INDO-GREEK, Menander, circa 160-145 BC, silver drachm


INDO-GREEK, Menander, c. 160-145 BC, drachm, no date, Pushkalavati mint, Obverse: diademed bust R, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΟΤΗΙΡΟΣ ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Reverse: Pallas standing L, with spear and raised shield, MAHARAJASA TRATARASA MENADRASA (Kharosthi), monogram on right, silver, 17.5mm, 1.49g, MA1769, corroded, scratches, F

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There were 3 different portrait styles used by Indo-Greek king Menander. This coin, with diademed bust, was probably the earliest type.

Menander was part of a multiregal governing system with Eukratides as senior figure. He was in charge of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan at about the same time as Apollodotos I. Menander is the Milinda mentioned in early Buddhist texts. There are theories that he himself professed Buddhism, a possibility not negated by the presence of Greek dieties on his coins.

The Greeks arrived in Pakistan under the command of Alexander the Great. A line of kings endured for about three centuries. The first of the Indo-Greek states comprised most of Afghanistan and a bit of western Pakistan, and is referred to by some historians as the “Greco-Bactrian Kingdom.” Later kings crossed the Indus river and held parts of northern India for a while. The expanded Greek state was disrupted by an invasion of Scythian nomads. The nomads had been around for a while, but suddenly there were a whole lot of them, and they didn’t go away. The nomads broke the territorial integrity of the Greek state. The two states struggled on until they fell apart in the normal conditions of dynastic squabbles, advancing incompetence, outside pressure, and bad luck. The main reference used for this series is: Oriental Coins and their Values, the Ancient and Classical World, by Michael Mitchiner (MA).

The earliest ancient Indian coins were the “bent bar” punchmarked silvers of the Achaemenid Persians occupying Gandhara in northwest Pakistan. By the 3rd century BC coins were in general use in most of India and Ceylon, and in subsequent centuries struck round coins in gold, silver, and copper came into use throughout the subcontinent and beyond to Southeast Asia and Pacific islands to Java and beyond.