynasty was founded in 322 BCE by Chandragupta Maurya, who overthrew the Nanda rulers of the Magadha kingdom and then began a process of expansion that extended the empire all the way to what is now Pakistan. Facing conflict with this powerful rival, Seleucos chose to forge a peace. He conceded all the Seleucid lands south of the Hindu Kush mountains (in modern Afghanistan) to Chandragupta (known as Sandracottas in the Greek literature of the time) in exchange for 500 elephants. So the Mauryan empire now extended from Bengal in the east all the way to Afghanistan in the west.

The Mauryan empire reached the peak of its extent probably under the rule of Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka (273-232 BCE), who has been called the greatest king the world has ever known. Ashoka’s claim to this distinction comes from an unlikely source: It stems not from the extent to which he expanded his empire through conquest, but rather on his renunciation of violence and war, his adoption of Buddhism, and his mission to spread the non-violent teachings of the Buddha throughout his empire. Ashoka carved the Buddha’s teachings on rocks throughout India, or on iron pillars he erected for the purpose. He also sent Buddhist missions to other countries, notably to Lanka, China and Southeast Asia. There is little doubt that he was the person who did more than anyone else to spread Buddhism throughout Asia.


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