Role of Dimitri in the Conquest of India!
Sind and Gandhar, which had formed parts of the conquests of Cyrus and Darius, appear to have made themselves free from the control of the Akhman kings during the period of Arthkhatr II (404-358 B.C.).
Independent republics continued to exist till the invasion of Alexander, but Pushyamitr, the commander-in-chief of the Maurya army, killed the last of the Maurya kings and gained control of the entire kingdom. Dimitri took full advantage of the discontent that became prevalent against Pushyamitr and crossed the Hindu- kush mountains in 183-182 B.C.
Entrusting his Bactrian Empire to his elder son Aetrodim II and to his brother Antimakhu, Dimitri started on his campaign of conquest in india with his younger brother Apollodot and his commander Menander. Kapisha had already become part of the kingdom during his father’s reign, which was subsequently handed over to Dimitris son— Dimitri II.
The ruins of this city are still to be seen west of Kabul. The elephant tusks and trunk found on the coins of Dimitri symbolise this area. Dimitri then proceeded to conquer the province of Gandhar (Taxila and Peshawar). Meanwhile the Kalinga king had advanced up to Pataliputr and Pushyamitr had to flee to Mathura.
In the south the Satvahans were contending against him while the western regions had never been fully subdued. Dimitri followed the same route to India that had been taken by Alexander because the Khyber pass had not yet been opened to traffic. Pushkalawati on the western bank of the Indus (modern Charsudda) had become a Greek capital. At that time Kashmir and Gandhar were mainly under Buddhist influence. Taxila had developed commercially and culturally under the Maurya rulers.
But Dimitri established a new city in Taxila which was henceforth known as Sirkop. Dimitri was the first to use Prakrit and Khorosthi scripts on his coins in addition to Greek. The whole of modern Sindh was conquered by Dimitri and he built a city there, which has been referred to by Sanskrit writers as “Duttamitri“. Another city on the banks of the Vakhsu, now kown as Termiz, was probably also founded by Dimitri.
The Greek army under the command of Menander captured Sialkot; then crossing the Beas and the Sutlej reached Mathura. Panchal and Saket were beseiged and finally the capital Pataliputr, was attacked. Advancing in another direction, Apollodot seized the Indus delta, conquered Saurashtra and after establishing his capital in Bharukaksh surrounded the city of Madhyamika near Chittor with armed forces.
It is possible that he succeeded in taking Ujjain also. Alexander considered India to consist only of the Indus valley, but Dimitri’s kingdom spread from the Sir Darya to Saurashtra and from the Iranian deserts to Pataliputr. Kashmir, Punjab, U.P., Bihar, Malwa, Rajasthan, North Gujarat, Kathiawar, Cutch and Sind—all were parts of his empire.
Dimitri came not merely to loot and plunder, but to settle permanently in the country. He made Taxila his capital and governors were appointed to rule over the provinces. One of his sons who became Governor of Kapisha, minted coins modelled after the ancient square coins of India. These are inscribed exclusively in the Indian Brahmi and Pali scripts and bear on the one side the image of a mountain and on the other a tree ringed with stones—symbol of Buddhism.
The word “Dikios” (religious), is also inscribed on them and it must be kept in mind that the people of Kapisha were at this time mainly Buddhists. One of Dimitri’s sons was made govenor of Baluchistan Apollodot ruled over Gandhar and Gujerat, and the region east of the Jhelum was ruled by Menander. The conquests of Dimitri have been described in the Sanskrit text “Gargasamhita.”
Among the coins minted by the Greek kings, those of Dimitri’s father are considered the most artistic. The same artist designed the silver coins issued by Dimitri and these bear on one side the crowned head of Dimitri, with the erown surmounted by the tusks and trunk of an elephant, while on the other there is an image of Shiva holding a stick and lion skin in his right hand, his left being held close to his ear.
On the right side is inscribed “Basileus” and on the left “Dimitrios”. Copper coins bear on the one side the head of an elephant, symbol of India and on the other the words “Basileus Dimitrios”. Although the Greek empire stretched over Egypt, Iran and Babylon as well as other countries, it is significant that nowhere else except in India was the local script used on Greek coins.
Even though he had succeeded in consolidating his hold over India and’ had extended his kingdom as far as Ujjain and Pataliputr, he was suddenly obliged to return to Bactria because it was attacked by the Selukan general Aecrotid for the struggle between the Selukans and the Bactrians had not ceased. The Selukan King Antioch IV considered Bactria to be a satrapy of the empire, while the Bactrians considered themselves independent. At this time there had come into being in Europe the powerful Roman empire.
Antioch IV had spent some of his early life in Rome and was well aware of the might of the Romans. His generals had conquered Egypt and he had even had himself crowned in” Memphis, but at the first sign of Rome’s displeasure he withdrew from Egypt. Antioch did not disturb Mithrdat I (170-168 B. C.) to his north, but contented himself with trying to win back the eastern parts of Iran (Sistan and Baluchistan ) from Dimitri, who was then very busy in India.
