Demetrius II of India

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Demetrius II
Demetrius II portrait.jpg
Portrait of Demetrius II
Indo-Greek king
Reign 175–170 BC or 140 BC
Coin of Demetrius II. Obv: Profile of Demetrius II. Rev: Standing Athena with legend "(of) King Demetrius".

Demetrius II (Greek: Δημήτριος Β΄) was a Greco-Bactrian/Indo-Greek king who ruled briefly during the 2nd century BC. Little is known about him and there are different views about how to date him. Earlier authors such as Tarn and Narain saw him as a son and sub-king of Demetrius I, but this view has now been abandoned.

Osmund Bopearachchi has suggested that he ruled in Bactria and Arachosia c. 175–170 BC, but this has been challenged by later authors. R. C. Senior instead prefers c. 175–140 BC, and this is supported by L M Wilson[1] who also assumes from numismatical clues and portrait likeness that Demetrius II was a relative of Eucratides the Great. The later dating is supported by the circumstance that no coins of Demetrius II have been found in the ruins of Ai Khanoum, which was presumably destroyed during the reign of Eucratides I.

The enigma of "Demetrius, king of the Indians"[edit]

History records one reference to a king Demetrius contemporary with Eucratides, and this reference is highly problematic.

Roman historian Justin names a Demetrius, king of the Indians,[2] who was an enemy of Eucratides the Great. Justin's Demetrius beleaguered the warlike Eucratides with an army of 60,000 men against the latter's garrison of 300, but still — according to the probably exaggerated account — eventually was defeated, this episode is referred to as occurring at the end of the reign of Eucratides, hence dating the death of Justin's Demetrius around 150 BC. Justin's Demetrius may have been a relative of the Indian king Apollodotus I or a fugitive prince of the Euthydemid dynasty.

However, the king of Justin's quote is not easily reconciled with the numismatical evidence, and views are divided as for how to interpret the various coinage series bearing the name Demetrius. Bopearachchi (1991) has singled out three kings named Demetrius. Demetrius I reigned c. 200-185 BC, well before the rise of Eucratides, and Demetrius III was an Indian king who is thought to have ruled much later, around 100 BC. There remains Demetrius II, who Bopearachchi suggested reigned around 170 BC.

Bopearachchi continues to identify Demetrius II with Justin’s Demetrius of India, notwithstanding the fact that Justin's quote suggests a later reign. Furthermore, Bopearachchi’s Demetrius II reigned in Bactria and not in India, as he struck no coins with Indian legends. Therefore, the identity of Justin's Demetrius, king of the Indians, remains uncertain, the following hypotheses may be considered:

  • The account of Justin, who is a second-hand source, is confused. Either Demetrius II was not king of India but Bactria, or the account of the war is mixed up, or the king's name is wrong, Justin having confused the name of another Indo-Greek king with that of Demetrius I.
  • Bopearachchi's Demetrius III could be placed earlier - this king's coins are few and rather peculiar - and Demetrius III was in fact Justin's Demetrius who ruled half a century earlier.

Even if Justin's Demetrius, king of the Indians existed, this does not foreclose the possibility that Eucratides also had a son named Demetrius, which was a common dynastic name at the time, the prince may have been named after the Seleucid Demetrius I Soter.

Coins of Demetrius II[edit]

Demetrius II issued only silver and mostly tetradrachms, another trait which he has in common with the last Bactrian kings, the obverse shows a diademed portrait, with a standing Pallas Athene holding a spear on the reverse. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he has no epithet. Demetrius II is depicted as a young man, though his features differ considerably among the different issues. Several coins are struck off-center and crudely; this suggests that Demetrius II used a number of temporary mints.

Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kings, territories and chronology
Based on Bopearachchi (1991)[3]
Greco-Bactrian kings Indo-Greek kings
Territories/
dates
West Bactria East Bactria Paropamisade
Arachosia Gandhara Western Punjab Eastern Punjab Mathura[4]
326-325 BCE Campaigns of Alexander the Great in India Nanda Empire
312 BCE Creation of the Seleucid Empire Creation of the Maurya Empire
305 BCE Seleucid Empire after Mauryan war Maurya Empire
280 BCE Foundation of Ai-Khanoum
255–239 BCE Independence of the
Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Diodotus I
Emperor Ashoka (268-232)
239–223 BCE Diodotus II
230–200 BCE Euthydemus I
200–190 BCE Demetrius I Sunga Empire
190-185 BCE Euthydemus II
190–180 BCE Agathocles Pantaleon
185–170 BCE Antimachus I
180–160 BCE Apollodotus I
175–170 BCE Demetrius II
160–155 BCE Antimachus II
170–145 BCE Eucratides I
155–130 BCE Yuezhi occupation,
loss of Ai-Khanoum
Eucratides II
Plato
Heliocles I
Menander I
130–120 BCE Yuezhi occupation Zoilos I Agathokleia Yavanarajya
inscription
120–110 BCE Lysias Strato I
110–100 BCE Antialcidas Heliokles II
100 BCE Polyxenos Demetrius III
100–95 BCE Philoxenus
95–90 BCE Diomedes Amyntas Epander
90 BCE Theophilos Peukolaos Thraso
90–85 BCE Nicias Menander II Artemidoros
90–70 BCE Hermaeus Archebius
Yuezhi occupation Maues (Indo-Scythian)
75–70 BCE Vonones Telephos Apollodotus II
65–55 BCE Spalirises Hippostratos Dionysios
55–35 BCE Azes I (Indo-Scythians) Zoilos II
55–35 BCE Vijayamitra/ Azilises Apollophanes
25 BCE – 10 CE Gondophares Zeionises Kharahostes Strato II
Strato III
Gondophares (Indo-Parthian) Rajuvula (Indo-Scythian)
Kujula Kadphises (Kushan Empire) Bhadayasa
(Indo-Scythian)
Sodasa
(Indo-Scythian)


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ L M Wilson, "Demetrios II of Bactria and Hoards from Ai Khanoum" (Oriental Numismatic Society newsletter nr 180)
  2. ^ Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus, XLI:6
  3. ^ O. Bopearachchi, "Monnaies gréco-bactriennes et indo-grecques, Catalogue raisonné", Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1991, p.453
  4. ^ History of Early Stone Sculpture at Mathura: Ca. 150 BCE - 100 CE, Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, BRILL, 2007, p.9 [1]

References[edit]

  • The Greeks in Bactria and India, W.W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press.
Preceded by:
Eucratides
Indo-Greek Ruler
(Bactria)
c. 155–150 BC
Succeeded by:
Heliocles I?