INDO-GREEK DYNASTY
COINAGE OF INDO-GREEKS

Striving for realism in sculptural modelling, movement and expression became the major force motivating Hellenistic art.  Perhaps there was a desire to impress subjects of the realm with the true appearance of their lawful monarch which led to engrave the portraits on the coins of Bactrian Greeks and Selucids.  Alexander was the first emperor to put his portrait on his coins and the practise was inherited by his successors in India.  Extraordinary realism of their portraiture and the praxitelean character of the full length images of deities on the reverse were the prime attributes of their coin. Though it is not clear whether Alexander himself has issued any coins in his name during his sojourn in India.  But it is fact that his coins are a great rarity in India and it seems that his coins have come from Bactria.

The gold and silver coins with fabulous portraits, which circulated in Bactria were never current in India as they fall under Greek coinage category.  The coins with the portrait head and bilingual fall under Indian coinage.  The selucid king Antiochus I (293-280 BC) is shown on his coins with all the paths of humanity, the divine power is clearly reflected in Selucus's coins.  Demeterios - I was the first ruler to strike square copper coins in bilingual format, Kharoshti on the reverse and Greek on the obverse. Silver coins underwent radical change upon the movement of government to south of Hindu Kush, and the coins were called Didrachm and Hemidrachms.  Generally, coins are circular, exceptions are the few square ones of Appollodotos and Philoxenos.

The portraits of early Indo Greek rulers such as Euthydemos-I, Demetrios-I (wearing elephant's scalp) and Antimachus (wearing Kausia - a flat shaped cap and with a smily face) are so realistic in appearance that the coin portrait seems to represent the ruler faithfully.  The coins of Demetrious-II, Euthydemos-II, Pantaleon, Agathocles, Menander and Strato-I also be assigned to the same class as they express powerful features and every intricate personal details. The portrait of Eucradites-I and the bust of members of the house of Eucradites-I is so realistic that their coins indicate rigid majesty, tendency for idealization and the taste for symbolic ornamentation when compared to the coins of house of Euthedemos. Some of the coins of this house carried the image of the king on horseback.  Notably, the Dioskouri, the Greek heroes featured in Eukratides's coins exhibits the horsemanship and prowess in battle through the raised spears.  The coins of Appollophanes, Philoxenos and Theophilos are extremely rare and hence leads to suspect that they were the pretenders.  Perhaps all the Indo Greek coins may have been the products of a single school of engravers, the realism makes us to believe that they were familiar with the Hellenestic school of Pergamon.

Indo-Greeks were excellent coin smiths and the fabric far exceeded than the true Greek coins.  Indo-Greeks did not like abstract shapes and so they modified Greek Gods to look like an Indian.  Upon the arrivals of Greeks, the sculptural techniques had their influence.  Indo-Greek remained very Greek which could be witnessed by the bilingual legends they carried on their coins.  Perhaps they spoke Sanskrit than the Greek and India saw a revolution in art and culture.  The Gods  for whom the Indo-Greek artists laboured had hardly changed for many generations : APOLLO an intellectual God of Arts and Music, ZEUS the King and HERA the consort of Zeus, ARTEMIS a virgin huntress, muscular HERACLES the God of strength, ATHENA of wisdom, APHRODYTES  a God of sexuality, DIONYSUS vitality and winged deities NIKE and EROS. HELIOS, POSEIDON, DEMETERARTEMIS, the DIOSKOURI  and TYCHE are the other Greek divinities which could be seen in their coinage.  Many of these images iconographically influenced Indian pantheon later stage.

The vitality of Hellenistic art school is reflected in the coins the Indo Greek engravers engraved.  Bold reliefs were employed on large flans to impart three dimensional effect of images and legends; The marginal borders and the legends along with the borders set the boundary.  Clearly formed cheeks, broad smooth forehead, deep furrows which divides hair and beard, muscular bare body with every minute anatomical details reflect in their coinage.  Though drapery is so thick, the movement is exhibited by the position of the limbs or partial torsion of the body.  The figures formulated in a magnificent style that the light and shadow highlights the liveliness of image.

On the reverse of Eukratides's copper has the figure of seated Zeus along with the legend in Kharoshti 'The city deity of Kapisa'.  The later kings Strato-I and Hermois struck coins with debased silver and even in lead.  One of the copper coins of Hermois, the legend Kujula Kadphises appears on the reverse. Probably this could be assumed that the dynasty was succeed by the Kushanas, which is dealt in the next chapter.

LAST UPDATED 1st Nov 2001
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