Entrusting the task of winning Dimitri’s kingdom to his cousin Aecrotid, Antioch set out to conquer the West. Although only partially victorious, by 167 B.C. he had succeeded in taking the western provinces of the Hindu Kush,— Sistan, Baluchistan, Hirat, Bactria, while Sogdhia had come under the sway of Aecrotid. Dimitri naturally had to rush his armies from India in order to save his kingdom.
At one place he succeeded in surrounding Aecrotid’s army, but the latter managed to escape. It was in one of the battles fought near the Hindu Kush mountains that Dimitri was killed. Like Alexander, Dimitri wanted to remove all distinctions in his army and administration, between Creeks and non-Greeks. This was one of the reasons why the Greeks were not very happy under Dimitri. The Selukan kings on the other hand always favoured the Greeks.
By 166 B. C. no rival was left to face Aecrotid. Antioch IV was powerless against him and as a result Aecrotid proclaimed himself not only Basileus, but Basileus the Great. He built a city in Bactria which was named after him. The coins minted in his reign have on the one side an image of Aecrotid with a hat on his head and on the other two horsemen carrying long spears on galloping steeds, while above there is a semi-circular inscription, ‘Basileus Meglos’ and below is ‘Aecrotid’. Another type of coin bears the bare-headed image of Aecrotid wearing a circlet of ribbon, while on the other is an image of the Greek god Apollo and the inscription ‘Basileus Sutiros Aecrotidos’.
Aecrotid spent the year 166 B. C., in Bactria and in the following year he started a campaign against India. Meanwhile, pressed by the Huns, the Yuchis had left their homelands in Kansu and moved with their familes, cattle and tents towards Fargana. After crossing the Hindu Kush mountains Aecrotid had first of all to face Agthakol, son of Dimitri, who was killed in the battle. On his way Kapisha fell and became part of his empire.
By that time Antioch IV died in the course of his Western campaign leaving Aecrotid sole ruler of the whole empire. It seems likely that he succeeded in conquering Gandhar where he killed Apollodot in battle which means that he was able to advance right up to the Jhelum without meeting any opposition, but Menander stopped his further advance beyond the Jhelum. In 160 B. C. news reached Aecrotid that the Parthians had attacked his kingdom and like Dimitri, he had to rush home.
After the death of Antioch IV his elder brother Dimitri II, who had been kept as a’ hostage in Rome, escaped and reached Bactria. But in the meantime the son of Antioch IV had occupied the throne. Dimitri II, however, removed him and seized the throne for himself. Aecrotid refused to accept his overlordship and so began the break-up of the Selukan Empire.
Timarkhus, a satrap of Medea, proclaimed himself Basileus Meglos in 162 B. C., but the Parthian king Mithrdat defeated him and annexed the whole of Medea to his kingdom. He also seized the part of Aecrotid’s kingdom that lay west of the river Hirat and Aecrotid died fighting against Mithrdat and his ally Dimitri II. In this way Dimitri II avenged his father’s death but was unable to enjoy the fruits of his victory for long. It was the star of the Parthians that was now in the ascendant.
When Aecrotid’s son Heliokal came to the throne of Bactria, the Yuchis had already occupied the upper part of Sogdhia and only the lower part was in Heliokal’s hands. Mithrdat had seized Sistan, Arkhosiya and Gedrosiya, while the Governor of Sistan was Frat. The Parthians, who were of Scythian origin, had settled Scythian nomads on the lower recess of the Helmund river and that is why this region was known from 115 B. C. as Sistan ( i. e. Shakistan ) and it was this place that served them as a centre from which to enter India. The Scythians soon declared themselves independent of Parthian rule, but Mithrdat sent his commander Soren to re-establish Parthian suzeranity—a task that he successfully carried out.
Heliokal, (159-130 B.C.) the last Greek king, was as ambitious as his father had been, and like his father wanted to set out on a campaign of conquest. His father had been stopped by Menander and when Menander died Heliakal attacked Gandhar. Defeating Strat, the son of Menander, he conquered the entire region up to the Jhelum. Only the area between Sialkot and Mathura was left to Strat. Heliokal had placed his brother Aecrotid II on the throne during his absence and the latter also issued coins with the inscription Basileus Sutiros Aecrotidos.
While Heliokal was busy in India, Mithrdat I succeeded in extending his empire from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. In 142 B. G. Dimitri, allying himself with Aecrotid, attacked Mithrdat, but was only partially successful. Mithrdat was anxious not to have to fight on both fronts at the same time, he therefore allowed Dimitri’s general to take Babylon and on his return from India turned his attention to Heliokal.
In December 141 B. C. he defeated Heliokal in Harkaniya, and then advanced towards Babylon. By 139 B. C. Dimitri was a captive in his hands, and thus over the whole of India and Mesopotamia the Parthian dynasty had replaced that of Selukan.
The Yuchi coins were copies of Aecrotid’s which proved that it was they who had taken Bactria from him. The coins of Heliokal bear on the one side the inscription “Basileus Dikios Aelikleos” and on the other the image of an elephant and the inscription “Maharajas Dhramikas Helia-Creyas”.